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Published:September 24th, 2009 18:01 EST
An Absurd Truth In Russia

An Absurd Truth In Russia

By Rouben Alikian

 SOMETIME AFTER THE PERESTROIKA

 

 Here I am, a New Russian, shaven bald, clad in a perfect cashmere coat, white shirt, red necktie and brandishing a dozen Goldas on my fingertips. It`s the epitome of the corrupt neorussian dream of successfully mixing illegal business and crime on a massive scale. And the rewards abound despite the miserable poverty gripping more than ninety percent of the once beloved Motherland.

 

 And so I ride on a pitch black Mercedes limo through the fogs and hypnotizing smells of the Siberian Taiga. It`s a hell of a blizzard, like the ones from hell itself as icicles and oversized snowflakes batter the windshield. But I do not mind the cold outside, for by my side on the heated leather seat is a case whose contents are still unknown to me. From my lofty seat, I can only see my driver, Fedia`s blond hair as he drives through the wilderness, and I still cannot grasp how he even manages to see the road through the appalling fog while keeping on pushing the gas as if we were in a hurry.

 

 After a while, I reach down into my coat pocket filled with candy wrappers, sunflower seeds and tobacco shreds in search of my cell phone. Lazily and without any concern that the forces of a dark equal to mine were upon me, I punch in a number into the smeared keypad and wait for an answer from the other end of the line to say Yes, I`m already on my way. " "

 

 But suddenly, before I can even express the reason for my senseless drive through this vast emptiness of underground natural gas reserves, my driver thrusts his gaunt face at me and shouts Chase, boss! We`re being chase! Startled to the bone that I might get caught in yet another gunfight, I look back and see two brand new, black Range Rover SUVs screaming through the snow like ploughs right after my unwieldy vehicle.

 

 In seconds they gain on my limo and flank it from either side as if to sandwich the doors so I can`t jump out and save my precious briefcase. Bewildered at who of my many opponents this could be, I suddenly see the driver window slide down on the SUV to my right as a ghastly, unshaven face emerges and shouts Stop the bloody car!! Stop it now!! While emerging a gun and pointing it at my driver.

 

 Frightened that I might actually get marooned out here if things got messy, I nearly crap my pants and order Fedia Do what he says! We screech to a screaming halt on the side of the road beside a snowy ditch as the SUVs flank the limo and burst their doors open. Unable to discern or recognize any of the template criminal faces resembling those of freshly slaughtered piglets, I watch four square shouldered frost offs emerge from the cars and head straight for mine.

 

 My mind starts to race with meaningless thoughts like It`s time to answer for my past sins " and others, until the door to my left gently opens and a curly haired gentleman dressed very similarly to myself enters my saloon and sits opposite to me.

 

 He has that uncanny look of a government employee with his imported black leather gloves, fresh scent of Gillette aftershave and the watery eyes of a ruthless killer that speak volumes of the horrors they had seen through the eyes of their victims. I sit frozen in place and my fears are suddenly confirmed when the man slams the door behind him and introduces himself by politely saying KGB Special agent Yuri Panosov. " "

 

 I instantly realize what I`m dealing with. These are vicious, cabbageless bastards and the only way to treat them is the same way they would have treated anyone else from their seat of power. Having brushed shoulders with his ilk before during the initial capital mounting of questionable legality, I frown straight at Panosov and bark in his face You cattle! Why did you plant your trash on my tail?! Instead of answering, the agent reaches for my briefcase and pushes it out the window to one of his men by calmly saying Tolia; hide this securely, will ya? " The black clad servant of civil criminal order grabs hold of the case and disappears into the haze as I shout at Panosov in rage Hey, hey yo, man!? What do you want?! A minute later, the roar of two engines disappears into the haze, leaving me with Panosov and his ominous intentions.

 

 Calmly, the agent reaches down into his coat and pulls out a small, luxurious pen case. A chill rolls down my spine despite the heat reigning in the salon as I watch him open it to emerge a syringe filled with a clear liquid and say with the same demeanor I already have what I want " " And that`s when time seems to stop for a moment frozen in that Siberian wasteland of snow and cold as Panosov suddenly raises the syringe above me and prepares to plunge it into my neck. But survival instinct and the will to get my own yacht in Sochi next summer forces me to instantly react upon previous criminal experience and throw a crushing punch straight into his face.

