The Sky Is Falling
Chapter Twenty-One

 Sidney Sheldon

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MRS. DALEY ANDKEMAL were waiting at Dulles airport to meet Dana. She had not realized how much she had missed Kemal. She flung her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
Kemal said, "Hi, Dana. I'm glad you're home. Did you bring me a Russian bear?"
"I did, but darn it, he escaped."
Kemal grinned. "Are you going to stay home now?"
Dana said warmly, "You bet I am."
Mrs. Daley smiled. "That's good news, Miss Evans. We're that glad you've come back."
"I'm that glad to be back," Dana said.
In the car, driving to the apartment, Dana said, "How do you like your new arm now, Kemal? Are you getting used to it?"
"It's cool."
"I'm so glad. How are you getting along in school?"
"It's not the pits."
"No more fights?"
"That's wonderful, darling." Dana studied him a moment. He seemed different somehow, almost subdued. It was as though something had happened to change him, but whatever it was, he certainly seemed a happy child.
When they reached the apartment, Dana said, "I have to go to the studio, but I'll be back, and we'll have dinner together. We'll go to McDonald's."Where we used to go with Jeff.
When Dana entered the huge WTN building, it seemed as though she had been away for a century. As she made her way to Matt's office, she was greeted by half a dozen fellow workers.
"Glad you're back, Dana. We've missed you."
"Glad to be back."
"Well, look who's here. Did you have a good trip?"
"Wonderful. Thanks."
"The place isn't the same without you."
When Dana walked into Matt's office, he said, "You've lost weight. You look terrible."
"Thank you, Matt."
"Sit down."
Dana took a seat.
"You haven't been sleeping?"
"Not much."
"By the way, our ratings have gone down since you've been away."
"I'm flattered."
"Elliot will be glad you've given this up. He's been worried about you." Matt did not mention how worried he himself had been about Dana.
They talked for half an hour.
When Dana got back to her office, Olivia said, "Welcome back. It's been - " The phone rang. She picked it up. "Miss Evans's office...Just a moment, please." She looked at Dana. "Pamela Hudson on line one."
"I'll take it." Dana went into her own office and picked up the phone. "Pamela."
"Dana, you're back! We were so worried. Russia is not the safest place to be these days."
"I know." She laughed. "A friend bought me pepper spray."
"We've missed you. Roger and I would love to have you come by for tea this afternoon. Are you free?"
"Three o'clock?"
The rest of the morning was taken up with preparations for the evening broadcasts.
At three o'clock, Cesar was greeting Dana at the door.
"Miss Evans!" There was a big smile on his face. "I'm so pleased to see you. Welcome home."
"Thank you, Cesar. How have you been?"
"Just wonderful, thank you."
"Are Mr. and Mrs. - ?"
"Yes. They're waiting for you. May I take your coat?"
When Dana walked into the drawing room, Roger and Pamela both exclaimed at once, "Dana!"
Pamela Hudson gave her a hug. "The prodigal is back."
Roger Hudson said, "You look tired."
"That seems to be the general consensus."
"Sit down, sit down," Roger said.
A maid came in carrying a tray of tea, biscuits, scones, and croissants. Pamela poured tea.
They took seats, and Roger said, "Well, tell us what's happening."
"What's happening is I'm afraid I've gotten nowhere. I'm completely frustrated." Dana took a deep breath. "I met a man named Dieter Zander who said he was framed by Taylor Winthrop and sent to prison. While he was there, his family was wiped out in a fire. He blames Winthrop for their deaths."
Pamela said, "So he had a motive for killing the whole Winthrop family."
"That's right. But there's more," Dana said. "I talked to a man named Marcel Falcon in France. His only son was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Taylor Winthrop's chauffeur pleaded guilty, but the chauffeur now claims that Taylor Winthrop was the driver."
Roger said thoughtfully, "Falcon was on the NATO Commission in Brussels."
"Right. And the chauffeur told him that it was Taylor Winthrop who killed his son."
"That's interesting."
"Very. Have you ever heard of Vincent Mancino?"
Roger Hudson thought for a moment. "No."
"He's Mafia. Taylor Winthrop got his daughter pregnant, sent her to a quack, and she had a botched abortion. The daughter is in a convent and the mother is in a sanitarium."
