Dedicated to my brother Kostya
I had a triple strike. Three times in a row. I shined like a polished nickle. Life was wonderful and fascinating. I wanted to make the fourth strike. Therefore, I was carefully choosing a ball to bowl along the path: 13 or 15. I made my choice and thoroughly wiped the ball with a towel. And then I received a message:
„Urgent. Case attached. A taxi will be in 10 minutes at the entrance of the shopping center. Referent M“.
I put the ball aside, got up and swore in an undertone.
- I'm leaving for a business trip, - I said to my friends.
I went to the exit, changed my shoes writing a message: „Actually I'm on vacation. XXX, Sixth.“
The answer came immediately: „A suicide is possible. Hurry up. Referent M“.
I hurried. I jumped into the taxi waiting for me and named the address. The address was mentioned in the case attached to the message. Novikov Stepan, 29, network administrator, married to Novikova Olesya. The divorce hearing is scheduled for the day after tomorrow.One child - a girl, six years old, name's Katerina.
The car stopped at the porch. I paid and hurried to the entrance. So, apartment 5, Novikov. I rang the intercom. Silence. I rang again.
- Who's there? - a tired voice said.
- Sanitary-epidemiological inspection here, - I answered, - open the door right now.
The door buzzed and unclosed. I ran up to the first floor and pressed the bell button at the door number 5. The door opened.
Stepan turned out to be a balding man dressed in shorts and an undershirt with the words „Berlin Venus“ on it. „A cool guy“,- I thought.
- Which inspection? - Stepan asked. - What do you need?
- Need to poison the rats, - I answered seriously.
- I don't have any rats, - Stepan objected.
- You do, - I disagreed, - your attic is full of rats. You should deal away with them. May we talk in the appartment? What would you say, Stepan?
- Come in, - said Stepan and got inside turning his back to me.
I followed him into the hallway, kicked off my moccasins, hung my jacket on the rack.
I kept my travel bag with me. We entered the room. Stepan sat down on the sofa and nodded me to the armchair across. There was a coffee table between us with a newspaper on it.
- Who are you? - Stepan asked.
- I'm your Guardian Angel, - I reported, - I received a signal of a suicide. Of an impending one. I arrived to understand the situation on the ground and to take measures to eliminate the reason and to prevent any further misdoings from your side.
Stepan looked at me blankly. I also got silent realizing that I talked rot.
- So, you're an angel? - Stepan finally said.
- That's right, - I agreed, - My name is Sixth. Here are my documents.
I shoved Stepan my plastic card with my photo. He picked it at, read it and returned to me.
- What kind of name is that, „Sixth“? . he asked.
- I was named after my grandfather, - I answered.
We kept silent.
- How are you going to kill yourself? - I asked. - With pills, by electricution, by car or any other way?
- How do you know about the suicide? - Stepan answered with the question.
- Well, I've already told you where I'm from, - I answered, - I've been sent a whole file on you: when you were born, when you got married. While I was going to you, I went it through a little bit. You seem to be sane but you jack around. So, how are you going to suicide, good man?
- With a bullet, - Stepan answered calmly.
- Oh, seriously, - I replied. - What gun? Show it to me. Don't be afraid, I'll return it.
Stepan grinned and stood up. He threw the newspaper off the coffee table. There was a Walter unter it. A black and beautiful one. Not a gun, but pure eye candy. Just the best choice to shoot yourself with.
I got up and steeped towards the table. Took the black death mechanism in my hand and unfastened the clip. The ammo flashed reddish in it. Stepan reached out his hand.
- Give it back to me.
- Dream on! - I grinned, - weapons are no toys for kids.
At the very same moment I flew off to the armchair. I took that hit like a real loser.
I dropped my guard. I saw his straight right blow only when his fist was already ramming into my cheekbone. The armchair has softened my fall but I still lost my bearings for a moment. My head was buzzing. The gun went under the aquarium table standing next to the window.
Stepan rushed to the aquarium, bent and reached for the Walter. He grabbled it and was about to get up but in the very same moment I hit his head with a chair which was within my grasp, breaking the latter. The Ikea stool disintegrated to small pieces. Stepan collapsed.
At first I even got scared. What if I killed a man? It would be funny to take on a mission to save a man and to finish him off upon our first meeting.
