One Bad Death Deserves Another
One Bad Death Deserves Another
The corporate jet they boarded at Kiev’s airport was big enough to have carried every pimp, prostitute and thug in Sergey’s operation. Along with Lyra were only the head mobster, his girlfriend, and two of the Anaconda’s elite thugs. On this flight, the aircraft’s crew outnumbered the passengers.
After her tally of fellow travelers, Lyra’s eyes lingered on her friend. Oksana hadn’t spoken yet today and now she could see why. Though the weather was overcast, the blond wore dark sunglasses but seen from closer, the lenses couldn’t hide her facial damage. A purple bruise, like a puddle of spilled plum jam, had poured to the bottom of her cheekbone. Her lower lip was swollen plump as if collagen injected and ruby red lipstick was smeared on fresh scabs where the tender skin had split on her teeth.
“~Are you okay?” Lyra slipped from her seat to join the slender junky: she held the girl’s hand in her lap. She is shaking like hummingbird wings.
“~I—uh.” In her current state, Oksana couldn’t frame a reply.
“~I have some but it might not be strong enough to do much.” Lyra whispered and covertly slipped her needle kit into the girl’s pocket. “~Just the action might be of some help.” The daughter had seen her mother take shots of almost nothing just to stave off withdrawal, even marginally.
Lyra watched her friend stumble to the lavatory, then looked at the trio of thugs: they had clustered around the bar to chug vodka. That swine is beneath loathing. He beat his girlfriend over a situation she had no part in, and withheld her drugs, presumably because she winced whilst being hit.
“~Were you trying to overdose me out of my misery?” Oksana joked as she returned to her seat, looking quite stoned and cheerful. “~After you told me it was weak, I was tempted to use more than usual.”
“~No and it’s a good thing because yours is fine.”
“~You’ll treat your new master with the respect he deserves.” Shortly before landing, Sergey took a seat next to Lyra. “~If you displease him, you will be punished. Do you clearly understand that?”
The girl nodded. My jailor will receive the deference that he merits.
“~I have methods to make what happened to Max seem as a picnic in the park.” He leaned his face menacingly near and his whispered breath was foul from tobacco. “~You had best remember that too.”
“~I don’t know how to pass through American immigration.” Lyra tried to sound suitably frightened and changed the subject. “~I don’t have a visa and the Anaconda—uh,” she feigned a stutter and dropped her eyes to her lap on mentioning him, “~had my passport.”
“~That’s all been handled.” The mafia don grinned at her naiveté and with his imagining of the torment she had endured—Oksana he supposed, got the milder treatment. “~We’re flying directly to SeaTac Airport in Washington State. Another jet took off from Montana. We’ll perform a deception as we taxi in. The decoy will pass immigration while we appear as a flight which took off and landed within the continental United States.”
“~That’s very clever.” It must be extremely expensive too. It showed how easily the right amount of money could transcend any laws.
“Hot diggledy dang.” Bob fanned his face with a freshly delivered fax.
“What makes Ned Flanders a happy camper?” Collin irritably replied.
“My already favorable negotiations have just turned lop-sided.” Wall pulled several stapled pages from a folder and wafted a cool breeze at his hireling with it. “After this is signed, sealed and delivered—it’s mine!”
“That has to be a costly hit to the old cash reserves?”
“This,” Wall wiggled the fax, “makes it far less pricey than first feared. Cash is such a versatile tool and a big-ass hammer in the right carpenter’s hand drives the quickest nails.”
“May I have the magical mystery tour?” Hersker’s eyes dropped to the papers that had such an amazing effect.
“You can peruse it,” Bob tucked his treasure into a thin manila trove, “after John Hancock has signed it.”
“That will be worth more than any document endorsed by him.” Collin noted a bemused look and explained his quip. “The term John Hancock for a signature, stems from that man being a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But he didn’t affix his name on much else, so the very few existing copies of his John Hancock are extremely valuable.”
“I knew that.” Bob lied.
“Am I to suppose,” the CEO’s giddiness had been infectious and Collin found himself thrilled as well, “that the true reason for my employment has been shuffled back onto a front burner?”
