“Ux Te!” Kseniya hadn’t at all expected what she was seeing.
When Princess Natalia Petrovna hired Father Gavril to come to Grantville and set up a church for the people who were coming to study, she’d mentioned that her brother Vladimir had bought a home. She’d even put Kseniya “on salary” as the housekeeper, since Kseniya would of course come to Grantville with her husband.
But, a home wasn’t supposed to be the size of the Kremlin.
March, 1634, The Rezidentz’ Kitchen Office
Kseniya slammed the pen on the desk. “Durag nummers.”
Though Kseniya was a merchant’s daughter and had been raised to expect a certain level of comfort and the responsibility that went with it, she was never expected to manage what amounted to a small business on her own. Hadn’t her father married her off to a priest with the prospects of good parishes? The Grantville rezidentz was big, as big as one of these up-timer hotels. Impossible for one woman to handle, simply impossible.
Prince Vladimir had gone all out. The house—if house was the proper term at all—covered what she’d learned to call a “block.” It was built to take advantage of natural light, two rooms and a hall wide, and two stories high, on each wing. The four wings made a large square, with a private garden in the center. A large private garden. Some of it was given over to decorative gardens, some was kitchen garden, and they had some chickens for eggs. The back wing was the stables and residential area for some of the servants, the east wing was offices, the west rooms for guests. The south wing was formal reception rooms, more offices and the private quarters for the prince. And his soon-to-be bride, Brandy Bates.
As she was ruminating, a knock came on the door to her cubbyhole office.
“Hi, Mrs. Kotova,” said the young lady at the door. “Do you have a moment? I need to borrow some of your brains.”
“Good afternoon, Gospazha Brandy,” Kseniya said. “My time is your time. But are you sure you need to speak to me?” In the months that Kseniya had been in residence, she’d grown close to Brandy and liked the young woman quite a bit.
“Well, Mrs. K, if there’s another female Russian in this house who’s older than me, tell me who she is,” Brandy said.
“Nu, if you make those qualifications, I’m the only one in the rezidentz or Grantville who fits them,” Kseniya said. “Tell me why do you need to ‘borrow’ some of my brains? I didn’t know I had any to spare.”
“It goes back to something I heard years ago. If you don’t have a lot of brain power but are a good judge of character, you can always borrow or hire the brains. It’s a matter of being able to trust your sources.”
“Thank you, moiya gospazha, for your confidence in me,” Kseniya said. “From the sound of it, I think we need a pot of tea. Pardon me for a moment.”
* * *
When Kseniya returned to her seat, Brandy took a deep breath and plunged into her not-so carefully planned presentation.
“Mrs. K., I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I love Vladimir to pieces and I can’t think of life without him. But sometimes, I think I’m about to go nuts here. I don’t know enough Russian, for one thing. Then there’s running this house. It’s not a house. It’s enormous. I’m a reference librarian, not Martha Stewart. I don’t know how to manage a household the size of Kudzu Werke. Like Charlie Brown used to say, ‘Arrgh.'”
Somewhere, in her venting, Brandy started to cry. Not much, just a few sniffles and enough moisture to cause a need of a handkerchief.
Maria, the maid, arrived then with their refreshments. While Brandy snuffled, Kseniya got up and took the tray, motioning for Maria to leave quickly. She was relieved that she wasn’t the only person who was having problems with this situation.
“Oy, you do have some problems, don’t you? But we’re in the same boat, I’m afraid. I wasn’t trained for this, either. Your first problem is easy to solve. I can help you with your Russian; you can help me with my English and German.”
“Okay,” Brandy said. She stopped sniffling and picked up a cup of the tea Kseniya poured. “That will help a lot.”
“I agree with you about your other problems. You’ll be the gospazha of the household. As that, you have a staff working for you. Right now, Gregorii is your major domo. He’s reporting directly to the prince. While my husband is your chaplain, I am the head of the kitchen and female staff. But, like you, I am in over my head,” Kseniya said.
“We’ll just have to figure something out. Do you have any ideas?”
“I’m not really trained to run a kitchen of this size. It’s not just the cooking . . . that I can do. It’s also the buying from the different sellers. And I’m not used to all these modern conveniences. I grew up cooking on an open hearth and in a pech, a big stove . . . not like the cook stove we have here.”
“We need help. Let’s think about it and do some investigating. Right now, though, I have to go see Vlad. He got another batch of letters from home. And from the czar. And the bureaus. And, and, and!” Brandy threw her hands in the air. “It never stops.”
“In that case, you must be on your way. S’ Bogom . . . go with God.”
“S’ Bogom, Kseniya,” Brandy said. “Oh, yeah . . . could you please send Maria to the office with something to eat in about a half hour?”
“Of course, Branya.” Kseniya was still surprised by the offhanded politeness of the up-timers she’d met.
