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S C E N A : T h e a t r e ..A r t s ..R e v i e w
Novi Sad, 2005 . ..No. 19 . .January-December . .YU ISSN 0351-3963 .

d r a m a
MARIJA KARAKLAJIC
FAUSSE - ATTAQUE, MAL PARER
Translation by Marija Karaklajic

 

MARIJA KARAKLAJIC
She was born in 1978 in Kragujevac. Studied drama on Belgrade Faculty of Dramatic Arts. As a dramaturg she worked on plays in Belgrade National Theatre, Slovenian National Theatre in Maribor, BITEF Theatre, "Dusko Radovic Theatre", and Center for Cultural Decontamination. During season 2003/2004 she was a dramaturg in Project NADA (NovA DramA) in Belgrade National Theatre.
She is the author of plays
FAUSSE - ATTAQUE, MAL PARER (False attack - wrong defence, performed in National Theatre in Subotica, 2003),
MILK TOOTH OF THE EARTH (both published in Serbian in "Scena" magazine)
and dramatizations for plays GAME OF FOLLY (BITEF Theatre, 2005) and LIFE? OR THEATRE? (Belgrade National Theatre, 2003).


Note about "FAUSSE - ATTAQUE, MAL PARER"

DANGEROUS GAMES

Missaud: I went to Kalemegdan Fortress yesterday. Snow has almost melted away. The odour of new grass is in the air. On the foothill I found a snowdrop. Of large, flat petals. I peered into the corridors, spread under the foot of the Fortress. (Beat.) Have you ever wondered… all those endless tunnels and corridors - where do they lead to? To the heart of the tunnel. And where is it? (Beat.) Then I saw a beautiful young woman, holding a couple of snowdrops that had just been picked up. A man approached her, handing another one. She smiled. The man had your figure. I cried: 'Claude!' Didn't turn around. Didn't hear. They disappeared in one of the corridors. Immersed into the darkness.
The references on basis of which it's possible to determine the appropriate context of the drama FAUSSE - ATTAQUE, MAL PARRER at first sight belong more to the film industry then to the world of drama and theatre. Namely, a reader can easily get an impression that the characters of this play written by Marija Karaklaji} seem to come out of a famous film noire in which, for instance, Humphrey Bogart reached eternal glory, such as THE MALTESE FALKON and CASABLANCA, and it would be very difficult to come to a conclusion that they belong to the contemporary drama period sovereingely ruled by the new realism and dramaturgy of blood and sperm. Spy nests in the air of dramatic uncertainty at the dawn of the war (The Second World War in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), intrigues and conspiracy, feverish fight for power of the intelligence officers in the context of the embittered clash of the great powers, panic search for the information of crucial significance, a fight which, certainly, includes also a bed as the battlefield - all of this is just one layer of the elements which Marija Karaklaji} uses to make a tense drama. To this group, as a great and well thought-out 'spice' we should add a local police officer as well, who gives special freshness and wit to the drama, as well as air of the Balkans and charm of the typical pre-war Belgrade.
On the other (social) level, there is a group of 'white Russians', first-class decadents described the way which broadens the spiritual field, but also lets the author bring to the drama unique air which indicates the social rottenness and inertness that always result in dramatic social changes.
The third flow, which actually is the main story, consists of melodramatic thread. Its basis is a well created character of an adventurer, a fatal heartbreaker Rene Claude, an authentic historical character, the agent of the French Compagnie generale de telegraphie sans fil T.S.F, in the capital of the Yugoslav Kingdom, but also the founder of Belgrade Fencing Club and according to the documents of the Yugoslav secret police, the man who was accused of spying activities in Belgrade in 1941.
However, Marija Karaklajic is not interested in re-constructing or re-defining the history (which, by the way, was the ambition of the major part of so-called political theatre in the former Yugoslavia at the beginning of the eighties of last century); in the precisely defined environment in which Belgrade of 1941 resembles Casablanca of 1943, she develops a fine melodrama thread which, on one hand, exceeds just a simple war story, and on the other gives it a special, spicy taste.
Besides, some of the (decadent) atmosphere in which the action of this drama takes place - decribed indirectly through the apparently naive and meaningless conversations of by large blasé figures of the pre-war Belgrade social life, as well as the way the author creates a cloud of mistery that, like an aureole, encircles the protagonist Rene Claude, seem to have their distant models in some scenes of the drama which, based on his own story GROBNICA ZA BORISA DAVIDOVICA, Danilo Kis wrote, and it gives a special charm to the drama of this young playwright, but also spreads a potential field of meanings, giving space for the possible director's superstructure.
Through the skillfully led story, soked with dreams and visions that like nightmare persecute the main character of the play, but also in a very specific way connects him with a woman who would have fatal role in his destiny, the author develops an unusual, strong and highly exciting drama interwoven with imagination and life reality of Belgrade that is waiting to fulfill its dark destiny, historical facts and imaginative literal superstructure of the convincing political analysis of actual position of Yugoslavia at the time in the context of the fire caught Europe and the intimate story of a group of people who in this European sinking boat were trying to live by their feelings.
The terminology taken from the sports fencing obtains the meaning of a special metaphor of a game in which participate all the protagonists, a game which contains original knights' elements - among the other things - the knights' honor as well, while on the other hand it alludes an open fight, the war with no rules. That is why the title of the drama - FAUSSE - ATTAQUE, MAL PARRER (False attaque, wrong defense) acquires a sense of a polisemantic game.

Aleksandar MILOSAVLJEVIC
Translated into English by B. K.


Characters:
Rene Claude, agent of the French firm Compagnie generale de telegraphie sans fil T.S.F.
Aleksa Pencic, detective at the Belgrade Police Office
Richard Foster, agent of the English firm 'Foster & Sons'
Claire Foster, Richard's wife
Ozren Radotic, air force major
Sofia Radotic, Ozren's wife
Mihailo Lukin, Claude's fencing assistant at the Belgrade Fencing Club
Fiodor Mihailovich Sigunov,
Varvara Konovnicina,
Arkadiye Semyonovich Karyagin,
Alya Dubrova Karyagina, Claude's associates
Mister Missaud
First, Second, Third Lady
First, Second Gentleman
Miss Fotiric
Mister Fotiric

The action takes place in Belgrade, February - March, 1941

The setting:
Bare stage is surrounded by three huge, high dark-gray walls, slightly inclined towards the stage. Only the indispensable objects are brought on stage. Edges and angles of all the properties are disproportional, asymmetrical, distorted. The whole space should resemble the scenery of the German expressionist films.
Dream scenes take place in the abandoned, two-level factory hall. The levels are connected with steep stairs. Although there is no labyrinth on the stage, the pattern of Claude's moving is similar to a labyrinth one. Unconsciously, he acts as if he were imprisoned. The costumes which the characters wear in dreams are the same as in 'real' life, unless otherwise indicated. Shadows of the actors are utmost extended, threatening.


PART ONE

Scene One

Telegraph Department at the Belgrade Post & Telegraph. Alya Dubrova Karyagina in her thirties, somewhat neurotic and Rene Claude, irresistible. Alya Dubrova sits at the desk, turning over the telegrams in a quick, sharp way, not looking at Claude. Claude walks through the room in the rhythm of Alya's voice. He's holding a yo-yo in his hand, pulling it up and down. He's calm, cold-blooded.

