Sukachevsky's mansion was a lot larger than Vy remembered. When he and Wilson got out the taxi it was all he could do not to just stare at the place. It had obviously been extended and there was a pool and a tennis court, he couldn't help but look up at the bay window of the attic where he'd slept when Yuri had taken him with him on a visit from Moscow.
"Some house." Wilson remarked.
"Fine…" Vy took the stairs up to the front entrance and they were searched at the door by a silent guy with a lot of Russian prison tattoos. He thought he recognised him but couldn't be certain, he tried his hardest not to flinch as he patted him down and they were met by a woman, Yuri's daughter if he was correct, who smiled coldly at him.
"I shall take you through to my father."
It was his daughter, Ogla. The last time he'd seen her she was a teenager, with unruly blonde hair and a vicious temper. Her mother and her had always been at odds the whole time he was here but he remembered that she'd taught him a trick with an ice cube a piece of string and some salt and that they'd eaten ice cream together. Now she was an incredibly attractive woman, though she had her guard up.
She led them into the sitting room where Yuri took meetings with mobsters and Vy's stomach turned over when he saw Yuri sat in an arm chair. He looked so very old, his eyes looking straight ahead but his head was cocked at an angle that suggested he knew exactly where they were, Wilson had said he was on the ball and now he regretted that he hadn't disguised his voice when he'd met with his son.
"Do you have a name?" Ogla asked him.
"Do you have a favourite letter?"
Yuri turned in his direction and his heart sped up, he'd asked that question long ago in this very house, what was he playing at?
"O." She said.
"Then call me Oscar."
"As you wish. Oscar and Wilson Otetz."
"My son tells me you found Yassen Gregorovich for us."
"And so very quickly too."
"I thought it might be more beneficial to you to have him earlier rather than later and his preparations tend to be rather thorough."
"Do you know him well?"
"Not at all."
"You saved his life last year…"
"There was something I needed him for."
"Even with an injury that severe?"
"He is rather unique."
Yuri nodded. "He is. And far more useful to us in the world than in an MI6 prison."
"Or dead." Vy said, wincing internally when he used slang, old slang.
"My daughter tells me that you are quite a remarkable chameleon, Oscar, that you can imitate accents, speak six different languages fluently and that I should trust you as much as I can see you… But I refuse to believe that anyone can imitate a muscovite accent such as yours as well as you do without having spent a lot of time there…"
"Perhaps I did…"
"Then we must have met before, I almost recognise your voice… Almost."
Vy was silent, he almost wanted Yuri to name him. He wondered what he'd do if he did, whether he'd run or not but he didn't . Vy knew he was safe from that; his voice had broken, he could not see him and he thought he was dead.
"We've never met." He said.
"Perhaps you have been avoiding me."
"You have had no need of me until now."
"No, but what I find remarkable is that you have never had need of me when I virtually run the city."
Vy couldn't help himself and quoted Yuri from the first time their met. "From what I've heard Moscow runs itself, You just make sure someone's there to make money from it."
Yuri went still. "So we do know one another."
"Not the man I am now." He said slowly, carefully. "But it is good to see you."
"You won't tell me who you are?"
"There is no point in resurrecting ghosts."
"You're nothing if not a ghost."
Yuri sighed and tapped his throat. "Vodka?"
Ogla, was looking at him determinedly probably trying to figure out who he was. When she handed him his glass he met her eyes and saw her puzzlement and curiosity.
"Ura." Yuri said.
They put their empty glasses down and smiled.
"Well I called you in to speak to you about giving Yassen what he needs for the hit. How much do you want?"
"Depends what he needs.
"Well he's here, with that time bomb Alex Rider, let's go through to the other room and talk."
"That sounds good."
Vy expected him to need Ogla's help to move from one room to another but he rose and moved confidently if not quickly towards the door with Ogla walking behind him. He led them into the pool room to find Yassen and Alex playing snooker. They set aside their cues and came into the sitting area.
"You two know each other I gather."
"I irritatingly owe him my life, what name is he using today?"
Yassen offered him a hand to shake and he took it, it wasn't the first time they'd met in other people company but it still felt weird not to hug him. He felt frayed after not getting much sleep and his conversation with Yuri, he just wanted to go back to the house, burrow under his arm and stay there for the rest of the week.
"He's agreed to gather your Intel, you let him know what you need and he'll get it."
"Is there any particular way you want it done?" Yassen asked Yuri.
"No. Any kind of dead works for us, but the timing is crucial."
"You'll be wanting to get out of the country fairly soon I'm sure… You can use my jet if you like…"
"That's kind but…"
"I insist, you'll get out completely undetected."
Yuri sat. "Now… I can tell from his step that the boy is injured…"
Yassen touched Alex's lower back. "Yes."
"Do you need a doctor?" Yuri asked Alex.
"It's an old injury…" He said. "It'll probably get better on its own, there's no need..."
Ogla spoke up. "Your face would suggest otherwise, also your shoulder is injured unless I'm mistaken."
"Not badly, it's getting better."
"We have a doctor that is very quiet, you'll see her."