But no. Styopa was alive. I hid the weapon into the bag out of harm's way and seated the injured man on the sofa. Stepan opened his eyes.
- Where is the gun? - he asked shrinking from pain.
- Has teleported away from here, - I answered honestly. - It's in a different dimension now.
- Bummer, - Stepan said, holding his head, - it costed me a pretty penny.
- Does your head hurt?- I asked with compassion.
- Yes, it does, - Stepan nodded and immediately grimaced with pain, - I'm still a bit dizzy and feel sick.
- It's a concussion, - I diagnosed, - You'll be fine in a second.
I touched Stepan's head with my right hand. I tensed up and tried to relieve the pain. Judging on the clear eyes of my ward, the pain has gone. But my temples started to throb with pain.
I asked the host for some aspirin. He nodded. Stepan brought an ice bag along with the aspirin.
- Put it on your face, - he said, - you'll have a bruise over half of your face soon.
I looked into the mirrow. Good gracious. My left eye drowned in black. I put the ice on my face. We were sitting silently.
- Let's say you are an angel, - Stepan broke the silence, - how can you help me and do I even need this help?
- Yes, you do, - I answered. - Why would I have come to you otherwise? So let's cooperate instead of fighting. Okay?
- Okay, - Stepan chuckled.
- Give me your Wi-Fi password, - I asked him.
Stepan dictated me the password. I sent a message upstairs: „I came in contact, disarmed the client. XXX, Sixth“.
Then I put the tablet aside and sat comfortably accross the guy.
- Tell me everything, step by step, - I said to him. - Lay it all out. Everything.
Stepan sighed and told me his story. It was obvious that he needed to talk, to share it all.
He met his wife at university. She studied at the parallel class. They dated for a year or so. Then he knocked her up. At one of the parties there was no rubber at hand. They got married, rented an apartment. A baby girl was born, their parents supported them.
Stepan found a job. He was a good specialist and had a good salary. But the money was never enough. His wife stayed at home taking care of the child. She got so tired that she would forget to cook a dinner or to buy food. And it was mostly Stepan who had to clean the rented apartment.
When the daughter turned three, Stepan's wife started to work. She was lucky to get a nice, well-paid position. It was not exactly her profession but not far from home and with career opportunities. The baby girl went to daycare.
Olesya was getting even more tired. Business trips began. During the last year sex has become pretty rare. Once a month. Stepan suffered from uncertainty, understood that something was wrong but couldn't do anything.
There was always a lack of money in the family. He had to find a side job for home. On the one hand, that exhausted him, on the other hand, Stepan began to develop several Internet projects that promised to bring good income in the nearest future.
And then he accidentally found out that his mother-in-law, a lonely pensioner, had bought a two-room apartment which was now undergoing extensive renovations. The renovations have been done by his classmate who told Stepan about this apartment and was very surprised that the son-in-law was not aware of the growing prosperity of his relatives.
So Stepan decided to acquaint himself with the details. When Olesya was on another business trip, he hacked into her social network accounts on Facebook, VK.com and OK.ru. He also hacked two of her mailboxes. He was stunned when he did.
His wife had two lovers and three more men she flirted with on the Internet. According to her profiles on the dating platfoms Mamba and Badoo, where she uploaded her pictures, she was married and was looking for a generous lover. Her name, however, was changed to Katerina. The apartment for his mother-in-law was bought for Olesya's money which she partly received from her numerous admirers, the major part of which was borrowed. Also from them.
Stepan spent the whole weekend digging through this filth. With a break to go to a cafe with his daughter.
When Olesya returned from her business trip, a scandal was created. First, she denied everything, then resented that Styopa rummaged in her correspondence. Then she packed her things and left with Katya. Stepan filed for divorce. Full stop. The court session is scheduled for tomorrow.
I listened attentively to my ward sometimes asking clarifying questions and checking the materials I had. I listened silently. Stepan got silent too.
- Do you drink? - I finally interrupted the silence with the question.
- The first week I was hitting the bottle, - Styopa answered, - and then I realized that this was even worse. I started to babble, got heart problems. The last week I've only been drinking beer once in a while.
- I see, - I intoned, - so what do you want now?
- I want everything to be the same as before, - Stepan mumbled with his head bent, - I want the old Olesya, I want to see my daughter. I want to be with them together. I called her twice. Asked her to come back and humiliated myself.
