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(excerpt from ...)

MAXIM (end of Prologue, August 1991)

At ten p.m.--nine a.m. Leningrad time--she placed the call, then waited anxiously to hear Maxim's or Maria's voice. Instead, the Leningrad operator came on the line and said that no one was answering at that number. Lieda replaced the receiver and stared at the phone. No one home? Where were they? Hands trembling, she put in a call to Maxim's office but the operator kept saying the same thing, but Lieda persisted and finally got through. Silently she thanked her mother and grandmother for raising her to be bilingual.
     "May I speak to Maxim Trifonov, please," she blurted out now in one breath.
     "He's not in," came a bored female voice.
     "Where is he?"
     Lieda could almost see the woman shrug. "I don't know."
     "Let me speak to his boss then, Sergei Ladov."
     When Ladov came on the line, Leida stumbled over words.
     This is Lieda Antonova. I want--I mean--where's Maxim?"
     "He rushed out to look for Misha. The boy is missing. There's a demonstration going on in the Palace Square." Ladov's voice rose and sounded panicky. "We hear that close to 200,000 people are gathered there. Tensions are running high and violence could erupt any minute."
     Lieda felt her heart lurch.
     "Please, may I call you again a little later?"
     "If I am still here and you can get through," came a curt reply.
     She thanked him and hung up.
     Her mind played tricks on her. Had Maxim found Misha? Where were they at that moment? And where was Maria? She was Misha's grandmother for heaven's sake, why hadn't she watched over the boy more closely? Were they safe, or injured? Or worse ...
     Lieda sat down in an armchair, hugged herself, and rocked back and forth. Every few minutes she glanced at the clock on the mantel, but it moved at its own pace, and there was nothing she could do to hurry it up ...