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Coldheart Canyon

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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‘With respect, there’s nothing pretty about the way I feel,’ Sandru replied. ‘I feel old to my marrow. On a good day I can barely get up in the morning. On a bad day, I just wish I were dead.’

‘Lord.’

Sandru shrugged. ‘That’s what living in this place does to you after a while. Everything drains out of you somehow.’

Zeffer was only half-listening. He was exhilarated by what he saw, and he had no patience with Sandru’s melancholy; his thoughts were with the walls, and the pictures on the walls.

‘Are there records documenting how this was created? It is a masterpiece, in its way.’

‘One of a kind,’ Sandru said.

‘Absolutely one of a kind.’

‘To answer your question, it’s believed to have been funded by Duke Goga, who had lately returned from the Crusades with a large amount of booty, claimed from the infidel in the name of Christ.’

‘But to build a room like this with money you’d made on the Crusades!’ Zeffer said incredulously.

‘I agree. It seems like an unlikely thing to do in the name of God. Of course none of this is proved. There are some people who will tell you that Goga went missing on one of his hunts, and it wasn’t him who built this place at all.’

‘Who then?’

‘Lilith, the Devil’s wife,’ the Father said, dropping his voice to a whisper. ‘Which would make this the Devil’s Country, no?’

‘Has anybody tried to analyse the work?’

‘Oh yes. The Englishman I spoke of, George Soames, claimed he had discovered evidence of twenty-two different styles amongst the designs. But that was just the painters. Then there were the men who actually made the tiles. Fired them. Sorted out the good from the bad. Prepared the paint. Cleaned the brushes. And there must have been some system to align everything.’

‘The rows of tiles?’

‘I was thinking more of the alignment of interior with the exterior.’

‘Perhaps they built the room first.’

‘No. The Fortress is two-and-a-half centuries older than this room.’

‘My God, so to get the alignment so perfect –?’

‘Is quite miraculous. Soames found fifty-nine geographical markers – certain stones, trees, the spire of the old abbey in Darscus – which are visible from the tower and are also painted on the wall. He calculated that all fifty-nine were correctly aligned, within half a degree of accuracy.’

‘Somebody was obsessive.’

‘Or else, divinely inspired.’

‘You believe that?’

‘Why not?’

Zeffer glanced back at the arena on the wall behind him, with all its libidinous excesses. ‘Does that look like the kind of work that somebody would do in the name of God?’

‘As I said,’ Sandru replied, ‘I no longer know where God is and where He isn’t.’

There was a long silence, during which Zeffer continued to survey the walls. Finally he said: ‘How much do you want for it?’

‘How much do I want for what?’

‘For the room?’

Sandru barked out a laugh.

‘I mean it,’ Zeffer said. ‘How much do you want for it?’

‘It’s a room, Mr Zeffer,’ Sandru said. ‘You can’t buy a room.’

‘Then it’s not for sale?’

‘That’s not my point –’

‘Just tell me: is it for sale or not?’

Again, laughter. But this time there was less humour; more bemusement. ‘I don’t see that it’s worth talking about,’ Sandru said, putting the brandy bottle to his lips and drinking.

‘Let’s say a hundred thousand dollars. What would that be in lei? What’s the leu worth right now? A hundred and thirty-two-and-a-half to the dollar?’

‘If you say so.’

‘So that’s what? Thirteen million, two hundred and fifty thousand lei.’

‘You jest.’

‘No.’

‘Where would you find such money?’ A pause followed. ‘If I may ask?’

‘Over the years, I’ve made some very lucrative investments on behalf of Katya. We own large parts of Los Angeles. Half a mile of Sunset Boulevard is in her name. Another half mile in mine.’

‘And you would sell all that to own this?’

‘A little piece of Sunset Boulevard for your glorious Hunt? Why not?’

‘Because it’s just a room covered with filthy tiles.’

‘So I have more money than sense. What does it matter to you? A hundred thousand dollars is a great deal of money.’

‘Yes, it is.’

‘So, do we have a deal or not?’

‘Mr Zeffer, this is all too sudden. We’re not talking about a chair here. This is part of the fabric of the Fortress. It has great historical significance.’

‘A minute ago it was just a room covered with filthy tiles.’

‘Filthy tiles of great historical significance,’ Sandru said, allowing himself a little smile.

‘Are you saying we can’t find some terms that are mutually satisfying? Because if you are –’

‘No, no, no. I’m not saying that. Perhaps we could eventually agree on a price, if we talked about it for a while. But how would you ever get it back to California?’

‘That would be my problem. This is the twenties, Father. Anything’s possible.’

‘And then what? Suppose you could get everything back to Hollywood?’

‘Another room, the same proportions –’

‘You have such a room?’

‘No. I’d build one. We have a house in the Hollywood Hills. I’d put it in as a surprise for Katya.’

‘Without telling her?’
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