Alya Dubrova: They might've taken her away while she was putting up the samovar, fainted her with a metal rod, one strike - but placed in the right way- and pulled her out through the window, they might have dropped a cart full of rotten apples straight onto her head, they might have - an ambush in front of her flat in Duchess Zorka Street No. 4a - a handkerchief filled with chloroform while she was locking the door, they might have - What if they miscalculated? Insufficient dose of chloroform, an imprecise grasp of hand… What if she was struggling, screaming? They had to shoot her down, decapitate her, take her away in the bush leaving a bloody trail behind.
Claude: There is no bush in the Duchess Zorka Street.
Alya Dubrova: They might have dug a hole in the ground and buried her alive, they might have killed her at once. Short and quick - a bullet in the head. They might have -
Claude comes to Alya, slaps her very hard across the face.
Claude: Stop it.
Alya Dubrova shakes her head as if addressing someone who doesn't understand her.
Alya Dubrova: Rene, you don't take me seriously. At all.
Claude: Irina Petrovna set out. Without saying goodbye. To anyone.
Alya Dubrova: How can you tell? Irina Petrovna hated trains. Since we came to Belgrade in nineeen-twenty, on the freight train full of sweaty bodies and cattle. Set out where? She would have said goodbye to you. To me and Varya perhaps not, but to you… Her husband knows nothing. You saw him yesterday. Nikolai Vasilyevich's face was dead man pale. Coming in here, begging us to tell him what has happened to his wife…
Claude: I'm not Irina Petrovna's nanny.
Alya Dubrova: No. Nanny, no. They might have wrapped her up and thrown her in the Danube. In two days her corpse will swim out, swollen and yellow. They might have poured a petroleum all over her and set her on fire, they might have imprisoned her in some basement full of rats, they might have -
Claude: All right, who? Who drowned and poisoned her, chopped off her leg and set Irina Petrovna on fire? Who?
Alja Dubrova: Does it matter? The same will happen to us… Varya, Fedya, me… in the Danube, to serve as fish food. They might chop off our -
Claude slaps Alya Dubrova across her face again. Alya Dubrova smiles. Caresses Claude.
Alya Dubrova: How strong you are! I can feel it through your shirt… And your right arm is stronger than the left one. Because of the saber?
Claude draws Alya Dubrova closer to him. Kisses her passionately. Arkadiye Semyonovich Karyagin enters, holding a few telegrams in his hand. He's the same age as his wife, slightly effeminate. On seeing Arkadiye Semyonovich, the lovers back away from each other. Karyagin is trying not to betray his disturbance. Smiles.
Karyagin: Alya Dubrova! My dear Alya Dubrova, I asked you to bring me those telegrams an hour ago.
Alya Dubrova: My sweet Arkadiye Semionovich, I haven't copied them. Yet.
Karyagin: My dearest Alya Dubrova, Marfa Yegorovna and I have been doing very hard work for the past two hours. I cannot enter the telegrams into the protocol unless I have them!
Alya Dubrova (hands the telegrams to Arkadiye Semionovich): My beloved Arkadiye Semyo-novich, here you are. I oblige myself to bring you the rest as soon as I've finished.
Claude: Any new telegrams?
Karyagin: Hitler invited Cvetkovic and Cincar-Markovic to Salzburg, on 15th February. It came yesterday.
Claude: I saw that one. Anything else?
Karyagin: This one came through the main radio-telegraph. For Rome.
Claude: Read it.
Karyagin: 'Vlada STOP Being in Rome, buy me that medicine STOP I forgot its name STOP But you know which one STOP The one from the last time STOP My ulcer's killing me STOP Mile.'
Claude: Give the one from yesterday to Alya, to copy it.
Karyagin: My loving Alya, will you -
Alya Dubrova: But certainly.
Karyagin: Take those telegrams to Marfa Yegorovna by yourself?
Alya Dubrova leaves in anger. Throughout the following, Claude is not hostile towards Karyagin. On the contrary.
Karyagin: You and my wife… again… Rene, I begged you…
Claude: Don't start again.
Silence.
Karyagin (in harsh voice): Why didn't you answer my letter?
Claude: I was indisposed.
Karyagin: You're lying, Rene. I saw you. Yesterday. At Kalemegdan Fortress. With Mrs… (He can't remember the name.) Her husband is an employee of the Ministry of Transportation.
Claude: Mr. Mirkovic invited me for an afternoon walk. Personally. And yes, Mrs. Mirkovic accompanied us. As well as several of our acquaintances. As you could have seen.
Karyagin: And then you and Mrs. Mirkovic slowed your pace down, behind all of them, and then you, secretly, for no one to see, took a small white rosebud out of your pocket. In the middle of February! Her eyes glared with delight and then you -
Claude: Arkadiye, I asked you not to. Show up again. What were you doing this time? Selling chick-peas?
Karyagin: I was a park cleaner. You didn't notice me, Rene, but I saw Mrs. Mirkovic stretching her tiny little hand out of her muff, taking the rosebud from you. Carelessly. She tingled on the thorn. And you quickly covered her finger with your white batiste handkerchief, the one with embroidered monogram. Then you hasten your pace to catch up with the others. Was it like that? Deny it, Rene.
Claude is silent.
Karyagin: Then I came up to the place where you were standing. A drop of blood on the snow. I covered it down, Rene. (Pause.) You're silent? Where is your white batiste handkerchief? (Pause.) Why didn't you answer my letter?
Claude: Try to understand… It takes time for one to comprehend… to resolve… something different from anything he's ever… I'm a weak man, Arkadiye… I cannot… put in words... what… It takes time.
Silence.
Karyagin: I begged you… about Alya… (Leans in to Claude, grasps his hand.) At evenings, curve of her palm bears a touch of your scent.
Claude slowly pulls away from Arkadiye. Varvara Konovnicina enters, confidently, with her head up high. She wears a worn-out sable-fur coat. She's in her late twenties.
Varvara Konovnicina: It's so pleasant - outdoors. Rime, land is freezing, but again - pleasant. And the air - fresh. Ah! The hoar-frost all over my coat.
Karyagin comes to Varvara Konovnicina and kisses her hand. Claude is indifferent.
Karyagin: Varvara Konovnicina, charming as ever.
Varvara Konovnicina: Where is Alya Dubrova? Call her, Arkadiye Semyonovich. I've got something important to say. About Irina Petrovna.
Claude: Any news?
Varvara Konovnicina: Call her, Arkadiye Semionovich, then you'll hear.
Karyagin I'm going, I'm going.
Karyagin leaves. Varvara Konovnicina speaks after a short break.
Varvara Konovnicina: The dead-line is today. Have you made up your mind?
Pause.
Claude: I'd been thinking, Varvara Konovnicina. Having second thoughts. Haven't slept all night long.
Varvara Konovnicina: And?
Claude: I decided.
Pause.
Claude: Varya -
Varvara Konovnicina: Yes?
Pause.
Claude: Varya, I shall change my tailor.
Varvara Konovnicina: You'll change - what?
Claude: My trousers are about a quarter shorter than they should be. Again.
Varvara Konovnicina: You're making jokes out of…
Claude: Not at all. Take a look.
Varvara Konovnicina: Claude, it's your honor we're talking about.
Claude: And my health, too.
Varvara Konovnicina: Ten seconds: them or me.
Claude: This windy morning I said to myself - don't take a carriage, go for a stroll, fill your lungs with this chilly fresh air. And I caught such a cold all over my legs…
Varvara Konovnicina: That's it. Right now, I'm calling -
Claude: Who? I suggest 'Politika'. They sell best. (Claude takes the telephone, gives the receiver to Varvara Konovnicina. She gazes at him, helplessly. Claude hangs up.) It's not the first time. The last ones - just the same: a quarter shorter. For this summer - I want a new suit. A beige one.
Claude sits on the desk, takes a yo-yo again.
Varvara Konovnicina: The photographs might compromise you.
Claude: As far as I can remember, I'm not the only one nude. Have I told you that Francoise simply adores yo-yo?
Varvara Konovnicina: My face is not visible.
Claude: She comes up to me and stands on her hind legs. Tries to catch it. Not achieving her goal. Mostly. It keeps her content.
Varvara Konovnicina: Your French puddle really knows how to have fun. All those adventures… Claude, I will do it.
Claude: I found a thorn yesterday. Stuck on the inner side of her leather collar. Poor Francoise. I'll buy her a new collar today. A firm metal one. (Claude stops playing with yo-yo. Stands up. Intently examines Varvara Konovnicina's eyes.) Posing to your sister while she was studying photography… and I haven't got any of those photos. Why is it so? I want them. Immensely. Just one.
Varvara Konovnicina: Outside - ice. A rock. But inside - flame. Burning fire!
Claude reaches out to Varvara Konovnicina, takes her in his arms. Kisses her. Out of stage there is some rumour, a voice of Alya Dubrova: 'Fiodor Ivanovich, you're here!' Claude and Varvara Konovnicina pull away. Sigunov, Alya Dubrova and Karyagin enter. Sigunov's hair is almost grey: he might be forty as well as sixty. He constantly turns around.
Sigunov: Looks like a snowstorm is coming. And the Danube will frost up, all over.
Alya Dubrova: My dear. (Cordially kisses Varvara Konovnicina.) Quick, tell us. What have you heard?
Varvara Konovnicina: I met Nikolai Vasilyevich this morning. In front of the Ministry of Army & Navy. When he saw me, he came up to me and grabbed my hand, looking into my eyes with sadness. Silently. For almost a minute. Then he turned his back to me and entered the Ministry. Without a word.
Silence.
Karyagin: And?
Varvara Konovnicina: That's all. (Pause.) Don't you see? He did it! He murdered Irina Petrovna.
Claude: Why would anyone, especially Nikolai Vasilyevich, murder -
Varvara Konovnicina: He might have become suspicious. Or she confessed. He might be - working for the Soviets.
Sigunov: That - that with the Soviets - should be investigated.
Varvara Konovnicina: How would a husband react on his wife's sudden disappearance? He'd be in deep sorrow. What about Nikolai Vasilyevich? He's overcome with grief! And what for? To avoid suspicion.
Alya Dubrova: In two days - the corpse from the Danube…
Claude: Nikolai Vasilyevich went to the Belgrade Police Office, didn't he?
Sigunov: If the Soviets are involved, the whole Belgrade Police Office, with all its agents won't be much of a help. (In low voice.) This morning - two of them followed me. From my house up to here. Agents. The Soviet ones.
Claude: You met the boy who delivers newspaper and the butcher boy again.
Sigunov: You're so naive. I can tell. Unmistakably. Twenty years ago, being on the ship with general Vrangel I saw two of them. Wearing uniforms of South Russia Armed Forces. They were writing down all the time. Like - diary or something. But I knew - they were writing down the number of officers, names, ranks, everything. My left eye was twitching up and down. Like this, see? Ever since, when I come upon - my left eye - as if mad. That's how I know. Unmistakably. This morning, I thought it would jump right out of my eye-socket.
Kariagin: And the Danube - riming…
Sigunov: Frosting up all over.
Karyagin: It's said - in ice a corpse keeps a long-lasting freshness. Imagine, you're on the Danube and your foot slips. You look down and what do you see? Irina Petrovna. Staring at you, right out of the water.
Alya Dubrova: It's said - in a death rattle, a victim can write a name. Of a murderer. Irina Petrovna had long nails.
Varvara Konovnicina: With nails - in ice. So it can be read.
Claude: I'll go skating tomorrow. Anyone wants to join me?
Alya Dubrova: And whose name shall we read?
Karyagin: If Irina Petrovna is really -
Sigunov Does it matter?
Varvara Konovnicina: Whose?
Everyone stands still. Claude takes his yo-yo, pulls it up and down.

Scene Two

In the Belgrade Fencing Club several men and women are fencing. Claude fights with Mihailo Lukin, a young assistant. In his appearance and outfit, not very obvious, Mihailo imitates Claude.

Claude: No, no, Michele. You'll do touché seconde, and me parer seconde.
Mihailo: Mihailo, Mr. Claude.
Claude: Pardon me.
They fence. Claude is speaking, without interrupting the duel.
Claude: Now - pas croise, than enveloppement circulaire. Watch out, Michele, this is attaque direct. Mal parer, Michele!
Claude stops. Takes off his mask.
Claude: Your concentration is at an extremely low rate.
Lukin: It'll pass.
Claude: I hope so, Michele. The Academy is within three days.
Lukin: Mihailo, Mr. Claude.
A fifteen years old Girl comes to Claude.
Girl: Mr. Claude, you promised I'd practice with you, personally.
Claude: Would you accept Mr. Lukin instead, just for tonight?
Girl: No, no! I want you.
Claude: All right. Take your foil.
Suddenly, Claude slightly recoils, as if he saw someone. Or something.
Claude: Miss Fotiric, I apologize for not being able to practice with you.
Mihailo: Miss Fotiric, I am at your disposal.
Girl (to Mihailo): Oh, you awful, boring man!
Girl stubs onto floor and runs away. Claude laughs. Everyone, including Mihailo, is leaving. Missaud, dressed in black mackintosh, with a soft hat on his head, enters. No one pays attention to him. Whilst conversation, Missaud examines foils and sabres.
Missaud: You were careless. The whole city rumours of Irina Petrovna.
Silence.
Claude: Why?
Missaud: Nikolai Vasilyevich Orlov is under surveillance. It's been found out that certain, top secret information leak out of the Ministry. Disclosing Orlov's wife was the matter of time.
Claude: Why didn't you let me know?
Missaud: There was no time.
Claude: What does it mean? Tomorrow I might not find half of my assistants?
Missaud: Blindly devoted. Your Francoise has a great competition. (Pause.)
After what had happened, you should have stopped the rumours.
Claude: You shouldn't have removed my assistant!
Missaud: Don't tell me that affects you.
Claude: Irina Petrovna was a friend of mine.
Missaud: And your lover. You were using her. Unscrupulously. What kind of ethical questions do you raise, Claude? (Beat.) You have modern equipment. Nothing lacks.
Claude: It could have been done in some other way, Missaud.
Missaud: You have your own, interesting methods. Mine are not so… enjoyable, but they are proven. (Beat.) These sabres - Russian ones?
Claude: Yes. Genuine Kozakian sabres.
Missaud: Naturally. You can afford it. (Beat.) In a couple of days a certain… Richard Foster is coming to Belgrade. Agent of the English firm "Foster & Sons". I want to know all: who sends him, what for, why Belgrade. His wife, here in this… middle of nowhere, might need some amusement. You'll be recommended. As an outstanding fencer. Undoubtedly, you'll find your way. (Missaud starts towards the exit. Stops. Comes back.) I almost forgot: a letter from Irina Petrovna. For you. (Hands a letter to Claude.) The last wish, you might say. Touching.
Claude: You read it?
Missaud: It was open.

Scene Three

Lively atmosphere in Sofia Radotic's salon. The guests are being jovial, laughing out loudly. Sofia Radotic, in her late thirties, dresses and poses as if ten years younger. Her husband, Ozren Radotic, five or six years elder, has a strict, soldier attitude. Of a constrained courteousness. Claude intently listens to the conversation. He's mostly silent.