* * *
“Come on in, Brandy,” Vladimir called.
The couple embraced and exchanged a kiss or two.
Brandy whispered, “Ya lublu tebya.”
“Your pronunciation is getting better. Who’s been teaching my girl Russian?”
Brandy said, “Mrs. Kotova and Vladimir Troshin.”
“I thought I knew all of the Russians in Grantville. Most of them live in this building. Who is this Troshin?” Vladimir asked, putting on his Rezident’s hat.
“A singer on a record I borrowed from Ms. Mailey’s collection,” Brandy said. “While she’s in England, Dr. Nichols is house-sitting for her. He lent it to me.”
“You learned Russian from a singer?”
“At least the pronunciation,” Brandy said. “The record is all Russian big band music.”
“We’ll have to listen to it when I go into Grantville Saturday. I want to hear your other Vladimir,” Vladimir said.
“Sure thing. I think you’ll like it. ‘Sides it’s danceable. But enough about music. What came in today’s mail?”
“Mostly the usual contradictory stuff, one office not telling the other what I sent them, so the other writes asking for information I sent months ago. Here’s a stack of inquiries. I’ve made marginal translations for you.”
Taking their seats on either side of a partner’s desk, the pair set to work. A soft knock came at the study door. Maria had arrived with the tea tray.
“Mein Herr und Fraulein, where do you want the tray?” said Maria.
“Here, please, Maria,” Brandy said.
Maria placed the tray on the indicated empty spot on the desk.
“Thank you,” Brandy said. “Dear, do you want honey on your biscuit?”
“Da,” Vladimir said, deep in a piece of what was probably arrant nonsense that needed a diplomatic answer.
Brandy gave the stack of correspondence a glare, then repressed a sigh. Might as well get it done.
* * *
“Vlad, it’s getting on to six o’clock. I need to get back into town.”
“Do you really need to go?” asked Vladimir.
Laughing at Vlad’s oft repeated query, Brandy said, “I told you I won’t have breakfast in this house until after the wedding. Cora would be sure to spread the news all over Grantville. Besides, I’m meeting the girls at Tyler’s tonight. Dinner and a brain picking session.”
“What do you mean ‘brain picking session?”
“I talked to Mrs. Kotova this afternoon. I found out I need to get my ducks in a row if I am going to be the gospazha here, “Brandy said. “The girls know folks I don’t. And I know folks they don’t.”
“If you must, you must,” Vlad said. “But I’ll be glad when the day comes that you don’t.” He wiggled his eyebrows in a suggestive manner.
Brandy laughed again. “Just hold your horses, fella. It’ll happen soon enough. S’ Bogom, honey.”
The next Monday afternoon
“Miss Garrett, this lady is Mrs. Kseniya Kotova. Mrs. Kotova, this is Tate Garret,” Brandy said.
As Brandy closed the door, Kseniya gave Tate a once over. She was short for an up-timer, maybe five and four of their feet and inches, solidly built, not too skinny and not too fat, with short, muddy-colored blond hair. And a look of leadership in her eyes.
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Kotova,” said Tate.
“As am I,” Kseniya said, a bit flustered. The girl was much younger than she’d expected.
“Tate, we’ve got a problem. And I think you’re the solution to it,” Brandy said. “I asked some people I know and your name came up as some one with the needed skills and experience.”
Tate looked startled. “Skills and experience? Brandy . . . Miss Bates, I’m the junior assistant manager at the Willard Hotel. What do I know that you can use?”
“We know that. How big do you think Grantville is?” Brandy grinned.
Brandy wasn’t being nearly as formal as Kseniya thought she should be with a possible future employee. Up-timers were very odd that way. “Miss Garrett, we know where you presently work. Gospazha Brandy knows of your education and where you planned on going to school after graduation. Someplace called Johnson and Wales . . . and something called hospitality arts?”
“Boy, you ladies really do know about me. Are you sure there’s no KGB agents stationed here?”
Brandy laughed. “Who needs the KGB when you’ve got the Barbie Consortium? We need someone to help Mrs. Kotova. And me, for that matter. You’ll be chef de cuisine and other duties as assigned. This place is like a hotel, only with both permanent residents and transient guests. Not to mention, you’ll have a wedding to cater in the not-too-distant future. We are also taking you on because you know the food suppliers in West Virginia County. What do you think? Want a job?”
“Good night, Brandy! Most chefs have to spend years to get the position you’re offering. You’re darn right I want it,” Tate said.
“Good to have you with us.” Brandy grinned and extended her hand.
“Da,” Kseniya said. “I’m happy to have the help.”
