All right, this is a rare move, but this oneshot takes place right after the last one, The Ballad Of John And Yoko, because of the ending it had. So obviously this is also 1932, and obviously they're now in St. Peterburg. Given the chapter connection, I figured it was appropriate to also give this chapter the name of a Beatles song. (Come on---it was begging for it. How could I not.) Here ya go!
Dimitri could've thought of a lot of excuses not to go back. For instance, number one would've been, "I don't wanna look for the mutt in Russia." Number two would have to be "I don't wanna look for the mutt in Russia," followed closely by "I don't wanna look for the mutt in Russia," coming in at number three.
He shocked himself with stupidity, though, taking the gentleman route and insisting he'd go back alone.
That went over well.
"Ha!" Anya had said. "I mean, don't get me wrong, that's so sweet of you to offer, and I know it might not be the best idea for me to go back there, but I'm the only one who could find him. I know I can."
And he knew she could. It would be tricky to pull off, but in a lot of ways it would be easier to accomplish together. So here they were. Back in St. Petersburg. The place, it turns out, where there would always be a rumor.
On the edge of town, the only thing occupying the flat, bare land was a scattering of noisy industrial plants, chugging black smoke into the sky. Just beyond that was the train depot, near which a small cluster of old women stood, baskets in hand, gabbing about whatever monarchist myth they'd been slipped that morning.
"Well. I heard that the girl they found in '26 was never her at all. Turned out to be some imposter trained by that young rogue and the imperialist---I can never remember their names. The Dowager Empress was so mad when she found out, she recinded the reward and put the fraud out on the streets!"
"You don't say---I always thought that it was her, but they say she went into hiding in Poland."
The ladies didn't notice the blue-eyed young blonde woman coming up behind them, and she had to speak up to make her way through. "Excuse me."
"Oh, not at all, dear. Don't mind us. So, what about you, Irina?"
The man in the cap with the mustache didn't have to say anything to get by; he just slipped through the gap left by the blonde.
"I always assumed the rumor was true, that she and that servant boy eloped that night."
"Oh, don't be silly," the elder of the women scoffed. "If Anastasia were married it definitely wouldn't have been like that. Or to him."
The women heard something then from the man who'd just passed, and it sounded a lot like an offended "Hey!"
Startled, they turned to face him, and the blonde was making an effort to shut him up. She looked familiar.
"Excuse me, miss!" the elder of the women called. "Could you come here please?"
Slowly, she approached them, and the guy with the mustache followed her for some reason.
The old woman looked her up and down. "You look so much like one of my comerade's nieces.... What is your name?"
"Helga," the blonde answered, not missing a beat. But she wasn't looking at them. "Helga VonSchmidt, ma'am."
"And you?" the old woman asked, looking toward the man. She caught him off guard.
"Uh, Rolfe. Rolfe VonSchmidt. We're just in from Germany." His smile was no more genuine than a seven-dollar bill, but twice as convincing.
"Huh. Well." The old woman gave them one more glance. "Welcome to Russia." That could've been a greeting or a warning, but you'd never know. All three old women gave up on the coversation and started off toward their respective homes.
The man and the blonde turned away, too, and continued down the road.
"What was that?" she hissed.
"Sorry, Mrs. VonSchmidt, I guess we all can't keep our cool like some people."
"Getting offended over some stupid rumor," she mused, shaking her head. "What---you couldn't manage to just scream 'Romanov?'"
"Hey, I'm here to keep you from getting caught, okay?" He changed the subject. "Red."
What? "What?" Suddenly she looked around, half expecting to see some kind of officer behind her.
"No no no, red hair," he clarified. He pointed to a loose strand trailing on her forehead.
"Oh." Anya reached up and swept the half-curled piece back under the wig. "Loading platform?"
They got there as quickly as possible. No staying anywhere. No sightseeing. No looking up when they passed a palace or a theater or a cathedral.
They'd seen enough.
"Pooka?" Anya whispered, creeping around the back ends of trucks and crates the size of houses. "Pooka? Here boy!"
"We're not in a Sherlock Holmes novel, you know," Dimitri pointed out with an eye-roll to go with it. "We may be under an alias, here, but we can still walk upright."
Anya stayed crouched behind a truck. "Not if we plan to add 'animal smuggler' to our resumés."
With a sigh, he joined her at ground level, and adjusted the fake mustache. "Man, this thing itches."
"You could've grown a real one, you know."
His first reflex was to deliver a good comeback, but he stopped when he realized he didn't have one, on account of she was right. Again. Dang it.
