Shiva's Messenger

Catwalk Away from the Russian Guns

Chapter 11 – Shiva’s Messenger

Catwalk Away from the Russian Guns

 

“I require beautiful models for a one-day video shoot with blatant nudity.” Yuri called some of Toronto’s premier modeling agencies with a brief synopsis and just examining portfolios was a banquet for his eyes. Finally, he settled on a company that offered him one-stop service. Six girls that looked perfect for the job plus a makeup artist and manager were booked and the logistics were arranged.

He found the required video cameraman and photographer in a husband and wife team. One did still photography and the other video, with each assisting the other. With cast and crew assembled, Yuri only needed to set the stage back in Windsor.

The owner of the warehouse space was more than happy to do a short-term lease for a cash payment of several times the normal rent. The landlord smiled—without paperwork, how would he ever remember to report it on his taxes?

Yuri spared no expense on his lavish leasehold improvements. He hired an aggressive building contractor to bring his vision into reality. An unlimited cash budget and the promise of very generous performance bonuses are amazing motivators and his set took flawless shape almost magically before his eyes. As he peeled off the final tally to the delighted supplier and inspected the finished masterpiece, Yuri knew he was ready for the next phase.

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Alley Katz was unchanged. The same girls had similar bruises and performed for patrons with unvaried vacuous expressions. Yuri’s beer sat mostly as decoration while he unobtrusively snooped for an incriminating conversational slip. Like déjà vu, two of the three Russian bouncers were chatting at the very place where he had first overheard them. Even the topics were similar so Yuri didn’t have to wait very long.

“I’d like to speak with the owner of the bar.” Yuri spoke with a barely detectable accent.

“What do you want?” The burley skin-headed manager had a thick Russian inflection that made his voice sound like his tongue was stitched to the bottom of his mouth.

“I said I want to speak to the owner,” Yuri repeated and then added rudely, “I don’t need to converse with his minion.”

“Maybe he doesn’t want to speak to you,” the flabby, barrel-shaped man with no discernable neck leaned forward aggressively.

“When money talks, everyone wants to listen.” Yuri reached into the inner pocket of his jacket. At his movement, the two bouncers reached also for the bulges under theirs. Before the guns were drawn, Yuri had brandished a bundle of American $100 notes, he slammed it flat-handedly onto the bar.

The manager gaped and any witty retorts were effectively circumvented. His boss would want to communicate at least with the money, if not especially with the man. He disappeared through a door behind the bar and a moment later re-emerged with a middle-aged Slav sporting greased back hair. While staring into Yuri’s eyes to judge a reaction, he picked up the banded stack of notes. He riffled the bundle without breaking eye contact.

“So speak.” The businessman had a Russian accent even more pronounced than the manager’s. His words tumbled out as if filtered through a mouthful of marbles. “You have my attention.”

“~I think enough has already been said that could be overheard.” Yuri spoke in perfect Russian. Effectively, it was his second tongue and he had spent months at a stretch conversing with his father only in that language. “~Have you somewhere for a private talk?”

The two goons blanched and catching their sheepish looks, the owner indicated with a cock of his head toward the back of the seating area. The bouncers knew the drill. Patrons occupying a small roped-off section were quickly shuffled to other tables.

“~What did you hear?” The Slavic whoremaster squinted and the wrinkling of his forehead spotlighted a huge mole there: it looked like a bulging Cyclops eye.

“I paid good money for this talk,” Yuri switched back to English, “So may we have a nice conversation? My name is Yuri Malenkov.”

“Boris Gagarin.”

“You don’t have to worry about what I heard.” Yuri downplayed the bouncers’ gaffe with a charming smile. “In fact, it’s good for you that I did, as I have something that I now know you need. Still, you must remind your people that they should know who’s listening.

“So tell me now, Yuri my friend,” Boris smiled, his teeth almost black from tobacco use, poor oral hygiene and who knew what else. “What is it you have that I need?”

“You require replacement girls, of course. Yours are all too old, too fat, too lifeless and they’re beaten up badly on a regular basis.”

“They are punished deservedly,” Boris prickled at the rebuke. “Because being lazy and stupid, they let themselves become old, fat and lifeless. Good new girls are hard to get and the best ones want far too much for their services.”

“I have very nice girls to offer. Fabulous Russian and Ukrainian females that are clean, young and beautiful.”

“Girls like that are exorbitantly expensive.” Boris’ fingers were studded with clunky gold rings like gilded brass knuckles. He raked them back through the oil slick on his head.