Three weeks later
To the casual observer, the kitchen looked the same as it did a month ago. However, Kseniya saw minor yet practical changes. Over in at the baker’s station, Maria was weighing out the ingredients for the afternoon’s baking. The prince liked warm fresh baked goods on his supper table. He’d even fallen in love with American-style fruit pies for his dessert. So, he was happy. Everyone else was eating better and she was staying inside her kitchen budget. For that, Kseniya decided to stop by the makeshift chapel and light three candles before the icon of St. Vasili. Her thinking was interrupted by a shout.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. K. How you doin’,” Tate asked.
“Fine, Chef, slava bogu . . . errm, praise God. And you? The kitchen looks a bit more polished,” Kseniya said.
“Ahh, it wasn’t any thing a bit of elbow grease and some chlorine bleach solution couldn’t cure. The scullery crew needed a bit of encouragement to clean the corners,” said Tate. “Are we still having tea with Colonel Makoveev?”
“Yes. He may be a streletz, but I don’t think he is a colonel. Maybe a captain or a colonel’s nephew,” Kseniya said.
“What’s a streletz, Mrs. K?”
“The streletzi are the czar’s musketeers. The streletzi regiments form the czar’s guard regiments and the garrisons of the larger cities in Russia,” replied Kseniya.
“So, what makes you think he is a fake?” said Tate.
“There are only so many streletzi colonels. They are all old, fat and in Russia. This Colonel Timofei Makoveev is too thin and too young to be a colonel and he’s here.”
Tate laughed. “Let’s go in to the office; the mice have ears,” she said. Then she waved at Maria. “Maria, have the usual setup brought to the office.”
“Agreed. After you, Chef,” Kseniya said.
The ladies entered the kitchen office and fell to examining the accounts ledger. Kseniya was pleasantly surprised to see the neatness and completeness of the book. She was very pleasantly surprised to see the reduction in costs. One of the scullery crew brought the tea into the office and they came up for air and poured their cups of tea.
“What is keeping Makoveev? I’m on my second cup,” Kseniya said. “You’d think his mother taught him better than to let a lady wait.”
“I don’t know.” Tate shrugged. “Do you want me to send out a search party?”
Just then came two raps on the office door.
“Mrs. Kotova, Chef Garrett, I apologize for being late. I was out at the range with the Junior ROTC.” Colonel Timofei Makoveev had a pleasant baritone. He also held a full cup of tea, procured from the kitchen’s common tea pot, in his hand.
“Good afternoon, Colonel,” Kseniya said. “Tell us, please, what in the world were you doing with a bunch of teenagers?”
“Some one talked Prince Vladimir into volunteering me as a range safety officer. I guess with a red coat and yellow boots, the instructors think I didn’t look like a target. Now, how can I help you ladies?”
Tate said, “First, Colonel, in this office, unless one of our subordinates is present, we’re on an informal basis. Here, I’m Tate, this is Mrs. K, and you’re Tim . . . or Colonel Tim if you insist.”
The soldier thought for a moment and said, “So, this is something like the Officers’ Mess they talk about down at the American Legion Hall.”
“Da, you’re correct, Tima,” Kseniya said. “We’re here to support the prince and Gospazha Brandy. I am happy to see you are familiar with the American Legion.”
“As the representative of the Streletzi Bureau, I need to make contacts with the various military related organizations in Grantville.”
“Tim, I need a date to tomorrow’s Legion pastrami roll lunch. I’m not a vet. The vets I know are all too old. If they’re young and still free, I’ve turned them down in high school,” Tate said.
Timofei looked the woman sitting behind the desk in her double breasted chef’s jacket. She was young, easy on the eyes but not drop dead beautiful and wore a uniform with Prince Vladimir’s crest embroidered on it. All things considered, a worthy lunch companion. And there was just something about a girl in uniform . . . “I’ll be happy to be your escort for lunch, Tate. Due to the ways armies are organized these days, the Legion allows men from friendly services to buy affiliated memberships. I get to eat and drink there but not vote.”
“Tima, I saw that look in your eye. Don’t get any ideas about Tate. If she tells me you got out of line, ya Mama. I’m mother around here,” Kseniya said in full mother-bear mode. “Do you understand me?”
“Da, Mama Kotova. I hear and will obey,” said Timofei. He looked like a mischievous boy who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“Good, I’ll watch over the kitchen for lunch,” Kseniya said. “Tima, tell Old Sasha to have the carriage ready to take you to the Legion Hall at, say, about eleven o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, Mrs. Kotova,” Tim and Tate chorused.
“Colonel, let’s get out of here so Chef Garrett can get supper ready.”
10:30 am, Saturday
Colonel Makoveev said, “Sasha, I won’t need a driver today. Just hitch up the buggy. ”
“Vanya, you heard the colonel. Get the buggy ready,” Sasha ordered.
Old Sasha watched Makoveev as the buggy was readied and saw the look of a man on a trail.
“Sasha, what do you think of these Grantville horses?”
“Colonel, I never thought I’d be working with so many head of quality horse flesh. These Morgan crosses are beautiful,” Sasha said.
