Anastasia Alexandrov stood in her living room with her cell phone in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other. She stared at the glowing screen before hurling it with anger, smashing the phone against the wall, the face shattering. She lit her cigarette with a silver zippo, engraved with to world “Vor”. It had been a gift from Nikolai, when he first started the Shadow Brotherhood and wanted her with him. Her hand trembled slightly as she flicked the wheel., the flame glinting off her red polished nails. Her brother, locked away in federal prison as now dead. Shanked ignominiously in the cafeteria, bleeding to death face first in a greasy meatloaf. The message had been sent, the Shadow Brotherhood would be no more.
She sucked in the first puff and let out the smoke in a shuddering sigh. It was because of her that they ordered this. No Bratva would be run by a woman, not even one just holding the male leader’s place while he was locked up. Nikolai should have known better but refused to trust anyone but his sister after being betrayed by a close friend. Stasia should have turned it down, passed it to Ivan or someone she trusted but the truth was that she wanted the power and her loyalty to her older brother made it impossible for her to refuse him anything. Besides, no one could be trusted anymore. There was no honor among these thieves without her brother there to protect her.
She walked to her freezer, her heeled boots clicking on the stone tile, and took out a bottle of Russian Standard vodka and grabbed a small glass tumbler. She poured half a glass and held it up, silently toasting Nikolai and then knocked it back. Stasia set down the glass and finished her cigarette, snuffing the butt out in a crystal ashtray. She leaned against the counter, fighting back tears that would smear her eyeliner when she heard a sudden sharp knock at the door.
Stasia reached for the Gsh-18 semi automatic pistol that lay on the counter and tucked it in her waistband, pulling out her blouse to cover it. She could feel the familiar and comforting press of the knife she kept on her person. She walked to the door and stood to the side, against the wall.
“Who is it?” she asked in her stern, throaty voice.
“Stasia, it’s us. Ivan and Vlad, open up,” the familiar rumble of Ivan’s voice should have made her relieved but she was on edge. If her brother was dead she must be next and it was not unusual for a council to order former friends and gang members to kill each other.
She put her hand on the gun, her finger curling near the trigger. It was fully loaded and had a round chambered. “Come in slowly, boys.”
Stasia unlocked the door and stood ready. The men entered, they did not carry weapons, at least not openly. Ivan’s tall frame filled the doorway and he looked at her, his eyes bloodshot. Vlad followed him, his eyes cool and blank as he went to sit down on his favorite chair.
Ivan cleared his throat, his deep voice subdued. “We heard about Niko.”
She looked at him, her face unchanging. “I have as well. Something I should have expected but hoped would not happen. So what now?”
Ivan shrugged, glancing at Vlad who was staring at the television with the sound off. The smaller man stood up finally, his face stone but his wiry body seemed to twitch with anticipation. Her blood ran cold, she had seen him like this before.
Without hesitating she grabbed for the gun at her waist, firing at Ivan who stood closest to her, hitting him twice in the chest at point blank range. He grunted and sagged, reaching for his gun but his strength was gone.
She turned quickly to fire at Vlad but he was faster, anticipating her being armed and he ducked out of the way and fired at her with his own gun, a silenced machine pistol. She dropped and crawled, slipping through Ivan’s blood to the other side of the counter. She could hear Vlad chuckling and he called out to her.
“Little bitch, do you want to live a bit longer? Come play my game,” he was crouched behind the sofa, moving stealthily towards the kitchen, trying to keep out of her sight. “I’ve wanted a piece of you for a long time. Your brother isn’t here anymore to protect your fine ass.”
Stasia’s anger burned, she had trusted Vlad because Nikolai trusted him but she had never liked the sadistic man. He took pleasure in his executions, prolonging the suffering instead of treating it like a job. Now he was here for her death and would extract a high price from her before it was all over. She slowly reached up, her heart pounding and fired a shot in the direction she thought he might be.
Vlad laughed and fired a burst of muffled shots casually over the counter. “Oh, Stasia. I had expected better from you. But then again, you’re nothing but a fucking woman. Nikolai was stupid to leave you in charge, he deserved his death. And you, you will die too but not until I’ve had my fun.”
Stasia felt panic rise and she fought it down, she calculated her chances of making it to the door without a bullet in the back of her head and it was not good. She had seen Vladimir's work before on victims and she felt sick with fear. Survival was slim but she had to try. Vlad’s weakness was his love of torture, to see the terror of his victims fed his ego. He also assumed women were not as smart or lethal as he was.
He had her pinned between the island counter and the stove, she had no escape but past him and out the front door. To get past him was to kill him and to do that meant to expose herself. She cursed to herself and took a deep breath, even if she died of a gunshot it was better than being raped and tortured at his hands. Gathering her courage she prepared to rise up but he fired another burst just above where her head would have been had she risen. She grit her teeth, seething with rage at the traitorous bastard, he had her and they both knew it.
"Come to Daddy, de'vatchka," he chuckled, "I promise not to hurt you too bad before it's all over."
"You're a terrible liar, Vlad," she called out, trying to located where he was.
He laughed and when he did she darted around the side of the counter and fired her last three shots. One hit grazed his thigh and two went wide. Vlad cursed and shot back, a long burst from his machine pistol and Stasia ducked out of the way of the bullets she could feel snapping right near her head. Her gun fell from her hand and she rolled back behind the counter, she was now out of ammo. She let go and reached for her knife, holding it tightly, waiting for the inevitable.