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Fractured Souls: Chapter 16


Soft tones of a delicate melody reach my ears as I exit the elevator. I walk up to the door of my apartment and pull the keys out of my pocket. Lately, I’ve been pretending that I’ve forgotten my keys so I can ring the bell and hear Asya’s hurried steps as she runs toward the door to let me in. When she opens it, it’s as if she has missed me, even though I’ve only been gone for a short time. It feels good to come home and know that she is waiting for me. So, I keep pretending to forget my keys and ring the bell each time.

But I don’t want to distract her from her playing today. Opening the lock, I walk inside. Asya is sitting in front of the piano, her phone is on the small stand above the keys. She probably found new sheet music online and downloaded it. I should buy her actual sheet music books. It can’t be easy to follow along on that small screen. Trying my best not to make any noise, I leave the grocery bags by the door and walk into the living room. I lean my shoulder on the bookshelf on my right and watch her.


Her hair is loose, and it sways left to right when she bobs her head along with the melody. I can’t see her face from my spot, but I’m pretty sure she’s smiling.

Something squeezes in my chest. Will she take the piano with her when she leaves? Because she will leave, eventually. I won’t delude myself into believing she’d want to stay with me when she has a home, a family, probably a bunch of friends, and plans to attend a music conservatory. Her life might have been placed on hold with what happened to her, but she’ll bounce back. I’ve seen her strength and determination. Her courage. All those things that make her her—the same traits that made me fall so desperately in love with her, they will also take her away from me.

We need to get to the club soon if we want to arrive before the opening and avoid the crowd, but I can’t make myself ask her to stop. The melody changes as she switches to my favorite one, “Moonlight Sonata.” I’m not sure why I love hearing her play that one the most. Maybe because of the first time I heard her play. I’ve even set it as her ringtone on my phone. I grip the back of my neck in frustration. I hope she takes the piano when she leaves. Because if she doesn’t, I’m going to smash it until there is nothing left of it.




 “If you get uncomfortable, even a little bit, let me know and we’ll leave. Okay?”

I nod and squeeze Pasha’s hand.

As we walk toward the entrance of the club, I look up at the dark sky, searching for the small white flakes. The temperature has dropped significantly, and there is a crisp feel to the air. It’s been clinging to my senses since the moment we left Pasha’s building, along with the panic that’s been rising in my chest. I almost asked Pasha if I could return to his place, fearing that it would start snowing. I thought I was getting better. In some ways, I was. But the idea of seeing the frost-covered ground makes my heart pound at double its normal rhythm.

A man standing at the entrance opens the door for us when we approach. He’s wearing an unbuttoned black coat, revealing a black suit underneath. I tighten my hold on Pasha’s hand and will myself to offer the bouncer a small smile as we pass.

Pasha leads me across the spacious area decorated in shades of black and gray. Tall tables surround the edges of a currently empty dance floor. Along the wall, a raised platform holds several large booths containing luxury leather seating. The space is completely empty, save for a girl who is cleaning at one of the booths, making the sound of our footsteps echo off the walls.

Finally reaching the opposite side of the floor, we climb the stairwell to the upper level. This space has been made to look like a gallery of sorts. The floor-to-ceiling glass wall leans out over the dance floor, exposing the entirety of the club’s interior to anyone standing up here. We enter a room where a man in his early forties sits in front of a block of monitors showing various camera angles of different areas in the club. Pasha nods at the man and heads toward another door on the right.

As we enter, I spot a blond man in his twenties sitting behind a desk covered with papers. He’s mumbling something to himself while glaring at the computer screen in front of him. His longer-cut hair is tousled but it doesn’t hide the fact he’s very handsome. A few months ago, my face would have flushed red if I saw him. But that was before I met Pasha. This guy may be attractive, but his looks have no impact on me.

“I see you finally decided to drag your ass here,” the man grumbles then looks up from the screen, his eyes zeroing in on me and going impossibly wide.

“Kostya, this is Asya,” Pasha says and leads me around the desk until we’re standing in front of his friend. “Where are the contracts that need my signature?”

Kostya’s gaze drops to my hand clasped in Pasha’s before it flips back up to my face. His eyebrows shoot all the way up to his hairline.

“Eyes on me, Konstantin!” Pasha barks.

“Jesus fuck, man!” Kostya cringes. “Don’t do that. Only my babushka calls me by my full name, usually when I’ve fucked something up.”

“Contracts. Now.”

“What the fuck has gotten into you? Did you change your fucking personality along with your wardrobe? Christ.” He grabs a stack of papers out of the drawer and tosses them on the desk in front of Pasha. “Here.”

