The Alternate Link of Steele 16
Date: Friday, October 27, 2000
Adriana <>

The Alternate Link of Steele
Part 16
By Adriana

Debra, you have my endless gratitude for undertaking your heavy task every week.
I also want to thank Melanie for the advice.

Ice Palace, Krashnovo Kursanta St. 9:50 PM

Steele pulled his sweater over his head and winced in pain.

"You can't go anywhere like that-- you can't even move!" Laura protested.

She asked herself one more time why was he acting this way. It had only been a few hours since they had discussed about this very thing and she thought he understood it was not just a silly game. But here he was again, risking his life as if it didn't matter at all.

"Nonsense, Laura; I am perfectly able to move," he replied in his carefree manner.

As he went for his shoes, however, he had to suppress another cry of pain. He looked up at her with a bright smile on his face, trying to hide his discomfort, but her disappointed eyes told him she knew exactly what he was going through. "Besides, how will you get the Consulate number if you can't talk to the operator first, eh?" he asked, trying to make it easier on her.

It had taken Laura a long time and a lot of introspection to admit that she could no longer live without him. She had fought against it and she had tried to deny it, but finally she had accepted it. Now she was embracing that love like a life jacket as she fought helplessly in a sea of doubt, fear, and danger. So even if his intentions were honorable--even chivalrous--Laura could only look at him with resignation. She was frustrated that he failed to see that his life wasn't his and his alone; it was hers, also.

Laura caught herself looking into his deep blue eyes and was shocked to see they were staring at her with curiosity and concern. He looked as is he were waiting for an answer of some kind.

"Sorry, did you say something?" she inquired.

"What was going through that head of yours?" he asked.

Laura shook her head, dismissing his question with a smile. "Never mind," she replied, reluctant to tell him.

Things had happened so fast in the past twenty four hours that she had barely had time to think about what was going on between them. She just took things as they came, with no questions and no reservation. Maybe that was the reason why it seemed to be working.

She slowly went to the window and looked down. They were on a second floor and there were barely any ledges one could hang onto. Any attempt to climb down would be difficult for a man in good condition, let alone a man who had just been brutally beaten.

"It's too dangerous," she announced darkly, a cold shiver running up and down her spine. Maybe the shiver was from the cool wind coming through the curtains, but Laura had the odd feeling that the wind was not the reason at all.

Suddenly Steele was behind her, holding her closely and peering down out of the window. He furrowed his brow as he placed a small, reassuring kiss on the top of her head. He was not only aware of how scared Laura was, but of how much she hated to see him risk his life. Still, the bottom line was that if he didn't take the risk, they both would probably end up dead.

He tightened his arms around her slender waist and realized how different this Laura was from the Laura he had worked with years earlier. She was still the same clever, honest and stubborn woman she had ever been. But that woman, under normal circumstances, would have been the first one to tell him that if they didn't risk it, they wouldn't win. That old Laura wouldn't have let him see her vulnerable side, not as freely and openly as she did now, at least. This time around, however, Steele knew she was too upset by the increasing danger to think clearly, too oppressed by the ominous threat of losing everything they had managed to achieve to take a chance.

However, that very sense of danger was the one thing that kept him going; he would gladly risk it all if that would allow him to keep what little he had. *No, that's not true,* he corrected himself immediately. *We have a lot to lose, but remaining motionless is the one guaranteed way in which we will lose it.*

"It is dangerous, luv, but it has to be done," he said calmly. "I have to talk to Murphy tonight."

"What if Bulbakov comes in while you're out?" Laura asked.

"You'll have to keep him out, Laura," he said, trying to lighten the mood as he turned her away from the window. The movement prevented her from seeing the perilous path he was about to walk.

"How am I going to do that?" she teased with an innocent face. She, also, was tired of feeling scared. She just wanted them to be carefree and playful, if only for a little while.. If only to forget her fears momentarily and enjoy his presence.

"Come now, Miss Holt," he said with a smile. Then raising an eyebrow provocatively, he added, "I'm sure you'll know what to say-- or rather to, er, cry out."

Laura stiffened a smile, a mocking shock expression dressing her figures as her eyes shone with merriment. "I don't think he'd buy that, considering your present condition," she said pointedly, applying a slight pressure to his injured ribs with both her hands.

