The girls were not lesbians: they were really just friends. When they stayed in the same hotel, they tried to get a room with a big wide bed, closely nestling to each other while they slept. The elder girl was not only taller, but larger in stature, more feminine. The younger one resembled a teenager: she slouched slightly, her figure was more angular, and her movements were somewhat sharp. Their age differences were minimal: only a couple of months, but the eldest was in authority and the younger one obeyed her implicitly.
The door of the vestibule swung open and the guard’s eyebrows lifted in surprise: two Snow Maidens entered the building’s lobby and stopped in front of the watchman’s booth. The road was blocked by a turnstile.
“Where is Santa Claus, girls?”
“In the bag!” The Snow Maidens burst out laughing. “Get out of the way, we have an order.”
“If you only knew what an ‘order’ is…” The young guard slowly raised his hand, imitating a pistol with his fingers, firing at an imaginary opponent.
“Skip, skip! We are in a hurry. We still have a lot of orders,” one of the Snow Maidens, which was taller, showed the guy his tongue and, like him, shot his fingers at him from an imaginary gun.
He laughed, but guessed that the girls did not intend to gossip with him and picked up the phone.
“Got it, got it, check it out!” The girls did not hear what instructions came to the doorman, but from the answer, it became clear that an inspection could not be avoided.
“Where are you going to be bossing, chief?” The low chest voice of the second Snow Maiden forced him to pay attention to her.
The guard, not looking up from the phone, jabbed a finger at the door next to him and pressed the turnstile pedal. The girls walked past the booth and headed to the indicated room.
The inspection was short.
“This is for the boss to growl at his subordinates.” The Snow Maiden pulled a huge teddy lion cub out of the bag.
“This is for his secretary.” The second Snow Maiden took an extraordinarily blue-eyed Malvina from a bag of the same size.
“This is for protection.” The first Snow Maiden pulled out a whole bunch of children’s pistols with the movement of a magician. The guard laughed again and put her hand on her waist.
“But-but!” The girl looked sideways, taking a box with a table lamp out of the bag, “this is for the chief accountant so that his vision does not spoil! The rest is trivial.”
And the girls, holding the bag in their hands, opened it wide, giving the guard the opportunity to look inside unhindered. Indeed, besides the candy bags, there was nothing else there.
When the Snow Maiden entered the director’s office, the wine glasses were already on the table, and the steward removed the champagne bottles. The rest of the employees did not have to wait long; only the management was invited.
“And here we are…” the tall Snow Maiden sang playfully.
“Where is Santa Claus?” her director inquired in the same tone.
“Take a guess! In the meantime, pour the champagne!” the second snow maiden cheerily replied.
The audience smiled. The director nodded to his deputy, the cork flew to the ceiling, and the sparkling drink rushed into the wine glasses.
“Happy New Year! With new happiness!” The tall Snow Maiden clinked her champagne glass with the director, the deputy, and the employees closest to her.
They all drank together and the girl put her hand in the bag. But as soon as she tried to get something out of it, the headmaster, smiling, asked again:
“And where is Santa Claus?”
“Surprise! Surprise!” declared the little Snow Maiden. “For the director, we have a magic lamp. If you rub it, guess who will appear…Santa Claus!”
“He showered firm orders.”
“…and then he will execute them for us,” her deputy interrupted jokingly.
“Here it is.” Without being embarrassed, the girl pointed to her partner.
“This is for the boss,” her friend said, pulling out a box with a desk lamp. “To the luminaries, as clear as sunshine.”
“Old-fashioned,” remarked one of the subordinates. “Turn it on, let’s see how it works.”
“Try it without us! Do not delay us!” the Snow Maidens sang in chorus.
“Or trials,” she said immediately.
“Or champagne,” added the other girl.
“This is for the chief accountant.” The tall Snow Maiden, not allowing others to recover, pulled a teddy lion cub out of the bag. “To stand as a lion guarding the financial interests of the company.”
“This is for the secretary,” the second Snow Maiden took the doll, defiantly spread her legs wide, and hoisted it directly onto the box with the desk lamp. “To know your place.”
Everyone took the hint and laughed.
The first Snow Maiden pulled a bundle of toy pistols out of the bag and, raising them above her head, exclaimed:
“And where is the security chief? Let him take these!”
“Inventory, protocol!” exclaimed the second girl.
One of the men, standing somewhat at a distance, stepped forward and, bowing his head to the applause of those around him, allowed her to hang a bunch of pistols around his neck.
“Now we proceed to the distribution…” the first Snow Maiden paused.
“Elephants and rhinos,” one of those present tried to joke.
However, his joke was not appreciated and there was still silence in the room.
“…sweets!” prompted the second Snow Maiden and took a bag of candy out of the bag.
“Stop, stop! It won’t work!” the director interrupted the Snow Maidens. “Before dessert, you need to take a few sips of champagne.”
His deputy, with a soft cotton, opened the second bottle and poured it into the glasses of those present. They clinked their glasses and drank; the Snow Maidens distributed bags with sweets and were about to leave.
There was one more bottle of champagne. The deputy director had already begun to warm her in his palms, but the Snow Maidens protested together: “We have four more orders.” They were released, and the third cork flew to the ceiling.
The guard, as if he was a good friend, waved his hand to the Snow Maidens. They quickly walked down to his booth and, without stopping, went out into the street. They are in a hurry, the guard thought, adjusting the attributes of his strength: the holster, the club, and the handcuffs. They probably have a lot of work today. A red foreign car drove up to the porch and the girls, opening both rear doors, got into the car. The car’s stoplights blinked, took a left turn, and disappeared from view. “Toyota, perhaps,” the guard thought. “Now, a lot of different cars, people can get confused where what car is…”
The red Japanese car briskly ran along the avenue, but did not break the speed limit. The movement was one-way, and that simplified the task.
