The Nevsky Wall
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Chapter 14   -  To the Ice Road

December 6

V iktor sat in silence as the raven crossed over the Builders Bridge and into the Petrograd section. From time to time, he stole a glance at the policeman next to him in the driver’s seat, trying to gauge his intentions. The policeman, for his part, was preoccupied with a windshield that kept fogging up from the breath of the two men. He used a cloth to wipe away the condensation, which had begun to freeze around the edges. It seemed to be a losing battle. The ice closed in on them from all sides until there was only a small circle through which the driver could see.

In this icebound state, Viktor thought about the choices he had made and the road that lay ahead of him that day. Had he been impulsive with his decision at the Admiralty? Did he understand the consequences of that choice? As he asked himself those questions, his mind returned again and again to the image of Vasha, wrapped in his beggar’s blanket. Ahead of him, he could see nothing but ice.

“You seem nervous, comrade,” said the policeman, who steered with one hand and held the cloth in the other.

“It’s just the cold, I guess,” said Viktor, and he heard another rustling sound coming from the back of the van.

“Is it cold back there, Andrei?” The policeman let out a weary laugh. “We’ll get you warmed up … very soon. Hot tea and dumplings, how does that sound?” Another laugh as he turned to Viktor. “Andrei and his cousin were running a little backroom business. Businessmen, that’s how you described yourselves, isn’t it, Andrei?” An air of disgust had begun to enter his voice as he addressed first Viktor, then the unseen passenger. “We found them in an old warehouse … they were doing a brisk business, people lined up out the door. The word had gotten around, all right. How do you think we heard about it, Andrei? Victims of your own success.” The more the policeman talked, the more agitated he became, and the more his breath fogged the windshield.

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Chapter 14   -  To the Ice Road

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