Thursday, 7 June 2012

In Krychov’s Room by Steve Slatter

Getting into Krychov’s room at the Petersburg Hilton was easy. A dark suit, a peaked cap, a parcel under my arm, and a smile for the blonde on Reception. I even let her chat me up a little. Nice white blouse – buttoned right up, unfortunately. Outstanding figure underneath. While I was letting my eyes and brain argue over her cup size, I could hear her pretty head deciding about me: maybe shoot a line in my direction, maybe play it cool instead. Wondering, is this sexy courier guy gonna ask me for a date, or what?
In the end, she said nothing, but handed over Krychov’s key accompanied by her own name and phone number written on a post-it. Nadia Alenikhova. Nice name. I made a play of kissing the yellow square of paper. She giggled in response.
Room number 416. I took the stairs rather than be seen loitering.
It was easy to find. Fifth door on the left. I passed no one.
The door opened and clicked behind me – like a rat trap. A buffoon in a suit and a pockmarked face was sitting on the bed facing me. Worse than that, he had a gun in his hand. Worse still than that, he spoke English – kind of.
“So we meet, Tovarish Jeffers,” he said.
I wondered why he thought I was Jeffers. He was my partner. The one they’d taught to swim in the Neva River the previous evening – with bricks in his shoes.
“I’m Mulroon,” I stalled. “You’ve already spoken to Jeffers.”
“Well, my comrades have questions for you, whoever you are, Mr British Agent.”
I noticed the gun wasn’t silenced. I wondered if it was even loaded. Noisy assassinations in five star hotels tend to get noticed in Russia these days. Not like the old days when everyone was deaf and the blood just soaked into the red carpet.
“Suppose I don’t want to answer.”
“You will, Tovarish Jeffers.”
“Mulroon,” I repeated. “And for the record I’m Irish, not British.”
“You mean, you are – how do you say it?”
“Freelance? Yeah. I’m in it for the cash. One side or other is always willing to pay. Wanna join up?”
He was saved from answering by a knock on the door. Neither the ape nor I answered it. The lock turned and in wafted the blonde receptionist, Nadia. I noticed three of her buttons had come undone at the top of her blouse, and the bra beneath it had mysteriously vanished. Her breasts looked an even nicer shape with less starch in them.
“I came to see how you were doing with that delivery…” she said to me before she spotted the scarred face on the bed, and the gun attached to its outstretched hand.
She gasped, but at first I misunderstood why.
“Sergei?” she said.
“You two know each other?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Not really,” she said.
“She’s my wife,” said the ape.
“Ex-wife. Right now he sleeps with some wide-eyed Latvian lap dancer.”
“Eliisabet is Estonian.”
“Same damn thing.”
“Listen, if either of you two lovebirds manage to get this agreed between you, and fancy a drink in the bar in the next day or so, I’ll be there, OK?”
Sergei’s mouth opened and closed again. I guessed he wasn’t programmed for this level of complexity. Nadia was out of the room before me. The door slammed behind us. I grabbed her hand and we took the stairwell back to Reception.
“You still want that drink?” I said.
“I’m on duty, but…”
“I know. You get off at 6.30am or some such.”
“4.30,” she said.
“Same damn thing,” I said, and we laughed together. She had even white teeth and a symmetrical pink tongue.
“The way I drink I’ll probably be no use to you by then,” I said, my lips close to hers. “But you’re welcome to check by just in case.”
I turned away and headed into the bar. When I’d been served, I looked back to see she was still standing staring in my direction. I blew her a kiss, and she began re-buttoning her blouse.
I watched her rear retreat behind the reception desk, and after a time Sergei emerged from one of the lifts. He’d put his gun away, but he was still wearing his scars. I waved at him and pointed at my glass. He declined my offer. I assumed he had to hurry back to HQ to get fresh orders.
Meantime I figured the Petersburg Hilton would be safe to get tight in. I threw back my first drink of the evening, thinking of what Nadia would be like in bed. Trying to imagine her lying beneath Sergei. Even on top of him. But, however I pictured them, it seemed a mismatch.
I was still conjuring with that image when Sergei came back with a friend. They let me finish my drink and muscled me into a convenient alleyway. I have no further recollections after that.
Next thing, I woke up in a hospital bed with Nadia’s blouse-clad breasts hovering over me. She had a lopsided look to her face. She’d been crying at the very least.
I wondered how I’d escaped. I must have been able to convince Sergei’s friends I really was a nobody. Either that or my sweepstake number came up. Turned out the latter was closer the mark.
“Sorry, I never got to call you,” I said to Nadia through the searing of several broken ribs.
“I told Sergei we’d slept together every night for the last month. Gave you an alibi, no?”
I contemplated her face more closely. Beneath the make-up there were definite signs someone had recently tried to rearrange it for her.
“Sergei slapped you up for that?”
Silently Nadia leant over and kissed my forehead. OK, maybe she thought I was just her airline ticket out to the West, but what the hell? I pulled her to me – and decided I could put up with the pain.

REWIND << This story first appeared in the original Pulp Pusher site.