- I know about it. She recorded your conversations on the tape recorder, - I sighed, - now she lets her friends listen to it. As a free show. It won't be the same as before. Never again. Come on, Quit blubbering out about it and tell me what you really want.
Stepan looked at me with his pale face and sweat on the forehead.
- I want to forget everything, - he said, - I want to have no more heartache. I want everything to be over. I can't take it any more.
I nodded. Got up. Left the room. Got some water for Styopa and me from the kitchen and came back with two glasses.
- I'll help you, - I told him, - but you'll have to do whatever I say. Are you ready?
- Always ready, - Stepan smiled sadly.
- Then listen to me and do as I say. The first thing that we'll do tomorrow morning is going to the notary, and you will authorize me to represent you in the court. You don't appear there anymore and don't even ask how things are going. I'll just inform you about the divorce, that's it.
- But I want to tell this scumbag what I think of her, straight to her face, - Stepan began.
- And I don't care about what you want, - I stopped him, - I don't give a shit about your wants. You should do what needs to be done and not what you want to. Any questions?
- No questions, - Stepan nodded.
- Secondly, - I continued, - you remove everything related to your ex, from your computer and from your apartment. You add her phone number, the numbers of her friends and the number of her mother to the black list. You delete everything from your accounts which even barely mentions her. And everyone who could remind you about her. She's dead to you. She was never born. Any questions?
- Yes, - Stepan said, - what if she calls from another phone? Who knows.
- You'll say that you are dead and hang up, - I answered and continued, - Thirdly, you take care of your projects and your job in general. I looked at your websites. Not bad at all. But you need to increase the traffic. And the menu is a bit confusing. But we'll do this later, in the evening. The fourth thing is to change the wardrobe. Why do you wear these Adidas pants with sagging knees? We are in the 21st century and you are dressed like a yob. Show me what you wear at work and on the street.
Stepan stood up and opened his wardrobe. Baggy sweaters and cheap slacks in military green prevailed among his clothes. As well as different T-shirts.
- Who made up your wardrobe? - I asked knowing the answer in advance.
- Olesya, - answered Stepan, - I gave her all the money, and she bought food and clothes.
- That's why you guys never had any money, - I growled and added – Do you have any disposable money now?
- Yes, I do, - nodded Styopa, - I got my salary yesterday, and a friend of mine repaid his debt, one and a half thousand euro.
- And what do you think about suits? - I asked thoughtfully.
- I like them, - answered Stepan, - I have one which remained from my wedding.
- We'll throw it away, too, - I told him, - together with all this crap. Now we're going to buy you the first suit, shoes, odds and sods. Any questions?
- No questions, - Stepan echoed.
I found the nearest shopping center on the map, and we went to spend Stepan's money. We picked up a dark, blue striped suit. Although produced locally it was made very well. We also bought a couple of pretty nice jackets and gave everything for fitting. We bought Aldo shoes, a pair of classic black boots. The only time Stepan pushed back was when we were buying shirts. My ward couldn't understand why it was necessary to take a shirt for 120 Euro and not something cheaper. It took me half an hour to explain him the meaning of a shirt in man's wardrobe and that it shouldn't be cheap. I told him, I convinced him. But Stepan bluntly refused to buy ties. I didn't insist. I don't like them myself either.
We ate some salad at a fast-food restaurant. Stepan wanted to have a beer but I forbade it.
- Alcohol, drugs and sex are banned for you, - I told him while chewing a leaf of salad.
- Sex too? - Stepan was surprised.
- Yeah, - I said, - and that too. But it'll be the least of your concerns anyway. And to start a new relationship before the old matters have settled is very stupid. Generally speaking, this situation is something unique for you. I've seen things like these over and over again at work. It's always the same. So just follow all my recommendations and you'll be happy.
- Okay, - agreed Stepan, - I have nothing to lose but the money we have spent here on clothes. Almost a thousand Euro.
- By the way, - I agreed, - why are we only shopping clothes? Let's go to some other shops.
And I dragged Stepan to a perfumery first, then to a hairdresser's. We stopped by at a sports shop where we bought sneakers and pants for jogging. Late in the evening we picked up the tailored suits and went home where we drank some home-made lemonade to celebrate.
