Chapter XVI.

9 Oct

Klimov let himself into his hotel room without a sound. He had walked back from the house serving as the movement’s headquarters under a cool night sky with no clouds. Stars sparkled above him in a moonless sky. He was too concerned to be conscious of the night or his immediate surroundings.

Would Sara be awake when he appeared at his room in the hotel?

He entered slowly, avoiding any possible sound.

A squeaky voice came from the bedroom. “Is that you, David?” She was in bed, but awake.

“Yes,” he called out to her. He sat down in a sofa chair in the front room. Silence ensued for a few moments. Then the bedroom door opened.

The young woman, dressed in a bath robe, stood in the shadow of the doorway. Her face gleamed through the blackness. Suddenly, David could make her out in the unlighted gloom.

“How did you sleep, Sara?” he whispered as he rose from the chair.

The two faced each other in the lightless murk.

“Quite well,” she told him in a dry tone. “I am now well rested up. It was quiet all afternoon in the room. I doubt that I will need any more sleep tonight.”

“I went back to the house,” explained David. “Viktor had a final strategy meeting and he assigned me a task for tomorrow.”

“An important one, I would imagine,” she murmured.

“I do not know,” he replied. “He wants me to act as a sort of lookout.”

“A lookout?”

“I am to watch out for the arrival of new recruits from out of town.”

Sara, all at once, took two steps forward. She now stood a foot away from him in the darkened front room.

“Would you like to go out and have some late supper?” he suggested to her.

“Yes,” she whispered, taking a last step forward.

There was nothing left but to take Sara in his arms and embrace her tightly.

The tracer of missing persons had now found what he was looking for, in a totally unforeseeable sense.

He held Sara close to himself longer than he anticipated.

Both of them were ravenous for food. David took her to a nearby traktir, a restaurant called “the Bear”. This was surely a place where Lev and Irina would never come, he reasoned. No need to bump into those two, he told himself. What was he going to tell them when he met them next morning, prior to the meeting at the Childrens’ Theater?

The waiters in “the Bear” were dressed in 17th century burlaki. One such Volga boat hauler approached their table in red jacket and gigantic fur hat.

“Would you like to order?” he chuckled with a radiant smile on his face, handing each of them a long cellulose menu.

Sara ordered the fullest, most expensive dinner on the list. Borsch and Chicken Kiev with sour cream and fried potatoes. Vareniki fruit dumplings for desert was to top off her late meal.

Grinning slyly, David said that he would have the same. The waiter took their menus and wabbled away leisurely toward the kitchen of “the Bear.”

“Something tells me we have a good wait ahead before we actually get to eat,” laughed David under his breath. He looked at her face with evident emotion.

“I can wait,” grinned Sara. “Tell me, how will the election of delegates go tomorrow?”

His face turned serious as he considered how to respond.

“The momentum is going to be with the House of Razum,” he coolly predicted. “There is a high probability that the other side will be overwhelmed by our forces there.”

“The element of surprise. Will it be important?”

“Indeed. We shall have a large factor favoring us on that score, Sara.”

She stared down at the ceramic top of their table. “After today, it will be on to the convention in St. Petersburg, I imagine.”

“I have not looked ahead that far. All of us in the House of Razum are expected to attend there, aren’t we? Even the ordinary members who will not be delegates?”

“I have made my hotel reservations in St. Petersburg,” said Sara, raising her head and staring into his eyes with visible emotion.

David decided to try to find out what he could about her plans. “What are you going to do after the national convention? Come back here to Yaroslavl immediately?”

She made a wan smile as she answered him.

“No,” Sara gently murmured. “I believe that I will return to Moscow for a time. There is a lot I can do for our cause there.”

“How would you be advancing our movement in the capital, may I ask?” He waited expectantly to learn what her reply would be. Sara Milova, back in the house of her father? The case solved and finished all by itself, with a voluntary return home? That would certainly be a syshchik’s secret dream. What could be a greater success for him?

“I can accomplish a great deal for telehypnotism at the University of Moscow.”

“You can?” Klimov breathed heavily now.

“I have never told you certain facts about myself, David,” she haltingly confessed. Her lips formed an oddly twisted expression. “I was once a research assistant at the Parapsychology Institute. My main interest was in the area that includes telepathy and its connection to hypnosis. Each of those capabilities can enhance and facilitate the other, I came to believe. Before I left Moscow, I was working on my Master’s thesis. It had to do with the Russian traditional belief called koldunstvo. You know what that is?”

“The so-called evil eye,” replied the undercover detective. “That was what Baba Nara was accused of practicing at Venera Park. It is an ancient belief in Russian folklore.”

“I started to hunt for a genuine koldun or koldunia,” she spelled out rapidly. “This search took me to Suzdal, where I became acquainted with followers of Viktor Razum. They made the arrangements for me to come to Yaroslavl and join the movement as a novice. The rest, you know. Here I stand today, an active Razumite. That is the story of what has happened to me.”

She peered deeply into his eyes as he did the same to her.

“Do you have friends or relatives in Moscow, Sara?” he finally asked her.

“My father lives there and has a business of his own, but I do not want to stay with him when I go back. Dr. Grekov, the head of the Parapsychology Institute, will allow me to again work as his assistant, I am certain. That will permit me to combine my private activity with a job useful to the cause I believe in.”

“Your future looks secured and assured, then,” sighed Klimov. “You will still be working for the House of Razum when you settle in Moscow. I hope you will be happy there. You certainly deserve it.”

What Sara said to him next was a pleasant surprise to the detective.

“Only if you are in Moscow as well, David. Can’t you do your writing there as well as anywhere else?” she asked him with a smile.

He reached across, took her hand, and held her fingers tightly in his.

“I think that I will be returning to the capital with you, my dear,” he brightly replied.

The two were laughing together when their waiter returned with their dinners.

Was it inevitable that the wrong person might come across them together?

As Sara and David came out of the traktir, a hulk of a man nearly collided with them.

All that Lev Tronich managed to say was a startled “Excuse me.” He hurried off in the direction of his distant hotel, acting as if he were a stranger and did not recognize David Klimov.

“I will walk you back to the house,” the latter said to his companion. “That will not take long. We will have a big day tomorrow, won’t we?”

“No doubt of that,” she told him, biting her lower lip.

The two started to walk toward the House of Razum at a brisker pace.


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