Vienna Years Ago

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“Yakub,” the young woman said while keeping her eyes focused on the floor.

“They will put me in jail if you don’t do this thing for them.” She spoke with remoteness, like her words were rehearsed. Most likely they were.

“Wanda? You are alive.” Father Yakub’s voice was filled with wonder.

The young woman repeated her words. “They will put me in their awful jail if you don’t do this thing for them.”

The same rehearsed sound in the voice, but as she lifted her face, her eyes filled with emotion. She stared, and her eyes spoke to Father Paskievich of the time in the recent past when they had been teenagers together, and he had been her trusted older brother.

“I thought you were dead,” Father Paskievich said, staring at his sister’s face, the face of a mature, young woman, but a face as precious to him as her childhood face had been.

Animation captured the youthful face. Wanda lifted and dropped her arms. Her voice no longer contained a rehearsed sound. “Yakub, remember, oh, please remember the pledge you used to make all those years ago. That pledge is precious to me at this moment. Do your good or lose it. They were words you used to speak when we were close together. At this moment, I am asking you to be as I remember you were when we were teenagers together. If you have something good you feel you need to do, I want you to do it.”

“The man grasped the woman’s wrist—not her hand, but her wrist—and carefully began moving her arm in a swinging motion. The woman smiled. The man was her husband. She liked what he was doing with her arm. He often chose to walk this way with her. In a coquettish voice, she said, “I am letting you hold my wrist and swing my arm, but don’t get any ideas.”

“You have a marvelous wrist. I am fascinated by your wrist.”

“I have never known a man like you.”

“You are more like all the women I have ever known than any other woman I have ever known.”

Five deft blows dealt to two Ivans, and it was all over. Kaas savored a good feeling. He had seen the hatred in enemy eyes become fear, and he had smashed two Ivans into helplessness.

Quickly, people began gathering around. The small group included a woman with a child, two young men, an old lady, and a man and a woman who looked like they might be married. Kaas glanced at the onlookers.

For Kaas, this moment was good. He liked seeing the looks on the faces of these Viennese civilians, hearing their voices express approval for what had been done to the Ivans.

There was only one sour note: those who can stare at you and speak words of praise can also betray.”