“Yes they are.” I’m glad I didn’t have to touch that hand! “Ladies like this are well worth the expense. They bring more trade in and you can charge higher prices for them. They’re so productive when they’re fresh and lovely that your investment swiftly turns into a profit. When they’re nearly used up, you trade them off and get new ones. This is just basic economics.”

“Only the mafia brings in such girls.”

“They don’t have a monopoly. The mob gets merchandise with threats or purchase. My method is noncompetitive with that.”

“How do you acquire them then?” Boris idly rubbed a chin that was deeply pocked by acne divots.

“Look at me.” The young man spread his arms to demonstrate his appeal. “My age, looks, the manner in which I dress and speak to these girls – I am a magnet. They want to come with me and do what I ask them to. Then they find themselves in a foreign country and I have their passports. This is my talent, so now it’s my business.”

“How many do you have? When can they be delivered? How much are you asking for them?” Boris didn’t need to be convinced of the value, so he fired his barrage of questions.

“I’ve six for sale right now and they could be delivered tonight if you have $80,000 per girl on hand in U.S. currency.”

“The price is very high. I would pay $65,000.” Boris lied through his stained teeth because that price was almost a steal.

“You see the girls and you wouldn’t think it’s too high.” Yuri realized he’d started the bidding far too low. “We both know I could get 100K but I want to establish a client base here.”

“Do you have pictures?” Boris gave up the bargaining. The deal was good, especially if the girls were attractive. He was now eager to see what his new property would look like.

“Pictures?” Yuri clucked and shook his head mockingly. “Boris, what can photos really show? I can do much better. I’ll take you to see them in the tantalizing flesh.”

“My men will come with me.” Important people with enemies didn’t go anywhere unprotected. Even if Boris weren’t in any specific danger, bodyguards gave the impression of power and his self-inflated stature demanded such precautions.

“I’ve room in my car for you and two of your men.” If you like my girls, whom you will for sure, how many of them can you buy before the weekend? I have other interested parties.”

“I can take four but I want the best.” Boris stroked his forehead mole idly as he did a mental estimation of the cash he could quickly obtain. Really, he wanted all half dozen girls and the price was lower than he would’ve expected.

“Your toughest decision will be which four to take, because all six are fabulous. Start getting the money together, because I only deal in cash and it must be done by Friday.”

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A similar performance played out three more times the same day but Yuri started the bidding at 100K and bargained down from there. In one bar, the owner was also Russian and another was French Canadian. The third was possibly Albanian and Yuri didn’t speak the language. Each bar’s proprietor knew the intrinsic value of the commodity and bought into the deal easily. In the space of one evening, he had four appointments to see the girls and conditional offers for the sale of seventeen of his six ladies.

Of all four bars, Alley Katz would probably prove the toughest. Yuri could expect to face five armed men at the ready. This might seem like insurmountable opposition and foolhardy on his part but for one of his father’s lessons. ‘Overwhelming opposition can work for you, instead of against. The outnumbering force complacently believes itself invincible. They can hamper their own effectiveness. Most importantly, they will trust you implicitly because each member knows that they wouldn’t try anything so intrinsically daft and can’t envision how anyone else could: your surprise factor is absolute.’

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The cast assembled on the set and Yuri walked them through what was expected. He set up the support staff and camera behind a painted line and stressed that none but the models could step beyond it after the action light was lit. When satisfied that all knew their parts, he called them together for a brief pep talk.

“First of all, welcome everyone. I know you’ve been wondering exactly what we’re doing here. The simple answer is that we are planning to shoot the pilot episode of an adult drama. If the parts we are doing seem unusual, be assured that you would understand if you saw the whole script. I know you are all professionals and will give me your best effort.”

Yuri thought of another good line but it wasn’t one of his dad’s. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

“The lead actor hasn’t signed a contract yet so I’ll be standing in for him. There are still several conceptual issues to overcome and all the financial support isn’t in place yet.” Yuri held up a hand and grinned. “Don’t panic. This session is in the pre-production budget and that’s fully funded.

