“Maybe. However, I did come across something during my research I’m quite certain your dear father would have enjoyed. A piece of sheet music by a relatively unknown composer, yet the music is insightful and unusual. A realtreasure, if you ask me. But who am I to say when it comes to music? That is your domain. Would you like for me to send it to you?”
Mikhail smiled. “I would, thank you.”
“Do you still play?”
“I try to play as often as I can, when I’m around a piano, but I have nowhere near the talent my father had. As you know, when we left France, we had to leave my father’s treasured piano behind. It all but killed me. I can’t imagine what it did to him. It was as if we left behind the last bit of him we had.”
“But he is not dead. The piano is but an object, easily replaced. Besides, you give yourself too little credit. You are every bit as talented as your father, if not a more. You give music a life he could not,” Rudolf said. “As soon as I return home, I will make a copy and send the music to you. Make sure you find a piano and enjoy the piece, for it is truly magnificent.” He patted his jacket pocket a couple of times then dug into the one over his right breast and pulled out something small and handed it to Mikhail.
“I found this handsome geode in a quaint little store and thought of you. When the light strikes it just so,” he said, holding it in front of his face at a slant. “the resulting prism is striking, isn’t it?” With a pointed stare, Rudolf dropped his gaze to the tabletop.
Mikhail bit back his surprise when he saw tiny rectangles projected from inside the crystal onto the stained wood. He cleared his throat and reached for the crystal, quickly tucking it into his shirt pocket. “Very thoughtful of you to remember my rock collection. It’s been years since you’ve seen it—it’s grown quite large since university.”
“Think of it as an early birthday present, my friend. With the war, you never know if the post is getting things through to other countries, and I didn’t want to take the chance of it getting lost. It’s such a pretty little specimen. I also found a nice blue rock I knew our friend, Allan, would appreciate. If all goes well, it should arrive at his home sometime in the next few weeks.”
Mikhail mentally deciphered his friend’s message. He knew the intel Rudolf mentioned would not reach England in time for Churchill or the American Allies to help much in the upcoming attack on Russia. Yet, maybe they would be able to send supplies and reinforcements—if they honored the signed accord between their countries. As it was, it would be up to him and the Resistance to make sure whatever was hidden inside the crystal made it to the Russian military.
Operation Barbarossa had been devastating to the Russian people living along the lands bordering Poland. When the Nazi army invaded, they had killed indiscriminately, but the Russian people fought back. As the German Wehrmacht advanced farther into Mother Russia, the people packed up their belongings and set fire to their homes and fields, leaving nothing but ashes for the German soldiers to find.
“My family and I are keeping low, but for my wife’s sake, I must head home. She gets worried if I’m out too long.” The distant sound of aircraft muffled Rudolf’s low-spoken words. Mikhail covered his eyes with one hand and glanced toward the northwest but was unable to tell if they were German Luftwaffe or Swiss planes. Not that it mattered...no planes were supposed to be flying over Switzerland.
“It’s time for me to leave as well. Traveling, even in Switzerland, isn’t safe anymore.” Mikhail placed a few Swiss notes underneath the empty plate and motioned for Rudolf to lead the way. Both men waited until they were at a safe distance from the cafe before speaking.
“I’m glad you remembered that if I begin our conversation by asking about Olga, it means we are being watched,” Mikhail said, shortening his pace so his friend could keep up with his long strides.
“Of course. That joke is an old one, but handy. I take it you were talking about the three men who kept staring at their empty plates? I didn’t see anyone else nearby but nowadays, they could have been looking at us through sniper rifles.”
“They were so obvious. The Germans must be getting desperate to send such untried spies. Now, I take it the crystal contains information of some kind?”
“It does, but I won’t tell you any more than this—get it copied immediately and deliver it personally to your highest Russian general. It is of the utmost importance, Mikhail. Promise me you will be vigilant.”
“Aren’t I always, Rudolf? What about the music you mentioned?”
“All I know is that it has something to do with diamonds and Hitler’s Fourth Reich…oh, and werewolves.”
Mikhail stopped, stared at his friend who walked a few more steps then glanced back at him, his dark brows raised above his round glasses. “Mikhail? We don’t have time to waste.”
