house. Bertrand’s girlfriend, he remembered. A Yugoslav tarot-card reader.

Dijana Frankovic said, Bertrand? I tell him go to hell. Da. He is boring. The whole room was singing “Love Me Do” by the Beatles. She was very drunk, and she pulled him aside. Brano Sev, I am in the love with you.

It was too late, he decided, to follow through on the operation. Bertrand Richter could be killed another day. So when she asked, he walked her back to her apartment, listening to her lecture on the Serbian word “ zbrka”-The essence, she said, is when is much too many thing, so nothing can you touch. Despite his apprehension-a woman who would say “love” to a near-stranger was plainly unbalanced-he submitted. He went upstairs with her, and after two hours returned to his hotel. An unsigned telephone message waited at the front desk: Come now.

He returned to the Volksgarten, thinking not of Bertrand Richter but of the contours of Dijana Frankovic’s body.

Jesus, Brano, where the hell have you been?

While he was at the party, Josef Lochert had decided to wait by the front door. And when Bertrand returned to his home, drunk, moaning about the woman who had spurned him, Lochert suggested they go for a ride to clear their heads. He drove Richter to the Volksgarten and walked him to the Temple of Theseus. They climbed the steps and, once inside the temple, he beat Richter with a truncheon until he was dead.

Lochert had dragged the body behind the bushes that ringed the temple. It was after two in the morning, and he was unamused by Brano’s disappearance. Wait until Yalta hears about this, you just wait.

Brano ignored that. You’ve removed all identification?

Of course. The wallet’s in my pocket.

But Brano looked for himself and found a library card inside Richter’s pants. What about this?

Keep it as a souvenir. Just help me with him.

The last thing Brano remembered was rolling up his sleeves and dragging Bertrand deeper into the bushes. The man’s head was a mess of blood and skull shards by this point-blood smeared across Brano’s forearm-and he remembered not wanting to look too closely. At midthought, his memory stopped.

Then he woke, with a dead man’s library card and no memory, to the coarse sounds of an Austrian policeman.

“You’re not getting sick, are you?” asked the young Austrian.

Brano sat down heavily. “Flying’s not easy.”

“Don’t worry. Tisa Aero-Transport has a one hundred percent safety record. I checked on it.”

“The company’s only been in existence five years,” said Brano. “Let’s hope they have a perfect record.”

The Austrian grunted, and Brano closed his eyes, working back over the morning-waking, the policeman, wandering to the hotel, and getting his keys. The envelope with his wallet. Why didn’t he have his wallet on him when he woke?

It had been dropped off sometime last night, the clerk had said. But by whom?

The seat-belt indictator lit above his head, and he fastened his. The young Austrian smirked. “They can’t make me do it. Let them just try.”

“If there’s turbulence, you could get tossed over the seats.”

“It’s not my fault if they can’t fly straight.”

Brano looked at him. “Why are you traveling?”

“I told you. My discussion leader thinks it’s a good thing. And since I just got voted treasurer, the others felt I should bring back the first report from the socialist lands.”

“I see.”

“Who knows? If I like it, maybe I’ll stay.”

“That wouldn’t be fair to your comrades.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess you’re right.”

Brano rubbed his sore head.

At the moment his memory stopped, he had been in an empty park with a dead body and a living man. Besides his heart, the foliage bending under the weight of Bertrand Richter, and Josef Lochert’s heavy smoker’s breaths behind him, there had been no sound. He was struck from behind.

Josef Lochert had knocked him out last night. Then he had taken Brano’s wallet and returned it to the hotel.

Not to kill him, but to leave him there for the Austrian police to pick up, beside the body of Bertrand Richter.

He didn’t know why, though that would come later, but he was sure of this story. Now he worried about where he was at this moment. On a plane, headed home.

You’re going home, Brano. Where you belong.

“I’m telling you,” said the Austrian, “You don’t look right to me at all. You need some water or something?” He waved to a stewardess, but they were already descending.

As the plane taxied to the gate, Brano watched the other passengers unbuckle their belts and reach beneath their seats for their hand luggage. A child across the aisle muttered to her mother, then turned to smile at Brano. She was missing two front teeth. Brano tried to smile back. The young Austrian said, “It’s good to be among the workers again, eh?”

Brano walked to the front of the plane as the stewardess stood up without a smile. “Please wait until we’ve opened the door.”

He nodded but remained where he was. She gave him a short look and went to the hatch to peer out the window. A man in orange work clothes was rolling metal stairs up to the plane, while behind him four men stood in leather coats, casting long shadows as the sun set. The one in the front, fatter and older than the others, raised his red face to the light. It was not Colonel Cerny but a man farther up the chain of command, the Comrade Lieutenant General. An old-guard soldier who had distinguished himself fighting the Nazis, he was now an inveterate alcoholic running the counterintelligence division.

The stewardess grunted as she unscrewed the lock, then pushed the hatch open. Brano stepped out onto the stairs. The Lieutenant General spoke to the other three men, who jogged up to wait for him at the bottom.

As he descended, he realized he knew these men as well, but peripherally. Young, hard men adept at following orders. Once he reached them, two grabbed his arms and led him across the tarmac.

“Comrade Lieutenant General,” said Brano.

The older man tugged on his collar. “Don’t comrade me, Brano. You’re in the shit now.”

He tried to control his voice. “I don’t understand. GAVRILO has been taken care of.”

“Despife you. Don’t start with your stories, okay? Lochert’s already sent in his report, and you…” The Lieutenant General shook his pink head. “I don’t even want to talk to you.” He turned and walked toward the airport.

Brano looked back at the passengers trickling out of the plane, staring in his direction. The young Austrian shielded his eyes, trying to make sense of the sick passenger who was being led away by three large men.



He left the Capital that morning, and at ten stopped in Uzhorod to fill his petrol, then continued up into the mountains, alert to each curve hidden behind clusters of snow-sprinkled pines. A small suitcase and briefcase shivered on the passenger seat.

His name was Brano Oleksy Sev. He had reached his fiftieth year the previous month with fewer scars than he deserved, and owned the same white Trabant P50 he had bought ten years before. He had replaced so many internal parts that likely nothing inside it had come with the original car. Even the steering wheel had been replaced in 1961 (31 October, the same day Stalin’s sarcophagus was removed from its Red Square mausoleum), after he had taken a particularly sharp turn while trailing a suspect and found it sitting in his lap.

In Vranov he took lunch at the empty restaurant he knew from his last visit three years before, because this stop never changed. The waitress, a large woman with a cleft lip, frowned a lot at him. Then she leaned against the

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