"My God."
"The point is that all three have strong motives for revenge." Dana sighed in frustration. "But I can't prove anything."
Roger looked at Dana thoughtfully. "So Taylor Winthrop was really guilty of doing all those terrible things."
"There's no question about it, Roger. I've talked to those people. Whichever one of them is behind the murders orchestrated them brilliantly. There are no clues - none. Each murder had a different modus operandi, so there is no obvious pattern. Every detail was carefully worked out. Nothing was left to chance. There was not one witness to any of the deaths."
Pamela said thoughtfully, "I know this may sound far-fetched, but - is it possible that they're all in this together to get revenge?"
Dana shook her head. "I don't believe there was collusion. The men I talked to are very powerful. I think each would want to do it on his own. Only one of them is guilty."
But which one?
Dana suddenly looked at her watch. "Please excuse me. I promised to take Kemal to McDonald's for dinner, and if I hurry, I can do it before I go to work."
"Of course, darling," said Pamela. "We understand completely. Thank you for stopping by."
Dana got up to go. "And thank you both for the lovely tea and for your moral support."
Driving Kemal to school on Monday morning, Dana said, "I've missed doing this, but I'm back now."
"I'm glad." Kemal yawned.
Dana realized that he had been yawning ever since he had awakened. Dana asked, "Did you sleep well last night?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Kemal yawned again.
"What do you do at school?" Dana asked.
"You mean besides horrible history and boring English?"
"I play soccer."
"You're not doingtoo much, are you, Kemal?"
She glanced at the frail figure next to her. It seemed to Dana that all the energy had gone out of Kemal. He was unnaturally quiet. Dana wondered if she should have a doctor look at him. Maybe she could check and see if there were some vitamins that would give him energy. She looked at her watch. The meeting for this evening's broadcast was half an hour away.
The morning went by swiftly, and it felt good to be back in her world. When Dana returned to her office, there was a sealed envelope on her desk with her name on it. She opened it. The letter inside read:
"Miss Evans: I have the information you want. I have made a reservation in your name at the Soyuz Hotel in Moscow. Come immediately. Tell no one about this."
It was unsigned. Dana read the letter again, unbelievingly. I have the information you want.
Of course it was some kind of trick. If someone in Russia had the answer she was looking for, why hadn't whoever it was told her about it when she was over there? Dana thought about the meeting she had had with Commissar Sasha Shdanoff and his brother Boris. Boris had seemed anxious to talk to her, and Sasha had kept cutting him off. Dana sat at her desk, thinking. How had the note gotten on her desk? Was she being watched?
I'm going to forget it, Dana decided. She stuffed the letter in her purse. I'll tear it up when I get home.
Dana spent the evening with Kemal. She had thought he would be fascinated by the new computer game she had bought him in Moscow, but he seemed indifferent. At nine o'clock his eyes started to close.
"I'm sleepy, Dana. I'm going to bed."
"All right, darling." Dana watched him go into the study and thought, He's changed so much. He seems like a different boy. Well, from now on we're going to be together. If something's bothering him, I'll find out what it is. It was time to leave for the studio.
In the apartment next door, the tenant looked at the television set and spoke into a tape recorder.
"The subject has left for the television studio to do her broadcast. The boy has gone to bed. The housekeeper is sewing."
"We're live!" The camera's red light flashed on.
The announcer's voice boomed out, "Good evening. This is your eleven o'clock news on WTN with Dana Evans and Richard Melton."
Dana smiled into the camera. "Good evening. I'm Dana Evans."
Seated next to her, Richard Melton said, "And I'm Richard Melton."
Dana began, "We start our news tonight with a terrible tragedy in Malaysia..."
This is where I belong, Dana thought, not running around the world on some wild-goose chase.
The broadcast went well. When Dana returned to the apartment, Kemal was asleep. After saying good night to Mrs. Daley, Dana went to bed, but she was unable to sleep.
I have the information you want. I have made a reservation in your name at the Soyuz Hotel in Moscow. Come immediately. Tell no one about this.
It's a trap. I'd be a fool to go back to Moscow, Dana thought. But what if it's real? Who would go to all this trouble? And why? The letter could only have come from Boris Shdanoff. What if he really knows something? She was awake all night.
