What makes humans act so cruelly? Is it something that is encoded in our DNA or is it something of our culture? The truth about humans or any other animal is that they are violent by nature. The only thing that separate human violence from animal violence is humans' ability to think. Therefore to think means to be cruel hence thought is what makes humans act out in a violent and cruel manner.

I remember the young woman who taught me that. She seems to be on my mind more and more these days. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older or maybe I've discovered that I have a deeper connection with her than I first thought. Whatever it is, it brings my mind back to the first time we met. The time when I learn that the origin of cruelty is thought.

I had arrived at the forensic lab early that morning. I had barely gotten through the door when my partner, Leela Brite, dragged me out to a murder scene.

Leela was a nice enough person but she was way too tense. She was one of those people that you expect to have a heart attack by age twenty-five. She had wicked mood swings too. It was like she had permanent PMS.

Anyway, we went to a hotel to investigate the murder of James Smith, the United States' representative to the United Nations. We began to examine the body.

"Hunter, what do you think the cause of death is?" Leela asked me.

"Well," I looked at the body, "It's either the bullet in his head or the bullet in his chest, take your pick. We can't be sure until the coroner takes a look at him." I crouched down next to the body and instantly covered my nose, "Do you smell that?"

Leela crouched down next to me, "It's alcohol. Do you think the victim was drunk?"

"No, it's too strong. Either he spilled it on himself or someone else spilled it on him."

"There are no bottles in the room. Do you think the killer could have spilled it?"

"Possible," I began, "The killer, possibly drunk, is invited into the room and he has the bottle of alcohol and a gun. The killer shoots the victim in the head and chest but he also accidentally spills some of the alcohol on the victim. Then the killer hightails it out of here."

"Sounds like a good theory," Leela said, "So now we need to find either the bottle of booze or the gun."

"Looks that way," I replied, "I'm going to down to the UN and see if I can't find us some suspects."

"I'll go back to the lab and I'll try to find what kind of alcohol we're looking for. I'll also find out which bullet killed him," Leela said, "I'll keep you informed."

"Okay," I replied.

I arrived at the UN headquarters before noon. For the first time that day, I noticed that the sky was grey and cloudy. I thought it was going to rain.

I explained to the Secretary-General what was going on. She was a nice woman. Her name was Linda Rogers and she was a Canadian.

The United Nations was very cooperative. I was pleasantly surprised.

The first person I talked to was the diplomat from France, Katrina Leger. Katrina was a helpful woman, she told me who Mr. Smith had argued with and all about his personal life, which I found kind of disturbing.

"How well did you know Mr. Smith?" I asked.

"Well, Mr. Scott, James and I went out for dinner a few times," Katrina replied.

"Is there anyone here he had a disagreement with yesterday?"

"Oxanna Markovnikov," Katrina answered, "James and Oxanna argued all the time."

"Would you know where Miss Markovnikov is?"

"Over there," Katrina pointed to a young woman.

That's when I first saw her, Oxanna Markovnikov, the most beautiful and most intelligent woman I ever met. This may sound clichéd but she had hair the colour of a golden sunset and beautiful blue eyes that were only rivalled by sapphires. My God, I miss her!

"Are you Oxanna Markovnikov?" I asked her.

"Yes," Oxanna replied.

"Did you know James Smith?"

"Yes, everyone here did. It's such a loss. I'm sorry he's dead."

"Miss Markovnikov, what were you and Mr. Smith quarrelling about yesterday?"

"The War in Iraq."

"Were you angry with him?"

"Yes, of course, I'm almost always angry at him."

"Angry enough to kill?"

"Are you implying something Mister…I don't even know your name."

"Hunter Scott," I replied. "Did you kill Mr. Smith?"

"To start off, no, I didn't kill Mr. Smith," Oxanna began, matter-of-factly, "And if you asked someone if they killed a person their not going to say, 'Yes, I killed him. Please take me to jail now'."

That always makes me laugh. Oxanna is a pretty smart cookie and that is probably why she is so witty.

"Miss Markovnikov, you're going to have to come with me to the lab," I said.

"Is that because I disagreed with Mr. Smith?" Oxanna asked.

"That and your last comment."

"Ricardo Bautista also argued with Mr. Smith," Oxanna replied. "Why isn't he being questioned?"

