Washington, DC – Friday, Feb. 21, 8:30 p.m. EST
As Anna and Viktor were finishing dinner, Viktor’s phone rang. “Hang on, I should take this,” he told Anna as he walked into the bedroom. “I’ve been ignoring these texts for too long.”
Anna shrugged and carried her wine glass to the couch. She picked up her friend’s new book about the Chesapeake foodshed, which was on the coffee table, and leafed through it, but her mind wandered to Channarong and Evy. With so little information from the police, she kept thinking about the deaths, searching for patterns or clues.
When Viktor reemerged, she asked, “What was that all about?”
“That was Raven.”
“Raven? My colleague?” Anna asked.
“Yes. Our colleague. She’s still in Miami—staying with family.”
“Why did she call you?”
“She wanted to talk about the accident.”
“Maybe she didn’t want to bother you. She knows I’m your boyfriend.”
“OK, that’s a little weird.”
“And she doesn’t think her uncle is behind the accident.”
“I get what she’s saying,” Viktor said.
“What? She’s obviously conflicted. He’s her uncle,” Anna replied.
“I don’t know.”
“You are going along with that?”
“The theory that Torenmaas wasn’t involved?”
“How could he not be involved?”
“I trust her judgment.”
“What are you even talking about, Viktor? Why would you trust her judgment?”
Viktor looked at Anna for a moment before replying. “She’s sharp. She’s a fellow journalist. Not unlike you.”
“Not unlike me?”
“And she is the one who got you the interview, after all.”
“But what was she doing down there? Isn’t it a bit of a coincidence she was on the same plane?”
“Didn’t she say it was a funeral?”
“Likely story,” Anna said, scrunching up her nose, as if a foul smell had wafted through the apartment. “You believe her? You barely know her.”
“Uh,” he said. “That’s not exactly right.”
“She’s a colleague, Viktor.”
“No, I mean, I know her a bit better than that.”
“What do you mean, you know her?”
“It’s ancient history, Anna.”
“Viktor. We have been together for four years, and you knew I was transferring to DC where she was working, and you never mentioned Raven was your ex-girlfriend?” Anna stood up.
“Anna, come here,” he said, walking toward her.
“And you know how I feel about her! You know she gets under my skin! She’s some special kind of weird rival—no matter where I go, she pops up. How could you have never said anything?”
“You are overreacting.”
“Don’t ever tell me I’m overreacting,” she said, pushing him back and circling around him.
“What a dumb guy-thing to say.” She went into the bathroom.
“Come on, Anna. I didn’t tell you about it, because she doesn’t matter to me, not like that.”
“Listen to yourself, Viktor,” she said through the door.
“Hey, I dated Raven for a year or so—after college, way before you and I met in Moscow—and I know her family a little. But it wasn’t a big deal.”
“A year or so? Why did you break up?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know!?”
“Bad match? We were young and stupid? I don’t know! It didn’t work out. You’ve had other boyfriends too. I’m sure you haven’t told me about all of them.”
“But I don’t talk to them at our office all the time, either! That’s a bit different.”
“I don’t talk to her all the time. Only once in a while.”
“Viktor, it’s not the same thing. I see this woman! Every day! And she knew about me. The least you could have done was tip me off about her!”
“When you put it that way, it sounds bad, Anna. But it didn’t matter to me, because Raven is just a friend.”
“It matters to me.” Anna went into the bedroom and collected Viktor’s clothes and suitcase. “You’re going to have to stay somewhere else. If you’re going to keep secrets like this, I don’t know if we can be together.”
“Anna, we had such a nice evening. I came all the way over here from Moscow for you, not Raven. I want to help you figure this mess out.”
“I’ll figure it out by myself,” she said, rolling his suitcase to the door. “Here,” she said, handing Viktor his clothes. “Put these back on, and go help Raven.”
“Anna, this is ridiculous.”
“You need to stay somewhere else right now.”
He reached to hug her but she pushed him away. “Viktor, really,” she said, opening the door to her apartment and holding it ajar. “Don’t touch me. If you’re so close to Raven, go stay at her place.”
“Anna, I don’t have anything going on with Raven.” Viktor put his clothes back on and stood there.
“Go,” she said. “Go.”
“I’ll call you in the morning,” Viktor said, backing out of the apartment.
Anna let the door go, and it slammed with a bang.
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.