taras_oleksei: (Default)
"Another," Taras said.

He leaned on the bar, not looking up, forehead pressed against his hand.

Taras stared at the glass that stood empty in front of him, but nothing was happening. After a few moments, he looked up.

The bartender held the bottle of vodka in one hand, hesitating.

"Sir, are you - "

"Another," Taras snapped.

Vaguely, Taras wondered how many shots he'd had in rapid succession. Maybe three. Maybe more. But Taras thought thought the bartender should know how to serve a Russian.

Often, and without protest.

The bartender poured.

"Good," Taras muttered, and picked up his drink, pushing away from the bar. He could still walk in a straight line, more or less, so the rest didn't matter.

As he walked, his hand went to the pocket of his matador jacket, and found the hard shape within. He fingered it for a few moments, then pulled it out to look at it.

A dark trophy from earlier in the evening: a broken-off piece of a half-arrow shaft, painted artful metallic gold. He'd found it on the ground, damning evidence near the site of his misdeed.

Taras fingered the sharp end.

He wasn't sure why he'd kept it.

After a few seconds, he jammed it back into his pocket and looked around the hall, which had thinned somewhat while he'd been drinking.

Where the hell was Ilarion?

Probably still prancing about his merry way with that whip of his, hitting women on the ass and smirking about it.

Taras blamed Ilarion for getting him worked up earlier. If Isaev hadn't been poking him with the crop, Taras never would have had to go out for fresh air.

Bastard.

He didn't see Isaev on the dance floor. Not that Ilarion would be bothered to dance, but it was just another place Isaev wasn't.

Taras frowned and slipped into the next room. He would keep hunting until he found him.

Decisions

Mar. 15th, 2008 12:14 am
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras stared out the window, leaning his chin against his hand, frowning.

A report sat on his desk, flipped open, but unread. His work was usually more than enough to hold his attention, but today he found himself distracted.

“Captain?”

Taras looked up to see Anya standing in the doorway to his office, holding a stack of files against her chest like a shy schoolgirl carrying books to shield her from the world.

“I brought those files you requested.”

Taras smiled and leaned back in his chair.

“Have I told you lately that you’re a sweetheart?”

She glanced down, blushing a little as she came in and set the files down on his desk.

“I seem to remember that, Captain,” Anya said.

Taras liked that he could still make her blush in spite of everything that had happened in Ilarion’s office the other day. He had wondered if it would be awkward afterward, but Anya had been just as efficient and kind as ever.

Like nothing had happened, though she was no longer afraid of him.

He’d had to think about that one for a while, but then he’d decided he liked that too.

“Well, good. Thank you, Anya,” he told her.

“Of course,” she said, pleasantly brisk, and moved to the door.

Taras reached to pick up one of the files, flipping through the paperwork she’d brought, even though he was sure it was all there. Anya never got anything wrong, at least not as far as he could tell.

After a few moments he realized that she hadn’t left yet.

He looked up again. Anya was lingering at the door, looking at him, her brow creased lightly.

“Is…everything all right?” she asked, sounding hesitant.

She took an apologetic step forward.

“You seem distracted, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“I don’t.”

Taras sat back in his seat, and let out a sigh.

“Maybe I can run something past you and see what you think.”

“Yes, of course, Captain.”

Anya closed the door behind her and stood in front of his desk attentively, but he gestured at her to sit down. Anya moved to a chair and swept her black skirt underneath her, crossing her legs as she sat. Deliberately, Taras leaned to the side to ogle.

She blushed again, but then gave him a pointed look, the kind his sisters gave him when he teased them too much.

“It’s about this…costume ball,” he started, slowly. “The one next week.”

“Oh!” Anya brightened. “Yes! Major Liadov – ”

She broke off, hesitating, looking at him carefully. Like she expected him to have the same reaction to that name as Isaev did. Taras wasn’t sure what he thought about Liadov, but he knew he didn’t mind talking about the guy with Anya.

Taras raised his brows.

“Major Liadov…?”

“Oh, I was just going to say that Major Liadov enjoyed going to those. He would tell me about the costumes everyone wore.”

Anya sounded more subdued.

“Anyway…I think you’ll have a good time. What are you going to go as?”

Taras picked up a pen, and used it to scoot a stray paperclip across his desk.

“Well, that’s what I was…”

He paused, gesturing vaguely.

“I hadn’t decided yet,” he finished.

“Oh. Well, what are your options so far?” Anya asked, helpfully.

“Yeah. Well, I’m still…”

There was silence.

“Oh,” Anya said then. “Well, if it’s not too presumptuous of me, maybe I can suggest something. I’m sure what you had in mind would be splendid, of course, but it never hurts to have options.”

