Pavel watched Harro scurry down the steps of the apartment building into a waiting taxi. Moments later, he stood outside Harnack’s door. He heard a guitar playing within and pressed his ear against the entrance to catch the words of the song. His mind drifted back to his childhood and the small Belarus village where he had grown up. Long before he knew anything about anti-Semitism he had visited and played in the Jewish section of the village. His friend had introduced him to the works of Mordecai Gebirtig, a Yiddish folk poet and songwriter. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. His favorite “Avreml the Pickpocket,” was being sung in the Harnack apartment. Not only had he put the lyrics to memory, he had even learned to sing it in Yiddish. Taboo in the circles I now roam. In whispered tones, he sang along until it finished. Then, he knocked on the door.
Like a deer in headlights, his eyes fixed on hers. The rapid drumbeat of his heart echoed in the chambers of his ears. Careless observation would have discerned nothing between these two lovers, but closer scrutiny would have seen everything. Within that surreal moment, a cornucopia of what had been and what still might be was shared without saying a word. He wanted to, but dared not, hold her close to his breast. Unwise. Not yet. He sensed she understood. Though the moment melted away, his soul remained invisibly tethered to hers. Their hands touched then separated. In another time—a gentler time—acting on his feelings would have been an accepted, commonplace exchange between lovers. But he and she had a duty. He struggled to steel himself against those feelings. It would be injudicious of me to do otherwise. Too many depend on me for their survival.
“Let the man in!” Arvid called out.
The well appointed, spacious two-bedroom apartment was self contained. Beyond the foyer the carpeted flooring led to the living and dining rooms. The bedrooms were along a hallway that led to the bathroom. The kitchen was to the right of the entrance.
Lynn stepped aside while the two men embraced each other. Pavel peered at the young man who placed his guitar on the dining table. “Excuse me, Arvid.” He strolled across the room to the guitarist. “Where did you learn it?” The confusion on the young man’s face told him that he had no idea what he meant. “The song you just sang, ‘Avreml the Pickpocket’?”
“I taught him or at least my father did.” Elsa stepped from the group and pointed toward a man, built close to the ground, standing outside the closed bedroom door. She encouraged him to join them, but he waved her off and sat alone in the living room. She excused herself and hunched down beside his chair.
By all appearances, life had not treated her father well. Pavel kindly estimated his age to be sixtyish.
Several minutes later Elsa rejoined them. “My father needs to be alone with his thoughts. Don’t think badly of him. He, like me, is worried about my mother. She’s been very ill. He’ll join us when he’s ready. By the way, my name’s Elsa.” She extended her hand to Pavel.
“Then you must be Richard. Alexander Collier’s boy?” Richard nodded. “I’m surprised by how good your Yiddish is....