“The price is cheaper than imagined and the Handshake Lite upgrade’s swelling popularity, has dollars streaming into the coffers. You’ll soon be busier than a one-legged man at a butt-booting competition.”
“I see your helicopter is waiting.” The Asshole nodded to the window.
“I’m off to my yacht for a private talk,” Bob watched his employee leave before he finished his sentence, “and soon afterwards, I expect to be horizontally bouncing like a legless coxswain in a pogo-stick marathon.”
The Ukrainian passengers deplaned and transferred onto a helicopter. The extended range jet from Kiev had followed the sun across both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North American Continent. After crossing half a world worth of time zones, it was technically only a few short hours since they left home. The journey’s last leg was a just a short hop over the Puget sound to a sheltered bay where a white boat contrasted sharply with the verdant green of the shoreline and the inky black of the choppy water.
Lyra walked away from the flight deck danger area with her shoulders hunched over, as she’d seen in some movies. I hope the spinning blades lop his stupid head off. The gawky man who met them, stood tall as he ushered his guests from the craft—but her private wish for a beheading didn’t come true. Stragglers from the ship’s crew boarded and buckled in, then the Bell Jet Ranger’s pilot re-spooled the engines and departed. I’m now left with a swim to my freedom—if I can’t steal a life raft.
“I’m Sergey Yanderiev,” the bear shaped man made his introductions with elation, “and this sweet plumb is Lyra Droski.” The Obshina shoved the slave girl at her new master. “She is all yours—with my condiments.”
Compliments maybe? The fluency Sergey mustered didn’t quite catch up with the English he relished. Lyra silently scoffed as she bounced off Bob’s arm. The geek wobbled from the minor impact more than I did.
“We were going to talk about,” Sergey showed his host a black-toothed crocodile smile, “my porn site’s ranking in your search engine.”
“Uh, yes.” Bob tore his eyes away from ogling the girl. “I wanted to discuss something else too. I need you for one other duty today.”
The Wall Soft Chief Executive Officer led the group off the flight deck and to where the ship’s resident steward had set out a wheeled bar, stocked with an assortment of drinks and snacks.
“~Come in out of the brisk wind.” Lyra towed Oksana onto the main deck and from there they ducked into a windowed anterior cabin space. “~From here we can keep an eye on the gangsters and the rich jerk, while we have a quiet talk.” Both women had seen his picture before and knew who Wall was. Lyra really couldn’t care less how wealthy he was. To her, Bob was an ageing pervert, yearning for the age of Roman debauchery—complete with his own personal sex slave. My name means ‘money’ in Italian and I’m worth more to me than any capital he can boast.
Lyra moved from the nook and looked around at the room. This area appeared to be a place for people to gather out of the weather. The salon had a large washroom complete with a shower: that was most likely for guests to wash off the salt after a swim. Lyra found and opened an outer hatch in the washroom and saw a companionway along the boat’s edge.
The ship was moored in a bay and on either side there was dense forest. I’m not even sure if the shore is part of the mainland or an island. Surely there couldn’t be any escape possible by that way. Just in case though, she walked partway to the stern and noticed there was a platform close to the water. I could slip unseen into the sea from there. A lifesaver ring was positioned that she could use to make good an escape. She dipped her toe into the water. “It’s quite chilly but not prohibitively cold.”
“~Do you have any family?” Oksana was standing by the door.
“~I have one sister named Oksana.” Lyra brushed past her to see what, if anything was happening outside on the rear deck. The mafia bodyguards were just watching the two American security guards, who were observing them back. Do the four of them think that the cold war isn’t over yet?
“~What is your sister like? Is she older or younger than you?”
“~Just look in a mirror and guess your age.” Lyra teased. “I lost my mother in the Boxing Day Tsunami and the Anaconda killed my boyfriend. Now, I don’t have anyone but you.”
“~That’s really beautiful.”
“~I mean it though.” Lyra looked quizzically at her. Beautiful wasn’t a good word to describe a lovely sentiment. Oksana isn’t as bad at Russian, as Sergey is with his English vocabulary.
