Going Under Ch. 01byTang88©
Chapter One: Connection
Sara had originally been excited by her posting to Moscow, a real chance to put her language skills to use. She had only been there once before when she had visited Russia as a student, and then only to see the tourist sights. Now, having been working in the city for three months she would have been happy to stick to those. Her time was spent either translating tedious documents for the trade attaché or trekking back and forth to her dull flat in the dreary suburbs, or the weekly challenge of joining the queues at the gloomy supermarket. For the ordinary people little had really changed since the Communists had left, except now they could not get stuff because it was too expensive rather than because the shelves were bare, and now it was gangsters and business moguls who drove the flash cars rather than party officials. She supposed free enterprise allowed escape for some, half the women under forty in her block were prostitutes or pole dancers, dreaming of a rich German or American to whisk them away and in the meantime making a great deal more than the average factory or shop worker. Sara was storing all the sights and sounds up for when she got home, she was sure she could get a couple of articles or even a novel out of her time here.
What she had envisaged doing when coming to Moscow was checking out the cool night clubs. She had been past a few in taxis when she had first come to the city, but had never plucked up the courage to queue up to go inside. Back home she would have gone with a friend or two, but the embassy was full of matrons and fat middle-aged diplomats worrying about their wives and/or their mistresses so there was no-one suitable to go to a club with. Sara was really self-conscious of going alone, knowing she would have to fight off over-eager louts. Her eagerness to see inside some of the clubs had not yet overpowered that concern, but she was keen, before her time was up in Moscow, to see the inside the clubs, ones that would have a style that their equivalent in Toronto or Ottawa lacked. Maybe she too dreamt of a rich German, she had had her pick of Americans back home. No, what she really wanted was a pale but interesting Russian poet, poor in money but rich in soul. Someone to take her on a sleigh ride out to his family's dacha, where they would make love under furs and sip vodka by candlelight. She had looked for one in bars and coffee houses around the city, but anyone coming close to her specifications had turned out to be a bore. She had to face it, she wanted someone with a little more 'edge', someone a bit dangerous before her life sunk completely into the mundane routines of embassy life.
Sara glanced at her watch. It had just gone nine. The meeting had dragged on well past six and then she had felt it would damage her career prospects if she had ducked out too early from the drinks to celebrate Mrs. Foster's birthday. She had made sure she had filled up on canapes so that she would not have to cook when she reached her flat. She would watch some game show or chart run-down before bed. Sara shoved her ticket into the slot and the barrier let her through into the underground. One thing she loved about Moscow was the underground railway system. It was so unlike the system in New York which had a seventies feel, a bit too functional and all too familiar from movies even before she had visited it when at college. She contrasted it with Prague's metro system which gleamed and did not have a spot of litter. Moscow's was pretty clean too, miles better than London, but whereas Prague's was very 2000s, Moscow's was wholly 1930s: every station was a state room, every escalator a grand staircase.
There were very few people around. The rush hour was well over and those going out for the evening were generally already in their bars, at the moment few people were heading in or out. As Sara rode the escalator down to the platform level she felt a swoosh of air as if someone had rushed past her. She grabbed at her handbag worrying the someone was trying to snatch it off her. She looked around hurriedly, but there was no-one obvious. Then she caught sight of a dark figure disappearing from view at the foot of the escalator. How had they got past her without her seeing? Maybe she was tired, dropping off as she rode the moving stairs. Then again, even stronger than the first time, a large figure swept by her and this time she looked down the escalator in time to see the rear of a large man, long hair streaming behind him as he bounded down the last handful of steps in one jump. Sara guessed he was chasing the other, slimmer figure, that Sara was now sure had been a woman. As the escalator took her inexorably down, Sara wondered if she should hang back and let whatever activity the two had been involved in play itself out, but given how fast they had been moving she was sure it would be all over or they would be out of sight by the time she reached the platform. She was sure the militia, Moscow's police force, would soon be on the case and she was eager to get home, not to be wasting the night making a statement at a dreary police HQ.
