ELEVEN

Yuri Vostoyavek did not tell his mother about the dream of the gaunt man for two reasons. First, he did not wish his mother to know that he had experienced a nightmare and might be seeking her sympathy. Elena Vostoyavek was already too anxious to provide her sympathy to her only son. Second, and perhaps more troubling and important, Yuri was not completely sure that it had been a dream.

It had seemed so tangible, so … and then he remembered. He remembered as he put on his shoes and heard the water running in the small bathroom.

“Mother,” he called, pausing with one shoe on, “in the night, did you call out to me?”

“Call out? Yes. You knocked over the clock.”

“But the clock wasn’t on the floor this morning,” he said.

Elena turned off the water and came into the combination living room-kitchen-bedroom.

“I picked it up early this morning when you were asleep,” she said, looking at him as she adjusted an earring. “What’s wrong? Are you ill?”

Yuri stood up quickly, his face pale.

“Wrong? Why are you always asking what is wrong? Nothing is wrong. It’s depressing to … I’m sorry.”

“Does it have to do with …?” she began and then stopped.

“Do with what?” Yuri asked, pausing at the door.

“Do with that girl?” she said softly, hoping he wouldn’t be angry, sorry that she had said it.

“I don’t know,” he said, and left the apartment.

And that answer from her son, that moment of doubt frightened Elena Vostoyavek more man the anger of her son had ever done.

Just before dawn, Porfiry Petrovich had eaten two slices of bread with currant jam and drunk a quart of something called celery-banana juice. He had made his call to Petrovka, asking if there had been any reports of break-ins during the night. He did not explain himself to the clerk. He did not have to. He simply gave his name, rank, and access code.

Then, with the receiver cradled under his ear as he put on his pants, Rostnikov listened to the list of break-ins throughout Moscow. The Lentaka Shoe Factory was fifth on the list, but Rostnikov waited until the clerk had read the full twenty-six. He then requested a full printout on his desk within the hour.

Moments later he had Raya Corspoyva, the party representative at the Lentaka Shoe Factory, on the phone.

“Comrade,” he said with concern, “I’ve just received the morning report and note that an attempted break-in has taken place.”

“It was nothing, Inspector,” she said. “A mistake.”

“It seems strange coming so closely on my visit,” he said. “Are you sure this has nothing to do with my inquiries?”

“Nothing,” she assured him. “A mistake. Nothing is missing. There is no sign of entry. Had I been here I would have stopped the guard from reporting. I will admit, however, and I hope this does not get into the record, that one of our night security guards got a little drunk and thought he saw someone. Even claimed to have been attacked, though he couldn’t identify an attacker.”

“Drunk, on duty?” Rostnikov said.

“They have been dismissed,” she replied.

“And that is all there is to it?”

“That is all,” she said. “You have my word as party member, Comrade.”

And, Rostnikov noted, your word does not include the death of a guard dog and the mauling of another.

“Thank you, Comrade,” he said. “You have relieved my anxiety.”

A few minutes before seven that morning, Sasha Tkach had stood just outside the Arbat Metro Station no more than twenty paces from where Emil Karpo had stood the day before when he followed Yuri Vostoyavek. The sun had been bright, the air cool. Though Sasha was tired, he felt as if the world might be considering at least a neutral attitude toward him.

He had begun the morning at six in the Petrovka office checking the computer for licenses issued to flower sellers. There were several Sonias, none of whom was authorized to sell on or near the Arbat.

Yes, the old man could have been lying to him, but Sasha didn’t think so. The man wanted the permit to meet, and Sasha, with Rostnikov’s help, would deliver it if he found Sonia.

He began making inquiries of vendors and received the description of several flower vendors, though no one knew their names. A one-armed man selling shoelaces in front of a shoestore told him of a girl who might have been named Sonia who usually came to the square around ten to sell flowers. By the time he received this information, it was a few minutes to nine. He bought a copy of Pravda, buttoned his jacket, and went back to the square to await the arrival of the flower seller, who might or might not be the Sonia he was seeking.

Porfiry Petrovich did not immediately go to Petrovka that morning. In fact, he called in a second time asking to be switched directly to Pankov. He told Pankov that he would be investigating the shoe factory pilfering and would be in sometime in the afternoon to report.

Since Porfiry Petrovich had not once in the several months he had worked for the Gray Wolfhound offered any kind of report to Pankov, the little man was genuinely grateful.

“I will be here and waiting,” Pankov said with dignity.

