“I have an assignment for you. Nothing could be simpler. Next week you go to Irkutsk, pick up a would-be murderer named Aba Makhmud, take him to a transit prison where you will prosecute him, and see that he gets a good, long sentence.” “‘A would-be murderer’?” “He’s a Chechen, a terrorist. He tried to kill a prosecutor…“
Five o’clock was the hour when many Russian men got thirsty, especially men who had reached the retirement age of sixty-five and had little else to do. Of course, they weren’t totally retired. They washed cars, collected bottles and cans, or tutored unappreciative students. On holidays they brought out their good suits and caps and chest boards full of medals, then curled up with the cat and drank.