(continuing from here)
The help in this dive clearly knew Igor and his daughter. A round dude with a round bald head and a black apron materialized, dropped off a heap of fried brown bread and checha and three tall beers, nodded at Igor and Ksenia with, maybe, the slightesdt twinkle in his eye, and dematerialized.
“You like beer?” Igor nodded at me, then drained his pint with practiced ease. Ksenia did likewise, with a ladylike elegance that didn’t seem possible. Of course, she didn’t seem exactly possible herself…
I tore my eyes away from here after just a beat too long. Oh well. Time to rep for America. I tossed back the beer as nonchalantly as I could manage.
“Czech?” I asked. Good beer.
“Da!” Igor nodded, and seemed to warm to me ever so slightly. Round bald guy reappeared from the ether and slapped down another round. “Vyškov Generály,” Igor looked thoughtfully into his second glass. “This only bar in Moscow carries it.”
I need these people to trust me, at least enough to do my job. I’m little more than a glorified mule, sent to fetch some information that can’t be simply emailed or sent parcel post. As such, I’m professionally charming and flexible. This Moscow gig is downright civilized. I’ve sipped vodka in a yurt over a meal of boodog. I’ve caught piranha off the back of a canoe. Those little bastards will bite on anything; catch one, CAREFULLY gut it, hook the guts, toss the line back out, catch another. Repeat until you’ve got enough for dinner. Pretty good eating, too.
This was a little different. I been warned there might be some piranna of the two-legged sort, but, so far, it was just me, the enigmatic might-be-a-pig farmer, and his insanely gorgeous daughter who, I have from multiple sources, will kill me if I touch her. They seemed cheery enough…
A tongue of cold snaked through the bar when the front door opened and closed. A tall man in a heavy, fur-collared coat and a Bromberg appeared, looming above Ksenia, and said something quietly in Russian to Igor, whose face was stone. I started to stand, when Igor put me back into my seat with one meaty hand.
The stranger laid a hand on Ksenia’s shoulder. Her face went white, and her eyes widened with fear. She looked tiny against the mass of the large man. I tried to rise again; Igor again planted me in my seat.
Ksenia stood, shaking, the stranger’s hand still on her shoulder. A trace of a smile passed across the the tall man’s face. With sudden, cat like quickness, Ksenis drove her heel hard into the man’s instep, and followed up with a two-handed uppercut into his jaw, her legs and body uncoiling like a spring, putting some force into it.
The man let out a small yelp and staggered backwards, into the arms of the round bald guy and two large, very stern looking fellows, who, without a word, pinned his arms and whisked him out of sight. The other patrons seemed not to have noticed anything unusual, and the background hum quickly returned to normal.
Ksenia straightened her skirt, sat back down, and smiled at me.
“It is a good beer,” she stated, and drained her second pint.