 

 The golden rings on my fingers smack straight into the agent`s nose and flush his lips with blood as he squeals in pain and lets go of the syringe that falls to the filthy salon floor. It was that second between Panosov grabbing hold of his nostrils to stem the bleeding and his reaction to my assault that gave me the perfect opportunity to grab the syringe and with a lightning strike stab it right into my his neck before pushing the plunger all the way down.

 

 With his eyes rolling back and his throat struggling for breath, Panosov begins to gargle and collapses onto the seat only to spew an overwhelming wave of vomit all over the salon and my arm. The stench of pure bile and digested mushrooms was revolting and I instinctively explode with a bloodcurdling yell Ahh, gross, you nasty " " But before I can start wiping the yellowish and sticky stuff off my sleeve, I hear a voice from outside shouting in surprise Hey, hey what`s going on in there!? " That second meant the next stage of survival as my eyes darted across Panosov`s unconscious body and caught the glimpse of the Kyzliar knife dangling off his belt. In the blink of an eye, I yank the blade out in preparation for self defense and cry out a response to buy time Everything`s fine! Your boss is just telling me things that too scary to hear! Just as I finish my sentence, the door to my right opens and the same pox riddled face that I saw in the SUV, invades my salon with a puzzled look.

 

 But that look didn`t last too long as I slash the state of the art blade across the agent`s neck and feel his scorching blood spray freckles all across my face. With his throat slashed from ear to ear, the ugly killer grabbed hold of his wound and collapsed into the snow, giving me the chance to yell a final order to my driver Fedia! Get us the hell out of here!! "

 

 Without even bothering to ask how and what had just happened, Fedia puts the pedal to the metal at G force bending speed, rushes the car off into oblivion and toss me all the way back into the seat while shouting Goddamn, I can`t see anything in this appalling fog! "

 

 Speeding like the Tunguska meteorite through the steppes and hazes, time rushes by like the sands in an hourglass until Fedia slams the brakes and shouts Boss! We`re here! "

 

 We really there as I recognize the safe house`s field and open the door to get some fresh air. With much difficulty and the cover of descending darkness that begins to paint the steppes with an inky stain of night, we drag an unconscious and drooling Panosov out of the car and through the haze towards our next destination where his fate would be decided if he chooses to reveal the location of my briefcase.

 

 Slowly and carefully, we approach a rotting wooden dock by a snowy lake enshrouded in impenetrable haze. A boat that had seen better days patiently rocks on the icy waters and without much care for aesthetics, Fedia and I plummet Panosov face down into the dirty bilges. Already contemplating a thousand promises of pain to come, I take my seat at the oars and begin to row for the safehouse located deep in the lake and beyond the veil of fog that seems to hang over the whole world like a blind before my weary eyes.

 

 After silently rowing for a few minutes through the floating slabs of ice, Fedia suddenly hisses at me and points into the distance with a worried whisper Here they are " " I throw a startled look down Fedia`s Rolex decorated arm and see the tiny flicker of a cigarette light on the other end of the lake where a border sentry stands watch in a tower built upon a tiny, icy island. But he doesn`t notice us, for he has no eyes on the back of his head and only cares about the end of his shift, giving us the perfect chance to slip past unseen and row away like ghosts into the fog on our murky business.

 

 A few more oar strikes later we reach a well weathered mooring on the ground floor of an ancient wooden mansion built on piers over the ice. I toss a rope onto one of the poles and Fedia jumps out onto the creaking planks to help me pull Panosov onto them. Already feeling almost like home in this structure that reeks of cockroaches, moss and age; I carefully squeal the rotten door open and feel the wall of mustiness strike my nostrils like a thousand spears of some festering Mongolian horde. The darkness of the empty hall stares back at me like an abyss until I slam my palm against the wall beside the door frame and switch on a pathetically weak ceiling lamp that illuminates the peeling wallpaper and a lonely chair beneath it with brownish stains across its armrests.