“I need a saddle horse for my own use. Keep your eyes out for me,” Tim instructed.
“Do you want a fighter or a rider, sir?”
“A rider,” Timofei said. “I leave the fighting to the Scots and Finns. Also, find me a decent saddle. After four hundred years, you’d think there’d be some improvements.”
As the two dove deep into a discussion of horses and tack, Tate walked into the stable yard ready for her trip into town. She expected to ride in the two horse carriage. Instead she saw the two seat buggy all hitched up and ready to go.
“Okay, Colonel Timofei Ivanovich Makoveev, what’s with the seduction rig?” Tate said.
“Good morning, Chef Garrett,” Timofei replied. “I thought we’d leave the larger rig for the prince’s use. The post was built for cars not carriages.”
“I guess the good thing about driving a horse is you need both hands. The boys I knew couldn’t keep both hands on the steering wheel,” Tate said.
Timofei said, “Don’t worry on that account. I remember Mama Kotova and I want to live.”
Sasha helped Tate up into the buggy, while Timofei climbed into the driver’s position.
“Thank you, Sasha for your help,” Tate said.
Sasha gave the couple a polite bow as they drove off into Grantville.
11:20 am, Saturday
The carriage drew up before the whitewashed building. Timofei handed the reins to the hostler and helped Tate down. A sign beside the front door read: “Pastrami Roll Lunch 1100-1300 hours: $4.00 members and guests, $6.00 Unescorted Visitors, Benefits Grantville JROTC Scholarship Program.”
“That looks like a good price, Timofei,” said Tate.
“It is. The price includes cole slaw, potato chips and the first beer,” said Tim. “Let’s go in. I’m hungry.”
The pair went through the door. They checked their overcoats and hats with the cloakroom girl.
“‘Morning, Colonel McCoy,” said a voice to their right.
“Good Morning, Mr. Kindred, and it’s Makoveev,” said Timofei.
“Sorry, I never could wrap my tongue around those Russki names. Who’s this young lady? I’ve always seen you on your own,” Kindred said.
“This is Tate Garrett. She’s the new chef for Prince Vladimir. Chef Garrett, this is J.P. Kindred.”
“Tate Nadine, isn’t it?” J. P asked. “It’s good to see you again. You’ve sure grown up since I saw you last.”
“Hi, Mr. Kindred. You’re right; it’s been a long time.”
“I figure you’re old enough to buy me a beer back in West Virginia. So, you can call me ‘JP’. The same goes for you, son,” said J.P. “Please join me. I’d like to eat my lunch without an old codger who wants to re-fight Omaha Beach with the ketchup and mustard.”
“We’d be happy to join you, J.P.,” said Tate.
Tate, Tim and J.P. found an empty corner table. With a courtly gesture, J.P. seated Tate in the metal folding chair. Their orders were taken by the waitress and they settled into conversation.
Tate looked around the room. “J.P. this place hasn’t changed all that much. But, what’s with the Imperial Legion posters?”
“It’s like this. The boys decided they could either die as American Legion Post 238 or we could live on as Imperial Legion Post 2. We’d have been number one, but Jackson and his gang formed their post up in Magdeburg before we got our act together.”
“J.P., you know pretty much all the legionnaires and what they might have in their attics don’t you?” Tate asked.
“Well, I know the members. But I don’t know all that much about their attics,” said J.P.
“Like Colonel Tim said, that Russian prince over in Castle Hills has hired me to run his kitchen. I need to get the place up to speed. Not to mention, the kitchen will be catering Brandy Bates’ wedding . . .”
“Yeah, I heard about that. How can the Legion help you?”
“A few years back, I read in one of those food industry trade magazines about the Armed Forces Recipe Cards,” Tate said. “The article said there are over a thousand cards and that they cover every course from soup to nuts. I figure I could use a set, even if it’s just for daily meals. Of course, for the fancy stuff, they probably won’t be much help. But we’re cooking for a hundred or so for every meal up there.”
J.P. said, “I know a couple of guys who retired out as cooks. Maybe one of them has a set in the attic. Can you give me a day or two to ask around?”
“Sure, J.P.,” said Tate. “A day or two won’t hurt. But, I’d like to know one way or another if a set came through.”
“Since I can charge this to the Streletzi Bureau, how about another beer?” said Timofei.
Three Days Later, Kseniya’s New Office
Kseniya reached for the teapot. “Another cup of tea, Mr. Kindred, Father Gavril? We’d like to thank very much for the help you and the Legion have given us.”
“It wasn’t all that much, Mrs. Kotova,” said J.P. “In fact, it turned out easier than I thought. Back in the ’80s, a legionnaire was a cook in the Army National Guard. He donated a set to the post that the Army had declared obsolete and replaced.”