Next morning Sunday came. On weekends people like to sleep longer. But I get up as usual, at six in the morning and quietly do my things. I check my emails, spam on message boards, read a book, listen to music. This Sunday I listened to a new song by Kim and sang softly: "Burn bright my star until the fire fades ..." And at that moment Stepan emerged from the bedroom. In shorts and a T-shirt. Angry and sleepy by the look of him. He flopped down on the chair opposite me.
- Good morning, - I said politely.
- Mornings are never good, - Stepan responded, - I dreamed about her in the morning. You promised that everything would fade.
- I did, - I confirmed, - but it doesn't mean that it happens overnight. I don't have a magic wand. I'm just an Angel. I help and assist, but the outcome is in your hands.
- So what should I do? - Stepan asked calmer.
- You should get rid of this psychological dependence on her, - I said, - for this you need to do the following: throw away everything that is associated with her, don't think about her, change your way of life. Changing outside you are chaning inside. We bought the suits. But now you put on the sports clothes and go jogging. The best way to forget the ex is jogging or cycling. Every morning. Every day.
And we went jogging along a quite picturesque park next to Stepan's apartment. One circle, another one. We stopped to feed the ducks.
- And what about the daughter? - Stepan asked. - She doesn't let me see her. But I love the child. It's not Katya's fault.
- You didn't think much about your daughter when you were about to shoot yourself, - I said sarcastically and added: - Your daughter is small, she is not going anywhere. She'll stay with her mother. Then everything will settle and maybe you'll come to an agreement. In your state it's better not to see her now. Leave everything for later. And now let's run.
- When later? - Stepan shouted to my back.
- When you'll grow some balls, - I told him over the shoulder.
We were jogging for a long time. After all it was a weekend. We returned to Stepan's place. Had some scrambled eggs for breakfast which I rejected. A culinary dispute broke out. As a result we went to the store and bought a multicooker.
- This is the best thing that mankind has invented lately, - I assured Stepan. - This piece of iron with buttons will simplify your life and make it less dependent on women.
Then we cooked lunch on the multicooker we bought. Chicken with buckwheat. It was very tasty.
After lunch Stepan showed me his projects. I relentlessly criticized them. The errors were immediately corrected and changes were made. We were sitting at computer till late in the evening. Dined the rest of the chicken and called it a day.
In the morning Stepan rushed to work. But first he stopped by the notary who notarized the power of attorney which I went to court with.
Olesya arrived at the courthouse on her Toyota Prado. The black softroader was driven by a man in a gray jacket. He ran out of the car and opened the door to Stepan's wife. She walked out of the car in some fancy blue dress with sparkles. High heels, bluish, too. She entered the courthouse. I followed her and sat down in the corridor across her.
- Stepan won't come, - I said simply, - I'm in his stead.
- And who are you? - Olesya glared at me.
- His lawyer, - I answered.
At this time we were called into the courtroom. The judge, a thin woman of about fifty, wearing glasses and short hair, asked for the documents. I handed over the power of attorney.
- What kind of a name is that, Sixth? - she asked squeamishly.
- My parents named me in honor of a Soviet film. Haven't you watched it? Directed by Gasparov, - I answered like from the textbook.
- No, I didn't, - the judge said.
And started the divorce procedure. It was boring and uninteresting. I refused to reconcile. Bluntly.
Who will the child live with? I asked to leave it with the father knowing the answer in advance.
- It's a little girl, - the judge said clearly pronouncing the words, - how do you imagine that the girl is brought up by her father? Why not by her mother?
- Because her mother is a hoe, - I said sadly, - and such a mother will raise the same hoe. With her very own example.
- If you swear in the courthouse one more time, I'll punish you, - the judge hissed.
And has ruled to divorce the spouses Novikov. Olesya to get her maiden name back. The girl to stay with her mother...
I told Stepan everything in the evening. He took my story calmly. Apparently, my morning words reached him.
After that we watched a brand new comedy and worked on Stepan's projects. After that he went to bed.
We got up early in the morning, went jogging, took a shower, had some breakfast and went to work.
I persuaded Stepan to have a run in the park in the evening as well. And he really liked it. And it had a positive impact on him.