"Well, now he will be," I replied mainly because I hate dealing with irate woman, "Everyone here will be, but for now you're coming with me."

"Fine, let's go," Oxanna began to walk away.

"Ummm…Miss Markovnikov…wait up," I ran after her.

I drove Oxanna to the lab to be questioned.

After I took Oxanna to the interrogation room, I checked in with Leela to see what she had found out.

"What was the cause of death?" I asked.

"You're going to be surprised," Leela began, "It was asphyxiate. The victim was choked to death. Then he was shot in the chest and then the head."

"Maybe I have the wrong person," I said.

"Why?"

"I have a thirty-four year old woman who is almost a foot shorter than the victim. How could she possible strangle him?"

"Hunter, we've seen stranger things," Leela sighed.

"What about the alcohol?" I asked.

"The alcohol was an imported from Russia. It's a type of Vodka called 'Kot'," Leela explained, "It's very expensive. We're trying to find out every store that sells it but it's not going to be easy."

"Keep me informed," I said, "I have to go question Miss Markovnikov."

"Is she Russian?"

"Yes, she is," I nodded.

I left Leela to go and question Oxanna.

"Miss Markovnikov, where were you last night?" I asked Oxanna.

"At the Russian Embassy," Oxanna replied.

"Is there anyone who can corroborate this story?"

"I suppose people at the embassy could. And my mother, I called her in Moscow last night around eight thirty here," Oxanna said slowly as if she was trying to remember last nights events, "Oh! And Christopher Zorn, he walked me back to the embassy and he helped me walk Vostok."

"Vostok?"

"My Siberian Husky, he's named after the first craft to reach outer space."

"I was aware of that, Miss Markovnikov," I replied, "When did Mr. Zorn leave?"

"Just before eight-thirty," Oxanna replied, "Then I called my mother and talked with her for an hour and a half. After that, I went to bed, at ten o'clock."

"Do you drink?"

"As in alcohol?"

"Yes."

"No, I do not drink alcohol," Oxanna replied. Her calm voice was suddenly filled with anger. I had wondered what had angered her so much.

"Not even 'Kot' vodka?" I asked.

"Mr. Scott, I don't know whether I should sue you or slap you across the face," Oxanna shouted, "Just because I'm Russian it doesn't mean I killed an American man and it also doesn't mean I drink vodka."

"I'm sorry, Miss Markovnikov. I was simply questioning you."

"Next time don't insult me."

"I wasn't trying to."

"Well, you did." Oxanna crossed her arms.

"I'm sorry, Miss Markovnikov," I stared at the table, "But, I still have to take your fingerprints and a sample of your DNA."

"Do you want to search my room too?"

"No, now open your mouth."

Oxanna opened her mouth and I swabbed it. Then I took Oxanna's fingerprints.

After Oxanna left, I interrogated Christopher Zorn. Christopher Zorn was the Swedish representative to the UN. Christopher was a pleasant man. He was slightly older than me. Christopher was not the type of person I had expected Oxanna to hang out with.

"Where were you last night, Mr. Zorn?" I questioned.

"I was at a bar and then my hotel room," Christopher replied.

"Anyone who can confirm that?"

"Well, Oxanna can. I helped her walk her dog and then I went to the bar. I asked Oxanna to come with me but she doesn't drink. Her father was an alcoholic and she swore never to drink," Christopher explained, "I left Oxanna around eight-thirty and went to 'Claycomb's Bar'. I got back to my hotel room around eleven o'clock and then I went to sleep."

"How well did you know Mr. Smith?"

"Not very well. I just knew him from the United Nations. I had no problems with the man."

"How did Miss Markovnikov feel about him?"

"She didn't overly like him; she didn't overly hate him either. She was kind of impartial towards him. They argued a lot but so did Ricardo and James," Christopher explained, "What I'm trying to say is that Oxanna wouldn't have killed James."

"What is your relationship with Miss Markovnikov?"

"We are friends and colleagues."

"Nothing else?"

"Nothing else."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. Oxanna and I are just friends," Christopher smiled.

"Mr. Zorn, I have to take your fingerprints and DNA," I said.

"Okay," Christopher said.

I took Christopher's fingerprint and his DNA and then I went to see of Leela had found any new evidence.

"So, who are you going to interrogate next, Hunter?" Leela asked me but I wasn't paying attention.

