Amanda, the baby, and Tadeo got out the other side and we all stood by a long double-wide trailer along the riverbank. It was empty back here. No cars in front of the few nearby trailers, everyone probably at work or last-minute Christmas shopping.

The door of the trailer opened and Yefim stood there, smiling while he chewed some food, a sub sandwich in one hand, a Springfield XD .40 cal in his waistband.

“Welcome, my friends. Come, come.” He waved us toward him and we all filed in.

When Amanda passed him, he raised an eyebrow at the cuffs. “Not bad.” Once we were inside, he closed the door behind us, and said to me, “How you doing, hump?”

“I’m all right. You?”

“Good, good.”

The inside of the trailer was a lot bigger than I’d imagined. On the back wall, in the center, was a sixty-inch TV screen. Two guys stood in front of it playing Wii Tennis, swinging their arms back and forth and jumping in place while their midget avatars ran back and forth across the screen. To the right of the TV was a sky-blue leather couch, two matching armchairs, and a glass coffee table. Past that, a thick black curtain was strung across the width of the room. On the sky-blue couch, Sophie sat with her mouth covered with electrical tape and her hands bound with a bungee cord. She glanced at all of us, but her eyes lit up when they fell on Amanda.

Amanda smiled back at her.

To our left was a kitchenette, and beyond that a small bathroom and a large bedroom. Cardboard boxes took up nearly every inch of free space—filling the shelves, stacked on the floors, crammed in the spaces above the kitchen cupboards. I could see them stacked in the bedroom and assumed they filled the space behind the black curtain—DVD players, Blu-Ray players, Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox players, Bose home theater systems, iPods, iPads, Kindles, and Garmin GPS systems.

We stood in the entranceway and watched the two men play virtual tennis for a moment with Sophie staring at us. She looked much better than she had the other day, like maybe they’d kept her meth-free and her body was starting to respond.

Yefim cocked his head at me. “Why you tied up, man?”

“Your friend Kenny.”

“He’s not my friend, man. Turn around.”

Kenny seemed hurt by the comment. He gave Helene a look like, You believe this shit?

I gave Yefim my back and he cut the rope off my wrists, eating his sub the whole time, breathing through nostrils thick with hair.

“You look well, my friend. Healthy.”

“Thank you. You too.”

He slapped his heavy gut with his gun hand. “Ha ha. You a funny hump.” His voice suddenly boomed. “Pavel!”

Pavel turned in the middle of his backhand and looked back at Yefim as his avatar spun and then fell on the court and the tennis ball bounced past him.

“You on the clock. Take their weapons.”

Pavel sighed and tossed his remote onto a chair. His companion did the same. His companion was skinny as death, sunken cheeks and shaved head, Russian words tattooed on his neck. He wore a wife-beater that clung to his emaciated chest and black-and-yellow-striped sweatpants.

“Spartak,” Amanda whispered to me.

Spartak took Tadeo’s shotgun and Pavel took Kenny’s.

“Other guns,” Pavel said, snapping his fingers, his voice and gaze as flat as a dime. “Hurry.”

Kenny handed over a Taurus .38 and Tadeo forked over a FNP-9. Pavel put the two shotguns and two handguns in a black canvas bag on the floor.

Yefim finished his sandwich and wiped his hands with a napkin. He burped and we all got a nice blast of peppers and vinegar and what I think was ham.

“I got to get to the gym, Pavel.”

Pavel looked up from the bag as he zipped it closed. “You look fine, man.”

“I feel I lack discipline.”

Pavel took the bag over to the kitchen and placed it on the small countertop beside the stove. “You look fine, Yefim. All the ladies say so.”

Yefim smiled broadly at that, his eyebrows raised as he mock-primped his hair. “I’m George Clooney, eh? Ha ha.”

“You George Clooney with big Russian cock.”

“That’s the best George Clooney to be!” Yefim shouted, and he and Pavel and Spartak all roared with laughter.

The rest of us stood around looking at one another.

When Yefim stopped laughing, he wiped at his eyes and sighed and then clapped his hands together. “Let’s go see Kirill. Spartak, you stay with Sophie.”

Spartak nodded and pulled back the black curtain on another living room. This one was bigger than the one we were leaving, fifteen-by-twenty was my guess, and the walls were all mirrored. A long purple sectional formed a U. The sectional must have been custom-built, because its sides ran the length of the room. The center of the room was bare. Above our heads, and reflected in the mirrors, was a TV, this one playing a Mexican telenovela. Above the sectional were shelves, dozens of them, and all those shelves were filled with more Blu-Ray players and iPods and Kindles and laptops.

A thin man with a huge head sat beside a dark-haired woman in the center of the sectional. The woman had a kind of stricken madness in her face that drew you to her in helpless, morbid fascination. Violeta Concheza Borzakov had been beautiful once, but something had eaten away at her, and she was only thirty or thirty-two, tops. Her sunset skin was lightly dimpled all over, like the surface of a pond at the beginning of a light rain, and her hair was the blackest black I’d ever seen. She had eyes so dark they almost matched her hair, and something resided in them that was both frightened and frightening; a butchered soul lived back there, abandoned and agitated. She wore a charcoal newsboy cap, a black silk crewneck under a gray silk wrap, black leggings, and knee-high black boots. She watched us come like we were cuts at a steakhouse being wheeled to her on a cart.

Kirill Borzakov, meanwhile, wore a white silk sweatshirt under a white cashmere sportcoat, tan cargo pants, and white tennis shoes. His silver hair was cut tight to his huge skull and the pockets under his eyes came in layers of three. He smoked a cigarette with the kind of loud, liquid smacks that made you never want to smoke a cigarette, and flicked the ash in the vicinity of an overflowing ashtray by his right hand. Beside the ashtray was an open compact mirror that sported several small bumps of cocaine. His gaze was impersonal. It had been at least three decades since empathy had crawled in there and died. I got the feeling that if my chest burst open and Lenin himself stepped out of it, Kirill would continue smoking his cigarette and glancing up at the Mexican soap opera.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com