Friday, August 07, 2020

Khorosho Horror Show

This is chapter 33 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Thursday Afternoon, July 31, 2020, Seattle

Agent Marchal took his usual seat in the empty Khorosho Tavern.

Nadia, his server and confidant, came over and lowered her mask for a moment to flash him a smile.

“What brings you here on an afternoon?” she said, “The borscht isn’t ready yet.”

“Coffee would be fine,” said Marchal, “And, perhaps, an update on what’s been going around on the Russian grapevine lately.”

“Coffee I can do,” said Nadia, “Gossip, nyet. But stay, have a pirozho with your coffee, and your questions just might be answered.”

“Fair enough, I’ve got all afternoon.”

Nadia left and returned a few minutes later with Marchal’s order. As he began to eat, he heard a man’s voice, metallic and grating, coming from behind him.

“Don’t turn around,” said the man, “And I may answer some of your questions.”

“Agreed,” said Marchal, “I’m not here officially, but there are just a few things that don’t add up. You help me, I may be able to help you sometime further down the road.”

“Of course,” said the voice, “How may I be of service?”

“I’m wondering if you've heard of some action going on in Phoenix, a special car, leased from a Russian dealer, a car that a preacher was found dead in? Perhaps something to do with the Witch Riot of a few weeks ago?”

“Ah, a most unfortunate stroke of bad health for the Reverend. Heart attack, wasn’t it?”

“It appears that it was gas.”

“Ah, indigestion is sometimes a sign of a heart attack, yes?”

“O.K,” Marchal thought he try another approach, “So the so-called witch that the riot was aimed at, perhaps she is of interest?”

“Baba Yaga? Only children believe such nonsense.”

“There was more than one bratvá member at that riot,” said the agent, “Some of Putin’s children, perhaps?”

“Hah. A good joke, yes.”

“Let’s not concern ourselves with specific individuals,“ continued Marchal, “Is there any reason that Russian operatives should be in Seattle at all?”

There was a long pause.

“Let me tell you this, my friend,” said the voice, “There are, as you put it, ‘Russian operatives’ in Seattle. As there are in most of the other major U.S. cities. But you must understand this, they are not in charge of anything. They watch and wait. If a situation develops that could be used to their advantage they become catalysts. A spark here, a well-placed Molotov cocktail there, even a man with an umbrella and a hammer can do a lot of damage. That’s all it takes. It’s all in the game. The U.S. plays it, or used to play it, until Putin got his man into the White House. There is nothing like having an imbecile in charge to bring about the collapse of a program that had been behind one hundred years of anti-Russian activities, to say nothing of the rest of the world.”

“So… there’s nothing personal in these attacks?”

“Who knows? You and me, we just do as we are told, yes?” said the voice, “And the world keeps turning. Now that I’ve told you what I know, what can do for me?”

“I’ll lay off you and your minions if you leave the witch, her husband and their child alone.”

“The eye of Sauron looks elsewhere? That seems like a reasonable exchange. Good bye, my friend.”

Agent Marchal finished eating and went up to the bar to settle his bill.

“No charge today,” said Nadia, “Your friend picked up the tab.”

Sean, Mary, Mareka and Jo were looking at Emily’s artwork. Sean had set up a large makeshift table in the garage. On it there were numerous sketchbooks, drawings and a stack of what Emily called her ‘spirit paintings’. Sean had been asked by his agent to create a book of Emily’s non-canvas art.

“How shall we do this?” said Sean, “How does one even begin to sort through all this stuff?”

“I think that any piece of artwork that strongly appeals to any of us should be set aside, that should hopefully bring it down a little,” said Mary, “Don’t overthink it, whatever catches your attention. We can whittle it down later.”

“How many pieces do you need?” asked Jo.

The agent thought that one hundred would be a good number to shoot for, there are at least three times that many here,” said Sean, “I was thinking of about twenty from the sketchbooks, twenty of the full drawings and the rest would be the ‘spirit paintings’. That should give a good overview of her career.”

“Can I choose, too?” asked Mareka.

“Yes, please do,” said Sean, “It will help us to have some young eyes looking at these, you will see things in them that we wouldn’t otherwise see.”

They spent about an hour looking through the sketchbooks and placing dozens of post-its on numerous pages. The completed sketches took less time to look through—there were far fewer—but they still ended up tagging a couple of dozen.

“Now for the toughies… ” said Sean, “… the spirit paintings.”

It was immediately apparent to Sean that this group would present much more of a challenge. Nightmarish scenes of inky clouds punctured with flashes of iridescent colors were a far cry from Emily’s jazzy line drawings of New York City in the 1920s. These were snapshots of Emily’s personal terra incognita taken on her journeys into the darkest part of her soul.

“Let’s just go through them once—slowly—without saying anything or picking any,” said Sean, “We can take all the time we need with these, no explanations needed.”

“I’m hungry,” said Mary, “Let’s go through them after supper.”

Next chapter: Judgement Day

By Professor Batty

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