Taras stepped out of Ilarion's room.
The hallway was quiet. Empty of naked cheloviks and anything else he didn't want to see.
Anya's room was right next door, but he paused to lean his broad back against the wall, closing his eyes.
It had been a long night, or maybe not long enough. Maybe he just hadn't had enough to drink. Maybe he had heard too many things he didn't want to hear.
He let out breath, a long sigh.
After a few moments, he pushed away from the wall, and knocked on Anya's door.
"Who is it?"
Taras smiled, gratified she was taking precautions like a sensible girl.
There was a pause, then the door opened. Anya stood there, wearing a pale pink muslin nightdress under her robe, her hair in big pink curlers. No strangely colored paste on her face, he noted with vague relief.
He hesitated. He usually told her she looked nice, but he didn't think you were supposed to do that when women weren't actually dressed up for company.
"Hope it's not too late," he said, instead.
Anya smiled, as warmly as always.
"No, not at all, Captain."
"I just came over to check on you, make sure everything's all right."
"Oh, that's very nice of you. I'm fine, thank you."
"It was Isaev's idea."
Anya smiled again, glancing down the hall. She reached up to touch her curlers.
"Oh, really? Well, that was very thoughtful. I was just getting ready for bed, but..."
She looked back at Taras, almost expectantly.
"Well...don't let me keep you," he said.
Anya gave a little sigh, then she smiled.
"Don't worry about it, Captain. How is everything?"
"All right. We're just having some drinks and Isaev's brother and his...comrade."
"That sounds nice, like a good way to relax. It seemed like things were a little stressful, earlier."
Taras frowned, then remembered the argument he and Isaev had back in their office, when Anya had left to get tea.
"Oh, right. Yeah, we worked that out."
"That's good. Is everything else all right?"
"Are you sure?"
"This place is a little...different."
Anya nodded, encouragingly.
"It is. You know, I was feeling a little homesick earlier, but I used the phone in my room to call my mother back in Leningrad to tell her I arrived here safely. Maybe you should call your sisters. I'm sure they'd want to know that you're all right."
"I don't think they really worry about me like that."
"Of course they do, you're their brother."
Taras didn't have the heart to tell her that one of his sisters hadn't even noticed when he'd been sent up north.
"Leningrad is two hours behind. It's not too late to call."
"All right," he said. He paused. "Thanks."
"Thank you for checking on me, Captain. Good night."
Anya closed her door again. Taras heard the soft click of the lock.
He paused in the hallway, looking between his room and Isaev's. He almost felt like he needed some air before heading back in to be social, but it was probably still raining outside.
Taras felt for the key in his pocket, hesitating, then finally turned toward his door.
His room was the same size as Isaev's but felt smaller for some reason, probably because no one was in it. More comfortable, like a sanctuary.
Taras stepped over his suitcase. It lay on the floor in disarray. He'd tossed it there the night before, and had rooted through it this morning to look for a clean shirt and underwear. One edge of a magazine poked out from beneath his workout clothes. The cover model was blond, at least from what he could tell. He fished it out.
She had a big rack and small waist and curvy hips, more buxom than he usually liked them. Taras preferred girls who were tall and more slender, though not too skinny. They had to be sturdy.
He sat down on the bed, flipping through the magazine. There were all kinds of girls in there, dark, light, curvy, skinny, everything in between. Some with platinum blond hair.
It reminded him of the Evropeiskaya, and all the girls that had been idling in the the lobby, waiting. He had never seen so many in one place at one time. It had been a little overwhelming.
Taras frowned. That seemed like a long time ago, now. He'd hadn't known Isaev as well then.
He fell back on the bed, tossing the magazine aside. He didn't think he even felt like jerking off.
Taras pressed his hand on his forehead. Maybe he was getting sick, or was still weak from the night before. Also, it had been a pretty rough day. First he'd found out that Liadov was here, which Isaev hadn't seen fit to tell him beforehand, and then there had been the bizarre interlude with Andrusha and his dangerously volatile Ukranian comrade. Of all the things to hear out of a khokol's mouth, but love.
Love. It made him think of what Merkurii Barshai had said about Ilarion.
He was in love with that cat-faced detective.
Taras rubbed his hip. The tattoo was no longer new but it still itched vaguely at times, though he thought it must all be in his head.
He groaned, sitting up.
A telephone sat on the bedside table. He looked at it for a few moments, then hesitated, picking it up. There was a clicking sound and then he heard a male voice.
"This is...Captain Oleksei of the Interior Ministry."
"Yes, Captain, how can I help you?"
"If I give you a phone number, you can connect me to civilization, right?"
There was a pause.
"Yes, Captain, that's right."
"What's that number, Captain Oleksei?"
Taras hesitated, then carefully recited the number he'd memorized a while back but had never called.
"Patching you through now, sir."
There was another click, then he heard the phone ringing.