Evil!

From the Story Arc: The Bearer of Strashnyjj, Strashnyjj News

Previous Story in the Arc: Geraldo by Commie Cowgirl (Thursday, February 16, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Thai Me Up by Commie Cowgirl (Friday, February 24, 2006)

(posted Sunday, February 19, 2006)

“What’s that?” Commie Cowgirl pointed to the computer screen. “It’s got ya all uppity.”

“It’s an email.” Adam Stein tapped the desk with a pencil, leaning over the keyboard from a standing position. He waited for Oksana to sit at the computer, but she shied away from it like a rattler.

“I don’t cotton to that high-falutin’ higglety jiggly. What’s it say?”

“It’s a lot of legalese, but basically it says that Kristof’s lawyers want a look at the redrawn will.” He licked his lips. “I think it’s time for a rematch.”

“Rematch? You’ve tangled with these fellers before?”

Adam Stein drew himself up. He was in his realm now. “Oh, yes. Several times. Have you ever met Kurt’s brother Kristof?”

“I ain’t had the pleasure. Kurt never said much about him. He’s all that’s left of his kin, nyet?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Kristof Taylor makes me glad I’m an only child. He runs an importing company off the coast of Thailand. As distasteful as the man may be, he’s a brilliant businessman. His assets exceed Kurt’s by half, all from hard work.” He paused. “I think. Taylor Imports owns an island that he runs like a fortress. There’s enough money flowing between him and the Thai government that he can essentially make his own laws.”

“Well, that ain’t good. What’re his hounds after me for?”

“What else? Kurt’s estate.”

Rage filled Oksana’s face like a bucket under a cow’s slashed throat. “Govno! He ain’t a-gettin’ a buffalo nickel! Kurt gave it to me as a gift ‘cuz he loved me. It don’t matter that it’s a million bucks or a dirty handkerchief.” Tears grew in her eyes, catching the sunlight. “Kurt wanted me to have it.”

The transformation shocked Adam. An hour ago Oksana was taking potshots at video cameras and lurking ninjas, a one-woman army. She hadn’t seemed interested in the vast fortune she’d inherited – she just missed her man, and wanted privacy to mourn him. Now the tough façade crumbled at the hostile intrusion of Kurt’s former life. Adam put an arm around Oksana, making reassuring sounds. She wrapped her arms around him and sobbed into his suit jacket. Adam, a married man, held her and understood exactly why Kurt had fallen so hard for this colorful woman.

“Spasibo,” she said with a sniffle, disentangling herself. “You’re a good’un, pardner. It ain’t like me to blubber on like that.”

“Don’t be ashamed. You’ve suffered a terrible loss.” The bluntness of the email from Kristof’s attorneys angered him. “You deserve more time to grieve.”

Oksana took out a $20 bill from her billfold and blew her nose in it. Adam’s eyebrow rose. She shrugged, with a sad little smile. “I heard millionaires do that,” she said, tossing the soiled bill aside. “Wanted to see what it was like.”

“That’s the spirit,” he said, at a loss for anything else to say. “Think you’re ready to hear about this email?”

“Fire away,” she said, and leaned against the desk.

“In short, Kristof is contesting the will. In legalese, he calls you a golddigger and an opportunist. He demands an investigation into Kurt’s death, wants you incarcerated on murder charges, plans to file a civil suit against you…” He cleared his throat. “In other words, Kristof is coming out with guns blazing.”

She barked a laugh. “Now them are words I understand. Now, you’re the paper pusher. What can I do to fight this varmint?”

Adam took a deep breath. “Hire a new attorney.”

“Shto?”

“What?”

“Da, ‘what’? Is meaning ‘what.’ Why does everyone ask me that?”

“Because we don’t speak Russian?”

“Oh.” Her eyes glazed over then cleared again. “Now hold on, pardner. You cain’t just run from these varmints. You’re in my posse.” She hesitated. “Ain’t you?”

“I’m the executor of Kurt’s estate, Oksana. I have represented Kurt for ten years. You and I don’t have a legal relationship yet, and to be honest, I’m the wrong man to deal with the Evul Brothers.” His gaze wandered to the paintings on the wall: bulls being roped, cowboys with pistols at the ready, Indians with war axes. “Kristof’s attorneys are a nightmare. They work in a shady underworld with only one purpose: to circumvent the law. They’re the kind of lawyers that inspire shark jokes.”

“Shark jokes?”

“Yep. ‘Why didn’t the sharks eat the lawyer? Professional courtesy.’” He waited for her smirk. “I know, it sounds funny, but these two are like the supervillains of the legal profession. You need a real hotshot to take them on.” He scratched his chin. “Now, who can I recommend?”

“Nyet.”

“Huh?”

Oksana stood in front of him, her eyes burning with determination. “I ain’t lookin’ for some fancy pants lawyer to watch my back. Kurt trusted you. I trust you. You got gumption.” She poked him in the chest. “You gonna ride with me or not?”

Adam thought about his wife, her talk of starting a family, the casual way she made him coffee in the morning as if it were an investment in their future. His clients were movie stars and stock brokers. He’d gotten an ulcer the first time the Evul Brothers walked into his office, in suits creased so sharply they sliced the air, with a manner that could only be described as predatory. Every contact with them since jabbed a little pain into his gut.

“I gotcher back,” he heard himself say, as if John Wayne had just passed the bar.

“Horosho! Much obliged.” She pumped his hand. “Now, let’s pack our saddlebags for Thailand.”

“What?”

Oksana gave him a hunter’s grin. “We’re taking the fight to Kristof.”