What Not To Do in Ryazan


elisabeth_icon.gif francois_icon.gif lyuba_icon.gif

Scene Title What Not To Do in Ryazan
Synopsis Two tourists come to a clinic looking to refill a prescription. Francois' efforts to secure an appointment have entirely unexpected consequences.
Date November 27, 2009

A clinic in Ryazan, Russia

To a certain extent, clinics everywhere are much the same — particularly those clinics patronized by the lowest demographic on the economic totem pole. The lobby chairs are filled by people bundled up in mismatched layers against the near-freezing weather outside; those who could not snag a chair stand or sit along the walls, waiting for the overworked volunteers and underpaid staff to get around to them. Any budget for interior decoration probably vanished before it was even a figment of imagination; the walls were once a standard eggshell hue but now are darkened by a decades-in-the-making coat of grime, paint slowly flaking off, several dents alluding to past mishaps — or altercations. This is Ryazan.

Small windows allow in wan light from an overcast afternoon sky, offering nothing to cheer an atmosphere filled by a susurrus of quiet conversations and the punctuation offered by coughs. It smells like antiseptic; like a lot of people; and like alcohol, which may well see frequent use as an antiseptic in addition to being popular 'internal medication'.

Any cop or private investigator can tell you that the vast majority of an investigation is the legwork. A lot of that can be done on computers or in libraries, but there is no substitute for going in person to scope out points of interest. Although Agent Kershner gave Elisabeth the translation program in the satcom phone, doing this kind of legwork is just simpler with someone who speaks the language. Although Dr. Koslow is away, the clinic continues to run. And it is here that Elisabeth wants to spend some time. Francois's company is actually quite appreciated; especially considering she kept him walking up and down the streets near the clinic for most of the day just watching the comings and goings of those who use the clinic. "It appears that the good doctor is not running an immensely lucrative practice. But I doubt we're going to learn anything useful out here," she tells the Frenchman. And then she looks up at him. "I have an idea." Taking him with her and stepping into the clinic itself, she looks around and heads for the desk with Francois, asking him, "Please can you ask her if the doctor speaks English? I can't believe that I came on vacation without my prescription, but I've got to find someone willing to fill it for me."

Fortunately for Elisabeth, the translator she decided to take with her is well used to the legwork side of investigation, as much as Francois is no policeman. Just. Very determined. Walking up and down in front of the clinic is a lot like walking up and down in front of the university, except this time, he has company for more than a few minutes at a time. Following compliantly, Francois curls his arms around his torso even as the warmth of the clinic in contrast to the wintery outside hits them, making his wool-lined jacket less necessary.

Rubbing his gloved hands down his thighs, he follows, listens, and adapts reasonably easily, casting a smile to the worker at the desk. His Russian is slow and cautious, but adequate. He puts out a hand to rest on Elisabeth's elbow as if to comfort imagined anxiety as he translates; "«Excuse me, do you have an English-speaking doctor? My friend, she left her— »" Pause while he searches for the word. "«Prescription at home.»"

The woman behind the desk, her hair long since haphazardly escaped from being tied back, looks briefly up at Francois. Whether or not she actually saw him… "«Your friend does not have an appointment, does she, sir?»" the woman asks, as she puts aside one set of papers and begins to sort another. "«I do not think anyone is free. The doctors are all very busy today.»" She pauses, hand resting on the pages, and looks at the pair again — for longer, this time. "«If you want an appointment, it will probably be several days. They are very busy every day.»" There's no particular sympathy in the woman's voice as she turns her attention back to her work.

She's quite able to play the anxiety card. Truth be told, it's not even exactly a lie at all. She's lived enough of it recently to have the body language down pat, and she was snatched without her meds on her person. She responds to Francois's hand on her elbow by turning her body slightly into his, as if seeking his comfort instinctively. How much of it is acting? Abby or perhaps Felix or Richard might be the ones able to say for certain as Elisabeth nibbles the corner of her lip and gives the receptionist a worried face, looking for all the world like a (di)stressed tourist. "No, no… that won't do at all," Elisabeth tells Francois quietly. "They told me that I couldn't just quit cold turkey — there's a danger of seizures. And I've already been off for a couple of days," she says with every evidence of alarm. Which is, in fact, a lie — Abby's been sharing her meds, and Elisabeth's dosages have tapered back down so that it's not an imminent danger even if she is without it for a couple of days. She looks at the receptionist, "No, you don't understand! Please, tell them it's an emergency. Or… tell me where else I could go today? Please." Well, eh…. it may not work out that they get to speak to anyone here. Liz isn't entirely sure what she hopes to find, but hey… it's worth a try.

