Evegeny slipped the Markov nine-millimeter
into the shoulder
holster and shrugged on his sports coat. As he crossed the room, Irina ignored
him, not lifting her gaze from the television. He stepped onto the expansive
balcony, and a stiff breeze off the Atlantic greeted him. Below, the white
sands of Jupiter Island reflected the scorching heat of the midday sun. He cleared
his throat. “Mikhail, I would speak with you.”
Mikhail relaxed in a lounge chair,
tapping away on his
laptop. “Evegeny!” He beamed, shut the laptop, and rose to hug his brother. “I
will make us drinks.”
Behind a well-stocked bar at
the far end of the balcony, Mikhail
mixed vodka with grapefruit juice into tall glasses filled with ice. He handed
one to his brother. They turned to watch the breaking waves.
Evegeny frowned. “I am
troubled by noises on the streets.”
Mikhail sighed. “If you
insist on a conversation about the
family business, then all the family should be present.”
Evegeny stifled a grunt. “You
want to interrupt Irina’s
shows?” Their sister cared for nothing but the latest installment of Real
Housewives and the fashions and shoes on display at the Aventura Mall. “This
is a discussion between men. You’ve ceded West Palm to the Jamaicans and given
away the cocaine trade to the Albanians. Albanians, for God’s sake. They’re
apologize for not
consulting,” Mikhail said. “But we’re making more money than ever. It was time
to abandon high-profile, risky endeavors. People get shot. The public makes demands.
The police come down hard.” His smile grew wide. “But with Medicare fraud, insurance
fraud, everyone is paid: the doctors, the clinics, the patients. There are no
bodies. No victims to complain. No one even suspects.” He raised his glass high.
“America, truly the land of opportunity.”
Evegeny downed his drink and
refilled it. His brother was
always so sure of himself, but Father left Mikhail in charge, because he was
the oldest, not the strongest. “No one doubts your inventive talents for making
money. But it’s dangerous to show weakness in the face of our rivals.”
“Not weakness. Cleverness.”
“They may not perceive
it that way. And to our competitors,
perception is reality.”
Mikhail waved his hand dismissively.
“Will you ever be
satisfied? You have more money than you could ever hope to spend. What else do
Power. Respect. These are more
important than wealth. That
his brother couldn’t understand proved Mikhail had been corrupted by the very
country he was corrupting. “I want control.”
Mikhail shook his head. “That
is the wrong attitude. Forget
the ego. Be smart.
Evegeny gulped his drink, set
down the glass, and produced
the pistol. “Now I am not smart?”
“Put that thing away.”
“Don’t tell me what
to do.” His face flushed. Why must Mikhail
be so willful? “You will be permitted to continue peddling your insurance
schemes, but I am running things.”
“We can discuss this. But
not at gunpoint.”
The alcohol fueled Evegeny’s
rage. “No more talk.” He raised
Mikhail reached for the pistol.
finger twitched. The gun fired twice. Mikhail’s
shirt erupted in red, and he dropped to the floor.
“No!” Evegeny fell
to his knees and checked for a pulse.
Nothing. He cradled Mikhail’s head; empty blue eyes stared back. “See what you
made me do, Brother? If only you weren’t so stubborn.”
He fought back tears and formulated
a plan. He’d get the
maid to clean up the mess and have Mikhail’s driver dispose of the body. Evegeny
would explain that the staff worked for him, now. They would understand and do
as they were told.
He booted up Mikhail’s
laptop. Password protected. His phone,
too. No problem. He knew experts who dealt in such matters.
Jamaicans would require plenty of men. He’d issue an ultimatum. Give them a we—
erupted from behind. Evegeny’s
body exploded in pain. He gasped for air, but it wouldn’t come. He collapsed on
the floor. With great effort he lifted his head and saw Irina staring down at
him with contempt. Evegeny tried to speak. All that emerged from his throat was
a low gurgle.
you, Dear Evegeny.” His sister smiled
cruelly. She kicked him in the ribs with the pointed toe of her zebra-patterned
ankle boot and jabbed the stiletto heel into his chest. “I see we both had doubts
about the direction of the family business.”
the gun at his head and fired.
James Blakey’s fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly,
Crimson Streets, and Over My Dead Body. His story “The Bicycle
Thief” won a 2019 Derringer Award. He lives in suburban Philadelphia, where he
works as a network engineer for a software consulting company. When James isn’t
working or writing, he can be found on the hiking trail—he’s climbed
thirty-eight of the fifty US state high points—or bike-camping his way up and
down the East Coast. Find him at www.JamesBlakeyWrites.com.
Noelle Richardson comes from a relatively large family and has
been illustrating and painting for about twelve years. She writes a little on
the side, plays a couple of instruments and dabbles in tattoo design.