Now, he spent all of his free time at the computer, cherishing and nourishing his websites. Sometimes we went to the cinema or to a bar., but without any booze. Just to take a stroll. To see and to be seen. In addition, all the photos, clothes or any other things that reminded him of his ex-wife were thrown out of the apartment.
I took care of Styopa like if he was a child. There were periods when he enjoyed life but sometimes he became deeply sad thinking about his ex. In moments like these, I tried to invigorate him, to get him out of the house. To a movie, for a walk, for a visit. Tried to distract him from these thoughts.
I got terribly tired of it. It is very, very difficult to live a life of another person constantly controlling it.
At least Olesya didn't bother us. During the first two months. Two months after the divorce she called me. She said she wanted to talk to me because in the court I gave her my card.
- You have a strange number, - she said introducing herself.
- How can I help you? - I answered dryly.
- You're still Stepan's lawyer, aren't you? - Olesya asked me. - I can't get through to him. And we still have some matters to resolve.
- Today at 4 p.m. in the central park, okay? - I asked.
- Okay, at the entrance, - Olesya answered and hung up.
Exactly at 4 p.m. I was sitting on a bench at the entrance of the central park. With my back to the road. And allegedly didn't see that Olesya arrived on a blue Mercedes. But nobody opened the door for her. She got out on her own, smiled at the driver and clattered on her heels to my bench. Landed next to me.
- Good afternoon, Mr. Lawyer.
- Same to you, young lady, - I replied.
- Well, I have a question to Stepan, - she began, - I need money for his daughter. A child needs food and clothes. It is growing.
- No problem, - I answered, - file for child support, and it will be deducted from Stepan's salary.
- Well, why so formal? - Olesya smiled at me. - Maybe we'll just agree that he transfers a certain amount of money on my account?
- No, - I interrupted her smile, - let's do it through court. It would make it easy for you and for us. Today I'll send you the statement of claim per email, so that you can file it tomorrow.
- I have a lawyer too, - Olesya moved her chin.
- The one who brought you here, Vasily? He's not a lawyer, - I said slowly and clearly, - he's a legal adviser in a construction company. By the way, the one who brought you to the court, was also Vasily. Do you select them by names in order to not mix them up?
- How dare you, - Olesya hissed, then suddenly asked quietly: - How do you know? Were you hired by my husband to spy on me?
- First of all, - I grinned, - Styopa is not your husband. He is your ex-husband. And he isn't aware of my possibilities.
- There are no ex- husbands, - Olesya interrupted me.
- For you he's a former one, - I continued. - Secondly, I know a lot about you and about your Valilys. Not intentionally, it just happened. Thirdly, I don't like to argue and try to make everyone happy. That's why I offer you cooperation so that you, your child and Stepan are happy. And, fourthly, if you're not stupid and agree to my offers, I'll help you in your further life. And you'll be very grateful to me for this hint.
Olesya was thinking. She looked at me, ran her fingers through her hair and very casually touched my hand.
- Do you have a girlfriend? - she suddenly asked.
- I have a platonic office nookie, - I smiled at her, - and actually my name's not Vasily.
- What's your problem with this name, - Olesya frowned. - What's in your proposals for me?
- Plenty, - I said, - you get the child support, on weekends you can be on your own, without your child, and can have fun with your Vasilys and build up your private life. Well, and my help will save you, literally.
- Who are you? - Olesya asked me. - To Stepan I mean?
- I'm his Guardian Angel, - I said seriously.
- And what is Stepan's salary now? - another question followed.
- He has a very decent one, - I answered, - and he's not going to conceal it. Moreover, if you let him see the child, he'll buy her stuff: clothes, toys, etc.. After all, Styopa loves his daughter. But don't blackmail him with her. I just want to warn you right away. You'll only hurt yourself.
Olesya thought again. She chewed her lower lip.
- I agree, - she said, - that sounds like a deal with the devil. Should I sign anything with my blood? And when will you give me your advice? The one which will help me?
- It's good that you agree. - I answered slowly, - Deal. But keep in mind, if you break our agreement, I'll punish you.
And I took Olesya's hand and stared into her eyes. I trained this stare, and usually it remains in one's memory for a long time. Chin forward, eyes wide open, staring not into the face but deep into the person, into the back of the person's head. Absolute seriousness. And no blinking. For three minutes.
