it a strange man dressed in a black suit and a black beret.
Stepa sat up on the bed and did his best to focus his bloodshot eyes on
the stranger. The silence was broken by the unknown visitor, who said
gravely, in a low voice with a foreign accent:
'Good morning, my dear Stepan Bogdanovich! '
There was a pause. Pulling himself together with fearful effort Stepa
'What do you want?' He did not recognise his own voice. He had spoken
the word ' what' in a treble, ' do you ' in a bass and ' want' had simply
not emerged at all.
The stranger gave an amiable smile, pulled out a large gold watch with
a diamond triangle on the cover, listened to it strike eleven times and said
'Eleven. I have been waiting exactly an hour for you to wake up. You
gave me an appointment to see you at your flat at ten so here I am!'
Stepa fumbled for his trousers on the chair beside his bed and
'Excuse me. . . .' He put on his trousers and asked hoarsely :
'Please tell me--who are you? '
He found talking difficult, as with every word someone stuck a needle
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