Franzeska Zmyatyna placed her husband's pistol to his forehead...

He'd fallen into a deep post-coital sleep. She hadn't permitted him to enter her for two days. She wanted to make sure she drained him of everything he had before he passed out. She didn't mind the punches that night. His violence during their fuck session reminded her of why she hated him so much. He enjoyed beating her and seeing what he supposed was fear in her eyes. Foolish man.

I could kill you with the first two fingers of either hand, she thought. By my grace alone do you still live and move and have your being. But not for long, Милочка. Cow.


Artie had found Franzeska on a pay-for-play Internet site, Hot Moscow Women, a slimeball from New York's financial district who thought the world owed him a midtown apartment. He came up from the streets with a high school education and a fast mouth, a born hustler who understood only money and its ability to open doors. "It's Arthur," was how he introduced himself. His colleagues kidded him about his Brooks Brothers suits so he spent the two large for a classic black Armani, burning with anger at the perceived slight. Goddamned Ivy fuckwads. A Rolex came next.

Four years after the Bubble burst Artie was flat broke, working in Connersville, Indiana for the Ford plant as an accountant for a lousy $13.75/hr, $43,000 in debt and living under an assumed name. He saved enough money for one plane fare to Moscow and for two back. Franzeska was tall, slim, and spoke barely any English. A software program babelfished his letters to her and hers to him. Her fractured mistranslated English did not deter his lust for her. Pig, she thought. He is свинья. I will marry him and become a citizen, and then I shall divorce him in six months. On their 'honeymoon' she wore the latex outfit he'd bought her. She almost smothered him the first night. It would have been easy.

Every morning the pig left for his accounting job in a Perma-Prest white shirt and Dockers. He was poor, she thought. He is poor, and therefore I am poor. And this town, it is like living in Moldavia or southern Ukraine. The people here are farmers. Chyort voz'mi!

High Heels

She did pushups as soon as he left for work. 200 pushups, 200 situps, leg lifts, pullups on the door frame, fingers only, just as she was taught at the Academy, only this time there was no evil Esmyatin to beat her for form infractions. Stop. Repeat. Stop. Repeat. She stopped only when she was gasping for air, her skin covered with sheets of sweat, just as she'd been trained. Punches - ten minutes in horse stance. Kicks out of horse and cat stances - again. Again. AGAIN. When he got mad Esmyatin, that evil troll, would take off his belt and whip her. AGAIN. AGAIN. He'd spit on her and made her get up, and then he'd have her stand there, and he'd kick her. Like THIS, Franzeska you whore. Like THIS.

Back in Indiana, she bought a Resuscitation Annie that she kept in the closet. Every day she'd mount it on a chair and do her drills. Eye strikes. Larynx strikes. Nose strikes. Side strikes. Front strikes. Temple strikes. Open fist, closed fist, knee, elbow, left side, right side, ear claps. Again. AGAIN, until she could do it with her eyes closed.

She could kill with her hands. She could kill with her high heels. She could garrotte with the twine she used to grow tomatos. Improvise, adapt, survive. You kill before you are killed. This was the Academy.



Esmyatin stood over the body, hands on hips, a bad sign. Blood covered the bed. It was her blood.

"Yes sir." She was exhausted. He had been a lot stronger than he'd looked, this sailor. She let him get her drunk, p'yan v stel-ku, -- it took a lot to get her drunk; she was nervous as hell -- and when she resisted his entreaties he hit her and dragged her to her room, where he made her perform oral sex on him. Then he beat her until she was almost unconscious, and then he raped her.

She had disengaged, as she had been trained to do. She felt him moving her body, but in her mind she was on the ceiling, looking down at herself. And then, after he was through, she, the erstwhile weak limp rag doll of a girl, comatose after vodka and her beating, opened her eyes and became the goddess of rage and justice. He had awakened the bear. The bear had no mercy.

Afterward, she called Ezmyatin and smoked a Business Club Gold. Soon, she heard the sound of dopplered sirens.

Ezmyatin got up from the body, cold and silent. "Franzeska, come over here, child." She knew that voice. It was the voice of pain. She was wide awake now, the deep vodka drunk suddenly gone, overwhelmed with fear. She crawled to the body, her mouth still bleeding. She knew not to speak.

"Look at him, Franzeska. Look at him!"

She was shaking.

"Is he dead?"

"I crushed his larynx and then I strangled him with the telephone cord. It is impossible he is alive." Warm blood trickled into the back of her throat. She could taste the iron. "Impossible."

"And yet." He grabbed her hair and pulled her head to his face. "And yet, my blond cunt, he still has a pulse. Not so impossible, you..." He removed his belt. "cow."

He commanded her to bare her back. "You were supposed to graduate tonight, cow." She did, and lay down, grabbed the bedposts and began crying silently, face away from him. The belt came down. She cried for so many reasons. "All my time, wasted on you, cow." Again. "You will never work for us. Vrubatsa?" Again. "Never."

When it was over, he dropped a stiletto knife next to the bed, between her and the as-yet-alive sailor. "Finish him. Then leave. Ya tebia dostal."


Her face recovered. She found day work as an office worker for an oil company. The security officers knew she'd received training at the Academy, so she found evening jobs too, special jobs, jobs that required unusual talents. She was good at it. Still, she wanted to leave and start over. Америка. She wanted to be a human. She wasn't sure there was any human left in her, but she was willing to give it a try.

They say you can never leave your past.

Franzeska Zmyatyna placed her snoring husband's Walther PPK to his forehead and pulled the trigger. Then she placed it at the bottom of his skull, gun pointed up toward the crown and shot again. Double-tap. The silencer kept things quiet. He was dead after the first shot, she was sure of that. The second one was just for insurance. Esmyatin had trained her well.