Chapter 13, in which Alexei Kotuzov finds out his relationship to Peter the Great, and then shares a couple of shots of vodka, coming in at $24,000 per 250ml, with Fyodor Stolypin.
Fyodor Stolypin ends the call on his smart phone. He hears a continuous, loud, steady knocking from the guest bedroom door inside his apartment. He checks his Rolex, gets up from his couch, walks down a hallway, and opens the bedroom door. Alexei Kotuzov, slightly groggy and disheveled, stands in the doorway about to recommence banging on the door.
“You’re awake. How may I assist you?” Stolypin asks formally.
“You can start by telling me who the hell you are, and where the hell I am,” Kotuzov demands.
“Of course. My name is Fyodor Stolypin, and this is my apartment. You are still in St. Petersburg. Why don’t you come with me? Perhaps a cup of tea?” he asks as he gestures towards the apartment’s lounge.
“No. I apologize for that. It was necessary as I shall explain.”
Kotuzov who has been squinting, realizes that he is not wearing his glasses. He feels in his shirt pocket for them but comes up emptyhanded.
“Is there a problem?” Stolypin inquires with a hint of irritation.
“I’ve lost my glasses. I think your hooligans smashed them. I remember that much.”
“Ah, yes. Allow me.”
Stolypin takes a black case from the breast pocket of his blazer, opens it, and offers the pair of wire-rimmed glasses in the case to Kotuzov. Kotuzov takes the glasses from the case and puts them on. He blinks momentarily as his eyesight adjusts. He is astonished to find his vision fully restored.
“They’re perfect. How did you know?”
Stolypin manages a faint smile.
“I am delighted. As I said, would you care for some tea?”
“Do I have a choice?”
Stolypin does not respond.
“No, I didn’t think so.”
Kotuzov sits forward in his chair drinking the cup of tea Stolypin prepared for him. Stolypin sits on the sofa across from Kotuzov. On the coffee table between them is a black leather folder with a gold, two-headed eagle, the symbol of the Russian Tsars, embossed on the front. Stolypin hands the folder to Kotuzov.
“Perhaps some reading material will remove your doubts,” he suggests. Kotuzov puts his cup and saucer on the coffee table, looks at the embossed eagle for a moment, opens the folder, and reads. Stolypin walks over to the bar and fills two shot glasses with Kors Vodka’s George V edition.
“You’re insane,” Kotuzov exclaims as he continues to read.
“Not at all. I’m afraid I am quite sane, and that everything in that report is quite true.” Stolypin replies as he returns with the two shot glasses.
“I assure you, sir, that three generations of my family did not spend what would for anyone else be considered an immense fortune chasing either an insane or a preposterous idea.”
“Chasing a myth, perhaps?”
“You can’t tell me you’ve never heard the rumors about Peter the Great’s illegitimate grandson. Perhaps something a bit stronger than tea?” Stolypin calmly replies as he hands Kotuzov one of the glasses.
“Every school boy knows this ridiculous tale. How can that have anything to do with me?”
Stolypin remains standing, hovering over his incredulous hostage.
“It’s quite simple. Nearly a century of hope, speculation, and investigation have all culminated in a single moment of scientific analysis. The certainty of DNA testing coincided nicely with the discovery of the bodies of Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg. It’s all in the report. Once we finally located the distant descendants of the missing heir, a process that started years before you were born, a process that produced nothing for decades, we needed the test to make absolutely certain we were right about who you are.”
“And, please tell me, who is that?”
“Whether you like it or not, you are the only living direct descendant of Peter the Great, a result of the union between his first son Alexei and his Finnish mistress nearly three hundred years ago. To the last Romanov, Alexander the Fourth, the Tsar of all Russias.”
Stolypin bows his head slightly, resumes an upright position, and downs the shot of vodka in a single gulp. Kotuzov, wide-eyed, does the same, wincing as the vodka goes down.
“I want to see Svetlana,” he manages to mutter.
“There’ll be time for that later.”
Kotuzov puffs up a bit.
“Perhaps I should simply command it to happen.”
“As you wish. But I caution you, there is one more piece to the puzzle. Once that is in place, you will command far more than me. Until then, you and I have much to discuss by way of preparation. You will soon be meeting some important people and first impressions are critical.”
Kotuzov stares at the open folder in front of him.
“I’d better have another shot of vodka first.”
Kotuzov raises his glass without looking at Stolypin who takes the glass from his hand and heads for the bar.
“Perhaps you’d better.”