Magic Wine

Chavadzy found his aide observing the dismantling of the outdoor chapel.
"Vladimir, the Empress has evicted me!" he fumed. "This entire affair has been mortifying! How could your mind wander at so important a moment? I arranged for us to be placed near the captain specifically for the purpose of avoiding an incident! I kept watch to the left of the altar, and you were supposed to keep your eyes on the right. How could the assassin possibly have separated the poniard from the bow stick, placed his cello on the floor, arisen, and flung the dagger with such deadly aim before you knew anything was happening? I shall never understand it."
Vladimir flushed nervously. "My mind did not wander, sir. I kept my eyes on the choir, on the musicians, on the minister. Yes, even he. You have taught me well. Trust no one! I was scanning the trees at the time. It would have been easy to conceal someone up there. I never saw such big, gnarled branches on yews. Those trees must be as old as the Empress herself."
"I think they are pines," Chavadzy mused, "and never make any reference to her age. She doesn't like it."
The tangled mass of wind-twisted pine branches spread at abstract angles over the workmen tearing down the pergola. A hoarfrost the previous night had wilted and browned yesterday's bright blossoms. They hung as limply from the latticework frames as had Philo's body in his grandson's arms. The legs of chairs knocked about when their occupants fled, and the mob from the gate flooded in, jutted obscenely through sagging fan trellises. The arch of roses lay tumbled on its side. The red carpet at the altar was stained with Philo's blood.
Chavadzy observed the point at which the smooth green grass of the manicured lawn met the rough gray pebbles of the beach. Foam swept across them in front of translation waves that flowed out of rolling breakers dashing against the shore. He watched as the foam lapped hungrily at another bloodstain darkening the grass.
"Neptune is angry today," Chavadzy muttered, "as am I. Why did you shoot to kill? You knew I wanted the assassin alive. There is much we need to know. I have nothing to tell the Tsar except the barest facts. And the woman...ah! the beads! What did you do with the beads?"
"I threw them in the sea," responded Vladimir. "They were too dangerous to leave around."
Chavadzy smashed his fist on his palm. "Idiot! I wanted them saved! Imagine how useful they would be when interrogating a Manchu. Imagine brushing his lips with a bead offering death just a lick away. How he would talk, nay, how he would sing if he had no wish to die! And if we decided to liquidate him without a time-wasting trial, how convenient! A little pressure against the teeth and, poof! An Oriental suicide!"
He threw his head back to emit a savage chuckle. Vladimir smiled.
There would be no more reprimands. Chavadzy's rage had been deflected by the thought of the subtle new torture he could have inflicted upon those whom he considered the vermin of mankind.
The aide intrinsically understood why Chavadzy had become a doctor. The man's blood lust was monumental. Vladimir had watched him torture assassins and spies in the most excruciating ways, always with a surgical neatness defying detection if death should occur. Chavadzy was known to fellow agents in the Okhrana as the "Crown Prince of Hell" for his ability to give pain in the interest of extracting information.
Vladimir also understood that Chavadzy's hatred of Orientals was unrelenting and unregenerate.
When he first attained a position of relative importance in the Okhrana, the Tsar's secret service, Vladimir had gone to great lengths to expunge from his own files the fact that his mother was an Oriental Russian from Kazakhstan, who was half-Chinese. On principle, despite a flawless record, Chavadzy would never have accepted him had he known.
Vladimir's appearance belied the genetic legacy passed to him by his almond-eyed mother. Predominant were the genes of his half-Armenian father, who came from the Caspian port of Baku in Azerbaijan. The provocative combination had made of Vladimir a man as swarthy as the Georgian Chavadzy, but several inches taller, and more heavily built. He could have squashed his superior in a fight, which, to the doctor, was Vladimir's highest recommendation. He served, in essence, as Chavadzy's bodyguard.
The political import of his selection as right-hand man to the agent who enjoyed the deepest personal trust of the Tsar was immeasurable. It gave Vladimir access to the most privileged information in the Russian Empire. Even so, the charismatic aura of Chavadzy's personal position would have led the aide to trade his soul for a walk in the Georgian's shoes.
Inside Villa Cyrnos, Brad rejoined the others after talking by telephone with the American consul in Nice.
"The wheels are in motion," he reported. "Every American embassy and consulate in Europe is being alerted to look for Rebel at the train terminals in all the major cities on the Continent. They are sending out the Marines that guard our consular services."
Picasso nodded his approval. "Cocteau, I admire your brilliant suggestion about the dog. She will have to let him take the air no matter where she may be. Find Rebel, and you find my 'golden parisienne.'"
Kathy stood at the window, looking out at the tumultuous sea. "Everyone has to do his part. Or hers. I shall do mine. I shall take the captain home, no matter my mal de mer."
Adrienne went to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I shall keep the house open in the Place Dauphine, Mam'selle. I shall be lonely there. Perhaps when this sad business is done, you will come back to Paris. You will be most welcome."
The Empress rapped her knuckles on the table with the impetus of an idea. "Of course! Lucien, you and Jean ought to stay with Countess Threadneedle for awhile, until Kathy returns from America."
"Oh, please!" Adrienne entreated. "What a comforting thought! Not only shall I have to live there now without Rebel, but also with the ghost of Roxanne, and with the hurtful memory of our dear captain, and the ever present fear of not seeing Mam'selle Romy again!"
Adrienne crumpled in a chair and began to cry.
"Come, Countess, we have had all we need of tears, helpful though they may be to relieve the stress," Eugénie said. "There is yet much to be done. Kathy, I shall send you to Marseilles with the captain's coffin aboard the Thistle. There will be a Duncan Cargo ship waiting to take you direct to Baltimore."
Kathy turned pale. "Oh, Madame, that is so kind of you, but the Thistle...oh, dear me...the Thistle....."
Lucien jumped in to save her from embarrassment. "What she is trying to say, Majesty, is that your little yacht is a treasure indeed, but only those with stomachs cast in iron, like yours, if you will forgive me, Madame, can bear its merciless pitching. May I suggest the baggage car of the train between here and Marseilles? Jean and I shall ride in it with the captain's coffin, and Picasso can travel in the coach with Kathy and Adrienne."
The Empress shrugged. "Very well. The young nowadays are rather a delicate lot! I must betake myself to Paris to attend to the captain's affairs."  

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