Whether it works or not, they won't at least fail for a lack of trying on Francois' part. He nods along with Elisabeth's words, a hand up as if to placate her and failing to do so before he turns that effort on the receptionist, as if he could lay his palm flat on the pages she's working on. He doesn't become that intrusive, however, gesture hovering as he speaks, making effort for the words to come quicker than before, anxious. "«No. Please, it is important, if there is anyone at all that has a few minutes. It's an emergency — she's already been off her medication since we left. A few days now. We cannot wait to make an appointment, she would be risking her health to do so. You must at least check with the doctors», s'il vous plaĆ®t."

The receptionist looks across the desk at Francois; jerks her chin towards the packed disarray of people in the lobby. "«You think none of them are important? Have emergencies? They have to wait, you wait also. If you take a place in the line maybe one of the doctors will have time today. Maybe not. It is a busy day.»"

Elisabeth grabs his arm when it becomes clear the woman is dismissing them again and becomes a bit more agitated, shoving a wad of money into his hand. Cat's wealth may well come in handy here. She keeps her body between the wad and the other patients, though. "Please… tell her we can pay!" she hisses, appearing desperate.

"«See, we have money,»" Francois says, only after a glimmer of hesitation when he sees the small bushel of money being handed to him, temporarily off-guard but covering nicely. The notes are laid on the desk, pinned by his fingers, as he studies the woman at the desk for a few moments. Her jaw is set, and so is his, and though he opens his mouth to pursue further argument, his teeth click together, and he glances over his shoulder towards the waiting patients.

A hand goes to Elisabeth's shoulder in a show of reassurance, before he departs from the desk, coming to stand more into the waiting room, clearing his throat so he can get bleary eyed attention from the waiting people. "«I have…»" Another show, carefully, letting his fingers tick through the notes, before reporting the amount. "«For anyone who is willing to give their appointment to my friend, and reschedule another time.»"

He has…

Is he really…

Around the clinic lobby, dozens of pairs of eyes focus on the Frenchman. There's a breath of silence, two, as the options are weighed in dozens of minds — money, or more waiting for doctoral attention? Not really so difficult a choice, here: one person stands up, two, three, more; more than can be quickly counted, perhaps the entire non-staff population of the lobby, background conversations displaced by a louder mishmash of approbations in Russian. «I will.» «I will!» «No, me! Me!» «I answered first! It's my money!» They stand up, and press forward, packing around Francois and Liz in the fashion of those whose culture doesn't define personal space as much at all; those at the outsides begin to jostle their neighbors and try to shove themselves further in.

The receptionist watches in a sort of sullen satisfaction; foreigners, waving money around here. Deserve what they get.

It's a different voice that cuts across the growing din; younger, also female, sharp and strongly-projected. «Hey! Hey! That's enough!»

Yeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh…… that wasn't exactly what Elisabeth had in mind! Silly French men. And then there's a near riot. Liz is just about to get serious about extricating them from the matter when someone else's voice — thank GOD — cuts across. She goes very still and puts a hand on Francois's arm, turning toward the authoritative tones. She doesn't break the facade here of anxious tourist, merely curving herself into the Frenchman's side and waiting with a visibly anxious demeanor while the owner of that voice brings order.

It's the enthusiasm of several more people than Francois counted on, at least all at the same timne, having planned to swoop in on the first sign of interest. When they all raise their voices as one, muddying concepts of first come, first serve, then it all gets. Vaguely out of hand.

Back stiff, Francois takes a few steps away from the crowding of sick people, not something he would have reeled back from, as a doctor and all, had he still had his power to make sure he didn't catch anything of what they had. Holding the money firmly, his other hand goes out to placate or at least make an illusion of personal space, taking a step in front of Liz as if to shield her.

"«Please, one at a time, if you can tell me— »"

His efforts at control are cut through with the sharper intonations of authority, neck craning towards the sound of the voice even as he keeps aware of the cash in his hand.

