The Institute:Daddy Issues(3)

By: Evangeline Anderson

“How are you not?” I de­man­ded. “You just ad­mit­ted that you treat me dif­fer­ently be­cause I’m fe­male. That’s the very defin­i­tion of a chau­vin­ist.”

“You don’t un­der­stand…” He leaned for­ward and put a hand on mine though I don’t know how he dared touch me when I was so ob­vi­ously pissed off. “Yes, I treat you dif­fer­ently,” he said in a soft, low voice. “You are fe­male. And wo­men are to be cher­ished…pro­tec­ted. Not be­cause they are weak or stu­pid—be­cause they are pre­cious. You are a wo­man and my part­ner, Andi—this makes you doubly pre­cious to me. There­fore, I take care of you. Yes? It is the Rus­sian way.”

I was still pretty angry but the look in his ice blue eyes was so sin­cere it ac­tu­ally made me re­con­sider. Still… “the Rus­sian way?” Was he ser­i­ous with that bull­shit?

Ap­par­ently, he was. That night, after swal­low­ing both the sand­wich he had ordered me (and in­sisted on pay­ing for) and my pride, I did what I should have in the first place—I did my re­search.

I’m ashamed to ad­mit I had to get most of my in­form­a­tion off dat­ing sites. Not that I had any in­terest in my part­ner that way but still—those were the places where they had the most in­form­a­tion about Rus­sian men and the way they in­ter­act with their wo­men.

I learned that your typ­ical Rus­sian man was gen­er­ous, help­ful, cour­teous and ex­tremely pro­tect­ive of his chosen wo­man. Ac­cord­ing to the sites I read, they also tend to get ser­i­ous quickly about a wo­man they con­sider to be theirs. Now that I was Salt’s part­ner, he ap­par­ently con­sidered it his job to pro­tect me and shield me from harm. Not a bad qual­ity in a part­ner, if I could get over my fem­in­ist prick­li­ness and ad­just to be­ing treated like more than one of the guys for once.

It took some ef­fort on my part and con­stantly re­mind­ing my­self that the way Salt was act­ing to­ward me was cul­tural, not in any way sex­ist or de­mean­ing. But fi­nally we fell into a routine. Salt still opened doors for me, helped me in and out of my coat and in­sisted on buy­ing my lunch when we ate out to­gether. (In Rus­sia, the man al­ways pays—it’s an in­sult to ask to split the bill.) And in re­turn, I had him over to my place for a home cooked meal at least twice a week—I know I don’t seem very do­mestic but I’m ac­tu­ally a pretty good cook. I even learned to make borscht for him which is more com­plic­ated than you might think.

The only place I really had to draw the line was when Salt wanted to de­fend my honor. I don’t know what the Rus­sian po­lice force is like, but I don’t think they get the concept of po­lice bru­tal­ity. In the be­gin­ning, any perp we brought in who mouthed off to me was likely to be pick­ing his teeth up off the floor the next minute. I fi­nally made Salt un­der­stand he was go­ing to get us both sus­pen­ded if he didn’t stop, so now he con­ten­ted him­self with simply threat­en­ing any­one who dis­respec­ted me. It was a dis­tinct im­prove­ment, es­pe­cially from the Cap­tain’s point of view.

And speak­ing of Cap­tain Douglas, I hoped he was fi­nally go­ing to ex­plain why he needed Salt and me to go to the in­fam­ous In­sti­tute.

“We need you to go un­der­cover,” he was say­ing. “Get in good with the other…ah par­ti­cipants at the re­sort, and see if you can identify the source of the Please. This new batch is the most dan­ger­ous yet so if we can catch the man­u­fac­turer and dry up the sup­ply, we can save a lot of lives.”

“Go un­der­cover in what ca­pa­city?” I asked, frown­ing. “I mean, what ex­actly do they do there, any­way?”