The five domes did not fall, aloof from the petty chaos of the world below. While the church remained standing, scores in the crowd were bleeding, wounded, weeping. As surely as if the sky had clouded over, Lazar sensed the mood change. Doubts surfaced. Had some unearthly power intervened and stopped this crime? Spectators began to leave, a few slowly, then others joined them, more and more, hurrying away. No one wanted to watch anymore. Lazar struggled to suppress a laugh. The crowd had broken apart while the church had survived! He turned to the married couple, hoping to share this moment with them.
The man standing directly behind Lazar was so close they were almost touching. Lazar hadnt heard him approach. He was smiling but his eyes were cold. He didnt wear a uniform or show his identity card. However, there was no question that he was State Security, a secret police officer, an agent of the MGB a deduction possible not through what was present in his appearance but what was absent. To the right and left there were injured people. Yet this man had no interest in them. Hed been planted in the crowd to monitor peoples reactions. And Lazar had failed: hed been sad when he shouldve been happy and happy when he shouldve been sad.
The man spoke through a thin smile, his dead eyes never moving from Lazar:
A small setback, an accident, easily fixed. You should stay: perhaps it will still happen today, the demolition. You want to stay, dont you? You want to see the church fall? It will be quite spectacular.
A careful answer and also the truth, he did want to stay, but no, he didnt want the church to fall and he certainly wouldnt say so. The man continued:
This site is going to become one of the largest indoor swimming pools in the world. So our children can be healthy. It is a good thing, our children being healthy. What is your name?
The most ordinary of questions and yet the most terrifying:
My name is Lazar.
What is your occupation?
No longer masquerading as casual conversation, it was now an open interrogation. Subjugation or persecution, being pragmatic or principled Lazar had to choose. And he did have a choice, unlike many of his brethren who were instantly recognizable. He didnt have to admit that he was a priest. Vladimir Lvov, former chief procurator of the Holy Synod, had argued that priests need not set themselves apart by their dress and that they may throw off their cassocks, cut their hair, and be changed into ordinary mortals. Lazar agreed. With his trim beard and unremarkable appearance, he could lie to this agent. He could disown his vocation and hope that the lie would protect him. He worked in a shoe factory or he crafted tables anything but the truth.
The agent was waiting.
Excerpted from The Secret Speech by Tom Robb Smith. Copyright © 2009 by Tom Robb Smith. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. 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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