Chapter 14 – Wednesday Night

Wednesday Night in Moscow

The rooftop was empty, and the gloomy miserableness of the Moscow evening was creeping through the air like the chill of a Dracula mist in Rumania but Kirill noticed nothing in the Moscow distance as he stood by the edge of the roof and lit two cigarettes before passing one to Victoria who was standing just a little too close to him for comfort. The private moments at the end of a real tortuous day had been invaded and his guard had been broken and he very much needed to re-establish his stand-offish composure, self-preservation had always been a priority in this game as he had personally witnessed too many unfortunate endings that could have been avoided. She took the cigarette and slowly drew on the heat before spluttering and coughing then giggling at her own inadequacies which caught Kirill by surprise as he laughed in unison and put his arm around her shoulder in an action of genuine concern and this worried him to the core!

Before he could offer further assistance to quell her coughing a waitress appeared with a tray of drinks, she was freezing in her starched cotton uniform and hurriedly place the tray on the table next to them. She was about to leave them before Kirill rustled through his pockets and pulled out a wad of banknotes, he had intended to offer a suitable tip but pushed the whole wad into her opened palm and wished her a good evening. The waitress was clearly taken aback, but she had the wit to thank him with a simple nod of the head before moving swiftly for the lift before he had the chance to amend his mistake and before her luck changed.

They continued laughing as Kirill poured two ice cold vodkas, “this might help” as they clinked and downed in one and she spluttered again which made both laugh even more.

As Victoria regained her composure Kirill drew on his cigarette and poured more vodka. Time seemed to stand still for him in a world that had usually been devoid of any emotions other than misery and violence, he was confused and concerned. The temperature was dropping rapidly but neither seemed to notice or really care, they were enjoying the moment and each other’s company as Victoria broke the silence with an unexpected request of “could we go back to the Kvartira 44 bar again?”

But first I need some relaxation, a shower and then I have something special for you and then, maybe then we go to 44, yes? She nodded in agreement and raised her empty glass suggesting a refill and the gloom as if by magic drifted into the Moscow sky, the evening was coming and the presentations seemed a distant memory, Kirill felt a warmth and happy to be in the moment, Victoria smiled and oozed casualness, she was definitely different from the other witches, he had to be careful. Rule one, don’t trust anybody, no matter how close they get, he had been caught out before and had been very lucky to get out alive.

Another drink, and this time Victoria declined the offer of a cigarette and moved closer as a group of guests arrived from the lift breaking the silence. As was customary they moved as far away from them as possible, almost an unwritten code to maintain discretion and obscurity, everybody had a reason to be somewhere and a reason not to be seen or overheard. Two men had looked at each other and respected the code and maintained their distance, both wanted to enjoy the evening and the solitude on the roof. A waitress appeared with more drinks and the group livened up with chatter and laughter, she came over, it was the same one who had  received the generous tip earlier and asked if they required any other services, Kirill waved his hand in the customary manner and she  moved away to the lift and safety!

Even though the rooftop was quiet he felt music in his bones and was relaxing as if a normal human being, but Kirill knew from experience that he had to be careful and watch his guard as he never knew who was watching and why! However, that did not stop the chain smoking of the Sobranie cigarettes which in turn generated the need for another vodka to stop his throat drying up.

They stood for approximately an hour on the rooftop and hardly said a word between them, but the silence was warm and sensual, and he enjoyed it immensely, he felt alive and kicking!

“Come on we need to move as I have a surprise for you,” and on that note they left the remains of the bottle and descended to their rooms to brush up and prepare for the evening ahead. Kirill would meet her in the foyer at 1930pm and it could not come soon enough.

As it was, they were both running out of time, the drinks on the rooftop had drifted quickly and time had flown past and now they would have to get a move on to get the most from the evening he had now envisaged. There was little time available for the first part of the evening and he was not sure if he had made the right choice, but he had a hunch, a serious hunch that it might, just might be the right thing to do.

Victoria was a little bit drunk and she instructed her associates to run a hot bath with salts and get some fresh tea and light snacks, she need to clear her head and look good for the evening. Victoria knew that she was no beauty, but she made up for that in her personal honesty about herself and she let the moment decide how she would look. She need not have worried because it was the casual sensuality that she herself was not aware of that attracted Kirill and she could not destroy that, no matter how she dressed up, he would be both happy and delighted with her company.

