Georgy Federov crunched into the last of his vanilla cone and opened the back of his ice cream truck to reveal an array of military-grade firearms. Well, not an ice cream truck per se. Just an old van he’d painted “Federov’s Frozen Treats” down the side of. But it did the trick.
He removed a false floor plate and pulled out the Orb of Karashdi. The smooth sphere glowed red as blood in his hand. Georgy smiled. It looked damned good for a fake. He had three reproductions of the same orb stashed further down in case more buyers showed up. The only problem was, he’d never actually seen the Orb of Karashdi. He was counting on the fact that his client hadn’t either.
He held the crimson orb out to Carlo. “This what you are looking for, tovarisch?” He laid his fake Russian accent on nice and thick. People tended to take Russians more serious, which meant the accent was good for business.
Carlo scratched at the pink bumps on his neck, probably acne from all the steroids he was shooting up. But the 6’4” Italian bodybuilder was too preoccupied staring at Nubnip to take the orb. “What the hell’s wrong with your pal?”
Nubnip, Georgy’s partner, sat behind the van cross-legged in a lawn chair reading a nudie mag. A cigarette dangled from his reptilian mouth, a gold watch from his slender green wrist. He looked like a three-foot chameleon pimp draped in lavender Armani. And he always made people twitchy, the way his big eyes darted around independently.
Georgy swallowed and adjusted his collar. “What, you never see kid play dress up before?”
“You shitting me?” Carlo frowned as he stared at Nubnip. The overbearing tang of cheap cologne radiated from the big Italian. All 250 pounds of his bronze-muscled frame threatened to burst from a wife beater that was two sizes too small. After a moment’s scrutiny, he shrugged. “Just never seen a costume that looked that realistic.”
“Da, Adolescent Aberrant Assassin Amphibians. It is his favorite cartoon.”
“Huh…” Carlo barely managed to fold his bulging arms. “Is that like those turtles?”
“Turtles?” Nubnip looked up from the mag he was reading. “Do I look like a goddamn turtle? Eat a dick, meathead.” Nub blew a thin plume of smoke in Carlo’s face. But he did kinda look like a turtle. A fugly, multicolored turtle… with spines running down the back of his head.
“Watch your mouth, you little shit.” Carlo coughed and waved the smoke away. “You let him smoke Newports?”
“Menthol help clear up congestion.” Georgy wafted his hands up toward his nose inhaling deeply.
“What the hell is wrong with you? And he’s reading a Hustler, too?”
“He enjoy cartoons and articles. Good for imagination and vocabulary. Besides, in my country twelve-year-old is considered man.”
“Twelve? He’s too short to be twelve. And ain’t he supposed to be in school?”
“Nyet. We do, how you say, homeschool. He is smelly kid in class, you understand? Too much bullying.” Nub really did stink. The same kinda funk you’d expect from a dirty iguana cage.
Nubnip looked up again. “You can eat a dick too, Georgy.”
“You let your kid talk to you like that?”
“Boy misses his mother. Has not called me ‘papa’ since she died in Kursk.”
“Clearly I wasn’t talking about him calling you ‘Georgy’, smart ass. Jesus, next I’m gonna find out you feed him caramel apples dipped in cocaine.”
Georgy shrugged. “Never said I was good dad.”
“Well, he obviously inherited your fashion sense. Kid dresses like Don Johnson in a frog suit.”
Nubnip looked up from his Hustler again. “Listen, motherfucker, if I have to hear one more critique of my life choices, I’m gonna blow your goddamn head off.” Nub tapped the chrome revolver in his waistband.
Carlo palmed his face, dragging his hand down it in disbelief. “What the Christ? You gave him a gun? You’re the goddamn problem with kids these days. Everyone wants to be their kid’s friend.”
Nub pulled the pistol in a flash. “What did I say? What the FUCK did I just say, Carlo?” Somehow he and his lawn chair had both moved. Nub stood on the metal arms of the chair, the perfect height to look Carlo in the eyes as he shoved his .357 magnum under the big Italian’s chin.
Carlo knitted his brow and swallowed hard. He must have been sweating because the smell of his cologne started to sour.
“Easy, Nub.” Georgy held out a placating hand. “You still want Orb of Karashdi, or no?”
Carlo backed away. “A-are you sure that is even the right thing?” His voice quavered.
“It is real deal. If you have problem I give you 100% money back guarantee.”
“You better not be jerking me around, Federov.” Carlo handed him a stack of twenties wrapped in a rubber band. “Fucking psychos…” he muttered, glaring at Nub.
Nub tucked the pistol back down the front of his trousers with a toady grin, and Georgy passed over the glowing orb.
As Carlo inspected the object it cracked like a Christmas ornament. “What the hell?” He hurled the glass sphere into the pavement, shattering it. “I ain’t paying for this shit.”
But Georgy didn’t back down. “Sorry, you break you buy.” He flashed a dark smile.
“Gimme my money back, you son of a bitch.” Carlo lifted Georgy by his suit jacket and slammed him into the back of the van.
It tore the wind from his stomach and sent a stabbing pain through his chest. Georgy searched for some clever rebuttal but found himself gasping instead.
Nubnip whipped his revolver back out and thumbed back the hammer. “Maybe if you laid off the needle you wouldn’t break shit. Time for you to leave, juice ape.”
Carlo dumped Georgy onto the street. “You’re gonna get yours, Federov. You and that little lizard-faced, pastel-wearing fuck.” Carlo turned toward his black car wearing a scowl that could bend steel.
Georgy rubbed at his chest. His lungs still felt like they were in a vice. He watched as the big Italian disappeared around the block in his Continental. “He won’t stay gone for long…” His fake accent slipped away. No sense keeping up pretense around his partner.
Nubnip sighed. “You gotta stop telling everyone I’m your kid. It rubs people the wrong way.”
“Nub, you rub people the wrong way. You’re an abrasive little shit.”
Nubnip adjusted his gold watch and brushed off his Armani suit. “If your next move is telling me to stop smoking these delicious cigarettes or that I have to quit reading nudie mags… You’re gonna get this .357 shoved right up your ass.”
“Look, just keep a low profile around customers. Okay? Or do you wanna get us shut down for good?”
That was about as good a response as Georgy could expect from his partner. “We’d better close up shop and get the hell outta here before Carlo comes back with his friends.”
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