Steele yelped jokingly, but even as he protested, his eyes were still smiling at her. He wasn't really in that much pain, but he was enjoying the extra care, just the same.

"Why, Mr. Steele. You said you were perfectly able to move," she told him, her hands still on his sides, thought she was careful not to hurt him.

"If I weren't in such a hurry, Miss Holt, I'd be delighted to show you how able I am," he said before lowering his lips to meet hers briefly. Then pushing her away, he moved closer to the window.

Laura was surprised to see him fumbling with his jacket. Finally, with some effort, he managed to release a thin iron cable that was hidden in the waist of the jacket, the tailor-made seams hiding the device perfectly. On each end of the wire were hooks, and Steele attached one of them to the small steel ring that was used to hold the curtains in place. He then carefully tied the other end of the wire to the climber's gear that was attached to his belt. Ordinarily, the clasp would look like the end of a zipper, but when inspected more closely, its titanium structure proved to be stronger, feather light, and highly efficient.

He climbed onto the thin ledge of the window and peered down, trying to calculate the drop of the wall. He could probably survive a fall from that height, but he was in no hurry to prove that his theory was correct. Sitting there on the ledge with both his legs dangling, he looked back inside the room one final time.

Laura was staring at him with her brows closely knitted in the center of her forehead, obviously trying not to show her fear. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest, as if she was cold.

"I'll be back before you know it," he told her reassuringly. Then smiling sadly, he added, "Just keep a light in our window, eh?"

Laura nodded her head, but didn't reply; she just watched him start climbing down. But as the top half his slender body disappeared into the shadows of the warm summer night, she ran to the window, exclaiming, "Wait!"

Steele looked up, startled, and almost lost his footing. He gave her a desperate look, but withheld his protests as he saw the panic stricken expression on her face. He laboriously climbed back until he was once again on the ledge outside their window.

When Laura looked into his face; she could tell by the perspiration beaded on his forehead just how much of an effort the climb had been for him. Suddenly she felt embarrassed and guilty, knowing she had caused him extra and unnecessary exertion.

"I'm sorry, I.."

Steele was panting and found it difficult to speak, so he simply reached for her hand and squeezed it tenderly. Laura placed her other hand on top of their entwined fingers; then bringing their clasped hands to her lips, she kissed his hand tenderly.

"Be careful," she pleaded. "Please, be careful."

Steele smiled. He could have said many things... He could have told her he was always careful; he could have told her not to worry; he could have told her he was the hero of the story and the hero always survived; he could have laughed her fears away--but he didn't. The profound honesty in Laura's dark, bottomless eyes compelled him to be serious.

"For you, I will be," he said truthfully, knowing he had never been more sincere in his whole life.

Laura lowered their hands and followed them with her eyes. As she raised them again to meet his blue ones, she smiled at him.   For you," she whispered, as if she was afraid the words would break if she said them loudly.

"For you," he pledged. Then with a final smile, he disappeared into the shadows.


American Consulate, St. Petersburg. 10.01 PM

Murphy was pacing restlessly in the small parlor as Mildred came in, escorted by Agent Donaldson. She gave Murphy a sorrowful look and signaled with her eyes towards his watch. Before Murphy had time to look at his timepiece, however, the shrill voice of Agent Donaldson cut through the air.

"It's one minute past ten, Michaels; I believe we had a deal," he said pointedly.

Murphy looked from Donaldson to Mildred, who seemed greatly upset that they couldn't delay the man any longer.

"Five more minutes, Donaldson," Murphy said.

"We said ten sharp, and ten sharp it is," Donaldson replied stubbornly.

"Oh, cut me some slack, will you? We're not in a sand box, so you can stop bullying me," Murphy said, equally stubborn and playing for time.

Mildred looked at both men, unable to believe her ears. She could tell that the CIA agent was upset, but she couldn't fathom why was he so concerned about what was going on.

She felt completely out of place. It seemed to her that she was merely an accessory player who could be swapped between teams. She had done nothing worthwhile or remotely helpful since before the robbery in Spain, where at least she had helped keep an eye on the suspect.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that Miss Holt wasn't around. Mildred shivered as she remembered the younger woman's disappearance. Even though Murphy had informed her that Laura was with Mr. Steele, Mildred wasn't encouraged.

After Steele had left the Agency, Mildred and Laura had more or less become partners. It had not been a deliberate decision on Laura's part; rather, the unique bond they shared had led them in that direction.

