by Bryan Cole
The Lada ’15 slid to a halt in front of the Alon bar, and the bulky, dark clad figure that emerged paused briefly to pay the driver, then crossed the street to the cart-vendor who was peddling Arabic coffee and blintzes. Hatcher got a coffee and a couple of pancakes, then had a quiet breakfast while he scanned for a tail.
After a few minutes, he crossed back to the other side of the street and walked in past the ferro-crete and faux wood exterior, the dim neon ALON BAR sign (in the local streetspeak of Cyrillic and English) only barely visible in the light of a sunny, snow-riddled Moscow morning. The bar looked nothing like its exterior component.
As an operator for the majority of his adult life, Hatcher first took notice of the windows and doors within the space he found himself. Exits were priority since he was essentially unarmed. T he next thing that took hold of his attention was the striking Nordic lady sitting calmly at the bar. She appeared to be checking through a tablet, but Hatcher noticed that her drink hand had disappeared casually underneath the bar when he had directed his gaze in her direction.
Grinning, he strolled to the bar, trying without difficulty to keep the lovely blonde in view while scoping for security within the bar. If Dragon had told him this was the place, Hatcher felt that it would no doubt be friendly. Experience, however, told him to keep his eyes open and his head up.
“Kak vas zavoot?” He rolled out as he sat at a stool one removed from the lovely blonde.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” she said back, her eyes turning towards him with that familiar mix of curiosity and disgust that only Hatcher could elicit. He switched back to English subconsciously, but he was aware of an additional presence moving in the area.
The guy was good, too, his footsteps almost in perfect unison with the bartender. Almost.
“Look, there’s no need for trouble. Tell your man that I’m unarmed. I’m here because a mythical creature told me to come.”
The lady looked at Hatcher sideways for a moment before cracking a smile. “I’ve heard Dragon called a bunch of things, but ‘mythical’ is definitely a first.”
Hatcher smiled back. This was definitely more friendly territory than he’d known in a while.