"God, there are so many shipments around here. How am I possibly going to find...?"
As she spoke, Anya's eyes landed on a wooden crate about twenty yards off. The front was slattted with air holes. It was just big enough.
"Dimitri!" She grabbed his arm. "Over there!" We're coming, Pooka. Hang on, boy.
He saw. "So how do you expect to...?"
He let the sentence fade away, because she was looking at him, and she was giving him the look. The look. The Romanov eyes. The 'puppy' eyes.
"Uh-uh. No, no, not me, no way, I am not...doing...whatever it is you're thinking. Not a chance."
"Please? I just need two minutes. Distract them."
She added a little smile to the look, and, well, there you go. Dimitri was completely disarmed. "Fine," he grumbled. "Fine. Just get in, grab the dog, and get out."
Sighing---still---Dimitri stood up, brushed off his coat, and strode toward the burly-looking men at the cargo checkpoint. He put on an expression of total confidence, and in return they gave him one of complete contempt. The kind you give a theif, or maybe a dead bug.
He gulped. "Good, uh, good afternoon, gentlemen."
"Name?" The bald one glanced down a clipboard of appointments and checklists. Dimitri knew that somewhere over his shoulder, Anya was slinking toward the cargo.
"Rolfe VonSchmidt," he replied, remembering right away this time. He gave them his usual 'buissines' smile and offered a hand. Neither one shook it, and he let it drop back to his side, deflated.
At least all this trouble meant they'd never notice the girl prying open a crate behind them, using both feet and a crowbar.
"You don't look German," one of the men said suspiciously.
Dimitri decided this would be a good time to see if they could take a joke. "And you two don't look friendly---but hey, appearances can be decieving, right?" he grinned.
Nobody laughed. The grin faded.
"What is your business here?"
"Well, actually..." Come on. Smooth-talk time. Just like in the square. "I was looking for someone, and I thought, what better than you two fine gentlemen to point me in the right direction. After all, you must be experts in these parts."
"Well...." The bald one stood up a little straighter, an obvious sucker for flattery. "We are the supervisors for the deliveries in this region, yes. Uh, who were you looking for?"
Dimitri smiled, but only in his head. "My aunt. Leisl. Leisl VonSchmidt."
"I don't know anyone of that name right now, but if you say she's here, I could check for you later..."
"Got a pencil?"
"Sure." The second guy extracted one from his pocket, poising it over his clipboard.
"Okay..." Dimitri saw Anya waving frantically to him from the corner of his eye. She held a small, grey bundle in her arms. "And how that's spelled again is L, E, I, S.... bye!"
Turning on a dime, he ran as fast as he could toward Anya, and when he caught up to her, they both ran for the back of the next train, already chugging away. Behind them, the two giants were shouting and chasing after them.
The train was slowly picking up speed. "Come on!" Dimitri yelled over the noise. "We can make it!"
Sprinting and nervous, Anya clamped her spare hand down on the wig to keep it from flying off. "This didn't turn out so well the last time!" she pointed out.
"Just trust me!"
Another burst of speed, and they were practically on top of the train's bumper. Dimitri grabbed on to the railing, got a foot up, and pulled himself onboard. He reached back out, and accepted the mutt he was handed, plopping Pooka onto the train as well.
Anya was still running down the track. Leaning over the railing, Dimitri stretched his arm out and she grabbed his hand, struggling to stay caught up. All she could think about was what happened in 1916.
"Don't let go!"
"I'm not letting go. I've got you," Dimitri shouted. Locking his foot under the railing for balance, he tightened his grip on her hand, and gave her the other one. They gave it everything they had, and in seconds, Anya had a foot on the train. Then both feet. Then she was onboard.
They both turned to watch the last of St. Petersburg, plus the two angry cargo guys, fade away into the distance.
"Thank you," Anya told him, and she meant it. For everything.
Dimitri just smiled, bending down, he picked up a squirmy grey furball from the floor. "I believe this belongs to you?"
She took Pooka in her arms, and he instantly went about slurping up her face. She laughed. "Pooka, you little troublemaker. That's the last time you wander off anywhere but Paris!"
Dimitri watched the little reunion, then turned to the retreating view of the city. "You know what?"
Anya smiled up at him, gratitude in her eyes, and trust, and something else, too. "What?"
He pointed a thumb toward their last view of Russia. "I still don't miss it. I think I may even prefer your talking."
Heh! This one was so much fun for me. Lots of hints to the movie in there. I certainly hope everybody loved it like I did---of course, I'll never know unless you click the happy 'review' button and tell me....;D