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Story again, switched around and the such

  • Jan. 25th, 2008 at 10:38 PM
From looking at her apartment, you’d have no idea that Lyna was a consummate professional. The foyer could fool you, even the bathroom where the copious makeup she wore was held in perfect lines along the marble countertop, but a few steps farther down the hall and to the left, the kitchen deleted every illusion. She never had people over, but if she did, they surely would expect a cockroach or two to crawl out of the sink – she was always one step away from that. Too lazy to be bothered with cleaning a mug, she owned at least twenty coffee mugs, all with different designs and various sizes (and, for that matter, various amounts of freezing cold coffee), littered around the kitchen and into the main living area, each one emblazoned with a half-moon lipstick mark in the crimson lipstick she was always seen wearing.

There was nothing notable about her bedroom-slash-living room. People from out of town would likely balk at the idea of having a combination room with a distinct lack of a Murphy bed, but a New Yorker, taking special consideration to the fact that she was living in Trump Parc on Central Park South just a block or so from Columbus Circle, would be quite pleased by the space. The view wasn’t much, a brick building where your neighbours could always spy on you through open windows, but it was quiet and moderately large for Midtown. Besides, it only cost about one-point-two million dollars, paid cash.

Lyna’s filing system was simple: there was no filing system. Other than some seemingly uniform piles on the floor, her desk and the window seat, there was no rhyme or reason. Notes were taped all over the mirrored wall on the left side of the room, each one written in curly Ukrainian script – she took great pride in her handwriting, always had. Her reasoning for a lack of filing was that all of her important documents were password protected in each of the three computers on her desk, as she is and has always been a very secretive person, and for good reason, as if you opened the television cabinet and pulled out the bottom shelf, there hidden was a lockbox with four passports from four countries with four names, but all with only a picture of one woman, the mysterious Lyna. If one looked carefully at the names and felt the need to Google any one of them, he’d find that two out of the four were wanted on murder charges, one in Eastern Europe and one in South Africa.

It was actually rather good that Lyna never had anyone over. It was always a bit hard to explain how a part-time Czech language teacher lived in a building like hers anyway.

Work was at Madison and East 83rd, a block away from the Met, so on nice days she walked home on the weaving path through the centre of Central Park. It was winter, however, always an insanely popular season in the City, so rather than walking or even taking a taxi, she afforded herself the hilarity of the MTA. It was three blocks up and two blocks over to the closest station, a short ride on the 5 to 59th and Lexington, and a shorter ride still to 57th Street Station on the F. From the station, it wasn’t even two minutes before she was home, a welcome relief on particularly blustery days. Every other day, she’d follow the same routine, always walking without looking to her mailbox without a word to the receptionist, turning her back to him as she waited at the lift then continuing on quietly. She was never one for extraneous conversation.

Today, however, was slightly different, as the receptionist had the audacity to speak to her.

‘Miss Melinyshyn,’ he said in a half-voice, but in the marble foyer he could well have been yelling. ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I let your guest go on up.’

Her eyes glanced up from the envelopes in her hand and she looked at the golden elevator doors in front of her before turning to glance over her shoulder. The man behind the counter stood.

‘I was not expecting a guest.’

‘He said he was your brother,’ the man replied with something akin to a shrug.

She dropped the letters in her hand and immediately bent down to the floor to pick them up, tapping them against the marble to straighten them completely out before standing once more. ‘About my height, same hair colour, same colour eyes, same skin tone…?’

‘Uh… yes?’ the man hazarded. ‘And he looked sick… is he all right?’

‘That is not your business,’ she replied tactfully, slipping into her well-practised avoidance mode.

Lyna furrowed her brow and turned back to the lift, her knuckles white from her new grip upon the pile of envelopes. The lift dinged and the doors slid open; she stepped in and dropped her hands to her sides once they closed again. Twenty-three clicks sounded as she went up – whether she consciously knew it or not, she always counted the clicks – and as soon as the doors opened again, she was walking with immense purpose toward her apartment door which was oh-so-conveniently ajar. Pausing in the hallway with her hand pressed to the door, she reconsidered and reached up with one hand to carefully smooth her hair down. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it open, her head tilted to the side as she tried to peek far enough into the apartment to see her visitor. Closing the door after her, she walked forward a bit and threw the mail on the kitchen counter before putting her hands on her hips and going into the living room. Despite the fact that she knew he wasn’t supposed to be there, she tried to act like nothing was different – she was told to remain calm around him as though nothing had happened.

‘You should not be here, John.’

The man in the room didn’t respond immediately, instead looking from note to note on the mirror wall.

‘Not a single note in Czech,’ he said nearly to himself. ‘Trying to keep secrets from me.’

‘You lied to the doorman,’ she stated, allowing an ensuing silence for only a moment before starting to take off her coat and speaking once more. ‘I do not see how he thought you were my brother in the first place.’

‘Blue eyes, brown hair,’ he murmured. ‘Matching Czech passports.’

‘My passport is legal, yours is not,’ she replied as she folded her coat over her arm. ‘The Head merely allowed you to latch onto my identity to add validity to your own.’

Realising he’d stopped listening even before he started, she watched their reflections in the mirror before turning and throwing her coat onto the unmade bed. Like her, he was considered a consummate professional, an orchestrator of many historical ‘purifications’, as they were, but as of relatively recently a moderately high member of Credit Suisse with a background scrubbed clean by certain bureaucrats and politicians guarding their own transgressions. At that moment in time, however, if he’d walked up to someone and said ‘I’m a rather well-known project manager for asset management at Credit Suisse and spend my time equally between New York City and Zürich’, the immediate reaction would be ‘oh dear, this vagabond really is utterly insane, I shall give him some money for a sandwich’.

