When Becky answered Kim’s cell phone on the first ring the Russian accent on the line surprised her. The only two Russians she knew no longer existed. The world breathed easier in their absence. Rest in pieces, comrades, she thought.
“We have problem,” said the man with a tone colder than a vodka bottle in the freezer.
“Spit it out, honey,” Becky said.
“Is this Kim Phillips the fake beneficiary of Borys Popov’s will?”
“You have the wrong number,” Becky said. “Nobody by that name lives here.”
“Tell Kim Phillips we’re on way to cancel check,” the man said. “Permanently.”
Becky knew all about the phony will Borys’ late brother Ivan concocted so Kim would receive a windfall and Ivan would get the rest of his Russian mobster oligarch brother’s billion-dollar estate after Ivan killed Borys. Becky knew because Becky was Kim and Kim was Becky and like the old song says about love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other.
First Ivan called the document an insurance policy. Then he called the document a will. At no time did he call the document counterfeit – which, of course, it was.
The sham will promised Kim a two-million-dollar payday. Ivan forged Borys’ name on the bestowal and signed his own name as a witness so he could testify if need be that everything was copacetic which, of course, it was not. In another fake statement, Ivan wrote an addendum to the will swearing Borys loved Kim as a secret admirer ever since he saw her picture in a real estate brochure, wanting her to be financially sound and set for life in the event of his untimely death. Borys considered Kim his soul mate according to the bequest. Ivan forged his and Borys’ name to that narrative too.
Gullible Kim Phillips believed evil Ivan when he informed her of Borys’ wishes. Now, with both Ivan and Borys out of the way, Kim believed she truly stood to benefit. All she had to do was sit back and get rich quick, which in troubled times is always easier said than done –especially when a brutal band of Russian bruisers find themselves flailing for a new leader and falling over each other to cash in on their dead boss’ dreadful deeds.
“Like I said, lady, we have problem,” said the Russian on the telephone. “Beeg money belong to us.”
“Go suck a fish pie, Rasputin,” Becky said as she hung up.
So the mob wanted their two million in cash of which Kim had not yet taken possession. And the gangsters wanted anything else they could get their grubby paws on. Mocking the Russian Mafia caller in her own stilted Russian accent, Becky started talking to herself – which could get complicated.
“Wait till Rooskies hear about new English word I type into will,” Becky said. “Two million sounds beeg. Two hundred million sounds beeger.”
That’s just what Becky did shortly after taking total control of Kim’s mind. She squeezed the word “hundred” into the forged handwritten official record making Kim’s payout two hundred million dollars instead of a measly two million dollars.
Kim remained in a stupor, breathing softly like an infant unafraid and secure knowing her protectors would keep the big bad world at bay. Silent, really gone, absent from the chaos, Kim hibernated maybe forever. Perhaps Becky would simply stay on the job as Kim’s best bodyguard. But now Becky was starting to doubt herself. She wasn’t the best and knew it. Sometimes even guardians need help. Peace of mind is elusive even for a psychotic split personality. So who was the best?
Big brother RayRay ruled.
After mixing a White Russian with soy milk, vodka, coffee liqueur and ice in an old-fashioned glass, Becky opened the balcony door to her new Paradise Apartments home and watched the rippling water on the bay. On the dock below she saw Ruby Arenas cooling down from a run or a swim or some other body, mind and spirit exercise, a mindset that offended Becky.
Who did Ruby think she was? Everybody’s friend? All-American woman? Amazon queen? Mexican witch? Cuban hoodoo princess? All of the above? None of the above? A vision. An image. A dream of what should be in a better world? Becky feared Ruby’s power and worried the gentle college student who wielded wizardry might not let Kim sleep forever as easily as Becky had put Kim down.
That girl spells trouble, Becky thought.
Ruby Arenas has to go.
On the wall behind Becky the television news reported the continuing law enforcement investigation into the death of the missing South Florida Russian mob boss officials figured disappeared (in pieces) in the explosion that destroyed his yacht off the coast of Clearwater Beach.
