Her Russian Surrender

By: Theodora Taylor

It was more like he’d decided to let her go. For now.


HERE was all Sam wanted by the time she got home to her cozy two-bedroom cottage (conveniently located directly behind Ruth’s House Indiana): lots of love from her dog, who she could already hear on the other side of the door, panting in excitement over Sam’s arrival. She’d let the sweet girl get in a few licks before she settled down with the next two things on her list: a HUGE glass of wine and an old episode of Veronica Mars.

She’d recently splurged, downloading all three seasons to the Apple TV device Josie bought her for Christmas, and she’d been enjoying re-watching her favorite television show from back in the day—this time without any commercial interruptions. Maybe tonight she’d watch the one where Veronica kisses the good guy cop (who eventually went on to play Schmidt in New Girl) at the school dance after taking down members of the Russian mafia.

Sam thought of Marco, the real life good guy cop she was sort of, kind of, maybe seeing a little bit. He’d also kissed her. A few days ago on the their third takeout date after work. And it had been nice. Really nice. It hadn’t set her on fire like the kiss with Mount Nik, but in all fairness, she’d been wearing her jacket and distracted by the prospect of having to get up early to lead a Mindfulness Class at Ruth’s House.

She put her key into the lock. Yeah, that episode of Veronica Mars would help her put what happened with that super intense Russian hockey player in perspective.

But just as she was about to turn the lock, her phone went off, the screen lighting up with a 3-1-7 number.

“Hello?” she said tentatively, thinking the Russian might have tracked her down somehow, despite not knowing her name.

“Sam from the party, is that you?”

It was a child’s voice. A boy’s voice. The one she’d met earlier. And he sounded scared.

“Hi!” she said, trying to hide her alarm. “Is everything okay?”

“No!” he answered. “Some bad men are here. Knocking on the door. Telling Papa to let them in.”

Sam’s heart went tight with fear for the boy. “And is he…?”

“No, he’s yelling for them to go away! But I don’t think they’re going away. They’re yelling about some money for drugs. I think he was supposed to sell them but he used them instead. They are Russian, like us.”

She hadn’t known the little boy was Russian. Just like Nikolai Rustanov, she thought to herself. But he’d claimed not to know any children when she’d asked him about it. Had he been lying or was this a case of coincidence? Like how all black people didn’t know each other, and neither did all Russians?

It didn’t matter, Sam decided. There was a way bigger matter at hand.

“Okay, listen to me carefully…” She paused realizing she still didn’t know his name, even though he knew hers.

“Pavel,” he supplied on the other side of the line. “My name’s Pavel.”

Wow, he hadn’t been kidding about the Russian stuff.

“Okay, Pavel, I need you to go somewhere and hide. Somewhere good, not under a bed or in a closet. Like in a cabinet if there’s one you can fit into. Stay there until I come for you.”

There came the sound of a lot of shuffling, and then Pavel whispered, “Okay, I’m hiding.”

“Good, good, Pavel,” she said, allowing herself a little breath of relief. “Now just give me your address and I’ll get there as quickly as I can.”

“Just you. No police!” Pavel said. “Papa will be very angry if you bring police.”

“Fine, no police,” Sam lied, knowing full well she was going to be calling Marco as soon as she got off the phone. But she didn’t want Pavel to freak out about the possibility of police coming to his home, especially before he let her know where he was.

“Pavel, I need your address. I can’t help you if I don’t have it.”

Silence, and in the background she heard the muffled sounds of a door crashing open and angry voices, speaking in a hard language she guessed to be Russian.

“They’re here,” Pavel whispered. “They’re inside.”

* * *

Sam knew it would be bad even before she decided to go in on her own. The house she was now parked in front of looked even more neglected than Pavel, with peeling paint and boarded up windows, all telling Sam that the little boy’s current residence might not exactly be “on the books,” with a proper lease agreement and all that. It also explained why Pavel didn’t seem to have much access to water for a bath or a shower. No, Citizens Energy Group wasn’t running water through this place for sure.

A shiver of fear ran down her back as she took in the dilapidated building. A home invasion had obviously taken place. The door at the top of the cracked, grey cement steps was standing halfway open, despite the fact that it was deeply cold outside and the house wasn’t in one of Indiana’s best neighborhoods. She should know… it was just a few blocks from Ruth’s House, and she’d purposefully chosen the downtown Indianapolis location for its proximity to both upper and lower class neighborhoods. This one definitely qualified as the latter.