Sofia: I find him a very attractive man. That fervent eyes, lively mimic, a roguish lock of hair…
First Lady: And charmingly cut moustache.
Ozren: My wife finds Adolph Hitler to be an attractive man? And admits it in public?
Sofia: For God's sake, Ozren, you're so old-fashioned. In public - so what?
Second Lady: Anyway, he's certainly much more handsome than that swollen English… (She can't remember the name.)
First Gentleman: Churchill.
Third Lady: Generally, concerning that matter, the situation in Europe is rather gloomy. One can't tell who is more… bulky.
Second Lady: You mean, whose stomach is more stout.
A sigh of disappointment among ladies.
First Lady: Imagine - we got occupied.
A rumour of disapproval among men.
Second Gentleman: Miss Vidic, what are you saying? To get occupied? By whom?
First Lady: That's what I'm telling you: it matters. In the morning, when I lean through the window to water my petunias, I care whether gaze at some plump Soviet soldier or, perhaps, a meager English one.
Second Lady: England is too far away.
Ozren: England is our ally.
Third Lady: And the Russians we've already had.
Sofia: Our Russians are imperial ones: well-behaved, cultured, fond of arts. Claude, your assistants are members of some literary circle. Right?
Claude: No. As far as I know.
Second Lady: But these people in Russia, these… (She can't remember the name.) What are the Russians in Russia named today?
First Gentleman: Communists.
Second Lady: People say they don't believe in God. Not going to church, eating with their fingers… They don't even bath. Can you imagine that kind of people hanging around here?
First Gentleman: Considering the politics of the Regency and the Royal Government, 'that kind' will hardly ever hang around here. The Axis Powers more like it.
Sofia: And why not? What's wrong with the Italians? The other day, in a fashion journal, I glanced just marvelous cloths they had. If come, they'll bring us lace, silk -
A sudden silence. Sofia looks around in wonder.
Ozren: Sofia, in such an… intricate situation, when Italy has occupied Albania, went to war against our brethren Greeks and being literally, but literally at our doors, I find it at least improper to say -
Sofia: Oh, your mean tales again.
Aleksa Pencic, seemingly the same age as Ozren, enters the room. Subtle, well-mannered. Keeps on smiling.
Sofia (holds out her hand for a kiss): Ah, Mr. Pencic, just in time! You'll be on my side. Everyone is irritated, and all I've said was: 'Italians, on coming to Belgrade, will convey plenty of precious textiles. The Venice black lace for evening toilettes.'
Pencic: Mrs. Radotic, the Venice lace can be imported as well. There's no need for the Italians to carry it. Personally. I'd keep the Kingdom of Yugoslavia far off, at a remote distance. From everyone. Especially the Italians.
Ozren: From our allies, too? It's the matter of time for the Regency and duke Paul to join the Tripartite Treaty. What kind of distance are you talking
about?
Pencic: A wise one, Mr. Radotic.
First Lady: Duke Paul is a weakling. An English student! Well-behaved, educated, polite… What we need is a… sovereign!
Pencic: Duke Paul endeavors to keep Yugoslavia out of war.
Sofia: Enough! I want some merry stories. Mr. Pencic, is there any news on Irina Petrovna Orlova's disappearance?
Pencic: The Police Office is investigating the case. As soon as we find out something for certain, you'll be the first one to know. You… and Mr. Claude, of course.
Claude: Thank you.
Third Lady: Mr. Pencic, I was studying Orlova's case. And I came to… certain conclusions, so to say. Yes, I'll bring them out. (Beat.) A love triangle. Classical. A husband, a wife and a lover. You're wasting your time searching for Irina Petrovna. She ran off. With her lover. To England, probably.
Pencic: Well, what an extremely interesting thing. That... about the lover. (Beat.) Speaking of Englishmen, I've heard some rumors on a certain Poster, Roster, Foster or what's-his-name arrival in Belgrade… Agent of an English firm. Have you heard of it? By chance, casually …
(Everyone shake their heads.) Mr. Claude?
Claude: What were we supposed to hear?
Pencic: Nothing, nothing. (Self - blaming.) My curiosity… You see, for detectives, even those natural human necessities are forbidden. Misinterpreted. Calculated. Deliberated.
Sofia: What is so intriguing about that gentleman?
Pencic: A beautiful wife. People say.
Sofia (to the Second Lady): Have I told you Mr. Claude was so kind to bring me "La mode exclusive", the latest issue?
Pencic: Charming, indeed. Any latest issues on fishing? For me, Mr. Claude.
Claude: Unfortunately, not. But on horse breeding, picking mushrooms, pruning fruit trees, or… trophy arms… Pay me a visit, Mr. Pencic.
Claude is about to leave.
Sofia: You're off? Already?
Sofia follows Claude.
Claude (in low, passionate voice): May I count on you?
Sofia (in low voice): Completely. Wednesday, at six.
Claude leaves. Sofia joins the guests.
Ozren (to the First Gentleman): I'm telling you, "hurricanes" with eight machine-guns are much more lethal hunters than "messerschmidts". Proven and demonstrated in the Battle of Britain.
Sofia: Stop talking about that war as if it's going to happen to us.
Ozren: Good Lord, Sofia, if Germany and Italy send the airplanes, what do you think they'll bomb us with? The Venice lace?
Sofia: What else?

Scene Four

Formal Fencing Academy. Among the audience is notable presence of Richard and Claire Foster. In his forty-something Richard Foster makes an impression of blasé, expressionless man; Claire Foster, seven or eight years younger than her husband, is highly refined and restrained.

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, now you'll see the central part of the Fencing Academy. The fencers from Belgrade fencing clubs and sections will demonstrate their technique and skillfulness in fights with foil. The first ones to appear are Mr. Rene Claude and Mr. Mihailo Lukin, from the Belgrade Fencing Club.
Claude and Mihailo enter, in full fencing equipment. They perform the fight they were practicing. On finishing, an applause is heard.
Announcer: Duke Ivan Vladimirovitch Maksutov and Mr. Rastislav Djuricic, the Yugoslav Fencing Club 'Lucien Godin'.
Fencers appear, the duel begins. Claude returns in informal clothes.
Sigunov: A gentleman took off his bowler hat, the other one wiped his forehead with a plaid handkerchief, Miss Zikic was yawning, Mrs. Krasic and Mrs. Pantelic were gossiping Miss Zikic, Mr. Pesterac secretly passed a note to Mrs. Predic, Mr. Mitic laughed loudly, a lady was rummaging through her purse, Mr. Strajnic said Lukin was funny, Mrs. Vickovic dropped down her powder box, a gentleman loosened his tie, Mr. Blaznavac picked up Mrs. Vickovic's powder-box -
Claude: Fiodor Ivanovich, I only wanted to know if anyone in the audience spoke English.
Sigunov: I was just about to say: the gentleman coming towards us.
Sigunov moves away.
Foster: Mr. Claude, let me introduce myself: Richard Foster, agent of the English firm 'Foster & Sons'. My wife, Claire.
Claude bows. Mihailo appears. His resemblance to Claude in gesture, clothing, hairstyling is evident. Claude addresses him before he approaches.
Claude: Michele, take the equipment.
Mihailo: Right, Mr. Claude.
Foster: We are impressed by your skills. How long have you been fencing?
Claude: Since I was twelve.
Foster: Claire and I arrived at Belgrade a few days ago and we intend to remain. For a while. I'll be over-occupied with my business arrangements and I'm afraid my lovely wife will be left over with lots of boring spare time. You are certainly familiar with that - How long have you been here?
Claude: For almost ten years.
Foster: Then you might understand. Mr. Claude, would you accept to give fencing lessons to Claire?
Claude: Mr. Foster, it'll be a great pleasure. Madame has been fencing before?
Claire: Whenever the occasions allowed me to.
Foster: The nature of my mercantile business forced us to change our domicile frequently. So, can I rely on you?
Claude (bows): In every way.
Announcer: Mr. Eugenie Mihailovitch Davidov and Mr. Dusan Bozic, Fencing Section of the Belgrade Sport Club 'Mitic'.
The next fencers appear on the stage. Richard and Claire Foster move away. Alya Dubrova comes to Claude.
Alya Dubrova: Did you see it? Her hair-pin. (Claude doesn't get it.) The lady you were standing with.
Claude: She had a hair-pin?
Alya Dubrova: She had - Gamaion. A foretelling bird. With human face.
Claude: Alya Dubrova, I find your enigmas to be rather appalling.
Alya Dubrova: Don't try to seduce me, Rene. It was Gamaion. Foretelling fright, misfortune, death. My nanny knows. The stories went on, when she was young. A long long time ago, an old woman, named Akulina, had Gamaion. Made of an elder tree. Of a divine visage. At nights, in her cottage, a peculiar murmur was heard. Gamaion. Chanting and foretelling: That the Tatarians would attack the village, burn down all the houses, slaughter all living. Chanting - decline of innocents. One night, villagers broke into Akulina's cottage. Demolished Gamaion. Into pieces. Old woman Akulina got tied up and stoned. A witch.
Claude: And what happened to the village?
Alya Dubrova: In a few days - the Tatarians attacked. Burnt it down. And slaughtered. All the living.
Claude laughs loudly.
Alya Dubrova: Rene, this hair-pin… perhaps… at night… when stillness overcomes…
Claude: Chants?

Scene Five

Claude's dream. He's at the lower level of the fabric hall. Darkness is all around. Abruptly, lights come up on some parts of the stage at both levels, revealing all of the characters as devotedly knocking, removing, putting together. It cannot be seen what. Everyone wears white gloves. Claude watches them in silence. After a short while, the scene fades away in darkness again. On the higher level Claire Foster appears.

Claire (giggles): Not chanting, but snarling. (In a serious voice.) Claude, begone. Quick, right away!
Out of the stage a shot is heard. Claire drops down.
Claude: CLAIRE!
Claude sets forth, but suddenly comes to a halt as if a wall rose ahead of him. Helplessly turns around. Missaud appears. He is also wearing white gloves.
Missaud: You may leave. Naturally. But... you want to know who's the killer.
Missaud backs away. Stops.
Missaud: Set off right, then take left, then right again. You'll get to it.
Missaud leaves. Claude moves as were told. At the end of the route the lights up the stage in front of him. Claire sits on the chair, cutting out a piece of cloth. Beside her, at the table, Richard scrapes some wooden articles. He doesn't show to notice Claude's appearance by any means.
Claude (joyfully): You're -
Claire (not interrupting her work): Yes, I found him. On the bank. Bits of ice all over his face. And tiny red line around his neck. Strangled. Before being thrown into the Danube.
Claude: Who? Who are you talking about?
Claire: I've made some sketches. Take a look.
Claire hands a piece of paper over to Claude.
Claude: Who's this?
Claire: Resembles you. The same marked cheekbones. But perhaps it's out of - you know. Your features would be quite unlike. Depending on means. But - strangled - quite unlike. Then again - who can tell. I'll make a sketch of you. Would you let me?
Claude: Now?
Claire (smiles): No, not now.
Claude: What are you cutting out? Who's this?
Claire: My husband… My husband was with me. He's waiting for you.
Claire keeps on cutting. Pencic comes.
Pencic: Mr. Claude, what a tragedy. To lose two assistants within a - week?
Claude glazes at Pencic with a lack of understanding.
Pencic: You haven't heard yet? Sigunov was found this morning. On the river bank.
Claude: Fedya? That's not true! You're lying.
Pencic: Foster found him.
Pencic comes to Foster. Hands some pieces of wood to him.
Foster (to Claude): Such a merry sight. A grandfather took his grandson and his French puddle out for a morning walk. Alongside the Danube. The puddle runs around, the boy is after her. The puddle stops. Starts barking. The boy comes. Sees. Fiodor Ivanovich. Such a merry sight. (Beat.) My wife told you she was with me. Saw it first. (Pause.) Don't believe her. Claire, sometimes, imagines things… which didn't happen. You understand me? She was sleeping. Wasn't with me. She couldn't see.
Pencic: Do you go fishing?
Foster: Sometimes.
Pencic: When it becomes warm, you might join me. The waters of Danube are exciting, rich in catch. One never knows what one might fish in: carp, perch, bream or… Claude's assistant.
Foster and Pencic giggle.
Claude: It's not funny. Do you hear me? It's not funny! (The giggling continues.) What are you working at? What are you making? Who's this person on the drawing?
All of a sudden, everything freezes. And everyone. But Claude. Missaud appears. Claude comes towards him. Stops. Until the end of the scene, the lights go dim. On everything. But Claude.
Missaud: They're getting ready. For the overthrow.
Claude: What overthrow?
Missaud: Revolutionary one.
Claude: Against whom?
Missaud: Against you.
Claude laughs.
Missaud: You don't believe me. (Beat.) Those features on the drawing… Don't you recognize them?
Silence.
Missaud: Although, it depends on means.

Scene Six

Claude and Claire are fencing.

