She’s A Mystery To Me

by Miles Rost

“She has taken over your life, Stu.”

The light conversation between Anatoly Churkhin and Stuart “Stu” Yorkszin took a dark turn with the phrase that Stu just heard from his longtime colleague.

The sounds of the diner were drowned out by the silence between the two men, two veterans of the 70’s KGB corps. Since retired to rural Kentucky, both men plied their trades in different fashions: Stu was a law clerk with expertise in international business in Lexington, while Anatoly involved himself as a hostage negotiator for the Covington Police Department.  The diner, an old-style luncheonette just off the interstate, was a convenient meeting place for both of them. It was in the middle of nowhere, and they could keep their conversation between them and no one else.

“Anny, how do you figure that Chelsea has taken over my life?”
“She found you 6 months ago. Within that amount of time, she has your schedule wrapped around hers. Do you remember what Yuri Andropov told us back in the day?”
“I don’t know, but I wish he would have Androppedov the earth earlier than he did. He caused more trouble than he was worth. He becomes leader, we become nothing.”

Anatoly looked at him crossly and sighed.

“You are not listening, Stu.”
“I am not listening because she is not taking over my life. She is sweet and kind, and she loves me for all my faults.”
“But, do you really know her? Do you know what is in her past? You don’t seem to know. I do.”

Stu looked at him, as he was pleading his case. He chuckled, knowing that his one-time partner in spying was about to pull out his “I Spy” card.

Darkness falls and she will take me by the hand. She will take me to some twilight land, and she’ll give me what I need. Which doesn’t involve sex.”
“Are you hearing yourself speak? You don’t know her that much! I know this because you don’t talk about her history!”
“I know her history.”

Anatoly bore his eyes into Stu’s, and gave him a deep warning. Stu just looked back at him, a reassuring smile on his face.

“Then tell me, Mr. KGB Agent of the Year 1973: What do you know about her history as a “historian”?”
“She wasn’t a historian. She was an agent for the FBI, an analyst for the area we called Kazahk. She retired from that job in 1996.”
“You already knew this?”
“I wouldn’t have started dating her if I didn’t. Come on, Anny, do I look like Konstantin Chernenko?”
“More like a Ukrainian Orson Welles.”

The guffaw coming from Stu brought all eyes in the diner onto him. He sheepishly looked around, and smiled as his portly frame did the rest. To those in the diner that day, he was merely imitating Santa Claus. And that perception was good enough for Stu.

“Anny, you need to understand that we’re no longer KGB, FSB, or whatever acronym they’re calling themselves today. We are not allied with Putin. We are retired, with no more running and hiding.”
“But, Stu…”
“My friend, Chelsea is a mystery to me. It’s a mystery how a 50 year old woman can deal with a 70 year old warhorse like me. It’s a mystery how she can do so many things for me, and yet love me without reservation regardless of my past.”
“This woman, this Chelsea, she really must be something special.”

Stu just looked out the window as he took another sip of his borscht.

She’s a mystery girl. She’s my mystery girl. And I love her for it.”

Don’t Look Down (The Sequel)

by Miles Rost

A bad week for Vanessa Chapman just got worse.

“Why did you bring me up here again?!?!”

“In order for us to do our work, you need to conquer your fears,” Roger Daniels told her, as she grabbed a hold of the doorknob on the roof. “And you can’t do that when you’re paralyzed of high places.”

“I’ve tried to conquer it! I’ve tried everything! Hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, pretty much every therapy you could imagine.”

Roger just sighed at this. He knew the routine. She would try to talk him out of doing it, he’d get her close to the edge, then relent.

However, he resolved to himself and a shot of Wild Turkey 100 to not back down this time.

“Vanessa, do you trust me?”

“I would trust you with my life. You’re my partner in crime.”

“Would I steer you wrong?”

She thought for a second. This was a new tactic. Ooh, he’s goood, she said to herself.

“Alright, you’ve convinced me. Let’s do this thing.”

