для читателей старше 18 лет
The midday sun burned so hot the horse barely walked, its head down. Stretching all around was the steppes: empty, scorching, indented by small green gullies, from which at any moment the Basmachi could leap. This idea stirred him up; he straightened up in the saddle and looked around, squinting from beneath the cap peak.
No Basmachi here, actually. Not in this part of the country. But he still could meet a mounted patrol of Ataman Semenov who was rumored to be making his way for the south. At such a wrong time.
From this stuffy, sticky heat (though nights were already cold), from the viscous boredom of the dying summer, from his impotence to repress the obsession of his past life, his thoughts wandered back home. Incessant rains, the smell of wet hay and freshly mowed daisies, the misty woods in morning dew, the cold river sand smelling of fish; the dank nights and days of his brief leave. Then a sudden assignment, a transfer from the field forces, a troop train for the south — and this endless, dusty space.
Standing up in the stirrups, he peered into the dazzling distance. From the ghostly haze on the horizon, out came the small white houses of the leper colony.
Once the horse stepped into the gate, a red dog, barking cheerfully, dashed under the hooves.
“Hush, Belka,” a lean man in a doctor’s smock called to it. He walked down from the porch and took the horse by the bridle. “Welcome to the White Yard settlement.” His suddenly clear eyes on the bronzed, ascetic face avidly scrutinized the stranger. “We seldom see new faces.” He gave an embarrassed smile.
One of the small houses appeared to be a stable — hollow and empty but for a light carriage almost hidden by straw in the distant corner. “We ate them,” the master explained guiltily. “Famine here. The supplies stopped completely.” He cast an inquiring glance at the guest’s leather jacket with a shoulder belt over it.
“Commissioner Rudnev.” The newcomer stretched out his hand. “From Gubcheka.”
The doctor hid his hands behind his back. “No, no, no. No handshaking! And no offense either. I have the honor to introduce myself: Belov. Nikolai Alexejevich Belov. A local doctor. Let’s go to the ambulance. I’ll explain everything.”