At first glance the car parked in front of the National Hotel looked a lot like a taxi. Despite the cold, the near side door was open and the driver had one foot out on the pavement. A cigarette dangled from the side of a mouth in the passenger seat. They let us walk past then raised themselves slowly. "Passport," one said in Russian.
"Where are your girls?" he asked. "What have you been drinking? Why aren't you drunk?" He'd finished with our documents but kept hold of them all the same. "How about we go for a drink together?" he asked. "But you're driving." "We're not tomorrow." We laughed, looked at each other, and didn't know what to say. "We're busy then," someone said at last. "Meeting friends." He stared at us for a few seconds, exchanged a look with his partner, then handed the passports back with only half a smile.