Taras tried not to nod too quickly.

“Options, yeah, sure. Sounds good.”

In truth, the idea of the masquerade ball had plagued him since he’d first heard about it, but he hadn’t said no. Not with Isaev sitting there so blithely, acting like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Taras knew how to dress nice, put on a suit and tie, how to choose the subtle colors that flattered without being too ostentatious. Grey, black, dark blue. He could handle all of that. He even knew how to dress up black-tie.

But this whole matter of dressing up in costume had distressed him. What was he supposed to dress as, something that wouldn’t make him look like a complete fool? He’d heard other people talking about it in the office – a sailor, one said, and another said a czar, and yet another, an American cowboy.

Taras had no idea if they were joking or being serious, and there was no way he was going to ask Isaev for help.

It had even started to keep him up at nights, thinking about it, wondering what he was supposed do.

Anya was looking at him speculatively, a frown of concentration on her brow. She tapped her carefully-trimmed and lacquered nails idly against her lip as she thought.

“Well…what about…a gladiator?”

“A gladiator,” Taras repeated.

Anya smiled.

“It’s very strong and masculine, isn’t it? A warrior who makes his living fighting other men to the death? It would be perfect with your hair.”

Taras wasn’t sure what that last was supposed to mean, but the rest sounded pretty good to him.

“What does it look like? I mean, the costume.”

Anya beamed suddenly. “Wait right here!”

She sprang from her chair and hurried out of his office, leaving him sitting there, a bit bemused, in her wake. A few minutes later, she came back, carrying two heavy books.

Taras stood up to help her set them down on his desk. Encyclopedias, he saw, from the reference room. She flipped through the thick, glossy pages.

“Here.”

Anya turned the book around and showed him the picture.

Taras frowned.

“That looks like a skirt.”

“It’s not a skirt,” Anya said. “It’s part of his armor. It’s what they wore back then. I think it’s very masculine, especially for someone as – ”

She broke off.

“Well. I’m sure you’re in very good shape, Captain.”

He smirked at that.

“Yeah, well, it also has bare arms and legs. That’s not going to work.”

Anya looked at him, frowning inquisitively. Taras hesitated, then pushed up his right sleeve to show her the edge of his snake-and-dagger tattoo.

Her eyes widened.

“Oh,” she said.

“That’s not the only one.”

“Ohhhh,” Anya said, again.

She looked at him, and for a moment, he thought he almost saw that old fear, the way she’d given him timid mouse-eyed looks before. But the expression was fleeting, and quickly replaced by a small, warm smile, the way she looked at him now.

Maybe he’d just imagined it.

“Well, we’ll just have to think of something else then,” Anya said briskly, in a way that reminded him of his mother.

She turned the book around and began to flip through it again. He waited, trying to think of something helpful to say, make a suggestion, something he’d thought of already, but he was at a loss.

“What about an American cowboy?” she asked.

“…no. I don’t think so.”

“Hmm…a soldier? You look good in uniform, Captain.”

Taras thought about the Evropeiskaya, the soldiers that had loitered in the parlour, smoking and casting jaded smirks in his and Ilarion’s direction.

His shoulders twitched.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

Anya nodded absently, still focused on the encyclopedia.

“What about a vampire?”

“Isn’t that…bad luck?”

Anya looked up, her pale eyes clear and unexpectedly amused.

“Captain, are you superstitious?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head quickly. “No, of course not. I just thought – ”

Anya pressed her lips together.

“You’re not pale enough. Of course, what was I thinking? That’s entirely wrong for you.”

“Right,” Taras muttered.

“A pirate.”

“Too much skin.”

“A convict?”

He looked at her.

“What do convicts look like?”

Anya opened her mouth, and no words came out. Her face flushed.

“Captain – I didn’t mean – ”

For a few seconds it seemed like she was going to say something else, then she seemed to think better of it and cleared her throat.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said, evenly. “No one would be able to tell what you were. You need something that’s easier…what about a doctor?”

Taras thought about that one.

“Huh. Maybe.”

Anya was already shaking her head.

“No…on second thought, I don’t think I like that for you. It should be more manly, if you don’t mind me saying so, Captain. Something a little more exciting. Let’s see…a priest…no, an astronaut, no, a devil…too obvious. I suppose you could be one of the Greek gods, though I think that usually involves at least bare arms…A prince…no. A pharaoh…maybe. You could be a chicken…”

“I thought it was supposed to be manly.”

“Well. Or another kind of animal, I mean. Like a lion or a rooster, or a bull – oh!”

“What?”

He leaned forward, trying to get a look, but she was flipping through pages too rapidly.

“No, I just had an idea…let me see if there’s a picture. Oh, here! Look. What do you think?”

