Previously: Twain was being interrogated by Biryukov, the bald Russian, and Yi Fan. And now…
As Yi Fan drew her hand back to slap Twain again, Biryukov intervened. â€œA word, please,â€ he said in Russian.
They drew back near the door. â€œThis is a most fascinating situation,â€ Biryukov said. â€œEverything is backward. He should be terrified, but he is not. He seems confident that he can get out of this predicament. And when I showed him the mask, the physical evidence of his wrongdoing, he became even more confident. He tried to hide it, but thereâ€™s a secret behind the mask that he thinks will save him.â€
Yi Fan looked at the golden mask on the table. â€œYou want me to make him tell you about the mask, then.â€
â€œYes, of course,â€ said Biryukov. â€œBut thatâ€™s not the really fascinating thing. The really fascinating thing, the one that Iâ€™m dying to get to bottom of, is that even though heâ€™s not afraid, you are. And I have never sensed fear from you before. Why is that, I wonder?â€
Before Yi Fan could come up with a retort, Biryukov had turned back to the prisoner. â€œAsk him about the mask again,â€ he said, running his fingers along its edges. â€œWhat is it for?â€
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]â€œTell me something heâ€™ll believe, or Iâ€™ll have to start doing things worse than this.â€ She grabbed the little finger on his right hand and yanked it back, hard. Twain screamed as bone snapped…[/blockquote]â€œTell me about the mask,â€ Yi Fan said in Mandarin.
â€œTell him Iâ€™m an archaeologist, chasing down an ancient legend,â€ Twain said. â€œI found the mask in a cave.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not the truth,â€ Yi Fan said. â€œWhere did it come from, really?â€
â€œJust tell him what I told you,â€ Twain said.
â€œNot for him,â€ Yi Fan said. â€œFor me.â€
â€œBecause when I met you for the first time, the future you, he was carrying that same bag you carried the mask in.â€
For the first time, Twainâ€™s composure slipped a little. â€œUm, okay. Iâ€™ll tell you, but itâ€™s a long story. Iâ€™ll tell you when weâ€™re alone, promise.â€
â€œHe says he found it in a cave in the hills,â€ Yi Fan told Biryukov in Russian. â€œâ€Heâ€™s an archaeologist.â€
â€œHeâ€™s lying,â€ Biryukov said. â€œItâ€™s neither Chinese nor Russian. Iâ€™d guess South American of some sort, though Iâ€™m no expert. Ask him again: whatâ€™s it for? And be persuasive this time.â€
Yi Fan set her face in stone and walked around the small table. She bent low over Twain. â€œHe knows youâ€™re lying,â€ she said. â€œTell me something heâ€™ll believe, or Iâ€™ll have to start doing things worse than this.â€
She grabbed the little finger on his right hand and yanked it back, hard. Twain screamed as bone snapped. Yi Fan grabbed him by the hair. â€œTell me!â€
â€œLet me put it on and Iâ€™ll show you,â€ Twain said.
When Yi Fan relayed the request, Biryukov said, â€œOf course not. Itâ€™s obviously a trick.â€
â€œThen let him put it on,â€ was Twainâ€™s reply.
Biryukov was intrigued by this. â€œInteresting. I wonder what it does, that it serves his purpose no matter which of us wears it?â€
â€œThereâ€™s only one way to know for sure,â€ Yi Fan said.
â€œYes,â€ Biryukov agreed. â€œYou put it on.â€
What’s Twain’s plan? Join us tomorrow for the next suspenseful episode!
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