 

 Before I can adjust my eyes to the bleak light, Fedia pushes his way past me and pulls Panosov by the armpits onto the chair like a burlap bag of withered potatoes. Together, we tie up the drooling agent who suddenly wakes up as if from a cocaine coma and mutters out in a weaving tongue Is this the Ritz Carlton?...The mushroom soup tasted like diarrhea. " "

 

 But his ravings of a life he lost the moment he got tangled up in my business do not interest me as I slap him on cheek with my bear sized palm and angrily ask Crack up, you drunk! Where did you take my briefcase?! As if gathering up the remnants of his shattered persona that is miserably stained in bile and chunks of his last meal, Panosov raises his eyes at me and with all the decorum that comes with being a top notch agent slithers out an answer through his teeth Go jerk off or something " " But I know the personas only too well and hopelessly lower my head before mournfully sighing and asking So, you took it to hell, then? Every time you don`t answer, first I take off a fingernail, then a finger, then an arm and all the other extremities. Until you tell me the truth. " "

 

 Faced with his own mortality and as if already feeling his most prized short leg being snipped off, Panosov grows pale and momentarily blurts out like a sniveling rat On the Tverskoi Boulevard! Tomorrow, 2 pm! A red Bentley Continental! "

 

 With my answer handed to me on a silver platter through the power of merciless extortion and maiming threats, I nod at Fedia and resolutely retort Let`s go! As we head for the door, I hear Panosov desperately shout at me from the ghoulish darkness Hey! What about me?! " And as if to conclude the scene by the final overture, I throw a cold glance back at the agent and give my verdict before turning off the light Yuri, aren`t you a communist? "

 

 We reach the car the same way we left it until with a heavy sigh dissipating in the gusting wind that can freeze a nose right off, Fedia thumps his Prada shoe against the limo`s tire and says This wheel won`t reach Moscow. No way. "

 

At first I`m discouraged by the fact that my car can no longer serve me, but then I spy the row of old tractors that I used to play by as a child standing in a snowy row by an old barn a few hundred feet away. With an idea already swirling in my mind, we rush for the derelict machines. I reach the lead tractor first and swipe a heavy layer of snow off its engine block to identify the model number that proudly reads FACTORY OF CHILDREN`S TOYS NUMBER 015 OF THE RABBIT STEPASHA, PIGLET KHRIUSHA AND THE UGLY MUTT FILIA, CITY OF BOBRUISK, MADE IN USSR "

 Without much mucking about if the wreck would work or not, we climb up into the rusted cabin and see the Chinese border gates just a few hundred meters away through the snowy glass. Hoping and praying to all the powers that make the dollar buy anything I ever wanted, I turn the welded key in the ignition and watch a remarkable transformation.

 

 The tractor built on a toy factory on the forgotten outskirts of the USSR suddenly sputters its deafening engine and unfurls a pair of helicopter wings with rocket pods from underneath its massive wheels while a set of counter rotating rotors springs up from behind the cabin and transforms the peaceful ploughing machine into a battlemech whose digitized HUD stares back at my awestruck snout. Smiling at an equally astonished Fedia sitting beside me in the gunner`s seat, I lift the beast off the ground and shout through the growl of its turbines I remember these things peacefully ploughing the potato fields out here by the hundreds back in the seventies! "

 

 A few hours of badly unstable flight later, we land by noon the next day in one of Moscow`s parking lots across the Tverskoi Boulevard. After paying the lot`s owner who didn`t seem to mind having a mechanical abomination standing in line with the cars, we begin to mush our way down the street smeared in the spring`s leftovers of a yellowish sleaze produced by the hundreds of dogs that roam these cursed cobblestones.

 

 Just as I expected, my old acquaintance Chechen zealot stands in a dirty alley beside a rusted dumpster down the street. As I approach, the capped Caucasus native turns his humped nose away as if to make it look like he doesn`t know me and waits for me to stop beside him before asking in a broken Russian accent It`s been a long time, Wolf. Whadda`ya need? I too make it look like I have nothing in common with this thug as I look down the street away from his piggy eyes and quietly ask for the one quintessential thing that I need from him Do you have any heavy artillery? "

 

 With a cautious look around in search of prying cops that roam the city like freshly tainted vultures, the Chechen, reaches into his personal dumpster and ruffles about in it for a moment before pulling out a large bag and saying AK-74. Silencer, 4x zoom, two extra clips and grip included " " Overjoyed that this greedy crook had the goods I needed, I throw a look into the bag to make sure he is telling the truth and ask Do you take debit cards? " The Chechen hums in a positive response and emerged a mobile card reader from a pocket in his wide trousers that reek of stale and frozen excrement just like the street he stands upon. A burn of the card later, the transaction is complete.