“We’ll do several takes but will only be performing one scene and there is no dialogue so a script isn’t required. We’ll be repeating it probably four or five times scattered over the whole afternoon. I can’t stress enough how important it is stay in character during each take. We’re here to impress influential backers from the States and I won’t tolerate anyone jeopardizing my project.” Yuri paused for a moment and grew stern. “Anyone breaking one of my primary rules will be fired on the spot and not paid. Is that clearly understood?” The director scanned slowly over the assemblage to ensure each head nodded affirmatively. “One – When the yellow take light is on, none but those authorized may be over the yellow line. Two – When a scene is in progress it’s to be treated as if it were the real thing happening.

“I have only those two stern rules.” Yuri smiled to lighten the mood. “Otherwise, I hope you find me fun to work with. Let’s all show them just what we can do.”

Yuri received a short round of applause. Then to a further delighted cheer, he told the girls about the arrangements he’d made for the photographers to do individual shots. Portfolio pictures were something that all models treasured. Granting them freely would keep the performers jovial through the long day ahead. It would also divert the cast and crew’s attention, so none would have time to ponder about the artistic value of the show.

He had also confirmed with the video cameraman that this was a tight shoot, which meant the client got the original footage and no copies were to be made. A glance at his watch confirmed that he was soon due at Alley Katz.

“Excuse me.” A blond approached with a very cute younger girl beside her. “My little sister Karen came with me just to watch. I assumed it would be fine but after your warning, I figured I’d better make sure.”

“There will be nudity and sexuality. I couldn’t be responsible for what she sees.” Yuri wondered why he hadn’t spotted the teen but assumed she had tried and succeeded at being unobtrusive.

“Nakedness and sex are a beautiful part of life,” Julia retorted. “Our parents believe people are too prudish and that children should see the things that’ll affect their lives.”

“I personally agree with that sentiment, so if it’s fine with you I don’t mind either.” Yuri spoke first to the older sister and then looked at the young girl. “Why did you want to come and watch?”

“I’m going to be a model someday too.”

“I’ll bet you’ll be a good one too.” Yuri estimated Karen to be about 14 years old. She would no doubt grow to be as striking as her older sibling. Suddenly he became truly inspired. He spoke again to the older sister. “I just recalled of another project I have pending: I think your kid sister would be ideal for it. Would Karen like to do some real paid modeling today?”

“Yes she would!” The young sibling enthusiastically blurted out while her elder guardian looked questioningly.

“It would be tastefully sexy and with some implied nudity. Julia, you’ll supervise Karen’s photo shoot and your word will be the law.” Yuri waved the photographers over to include them in the planning of the new sub-project.

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Boris was waiting with his manager and one of his bodyguards. As expected, each of them wore a shoulder holster. Yuri had no time for idle chat and thankfully, the pimp seemed only inclined to get to the stock auction as soon as possible. He climbed into the front seat while his flunkies clamored in behind. Yuri turned in his seat and handed each a set of goggles with blacked out lenses.

“You expect me to be blindfolded?” Boris looked incredulously at the headwear dangling from his crooked finger.

“If you want to see my girls you will be.” Yuri had the vehicle running but was waiting for them to conform as ordered. “I have to protect my long-term business arrangements. You’ve nothing to worry about with your two armed men in the car. They can pull their weapons and aim at me through the seatback. You don’t have the money with you, so a robbery obviously isn’t in the offing. My precaution is regarding where I keep and show the ladies, but when we make the actual exchange it’ll be at a place of your choosing.”

Mollified, Boris put on his blinders and his goons complied but with weapons drawn. As they traveled, Yuri kept up a banter describing the quality of the women. His route to the warehouse took a few disorienting turns. He keyed his remote to open the bay door and trigger the ready light.

The contractors had isolated a garage bay from the rest of the space. Yuri waited until the door was closed before allowing the men to take the goggles off. He led Boris and entourage though a short corridor to the 6×10 foot long viewing room. The one wall featured a window with chairs facing the glass.

“I’m going to leave you here for now.” Yuri advised. “The door will be locked behind me. In a moment the curtains will open and I’ll have the girls out for you to scrutinize. Afterward, you can tell me which ones you want to buy.”

“I need a close-up look and I want to touch them,” Boris demanded with a prurient look splashed on his eager face.

“No.” Yuri’s gruff voice left no room for negotiations on this point. “Until paid for, these women are my chattel and you can only view. After delivery, you can ogle, fondle or whatever you like.”

He carefully bolted the solid door behind him. A quick glance proved that everyone was in place. After a double thumbs-up to the crew, Yuri drew aside the curtains. From inside, all Boris and his men could see was the young Russian standing in front of six very lovely young women perched elegantly on straight-backed chairs.

