Stalin’s Ghost

Free Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith

Book: Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Martin Cruz Smith
way. Once on the escalator, Arkady kept moving.
    Marfa shrieked for help.
    Arkady said, “I’ll let you go at the top. I know you’ll run back to him, only notice, he’s not going to wait for you at the bottom. He only wants the tape.”
    At the top of the escalator Arkady released her wrist and, as predicted, the girl bolted for the down escalator. Bora and the cameraman were already on their way up, two steps at a time.
     
    The night sparkled. Platonov wanted to search for a taxi, but Arkady struck out for the park behind the station.
    “Renko, we won’t find a taxi this way, that’s obvious.”
    “Then it’s also obvious to Zelensky. He’ll look here last.”
    “Shouldn’t we discuss this?” Platonov said.
    “No.”
    “I thought you were supposed to protect my life, not endanger it.”
    “If no one sees us, we’ll be fine.”
    The park was open space the length of a football field, slightly dished, a white sheet of snow edged by a blur of plane trees and wrought iron fences. The snow reflected the light of boulevards on either side, but there were no paths or lamps within the park and even side by side the two men looked to each other like shadows.
    “Do you mind if I smoke?” Platonov asked.
    “Yes.”
    “Consider yourself fired, dismissed.”
    The footing was uneven, a surface of fine snow over icy sled tracks. As a kid, Arkady had sledded and skated in the park a hundred times.
    “Be careful.”
    “Don’t worry about my health. This is the man who asked me if I made enemies.”
    “If you have to talk, whisper.”
    “I’m not talking to you. Consider this conversation finished.” Platonov trudged in silence for a step or two. “Do you even know who the Russian Patriots are?”
    “They sound a lot like Communists.”
    “They sound like us, that’s the idea. The Kremlin brought in Americans. The Americans polled people and asked which political figure they most admired. The answer was Stalin. They asked why, and the answer was that Stalin was a Russian patriot. Then they asked people if they would vote for a party called Russian Patriot, which didn’t even exist. Fifty percent said they would. So the Kremlin put Russian Patriot on the ballot. Just on their name they’ll get votes. It’s a subversion of the democratic process.”
    “What if Stalin comes back from the dead and campaigns for them?”
    “That’s the outrageous part. Stalin belongs to us. Stalin belongs to the Party.”
    “Maybe you can copyright him, like Coca-Cola.”
    Platonov stopped to catch his breath. Arkady heard shouts and saw two figures on the snow fifty meters behind. The beam of a flashlight swung from side to side.
    “It’s Bora and the cameraman,” Arkady said.
    “I knew we should look for a car. Why did I listen to you?”
    Platonov started moving again, but at a slower, shambling pace.
    “How is your heart?” Arkady asked.
    “It’s a little late to be concerned about my health. Don’t you have a gun?”
    “No.”
    “You know the trouble with you, Renko? You’re a pantywaist. You’re too soft for your job. An investigator should have a gun.”
    What they needed was wings, Arkady thought. Bora seemed to fly over the snow, correcting the false first impression of clumsiness.
    “Where are we going?” Platonov demanded. They had been headed down the middle of the park. Now Arkady turned toward the street.
    “Just stay with me.”
    “This makes no sense at all.”
    Bora had already halved the difference and far outstripped the cameraman and the reach of the flashlight. By the way he pumped his knees he might have been a professional athlete, Arkady thought. Arkady admired men in that sort of physical condition; he never seemed to find the time.
    Platonov took air in gasps. Arkady pulled him by the sleeve back in the direction they had originally been headed; it was like helping a camel through the snow. The two turns had cost time and distance. Finally, Platonov could go no further and hung onto

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