“It was too exposed.”
“Like Hell it was! It was perfect.”
“It was too exposed.”
“You said that already. Come on. Let’s celebrate. Dai pivo, pozhalsta!”
“Gregor, it was…”
“Too exposed. Fine, already. That’s the beauty of it, see? This is why you ain’t never been the brains of the operation. Who the hell, in a crowd full of scattering people, would have noticed a couple of guys just standing around checking the time? I tell, you it was the perfect plan. When the boss finds out…”
“What did you just say?” the third man spoke up.
“Oh, you mean about the distraction? See, it’s a simple concept really, if you can get it. Not all of us are blessed with superior…”
“Shut up. The boss didn’t know about this?”
“No, of course not, you idiot! Plausible deniability, see? That look on his face when the police ask him what happened–genuine surprise. You can’t put a price on that kind of defense! I like to call it preventative measures.”
“I like to call it stupid.”
“What’s with you two? No faith in old Gregor Ivanovich, scourge of 7 counties and thief of ladies’ underpants? Hah! You need to relax. Drink! Make merry! the deed is done!”
He checked his watch.
“Excuse me, ladies. Have you heard any news?”
The pair of nuns shook their heads and passed in silence not making eye contact.
“I don’t understand. News should have spread by now. Everyone should have heard. Look. There. In the bar. Nothing on the televisor. Everyone should know by now…”
“That you killed the boss’ daughter?”
“That the boss’ daughter-in-law died in a tragic car accident, Timur. We all saw it, did we not?”
“Far too exposed.”
“He’ll have your head.”
“For a promotion, you mean, Timur. That little ginger brat had it coming. Besides. He gave me the nod.”
“She’s American, for Chrissake, Gregor. Did you even think about that?” Timur slammed his beer down on the table, sloshing it everywhere. “What do you think will happen when the Americanki find out that one of their own got pinched? Her cute little mug will frame every television set in the country, and Gregor, you’re an ugly sonofabitch Ukrainian. Next to her, you’re gonna look like shit.”
“Haha! See? Finally a little smile out of the man! Don’t worry, my friend. There is nothing to be afraid of!”
“Or maybe it wasn’t exposed enough…”
Gregor knocked Yegor on the back of the head. They sat silently for a little while sipping on their beers.
“Waiter! What’s the news, eh?”
“Timur! You have not touched your beer! We are celebrating here!”
“It’s distracting when I’m trying to drink and you can’t stop counting your buttons and undoing and re-doing your cuff links like that.”
“Hm? Oh. Well, I was just thinking, what if she gets extradited?”
“How are they going to extradite a dead girl?”
“Not her, idiot. Carol-Annya. The Americans…they don’t like to let you go, you know? And besides…No…maybe…yes. Maybe it’s for the best, see? How often does he get accused of going soft for the little ginger heiress? Get her out of the way and maybe…”
“Enough of this talk, Gregor!” Timur gave an uneasy laugh. “You’ll give yourself an ulcer. You weren’t made to think this much, it’s bad for the heart. Drink! Do Dnye!”
“Ahh haha! You sly devil, you’re right! The details will take care of themselves. They always do. To the days!
“Yegor, what are you muttering on about over there?”
“No. Nope. No. I’ve got it! Wait? Yes! No…hmm…”
“Well? Spit it out.”
“Don’t hit me again, sir. I’ve got it this time!”
“I won’t hit you, Yegor, if you just spit it the hell out.”
“Ok. So. Just…exposed…enough!”
He shrunk back anticipating another slap.
“Exposed enough for what?”
They all sat silently watching the cars pile up in the wake of the wreck. By now a barricade would have gone up, traffic directed away, streams of angry commuters forced down already crowded streets, gooseneckers stopping and staring before being shoved unceremoniously into marshootkas by uninterested pedestrians. Gregor pushed his chair away from the table, paused in indecision, stood, his hands gripping the chair back like a vice.
“Da, two, three cars,” he said, trying to hurry away.
“Konyechno. Any fatalities?”
“A woman. Younger.”
“How terrible! I wonder, I’m sorry to press for answers, but do you know what she looked like?”
“Blondinka, I think.”
“Blonde? Are you sure?
“Thank you, sir.”
“Ne za shto.”
A vice gripped his shoulder, and breath rank with stale vodka and warm bread caressed his cheek.
“You tried to kill my family, monsieur,” it whispered. “This, I think, you should not have done. But see now how lucky I make you.”
A thick finger wrapped in a ruby-studded golden signet ring reached from behind Gregor’s left ear and pointed across the way. Three flaming heads tilted and disappeared into a black town car.
“Shhh…. Carol Anne is grateful for my protection from a certain rogue element within my organization. So grateful, in fact, that she is willing to open up about certain…other…professional affairs of which she has been a party to. I won’t bore you with the details of my family life, of course.”
“I know. I know. You are sorry, right? Gregor Ivanovich. My right hand. Do you remember Prague?”
“Wait. No! No, you can’t!”
“Oh, but I think you’ll find that I can.”
“You set me up for this. I didn’t do anything!”
“The lady would see you suffer, and we must suffer a lady her due, wouldn’t you agree? Timur! Show this dog how we treat our enemies!”
He snapped his fingers. Gregor had never noticed how the gold sparkled in the glint of a Spring afternoon. Like the flickering of a furnace, only not as warm.
The waiter walked outside. Three half-drunk mugs sat at the table warming in the sun.
“Animals,” he said. “Raised in the country! No respect!” He muttered to himself, mopping up the spilt beer. “Not even a kopick, the dogs!”
He searched under the chairs and around the table in case something had blown away. Not a single glittering of loose change.
“I must stop having outdoor seating. Too exposed. Everyone thinks they can get away with murder just because no one is watching out here. And what a goddam waste!” He said, sloshing the half-full mugs over into one hand. He gave the table one last wipe down and hurried back inside, flipping a closed sign as he went.