I was thinking about Oxanna. I was thinking about her anger when I asked her if she drank Vodka. Now I understood why she was so angry. Her father was a drunk.

"Hunter, who are you going to ask next?!" Leela yelled.

"Huh? Oh! Ricardo Bautista," I replied, putting my thoughts together.

"Why?"

"Miss Leger, Miss Markovnikov, and Mr. Zorn all mentioned that he argued with Mr. Smith."

"We still haven't found evidence."

"This is the best we've got."

"Who do you think did it?" Leela asked.

"I would like to say Mr. Bautista but I haven't questioned him yet," I replied, "But that might be the fact that I don't want it to be Miss Markovnikov. She's way too smart for prison."

"I was thinking, the victim was a few inches taller than you, right? And I'm about Miss Markovnikov's height," Leela walked behind me and tried to wrap her hand around my neck, "I don't think she could have choked the victim. He could have gotten away from her."

"Were there any drugs in the victim's system?"

"Just aspirin."

"Was it enough to incapacitate him?"

"It was just enough to get rid of a headache."

"So not a lot?"

"No, Hunter, a normal person has to swallow a bottle of aspirin before a headache goes away," Leela sarcastically snapped and rolled her eyes.

"Okay, stupid question," I said.

A secretary came in. She was a young, cute woman with a bubbly personality. "Mr. Scott. Mr. Bautista is here to see you."

"Thank you," I smiled.

The secretary left the room.

"Go get him, Hunter," Leela smiled.

This was the Leela I liked. The Leela that wasn't high-strung or uptight. This Leela was happy and fun loving. She even told jokes. I liked this Leela.

I went to see Ricardo.

"What did you do last night, Mr. Bautista?" I asked Ricardo.

Ricardo Bautista was the Mexican ambassador to UN. He was a well dressed man. He had a dark complexion with hair and eyes to match. Ricardo was not a very pleasant man.

"What business is it of yours?"

"I don't know, Mr. Bautista, maybe it has something to do with Mr. Smith's murder."

"Listen, Mr. Scott, I'm not going to lie, I hated Mr. Smith and now that he's dead, I say good riddance to bad garbage."

"Where were you last night?"

"At a bar."

"Did anyone see you?"

"The bartender but I doubt she would remember me. I'm a very solitary person, Mr. Scott."

"When did you return to your hotel room?"

"Around two-thirty in the morning."

"Did anyone see you come in?" I asked.

"No, I took the back entrance," Ricardo replied.

"Why? Were you covered in blood?"

"No," Ricardo gave me that look that says 'are you crazy?', "The back entrance is closer to my room."

"Mr. Bautista, you obviously drink, do you like vodka?"

"Yes," Ricardo replied, "I get it so often. I get this stuff imported from Russia. I believe it's called 'Kot'. It's the best."

"Is it?"

"Yes, but it's very expensive, almost a hundred dollars a bottle."

"So you wouldn't waste a bottle of it?"

"No, a person would have to be crazy."

"I'm still going to need to take your prints and a sample of your DNA."

"Fine," Ricardo crossed his arms.

After I got DNA and fingerprints from Ricardo, Katrina was the next person on my list.

"Miss Leger, did you know Mr. Smith well?" I asked Katrina.

"I would like to think so," Katrina replied.

"Where were you last night?"

"James and I went out for dinner and then I went back to the French embassy."

"Anyone see you?"

"James."

"Were you the last person to see James alive?"

"I wouldn't know, Sir, I wasn't with him all night."

"What was your relationship with Mr. Smith?"

"We worked together."

"Miss Leger, let me remind you that this is an investigation."

"We were lovers," Katrina looked away.

"Did you go back to his hotel room last night?"

"No, I did not."

"Do you drink, Miss Leger?"

"On occasion."

"Do you ever drink 'Kot' Vodka?"

"Sometimes."

"Did you drink last night?"

"Just some wine at the restaurant," Katrina replied.

"Do you know of anyone who would have wanted to kill Mr. Smith?" I asked. She might have known who killed Mr. Smith because who would have known more about Mr. Smith's personal life than his lover?

"Only Ricardo and Oxanna."