Rostnikov hung up. The copies of documents he had made were in an envelope securely taped to the bottom of the lower right-hand drawer of Pankov’s desk. Rostnikov had read them carefully the night before. The link to Nahatchavanski was subtle and circumstantial but evident to a careful observer. Substantial payments had been made to a man named Stylor for “services.” Stylor had, in turn, taken this money for unspecified services and turned it over to a fund to establish a memorial for casualties of the Afghan campaign. Gregor Nahatchavanski was the director of this campaign. The documents indicating this link had been clipped together, making it clear that Raya Corspoyva was providing herself with a bit of insurance, a dangerous bit of insurance.

Before he had come home the night before, Rostnikov had used the computer files to verify that Igor Stylor was Gregor Nahatchavanski’s brother-in-law and that Igor Stylor was a low-level clerk in the Office of Housing. He also verified that a fund to establish a memorial for Afghan casualties did exist but that to date only a small amount of cash had come in for the fund, which had received very little public attention.

After working out with his weights, taking a quick, cold shower, and dressing, Rostnikov walked to the Metro station and took a train to Sokol Street. One of the items he had found in Lukov’s office was the home address on Sokol Street of Ivan Bulgarin.

Rostnikov had no trouble finding the address. It was one of a dozen similar five-story apartment buildings on Sokol. He entered the lobby, ignored the scribbled obscenities on the wall, and searched for the name of Ivan Bulgarin. He did not find it. He did find a door with the name “Mariya Kartonya, Director,” written on a gray card. Beyond the door people were arguing loudly. Rostnikov knocked at the door and waited. The argument within continued. Rostnikov knocked again and heard someone come to the door. The door opened and Porfiry Petrovich found himself looking into the face of a small, fat woman in a black dress. The fat woman, who could have been any age from thirty to fifty, had her hands on her hips and did not look pleased to have a visitor.

“What?” she demanded.

Behind her a man shouted. The fat woman turned and screamed at the man to shut up.

“Police,” said Rostnikov, showing his card.

“So?” she said.

“I’m looking for Ivan Bulgarin,” he said.

“Where are my suspenders?” the man inside the apartment demanded, moving toward the door. “Who?” the fat woman asked.

“Bulgarin, Ivan,” Rostnikov said. “He lives in this building.”

“Forget the suspenders,” said the man. “I’m leaving.”

“No Bulgarin,” she said. “Bulgakov, Bulmash. No Bulgarin. Not since I’ve been here.”

“And,” said Rostnikov, “how long is that?”

“Twelve years. Twelve years with him,” the fat woman said, pointing over her shoulder where the man suddenly appeared. There was nothing to him. He couldn’t have weighed more than 120 pounds and couldn’t have been younger than sixty-five or seventy.

“Maybe Bulgarin is in one of the other buildings,” Rostnikov tried. “A very big man with a beard.”

“No,” said Mariya, putting up her arm to stop the thin man from escaping past her. “I know the buildings on this street. No Bulgarin. Nobody very big with a beard.”

The thin man ducked under the fat woman’s arm and dashed past Rostnikov.

“Thank you,” said Rostnikov, stepping quickly out of the way to allow her to go in pursuit of her man.

When he arrived at his desk slightly after noon, Rostnikov considered several ways of finding the man who walked like a bear. He was considering this when the phone rang.

Andrei Morchov had risen early this morning, as he did every morning. Now he stood looking at himself in the mirror. He was not completely displeased. He had cultivated a brooding, intense look that had long ago ceased to be a mask. He looked like a man carrying a heavy burden of responsibility but not just trivial, domestic responsibility. No; Andrei Morchov, as anyone could see who saw him stride quickly to his waiting limousine or put on his glasses to absorb a document, was concerned with matters of great pith and moment. His suits were properly dark. His ties were somber. He never looked as if he needed a shave or haircut. Andrei Morchov knew that he was not a handsome man, but he had presence.

Andrei Morchov adjusted his tie and, in the mirror, saw his daughter Jalna in the next room walking carefully toward the door of the dacha.

“Where are you going?” he said evenly without turning from the mirror. In fact, although he was ready to turn, he continued to watch her reflection. Andrei Morchov knew how to seize and hold an advantage.

“Out, to the city,” she said.

“No.”

“I have nothing to do here!” she cried.

“Schoolwork. Reading. Gardening.”

He pretended to adjust his tie just a bit more.

“I’ll go mad here,” she said to her father’s back. “Mad.”

“You’ll not go mad,” he said, turning.

