After she had some time to think about it, Alyona convinced herself that, in the end, there was really nothing she could have done about it. Sure, she had had a couple of shots of vodka, but not enough to get her tipsy. Larisa, on the other hand, was totally wasted, and that was why Alyona had to drive Larisa’s Samara, a car whose idiosyncracies she wasn’t familiar with. There was the rain, too, and that was why she had pulled Larisa away from the party. The rain made the cobbled roads slippery. The streetlamps flickered on and off and she couldn’t see very well. Not to mention that Larisa, on the passenger seat, must have been dreaming she was still with Dmitri and kept groping her leg. Yes, she had a drink, it was dark, she was distracted, but still…
That man appeared out of nowhere. She wasn’t driving that fast. He had stepped in front of the car. Was he even looking in the right direction? No, he had been looking the other way. He must have been inostranets — a foreigner. She had stepped on the breaks, but the slick road took out some traction from the Samara’s tires.
The man had been thrown forward a meter or two. It was enough to wake Larisa. “Chort vozmi! What have you done with the car? Papa is going to kill me!”
The man lay sprawled on the ground. The impact had not been so bad, but the way he landed, his leg had been twisted at the knee. He should have been screaming in agony, but he was still. That was when Alyona had noticed his neck was also at an odd angle. He was not breathing.
Just an accident, she thought. Just a stupid accident. It wasn’t my fault. He stepped in front of me!
He was a handsome man, taller than most Moscow boys, about thirty, with a slight build. American, most likely. His hair was cut short, but he had a neat trimmed moustache and goatee. His broken glasses lay beside him. All things considered, there had been nothing extraordinary about him.
So why had the men in the dark suits and trench coats come? At first there was just the responding politsiya, as she had expected. When she had calmed down enough, she told her story to the officer, as truthfully as she could. He had not even bothered to ask if she had had a drink. He made some calls on his radio, and an ambulance came. But they did not remove the body. Then came the men in the dark suits and trench coats. Military, she guessed, by the way they moved, but nothing like she had ever seen. Alyona was afraid.
The men examined the body, took pictures, and made some phone calls. She couldn’t hear what they were saying. It seemed like they were talking for a long time.
Finally, they had approached her. The leader — everybody seemed to defer to him — was smiling, a very satisfied smile. He looked at her a long time and finally said: “You really have no idea, do you?”
Alyona began to cry. “Please, mister, I don’t want to go to jail!”
“Stupid teenager, all parties and shit,” he said, shaking his head like a schoolmaster. “Do you have any idea who that man was?”
“Just as well.”
“Who was he?”
“The most wanted man in the world.” He laughed. It was a harsh laugh, almost a bark. “Oh, Putin is going to love this!”
They removed the body, finally. The responding officer took her statement. He looked as pale as she thought she did. Then they let her and Larisa go. There was a slight dent on the hood, but Larisa didn’t think her father would notice.
Alyona thought long and hard about it. She had had a drink, true, but there was the rain, and the road was slippery. And the man had stepped in front of the car. There were the big scary men in the dark suits, but they had let them go. It had all seemed like a bad dream.
But: who was that man she had hit?
Dom Cimafranca has never actually been to Moscow and he has never met either Edward Snowden or Vladimir Putin.