“No.”


“You’re supposed to be here,” I said.

“Now you’re getting it.”

“Someone’s coming a-calling.”

A tight nod followed by a rapping on the sliding glass door behind us.

I turned in my chair as Kenny said, “Punctual fuckers, I’ll give ’em that.”

The two guys on the other side of the glass weren’t particularly tall but they were poster boys for stocky. They both wore black leather car coats. The one on the left had belted his at the waist, the other left his open. They both wore turtlenecks—the one on the left wore a white one. His partner’s was baby blue. The one on the left had a black beard, the one on the right had a blond one. They both had full heads of hair and bushy eyebrows and mustaches thick enough to misplace a purse in. The one on the left knocked again and gave a little wave and smiled a big, toothy smile. Then he tried the door. He cocked his head when he couldn’t open it and looked back through the glass at us, his smile beginning to fade.

Helene shot from her chair and unlocked the door. The dark-haired guy pulled it back. He entered in a rush and took her face in his hands and said, “Miss Helene, how are you today?” and gave her a kiss on the forehead. He released her face as if he were shot-putting it, and Helene stumbled backward a step. He clapped together a pair of massive hands as he entered the dining room and gave us all another big smile. His companion shut the door behind him and strolled into the room lighting a cigarette. Both of them had long hair, parted down the middle, à la Stallone circa 1981, and even before the dark-haired one had spoken, I’d pegged them for Eastern Europeans—whether they were Czechs, Russians, Georgians, Ukrainians, or, hell, Slovenians was beyond my ear at the moment, but their accents were as thick as their beards.

“How are you, my friend?” the dark-haired one asked me.

“Not bad.”

“Not bad!” He seemed to love that. “Then that is good, yes?”

“You?” I said.

He gave my question a happy jerk of his eyebrows. “I am great, my main man. I am super-duper.”

He sat in the chair Helene had vacated and slapped my shoulder. “You do business with this man?” He jerked his thumb at Kenny.

“Occasionally,” I said.

“You should stay away from him. He big trouble, this one. He bad guy.”

Kenny said, “No.”

The dark-haired guy nodded earnestly at me. “You can trust me. You see what he do to this poor girl?” He pointed at Sophie, who stood against the fridge, shaking and sweating all the more. “Little girl, and he give her a big drug habit. He a real piece of shit.”

“I believe you,” I said.

He widened his eyes at that. “You should believe me, guy. He’s crazy cowboy, this one. He doesn’t listen. He breaks deals.”

Kenny said, “If you just tell Kirill we’re looking. We’re looking. It’s all we do.”

The guy hit my chest lightly with the back of his hand, wildly amused. ” ‘Tell Kirill.’ You ever hear a thing so dumb? Hey? Tell Kirill. Like a man tell Kirill anything. A man ask Kirill. A man beg Kirill. A man go to his knees before Kirill. But tell Kirill?” He turned away from me and bore in on Kenny. “Tell him what, piece of shit? Tell Kirill you looking? You searching? You out there, guy, beating the hedges to find his property?” He reached out and took a cigarette from the pack Kenny had left on the table. He lit it with Kenny’s lighter and then threw the lighter in his lap. “Kirill says to me this morning, he says, ‘Yefim, wrap this up. No more waiting. No more junkie bullshit.’ ”

Kenny said, “We are this close. We know almost where she is.”

Yefim knocked over the table. I barely saw his arm move but the table was suddenly not in front of us anymore or, more important, not between Yefim and Kenny. “I fucking tell you, guy, not to fuck this up. You make us money, yeah yeah yeah. You always deliver, yeah yeah yeah. Well, you didn’t fucking deliver this for Kirill, my man. And more, you didn’t deliver this for Kirill’s wife and she have her heart set on this. She’s . . .” He snapped his fingers a couple times and then looked back over his shoulder at me. “What you say, my friend, when someone finds no happiness in life anymore and no one can change that?”

“I’d say they’re inconsolable.”

The smile that blew across his face was the kind movie stars give on red carpets—that much wattage, that much charm.

“Inconsolable!” He gave me a thumbs-up. “You right on that, my good friend, thank you.” He turned back to Kenny, then changed his mind and looked back at me. He spoke very softly. “No, really. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“You a good fucker, man.” He patted my knee and then turned away. “Violeta, Kenny? She’s inconsolable, guy. That’s what she is. She’s inconsolable, and Kirill, he love her so crazy, man, now he’s inconsolable. And you, you’re supposed to fix that. But you don’t.”

“I’m trying.”

Yefim leaned forward, his voice soft, almost gentle. “But you don’t.”

“Look, ask anyone.”

“Who I ask?”

“Anyone. I’m out there looking. It’s all I do.”

“But you don’t,” he said again, even softer this time.

Kenny said, “Just give me a couple more days.”

Yefim shook his bison head. “A couple more days. Pavel, you hear him?”

The blond guy who stood behind Kenny said, “I hear him.”

Yefim pulled his chair closer to Kenny. “You teach Amanda what she know. So, how she get the drop on you?”

“I taught her what she knows,” Kenny agreed. “But I didn’t teach her all she knows.”

“She smarter than you, I think.”

“Oh, she’s smart,” Helene said from the doorway. “She’s all A’s in school. Last year, she even got—”

“Shut up, Helene,” Kenny said.

“Why you talk to her like that?” Yefim said. “She’s your lady. You should show more respect.” He turned to Helene. “You tell me—what did Amanda get? She get some award?”

“Yeah,” Helene said, drawing the word out into three syllables. “She got gold ribbons in trig, English, and computer science.”

Yefim slapped Kenny’s knee with the back of his hand. “She got gold ribbons, man. What you get?”

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