"Thank you for your time and I'm sorry for your loss," I smiled, trying to be comforting, "But I need you fingerprints and DNA"

I sat thinking about the people I had questioned. The only person who didn't have any reason to kill Mr. Smith was Christopher Zorn. Then again, Christopher could have killed Mr. Smith for Oxanna. Maybe he noticed how much Oxanna disliked Mr. Smith and he killed Mr. Smith because he loved Oxanna.

Oxanna always argued with Mr. Smith and she could have brought the vodka with her from Russia. However, her story corresponded with Christopher's.

Ricardo Bautista had no alibi and he drank 'Kot' Vodka. But I had Leela check the surveillance video from the back entrance of his hotel and Ricardo was not covered in blood.

Katrina was the last known person to see Mr. Smith alive. She drank the imported vodka on occasion but not the night. Mr. Smith must have also loved and trusted her because we had found an engagement ring engraved with the phrase, 'I will always love you, Katrina' which for her could have been a positive or a negative.

Suddenly my cell phone began to vibrate. I opened it up and it was a text message: 'I have what you're looking for. Meet me at Central Park in an hour and come alone.'

I thought about the message for a long time. It was night and anyone could have been waiting there in the park for me, including the murderer. I had to go even if it was risky because I need to see who it was and what they had that I needed so much.

I went to Central Park. Sitting on a bench was Oxanna, in a red sundress with her black and white husky at her feet.

"Hello, Mr. Scott," Oxanna smiled.

"What do you have for me?" I asked, sitting down next to her.

"A list of everyone in New York City who bought 'Kot' vodka," Oxanna handed me a sheet of paper, "Luckily for me, it's only sold in one store and only three people purchased it."

I looked at the list: Ricardo Bautista, Ron Mills, and Oxanna Markovnikov. "You realise that you're on the list?"

"Yes but I have never purchased any alcohol in my life. Besides I'm innocent," Oxanna said, "I have nothing to be afraid of."

"If you never bought the Vodka then why is your name here?"

"Maybe someone is trying to frame me."

"Why?"

"How should I know? I'm not a psychotic killer."

"Meet me in Central Park alone?" I asked, "That doesn't sound psychotic?"

"It sounded more dramatic, didn't it?" she smiled.

"I guess," I shrugged.

"Listen, Mr. Scott," Oxanna began, "I didn't kill Mr. Smith. I could never kill a person. I may have agued with him but I guarantee you the UN won't be as fun without him around. Mr. Scott, I didn't purchase that vodka either. I do not drink alcohol."

"I know," I replied, "Mr. Zorn told me about you father."

"Damn that cowardly Swede!" Oxanna cursed.

"I thought he was your friend."

"He is. He just doesn't know when to keep his trap shut."

"Why did you bring your dog?"

"A young lady alone in Central Park," Oxanna petted her dog, "I needed some protection. Vostok is the perfect guard dog. Do you have any pets, Mr. Scott?"

"I have a German Shepherd named Penny and a white ferret named Mark," I replied.

"It's good to have pets, Mr. Scott; it keeps you mentally and emotionally stable."

It was true, pets do keep you mentally and emotionally stable. When I first started investigating murders, I was a wreck so my sister, the therapist, decided to buy me a dog to calm me down. After she gave me Penny, I felt better, I felt happier. And I adopted Mark from a murder victim who had no family. I just couldn't let the poor fellow be the victim of euthanasia just because his master was killed. I love Penny and Mark, I really do.

"You can call me, Hunter, Miss Markovnikov."

"Well then Hunter, you can call me Oxanna."

"So Oxanna, how do you like America?" I asked. I literally couldn't think of any other question. That was the best I could come up with.

"I find it too hot here, except in the winter," Oxanna smiled, "I like it in the winter."

"So you don't like it here right now?"

"No, not really, it's warm," Oxanna smirked, "But I get to wear these cute little sundresses. Don't you think this looks cute on me?"

"Umm…Sure," I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I must have been as bright as a tomato. The truth was it wasn't the sundress I was looking at, it was Oxanna. She was a stunning specimen of a woman. "No matter how cute you look, you're still a suspect."

"Are you trying to flirt with me, Hunter?"

"No, I'm just saying."

"Okay, Hunter. And just to let you know, I think you're pretty cute too." Oxanna gave me the biggest, brightest grin I had ever seen.

I felt the blood rush to my face again. I was really embarrassed. I had never been called 'cute' before. "Umm…Thanks," I stuttered.

