The blonde had eyes like ice, not a hair out of place, and as for her dress, Nina would have bet her last cigarette that she'd bought it in France: it was just the right kind of dowdy. It didn't matter what she was claiming to be. Nina knew what she was.
Her guards walked her in and sat her down. Cool eyes flicked over her and the blonde said, "Take those cuffs off." One of the men started to protest, but at the lift of an eyebrow he bowed his head and obeyed. Nina placed her hands flat on the table and smiled. She had always approved of power.
"Miss Myers," the woman began. "I'm here from the State Department. We have a few questions we believe you can help us with."
"You should already know that I'm refusing to answer any questions."
"It would be in your interest to answer mine," the woman said.
Nina simply looked at her. There was no hint of fear on the other woman's face, no emotion of any kind. The silence stretched out between them across the table until the other woman smiled and opened the folder in front of her.
At least the questions were different: nothing about any plan to subvert the U.S. government, of which after all the woman no doubt knew more than enough. This time it was one after another about Russian involvement in Serbia; each time Nina repeated the same words, "I cannot answer that."
The only evidence of irritation came at the very end. The woman snapped the folder shuit and commented, "It's a shame that you insist on not cooperating."
"Why should I?" Nina asked. "You won't release me." She wondered if the other woman knew about the basement rooms she'd been taken to more than once. She hadn't answered the questions there, either.
"As you say," the other woman said and stood. She paused in the doorway and asked in Russian, "Did you love any of them?"
It was, Nina suspected, the only question that mattered, the reason for the whole interview. She considered her response carefully. "Why?" she asked in the same language.
"If I am to arrange your release, I need to know the answer."
Nina nodded. It was a question of her reliability. "No."
She was surprised to see pity in the other woman's eyes. "Very well," she said in English. "If you change your mind about answering my questions, you may have the prison administrator contact me: Marita Covarrubias." Then she was gone, leaving only the scent of her perfume drifting in the air.
Back in her cell, Nina stared up at the security camera. After all this time, hiding her thoughts came naturally, even her dreams were censored. The grant of a name, among all her anonymous interrogators: surely that was the sign she had passed the test. She had told herself again and again that hope was an illusion, that the promises and threats she was exposed to were of no account. The cool words echoed through her mind: "Did you love any of them?" Yes or no, truth or lie: she'd had a fifty percent chance of getting it right, better odds than she'd had in years. She allowed herself a small smile. Love. Who cared about love, when freedom and power were on the table?
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