The Confession
never even heard of a central depot.
    “Just outside the Seventh District. A warehouse, no less. Stefan came with me, and after two days, running back into town for unpredictable signatures, this greasy bureaucrat finally gives them to us. Reluctantly .” He sank into his chair and straightened the pages. A few inches thick—a couple hundred pages, I guessed. “A lot of this is useless,” he said. “Forms, certificates, the like. But there’s something here. I’m sure of it.”
    He had the same surety as Stefan, when he had insisted that no one in the Capital could kill himself—a stubborn, peasant conviction.
    Georgi called to invite me and Magda to a party. “More foreigners in town?” I asked.
    “No foreigners, but it is for them. For the foreigners.”
    “The Magyars, Georgi?”
    “I’ll support our Hungarian comrades the only way I know how.”
    “By drinking, you mean.”
    “Such a cynic. Remember, Ferenc, you’re Magyar-blooded too. Bring Magda.”
    “I don’t know. Haven’t seen her much.”
    “Where’s she been?”
    “Out with a friend from the factory. A Lydia.” This is what Magda would tell me when she returned home, often after Ágnes went to bed, as she passed me on the couch: I was out with Lydia again.
    But I had never asked where she had gone, or whom with.
    “You know I’m still waiting for your literary contribution.”
    “You’ll have to keep waiting. Nothing’s ready.”
    “But you’re writing?”
    “I seem to be. Finally.”
    By the time we hung up, he sounded positively thrilled.

2
     

     
    On November the fifth, a Monday, Emil and I were sent to look into a disappearance. A Party official, attached to the Health Ministry, had come home to find his wife missing. “So she left him,” I said.
    “I’m likely to agree,” said Moska. “But what I think isn’t important.”
    It didn’t sound particularly interesting, or perhaps I was just feeling lazy. I pointed out that homicide inspectors shouldn’t be wasting time with missing person’s cases. But Emil knew his regulations: “She’s connected to the Party, and it’s been three days. After three days it goes to us.”
    Moska seemed impressed. He explained that she had left no note, but did leave a mess in the kitchen. “Silverware all over the floor.”
    “What about her clothes?” I asked.
    “A few dresses taken.” Moska paused, as if unsure. “I told him you two would be over to see him today.”
    Because it was close, we walked to Comrade Malik Woznica’s apartment down by the Tisa, where the colder winds blew. Built on old bomb-damaged buildings, these were the new riverview homes filled with apparatchiks and officers. There was a noticeable lack of cabbage smell in the stairwell, and the doorbell, instead of buzzing, emitted a soothing sequence of three tones. Emil smiled when he heard them.
    A white-haired man shorter than Brano, but three times heavier, opened the door and started speaking immediately: “Comrade Inspectors, so very good. Please please, yes, come in, yes, right this way. A drink? Come on, a drink between friends. Yes?” His smooth face was pink beneath his sleep-deprived eyes, and as he spoke his chubby hands flew around. It wasn’t nervousness, I didn’t think; it was simply too much energy. “Come, come, sit, no, yes—take a look. Isn’t it a lovely view?”
    He left us standing at two large, double-paned windows, gazing out at the Tisa. The river changed colors depending on the sky, and today it was gray. The Georgian Bridge, off to the right, crossed into the dilapidated Canal District and continued to the southern bank.
    “All Mag and I see are more blocks. What’s your view like?”
    “Come by and see for yourself,” said Emil. “It’s breathtaking.”
    On a wall, beside the old portrait of Mihai, was an austere photograph of Comrade Woznica and his wife. She was much younger. Her nose turned up, and her eyes were spread a little wide, but even through the formal

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