Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rain Man

Only five people in the world knew what I was. She wasn’t one of them. She did, however, think she knew who I was. Arthur Miller.

No, I said, not Marilyn Monroe’s ex. Staring blankly, she ordered another vodka. Dead American playwrights obviously weren’t her thing. Vodka was. The next would be her second in under five minutes.

Мороз! From the freezer, this time, she said without looking at the dark-skinned waiter, an Uzbek, perhaps. As he turned to leave, her eyes flicked up and she held her forearm towards me, tapping her pale skin. An insulting gesture that could earn her spittle in the glass. He didn’t look like a man who was happy taking orders from a madam, but he wasn’t paid to be happy. I’d chosen a Manhattan. An old school choice that came with an old school smile to thank him. And hold the spittle, I was tempted to add.

She waited until the waiter was two tables away before saying her name: Svetlana.

Same as Stalin’s daughter, I said. Miller she didn’t know, on the other hand “Stalin” earned me a look as cold as the coming vodka.

Can I call you "Sveta"? I asked, using the friendlier, shortened version.

She told me I could call her “Svetlana”.

Drawing a gold lighter from her handbag, she lit the cigarette she’d been holding since I’d arrived. She took a shallow draw. She didn’t appear to be enjoying it. Perhaps it tasted of the last man she’d kissed. Lucky him. She may have been a bigoted boozer but there was a hot Soviet sizzle to Svetlana. She’d put a lot of effort into that hard body. What I was planning to do to her seemed a shame.

Her sudden question was like a tap with a cold spoon. “How many girls can you bring me?”

“There’s not a lot of foreplay with you.”

She repeated the question. I made a show of slowly pulling a Moleskin notebook from my inside jacket pocket. The movement caught the attention of two bulky men at the bar. They reached into their jackets too. It was unlikely they could write. When the notebook came out, they relaxed.

Flicking through the pages, I paused, touched a scribble and said: “Eight by Monday. Delivered to you in Moscow.”

She was impressed. “Clean girls?”

“Lysol fresh.”


“Well, virgin-ish. After all, they are from Bulgaria.”

We talked business. The vodka came and went. My Manhattan had been made with rye. It was the first surprise of the night.

Watching me sip it, she ordered a third drink. This time she left it on the table. My insistence on half the money now, half on delivery earned me a scarlet lipsticked pout: “Bозможно, 25/75?”

“Nyet. Half now.”

She told me that men never said “no” to her. I could believe it. Leaning forward, she whispered an offer that would’ve made the Devil blush. Svetlana took my hand. “Let’s walk back to my place, the cool night air will take the heat out of your cheeks.”

With the rain beating down and under a single umbrella, I could feel her shoulder pressing into me. I chanced a glance back at the bar. The bulky men had wisely chosen warmth over wet socks.

Now. I had only a minute or so to do it to her. My hand went inside my jacket. No Moleskin notebook for her. Her eyes widened. Genuine shock. I had her. I pushed the badge closer to her face. “Interpol.” Over her shoulder I could see the heavy black limousine moving quickly, almost a blur in the rain, back lit by arc lights over sodden tennis courts. The gun I held against her was small, unobtrusive. The car, brakes on, jolted to a halt. An arc of water sprayed from under the wheels.

“ZIL,” she said, climbing in. “I would have thought you more of a Mercedes man.”

“And I wouldn’t have taken you for a sex trafficker.”

“There is a reason for that.” Sliding to the far side of the limousine, she pressed her back into the seat and jerked at her hair. The wig came away, revealing a gamin-cut. I didn’t see her left hand reach for her bag. There was a glint of silver plate. I recognised the badge in her hand: National Central Bureau. A Politsiya. “My bureau takes precedence in this jurisdiction,” she said. “Give me your gun, Interpol man.”

“You screwed a beautiful plan to smash a trafficking ring,” I said.

Turning my gun over in hand, she shook her head. “A hairdresser’s weapon.” A pause. She handed it back. “No one in the bar saw your stupid move. Let us return there and continue what we started.”

“As a team?”

The wig was in place. “Of course. And please try, Mr Miller, to look as if you enjoyed screwing me for my 25/75 offer.”

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Copyright © 2012 GREG FLYNN

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