Gleb closed the door and stumbled down the passage. He didn't make it far. The lightheadedness hit him again and he leaned against the wall of the corridor. His heart was pounding and he closed his eyes. All his senses were screaming to him to leave the palace grounds, but once again, he just couldn't. Not yet anyway.
Behind his closed eyelids, he could still see her: proud, defiant, sure. But more than anything was the complete fearlessness with which she had viewed death as he held the pistol before her breast.
It had been his father's pistol. Mikhail Vaganov had always carried with him and it was the one he had used on that fateful night in the Ipatiev House. Mikhail had left the pistol to his son upon his death and Gleb had always treasured it in memory of his father. They had never been close, but he had always admired Mikhail from a distance and sought to be like him. When he died, Gleb undertook to carry on his father's legacy. This legacy meant destruction and death for all who opposed the Bolshevik cause. For almost seven years he had been loyal both to this cause and his father's memory. Then Anya arrived.
From their first meeting in the streets of newly-renamed Leningrad, Gleb had found himself strangely attracted to Anya. It wasn't just that she was beautiful, though she certainly was. There was something about her that made him feel awkward and shy. No one had ever made him feel that way before.
Shortly after their first meeting, Anya was arrested and brought to his office. The charge was that she had taken up with some conmen who were planning on using her to scam the old Dowager Empress, who still lived in Paris. The plot planned to have Anya accepted as the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova. Afterward, the conmen would undoubtedly take the reward money for her return and then vanish without a trace, Gleb had thought disgustedly.
Though he had tried hard to retain a professional aspect, Gleb was afraid that his discomfiture and shyness had become obvious. He had warned her of the dangers of such a false and traitorous game and she had seemed to take the warning to heart. Soon afterwards, however, Gleb had received an account of how Anya was still working with the two conmen and shortly after that, the report that all three had disappeared.
Immediate action had been taken and the trio was very nearly caught. They escaped only by jumping off the train they were on, foiling the officers sent to apprehend them. Despite his devotion to the Bolshevik cause, Gleb had been secretly relived. He knew that if Anya had been caught there was little or nothing he could do to help her. The thought that he should want to help such a turncoat confused him and he was angry with himself that he could be so easily distracted from his duty.
Then Commissioner Gorlinsky had called him to his office and ordered him to track Anya and the conmen to Paris. If she turned out to simply an impostor, he was to bring her back so that they could make an example of her. If she was in fact the Grand Duchess however, he was to make sure that the Romanov legacy was ended once and for all.
That was why Gleb had chosen to take Mikhail's pistol with him when he had set out after Anya. His heavy heart needed to be reminded of where its loyalties lay. She was a traitor, wasn't she? She was pretending to be a dead Grand Duchess! Or was she? Gleb had tried to force aside the what-if's that came crowding into his head, but with little success.
Then the confrontation: her utter terror at his sudden appearance that had become fearless surety as he held his father's pistol to her breast; the steely regality of her face as she looked him in the eye and said the fatal words: "I am the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova." Her eyes had taunted him, daring him to pull the trigger, but his finger had refused to move. Then the lightheadedness had washed over him like a wave and he had dropped to his knees feeling weak and sick. Then he felt her hand on his head and her voice, softened to pity. "I mean you no harm, Gleb." He caught her hand as she turned away…
Voices. They were coming in his direction. Best to clear out while he still could. With an effort, Gleb opened his eyes and stepped away from the wall he had been leaning on. The world was a little steadier now. He shook his head slightly to clear it and then winced as the movement caused another wave of dizziness. He needed to get out of here. And a drink of water.