When Dana arose in the morning, she telephoned Roger Hudson and told him about the note.
"My God. I don't know what to say." He sounded excited. "This could mean that someone is ready to tell the truth about what happened to the Winthrops."
"I know."
"Dana, it could be dangerous. I don't like that."
"If I don't go, we'll never find out the truth."
He hesitated. "I suppose you're right."
"I'll be careful, but I must go."
Roger Hudson said reluctantly, "Very well. I want you to stay in close touch."
"I promise, Roger."
Dana was at the Corniche Travel Agency buying a round-trip ticket to Moscow. It was Tuesday. I hope I won't be gone too long, Dana thought. She left a message for Matt to tell him what was happening.
When Dana returned to her apartment, she said to Mrs. Daley, "I'm afraid I have to go away again. It's just for a couple of days. Take good care of Kemal."
"You don't have to worry about anything, Miss Evans. We'll be fine."
The tenant next door turned away from the television set and made a hasty telephone call.
Boarding the Aeroflot plane to Moscow, Dana thought, It's deja vu. Maybe I'm making a big mistake. It could be a trap. But if the answer is in Moscow, I'm going to find it. She settled back for the long flight.
When the plane landed the next morning at the now familiar Sheremetyevo II airport, Dana collected her bag and walked outside into a blinding snowstorm. There was a long line of travelers waiting for taxis. Dana stood in the cold wind, grateful for her warm coat. Forty-five minutes later, when it was finally Dana's turn, a burly man tried to push in ahead of her.
"Nyet!"Dana said firmly. "This is my cab." She got inside.
The driver said, "Da?"
"I want to go to the Soyuz Hotel."
He turned to look at her and said in halting English, "You sure you wish to go there?"
Dana said, puzzled, "Why? What do you mean?"
"That is very not nice hotel."
Dana felt a frisson of alarm. Am I sure? Toolateto back off now. He was waiting for an answer. "Yes. I - I'm sure."
The driver shrugged, put the taxi in gear, and started off into the snowbound traffic.
Dana thought, What if there is no reservation at the hotel? What if all this is some stupid joke?
The Soyuz Hotel was located in a working-class district on the outskirts of Moscow on Levoberezhnaya Street. It was an old, unprepossessing building with brown paint peeling off the exterior.
"You want I wait?" the driver asked.
Dana hesitated for only an instant. "No." She paid the driver, got out of the taxi, and the icy wind pushed her into the small, shabby lobby. An elderly woman sat behind the desk, reading a magazine. She looked up in surprise as Dana entered. Dana walked up to the desk.
"I believe I have a reservation. Dana Evans." She was holding her breath.
The woman nodded slowly. "Dana Evans, yes." She reached behind her and pulled out a key from a rack. "Four-oh-two, fourth floor." She handed it to Dana.
"Where do I register?"
The woman shook her head. "No register. You pay now. One day."
Dana felt a new sense of alarm. A hotel in Russia where foreigners didn't have to register? Something was very wrong.
The woman said, "Five hundred rubles."
"I'll have to get some money changed," Dana said. "Later."
"No. Now. I take dollars."
"All right." Dana reached into her purse and took out a handful of bills.
The woman nodded, reached out, and extracted half a dozen of them.
I think I could have bought the hotel with that. Dana looked around. "Where is the elevator?"
"No elevator."
"Oh." A porter was obviously out of the question. Dana picked up her bag and started walking up the stairs.
Her room was even worse than she had anticipated. It was small and shabby, the curtains were torn and the bed unmade. How was Boris going to contact her? This could be a hoax, Dana thought, but why would anyone go to this much trouble?
Dana sat on the edge of the bed and looked out of the unwashed window at the busy street scene below.
I've been a bloody fool, Dana thought. I could be sitting here for days, and nothing  -
There was a soft rap on the door. Dana took a deep breath and stood up. She was either going to solve the mystery now or find out that there was no mystery. Dana walked over to the door and opened it. There was no one in the hallway. On the floor was an envelope. Dana picked it up and carried it inside. The piece of paper inside saidVDNKh 9:00 P. M. Dana stared at it, trying to make sense of it. She opened her suitcase and took out the guidebook she had brought. There it was, VDNKh. The text readUSSR, economic achievements exhibition, and it gave an address.
