The Price of Dreams

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Summary

The Price of Dreams: First book of the Kuban Trilogy Praise for the Kuban Trilogy ‘Magnificent, sweeping and powerful.’ Paul Muller, author of Flight of the Marbles and Suicide Inc. The Price of Dreams First book of the Kuban Trilogy Which would you choose – your dreams or your integrity? That is the stark choice faced by Ruslan Shanidza, an athlete from the southern fringes of the Soviet Union, a multi-ethnic region still traumatised by the poisonous legacy of Hitler and Stalin. Ruslan dreams of Olympic glory but despises the ruling Communists and longs for independence from Russia. Something has to give, especially after a fight with the son of a leading Party member brings him to the attention of the secret police. He struggles to pursue his dreams without betraying his ideals and the people he loves, but the time will come when he must choose between them.

Genre:
Thriller / Other
Author:
Paul Clark
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
23
Rating:
n/a 1 review
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter One- August 1983

THE MAJOR took a deep breath as his driver dropped him outside the Party’s imposing headquarters in Victory Square. He wasn’t looking forward to this encounter, but he squared his shoulders and strode up the steps to the entrance, where the guards saluted and allowed him to enter without checking his papers. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the indoor gloom and make out the elaborate chandeliers and the fading frescoes of joyful peasants and muscular workers staring into the distance.

He approached the reception desk. ‘Good afternoon. I’ve come to see Sergo Lionidza.’

‘Do you have an appointment?’

‘No.’

‘You can’t see him without an appointment.’

‘He’ll see me.’

‘I’m sorry. Nobody sees Comrade Lionidza without an appointment.’

The Major leaned forward. ‘I suggest that you call his secretary. Tell him to cancel Comrade Lionidza’s next appointment to make room for me. Say that if he doesn’t, Comrade Lionidza may soon find himself dealing with someone very senior from Moscow.’ He emphasised the word ‘Moscow’ and glared at the receptionist.

She hesitated for a moment and picked up her phone.

Lionidza’s secretary was a wiry old man who always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye.

‘Hello Major. It’s nice to see you again.’

‘Hello.’ The Major didn’t return his smile.

‘So what brings you here?’

‘That’s for Comrade Lionidza to find out. Does he know I’m here?’

‘No.’

‘Well you’d better tell him. My superiors wouldn’t like it if I were to be kept waiting.’

Lionidza’s secretary raised an eyebrow. ‘Very well. Please take a seat. Can we get you a glass of tea?’

‘No thank you. I’m not planning to stay long.’

The secretary crept into Lionidza’s office as the Major sat down. He came out a moment later and approached a group of Party functionaries who were waiting to see Lionidza. In hushed tones, he explained that Comrade Lionidza had an urgent appointment with the Major but would see them as soon as he was free.

Ten minutes later, Sergo Lionidza came out with his previous visitors. A thickset man in his late fifties, his hair combed over his balding head, he shook their hands warmly and patted their backs as they left.

He turned to the Major. ‘Bebur, it’s good to see you again.’

The Major stood up without smiling and somewhat stiffly returned Lionidza’s embrace, exchanging the customary four kisses.

‘How’s your charming wife?’

‘She’s very well, thank you.’

‘And your two boys?’

‘Doing fine. The youngest starts school next month.’ The Major had managed all this without even the hint of a smile.

‘Doesn’t time fly? Anyway, do please come in.’

As they sat down on either side of his polished desk, Lionidza offered tea.

‘No thank you.’

‘Would you prefer coffee?’

‘No thank you.’

‘Well at least have a cigarette.’

He reached into his pocket and took out a packet of Belomorkanal. The two men lit up.

‘I see you’re still a man of the people, smoking these flamethrowers,’ said the Major.

Lionidza grinned and the Major smiled the first smile of his visit. The ice had finally cracked.

‘So, to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?’

‘Comrade Lionidza, my superiors have asked me to let you know that they are, and I quote, fucking livid.’

Lionidza frowned. ‘Livid?’

‘Fucking livid.’

‘May I ask why?’

‘You don’t know?’

‘No.’

‘Does the name Ruslan Shanidza mean anything to you?’

‘Oh yes, I read about that. Terrible. Do you know if he’s badly injured?’

‘Yes he is badly injured. A transverse fracture of the right tibia.’

‘Pardon?’

‘A broken leg to you or me.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘Oh dear indeed.’

‘Do you mind if I ask how come the military top brass are so angry about it?’

‘Because he was attacked.’

‘Attacked?’

‘Yes, with a hammer.’

‘What? But the newspapers said he was hit by a car.’

‘Yes,’ said the Major. ‘I wonder who fed that particular piece of donkey shit to the press. He was attacked. Three men pinned him down and a fourth whacked him on the shin with a hammer.’

Lionidza looked at the Major in astonishment. ‘God’s nails. No wonder the military are upset.’

‘Not upset, comrade. The phrase I was told to convey is fucking livid.’

‘When you say your superiors are livid, do you mean your superiors in Ksordia-Akhtaria or your superiors in Moscow?’

‘Moscow.’

‘So why have you come to me?’

‘Because the top brass want you to deal with it.’

‘Me?’

‘Yes.’

‘What, down here? Without involving Moscow?’

‘Correct.’

‘That may not be easy.’ Lionidza pursed his lips. ‘Ruslan Shanidza always was a pain in the proverbial.’

‘We’ve been through all that.’

‘Yes we have. Don’t forget that he was causing me grief long before your lot got involved in his case. He doesn’t get any less of a pain, does he?’

The Major laughed. ‘I don’t suppose he does. But on this occasion, it’s hardly his fault.’

‘No, I suppose not. Do they know who attacked him?’

‘Yes.’

‘Who?’

‘Aleksander Mingrelsky’s son.’

‘Blood and damnation, this gets worse. Are you sure about that?’

‘Yes.’

‘You know those two have history?’

‘I know. But tell me this: Mingrelsky junior’s here in Ksordia-Akhtaria, doing whatever it is he does these days, and Ruslan’s in Azerbaijan with our boys. The two of them have had no contact for the best part of eighteen months. None whatsoever. So why would Mingrelsky junior suddenly drive fifteen hundred kilometres over the Caucasian Mountains so he can jump on Ruslan and break his leg with a hammer?’

Lionidza sat back in his chair and took a long drag on his cigarette.

‘Why indeed? Has Mingrelsky junior been arrested?’

‘No. The police are refusing to touch him. They say he’s got high-level protection.’

‘Well it’s not from us, I can assure you.’

‘My superiors will be very pleased to hear that.’

‘And it won’t be his father either.’

‘No.’

‘So who’s protecting him?’

The Major gave Lionidza a quizzical look. ‘Well, who do you think?’

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