Much to all the women’s horror, Zubov decided to accept Ivanna’s invitation to stay for lunch. Semyon briefed Cass in the back garden of the dacha, as they enjoyed the May sunshine. Cass felt slightly out of her body, watching her nieces hurtle down the slide and bounce manically on the trampoline, while being given an idiots guide to espionage.
Semyon explained that important information needed to be communicated in analogue, no direct calls or emails. Not even post. He would be collecting her findings or arranging for someone to pick them up. It would be simple, with fake couriers. He would be making excuses to come and see her. Cass tried not to feel insulted when he stated matter of factly,” If people suspect a romance, it would distract them from the truth.
“ Fine but you will need to find somewhere else to stay in London. I have a life,” Cass was trying to elicit a reaction from him.
“The Agency can arrange for me to stay somewhere,” Semyon was slightly disappointed but decided he was not going to play this game with Cass. “This should not take up much of your time. “
“I am not going to make a habit of doing this, “ Cass said prickly. “This is the one and only thing I am doing. Are we clear?”
Semyon gave one slow medacious nod. He knew that if Cass proved useful, Zubov would not let her go. Once FSB, you are always FSB.
The pair was shocked out of their uncomfortable silence, when they heard Ivanna shouting from the kitchen, “Bastards! Turkish Bastards!”
Zubov was trying to placate her, “Ivanna, accidents happen.”
As they walked into the kitchen, they saw a furious Ivanna pointing an accusatory finger at the images on the TV, “Don’t be stupid. Not like this. We are sending our sons to that Hell Hole Syria, protecting them from ISIS and those bastards shoot our planes down. “
“It is too soon to say,” Zubov’s diplomatic air worried Cass. “The Turkish regime has a lot more in common with us than with Europe. One day Constantinople may come into the folds of New Russia.”
The use of Constantinople rather than Istanbul worried Cass. The ménage a trios between the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian Ultra Nationalism and the Russian Government was common knowledge.
They all sat down to goose noodles and green salad. Her youngest niece, Edith ended up wearing most of the food. Molly chatted fluently with Semyon in Russian. It would have been a lovely image had there not been the Zubov dimension.
Cass was sat between the two men at the round glass table. Pen watched her younger sister squirm in her chair uncomfortably and then bizarrely started talking about Pen’s much loathed sister in law, Anastasia.
“So how is your daughter’s fashion business, Zubov?” Cass asked casually, but Pen could tell Cass was not happy.
“Very much a vanity project and subsidised by my state wages,” Zubov said with vicious frankness.
“You must be proud of her though for her initiative and drive, it is a difficult industry,” Cass’ voice was slightly stressed.
“Yes I am proud of most things in my life,” Zubov’s demeanour seemed slightly less confident.
Pen could not believe what a prized arse Anastasia’s father was being about his only daughter. He talked like Anastasia was a burden or a thing. It explained why her sister in law was so neurotic and vicious. Pen started to feel sorry for Anastasia. Nonetheless it still did not explain why her sister was suddenly so interested. She raised an eyebrow at Cass. What had her little sister got herself into?
After the meal, Zubov and Semyon decided to leave the family in peace. Semyon kissed Cass goodbye. “For practice,” he said smiling as he turned and left.
Alone with Semyon in the car Zubov said, “ Ms Janus is a strange woman. Impetuous. But I believe we can trust her.” He had not known any of his daughter’s acquaintances resist him before.
Pen was putting Molly and Edith to bed that night, Molly her oldest daughter asked a strange question, “Mummy?”
“Yes Darling,” was Pen’s normal response.
“Mummy, at lunchtime, why was Auntie Anastasia’s Daddy trying to tickle Auntie Cass under the table and why was she poking him back in the leg with a fork?”