“Faster, girls, faster!” the driver hissed in a low voice and a firm tone. “Snow Maidens!”
They had already taken off their red coats and now, grunting and cursing, dropped their boots.
“We are coming, we are coming!” The driver’s voice had a note of hysteria. When they were met by a police car with the flasher and siren turned on, an outright scream came from the driver’s mouth.
“We are ready.” The Snow Maidens were also noticeably nervous.
The driver looked in the rearview mirror. Both girls had already changed their clothes and only a thick layer of makeup on their faces indicated that a few minutes ago they took part in some kind of masquerade.
“Two blocks left,” the driver seemed to be talking to himself. “A house with an arch. Courtyard entrance. Yeah, here he is. We leave.”
The foreign car, blinking stop signals, stopped. Her passengers jumped out and moved inside the block; the driver lingered for a few moments in the cabin, then hurriedly got out of the car, slammed the doors, and began to quickly catch up with the girls.
And in another company, the president had had a meeting a month earlier…there were few employees: besides him, there was the vice president and the general director.
“In ‘Oiltrest,’ insolence. Certain coupons have come up…”
“People are stupid. They swallow everything. I watched these tickets: if you refuel for a hundred liters, the next five are free.”
“Three gas stations for the whole city…”
“The truckers are all going to them. They report to organizations and take free coupons for themselves…”
“There they have a queue of truckers…”
The president’s face grew grim.
“Our customers are leaving…this is not the first time. It is time for ‘Oiltrest’ to warn us in the present! How much will they have to bullshit?”
The director took a lamp out of the box and put it on the table. Massive, with a cast bronze stand and a crystal—in the form of a kerosene lamp—glass, the lamp made an impression. The supply manager took a napkin and quickly wiped down the director’s gift. The crystal began shining…
“Beautiful,” the deputy began unwinding the power cord. “Where is the electricity here?”
The director took the plug from the deputy’s hand and, going up to the wall at the table, stuck it in the socket. A deafening, enormous explosion scattered people around and spat out of the window onto the pavement with shards of glass. The howl of the fire alarm merged with the screams of the wounded and frightened people. Clouds of smoke mixed with clouds of dust. Someone shouted, someone ran, someone crawled. And only the director and his deputy were motionless: they lay in their tattered clothes, looking with broken eyes at the ceiling. The grin of their toothless mouths on their instantly smoky faces seemed to express surprise: what are you fussing about?
The driver caught up with the Snow Maidens at the end of the yard and, taking both of them by the elbows, went out onto the avenue. This highway ran parallel to the one where they abandoned their car, but the movement here was much more lively and the flow of cars went in both directions.
Next to them stopped a beige “Six.”* The young man who got out of the car casually slammed the door and disappeared into the grocery store. The driver of the Toyota pushed his companions to the back door, but himself, having run around the car, got behind the wheel. So it is; the keys are in place! The car snorted exhaust and rushed to the exit of the city.
“Girls! Wash the grime off, quickly!” The driver handed them two bottles.
The vehicle interior was filled with a sweet and sour aroma.
“Some strange solvent.” One of the girls began to twirl it into the light, trying to read the inscription on the label.
“It smells disgusting,” said another.
“Flush faster,” the driver interrupted. “I will open the window now, the smell will go away.”
And he slightly twisted the window handle. The air blew in a thin gap. But the corrosive smell continued to tickle his nostrils, stupefying his head. One of the girls yawned loudly.
“I wanted to sleep,” said another.
“And I have it from Afghanistan,” the driver replied. “As I wet the ‘spirit,’** I sleep for a week.”
He glanced in the rearview mirror and pulled out a small bottle: in it lay a small piece of cotton wool soaked in salammoniac. “Just try not to fall asleep, try not to fall asleep.” The Snow Maidens were already yawning with might as the driver tucked the cotton wool under his breath and, having dropped his speed, opened the window even more. The car slowly dragged along the curb. Fresh air, if it got into the cabin, did not go further than the driver. Finally, the highway made a slight indentation. In the afternoon, the merchants’ cars were located here, in the evening, the curb was empty and only rare passersby ran across the road.
The driver stopped the car and jumped out of the cabin. The cotton wool was clamped in his fist; he again brought it to his nose and tried to take a deep breath. Tears spilled from his eyes, but the nap passed and the driver ducked into the salon again. In the backseat, the girls, sniffling, slept. At the front seat, on the floor, there was a large plastic bag. The driver unfolded it: inside there was a plastic canister. He cooked himself! Two-thirds of the gasoline, one-third of the oil—the Molotov cocktail, his late grandfather used to say—how German tanks were burned in the Second World War. Now attach a mine to the canister and after a few minutes it will blow up! He did everything the same as in the red Toyota: tied the exploder to the canister handle, put a grenade on him, and a bag with explosive to them. The whole salon will be in tatters, and everything in it will be in tatters! All that remains is to start the clock mechanism. The driver set the timer and pressed the button.
The passengers who were standing at a bus stop nearby did not understand at first what had happened. The explosion was quiet. And only when the flames engulfed the car did someone run to call an ambulance and firefighters…
* Six: a Russian car model.
** Spirit: Afghan rebel.
Serge Clause was born on March 24, 1955 in Donetsk, Ukraine and is a citizen of the Russian Federation. He graduated from the Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces named the “Great” Peter (Moscow), specializing in electronic computing machinery. Serge has written for numerous arts and sports publications in Ukraine and Russia.