From the other side, the models just saw themselves reflected in the one-way bulletproof glass. Now this is going to be some real fun. Yuri was geared up for a stellar performance.

As the sleazy bar owner watched in rapt fascination, Yuri lined the models up in front of the window. Disdainfully, the young slave master ordered them to disrobe. He walked among them roughly urging open buttons, unclasping bras and ripping down panties. Boris was impressed and quite jealous of the way that the young man commanded the women’s unquestioning obedience.

“I need to have such girls.” Boris muttered past the saliva pooling in his lower lip. He was aroused both by the show and from a vision of all of the money the girls would earn for him. Each was a beauty one could’ve been seen on a high fashion catwalk. There was no way to choose only four. He had to have them all. Dominic would lend the extra money at his usual exorbitant rates.

The curtains closed.

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“I’ll be back shortly. You were all absolutely wonderful.” Yuri’s smile proved how pleased he was. He wondered though, what kind of drama could they possibly think this is a pilot for? As usual, his father’s teachings covered the answer. ‘If you display confidence in yourself, other people can’t help but have faith in you, as well.’

“Were they all I claimed and more?” Yuri asked the question but the drooling face really answered it for him.

“I’ll take all six.” Boris’ voice trembled with excitement.

“No problem.”

“Since I’m taking them all, why not make it 70K each?” As they arrived back at Alley Katz, the Slavic pimp tried bargaining.

“No,” Yuri collected the blindfolds. “If you don’t buy them for 80K, I can easily sell them to your competitors for 95.”

“I’ll still buy the whole lot.” Boris felt the upstart prick should’ve allowed room for negotiation. After a second thought, he grinned wickedly as Yuri drove off, the amount wouldn’t matter if the pretty boy died after the exchange. It would be Boris’ five guns to his zero. The young fool wasn’t the Mafia and he didn’t have their backing or protection. With a sinister chuckle, the owner began counterplotting.

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Yuri and his starlets played their roles three more times during the day. Each performance was better than the last with those viewings also resulting in all six slaves being successfully auctioned. After dropping off the last club owner, he went back to the set. The champagne and canapé trays he’d ordered had already arrived.

“Everyone did fantastic.” The pleasured look on his face could have spoken for him. “However,” Yuri exaggeratedly looked down at his pants, “my part was really the hardest. So I really should’ve rehearsed my role in private and extensively and with each of you first.” The young producer couldn’t resist the comical flirt with the models that he had already been almost intimate with.

He took the agency manager aside and paid for the troupe. An addition of some nice bonuses reversed the slightly curious look at the payment given in cash. Yuri then cornered his camera crew to inquire about Karen’s photo session.

“That little one will turn out to be an excellent model someday. I think I captured exactly what you wanted.”

“Get a small album of your best shots ready by Thursday.”

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Back again at his Hamilton mini storage, having already picked up the photo album, Yuri prepared. The pictures of the very young Karen were even better than they were touted. He doctored the album and readied an electronic money counter

“Maybe I’m becoming overly fond of this particular gun.” Shiva’s Messenger had selected another Ruger Mark II. For this job though, he wanted to be ultra-familiar with his weapon and it was also precisely the right size. Everything needed to be perfect because this was his toughest challenge yet. He would be a battalion of one man and squaring off against all the Russian guns.

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The street was nearly deserted at Alley Katz, where Yuri found one of the bouncers outside waiting for him. It was only nine in the morning and the bar wasn’t set to open until later in the afternoon. After collecting the money counter and the album from the seat beside, he entered with the armed goon following. The door locked ominously behind and Yuri silently began his concentration rituals.

Boris and his right hand man were at the table where they spoke before but now there was a third occupant on the long bench seat with them.

Older even than Boris, the unknown man was sculptured trim and looked as hard as an iron wrecking rod. Tattoos like patterned black lace, enmeshed thick arms that bulged with both muscles and veins. His grey hair was a very short brush cut. The frightening man sat statue still and intently eyeing Yuri from within deep sockets.

An inexorable thought sent a sudden chill down Yuri’s spine: Russian Mafia. Make those six men with guns instead of five.

Yuri surveyed his surroundings as he crossed the room. In addition to the six men, there was an enticing girl on the main stage. She hadn’t been there on Yuri’s reconnoiters or he would’ve surely taken notice. This young woman’s face and form even outstripped the six models he hired: in fact, she was stripped nude already.

