Authors: Jonas Saul
Yuri Pavel sat in his palatial home in Toronto, sipped his vodka neat, and stared at the TV as it broadcast the hell falling down upon his territory.
“I will kill them all,” he shouted at the television.
He picked up his plate of
—Russian pastry shells filled with spicy pork and topped with a dollop of sour cream—and took a large bite.
“We are live at the scene of yet another raid on the Russian Mafia’s strip club called The Mistress,” newswoman Juliet Lawrence said into the camera, a black microphone in her hand. “Inspector Carl Michaels, what can you tell us about the current raids?”
A strong man with a jutting jaw, standing in full RCMP regalia, with his hands clasped in front, moved closer to the microphone.
“After the explosion at the factory in Mississauga the other day, we have ramped up our attack on the Russian Mafia. Just as we did in Ontario and Quebec years ago against the biker clubs, we’re raiding all their known establishments and hideouts.”
“And what are you hoping to find?”
“As it stands now, Ontario is the money-laundering capital of organized crime in the entire world. We have dealt with the Italian Mafia, the Triads and the bikers for many years, but the Red Mafia are smarter and stronger. They don’t seem to care who gets hurt. We lost a few good men in that explosion in Mississauga. Our goal is to shut them down and in doing so, we’re also looking for Arkady.”
“Just Arkady, Inspector? A man with one name?”
He shook his head. “We only have the name he’s known to go by.”
The newswoman pulled the mic back to her mouth. “Why him specifically?”
“Our wiretapping, in conjunction with the FBI, has led us to believe Arkady was behind the explosion in Mississauga.”
“Can you tell us more about what happened at the warehouse in Mississauga and why there is a publication ban?”
“All I can say is that the RCMP and the FBI are working together to catch as many of these Russian
as we can and process them through the system. We will deport them, jail them, and, or, press charges that will stick. This has to stop.”
“Are there more raids scheduled to take place?”
“Yes, but where and when won’t be released.”
“Last question, Inspector. The media has talked about a Canadian man by the name of Darwin Kostas, also known as The Blade. Lately he has led his own crusade against the Mafia. Rumor has it that Kostas was in the warehouse when it was destroyed. Can verify that for us? If not, can you tell us where he might be and how he’s involved?”
“I have no comment on the whereabouts of a private citizen. Thank you.” The inspector walked away from the screen.
“There you have it. This week’s raid on two warehouses in Toronto and a shipping company in Quebec at the Port of Montreal, and now we have this strip club, The Mistress, as another Russian Mafia establishment. Behind me, the raid is coming to an end as the female dancers are being escorted out to RCMP vans. My name is Juliet Lawrence—”
Yuri turned the TV off. He wanted to throw his glass of vodka at it.
“What have you done, Arkady?” he whispered.
After refilling his glass, he buzzed the front door and asked Sergei to come up to the den. Minutes later there was a soft knock on the door.
Sergei Ivankov opened the door, slipped in and closed it behind him. Dressed in his finest suit, as always, he almost busted out of his jacket. The barrel-chested Sergei had been a prize fighter in Russia for twelve years. Yuri had visited Russia seven years ago and offered Sergei a deal he couldn’t refuse, flying him over to act as his personal security. He became known on the streets as The Scythe.
For a big man, Sergei walked lightly across the carpet and chose to stand on the far side of the couch. He crossed his arms and waited.
“Sit,” Yuri insisted.
“Sir, I throw up at the smell of pirogue. I need to stand back here.”
Yuri waved off his comment. “We have a problem.”
“I need to find out if Darwin Kostas survived the explosion at the warehouse. If he is alive, I need to have him located.”
Sergei nodded. He wasn’t much for words.
“If so,” Yuri continued, “I need to talk to him. You understand? Do whatever it takes.”
Yuri sipped his drink. That was one thing he loved about Sergei. He could explain everything he wanted without interruption. If Sergei needed more he would ask at the end.
“Also, I want you to arrange a sit-down with the Italians and the Chinese. We will have two meetings. The first is to be held at the golf course convention center. Have the address distributed through my restaurant on Queen Street. The second will be held three months from now. Let the Italians pick the spot for that one. Send word that I want Arkady there, too. Got it?”
“Yes, boss,” Sergei said.
“Good. But before the first meeting I need to know the whereabouts of Darwin Kostas. I want him brought here alive. Understood?”
Sergei adjusted his suit and made a small nod of his head.
“Good. Get back to me as soon as you have something. It is time to end all this fighting. This war can’t continue.” He looked up at Sergei as he downed the rest of the vodka. “I have a plan for Darwin that he won’t resist. Then, when the media find his body, along with Arkady’s, the raids will stop and our business can continue as usual.”
He got up and headed over to refill his glass.
“Go, Sergei. We are out of time. Set up the meeting with the Italians and Chinese and find me Darwin Kostas. He needs to die painfully and publicly. For the sake of the Italians and the Chinese.”
The emotional swamp, the absolutely desperate mental existence that had been Darwin Kostas’s sleeping state began to wake. He felt the air on his skin, the breath in his nose and the pain, mostly the pain.
