I couldn’t find the relevant writing prompt.
The day after I found the message in a bottle I somehow managed to find myself in St Petersburg. After much wheedling and pleading Ukko had finally deigned it fit to tell me that the Bear lived in St. Petersburg. So I stuffed him in a bowling bag and got on a train with him. One of Gammie’s drawers had turned up a treasure trove of fake ids complete with several open-ended visas to Russia. The minute I saw them, it was obvious that the only thing I could do was to go to St Petersburg.
As planned I ended up on the outskirts of a small park facing a huge sign for the place called Stray Dog Café. I walked down the stairs, opened the door and the smell of cigarettes and sweat nearly overwhelmed me.
I sat down in a table next to the wall and a pretty young woman came to bring me a menu. I opened it and couldn’t understand a word. I asked for an English menu and the girl giggled.
“Finnish?” She asked with a heavy accent.
I blushed. “Is it that obvious?” She just giggled in response and brought the menu.
I ordered some food and sat there, the comforting solidity of the exposed brick calmed me down as I scanned the room and ate looking for someone who could be called “The Bear”.
When the waitress came to clean up my plate, I cleared my throat and asked. “Do you know if anyone here is called the Bear?”
She paled visibly but she didn’t answer. “You want anything else?” I got the distinct impression that she was avoiding my eyes.
I ordered dessert and some coffee and when she came back, she was definitely avoiding my eyes. Discouraged, I sipped my coffee, trying to make it last as long as I could. The second I laid it down empty, it disappeared. I admit, I may have been a little paranoid by then, but I felt as if I were being gently pushed out the door.
I paid my bill and took a tour around the place under the excuse of looking for the bathroom. I tried looking at people hoping someone would think I looked familiar but none of the patrons reacted to me. If anything, they might have been avoiding me. The place was mostly filled with young and attractive people, artistic, bohemian types. There were a few groups of older men and women here and there and one man holding court over one of them, who made me think of Rasputin. He had the unruly beard and long hair, although I think this man was bigger than Rasputin.
Finally I just gave up and headed back to my hotel, deciding to return later. Ukko had stopped talking to me as soon as he realized I was going to St Petersburg but I could at least feed him.
I was barely out of the café when someone grabbed me and dragged me into an alley.
“What do you want with me?” The Rasputin lookalike growled in near perfect English while lifting me against the wall.
“You’re the Bear?” I managed to choke out.
“What of it? Who are you?”
“You don’t know me, but you knew my Gammie, Helmi.”
His grip loosened but my feet were still dangling. “Helmi. I may have. Why?”
“She left me this.” I said, lifting my hand to show the ring. He grabbed it halfway up and brought it to his view, slowly and keeping control of the movement through its arc. “I found a letter from someone called Alastair who said to look you up.”
The Bear looked suspicious. “A letter?”
“Well, a ship in a bottle that formed a letter.”
He let me go, unceremoniously dumping me on the ground. “I must see this letter. Now.” He strode away, leaving me gasping for air and staring after him.