Oksana wanted the Westwood.
The more she looked at the coat on the mannequin, the more she convinced herself it was meant for her and only her. Who else could pull off that shade of magenta? And that giant bow in the front... It was the closest thing to love for her. Oksana could see herself wearing it on the Tube, getting espresso at her favorite cafe close to her apartment. Heads would turn to look at her and feel extremely jealous and sad about their own pathetic lives. She looked down at the price tag.
And nearly cried.
£1,513. That was half her rent. It was just fabric. How could a piece of fabric cost so much money?
Oksana steeled herself. She prepared for this. She smoothed down the flyaway hairs on her brown wig and grabbed the Westwood in her size (a six). She strode through the posh Londoners and the tourists trying to get just a taste of the wealth Harrods had to offer. They were nothing to her.
The bored saleslady was Oksana's person of interest. Harrods was always short staffed on Fridays. The shift change was in an hour, right as rush hour started, which should mean she was both antsy for work to end and stressed about the commute. Oksana smiled. She picked the perfect day.
Her only uncertainty was whether she should do Lily or Emma.
At the last second, Oksana decided on Emma. "Excuse me?" Oksana said in an accent obtained from watching the Harry Potter movies twice in a row.
The saleslady looked at her like she was ready to go home. "How can I help you?"
"Do you have this in an eight?"
She held out the coat to the saleslady. The saleslady apathetically inspected the label. "Did you check the floor?"
"Well, yes, but I couldn't find it, and I just love this color." Oksana gave a doe-eyed smile. "I would really appreciate if you could check in the back."
At another, lower-class store, the saleslady might have told her that they did not horde extra sizes in "the back." But this was Harrods. The saleslady held back a sigh and said, "Let me see if I can find it."
"Thank you so much!" Oksana said, her accent slipping a little on the so.
Now came the tricky part.
As soon as the saleslady was out of sight, Oksana dropped the smile. She looked around for any more staff, and seeing none, stuffed the coat down her sweater. She briskly made her way toward the exit. She didn't run because runners attracted attention.
The exit was ten, maybe fifteen, steps away. The Westwood was hers.
Oksana didn't look to see who said that, but the gruff tone was enough for her to know she had been caught. Oksana bolted out of Harrods. Footsteps thundered behind her, but she knew where she was going. They didn't.
As she turned a corner, Oksana yanked the wig off and threw it into the first trashcan she dashed by. She spared one glance back at her pursuers. Three security guys. Closer than she anticipated. She sped up, ignoring the burning in her lungs. She ran through the street, to the tune of angry honking cars, right to the entrance for the Tube. The train should be arriving in a couple minutes.
"Stop!" one of the men shouted, but Oksana did not stop. Did anyone stealing actually stop when someone told them to? Why did they think that would work?
She shoved her way through impatient commuters, the men gaining on her. Oksana saw the approaching escalator. She knew what she had to do.
One of the men almost grabbed her sleeve, but Oksana leaped onto the escalator rail and slid down it.
"Someone stop her!"
"So long suckers!" Oksana hollered as she practically flew off the rail right as her train slid into the platform. Adrenaline coursing through her body, she ran into the train car just as the doors closed.
Before the men could even get onto the platform, the train took off. Chest heaving, Oksana collapsed into one of the seats. She felt like she was floating. She giddily took the Westwood out and held it up against her body. Perfect. She'd try it on when she wasn't sweaty and disgusting.
Only after the rush of adrenaline started to fade did Oksana notice someone staring at her. An elderly lady. She clutched her purse and had a stern look on her face. "What?" Oksana said.
The lady simply looked at the door where Oksana had flown in like a fugitive.
"Oh. Ex-boyfriend," Oksana clarified. "He's crazy."
The Tube was running late, and so was Eve.
"Shit." Eve squeezed between the throng of commuters, all of them cranky about the commute ahead of them. "Shit, shit, shit!" She had to get to Platform 3 before the train arrived.
What she had not accounted for was the crowd. Commuters practically piled one top of each other. Eve squeezed through to the best her ability, but she could only get so far, even without the glares she was getting. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her. "Did you just grab my ass?" Eve said to the man who did indeed grab her ass, but he was long gone by the time she said it. Eve groaned. This was a heinous travel time.
Eve checked the arrival times up over the escalator. "You have got be kidding me."
The train wasn't late anymore. It was coming in two minutes.
No more squeezing. Eve started elbowing and shoving her way down the escalator. "Watch it!" a puffy-faced businessman said after she nearly pushed him off.
"Sorry," Eve muttered.