Anya turned the encyclopedia again to show him the picture of a man wearing snug red pants with fancy gold designs down the sides. He had a crisp white shirt, and a gold and red jacket, also fancy, and a strange-looking black hat.

“What is it?”

“He’s a matador.”

“A matador?”

“A bullfighter. He has a red cape – see? Here. And he waves it, and challenges the bull to charge him. They he gets out of the way, because he’s smart and quick and strong.”

“And then what happens?”

Anya paused.

“Oh. I don’t really know. I think he’s supposed to kill it, eventually. Matador means ‘killer.’”

“Really?” Taras asked.

“Yes. Though that seems terrible, doesn’t it?”

Taras raised his brows.

“I guess so. People really do that?”

“Well, mostly in Spain. Matadors are heroes to the people. Unafraid of anything.”

“Huh,” Taras said.

He rubbed his jaw, looking at the picture.

Anya smiled then.

“What do you think?”

“You’re sure that red’s not too fancy?”

“Oh no. That’s the color they use on purpose. Bulls get angry when the see red. They charge at it. At least, that’s what someone told me.”

Taras didn’t know what people Anya was talking to, because no one had ever told him anything like that. But he supposed Anya must have had a lot of book-learning as well, and just knew things he didn’t.

He shrugged.

“You sure those pants aren’t too tight?”

Anya looked up at him, her gaze unreadable for a moment.

“Trust me, Captain. I think they should be just fine.”

Taras looked back at the picture.

“All right. A matador it is.”

“Wonderful!”

Anya got up and picked up the encyclopedias again. Taras tried to help her, but she shooed him away.

“Don’t worry, I’ll arrange for the costume and make sure you get it in time,” she said as she walked to the door. “It’s a wonderful choice. Major Isaev – ”

She paused at the door.

“Well, I don’t suppose you’ll be telling him what you chose beforehand, will you?”

Taras blinked.

“Well…no,” he said.

Anya nodded vigorously.

“Oh good. You’ll be wearing a mask, you see, and no one will know who you are. It’ll be very exotic and mysterious. I think you’ll enjoy yourself, Captain.”

Taras nodded, slowly, sitting back, finding himself glad for Anya’s input. He didn’t know how she’d managed to come up with so many ideas in just a few minutes, or figure out what would be best for him, but he guessed that was all part of her job.

“Thank you, Anya. For your advice.”

Anya smiled.

“It’s always my pleasure, Captain,” she said as she left.

Rituals

Feb. 26th, 2008 11:02 am
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras sat in the leather wing chair in Ilarion's office, paging through a file, waiting.

It was still dark outside, and the MVD building was quiet, save for the distant odd knocks of the radiators.

Taras had found he liked arriving early, unlocking the door, being in the office before anyone else got there. He stalked through building like a burglar, navigating dark halls lit only by the predawn glow that outlined each window he passed.

Isaev seemed to prefer coming into work early as well. The first time Isaev had arrived to find Taras already there he'd seemed almost startled, but had invited Taras into his office to review current files over hot tea.

Now, it had become Taras' habit to skip his office and go straight to Isaev's, leaving the overhead lights alone but turning on the desk lamp to illuminate the room in soft and subtle radiance.

It made the room a small inviting beacon in the dark building. Ilarion's office was always warmer than his, anyway, and had a better view.

He rubbed his jaw idly as he read. The livid black and purple bruises that had graced his jaw all week had finally faded to dull browns and yellows.

Their most current case was a homicide that had all the earmarks of a professional hit. Double tap to the back of the head, execution style. No witnesses, little evidence. The shooter had even picked up the spent bullet casings.

Taras nodded in to himself absently, in approval.

He tossed the file aside. The case wasn't worth their time, in his opinion. Isaev would probably concur.

There was a special section in the file room for cold cases. Taras had amused himself on a slow afternoon by looking up a few of his old hits, the ones he remembered well enough to pinpoint. All unsolved, all with brief, vague notes from the investigating officers, as if they hadn't been bothered to put much effort in, either.

Taras had stood there in front of the file cabinet, laughing quietly until Anya had come upon him and asked if everything was all right. He had told her that she smelled nice, and she had found something else to do.

He picked up the next file, pausing to glance out the window. It was still mostly dark, but Isaev would be arriving shortly, he knew.

Banya

Feb. 21st, 2008 02:08 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras drew in a deep, slow breath as he entered the banya.

The air hit him immediately, hot and thick with moisture, suffusing his skin. He could feel the heat sink into his muscles and invigorate his blood.

Steam came from the brick oven that sat to one side of the wall, and benches squared off the rest of the space.

