Cultural Exchange

Semyon scanned Cass’ little flat, “We have the same problem in Moscow. I like your map. Is that your boyfriend?”

Cass ignored the final question. Semyon did not need to know and she wanted to get this meeting over as soon as possible.

He looked more like an exchange student today. Younger in nondescript jeans, t shirt, mac, trainers and to top it off, a rucksack. It always confused Cass when she saw colleagues in casual clothes. It always felt like it was a little too intimate. A realization moment, “That is what you are really like.”

She made him coffee and they settled down to go through Julian’s mess. It did not take long. Semyon threw down the papers, “Such a hypocrite. Mister nice guy. My mother’s money to pay whores.”

“What?” Cass had no idea that this was a personal mission.

“He befriended my mother and convinced her about financial structure. To him it is pocket money. Just £100,000.00 but I have disabled sister.”

“I am sorry,” Cass said sympathetically.

“English are very sympathetic,” he said smiling mirthlessly. “Her condition is quite shameful in Russia. Like her disability was mother’s fault. She wanted to make sure the money was in a safe place for my sister. ” Suddenly this Russian giant had his head in his hands.

Cass instinctively put a comforting arm around his shoulders, “It will be alright. It will get sorted.” Internally she was wondering why she was saying these platitudes, “ Just something to fill the void of despair.”

He composed himself and he embarrassedly shook off Cass’ arm, “I must inform Zubov.”

Semyon went out onto Cass’ balcony, she watched him, his mobile in one hand, gesticulating with a cigarette in the other. As he exhaled, he looked like an image from Hades.

The demon transformed into an angel as he walked back through the door. He shuffled up the papers and put them into his rucksack. “Come, it is done. I will take you to dinner. I want to see London.”

“What is done?” Cass suddenly felt her reality shift again.

“I have told Zubov,” he said simply, then laughed. “You think Julian will be killed? Cass, he is worth more to us this way. It has turned into a debt now. He will be more useful. In Russia it is when people owe you money, you should be worried.”

Cass had made up her mind not to have anything more to do with it. She did not like the sound of being “useful” to something she did not understand, “I will hand in my notice. This is getting too much.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Semyon smiled assuredly. “Wait for further instructions.” Cass tried hard to remain impassive though her very fabric was screaming at her to run. She had not asked for this and now she was being told however kindly, there was no escape.

Cass excused herself. In the bathroom she felt a wave of nausea hit her. She tried to be sick silently but she heard a concerned, “Are you okay?” through the door.

“Fine, fine. Nerves. It has been a difficult week.”

“You will get used to it. Come, you need to eat something. This is your city, show me where to go!” Semyon chimed positively through the locked door.

As she exited the bathroom and got on her shoes, she stated flatly, “Julian will not stop, you know that. Just because we have found him out, he will find someone else to fleece.”

“Fleece? What have sheep to do with this?”

“Pull the wool over their eyes? Deceive. There will be other mother’s money taken. The only logical reason why he did it, is because he enjoyed it. He did not need to do it.”

“ True but that is not my concern,” Semyon said frankly as he put on his shoes. “We have you to keep an eye on him.”

Cass ignored his final comment but continued her musing, ”It is not even that clever. He just needed the gall to take the money and do some convincing lying. People in the office talks about him like he has some sort of magic skill and never asked why or how he did these things.”

“No one ever asks questions things going well. When something looks clever, people never want to ask too many questions just in case they look stupid,” Semyon said sagely as she locked her front door, “Everyone made it easy for him.”