She got off the escalator and rushed toward Platform 3. One minute and 30 seconds. Eve scanned the crowd for the man. He should be toward the left side of the platform, unless he spontaneously decided to change his routine.
In Eve's experience, very few people spontaneously changed their routines.
One minute and 15 seconds. Eve made her way toward the left side of the platform and spotted him. He was in a navy suit which probably cost more than her entire wardrobe. He stood mere centimeters away from the track, looking at his phone. Completely oblivious.
Eve got to where she was right behind him. She bent down, unnoticed by the dozens of commuters too focused on getting home for the weekend.
Unfortunately, their commute was about to get very delayed.
Eve could hear the train thundering toward the platform. She pulled the scalpel out of her jacket. She double checked that the leather dress shoe matched the man she was sent here for. As usual, she was correct. She just liked to check.
Eve took a breath. She drew back the scalpel and in one swift motion, sliced his Achilles tendon.
The man staggered. Eve stood up.
The light of the train filled the platform. And just like Eve mapped out weeks ago, the man fell onto the tracks right as the train pummeled into him.
A few people close enough to see him gasped. One woman screamed. But this was rush hour. Everyone else was too busy clamoring toward the doors to notice the man.
More importantly, no one noticed Eve leaving the platform.
She deposited the scalpel in a trash can. Only as she was making her way toward the escalator, did people start to notice the dead man on the track. Eve was at the top of the escalator when the announcement for all passengers to leave the station finally came. It came with the usual mix of complaints and curiosities from commuters.
Her phone rang. Eve checked the caller ID and smiled. As paramedics rushed past her, she held the phone up to her ear. "Hi honey! How was work?"
Eve walked out of the station while her husband went on about some school event that Eve didn't care about. "Yeah? That's great!"
Police cars pulled up outside the station. "Oh, my day was pretty boring. By the way, do you wanna get takeout for dinner? Someone fell onto the track, and I'm gonna be late." Should she hail a cab? Did Eve really want to spend that kind of money? "God no, I didn't see it, I just heard some other people talking about it."
She should hail a cab. She deserved it.
"Well, you know how commuters get during this time of the day. It's dangerous."
Eve would have killed him a different way, a more painless way.
"I love you too. I'll see you in a bit."
It wasn't her fault he liked to stand so close to the tracks.
So I've had this idea in my head for awhile now, and I really wanna try and take a crack at it! Not 100% sure where it's gonna go but I know how I want it to end and how long I want to it to be so that helps!
Also I had to Google how to shoplift for this chapter which was real awkward (fun fact this is the coat I based Oksana's "purchase" on).
Thanks for reading! Next chapter is called Just Like Lasagna.
Konstantin Vasiliev liked two things in the morning: a large cup of black coffee with a single sugar cube and for his assistant to arrive on time.
Usually, he got one of those things.
"Hi boss!" Oksana chirped as she sauntered into the lab.
"Because I got you coffee!"
A large cup of black coffee with a single sugar cube appeared on his desk. Konstantin made a hmph sound but took the cup. "You're still late." In his peripheral, Oksana lingered, waiting for him to ask about the coat. Really to compliment it, but it was hideous. He let out a labored sigh and put down the cup. "What are you wearing?"
"This old thing?" Oksana said innocently. She smoothed out nonexistent wrinkles on the magenta monstrosity. "I found it in the dumpster."
"You think this is a fashion show? You can't wear that during an autopsy."
"Maybe the corpses appreciate it."
"I can tell you, they don't." Konstantin took a sip of coffee. "And more importantly, I don't."
Oksana rolled her eyes. "Relax." She removed the coat, revealing her scrubs. "See? I look ugly and boring now. Like you!"
Of all the forensic assistants in London, Konstantin was certain he got stuck with the most petulant one.
"I don't know why I keep you around."
Oksana set her coat down and plopped into her desk chair. "You can fire me when you find someone else who can read your notes." Oksana and Konstantin both knew that wasn't going to happen because 1) Konstantin's notes were in Russian and 2) they were in Russian cursive. His last three assistants hadn't lasted more than a month.
"Also," Konstantin said to Oksana, who was now spinning like a child in the chair, "a body came in. So go prep it for examination."
Oksana stopped mid-spin. "Already?"
"Yes, already. Did you forget you are at work?"
"But it's eight in the morning!" Oksana whined. "I have to recover from the stress of my morning commute." She leaned forward with a pout on her face. "I got catcalled three times on my way here."
"You think I care? Do your job."
Her pout deepened. Oksana got out of the chair with an exaggerated huff and grabbed some gloves. She'd perk up. She was always an irritable creature in the morning.
"You'll like this one. It's gruesome."
He had her at gruesome.