“I’ll leave when you are gone,” she said. “You won’t even know I’ve left.”

“I’ll call from my office,” he said, walking past her to get his coat and briefcase at the door.

“I’ll say I was in the garden or on the toilet. I’ll say I was simply outside loving the trees and grass,” she taunted.

“And the flowers,” he added.

A smile touched Andrei Morchov’s lips, but he controlled it as he adjusted his coat and picked up his briefcase. He could manipulate ministers, confound bureaucrats, and control generals, but it took enormous energy to exert the slightest control over this one teenage girl. There were those in the government who would delight at watching this domestic scene. And it was at this moment that Andrei Morchov realized not for the first time that he truly loved his daughter.

The revelation was quite startling each time it came. They had never gotten along well. Certainly, it had been worse when Mariankaya, the girl’s mother, was alive, but it had not improved when she died.

Andrei Morchov stood looking at his daughter. He knew that, like her mother, she was quite beautiful, a pale northern beauty he recognized but that held no intrigue for him. He preferred dark women with the hint of a serpent about them, like Svetlana.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Jalna asked defiantly. She wore a pair of American jeans and a man’s white shirt tied in front the way she had seen it done in a French magazine.

“You’ll do as you are told,” he said, but he thought as he had on other such occasions that his conflict with his daughter was what kept him truly alive. The rest of his existence was a performance without substance, with any satisfaction long since exhausted. His life, with the exception of this girl, was a chess game he could play with skill and no heat.

“Do you know what?” she said, advancing on him. “Do you know what?” she shouted. “I hate you! I’ve always hated you!”

And Andrei Morchov did the wrong thing. He laughed. He laughed because she was expressing her hate at a moment in which he was acknowledging to himself a love for her. He laughed because he expected that this rush of affection in him would fade, as it had before, when he was in the backseat of his car looking at the trade union papers. He laughed because the expression of hate in his daughter’s eyes was so clearly false. Yes, she hated him, but she hated him because she loved and needed him. She hated him, but she hated herself more for her need of him. And, he realized, even if this feeling of love remained within him, he could and would do nothing about it, as he had done nothing in the past when this feeling for her had come. Their roles were set. He could not simply repent, embrace her, and promise her a new life. They would go on like this till she was grown and moved out or accepted their relationship. The forum of their love would be emotional, volatile. Andrei Morchov had laughed at himself.

The laughter froze Jalna in midstep, and her anger went beyond words.

He was laughing at her, laughing at her. He would not even take her hatred seriously.

“I must go,” he said. “I will be home late tonight.”

She did not answer. He turned and went out the door, closing it behind him with a firm, controlled snap.

Jalna found herself moving to the window, moving as she had done hundreds, perhaps thousands of times, moving to the window to watch her father pull away in a dark car, pull away and leave her alone for hours, days. She watched the car move slowly down the paved road through the trees. She watched as it turned right and moved out of sight. She watched even when there was no car to see and she decided that when her father returned that night, with or without Yuri, she would kill him.

The flower vendor named Sonia arrived just after ten. Her cart was small, her supply limited to bunches of small yellow flowers. She was, Sasha decided, about twenty and quite pretty if a bit thin. Her dark hair was cut short, and her skin was bronzed by heredity and the sun.

Sasha tucked the newspaper into his pocket and approached as passersby paused to look at the flowers and then generally moved on without buying. As he approached, the girl adjusted the flowers, perking up a bunch in the back with her fingertips, and switching several bunches about.

“Your name is Sonia?” he asked.

She looked up and smiled. Sasha returned the smile.

“Yes,” she said.

There was in her voice an accent of the South, not like Maya’s Ukrainian accent, which spoke of mountains and the past, but an exotic accent that suggested the Orient.

“Police,” he said, removing his wallet and showing his photo identity card.

Before he could put the wallet away she reached over to hold and examine it. A man had been approaching the flower cart, but when he saw Sasha open his wallet and say “Police,” he veered away, as if remembering some urgent business elsewhere. \

“Sasha,” the girl said without fear. “A good name. I had a boyfriend named Sasha once. I stayed with him longer than I should have just because I liked the way our names went together, Sasha and Sonia. It sounds like a balancing act at the circus. You like the circus?”

A bus roared behind them and a wave of shoppers burst from the mouth of the Metro station. Tkach put his wallet away. The girl continued to smile at him.

“You don’t seem concerned that I know your name and am a police officer,” he said.

“I’m not,” she answered.

“That is an attitude I have begun to encounter frequently,” he said with a sigh.

