Blood and Rubles
Blood and Rubles
A Day Not Unlike Other Days
OLEG MAKMUNOV KNEW IT WAS NIGHT. There was no sun. He knew he must be somewhere off of Gorky Street, for that was where he had started. The rest was a drunken blur. Even though he was dressed only in shoes, worn socks, threadbare pants, and a yellow and red American flannel shirt, Oleg Makmunov couldn't even have told a policeman if it was winter or summer.
Alexei Chazov and his two brothers had followed the drunkard for about five blocks. They had stayed back in the darkness, though it was unlikely the drunken man would see them unless they were in his face.
The street was narrow and empty. Well, not completely empty. The Chazovs had seen a young man and woman with their arms around each other in a doorway.
The drunkard had wandered far since he had been thrown out of the New Hampshire Café with its blaring American music. He had stumbled, seemingly without knowing it, in the general direction of the Strogino District, a neighborhood of cement tenements. When he entered the Strogino, the Chazovs spotted him.
The drunk stopped, but Alexei held his brothers back.
In front of them, sitting on a low stoop, a man smoked a pipe. The man seemed big, but it was hard to tell because most of the lights on the small street were out, and the ones that were on were dim.
Oleg slumped into a doorway and searched his pockets for the small bottle of vodka he had tucked away, but found nothing. Another search, this time for money, produced enough rubles to buy a small bottle should he stumble on someone who might have one to sell. He repocketed the money and tried to decide which way led back to Gorky Street. He guessed left and took his first few steps in that direction.
The big man on the stoop finished his pipe. He tapped the ashes out on the sidewalk, rose, turned, and went through the door behind him.
Now the Chazovs could move. As they neared the drunkard, Alexei supposed that the man was old, at least fifty.
In fact, Oleg was thirty-three. He had given up most of his teeth to drink and dissolute living. He was known to the down and the drunk as Smiling Oleg, not because he smiled so much but because he looked so incredibly funny when he smiled his near-toothless grin.
"One small step for Oleg," he said to the man who'd been smoking across the street, but now the man was nowhere to be seen. Oleg shrugged and took another step. "And one more step for the glorious future of Mother Russia."
Before he took another step, he tottered. Almost certainly he would fall to the pavement. It had happened to him before. And so many times he had rolled over on the street to look up at whoever had pushed him and saw no one. This time he did not fall.
He took another step and was shoved hard from behind. His hands went out to protect his battered face from smashing into the pavement. At that he was successful. He was aware of more than one person above him as he rolled over on his elbows and looked up with his loopy smile that usually brought a laugh. The three faces hovering over him did not laugh. Oleg was trying to rise when something hit him, something hard, something heavy, just above his left eye. It wasn't quite pain he felt but surprise. He slipped back down.
The second blow caught him flush in the face, and he was aware of his nose being smashed once again, probably along with his cheekbone. When something crushed his chest, cracking ribs, he found it very difficult to breathe.
He tried to speak when something cracked his skull, and he was vaguely aware that he must be dying. He made some attempt to breathe and think, but failed.
The three brothers continued picking up pieces of concrete and throwing them at the bloody mutilated head of Oleg Makmunov. When they were certain he was dead, the one who had jumped on his chest went through Oleg's pockets where he found his few rubles,