Eve liked to observe people.
That was probably why she was so good at her job. Few people had the patience to sit still for hours and just watch. Not without looking at their phone or getting up to stretch their legs. But Eve got lost in it.
Like this couple two tables in front of her. Eve took an unnecessarily calculated sip of tea as she watched them. What were they talking about? Contrary to the detective shows on television, Eve could not deduce the contents of a conversation from a few well-placed glances, no matter how much she'd like to. But the more she watched, the more she learned. Like how the girl smiled just a little too wide but kept her arms crossed. Or the way the boy rattled on for minutes a time without noticing how he might be monopolizing the conversation.
A first date, most likely. One that, if Eve were to guess, was going to end on an underwhelming note.
Absentmindedly, Eve pictured how she'd dispose of them. Making it look like a murder-suicide was most likely the best option. The boy snapped. The girl wasn't giving him what he wanted. He hadn't meant to. He got the gun from a friend, and things just-
"I must warn you I am dreadfully hungover."
Eve looked up and smiled. "Bill!"
And now Eve watched her handler pull out a chair and slump into it. Bill always looked like he just got out of bed, but today, the bags under his eyes were exceptionally dark and his clothes were exceptionally wrinkled. Bill groaned at the motion of sitting down and put his fingers to his temples. "Give me a moment."
Eve's fingers twitched. This was all well and good, but she was far too wired to wait for Bill to get over his hangover. "The job went great. Thanks for asking."
"Something, something 'job well done.' Something 'took initiative' something, something-" Bill squinted. "Has it always been this bright in here?"
"Here." Eve slid the second cup of tea forward. They hadn't just picked this cafe to meet because of obscurity. The tea selection was ungodly.
Bill picked up the cup. "Ginger?"
"With extra honey?"
"Thank god." Bill took a long, grateful sip of tea. Eve watched impatiently. Bill put the cup down agonizingly slowly then finally, finally got to the point of this meeting. "How is the Clementon assignment running?"
"Like clockwork," Eve said. "It'll be done tonight."
"Good." That was always Bill's response. As long as the job got done, it was good. And Eve always got the job done. Bill reached into his jacket. "You'll need this for the hotel."
He handed her an ID card. Eve picked it up and squinted. "'Na-young Song'? Didn't we use this one for another assignment?"
"Bill, are you getting lazy on me?"
He meekly raised his hands in an admission of guilt. "To be truthful, I doubted anyone would notice."
Lazy bastard. Eve pocketed the ID card. "Don't worry. They never do."
They shared a knowing smile. Eve wondered if anyone in the cafe was watching. Wondering what they were talking about. Maybe to a random stranger they looked like two old friends sharing an inside joke. They could be co-workers stopping in for a cup of tea before their workdays started. Or on the off-chance, to someone very paranoid and very irrational, they were two professionals discussing murder.
"How's Niko by the way?" Bill asked.
"Good. We're going to a fundraiser next week."
To be fair, they were all those things.
Oksana liked one particular thing about corpses.
She hauled the body bag up onto the examination table, grunting when the lower half got stuck around one of the table legs. The sheer weight of a corpse never failed to surprise her. And this arsehole weighed a ton. Oksana hoped he wasn't leaking yet. She pulled once, then twice, finally getting the entire bag up on the table. Oksana winced, the sharp tug of a pulled muscle hitting her shoulder. It would be worth it. Every pulled muscle, every foul odor, every fluid seeping out, was always worth it.
Oksana unzipped the bag like she was handling a precious artifact. To her, it was. The first look at the body was sacred, and more importantly, it was always Oksana who had the first look. Konstantin usually came in a few minutes later. Oksana pulled back the flaps and laid eyes on the corpse.
She let out a shuddered breath.
Konstantin did not disappoint. Her pulse quickened as her eyes traveled from the feet and up, passing over mangled skin and broken bones. She could forgo this part, but she liked to build up to the moment. It made it all the more savory.
Finally, Oksana met the corpse's eyes.
A smile blossomed on her face. The eyes, the eyes, made the scrubs and the ungrateful boss and the shitty hours worth it. Warmth flooded her body as she stared into the corpse's eyes. One of them was dangling out of his socket. It didn't matter because in that moment, Oksana felt as alive as the corpse was dead, and she felt the way normal people were supposed to feel, and everything was wonderful-
Then it faded. It always faded.
Oksana exhaled the last bit of warmth from her body. Now it was just a corpse, an interesting, gory corpse, but still just a corpse. She finished setting up.
"His name was Horace Clementon. Age sixty-five," Konstantin said as he entered the lab with a tablet. "He was commuting from work when he fell onto the track. Train mauled him a few seconds later."
