Nikolai found the cottage without trouble, but it was empty. Its occupant, only recently departed, had left the stub of a cigarette, its pungent Turkish scent heavy in the room. He exited the cottage and wandered down the path; it was still soggy from the last rain and here and there revealed the dainty imprint of a small foot.
Nikolai followed the stream and paused just short of a narrow pedestrian bridge. A solitary figure was hunched at the crest of a gently arched railing, staring into the water. The location was remote to the point of mystery. The silence was enormous.
In all the tens of thousands of fantasized confrontations, this one had never manifested itself. Prescient, the man brought his head up. He looked around, and saw Nikolai. But there was no recognition.
Nikolai came closer. The face was much changed. It was bloated; the skin was mottled and pocked by sores. His hair was much thinner, and when he opened his mouth, there was a gap on one side.
"Do you bring me the shot?" the Baron asked. The English was serviceable, but multiaccented, the voice cracked, but still imperious.
Nikolai replied in German, "Do you know who I am?"