Claire (smiles): You're a fascist?
Claude: Is it a verdict?
Claire: Pure curiosity.
Claude: Why do you think that?
Claire: You're working for Vichy.
Claude: I'm working for France.
Claire: Touché. Fascist - patriot.
Claude: All fascists are patriots.
Claire: That's what they say.
Claude: And think. I'm not an adherent of totalitarian ideologies. You're holding the guard too low. How long are you going to stay in Belgrade?
Claire: It depends. On Richard and his duties.
Claude: Are there many? Duties.
Claire: Not too long. I hope.
Claude: I see. People are plain, uncultured, barbaric a bit. But amusing. If you're staying. For a while. How long did you say? A couple of weeks?
Claire: Parer prime.
Claude: Do not have any dresses made. I've changed the third tailor. Touché quarte.
Claire: A sudden change. From Egypt - to Yugoslavia. And where to - afterwards?
Claude: You're opening up. Over-much. Point the end at me.
Claire: You're not coming back to your homeland? The press reports and the stories spreading are quite… queer, you might say. For a common spectator it's hard to believe that things like these happen. In France. Coup fourre?
Claude: What does English press write?
Claire: New order. Political parties forbidden, judicature lost its independence. L'attaque de droite. Chief of the state nominates and suspends state officials the way he wants. Feinte d'attaque. Prefects imprison the ones under suspicion of endangering safety of the state. People being sentenced on expressing their opposite opinion. A heretic one. The Inquisition. Attaque directe. Pause?
Claude: En garde.
Claire: And the company you're working for - Compagnie generale de
Claude: - de telegraphie sans fil -
Claire: - after the break of the Third Republic, I suppose, vis inertiae, kept on collaborating with the occupational government. Fascistic one, but - French. And all for welfare of the nation.
Claude (laughs): Mrs. Foster, your sense for humanity is touching. But Vichy regime still differs from nationalsocialism.
Claire: True. Peten hasn't got military power.
Claude: Fausse-attaque. Got you.
Claire: Have you been fencing in Egypt?
Claude: You've been in Africa?
Claire: No.
Claude: But in Russia… Your hair-pin.
Claire takes the hair-pin out of her hair.
Claire: So you know. A Russian mythology bird. It's a gift. On bazaar, in Istanbul, from an old lady selling mottled silken scarves. Think she was Russian. (Beat.) Look. As a harpy. Of a male visage. (Beat.) It looks like you a bit. The tall forehead. The same marked cheekbones. But eyes. (She draws closer to Claude, glances with her fingers over Claude's face.) No, your eyes are minute. Like fox's. (Beat.) Have you ever gone fox-hunting? As a little girl, on my uncle's land, I used to go hunting. With hound-dogs. My uncle would seat me on a horse, ahead of him. What a rejoice! Chasing poor animals ravingly. Till the exhaustion.
Claude: Their… or yours? Riposte.
Claire: This bird does resemble you. By the shape of her head. As well.
Claude: You can make some sketches. If you want to.
Claire: How did you know I make drawings?
Claude: You told me.
Claire: I didn't. I'm almost sure I didn't. Anyway. Would you let me?
Claude: Now?
Claire: No, not now.
Claude stops. Puts his foil down.
Claire: Mr. Claude, I deserve compliments.
Claude: I admit. But your inner side is not covered up. You open up easily. For a stroke.

Scene Seven

Pencic and Mihailo meet at a hidden place.

Mihailo: I think that's all.
Pencic: Think or know? (Pause.) You cannot know, Mr. Lukin, hence he didn't even let you come close. How many times have I told you: sneak up to people from the back. Silently. As a cat. When cautious is insensible, surprises are quick and effective.
Mihailo: I'm not a policeman.
Pencic: Obviously: you compensate the lack of professionalism with a patriotic ardent. It's already a notorious fact that Foster employed him as a master of fencing. Anything else?
Mihailo: During the last week, Mrs. Drazic came to the training twice. The second time she brought a little chocolate rabbit wrapped up in red tinfoil. They arranged meeting, at her place, when Mr. Drazic went to the country.
'About those confidential affairs' - That's what she said. Exactly. At Mrs. Radotic's place -
Pencic: He was there last Wednesday, from six till seven p.m. I know. Anything else?
Mihailo: Mr. Pencic, do not consider me to be ingratitude, but... The living expenses are increasing.
Pencic: Mr. Lukin, your devotion to the homeland is much too dear. Already.
Mihailo: Patriotic duty's, undoubtedly, a priority. But the incomes of a law senior are more than miserable.
Pencic: Your incomes are only to be envied by your colleagues with twenty years of experience. How much?
Mihailo's whispered request is accompanied by Pencic's sigh.
Pencic: Settled. (Cheerfully.) Imagine what happened just the other day. One of my agents was stubbornly convincing me that last Friday, when we met, I actually was with Claude. Personally. It took me half an hour to reassure him it was you.
Mihailo (in sour voice): Really don't know how we could be mistaken.
Pencic: Neither do I. He claims you have Claude's figure, clothes, hairstyle. Told him it was a pure coincidence. What a funny joke.
Mihailo: Extremely.
Beat.
Pencic: A gentleman with a soft hat… you haven't seen him?
Mihailo: No… not lately. Since that night.
Pencic: The night you haven't heard what they were talking about. Oh. Pardon me. The night you didn't even notice him.
Mihailo: Who is he?
Pencic: A Frenchman. Alleged. We're checking out on him.
Pencic takes the amount of paper bags out of his pocket, gives it to Mihailo.
Mihailo: Thank you.
Pencic: We'll be in touch. (Cheerfully.) Take a good care. Imagine, we get an order to arrest Claude. And my men mistake you for him. Again. By chance. (Laughs.) What a funny joke.

Scene Eight

Claude and Pencic among musical boxes. Paying a visit to Richard Foster. Relaxed conversation lasts for a while.

Foster: This one is Nicole Freres, 1853. The boxes from the Brothers Nicole Manufacture are highly estimated. They're certainly among the most meticulous and refined handwork in the nineteenth century. Not manufactured any more.
Foster opens a music box.
Claude: Aren't you afraid they might get damaged? Considering your frequent removals.
Foster: I startle every and each time the train abruptly stops or the carrier lifts the luggage carelessly. I'm nervous, unbearable throughout the journey. My wife knows. But one can learn to live at risk. On account of passion.
Pencic: Just like fishing. There's always a risk. Not to catch.
Claude: I thought the greatest pleasure for a hunter is - playing with fish.
Intense expectation. Lurking. Everything else - a matter of luck. And chance.
Pencic: If you predestine place, time of the day, hour, with mathematical preciseness and take for account certain number of unpredictable circumstances, as, for instance, sudden change of weather, luck factor becomes miniscule. But one should know… which fish to catch. Get to know his habits, where spawn, when feed. And the most essential - what bait to use. Mr. Foster, do you go fishing?
Foster: Sometimes.
Pencic: When it warms up, you may join me. The waters of Danube are -
Claude (as if reciting text learnt by heart): - exciting, rich in catch. One never knows what might fish in: carp, perch, bream or -
Claude stops, struck by what he has just said. Pencic is taken by surprise.
Pencic: Exactly.
Foster: By fishing I keep the lower parts of my personality content. I've always found it to be somewhat barbaric hobby. As well as hunting.
Pencic: For fishing, one should be idle. Like me. But your occupation surely doesn't leave you any spare time… (Beat.) And your firm is doing well? Expands?
Foster: My father considers opening a branch-office for the Balkans. That's why I'm here. To do some research on the market.
Pencic: There is an interest? In these times?
Foster: There's always some passionate collector.
Pencic: You must be a remarkably brave man, Mr. Foster. Travelling abroad, nowadays, is more than hazardous.
Foster: Yugoslavia is safe.
Pencic: For the time being, yes. (Beat.) Over the last month I've been reading in papers about the great successes of English army down in the North Africa. That Mavel, Pavel -
Foster: Vavel. General Archibald Vavel.
Pencic: One victory after another. But - how long?
Foster: You're doubting the superiority of British forces over the Italian ones?
Pencic: Armed forces. But if Vavel get an order to send the squadrons over to the Albanian front, to help the Greeks, it might stop his invasion. (Beat.) But. There are some other solutions. For the south of the Balkans. For instance, Yugoslavia might go to war on the allied side, take the Italians and Albania in rear and open a new front. It might change the course of war. (Beat.) I guess Churchill would agree to?
Foster: If you say so. I consider going or not going to war to be an interior question of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. (Glances at his watch.) Mr. Claude, I think it's time to give a lesson to Claire. I'm truly grateful to you. Without fencing she'd be desperately bored.
Claude: Mrs. Foster is a very good pupil.
Foster: Mr. Pencic, you will excuse me.
Pencic: Of course, of course. Pardon me once again for coming without sending a word. Didn't know you already had a visitor.
Claude: It was a pleasure. To learn something about fishing.
Blackout.
Claude, on the opposite part of the stage, meets Claire, sitting, plunged in her thoughts. She's holding a foil.
Claude: En garde. (Claire doesn't move.) You're not in the mood for fight today? Alright. We'll discuss the position of general Vavel's troops. You think Germans would send their reinforcements over to the Italians?
Pause.
Claude: Obviously not.
Claire: Mr. Claude, do you have dreams? Night dreams.
Claude slightly recoils. Attentively examines Claire's face.
Claude: Why do you ask?
Claire: So - you do have dreams. Bad ones?
Claude: Hardly ever.
Claire: Two nights. In turn. Walking through a park. Through a hedge. Little branches are sharp, I'm touching them. All of a sudden a keen pain, a long thin scratch on the forefinger. No blood. Just want to get out turning to the park-gate but one more curve, one more... Panting. Another turn and I see a brown-hair boy with a birthmark below his lower lip. He's laughing, pointing the direction which I follow, but at the end - a dead-end and the boy. Squealingly laughing, pointing with his hand. I wander how he could get there before me and I turn. To the new corridor and at the bottom the boy's waiting again - I see the gate and I realise he cannot be the only one. I start running, headlong, toppling little brown figures with a birthmark below the lower lip and the hedge walls are slowly coming closer, branches becoming longer and longer scratching me all over the face. The air is hot. It enters into my nostrils throbbing through my wide opened mouth. I swallow it. Like a fish. Cannot hear a squealing laughing any longer, I stride and I don't move. The hedge is getting closer and closer to me, I cannot breathe. One more stride one more breath. A plain. A stone dike coming up to. I'm falling all the way down for three or four seconds. I breathe sharp, cold air of the cave. Of frozen vault and frozen walls. I come closer to me. Multiplied. Hundreds of thousands of me. Everybody's looking at me. Laughing. I'm laughing at them. Then I get serious and ask myself which is the real one, and they all get serious. Wondering. And I realise that I'm the reflection of one and only Claire. But which is the real one?
A silence. Claire lifts up her head to gaze at Claude. He kisses her.
Claude: You have to go back. To find out which one I kissed.
Claire: To the cave… there must be only one. Entry. (Silence.) Is there … only one?

Scene Nine

Sofia is siting on the sofa, flicking through a journal. Ozren's walking up and down.