Tall and willowy with waist length hair the tone of polished oak, the dancer writhed in graceful serpentine gyrations. Yuri noted that she was aware of his presence but she wasn’t dancing for him. She performed for a room packed with empty tables and no audience. All six Russian soldiers had attentions fixed on him.

“Comrade Yuri.” Boris visually checked his troops positioning. Two of the armed thugs were already standing guard. The third moved into position several paces behind the lone chair that was placed opposing as a hot seat. The bald bar manager flanked Boris on the right and the mafia lieutenant on the left. “Since I now have a large amount of cash, I’ll take my own precautions.” Doubtlessly, the fool was unarmed but Boris had a grudge over the blindfolding to settle. “Frisk him for weapons.”

Yuri held the album in one hand and the money counter in the other. He spread his arms to allow the thugs to thoroughly search him. I can’t walk away now. He was committed to follow through with his objective and he breathed deeply several times.

If ever Shiva’s Messenger needed one of his father’s lessons to sustain him, it was now. He searched his memory while the rough hands swept his body for hidden guns. ‘Son, what’s your strongest sense?’ His father had asked and then supplied an odd answer. ‘It’s your imagination because that one rules the other five. That’s the sense you employ when you touch your primal self.’ Yuri reached deeply into his imagination and allowed it to flow into his limbs: his skin prickled at the attention.

“What are you holding?” Boris barked. His guards had finished patting down the prisoner and stepped back into position. He had observed that these items were not searched.

“A money counter and you’re welcome to look at it but please don’t break it. I’m not planning to sit here for three hours, counting by hand.” As he spoke, Yuri nonchalantly peered once to his rear to mentally map the enemy emplacements. Goons stood four paces behind and were arranged three abreast.   With those three in back and Boris with his flankers in front, it was the equivalent of a firing squad in a circle around the victim. Any bullets that miss—could turn into friendly fire that hit. Yuri then shook the album to draw their attention to it. “In this book I have a very special offer for you.”

“I have the money right here.” Boris took a small suitcase from his feet and set it on the table. “I don’t want photos now, where are the women?”

“They’re waiting in a vehicle a short distance away. When I’ve ensured the money is all there, I’ll make a call.”

“Then put down your machine and get busy.” Boris opened the case then spun it a half turn with a flourish.

“First, I have a special treat for you.” Yuri tapped a fingertip on the book. “On my last trip to Mother Russia, I obtained your girls. I also found one very special sweetheart who I’ll sell for no less than $150,000 U.S. dollars. She’s cute now and has the potential to be even more beautiful when she matures. She is a virgin—I knew she would be worth more to me if not despoiled.” This sparked a special interest. Yuri noted that Boris and the cue-ball manager riveted their attentions onto the tome of photos.

The Mafia man’s eyes didn’t even flicker. His were still welded on where they had remained throughout. Yuri felt a frigid shudder on his spine that froze to icicles in his belly. The mobster is a far greater threat, than all others combined—he’s of my father’s caliber!

“Perhaps you would like to look at her pictures to help you pass the time, while I count? We can talk more about her after.” Yuri smiled at the lecherous intensity with which Boris grabbed at the photo book and the similar leer on the bar manager’s fleshy face as he slid closer for a better view.

Yuri picked up the first stack of bills while Boris cracked the album open to page one. Karen was fully clothed. While obviously very young, she was doing a little girl’s version of sexy. Watching the men flip to the following leaf, Yuri prepared to take the bundle of bills out of the wrapper. Karen was unbuttoning her blouse. Her lithe young chest and belly could be seen but her budding breasts were held from view by her training bra. Boris eagerly flipped the next sheet as Yuri pulled the notes from the paper band. Karen first unzipped her blue jeans. Another image showed the elfin girl with her back turned while she peeled the blue jeans over a pert butt not yet blossomed to womanhood. The last snapshot showed the girl standing, clad in only a bra and skimpy panties. Slender arms were folded behind her, unclasping the bra while a seductive smile graced her freckle-strewn face. The next page promised to illegally display her underage goodies. Yuri set the stack of bills into the counting tray. Now almost salivating with anticipation, Boris tried to turn the next page but it was stuck fast.

The bar manager volunteered his nicotine-stained fingers in eagerness to assist Boris in freeing the bound folio. Yuri turned a thumbscrew on the front of the counter. The face panel of the non-functional machine dropped to allow access to a .22 caliber Ruger wedged in place of the internal mechanisms. Deep in his ideal concentration, Yuri could have closed his eyes and shot each man only from his memory of their position. The presence of the dreaded gangster made that way too deadly to even consider attempting.

