en in the room gaze at her, some openly leering, others more discreet. A few try to strike up a conversation, to flirt with her, but she politely declines their attention.
The men do not know who she is to Yevgheny, so they take the hint and leave her alone again. They know better than to incur his wrath, as few survive it.
The late day has turned to early evening, the window showing the sun starting to lower above Red Square in the distance. She is the last one waiting in the room, only his secretary and a large man guarding the door are left. She has not having moved from her seat in hours, and she moves her legs to stretch them out. Standing, she stretches like a cat, her graceful movements practiced, and begins to pace in front of the antique couch. “I can do this,” she whispers to herself. “I have to do this.”
A man in an expensive suit leaves the room, barely hiding his anger behind a veneer of manners. He doesn’t look at the others, he storms out and enters the elevator leaving an uncomfortable silence behind.
“Mikhail.” The sound comes from behind the office door, and the large man at the door immediately turns and enters the office. It is an impressive room, decorated with Russian antiquities and offering sweeping views of Moscow, and the man behind it is no less impressive. Yevgheny Zubkov is intimidating even when sitting down, and Mikhail keeps his eyes down as he approaches his boss, standing with his hands behind his back two paces from the hand-carved desk.
“Sir,” he answers.
“What do we know about her?” He looks out over the river, not bothering to look at his employee.
“Her name is Ekatarina Klishnina, twenty-two years old, living in Sergiyev Posad for the last year. Thirteen months ago, she was studying here in Moscow, working as a dancer at Rasputin’s.” He handed her the photo of her from the club, the investigators on the payroll had swung into action as soon as Ekatarina had shown up and requested a moment to speak to him.
“I remember her, she was a great fuck. A smoking hot body and a virgin to boot. She didn’t stop fighting me and you know how much I like it when they struggle. Who would have expected a virgin in a strip club! What a night.” He smiled as he thought about her, she had refused his advances, but no one turns him down and lives. Her struggles only inflamed his passions, and he took her hard, bound and gagged, again and again in the private room of the club as she fought to get free. “She no longer works there?”
“She returned to her home a month after that,” the big man said. “Her mother was sick and passed away, she inherited the small home.” He pulled a photo from his jacket pocket. “She gave birth four months ago to a daughter she named Natalya.” The baby was beautiful like her mother, dark hair, chubby cheeks, healthy. “No boyfriend or husband, neighbors said she was a single mother, nice woman, works as a waitress at a local restaurant. Nothing remarkable.”
“I see.” The numbers added up; Yevgheny was careful, but accidents happened in rough sex, and he had people who could take care of accidents for him. People with his wealth and power could never be held accountable in Russia, where bribes and favors were a way of life. Even without it, his position within the Russian Mob scared even the police away. “Is the daughter with her?”
“Our men have checked the house, she is not there. No one saw her leave.”
The boss tapped his fingers on the table. “Did she say what she wanted?”
“No sir, just a moment of your time.”
He nodded. “Bring her in.”
The man immediately turned and walked to the door, opening it and stepping out into the other room slightly. “Miss Klishnina, Mr. Zubkov will see you now.” He stood aside while the trembling woman walked into the room, finally looking into the eyes of the man who had raped her. His eyes showed no remorse, only curiosity and a cold promise of pain.
“Mr. Zubkov, thank you for seeing me,” she said, her voice breaking slightly.
“My pleasure,” he said as he held his hand out for her to shake, and she did so. Briefly and reluctantly. “Please, sit. Would you like a drink, Ekatarina?”
“No thank you, sir.”
“Very well, what can I do for you? Do you need a job again?” His crew owned Rasputin’s, along with two other strip clubs, five brothels, and numerous other criminal enterprises.
“No sir, I no longer dance. It’s about my daughter, Natalya. Our daughter.” She pulled the birth certificate out, it listed the father as unknown, along with a photo of the baby. “I don’t mean to cause you trouble, sir. I wouldn’t have dared given your name as her father, but you are. I was a virgin when you took me, I’ve been with no other man. I am here only to ask for help.”
“I see.” Yevgheny inspected the birth certificate and looked at the photograph. Taken in the hospital, the girl was in her arms, sleeping peacefully. “What kind of help do you need?”
