Swan Dive! Ch. 23: Ivan Was Dumb

Resting among thick limbs of a camphor tree and dressed in a tailor-made onyx tuxedo dark as the Black Sea, the man’s corpse looked like he just sat down to dinner at a swanky party. Smelling of Clive Christian Imperial Majesty, the most expensive cologne in the world at $436,000 per 16.9 oz. bottle, rigor mortis had begun to set in. Leaning against the tree with his legs straddling a fat limb, the stiff rested between hefty low hanging branches. A tufted titmouse had already started to build a nest in his hair, using a loose thread from his mulberry silk bow tie to begin a new home.

A newspaper delivery woman working three jobs to feed her three kids found the body when she tripped over a white Persian cat sleeping in a driveway and the animal ran up the tree trunk and jumped into the lap of the departed.

The press swarmed at the news.

“Russian Billionaire’s Brother Murdered!” screamed the headline in the Tampa Tribune.

Wait a minute. Ivan Popov was much too well dressed to be Ivan Popov. His hair was combed and the part was straight. He smelled of apricot parfait rather than a large intestine loaded with cabbage farts. What’s going on here?

The following morning Russian Mafia boss and billionaire oligarch real estate developer Borys Popov held a press conference in front of his under construction beach condo tower to announce he would name the high-rise luxury complex “The Ivan Arms” in memory of his late brother.

“I grieve baby brother,” Borys Popov told the predatory gaggle of local, state and even national press assembled on the white sand. “He never fulfill dream. He never get to visit Disney World Magic Kingdom.”

“Mr. Popov! Mr. Popov!” yelled a local news anchor with hair that glistened like hardened black volcanic lava. “Do you know anyone who would want to kill your brother?”

Borys frowned.

“Everyone want to kill brother,” he said.

Including Borys, who did just that.

“Why are you wearing my tuxedo?” Borys asked Ivan that fateful morning when he surprised his simpleton sibling who stood by the mirror pouring unique costly cologne on his head and rubbing it into his scalp.

“I have date,” Ivan said.

“Who would go out with you?”

“Hot Ruby from bar. I pick her up bodily, if need be, whether she want to go or not. I dress fancy for big night like big shot crime boss brother.”

Borys shook his head.

“You are delusional and disloyal,” he said. “I know about your plot to kill me.”

Panicked and desperate, Ivan ran from his decrepit bachelor pad at the Spyglass Apartments, climbed a tree down the street in a nice neighborhood and hid with his hands covering his eyes like nobody could see him if he couldn’t see them. Nobody would look for him in the boughs of a camphor tree except Borys who had a GPS tracking device sewn into every tailor-made suit he owned in case rival mobsters kidnapped him and his crew needed to know his whereabouts.

Borys was smart.

Ivan was dumb.

Another nervy reporter, a heavily made-up woman with cleavage as fathomless as her IQ, screamed one last question before Borys abruptly ended the press conference.

“Ivan Popov had a bullet in his forehead,” she said. ”And his eyes were pecked out – sockets emptied all the way into his brain. How do you explain that?”

Borys didn’t know about Ivan’s baby blues getting gouged. He just left the body limp in the tree with a silencer-induced shot right between the eyes. What kind of beast could have pecked out Ivan’s eyes? But, really, who cared? For now, all Borys had to do was pay the tipster who called to demand cash in return for letting him know what his sneaky degenerate brother and that real estate saleswoman Kim Phillips were up to.

“Top of the morning, lad,” a woman with a thick Irish brogue had said when Borys answered his phone. “Your dearly departed brother gave me your number. My name is Shannon. You owe me, borscht breath.”

Then she laughed like a leprechaun run amok on a three-day bender.

Kim Phillips called in sick to work that morning and didn’t show up at RayRay’s for happy hour. Reading and re-reading the newspaper article about the murder over and over again she tried to figure out what to do. Ivan told her to sit tight and he would make sure his brother Borys suffered a fatal accident. She’d get her million dollars and he’d get everything else. When Kim’s cellphone rang that afternoon she jumped. No number or name showed up on the glass face of the device. The man’s voice alone petrified her.

“This is Borys Popov,” he said. “You and I need to talk.”

Kim almost passed out.

“You want to buy a house?” she asked.

“I hear I’m in love with you,” he said.

“I’m confused,” she said.

“Had you not called me with that fake Irish accent to tell me about my traitor brother I could be victim in tree with eyes clawed out,” he said. “My men traced your phone number in five minutes.”

Kim struggled without success to remember calling Borys. Maybe she had brain fog from COVID. But she hadn’t caught COVID. Maybe she was finally losing her mind for good.

“I understand I’m leaving you a million dollars in my will when I die,” Borys said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kim said.

Of course she did.

“Irish brogue you used on me is sexy,” Borys said. “Make sure you talk Irish when I take you to dinner tomorrow night.”

The next night at RayRay’s, with a full restaurant of ravenous customers sucking every morsel of greasy buttered meat they could dig out of their stone crab claws and slurping down spicy conch chowder, a packed bar banging down special fruity tropical drinks and every chirpy tourist in the house having a good time, in walked Borys Popov wearing a pure cashmere tracksuit and handmade running shoes in the white, dark blue and red colors of the Russian flag.

“Holy shit,” said Dillon the parrot and pampered bar mascot.

Borys Popov roared his big, rough Cossack laugh.

Kim held onto his arm for dear life.

“Top of the morning,” she said in a slurred brogue that sounded like she just fell out of a dirty Dublin dockside pub at closing time.