Sofia (not looking at Ozren): Good Lord, Ozren, what will one do in Zajecar?
Ozren: See one's mother.
Sofia: One has seen one's mother. This winter.
Ozren: Once again. And one's aunt and brothers and sisters in law. See them all.
Sofia: And to rot in that…
Ozren: You won't rot. For two or three months. Why rot?
Sofia: Two or three months? In the midst of the ball season in the French club?
Ozren: Just think: sleeping over in your childhood home. In the morning, around four or five, a rooster rouses you up, you open the window and fill your lungs with fresh country air. What a pleasure! Then you set about housework, helping your mother - you know: sweep up the yard, feed up the chickens, clean up the pigsty. It's a hard work, I know, it takes time, but then again, it makes you feel so good. So good!
Sofia: Have I told you the next ball is the masked one? Just like the last March, remember? Oh! I forgot: you weren't there. Ozren, the ball is within… twenty three days. And I still don't have the slightest idea what costume to wear.
Ozren: And throughout the day - there's always something to do: in the house, around the house, cook the meal, knead a bread. And when you're all done, you can just sit down and spin some wool, out of pure pleasure.
Sofia: I was madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette… Remember? At the last ball… Marie Antoinette… Everyone complimented on me. Each and every flounce was perfectly sewn. Mr. Mijuskovic had noticed. He's a historian, you know. He knows about those things.
Ozren: And in the evening you set about milking a cow: you draw that udder, pull those little teats, whilst milk leaks down your arm. Such a joy! And then you meet the abundance right on your dinner table: eggs, pork, beans, onion, poultry, cheese, peas - everything to your heart's content. Even more delicious, knowing you've grown it with your own bare hands.
Sofia: Only the crinoline was really tight. Especially while dancing the minuet. But Mr. Petrovic, the dance teacher, you know, said I was tres charmant.
Ozren: And afterwards, if you feel like having some fun, you can join your sisters-in-low for a village gathering. Sit a while.
Sofia: And for this ball - perhaps - Jean d'Arc. What do you think? A woman-warrior. But then… she was riding a horse. And wore no dress. Imagine that.
Ozren: That's a great delight. True excitement!
Sofia: What? Riding a horse or wearing no dress?
Ozren doesn't get it.
Sofia: Next month I'm going to take a new course of French.
Silence.
Ozren: So. You're not going to Zajecar?
Sofia: And the fencing lessons. Mr. Claude said I'm praiseworthy. Improved my skills just fine.
Pause.
Ozren (in changed, threatening voice): Sofia, people talk…
Sofia: What? That one could get one's eye twitched out by foil? Don't be ridiculous. I always wear a mask.
Ozren stumbles over a bunch of journals.
Ozren: I'm warning you. I will tolerate it no longer.
Sofia (pointing at the journals): Why don't you just put them away? (Beat.) You said you'd be going out? At six?
Ozren glares at Sofia in fury. Helplessly.
Ozren: Your train is on Wednesday. At half past ten.
Sofia: Wednesday? Almost forgot. Wednesday evening. Poetry. In the French club. Love poetry.
Ozren leaves without a word. Sofia drops to the sofa. Claude enters. All of a sudden, Sofia is in his arms.
Sofia: Rene!
Claude: It's freezing. Me, standing across the street. Down the roof - an icicle. Drop by drop, down my neck. Thought he'd never leave. He ran out of the house as if chased by Furies. (Beat.) Angel, but you're upset. You've been crying? What happened?
Sofia: He's disgusting, unbearable. He wants me to go to Zajecar. For three months. To milk cows.
Pause.
Claude: Doubts?
Sofia: Knows.
Claude: How much?
Sofia: Enough. Rene, I'm afraid. He's violent. Impulsive.
Claude is earnest, disturbed by what he has just heard. At least seems to be.
Claude: A beast. If he - I'll kill him, Sofia.
Sofia: Rene, let's go to Paris.
Claude: Angel, Paris is occupied. (Beat.) It lasts. For a week?
Sofia: First time. Today. Outspoken.
Claude: I mean, those frequent outgoings.
Sofia: It lasts for a while. But how could you know? You haven't been here for five days.
Claude takes out his yo-yo. Pulls it up and down.
Claude: Francoise had a sore throath. Had to take her to the vet.
Sofia: And to give private lessons.
Claude: Moreover.
Sofia: Recently he's been mysterious. Remains silent on my questions. Or starts talking about tormented, agonized mother Serbia. Just like that. No cause. Even the confidential records doesn't bring home. No more.
Claude: You know nothing?
Sofia: You're only interested in - (In raised voice.) Nothing. Since the purchasing of "hurricanes", providing the Greeks with weapons - That was the last one, was it?
Claude: Sofia, there are servants in the house.
Sofia: So what?! (Beat.) Rene, I'm afraid. What if he… and you - not coming, busy with your lessons or - what if I… weak-minded… give in?
Confess it all. Entirely. Who knows what Ozren could do - Kill. Me. You. If I... confess.
Silence. Claude draws Sofia close to him. Kisses her.
Claude: Forgive me, angel.
Sofia: When we go to Paris, you'll take me to Boies de Boulogne, Champs Elysees, everywhere. (Beat.) To Africa. We'll go to Egypt?
Claude backs away.
Claude: I have to go. Francoise. Take her for the check-up.
Sofia: Tomorrow? You'll come tomorrow.
Claude: To chase away your fears? If I could.
Sofia: Just… take your time. Private lessons can be -
Claude: Exausting. As you know.
Pause.
Sofia: And me?
Claude: You'll start again next month. If you don't go to Zajecar.
Pause.
Sofia (in desperate voice): Francoise… is having an allergy?
Claude: No. Why?
Sofia: People say that… the French puddles are allergic. To Englishmen.

Scene Ten

Claire hands a bundle of papers over to Claude.

Claire: It's all here: calculations on amount of copper, lead, zinc, hemp Yugoslavia had delivered to the Germans. In return for 'heinekels', 'messerscmidsts', anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. (Beat.) All that's Richard interested in.
Claude: Have you ever seen a desert? (Beat.) In the sunset, when heat diminishes, before darkness ovecomes. Sitting on the top of dune. Glaring at wind shifting sand from one slope to another. And listening. To silence. Deaf. Dead. There is no such entire silence. Immense stilness. Wholeness. (Pause.) After a period of time… hours, years, you'll hear. The sand husking. Indefinite. The way you are, sitting there. On the top of the dune. (Pause.) One day, if you wish…
Blackout.
The other part of the stage. Claude and Missaud.
Missaud: You believe her?
Claude: Shouldn't I?
Pause.
Missaud: You remember that compromising affair in the Second Bureau, just before the break of the Third Republic?
Claude: There were many. Compromising.
Missaud: The one with a constructor. Serbian constructor. Who presented to the Second Bureau an original project on simplified usage of field kitchens. He got all the resources and space he needed for building up an experimental kitchen. Near the arsenal. And the next couple of weeks the constructor was examining the latest machine-guns and other weapons. Making the sketches he was sending via Brussels to Berlin. You know how he got caught? His wife denounced him. The wife he walked out on. (Beat.) And the kitchens were found out not to be genuine. The Germans have been using them since the World war. (Beat.) Claude, the Second Bureau and De Gaulle supporters in England need your contacts with Vichy. Take care. Field kitchens are easy. To be deconstructed.

Scene Eleven

Claude's dream. Claude is standing at the same spot he stopped in the last dream. Sets forth through a fictive labyrinth: turns, stops, goes back. Abruptly, the lights come up on Sigunov, standing in front of Claude, plunged in bunch of papers. He wears blue gloves.

Sigunov: And the field cooks even more so.
Sigunov giggles.
Claude: You're not - I've been told you were strangled. Thrown in the Danube.
Sigunov (in confidential voice): Rene, do not believe it. Everyone's - double, secret. It is written. (Reads.) Aleksa Pencic - the owner of silken scarves store. Helps every customer to try the scarf on. Personally. Around the neck, tightens. Not loosening, until… The scarf generously gives away, to the customer. As a presesent. Sofia Radotic. Receives her lovers in a bed. The coffin - bed. In the love rapture she leaves them. Breathless. By slamming the coffin. Buries them alive. Alya Dubrova… boring. Ozren Radotic. Secret, confidential meetings with highly important persons. Given detailed instructions. How to murder. Himself. Did it lot of times: threw himself under the train, jumped into river, swallowed arsenic, blew his head off. Never failed. Richard Foster. Mixing poison out of hemlock fruit. Sneaking into homes. Pouring the poison in the bottles of tea, vine, blueberry juice. Arkadiye Semionovich… boring. Claire Foster. A Spanish comb in her hair. An odd creature. Not from this world.
Claude: Not Claire. Everyone else, but her -
Sigunov: When shown - the creature spits. Enchants. You don't even notice. You're no longer for this world. Dying. Charmingly. Slowly.
Claude: It's not true. You're lying, Fedya.
Sigunov (keeps on reading): Mihailo Lukin. Throwing live tarantulas into people's collars. Unimaginative. Varvara Konovnicina… doesn't matter. Any longer. Poor thing.
Claude: Why… why it doesn't matter?
Sigunov: Haven't you heard? Last evening - she called her sister to come over for borsch. Lydia Konovnicina stayed till ten. Says - Varya was laughing. Singing 'Kak poidu'. Laughed again. When Lydochka left - strychnine. Into - borsch. People say - killed herself. But - I know. (Beat.) Missaud. (Beat. Sigunov is upset.) Missaud - Rene, begone! Quick, right away! He -
Sigunov starts gurgling as if choking. Blackout. A sound of human body falling over.
Claude: Fedya!
Lights rise again, revealing Claude on his knees, amidst scattered papers. Sigunov has vanished. Claude picks up the papers. Missaud appears. He wears blue gloves. Claude starts towards him.
Claude: Where's Fedya? What have you done? You - He was talking about the people I know. Then - you. Where is he?
Missaud: He was talking about - doppelgangers. They will take place. Of the people you know. Just waiting… the right moment. For action. The overthrow.
Claude: You're boring!
Missaud (laughs): You still don't believe? Some are already - here. Around you. Hiding. Patiently. Lurking. (Pause.) Can't you feel it?
Claude: You're talking rubbish.
Missaud: Am I? (Beat.) Set off straight ahead, take left, then right then right again then -
Missaud laughs. Disappears in the dark. Claude sets off the way he's been told. Before the end of his route, in front of him, lights come up on Varvara Konovnicina, lying on the floor. Motionless. She wears blue gloves. Claude stares at her. Crouches. Varvara Konovnicina erects abruptly.
Varvara Konovnicina: Rene, have you noticed? On the photographs? Have you?
Claude: What, Varya?
Varvara Konovnicina: That I'm dead? Dead, dead, dead!
Varvara Konovnicina laughs hysterically. Claude backs off.
Varvara Konovnicina: Or was it someone else -
Claude: Varya, what Missaud said… about doppelganger… It's not true… (Beat.) Is it?
Varvara Konovnicina: - someone hiding. Patiently. Pause. Lurking.

Scene Twelve

Telegraph Department. Varvara Konovnicina and Aleksa Pencic, at the table.

