Gregor could be heard coming from a mile away, that distinct thrum of a Lada engine whose loud burble syncopated with the screech of clawing gears and backfires. It was a cool Rostov eve, the sun reclaimed once more by the early arrival of a winter’s night. Red cupped his hands, puffing hot air and squeezing his fingers to fend off the encroaching threat of chill. Atop the approaching ratcheting noise of the Russian vehicle, Red heard the blast of horns from the Don harbour, as river traffic turned from ferries to night barges that plied produce down to Voronezh and the sea of Azov.
Gregor arrived, the dim beams of the headlights playing off the old walls and pipes of the abandoned industrial plant Red found himself waiting in. The Lada’s engine sputtered as Gregor turned the key, opening the door and raising two big burly hands.
“Priyatel! I thought I had wrong address. Now…” Gregor motioned to the back of the Lada, “What you need? I have. You tell me.” The thickset Russian clomped around the Lada and opened the door.
“Depends? Let me make deal, Muzhyik.” Dragging a long wooden case from the rear of the Lada, Gregor gestured with a nod at the cargo. “Is prime. Dragunov, I throw in scope and box of bullets. This? Forget the 74, this is Motherland’s best.”
Red shook his head. “No man, no guns. Not that gun, anyway. I was hoping you could help me wi-.”
“Kubanskaya!” The Russian interrupted, sliding the box back into the rear of the car and elevating a bottle of vodka. “Is export quality, this I can say. Russian holy water, Priyatel, I baptise in this.”
“Man, no. Look, I’ve got a plane in an hour. I’m after one thing.”
The Russian grinned, eyes narrowing and pointing a stubby finger in the dim light.
“Ah ha, yes. I know. I know! You Americans.” Gregor shook his head and laughed. “You after dirty maga-”
“Borderlands, man.” Red interrupted, exasperated. “No rifles, no booze, no smut. Borderlands 2.”
The Russian froze, his stillness portraying fear if it hadn’t been for the lethargic wink Red caught in the moonlight and reflected illumination from the silent Lada’s headlamps.
“You want sequel? You want good price?” Gregor walked slowly around from behind the vehicle. He stepped up to the foreigner, to such a proximity that the bouquet of spirits, tobacco and cabbage took on a tangible, horrifying presence in Red’s mouth. Gregor squinted. “I give you good price, Tovarish. I give you fine price indeed.”