The nightmare came in snippets. The warehouse, the initiation rite and the explosion. Arkady setting him up to have the Chinese angry at him and killing the hookers. Darwin jumping in the bus. The explosion, mostly the explosion came to him. The fear, hoping he would walk away to be with his wife again.
The horror came back and he wanted the release that sleep offered. If only he could go back under. Stay under.
Thoughts of Rosina brought him up.
Moaning did nothing to ease the pain. It only brought on a flurry of movement around him. The presence of people moving to and fro close to him made his head ache. He wanted to tell them to stop, but his mouth didn’t work. He willed his eyes to open, but something held them closed.
What the hell has happened to me?
“He’s trying to wake up, Doctor.” A female voice.
“Okay, that’s good.” A firm male voice. “Remove the tape from his eyes.”
The tape was torn from his right eye, then his left.
“Dim the lights,” the doctor said.
Darwin blinked. He opened his eyes to slits and waited.
“Take your time, Mr. Kostas. It’s okay.” Then, after a pause. “Nurse, remove the tube from his mouth. He may want to say something.”
Darwin closed his eyes and swam backwards to avoid the pain, the harshness of being alive. It had felt so good to be under, so light. He had dreamt of holding his wife’s hand and walking in fields of sunflowers basking in the sun.
He drifted back out and let the flow pull him down until he was gone.
Darwin opened his eyes slowly and scanned the hospital room. Night pressed against the window to his right, darkening the curtains. A single light on a table shined in the corner. Beside it sat a uniformed RCMP officer, a magazine in his hands. He hadn’t looked up yet. Darwin took the chance to examine the room.
No flowers. A desolate hospital room, ugly blue walls, medical cabinets with glass doors and supplies within. Nothing comforting. He looked down the length of his body and saw all the right parts where they were supposed to be.
The pain in his head had subsided some since he tried to wake earlier. He moved his fingers and toes without hesitation.
Good, everything still works.
He rolled his head over the pillow. The cop stared at him, the magazine on his lap.
“I’ll get the doctor,” he said.
The cop walked to the door, opened it, whispered something to someone outside and then closed the door. He retook his seat and stared at Darwin.
Darwin blinked and looked up at the ceiling tiles. Rosina wasn’t in the room with him and nothing revealed that she lingered in the cafeteria or the hallway waiting for him to wake. He could tell that she didn’t know he was here. That meant they didn’t know where she was.
He thought about Rosina and the life they had dreamed of and how it would never be possible. Darwin had too many enemies. Too many people knew his name. The Italian and Russian Mafia had been trying to kill him and now the Triads would weigh in on the bidding of who would get to kill him first.
He wished it would all go away. His luck would run out one day and he couldn’t face that day if it meant Rosina would get hurt.
The door opened and a tall man in a white lab coat entered, followed by two nurses and two men in suits.
“Good evening, Darwin,” the doctor said. Darwin recognized his voice from when he partially woke before. “How are you feeling?”
Darwin nodded with a slight dip of his head as everyone filed in.
“I’m Doctor Jameson and these are nurses, Jessica and Mary. You’ve had quite a traumatic experience. Can you talk?”
He opened his mouth and rolled his tongue around. “Water.”
“Of course. Mary?”
The older blonde nurse grabbed a glass, brought it over and lowered a straw to Darwin’s mouth. He sipped slowly as instructed by the doctor.
After the nurse pulled the straw out, the doctor asked, “Is that better? Can you talk now?”
“Good. These men behind me are with the FBI and the man in the corner is RCMP. The FBI has a few questions for you, but first I’d like to explain what happened.”
Darwin turned his head sideways and looked up at the doctor, waiting for him to continue.
“You hit your head pretty bad. I understand there was an explosion of some kind. When you got here, it was touch and go. There was swelling on your brain. I had to induce a coma to get the swelling down, which has worked. But I have to say, you’re quite the fighter.”
“How … so?” Darwin asked.
“You were in an induced coma and you tried to wake from it. Yesterday morning, you almost opened your eyes, but then we lost you again. That’s a rare event. These drugs are seriously strong.”
Darwin waited for him to go on as he wasn’t too interested in what the authorities had to say. They were probably here for a statement to explain what happened before they listed all the charges he was going to be arrested for.
The doctor stepped closer and leaned against the bed. “The swelling centered on the brain stem, near the hypothalamus and the amygdala part of the brain. Are you aware of those areas?”
“The hypothalamus is one of the busiest parts of the brain as it regulates hunger, thirst, response to pain, anger, and aggression. When you asked for a drink, that tells me it’s still working. Are you following?”
“Good. The hypothalamus also deals with breathing, blood pressure and response to emotional situations. The amygdala is an area of the brain that deals with fear conditioning. Do you know what that is?”
“Please … explain.”
“Fear conditioning is phobias, really. It deals with the development of phobias. It also deals with positive conditioning, but mostly phobias.” He leaned in closer. “Now, if you have any phobias, there may not be any change, or they may have disappeared. Your aggression may have been altered, too. The swelling has gone down, but it’s hard to tell if there was any damage to that area of your brain. I’m going to have to ask you to take it easy for a while.” He stepped away from the bed and raised his voice. “You’re going to have to stay bedridden for a few more days without too much excitement so we can monitor your brain waves and—”