"You're welcome," Oxanna smiled.

I think that was the very first time I knew I was in love with Oxanna. I loved her confidence. I loved her inability to be embarrassed. I loved her ability to speak her mind. I loved her, I still love her.

Suddenly my cell phone began to ring.

"Excuse me for second," I said to Oxanna and walked a few feet away."

I answered my cell phone. It was Leela. "Where are you?" she asked.

"At Central Park with Miss Markovnikov," I replied

"Bring her in. We found a 'Kot' vodka bottle outside the Russian embassy; it has the victim's blood on it," Leela told me.

"Okay," I replied, "I'll see you soon.

I closed the phone and took a deep breath as I walked back to Oxanna. "Miss Markovnikov, you need to come with me to lab. We found a vodka bottle with Mr. Smith blood on it outside the Russian embassy."

"I didn't do it, Hunter," Oxanna looked at me.

"The evidence speaks for it, Miss Markovnikov," I said. I felt very disheartened at that moment.

I arrived at the lab and put Oxanna in the interrogation room. Then I went to talk to Leela.

"Any fingerprints on the bottle," I asked Leela.

"There were but they blood they were made in was too heavy and we couldn't find any recognizable print," Leela replied.

"They make this look easier in T.V, don't they?"

"Yeah, they have no idea how hard this job really is. That's why I hate 'CSI'."

"Yeah, yeah, you can write into CBS when we're finished." I hated when Leela went on one of her 'CSI' rants. You talk with a secretary about an episode of 'CSI' one time and you're paying for it the rest of your career.

"Fine, I will."

"Did you swab the mouth of the bottle for DNA?" I asked.

"The DNA is being analyzed now," Leela replied.

"Was the vodka found on the victim's body ever tested for DNA?"

"No," Leela looked at me as if I was an idiot, "Last time I checked vodka didn't have DNA."

"Backwash."

"What?"

"When people drink from a cup or a bottle sometime liquid that was in the person's mouth re-enters the container leaving DNA. It's called backwash."

"I'll get someone to analyse it."

"Okay," I replied, "I'm going to question Miss Markovnikov again."

"Hunter," Leela looked at me sympathetically, "We still don't know whether she did it or not."

"I know. When the DNA from the bottle is found come and tell me."

"Okay. I'm also going to look into the embassy's surveillance tape to see who left the bottle."

I walked to the interrogation room to speak with Oxanna. I remember wondering if Oxanna would confess to the murder.

"So Miss Markovnikov, how can you explain the vodka bottle outside the Russian Embassy?"

"It's New York, Hunter, there is a lot of trash everywhere," Oxanna replied.

"It still doesn't explain how the vodka bottle has Mr. Smith's blood on it."

"As I said, maybe I'm being framed."

"Why?"

"If I knew, I would have told you already."

"Miss Markovnikov, did you kill Mr. Smith?"

"No!"

"Then how did the bottle get there?"

"I don't know! I don't drink!"

"Miss Markovnikov, tell me the truth!"

"I am!"

"This is an investigation! I hope you're telling the truth!" With that statement I realised I was yelling at her and I had no more information than I had before I had come into the room.

Suddenly Leela entered the room, "Hunter, I need to talk to you."

"Excuse me, Miss Markovnikov." I got to my feet and left the room to talk to Leela. "What is it?"

"We have the wrong woman. The DNA on the bottle's mouth is Mr. Smith's and Miss Leger's. And the person who left the bottle outside the embassy is a dark haired woman, like Miss Leger," Leela explained, "I'm having the backwash analyzed at this minute."

"Well, I guess we have to go and find Miss Leger."

"Hunter, you go warm up the truck and I'll excuse Miss Markovnikov," Leela said, "Then I'll meet you in the parking lot."

"Okay." I left the lab and went out to the parking lot. It was raining outside, I hate the rain. I unlocked the driver side door of a black truck and climbed in. I started the truck and turned on the radio while I waited for Leela. I was hoping to find news but at eleven-thirty at night the chances were slim to none.

I had kept changing the radio station until I found something that would entertain me. I found that song 'Have You Ever Seen the Rain?' by Creedence Clearwater Revival. For the first time in my life I could actually answer that question with full understanding. "Yes, I have seen the rain," I answered aloud.

