by Matthew C. McLean
Alek had learned that Russia was the place for a free agent. In the control zone of the European Union, it took years to acquire the contacts needed to do any real business. The Middle East was too dangerous, too religious, or too radioactive for a woman to work.
Dragon’s money and contacts, plus her charm, had been all that it had taken to set up shop in Moscow. The Alon Bar was proof of that. The local outfits had been a challenge at first, but they had seen the use of having an outside player. With the local economy it only took a modest cut of the take to operate unmolested.
When ‘mythical’ Dragon’s friend showed up, the bar hadn’t even begun its real evening operations. While the place was quiet she made polite conversation with the beast, even flirting when she felt safe. To his credit she could discern very little from his demeanor or what he said in the time they had together. He was smart enough to keep conversation at civilian level while they were at the bar, never mentioning why he was there or from where Dragon had summoned him.
It wasn’t long before the evening crowd had come in, Russians mixing with expatriates. Mobsters and polizei mingled with the foreigners, lifting bribes from the knowing and grifts from the naïve. Alek gave a smile to the Butcher she didn’t know and excused herself. His discomfort was almost undetectable.
She walked past the bar, into the kitchen. An iron door flanked by large men opened at the rear and she walked into a cold, grey room. The door closed behind her leaving her with the two men inside.
The man standing carried a scalpel and gauze. Alek smelled the vodka on him as she approached the table in the middle of the room.
Francesco Basso lay on the table, his blood flowing from him and pooling at Alek’s feet. She looked down at him and gave him her most gentle smile.
“Franco,” she blinked, keeping her composure without much effort. “Where is it?”
Laying there on the cold metal table Francesco smiled for the first time in what felt like an eternity. “I have it.”
Alek returned his broken smile and laid a cool, calming hand on his forehead, gently brushing his hair away from his face.
“Good.” She dropped her hand to brush the back of her hand against his cheek. “Where is it?”
Francesco coughed, still smiling. With much effort he raised his left hand and pointed at his rib cage. “I carry it.”
Alek straightened, pulling away from Francesco. Her face grew harder than a beauty should be. She turned to the other man, leaning forward until she couldn’t stand the smell any longer. “Cut him open. Get it.”
She gave a sad smile to Francesco and left.