As Sara stepped on to the platform she knew something was wrong. Her eyes went immediately to a struggle at the far end of the platform. The large man was stooped over the dark figure who was sprawled on the floor. As the figure twisted Sara could see it certainly was a woman: pale skin, dark hair. She twisted and strained to reach the stainless steel pistol just inches from her fingers, but the man's foot pinned her arm. He stood over her with what looked like a hiking stick, wooden and coming to a point. He lunged down with it, as if trying to pierce the woman. At the last moment she wrenched her body aside and the stick clashed against the platform surface.
Thoughts ran through Sara's mind. One natural reaction was to run off the platform and head in the opposite direction, call for the militia, but other thoughts won and drove her legs into a run headlong up the platform. It was the feeling that she could be like that woman, pinned to the ground with some beast of a man toying with her. As she ran Sara dug into handbag, he fingers scrabbling for her mace.
"Back off, back off!" Sara shouted in Russian. "Leave her alone, you bastard."
At the sound of her voice the man turned just as Sara had hoped and it only took a few more fast steps before he was in range. She was spraying mace as she lifted her bottle, coating his thick beard in the liquid before it gushed into his eyes. Sara kept the button depressed, with the spray bottle grasped in both hands like a policewoman with a pistol. Almost blindly he lashed out at Sara with his stick, but in seconds, without thinking, her Aikido training, gained on many a wet night in the university dojo, came into action. In an instant the mace was on the floor and with both hands free Sara had snatched at the man's wrist, twisting into him, using his own weight to orbit him around the vulnerable wrist. For the first time since she had learnt that move, Sara felt it in full effect as the man's large but fragile wrist bones cracked as his body contorted, swinging against the wall and rebounding on to the floor, his own bulk doing most of the work. The man sprawled dangerously close to the edge of the platform. Painfully he struggled to get to his feet, his good hand grabbing for his stick. Sara was ready, in a defensive posture. Even with his size Sara guessed a broken right wrist would even things a little, but then she heard the clunking of an automatic pistol's mechanism being worked, all too familiar from a hundred movies. Sara glanced back to see the woman on her feet, her ankle length leather coat smeared with dust, the large pistol gripped expertly in both hands. Sara did not know what to do, but things moved fast and in instants her ears were ringing as the woman fired again and again at the man. Sara watched the mechanism working, expelling the spent casings, chambering round after round, the muzzle flash licking from the gun barrel as she fired again. Sara turned back to see her target, but the man seemed to have gone, and just a cloud of dust blew where he had fallen.
"That's enough." Sara said in Russian, speaking loudly so she could hear her voice over the whistling in her ears. "He's gone."
"Yes." The woman replied. She swept open her coat with her hand and holstered her pistol.
Now things had quietened Sara could get a look at the woman. She was certainly distinctive, clearly a goth or maybe a punk. She was almost monochrome, black hair contrasting with her pale complexion, a fit, clearly muscled body clear in the black rubber catsuit she wore beneath her coat. Something like a leather corset or was it a bulletproof vest, nipped in her slender waist. Sara loved the thick-soled boots the woman wore, the sort she had seen in plenty hanging up on stalls in Camden Market when she had been on the London tourist trail. They rose to her knee, a series of buckles running their length. Sara was so envious, this woman would have looked the part in a fetish club and yet her sexiness seemed to have a practicality. Sara loved that fact that these were her everyday, go-to-work clothes.
"Good moves." The woman said closing her coat to hide the pistol.
"Thanks. I always knew those Aikido lessons would pay off one day."
"Yes, pretty handy. You'll have to teach me some, for the next time I can't reach my gun."
"Certainly. My name's Sara." She extended her hand.
The woman shook it and Sara noticed the elegance of her long slender fingers, inevitably tipped with black polished nails. "Cate." She said. "You're not Russian. American?"
Sara laughed. "Canadian."
"Sorry for the mistake." Cate said in English, "I'm sure you tire of being called American. I get it too. The Russians have no ear for Anglo-Saxon accents."
Cate nodded. "Been in Moscow longer than I care to think though, through all it's ups and downs. It's kept me fed though."
"What do you do?" Sara was aware she was being nosey, but she was really keen to keep Cate talking.
"You work for gangsters?"