“~Your endearment was touching,” the blond girl giggled and pointed, “~but I meant where the rainbow is underneath of that leaden cloud.”
“~It is quite scenic.” Lyra viewed the sun shining in slated rays and strained to see a detail in the vista: a small boat was coming towards them. From here, it looks like the pot of leprechaun’s gold at rainbow’s end.
“The software skinflint has more money than medium-sized nations.” Tariq growled. “One should think he could at least send a chopper for me.” The day had been as unsettled as his thoughts were, while he traveled across the channel. The water taxi had even passed through a squall.
“Ten more minutes to the yacht!” The boatman called over the wind.
“Peachy,” the Iranian muttered sarcastically, “but I’m more interested in how long it’ll take to get back.” I wish I hadn’t come out here at all—much less by boat. He reflected on the start of this trip. If it hadn’t been Lauren driving him there, he wouldn’t have stepped off the dock. “Tariq, you’re too old to let a woman turn you into an adolescent.” Truly though, males never outage that particular affliction so recrimination was pointless.
Pondering back over the past days gave the Iranian warmth despite the chill wind. I rarely saw Lauren’s cool side and last night the sheets were nearly set ablaze. His memory went on to replay the other details.
‘Jonathon said we have an extremely attractive offer on the table.’ She had tickled his chest hairs and whispered the numbers into his ear.
‘That amount is suspiciously generous.’
‘You will need to prove that our screen capture isn’t a put-up though.’ Lauren had added. ‘The CEO wants to see it come up on his computer.’
‘I need proof too:’ the Canadian’s thoughts were on how much cash he’d spent on wooing the lady lawyer, ‘of whether his checks are rubber.’
‘You should jot the keystrokes down.’ Her fingers had walked down to his stomach and then under the sheet. ‘You are in safe hands with me.’
‘Just now, your fingers do feel somewhat more than just secure.’ Tariq wrote the combination on hotel stationary and sealed it in an envelope. It didn’t really matter anyways. The programmer had only withheld the code on the chance that it might mow a path to the green pasture of her panties.
“With that wild slice, she made the code sequence redundant anyways.” He broke from his reverie. “Women are enticing traps we daft men can’t avoid springing. A Burmese tiger pit needs camouflage or the clever cats won’t step on it but a lady snared me, even when I saw the wire loop.”
“Say hi to Bob for me,” the water taxi operator shouted down from the helm, “and tell him that his overpriced software really bites.”
“Wait for me by the fantail.” Tariq called to the wheelhouse, as the gap between the boats narrowed: the boatswain answered with a salute.
Why do I have such a bad expectation for this visit? The Iranian man attended to transferring boats. I should’ve just stayed in bed today.
“~I want a better view.” For no other reason than intuition, Lyra felt positive about the approaching launch. As the small craft drew nearer, she excused herself. “~Cover me if needs be by saying that I’m showering.”
Lyra locked the washroom door behind her then stripped to her bra and panties. She entertained a fuzzy notion of stowing-away on the other boat.
She ducked out the outer hatch and slid her feet down the hull, while holding onto the gunwale: her intent was to go hand-over-hand to the stern, with her legs dangling in the water. Instead, her toes found a thick strip of molding: that was better. While crab walking along the hull, she could observe: all the men’s faces were turned away and to watch the arrival.
As she neared the fantail, her walkway drew close to the upper deck. Now, I do have to lower my legs into the water. She went sternwards as the water taxi maneuvered and stopped where she could peer around.
Suddenly, a wake wave trailing the small craft unexpectedly struck and the girl emitted a slight gasp as her body was slammed against the hull. Please don’t let anyone have heard that. She offered a silent wish for luck and looked up. A set of eyes had locked onto hers.
Why is a girl hiding beside the ship’s transom? If she didn’t want to be seen then he wouldn’t give her away. He made a hand gesture of pushing his forelocks off his forehead. In the motion, Tariq obscured a sly wink.
Thank you. Lyra transmitted a facial expression message to the oddly recognizable newcomer. Her eyes rolled towards his boat to silently ask to boarding permission. His nod was hidden in his tugging off a lifejacket.