“Do you need the set back soon?” inquired Kseniya. “If the post can wait, we would like to copy them so it we can have a complete set.”
“Not a problem,” J.P. said. “Just give them back when you’re done.”
Since her husband wasn’t talking much, Kseniya tried to bring him into the conversation. “Father, they tell Chef Garrett she’ll need twenty-four pounds of ground meat to make enough golubtsi for a hundred.”
J.P. said, “What are those? I never saw them on a dining hall menu.”
“Sorry, Kseniya said, “That’s stuffed cabbage rolls.”
“And one of my favorites,” Father Gavril said. He finally started talking more. Really, he was going to have to get comfortable with up-timers.
“I’m a bookish sort. If God had allowed it, I’d be in a monastery surrounded by books,” Father Gavril said. “However, God in His providence brought Kseniya into my life. I also have a talent for languages. I have the best of all worlds, Kseniya, my two sons and the libraries of Grantville.”
J.P. followed up by asking, “I thought married Orthodox priests were parish priests. Does your research interfere with your parish responsibilities?”
“No, not really. I only have twenty or so parishioners at the moment. Most are Russians, but there are a few from the various Orthodox churches who came back in the Ring of Fire. Grantville is much quieter and cleaner than the parishes I would have served in Mother Russia.”
“Father, where do you hold services? I don’t see any onion domes around here,” said J.P.
Gavril smiled. “Prince Vladimir has made room for me in the ballroom. It’s not the best but it will do for the moment. We, easterners, stand during services. So, there is no need for space-eating pews.”
“Do you plan on building a church and have you decided on a name for it?” asked J.P.
“Oh, yes. It will be dedicated to Saint Vasili the Fool for Christ. The patriarch decreed if the name was good enough for a cathedral in Moscow, it would be good enough for a parish in Grantville,” Father Gavril said. “We pray it will be completed in time for the prince’s wedding in June.”
“Is that a likely date?” asked J.P.
“It is a wishful date. We have few funds from Moscow, my parishioners are few, and time is short,” Father Gavril said.
J.P. looked at the clock on the wall. He saw he needed to leave if he wanted to get his story in by the deadline for the late edition. He hadn’t bothered to mention that he was an old newspaperman. And, now and then, he still did a human interest story. The first Orthodox church in Grantville certainly sounded interesting to him.
“Father, Mrs. Kotova, I’m happy the post could help you.” J.P. stood up. “I need to be getting back into town, so, I better say good bye now.”
“May God bless you for your service to Him,” Father Gavril said as he made the sign of the Cross.
Kseniya reached one of the pull ropes hanging on the wall. Three sharp tugs sounded a bell in kitchen. One of the duty footmen soon appeared in her doorway.
“Mr. Kindred, Vanya will show you the way to the door,” Kseniya said. “The rezidentz can be confusing to visitors.”
J.P. followed Vanya to the front entrance. He went down to the corner and caught a street car back into town. During the ride, he mentally wrote the story. Soon, he was at the keyboard of his loyal Royal typewriter pounding out it out.
That night in the Kotovs’ bedroom
Kseniya looked over at her husband. He was still awake after what she knew to be a long day of work. “Gavra, what’s the matter? Your tossing and turning is keeping me awake.”
“Dearest, after Mr. Kindred left, I realized we have a problem. When will she be baptized? And what name should we use? Brandy is not an acceptable name. You know the rules.”
“I think, Gavra, we need to light candles to Our Lady and Saint Vasili asking God for wisdom. And I need to borrow some brains,” Kseniya said. “Now, we need some sleep to face tomorrow. Good night, husband.”
“Good night, my dear.”
The next morning
“Gregorii, go find Father Gavril, tell him his presence is requested and required in my office,” Vladimir said. “Also find out if Gospazha Brandy is here and relay the same message to her. If she is not, let me know.”
“I hear and obey,” Vladimir’s major domo said.
Soon a knock came at the open office door.
“You sent for me, sir?” Father Gavril said.
“Come here; look at these newspapers,” Vladimir ordered.
Gavril read the first paper in the stack and his face took on a serious set. “I can see why you are concerned.”
“Those are only the morning German papers,” Vladimir said. “I sent for Brandy to help interpret the English paper where this story first appeared.”
The office door slammed open. A “serious as a heart attack” Brandy Bates stormed in. “Vladimir Yaroslav, this house had better be under attack by the Tartars,” she said. “Who do you think you are? My commanding officer?”
Oops. Vlad had forgotten that Brandy could get a bit testy when he “went all over princey,” as she called it. “The rezidentz is not under physical attack. However, it has made the newspapers without my knowledge.”
“I’ll grant that those can be as dangerous as the Tartars,” Brandy said. “But Greg told me ‘my presence was requested and required.’ I think you’ve been reading too many Hornblower books, buddy boy.” She picked up yesterday’s evening edition of the Grantville Times.