Mildred remembered the times when she had shared that bond with Mr. Steele, as well. Deep inside, she had always known he was a good man, even though he had hurt her by his abrupt departure. She had worked hard at helping Laura to slowly recover from the open wound his departure had left in her. Mildred had been happy to share the pain, and her own sadness had seemed less of a burden as she and Laura had moved forwards. But now, they were right back where they had started.

She looked at Donaldson and wondered how he would take the news when he learned that Remington Steele would never return to the U.S. What would Miss Holt tell him?  As Mildred stared into the angry man's face, a scary thought suddenly rattled her whole system-- What if Laura Holt never returned to the U.S., either?

*What then, Mildred?* she asked herself in dismay. *What will you do then?*

"Do you want to end up in jail, Michaels?" Donaldson shouted.

"Please!" Murphy said, rolling his eyes. He had seen and heard too many empty threats in his life to be scared by some agent's belligerent babble.

"Stop it, both of you!" Mildred commanded, her tone of voice so stern that both men stopped cold in mid sentence. "You sound like ten year olds!"

Murphy looked at Mildred in embarrassment. Since she had no way of knowing that he was merely trying to delay the meeting, he was sure she must think him a complete fool. He had come to respect Mildred for her bravery, her loyalty and her incredible patience, and he hated to have her think badly of him. She had been kept in the dark the last few days, not knowing where she was going or why, who were they with-- or even who was the enemy was. Murphy wasn't sure himself, but at least he had heard the facts as presented by both sides. Or rather, they had presented their sides; he just wasn't sure which side was which.

There was Sgt. Grechko of the St. Petersburg police, who didn't act like a policeman at all, but more like a lone ranger trying to get away from controlling eyes. There was the KGB who, in turn, controlled the police. And if the KGB were involved, then the CIA probably was, also. Then somewhere in Europe there was a man named Chalmers who kept too many secrets and had too many dangerous friends. And finally, there was them, and Steele.. Or was it him and Mildred, and Laura and Steele? Maybe. And what about Steele's wife? Was she still in jail in Spain?

Murphy was still wondering about the endless thread of questions, but soon everything seemed to blur and escape through his fingers like silky sand.

The ring of the telephone made the three of them jump. They looked at each other, but it was Murphy who finally moved and picked up the receiver.

"Yes?" he asked cautiously, careful not to call anyone by name.

"Murphy?" Steele asked over the phone.

"Yes, it's me. I've got what you asked for. I thought you were going to send *her* to talk to me," Murphy said, trying not to sound overly concerned. "Wait a second." Putting the receiver down, he and looked at the agent, saying, "If you don't mind, Donaldson, this is private."

Donaldson merely shrugged his shoulders and went outside. They were recording every single word, anyway, so what did it matter where he stood?

Mildred followed the agent with his eyes and then rested them on the phone. She wondered why Steele hadn't send Miss Holt to make the call, as he had said he would. Her fear grew more intense as she contemplated the idea that something might have prevented Laura from making the call.

Murphy saw the concern in the older woman's eyes as he spoke into the receiver again. "Is she alright?" he asked.

"She's fine; I didn't want her to risk herself unnecessarily," Steele replied, aware that the phone was probably bugged and that he didn't have much time. "Do you have any news, then?" he asked.

Looking outside the telephone booth, Steele rapidly checked his surroundings. The street was quiet as a vault; there were no cars, no pedestrians-- not even a solitary dog. As he listened intently to the information Murphy was supplying, he scanned the space around him, making sure he hadn't been tailed.

"What was that, Murphy?" he asked, just to make sure his ears hadn't deceived him.

As the American on the other end of the line repeated the last name, Steele broke into a smile. He had Bulbakov now.

Over the years, Steele had often wondered why Daniel had chosen Bulbakov out of all the pickpockets in London, considering the fact that he had tried to relieve Daniel from his belongings. Even more intriguing to Steele through the years, however, was the fact that Bulbakov had been born and raised thousands of miles away from London. If Daniel needed someone to infiltrate the KGB, why had that someone been Kira and not any other Russian? But now, after all those years of wondering, everything was beginning to make disturbing sense. Yes, he most definitely had Bulbakov now.

It was a shame he hadn't been able to make contact with Daniel directly twenty-four hours earlier, but Steele knew that Daniel would need time to come up with the information he requested through Murphy. Besides, he simply couldn't have slipped away from his guards twice. God only knew if he would even be able to pull off his "leave of absence" this time.