Taras walked over to the benches, feeling sweat already starting to bead on his brow and the back of his neck. It felt cleansing, like all the evening's impurities could simply be rinsed away by hot steam.

He sat down, and settled back on the bench. It was impossible not to relax.

Taras breathed out, his gaze going to Ilarion, who had walked in more slowly. He didn't think he had ever seen Isaev hurry anywhere. The world either moved at his pace, or had to wait for him.

"It's been a while," he said, offhand, aware a moment after he said it that it could apply to more than one thing.
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras smiled to himself as he leaned against the long black car, watching uniformed MVD officers drag the moaning, bleeding killer away.

It was night outside, Leningrad winter, but he wasn't cold.

Maksim Koslov, 48, father of two, Red Army veteran, had beaten his girlfriend with the wooden leg of a chair in a domestic dispute and fled when neighbors called the police. The woman died in the hospital seven hours later, and the case had fallen to Taras and Ilarion.

Lasha had sighed, and called the case 'hopelessly prosaic', but they'd gone out anyway, following a lead.

They tracked Koslov to a part of Leningrad that time had forgotten.

The neighborhood was in one of the shunned and ruined parts of the city so far removed from the living heart of the Leningrad it should have been amputated like a gangrened limb long ago. Damaged by the Nazi invasion during the war, never restored, the neighborhood still had buildings with crumbling facades and empty lots, streets and sidewalks pitted by landmines left behind after the Siege.

People still lived here, though, went about their daily lives undaunted by the decades-old decay around them. That was the Russian spirit, steadfast and fierce past the point of bullheaded obstinance.

That was like Taras' father, who had refused to leave Leningrad during the Siege. Cheslav Oleksei let his wife and daughters be evacuated, but kept his then-only son with him.

Taras had been nine, old enough to remember it now.

Koslov was stamped from the same mold, stubborn and traditional, though to the point of foolishness. He'd thought he could evade the MVD by hiding in his old neighborhood.

He'd been wrong.

Koslov was a big man, half a head taller than Taras, thick around the middle. Still strong enough to resist arrest, and drunk and desperate enough to try, when Taras moved in to handcuff him.

Lasha had shot him in the kneecaps, but not before the man had lashed out and caught Taras in a glancing blow across the jaw.

The violence had been brief, but gratifying.

Adrenaline still invigorated Taras' senses, turning the scent of the rain-slicked streets into an acrid tang, sharpening the taste of blood in his mouth. His jaw throbbed, but only in a distant way.

Taras pushed experimentally at the side of his jaw with his tongue, finding a few loose teeth. Taras knew from experience that they would tighten up again, after a couple of days.

He turned to see Isaev approaching, walking briskly, brushing his gloves together as if getting rid of something distasteful.

"You were right," Taras said, smirking as Ilarion drew near. "The violent crimes division is...more interesting."
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Opulence amused Taras Oleksei.

The Dvoryanskoe Gnezdo bled opulence, from the gold walls and plush Persian rugs and the crystal chandeliers. It glittered in the center of Leningrad, the kind of restaurant where people went to see and be seen, the women dressed in silk and furs and jewels and the men wearing the finest winter weight wool suits.

They were slender and soft, those people, complacent in their finery, as if money and material possessions and influence raised them so far above the masses they were untouchable.

That amused Taras, too.

His walk was a saunter and his smile was a smirk as the maitre d’ led him upstairs to the private dining rooms on the second floor. Those rooms were for private matters, dealings not spoken of, nor recorded.

For the occasion, he’d dressed up. Nice suit. Nicer watch. Camouflage, though not much of a disguise.

In face and form, he was hopelessly working class, coarse and pugnacious, thick of jaw and wide of brow, chin slanted and cleft, mismatched eyes and dark hair cropped as close as a convict’s. The suit didn’t hide that he was built like a slaughterhouse butcher, thick chest hard and solid with muscle.

None of that mattered, though, given whose company he was keeping tonight.

Taras had only needed to drop a single name and the maitre d' had whisked him away without question. That was power that had nothing to do with accident of birth, and everything to do with ambition.

He liked the taste of it, as hot and vital as blood.

They stopped at a door.

"Sir," the maitre d' said, knocking once, and upon hearing an answer, opened the door to let Taras in, then closed it behind him.

Inside, the private room was just that, plush, well-appointed, intimately lit, somehow comfortable in spite of the elegance.

A man sat at a rounded table across from the door.

Dark and light, this one, a fine suit and hair of white gold, his features sculpted in ice by the hand of an artist, handsome and refined. As elegant as any other diner, though Taras knew the savage disposition that pulsed under the veneer of aristocracy.

Taras smiled, mildly.

“Nice place,” he remarked.

August 2010

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