In one easy movement, Yuri extracted the gun and fired. He hit the menacing Mafia man once in the small hollow on the bridge of his nose. The young assassin checked his automatic compulsion to take the usual confirmation shot: time was of the essence. Instead, he continued his momentum and swiveled in his chair. The trio of thug hirelings was the next item on his agenda.

The first glance showed that this group was unprepared and in fact, they were still unaware. One had a hand to his face and was rubbing at something gritty in his eye. The second was stifling a wide mouthed yawn. The third had his face turned to the female on the stage and was bobbing his head in time to the music. With three rapid but deadly accurate shots, each in the vicinity of the utterly surprised eyebrows, Shiva’s Messenger sent Winken, Blinken and Nod to the fairyland of ever after.

At the muted sound of the first shot, Boris and the bald eagle jerked their attention from their struggles with the intentionally glued photo book. It took seconds too long for either of them to register the unanticipated violence unfolding. Then, their overly close proximity to one another befouled the ability to draw revolvers. They were both still fumbling with holsters, as Yuri pivoted back around.

As he brought his muzzle to bear on the final pair, the young killer viewed the details of his initial handiwork. The Mafia man did have his weapon out in just that brief interval before his death. Yuri was exceedingly fortunate to have struck an instantly fatal blow and he gave that deceased man his due respect. A difference of a few decades worth of aging in reflex reaction speed was the thin shield that had stood between Shiva’s Messenger and his own death.

“This is just too easy.” The young assassin felt he had bought the luxury of ample time.   He triggered a three bullet grouping in the bar manager’s forehead like the finger holes in a bowling ball.

Boris ceased his bumbling attempt, as it was now futile. Yuri aimed his Ruger and was about to give the treacherous owner a cocky goodbye—when he caught the eyes flickering askance. He expects assistance! There is another threat in an unknown quarter!

Yuri dotted a .22 caliber full colon into the treacherous Russian’s scheme, as the final punctuation of the now thwarted double-cross. Two bodies dropped to the carpet but one of them rolled in an attempt to dodge an anticipated shot—that didn’t materialize.

From his prone position, Yuri peered at the stage area. The girl must have been aware of what was happening in the bar, yet she was still dancing. Her unperturbed expression didn’t even betray that anything out of the usual was occurring.

She hadn’t stopped and in fact, she kicked her enthusiasm up a notch. At first her nude show had been to a non-attentive audience. Now she shifted the target of her performance to the back half of the stage where the short partition wall stood. The Doug persona had noticed this screen during his reconnoitering but had assumed it curtained off a changing area. Instead, it could be a special viewing area for patrons who desired more privacy.

The exotic dancer was now all but pointing him to his next peril. The young gunman leapt to his feet. He knew from his internal count that his magazine only had four rounds remaining. That might not be enough. He snatched a spare clip from the open money counter and exchanged the semi-empty for the fresh full one.

Shiva’s Messenger accelerated to a run and vaulted onto the stage beside the naked brunette. He was already pirouetting as he landed and his weapon was at chest level in front. A trio of Russian Mafia men sat enjoying the entertainment and drinking vodka. The music, the wall between muffling sounds and the erotic dance had kept them from noticing a murderous exchange in the anti-chamber. Doubtlessly they would’ve responded to any gunfire but the muted reports from Yuri’s silenced weapon had escaped any detection. Now, their enraptured attention on the desirable female terminated with the arrival of an unordered three rounds from the shooter bar.

“Thank you,” the girl breathed as Yuri delivered each of these dead men a coup de grâce slug. Finally, she ceased her dancing. The young woman threw her arms around him and tightly squeezed. She kissed his cheek and burrowed her face into his neck. Her breath was a warm tickling on his sensitive earlobes as she whispered again but with more voice. “Oh, thank you!”

Then she looked up and beheld his eyes with her piercing blue ones. “Who are you?” Her lilting contralto was complete with an Eastern European accent.

“No one.” He had no better answer to give her. Why am I not responding, even in the slightest? An incredibly beautiful woman had her lusciously formed body plastered against his. She was fully unclothed, had been breathing softly in his ear and he felt no sexual attraction towards her. Was he overdosed on adrenaline? Maybe she had the defensive wall up like other table dancers but still, it seemed bizarre. “Who are you?”

