1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 14
Vladimir took one look at Boris and knew he had made a rough, fast trip back. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I want to get done here and get back to Moscow as quickly as possible. How is the network progressing?”
“I’m not sure. It seems to me to be working fairly well. The number of spies, artists and philosophers that are living or visiting here seems to grow every day. Trotsky is starting to see spies under his bed.”
“I doubt anyone cares what happens in Trotsky’s bed, even his wife,” Boris said. “Still he knows his business.”
“Oh, there are spies enough.” Vladimir agreed. “However for the most part they don’t seem to care about us.” He shook his head, caught between laughter and embarrassment. “What few attempts we’ve had to penetrate our network have been clumsy. Almost as though they didn’t really care what we were doing but were too polite to simply ignore us. The Spanish and the Austrians want to know what the Swedes are doing here and the Swedes want to know what the Hapsburgs are doing here. The French want to know what the Catholics, and, well, everyone is doing here. The Italians want to know what the other Italians and the Spanish are doing here. The closest thing to a real attempt to subvert me has been an offer by a group of merchants and agents to go in together in the copying of the Encyclopedia Americana 1963 and such other books and periodicals as we can agree on. I accepted, of course. They were already doing it and were simply looking for more subscribers to defray expenses.”
When Brandy Bates received the letter from Natasha Gorchakova she was on her day off and getting ready to go to a play with her mom at the high school.
Her mom answered the door and the first thing Brandy heard was, “You have a letter for Brandy from who?”
“Who is it, Mom?” Brandy asked as she came into the living room to see a tall, dark-haired man with deep blue eyes and a neatly trimmed black beard.
“I’m Knaiz Vladimir Gorchakov,” he said. “The letter is from my sister.”
Brandy wasn’t a true adherent of the philosophy of Club 250, but she had taken in enough of the attitude while working there that she wasn’t the least bit awed by the title or the fancy clothes. Well, maybe the least bit. But she responded by being just a bit snooty herself. “And why is your sister writing to me?”
“Apparently Bernie Zeppi recommended you as a correspondent,” the guy said.
Bernie had gotten a job in Poland or Russia or someplace like that. The pay was supposed to have been pretty good and Mom was giving her the “you behave” look. Oh, what the hell. She could at least read the letter. “Well, if Bernie suggested it at least it’s not out of the blue.” Brandy held out her hand and with clear reluctance the guy handed her the letter.
Mom asked him to have a seat as Brandy examined the letter. It was folded over with a wax blob holding it closed and the wax had been imprinted with a crest.
Brandy shrugged, popped the seal and looked at the letter. The handwriting was good but with way too many flourishes. Working through the letter she got to the part about burning bras in the market square and burst into laughter.
Both Mom and the guy were looking at her with curiosity clear on their faces. Brandy handed the letter to her mother and smiled. “For once Bernie did the right thing. This is not a matter for men of any rank.”
The guy turned a little pink and her mom, who was struggling though the letter, started laughing too.
All in all, though she wouldn’t know it for months, Brandy had managed by accident to make a fairly good first impression on Vladimir.
In the meantime, after they had said goodbye to Knaiz Vladimir Gorchakov and seen the play, Brandy was left with the letter. Its very sparseness made it clear that this Natalia Whosis didn’t know what or how much she could ask without giving offence. So Brandy put together a female care package. 1995 Victoria’s Secret, a 1993 Glamour, 1997 Vogue, a Better Homes and Gardens plus cold cream, nail polish, eye shadow, and a pair of the stretchy one-size-fits-all pantyhose, with instructions. Brandy considered sending an actual bra, but she didn’t have Natasha’s sizes. So instead they sent a tape measure and more instructions.