“Did I hear you correctly? Did you just saywerewolves?”
Rudolf adjusted his glasses. “Yes, although I assume it’s just a code name for a new weapon Hitler’s come up with. Heisknown as The Wolf, you know.”
Mikhail frowned and moved forward again. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and the air around him turned heavy. Letting the familiar sensation wash over him, a hazy scene superimposed itself over reality. He still saw Rudolph standing a few steps away, staring at him with a concerned gaze as Mikhail stared back. The vision suddenly took on a life of its own, morphing and changing into something new. He saw the three men spying on them at the café walk up behind him. From the way the lead man flailed his arms in wide arcs around him and the angry expression on his face as he glared at them, Mikhail realized he and Rudolf were being questioned.
The vision glitched, and the scene turned staticky and stuttered a few times. Suddenly, it cleared and he saw the men coming up behind, as if to surround them. The vision showed the lead man pulling a pistol from his coat pocket and slamming it against Rudolf’s temple. Mikhail stepped between them and felt a searing blow to the back of his head, surprising him. He’d neverfelthis visions before. Concentrating on the events unfolding through his Sight, he grimaced as his arms were wrenched behind him, and he was forced to kneel on the sidewalk. They were being arrested.
“Mikhail?” Rudolf’s soft voice broke through Mikhail’s vision, pulling him back into the present.
He grabbed Rudolf’s arm. “Hurry… We must hurry.”
Rudolf didn’t argue but kept pace beside him.
Mikhail dropped his friend’s arm and sped up. The tall arched entryway of the train station came into view. “We are about to have company—and not the good kind, my friend,” Mikhail whispered. As they hurried past the ticket agent, he glanced at the time board behind the desk and saw his train was scheduled to leave in only a few minutes.
“Go,” Rudolf said and pushed him toward the stairwell leading down to the waiting train car. The car’s doors stood open as people continued to board the train. “I will lose them without a problem. Lucerne is my home, and I know my way around.” Without glancing behind him, Rudolf laid his hand on Mikhail’s arm as he moved by him, heading toward a small back gate. Where it led, Mikhail had no idea.
Hurrying down the stairs, two at a time, he passed several of the train’s cars before ducking into one farther back in the shadows. Watching from the rear corner window, he recognized the lead man as he stumbled off the last cement stair and onto the platform. Waving his arms, the man regained his balance and pulled on the bottom of his tight jacket. He peered into the first car, looking at all the passengers before moving to the next car. The train let out a lonely whistle and jerked several times as it pulled away from the station, leaving the three Germans standing on the station platform.
Mikhail breathed in a long sigh of relief at the close call, praying Rudolf made it safely home or that the men hadn’t recognized him. Growing up, he never understood his visions. Why did they show him some things and not others? They also never gave him enough warning. His gift had shown his own family’s arrest only moments before it happened. He’d had just enough time to grab a few things and stuff a pick and a razor blade in the soles of his shoes before the Gestapo arrived.
After his escape, he’d asked his grandmother about their Sight. She told him if he used the gift, practicing and letting it grow with him, he would know the answer. The last time they’d talked about it, she’d told him to practice his gift more. He would need it in the dark days to come. How he wished he had listened to her. She had been right, of course, and now, more than ever, he needed his gift of foresight.
He pulled out his grandmother’s worry stone, rubbing his thumb over the smooth surface. The etchings, or runes, on one side of the stone had faded over time, so much so he could barely make out the separate lines. The beautiful swirls of blues and greens reminded him of the ocean or pictures he’d seen of the universe. He ran the pad of his thumb over the slight etching, the edges worn almost smooth.
His grandmother had said the stone was labradorite and would help him focus and strengthen his magic, his gift, or whatever his Romani legacy could be called. He remembered the first time he’d seen hisbabushkarubbing the stone between her fingers. She’d said it was special—given to her great-grandmother by the goddess Freyja herself and when invoked would bring either the goddess’s help or her wrath. Through the centuries, the stone’s true gift had been forgotten, and his ancestors had never been willing to take a chance on incurring the goddess’s wrath.
* * *