Prologue: The New Dmitri Chenko

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Hard plastic wheels clacked over shallow grooves in the covered walkway between Dmitri’s room and the parking lot. He checked the door.

Locked. Good.

The flirty, moderately trashy maid had already caused him enough trouble. Not her, specifically, but women like her.

Squeak-squeak, tap. Squeak-squeak, tap.

Everyone on the flea-trap motel’s ground floor with the luxurious parking lot view would be waking up to the same delightful clatter. Dmitri imaged that the cardboard-thin walls had somehow been designed to amplify sound instead of insulate it. He wondered if anyone had called the police yet over the loud fight a few rooms down. It sounded like a real brawl.

“Yes, I’m listening,” he said. “I had to make sure the door was locked, or the cleaning people will barge in.” It was the first time he’d spoken with his wife all week. He heard her ring tone from the shower at 6:03 AM, and nearly broke his ankle racing to the phone.

“We both know what I did,” he continued, ignoring his dripping, towel-clad reflection in the cloudy mirror. “I won’t waste your time trying to excuse it or justify it.”

Tap, squeak-squeak. Tap, squeak-squeak.

Something about the cart bothered him. He couldn’t spare the attention to figure it out; any hope of saving his marriage, or at least salvaging some kind of amicable relationship with his wife hinged on this phonecall.

“I’m not trying to change your mind. I just want you to know that I’ve had my road to Damascus moment. I got the job at hospital. It’s just a security position, but it’s better than nothing. I’ve turned a corner, and I’m not looking back.”

Tap tap, squeak. Tap tap, squeak.

The clock-radio on the nightstand said 6:09 AM. It came to him. The cleaning girl shouldn’t have been there for another hour. She was pushing the cart from the right, instead of the left, and she hadn’t stopped at any rooms.

…Until she reached his.

Tap tap tap. “Housekeeping.”

He recognized the trashy girl’s voice.

“Not now, please,” Dmitri yelled. “No, it’s housekeeping. They’re knocking on my door.”

Keys jingled, and one of them slid into the lock.

“Christ, they're unlocking the door. I better go. I’ll call you after my shift, okay? I miss you.”

“Housekeeping.” The lock turned, and the maid bopped backwards into the room, dragging the heavily laden plastic cleaning cart over the threshold. Her dyed-blond ponytail swung between her shoulder blades as a tune only she could hear battered her eardrums through inserted headphones.

Dmitri shook his head, unable to fathom how this walking cliche could be trusted with room keys. The Do Not Disturb tag dangled in clear view from the outside door-handle.

Cheered by the unexpectedly positive turn in his marriage and his life in general, Dmitri stifled a laugh. What good would being angry at the ridiculous girl do, anyway?

Her very snug, hot-pink tracksuit matched her jewel-studded Sketchers, and the word Juicy screamed for attention in bold white letters across her plump ass. If Dmitri hadn’t already turned that corner…

He sat on the edge of the bed, adjusting his bath towel for optimum coverage, and watched her struggle with the heavy trolley. He smiled in anticipation of her surprise when she would finally turn around and realize she was in the wrong room with a giant, naked man. He’d have to be careful not to frighten her. This wouldn’t look good if she starting screaming.

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