ELEVEN

They drove in silence.Karpo explained nothing, and Tkach asked nothing. Neither man was uncomfortable with the situation, though Emil Karpo noted the lack of curiosity in his colleague, the wound on his forehead, and the semidrugged look in his eyes. And these made Emil Karpo wonder why Rostnikov had told him to pick up Sasha Tkach before he went in search of Jerold and Yakov.

He had called Rostnikov about twenty minutes before he went to Tkach’s house.

Rostnikov had told him three things. The first was quite clear, that Zelach had been injured and that Tkach felt responsible. The second was quite cryptic, that Rostnikov had run into Karpo’s Uncle Vetz, the uncle they had last seen where they caught the car thief. Third, Rostnikov said that Sarah had not been feeling well and was taking naps every morning at nine. Karpo had expressed concern and hung up understanding that Inspector Rostnikov had reason to believe their conversation was listened to and that Karpo was to be at a specific place at nine the next morning, the place where he and Rostnikov had caught a car thief named Vetz.

None of this he told to Sasha Tkach. It was only when they had driven more than thirty miles and were turning into the road that led to the house that Karpo spoke. He began the history of Yakov and Jerold and the death of Carla. Tkach nodded to show that he understood, but he looked straight ahead. Karpo pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the ignition.

“Tkach,” he said, “it is essential that you understand and are attentive. The people we seek are quite dangerous.”

Sasha looked out the window and then turned to face Karpo.

“I will not fail you, Emil Karpo,” he said.

Karpo opened the car door and got out. So did Tkach, who checked his gun as soon as he closed the car door. They moved off the road and walked forward along the line of trees. Around a curve, about fifty yards from their car, they saw the house, a modest house before which sat a black automobile with a dented left fender scratched with the white paint of the car it had hit after Jerold had fled with Yakov from the Kalinin Prospekt in front of the cafe.

The policemen moved into the cover of the trees and made their way to the side of the house so they would not be seen approaching. There was an open space of dirt and stone about fifteen yards from the trees to the house. One window faced the two men as they crossed quickly to the wall.

“Front door,” Karpo said, so softly that Sasha was not sure he heard him.

Before Karpo could say another word, Tkach moved around the building to the front and strode past the parked black car to the door of the house. Karpo, who had drawn no weapon, stepped out after him as Tkach reached over to knock.

“Tkach,” said Karpo, walking to join the younger man. “I did not mean for you to walk up to the door and knock.”

“I’m sorry,” Tkach said.

“I do not believe your suicide would have a productive result.”

Tkach did not answer. He knocked at the door. Karpo moved to the side of the door and motioned Tkach out of the way. Karpo reached over and knocked. Someone stirred

inside, and the door began to open. Tkach held his gun outstretched at eye level, about where the head of an average-sized man might appear.

The door was opened all the way now, and the scrawny doctor who had treated Jerold stood there calmly, paying no attention to the young man holding the gun.

“What do you want?” she said, adjusting her glasses and looking at Karpo without emotion.

“We are the police,” said Karpo.

“I can see that,” she said.

Tkach moved a step closer so that he could not miss.

“This automobile,” said Karpo. “Is the driver here?”

“The car is mine,” said the woman.

“They aren’t here,” said Tkach.

“We are coming in,” said Karpo, and the woman backed away to let them enter.

“Why did they come here?” Tkach asked the woman impatiently. “Where are they?”

The woman moved ahead of them silently. Karpo moved into the house and said to the woman, “You have a phone?”

She nodded toward a closed door to the right of the front entrance. Karpo entered, and Sasha Tkach urged the woman into the room after him by pointing with the gun.

They were in the treatment room. It looked clean, ready. Karpo moved to the wastebasket in the corner and looked into it.

“She treated one of them for a wound,” Karpo said. ‘ ‘Bandages, recent blood.”

Karpo saw the phone on an old metal cabinet painted with white enamel and picked it up while Tkach carefully moved to the wastebasket and looked down at its bloody contents.

The woman folded her arms and waited while Karpo made his call, which began with Karpo giving someone the name of the town and the street number of the house in which they stood. It ended with Karpo saying, “Spasee ‘ba,” and turning.

“Her name is Katerina Agulgan,” he said. “She is a doctor. She owns an automobile, but it is not the one parked in front. Hers is a green Zil. A search for it is now being undertaken with concentration within Moscow.”

“She can tell us where it is,” said Sasha, moving forward to hold the gun to the right temple of the woman, who did not flinch or turn her eyes to~him. Instead, she looked at Karpo, who met her gaze.

“She will not tell you, Sasha,” he said.

“Then I shoot her,” said Sasha, his voice breaking.

“There is nothing to be gained from her death, as there was nothing to be gained from your suicide,” said Karpo.

‘ ‘Something must have a resolution,” said Sasha. “Something this day must conclude without confusion, without…”He could not find the word, but the woman did.

“Ambiguity,” she said.

