Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Sixty-Seven
31st December 1973
The fact that it was final day of the year meant little to Sprocket. He had a far different way of reckoning time than people did. For him it was always the ever present, ever glorious, now and he saw little need to think past that. That didn’t mean that he couldn’t anticipate. Like when his girl was coming home for the day or when his dish of kibble along with whatever delicacies the older woman who smelled of spices and food gave him as extras was going to be placed on the floor of the kitchen. She had told his girl that dogs just always go for the trimmings from the stewing meat. Those were a couple of his favorite things. There was also riding in his basket of the bicycle with his girl, like he was right now and that was also his favorite thing.
The ride across town had been a vast bouquet of delightful smells. Coal and woodsmoke, people, lots and lots of interesting people, something dead that was decaying the most beautiful aroma in the gutter as they passed. Sprocket was aware that his people couldn’t understand the complexities of odors. He had been on the receiving end of their dismay many times. Especially after rolling in something that he liked and had swiftly found himself in the kitchen sink soaked to the skin and being scolded for his trouble. The words “Tupaya sobaka!” being used so often that he was starting to wonder if that was a command he was supposed to be learning.
Rolling up to the gates of the parklike setting that two friends of his girl lived in. Sprocket could smell the trees, rabbit droppings, damp earth, and other dogs. A man looked into Sprocket’s basket, and he growled at him, much to the man’s amusement…
“You brought the mighty hunter I see, Freknur” Wulfstan said looking in the basket. Sophie knew that the guard was poking fun at her, that name being old Norse for Freckles.
“Sprocket is actually a good ratter” Sophie said, “He brought in a big one he killed in the alley by the rubbish bins a couple months back and Petia just freaked. Dead or not, that thing has no place in my house.”
Sophie said that last part in an imitation of Petia’s Russian accent.
“I’ve been warned about the Russian sisters” Wulfstan said as he handed Sophie’s identity card back to her. “That the First Foot should be grateful that they happen to be on the same side.”
“Petia and her friends?” Sophie asked, “They are mostly harmless.”
“To you, yes” Wulfstan replied, “To the likes of me, they are almost as dangerous as the damned NKVD was, the difference is that they are still around.”
Sophie knew that the guard who she had gotten to know quite well over the last year had to be pulling her leg. She knew the circle of Russian women who Kat employed were kind to her and didn’t deserve the sort of fearsome reputation that men like Wulfstan Auer seemed to want hang on them.
Sophie knew that the guard who she had gotten to know quite well over the last year had to be pulling her leg. She knew the circle of Russian women who Kat employed were kind to her and didn’t deserve the sort of fearsome reputation that men like Wulfstan Auer seemed to want hang on them. Sophie figured that that she couldn’t change his mind, so she changed the subject.
“Why are you still here?” Sophie asked, “Don’t they rotate men through the First Foot?”
“They do, eighteen months and you get your choice of assignments” Wulfstan replied, “The trouble is that your choice doesn’t always have a slot for you that is open right when you want it to be.”
“So that’s why you are still minding the gate out here?”
Wulfstan ignored that last question.
“Antonia and Annette are expecting you” Wulfstan said, “Your friend with the leg is already there, you girls have fun.”
With that Wulfstan opened the gate and let Sophie through. As she rode her bicycle towards the main house, she thought about what was going to happen. She had been planning this night with Nella, Nan, and Ziska for ages. They were planning on throwing a party of their own and staying up late, until midnight. Nan said that there was a way onto the roof of the main house of the family compound that would give them an excellent view of the fireworks up and down the river. Of course, it was Nan who would figure that out, she always went out of her way to find out every little secret of whatever building she happened to be in. Every entrance and exit, every window and hiding place. The building that Nella and Nan lived had only been built a few years earlier, but it had a number of secrets that only Nan could have ferreted out.
Still, regardless of what happened that night, it would be a welcome respite from what had been going on over the prior weeks. Next week, Sophie was supposed to meet with a coach. If she were truly interested in competitive cycling, she needed to know what it would take to get onto a team. It seemed like a whole lot of effort, but as Kat had told her, there were a lot of things she didn’t know. Cycling being a team sport had not even entered her thinking until Kat told her about Fraulein Baruch.