Tariq stepped away from the sight of the girl and up onto the yacht’s aft platform. Why would she need subterfuge of stowing away? His mental question was answered by a first look at the welcoming committee.
The nerd looks positively effeminate in comparison to the rough types surrounding him. Three bodyguards had pistols in shoulder holsters.
A loud engine roar from behind him made Tariq spin about. I ordered him to stay. The launch captain gunned the throttles and pulled away. The escaping girl didn’t have time to cross—and now I’m trapped here too.
“The one-hundred years war lasted that long, because England profited from sacking France.” On a high-definition television and with surround sound speakers, the Pakistani politician seemed to be making her speech in the same lavishly appointed den where two men were playing chess. “It is not a war, but money is causing of our troubles with Afghanistan. Until corrupt profiteering along the border is stopped, we’ll have no security.”
“That view might get her elected,” Bernard Stryker shifted a pawn—in more ways than one, “but it won’t make her many influential friends.”
“Zafira Abdi is hardly a model of incorruptibility.” Sheik bin Omani smirked as he surveyed the game: his strategy was still intact.
“Abdi has strong a pedigree for leadership, and she was the president before the coup.” Bernard used a remote to mute the volume but continued to study the screen. “Zafira is also a beautiful woman—if one is into that heavy eye makeup style, and her popularity is dangerously on the rise.”
“As you astutely noted,” the Saudi took a sip of espresso, “her rhetoric may bring votes from the well, but the bucket spills out many enemies.”
“Simply waiting for a fortunate occurrence is hardly pro-activity.”
“I concur.” Ghazi bin Omani shoved his bishop to where it threatened Stryker’s queen. “I’m able to deal effectively with powerful women.”
“Will this game you love so much ever teach you subtlety?”
“You’ve never bested me at it yet.”
“Winning would put my abilities in plain sight,” Stryker abruptly stood and crossed to the television, “but in five moves, when that sly rook places my king in checkmate, will you be utterly certain of who was the better?”
Sheik bin Omani angrily slashed out a hand and spilled the pieces.
“Wouldn’t we make a handsome couple?” Bernard ignored the Arab’s outburst. Looking dapper in his Sayville Row suit, he posed beside the TV image of the Pakistani lady. “I should like to meet her—before a tragedy.”
“Welcome aboard Mr. Tariq Mahmud!” Bob Wall began genially.
“Said the hungry wren to a juicy worm.” Tariq sized up his opponents. My guess is Russian Mafia—but why would Wall have them on his boat?
“I would offer you a refreshing libation but I sent my steward ashore—along with other nonessential witnesses.”
“I’m not thirsty.” The programmer lied: his mouth had gone dry.
“You were playing a strong bluff,” the CEO took a contract from his briefcase, “and I thought I might have to ante up.” He placed it on a table.
“It’s only a bluff if you call and see it.”
“Then this river card,” Bob brandished his fax, “filled my royal flush.”
The Canadian just glared and his nose wrinkled like he was looking at something especially offensive in a toilet bowl—that should be flushed.
“You’re out of cards,” Wall stepped forward to put the hotel letterhead fax where the programmer could see it: at the same time, the mafia goons took position at the Iranian’s arms, “and playing against a stacked deck.”
“Were it just you and I here,” Tariq glared at Bob like a snowy owl at a winter mouse, “I would shove that where your rectal gas would flutter it.”
“I’m not alone though,” the geek moved back a pace anyways, “but you are.” For dramatic effect he briefly studied the hand-written codes. “One should always offer lawyers more than the other side is prepared to pay.”
“Folk in the newest profession have much in common with those in the oldest.” Tariq supposed the scintillating Lauren Smyth could fit in either.
“The profession of software development that you and I share,” the CEO quibbled, “is a more recent one than the bar.”
“I’m not sure that you and even share membership in the same species. Unlike a courtesan, a common thief doesn’t have a profession.”
“You’re not improving your bargaining position.” Wall laughed off the slights but they stung as true and his titter sounded faked. “So, your hand is face up and it’s the second best.” Bob backtracked to his poker analogy. “You can either go all-in with a renegotiation on my terms, or fold em.”