“My savings have run out, and I can’t make enough money as a waitress to cover the cost of child care and my home. I have no family left to help me. I’m begging you for assistance, sir. I will never reveal her father to anyone, but I have to live.”
“I understand.” I took her hand, she was shaking as I patted the back of it with my other hand. “You have nothing to worry about, Ekatarina. Your struggles are over, I’ll take care of everything.”
Her whole countenance changed, a smile came over her face, the kind of smile that could light up a room. “Thank you, sir. Thank you.”
Yevgheny stood, and she did with him. He looked over by the door where Mihail was standing. “Mikhail, please make sure this young lady is taken care of.”
“Yes sir,” he said. He opened the door and waited for her, she turned one last time to thank him before they left.
“We have to go visit his lawyer,” Mikhail said. “He will take your information and set up an account with automatic payments.”
“That would be wonderful,” she said. They entered the elevator, she shifted on her heels nervously as he stood behind her. The door opened on the parking level, a black Mercedes was waiting for them, a driver holding the door open. “We have to drive?”
“Yes, his office is a few kilometers away. The driver will drop you at your hotel.”
“I don’t have a hotel, I took the train in this morning.”
“No problem, we can drop you at the train station when we are done.”
She nodded and moved towards the door being held for her. When she put her hand on the car, Mikhail moved forward, grasping her jaw and the back of her head with his big hands. A sharp twist, and a loud snap echoed through the parking garage. Mikhail caught her as she dropped, her neck broken, her eyes looking at him in shock. He picked her up as the driver moved to open the trunk, which had already been lined with a tarp. He placed the woman inside, slamming it on her as her consciousness left her and she died.
Mikhail got in the back of the Mercedes as the driver got in and started the car. “Where to?”
“Sergiyev Posad,” Mikhail replied as he pulled out his phone. He dialed a number. “It’s done,” he said softly.
“Clean up the loose ends,” Yevgheny replied.
“It will be done.” He hung up the phone as they pulled out of the garage into the Moscow traffic.
Hours later, they pulled into the alley behind her small house. The watchers had seen no activity, and no one could find the baby. “Come on,” Mikhail told the driver. Using a piece of wood, he broke several lights in the area so the alley was shrouded in darkness. They went to the trunk, removing the dead woman and leaving her at the base of the stairs. The local police would be paid off, ensuring the death would be ruled an accident.
Taking her keys and purse, Mikhail opened her door and left the purse on the chair in the small kitchen. Using a flashlight, he looked around for clues as to where the baby might be. The apartment was plain, small, just one bedroom. The crib in the corner was empty, some clothes and diapers around, but no bag. Checking the rest of the place, he noticed what wasn’t there that a young mother would have. A stroller, and a diaper bag. Her purse held nothing for a baby.
He checked the refrigerator and the notes stuck to the wall near the phone for clues, taking a few that might be helpful. Slipping back out the door, he went down to the driver who was standing guard over the dead body. “Let’s go,” he said as he got in the back.
Father Ivan Kempechny watched the car drive away from his hiding place on the roof of a nearby building. He said a prayer for the member of his flock, left dead there in the darkness of the alley, knowing who the killer was but sworn not to say anything. She had come to him that morning, with her baby crying in her arms, as she explained what she had to do. He had strongly advised her not to do it, but she was desperate and alone. She handed him the baby, and he had given his word that he would ensure her safety if she did not return.
There was no place in Russia that would be safe for the baby now. Shaking his head, he left the rooftop, heading back to his office at the nearby Russian Orthodox Church. He had contacts with international adoption agencies, and he had the foresight to have her sign the papers giving her for adoption before she left. Natalya could never be listed with any orphanage, never go through any open court proceeding. He knew a judge who would sign the adoption papers, and the agencies would find someone in America who would happily adopt the beautiful baby, even if the paperwork was shrouded in mystery.
A week later, Natalya was sleeping on her mother’s shoulder as the plane crossed the Atlantic, bound for Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her mother’s purse were the adoption papers and her new birth certificate. She was now Jessie Donato, daughter of airline executive Anthony Donato and his wife Cindy.
Mikhail never found her, a fact that cost him his life.