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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

something to do

Having emerged from five weeks in jail as Russia's most famous expat, having had one ill-fated sexual encounter with his ostensible fianc?e, suspecting his mother of having a series of ill-advised sexual encounters with the ambassador, and otherwise having to confront the harsh realities of relative freedom, Pete Singer didn't really know what to do with himself. His lawyer, Mikhail Mikhailovich Mikhailovich, forbade him to write any more articles before trial, but this process of waiting didn't take up nearly enough of Pete's time. Sometimes, of course, Pete and Mikhailovich had consultations, and these generally left Pete feeling like his lawyer took him for a fool.

"Tell me about writing that famous editorial on Kiriyenko," Mikhailovich would say, referring to the piece in which Pete suggested that Russia needed a new prime minister, someone young and energetic like perhaps the virtually unknown fuel and energy minister -- who was appointed the day after the editorial came out.

"I had spoken to many people, experts and ordinary people," Pete would say, sincerely forgetting that his entire population of experts consisted of Lena, and his "ordinary people" were Lena's parents. "And I came to the conclusion that the country was on the brink of another period of stagnation."

Mikhailovich would sigh, apparently not at all taken with the exciting story of Pete discovering the truth about Russia. "But how did you come up with the idea of Kiriyenko?"

"I studied the leading politicians, the cabinet of ministers," Pete would say, slightly exaggerating the value of watching the nightly news with Lena's selective interpretation.

At this point Mikhailovich would generally do that disgusting thing with his moustache, when he grabbed the entire bushy creation in his fist and pulled and lots of tobacco crumbs fell out. "Pete, I think your best chance is to present your views as random."

"But you can't keep hitting upon the truth at random," Pete would say, believing that he hadn't. "That's just not probable. Or possible."

"OK, in that case what I'd like you to do right now is sit down and write one of your famous editorials right here, and we'll see if that comes true!"

"That's not a fair experiment at all. I have been out of the information loop for five weeks, so of course I can't produce anything of value."

Mikhailovich sighed, pulled on his moustache, packed his fat briefcase and got out, leaving Pete, once again, with nothing to do. His mother seemed to be spending all her time at the embassy these days, Lena was out on some mysterious job assignment she'd tell him nothing about, the phone was silent, and basically, Pete had to admit that he missed Alexei, his rich and powerful cellmate with his James Bond videos.

So the phone rang.

"Allo? Pete Singer?" the voice was loud, female and possessed of a decent English pronunciation.

"This is he."

"Hi. I'm a friend of Alexei's, yes?"


"You owe him a favor, yes?"

"Yes. I suppose."

"OK. Do you own a suit?"


"Put on the suit, pack a bag and come and check into the National Hotel. Your suite has been prepaid. We'll get in touch." Click.

Pete had the idea that Mikhailovich would not approve of this adventure, and this made him all the more happy to go ahead. He got dressed, brushed and cologned, and about 20 minutes later, Samsonite carry-on in hand, he was on his way to the National. It's a good thing Moscow drivers cannot be fazed by anything, including a dressed-up foreigner with luggage hailing a car in Novokosino to travel to the National.

Pete had been in his suite for about 40 minutes now, and he was feeling a bit restless. He'd forgotten to bring a book. He turned the TV off and on and kept returning to the window to stare out at Red Square, feeling, not so deep inside, that the sight of it might inspire another insightful editorial, which would convince Mikhailovich once and for all. The phone rang.

"Allo? Mr. Singer? Your interpreter is here."

"Could you have her come up?" Pete responded, thinking, for some reason, that his interpreter was Lena.

A tall woman in a smart business suit appeared in his room a minute later. She first busied herself with transferring the contents of her rather large purse into the safe, which Pete hadn't even noticed. Then she sat down and finally addressed him.

"My name is Tanya, and I'm your interpreter. You're a venture capitalist from America, and you'll be having a lot of business meetings with both foreigners and Russians, mostly older men, heads of companies. At first I'd like you to go downstairs to greet them." She paused, looking at him, it seemed, for the first time since she entered. "You'll be needing another suit. And tie. And what's that cologne you're wearing?"