Pencic: Think about it, Varvara Konovnicina. I'm not asking much. Gain would be mutual.
Varvara Konovnicina: You're holding me up.
Pencic: You should work, and I'm… pestering. What a nuisance I am. (Beat.) It's nice around here. How many are you? Nine? Ten? Like a big family, where everyone knows what to do - who gets groceries, who cooks, who cleans up… who copies telegrams… And everything is shared: duties, little joys, (Laughs.) big secrets. What a bliss! (Beat.) You don't mind? Sharing. Just everything.
Varvara Konovnicina: As you said - such a nice thing. Blissful.
Pencic: Wouldn't you like at least something just for yourself? At least - Imagine, Varvara Konovnicina - just… yours? (Pause.) Perhaps… I could help.
Varvara Konovnicina gazes at Pencic, as having second thoughts. Deflects her gaze.
Varvara Konovnicina: Mr. Pencic, I've got work to do.
Pause.
Pencic: You've got photos. As well. People say. Miscellaneous. Intriguing.
Why are you being so selfish? Why don't you share your precious possession with others? Many of them are dying to take a glance. Be humane, Varvara Konovnicina.
Varvara Konovnicina: Gladly, Mr. Pencic. What a funny sights! Me - fell over the sledge. Plunged my head into snow, as an ostrich. Wriggling with my legs up in the air, and my nanny - shaking, roaring with laughter. I was six. Than, Lydochka - my sister - and I, at the table. Lydochka sits, cannot even stir. I hold her tight, not letting go, shoving the bublitchki into her mouth. I'm laughing while Lydochka choking. I was… eight. Such a lovely child!
Pencic: Indeed.
Varvara Konovnicina: I'll bring you those photographs. Drop by, Mr. Pencic.
Pencic: Those… sights… are from that Russia?
Varvara Konovnicina: Mostly.
Pencic: And you don't feel like coming back to this Russia... I understand. (Sigh.) All the things have changed, nothing has remained the same. (Beat.) You haven't got Yugoslav citizenship? Yet? (Varvara Konovnicina is silent.) Oh, oh. How could that be? (Beat.) It could be rather… inconvenient, Varvara Konovnicina.
Varvara Konovnicina: You can find your way to the door.
Pencic: Think it over, Varvara Konovnicina, think it over.
Pencic starts towards the door. Alya Dubrova and Arkadiye Semyonovich enter. Pencic passes by them, politely lifts his hat up.
Varvara Konovnicina: Finally.
Karyagin: What did he want?
Varvara Konovnicina waves back.
Alya Dubrova: Rene hasn't come yet? Again?
Karyagin: He's so - odd. Absent-minded. Burst out in anger for no reason. (In low voice.) Heard him talking to Fedya. Dreaming… fantastic dreams. Horrifying. (Beat.) Since she came, I believe. Maybe she enchanted. Bewitched him.
Alya Dubrova: I said. Gamaion. Won't be good.
Varvara Konovnicina: About Irina Petrovna - Doesn't even think.
Alya Dubrova: It's been three weeks since -
Karyagin: Concealing. From us. Won't tell. (In low voice.) What if - what if he works for - the Soviets!
All three try not to betray their anxiety.
Varvara Konovnicina: Arkadiye Semyonovich, you should be ashamed.
Claude and Sigunov enter.
Claude: To be ashamed of what?
Alya Dubrova: Who pays attention to Arkadiye Semyonovich's day-dreaming?
Varvara Konovnicina: This morning Marfa Yegorovna has delivered this copy of confindential report. General Staff Department at the Ministry of Army. It's about you, Rene. They filed a complaint on using this radio-telegraph, demanding from the authorities to maintain the secrecy of telegram manipulation. Listen to this: 'The secrecy of the General Staff Intelligence Department's code messages and telegrams is excluded by this system of managing. Although the means of telegram manipulation are decided in the contract, Rene Claude (the agent of the French firm T.S.F. in Belgrade) holds under control the whole managing through his associates and he organized making copies of telegrams. As far as his personnel is concerned, it is of an utmost interest to indicate that those highly uncertain elements - that's us - Rene, are you following me?
Claude (absent-minded): Yes.
Pause.
Varvara Konovnicina: I'll leave the report on your desk.
Karyagin: About Irina Petrovna… no news? I've been thinking - perhaps a grocer. Injecting the small doses of arsenic. Every morning. Into Irina Petrovna's groceries.
Claude: ENOUGH OF IRINA PETROVNA!
Silence. Everybody's looking at Claude, astonished.
Sigunov: Claude, the report is done.
Claude: I'd ask you to…
Alya Dubrova: Arkadiye Semyonovich, we should enter the telegrams into the protocol.
Varvara Konovnicina: Think I'll go earlier today, to see Lydochka. I'm so glad. First - skating in Simina Street, then hot borsch, at my place.
Claude comes to Varvara Konovnicina. Shakes her.
Claude: YOU CANNOT! I WON'T LET YOU! YOU HEAR ME? NOT TONIGHT!
Everyone is appalled. Claude pulls himself together.
Claude (in low voice): We'll go for a walk, to the theatre, wherever. Just - not Lydochka. Not tonight.
Varvara Konovnicina: We'll talk… later.
Varvara Konovnicina leaves. Karyagin comes to Claude.
Alya Dubrova: Dear Arkadiye Semyonovich, shall we go?
Karyagin: I'm coming, I'm coming. (In low voice.) Last night I was standing in the darkness. Looking at your windows, while my cheeks were becoming frosty. The light was off, the shutters were down. You weren't home, Rene. Or you wanted the others to think so.
Alya Dubrova: My sweet Arkadiye Semyonovich, you know I can't handle the protocol all by myself.
Claude (impatiently): Go, Arkadiye Semyonovich.
Karyagin: Bewitched. Won't be good, Rene.
The Karyagins leave. Sigunov intently observes Claude for a while. Claude diverts his gaze from Sigunov.
Sigunov: Ozren Radotic meets Richard Foster. In secret. Mostly in the house owned by certain… Mitar Popovic, 45 King Alexandar Street. Usually at quarter past six p.m. Twice in the Aircraft Cheef Comand in Zemun as well. (Hands a folder over to Claude.) It's all written down: names, dates, places. Except - the most important - the purpose of those meetings. I'm doing my best.
Claude: Fedya, do you have blue gloves?
Sigunov: No.
Claude: Are you sure?
Sigunov: Yes.
Pause.
Claude: Varvara Konovnicina laughed. And laughed. Dead.
Sigunov: And doppelganger?
Claude: All around me. Hidden.
Pause.
Sigunov: Rene, are you sure? Was it really - a dream?

Scene Thirteen

Aleksa Pencic in Sofia Radotic's salon. Glances at his watch.

Pencic: I should be going. I apologise for disturbing you.
Sofia: I'm so sorry you had to wait.
Pencic: Mrs. Radotic, a pleasent company makes any waiting a short one. (Laughs.) Such a bad luck, these days. Yesterday I went to the Belgrade Post to see Mr. Claude. Waited for him several hours. He didn't show up. Imagine that.
Sofia: I'm sure Ozren will be here any minute. Must you go?
Pencic: Urgently. Once again, compliments on the Friday's party. It was so… lively, as always. Speaking of Mr. Claude, can't remember seeing him.
Sofia: Mr. Claude's visits have been quite seldom. Recently.
Pencic: I see him hardly ever, as well. How strange… Although… of course, how could I forget? See how absent-minded I am. These days I've been dropping by at Fosters' place. Came across Mr. Claude. At their place. I think… yes, every time I've been there. If I understood correctly, he was giving private lessons to Mrs. Foster. Said she was extremely talented pupil.
Sofia: Was she?
Pencic: And you? Still fencing?
Sofia: I've made a pause.
Pencic: You have? What a pity. To neglect such a refined, noble sport. (Glances at his watch.) Oh my, oh my. Have a nice day, Mrs. Radotic.
Pencic leaves.

Scene Fourteen

Richard and Claire Foster. Several musical boxes play. Throughout the scene Claire shuts them down. Richard reopens them again.

Foster: He believed you?
Claire: Utterly.
Foster: You can be… persuasive. Fascist?
Claire: Opportunist, more like it.
Foster: He won't make any… troubles?
Claire: No. (Beat.) I don't know. I'm not sure.
Foster: You're always sure.
Claire is silent.
Foster: So, there might be some… inconveniences.
Claire shuts down the box vigorously.
Foster: It's the Symphonion. Be gentle.
Claire: I hate it.
Foster: I know. (Pause.) Anything else?
Claire: Nothing you should know.
Pause.
Foster: I see.
Claire: Everything alright?
Foster: The situation is developing according to the plans. For the time being. (Beat.) Claire, there won't be any sudden, unexpected moments? Caused by you?
Claire: You doubt?
Foster: Sorry. I forget. Your choice.
Claire is about to shut a box down.
Foster: Don't. Leave the ballet-girl. Spinning so lovely, gracefully. Look at her: each and every muscle is strained. Striving to keep the balance. Not to fall. And shivers. With an adorable smile.
Claire: You're talking about the doll. A lifeless object.
Foster: Exactly. A little ballet-girl. Spinning round on her tiptoes, trying to fool. Balancing. And she's nothing but a piece of porcelain. Just semblance. Of a real one.
Claire shuts the box down.

Scene Fifteen

Claude's dream. Claude roams throughout the 'labyrinth'. Lights up on
Sofia and Ozren, sitting with their backs turned to each other. In front of each there is a wooden cylinder, on which a long black cloth is wound up. Their movements are synchronized: Sofia turns the cylinder handle unrolling the cloth, while Ozren rolls it up on his cylinder. On finishing, they turn, so that the cloth is never wound off the cylinder. They both wear black gloves
.

Sofia: In fact, it's easy to break.
Ozren: Should we throw him off the tower? The Eiffel one?
Sofia: There will be a lot of blood. Pfui.
Claude: Who? This time - who?
Sofia (to Claude): Do you like my gloves? Made of the Venice lace? With a floral ornament?
Ozren: Arsenic?
Sofia: In small doses? Too slow.
Ozren: So, quick and short.
Sofia: Can you?
Ozren: I've been practising. On myself.
Claude: What kind of a cloth is that? Why are you winding it up?
Sofia: A shroud. Dead man shroud. Up to yo-yo.
Sofia giggles. Takes off the right glove and hands it to Ozren.
Sofia: Can you?
Ozren: Pencic showed me the secrets of the craftsmanship.
Ozren quickly wraps the glove around Claude's neck, tightens it. Claude struggles. Sofia watches the sight as if observing the exotic animals in zoo. Missaud appears, Ozren looses his grasp. He and Sofia freeze. Claude stifles. Missaud taps Ozren and Sofia.
Missaud: As if real ones. The top models are handmade. (Beat.) You're an infidel. You doubt. But they are thousands. Everywhere around you. And their number will increase.
Claude: Those are fabrications! Lies! (Beat.) And who is - around me? What for?
Missaud: Claude, you're surprising me. What for are the overthrows usually done? They're in fashion. Everyone does it. Just take a look around you.
On the both levels, human figures of all ages successively appear. Some of them stay for a while, the others just pass by.
Missaud: All professions are represented. One never knows what might be needed: riot, rebellion, revolution, internal conspiracy…
Claude: What's this? A Rudolf Hess's secret laboratory?
Missaud: Don't be offensive. The Nazis are dilettantes. Obscure. This is rejoice.
Missaud slightly pushes Ozren. He drops down. Missaud, laughing, takes the cylinder and hands it to Claude.
Missaud: Take it. Smash his head off. Have your revenge upon him. (Claude backs off.) You won't?
Missaud throws the cylinder and hits Ozren. Ozren gets up, dusts down his uniform.
Missaud: See? You can murder him as much as you want.
Ozren (hands the cylinder over to Claude): Here you are. Your yo-yo.
Claude: Why did you want to -
Ozren: Deciding on the right means can be so fatiguing. I was bored. I guess.
Missaud: Yes, tedious discussions can be exhausting. They always kill the enthusiasm.
Ozren (to Claude, in changed voice): Next time, I'll choose the weapons. All by myself.

Scene Sixteen

Sofia Radotic in her salon, anxiouly walks through the room. Comes to the door.

Sofia: Savka!
Savka (off): Yes, madam?
Sofia: My husband said he'd be back at six?
Savka (off): Yes, madam. In fifteen minutes.
Sofia looks through the window. Sits on the sofa. After short while Claude comes in.
Sofia: Rene, I'm going to kill myself.
Claude: Vitriol is on the second shelf, left.
Claude looks around.
Claude: Where are your gloves? Black ones, made of the Venice lace? Are they here? Both of them?
Sofia: I haven't got gloves made of the Venice lace.
Claude: Are you sure?
Sofia: Of course I'm sure.
Claude: Completely?
Sofia: Haven't seen you for days. (Claude takes out his yo-yo.) I'm suffering immensely. And you insist on - gloves. Rene, I'm serious.
Claude: Should I pass you the bottle?
Sofia wraps her arms around Claude's neck.
Claude: Why did you call me? What's so urgent?
Sofia: If there are hundreds, thousands of women - I don't care, just promise me I'll be seeing you each and every day. Promise me!
Ozren enters.
Sofia: Oh, Lord!
Claude puts the yo-yo back into his pocket. A light, ironic smile lights up his face. Ozren can hardly sustain his rage.
Ozren: Mr. Claude, the rumours have been spreading… for a while. I've been doing my best not to hear them, I kept on receiving you… but this… this is over-much. I have to demand a satisfaction.
Claude: I'm at your disposal.
Ozren: You should choose the arms, but I don't need your pity. I insist on dueling by sabres.
Claude. As you wish. This is your 'next time'.
Ozren: I'll send my second to settle all the details with yours.
Claude (not listening to Ozren): Use it. You've chosen your weapon. All by yourself.
Blackout.


PART TWO

Scene One

Claude's dream. Lights on Missaud and Claude. Missaud wears red gloves.

