Shea O’Brien was tired of listening to Kirill Sholokoff ramble about his prowess, all the girls he’s had and all the ones that still want to get with him. Kirill smiled that gappy grin floating on gray stubble beneath his tall, charcoal hair, acting as if he had magical powers. The guy was a major-league crime boss. Yeah, he got pussy. What’s the shock?
Kirill drifted into Russian with Anatoly – stocky, balding, brown goatee – and Vlad – slim and blonde – on either side of him in the booth. Shea sat in a wooden chair on the opposite side of the table pretending he didn’t understand, but the Bureau had trained him for deep cover, making certain he was fluent in Russian. The trick was not to let on to Kirill and his goons that he knew their language, so Shea had made an art of achieving a disinterested affect, even though his ears were constantly pricked.
But in this conversation, every other word was a female body part, so Shea drifted away in his mind. All he wanted was Valdez or, more precisely, Kirill admitting to killing Valdez, an admission caught on the tiny recorder attached to his key chain. If he could get that, then it was bye-bye undercover work and hello witness protection with Patty. New names and a new start. He wanted South Beach. He’d settle for Lauderdale.
“Shea, my friend,” Kirill said, “You have lost interest in our banter.”
“I can’t follow that gibberish,” Shea said.
The booth erupted with laughter. Kirill looked at his henchmen, “You hear how he talks to me? Like he’s part of our circle or something?”
More laughter as Kirill returned to his veal and pointed his knife at him. “Soon, my friend,” Kirill said. “Very soon.”
Shea had been in deep cover for two years, that’s twenty-four months away from Patty, except for the occasional arranged bump-n-run at the mall or bus station or some restaurant. He’d text Patty telling her to show up at one of these places when he had free time, usually in the afternoon. They’d do it in a dressing room or public toilet, and, afterwards, lock in a minutes-long embrace before parting. It was always quick because Kirill was fucking paranoid and Shea needed to account for every second.
Shea watched the three thugs boast and laugh and attack their Italian. It was a red sauce joint, but Kirill owned it, taking it as treasure after he cleared the mob out of the lower West Side. Shea thought about all he had done to get close to Kirill, how he had endangered himself and hurt others. There were the countless dealers who worked for Kirill that Shea threatened and occasionally kneecapped.
There was Edgar the Puerto Rican. He was a small time operator moving in on Kirill’s turf so Kirill told Shea to “take care of it”. As a member of law enforcement, Shea did his best to avoid doing anyone serious harm, but he didn’t like Edgar so he knifed him in the throat and put him in the drink.
There was that crackhead bitch on the East Side who owed Kirill money, so Kirill told Shea to “have a chat” with her. Shea hooked her tits to a live wire before pulling out two of her teeth. She paid. He delivered the money to Kirill and thought about Patty.
And there was LuAnn, Kirill’s Filipino piece-of-ass who was set up in an apartment and did nothing but online shop and play video games. She was a Playstation wiz. As a gift to Shea for all his hard work, Kirill let him fuck her. Of course, Shea didn’t refuse. Little did Shea know that he would have to do her in front of Kirill. So there’s Luann, all four foot nine of her, reverse cowgirl on Shea while Kirill sat in an easy chair barking instructions. When they were finished, Kirill cheered and slapped Shea twice on his bare ass. When Kirill invited Anatoly in for a turn, Shea faked fatigue and left rather than have to watch the grunting Georgian work over Kirill’s concubine.
Shea snapped from his frustrated trance when he heard Kirill’s scratchy voice.
“Look at this one,” Kirill said. “Not even paying attention to me. Can you believe it, friends?”
Anatoly and Vlad mocked Shea.
“What? Nothing to say, my friend? Kirill said. “Silent Shea.”
More laughter. Shea bit his lip and went for broke.
“I want to know about Valdez,” he said.
All three men locked onto Shea. Vlad shrugged and mopped his plate with his roll. Anatoly’s jaw hardened and Shea could see the rage in his cheeks. Kirill was ice.
“I’m sorry,” Kirill said. “Did you just mention a piece of shit while I was eating?”
“Yeah, I want to know what happened, Kirill. I’m part of your, whatever, circle. I could go down with you for all kinds of shit, and I think I have a right to know.”
He hardly got his words out when Anatoly’s plump finger was in his face, threatening to cut Shea’s balls off if he said another word. Vlad called off his friend with another shrug. Kirill was motionless.
“Oh, you’re part of it now,” Kirill said. “You have a right. Americans and their rights.”
Kirill’s voice darkened. Shea nodded.
“Well, let’s see about that, shall we?” Kirill said. “It’s time for you.”