The time passed quickly and Kirill stood in the foyer waiting with uncharacteristic anticipation, he knew she would be late, she was a woman and this is Russia, so stay focussed and calm, and on that note he headed for the bar but instinctively changed his mind and walked outside for a cigarette and to gain his thoughts and composure. There appeared to be so many comings and goings, but he noticed little and drifted away as he smoked and contemplated the night ahead.

He had been facing the lobby and could see the lifts as they arrived and discarded their occupants into the plush entrance hall and was ready when she arrived. He was relieved that she wore a full-length black leather fur lined coat and a matching Russian style leather hat, the shoes did not matter he had a full complement in the car and hoped she would fit the boots. With a swift hello he escorted her to his waiting vehicle and shot off into the Moscow night as she composed herself on the soft leather seat.

Kirill was thinking of Gorky Park:

The Gorky Park in Moscow is officially known as the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure and is known by tourists from all over the world. The name of the park comes from Maxim Gorky and was arranged in 1928 by the Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov, one of the leading avant-garde architects in the country. The Park covers a huge area of land of about 300 hectares, being arranged in the garden of the Neskuchny Palace and the old Golitsyn hospital.

Why had he chosen the park tonight?

In winter in the Gorky Park in Moscow is a natural ice rink. Water is thrown on the paths, which freezes at night, when temperatures often falls below zero degrees. So overnight, the park turns into a giant skating rink divided into alleys and areas. Although his self-preservation meant planning for every eventuality, he had no control over the usage of the park by locals or tourists and quietly hoped for as few as possible.

As Kirill reflected on his plan and personal motives, he did not notice the bustling Moscow traffic as the car moved elegantly towards Gorky Park. The moments flashed past and the driver stopped beside the ice rink, the lights were on and very few people were there. Victoria jumped out and said, “why didn’t you tell me?” “Because you did not bring skates with you and suitable clothing, and luckily, we have a full selection for you to try on.” Kirill had never felt these feelings before, excitement anticipation fun etc, etc.

Kirill prepared his boots as Victoria rustled through the huge selection of equipment of ice-skating boots, socks and pads and was finally ready, “let’s go!”

Kirill took her hand as they moved towards the rink area and the next thirty minutes passed as if in slow motion. They fell over, laughed, crashed into the barriers, fell over some more, twirled and spun all over the rink area and only just avoided most of the other users who were having as much fun as they were. However, an ambitious move resulted in a collision with a young couple who had a similar limited level of skating ability and they all ended up on the butts on the ice. They all laughed as Kirill offered his apologies and asked them if they would like a drink to apologise for their accident as there just happened to be a nearby seating area which had been prepared with a tablecloth and refreshments.

Victoria joined in and insisted they join them. A couple of ice-cold vodkas later the couple made their excuses before leaving Kirill and Victoria alone at the table. “You sure know how to impress the ladies, why didn’t you tell me, this is fantastic.” Kirill tried to explain that he was not sure if she would like it or even try it, so he had left it to the last minute. Victoria could not remember having so much fun and thanked him for the pleasure before enquiring where they might be going later for some more laughter. She asked if they could go back to the 44 club and listen to some music, he just replied “why not?” Victoria was watching the other skaters as he lit up a cigarette and drew slowly before blowing a large ring in the air above his head and from a distance it looked like a giant halo above their heads, he could not remember so much pleasure and so much laughter he felt very much alive and very happy.

The temperature was dropping, Victoria was beginning to shiver and, as if by magic Kirill produced a large fur lined rug which he wrapped around her before pouring a hot drink from a silver thermos flask, he said softly, “we have hot chocolate but no marshmallows?” “Never mind, this is just perfect, thank you.” They left the park approximately thirty minutes later and changed back into their evening wear.

Kirill explained that it was a little early for the Kvartira 44, winter is a different time for the 44 as the area outside was too cold and inside there would be few people and little atmosphere, he smiled because secretly that was just how he would prefer it to continue the evening. He had instructed the driver to take a long tour around the city before arriving at the venue.

The evening went well, probably too well with far too much alcohol and too many cigarettes. His voice was getting rougher and Victoria was getting louder as the piano playing and singing was raising the noise of the bar a little too far for comfort and he needed to reign her in a little. She did not want to leave but the quiet reassuring words from Kirill bought a little sense of reality and responsibility and although almost drunk she knew there would be repercussions if the situation escalated out of control. They thanked the owner and left blending into the Moscow gloom and headed back to the boring routine of the top-class hotel. Tomorrow would be coming a little too quickly and there was still too much work to be done.

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