“Father Gavril made the papers,” she said. “Not you. And what’s the problem, anyway?”
“My wife invited Mr. Kindred over yesterday to thank him for the help he gave Chef Garrett,” Father Gavril said. “Something about recipe cards, I gathered. Anyway he started asking questions about the chapel. Kseniya and I didn’t think what we said would appear in the papers”
“Still,” Vladimir said. “We made the papers without my knowledge. That is a problem.”
“Honey, there is no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right,” Brandy said. “The Times printed it as a human interest story. J.P. must have liked our kitchen’s biscuits, ’cause, he wrote a really positive article.”
“We will see how this all develops. Father, no more newspaper interviews without my knowledge and permission,” Vladimir said.
“I hear and obey, sir,” said Gavril.
“Brandy, I understand you have scheduled us to visit the KudzuWerke showroom,” Vladimir said. “If so, we better get going.”
Brandy came up to Vladimir and hugged him. She said, “Yes, I did. But ease up on the princey stuff, dude. You’re creeping me out.” Brandy then gave Vladimir a good kiss on the lips which he enthusiastically returned.
Father Gavril studied the Robin of the CoC cartoon strip in the Daily News during the exchange.
The afternoon of the following day
Father Gavril and Kseniya entered the prince’s office. Kseniya knew something was up from the way the tradesmen treated her. However, her German and English weren’t up to catching their shades of meaning. The pair saw Brandy sitting with her chair to one side of the desk. Her presence would temper the prince’s actions.
“There have been developments from that story,” Vladimir said. “Look at this stack of mail.”
“Now, Vladimir, be nice,” Brandy said. “Good afternoon, Father Gavril, Mrs. K. Yes, there have been developments. Positive developments.”
“You’re right, my dear. Positive, indeed,” Vladimir said. “Take a look at these letters.”
Gavril and Kseniya sorted through the partially opened mail. The letters were addressed to St. Vasili Orthodox Church, The Fool for Christ Church, Father Kotov, Father Gavril, Father G, The Russian Church, or some other variation. All conveyed the best wishes and prayers of the sender. Some contained donations large and small. Father Gavril was surprised by the number of checks drawn on the Grantville banks. Others had pledges of material support.
“Gospazha Brandy, what is this backhoe service?” Gavril asked.
“Here is someone offering a load of bricks,” Kseniya said.
“I think we need to get this mess organized,” Brandy said.
Vladimir agreed. “Make it so.”
“Gag a maggot, Vlad. First, you’re Hornblower, now Picard,” Brandy said. “I need to keep a closer watch on your reading and TV.” She wagged a finger at him. “If you start introducing your gun as ‘Clyde,’ I’m calling off the wedding.”
“Tate, you can’t believe the offers we’ve received to help build my husband’s chapel,” Kseniya said.
“Yeah,” Brandy said. “It’s turned into a community project. Not only did folks send in money, but Father Gavril got pledges of material, building equipment and labor.”
“Sadly, the only item not pledged is a bell. And we don’t have the money to buy one already cast or the time to wait for one before the chapel’s dedication,” Kseniya said.
“Brandy, have you thought about having a fundraiser for the bell?” said Tate. “Other churches have them all the time. We should be able to put one on here; the place is plenty big enough. We could do a Russian feast; maybe even get some of the food donated. That will help with the profit margin. I know the local fish mongers throw away the roe. We can get the makings for some nice caviar for free.”
“You’re right, Tate,” Brandy said. “Vlad could buy a bell, though . . .”
“For a cause like this,” Tate pointed out, “well, it’s a community thing. If we let people help, we make more friends, let people get used to our ways. We can make it a ‘Night in Moscow.’ We’ll have Russian food and music.”
“This sounds like nothing we did in the old country,” Kseniya said. “There we could count on the czar or somebody important to give a new church its bell.”
Tate grinned. “There’s an old saying. The czar is very far away. Besides, Brandy, you and Vlad need to entertain. He’s basically the Russian ambassador here, you know.”
“Jeez, Tate,” Brandy said. “Vlad’s almost as bad about publicity as, as . . . well, whatever. Saint Vasili is going to get some more. Even if Vlad hates to read about the rezidentz in the papers without knowing about it first.”
Tate winked at her.
Brandy’s sitting room
“Brandy, a problem with your baptism has come up,” Kseniya said.
“What’s the problem, Kseniya? This will be the first time I’ve been baptized in any church. Vlad and I settled this long ago,” Brandy said.
“It’s not the rite itself. The problem is your baptismal name,” Kseniya said. “According to the rules, you need a qualified name. That’s ‘qualified according to church law.’ My husband says ‘Brandy’ is unacceptable.”
“Now, that’s a problem we never thought of,” Brandy said.