Kirill worked his phone as Anatoly and Vlad waited on their boss. Kirill stayed with the tiny screen and seemed to get the text he wanted, so he ordered all three men to the club room. Shea asked what the club room was, but Anatoly told him to shut up and follow.
They walked to a narrow, metal, spiral staircase behind the cooler in the kitchen that Shea never knew existed. Each step down made his stomach clench. He knew to keep quiet. The stairs ended at a dark hall. Anatoly put Shea in front and guided him to the room at the hall’s end – bare, no furnishings, industrial, a thin mat on the floor and a hulking, nearly naked man in its center.
“This is Miroslav,” Kirill said. “He lives in the rear apartment. He’s training for his UFC debut. You’re going to fight him.”
Shea turned, “I’m not fight-“
Shea raised his arms before the barrel of Kirill’s glock.
“You’re part of us now, right Shea? In the circle? This is how you get in. An old Novgorod prison tradition. Whoever gets two pins is the winner. If you lose, you still live, with a penalty, of course. Refuse to fight and . . . “
Kirill smiled and lifted his eyebrows. Shea nodded and Anatoly told him to strip and step onto the mat. Shea got down to his boxer briefs and faced Miroslav – wide shoulders with long, sinewy arms and paws for hands. His chest was broad and smooth and his stomach was a sheet. He had deep inset black eyes with matching hair. Shea estimated he was about six-four.
Anatoly shouted “fight” in Russian and Miroslav tackled Shea to the mat. Shea felt his lungs compress under Miroslav’s weight. He squirmed onto his stomach to avoid getting pinned and felt Miroslav’s thick arm reach around his throat while pinning one of Shea’s arms behind his back. He also felt Miroslav’s genitals against his ass and swore he was lightly thrusting. Shea couldn’t prevent Miroslav from flipping him on his back and he heard Anatoly yell “pin”. Miroslav’s sweat was in Shea’s mouth and he felt Miroslav lick his ear before he got off of him.
Kirill was laughing and urging Miroslav who looked at Kirill like a flattered school boy. Shea sprang to his feet and launched at Miroslav driving his shoulder into Miroslav’s knee. The big kid folded like a lawnchair and Shea put his knees on Miroslav’s elbows and pressed with his hands on Miroslav’s shoulders. He looked at Anatoly who said “pin” without yelling.
Shea backed off to the edge of the mat and watched Miroslav rise, his lip shaking. He thought the UFC prospect was going to cry when Miroslav’s face flushed and he charged at Shea. Shea ducked behind Miroslav, but the fighter pivoted and drove his fist hard into Shea’s jaw. Shea saw the ceiling and before he realized he was on his back, Miroslav sat on his face and Anatoly screamed “pin”.
Shea felt himself lifted from the mat and placed on his knees. The cold water hit him like a wet brick. He shook the water from his pulsing jaw and saw Kirill standing in front of him holding a bucket.
“Penalty time,” Kirill said, his belt buckle inches from Shea’s face.
Kirill drilled Shea in the forehead with a stiff upper cut. Shea grabbed at his cranium and tried to back off the mat, but was caught by Miroslav and thrown forward into Kirill’s wicked jab. Shea went down, and felt himself picked up by Miroslav and knocked down by Kirill again and again.
Broken and bleeding, Shea heard Kirill issue orders to his troops like a Soviet general directing a parade of tanks. Shea was lifted from behind by Miroslav and faced shirtless, hairy, snickering Anatoly who pounded Shea’s ribs and chest before landing two hooks to his face. He heard his own nose break. Vlad was next, but seemed unwilling and bored, settling for three quick jabs. Kirill laughed and slapped everyone’s butts as Miroslav dropped Shea to the floor. For a moment, Shea felt like LuAnn.
Shea put on his pants and sat gently on the edge of the mat, nursing his ribs and straightening his nose. He caught his breath and thought about Patty when Kirill appeared sitting next to him. Kirill slapped his knee.
“You’re in, my friend,” he said.
Shea nodded through the pain fog, staying silent, holding Patty firmly in his mind. He realized that Kirill was rambling and paid no attention until he heard Valdez’s name - Valdez, the head of a West Side Mexican drug gang who had gotten too big for his own good. Valdez, who, as Kirill explained it, had been shot, cut into pieces, stuffed into suitcases and buried under the patio connected to Miroslav’s apartment.
Shea wore a disinterested affect and gingerly felt for the recorder on his key chain inside his pants pocket confirming the button was in the “on” position.
He thought about Patty, and his thoughts were light.
Bio: Malley Hayes is a writer of fiction whose work has appeared in Fear and Trembling magazine and Eschatology Journal. He's also a stage actor living in NY.