1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 09

 

Chapter 8

 

 

          Bernie had a private letter from Vladimir to his sister Natasha, whose legal name was Natalia. Vladimir hadn’t made a big deal of it, but Bernie had the impression that Vladimir would prefer that Boris didn’t know about the private letter. So Bernie waited while Boris sent a message to warn the great lady that Boris was bringing a barbarian to be examined and to put mats down on the floor in case the strange creature should decide to take a dump on it. At least that was Bernie’s impression of Boris’ attitude. It was hard to tell what the little guy thought.

 

          As promised, Boris delivered Bernie the next day. They were ushered in by an armed retainer who looked a warning at Bernie and left them in a warm, well lit, room with a great big stonework heater. In the room was a tall, willow-thin woman with long, black hair and snow-white makeup and red-painted lips. Boris went ahead and kissed her on the cheek as was the custom. She had to lean down to accept the kiss and suddenly they looked to Bernie like nothing so much as Boris and Natasha from the Bullwinkle cartoons.

 

          Boris and Natasha looked like Boris and Natasha. Bernie cracked up. He couldn’t help it. He had been nervous all morning after the lecture Mrs. Petrov had given him on how important the Gorchakov family was. And suddenly it was like he was in a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon with Boris and Natasha. He cracked up. He almost had himself under control. “Where’s Bullwinkle?” slipped out. He lost it again.

 

          Things were getting tense by the time Bernie really got himself under control. “I’m sorry. I’m away from home and nervous about the new job. It was just that you two right then happened to look like Boris and Natasha.”

 

          Now the princess was looking confused again. “But we are,” she said with a distinctly Slavic accent. “He’s Boris and I’m called Natasha.”

 

          “I know.” Bernie shook his head. “I think that’s what really did it. Not like you, Boris and Natasha; like the cartoon Boris and Natasha. Natasha was tall and slinky, ah, beautiful with a very pale face and red lips, Boris was short and stocky. They were spies.” Another giggle. “Spies who were constantly trying to blow up Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. I used to watch it on Nickelodeon when I was a kid.”

 

          “What is a cartoon?” Princess Natasha was apparently much mollified by the notion that this other Natasha was beautiful. Bernie was less confident of her reaction to slinky, though you never knew.

 

          “It’s a simple drawing,” Bernie tried to explain.

 

          “Something like an icon but without the religious significance,” Boris clarified.

 

          “Except the ones with Boris and Natasha moved.”

 

          “Moved how?” Natasha’s forehead creased under the makeup. “Did they shake the paper?”

 

          Which lead to a discussion of moving pictures in general and how they were made. By the end of this discussion, Natasha was too interested to be offended.

 

****

 

          “Now I see how it works.” Natasha saw something else too. This was why they needed Bernie Zeppi and the dacha turned into a research center. He had not come here to introduce moving icons on a screen. It had just popped out like a chicken laying an egg. He cackled a bit and there it was. How many other eggs were buried in this stranger from the future and how valuable would they be to the family? Natasha had seen mimes and clowns perform. In spite of his comments, she knew that the movies and cartoons didn’t need sound to attract an audience. She was pleased again when, while Boris was talking to her Aunt Sofia, Bernie managed to pass her a letter “from your brother.” Then he had gone on about Rocky and Bullwinkle blundering along and thwarting Boris and Natasha while Bullwinkle at least didn’t have a clue what was going on.

 

          Over all, Natasha was quite impressed with Vladimir’s up-timer, as were some of the other people Boris introduced him to over the next week.