“And it disturbs you? You would rather have people afraid of the police?” she asked.

“It would make my life easier,” he said.

“But the police, the State exist to serve the people,” she said teasingly. “The people are the State.”

This was not going at all as Sasha had expected. Instead of investigating a murder he was being given a political lecture by a flower girl in the middle of a busy square. People were passing by, catching snatches of the conversation, and hiding grins. He had to regain control of the situation, though he was not sure he had ever had such control.

“I have some questions I must ask you,” he said.

“Here? Now?”

“If not here, where? If not now, when?” he answered, mocking her previous political style.

“Ask,” she said, “but ask quickly. I’m losing customers.”

Sasha selected a bunch of flowers and handed the girl a kopeck.

“For my wife,” he explained.

“In that case,” Sonia said, taking the flowers from him and holding out a different bunch, “take the time to give her the freshest ones and not just the first you see.”

“Peotor Kotsis,” said Sasha, taking the flowers from her and letting his fingers touch her hand so he could feel her response to the name at the same time he watched her expression. He detected nothing. She said nothing.

“You know the name?” he went on, now holding the flowers awkwardly in his hand.

“Yes,” she said. “How did you know I-?”

“I must find him,” he interrupted.

“Why?”

She busied herself readjusting the flowers to cover the space left by Sasha’s purchase.

“We have reason to suspect that he may be involved in a major crime,” said Sasha. “That is all I can tell you. What can you tell me?”

“Peotor Kotsis is from the same town in the Turkistan that my family is from,” Sonia said, still smiling but a smile that had lost its mirth. “The Kotsis family long before it was fashionable grumbled about independence. People in our town were afraid of him, his son, the whole family. People in our town humored Kotsis and were relieved when he and his brood left the town. Kotsis vowed to come back a liberator and a hero who had brought independence to Turkistan, to come back a hero or die a martyr.”

“And he came to Moscow?” Sasha prodded, shifting his flowers once more, sorry he had purchased them. A fat woman jostled Sasha, who immediately felt for his wallet and found it still there.

“First through the South, town to town, village to village, locating Turkistanis, recruiting their support, intimidating them into giving him and his growing band food and shelter,” Sonia said, looking beyond Sasha toward the South, though the view was blocked by a massive building.

“And you were with him?” Sasha asked.

“I was with them,” she said, nodding. “I convinced myself that I believed in the Turkistani liberation. I convinced myself because I wanted to get out of that long-dead town of decaying wood and forgotten memories. I was a young girl, and these people were wild and exciting.”

“You are still a young girl,” Sasha said.

“A young woman,” Sonia corrected, pointing a mock scolding finger at him.

“Do you know where Peotor Kotsis is?”

“You mean where he is right now?” she asked in return.

“Now, soon, whatever,” said Sasha.

“Come back here at noon,” she said. “I’ll take you home. You can talk to my father. He’ll know where Peotor Kotsis is. He’ll know where his son Vasily is. He’ll know whatever you need to know. Whether he will tell you is between you and him.”

“Noon,” he said.

She waved as he walked away, and Sasha nodded back. He wasn’t sure what he would do with the flowers. There wasn’t time to take them home for Maya, and he had things to do before he returned to the square to meet Sonia at noon.

And then he got a wonderful idea. Lydia, his mother, worked only a few minutes from here. He found a phone, made his call, and then walked up the street to the Office of Information. He identified himself to the guard at the desk and went up the elevator to the floor where Lydia worked. Although she had worked there for almost two decades, Sasha had entered the building only four times, and one of those was in conjunction with the investigation of a series of murders along the Moscow River. The murderer had never been caught.

On the sixth floor, Sasha located his mother’s supervisor, who politely told the policeman that he could certainly talk to Lydia for a few minutes. The supervisor, who was no older than Sasha, looked at the flowers without comment.

Lydia was seated at her desk in a corner away from the other workers in her section. She did not hear her son approach. But Lydia Tkach heard very little in any case.

“Mother,” Sasha announced.

She didn’t respond. He stepped in front of her into her field of vision and she looked up.

She was a small woman in a no-nonsense business suit, her gray straight hair tied back with a dark band that matched the color of her suit. Once, Sasha thought, she had been a beauty. The cheekbones were still there. The eyes were still bright.

“Who died?” Lydia shouted. “Maya? The baby? Uncle Mikhail?”

“No one died,” Sasha said, looking around as the woman at a nearby desk looked at him. “I was nearby and wanted to bring you this.”