Pasha starts signing the contracts, but his left hand retains its hold on mine the entire time. He’s wearing jeans and a black sweater today. I tried to convince him to put on a suit, but he said no.

Kostya pretends to be busy with something on the computer screen, but I notice him throwing a quick look at me every few seconds.

Once Pasha is done signing, he pushes the papers to the center of the desk and straightens. “Is that all?”


Pasha nods and heads toward the exit. I wave at his friend and follow. We’re at the threshold when Kostya calls out, “Oh, Pasha! You may want to drop by the old warehouse later.”

“What for?”

“We’ve caught one of Julian’s men. Bekim. Mikhail will be questioning him.”

Pasha’s body stiffens. He turns slowly and looks at his friend. “Call Mikhail. Tell him he can stay home with his family tonight.”

“What? So, who’s going to have that chat with the guy?”

Pasha looks down at me. “I will.”




When I enter the warehouse, Kostya is already there, leaning against the wall and fumbling with his phone. In the opposite corner, with his face to the floor, lies a man in his early thirties. His legs are bound with silver duct tape around his ankles and knees. His hands are tied behind his back. A dirty rag protrudes from his mouth.

Even after all these years, a faint scent of burned wood still lingers in the air. This is one of the warehouses that the Italians tried to burn down before we signed the truce. The basement in the pakhan’s mansion has been out of commission since then—his wife doesn’t appreciate the smell of blood in her house—so we decided to leave this warehouse as is and conduct our interrogations here.

I glance at the soldier standing a few paces from “our guest” and tip my head toward the exit. “Leave. I’ll call you when I’m done.”

The man nods and heads outside.

I don’t waste any time and grab Julian’s man by the back of his jacket, dragging him away from the wall to give me more room. He whines and starts thrashing, then moans when I let his body fall back to the floor. I place my foot on his back and wrap my hand around his thumb. The sound of bones breaking is followed by a muffled, pained whimper. I press my foot harder and take the next finger.

“You need to ask Mikhail to give you a quick course in torture,” Kostya says from his spot by the wall. “The rule is: ask questions first. Then start breaking shit.”

Another snap.

“Our methods differ,” I say as I continue.

Once I’ve broken all ten fingers, I leave the man to weep on the ground and pick up a knife off the nearby table. I step on his back again and cut the tape binding his wrists. The man thrashes, trying to wriggle free. I grab his right forearm with one hand, his palm in the other, and twist them in different directions. The man screams around the rag as his wrist snaps. I repeat the action with his other arm.

I consider breaking his ankles next but decide I don’t want to risk him passing out on me. Moving my foot to his side, I push at his body until he’s facing up and yank the rag out of his mouth.

“Is Dusku distributing the new drug?” I ask.

“No,” the man chokes out. “It’s Julian. His son-in-law.”

“Is Julian involved in the high-end prostitution ring, as well?”

“Yes. He’s running it.”

“Does Dusku know?”

He shakes his head and whimpers. I place the sole of my shoe on the broken fingers of his right hand and put pressure into my step.

“He doesn’t know! It’s all Julian and some of his college friends!”

“What do you know about the Russian girl who was found dead a few months back? She had your drug in her system.”

“It was an accident,” he wails. “A client got too rough, and she died. We had to get rid of her, and make sure she wasn’t linked to us through the drugs we use. So we pumped her full of heroin.”

I press my heel on his throat, enjoying the choking sound that leaves his mouth. “You will give my friend here the names and addresses of everyone who’s involved in this scheme. Including the clients. Even the fucking janitor. Make sure you give the details about the woman—Dolly—in charge of the girls, too. And the address of where you’re keeping them.”

He nods.

“I also need the names of the men abducting the girls.”

“Robert is in charge of that,” he squawks when I ease my foot off a little.

Robert. The motherfucker uses his real name when luring the girls.

“American?” I ask.

“Yes. He’s been working for us for the last three years. Julian brought him in.”

“Last name and address.”

He rattles off the information, and I commit it to memory.

“Kostya,” I call. “Our guest is ready to talk. Come here to take notes and relay everything he tells you to Maxim.”

I throw one last look at the man on the floor. “If you happen to forget a name, I will come back and finish what I started. And I’ll make sure you stay alive and coherent until I’m completely done.”

Leaving the warehouse, I call Asya to let her know I won’t be back for another couple of hours. Inside the car, I enter the address Bekim gave me into the navigation system.

Seems like I’ll be having another chat tonight.


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