Delivery for the Wolf

From the Story Arc: A Snake In The Grass

Next Story in the Arc: Un rezo a mi madre, part 1 by Mosca (Monday, August 16, 2004)

(posted Monday, August 09, 2004)

Ricky took the apartment building's stairs two at a time despite his weariness. This was his last stop for the night-- for the week -- and there was a Phish CD and a bong waiting for him on his coffee table. All day, riding around the city with a courier bag and a cellphone, he could think about nothing else but doing nothing all weekend.


It was just his luck that his last stop was a run-down apartment building in King's Row with a broken elevator. The apartment number on the envelope was 1120. Eleventh floor. Without his bicyclist's legs, he'd have given up. As it was, he was breathing heavily by the time he reached the door of 1120.


Within he could hear classical music, something that reminded him of military marches. Some old kook, he thought, who's afraid of email. Half my damn customers anymore. There was no doorbell, so he knocked. Twice. As he raised his hand for the third knock, the door opened.


Ricky gasped. It was no kook. The woman holding the door open with one hand, glass of liquor in the other, was a good six inches taller than him. Disheveled black hair cascaded over her broad shoulders. She wore one of those tee shirts that only came with matching lace panties, which were clearly visible due to a lack of pants. Ricky could not help but acutely notice how well she wore it too. Her face had a look of Slavic sensuality that he was sure had appeared in some magazine, somewhere. Right now it looked tired, with dark circles under her eyes and frownlines. She reeked of vodka.


Up until this very moment, Ricky had thought that customers like this were but courier urban myths.


"Da, tovarisch?" The Russian words were barely audible over the boombox radio on the table behind her, blaring marches as if war was on the horizon.


"Uh...Hi..." He had no idea what she just said. He was also trying not to stare at the tee shirt and its valiant effort to fulfill an absent bra's function. Being a pro, he recovered quickly. "Pinnacle Courier, ma'am. I have a letter for you."


The woman did not glance at the letter, but stared into his eyes. "Who are you working for," she asked in a heavy Russian accent.


"Pinnacle Courier Service, ma'am."


"I doubt it, tovarisch. You have shifty look." She leaned out the door to peek down the corridor behind him. It was a remarkable view for Ricky. "Bah. Alone, you seem to be." Vodka spilled on the carpet.


"Davay, come in." She flung the door open and walked into the dark apartment. Ricky took a deep breath, promised himself he wouldn't wuss out if the chance came, and followed her.


The pounding tympani drums in the military march hurt his ears this close. That's one loud boombox, he thought, wincing. The woman had gone over to the counter of the mini-kitchen and was fumbling with a vodka bottle and glass. She turned and said something that was drowned out by the music.


"What?" he yelled.


She spoke again, gesticulated with the empty glass.


He cupped his hand to his ear. "I can't hear you!"


Annoyance crossed her beautiful face, and she pointed casually at the stereo. A beam of blue light shot from her outstretched finger and struck the stereo, sending fragments flying everywhere. The resulting silence in the room was deafening.


"Do you drink vodka, Amerikantski?"


Ricky peeked out from behind the letter, which had served as a makeshift shield when the stereo exploded.


She was a superhero! Or, he reminded himself, a supervillain. Maybe this was the other urban myth, where a simple delivery call turns the hapless courier into a zombie, or pile of ashes on the floor. Killed by a hot supervillain, he thought. Never would have guessed I'd go out like that.


"You may as well drink it, is end of day." She turned back to the vodka bottle, labelled in cyrillic letters, clearly imported.


"Uh...thank you, ma'am."


She swayed over to him with two glasses. Her underwear, he noted, retained the Victoria's Secret price tag, which was X'd out. A tag hung from her shirt as well, he noticed as she studied the remains of the stereo.


She turned back to regard him. "Okay, now we drink. Za vashe zdorovye!"


He held up his glass for the clink, but she only hoisted it and drained it in a single gulp. He gulped down his glass, and could barely fit it all in his mouth. Swallowing made him black out momentarily.


"Ha! You are no KGB, you cannot drink real vodka. Horosho."


"That's...that's good stuff. Where did you get it?"


For the first time, she smiled. Recognition dawned: he'd seen her in a magazine somewhere.


"Is from retired sergeant in Moscow. He thinks vodka should remind you of boot camp." She grabbed the bottle again, poured another. "Am missing simple life of boot camp now."


She paused before drinking again. "Sit, courier boy." She pointed at the couch. He sat. Dust resettled itself. Papers and books with titles in Cyrillic covered the coffee table. One pile of books, topped by the Communist Manifesto, had a word he could read, but not understand: "Mosca." She spun around a bar chair from the counter and perched on it, providing a worthy view of long, muscular legs.


"Am thinking of real Russian toast. Give to me glass." He leaned out with his glass and she refilled it -- again, a generous portion. Then leaned back and looked at the ceiling. She began to speak after a pause, rapid Russian that Ricky could sense was not directed at him.


