a short story by Heather Haynos
The previous weekend’s attempt to rescue Darya had failed. By the time Margaret and Maxim converged at the elevator bank, the hotel doorman was on them. In fact, as they now stood again in the brightly lit lobby, it was a miracle they hadn’t been identified and escorted to the door. Perhaps it was Maxim’s fox fur hat that afforded them a moment of welcome anonymity.
“Listen,” Maxim said, his lips continuing to work around the nougat candy Margaret had brought back from Wisconsin, “I know you don’t want to hear this. But I am telling you, going to head security won’t work.”
About a month ago, Darya had left her parents’ apartment and moved into a suite at the Kosmos with an odd group, largely male. Since then, she had yet to answer a single phone call or message left with reception. Undeterred, Maxim and Margaret had returned to the iconic hotel, which had seen better days since its heyday in the 1970s as the place to wine and dine Soviet cosmonauts. It also had a reputation for drugs and prostitution.
“Well, it’s definitely worth a try,” Margaret said, looking over Maxim’s shoulder for the doorman as she fidgeted with her purse. The lobby’s garish green and orange sofas looked tattered beneath the glare of the brass chandeliers. “We’ve run out of options. Remember, our last scheme didn’t exactly pan out.”
Maxim wiped his hands on his new blue jeans. “I know, but, Margaret,” he made a slow batting motion, as if to shoo a fly, “these people don’t care about security. They care less about woman’s safety. They care about…” He brought two sticky fingers together and began to rub them against his thumb, peering at her knowingly before he, too, turned to look for the doorman.
“Ok, then I’ll talk to him,” Margaret said, ignoring Maxim. “Maybe he’ll listen to an American. Perhaps I can intimidate him, say I’m with the Embassy.”
At this, Maxim guffawed loudly, tilting back on his scuffed heels. But his eyes revealed a sadness and fatigue beyond his years. Margaret always counted on him to know what avenue to take, how to still get things done when people said nyet. But now she saw a hole in his armor—an alloy of charm and determination. She heard the cheerful tinkle of glass from the bar and felt panic rising in her throat.
To Margaret’s relief, Maxim seemed to read her fear. With a toss of his fur-capped head, he said, “Ok, Margaret. You know what? Let’s go find this Konstantin Mikhailovich, Deputy guy, whatever. He took an oath to uphold the constitution of the Russian Federation. Maybe he will protect someone who cannot protect themselves.”
Art Academy of Milton will be featuring short stories written by the students of Michael Rash's Prose Writers' Workshop. To learn more about the next workshop and other events, visit our classes page!