Chimera (The Korsak Brothers #1)(3)

Sliding it carefully back into its sheltering box, I placed it in the bottom drawer of my computer desk. Out of sight, out of mind; not exactly, but for now it was the best compromise I could make. Leaning back in the leather swivel chair, I closed my eyes and tugged the tie from my hair and massaged soothing fingers into my scalp. I could feel the black waves brush my shoulders and felt my lips curl ruefully. I needed a haircut. One of the guys had called me malchik privlekatelnayo; pretty boy. It was a joke, of course. Despite the hair, I was anything but pretty. The scar that ran from the corner of my left eyebrow along my jaw to the point of my chin hadn’t precisely healed in a manner a plastic surgeon would’ve approved. Couple that with eyes as bleak and cold as a killing frost and I didn’t exactly make children run for their mother, but I definitely gave them second thoughts—mostly about the boogeyman and things that went bump in the night, I imagined.

I could’ve gotten my face fixed. Well, not fixed, but improved, yet I didn’t see the point. I’d learned it certainly didn’t hurt me in my current profession. Before that . . . I’d wanted to keep the scar. I wanted to be reminded . . . every time I looked in the mirror and every time I saw my reflection in the face of others.

My head continued to throb and I gave up rubbing it to go into the bathroom. Opening the medicine cabinet, I popped three Tylenol and chased them with a handful of sulfurous water from the tap. Through the wavy glass of the privacy window I could see splinters of a pounding slate blue surf and dirty white sand. I lived in a condo on one of the less-desirable stretches of the Miami shore. Even a life of crime wouldn’t pay for a beach house, not when you were on as low a rung on the ladder as I was.

Anatoly had been grudgingly impressed that I wouldn’t take his money, that I wanted to make my own way working for one of his allies. That wasn’t it, though. If I was going to take blood money, I wasn’t going to pretend it was anything but what it was. I wasn’t going to remove myself from the process and live like the prince I’d been born; a prince of crime and death, but a prince all the same—at least to my father’s peers. In the eyes of the police and the government, I was a little less royal. In the eyes of the victims, I was nothing more than a thug.

They were right.

But, hey, that was just my day job, so to speak. In the end I hadn’t been able to escape destiny. Dirty Harry was forgotten and I fell into the family business without much of a struggle. It was all secondary anyway, random noise that didn’t have a chance of interfering with my true calling of finding him . . . finding Lukas.

Bringing my brother home.

Changing into sweats, I moved into the kitchen to whip up some supper—“whipping up” being a nice euphemism for nuking leftover Chinese. As the microwave hummed, I considered picking up the phone to let Anatoly know how I felt about my birthday present. I could let him know what I thought of his giving up on his younger son. I could also beat my head against the wall; the result would be the same. It wasn’t worth the effort. Tracking him down now that he was indicted could take hours if not days, and that was if he was even answering the phone. Anatoly had numerous safe houses and refuges, and no one but he knew where they all were. I was no exception to the rule. And even if I did manage to find my father, I already had that particular conversation thoroughly memorized. My mouth flattened and I turned back to the microwave to pull out the steaming carton gaily decorated with red, green, and blue dragons.

I’d learned over the years that the majority of families of missing children never give up. They always look and they always hope . . . if not for a happy ending, at least for an answer—a resolution, peace.

Anatoly had obviously made his peace long ago. I’d never understood it. He hadn’t been the most demonstrative of fathers, but as ruthless crime lords went, he wasn’t so bad, I thought dryly. He’d been proud of Lukas and me, generous with presents if not with his time. At the age of fourteen, I wasn’t quite aware of what he did or who he was, but I was aware he wasn’t your average working Joe. And I had known he had resources that far outstripped those of the police. Why he hadn’t used them more after Lukas had first been taken and why he didn’t use them even now, I didn’t know. Damn it, I just didn’t know. Every time I brought up the subject, it ended in the same way.

I jammed the fork into soy-soaked noodles and twirled it savagely. Lukas was gone, he’d say implacably. We had to accept it and move on. Living in the past was useless and it was weak. It had no place in men like us.

He’d given up so easily, so goddamn easily. In ten years not a day had gone by that I hadn’t thought of Lukas. I had no illusions that it was the same for Anatoly. Taking the noodles to my computer, I sat down and clicked onto the Net. There were hundreds of user groups devoted to those left behind and those still searching. They offered support, a shoulder to lean on, and the words of those who’d lived through the same nightmare. Those were things I didn’t need or want. What I surfed for was information and techniques that could help me find Lukas.

These days, I mainly used the computer for e-mail, and I no longer searched alone. Money could buy anything. That wasn’t news to me, and now most of mine went to buy what Anatoly could’ve given me for free. And when the money ran out . . . well, let’s say I wasn’t a stranger to working out things in trade. I had skills. They weren’t the kind you bragged about in your alumni newsletter, but they were still valuable to certain people. Pulling up my e-mail program, I scowled. I was happy with my dick size, thanks so much. Deleting the spam, I moved on to the only entry that looked promising. It was from Saul.

Rob Thurman's Books