The Beast of Moscow - Bethany-Kris

1.

“Putain—mighty scar, that.”

Vaslav only arched a brow at the comment from the Frenchman sitting across from him in the black SUV. He much preferred to drive himself, and often used to when he spent most of his year in Moscow, but business always called for a driver. Not to mention, the privacy afforded by the blacked-out windows of the Mercedes limo.

“A knife?” the man asked. “Looks like a knife scar to me.”

A sigh answered that question.

He could have had this quick meeting without the conversation but considering his driver had not yet found a suitable place to park, Monsieur Pierre Aubert proved himself to be one of those people. The type that needed to fill the silence with anything just because.

Vaslav hated those kinds of people.

At the same time, he peered out the darkly tinted windows, the SUV pulled off the road and rocked roughly as the limo slipped down a dirt path that ended at the edge of the Moscow Canal. He rarely came this close to Dubna during the week if he was doing business. Otherwise, he preferred to hide away behind the walls of his private estate as much as his duty would allow.

“Are we—”

“A razor blade, no?” Vaslav said, drawing the attention of the Frenchman to him instead of the way the limo parked alongside the canal. Already midday, one couldn’t tell considering how dimly lit the rear of the limo remained. Just the way he liked it. “My bunkmate in detention thought I’d look better with a wider smile.”

At that, Vaslav grinned.

He knew what it did to his face, and so did Pierre considering the color drained from the man’s cheeks instantly. Stretching out the grisly scar on the right side of his mouth with a smile showed that despite the injury happening when he was sixteen in a juvenile colony meant to house him until he moved into an adult prison at eighteen—well, here he was thirty years later, and it was still as puckered, red, and angry as it had ever been. Jagged straight through his thick, neatly trimmed beard.

The fix had been shoddy. Two subsequent fights ripped the scar open again. Thankfully, he’d been able to fight off a later attempt by the leader of a rival gang to match up the uninjured side after a disagreement over territory lines in the prison yard.

Not that it mattered. Six months after the yard incident, shortly before his twenty-eighth birthday, he’d been freed.

Sort of.

If a man wanted to call his kind of life freedom.

At least, the scar didn’t hurt anymore. One of the only things that no longer caused Vaslav pain. Everything else was still up in the air.

“What do you think, comrade? I was told it gives me a little ... something. Da?”

The Frenchman was quick to clear his throat and put on a friendly smile. If only it didn’t twitch at the edges. “I-I’m sorry—pardon me, Mr. Pashkov. I don’t mean to offend.”

Vaslav let out a hard breath and gestured with one heavily tattooed hand, the inked rings on his fingers and upturned spider on his hand covered decades’ worth of scars from fights, hard labor, and life. All the man across from him likely saw was the tattooed hand of a criminal, adorned with gold and glittering diamonds, cutting fast between them to signal his remaining, fleeting patience. “Curiosity killed more than just a cat—where is the coke?”

Right to the point.

He was all talked out, now.

Pierre slumped back into his seat, not bothering to hide his displeasure in the form of a scowl while he patted the pockets of his navy-blue suit blazer. As he pulled out a small, black balloon tied at the end, the man muttered, “Dix mille à cet tête de noeud—Christ. Here.”

Arching one thick, dark brow high, Vaslav took the balloon of what should be pure, prime cocaine smuggled straight from the mountains of Italy where the production and trafficking of the drug were at an all-time high thanks to a mafia-like cartel based out of Palermo.

Not that he intended to visit—he only wanted a new supplier.

“Ten thousand, yeah, that’s what you said?”

Pierre’s gaze widened, lifting to meet the man’s across from him, and he didn’t hide the fear Vaslav found staring back. Maybe he couldn’t. “I didn’t realize you speak—”

“Do you know the kinds of people I have sat down with over the decades? All kinds,” he told his counterpart, his expression never flickering from his calm, cold demeanor. “You pick up on the little things. Don’t