The Sex Machine and I grabbed a taxi and headed down to Whore Alley on Leninsky Prospekt. It was around midnight last Friday, perfect trawling time.
"You're looking for girls?" our driver asked. He was young, with slicked back hair.
He took the job with enthusiasm. "My name is Marius, but call me Mario, it's easier. I'm from Lithuania."
The first mamochka we saw tiptoeing by the Leninsky curb in her parka and sweat pants directed us to a small sidestreet. We turned off and found ourselves in a line of cars -- like something out of a drive-in hamburger joint from the 50s. About a dozen cars were jammed into the narrow pereulok, some trying to turn around, others trying to cheat their way to the front of the line. Some drivers complained to the mamochka why she didn't direct the traffic better. She ignored them and approached me.
"70, 100 or 150?" she asked through my window.
"100," I said.
"100! Hey, 100!! Olga! Sasha! Get over here! 100!" You can't tell where the girls come from come from: cars, bushes, sewers...But suddenly there's a line-up of 20 girls, straightening out their skirts, each with their own expression ranging from weary anticipation to loathing to coquettish flirting.
As a rule johns inside the cars, flash the brights and choose. But I wanted inspect for myself, close.
I shouldn't have got out. The flaws I saw in the lineup were the stuff of medical science.
"150," I said.
"150! Come out! 100 go back! 150, come here!"
That was when I noticed about two or three Caucasian men in track suits. They loafed around in the dark, but one emerged with a tall, extremely attractive girl. She said she was 17. One of the prettiest street whores I'd ever seen -- smiling too. But I didn't want to drop 150 and risk another dud. Besides, the Caucasian grinned at me like, "Hey, we can be molochniye bratya."
"No good?" Marius asked when I got back in the car. "The best place is down Leningradsky Shosse just outside the MKAD. It's cheaper there. For 500 rubles I'll take you there, find you a girl and take you back."
Marius didn't lie. Well down Leningradskoe Shosse on the way to Sheremetyevo, outside the MKAD, past the GAI checkpoint and the Grand Mebel store, there are so many whore markets that you start to wonder if entire villages haven't been depopulated of their 17-23-year-old females.
You could tell by the abundance of mamachki on the roadside. They stood on the main highway sometimes as close as 50 yards away from each other, each representing their own unique whore market. Some markets were hard to reach. We had to drive through deep puddles and mud roads, behind abandoned sheds or storage houses and into dark alleys with fencing. Other times we drove down narrow dirt paths behind rows of trees, through mud and slush, waiting in line to view the girls like back in the oil crisis days.
Rudnitsky and I were enjoying the window shopping too much to end it with a hasty purchase. Marius took over some of the negotiating for us to make sure we got the best deal. "They'll hear your Western accent and stiff you," he said. He didn't understand why we had to get out of the car all the time.
Marius was the one who spotted Sveta. "What about the ryzhinka?" he said to me, pointing her out in the 100 lineup.
She'd been placed in the center of a line-up of about 25 girls. The center is the choice spot; the girls get ranker on the ends.
"Sveta!" the mamochka yelled. "Come here!"
She gleefully ran up. "Yes, take me," she said enthusiastically. Then she leaned into the car and licked my ear. "Take me, let's go!"
Her positive work ethic was something that I wanted to reward. I handed the mamochka a 100-spot, and took the back seat with Sveta. That was when I noticed her first flaw: she was missing at least two incisors, had a hole in a left front tooth that looked like a bb had been shot through it and another was blackening along the vertical edge.