Blind Control

Twenty minutes later, freshly showered and dressed in one of his uniform black suits that the bellhop must have hung up in the wardrobe for him, Alan made his way along marble floored corridors, too introspective to even pay attention to the mural ceilings.

Realising that he had no idea of where he was going, he stopped a blonde-haired girl whose badge said her name was Beata.

“Restaurant?” he asked. She nodded in understanding, eyes cast down. Turning, she beckoned him to follow, and eventually led him into a large courtyard lit by a glass ceiling and surrounded by bright green plants that hung from the balconies. The floor was almost completely filled with an intricately woven carpet, and towards the centre sat Dima, his white-shirted bulk alone among the empty tables and chairs, drinking a coffee and reading the morning’s electronic paper.

Alan thanked Beata, who curtseyed gently and left the room as Dima stood up to greet him.

“Ah, I was beginning to worry. You okay, yes?”

“Just a bit of a headache,” Alan replied, shaking Dima’s fat, outstretched hand before sitting down.

“I thought so,” Dima chuckled. “The champagne was too good, no? Here, I have coffee for you, black, two sugars, as you like.”

“I take three,” said Alan, stirring in an extra spoon.

“Oh? My sources told me two.”

“Maybe your sources are wrong.” Alan sipped his coffee, avoiding eye contact.

“I shall remember for next time. You are hungry, yes?”

“Starving.”

Dima gestured to a young man dressed in smart black pants and a white shirt that stood waiting near one of the room’s arches. He promptly left and reappeared pushing a white trolley covered with croissants, jam, cereals, milk, and freshly cut melons. Dima looked up at him, agitated, and said something in Russian. Fearful, the waiter dashed off.

“Something wrong?” asked Alan.

Dima shook his head. “It is nothing serious. I prefer to deal with the Russian servants, they work harder. The Lithuanians are not so good; they still don’t like us.”

The waiter – Alan still couldn’t make out the name on his tag – came back hurriedly, carrying a jug of orange juice and two glasses. After pouring the juice in silence, he left and resumed his post, staring at his feet, shoulders slumped.

“Come, eat,” insisted Dima, forcing a smile. “It is no problem.”

“Lithuania is still not happy to be in the Federation, I take it?” Alan spread some butter on the croissant, and bit into the flaky crust.

Dima waved a meaty hand at the plastic-like broadsheet that he had been reading, adverts and text shifting on its surface. “Yes. Even now, they talk of conspiracy theories of us using energy as blackmail.”

“Conspiracy is just another word for ignorance,” said Alan as he took another bite.

“Of course,” nodded Dima enthusiastically. “You understand. But, it is easy for them to blame us. Like before, they blamed the Soviets for their problems after the Cold War, then the EU after the collapse; now, it is us again.”

“In my experience, responsibility is not a word most people use for themselves.”

“Ah, it is the same with the people of your country, too, I can see.” Dima’s short, sharp punch of laughter hit the air. “You see? They need the fire of anger inside to live. Otherwise, they have nothing.” He drank deeply from his glass, and wiped the thin yellowy-orange moustache from his lips. “But, they will learn. The Russia of today is not like before. We are businessmen, not communists.”

“Indeed.”

“But, come, enough. Let us discuss our business, no?” Dima waved his hand, and the waiter left the room. “Everything has been arranged. The operation shall be this evening.”

“So soon?”

“There is some reason to wait?”

“Well, no, but –”

“But you have waited so long that it does not feel like it should all happen so quickly.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“Of course, it is natural.”

Alan finished the last piece of his croissant, took a sip of coffee, and poured himself a bowl of cereal. Dima just sat and watched, looking smug as Alan ate a spoonful of muesli.

“So, what next then?” asked Alan. “What about the donor?”

“That is not your concern, of course. For now, enjoy your day in Vilnius. I shall collect you this afternoon, and take you to the clinic for the operation. By tomorrow, you shall be a new man.”

Alan’s spoon stopped halfway to his mouth. “Of course it’s my concern. I want to meet him.”

Dima’s face went rigid, like an old Soviet statue staring into some distant future. “That is not a very good idea.”

“My money, my decision. You’ll take me to meet him.”

Dima’s neck muscles clenched and unclenched gently beneath his unbuttoned collar, the only visible sign of emotion on the otherwise deadpan face. “What happened to trust?”

“This isn’t about trust.” Alan smiled inwardly, privately relishing the fact that he still held the upper hand, and that it drove Dima mad.

“Then why?”

“Let’s just say it’s for my own … peace of mind.”

Dima sat and stared, as Alan chewed on the muesli, ignoring him, his silver spoon scraping against the cereal bowl.

“Very well,” said Dima. “We will leave here after you eat.”

“I’m glad you agree.”

“As you say, it is your money, Alan. You are in control here.”

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  1. […] Blind Control It seemed a lifetime away, but that was how he always remembered her: freckled skin, thinning, auburn-dyed hair, and a red lipstick smile full of life. Not like now. Did she dream in her cryonics chamber, he wondered – not for the first … […]

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June 30, 2008