The Russians were coming.
Maybe the cops too.
Maybe something worse.
For the first time in Becky’s shelf life of the mind, she felt afraid. She’d tell, that’s what she’d do. She’d tell on the Russians. Feeling like a child ready to run to mommy, Becky felt close to panic. She’d tell. Yes, she would. She’d tell RayRay. He’d know what to do. And so she did. She called RayRay and told. Becky told on the Russians.
“They threatened Kim,” she said. “They want to hurt her.”
RayRay took a long slow breath.
“Stay calm,” he said. “I’ll be over in about an hour.”
Standing before the mirror as he shaved, RayRay looked deep into the eyes of a master, not a thug or hockey enforcer, a master who once fixed a piece of the world that still and always needed fixed. Splashing on the fragrant Old Spice cologne he loved but never used anymore, the scent of another time, RayRay strode to his bedroom to dress.
Opening the closet door he slid hangars down the rod until he reached the end where his favorite special suit hung in a plastic bag. Black with white pinstripes and cuffs at the bottoms of the pants legs, the points on the double-breasted lapels looked sharp as a new stiletto, dark as death on a citrus sour sunny day. Black hand-tooled Italian loafers still fit like buttery slippers. The red and purple silk tie felt soft to his touch, the knot wide, perfectly tied and tight against his throat. A crisp white hankie protruded like a three-pronged claw from his breast pocket. Designer shades he purchased in Florence during one of his last hits helped cut the glare of what was to come.
Within minutes RayRay had slipped into that comfortable place where his mind hummed and his pulse beat steadily, a familiar feeling of confidence and purpose as he planned personal retribution, the fatal act of doing what was right even if it was wrong, of rectifying evil in the hearts and minds of bad men – bad women, too, if they chose the other side and hurt people without legitimate reason.
RayRay justified doing great harm if he erased a greater harm, a theory he learned in church as an altar boy among bad men who hurt children. A sin is not a sin if it erases a greater sin. You could kill a priest if you had good reason. The Pope himself called that the just war theory. Thou shalt not kill, my arse. God killed countless people every day – men, women and the most innocent children. God killed them with the pain of horrible disease. He killed them in wars. Killed them with famine. Crucifixion amounted to a summer walk compared to the grisly means of execution God thought up. What kind of God does that? How could he live with himself?
RayRay would get those God missed, the ones who really deserved to die, the beasts of our burden who weighed on goodness and righteousness and decency. If God’s boy, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, whatever kind of ghost that was, couldn’t even get the job done, RayRay was up to the challenge.
Societal self-defense mattered.
America, an alleged nation of law, once depended on RayRay, then known as Kevin Leary, to do some of its dirtiest work. The job hitting Mafia hit men ended after he executed the top 12 La Cosa Nostra contract killers in 12 months. The mob died and backed off. With a new identity the U.S. government provided “RayRay Gigliardi” for assisting the clandestine and corrupt FBI war against the mob and keeping his mouth shut, America’s master exterminator and scourge of Mafia mobsters everywhere retired to Clearwater Beach, taking his vulnerable baby sister Kate with him.
Kate was nobody to push into a corner, either, having once dispatched Deirdre, a backstabbing bully from the old neighborhood. True to her Boston Irish environment, Kate knew how to get even. She didn’t even break a sweat terminating her former teenage best friend forever with the help of her first split personality, an alter ego as her big brother called the tough maniac personality that lived inside his baby sister’s head.
Once Kate hit the white sand on the beach, though, voila!
Kim Phillips felt right at home.
That same loving little sister now needed big brother’s help.
RayRay thought his dark life had ended. He thought he could live in harmony with the universe. He thought wrong. Rule number one: Nobody threatened his sister. Poor Kate Leary had enough problems. Nobody threatened Kate or Kim or whatever name you wanted to call her.
Slamming the apartment door behind him, Kevin Leary aka RayRay Gigliardi looked skyward and sneered at God as he spoke an oath to the heavens.
“Nobody,” he said. “And I mean nobody.”