Rachel visited Professor Zimmerofski that evening. She always liked seeing the old dear and perhaps he would cheer her up.
“Good evening, my dear Rachel!” he enthused on his door step. “Come in! Come in! You look cold and worried.”
She went through to his comfortable, over-furnished study and sank into one of his deeply cushioned armchairs. The Professor poured out two small glasses of vodka, and handed her one, which she sipped appreciatively. They exchanged pleasantries, and the old man slumped into another armchair opposite her.
“So, things are getting worse in the Ukraine,” said the Professor, his face now stern and serious. “Putin is determined to seize the Crimea and he has sent his commandos into Eastern Ukraine to stir up more trouble.”
“What do you want me to do?” asked Rachel.
“You must try to find out more from General Boychevski. I believe he is a keen movie enthusiast and frequents the Film Club at the Institute?” replied the Professor.
“Oh, yes! That portly chap with his thin wife. I’ve caught him making eyes at me already!” laughed Rachel.
“Well, exploit it. But keep safe and keep him hanging on. I’m sure you know how to do that!” the Professor chuckled in turn. “Also, you will be approached by another Agent, probably at the Grossbeer. I’m getting too old for this sort of thing and you may need help getting messages back to our friends in London.”
He reached over for a folding chessboard and opened it out on the low table before them. Rachel began to take out the pieces from a wooden box and set them out on the board. They settled down in quiet peace for their customary game.
– o –
Rachel did go round for dinner with Jak on Saturday, the next day, but to his disappointment she left after listening to a few records. Perhaps it was his guitar playing and the shaky rendition of Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” that turned her off. On reflection, it was a bit misogynistic, though a lovely ballad, and he loved playing it; he could just about sing all the notes. But tension was beginning to mount between them. Had she sensed anything at his apartment; in the bathroom or bedroom? She told him a girl-friend was staying at her flat and they couldn’t go there at the moment.
Rachel hardly spoke to him when Jak went to the Film Club on Friday evening; the film was “Le Secret”. At the Institute, Rachel was equally cold. She gave him an embarrassed nod of recognition after the film, which he had had to project that evening, but there was no other response, despite the fact that they had a date to see the Avellana Consort at Little Molotov Hall the following week. It was to be a posh affair, though, as it turned out, a little weird and unworldly. The Hall was a famous old Communist Party property a few miles away that he had visited several times before, though not for an event such as this.
He walked with her to the Grossbeer, where everyone was meeting afterwards, and as they strolled, he nervously tried to take her hand in a friendly manner.
“No holding hands!” she hissed. “I’m not your possession!”
He fell back, flabbergasted, but tried to keep a straight face as they entered the bar, to join in with the merry throng. There was another fellow there who Jak hadn’t seen before, a Greek who apparently was in Moscow sight-seeing and on some sabbatical visit to the Institute. He seemed nice enough, in a rugged sort of way, but he was definitely interested in Rachel, Jak could see.
Rachel also noticed him and went over to share a joke with him and Peter Lewinski. She looked appreciatively at his rugged features and their eyes met. A thrill of anticipation shivered through her body. She asked Peter to get another round of drinks, on her.
The Greek, Dmitri, was indeed Rachel’s contact with MI6. He told her that there were some very worrying developments on the Ukrainian Border. Not content with ferrying Commandos and armaments across, Putin was now planning something big and she must investigate. She needed to get down to the border and, somewhat reluctantly, she decided to enlist Jak’s help.