She met my eyes and hers were bright and warm. “My bad.”


“What did you call me?” Violeta looked back at her husband. “Did you hear her?”

Kirill yawned into his fist.

Violeta stepped in close to Amanda and stared at her with those ravaged eyes of hers.

“Cut it off,” Violeta said.

“What?” Yefim said.

“Cut it off her.”

“You cannot cut those cuffs,” Yefim said. “Burn them off, maybe.”

Kirill lit a new cigarette with the butt of an old one, squinting around the smoke. “Then burn them off.”

“We’ll end up burning the girl.”

Violeta said, “Not if you cut off her hands.”

Yefim said, “Mrs. Borzakov?”

Violeta kept her eyes on Amanda, their faces so close their noses almost touched. “We’ll shoot her first. Then we cut off her hands. Then we find a way to take the handcuffs off the bambina.” She looked back at her husband. “Yes?”

Kirill was looking up at the TV. “What?”

“Escuche! Escuche!” Violeta slapped her own chest. “I’m here, Kirill.” She slapped her chest again, harder. “I exist.” One more slap. “I live in your life.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “What now?”

“We shoot the girl, cut off her hands.”

“Okay, darling.” Kirill waved toward the other end of the trailer. “Do it in the back bedroom.”

Yefim reached for Amanda, who didn’t so much as flinch.

“Let me,” Violeta said.

Yefim’s eyebrows shot up. “What?”

“I want to do it,” Violeta said, her eyes never leaving Amanda’s face. “She would prefer a woman do it. I know her.”

“Let her do it,” Kirill said to Yefim and waved a tired hand.

Through the entire conversation about her own murder, Amanda didn’t make a sound. She didn’t shake, she didn’t blanch. She stared at the two of them, unblinking.

Helene said, “What? Wait a minute. What’s going on here?”

Helene’s bag was still at her feet. They’d never checked her for a weapon, and my .45 was in there. It would take me four steps to reach the bag. Then I’d have to reach in, thumb off the safety, and point it at someone. I figured that even in the most optimistic scenario, Pavel and Yefim would empty a good two dozen rounds into me before I cleared the gun from the bag.

I stayed where I was.

“What’s going on?” Helene said again, but no one listened to her.

Violeta kissed Amanda’s cheek and ran her hand over Claire’s head.

“Mrs. Borzakov?” Yefim said. “You ever fire this gun before?”

She went over to Yefim. “What gun?”

“This one,” he said. “It’s a forty-caliber automatic.”

“I like revolvers.”

“I don’t have a revolver right now.”

“Okay.” She sighed and brushed her hair back off her shoulders. “Show me this gun.”

Yefim put the gun in Violeta’s hands and showed her where the safety was. “It pulls a bit to the left,” he said. “In this space? It will be loud.”

Helene said to Kenny, “You promised no one would get hurt.”

Kenny said to Kirill, “Yeah, Mr. Borzakov. We had, like, a deal.”

“No deal with you.” Kirill waved his hand. “Pavel.”

Pavel pointed a Makarov pistol at Helene and Kenny. “Take them in back, too, Kirill?”

“Yes,” Kirill said. “What did you do with the other girl?”

Pavel gestured at the baby. “Baby’s mother?”

“Yeah.”

“She no bother, boss. She’s in the living room. Spartak take care of her, soon as I tell him.”

“Good, good.”

Yefim finished showing Violeta how to use the gun. “You got it now?”

“I got it.”

“Are you sure, Mrs. Borzakov?”

She let go of the gun. “I’m sure, I’m sure. You think I’m stupid, Yefim?”

“Tiny bit, yes.” Yefim tilted the muzzle up and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered Violeta’s head in the soft skin under the palate. It exited the top of her head and followed a starburst of blood and bone into the ceiling. Her newsboy hat disappeared behind the couch. Her knees buckled left, then right, and she fell on the sectional and slid from there to the floor.

Kirill started to get off the couch, but Yefim shot him in the stomach. Kirill let loose a sound I’d once heard a dog make when it was hit by a car.

Spartak came through the curtain with a revolver extended and Pavel shot him in the temple as Spartak was in mid-stride. Spartak took a half-step with his brains dripping pink and red down the mirrored wall, and then he fell face-forward on the floor by my foot, his mouth open and huffing.

After a few seconds, no more huffing.

Pavel swung his arm and pointed at Kenny’s chest.

“Wait,” Kenny said to Pavel. “Hold on.”

Pavel looked over at Yefim. Yefim flicked his eyes to Amanda. After a second or two, he looked back at Pavel and blinked once.

Pavel fired a round into Kenny’s chest and Kenny jerked in place like he’d been hit with a cattle prod.

Helene screamed.

Tadeo said, “No, no, no, no, no,” his eyes clenched.

Kenny raised an arm and looked around, his eyes wild and so terribly afraid. Pavel took one step forward and fired another round into Kenny’s forehead and Kenny stopped moving.

Helene curled into a fetal position on the sectional and screamed herself into silence, her mouth open and soaking wet, the spittle dripping off her chin, but no sound coming out as she looked at Kenny lying dead as dead got on the carpet beside Spartak. Pavel trained his gun on her but didn’t pull the trigger. Tadeo dropped off the couch and landed on his knees and started praying.

Kirill pawed the couch like he was trying to find the remote in the dark. He grunted, over and over, the blood slopping all over his white sweater and tan pants. He opened his mouth and gulped at the air, his eyes on the ceiling as Yefim put one knee on the couch beside him and pressed the muzzle of his Springfield XD against Kirill’s heart.

“I loved you like a father, but you go become a fucking embarrassment, man. Too much shit up your nose, I think. Too much vodka, eh?”

Kirill said, “Who will work with you if you kill your own boss? Who will trust you?”

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