"I should hope so, Hunter, it's pouring out there," Leela laughed as she entered the truck.

"Yeah, sorry, I'm just really tired," I shook my head.

"Then maybe I should drive," Leela put a hand on the steering wheel.

"No, I'm fine."

"Okay."

I turned off the radio and began to drive to the French Embassy where Katrina was staying.

"Hunter, are you sure you're okay?" Leela asked.

"I'm fine." I was a little too abrupt with Leela and I felt bad about that.

"Do you think Miss Leger did it?" Leela asked several moments later.

"Sure, why not?" I said, not totally paying attention.

"Why do you think she did it?"

"Who knows?"

"Clearly, she knows."

"What did Oxanna say?"

"She thanked me and then she asked where her dog was and I told her he was at the kennel," Leela explained, "That's it."

"How did she seem?"

"Annoyed, maybe a little upset," Leela replied.

"Poor girl, I never expected this to happen."

"Why were you in Central Park with her?"

"She gave me the names of all the people who purchased 'Kot' vodka," I continued to keep my eyes on the road, "If you want to see it, it's in my pocket. I would get it for you but I'm trying to keep focused on the road."

"You just what me to reach in to your pocket and grab the list?"

"Are you shy?" I teased Leela. I would often tease her.

"No." Leela reached into the pocket of my jeans and took out the list. She looked at it for a good minute. "There are only three names and one of them is Miss Markovnikov's and Mr. Bautista's. Miss Leger's name is not on here."

"I know. Mr. Smith's name isn't on there either."

"I'm going to call the lab and have them check out the surveillance of the liquor store and see the people who picked the vodka up under these names."

"Okay."

Leela finished talking to the lab just as we arrived at the French Embassy. We went in and arrested Katrina. We returned to the lab to question her while the lab techs went through her room at the embassy.

"Why did you do it?" I asked her.

"What did I do?" Katrina asked.

"You killed Mr. Smith."

"I didn't! I loved James!"

"Then please explain to me why you lied about drinking 'Kot' Vodka the night of the murders or why you ordered the vodka in Miss Markovnikov's name."

"There is no evidence."

"We found a 'Kot' Vodka bottle outside the Russian Embassy with Mr. Smith's and your DNA on it. The surveillance video for the embassy show a woman that look suspiciously like you, placing the bottle there. We also have video footage of you buying the vodka order in Miss Markovnikov's name. We found the gun that shot Mr. Smith under your mattress in the French Embassy. And we found your DNA in vodka that was on Mr. Smith's body," I explained to her, "Now; would you like to tell me why you did it?"

"I didn't do anything!"

"We have enough evidence to put you away with or without a confession. You might as well confess."

"Fine." Katrina began, "This is what really happened. James and I went out for dinner. Then I went back to embassy and got the vodka I had ordered in Oxanna's name. I took the vodka to James's hotel room and we had a few sips. When James wasn't looking, I wrapped my hands around his neck and he fell to the ground. Then I shot him in the chest, then in the head. I had a silencer on the gun so no one heard the shots. I stayed in the room for a while and drank the vodka. When I went to leave, I was a little tipsy and I accidentally spilled some of the vodka. Then I went back to the French Embassy and got rid of the evidence."

"Why did you kill him?"

"He was in love with her."

"Who?"

"Oxanna, he was in love with Oxanna."

"Is that why you tried to frame Miss Markovnikov?"

"Yes."

"You murdered Mr. Smith because you thought he loved Miss Markovnikov and then you tried to frame her?" I asked.

"Yes, I did," I Katrina admitted.

"Was this murder planned?"

"Yes."

"For how long?"

"A month."

"Why didn't you just break up with Mr. Smith?"

"Because I loved him but he loved her."

"No, Miss Leger, he loved you. One of the investigators found an engagement ring in his hotel room. 'I will always love you, Katrina' was engraved on it," I said.

"You're lying," Katrina started to cry.

I got to my feet and walked to the door. "I don't lie, Miss Leger, and neither does the evidence," I said still looking at the door. Then I turned around, "Katrina Leger, you are under arrest for the murder of James Smith." Then I walked out of the room.

"She confessed," I said to Leela as I passed her in the hall, "She's the police's problem now. I'm going home."

"Do you want to grab some breakfast first?" Leela asked me.

"What time is it?"