“I am,” she paused as if to remember her name or think of one, “Free.” The girl released her grip and stepped back a pace with a puzzled smile. She studied his face and seemed perplexed.

Now isn’t the time to delve this mystery. Yuri returned to the six dead men and paid off an insurance cartridge to the recipients he hadn’t already double or triple-tapped. By the time he’d finished, Free had donned a robe and rejoined him.

The girl was a witness but she had assisted and Yuri couldn’t just kill her. No, it was more than that. Her helping wasn’t the only motivation for sparing her life. Shiva’s Messenger wouldn’t murder an unarmed innocent whose only mistake was inadvertently being present. His father has raised him to be honorable.

“What’ll you do now?” The assassin collected his gear.

“I’ll leave,” she smiled, “before the police come, I’ll be gone.”

“Take this then.” Yuri noticed that he had neglected to return the one opened bundle of money into the case. He handed her the loose stack of bills and snapped the luggage shut. “It’s taxi fare.”

“Thank you.” The girl disinterestedly took the proffered cash. Her eyes were more concerned with the dead mafia lieutenant. She took a deep satisfied breath. “I’ll go get my things. I suspect you’ll be gone by the time I get back.”

Shiva’s messenger returned his mind to his doings. Normally he would gather the scattered casings but this time he would leave them where they ejected. They weren’t worth the time it would take to search for them all. As usual, he’d worn latex gloves while he loaded the magazines.

With Karen’s book and the counter under his arm and the suitcase in his hand, Yuri returned to his SUV. He drove around the corner then stopped to wait at a distance. As he watched the bar, he bemused on what had just transpired at Alley Katz.

Boris had obviously contacted the Russian Mob. He might have arranged to buy Free with some of the money that he had to pay Yuri. Either that or the young woman was to be a payment to Boris from the Mafia for eliminating the competition. Perhaps he would never know which but either way Yuri would have been killed after his girls were delivered: if there had been any ladies to bring.

Free emerged a few short minutes later. She was now fully dressed and carrying a small valise. She looked in both directions first and nonchalantly walked away in the opposite direction. Who was that girl? He had no time to think about that now. Yuri readied his gear for his job at the next bar.

Two girls had saved his butt today. One was Free who was now strolling away. The other was a fourteen-year-old aspiring model. “Thank you, Karen.” He lovingly patted her photo folio.

Yuri shifted the Honda into drive and headed for the next bar on his list. That operation went as planned and thankfully, the two following did as well. By mid-afternoon, when nightclubs opened for a busy Friday night, Yuri had closed four of them down pending police investigations. A number of women weren’t going to be raped that night at four particular establishments. The owners of the clubs he hadn’t hit might have cause to reflect on what occurred down the road from them.

Shiva’s Messenger departed Windsor leaving a butcher’s bill of 19 and taking a bonus of 2 million U.S. dollars. The money didn’t matter. It was working capital. The real stand out accomplishment had been the elite Mafia man. “If he wasn’t a sufficient testing of my preparedness and skill, then I can’t imagine who would be.”

shivasmessenger

“I’m wondering,” Dr. Smart sat down for a late breakfast with her new best friend and put a newspaper on the table, “if a certain person went from Manitoba to Ontario?”

“The same thought occurred to me when I saw the television coverage.” Jessica didn’t have to look at the headline to know what the doctor was talking about. “It immediately struck me as his style. It appears only disgusting men were killed.”

“What would be his point for these murders though? I’m sure the prostitution scene is only marginally, if any better after the fact. Even with the biggest floaters scooped out, it’s still a septic tank and new ones will pop up to the top.” Having recently purchased a rural acreage, not connected to a municipal sewage system, Cindy had been compelled to acquire some rather unwelcome insights into the decidedly nasty subject of sanitation.

“Barf!” The analogy evoked a crappy image that swam in Jessica’s mind. “I was planning on eating something.” The lawyer grimaced as she spooned up her teabag.

“Oh don’t squeeze it dear.” Cindy captured the girl’s hand before Jessica could squish the liquid from the soggy pouch. “That just makes it bitter and then you have to add extra sugar.”

“Maybe Romero just removed some dregs because there really isn’t enough honey to give the sex trade a sweet taste.” Jessica took a sip of her tea and savored it. “He’s up to something though and it keeps getting bigger each time out. It’s like he’s practicing for something and except for Winnipeg, he has a tendency towards places closely bordering the U.S.A.”

 

 

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