Blau is trying to fall asleep on the couch in the living room but finding it hard to do so. As a result, she gets up and looks through the many books shelved in the bookcase to find a good book to read. She takes a book out which has the title ‘Ivan’s Great Life’ on its spine and lies back down on the couch to takes a look at it with the help of a burning candle which is propped up on a red plate near the foot of the couch; it provides her with some light in the dark.
The book is written in a language which Blau is unfamiliar with; she finds this strange because the title of the book is written in English. Soon, however, Blau comes across a page in the book which contains two paragraphs of English text:
‘A long time ago there was a woman called Thelma who used to live in Vladivostok in a neighborhood called Tulip Lane. Thelma had a troublemaking son called Asher who Ivan had met when he was in the Russian city. Asher had shared a story with him: Thelma had lost her mind when she came to realize that the man she was secretly in love with had never heard about her; he was a very handsome prince and Thelma was just an ordinary woman.’
‘Ivan was out one evening for a walk in some snow-covered park in town where he had claimed that he had seen a ghost. The ghost was that of a man and it was wearing a long jacket, a pair of trousers and loafers. He was roaming through the park murmuring the words, ‘Natalie, where are you? I am innocent.’
To Blau, the two stories sound oddly similar to two mysteries which she has been trying to solve at work. Soon, Blau falls fast asleep and the book falls from her hand and onto the ground.