"Thank you." Yassen said. "Sometimes he doesn't listen to me."
"That is a problem with all lovers." She replied. "Now… if he was beating you at snooker with an injured shoulder I wonder how I would fair."
Yassen smiled. "I've never been particularly good at the game."
"Well my father's fond of saying he could beat me even blind so why don't we see who's worse."
Yuri turned to Vy. "This sounds too entertaining to miss, you'll describe it to me?"
Yuri settled himself in an armchair and patted the arm next to him. "Sit here, that way I can hear you and no one else can; so you can be honest. Firstly how does Yassen look? I haven't seen him in some years."
"Good I suppose. A bit tired… He's grown his hair over the last year and gained a few scars but other than that he doesn't look hugely different."
"You should have seen him when he was young, just got back from wherever he went to train and… Well… My son always wanted him but he couldn't take his eyes off him."
"Most definitely, I hope Lev finds a woman at some point that he can stand… Children are most amusing… So what about Alex Rider?"
"He looks a lot like his father."
"I only met him the once."
"Well… He's got blond hair, brown eyes, about 5'6."
"I'm sure you can do better than that, really look at him."
"I'll try... His hair is about three inches long and messy…" Vy began. "He's injured at the moment, his left leg, left arm and a black eye that's going yellow around the edges. He's got quite serious eyes I suppose and he looks sad when he thinks no one's watching."
"Better, now what about your partner, I haven't even heard him speak… He moves like a big man…"
"He is, about 6'3… Got a Mediterranean look to him, dark hair, dark eyes, he's got stubble at the moment. He's got a talent for fitting in anywhere, can make himself look Arab, south American, Italian, Russian… Built like a bear but he's not clumsy, in fact he's quite well-coordinated, good in a fight; not especially deadly like Yassen but more of a brawler. Quiet…"
Vy sighed and really looked at him, he caught his eye by accident and he cocked his head slightly. Asking whether he wanted something. "He's in pretty good shape, used to be a bit of a joker at Malgosto. But he was never… mean for want of a better word. Not like some were, never seen him be cruel or sadistic but who knows… He gets results. Stopped joking with me when he started working for me, probably because I never laughed."
"Why don't you laugh?"
"I don't find much funny."
"So what about yourself? What do you look like?"
"Pretty non-discript I'm afraid. Dark hair, brown eyes, six foot more or less. I look pretty ordinary…"
"Would you let me get a second opinion?"
"If you like."
"Call your partner over."
With trepidation Vy waved Wilson over and he came.
"He wants you to describe me."
"In as much detail as you can." Yuri added.
"Erm…" Wilson looked as if he might be blushing for a moment but then he cleared his throat. "He's got dark brown hair, it shines a kind of mahogany in the sun and its not particularly long or short. He hasn't got gel in it or anything but its got a wave I suppose. His eyes are dark and oval shaped, coffee coloured but rather like the top of a good espresso than that black colour. Nose looks eastern European, lips… Are just normal I suppose. He's got high cheekbones though and an oval face. He's clean shaven…" Wilson trailed off for a moment just staring at him and then he looked him up and down. "Medium build but defined, about…" He stood for a moment and looked down at him. "Six foot, four. Sometimes I want to put a bell on him because he's fucking soundless."
Vy raised an eyebrow at him, it was he first time Wilson had ever said anything about him. He found himself thinking of ways to sneak up on him.
"What about personality?"
"He's a pain to read. Though you'd expect that. He likes taking the piss out of me but he's fairly ambivalent to whether or not I care or he gets a reaction. I don't really know him if I'm honest."
"I'll guess with Vodka."
"I don't know."
Vy was finding this amusing, how little the man he'd worked with for years knew about him.
"He hates Mahler, doesn't care about anything else."
"He wears whatever is appropriate for where he is."
"I don't know."
"Prefers Russian made, hates German stuff, doesn't mind American."
"How many people has he killed?"
"I've no idea."
"Do you trust him?"
"Trust him? To do what?"
"Do you trust him?"
"I trust him to look out for himself. He'd torture and kill me without a second thought."
"Then why do you work for him?"
"I like him… Even though I don't know him. I suppose I don't particularly care if he kills me. I think I lost track of the point of being alive a long time ago."
Something in the way he said it made Vy look at him, really look at him, and he met his eyes with a kind of weariness that resonated with him. But then he turned and walked away, back over to Alex who cocked his head at him. He shook his in return and sat down picking up his drink.
"An unusual man."
"Do you like him?"
"I don't know him."
"Do you like anyone?"
"I am - as he said - ambivalent."
"So what is your point of being alive? I have my children, Yassen has Alex, Alex has Yassen, Ogla wants to fall in love, what of you?"
Vy stared at the snooker balls as they rolled, shiny, over the table. "Do you know who I am yet?"
"When you've worked it out I'll tell you."
"Will you then kill me?"
"I don't know. I've thought about doing it before but I could never bring myself to. I suppose you still hold some small loyalty in me; You did save my life. Though sometimes… Later… I wished you hadn't."
Yuri was silent.
"Yassen's winning by twenty points, though he is as awful as he made out."