“It’s also a matter of you’re starting, spiritually that is, a new life,” Kseniya said.
“You’re right. Something other than “Brandy” would show the change. Now what can we come up with that will qualify?”
“Branya,” said a now relaxed Kseniya, “your people usually have two given names, right?”
“Sure a first and middle name,” Brandy said. “I hate mine; it sounds so old fashioned.”
“Well, what is it?” asked Kseniya.
“Margaret. Momma said I got it in honor of Margaret Truman,” Brandy said. “I think it smells like mothballs.”
“Branya, the name may smell like mothballs to you,” Kseniya said. “To me it sounds like a solution to the problem.”
“How can the name of a dead president’s daughter be a solution?”
“Margaret is the name of a saint, Saint Margaret the Virgin of Antioch. It will work perfectly. Even better, you were planning on a June wedding. We both know Saint Vasili’s won’t be ready for a wedding by then.”
“Yeah, that is a bummer,” Brandy said. “I guess we’ll have to have it in the garden.”
“Can you survive a seventeen day delay? Saint Margaret’s feast day is July seventeenth. That will give Gavra two more weeks to get the chapel ready.”
Prince Vladimir’s office
Saint Vasili’s building committee was in session. Not that it was a large committee. In fact, it consisted of Brandy, Vladimir, the Kotovs and Pete Enriques.
“Father Gavril, Prince Vladimir, ladies,” Pete said. “I’ve taken a look at the materials given or pledged for this project. It looks like you have enough to build a basic structure.”
“How big a building?” asked Vladimir.
“I’d say about twenty by thirty feet. Call it five hundred square feet. It will be cozy but not too small,” Pete said.
“I don’t know about square feet,” said Gavril. “Please tell me how many people will be able to get inside.”
“Remember, Pete, Russians stand for their services. So you don’t need to figure in room for pews or chairs,” Brandy said.
Pete thought for a moment and scribbled some numbers down. “How, does eighty comfortably or a hundred smooshed in sound to you? That’s with leaving space for the altar and other pieces of furniture.”
“That sounds like it will be more than sufficient for our needs,” Vladimir said.
“What about a bell?” Pete asked. “Nothing in the budget for one of those, yet.”
“We plan on having a fundraising dinner. We hope we can get the money from that,” Kseniya said.
“By the first part of July? I checked around; the foundries won’t be able to deliver in that time frame, they said.”
“Then we need a miracle. Let’s pray for the Holy Mother’s and Saint Vasili’s intervention,” Father Gavril said.
“Amen, Father,” chorused Kseniya, Vladimir and Brandy. Pete kept his mouth shut. As a Grantviller, he wanted to help his neighbors. As a Pentecostal, he wasn’t going to amen prayers to the virgin and a saint.
The Day Before a Night in Old Moscow
Timofei walked up to the kitchen’s outside table. He knew Tate usually sat out here for her noon meal. The girl was getting to be a nuisance. Why he was trailing after her he didn’t know. However, Timofei knew Tate was not only easy on the eyes but easy to talk to. That she was more than just competent at her job was another plus in her favor.
Tate was eating a meat pie when she heard Tim’s military tread on the gravel. The man was getting to be annoying. Sure, he was a colonel, though Mrs. K. had her doubts as to his exact rank. But, he was cute in a Slavic kind of way.
“Tate, may I join you?” Timofei asked.
“Sure, Tim,” Tate said. “Take a load off.”
“It’s a pity we’re both going to be on duty tomorrow night,” Tim said. “Otherwise, I’d ask if you would do me the honor of being my escort to the dinner.”
Tate said, “Yes, it’s a pity. Because I’d say yes. I hear the Old Folks Band is playing. Maybe we can steal a dance.”
“It will have to be a slow one. I have two left feet,” Timofei said.
A Night in Old Moscow
The interior courtyard was ablaze with torches and electric lights. Tables were set up in a horseshoe. The stage and food tables took up the fourth side.
Prince Vladimir climbed onto the stage and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for coming out tonight for a time in Old Moscow. This occasion could not have come about without the efforts and hard work of many people. In particular, we owe our thanks to Chef Tate Garrett and the kitchen staff for the food, to Mrs. Kseniya Kotova and the decorating committee for all of the finery you see displayed, and, last but not least, to Gospazha Brandy for keeping this whole enterprise together. Now, I’ll ask Father Gavril to ask God’s blessing on tonight.”
Gavril came to the front of the stage. In Russian, English and German, he gave thanks to God for the food, the hands that prepared it, and for the money brought in by the tickets.
* * *
Timofei surveyed the security detail. His men and women were without work tonight. He could begin to like these Grantville parties. Nobody was using the festivities as a reason to be drunk and obnoxious. Even, Tate was pleased with the food service. She relaxed standing over to the side. I think I can dance to this music. Timofei sent up a fast prayer of thanksgiving. The dance music was uptime ballroom and Brandy had insisted on dance lessons for the senior staff.
