The air was cold in the old warehouse.
Only two men were inside the dilapidated building, one of them sporting a beard, a heavy coat and an old fedora, the other strapped naked to what resembled an old electric chair. He was held in place by the straps, even his shuddering after being exposed to a cold Russian night almost stilled.
The first man, Grigori Katorga, pulled his collar up against the slight breeze blowing through the old building as he approached the other, pushing along a small table on wheels.
"Cold night, Valentin?" he asked as he came to a halt, his eyes scanning the surgical tray filled with various tools upon the table.
"Fuck you Grigori!" Valentin spat back, though with his head strapped to the chair and the chattering of his teeth all he really managed was to dribble down his chin, "When the family hears about this they will come after you, and I will greet you in Hell!"
"Actually they won't, Valentin, you overstepped yourself by trying to kill me with that car bomb and they know it," Grigori knelt in front of his cousin and looked him dead in the eye, "Especially considering Kolya and Borya are already dead. You're dead too, you know, the only reason you’re not buried is the fact that I need to know where you’ve hidden my money. Soooo…the big question I have to ask is: Open or closed casket?"
"You don't have it in you, mu'dak," Valentin accused, "From what I hear you're not even a real Katorga, just some piece of shit that stuck to Alexei’s shoe."
Grigori started laughing at that.
"You know Valentin, you're right. I'm not a Katorga, as it turns out, I'm actually a Bellamantis-Black who was raised by the Katorga."
Standing up, he grasped Valentin’s cheeks and forced a rag into his mouth then, using one hand to hold it in place, grabbed the duct tape from his pocket and quickly taped his cousin’ s mouth shut. Turning around to the little table, Grigori surveyed the tools upon the surgical tray.
“Who knows what new kind of monster that makes me,” he muttered, shaking his head.
"So here's the deal Valentin. Whenever you feel like telling me where the money is just slap your right hand on that armrest there and I'll take the duct tape off. In the meantime..." he held up a dentist’s drill and then a scalpel, "I'm going to scalp you, then use this little drill to carve the word traitor into your skull until you decide to talk.”
Moving closer, scalpel in hand, Grigori winked.
“I'm even going to try my hand at seeing how many different languages I can write it in, though I warn you, I'm not much of a linguist so I'll be using Google translate for this. Who knows what I'll actually be writing."
Turning away from Valentin and laughing, Grigori grabbed a chair from nearby and brought it over to sit in front of his "cousin".
"You mind if we have a little chat first though, cousin? It’s hard to find people to talk to these days, and let’s just say that I have...trust issues with anyone in the psychiatric field."
Valentin was glaring at him, but Grigori ignored his look.
"To be honest I'm not sure why I even find the need to do this,” he gestured at Valentin and the chair he was strapped to, "I've noticed everyone in my family has outlets for their demons. They all feel something in them, like a pressure that builds and builds until it takes over…and then things tend to get a bit bloody. I have the Bratva as an outlet and I don't think I could live without it,” Grigori nodded to himself, “I need the thrill that inflicting my power over people gives me. I think that's why I was so happy when Baelian came along with his little plan to ‘do some good.’”
Turning the scalpel in the light, the Black-turned-Katorga considered it, “Before that I was worried about what I was becoming, you know. I always had to seek out a good drunken brawl or kneecap someone who’d crossed Alexei. I craved the violence, it was beginning to rule me. I was becoming what Grandfather wanted me to be." A slight scowl, then a sigh.
"But then I met Baelian, after Belladonna left, and he had this grand vision about uniting the old houses again and going after the ones who’d hurt them,” Grigori laughed and shook his head, “I was ecstatic about it at first, finally people I could hurt in whatever way I saw fit without having to worry about ever feeling any sort of guilt. Do you know how rare that opportunity is, Valentin?"
If Valentin made any kind of response, Grigori didn’t see or hear it, he was completely wrapped up in his own narrative now.
"But then I started to notice something. Baelian had gathered us all together, sure…then he started to hold us back! I started wondering if his heart had every truly been in the revenge.”
“Between you and I, Valentin, I think all Baelian really wanted was just to gather all of the children back together to try and find some kind of comfort and family amongst them. He seemed more concerned with keeping everyone attached to him, like a child arranges his toys around him…and I honestly don't know where I fit in that design.”
Something akin to bitterness washed over his face for the briefest moment before Grigori was shaking his head again.
“As he's so fond of reminding me, I was never at Jerald’s Fundays. I mean sure, my childhood wasn't all ice-cream and hugs either, but it wasn't anything on the scale of what they endured."
"I'm partly sure that's why he decided to have me marry Bethany, come to think of it. Keeping the two people he didn't know how to manage in one little convenient box for him to check on whenever he felt like it."
"Oh, did you hear I got married, Valentin?” Grigori’s face lit up as he spoke of Bethany, “Bethany Black. Beautiful girl! My God you should see her! Big brown eyes and this sad little smile…also my niece, strangely enough. Kind of bothered me at first, but the closer we got the less I cared about all of that…she makes me happy and I think that’s what is really important, dont you?"
Valentin was staring at him as if he’d gone mad.
"Actually, you know, I've been neglecting her a bit lately. I should fix that. Give me a minute…"
Standing, Grigori put aside the scalpel, pulled out his phone and speed-dialled his wife.
"Hey Love, it's me. I'm sorry I haven't been able to see you. After your father decided to seize my business holdings it set off a rather large shitstorm. I’ve had three attempts on my life by various cousins who thought I was going soft letting Baelian get away with it. So, let Claudia know to adjust the seating arrangements for the family wedding…” his eyes fell on Valentin, who had finally begun to look a little…afraid, “The Groom’s side is significantly smaller than it was."
Valentin made a sound of protest and Grigori smiled at him, holding up a finger and mouthing 'just a minute'.
"Also, as the cherry on top of this, the power shift has started an escalating mob war here. On the plus-side I’ve increased my holdings considerably while eliminating the competition, so still not sure whether to thank or hurt your father for what he started. Anyway, just wanted to let you know what’s been happening and I'll be back in the country within the week…if you can talk to Claudia and book me in for a visit. I love you and I'll see you soon." Hanging up the phone, he looked at Valentin.
"Damned voicemail. I swear nobody answers their phone anymore. You ever notice that? Half the population are walking around staring at their phones twenty-four-seven and nobody ever answers the damn things."
Walking back to the little table with its implements, Grigori mused over them absently.
"Actually, my wife is part of the reason you're in this mess, Valentin. When I married her, her father decided to throw a tantrum and take his inheritance from the Katorga holdings…which just happened to be my fucking businesses. Which of course went and set you off to thinking I had lost my edge for not just killing him outright…and look where that got you.”
Shaking a finger at his cousin in chastisement, Grigori frowned.
“I’m actually still not sure what to do about Baelian Black. Any ideas?"
He glanced at Valentin, who was busy straining against the straps. Grigori let out a sigh and picked up the scalpel again, looking at the struggling man.
"Well I suppose you're right, my brother can wait. That's enough about me,” advancing on Valentin, Grigori gave a cold and wide smile, “Now…let's focus on you and see how many languages I can get through before you tell me where my money is."
Written by Adam Grant.
All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016. Natalie Ristovski.