08. February 2022 · Comments Off on Of Science, Spies and Saboteurs and Thieves · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book, Luna City

“Did you know what I saw last night, on my way home?” Richard ventured one morning, as he brought out another plate of signature Café cinnamon rolls to the stammtisch – the large table at the front window, where the regular early-morning clientele gathered, along with any wandering visitors who felt sufficiently assured to take a seat. “I saw one of Roman’s work crews hard at work with a post-hole digger and a couple of bags of concrete, setting a new post in front of this otherwise undistinguished little cottage just around the corner from the Catholic church. They told me it was for another state historical plaque, but they could not tell me why that little cottage was so dignified. It’s owned by the Wyler family, so they said – been a rental for as long as anyone can remember. Can you enlighten me, Miss Letty?”

The regulars this morning included the venerable Miss Letty McAllister, the oldest resident of Luna City, Annice and Georg Stein, who ran the antiquities establishment next door, Mrs. Anne Dubois, whose’ husband was one of the notable C-suite powers at the international corporation who now ran the newly-renovated and updated Cattleman Hotel, and her author friend, a dreamy woman with an absent-minded expression which suggested that she barely noticed the plate of cinnamon rolls placed in the center of the table, as she thumbed through entries on her cellphone.

“I can indeed,” Miss Letty replied warmly, and with a certain expression of triumph. “That house was where Professor Pavel Markov lived for almost a decade while he was developing a number of his theories and working on their application with working prototypes. Certain of his inventions were subsequently turned into working weapons during the War…”

By the way in which that Miss Letty managed to install a verbal capital letter to that mention, Richard knew that she meant the big war of her generation, after which all those other international conflicts were small and paltry armed conflicts. The Second World War – although she might also have referred thusly to the first of that ilk.

Georg Stein looked astonished; he breathed reverently. “You mean Herr-Professor Pavel Markov, the inventor they called the Thomas Edison of Russia? That Pavel Markov? I did not know this, Miss Letty!”

Miss Letty coughed gently. “Well, we in Luna City didn’t know who he was for the longest time. He was in hiding, with his wife and family … at least, it was given out at the time that they all were family.  He was a political refugee at the time, you see – he was an adherent of the moderate faction in Russia; an ally of Kerensky. I believe he was even elected to the Duma, in pre-revolutionary days. When everyone thought that the overthrow of the Czar might mean a translation for Russia into being a proper parliamentary democracy, as we understand the concept in the West. Professor Markov was a new modern representative of Russia, educated and feeling an obligation to interest himself in political affairs. Everybody wished for his endorsement.”

“Well, that must have turned out really, really well,” Richard observed, somewhat acidly, and Miss Letty nodded.

“Yes, after that brief essay in civic responsibility, Professor Markov decided that discretion in the political regard was much the better part of valor. Especially when Josef Stalin declared him to be an enemy of the people and sent a Cheka death squad after him. This would have been … in the late 1920s, I think. The Markovs were in exile in France at the time. They didn’t talk much about that – or at least, Dym didn’t talk about it much. Dym – that was the youngest son. Dimitri. He was my age … and we made friends with him. My brother and I, Stephen, and the Vaughn boys. We let him join our club, as it was. The Markovs approved of Stephen as a playmate. We had free-range on the ranch property; you see. A relief for Dym. The rest of us were part of the package, as it were. Dym was suffocating from over-protective parents – his oldest brother Sergei walked him to and from school almost every day at first – so he didn’t get out much to wander with us. But he was in the same grade at school as Stephen and I, and Artie Vaughn. He was a very clever boy,” Miss Letty sighed in reminiscence. “He spoke three languages – can you imagine how impressed we were, in our little town, where none of us had traveled very far outside of Texas, ever? Stephen could rub along in Spanish well enough because of all the Hispanic ranch employees, but Dym spoke French and Russian as well as English! And nearly everything there was a picture of in our history textbook – Dym had visited with his parents. Castles and cathedrals and monuments, oh my!”

“He didn’t get his arse kicked every day, out behind the lavatory block, and twice on Sunday, just for being an insufferably superior git?” Richard inquired, skeptically, recalling his own schooldays.

“No,” Miss Letty replied, mildly. “For one – Sergei would have prevented that… and if he wasn’t on the spot immediately, Sergei had taught Dym some very interesting and effective methods for discouraging such attempts. Oriental tactics in hand-to-hand defense. I believe that they call it ‘judo’ or martial arts these days. The Vaughn brothers were most impressed. Harry was always a dirty fighter, even back then. He was taller and heavier than Artie, although nearly four years younger.”

“Harry Vaughn is still a dirty fighter,” Richard admitted glumly. How he was bullied by the elderly Harry Vaughn into going out in a cockleshell tin boat with a wonky engine on a flooded river, to rescue a family in distress was still a humiliating memory. The OAP Harry remained an overwhelmingly formidable force; what he must have been as a grade-school tyke didn’t bear thinking about.

Miss Letty vouchsafed a tiny smile, as she consulted the equally-tiny gold old-fashioned ladies’ wristwatch. “Oh, my – I am late. I know it is an interesting story, but at the time, I didn’t know the half of it. I was only a child, you know. Chief McGill wrote up a thorough account of the murder in his memoirs, though. I have to run… The historical association have a complete transcription in the newsletter. Tomorrow, Richard?”

She rose haltingly from the stammtisch, gathering up her handbag, gloves, and cane from the table, and the silver bell over the door chimed as she departed. Outside the big window of the Café, the big pickup truck with the emblem of the Wyler Ranch embossed on the doors waited for her’

Richard sighed, glumly.

“She teases us with an amazing story … a murder, another murder here in Luna City! Then she loves and leaves us all, wanting more. Just like a woman!”

“I have the email newsletter of the Luna City Historical Society on my computer in the store,” Georg Stein gulped the last of the peerless Café coffee in his cup. “I had not read it, yet – but I will review. And print out a copy for you, Richard. This is a sehr-interessant story! How a man of the intellect such as Herr-Professor Markov came to be here… Here in Luna City. And associated with a murder! We are teased. Richard – teased, indeed!”

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