“I’m the only one who knows everything about my program.” Whoa! He stepped on his tongue’s brakes. Even on your life—don’t give it away?
Bob checked slightly at the response and he cocked his head in thought. Was there anything overlooked? The incriminating screen accessed by the keystrokes was still there, but with this combination his software engineers would be able to find the offending code to root it out—wouldn’t they?
Tariq’s facial set took an unreadable expression—a poker face.
“Nice try looser-boy.” Bob childishly scoffed the vanquished rival but it rang hollow. But then his discomfiture ended with a flash realization: with the man snipped from the big tapestry, there was nothing left to worry about. Sergey and his thugs were only playacting scare tactics, but the programmer could be killed without any repercussions. “Tiny people need stick to doing little things and not try to piss off bigger and betters.”
“That is one really hot little program you wrote.” Wall turned to break eye contact: he hated someone looking like they knew more than he did. He waved his own bodyguards to the bow and signed a go ahead to Sergey.
The actions were already scripted out and props prepared in advance. Sergey did the physical work while his two henchmen continued to restrain the victim. A footlocker was opened and a chain dragged out. One end was looped around the Iranian’s leg and a light padlock tightly secured it.
“Too bad you’ll be fish food while I reap the reward.” Bob maliciously smiled as Sergey pocketed the key. “In the end, money is all that counts.”
“Having dignity and righteousness is more important.” Tariq resigned himself to the fact he was about to die: his daughter and wife had blazed that trail. “You’ll never have those—because they can’t be stolen.”
“Walk him to the plank.” Bob was growing concerned with the game’s outcome. The seemingly unafraid Canadian was making it tough for him to avoid committing his first murder. With his leg now firmly locked to about two hundred pounds of metal, the programmer’s fate was sealed with absolutely no possibility of escape. If he didn’t beg to renegotiate a sale, then how could the CEO back down? But the issue was decided for him.
“~Help me out with this.” Sergey grunted whilst toting the heavy iron but neither of his men had a free hand. Retrospectively, the boss regretted his not holding an arm while letting one of his stooges do the bull work. As he shuffled over a slightly raised deck fitting, the Obshina stumbled. A bight of chain fell from his clumsy fingers and chattered into the water.
With the links rattling like a multi-vehicle accident on a freeway, Tariq expected his life was at an end. Then on a second look at the oafish mob boss scrambling ineffectively for the chain, the doomed man recalled his barehanded battle with the bear. I could take Bob or the mafia leader with me. The Russian with looks and temperament of a sub-species black bear would be the preferred one—and his pocket held the key.
“One bad death deserves another.” Tariq punctuated his demise with a pre-posthumous quote that suddenly appeared in his mind—along with a scheme. ‘God created men but Sam Colt made them equal.’ Sadly, the best target was bent over and slightly out of arms reach. The bear had claws when I didn’t either but water took away the unfair advantage.
“What?” Bob reacted first with a puzzled scowl. The man’s eyes were on him and Wall flinched in panic. He was close enough to be grabbed.
Tariq spun a quarter revolution: before this second, he hadn’t struggled and the guards had relaxed their grips. With a jolt, he pulled his left arm away from one man to put the other in a bear hug. After latching the five fingers of his right hand around the two remaining on the left, the Canadian lurched sideways. This goon is coming to Davey Jones’ locker with me.
“~Grab the chain!” Sergey screamed but it was already futile. The last looped strand of forged links flipped over the scupper and hit the water.
Too worried about retaining his own precarious perch on the fantail, the second thug was unable to catch his friend. Sergey had been fumbling for chains and was also unable to assist. Bob was really the only person with a chance of saving the Russian ruffian but he had stood frozen with panic.
Now, the three surviving men watched the black and sparkling water as the bubbles quickly diffused. There was still some air rising, but distance and depth were dispersing it over a wider area.
“Crap!” Sergey found voice with an astute comment.
“Vlad?” The now singular elite thug plaintively asked the water.
“Vodka?” Bob offered.