They get to Calcutta in the afternoon, and settled into Mikhail’s room by eleven—aunts, cousins, new brothers-in-law, old enforcers, everyone wants a piece of Mikhail, and then there’s the family dinner to consider—and he spends the night in a strange bed, wishing he’d found something else to do—his granny’s not needed a funeral in a fair bit.
He finds Mikhail snuck quietly away early next morning and nobody in the least concerned. It’s deeply uncomfortable, like being lost in a maze—he’s never been here before, and the constant stream of Bengali flows around him like so much babble, and the words spoken to him, courteously in atrocious Hindi, stand out like pits of quicksand treacherous in familiarity. He holes up in his room in self-defence, and nods sullenly at the maid who mimes at him about a bath and fresh clothes and lunch.
Mikhail shows up past sunset, in the low gloaming, and stands outside the house silvered under the street-lights and caught by his stare, looks up and waves him down. It’s tempting, the thought of shutting his window and locking his door, but he’s in the man’s house, and Mikhail is better at petty mischief—more time at his disposal, less need to depend on others—and, besides, he’s curious.
Mikhail’s got a car out of the garage by the time he slips out of the house, carefully avoiding all the averted eyes—shows of respectability do nothing for him—and, terrifyingly for him, says nothing at all as they drive down the congested streets. This close, there are lines tightening his thinned mouth, and smudges darkening his face, and Charlie wants nothing more than to have him park somewhere dark and secluded and distract him till he’s laughing helplessly.
The lane they pull into is dark and dank with the stink of human refuse and household trash, and Mikhail parks against a derelict wall and says—first words all day, you’d think he wants Charlie to worry—in a flat voice that would do a train announcer proud, “My father was killed here.”