The headlights illuminate her little ankle boots, their thin heels, but Inna is not interested in such details.
The woman presses up against the gates and begins pushing them open. Inna throws open the car door and makes her way toward the gates.
Inna"s two, bloodshot eyes are now joined by the gun"s empty barrel-all three straining at the blonde"s neat ringlets. The drive from Aprelevka back to Moscow passes as in a fog. She tosses her gray coat and gloves into the trash. Now she"ll buy herself some slim ones to change her look. Pop music blares from the television-starlets howling in unison about being humped and dumped-and Inna feels like screaming: "What"d you expect? " But there"s a heavy lump in her throat that wants to come out, and it"s too early to start screaming anyway. She takes three steps and comes across her husband"s slippers, lying forgotten in the middle of the hallway. Inna latches onto the doorjamb and peeks inside with rising horror.
The owner of the house is rolling back the unruly gate when, suddenly, she stops mid-motion. Surely she will now turn and-but it"s already too late. Inna walks right up to her and takes aim at her head. She"ll have her bob trimmed short and buy a bright colored jacket. Inna enters the building lobby and wearily ascends the stairs. The back of her husband"s new blue bathrobe is smeared with whitish lumps of something revolting.
Through her sunglasses and the steering wheel, her eyes follow the approaching xenon beam as it glides along the fence. The tires rustle and the beam splits in two, tracing a smooth arc over the bushes until it comes flush up against the closed gates. She"s so on edge that her body feels like a seated statue.
One little pull of the trigger-but how exhausted it"s made her! She already knows what"s inside and begins to grow afraid all over again. Her gaze rises higher to the horrible gash on the back of his head.Dirty blood glosses the tile around the cleaver, little dried hairs stuck along its blade.As Major Elena Pavlovna Petelina entered the lab, her heart tightened in rueful expectation.This is how it was each time some young man"s remains from the mid-"90s were uncovered. In the beginning, she would visit the morgue to identify the bodies.
Her gaze is drawn taut, riveted to the back of the woman"s head, and it"s like she"s been attached to some invisible cable, gliding toward her target with the implacability of a counterweight. The blonde is lying on the ground, her head across the gates" threshold. In her mind, she"s still there, outside 24 Dorozhnaya Street. A green gate, a red car, bleach-blonde hair and-a horrible gunshot.
As she approaches, her right arm rises shoulder-level and extends. The toes of her splayed boots cast long shadows, while the headlights" glare creeps crassly up her rumpled skirt. She feels the car come to a stop, and as it does so, a savage chill seizes her. The memory strikes her like an electric shock-her tears, her shivers cease. The water burbles, the pop singers squeal and a dull drill hums tediously inside her head.