"He looks just like lasagna," Oksana remarked. "Why did they send him to us?"
"Because he was head of a very influential energy company, and they want to make sure his death didn't involve foul play."
Boring. The crimes of passion were so much more interesting. Oksana snapped her gloves on and got to work. Oksana's favorite crime they'd been involved with was the man who murdered his girlfriend because she burnt his spinach casserole. He'd slammed her head right into the aforementioned casserole and given her third degree burns. Among other things. Oksana had laughed when Konstantin told her. If this was a murder, it had no pizzazz.
Then, thirty minutes into the autopsy, Oksana spotted something odd.
"Wait. Look at this." Oksana twisted Clementon's leg around, which was very easy because his leg was broken. She leaned closer to the dead man’s ankle. "Is that an incision?"
"What?" Konstantin peered over her shoulder. "Let me take a look."
The cut had sliced through the man's Achilles tendon. It measured a little over 7 centimeters. Such a small incision with such potential for damage. "So is this foul play?" Oksana asked Konstantin. He didn't answer. "Konstantin?"
She looked over to her boss who had a distant look in his eyes. He sometimes did this. Fixating on one certain part of a body for minutes at a time. At first, Oksana thought he was just being a big baby, but what she mistook for squeamishness she later came to realize was something else. Something she had not yet figured out.
Konstantin snapped out of his trance and wrote something down on the tablet. "MI5 will want to know about this."
"Oooh, so serious." Oksana playfully bumped her hip against his. "You need to lighten up. Take your family to Disneyland or something."
At that moment, with Oksana and Konstantin standing over the mangled remains of Horace Clementon, a distraught young woman, no older than thirty, burst into the lab. "Where is he? Where's Horace?"
Oksana scrambled to put herself in front of the body and out of view of their visitors. That was one of the first things Konstantin had to teach her when a nine-year old boy came into the lab and got a full view of his dead mother because Oksana failed to realize that bodies are kind of an upsetting thing.
"We haven't taken him out yet," Oksana lied.
"Who are you?" Konstantin said.
The woman had long auburn hair and wore a cream colored button-up and a pleated red miniskirt Oksana would have killed for. She looked like one of those pretty young office workers Oksana used to envy. The ones who got to wear cute suggestive outfits to work while not doing any actual work. Her makeup was probably perfect too, at least when it wasn't running down her face from tears.
"I'm Zoey," the woman said like that would explain everything. It didn't. "His wife!" But that did.
"His wife?" Oksana looked back to Konstantin and mouthed Holy shit!
Zoey sniffled. "Please let me see him. I need to see my- my-" And Zoey Clementon burst into tears in front of two people she'd just met.
Oksana hated crying. It was such an ugly, awkward thing to watch. And Zoey was an ugly crier. Her face got all scrunchy and she sounded like a dying seal. God, it was embarrassing. If Zoey was going cry, at least do it in the privacy of her own home and spare Oksana from enduring it. She and Konstantin stared awkwardly at the weeping woman, both unified in wanting her out of the lab. Konstantin gestured toward her, trying to prompt Oksana to calm her down. Oksana balked. No! she mouthed.
Yes! Konstantin mouthed back. Or you're fired!
Oksana inhaled sharply. He was only making her do this because she was a woman. Oksana forced her face to morph into a look of comfort as she approached Zoey. "Hey, Zoey." She tenderly placed her hand on Zoey's arm. Touch and names. That's what she learned endeared you to people. "You look like you could use some water. Why don't I get you some?"
Oksana stroked her arm, lightly but just enough to make Zoey shiver. "I think..." The tears trickled to a stop. "I think I could use some water."
"Go back into the hallway. I'll be with you in just a moment," Oksana said.
Zoey nodded and wiped at the tears in her eyes. "All right. Thank you...?"
Zoey smiled sheepishly. "Thank you, Oksana."
Oksana smiled back, a perfect copy of Zoey's.
The minute Zoey was out the door, Konstantin said, "Don't sleep with his wife."
"It's bad taste."
"Ugh, fine. I won't sleep with his wife."
Guess who nearly forgot that Europe uses centimeters not inches to measure stuff? This American gal! Thanks for reading! Just as a warning updates are gonna be kind of slow on this.
The next chapter is called "Your Shirt Is Inside Out" :)
Sixteen hours later, Oksana had slept with Horace Clementon's wife. Twice.
It was good for Zoey to be with somebody her age. Especially in her time of bereavement. They'd gone out for drinks that evening (which Zoey paid for) and several tequila shots later, they ended up in a hotel room in Chelsea that Horace kept on retainer. Apparently this was something rich people did. The room was luxurious. Oksana could fit her shoebox of an apartment five times, maybe even six, into it.
