The nearest western church was a few blocks away, but Hanoi is full of hidden temples squirreled away up narrow alleyways and we were fortunate enough to be near one. An unobtrusive opening in the wall next to the shop we had ruined caught my eye and I pushed Mas’ud into it, shoving him again to ensure he appreciated the urgency of the situation when he hesitated.
After twenty metres, the claustrophobic passageway ended in a square courtyard. A path led round a small statue and up to the doors of a very well-tended Buddhist temple.
Both on our feet now, we sprinted for the beckoning doors as screams began to be heard behind us. Our unwanted company had caught up and were obviously waving those firearms around.
We leapt over the threshold as another random bullet tore a chunk out of the frame over my head. Mas’ud whimpered and ducked. I grabbed him and flung him to the side before turning and pulling one door shut. As I did so, I saw the first of the other Iranians burst from the passageway. He raised his gun to fire and I fell to the floor.
Swivelling on my shoulder like a very poor break-dancer, I hooked the other door with my foot and yanked. I heard the gunshot as the two doors shut together and I looked around desperately for a way of bracing them.
Mas’ud was already looking for escape routes as I tilted a huge ceramic pot and attempted to roll it in front of the doors without having it fall right over. Just as I let it settle back down, the doors shuddered as one of the Iranian agents slammed against them. The doors opened a crack, but not enough for him to push a gun barrel through.
“We’ve got maybe a minute before they force the doors,” I told him. “What do you see?”
“Nothing! It’s dark. No other doors. We’re trapped!”