Then she looked at him again. "Is meaning this:


"Is one time, pack of wolves lived living in forest. Leader wolf was very old. Is one day, when was time for hunting, leader wolf, he is saying he cannot lead them. Young strong wolf approached leader, is asking to lead huntings. Old wolf agreed, and so hunting.


"In only day,  wolves returned with prey. Strong young wolf told old leader that they attacked seven hunters, killing was easy.


"Hungry time again soon. Again for young wolf leading. Is nyet wolves returning for long time. Then wounded young wolf came home, is alone. He is saying to old leader that pack attacked only three men, and three men killed all rest. Old wolf says, but during first hunt you are killing seven hunters, and they did no harm to you. Why do you lose wolves now?"


She looked at her drink, swirled it. Her voice lowered.


"Young wolf, she is saying, at first hunt, only seven hunters, but this hunt, were three best friends."


Ricky said nothing, held his glass. The woman was silent for a long moment.


"To friendship," she said at last, swallowing the vodka. Ricky did the same, wondering how anyone's liver survived to middle age in Russia.


"So, courier boy, you have letter from old wolf?" She snatched the letter from his lap so quickly he had no time to react. She ripped it open and dug out the contents, a sheaf of blue paper.


"Oh, crap...I need a signature first." Ricky held up the tracker. "Can I get you to sign?"


"Da, da," she said, already reading the front page. He walked over to her and held out the plastic stylus. She took it and made a single line on the LCD screen.


"Okay, er...And your name is?"


She glanced up from her papers. "You have not recognized me yet, Amerikantski?" She tilted her head to the matching chair of the couch. A red leather uniform with a white star had been tossed over the arm.


"Red Saviour." Ricky remembered now where he'd seen her picture.


"Da, famous Red Saviour, Soviet joke in Amerikantski city." She smirked. "You have seen Maxim magazine, I can tell. In friend's bathroom, nyet?"


Red Saviour set down her empty glass and stood. "Posing in men's magazine, great joke on me, nyet?" She struck a model's pose, swaying a bit. "Now is every naughty Amerikantski boy's dream girl, at least for month." Slowly she glided towards him. "Big strong woman, but when in bed surely give in to man's desires." She leaned over him now, and he could smell...not perfume, but sweat, vodka, and a sharp scent...blood?


"Yes, ma'am..." The time is here, Ricky thought. I have to step up, it's my big chance... Nervously, he raised his hand to touch her bare arm.


"I am Russian Hero, not plaything for running dogs, vrubatsa?" She bellowed in his face. Ricky jerked and tried to push away from her, but suddenly she pinned his arms to the couch. "Am fighting Nazis and street punks for ungrateful svinyas who don't even know they're in danger because are attaching eyes to television screen!"


Red Saviour's face was inches away from Ricky's. Any hope of a torrid sexual encounter had drained out of him, and, as he noticed a clot of blood entangled in her hair, hope was replaced with fear.


"You are on streets all times, Ricky, riding little bike. You know what I'm talking, da?"


"Da!" he blurted.


She knelt down in front of him, but managed to increase the pressure on his arms. Bones creaked. She was stronger than his bodybuilding brother.


"Is very hard to be strong young wolf. Pack is always fighting. You go to hunt, you lose wolf, it is your fault. Is lonely on top, is America saying." She looked back at the vodka bottle, then at his arms. "Oh! Izvinit!" The pressure was gone, and she stood up. "Am sorry, tovarisch. Did not hurt you?"


"Ah, no, I'm fine here," Ricky said as he massaged his arms and tried to remember where the bottle of Ibuprofen was at home.


Red Saviour plopped down next to him on the couch. "Was orders, your letter. Old wolf pushing around pack. Go hunt, bring food, but I will be in wolf den, making plans." She stretched her arm out on the couch, past Ricky's shoulders. "Is good job, courier biking?"


"Sure. Uh, yeah, good job, you know, it's okay." Her arm distracted him. "Pays the bills."


"Is struggle of worker, da? Fighting management exploiters?"


"Well, actually, some friends of mine own the company. My roommate and a couple other guys. Um, not really fighting, no." He brightened. "We do party a lot. Kinda like you."


Red Saviour picked at her dangling price tag. "Is no party for me. Am drinking, now, da, after patrol. Not party. Is never."


"Oh, I'm sorry. Working hard, huh?"


She smiled, her first real smile since he arrived. "Da, working hard! We are workers having conversation about jobs. Is normal talkings for people. Like at party! I fill your glass again."


Ricky half expected her to wave her hand and float the bottle over, but she retrieved it like anyone else. "What is name, comrade worker?" She filled his glass.


"Ricky."


"Privyet, Ricky, I am being called Natalya." She shook his hand in an awkward gesture. "Is crazy weather, nyet?" She didn't wait for his reply. "So, had tough day at job. You want to hearing on it?" Now she waited with an expectant look.


"Sure, Nata...Natalya. How was work?"


Somehow she lost no vodka as she made a sweeping gesture with the glass. "Oh, comrade worker Ricky, was very long and tiring. First to get up in morning and do working out routine, five hundred pushing ups, sitting ups, upside down pull ups. And guess what? I am going up on weight, now I bench three hundred fifty five American pounds! Is record for me!"


