“You’re a grad student?” Olga’s eyes widened in surprise. “How does a grad student afford business class?” she asked, and immediately regretted her intrusion into his finances even though Benedict didn’t seem to take offense.
“Trust fund. Mine’s not sufficient to make working for a living unnecessary, but it does help to make life more civilized. You do ask a lot of questions, don’t you,” he said when Olga looked like she was about to speak again, but his smile neutralized some of the sting his words carried.
“Yes,” she said, biting off the question she actually wanted to ask. Then she suddenly gasped. “Rock climbing!”
“Sorry, what?” Benedict appeared confused.
“Your hand. I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember what those calluses reminded me of, and I finally got it. My friend climbs and his hand feels like yours. Sorry, got us completely off topic, but I did warn you of my tendency to do so.”
“Quite all right. What else can you deduce, Sherlock?”
“Alas, not much. You spent your formative years in England but you’ve been living in the U.S. for a while now. At some point in the last few years you lost between twenty and thirty pounds. You’re a smoker who’s trying to quit, hence the nicotine gum in your bag’s pocket.”
Olga paused to drink her vodka. “I scare my father when I say vodka tastes sweet to me,” she said. “In Russia, that was considered the sign of a true alcoholic.”
“So your name fits. You are Russian.”
“Not ethnically. I was born in Russia, but my parents are German on the one side and Jewish on the other. Queue long argument about whether Judaism is only a religion or an ethnicity, but in the Soviet Union it was considered an ethnicity so that’s how I define it, too. And my father is a descendant of those Germans who came over during the reign of Catherine the Great and settled on the Volga about 250 years ago. All were shipped off to Siberia by Stalin during the war and allowed back only much, much later. Anyhow, my parents couldn’t agree on a name from either of their heritages so they went with Olga.” She waved her hand. “But we’re off topic again. I was telling you you’re trying to quit smoking. Except I might have that wrong. You might be an unreformed smoker who’s facing a 10-hour flight on which smoking isn’t allowed. And here’s something I got completely wrong: before knowing you were a historian with a trust fund, I pegged you as one of those guys who builds algorithms for hedge funds.”
Benedict laughed. “A quant? Whatever gave you that idea?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Olga. “Perhaps because I’ve been spending far too much time with some of them for one of my cases. Now tell me everything else I got wrong.”
“The weight. It’s held steady for the past fifteen years or so. What made you think I’d lost?”
“The band on your watch. You used to use the second notch and now you’re on the fourth.”
“Impressive observation skills.”
“Impressive but entirely wrong. Fill in the blanks for me. English public school education?”
“Yes. I was born in England. We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up because of Dad’s job, but I was sent back to England to boarding school. The family was going to be in Albania for a while, and my parents thought that my brother and I would do better, academically speaking, back home. I continued a fairly peripatetic existence into adulthood, except that now home base is New York and has been for over ten years.”
“Dad was a diplomat. As you might imagine, Albania wasn’t a prize posting. For a diplomat, my father had a remarkable talent for pissing powerful people off.”
“And the watch mystery?”
“It belonged to my brother, who inherited it from Dad. He has no use for it anymore so I wear it.”
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Genre – Legal Thriller
Rating – PG