If only he had known earlier what he knew now, it would have been so simple! It was so remarkably twisted, but yet so clear. Looking at things from this new point of view, Steele was grateful for the first time that he was an orphan.

Looking down at his watch, he realized he didn't have much time left. He quickly dialed Daniel Chalmers' London number. There was no reason not to take advantage of his momentary freedom, and there was just one thing yet to be settled before he went back to Laura.


Ice Palace, Krashnovo Kursanta, 10:21 PM

Bulbakov's face went red with anger and he cursed violently as he slammed the phone back into its cradle. Though the bookmark was an exact replica of the original, it wasn't the original piece. *That matyerybyetes Misha!* he thought furiously *He must have known all the time!*

In all honesty, it didn't really matter whether the bookmark was original or not, because as a decoder, it was still useful. What he was really upset about was that Misha had tried to outsmart him. Bulbakov racked his brains trying to deduce who could be in possession of the bookmark. It couldn't be Misha or Miss Holt. The other two Americans? Not likely; they would have used it to bargain for their freedom long ago. Misha could have shipped it anywhere by now.

Bulbakov frowned as a new idea struck him-- *London?*

If his instincts were right, he would probably need to talk with his and Misha's old time mentor very soon. But first, he'd have a word with his blue eyed commarade.


Just outside the gates, Steele sped up his pace and climbed the iron fence that surrounded the estate. As he approached the side of the building where their rooms were, a light suddenly appeared in the staircase. It was only faintly visible from the outside through the heavy curtains, but it made him freeze. After ducking down on the grass for cover, he looked up and saw a figure climbing up the staircase.

Steele cursed under his breath. Then without thinking too much, he let his instincts kick in. He located the window to his room and tossed a small stone from the yard against the windowpane. As he waited for a response from Laura, his eyes traveled from the still empty window to the dark silhouette moving further up the stairs. Quickly picking up a larger stone, he threw it against the window in warning.

This time he didn't have to wait long before Laura appeared, peering worriedly in the shadows. In spite of everything, he couldn't help smiling at the bizarre version of Romeo and Juliet they were involuntarily taking part in. Laura definitely made a lovely Juliet with the moonlight shining on her flowing, chestnut hair; in fact, it made her look almost ethereal.

Recovering from his momentary excursion into romanticism, he waved one arm in the air to get her attention. Before she could speak up, however, he raised his forefinger to his lips, motioning for her to remain silent. She shot him an extremely concerned look.

"Kira's coming!" he said in a loud whisper. "I'll climb back to your room; delay him!"

She nodded her head and vanished inside.

Upon hearing a knock on the door, Laura blessed her luck that she had taken the precaution of killing the lights as soon as Steele had left the room a earlier in the evening. But before she could think what she would say, the door bolted open to allow a very distressed Bulbakov in.

"I seem to be forever barging into your quarters at the strangest hours, Misha," Bulbakov said to the darkened figure in the bed.

Then realizing it was Laura Holt and not his friend who was staring at him from under the covers, he smiled. He had provided them with separate bedrooms with connecting doors, but he knew they hadn't been using the other one. At a second glance, however, Bulbakov noticed the empty space on the right side of the bed. His smile was wicked this time. Could it be there was trouble in paradise already?

"I'm sorry, Miss Holt. I thought Misha would be here. My apologies."

Bulbakov started to go out when Laura raised herself from bed and said, "It's pretty late to be making house calls, Bulbakov. What's going on?"

When the Russian looked at her, he could see she was worried...and maybe even afraid. Well, she had the right to be scared, Bulbakov thought; Misha had been really foolish.

"There's no need for you to be concerned with this, Miss Holt. It's nothing that a friendly chat with our common friend won't fix," he replied evasively.

"There's no need for you to trouble him tonight, then," she said evenly. "I'm afraid Mr. Steele was feeling quite indisposed tonight, thanks to your henchmen, and it'd be best if you let him rest."

Bulbakov smiled at her, but his shark-like eyes remained cold and lifeless. "Of course. But all the same, I need a quick word with him," he said in a tone that allowed no argument. Then stepping out, he closed the door behind him.

Laura, breathing heavily, closed her eyes and said a silent prayer, hoping Steele had made it up to her room.