“She will not tell you,” said Karpo, “because she is the mother of Yakov Krivonos, as the computer told us. Since the man we seek was shot, it was possible that Krivonos would bring him to his mother for treatment. Doctor, you will sit while we search your house and wait. You will sit now, in that chair.”

She moved to the chair and sat.

‘ ‘Sasha,” he said, ‘ ‘you will please put your weapon away and search this house.”

Tkach put his gun away, looked at the woman, and left the room, closing the door behind him.

“What is wrong with that young man?” the woman asked when Tkach had departed.

“He is brooding, Dr. Agulgan,” answered Karpo. “I do not know the details, nor are they relevant to your situation.” “They are if he shoots me,” she said.

“He will control himself,” Karpo assured her.

“How do you know? He is a brooding Russian.”

“And you are not Russian?”

She shrugged and went silent.

“Your son and the man called Jerold plan to commit murder,” Karpo said, standing erect and facing the seated woman. “You know that.” ”Your partner planned to murder me a moment ago,” she said.

“Yes,” said Karpo.

“You want me to help a murderer find my son,” she said.

“I want you to do so, but I do not expect it,” said Karpo.

“What do you expect?” she asked.

“I expect nothing,” he said.

The door opened, and Sasha Tkach came in holding a framed photograph in his hand.

The woman adjusted her glasses and looked at him defiantly, but she did not speak.

“Your son?” Tkach asked.

Karpo moved forward to take the photograph from Tkach, who held it at his side.

Karpo looked down at the framed photograph, at the face of Yakov Krivonos as he had been perhaps ten years earlier.

The woman was sitting erect, her mouth a very thin line drawn tight. Karpo handed her the photograph, which she put gently into her lap.

“The man called Jerold will get your son killed,” Karpo said.

“And if you catch him, you will kill him,” she said. “I see no difference other than if I tell you where they are I betray my son.”

“We will not kill your son if we can do otherwise,” said Karpo.

The woman tore her eyes from the young man and looked at the ghostly figure before her. Their eyes met again, but this time there was no duel. She clutched the photograph to her chest and whispered, “I believe you.”

“Do you know where they are?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I heard them… yes.”

“Will you tell us?”

“Nothing is simple,” she said.

“Nothing is simple,” Karpo repeated, and though Tkach said nothing, he agreed.

Set well back in Soviet Square on Gorky Street stands the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, which contains more than six thousand manuscripts of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and over thirty thousand documents of Lenin. Party members, politicians, and scholars who come to the building are greeted before they enter by a red granite statue of Lenin dedicated in 1938. On the outer wall of the institute is a panel with paintings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin and the bold inscription “Forward, to the Victory of Communism.”

In front of Lenin, blocking his view of Gorky Street and the Moscow Soviet of Working People’s Deputies, stands a four-story-high statue of Prince Yuri Dolgoruki seated triumphantly upon his horse. The prince is credited with founding Moscow more than eight hundred years ago.

The Moscow Soviet of Working People’s Deputies is, as Moscow official buildings go, not terribly impressive. Built originally in 1782 as a one-story residence for the governor-general of Moscow, it was added to and rebuilt before and after the war with the Germans, complete with porticos and a balcony from which Lenin frequently addressed crowds on the street and in Soviet Square. In this building in 1917, the Revolutionary Military Council met and directed the October armed uprising in Moscow. Inside the Moscow Soviet can be found the banner of the city of Moscow. The banner bears two Orders of Lenin, the Gold Star of the Hero City, and the Order of the October Revolution.

Lenin’s name is permanently on the roll of deputies of the Moscow Soviet, who, until perestroika, were the Communist party members responsible for running the city’s services. Each of the Soviet states has its own Soviet. It is from this one in Moscow that the newly elected officials governed, and it was in Soviet Square, in front of the statue of Prince Yuri Dolgoruki, that Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Soviet, and Mikhail Gorbachev, premier of the Soviet Union, would, with many other officials, generals, and party officers, be gathering in a few hours to speak at the fiftieth-anniversary celebration of the first defeat of Hitler’s army in the city.

From the square in front of Prince Dolgoruki’s statue, on a wooden platform that had been erected over the past two days, the speakers would be able to point to the granite in the large archways between numbers 9 and 11 on Gorky Street, granite that the Nazis had brought in from Finland to erect a victory memorial.

And Yakov Krivonos had what was undoubtedly the best seat for the coming festivities. He was seated in an almost empty room at the top of the Moscow Soviet facing Gorky Street. Access to the building had been as easy as Jerold had said it would be. Yakov had shown his photograph and identification as Yakov Shechedrin to the guard at the door, adjusted his glasses with great seriousness, and had been allowed to pass carrying his rather large briefcase.

Ironically, it was Jerold who had an instant of difficulty getting in and might not have made it if the line of deputies had not been a long one behind him.

“Are you unwell, Comrade?” a uniform guard had asked a dark-suited, beard-trimmed, and quite pale Jerold.

