“What the hell is going on?” I said to Michael the tenth time.
“Not a clue”, replied Michael for the tenth time.
We had had no choice but to just sit back and passively accept whatever turn of events was to follow since we’d apparently been arrested as soon as we’d set foot in Aqtobe.
One of the police officers, Aslan, called me over and pointed to the figure I’d written on the piece of paper to indicate our hotel budget. I nodded, and I handed over the cash to the receptionist. I looked around the lobby. This hotel was clearly more expensive than either one of the previous two we’d been too. Had the police offers negotiated a cheaper room for us? We didn’t know. If they had done this, then why?
The receptionist handed over a key to the other officer, a beefy looking brute named Bulad, and they ushered us to follow them upstairs. As we passed the second floor, Michael nudged me in the ribs and whispered, “Shotgun Aslan”
“What the hell do you mean ‘shotgun Aslan’?!” I hissed back.
“If things go down badly upstairs, you know, really badly, I shotgun Aslan”.
“He looks like a more tender rapist”
“Bollocks,” I said, gauging the strength of Bulad’s powerful looking buttocks, as I followed him up the stairs.
It was a bizarre situation and neither of us knew what was going to happen. We stood outside of a room and shared a nervous glance with each other as Bulad fumbled with the key.
“Errr… Thanks?” I said to them, once in our room.
There was a few seconds of silence. I noticed Michael had started to scootch around to Aslan.
Bulad picked up a hotel pen and wrote ‘9:00’ on a piece of paper. He then pointed outside.
“Okay. Thanks?” I said again.
The two police officers left us in our room.
“What the hell just happened?!” Michael said, looking more bewildered than usual.
“Why the hell are they picking us up at 9am?!” I replied.
“I have no idea…”
Later on, the night of strangeness continued. We went down into the hotel lobby with the intention of going out to get some dinner. As we approached the door, however, the security guard stepped in front of us, blocking our way.
“Excuse me,” called the receptionist, in a Russian accent. “You’re not allowed to leave”
“We are under instructions from the police not to let you leave. Aqtobe is too dangerous for tourists at night”
“What?!” barked Michael.
“This is an outrage!” I fumed, feeling the natural British disinclination for arbitrarily restricted liberty. But then we looked outside at the -20 C temperature and, just like that, our indignation seemed to cool.
“Takeaway it is then?”
“Takeaway it is”
“If Aqtobe is too dangerous for tourists at night,” I said chewing my rancid, overly priced takeaway kebab, “then why do the police need to pick us up at 9am?”