Cate laughed. "Not really, his kind fall more into that category." She nodded to where the bearded man had fallen. "You could say I work for landowners, protecting their interests."
"I bet they're pleased now the Communists have gone and everything's been privatised."
"Certainly. They did have contacts inside the former regime and the one before that and the one before that, I'm sure, but yes, a lot more of them have emerged from the woodwork in the past few years." Cate fell silent.
Sara looked at Cate, drinking in the whole exotic appearance of her and then down at herself, so mundane in her grey office suit and wool coat.
"So what do you do?"
"Nothing exciting, translations at the embassy."
"Say no more. I know how to keep secrets."
"I'm sure you do." Sara hesitated. "I have to say how much I like how you're dressed." She flushed, a little embarrassed.
Cate looked up, her eyes fixing on Sara's as if digging into her mind. "Thank you." She said softly. "Not the sort of thing you could get away wearing at the embassy, I bet."
"No." Sara said weakly.
"Though I know you'd love to."
Sara looked alarmed. She did feel Cate had read her mind. She looked away awkwardly. She saw a few groups of people had come on to the platform but they seemed oblivious of the two women speaking English.
"You've got three minutes until your train. I have to thank you. Without you I could have been in serious trouble. He could have destroyed me."
"He looked like he was trying to kill you. Your work must be dangerous."
"Kill me?" Cate said with a little surprise in her voice. "Yes, probably. They're just thugs though." Cate said dismissively. "Two minutes."
Sara looked up the track but as yet there was no sign of the train.
"I have to do something to thank you, for saving me."
Sara looked back quickly. "It was nothing."
Cate laughed. "You wouldn't be saying that if you had your throat gashed or a stake through your thigh and they were rushing you to a crowded Moscow hospital."
"But it didn't turn out like that. We worked together as a team."
"I owe you. There's not many who would have time for someone like me. What would you accept to show my thanks?"
"The address of your boutique."
"I could tell you, but you would only stand outside it watching people like me going in and out and going home to have fantasies of what could be, but never would be. It has to be something that you'd actually follow through." Cate said as if trying to provoke Sara. "Ninety seconds."
"Clubs." Sara said suddenly, turning properly to face Cate. "You must know the coolest clubs in Moscow, you must get into them. Pick me one of your favourites with your kind of dress code. Put down the name of somewhere I could get suitably attired, then we'll meet. Tomorrow's Saturday night. We'll meet outside this station at 8pm and you take me to the best places. I won't let you down." Sara handed Cate her open filofax and a pen.
Cate looked deep into Sara's eyes before turning to the page. "Wow, when you set your mind to something, you go in full force. I suppose, after this evening's demonstration I should have realised that." Cate scribbled something in Sara's filofax and handed it backed to her closed.
The underground train arrived and as Sara tucked the filofax back into her bag and as she saw the first passengers come off the train she felt a kiss on her cheek which at first felt icy cold, but then burnt through her. She snapped round to look for Cate but she was gone. Sara stepped on to the train, thoughts haring through her mind.
Sara was glad she had got the antique velvet coat. It was dark blue and, though a little stained around the hem, looked great. It reached to her ankles, and its length and the hood she had pulled up over her head made her feel a little less self-conscious. She knew that if she had stood outside the underground station in just the leather dress and patent boots she wore, in minutes she would be fighting off clients thinking she was a prostitute. As the station clock clicked on to eight o'clock, Cate was beside her. She wore her long leather coat, or a cleaned version of it, over a glossy top that left her midriff bare and a long skirt which stretched to her ankles but was slit almost to her thigh; clompy patent shoes finished off the outfit.
"Hello." Sara said a little nervously. "I didn't see you coming."
"No, you wouldn't." Cate replied a little cryptically. "So, you plucked up the courage to go into Brusilov's then."
"Yes." Sara said proudly, opening the coat to show her clothes. The dress was black leather, with a tight laced bodice and a flared out skirt. Her tights were fishnet and her patent PVC boots stretched to her knee. Taking the lead from Cate's style, she had kohled her eyes and painted her nails black and her lips very dark maroon.
"Wonderful." Cate said, clearly pleased. "You can certainly make changes when you put your mind to it."