Ricky gulped and nodded. Natalya took this as encouragement to go on.


"Da, Ricky! So first thing is review paperwork for CCCP. Big pile, am going through slowly. Foundation of Communism sometimes resting on big stacks of paper. Am noticing no directives from Moscow in two days, very odd. Then I see request from People's Blade to evaluate new Red Brigade members. Am thinking I will do anything for beloved tovarisch Fei Li, is no problem. So arrange patrol. Comrade Official Petrograd joins me. He is very trustworthy, comrade for long time now. Is like friend who runs courier shop, nyet?"


She paused long enough for Ricky to nod.


"So send communication signal to Comrade Pablo Tiego and Comrade Mosca. Now that I have expelled non-Rus from CCCP, is missing variety of people. Russians are very serious, you know, Ricky. Sometimes even Chinese seem lighthearted around Russian comrade soldiers. Surely you have noticed this."


Ricky decided the nod worked well, and used it again. It seems to gratify her.


"Horosho! Am not alone." Natalya fell silent, then looked at him fiercely. His chest clenched. She poured another drink, slammed it down, and smiled again. "You are smart man, comrade. So I contacts them both, and arrange meeting in King's Row station. Comrade Tiego arrives promptly. I can see right away why he was leader of country. Is man of character. I felt bolshoi proud to serve with him! Is Latin American, by ways, so had to keep him in Red Brigade.


"Then we talk with him for time about Tiegism while waiting for comrade Mosca. We wait, and finally I call. He says he is reading but will be there in moment! I am so angry!" Ricky fliched. "I make him come over now. When I finally see him..." Ricky follows her eyes to the wall but misses what she's looking at. "Well, he is Spaniard, and very, how do you say, arrogant. He gets very close to me -- " She leans over Ricky again "-- like so and says, oh, I do not remember. But was not proper Communist greeting."


"What did he say?" Ricky's question delighted her, even as she screwed up her face trying to remember. She's really drunk, Ricky thought.


"Was 'hello, lovely Red Saviour.' Or something like that." She held her glass to her chest. "Was not respectful." Back to the spot on the wall, he noticed.


"Comrade Tiego's persuasive re-education techniques made good Communists out of ugly teen thugs, Tsoo and mobsters. Was no more need for clipboard checking for him, I could see."


Outside, a police siren wailed. Red Saviour straightened up at the sound of it, then settled back into the couch.


"Comrade Mosca, however, did not attend to battle with full attention. Every scolding I gave him, he only made sly remark. He professed loyalty, though, so could not excoriate him in good faith."


"What's excoriation?"


She gave Ricky a serious look. "Don't asking. You should hope you never find out. Is very harsh.


"So, after scolding over fighting and scolding over failure to cite doctrine, we fall in water. We are in Independence Port, da? Is water, we fight, we splash. He is offering to take shirt off! What am I to be saying, as commander? Nyet, of course. It would dry, but he kept getting it dirty. Was unsightly, had to clean it off.


"You are good listener, Ricky. Is no problem for ladies with you, da?"


"Well, I do okay." Mostly he stayed at home with the guys and played Xbox, smoking it up with kind bud. There had been girlfriends in the past, and some potential ones now, but no woman he'd ever met was like Natalya. Out of my league, he thought. Way, way, out.


"He is not good listener! He pretended to obey commands, but was always getting way. And when patrolling, always directly behind me. Why is that?"


"I have no idea," Ricky lied.


"You are guy, you know how men think. Tell me..." She leaned in again and blew vodka breath on him. "Why did he call Fei Li Spicy Ginger Flower?"


"Well...are they dating?"


Natalya smashed her glass on the floor. "NYET!"


"Whoa!" Ricky jumped off the couch.


"Izvinit, izvinit, I'm sorry." She looked at Ricky imploringly. "Am sorry, comrade. Is too much vodka. Do not leave so soon." The hand she held out glowed distinctly blue. "Please. Is good to talk to fellow worker."


He backed toward the door. "I better go, I have to clock out at the office." It wasn't true, but it sounded good. "It was nice to meet you, Natalya. Uh...good luck on the Communism, there..." His backside hit the door and he grabbed the knob.


Red Saviour huddled on the couch. A few drops of blood dripped down her leg, cuts from glass shrapnel of the thick vodka glass. Ricky thought he saw tears.


"Spasibo for listening, comrade Ricky."


"Sure, anytime. Uh..." He thought back to the movie Red October. "Dos Veedan-ee-a."


Natalya smiled, tired and tearing up. "Do svedanya, tovarisch."


Ricky closed the door behind him. Eleven flights of stairs didn't seem too bad now. As he hopped down them by twos, he thought about Natalya, wearing clothes he wouldn't have dared buy a girlfriend, and looking like...well, like the woman modelling bikinis in April's Maxim Magazine.


Hot chicks are always crazy, Ricky told himself. Whoever this Mosca guy is, I wish him good luck.