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How Did It Get to This?

How did it get to this? Thom asked himself and felt for the fake passport in his pocket one more time before he walked up to the doors of the Vostok, the 97-story glass tower of ill-gotten gains, the Burj Khalifa of Moscow’s financial district.

You’re kidding me, right? His self answered. You know exactly how you got here. By ignoring everything I say.

That is true, Thom admitted and pulled the heavy metal handle with an embossed V on it toward him without it moving one bit. I should just leave, he thought and motioned with a mitten in the air to the lone security guard at the front desk.

What is the matter with you? His self screamed. Why don’t you follow through?

The security guard, who most days wished himself back to the time when he could wear his Kalashnikov to work, buzzed Thom in, and he walked through the deserted lobby of expansive stone bathed in the brightest lights to the front desk.

I dunno, Thom thought. It’s just so damn easy to keep doing the wrong thing. I have come this far, and a little bit further won’t make a difference.

“Print please your name and appointment,” the security guard said and pushed a clipboard with a blue pen on top over to Thom. Thom took off his mittens and put them on the counter.

This is your chance, his self said. If you write your real name, it’ll all be over.

JOHN SMITH, Thom wrote in block letters in the name column and then EGGCHANGE in the appointment one. Running his eyes down the visitor list, he saw that Mr. Smith was a frequent guest at the EggChange and in the building in general. But if that was a problem, it was not within the guard’s job description to fix it.

“Elevator please over here,” the security guard told him and pointed to the cluster of sixteen elevators that ran through the tower as a steel spine with each floor a disc in the back of the Vostok behemoth. “Two and twenty please for EggChange,” the guard added when Thom looked baffled.

Thom started walking over to the elevator bank when he heard a sharp STOP echo through the lobby. That is it, he thought and sped up. They’re gonna shoot me in the back.

And you deserve it, his self noted.

“Stop,” he heard again. “Mr. Smith please your gloves.”

With a deep exhale Thom halted and turned around to see the security guard stalking toward him with the woolen black fleece-lined mittens in a stretched-out hand.

“Thank you,” Thom mumbled as he got them. Then he turned around again and found an elevator that stopped on the 22nd floor. This is a sign they want me to do it, he thought. If they didn’t want me to do it, they would have stopped me just now. He pressed the button to call the elevator to the lobby.

You’re so full of shit, his self remarked. Signs don’t mean anything. It’s still not right.

The elevator showed the BBC World Service to a soundtrack of Tchaikovsky’s Nut Cracker that sounded like it was played by a stadium organist from Milwaukee. On the 22nd floor, the elevator opened to a long narrow hallway with nothing but a metal door at the end of it.

I know, thought Thom and walked up to the door.


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