He looked like he hadn’t bathed in days, his hair sticking up oddly on one side – there was also the fact that he was dressed in a hospital gown, a robe and socks despite the wind chill bringing the temperature down to around eighteen Fahrenheit. But in all honestly, New York City was far too odd for anyone to take notice of a man in something akin to pyjamas walking proudly down the street or reading the newest issue of Gazeta – dearest John, he was fluent in six languages after all – during a ride on a subway. Such a man is simply labelled eccentric until he enters a delightful fugue state and embarks on a multinational killing spree.

He was fidgeting oddly as his eyes darted about the notes, and she joined in on the fidgeting when she saw an arc of white plastic flash out from under the cuff of his coat and remembered exactly why his presence was quite unwelcome.

‘You were not released yet,’ she said softly and rather carefully, holding her head back to the side. ‘They are going to find you are missing, and they are going to call Beth.’

‘Bellevue misplaces people all the time,’ he replied, finally turning around and licking his teeth a bit – he didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned about this Beth. ‘I needed to talk to you.’

‘You could have called me.’

He scoffed. ‘Like you would have come.’

She couldn’t help but be taken aback, a fact that she displayed physically by taking a long step away from him. In all fact, she’d been there two days before with his wife – a token of goodwill toward the competition – and they’d had a lengthy conversation whilst the exceedingly patient Beth spoke with his doctors. Pressing the backs of her knuckles to her lips, she crossed an arm over her chest and looked down at the ground. She could hear him lightly snapping his fingers, a nervous habit he’d had since they met in the Czech Republic two years after it ceased to be part of Czechoslovakia. The snapping came closer and she glanced up just in time to see his foot land directly on one of the coffee mugs, smashing the ceramic and pouring coffee all over the beige carpet. He didn’t miss a beat, continuing toward her and leaving bloody footprints in his wake.

Typical of her personality, she was far more interested in how she was going to remove blood from the scene of the crime than whether or not he was hurt.

When he got to her, he reached up, running his fingers through her hair quietly as she studied him. His label of suicide risk was obviously taken one step too far, his stubble telling the story that he wasn’t allowed even a safety razor. He had a vague smile on his face as he studied the ends of her hair. There was a slight tremor to his hand.

‘People on the subway just assumed I was a hobo,’ he said with a light tone, but she didn’t smile.

‘You did not have a MetroCard,’ she said into her hand as she looked beyond him. ‘You do not even have a wallet.’

He gave an uncomfortable smile to her, leaning into her field of vision as he spoke in a whisper, his tone unbalanced. ‘I jumped the turnstile.’

She nodded slowly, closing her eyes before pushing past him and moving toward her desk, managing to completely bypass the broken mug and three separate piles of papers on her way. He reached out and took her by the wrist before she made it to the phone. With a sigh, she turned to look at him.

‘I’d like to shave before you send me back.’

Turning completely, she put both of her hands around his left hand, looking him in the eyes for some semblance of clarity, and finding it far, far back, she groaned and laced her fingers in his, pulling him to the bathroom and setting him onto a pouffe she sat upon each morning for makeup time. He leaned back against the wall and watched with half-closed eyes as she walked to the bath and turned on the water, running her fingertips through it before bending and stopping the tub.

‘Oh,’ he said as she dried her hand with her back to him. ‘I’m bleeding.’

She paused for only a moment before continuing. ‘Yes.’

When she turned about, he’d bent at the waist and was examining his foot. She walked over, putting her hand against the counter and leaning as she watched him with a towel-holding hand on her hip. Bending up again, he held up a large fragment of ceramic with bloody fingers. She took it without a word and threw it into the sink.

‘Plan on leaving?’ he asked with a head tip as he began pulling his robe off.

‘The last time I left you alone in a bathroom, you shot yourself.’

He considered this for a moment, narrowing his eyes in thought before snapping and pointing at her. ‘Nigeria, June of ’98, Sani Abacha.’

‘You remember,’ she said with a vague smile. ‘That is good.’

‘You cut your foot, but it was on a plate,’ he nodded as he continued undressing, carefully folding every article of clothing, even his bloody sock that he’d discarded earlier, then laughed. ‘How long did Dr Greene hospitalise me after that?’

He didn’t wait for an answer, instead getting up and limping to the bathtub. As he passed, she looked at the five healed gunshot wounds on his leg and torso, feeling something akin to pride at the fact that she’d been responsible for four of them – if he hadn’t wanted to be shot, he should have included her in the Fortuyn assassination. She sat musing as he turned the water off and settled, looking at the ceiling.

‘Did I plan the assassination of Saeng Chaiyasan?’ he asked as she pulled the pouffe up alongside the tub and watched him carefully as she began pouring shampoo on his head.

‘You killed her, if that is what you mean,’ she replied as she lathered the shampoo.

‘Did I?’ he questioned breezily then dunking under the water to wash the shampoo out.

When he popped up again, she spoke. ‘Last month, in Shanghai.’

‘Hm,’ he said quietly as he reached for the lavender shaving cream that sat on the edge of the tub; he laughed as he rubbed it over the stubble. ‘You know, I bet they’ll put me in a Posey when I get back.’

‘I bet they will,’ she replied. ‘But you will find another mode of escape.’

‘I might stay this time,’ he said then smiled at her as he began to shave. ‘I just couldn’t remember Chaiyasan. I figured she had to be dead, they’re all dead, but I couldn’t remember if she was one that I killed or one that I planned.’

‘Happens to the best of us.’

‘Yeah,’ he murmured as he splashed water on his face once again and ran his hand along his chin. ‘Guess I should be getting back to Bellevue now. Wouldn’t want them calling Beth.’

‘Right,’ she replied, reaching out and taking the razor from him before carefully shaving places he’d missed.

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