I can see a Dead Body on the Road
I can see a Dead Body on the Road. Joanna's Page 20
Denis a sunny day.
It was amusing but just after that formal declaration of his she, who used to trample on every formalities and conventions in her wish to get hold of Denis Gradov, at last was filled with a blissful feeling of peace. All the week long she rushed about the rayon, collected lots of information and sat down to her typewriter, a Denis's present, which she learnt very quickly, though she learnt to type only by two fingers. They finished their shootings in the town and proceeded to the countryside - a winter village. Denis wanted to shoot exotica - a remote snow-covered village in the midst of a forest and went to choose a nature together with the cameraman Leonid. George Pushko tagged after them to male colorful photos for illustrated magazines. Besides all of that, it was a nice Sunday's skiing tour.
It was a frosty and sunny day. Towards evening it became colder; a wind and snowstorm started. Yana became numb with cold while she was getting to the editorial office in order to call Denis. It was about ten o'clock.
Yana pressed an ice-cold receiver to her ear. On Sundays they heated only to keep radiators from being frozen.
Many times she played that conversation or theirs in her memory, searching for its sinister and mysterious meaning. She dialed once more and could hear long beeps. 'What's happened? He is to be at home already." She was going to hang up.
"Hello. Haven't you heard my calls?"
"I'm warming myself in the bath. I'm stiff with cold after staying at that village. How are you?"
"Good. I'm hammering my typewriter."
"Could you come to my, Joanna?"
"Come right now. Get on an electric train and come.
Yana could hear his breath in the receiver and imagined his face dimly whitening on the bent of her arm and his wet hair after having a bath that made her skin feel cold.
It would take her about three hours to reach Denis' place.
"I have no time. Till the day after tomorrow morning I have write three materials and prepare for a short meeting."
"I don't care. Please, come."
"I can't, it's impossible."
"OK, I'm returning to my bath; it's cold." His tone was neither resentful, nor disappointing; it was indifferent. Bye-bye."
And she heard short beeps in the receiver. She felt an unpleasant feeling of resent after that conversation. With difficulty did she refrain from calling again, but how could she draw him out of the bath for the second time. She got herself together. She got already used to and reconciled with the fact that fruit of their love was bitter.
On Monday morning she handed in everything and after the meeting went for a task. She appeared in the editorial far in the day in order to appear only. There she heard with half an ear that Leonid was missing. His wife phoned from Moscow and talked to George Pushko who told that he had stayed for a night at his friends' place in the village of Korzhi.
Gradov and Leonid went skiing to see one more village Vlasovo. Leonid's wife said he didn't go home to overnight, though they agreed to go on a visit together. She couldn't wait for him and went alone. If he had got drunk he should have phoned her. In such cases he always phoned at nights or, in the last resort, in mornings. There should be a post-office in a village! At the beginning she was angry but now she was worrying, and nobody answered her calls at Gradov's flat. George Pushko reassured her, saying that Leonid and Denis surely went on a spree.
Therefore, when she phoned. Before Yana's eyes a picture appeared: a tipsy Leonid with a guitar, a fateful girl on Denis's knees and more girls. Again she felt bitterness in her throat but she kept silence and made herself switched over to her business.
In the evening Leonid's wife at last got through to Denis who told her that he had spend the whole day in the editing room and heard anything about Leonid. Leaving the village of Korzhi, they really intended to come and see the village of Vlasovo, but it was about three o'clock then, Leonid skied very badly, he was tired, frozen and could hardly move, they didn't have time to reach the village till it would become dark. So Denis ran to Vlasovo alone and Leonid went to the railway station.
All evening and night long from Monday to Tuesday Leonid's wife called to his friends, militia stations and morgues.
His body was found on Tuesday by boys from Korzhi who laid out a ski trail in a ravine after a two-day snowstorm. Leonid sat leaning to a rough fir; he was covered with snow up to his shoulders and became wooden already. He had a deep wound on cervical part of his skull, and there were no marks of fight. Obviously, he was hit from behind and suddenly, and then a murderer put his cap on his head and sat him under the tree.
Why should anybody kill harmless Leonid in a strange forest a few dozens of kilometers from Moscow?
Was it done because of a robbery or a woman? But Leonid was not interested in women and had no values with him; his wallet with coins and a one-way-ticket lay untouched in a pocket of his coat.
On Wednesday evening she at last got Denis on the phone. He said that all of that was horrible, and a murder was the last thing he wanted when he had a lot of work and didn't want to deal with militia and investigators, and that he didn't want to hear and talk about this problem
She didn't talk about this problem anymore but their conversation failed. Before her eyes she saw snowed-up Leonid.
Obtaining a leave from Knan, she spent all Thursday and Friday at her typewriter. Her work made slow progress because outside thoughts disturbed her. So she put off her editorial materials and started inventing a story about a man with a face-theater who was elected a judge by people because he was able to discern true nature of everyone standing before him. Truth, kindness, spite, greed, selfishness or simple-mindedness were immediately reflected on his face. It was impossible to conceal something from that judge, no matter how confused a cause seemed.
One day someone who injured a lot of people and was afraid of being disclosed came to the judge with an intention to kill him. The judge didn't want to die. He swore that for the first time he would sin against truth and defend a guilty man. He kept his word and made everything sound as if the guilty and his victim swopped places. But every time when the criminal played a role of a victim at the will of the judge he experienced the victim's grief and sufferings. The judge looked at the defendant, and the truth was reflected on his face.
The defendant was justified but that was not the end of the story. Yana didn't know yet how to finish it and didn't know that it would remain to be unfinished.
Next day she heard all the news at the editorial office.
In the ravine, 240 meters away from that place, Leonid's skis and poles were found, and something else not far away from the rough fir. It was Peacock's scarf.
It would make one laugh to think that Peacock killed Leonid. Leonid wasn't killed at all. It was established that it was an accident: skiing down to the ravine Leonid fell, hit against a stone that stuck out of snow and obviously lost his consciousness. Then Peacock took off his skis, tied him round by his scarf (it was established by experts) and pulled Leonid along the ravine at 240 meters distance. It happened about five o'clock, and it got dark already. In addition, the weather was very bad: frost, icy and piercing wind, and towards evening a snowstorm broke. Peacock was exhausted and now didn't care about Leonid. Saving his own skin he decided to get to the railway station alone.
All of that was told her at the editorial office. It was told in a merciless way and in a strong language as to a person who could have nothing to do with a scoundrel in peacock's feather who saving his own skin deserted his helpless comrade to die. Their mercilessness was generous to her; it separated and protected her, who was strayed and forgiven one, from a shame by the name of Denis Gradov whom she, being inexperienced and trustful, couldn't see through as well as they did.
"There is nothing between you and there couldn't be. You can see we don't even think of it. Just forget it." She silently sat on an armrest of Lyuda's armchair, and slowly fainted. She accepted hardness of those first minutes of vengeance, their painfulness and shamefulness, as a deserved punishment. She endured all hellish torments and experienced all feelings except surprise: perhaps, subconsciously she had always expected a catastrophe.
It was her blamable passion and she went off the track, knowing than it would lead to no good.