Possession is Nine Tenths


Nick returned from a longer than expected shopping trip with bags full of goodies and proceeded to show Irina that the difference between pierogi and gyoza was a matter of language. After all, dumplings were dumplings, boiled, fried, or steamed.

And no offense to her Russian grandmother, which he discovered was actually Georgian from the city of Tbilisi, but her piergoi was crap. Boiled and tasteless, it might serve perfectly for wartime peasant folk without much access to anything but staples…but for the more adventurous and less ethnically sensitive Bellevue crowd, any food had to have the name of authenticity with a decidedly fusion blend.

By the time he was done with them, the pierogi had taken on a chipotle-infused mutton and oozed like more familiar soup dumplings. When bidden by the smell Grandmother Iron Curtain ventured out from the office, pushing Nick out of the way as she fished one onto a spoon and surely burned her mouth sampling it.

Her face screwed up, flushed, and just as Nick was certain she was going to slap him upside the head, she grabbed him in a fierce hug and streamed rapid-fire Russian in his ear. Stunned, Nick was just getting his balance back when she quickly released him, shoveled ten of the doughy pockets into a bowl and retreated back behind her calico curtain.

Irina laughed heartily, “You reminded her of home.”

“I hope in a good, pre- or post-Communist way,” he joked and scooped two platefuls for himself and Irina and then sat down at one of the Formica tables in the restaurant proper to eat. After a few moments where they both greedily slurped up the pierogi, Nick asked, “Your family been here long?”

“My parents moved to America when Oksana was just two, right after the Soviet Union fell, in ‘92.”

Nick smiled. He’d meant here as in the deli but obviously, it was a story she wanted to tell. He played along, his interest piqued, “Isn’t it a little odd to leave Mother Russia when it had finally become free?”

“Free? Yes, for the mobsters and criminals. Not for simple people with not a lot to pay off the gangsters.” Irina looked down at her plate. “Grandmother used to tell us stories, how it was better with the Communists because at least they had a predictable system of corruption.”

“Still, you were able to leave.”

“My parents were athletes. When the system fell, there went their support. So when they could, they moved over and brought Grandmother back a few years later when I was born.”

Nick chuckled, hooking his thumb back toward the office. “Oh, so it’s your fault.”

Irina laughed, a wide smile with a gap toothed smile that reminded him of Madonna. “Sure, blame it all on me.” Then, she turned suddenly serious. “Grandmother is the best. She took care of Oksana and me when our parents died.”

“How…?”

“Car accident.”

“Ah, gee, sorry.”

“Maybe because I never knew a life without her, I just was used to Grandmother. But she and Oksana, they always fought, even when she was little. I think she was embarrassed about Grandmother and her peasant, folk ways.” She sighed. “Grandmother warned her to stay away from Him.”

Something occurred to Nick just then and he stood, grabbed his messenger bag. Irina watched him silently as he dug into the bag and fished out the rental documents for the office space. When he found what he was looking for, he asked, “This guy, Shishka? What rubbed your Grandmother the wrong way about him?”

Irina shuddered. “Big shot. Fancy clothes, cold, looks down on us. Grandmother thought worse.”

“Like worse how?” asked Nick, holding up the rental paper.

Irina hunched over her food, fork pushing a pierogi around the plate. “She called him upyr.

“What does that mean?”

She shrugged, “Bad man. It’s silly.”

“Victor Bella, that’s your landlord, right?” Nick put the rental paper down on the table in front of Irina, pointing to his typed name on the listing.

She shook her head. “I’ve heard that name but that’s not what she called him.”

“Your grandmother?”

She looked up from the paper, confused, “No, Oksana.”

Nick let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. It all made sense now.

“Let me guess. She called him Skovajsa.”

Irina nodded, dumbly.

“You want to tell me again what upyr means? It isn’t bad man, is it?”

Whether Irina didn’t answer because she didn’t want to believe it or whether she could see that Nick knew it to be true, Nick didn’t know. But he did know what happened to her sister. He grabbed his phone out of his jacket, dialing Sophie’s number only to have to leave a voice mail.

“Hey boss? We may have a teensy problem. You know the office? The one I just retrofitted for your clients? Well, it happens to be owned by one of your clients. And you’re not going to like which one.”

Even an hour later, Nick was still trying to convince Irina and her Grandmother that they needed to pack up immediately. He had to use, as his last straw, the story about how he’d seen Oksana chewing on that guy’s ear in Jerry’s. Irina still denied it and was refusing to translate things that Nick was saying to her grandmother when the Iron Curtain stepped right in front of Nick with a week old newspaper.

She spoke to him, gesturing to the picture.

“Yes, that’s him.”

“Bah!” Grandmother spat. She threw the paper at Nick and went back into the office. A zipping sound could be heard and as Nick pulled the curtain aside, he saw that Grandmother had a small suitcase out and was packing. She came out a few moments later and cleaned out the till of the cash register.

“What is it?” Irina asked, confused.

Nick stepped to Irina, showing her the photo of the businessman under the headline which read: Missing Business Man Found Mauled. She shook her head as she read it.

“Now do you believe me?” Nick yelled. He dialed his phone again, this time getting Morena’s cell number. Again, it went straight to voice mail. “Morena, it’s Nick. Where the Hell are you? I got a situation here. Call me back.” He hung up. “Dammit, where the Hell IS everyone?”

symbol_cleaver-color

Morena was wondering the same thing at that moment. It had been so much time she’d made it through the recorded life and times of Sophie Quinn…twice. She’d been mildly surprised that Sophie had been married so many times.

She’d tried everything she could think of to break through the door, the lock, the hinges…but nothing worked. And her cell didn’t get any signal. She’d watched the battery drain to almost nothing.

For lack of anything better to do, she’d started reading through a few magazines left in the room. She scoffed at the article about simultaneous climax and found herself nodding at the article about Marrying Mr. Wrong. It made her think of Jesper. She forced her mind to other things. Then she lay down on the exam table and while her brain turned over and over what might be happening, she nodded off.

It was early morning , 3:30AM by her watch, when her phone chirped, the battery finally giving due notice of impending shut down. She started, surprised she’d slept at all. She’d had the strangest dreams, red rivers of blood flowing down from Jesper’s shoulder as she clawed her fingernails into his flesh.

There was nothing for the cell so she turned it off. Just as she did, she felt the room rock violently.

“What the Hell was that?” She went to the door and started banging on it anew. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she strained for a second to listen just as the floor rocked again, almost as if something had hit it.

“Shit!”

She needed to get downstairs. NOW. Her vision focused and, as she grabbed a side of the frame with each hand, she felt this surge of pure, unadulterated power boil from within. She kicked out at the door, convinced she was going to get through it even if she broke her damn leg.

The door buckled in where her boot splintered it and the force was so strong, the lock popped out off the frame. Stunned with herself, she stood there staring. Her leg hurt like hell and some strange part of her brain realized that she had fractured her thigh but blood was already swelling there, healing her.

“Sonofa…” She didn’t waste any time. She hobbled out the doorway just as the building shook again, this time the sounds of crashing and glass shattering urging her on.

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