The speaker is, oddly enough, a comparatively diminutive young woman — a full three inches shorter than Liz, her build slender with an athletic tone; honey-brown hair tied back in a neat ponytail, her clothes worn but of above-average quality, she doesn't really look like she belongs in this clinic that ministrates to the poor. Blue eyes limned in black eyeliner pointedly scan over the eager press of moneygrabbers, as if she might trim the people back by look alone. That's almost what happens, those closest to the young woman bobbing their heads and murmuring in sheepish politesse, retreating to the walls or chairs. A name might be picked out from the murmurs: Miss Kolosova.

Admittedly, some of those who didn't have chairs before take the opportunity to nab them now, but with the looming presences of several larger volunteers and a few men in military uniforms emerging from the woodwork, none of the displaced are quite willing to pick fights over this.

When enough space is clear — and that isn't much — the woman pushes through the crowd to join Francois and Elisabeth at its focus. "You speak English, da?" She doesn't wait for a reply, but beckons them forward. "Come, please — and put that away, quickly, quickly. There are enough holes in walls already." Though clearly the woman is a native Russian speaker, her English is fluent.

With the other woman's arrival, Elisabeth affects a soft "oh, thank God." And she looks pathetically grateful as she follows the smaller woman toward the back. "I'm sorry we created such a fuss," she babbles to 'Miss Kolosova's' back. "I just don't have several days to wait." She glances over her shoulder to be sure Francois is right with her — wouldn't want to lose him! And she keeps up with Kolosova's efficient movements even while watching cautiously to see if they're going to have bigger problems.

An arm coming to curl around Elisabeth's shoulders by the time the woman's battled her way to them, Francois listens silently, seeming grave, as much as he knows a little satisfaction about the attention they've gained. As much as it's not the circumstances they'd counted on.

"Oui," Francois agrees, money folded up and squirreled away into an inner pocket to give back to the woman later, allowing her to go on ahead to follow Kolosova while Francois takes a moment to measure a glance around the space. Noting the seemingly sudden appearance of military presence with sharp-eyed interest, before following the two women when Liz glances back at him with a nod to communicate yes, coming. Much like Elisabeth, his own attention for his surroundings has heightened.

Kolosova leads the pair back into a patient room, walls separating it from the lobby and the crowd therein. "I am guessing you have not been in Ryazan long. People here like to fight. They fight over alcohol, over money, over politics, over weather. Or because they are bored. It is a very good and busy city, but not a good place to hold out so much money." She gestures for them to sit. "Why do you come here and not to the bigger hospitals? There are not many tourists down here."

Elisabeth smiles a little apologetically, wringing her hands a bit, and says, "It was just close by, and when I realized I didn't have my medication, I just wanted to talk to the first person we could find. I had stopped at a tea house a couple blocks over, and they pointed us this way."

Sitting down, Francois nods to Kolosova, offering an apologetic smile. The weariness that writes itself into his expression doesn't have to be feigned — he drank more wine than he intended to last night, over their slightly downhill Turkey Day dinner, and rose early only to march around in snow for hours. "It is the first place we came to," he agrees.

The young woman shakes her head slowly. "It is not good habit. You see the building, the people, know it is not for rich tourists, da? Wait for medication until you go back to main roads. Is safer." Not that this explains why Miss Kolosova herself, who looks like she has a fair amount of money herself, is at the clinic — but then, volunteers might come from all walks of life. "Is especially bad now. One doctor has taken — time off, da? Everything runs slow."

There is a nibble of her lip. "Miss… Kolosova?" Elisabeth appears to struggle to get her name right. "I'm sorry that you're having so much trouble with one of your doctors. Getting volunteers back home is terribly difficult as well — but all I really need is someone to point me to where I can get a replacement prescription. I have the information of my doctor back home, I just don't know where to go to get it handled. Surely…. even with a doctor abandoning you, someone can help? I really don't know how much time I have before the side effects hit." She bites her lip. "Is there anything we can do to help your clinic? I mean… we could make a donation if that would help. I know money doesn't help everything, but sometimes it helps the little things," she offers hopefully.

"Yes. Or a set of hands. I've volunteered in clinics before," Francois adds, more or less impulsive, a hand coming to rest high on Elisabeth's back. "We do not mean to inconvenience any of you — we would certainly not be creating trouble if it were not very important to us."

The young woman offers an apologetic smile. "I do not think either of you are doctors. Money, hands — these do not balance Sasha; he is more than doctor. You are kind, but I think you are best to not be here." Miss Kolosova turns to Elisabeth. "This medicine you want — what is it?"