On the lawn, crouching beneath the window beside Laura's room, Steele was waiting patiently. His chest was hurting, and his lungs felt strangely tight. He had tried to climb the fat wall, but without Laura's help, there was no one to fasten the hook on the other end of his wire up to the window hook.

He knew he had only a few minutes before Bulbakov discovered his escape. And if that happened, what would happen to Laura?  He just couldn't leave her alone to face the consequences. Who knew what Kira would do to her?

Steele pondered his options and grimly decided he had no other choice; he had to leave. Daniel's information was priceless, but the only way to make any use of it was by threatening Kira with its release. If the KGB or the police found out... Well, suffice it to say that Kira's career in law enforcement would be prematurely terminated. To make such a threat real, however, Steele had to be free from Kira's clutches.

He looked up at the dark window where Laura had stood just minutes earlier and his heart sunk. What would she think when she found out that he hadn't returned? He shook his head to clear it from such painful thoughts. After all, he had to keep a cool head if he wanted to be successful in this final, decisive step.

Taking a scrap of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket, he wrote a short note, which he wrapped securely around a small rock. He was just about to throw it when Laura's head peered out from her window.

Her eyes searched the dark lawn and she felt the blood in her veins go cold as she made out Steele's figure, still and motionless beneath the window. He was holding a piece of paper in his hand, and she could see he was having trouble breathing. When he looked up and their eyes met, the intensity of his blue gaze, sorrowful and repentant, silently informed Laura that he had failed. Her eyes, in turn, were frightened beyond description. She felt them burn with unshed tears as she wondered again why he had insisted on going, why he had been so stubborn and stupid.

When Steele was unable to hold her stare any longer, he tore his eyes away and tossed the wrapped message in her direction. Then he disappeared into darkness.


Steele walked swiftly through empty streets and alleys until gradually he reached a more crowded area of town. He searched his pockets for spare change and came out with a few rubles and kopeks-- enough to take a taxi, he supposed.   He flagged a nondescript cab, which were usually cheaper than the fully licensed ones, and climbed in.

"Konsuslstva Amerikanet, lezzhayitie sameem karotkim putiom," he said, reclining tiredly on the back seat. - The American Consulate, and take the short way.-

The driver eyed him with evident dislike. He wasn't sure whether the man was an American or not, but he suspected he was in sort of trouble. "Nelzya" - impossible- he replied, signaling at his watch as if to indicate his shift had ended.

Steele looked at the driver's name on the small, almost invisible license displayed on the side of the door. "Schto sluchilas, Vadim? Ya spieshu!" - What's wrong, Vadim? I'm in a hurry!-   Steele insisted.

When the man didn't move, Steele took a few rubles from his pocket and dumped it in the front seat.

Steele was eyed carefully as he reached over the front seat and turned off the driver's meter. "You can keep that," he said in a calm tone. "Consider it a small podarki," he added with a smile.

The driver was thrilled with his unexpected gift, though he didn't know whether to thank God, or just to thank his luck. Regardless, he sent the car speeding up the meandering streets of the south bank of the Neba River and in direction to the Consulate.

Steele closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on what he would do next. It was clear that he couldn't just burst into the Consulate and ask for help. For one thing, he had no papers with him, and for another, he couldn't risk to be detained for questioning-- not when he had Laura's life in his hands. His only option was to speak with Murphy or Mildred, and have them deal with the CIA.

Steele had the driver pass in front of the Consulate so he could check for suspicious cars, extreme security measures, or overly anxious sentries. Then getting out of the taxi two blocks away, he walked the remaining hundred yards. He was pleasantly surprised to see that the marine standing guard at the gate seemed sleepy and that the street outside was conveniently empty. In fact, it seemed a little too convenient, but he had no time to loose.

He approached the guard with a smile, looking alternatively from the soldier's eyes to a small piece of paper on which he had written some random Cyrillic characters.

"Millitzianier, gaspadin Murphy Michales doma?" - Guard, is Mr. Murphy Michaels here?

The marine looked at him distastefully, he was too tired to try Russian at this time of night. Even if he knew the basics of the language, having been forced to learn when he received his assignment, he figured that if the Russian in front of him wanted something, then he should be the one to make the effort.

"Ya nyet gavariyu pa-ruskii," the marine said, giving the standard reply. "Gavariyu Alglinskii?"

