Learning How - E. D. James

Olivia needed to learn how to do something she had never before been able to master. She needed to learn how to lie. Not lie exactly, she told herself. More like hide, obfuscate. She needed to investigate the old gulag camp and didn’t want Scriabin and his men knowing exactly what she was doing. Alexis Moiseyev’s obsession with his father and the camp had gotten to her. Now that he was dead it was up to her to carry on and root out the secrets that were buried in that place. She sat for an hour before the evening meeting going over what she was going to say. She even looked in the mirror and practiced her lines. She wanted it to feel perfectly natural.

The five men sat with beers in front of them and their notebooks open at the table in the mess that they used for their meetings. Olivia came in last and sat down between Cooper and Suda. By now everyone had a routine place at the table. Olivia felt comfortable between these two.

“Alright, what did we learn today and what are we going to do tomorrow?” Semyon started off.

“We have all been punching out the things on our list from two days ago I think,” Cooper said.

Olivia felt her face flush and decided that she wanted to get her story out right away. The longer she sat at the table the more the tension would build up. “I spotted a crane pair heading up to the northeast section of the marsh this afternoon. They looked healthy, unlike those that we have seen from that area previously.”

“That’s interesting,” Boris said sitting forward in his seat. “If you could confirm that and show that they are nesting in that area it would put to rest Alexis’ concerns about that area.”

“Put to rest?” Semyon said.

Boris held out his arms, “Oh, I’m sorry, I suppose that seems a bit insensitive. I suppose I should say that we can eliminate that area as a concern if Olivia could document that pair.”

Olivia could feel sweat forming on her face and under her arms. Her ears felt like they were burning. She was glad she had worn her hair down. “I don’t know that this will eliminate any concerns, but it would make me feel better if I could find a nesting pair in that area. I will head up there early tomorrow and see if I can find them.”

“Do you want someone to go with you?” Semyon said.

“No, I’ll be fine. There is a good road up in that direction. I don’t think they are far off the track. The marsh is pretty narrow in that area.” The last thing she wanted was someone with her. She expected that Scriabin would have someone follow her, but she could keep the alpha radiation detector hidden from someone watching from a distance.

When she got back to her cabin an hour later Olivia was exhausted. She shut the door and leaned her back against it. Her legs were rubbery and her brain felt empty. The adrenaline had burned through her and left her an empty husk. It was all she could do to brush her teeth and crawl into her bunk.