"When the reward is worth it." Sara replied and Cate gave a soft smile.
"Right, first stop, 'Gothika', it's not far from here." Cate set off and Sara had to walk briskly to keep up.
The queue into the club was not too long and within minutes the two women were stepping beneath the blazing white lights which spelt out the club's name in Cyrillic and Western letters. Sara felt excitement as she checked her coat into the cloakroom and stepped through the door into the main body of the club. She had not dressed this daringly since leaving high school, neither had she been into a club like this in years, as she saw more of it she thought, maybe never, certainly never like this.
"Wow." Cate said stepping back from Sara to admire her dress. "You can only appreciate it properly in here. It's astounding what's hidden beneath the dull clothes of an embassy worker. I'm glad I've let you out, it would have been a shame for your spirit to be lost in grey."
"Yes, I think glossy black's more my colour." Sara smiled broadly.
Sara's eyes darted around the room, it was still pretty early, but the large central hall of the club already had a good selection of clients. For a gothic club she was not surprised to see black was the major colour, from heavy metalists in biker jackets through goths in velvet and pvc to fetishists strutting in rubber and studs. The music was heavy, but not so distorted she could not tell what was playing.
Sara was surprised when Cate took her hand and led her through the crowd, but as they worked their way closer to the bar, Sara felt she was drawing courage from Cate. Sara realised it was becoming more than just a night out, with Cate to lead her, she was truly relaxing and as she did she felt she was becoming truly part of this scene.
"Two, triple red." Cate said to the barman in loud Russian. He seemed to know what she meant. In moments three shot glass of vodka with some red liqueur spiralling in it were lined up in front of the two women.
"You know the Russians take their toasts seriously." Cate said to Sara, continuing in Russian.
"Yes." It was one thing she had soon learnt on arriving in Moscow.
"Well so do I." She picked up one glass and Sara copied her. "Happiness!"
"Happiness!" Sara said as she and Cate both bolted back the shots, barely tasting them.
Cate picked up the next glass. "Love."
Sara watched, her own glass ready. This time Cate sipped, holding the vodka in her mouth. As Sara did the same, Cate wrapped her free hand around her waist, its slimness accentuated by the leather bodice of her dress. Then she pulled Sara in tight and Cate pressed her lips hard against Sara's. Their matching heights made it so easy. Up for the fun of it, Sara let Cate's tongue find its way into her vodka filled mouth mixing the liquids. Then Cate snapped them apart. Sara swallowed the vodka and suppressed a cough. It burnt its way down Sara, but it was the other feelings that were shooting through her that attracted most attention.
"Last one for now." Cate said, picking up the final glass. "Life."
Sara picked up her own glass slowly.
"Or do you want 'love' again?" Cate said quietly.
Sara looked at the woman, thoughts spiralling through her mind. "What do you think?" Part of her alarmed, part of her wanting to be flirtatious, part of her wondering if she was finding the delicious danger she had been looking for.
Cate fixed her gaze on Sara's eyes. "Life's overrated anyway. Love!" Cate said clinking their glasses before sweeping her arm around Sara's and holding the vodka to her lips. Cate did likewise. Synchronously they tipped the vodkas back into each other's throats before slamming the glasses down on the bar.
Sara grinned broadly, her body fired up with alcohol and unfamiliar urges she would have to learn to handle.
"Come on, let's dance." Again Cate took her hand as if leading her younger sister and dragged her out on to the dance floor. Though they were pressed on all sides by flailing bodies of Russians shaking off the burdens of the week to pounding music, for Sara there seemed to be nothing but her and Cate. It was if she was in an oasis of timelessness, that the night would go on forever.
They were back at the bar, sipping chilled straight vodka as cold as a Moscow November night.
"Are you having fun?" Cate asked.
Sara grinned. Her body felt numb from the alcohol and she found it difficult to focus, but somehow Cate's body and features remained sharp. "The best fun I've had since I reached Moscow, probably the best I've had in years."
"Well, it's a small price to pay for you saving me."
"But who'll save me?"
"Me, of course."
"I think it might be you who's my main danger."