He reached down with the flowers and her hand came up to take them and then pulled back, as if sensing a trap within the bright petals.

“What is this?” she demanded.

“Flowers, Mother,” he said. “Just flowers. I was in-”

“Bribes,” she said, looking around the room toward her fellow workers, who did their best to ignore her. “My own son is reduced to bribes with wilting flowers. I can’t be bought, Sasha. I cannot be bought. You want to throw me into the street. That you can do, but you cannot salve your conscience with a few flowers.”

“Mother, this is-”

“I don’t even like this kind of flower,” she said in exasperation. “You’ve known me thirty years and you don’t know what kind of flowers I like.”

“I’m only twenty-nine, Mother, and I thought you liked all flowers. You always say you-”

She reached over, took the flowers from him, and gave him a look of deep contempt.

“That baby needs me,” she said, fishing into a drawer for a glass, which she popped into the desk and filled with the flowers. “You don’t just take a baby from her grandmother.”

“No one is taking … Mother, we’ve been through all this.”

“You’ve been through all this,” she said. “I listened. You talked.”

It was clear to Sasha that everyone within five or six miles was listening to his mother shout. They had no choice even if they had no interest.

“I’ve got to get back to work, Mother,” he said.

His mother glared up at him. Sasha leaned over the desk and kissed her head.

“The flowers aren’t so bad,” she said.

“Thank you.”

“You doing something dangerous today?” she asked, her voice dropping several decibels as she looked up at him.

“What makes you-?” he began.

“Porfiry Petrovich,” she said loudly. “Chief Inspector Rostnikov took me to lunch yesterday and told me about you. Are you doing anything dangerous?”

“No,” he lied. “Inspector Rostnikov …?”

“Take care of yourself,” she said, looking down at her work and ending the conversation.

“You, too,” he said, taking a step back.

“Of course. Who will if I don’t?”

With that Sasha made his escape, vowing never again to visit his mother at work.

He made it back to the square a few minutes before noon and found that Sonia had sold most of her flowers. She smiled up at him. Her teeth, he noticed, were remarkably white and even.

“You brought your flowers home?” she asked, pushing her cart toward him. “How did your wife like them?”

“I gave them to my mother,” he said, falling into step beside her.

“You want another bunch for your wife?” Sonia asked.

“Perhaps, after I see your father,” he said.

“Is your wife pretty?” Sonia asked, maneuvering her cart down a curb.

“Yes,” he said.

“Of course,” Sonia said with a laugh, dodging behind a car, the wheels of the cart clattering. “A pretty policeman would have a pretty wife. Nothing else would make sense.”

“You’re sure your father will be home?” he asked.

“He’ll be home,” she said. “But he’ll be leaving for work soon. Maybe you and I can talk a bit then. I can tell you more about Kotsis. And other things. Sasha and Sonia.”

She moved quickly, and he had to hurry to keep up with her.

“Is it far?” he asked.

A barrel of a man stepped back awkwardly to avoid the momentum of the flower cart.

“Not far,” she said. “Right down this way.”

“Can we move a bit slower?” Sasha said. “I don’t want to arrest you for dangerous driving.”

Sonia slowed down.

“Better?” she asked.

“Better,” he said.

She took his arm and pushed the cart expertly with one hand. Sasha did not pull away.

“Right over there,” she said, pointing to a small, slightly run-down ancient building that had managed to escape the demolition and rebuilding of the 1950s. She opened the door with a key and maneuvered the cart through expertly, though it looked to Sasha as if there was no room to do so. There was almost no light in the alcove in which Sasha found himself. He could barely see the outline of the flower cart as Sonia pushed it into a corner.

“This way,” she said, taking his hand and pushing open a door.

Her hand was warm and rough and not at all unpleasant.

There was a bit more light on the stairway she led him up. A solitary small and dirty window on the landing above them allowed them to see the worn-down wooden stairs. On the second floor, Sonia tugged him to the left.

“Right here,” she said. She let go of his hand, inserted her key in the lock, and opened the door.

Sasha stepped into the small room behind her. There were a few pieces of old furniture, a worn sofa, a table with three chairs, a lamp, and a dresser with a radio atop it. A small rug hid few of the stains on the dirty floor. Sonia closed the door and called out, “Father, we’re here!”

A man came through the door to the right, a somber man in dark pants, a flannel shirt, and a blue jacket. In his right hand he held a pistol, which he aimed directly at Sasha Tkach’s chest.

“This is my father, Sasha,” Sonia said. “Peotor Kotsis.”

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