So there they were, naked in a king-size bed where Zoey had probably had considerably less amazing sex with her now-deceased husband. "Wow," Zoey said, tresses of red hair spread across the pillow, "thanks for the... you know..."
"The sex?" Oksana offered. "You're welcome."
Oksana stretched back onto the multitude of feather pillows. Amazing. She could stretch her entire body out and not even bump against Zoey. With a bed this huge, Zoey and Horace could pretend they were in two separate beds. That's what Oksana would do. Based on the picture the lab received, Horace was uglier before the train hit him.
Oksana was set to drift off to sleep and dream about the room service she'd order in the morning when she felt eyes on her. She turned her head. Zoey was looking at her like she was a stain on the sheets.
"So I need you to leave," Zoey said.
Oksana didn't budge. "But it's three in the morning."
"Yeah, but I've got company tomorrow," Zoey said in that shallow, apologetic tone Oksana was so used to hearing from rich girls. "Some of Horace's people. It's boring business stuff, but it wouldn't look good. You being here."
Oksana looked at her in disbelief. Zoey was tossing her out like a used tampon. "You're serious."
Oksana huffed. "Fine."
It wasn't fine. It was so completely off from fine. But Oksana couldn’t tell Zoey that. Just like she couldn’t claw that fake-polite look off her porcelain perfect face. Because it "wasn’t right." As much as the image of Zoey's face torn to ribbons sent a chill through-
Oksana swallowed that urge. She threw the bedsheet sheet off and reached for her clothes. Stupid rich people. Also Oksana had done all the work. All Zoey did was lay back on the pillows and moan.
As she was zipping up her boots, Oksana saw the red miniskirt. It was just carelessly draped over a chair next to Zoey's vanity. Oksana snuck a look back at Zoey. She was already drifting off. Oksana didn't think twice before snatching up the skirt and shoving it deep into her purse. Consider it payment. Zoey probably had so many clothes she wouldn't even notice.
Oksana grabbed her jacket and gave one last look around at the room, at the luxury she would never be able to afford. And Zoey, resting in bed like a fucking princess. Oksana stuck her tongue out at her. It didn't do anything, but it felt good.
She slammed the door on her way out for good measure.
Oksana walked a few doors down before realizing she had absolutely idea how to get out of here. Everything between the fifth tequila shot and the taking off each other's clothes was a boozed-out blur. Oksana strode down one end of the hall where she could have sworn the elevator was, but she was only met with a supply closet. Great. Now she couldn't even get away from Zoey. With balled-up fists, Oksana stalked down toward the other side of the hallway.
She spotted a maid coming out of one of the rooms with a cleaning cart. "Hey." The maid, an Asian woman, looked up. "Do you know which way the elevator is?"
The maid pointed stiffly to her left.
Oksana passed by her with the last bit of her dignity when the maid said, "Your shirt is inside out."
And there it went. Oksana stopped and groaned. The cherry on top of a dismal night. With little regard for the maid's presence, she yanked her shirt off and tugged it right side in.
As Oksana pulled her shirt back over her head, her eyes met the maid's.
Up until now, Oksana hadn't truly looked at her. Why would she? But something about the maid drew her in. Oksana could feel the maid taking in her honey-blonde hair, her rumpled last-season clothes, and that tired, hungry look in her eyes that never went away. And Oksana took in the maid's slicked back ponytail, the uniform that was a size too big for her small frame, and her dark, unreadable eyes. She had a face Oksana would recognize in a crowd, but if asked to describe her, she wouldn’t be able to.
A weird... understanding passed between them. Not about anything specific, just understanding.
Then the maid broke the eye contact and continued down the hallway. Oksana lingered on her for only a moment before exhaustion hit her like a wave. And her thoughts became occupied with which trains were still running this late and how cold it was outside. If she was rich, she could call a cab.
Being poor sucked.
The next day, Oksana went into work with a headache and a foul mood. She dwelled little on the night before, even if she did pick at her salad with a little more aggression than usual. It got easier as the day went on. She did some online shopping. Konstantin blathered on about his daughter's talent show, and Oksana even managed to feign interest. She was doing a pretty good job of forgetting about last night.
Until the autopsy that afternoon. Oksana zipped open the bag.
The body of Zoey Clementon stared back up at her.
Oh wow a fast update! This is not the norm, but this was a very contained chapter. I know this fic has been a little Oksana-heavy so far but don't worry! We're gonna have more Eve stuff in the next few chapters!
The next chapter is tentatively called, "Her?"