“There are a lot of tourists around Moscow, aren’t there?” I said as Nicky, the Inspector and I ascended the main staircase. Carrie was still nowhere to be seen, but I presumed that she would be found somewhere on the second or third floors, finding her way to mistress and charge like a beacon.
“I wish we could keep a hand on all the suspects. They wither about like weeds in the wind,” I added, mostly to myself.
“Moscow is a commercial sight, Miss King, nobody can deny that,” the Inspector replied. “It should be expected that our wares be exploited. And, this is Moscow. No one can keep a hand on such a city’s inhabitants, even in one of the more rural areas like the Karkroff’s mansion. I’m sorry, Miss King, but I have tried, and, though I can keep them as far as Moscow’s borders, I cannot stop the suspects from living.”
Nicky shot us both a look.
“I don’t have much to do at the moment anyway. My helping the investigation pulls me back here. Besides, it’s nice to be invited to such a glamorous house. Never in my life…”
“Not a fan of commercialism, eh?”
“I am with Vladimere Sterinsky on his views that art is better left to the self, rather than to be on display for all.”
“I think it does wonders for the economy,” Nicky continued, though she did acknowledge the Inspector. “Mr. Sterinsky himself was telling me this morning how he plans to use his sports facility to encourage more tourists to move. He says that it will revive a ‘fallen city’ or something. I can’t believe that it’s taken him over ten years for his plans to go ahead. Apparently, as ridiculous as it sounds, the government did not put his motion though. Though, I don't know much about politics.”
“Which sports facility?” I asked, whipping my head form one to the other. I had chosen the worst position to stand amongst them.
“You know, he was talking about it yesterday. His opposition wants to create the art centre, but Mr. S says that will only put tourists off. He’ll be in charge of the project, of course, and he’s looking forward to assisting society with his cause.”
"Didn’t he mention that he wanted to turn it back into the government place it used to be?"
"Oh, yes, he did," Nicky exclaimed with a blush. "That must be my mishearing. But, I thought... Never mind."
“And they didn’t approve? Why not?” My motions were becoming more and more violent leading to me almost slipping. Nicky caught one arm and placed her other firmly on the banister to support the two of us.
“Something to do with the building. I heard that its structure was unsound, incompatible with the environmental plans… In spite of everything that was thrown at him, that politician stayed strong, and, when the policies, environmental plans, or whatever, fell through, Mr. Sterinsky was all right to pick up the pieces himself.”
“Rumours, Mrs. Cunningham.”
By the time they had finished speaking, we had reached the top of the gilded staircase.
“Where exactly are we going?” I enquired.
However, it was all clear when I identified which corridor we were walking down. My knowledge was only deepened when Mr. Karkroff appeared from the alcove of one door.
“They never disturb our bedrooms,” he said; “in fact, they mostly make their ways around our unused rooms. If you would find it more convenient, Miss King, you could have some peace in Ms. Peterson’s study.”
I remained silent. The choice was obvious to him, but it didn’t have the same affect on me.
Suddenly from out of room Carrie emerged, her arm pulled back by the child inside.
“Did you call for me, Mr. Karkroff?”
There she flashed her usual bright pink smile, when her eyes locked onto mine, the only hurt deep in her cold soul. That was Carrie and I, over ten years apart, but without words could we fade from dialogue to a sentence of glances.
“Agnetha,” a voice called, and the shadow of the poisoned boy bounded out of the room. He’d managed to pronounce my name wrong as ‘netta’, barely reaching for the first letter, but at least he was speaking. His face, though pale and sickly, was at least fitted with a smile. His own giggle was flat as it had always been, so I took it to myself to register the lack of change in that respect.
Though dampened in voice, the boy bubbled to his father, who grinned and turned back to me.
“Ivor says to give you thanks. He’s very grateful for your part in his recovery.”
The boy reached a hand out towards me, but still clutched tightly at the wrist of his trusted governess. Carrie gazed down at the boy, smiling softly, before she returned the expression to me. I felt myself relax internally, for this was dire proof that she had forgiven me. Finally, I felt a little better, despite the temptation to hold a knife to my own throat for all my treachery.
Carrie took Ivor and led him back into his room. I found that I didn’t want to remove my eyes from the two of them.
“Do you want to spend your time here? Maripose and I shall be in our bedrooms if you need us. The others,” he spread out his hands, “you’re welcome to take your stay in any of the rooms, or depart. Mrs. Cunningham, it was nice to see you here again. All I would advise is that you wouldn't wander around unless you wish to have peace and quiet disturbed.”