The Moscow Parade
A few children cried on the opposite side of the tight hallway three men so modestly occupied. A crimson rug was laid nicely, directly in the middle of the corridor, to guide each step through a gallery of identical doors; although, it felt so perceptibly unprofessional, in a way.
“Doctor,” said one, the candlelight of the sconce beside it wavering in the rush of air produced by the bodies. “Cobbler. Candlemaker,” (the stout old man who fiddled with wax all day in his lonely room only to provide that single building with lights). “Secretary. Investigative… oh, why would we need an investigator these days?!” Exclaimed one of the men, who had been reading each sign aloud to his company.
“You’d be surprised, sir,” replied the one to his left.
“Certainly, sir.” Said the other, to his right.
“Administrative…. Executive.” The first man concluded, removing his hat and making way for the fellows beside him. The children had begun to hush then, their mouths covered by a mother covered in scratches and painted by dirt. “And shall we continue?” The first man inquired, fastidious as to not regard the family in the hall.
“Certainly, sir.” The right man answered, and opened the door to let the others in.
A wide oval table sat directly in the center of a green carpet, complemented by an equally green covering which felt like velvet to the touch. The three men sat down, just after a series of polite yet arguably unnecessary gestures, such as the pulling of one’s chair out for another. Their slow dances were reduced down into their respective seats eventually.
“So, introductions, if I may inquire?”
“Yes,” spoke the man from the left quietly, “I am Bosak, and this is my better, Melanie.”
“Hello, Bosak and Melanie. I must confess my considerable confusion as to why I’ve been summoned, but (and to mean no distaste, I assure you!) I do not, I suppose, want to be here.”
“We will be as quick as possible, then.” Bosak spoke, practically under his breath. He seemed exasperated; not to mention that the children outside the Executive room had begun to moan once more. “You don’t need to speak with us, we are not the Interrogative Team.”
“An ‘Interrogative Team’?” The middle man asked, his eyes slowly glazing over in a subtle film which characterized fear, the final glint of recognition in an animal’s eyes before he is bested, so to say. “I am to be interrogated?!”
Bosak and Melanie said nothing to answer his question. They stared at him with their hands folded neatly, symmetrically on the velvet cloth draped over the table.
The middle man slammed the heel of his palm against it, shaking the whole thing before he shot to his feet. All other sounds seemed to be drowned out by the sheer volume of his outburst. “What is the meaning of this?” He finally whispered, resolutely.
Bosak and Melanie stood, gathered their things, and left the room. Their hats remained on the rack in the corner, their overcoats hung just below them. The middle man was alone in the room, the suffocating dark brown wooden walls closed in all around him, with the children outside reaching various magnitudes of discomfort. He thrashed in his seat, twisted around, struggling to see the lock on the door, and if it had turned at all or if the click that he heard when Bosak and Melanie had left was nothing but a manifestation of his own fear, which crawled over his skin so violently in an instant.
Oddly familiar voices crept underneath the door, growing closer all the time. The little children outside had completely ceased at this point, as if the middle man could know quite what had happened to them. Had they been rushed away? Gravity caught him by the bottoms of his slacks to drag him down further into his chair. A broken metronome sat in the center of the table, which wasn’t outwardly broken until the man had swiped it softly with his finger and watched it tick, on a beat off, by nothing but a moment. Bosak and Melanie returned, shutting the door quietly. They each took their seats. The metronome stopped, too, with the subtle beat of the middle man’s heart when they had come.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“We are now the Interrogative Team, I fear to inform you! With this information, I implore you, sir, to share any information you may have yourself, on your mind or… perhaps on your person?”
“And now you would like to search me, not even past an hour into my arrival here!” The middle man nearly shouted in disbelief.
“You’ve a keen eye. That isn’t what we seek. Do you happen to have any sort of ‘contraband’ on your person, Laurent?” Bosak orated in an air of gaudy certainty, almost able to perceive things Laurent might have been hiding, regardless of if he was.
“No, and I do not consent to a search here today, Bosak. I politely decline.”
“All right, Mr. Laurent! How about your bags?” Melanie interjected, opening his battered leather notebook. “Maximilian Laurent…” He murmured and slid this finger across the wild scribblings on the page. “French!”
“I’ve no bags. It has been a short trip.”
Melanie hesitated. “I understand. Have you any recollection, or knowledge, of a man called Vitaly Komiv?”
“Why, not on the top of my mind or the tip of my tongue. I insist my statement is correct, if you plan on writing it down! I do not know him.”
“Absolutely. Who is he? Better yet, who am I to know a man who lives here when I’ve only just arrived?”
“If you must know, he’s a reported patron of The Moscow Parade,” Bosak answered, practically lifelessly, but his stare was filled with the look of the predator, contrary to Laurent’s of the prey. “Which you have not partook in yourself, Mr. Laurent? You definitely have not?”
“Absolutely, sir Bosak!”
“Okay,” Melanie exhaled. “How difficult would you say it is to cross the wall? What about twice?” Bosak sat, but Melanie refused.
“Very difficult, nearly impossible, if I’m allowed to posit,” Laurent answered obediently, “I wouldn't know.”
Bosak and Melanie stood again in the same manner as a few minutes beforehand to leave the room. This time, the click of a lock did sound into Laurent’s ears, but he did not twist and he did not fret quite as horrifically as before; the second coming of a new feeling always seemed more dull, as a man tortured may finally grow indifferent to the numbing of his body. Instead, he sat and listened to their drowned voices. Bosak and Melanie did not walk away from the other side of the closed door this time.
It was unfastened from the outside. “It seems, unfortunately for us, you must leave our company, but under suspicion!”
“Suspicion! Well, fantastic, allow me to go; only with your humble permission, of course.” Laurent said, standing. The other man followed, and the moderately sized room suddenly seemed to be filled with a crowd, all at once. Each of them shook hands, offered the same courtesies as presented before, in a schedule most formal meetings tend to entail. “Surely you will enjoy the pleasantries of East Germany.”
“Surely!” He imitated.
On the steps in the front of the building, Laurent lit a cigarette morosely before he left. A sigh escaped him, but he scolded himself. He was uncomfortable, and seized by a strange malaise feeling… nevertheless, he boarded a long bus that followed the gray walls topped with barbed wire. Finally he unbuttoned his overcoat he had drawn tightly around his body for more than a day, continually. Dried mud stained his shirt, and to his despair, no amount of his own saliva could prove worthy to wash it out. Loosely rooted people were planted on the sides of the street, gazing up to the windows of the bus sleepily. Laurent turned his attention to the loose cigarettes in his otherwise empty pockets, and entered a state of deep contemplation.
“If many got through in the first place, what could be the harm of allowing just one more through? I am sure it’s Komiv, but… he is the only one to my knowledge that has gotten to this checkpoint since an increase in security, Melanie-“
“How magnanimous! Fine! He goes, if only because you aggravate me so. You would do well to respect your assignment in the future, and I will mention you if he fails to concede upon further discovery.”
“Absolutely, sir. Only one of a Parade crosses the border. This one.”
“The rest of that ‘Parade’ will rot in the mud. He ought to be sent back across. Send him luck, instead, and perhaps it will carry him over once more.”
Bosak and Melanie unlocked the door to take their places, the former his seat and the latter his feet. Komiv assumed his unconvincingly nonchalant stance.
“It seems, unfortunately for us, you must leave our company, but under suspicion!”