The House of Razum. Chapter VII.

4 Oct

Lies increase and multiply, the detective told himself.

It pained him the next day to have to invent a reason to separate himself from his two traveling companions.

Tronich presented him an invitation during breakfast at the hotel dining room. “I want you to come with Irina and me,” he announced. “We are going to visit several important psychic activists here in Yaroslavl who are opposed to Viktor Razum and his movement. Our conversations with them promise to be very interesting for you.”

David had to grope for several excuses at once.

“I am a total stranger here and fear that my presence might inhibit what the local individuals say to you. I would feel like an eavesdropper. That might make the Yaroslavl people uneasy with me being there. Would it be wise to put your talks with them in jeopardy for my sake, Lev?”

“But what else would you be doing today?” asked the latter.

Klimov was ready with an excuse. “I thought I would take a stroll about Yaroslavl and see the sights. It will be possible for me to take a tour bus out to the historic Spassky Monastery from the 16th century. I have read about it and always wanted to see what it was like. This would be my opportunity.”

All of a sudden, the two were silent till then Irina intervened.

“Why don’t I serve as your guide, David? I know the city well enough to take you about and show you the sights.”

“I would be most happy to have you do so,” lied the investigator. “But that is going to deprive Lev of your support and assistance in dealing with the local leaders.”

Irina, having no further arguments, acquiesced and fell silent again.

The matter was settled. She would accompany Lev, while David was free to go to his noon rendezvous with Sara Milova.

How was he going to draw this young woman back to her father in Moscow?

The right lie might succeed, but what would it be? David asked himself.

In the meantime, he had to weave a whole fabric of pretense for her benefit.

“I am writing a novel in which the main character is a psychic expert,” he told her from across their corner table. The traktir was strangely empty, even though it was only a little past noon. When their pirogi meat pies came, he evaluated his situation there. The food was bland and tasteless, he discovered. This was certainly not a fine, classy eatery.

“Have you worked out the entire plot?” inquired Sara with alarm in her eyes.

David tried to look at her without giving any sign of what he was thinking in the back of his mind. “Most of it, I would say. But only in a general way. The details are still to be thought out. There are a lot of questions and problems, both large and small ones, Sara. They fester and still weigh on me.”

“You believe that becoming one of us will be of help to you in the future?”

He had to speak with care, he warned himself.

“The book that I am working on is the type that is termed speculative fiction. The general reading public in Russia knows it better by the name of science fantasy. There is often more fantasy than science involved in that genre of literature, I’m afraid.”

“It’s a fantasy, then?” she nervously asked.

“Not in the sense of being impossible make-believe,” he tried to explain. “The science in my story will be parapsychology and most of the main characters will be psychic adepts. They will be on the frontier of developments that result in progress forward in knowledge about the human mind and its powers.

“That is why it has become necessary for me to join the House of Razum and learn what that movement has accomplished with its explorations into the potential of the mind.”

“What, precisely, are you interested in?” she persisted to inquire. “If I knew that, perhaps I could be of greater help to you.”

He hesitated for a moment, dramatically biting his thin lip.

“Psychic phenomena at a great distance,” he confessed. “The power in the human mind to conquer space and time.”

Sara seemed a little shaken as she turned to another subject.

“Can you tell me more of the plot outline of your novel, David?” she softly asked him.

It was time to prevaricate, he told himself in sorrow.

“The hero is a scientist, a behavioral psychologist, who falls in love with a woman who is a psychic. She attracts him into the field of psionic phenomena as their romance develops and deepens. That is about as far as my writing has taken me, so far.”

“I see,” sighed Sara Milova. “It sounds like it will be an interesting and exciting story.”

“I hope so,” said Klimov, crossing his fingers.

“Must the novelist be steeped in modern science in order to write such books?”

The detective thought quickly as he beamed at her. “Not necessarily. It is more important to have a sense of direction about the possibilities of the future. Experience is much more useful and important to a writer than any theoretical knowledge. And personal sensitivity is vital, also.”

Sara looked at him with sympathy. “I take it, then, that you wish to have richer psychic experiences and increase your own sensitivity to telepathy.”

“Exactly!”

The face of Sara Milova seemed to drift far away for a brief moment.

“I am a Moskovite,” she said with guarded caution. “My home is still there, but I left it in order to follow Viktor Razum. My entire existence is now connected with his wonderful movement. It has become a sort of new religion for me and many others.”

