Yefim stood and dropped his cigarette on the rug and ground it out with the toe of his work boot. He lifted the table off the floor and righted it. He and Pavel looked at each other for a solid minute, neither of them blinking, just breathing through their noses.


“You have two days,” Yefim said to Kenny. “After that, you were your mother’s dream, guy. You understand?”

Kenny said, “Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.”

Yefim nodded. He turned and held out his hand to me and I shook it. He looked in my eyes. His were a liquid sapphire and reminded me of a candle flame slipping under the surface of melting wax. “What’s your name, my friend?”

“Patrick.”

“Patrick”—he placed a hand to his chest—”I am Yefim Molkevski. This is Pavel Reshnev. Do you know who Kirill is?”

I wished I didn’t.

“I assume you mean Kirill Borzakov.”

He nodded. “Very good, my friend. And who is Kirill Borzakov?”

“He’s a businessman from Chechnya.”

Another nod. “A businessman, yes. Very good. Though he’s not from Chechnya. You’re a Slavic businessman in this country, everybody thinks you Chechen or”—he spit on the carpet—”Georgian. But Kirill, like me and Pavel, is Mordovian. We take the girl.”

“What?” I said.

Pavel crossed the dining room and grabbed Sophie off the wall. She didn’t scream, but she wept a fair amount, shaking hands held up by her ears like she was trying to ward off wasps. Pavel’s free hand remained in the pocket of his car coat.

Yefim snapped his fingers and extended his palm in my direction. “Give to me.”

” ’Scuse me?”

All the light drained from his eyes. “Patrick. Dude. You so smart up to now. Stay smart, guy.” He wiggled his fingers. “Come. Give me the gun in your left pocket.”

Sophie said, “Let me go,” but there was no heat in it, only resignation and more tears.

Pavel was turned all the way toward me, hand in his pocket, awaiting instruction. If Yefim sneezed, Pavel would put a bullet in my brain before anyone could say, “Gesundheit.”

Yefim wiggled his fingers again.

Holding the grip by two fingers, I removed the handgun from my jacket pocket and handed it to Yefim. He placed it in his coat pocket and gave me a small bow. “Thank you, dude.” He turned to Kenny. “We take her. Maybe we have her make us another one. Maybe we test Pavel’s new gun on her, yes? Shoot her many times.”

Sophie shrieked through her tears and it came out strangled and wet. Pavel hugged her tighter to him but seemed otherwise unconcerned.

“Either way,” Yefim said to Kenny and Helene, “she is ours now. She is not yours ever again. You find the other girl. You find Kirill’s property. You return it to us by Friday. Do not screw the poop on this one, piece of shit.”

He snapped his fingers and Pavel dragged Sophie past me and past Helene and over to the sliding glass doors.

Yefim gave my shoulder a fist chuck. “Be well, my good friend.” On his way out of the dining room, he grasped Helene’s face in his hands and gave her another hard kiss on the forehead and another push backward. This time she fell on her ass.

His back to us, he held up a finger. “Don’t make a asshole of me, Kenny. Or I make a big asshole of you.”

And then they were gone. Within a few seconds, a truck engine came to life and I got to the kitchen window in time to see a Dodge Ram bump out into the untilled mounds behind the house.

“Do you have another gun?” I said.

“What?”

I looked at Kenny. “Another gun.”

“No, man. Why?”

He was lying, of course, but I didn’t have time to argue. “You’re some kind of douche, Kenny.”

He shrugged and lit a cigarette and then yelled, “Hey,” when I swiped his car keys off the granite countertop in the kitchen and ran out the front door.

A yellow Hummer sat in the circular drive. The poster child for How Detroit Got It Wrong. An utterly useless behemoth that got such piss-poor mileage the Sultan of Brunei might be embarrassed to drive it. And we were shocked when GM came asking for a bailout.

I had the Dodge Ram in sight for half a minute as I climbed into the Hummer. It bounced across the field, up one furrow, down another, Pavel’s blond hair distinct behind the wheel. When they bounced out of the field, they went east toward the entrance gate, and I lost sight of them, but I figured I had at least a fifty percent shot of them heading for Route 1. When I barreled out of Sherwood Forest Drive and back up Robin Hood Boulevard, I saw their tire tracks had turned right out of the entrance toward Route 1. I goosed the gas as much as I could, but I didn’t want to overdo it and ride up their ass.

I almost did anyway. I came over a rise on the country road I’d been zipping along, and there they were at the bottom, sitting at a red light in front of a combination grocery store/post office. I tried to bring my speed down as casually as possible, while keeping my head down like I was consulting a map on my seat, but trying to look inconspicuous in a yellow Hummer is like trying to look inconspicuous walking naked into a church. When I looked up again, the light had turned green and they punched the gas and took off at a good speed, though not tires a-screaming.

In another mile, they reached Route 1 and headed north. I gave it thirty seconds and pulled on. Traffic wasn’t thick, but it wasn’t thin, either, and I easily dropped back several car lengths and over two lanes. When you’re trying to stay undercover in a yellow Hummer, every little bit helps.

Only a suicide takes on Russian guns. And I liked life. A lot. So I had no intention of doing anything but keeping a soft tail on them until I saw where they took Sophie. Soon as I had an address, I’d make a 911 call and be done with this.

And that’s what I told my wife.

“Get off their tail,” she said. “Now.”

“I’m not on their tail. I’m five cars back, two lanes over. And you know how good I am on a tail.”

“I do. But they could be better. And you’re fucking driving a yellow fucking Hummer. Just get their license plate, call it in, and drive away.”

“You think they’re driving a car registered with the RMV? Come on.”

“You come on,” she said. “These guys are a whole different level of dangerous. Bubba thinks the Russian mob is too crazy to deal with.”

“As do I,” I said. “I’m just going to observe and report. They kidnapped a teenage girl, Ange.”

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