“Chef Garrett, would you do me the honor of this dance?” Timofei bowed.
Tate, in her best Scarlett O’Hara manner, curtsied and replied, “Why, Colonel, it would be my pleasure.”
Timofei and Tate foxtrotted onto the dance floor to “Moscow Nights.”
Tate whispered, “Honey, you don’t have two left feet. You’re not in Federico’s class, true. But not everyone is the second coming of Fred Astaire.”
“I guess my other left foot stayed in Moscow,” Timofei murmured back. “I do have a question. If you promise not to get offended . . .”
“Tim, you’d have to work hard at offending me,” Tate said.
“Good. Since you call me ‘honey,’ may I call you Tatia?”
“Of course. Turn about is fair play.”
* * *
Kseniya walked through the tables, greeting the guests while she kept an eye on the men and women on serving duty.
Good. All of the tables have full beer pitchers. She moved towards the buffet tables. The scouts from Troop 9 busied themselves toting the heavier trays from the outdoor grills and the kitchen. The girl scouts from Troop 29 smiled as they dished out the food to the donors.
“Good evening, Mr. Bolender, Mrs. Walker,” Kseniya said. “I want to thank you. Your scouts are a great help. Prince Vladimir is very impressed.”
“You’re welcome, Mrs. Kotova,” said the Troop 29 scoutmaster. “A couple of our scouts are using this as their community service projects. If we had known about it earlier, one of the scouts would have used it for his Eagle Scout project.
“Likewise,” said the Girl Scout Leader. “Though I think you need to thank Ulrich. He’s the one keeping things moving. He’s over there by the fire extinguishers.”
“Thank you, Herr Schwarz,” Kseniya called over.
Not leaving his post, Ulrich called back, “You’re welcome.”
“Please excuse me, I need to visit with the others,” Kseniya said.
“We understand, Mrs. Kotova,” said Evangeline. “Our troops also appreciate Prince Vladimir’s donation.”
“You’re welcome. Though, the idea of donating in return for your help was J.P. Kindred’s idea. You need to thank him,” Kseniya said.
At that moment, Kseniya spotted J.P. He was sitting with a group of his fellow veterans and their wives.
Walking over to the group, Kseniya saw a small wooden crate on the ground beside the table. It looked rather heavy.
I wonder how these grandpas got that in here. Does the colonel know it’s here? Kseniya wondered.
“Hey there, Mrs. K.” said J.P. “This is a great fundraiser. Who’d of thought Russians were into barbecue.”
“J.P., this isn’t barbecue. It’s meat on a stick,” said one of J.P.’s tablemates.
“Welcome to the rezidentz,” Kseniya said. “In Russian, this meat on a stick is called ‘shaslik.'”
“What ever you call it. It’s good chow,” said the unknown tablemate.
“Mrs. K. let me introduce Chief Warrant Officer Louis Tillman,” said Kindred. “Boats, this is Mrs. Kseniya Kotova. She’s sort of the first lieutenant around this place.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am,” said Louis. “We have something that will interest your husband.”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s sitting in this crate,” said Louis. “If Colonel Makoveev will lend me couple of strong backs, we can get it out where every one can see it.”
Kseniya looked around for the streletz. He was standing so close that she knew he was in on this deal.
The colonel called out in his best parade ground voice, “Bondarev, Antonov, come here. Ivanov, bring a crowbar.”
Two Russians, with help from the older scouts, easily moved the wooden crate in front of the stage.
Kseniya joined her husband, the prince and Brandy beside the crate.
Boats Tillman bellowed out, “Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.” With fewer decibels, he said, “Men, loosen up the nails in the crate.”
Tillman continued, “The Legion would like to present a memorial gift to the Chapel of St. Vasili. All we ask is there be a plaque located nearby to identify the gift as being given in memory of those who gave their all for their country. Father Gavril, please open the crate.”
Gavril took the crowbar from Antonov and started ripping off the boards. The scouts helped him by lifting off the top and removing the sides as the last nails were pulled out.
When the work party moved away, there stood a ship’s bell.
“Folks, for years my wife and I went around to different antique shows and flea markets. And you know how I am about naval memorabilia.”
The Grantvillers in the crowd laughed. They certainly did, since most of them had been treated to Louis’ stories whether they wanted to be or not.
He gave them a grin. “We were in Pennsylvania when I spotted this bell. It comes from a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter, the Tupelo.”
Father Gavril fell on the old salt’s shoulders, babbling, “It’s a miracle! Praise God, a bell for Saint Vasili.”
Kseniya looked over at Brandy and Vlad. They were both beaming. And over in the corner, Colonel Tim and Tate were having an intense conversation. She smiled. There might be yet another wedding here at the rezidentz.
* * *