At eight o'clock that evening, Dana hailed a taxi. "VDNKh. The park?" She was not sure of her pronunciation.
The driver turned to look at her. "VDNKh? Everything closed."
"You still go there?"
The driver shrugged and the cab leaped forward.
The vast park was in the northeast section of Moscow. According to the guidebook, the lavish exhibitions had been planned as a monument to Soviet glory, but when the economy fell, funds were cut off, and the park had become a decaying monument to Soviet dogma. The grandiose pavilions were crumbling and the park was deserted.
Dana stepped out of the taxi and took out a handful of American money. "Is this - ?"
"Da."He grabbed the bills and a moment later was gone.
Dana looked around. She was alone in the freezing, windswept park. She walked to a nearby bench and sat down and waited for Boris. She remembered how she had waited at the zoo for Joan Sinisi. What if Boris  - ?
A voice from behind Dana startled her. "Horoshiy vyecherniy."
Dana turned, and her eyes widened in surprise. She had expected Boris Shdanoff. Instead, she was looking at Commissar Sasha Shdanoff. "Commissar! I didn't expect - "
"You will follow me," he said curtly. Sasha Shdanoff started walking rapidly across the park. Dana hesitated an instant, then got up and hurried after him. He walked into a small, rustic-looking cafe at the edge of the park and took a seat at a back booth. There was only one other couple in the cafe. Dana crossed over to his booth and sat down.
A slovenly waitress in a soiled apron came up to them. "Da?"
"Dva cofe, pozhalooysta,"Shdanoff said. He turned back to Dana. "I was not sure you would come, but you are very persistent. That can be dangerous sometimes."
"You said in your note you could tell me what I want to know."
"Yes." The coffee arrived. He took a sip, and was silent for a moment. "You want to know if Taylor Winthrop and his family were murdered."
Dana's heart began to beat faster. "Were they?"
"Yes." It came out in an eerie whisper.
Dana felt a sudden chill. "Do you know who killed them?"
She took a deep breath. "Who?"
He raised a hand to stop her. "I will tell you, but first you must do something for me."
Dana looked at him and said cautiously, "What?"
"Get me out of Russia. I am no longer safe here."
"Why can't you just go to the airport and fly away? I understand that foreign travel is no longer forbidden."
"Dear Miss Evans, you are naive. Very naive. True, it is not like the old days of communism, but if I were to try what you suggest, they would kill me before I even got close to an airport. The walls still have ears and eyes. I am in great danger. I need your help."
It took a moment for his words to sink in. Dana looked at him in dismay. "I can't get you - I wouldn't know where to begin."
"You must. You must find a way. My life is in danger."
Dana was thoughtful for a moment. "I can talk to the American ambassador and - "
"No!" Sasha Shdanoff's voice was sharp.
"But that's the only way - "
"Your embassy has traitors' ears. No one must know about this but you and whoever is going to help you. Your ambassador cannot help me."
Dana felt suddenly depressed. There was no possible way she could sneak a top Russian commissar out of Russia. I couldn't sneak a cat out of this country. And she had another thought. This whole thing was probably a ruse. Sasha Shdanoff had no information. He was using her as a means to get to America. This trip had been for nothing.
Dana said, "I'm afraid I can't help you, Commissar Shdanoff." She got to her feet, furious.
"Wait! You want proof? I will give you proof."
"What kind of proof?"
It took him a long time to answer. When he spoke, he said slowly, "You are forcing me to do something I have no wish to do." He rose. "You will come with me."
Thirty minutes later, they were going up the private back entrance to Sasha Shdanoff's offices at the Bureau for International Economic Development.
"I could be executed for what I am about to tell you," Sasha Shdanoff said when they arrived. "But I have no choice." He made a helpless gesture. "Because I will be killed if I stay here."
Dana watched as Shdanoff walked over to a large safe built into the wall. He spun the combination, pulled open the safe, and took out a thick book. He carried it to his desk. On the front of the book it said in red letteringKlassifitsirovann'gy.
"This is highly classified information," Commissar Shdanoff told Dana. He opened the book.