Missaud: Decadents. With useful ideas. The social hygiene, for instance. (Beat.) Ready? If you memorise the figures, we might reduce them.
Missaud whistles. Claude starts advancing through both levels, coming upon his acquantainces. In front of each of them there is a toilet-table with mirror, map and petty wooden human figures. All wear red gloves. At times, they replace and overturn the figures.
Foster washes himself.
Foster: The Eastern Europe - six million nine hundred thirty-six thousand.
Mihailo brushes his teeth.
Mihailo: The Near East - one million eight hundred forty-four thousand.
Sofia Radotic, putting the perfume.
Sofia: The Mediterranean area - four hundred sixty thousand.
Varvara Konovnicina polishes her nails.
Varvara Konovnicina: Indonesia - seven hundred twenty-five thousand.
Ozren Radotic washes his hands - his gloves, in fact.
Ozren: The Balkans - four million nine hundred eighty-two thousand.
Claire combs her hair.
Claire: The North Africa - one million two hundred eighty-seven thousand.
Sigunov shaves himself.
Sigunov: The Central Europe - five million eight hundred seventy-nine thousand.
Pencic cuts his moustache.
Pencic: The South America - eight million three hundred fifty-one thousand.
Arkadiye Semyonovich washes Alya Dubrova's hair.
Alya Dubrova: SSSR - eleven million.
Karyagin: That much?
Alya Dubrova: Not enough? Thirteen million five hundred thousand.
Claude strides round once again, from one to another. All of them are obsessively cleaning themselves. Their movements turn more and more rapid. Simultaneously, their utterances mix, intertwine, become indistinct. Claude starts running, completely lost. Everything turns to a whirl of opaque screams and cries. A sharp whistle sound, all of a sudden interrupts the total havoc. The scene immerses into darkness. Claude is broken.
Claude (in low voice): What are they talking about? The war?
Missaud: There are more subtle means. But the pattern is good: small flames bursting into conflagration. You'll see for yourself. In a short time. (Beat.) Guess a number.
Claude: Forty-three million nine hundred sixty-four thousand.
Missaud: Only? So much wood lost?
Claude: I guessed?
Missaud: You overlooked a trifle. What part of the body are you going to clean?

Scene Two

The duel between Claude and Ozren. Karyagin and First Gentleman, as seconds, stand on one side. Claude manages to disarm Ozren who slips and falls to the ground. The end of Claude's sabre is pointed at Ozren's chest.

Ozren: You've got all the rights.
Claude: One stroke will prevent you from murdering the half of the Balkans. How long have you been with them? Answer me! How long? Do you plot the overthrow? Or you've taken your place a long time ago?
Ozren is shocked.
Ozren: I don't… I don't know what you are talking about…
Claude: One stroke…
Karyagin and the First Gentleman are at Claude.
Karyagin: Rene, back off!
Claude (to Ozren): You think you could? Just like that? I won't let you! Do you hear me?
Claude backs away, then as if recalls, he walks up to Ozren again.
Claude: Just to check out. (Cuts Ozren's arm a bit.) If you're real.
Blackout.
On the other part of the stage, Claude meets Sigunov.
Sigunov: Richard Foster - agent of the Special Operations Executive. Arrived to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in order to organize a putsch if Yugoslavia joins the Axis Powers. His connection with the leading plotters is Ozren Radotic, an aircraft mayor. All of the plotters are the aircraft officers. Won't be good, Claude.
Claude: That's all? You know nothing more? What lies beneath the surface?
Sigunov (bewildered): That's all.
Pause.
Claude: How can I tell you talk the truth? That you're not with them?
Sigunov: You're not serious.
Claude: I am.
Pause.
Sigunov (shrugs): As you wish. (He's about to leave.) Last Thursday, Richard Foster didn't visit the house in 45 King Alexandar Street. (Pause.) Ozren Radotic met his wife.
Claude: That wasn't her. You didn't see well! You hear me? That wasn't Claire!
Sigunov: She came in holding a briefcase, and left the house empty-handed. Thought you might be interested.
Blackout.
The other part of the scene. Claude and Missaud.
Missaud: You should have contacted me. Two days ago.
Claude: I was indisposed.
Silence.
Missaud: I warned you.
Claude: It happens.
Missaud: But not to you. What if Foster was a German spy?
Claude: How could you know he wasn't? Try to understand, it doesn't matter who he is working for, when beneath all -
Missaud: No more about plots! You'll let him go and organize the putsch. You won't be on his way. That's what the allies want. (Claude is about to contradict.) Do not! (Beat.) That's the Second Bureau order.
Claude: Enough the Second Bureau and Saint Germain Boulevard fairytales! And the way Service is operating in England! The intelligence service disbanded short after the capitulation. De Gaulle is supported by a few people in France. Who are you working for? The Soviets? A new front on the Balkans would accord with their plans. For the Germans?
Missaud: That's nonsense!
Claude: Or - you have already been - replaced… (Pause.) Don't expect from me to stand still, watching you. Bursting out the conflagration.
Blackout.
The other part of the scene. Claude and Claire.
Claire: Goes nowhere. He's calm. Listening to his boxes all day long. Eerie. As if he's surrounded by coffins. Listening to all of them. At once. I don't know how he can differentiate his Symphonions from Polyphones through that cacophony. But he can. Perfectly. Plays them on, embeds into his armchair. Hearkens. Waits. A sign, a call. (Beat.) Rene, let's flee away. Tomorrow, in three days, in a week.
Claude: Where to?
Claire: Switzerland, America, England. Wherever.
Claude: Impossible.
Claire: Far far away. Let's go. Today.
Pause.
Claude: Maybe you're right. Maybe we should set out. To the bottom of the ocean. But even there -
Claire: Rene, I've stopped dreaming. The little brown figures and squealing caves.
Silence.
Claude: I haven't.

Scene Three

Foster and Ozren.

Foster: He was determined?
Ozren: To stop us. (Beat.) If Yugoslavia joins the Axis Powers we, the plotters, are going to restore besmirched honour of the Serbian nation. It's our sacred duty! The name of Serbian people will set an example of brave, victorious fight against the oppressor, for our freedom and fatherland. The Serbs will never live in slavery! The whole world is going to see how we are willing to die for the ideals of honour and freedom!
Foster: Exactly.
Ozren: On executing the putsch, if the Axis Powers, in spite of our neutrality, declare the war upon us, we can rely on allies' help?
Foster: By all means.
Ozren: Generals Mirkovic and Simovic are feeling the same way. Patriarch Gavrilo as well. Our heroic guard will not be defeated by a… Frenchman, fascist, whose country is not only occupied, but also collaborating with the enemy.
Pause.
Foster: And what do you think, how did that Frenchman - fascist… find out about the plans?
Ozren abruptly calms down.
Ozren: Perhaps you know better. How he could find out.
Foster: I'm afraid that this possibility evens up. You and me.
Blackout.
Foster is on the other part of the stage. Faces Claire.
Claire: You know it wasn't me.
Foster: Do I?
Claire: You do. For the last time.
Silence.
Foster: Charm of decadency is lost? No challenge?
Claire is silent.
Foster: I thought you have been enjoying… the game.
Claire: I have. I want to leave. Us… to leave. I'll explain him all.
Foster: You will explain him nothing! Do I make myself clear? (Beat.) You may depart, if you want. To London. Without him. Wait for me. There.
Claire: It's over.
Silence.
Foster: You overlooked one little thing. You lied. And he knows. Or you think he'll ignore it?
Blackout.
The other part of the stage: Foster and Missaud.
Foster: I don't know what you are talking about.
Missaud: Mr. Foster, I'm not an enemy. We've got the common interests. I told you -
Foster: That you support De Gaulle. You're an ally. What else?
Missaud: Someone who finds this status quo highly undesirable. If you understand what I mean. (Beat.) I know you've got some… inconvenient vexations. (Beat.) I'll help you to get rid of them. If you give me carte blanche.
Pause.
Foster: And in return?
Missaud: You'll change. The status quo.

Scene Four

Claude's dream. Missaud and Claude. Missaud wears grey gloves.

Missaud: It's high time.
Pause.
Claude: What for?
Missaud: It's boring.
Claude: Is that really a reason?
Missaud: You know a better one? (Beat.) If you find her, you can take her away. If not - she stays here. Voluntarily.
Claire appears on the opposite side of the stage. She and Claude seek for each other throughout the 'labyrinth'. Call each other's names, pass by. Encounter, but not see. At the same time, on both levels, Claude meets people he knows. They set out to murder. Themselves or someone else. All wear grey gloves.
Mihailo aims a gun at his temple. Blackout. A shot is heard.
Pencic has wrapped a scarf around Varvara Konovnicina's neck. Tightens. Varvara Konovnicina struggles. Blackout.
Sigunov stands on the chair, with his head through a noose.
Claude: What for?
Sigunov: It's boring.
Blackout. A sound of chair falling on the ground is heard.
Arkadiye Semyonovich dragged a knife on Alya Dubrova. Blackout. A scream is heard.
Foster, out of his snuff-box, spills a white powder into a drink. Downs it. Blackout.
Ozren has pointed a gun at Sofia. Blackout. A shot is heard.
Claude: CLAIRE!
Claire stands by Missaud's side.
Claude: What for?
Claire: I want them to be like musical boxes. Start playing when you open them.
Claire and Missaud giggle.

Scene Five

Claude and Missaud.

Missaud: This morning, I've gone for a walk. Alongside the Danube. Imagine whom I've met - Mrs. Foster. Strolling over the Danube. Is she often so - alone? She should be told. Ice has started melting down. If she's careless, incautious, she might - Oh, don't listen to me. It's strange how all kinds of odds and ends glimpses through one's head. But… it doesn't take much to… If she's careless.
Claude grows pale.
Claude: Missaud, I'm warning you...
Missaud: You're not in a position to threaten, Claude. (Beat.) You'll slacken off. Withdrow. Stay alone. Away from all love affections. You need relaxation. You're tense. Your nerves are much too strained.
Claude: I won't do it.
Missaud: You'll think of an… explanation. An elegant one. Leaving no hint. Of hope. (Laughs.) Oh, I'm sorry. Forgot whom I'm giving an advice to. An aprentice to a master.
Claude (in low, harsh voice): I've never begged you.
Missaud: Well, don't. Gather all your strenghts. Devote to yourself. To your… memories. You've certainly got something to remember. (Pause.) Speaking of memories… Do you still keep Irina Petrovna's letter?

Scene Six

Pencic and Mihailo.

Pencic: Exactly those words? 'The overthrow is just a mask'?
Mihailo: He said he'd endeavor to stop it. With all his power. Then the gentleman in the mackintosh drew closer to Claude and started talking about morning walks alongside the Danube, and then …
Pencic: What?
Mihailo: Then janitor Fritz came over to me and said it was seven p.m. He had to lock the door because of Claude's order: no one should remain in the exercise-room after seven p.m.
Pencic: And you obeyed janitor Fritz. Well done. (More to himself.) The putsch, nevertheless. So, the information was true. (To Mihailo.) And Claude is against it?
Mihailo: Does it mean you're grateful to me? Extra grateful?
Pencic: That means I won't kill you. Out of gratitude.
Blackout.
The other part of the stage. Mihailo and Missaud.
Missaud: He doesn't consider you to be even to him. Contempts you. The same as that police agent. They cannot value your true abilities. (Beat.) Mr. Lukin, my gratitude will be double. If you report to me. If you, from time to time, betray to Pencic something that might not happen. And, most of all, if you put Claude in his place. (Beat.) You said - the affairs in the club are numerous?
Lukin: Lately - not. Otherwise, everyone keeps the eyes shut. (Beat.) But this time - he really went too far. He'd be surprised when he finds out. What he did.

Scene Seven

Sigunov, Varvara Konovnicina and Karyagin at Claude's place, drink champagne, laugh loudly. Slightly drunk, all of them.

Sigunov: In the Crimea cadet corps, just after we had arrived at Yugoslavia, we founded - the Suicide Club. Thirty of us. Coming to meetings. Regularly. Discussing the means. Deciding by gamble. It lasted for seven or eight months, until the five of us remained. Then we were denounced. By one of us. So I didn't get my turn. And I wanted to.
Varvara Konovnicina: Fiodor Mihailovich, you don't need company.
Sigunov: No use, Varvara Konovnicina. It's too late.
Claire enters. Sudden silence.
Claude (drunkenly): Mrs. Foster. What a surprise. Weren't you afraid to come here at night? All by yourself. Why haven't you asked someone to accompany you? Your husband, for instance.
Claude laughs.
Claire: Rene, I'd like to talk to you. Before I depart. To London.
Claude: Do not hesitate. We are all family. Even more so.
Claude comes to Varvara Konovnicina and kisses her. She pushes him away.
Claire (in a trembling voice): It won't take long.
Claude: Mrs. Foster, are those glycerin tears? Or you've got onion hidden in your sleeve? Come on, spill it out. Or better not. We trust you. Throughly.
Claire is about to cry.
Claude: You've forgotten. To say. Something important?
Claire starts towards the exit.
Claude (in low voice): Or you haven't.
Claire stops. Turns around as if she'd say something. She and Claude gaze at each other for a while. Claire leaves. Silence.
Karyagin: You're a monster.
Claude pours champagne into Karyagin's lap.
Claude: And you're disgusting. Fiodor Mihailovich, what did you say? By gamble? Here are some matches. Who's first?

