I did come up with the ultimate beginning. Finally. Once I thought of it, I knew it was right. There is a backstory to this (as there is in any mystery), and I never even thought about writing it in scenes, because it's an action thriller background and it didn't seem like it would fit with the rest of the book. It's not exactly Cozy.
But then I thought about the fact that action thrillers are just the modern cynic's version of a swashbuckler. And I really need a way to give a better impression of Gwen, who is very very needy at the time of the novel. So maybe the rescue from her point of view, romantic, sympathetic. It should establish things just right. Then I can jump to my original beginning, which now finally works for me.
Plus I also had an inspiration for a much better movie metaphor for Karla to come up with. And this one is a great red herring, because she thinks she knows why the little boy was so drawn to the Prisoner of Zenda, and why he wants to rewrite it, but she's wrong. But she doesn't discover that until long after she accuses George of being Rupert.
Running Total: 21292 Words.
Gwen discovers that there is something even more terrifying than being terrorized by kidnappers on a daily basis. And later George explains to Gwen's psychiatrist why enabling is a good thing.