On June 21, the Count rises at his usual hour. He has breakfast, reads the papers in the lobby, and lunches in the Piazza. He pays a visit to Marina in the afternoon and has a drink in the Shalyapin. He dines at the Boyarsky in the evening, as it is his night off. On his way out, he slips into the coatroom to “borrow” an American journalist’s raincoat and fedora.
Exactly thirty-two years after the day of his imprisonment, the Count is finally ready to be free again so that he can carry on with his life. Ironically, this entails acting like nothing is different, and continuing the routine he’s been following for most of his life (with the addition of a raincoat and fedora, à la Humphrey Bogart, Osip’s favorite film star).
The Count gathers his things in the rucksack he used in 1918 when returning to Russia from Paris. He takes only the essentials: three changes of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, Anna Karenina, Mishka’s project, and the bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape he intends to drink on the tenth anniversary of Mishka’s death. He says goodbye to his room, which was the smallest room in which he had ever lived, but in which nearly his whole life has come and gone.
The Count’s packing list is in direct contrast to how he first arrived at the hotel from his estate, and then moved from his third floor suite to the sixth floor. He dispenses with most of his family’s possessions, taking only the practicalities as well as a few tokens of Mishka, who had grown to be like family over the years.
At the same time as the Count descends to the lobby, Sofia concludes her performance in Paris. She takes a final bow, and as the next piece begins she heads back to the dressing room’s bathroom. She takes off her shoes, dress, and necklace, donning the Italian clothes that the Count had stolen weeks before. She then takes Helena’s scissors, which her father had given her, and cuts off her hair. She uses the bottle from the Metropol barber to dye the white strip of her hair black.
Sofia also begins to carry out the escape, as many of the unexplained details from earlier chapters start to come together, such as the Italian clothes, the bottle of dye from the barber, and Helena’s scissors. Just as the Count had given Nina his grandmother’s opera glasses, Helena’s scissors are not only practical but also serve as a kind of heirloom for Sofia.
As Sofia puts on the Italian cap, she realizes that they never considered her shoes; she only has a pair of high heels. Dumping her old clothes in the trash (but keeping Anna’s necklace), she heads toward the back of the building and leaves barefoot.
Sofia keeps what represents another kind of family heirloom: her necklace. In an additional parallel with the Count from the night before, she is also forced to carry out part of her plan completely shoeless.
Using the Count’s map, Sofia follows the path from the Salle Pleyel to the American embassy, though she stops short at the beauty of the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe in the night. In that moment, she remembers her father’s advice when she was hesitant about his plan. He told her that people’s lives are steered by uncertainty, but sometimes people are granted a moment of lucidity as they stand on the threshold of a bold new life. Standing in awe of various Parisian monuments, Sofia starts to understand what he meant.
Even though Sofia had been hesitant to follow through with the Count’s plan and to leave both him and the Metropol, in venturing out into Paris, she reaches a turning point in her life. Like her mother, she is inspired by the possibilities of travel and what she can do without the dictation of the Russian government keeping track of her every move.
Richard Vanderwhile and his wife, Mrs. Vanderwhile, sit in his apartment after returning from a dinner. A member of his staff says that there is a young man seeking asylum. Richard lets the young man in, and realizes quickly that it is not a young man at all, but is in fact Sofia. Richard is amazed to see her, as the Count did not tell Richard when or how Sofia would be arriving at the embassy.
While Richard’s friendship has been a gift for the Count, his stationing at the American embassy in Paris is very practically fortunate, and is what allows both Sofia and the Count to make their escapes, and for Sofia to seek asylum in America.
Richard suggests that Sofia have some food, and Mrs. Vanderwhile goes in search of some clothes for her. Richard asks if Sofia has something for him; Sofia says that the Count told her that Richard would have something for her first. Richard gives her a package wrapped in brown paper. She unwraps the package and finds Montaigne’s Essays. Sofia then opens the book, revealing a rectangular cavity cut into it that contains eight small stacks of gold coins.
Inspired by the nesting dolls in the Italians’ closet (and his dislike of Montaigne), the Count uses the book to smuggle his daughter money, providing her with some of his own inheritance so that she might be able to lead a life of purpose, as he had hoped, and make a new life in America with Richard’s help.
Sofia then takes off her knapsack and empties it of her belongings, handing the empty bag to Richard. She instructs him to cut the seam that has been sewn into it, and in it he finds a tightly rolled piece of paper. On the front is a record of the seating arrangement for the dinner of the Council of Ministers and the Presidium; on the back is a detailed description of that evening.
The Count, in turn, uses the chance of the dinner at the Metropol to be able to do a favor for Richard in return: describing the events of the dinner and providing a hint as to how the future of Russian politics might turn out.
In the description, the Count notes that Khrushchev was the only person who knew where the dinner was going to be held. He also described how Khrushchev, even though he was more conservative than Malenkov, had cast himself as a man of the future by using nuclear power to light the city.
The Count uses his ability to read people’s intentions, backgrounds, and interactions to tell Richard that it is in fact Khrushchev who will lead the Russian government in the coming years.
Richard smiles at the description, but also notices another letter from the Count that arrived on his desk while he was out for the evening. Reading it, he jumps up, as it contains instructions on how to confirm that Sofia arrived at the embassy safely. He tells the embassy staff to have everyone man the telephone switchboard.
Richard provides one final key detail in the Count’s master plan: creating a bit of chaos for the Count to know that Sofia has arrived safely, but also to allow him to escape. He has orchestrated every detail as the different threads of his plan come together perfectly.
A few minutes before midnight, the Count arrives in the lobby with his rucksack. He sits and watches the guests of the hotel come and go. Then, at almost exactly midnight, thirty different telephones in the hotel begin to ring. As pandemonium ensues and people begin to wake up and investigate, the Count quietly puts on the journalist’s hat and coat and walks out of the Metropol Hotel.
With Richard’s help and keen planning, the Count is able to escape the Metropol Hotel. Without Sofia there, he no longer has a real purpose or finds meaning in staying in the hotel, and he sees that it is time to master his circumstances once more and begin a new chapter in his life.