"Ten-thirty in the morning."

"I think I'll skip breakfast and go straight to bed."

"I'll see you later then."

"Yeah, see you."

I climbed into my truck and drove home. It was still raining outside.

When I got home, my lovely Penny greeted me at the door with her tail wagging. Penny was the only woman in my life and she was the only woman I needed in my life.

"Sorry I'm late, Penny," I patted her head, "Where's Mark?"

I looked around my house for my little white ferret. I allowed Mark to move freely around the house. He was litter trained and he never got into any mischief. And he got along well with Penny. I didn't need to worry about Mark.

I looked in the laundry basket where I knew I would probably find Mark. There he was, curled up in one of my shirts. I picked him up and took him to my bedroom. I put Mark in the basket that I kept on the nightstand for him.

I put food out for Penny and Mark. I then poured myself a glass of scotch and sat at the kitchen table. I stared at the glass for a long time, not even taking a sip of the alcohol is contained.

Everyday, after work I had a glass of scotch to calm my nerves. I'm not an alcoholic, I just enjoy a drink. I began to wonder how Oxanna unwind after a tough day. I drink but if Oxanna didn't drink, what did she do? That day I poured my scotch down the drain. I had decided that if Oxanna didn't need to drink then neither did I.

I sat at the window and watched the rain for an hour. I know it sounds strange but I find it relaxing even though I hated the rain. After watching the rain, I had a shower and went to sleep.

I woke up around ten o'clock that evening. I had discovered that I was unbelievably hungry. I went to the kitchen and made an omelette. I quickly ate my breakfast/supper combination.

I sat down on the couch and watched the news. I lived a surprisingly dull and lonely life. I was like the reverse Superman. By day, I fought crime but by night, I was just a boring man, like Clark Kent.

There was a knock at my door. I opened the door and standing there in the rain was Oxanna Markovnikov and her dog. Oxanna must have been standing outside in the rain for a long time. Her hair and Vostok's fur looked as if it had just been washed. Oxanna's long sleeved white cotton blouse was so wet that I could see her undershirt beneath it. Oxanna's mascara was running and it looked as if she had been crying. "Can I come in?" Oxanna asked her voice so quiet, so unsure.

"Yes, yes. Come in, come in," I said, "My God, Oxanna, you must be frozen."

"I'm a little chilled," Oxanna replied.

"I'll go find you some clothes to wear." I went to my bedroom and look for some dry clothes for Oxanna to wear. The best I could find was a pair of green and yellow boxers and a white t-shirt. I handed Oxanna the clothes, "The bathroom is down the hall and there are towels in the cupboard under the sink."

"Thank you," Oxanna said in her unsure voice, "Come on Vostok."

I sat back down on the couch and I petted Penny, "Well Girl, it looks like we have some guest."

Oxanna and Vostok came out of the bathroom. Oxanna's hair was dry and she was wearing the clothes I gave her. Vostok's fir was dry too.

"Oxanna give me your wet clothes and I'll put them in the dryer," I took Oxanna clothes and through them into the dryer.

"Thank you so much, Hunter," Oxanna gave a little half-smile.

"What are you doing here?"

"I needed comfort."

"Why?"

"I heard why Mr. Smith died," Oxanna's eyes began to water. "It was because of me." Oxanna started to cry.

I had to hug her. I had to comfort her. I just wish I could hold her in my arms again. "Oxanna, it wasn't your fault, it was Katrina's fault. She killed him."

"I told you I didn't do it."

"I should have believed you."

"I know you should have."

"Would you like something to eat?"

"No, I'm not hungry."

"You know, Oxanna, I know so little about you," I said.

"What do you want to know?" Oxanna asked.

"What do you think I should know?"

"I'll play your game but for every question you ask me you have to answer it yourself," Oxanna smirked.

"Alright," I smiled. I still smile when I think of Oxanna saying that. She didn't want me to ask her any question, that I myself wouldn't mind be asked. She was a cleaver one. "What's your favourite novel?"

"'My Childhood' by Maxim Gorky," Oxanna replied.

"A soviet novelist?"

"The Soviet Union may no longer exist but it still lives, right in here," Oxanna touched her heart. "You can take the animal out of the wild but you can never take the wild out of the animal."

"So you're saying that you can take the girl out of The Soviet Union but you can't take the Soviet Union out of the girl," I laughed.