“It must be a glorious experience, Sara.”

He stopped himself, looking straight into her face. Better not to say too much more at this time, the investigator said to himself.

Shortly, the two of them left the traktir for the town park across the street.

The unexpected happened as the new acquaintances strolled through the park. The pair with whom David had come to Yaroslavl appeared on the silicon walkway, moving in the opposite direction.

“Lev!” cried out the detective. “Irina!”

All four pedestrians stopped in their tracks.

“Let me introduce you to someone with the same interest as us,” said David with trepidation.

His introductions were awkward and halting, as brief as possible.

Sara then addressed Tronich directly. “I heard of you when I stayed in Suzdal a short while ago.”

Oh!” exclaimed the Mayor. “Did you attend any of the meetings of our Tsekh branch?”

Sara seemed to look away. “No. I was there only a short time before I left for Yaroslavl.”

Tronich glanced at his finger-timer a moment. “I’m sorry to have to run off this quickly, but there is an appointment in town I must keep. Excuse us for rushing away, Miss…” He searched his memory for her name.

“Milova,” muttered the fugitive. “My name is Sara Milova, sir.”

“Nice to have met you,” said the Mayor of Suzdal as he departed, Irina silent at his side. She had not said a word during the entire encounter between the two pairs of walkers.

David and Sara proceeded to the edge of the park before the former spoke.

“Can I ask you to sponsor and support me to become a member?” he begged her out of the blue.

“Of course,” was her enthusiastic response. “It is best that you meet Doctor Razum as soon as you can. When do you wish to be introduced to him?”

David’s face seemed to glow with a flush of emotion.

“Can you arrange for me to see him tonight, Sara?”

“Certainly,” she eagerly replied. “He will be giving private consultations at the House, There will be plenty of opportunity to squeeze you into his schedule. Can you be there about eight?”

He nodded that he would be there.

The two of them returned to the downtown sector and parted from each other in a short while.

David spent the rest of the afternoon formulating what he intended to tell his two traveling companions from Suzdal.

As soon as he sat down at the dining room table, he started to plan a new role of psychic spy for himself.

“It was very good thing fortune that I happened to meet Sara Milova,” he said to Lev Tronich. She can provide me an opportunity that I can obtain in no other way.”

“What are you talking about?” asked a perplexed Tronich.

“It is simple,” he said with a grin. “Through her, we will be able to infiltrate the House of Razum, to which she belongs.”

He paused a moment. “At least I will,” he added.

The Mayor of Suzdal wrinkled his forehead as he pondered for a time.

“What you propose to do,” declared Irina, “sounds to me like an imposter’s trick. How can anyone accept such subterfuge and deception?”

Klimov looked at her with alarm. “What do you mean?” he asked in surprise. “That what I can learn from inside the House of Razum will not be acceptable if I do not reveal everything about myself to this woman, Sara Milova? He drew a big mouthful of air into his lungs. “I already have an appointment set up for this evening to meet Dr. Viktor Razum. Am I to cancel it and not see the man?”

Irina stared at him, her hands shaking slightly. “This Sara did that for you?”

“Yes. He is going to interview me as a potential new member of the House of Razum. I will be able to ask some questions and obtain important information from that leading source.”

Irina all of a sudden turned to Lev Tronich. “What do you say?” she excitedly demanded.

The Mayor’s face by now was tinged with red. What was he going to tell her?

“I don’t rightly know,” he sputtered. “This could be the break we need. I can imagine the data that David could provide us from inside their organization. It might make a difference in our struggle with the mad fanatics. This could be a key to victory in our war with Razum, for we are truly in a struggle, a conflict to the bitter end. That is what I am considering in my thought on this subject.”

“But is it a just and honest weapon for us to use?” she exclaimed.

Tronish turned his gaze away from her. “It is really up to David to decide what he should be doing,” he said with self-assurance. “He will be the one taking on the responsibility and the risks involved, not us. It is his choice and he will bear the entire burden.”

Irina turned her eyes on the novel-writer from Moscow whom she knew so little about. He had now become a painful enigma to her, full of sudden surprises such as this plan of espionage.

“I will have to take the entire load on my own conscience,” his voice rang out in a hollow tone. “If there be any blame or guilt involved in this, it will be all mine and no one else’s.”

She had no answer to this argument, accepting his venture and silencing her doubt.

In a few minutes, Klimov left for his first meeting with the leader of the House of Razum.

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