 

 We leave the dumpster and cross the road towards another filthy alley behind a Chinese restaurant where patrons stand along the wall in a neat line, vomiting out their orders made of dog and rat meat. After listening to their moaning and spitting for about two hours in waiting, I suddenly notice how a suspiciously black gentleman in a black necktie walks down the street across the boulevard with my suitcase in his hand.

 

 My heart flutters with expectations of a swift and resolute payback as I fix my eyes upon the mark and cross the street under the red light with Fedia by my side. I watch the mark stop beside a lamp post and measure his every move before quickly coming to the conclusion that he is a complete loon with no experience in the type of job he was being handed. He seems aloof and doesn`t even notice how I reach for the compact submachine guns handle underneath my coat as I walk towards him.

 

 I start to think that this is it, this is the end, that I will claim my prize as I prepare to raise the silenced weapon and mow the man down with hail of gunfire. But before I can even get a good grip on the trigger, a Scarlet St James colored Bentley Continental suddenly screams out from behind a corner and screeches to a halt beside the mark. As I get my bearings on the swiftly changing situation, three gigantic cronies pour like garbage flies out of the luxury vehicle and meet the searing end of my muzzle.

 

 One falls instantly like a scythed stalk of wheat under my lead as Fedia slays another of the goons while the third pulls out his Glock and starts sowing bullets at us. I duck for cover and unleash a burst into the mark`s back before he could even tuck tail and run. Screaming and spewing blood like a stuck pig, he falls face down into the sleaze and lets the suitcase fly right off into the last remaining goon`s hands.

 

 In a sudden fit of blood drunk frenzy, I howl Oh, no you don`t! And watch the foe unleash three more bullets in my direction. They slam against a newspaper stand beside me harmlessly, but to the amazement of all left standing, I suddenly hear Fedia`s shriek Farewell, boss! Don`t remember me badly! And watch him toss his Makarov aside as he runs away into the crowd with his arms flailing about in the air.

 

 Stabbed in the heart as if by twelve knives of frustration by such treason, I catch the opportune moment and point my weapon at the last foe only to pull the trigger and riddle him right through. Groaning in his death throes, he collapses onto the sidewalk and releases my suitcase as the Bentley`s door suddenly swings open, and like a squealing piglet, some fake blond Ukrainian prostitute clad in white furs leaps out and disappears into a dark alley.

 

 With the coast clear, I dash for my suitcase, grab it with all my will to live and leap into the Bentley just in time to hear the unpleasant howl of police sirens approaching. My heart beats like a caged canary as I slam the door shut and push the gas to screech the Bentley`s rubber against the wet pavement and rush off straight into oncoming traffic.

 

 Barely weaving out between cars and shouting unheard of profanities all the way, I flee down the Tverskoi Boulevard and further from the center of the city, but even here, the trash is still on my tail with their annoying sirens and screaming drivers.

 

 And then, I remember that I have a weapon against them and reach for the suitcase. Like Pandora`s Box, I slide it onto my knees and snap its locks open before reaching inside its enigmatic darkness and grabbing a handful of whatever was inside. With a flick of the finger, the window slides open and with all my might, I toss the palm of caramel candies out onto the street and into the path of my pursuers.

 

 Hoping that this would work, I throw a desperate look into the back view mirror and see the pileup of police cars smashing against each other as the cops pour out and lunge like savages onto the caramels scattered across the street and start munching them down with ravenous hunger.

 

 In a minute, the road is as clean as if a cow had licked it and I race downtown like any normal driver. With the heat dissipating and my panting fading, I slide the suitcase onto the passenger seat and reach for my cell phone to dial in the same number and speak to the receiver on the other end Yes, mom, I`m already on my way "No, nothing, just unpleasantries on the job. " "