Some ten days later, Drin is certain of how nasty the threatening pictures were, and are. Might as well take that day off work, his concentration is so badly blown that everybody notices. One of the women asks quietly if he’s had a fight with his new boyfriend, and she gestures at the small portrait he’s quietly put on his desk. He reassures her hastily it’s nothing like that.
It’s a relief to think about picking up Dance, taking him to lunch. Taking Dance back to the diner is no hardship. Besides, he wants a place with excellent light so he can see all the nuances that flicker so rapidly over Dance’s face.
Dance knows something is up, he’s more silent than usual, watching Drin closely.
While they’re waiting for soup, and things are quiet, Drin reaches into a pocket.
“Let me show you something.” Drin pulls out his wallet, pulls out some folded papers. “This came to work. Somebody mislaid the packet for weeks. It just now got it to me. Look at the date stamp first.”
Dance glances at the stamp on the back, giving a date two months earlier. He unfolds the papers, his eyes widen, and he slaps them folded shut again. He holds up the folded paper, shakes it in his grip. “This is not Halloween joke.”
Drin tilts his head. “What do you think it is?” He reaches across the table to retrieve the evidence.
“It is not me!” Dance hands the wad over. “We– I don’t know who it is. My brother? But we have no brother. I don’t know.”
“He doesn’t look exactly like you, you know.”
Dance looks up, his eyes pale gold. “You see that? Hoping, but we couldn’t be sure…”
“You have seen these same pictures before?”
Dance takes a deep breath. “Yes. Most. Not all quite the same as that.”
Drin flattens out the photos downloaded from the email. “This man’s musculature has developed differently than yours, do you see that? His face is very much your twin, but even there– look, he has scars on his face like yours, but they aren’t in the same place, or the same length. And look here, where he’s in profile near the–near the girl. Look where his nose has been broken. Even if you had cosmetic surgery to repair it, you would have scar tissue, and we can very easily have that checked.”
“We… I could not… hurt a person like that.”
Drin wants to look away from the hurt, fear, revulsion in that lovely face. Dance is not a child; he is a strong capable man. But if Drin could make the world go away for his lover just then, he would.
Dance looks up. “You do not have to believe me. I took in what things I had. You can ask police. Do not ask our Emma. Please.”
Drin hears the pain cracking in his own voice when he asks, “Why? You didn’t show it to Emma? Why not warn her?”
“I couldn’t! I couldn’t do that to her.” Dance’s hand flicks at the papers almost too fast to see. “All I could do was to make sure she is safe when she is coming from work late, when she is going in early, try to be near most nights, keep alert after these things showed up–”
“These pictures–how often?” It’s a reflex. He doesn’t even think about drilling down to get what he needs.
“Twice. Just after our grandmother first spoke to me, and another month later. Not same date as these. Nothing else, that I know of. But I don’t know if there were more we lost. Our mail kept getting messed with about a year ago. Kids or retarded guys or something would dump it all under the mailboxes.”
“What did the police do, when you took this stuff in?”
Dance shakes his head. “The second time, they come back in fifteen minutes. They say to me, ‘Look kid, we’re gonna be nice about this. Stop playing with Photoshop to get attention. Go home and work harder for Maestro Young instead of making up crap, and stop being hysterical.'”
“And the first time?”
Dance sighs. “They xrayed me, they take all the clothes off and poke me inside, they sit me in crooked chair in a hot room so long. Very large people ask me things, even the soldier women were taller than you. I don’t know who they were, when they were giving their names. There were INS people, police, military officers in uniforms I don’t know. I was in there two days I think. I lost track. I keep falling asleep, they wake me up, give me very bad coffee.”
“Christ,” Drin grunts. “Did anybody hurt you?”
Dance shakes his head. “Somebody from INS tried to slap me a couple of different times, they finally sent him away.”
“He was too slow.” Dance shifts his shoulders subtly, indicating how he evaded such a blow. “It was making them laugh outside the room, I can tell.”
“Where was Emma?”
“Lucky–she was at a conference over the weekend, I just told her I was too busy to do my chores.”
Drin finds himself wanting to tap his knuckles on the table, the way he does when he’s about to lose his temper–and the anger isn’t at Dance. He knots his fingers in a fist. “Right. You remember the names of the people who asked you questions? I’ll see what I can do to track them down, find out what was going on. Did you keep copies of this stuff?”
“The second batch, yes, even though I am fearing to keep them. The first time they take it all away. I did not think well, that first time. I did not make copies first.”
Drin nods. “Did you tell Amalia anything?”
“No. I just… could not do that to her, either.”
Drin’s face doesn’t reveal much when he’s working. He’s been a military auditor. He’s been lied to by the best. “What would you do if somebody tried to assault Emma like that?”
Dance’s eyes zero down to white-gold platters. His nostrils flare and he turns his head aside, glaring at a mahogany partition. Then he glares up at Drin. “You must be sure of me, asking that.”
Drin nods. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure of you.”
“What would you do?” Dance asks, with those eyes still reflecting too much light.
Drin smiles at him with one of the more wolfish Navarre family smiles. “Well, I was a soldier for quite awhile. And yeah, I know you’d turn into a ball of fire. That’s why I said, ‘if somebody tried to.'”