Dana looked closely as he slowly started to turn the pages. Each page contained color photographs of bombers, space launch vehicles, antiballistic missiles, air-to-surface missiles, automatic weapons, tanks, and submarines.
"This is Russia's complete arsenal." It looked enormous, deadly.
"At this moment, Russia has more than one thousand intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than two thousand atomic warheads, and seventy strategic bombers." He pointed to various weapons as he turned the pages. "This is the Awl...Acrid...Aphid...Anab...Archer...Our nuclear arsenal rivals that of the United States."
"It's very, very impressive."
"The Russian military has grave problems, Miss Evans. We are facing a crisis. There is no money to pay the soldiers, and the morale is very low. The present offers little hope, and the future looks worse, so the military is being forced to turn to the past."
Dana said, "I - I'm afraid I don't understand how this - "
"When Russia was truly a superpower, we built more weapons than even the United States. All those weapons are sitting here now. There are dozens of countries hungry for them. They are worth billions."
Dana said patiently, "Commissar, I understand the problem, but - "
"This is not the problem."
Dana looked at him, puzzled. "No? Then what is?"
Shdanoff chose his next words carefully. "Have you heard of Krasnoyarsk-26?"
Dana shook her head. "No."
"I am not surprised. It is not on any map, and the people who live there do not officially exist."
"What are you talking about?"
"You will see. Tomorrow I will take you there. You are to meet me at the same cafe at noon." He put his hand on Dana's arm, squeezing hard. "You must not tell anyone about this." He was hurting her. "Do you understand?"
"Orobopeno. It is agreed."
At noon, Dana arrived at the little cafe in VDNKh Park. She walked in and sat at the same booth, waiting. Thirty minutes later Shdanoff had still not appeared. What happens now? she wondered anxiously.
"Dobry dyen."Sasha Shdanoff was standing at the booth. "Come. We must go shopping."
"Shopping?" she asked incredulously.
Dana followed him out into the park. "Shopping for what?"
"For you."
"I don't need - "
Shdanoff hailed a taxi and they rode in a strained silence to a mall. They got out of the taxi, and Shdanoff paid the driver.
"In here," Sasha Shdanoff said.
They walked inside the mall past half a dozen stores. When they came to a shop with a display of provocative, sexy lingerie in the window, Shdanoff stopped.
"Here." He led Dana inside.
Dana looked around at the sleazy garments. "What are we doing here?"
"You are going to change clothes."
A saleslady approached them, and there was a rapid exchange in Russian. The saleslady nodded and a few moments later returned with a hot pink miniskirt and a beribboned, very low-cut blouse.
Shdanoff nodded his approval. "Da." He turned to Dana. "You will put these on."
Dana recoiled. "No! I'm not going to wear that. What do you - "
"You must." His voice was firm.
"You will see."
Dana thought, The man is some kind of sex maniac. What the devil have I gotten myself into?
Shdanoff was watching her. "Well?"
Dana took a deep breath. "All right." She went into a tiny dressing room and put the outfit on. When she came out, she looked in a mirror and gasped. "I look like a whore."
"Not yet," Shdanoff informed her. "We are going to get you some makeup."
"Commissar - "
Dana's clothes were stuffed into a paper bag. Dana put on her wool coat, trying to hide her outfit as much as possible. They started walking through the mall again. Passersby were staring at Dana, and men were giving her knowing smiles. A workman winked at her. Dana felt degraded.
"In here!"
They were in front of a beauty salon. Sasha Shdanoff went inside. Dana hesitated, then followed him. He walked to the counter.
"Ano tyomnyj,"he said.
The beautician showed him a tube of a bright red lipstick and a jar of rouge.
"Savirshehnstva,"Shdanoff said. He turned to Dana. "Put it on. Heavy."
Dana had had enough. "No, thanks. I don't know what kind of game you think you're playing, Commissar, but I'm not going to be a part of it. I've had - "
His eyes bored into hers. "I assure you it is not a game, Miss Evans. Krasnoyarsk-26 is a closed city. I am one of the select few with access to it. They allow a very, very few of us outsiders to bring in prostitutes for the day. That is the only possible way I can get you past the guards. That and a case of excellent vodka as payment for your entry. Are you interested or not?"
Closed city? Guards? How far are we going with this? "Yes," Dana reluctantly decided. "I'm interested."