"Exactly, I am Soviet born and raised," Oxanna smiled, "Now fess up, what's your favourite novel?"

"'The First Men in the Moon' by H.G. Wells," I replied, "Why did you choose to name your dog Vostok?"

"When I was a child I had a dog named Sputnik so I thought Vostok would be appropriate," Oxanna explained, "Why did you choose the name Penny for your dog?"

"My sister named her. What's your favourite day of the week?"

"Friday. What about you?"

"Same," I replied, "What's your favourite animal? Mine is a deer."

"I like Black bears."

Oxanna and I played this little question game for a long time. Oxanna told me all about her childhood in The Soviet Union and its collapse. She told me about her parents and her father's death. Oxanna also told me about her job and how it affected her.

I told Oxanna about my childhood and my parents. I told her about my sister. I also told her about my job.

"So what's it like living in Russia?" I asked.

"It's like living here but colder," Oxanna laughed.

"Are you Eastern Orthodox?"

"No, I'm a Buddhist. I was raised Eastern Orthodox, however. What religion are you?"

"I was raised Catholic but I think I'm many agnostic."

"It must be hard not believing in anything," Oxanna said, "There's nothing there to help you when you're all alone."

"If you had seen what I have seen, I doubt you'd believe either," I replied. "I have no idea what makes humans act so cruelly towards one and other."

"Thought."

"What do you mean?"

"Thought is what makes humans act cruel."

"How so?"

"Well animals are violent and humans are animals too, right? So what is it that separates humans from animals beside the opposable thumb?"

"Thought?"

"Exactly," Oxanna smiled.

"How did you come up with that?"

"During one of my meditations."

"Maybe I should become a Buddhist."

"You can meditate without being Buddhist."

"I guess," I shrugged.

"Listen, Hunter, I very fond of you and I find you rather charming," Oxanna said all of a sudden.

"Umm…Thank you," I knew I was blushing again, "I've taken quite a liking to you as well. I think you very beautiful as well."

"That wasn't the comment I was expecting," Oxanna smiled.

"What were you expecting?"

"Not a compliment."

"I wasn't lying Oxanna. I have taken a liking to you."

"Is that all we have? A liking?"

"No, I think I could actually have a relationship with you."

"Me too," Oxanna smiled.

Then I kissed Oxanna for the first time. I've tried on many occasions to describe the joy I felt but I can't find the words. It was almost magical.

Oxanna smiled. Her smile was like the sun, it lit up her face.

"I-I think I l-love you, Oxanna," I stuttered. I had never been more nervous in my whole life.

"I think I love you too Hunter," Oxanna smiled. That is one of the things I remember best about Oxanna, he smile. Her beautiful and bright smile.

Oxanna stayed over that night. I remember lying in bed with her in my arms. I had never felt such a connection with another human being. It was an amazing experience.

Oxanna and I didn't have sex. I just want to clarify that because when a man shares the same bed with a beautiful woman, most people immediately think they had sex but we didn't. I was just content to have Oxanna in my arms.

In the days to follow, I would try to relive this moment in my head several times. I would remember Oxanna's scent. The colour of her hair. The softness of her skin. The sound of her breathing. But in the end, you can never relive the past, no matter how hard you try.

I woke up the next morning around seven o'clock. The only thing in my arms was Oxanna's lingering scent that I would find haunting every corner of my bedroom for years like a ghost without a resting spot. Oxanna and her faithful friend, Vostok had vanished. All that remained of her and our night together, the only proof that the whole thing actually happened, was a letter addressed to me.

I opened the letter:

Dear Hunter,
I'm sorry I had to leave. Hunter, I am not right for you and I'll never be right for you. We belong to two very different worlds. I have no place in your world and you have no place in mine. I will always love you, Hunter, but you need to forget me. Hunter, I want you to find someone else, someone who is right for you. I Love you, Hunter!
With all my love,
Oxanna Markovnikov
P.S. If the fates allow, I would like to see you again one day.

And indeed the fates would allow us to see each other again. Oxanna and I would be reunited many times by a series of unlikely events but in the end of all those events we always go back to our own worlds.

It would be a long two years before I would see Oxanna again. Until then I would continue with my job and my life as they were but never forgetting the woman who taught me that cruelty and thought were one in the same.