“All right then,” Dance says, folding his arms and hugging himself as if he’s cold. “So what do we do about this?”
“I think we should warn Emma and Amalia, tell them everything. Get Emma to start using her research chops too. It’s your call, but that’s what I think.”
Dance’s face writhes in pain. He lowers his chin until the hair half-covers his face. Hoarsely, he agrees.
Drin reaches out, resting his open hand across Dance’s rigidly folded arms. “Well, love, I’ll hit my research sources on it too, don’t worry. To help on that, tell me what you know about this man just from looking at him. You’re a martial artist. Take a careful look. What does this man do to develop muscles like that?” He unfolds the wad again, taps it.
“Aerobics, boxing, weight-lifting, some kind of kicking style like a Taiwanese karate or maybe the kick and dancing Brazilian form, they call it Capoeira,” Dance says. He looks up and stops talking.
Drin glances up.
Shura Korachevsky murmurs, “Can I get you some more tea, Dance?”
Dance looks down. “Yes, please.”
As Shura finishes pouring the tea, he says quietly, “Are you all right, my friend?”
Dance gives a shrug.
Shura has the darkest eyes Drin has ever seen. They come around to bear on him.
Dance puts out a hand, not quite touching Shura’s arm. “Please, do not worry. Drin is helping us. He is not the one causing this problem. Please.”
The shadowy sockets swivel away from Drin like shotgun bores. “Well, as a fan and a friend, would you permit me to assist, if I may? I know a lot of people over the years, I have friends in various countries, and the Metro needs its concertmaster happy. It’s entirely selfish to offer. I want this wonderful improvement in the Metro’s playing to continue.”
Dance hesitates painfully.
Drin asks him, “Would you mind if we discussed this with Shura?”
Dance nods, clearly surprised. But as he’s closer, he reaches for the papers. “Please to be very still, Shura, these are upsetting.”
“Thank you, I appreciate the heads-up.”
Shura looks at the pictures without blinking. He gives a deep snort when he’s gone through them all once. He goes through them again. At one point he looks up under deep brows at Dance. He takes a wide step to one side, considers Dance’s profile, and returns to where he was standing.
Then he drags over a chair, sits down, writes out a neat note on the back of a business card, and slides it onto the table toward Drin. “Drin, when doing your research on this, you may find it useful to contact this lady. She loves to talk about old movies. She contacted me from an old Metro patronage list. She may know a bit about the Korean end, she seems to know quite a bit about Dance’s prize grant. I have spoken to her a few times about Dance’s playing.”
He taps one picture. “Another unpleasant fact. If you look closely, the wrappers fallen in the background are sometimes used for bricks of opium of a common type sold by the Afghans in Russia and the Middle East. You see it in pictures of gangsters bragging. This kind of thing can escalate quickly. Do not hesitate to call me, or the police, if you are worried about something weird going on.” He looks steadily at Dance. “Do not play the cowboy riding out alone. Get help.”
Dance nods. “Thank you.”
“Could you trust me with copies to check with people I know?” Shura asks. “Dance, do you have any other papers like this?”
Dance looks up. “We– I mean, I took copies of another batch like these, on the second time, yes. The first time, I gave it all to the police.”
“Ah,” Shura says. He takes out a pocket notebook, poises his pen. “Do you remember who took your police report?”
Dance starts talking, Shura starts writing.
“He couldn’t hit you?” Shura says finally, amused. “Indeed. I will check to see if he finally got what he deserved. I can’t see the Captain putting up with that nonsense. Allow me to make a copy of this for you, Drin. Shall I assume you’re going to tell Emma now?”
Drin looks at the restaurateur. “I knew you were good, but– could world domination be next on your list?”
Shura gives a shrug. “Running the world is such a fussy business. Me, I’m interested in good food and music. That’s plenty of work! How do you like the borscht?”
Dance looks down blankly at his empty bowl. “It was really good.”
“Excellent,” Shura says. “I’ll be back shortly with a copy of these names, Drin, and Dance, I do thank you for the confidence. If I come across useful information I shall of course contact you both.”
Drin has his own card ready, hands it across.
“Thank you,” Shura says, taking the card gravely. “I shall not mention this to Bud Innes if he happens to visit, but you may wish to think of him as an additional backup who is interested in the Metro’s overall well-being, and in Dance’s leadership in particular. Let me know if you have decided to speak with him.”
Dance nods. “Thank you, Shura.” He puts out his hand.
Shura grips it briefly, turns to Drin and shakes his hand too. Then he turns away. “Thank me when I can come up with something useful on this.”
When they get home, keeping a copy of the list of ranking investigatory officers in hand, Drin gets on the computer long enough to scrub several greetings. Finally he settles for,
He piffles here, he piffles there, where is that demmed elusive Piffernell?
Next morning, he has a reply.
Well, Piffernell, greetings to your good self. Shura told me to expect you, I’ve been waiting to hear. How’s Dance holding up? How are you holding up?–rumor has it that kid is so demanding! Has he broken his little old bed yet? Has Emma got her cute new boots yet?