“American flu,” said Jerold.

“Yes, I’m short two men today because of it,” said the guard. “My aunt says to wrap garlic around your neck and eat a clove of it twice a day.” “My mother says the same,” said Jerold. “It can’t hurt to try.”

And with that Jerold had passed into the building. He did not join Yakov till they were on the second floor, up the stairs to the left. Even then they did not walk together. They acted as if they were busy assistants headed for bureaucratic tasks in preparation for the day’s events. It wasn’t till they went into the stairwell door at the end of the corridor and closed the door behind them that they faced each other and spoke.

“You don’t look very well, Jerold,” Yakov said. “Very pale.”

And, Jerold thought, you may look well, Yakov, but you are the one who is dying.

May you not die too soon and may you not die too late.

“I will be fine,” said Jerold, stepping past him and leading the way upward.

Yakov laughed and followed him.

“Can I take these glasses off now?” he asked.

Jerold nodded, and Yakov removed the glasses and put them in the pocket of his suit.

“I’m getting that American flu,” Yakov said. “Stomach pains. Started yesterday.

Worse today. I need more pills.”

“When we are finished,” said Jerold.

“I need more pills,” Yakov said emphatically.

“When we get to the room,” Jerold agreed.

They went through a door on the fourth level. It was dark, but Jerold didn’t hesitate. Because of his wound, he moved slowly, but Yakov could see that he knew where he was going, around a pile of dusty stacked chairs and to a narrow door in the corner. He opened it and entered, with Yakov right behind.

They climbed again, slowly, holding the dusty handrail of the steep, narrow stairway. And then Yakov heard a door open above him, and light came down the stairway shaft. He followed Jerold up through the door and closed it.

The room was not small, about the size of the apartment from which he had thrown Carla through the window. There were ancient wooden file cabinets, six of them, lined up in one corner. Three wooden chairs sat at random places, facing nothing in particular. On the wall was a faded mural depicting factory workers marching, according to the bright

lettering, to greater productivity for the Revolution. Leading the march was a woman with glasses.

“She looks like my mother,” said Yakov, putting down his briefcase on one of the chairs and opening it to reveal the parts of his rifle.

Jerold had sat in one of the other chairs. He looked back at the mural and thought the woman looked nothing like Yakov’s mother, but he said, “Yes, quite a bit.”

“Exactly like her,” Yakov said.

“When you get the gun assembled, open the window,” Jerold said.

“Pills,” answered Yakov.

Timing now was everything. Jerold was greatly weakened by his wound. His loss of blood and the weakness, he knew, might be affecting his judgment, but there was no time to rest. He reached into his inner jacket pocket, removed the bottle, and took out two pills. He handed them to the waiting Yakov, who took them solemnly, gulping them down dry, and walked to the window.

“They are gathering already,” he said.

“Try the window,” said Jerold, putting the bottle away and enjoying the luxury of closing his eyes for an instant.

Yakov opened the window. It neither stuck nor made a sound. The window behaved perfectly, as Jerold knew it would.

“Look, Mother, top of the world,” Yakov said with a chuckle.

Jerold was growing less confident of Yakov’s behavior. He checked his watch.

Still two hours to go. He had pills of his own to take for the pain and to keep him alert, but he would wait till he absolutely needed them, for the pills tended to cloud his judgment.

Yakov moved back to continue assembling the compact rifle.

“By day after tomorrow I’ll be in Las Vegas,” said Yakov as he worked.

By tomorrow, thought Jerold, you will be dead, but he said, “The day after tomorrow.”

“Get a faster plane,” Yakov said, holding up the assembled weapon. “The CIA can get whatever it wants.”

“I’ve told you. I’m not with the CIA,” said Jerold.

“Of course not,” said Yakov. “You’re just a Soviet citizen with good connections. You know what I want to do in Las Vegas?”

“Yes,” said Jerold.

Yakov moved to the window.

“Don’t go to the window with the gun,” Jerold warned. “Not yet.”

“No,” said Yakov. “I don’t mean the girls with the feathers. I want them, yes.

The girls with the feathers. But I want to go to the top of that big hotel-casino in the pictures. I want to stand on top of it and look down at the lights in the night. I want to spread my arms and have them turn into wings so I can leap over the edge. Maybe I can do it with one of those hang gliders.”

“Maybe,” said Jerold.

“And I will meet Madonna,” he said seriously, turning to the seated Jerold.

“You will meet Madonna,” said Jerold.

“And she will be very grateful for what I have done,” he said.

“Very grateful,” said Jerold.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” asked Yakov.

“I know you are not a fool,” said Jerold. “You would not have been chosen for this assignment if you were a fool.”

“Your Lee Harvey Oswald was not a fool, either,” said Yakov.’ ‘Will I be as famous in America as he is in the Soviet Union?”

“Yes,” said Jerold, feeling quite weak but trying not to show it.

Yakov moved back to the window and looked down.

“Top of the world,” he said.

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