Steele shook his head. "Don't speak English," he said, imitating a strong Russian accent. Then, as if making an effort, he asked, "Mister Murphy Michaels, please?"

The marine sighed. It was going to be a long night. "Mozhhietye mnye skazat svayo imya I adryes?" he asked tiredly. - Can I have your name and address, please?-

Steele nodded and smiled politely.


Inside the Consulate, Murphy was at that very moment pacing up and down in his temporary room, where he had a privileged view of the street outside the front gates of the Consulate. His eyes were roaming idly over the tiled roofed cottages further away up the road, but as he looked down, he thought he was a familiar figure standing outside the gates.

He killed the lights and looked more carefully. Yes, it was Steele all right. He was clad in dark clothes, very much like those he had worn that night in Madrid so long ago, and he was chatting amiably with the marine guard and nodding at everything the young soldier said.

The guard went inside his booth to make a call and forward Steele's request. It was then that Murphy was witness to the sudden change in the con man's posture as he shrugged his shoulders and as stretched his neck, trying to relieve some stress. Murphy saw him place a hand on his left side, apparently massaging his ribs. Could it be that Steele was hurt?

All of the sudden, and as if he had somehow felt Murphy spying him, Steele's dark blue eyes were fixed on the American's. It was a brief glance, a mere recognition. A small smile surfaced on Steele's face but was quickly hidden as the guard returned, shaking his head in denial and pointing to his watch.

Steele had recovered his erect and proud posture and now barked something at the guard. Murphy was sure he must have been speaking in Russian, because he was trying to read Steele's lips and he couldn't make out a single word. The marine seemed unimpressed as he handed a folder and paper for his former "boss" to write on, as well as an envelope.

As soon as he had finished his note and handed it to the guard, Steele turned around and started to leave. When he was sure he was at a safe distance and the marine was back inside his booth, he stopped and looked at Murphy's window again.

He made a sign with his hand, indicating to Murphy the message was for him, and then left.


Ice Palace, Krashnovo Kursanta, 10.32 PM

Laura was staring at the piece of paper for the tenth time. She still couldn't make sense of what Steele was trying to tell her. She sighed heavily, tears refusing to come and allow her some relief.

Bulbakov had just left, enraged and violent, locking the door behind him and leaving Petr outside. The Russian hadn't said much, but his words had been painful. "Misha still has the real bookmark somewhere, Miss Holt. But if he believes he can use that for trade, he's mistaken," he had told her.

"He couldn't have made a copy, Bulbakov," she had replied, "He didn't have time, remember?"

"*He* didn't, Miss Holt," Bulbakov had explained. "But that doesn't mean that Hawkes didn't make one in advance, or even Felicia, for that matter."

Laura had winced at the sound of Felicia's name.

"I think you've seen the last of your Mr. Steele, Miss Holt," Bulbakov said with dark tone of voice, a strange blend of sadness and anger in it. "I'd be willing to bet he sent the original bookmark to his wife and is on his way to meet her somewhere."

Laura didn't reply; she merely lowered her chin to her chest.

"Then you can let me go, Bulbakov. I'm of not use to you anymore," she said hopefully.

"I'm sorry, Miss Holt," he said, his strange green eyes boring into hers. "But you know too much."

As Laura played their conversation again and again in her head, her mind refused to believe what the Russian had told her. For one thing, she couldn't forget all what she and Steele had shared, and she was positively convinced he had meant every single word he had said. And for another thing, there was the note.

She cast her watery eyes on the crumpled piece of paper and again read it carefully. It was simple, straightforward, and honest. He hadn't had time to think of elegant words or funny lines, or anything of the kind. Maybe these few lines were the most truthful sentenced he had ever put on paper in his whole life. Laura just knew it; she could feel it.

I'm sorry, luv. I'll be back in no time. Please don't forget how much I love you. Daniel's information is priceless: Kira's real last name is Bakunin.

He had signed it "Steele," plain and simple.

Laura smiled, her heart warmed by his words, but she frowned again as she failed to understand why Bulbakov's name-- or rather, Bakunin's-- was so important.

Laura turned away from the window and walked towards the bed, leaving the paper on top of the night table. Suddenly, she went completely still.

"Bakunin?" she asked herself in a barely audible voice. "As in Mikhail Bakunin? Oh. my God!"

End of part 16.

To Part 17

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