The Lost American by Brian Freemantle

By Brian Freemantle

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He moved in the day after they left Moscow. The place was cleaned and tidied, as Lucinda Ingram had promised – she’d even left a vase of flowers as a welcoming gesture in the main room – but it was not clean enough for Brinkman, who made the maid do it all over again while he was there, to ensure she performed the task properly. The maid was a bulging, overflowing woman named Kabalin who muttered something under her breath when he told her to clean again and who appeared surprised when Brinkman, who hadn’t heard what she said, continued the instructions in his perfect Russian, intent upon stopping any insubordination – even whispered protests from a servant – before it began.

Still not enough, he thought. Ingram had already opened the introduction by the time Brinkman got across the room and the American was smiling towards him, invitingly. ‘Hi,’ said Blair. ’ The handshake was strong but not artificially so. ’ asked Brinkman, gesturing back into the room. ‘Better than usual,’ said Blair. ’ ‘Not at all, at the moment,’ admitted Brinkman. ’ Blair smiled at the self-deprecation, as he was supposed to. ‘Takes time,’ he said. ‘Actually didn’t like the place in the first few months.

Said John, anxious to prove his worldliness. ‘That,’ conceded Ruth cautiously. ‘But that’s not all of it. Even the important part of it. ’ demanded Paul, determined upon vengeance. Ruth felt herself blushing. ‘That isn’t the sort of question you should ask me,’ she said desperately. ’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Ruth, an admission as much to herself as to the children. ’ ‘I hate her,’ said John, proud at having initiated the discussion. ’ ‘No,’ said Ruth, carefully rehearsed. ‘No, I don’t hate her. ’ protested Paul, exasperated.

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