Scene Eight

The Belgrade Fencing Club. Claude gives a lesson to a pupil. Mihailo and several couples practice.

Claude: Degagement. Riposte.
Out of the stage, unintelligible voices are heard. Male voice: 'Where is he'?
Mr. Fotiric enters running. He holds a piece of paper in his hand. He's right at Claude.
Fotiric: You bastard! She's fifteen! Fifteen!
Claude: Mr. Fotiric, what's all this about?
Fotiric: How dare you!? You don't know? (Pointing at the paper.) Everything is written here. You, personally, have been giving the lessons to Milena, thought her how to fence, but, in fact - Indecent proposals! How could you? Oh, my dear child!
Claude: Those are nothing but defamations. Your daughter will confirm.
Fotiric: Milena is in state of shock, just trembling and shaking, but I know. She's scared, afraid to speak. If you come near to my daughter, ever again, I'll kill you.
Claude (loosing his temper): Who told you that? Milena didn't, that's for sure. Because it has never happened! It's a disgusting lie!
Fotiric: Anonymous note, Mr. Claude! I'm so grateful to an honored, decent gentleman who can no longer stand watching this hotbed of vice and
lechery!
Claude starts towards Fotiric. Mihailo comes in-between.
Mihailo: Mr. Fotiric, it must be a misunderstanding.
Fotiric: You won't get away with this, Claude. I have connections. I'll shut the club down and have you arrested! You'll be exiled!
Pencic enters. Claude is calm again.
Claude: So soon? Are you arresting me?
Fotiric: Thank God!
Pencic: I have to ask everybody to leave the room. Except you, Mr. Claude.
Everyone leaves. After a short while, Pencic addresses Claude.
Pencic: We haven't got much time. Cvetkovic and Cincar-Markovic are going to Vienna tomorrow, to sign the Treaty. If the overthrow is bound to happen, it'll happen within the next few days. I know you're against it. You must have your own reasons, I suppose. (Pause.) I need your help.
Claude: You're an anti-fascist. Why, then?
Pencic: Mr. Claude, the Treaty is the only way to keep Yugoslavia out of war. At least for a while. Hitler obliged himself not to demand any military help from Yugoslavia, even the permission for German troops to cross our territory. Throwing down the Treaty would have started off immense bloodshed.
Silence.
Claude: What can I do?
Pencic: I've undertaken all the necessary steps, informed the authorities, but it seems no one understands real complexity of the situation. If the rumours that the army is included in the conspiracy are true, almost nothing can be done. (Beat.) I'll be needing your radio-telegraph. If the plotters don't manage to grab it before we do.
Claude: You can have it.
Pencic: Does this mean we're on the same side? You and me?

Scene Nine

Fosters' place. A few suitcases in the corner. Claire and Claude.

Claude: She lies on the desert sand. Covered by elder leaves. I take a leaf off her eyelid and off her ankle. Touching her eyelid and her ankle with my fingertips.
Claire: Did you kiss her?
Claude: I take a leaf off her navel. Grazing it with my lips. It is soft. Salty.
Claire: Did you kiss her?
Claude: Wind starts blowing. Leaves disappear. She disappears. Nothing underneath. But air. And desert sand. A delusion. (Beat.) Then I wake up.
Silence.
Claire: You should go.
Claire leaves.

Scene Ten

Claude's dream. Claude and Missaud, without gloves. Missaud holds a yo-yo in his hand.

Missaud: There is nothing else to be done. Everything is set. Within a few days, they'll take their places.
Claude: It's not going to happen! I'll prevent you!
Missaud: And how are you going to do that?
Claude: By disclosing you, reporting on you!
Missaud laughs.
Missaud: To one of us?
Claude: Who are 'us'? Communists, fascist, grocers, park-cleaners? Whose leader are you?
Missaud: Claude, I've told you: it doesn't matter how you name it. Everything's a part of it. It should start off from seemingly outskirted areas. Then spread out. Slowly. Constantly. Flame up the conflagration gradually. We may not rule over now, not even in fifty years. But in one hundred, two hundred. Soon. We shall be patient. And keep on moving. Forward, all the time.
Claude silences his ears.
Claude: I won't listen!
Missaud (laughs): I'm just a cog. Cog in a system.
For a moment, everyone else appears, placed on the both levels, like in the first dream.
Missaud: Your place is up, to the right.
Claude: My… what?
Missaud: I've been trying to tell you. All the time. You're one of us.
Claude is struck. Drops down.

Scene Eleven

The Telegraph Department. Sigunov, Karyagin, Varvara Konovnicina. They've been just awaken.

Alya Dubrova: This is over-much. Waking us up in the middle of the night.
Varvara Konovnicina: Said - it's urgent, come quickly. And where is he?
Karyagin: Tonight - my wall clock has fallen down. Overturned a glass of water, just when I was about to swallow two barbiturates. I knew it. Right away.
Sigunov: A bad sign.
Varvara Konovnicina: This has been going for weeks. I can't take it any longer.
Claude, Pencic and two police agents hastily enter the room. Russians are shocked.
Pencic: Your theories are quite genuine, but as far as I'm concerned, behind the scene can be Saint Peter himself. I don't care. The putsch is done and that's a fact.
Varvara Konovnicina: What's he doing here?
Sigunov: What happened?
Claude: Coup d'etat.
Karyagin: Who? Soviets? Communists? Why don't you speak?
Claude: Army.
Varvara Konovnicina: Just - army?
Alya Dubrova: That's why you have waken us for?
Pencic: Duke Paul is on his way to Slovenia. He hasn't heard yet.
Sigunov: Are you sure? It's not - Soviets? The whole day - my left eye. Twitching. Kazachok.
Pencic: Fortunately, generals Mirkovic and Simovic dont have many people around them. Not everything is lost. We should telegraph to Zagreb, Ljubljana. Whilst they don't take possesion of the Belgrade Post.
Claude: Varya, take Mr. Pencic over to the main radio-station.
Varvara Konovnicina: I will not. Until you tell us what's going on. What are you hiding from us?
Karyagin: For weeks!
Alya Dubrova: What happened to Irina Petrovna? Did you murder her?
Sigunov: Whom -
Alya Dubrova: - actually -
Karyagin: - are you working for?
Claude (in fury, helplessly): You fools! You know nothing! (To Pencic.) I'll take you.
Ozren, accompanied by four soldiers, bursts into the room. From the outside noise and stumping of soldiers' boots are heard.
Ozren: On behalf of the future government, heading general Dusan Simovic, we are taking over the Belgrade Post & Telegraf. Rene Claude, you are being accused of planning and undertaking subversive actions. You are under arrest. (To the soldiers.) What are you waiting for? Take him! All of them!

Scene Twelwe

Sofia Radotic's salon. Full of guests.

First Lady: Those plotters! All by night. We knew nothing. Again.
Second Lady: Like the 'Black Hand' in 1903, when they murdered king and queen. They should have been told way back then - next time choose a daylight, so people can put on their best Sunday clothes and come to watch. To have fun.
Third Lady: Such a fun. My Radovan was woken up and taken away early in the morning. Didn't know if it was for ministry or prison.
Sofia: Many didn't. People say Mr. Pencic wasn't quite… consent. At the beginning.
Ozren: Mr. Pencic is a patriot. He figured it out, very quickly. How to serve best.
Pencic: They were extremely… persuasive.
Sofia: You've been under surveillance: interrogated, inquired, beaten up, perhaps even tortured. Something, at least. And what about the rest of us? We're - deprived.
First Lady: Sofia, do not be disappointed. If the Germans attack us -
First Gentleman: What do you mean - attack us?
First Lady: Or even - bomb us - just think how exciting that would be.
Ozren: Miss Vidic, no one is going to bomb us. But if - We've got powerful allies. The English will do their best to protect us. I can assure you. A few 'spitfires' will blow off the whole German squadron.
Second Lady: That Englishman… hanging around here, recently…
First Gentleman: Foster.
Second Lady: People say he set off. Just after the putsch.
Second Gentleman: Gave a ride to duke Paul.
Laughter.
Ozren: Mr. Foster had to leave urgently. Business matters.
Pencic: But he'll probably open a branch-office. For the Balkans. (Glances at his watch.) You will excuse me, Mrs. Radotic, I should be going. Have to phone my attorney.
Sofia: You are a lucky man indeed. Have you heard? Mr. Pencic got some inheritance. From an aunt he never heard of.
Third Lady: A land?
Pencic: A store. Garment, cloths, scarves. In Petrovgrad.
First Lady: I'll drop in, for sure.
Pencic: Miss Vidic, you're always welcome.
Pencic leaves.
Sofia: Mr. Lukin, why are you so silent?
Second Lady: You are troubled. By the responsibility of being elected president of the club. So young. Especially - after the affair.
Silence.
First Gentleman: Mr. Radotic, is Claude still in prison?
Ozren: And he's going to stay there.
Third Lady: Such a tragedy. People say he… flipped out. He's got… delusions, or something. Is it true?
Ozren: Don't know.
Second Gentleman: Just like those Russians. It's good you've imprisoned them too.
Ozren: We've let them go. Back. To the Soviet Union.
Second Lady: People say they were spies. Imagine that.
Ozren: Nonsense.
Sofia: Russians! I knew I forgot something important to tell you. And Mr. Pencic didn't mention it. Sigunov, that assistant of Claude's, you know… has been found this morning. On the bank. Dead.
A cry of excitement.
Second Lady: Drowned?
Sofia: Hanged. Down the bridge construction. The rope snapped and - right into the Danube.
Second Lady: Suicide?
Sofia: What else?
First Gentleman: How do you know?
Sofia: Savka has heard this morning, at the market.
Ozren gets up.
Ozren: I'm sorry, I have to leave you.
Third Lady: You too?
Ozren: What can I say? Duties…
Sofia (imitates him): 'Duties'. Always in the first place. And wife at home - all by herself.
First Gentleman: We are here to comfort you, Mrs. Radotic.
Ozren: See?
Ozren leaves.
Sofia: Mr. Lukin, are you going to give private lessons?
Mihailo: Certainly.
Sofia: Good. I'd like to start again.
Mihailo: It'll be my pleasure.
Third Lady: It's a pity for Mr. Claude. (Silence.) Who's going to supply us with fashion journals?
Sofia: Have you seen my new gloves?
Sofia takes a pair of black gloves out of a drawer. Tries them on.
Sofia: Made of the Venice lace. With floral ornament.
First Gentleman: Highly sophisticated.
Second Gentleman: But you'll have to wait for the next ball to put them on.
Sofia takes off the right glove.
Sofia: You think so? They can be used for many purposes.

Scene Thirteen

Claude imprisoned. Sits on the bed. Missaud in a visit.

Missaud: I smuggled. For you.
Missaud hands a yo-yo over to Claude. Claude takes it. Pulls it up and down mechanically.
Missaud: I went to Kalemegdan Fortress yesterday. Snow has melted away. The odour of the young grass is in the air. On the foothill I found a snowdrop. Of large, flat petals. Peered into the corridors. Under the Fortress ground. (Beat.) Have you ever wondered… all those endless tunnels and corridors - where do they lead to? To the heart of the tunnel. And where is it? (Beat.) I saw a beautiful young woman, holding a couple of snowdrops. A man approached her, handed another one. She smiled. The man had your figure. I cried: 'Claude!' Didn't turn around. Didn't hear. They disappeared. In a corridor. Immersed into darkness. (Silence.) Claude, I've been thinking about your… delusions. Why do you seek after? Persistently. If you really are - Does it matter?
Claude: Who?

Blackout

Copyright: Sterijino pozorje 1998-2007.