“Remember something, Nessa. You know you’re holding aces, so don’t look down. Play your hand, and get it done with. I’ll be right with you.”

Vanessa tensed up a bit, but she was slowly led to the edge of the building, where two beams were crossing a long drop of nearly 90 feet. It was certain death if she fell, and her only safety were the two I-beams that looked like they were older than Fiorello LaGuardia’s bones.

Roger was in front of her, walking backwards. He was going to be with her all the way, and he wouldn’t let her drop. Just as long as she did not look down.

“Okay, try to hide your fear. Keep your eyes on me. I’ll be calling to you all the way through.”

She took her first shaky, fear filled step onto the I-beam and kept looking at Roger. He looked directly into her eyes as he clutched her hands and moved backwards. Every step he took, she took one more. They got halfway across when she suddenly froze. A small wind blew across the I-beams, and she froze up.

“Don’t worry, honey. I gotcha. I ain’t letting you go.”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….” she cried out, closing her eyes for a few seconds before opening them and seeing Roger’s face directly in front of her.

“I. Have. You. Do not fear. Keep your eyes on me, I’m calling you.”

He moved back one step more, and she moved it one step forward as well. She slowly took her steps, moving one at a time with incredibly slow speed. They inched closer to the other building, and she took her eyes off of Roger, and looked past him. The building was just a few steps away, and she was nearly there.

Until a pigeon hit Roger in the face.

His foot slipped and he started to fall. She grabbed onto him and held on tight. He was dangling off the edge of the beams, and Vanessa looked down upon the street below, She was about to tense up and freeze when a small voice from inside called to her.

“Leading ladies never think about stage fright. They live without it.”

She had to do something. She thought of the first thing to do. She shuffled her body, currently on the beam with both arms holding Roger’s. It was going to take her all her strength, but one way or another, she was going to get Roger up on that building.

“Roger, if anything happens to you, I am going to find my way to heaven and kick your butt.”

“I think it would be a pleasure, Nessa!”

Vanessa smiled as she bodyshuffled her way across the beam. 15 feet would get her to the building, and she decided to put all her force into it. She powered her away across and reached the edge.

“Get a better hold on my arm, Roger! Get a toehold on the building, and I’ll get ya up!”

“You’re open.”

And he was right. She just opened herself up for a dirty comment. Roger wouldn’t do it himself, but someone else at work just might.

“When we get done with this, you can say all the dirty things you want. Just DON’T FALL DOWN!”

“I ain’t gonna fall, sweets. You’re choking off the blood flow to my hand.”

Vanessa put her feet up against the edge of the building and heaved. Within a few seconds, he made it up the side of the building.

Or, rather, he was semi-catapulted. Within just a moment after cresting the edge, he fell on top of Vanessa. After a few seconds of clearing the cobwebs from his brain, he looked down and found a very peculiar sight.

One of his hands was wrapped around her arm, and the other rested on her breast. He quickly stammered and removed his hand.

Vanessa just laughed.

“Well, if you really wanted to cop a feel, Roger, you should have just asked. You didn’t have to nearly die for it.”

Roger looked bashful at this, and was a bit concerned. Now he was on the hot seat. Vanessa got up and looked him square in the eye.

“Well, now that I’ve conquered my fear of heights, why not we conquer your fear.”

She walked closer to him, and he just stood in fright.

“W-w-w-w-what fear is that?”

She was within a few feet of him. She moved right up to his side and grabbed his hands. She wrapped hers around them and looked straight into his paralyzed eyes.

“Your fear of offending a woman when you like her a lot.”

Roger stammered as she moved her face to his forehead. She gave him a short kiss on the forehead, and put her arm around him.

“You’re holding aces, Roger. Play the hand, and take what comes. We’re partners, and we can be more.”

Roger softened as they started walking towards the stairwell door.

“Let’s get something to eat. I think we both have some analysis to go over. Of each other.”

Vanessa smirked into empty sky, with a knowing look on her face.