Excerpt: Mercurial Shifts

“All rise.”

Kazimir stood and waited for the judge to read the verdict. He wasn’t even remotely worried. Looking over his shoulder at the disgusting scum that started it all, Kazimir gave him a slow wink. The man blinked rapidly and wouldn’t meet his eyes.

It had been Kazimir’s fault that he had given the order for the suppliers to be killed while in the car. He knew better than that. Especially with how much fear the Peruvians could instill in someone who doesn’t have the resources Kazimir has. The driver was just trying to work an angle—give Kazimir up, get the police to offer him protection, and escape with his life. If everything went according to plan. But he, like most people, made the same mistake: they forgot that reality had a way of turning plans on their head.

Case in point. Kazimir would get away with arson and the murders of about twenty people, as he had for so many other crimes. The police were not going to help hide someone who didn’t deliver them a conviction. And said driver would be out on the street without any protection.

“We, the jury, find the defendant, Kazimir Foley, not guilty, on all counts.”

There was a few seconds of genuine shock from the prosecution. The defense, however, wasn’t surprised. Maybe a few were relieved—like his lawyer; another day to live, and he did so with a hefty sum in the bank—but, on the whole, the verdict wasn’t unexpected.

“Great work,” Kazimir said to his lawyer with a quick smile. He was grateful, but not impressed. It hadn’t been such a difficult case. “Thank you.”

“Of course, Mr. Foley,” the lawyer responded professionally.

The driver’s cry of dismay got Kazimir’s attention. His lawyer’s, too. And pretty much everyone else’s.

“No,” the driver denied, “no, no. He’s going to kill me. Or they are. I’m not going to survive the night! You can’t do this to me.”

Kazimir shifted his attention back to his lawyer. “Good afternoon.” He nodded and shook the lawyer’s hand.

“We are sorry, sir.” The prosecutor had the decency to look disappointed, but Kazimir didn’t think it was on behalf of his wayward driver. “No conviction, no deal.”

“I did everything possible to make that happen!” the traitor shouted. “I even stayed in the courtroom to watch the trial. If you don’t offer me protection, you are killing me not for your protection, I am a dead man!” his voice cracked as he yelled. He took a deep breath. “No one is ever going to want to offer you information if you let me hang. No one.”

The driver had a point. It was a good thing that he could think when he was this scared. He certainly surprised Kazimir with his ability to make a point under duress. That didn’t actually mean that he could live or even that he was downgraded from his status as a traitor; it simply meant he was a smart traitor.

“It’s not our fault that you got involved with the wrong people,” the prosecutor responded with a frozen smile. “You knew the risks going in. When you do the job you do, it gets dangerous fast.”

“What job?” the driver asked hysterically. “I’m a driver!”

Kazimir snorted. This was getting to be quite the drama. Tears, screams, and begging, oh my! His lawyer glanced at him with an unsure expression. Kazimir lifted a brow and the man hurried to close his briefcase—as it should be.

The drama was still unfolding, gaining ground as Kazimir watched, and while it was interesting in a way, he was getting bored. He made his way towards the exit, past the wooden bar. His right-hand man, O’Shea, came to congratulate him and caught Kazimir in a half hug, complete with slapping him cheerfully and powerfully on the back in Irish tradition. And that was all good, except that Kazimir’s balance was starting to be affected. He was ten seconds away of being taken off his feet and engulfed in O’Shea’s embrace.

Ryan O’Shea was a mountain of a man, tall and solid. Their height difference wasn’t that great; Kazimir’s own six feet two inches weren’t what one might call short, but O’Shea’s well-defined and developed muscles made the best of his six feet five. When O’Shea hugged people, he pulled them in like an unstoppable force. Usually, the unlucky few who were the target of his affection were swung around like toys, but Kazimir was a bit of a special case. He had put a lot of hard work for that privilege and considered it one of his greatest accomplishments since he had taken over the family business from his father. Still, he didn’t like his control to be discarded like it was nothing, so he wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic fan of the rare bear hug. Even the idea of his feet leaving the ground was off-putting, not to mention the whole smothering thing.

Kazimir mumbled something without forming words to con O’Shea into releasing him.

“What did you say, boss?” O’Shea asked. Thankfully, Kazimir was also the owner of the bar where O’Shea was bartender.

“Drinks for everyone,” Kazimir said, and easily sidestepped another demonstration of fondness.

“You!” the driver shouted.

Kazimir closed his eyes to hide his mounting frustration. He had a feeling that it was going to take about a century getting out of this courthouse. Blinking his eyes open, he observed the driver continue his descent into despair and insanity.

“You,” the man repeated, digging a pointed finger into Kazimir’s sternum, “ruined it all.”

“Please remove your finger,” said Kazimir coldly.

The man was beyond caring. “Shoot me! Dammit, the least you can do is shoot me. Then it’ll be quick.”

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