She tilts her head and says quietly, "Xanax is the name I know it by. If you need my doctor's number and information, I have it." The blonde frowns slightly and looks curious. "This… doctor… Sasha? I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean by 'more than a doctor,'" she begins, and then stops. Her blue eyes sharpen slightly and she asks in a hushed tone, "You mean… that he's a true healer, don't you? Is he… hurt? I, uhm… I sort of heard that it was difficult to be … different. Here."

It takes a little restraint, to supply that he is a doctor. Without a license of any kind. Francois keeps his concerned mask on, tilting his gaze towards the floor between he and Elisabeth, and Kolosova, listening to the blonde beside him. This round, he remains silent, the only thoughts he has better spoken for later or not at all and he looks back towards the clinic worker.

Miss Kolosova blinks wide eyes at Elisabeth. "You jump very quickly to conclusions, da? Sasha lost his girl, his Faina. It is very sad. Rumor is he saw the Syvato Rusalka — most bad luck. We pray for them both, every night." Her gaze shifts to Francois. "You have money, I know —" She names a sum. "That is what your medicine costs." True? False? Who could say?

There's a bit of a shrug, and Elisabeth offers, "I guess I do. When people say 'more than a doctor' where I'm from, that's what they mean." She can't manage a blush. She does manage to looks shamefaced. "Maybe you just meant that he was more than just a doctor as in being a good friend, though. I'm sorry." And then she looks puzzled. "Uhm…. what the heck's a Syvato Rusalka?"

There's a bit of a shrug, and Elisabeth offers, "I guess I do. When people say 'more than a doctor' where I'm from, that's what they mean." She can't manage a blush. She does manage to looks shamefaced. "Maybe you just meant that he was more than just a doctor as in being a good friend, though. I'm sorry." And then she looks puzzled. "Uhm…. what the heck's a Syvato Rusalka?"

"A water creature." The response is offered before Kolosova can fill it in, Francois casting a slightly crooked and apologetic smile her way. "Or, that is what I understand a rusalka to be. It is a Slavic mythical spirit, like— a river sprite, almost, a mermaid. I have not heard of one that only comes from Syvato, though that is a place not so far from Ryazan, oui?" He doesn't go for the money immediately, though he does tilt his chin up, and says in a slightly edged tone of voice, "And you will write us a prescription, or should we make an appointment?"

The younger woman inclines her head with a pleased smile as Francois fills in the meaning of rusalka. It doesn't stop her from elaborating. "But mermaids are beautiful and nice, da? Rusalka may be beautiful; never nice. In life, she goes to monks for healing; they do not fix her. She dies at the Holy Well and curses them in death — and now there are no more monks in Svyato, only her spirit."

Miss Kolosova turns to Francois. "I am not doctor; I am volunteer. Cannot write prescription. But I will give you your medicine this once, you will pay for it, and then you will leave and not come back. Stay in tourist hospitals where there is no trouble to foreigners, da?"

As she listens to the story, Elisabeth is quiet. She's struggling to put together pieces without really understanding the background or why it's relevant. But she nods slightly to the woman, saying quietly, "Thank you. It will be helpful." She hesitates. "I'm sorry for your friend's loss. It's terrible."

It's Francois' instinct to keep a tight grip on what money he does have, but, well. It's not his, and at Elisabeth's thanks, he takes out the cash and offering Kolosova a smile along with it. It's hard to tell exactly what they have learned, but as fragmented as it may be, it's probably more than what they started with.

Miss Kolosova smiles politely back at Francois, accepting the money. "You are welcome. Wait here only a moment." Folding the bills in hand, the young woman slips out of the room. She comes back a short time later, rubles no longer in sight and a pill bottle in hand which is extended to Elisabeth. "There is your medicine; now you go, da?"

When she's gone, Elisabeth is more thoughtful than anything else. "Not sure that netted us anything… except perhaps the pills I did actually need," she tells Francois with a faint smile. "But … perhaps it gives us a little bit more to work with." She looks up when the door reopens and reaches up to take the pill bottle. Sincerely, she tells Kolosova, "I appreciate your help."

"Thank you," Francois responds, standing up and holding out an arm to allow Elisabeth to leave first. "Our condolences to the doctor, oui?" And with that, they're moving on out and through the waiting room, where they'll receive a couple of narrowed eyed looks for the fact no one got a pay out for their appointment. "Sometimes," Francois says, as he goes to open the door for Elisabeth, "what we find now only makes sense in the long run." Preaching to the choir, more or less, as they step out into the sharply cold Ryazan outdoors.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License