"The annual review is coming up. What should I say about you?" Zurin asked.
"Tell them I could use a larger office."
"I was thinking of mentioning your lack of collegial cooperation. Don't you think collegial cooperation is important, Renko?"
"Then why don't you show it? Your colleagues say that at times you even reverse their hard work."
"If the evidence is insubstantial, yes."
"If a man has confessed, what does evidence matter? I've told you a hundred times that the best evidence in the world is a confession. And among colleagues, cooperation. Each man pulling his own oar." Zurin then took Arkady by surprise. "You've been to Cuba?"
"A long time ago."
"So you obviously speak Spanish."
"Well, a man of your skills—Spanish, Russian, familiar with the locals, knowledge of the law—would be nicely positioned in the new Cuba. If he had the right attitude."
"We'll never know."
"You'd have to be motivated. I understand that."
Arkady pictured life under a palm tree, ducking coconuts, plucking the strings of a guitar.
"Too nice. It doesn't sound like me."
"Just a thought. There would be suspicions. With you, there is always a cloud of suspicion." As suddenly as Zurin had gone one direction, he went another. "How do you feel about Siberia?"
"It's large and it's cold," Arkady said.
"I have an assignment for you. Nothing could be simpler. Next week you go to Irkutsk, pick up a would-be murderer named Aba Makhmud, take him to a transit prison where you will prosecute him, and see that he gets a good, long sentence."
"'A would-be murderer'?"
"He's a Chechen, a terrorist. He tried to kill a prosecutor."
"I haven't heard about this case."
"It's fresh." Zurin slapped a dossier onto Arkady's desk. "It's all in here."
"It happens to be me. You are my investigator and I want you to bring about a swift and proper conviction."
"Because you're famous for being difficult. No one would say that you're the kind of person who allows himself to be influenced or railroaded."
"What if I decline the case? Or come to the wrong conclusion?"
"You won't. I've finally figured you out, Renko. You think you're so independent, but you're a hostage to fate like the rest of us."
"I hear that your stepson is quite a chess player."
"Zhenya?" Zurin had never mentioned him before.
"Yes. He looks like a laggard but apparently on the chessboard he's quite the dynamo."
Arkady's face got hot. Just when he thought he had eluded the snake, the snake swallowed him a little bit more. Swallowed and smiled, because if State Security had its teeth in Zhenya, it meant it had its teeth in Arkady.
Zurin put the dossier in Arkady's hands. It was tied shut with a red ribbon. "I think you're in for some fascinating reading." Satisfied,Zurin returned to his deputies and his visit with Fidel.
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book PRETTY AS A PICTURE by Elizabeth Little.