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.” Lourds smiled at her, loving her curiosity.“And would you consider a nuclear weapon important?”“I don’t understand.”“The United States has lost at least seven of them since World War Two.That’s only counting what’s been confirmed.There may have been more.Not to mention all those nuclear weapons that ‘disappeared’ when the Soviet Union collapsed.”“Those were secret things,” Leslie said.“No one was supposed to know about them.”“Perhaps the bell and cymbal were secret things, too.”Leslie stared at him with more interest.“Is that what you think?”“I’ve contacted several friends in museums and private collections as well as insurance companies.When that bell went missing, I figured our unfortunate adversaries might have stolen other related artifacts.That I turned up absolutely nothing except the cymbal indicates to me that there were very few things like them made.”“You think the bell and the cymbal were unique?”“I’m not yet ready to make that assumption, but yes.”“And that others are after them.”“Indeed.”“You know, the bell and the cymbal were so far apart.and relatively unknown.Neither item was in the care of a collector or an institution.But when they turned up, it appears that someone very ruthless was searching for them.I’m betting my reputation that you will figure out why.”“There’s something here,” Lourds said.“Otherwise nobody would be killing for these pieces.”DOMODEDOVO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTMOSCOW, RUSSIAAUGUST 21, 2009After gathering their carry-on luggage, which was all they’d brought with them from Alexandria, Lourds and Leslie walked through the tunnel to the security checkpoints inside the terminal.Lourds glanced at his watch and discovered that the local time was barely after 5 A.M.He was tired because he hadn’t rested well on the flight.Normally he could sleep like the proverbial baby on airplanes, but his mind had remained too busy this time.Leslie, on the other hand, had slept quite well.They stood in line with the other passengers.Lourds gazed at a knot of uniformed East Line Group security guards.One guard in his fifties fixed Lourds with dead gray eyes.He glanced at a photograph in his hand.“Mr.Lourds?”“That’s Professor Lourds, actually,” Lourds said.He didn’t try to deny his identity.If the security men had his picture, he felt certain they knew he was on the passenger manifest.“You’ll come with me, please.”“What’s this about?”“No questions,” the man said.“Come with me.”When Lourds didn’t move fast enough to suit him, the man closed an iron grip on the professor’s arm and pulled him from the line.“What’s going on?” Leslie asked.She tried to follow.A young male security guard intercepted her and held her back.“No,” the guard said.“You can’t do this,” Leslie protested.“It is done,” the young man said.“Please stay in line.Otherwise we will have you detained or deported.”Leslie stared after Lourds.“Perhaps you might contact the State Department,” Lourds said, trying to sound calm, as if this sort of thing happened to him every day.It didn’t, though, and he was surprised to discover he was actually quite frightened.It was one thing to be a guest inside a foreign country.It was quite another to be treated as an enemy of the state.CHAPTER 7DOMODEDOVO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTDETENTION ROOMMOSCOW, RUSSIAAUGUST 21, 2009Lourds tried to keep calm as he sat in the detention room, even though the windowless, featureless walls felt like they were closing in on him.The gray paint was a dismal addition; it felt to Lourds like it sucked all the life and color from the room and anything in it, including him.A scarred wooden table and three chairs occupied the center of the space.Lourds’s chair sat on one side of the table by itself.The walls seemed to exude memories of harsh interrogations held here.Perhaps the new Russia didn’t indulge in strong-arm tactics with the same abandon that the old Soviet Union had, and the Czar’s special police before that, but Lourds knew his captors wanted him to remember that ruthless past.They’d taken his computer, his baggage, and his cell phone.He knew they were watching him.Since the blank gray walls held no mirror or one-way glass, he assumed they spied on him through hidden cameras embedded in the walls or ceiling.Every time he’d stood up to stretch his legs, a guard stepped into the room to tell him to sit down again.The woman who walked into the room was beautiful.Rich red hair rippled to her shoulders.Her warm brown eyes regarded him.She wore a gray business suit that complemented her hair and fair complexion.Without thinking, Lourds got to his feet.His parents had taught him manners so well that, even now, the lessons held.The woman stopped him immediately, though.“Sit,” she ordered in English.Her hand slid to her hip.Lourds sat.The move she’d made, he figured, meant she had a weapon.“I meant no offense,” Lourds said.“When a beautiful woman enters a room, I was trained to stand.Out of respect.I suppose I have my mother to thank for nearly getting shot.”The woman remained standing.Her eyes were flat and hard.“Look,” Lourds said, “Whatever you think I’ve done—”“Quiet,” the woman ordered.“You are Professor Thomas Lourds?” she asked.“Yes.”“What are you doing here?”“I’m an American citizen with a visa to travel in this country.”“One word from me,” the woman interrupted, “your visa is canceled and you’re on the next plane out of here.Do you understand?”Lourds knew she wasn’t bluffing.“Yes.”“You’re here, at this moment, at my sufferance.Why are you here?”“To see a friend.Ivan Hapaev.”“How do you know Ivan Hapaev?”“Through his wife.”“Yuliya Hapaev.”Lourds nodded.“Yes.Yuliya and I often consulted each other.I teach—”“Languages,” the woman said.“Yes.I’m aware of that; however, Yuliya Hapaev is dead.”“I know.I came here to offer my condolences.”“Are you and Ivan Hapaev close?”Lourds decided to tell the truth.“No.”“You came all this way to see a man you know only socially at a time when he’s grieving over the murder of his wife?”“I had other business that brought me to Moscow.I wanted to stop long enough to see Ivan.”“What other business?”“Researching projects.That’s what I’m doing now.”“Are you a good friend of Ivan’s?”“Actually, I knew his wife better.As I said, Dr.Hapaev and I were—”“Colleagues.”“Yes.”“If you were such close friends,” the woman said.“I should have known you.”“You couldn’t know everyone who saw Dr.Hapaev—”“I knew many of them.” The woman reached inside her jacket and flipped out an identification case.“My name is Natasha Safarov.Dr.Hapaev was my sister.”Sister! Lourds looked carefully at the woman and could see the family resemblance then.It had been there the whole time.“I’m investigating my sister’s murder, Professor Lourds.” Natasha closed her police identification case.She studied Lourds’s face.He was a handsome man, and he appeared to honestly care about Yuliya.“Why was I detained?” Lourds asked.“The night of my sister’s death, you called her on her cell phone.Why?”“To warn her.That cymbal she was researching looked similar to a bell that was recently stolen from me and my television team in a studio shoot in Alexandria.We were nearly killed.”“Tell me about that,” Natasha prompted.______He told her, leaving nothing out.He added, after he finished the tale, “I’m sorry about your sister, Inspector Safarov,” Lourds said.“She was truly a magnificent woman.And she loved you very much.She talked about you a great deal [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]