Table of Contents
MOB HIT, RUSSIAN STYLE
A long black sedan pulled up to the curb a few feet from the two men on the corner. Both back doors of the vehicle opened, and two men exited from each side. As dim as the light from the streetlamp was, it cast enough illumination to kick a reflection off the gleaming metal barrels of the weapons they carried.
The big man saw them coming and dropped his cigar. The smaller man reached into his pocket and withdrew a revolver.
“Good God!” Olga muttered.
Vaughn pushed us into a doorway strewn with empty bottles and other trash.
We’d no sooner wedged into the cramped space when another automobile roared up, windows down, men hanging out holding automatic weapons. The firing erupted like a tornado, guns going off, men yelling, bullets ricocheting off the concrete above our heads....
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First Printing, May 1998
Copyright © 1998 Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. Murder, She Wrote is a trademark and copyright of Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
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For Marge and Emlyn
“No, no, no, Mrs. Fletcher. It is pronounced shch, as in ‘fresh cheese.’ You run it together, Fre-
“I’m afraid I’m not doing very well,” I said, slumping in my chair. “I never realized speaking Russian would be so difficult.”
Professor Donskoy smiled. “I admire you wanting to learn to speak some Russian,” he said, “but I’m sure those with whom you’re meeting will speak English.”
I sat forward. “But I want to show my respect by at least knowing a few basic phrases.”
“Of course. People always respond favorably when a foreigner is interested enough to learn their language. But it can sometimes get you in trouble.”
“Once you use a few of their words, they expect you to know much more. Better to be honest and say you speak only English.”
“You may be right, Professor, but I’d still like to keep trying. Let me see. Thank you is spasibo.”
“Yes. Very good. Spasibo.”
“And excuse me is
“Almost. Say it this way.”
It was my third Russian lesson with Professor Donskoy. I had sought him out at the University of Maine’s extension center in Cabot Cove after receiving an invitation to meet in Washington, D.C., and then in Moscow with a dozen representatives of the Russian publishing industry. It was an exchange program of sorts, conceived and arranged by the Commerce Department. That I was chosen to be a part of the American delegation was flattering, to say the least.
Professor Donskoy refilled our teacups in his cluttered office. He looked like a college professor, features hawklike, hair white and flowing, patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket, a rack of pipes on a paper-strewn desk. He’d been recommended to me by one of my good friends Dr. Seth Hazlitt, who was the professor’s primary care physician. Seth was right. Donskoy was a wonderful teacher. The problem was his student—me. Learning even rudimentary Russian was proving to be a daunting task.
“Don’t be discouraged,” Donskoy said at the end of that day’s lesson. “You’re doing better than you think you are. Now, this is the vocabulary list to work on before we meet again. When is that?”
He also possessed a slight forgetfulness, adding to his professorial image.
“Day after tomorrow,” I said.
“Ah, yes. Day after tomorrow. I’d better make a note on my calendar.”
I’d been referred to Professor Donskoy in early spring in Cabot Cove, my home for many years. Spring was a welcome change of season after a harsh winter in which we almost broke our all-time snowfall record. I’d passed most of the winter working on my latest murder mystery novel, intending to take off April and May to simply enjoy the blossoming of flowers and the gradual, revitalizing change from frigid temperatures to milder air. But then came the call from my agent in New York, Matt Miller, about having been invited by our government to join in the exchange project with Russian publishers.
“What’s the purpose of it?”
“To foster better relations, and to help the Russians develop a viable publishing industry in its new democracy. An added plus might be to get them to stop publishing American works without paying for the rights.”
“They still do that?” I asked.
“Afraid so, although not as blatantly. This is a real honor, Jess. You’ll be one of only a few authors included in the group. Most are publishing execs, including your publisher.”
“Vaughan is going?”
“Certainly is. You’ll be in very good company.”
Matt outlined the basic schedule for me. The group from both sides of the Atlantic would gather in Washington for three days of talks, woven into a hectic round of receptions, dinners, and meetings with top American officials, including a visit to the White House where the president of the United States, Paul Singleton, would personally greet us.
“A photo op for him,” Miller said, laughing.
“I don’t care
he’s seeing us,” I said. “I’ve never been to the White House, never met a president, or a vice-president for that matter. It’s exciting.”
“You’ll do it?”
“Of course I will. We go to Moscow after the Washington meetings?”
“Yes. I’ll have the official from Commerce send you the invitation. All you have to do is RSVP, although I admit I told him you’d accept. His name is Roberts. Sam Roberts. Very high up in the Commerce Department.”
“I’ll look forward to receiving the invitation, Matt. Thanks for the call.”
“My pleasure. How’s the weather up there?”
“Delightful, although there’s still time for more snow. You know Maine and its weather.”
“That’s why I don’t live there,” he said. “If my business didn’t depend on being in New York, you’d find me on some sunny Caribbean island. Take care, Jess. We’ll talk again soon.”
Later that morning, I headed for my local bookstore, owned by a friend, Roberta Dougherty.
“Good morning, Jessica,” she said brightly. “What brings you in this morning?”
I told her of my agent’s call, and of my pending trip to Washington and Moscow.
“Except I don’t speak a word of Russian.”
“Do you have to? They’ll have translators.”
“You’re right, of course, Roberta. But I’d like to at least try to learn a few phrases. You know, good morning, thank you, excuse me, which way to the ladies’ room?”