"Forget it. You got a better offer?"
The refreshment room was at the back of the Institute and looked out onto an inner courtyard, in the center of which, dumped on their sides amid the weeds, were a pair of statues, of Marx and Engels--a couple of Victorian gentlemen taking time off from the long march of history for a morning doze.
"They don't mind taking down those two," said Adelman. "That's easy. They're foreigners. And one of them's a Jew. It's when they take down Lenin--that's when you'll know the place has really changed."
Kelso took another sip of coffee. "A man came to see me last night."
"A man? I'm disappointed."
"Could I ask your advice, Frank?"
Adelman shrugged. "Go ahead."
Adelman stroked his chin. "You got his name, this guy?"
"Of course I got his name."
"His real name?"
"How do I know if it's his real name?"
"His address, then? You got his address?"
"No, Frank, I didn't get his address. But he did leave these."
Adelman took off his glasses and peered closely at the book of matches. "It's a setup," he said at last, handing them back. "I wouldn't touch it. Whoever heard of a bar called Robotnik, anyhow? 'Worker'? Sounds phony to me."
"But if it was a setup," said Kelso, weighing the matchbook in his palm, "why would he run away?"
"Obviously, because he doesn't want it to look like a setup. He wants you to have to work at it--track him down, persuade him to help you. That's the psychology of a clever fraud--the victims wind up doing so much chasing around, they start wanting to believe it's true. Remember the Hitler diaries. Either that or he's a lunatic."
"He was very convincing."
"Lunatics often are. Or it's a practical joke. Someone wants to make you look a fool. Have you thought of that? You're not exactly the most popular kid in the school."
Kelso glanced up the corridor toward the lecture hall. It wasn't a bad theory. There were plenty in there who didn't like him. He had appeared on too many television programs, knocked out too many newspaper columns, reviewed too many of their useless books. Saunders was loitering at the corner, pretending to talk to Moldenhauer, both men obviously straining to overhear what he was saying to Adelman. (Saunders had complained bitterly after Kelso's paper about his "subjectivity": "Why was he even invited? That's what one wants to know. One had been given to understand this was a symposium for serious scholars . . .")
"They don't have the wit," he said. He gave them a wave and was pleased to see them duck out of sight. "Or the imagination."
"You sure have a genius for making enemies."
"Ah, well. You know what they say: more enemies, more honor."
Adelman smiled and opened his mouth to say something, but then seemed to think better of it. "How's Margaret? Dare one ask?"
"Who? Oh, you mean poor Margaret? She's fine, thank you. Fine and feisty. According to the lawyers."
"And the boys?"
"Entering the springtime of their adolescence."
"And the book? That's been a while. How much of this new book have you actually written?"
"I'm writing it."
"Two hundred pages? A hundred?"
"What is this, Frank?"
"How many pages?"
"I don't know." Kelso licked his dry lips. Almost unbelievably, he realized he could do with a drink. "A hundred, maybe." He had a vision of a blank gray screen, a cursor flashing weakly, like a pulse on a life-support machine begging to be switched off. He hadn't written a word. "Listen, Frank, there could be something in this, couldn't there? Stalin was a hoarder, don't forget. Didn't Khrushchev find some letter in a secret compartment in the old man's desk after he died?" He rubbed his aching head. "That letter from Lenin, complaining about Stalin's treatment of his wife? And then there was that list of the Politburo, with crosses against everyone he was planning to purge. And his library--remember his library? He made notes in almost every book."
Excerpted from Archangel by Robert Harris. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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