The Oligarkh shook his head. "Trust me, Kristynahe will be warmer in the ground if the hole is covered with snow."
"He is the same as a son to me," the woman sobbed, her voice fading to a cracked whimper. "We must not bury him before he has had his lunch."
Still on her knees, the woman, shuddering with sobs, started to crawl through the dirt toward the crater. In the back of the Mercedes, the Oligarkh gestured with a finger. The driver sprang from behind the wheel and, pressing the palm of his hand to the woman's mouth, half carried, half dragged her back to the car and folded her body into the back seat. Before the door slammed shut she could be heard sobbing: "And if it does not snow, what then?"
When the paratroopers finished covering the crater, they backed off to admire their handiwork. One of them waved to the driver of a truck. He climbed behind the wheel and backed up to the crater and worked the lever that elevated the flatbed to spill tarmacadam onto the road. Several workers came over and spread the macadam with long rakes until a thick glistening coating covered the wooden planks and they were no longer visible. They stepped away and the paratroopers signaled for the steamroller. Black fume billowed from its exhaust pipe as the rusty machine lumbered to the edge of the crater. When the driver seemed to hesitate, the horn of the Mercedes sounded and one of the bodyguards standing nearby pumped an arm in irritation. "It is not as if we have all day," he shouted above the bedlam of the steamroller's engine. The driver threw it into gear and started across the crater, packing down the tarmacadam. When he reached the other side, he backed over it again and then swung out of the cab to inspect the newly paved patch of highway. Suddenly, he tore off his improvised face mask and, bending, vomited on his shoes. Barely making a sound, the Mercedes backed and filled and swung past the chase car and started up the dirt spur toward the sprawling wooden dacha at the edge of the village of Prigorodnaia, soon to be connected to the Moscow-Petersburg highwayand the worldby a ribbon of macadam with a freshly painted white stripe down the middle.
Excerpted from Legends by Robert Littell. Copyright 2005 by Robert Littell. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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