Having stared at her I let go of her hand. Then I leaned towards her ear. Chanel No.5 hit my nose.
- Your current Vasily has sex with you wearing a condom, right? - I began, - He says it's because he doesn't want to have children?
- And how do you ... - Olesya started and immediately stopped.
- So, - I continued, as if nothing had happened, - this is not the real reason. The real reason is...
And sticking my lips in Chanel No.5 I pronounced a medical term. Olesya almost jumped out of her skin.
- Holy Mother! - she said, - I understood everything. I agree on child support and Stepan's visits to child. And this Vasily-scum will be kicked out today. Thank you.
And without waiting for my you're welcome she rushed off to the park.
I took out my tablet and sent a message upstairs: „Conversation conducted, thank you for the intel. XXX. Sixth“.
In a few seconds I received the answer: „Why did you discredit Vasily? He has just a regular chlamydia. Referent M“.
I didn't answer. I only smiled insidiously raising my head up.
In the evening, I sent Olesya a statement of claim and the agreement on child which regulated the frequency and the duration of visits. I received a detailed report from her, when and what she would sign. She didn't write a word about her Vasily. Only in the P.S. she asked whether she should return to Stepan. I replied: „don't even think about it“ dropping all formalities. Olesya answered: „okay“.
Another month passed. Stepan almost didn't think about his old family anymore. But he didn't want to start a new one either. Sometimes he dated someone. But usually once or twice. He didn't have any problems to get acquainted with a girl. Dressed in a suit, sporty, self-confident he drew women like a magnet.
One of his projects was suddenly a success. It got popular and started to bring tangible money. For his first earnings Stepan bought a bicycle, and now instead of jogging he circled around the park. I laughed at him because he bought a cycle in the fall, right before winter. But Styopa answered that after winter spring would come. At this moment I realized - that was it. He doesn't need me anymore. The guy was over her and could go on on his own.
I made a reservation at the nearest restaurant, small and cosy. I invited Stepan. We sat down and drank a glass of mineral water. Waiting for the main course, I took papers out of my bag.
- I'm here about Olesya, - I began.
- What Olesya? - Stepan asked surprised and then laughed: - Oh, sorry. You so protected me from everything that I really forgot about my ex-wife.
- Shit happens, - I looked at Stepan attentively. No, he wasn't acting.
- This is the order for child support, - I continued. - It came literally yesterday, it will be deducted from your salary. Here is our contract about the child.
Stepan took the papers. Frowned. Read it carefully. His face beamed.
- May I see Katya? - he asked.
- Yes, - I answered, - by arrangement you can even take her for weekends. But be careful. If she imposes conditions, don't give up. Be firm. You have the same rights for your child as she does.
- I understand, - said Stepan, - I'm not falling for it. Now I grew balls. I don't understand why I licked this woman's feet so m uch. Even the thought of that is embarassing for me.
- What about the gun? - I interrupted him. - Should I return it to you or stash it out of harm's way?
- I thought you teleported it, - Stepan laughed. - No, I don't need it anymore. Teleport it completely.
- Fine, - I nodded and rose.
- Are you leaving? - Stepan asked distractedly.
- Yes, - I answered.
- For good? - he realized.
- Yes, for good, - I said, - I'm tired of babysitting you. You're already an adult. Now you're on your own. Completely.
- What about the duck? - Stepan asked. - They'll bring it soon. They have a great duck here.
- You should invite that girl for the duck, - I nodded towards the next table, - she is sitting alone. Tell her that I'm leaving for an urgent business trip. It's an excellent way to get to know her.
Stepan got up. Walked around the table. Awkwardly hugged me.
- Thank you, - he said.
- You're welcome, - I replied and added: - Don't let me down. Jogging in winter, cycling in summer. No goofing off, no excuses.
Then I freed myself from Stepan's embrace and left the restaurant.
The rain has begun. It fell down, came over to the leaves of the trees and asphalt, washing away the summer dust.
I raised my hand. A yellow cab softly braked beside me. I opened the door and got inside.
- To the airport, - I said.
- Are you leaving? - the driver asked.
- Yes, it's time to go, - I answered, - my wings are itching to fly.
The driver laughed politely at my joke and turned on the radio.
Vladimir Vysotsky croaked from the speakers.
The rain increased outside.