Money Is Not the Only Power

The heavy door lock clicks open, and in stumbles Raphael de Visviri, leading his consort by the buttocks. He tells her to make him a drink as he shoves her toward the liquor cabinet, and then he shuts the door and reengages the lock. He flicks on the light switch, but nothing happens. He flicks it off and on again, but still no light. Again, off and on, off and on, off and—

“Stop,” I say. The woman drops the rocks glass and bottle to the floor, and 45-year single malt scotch pools in the knots and whorls of the floorboards made from a species of tree that no longer exists. Raphael wipes his hand down his long face, drawing his wrinkles taught. “Sit down.”

They both make for the sofa. “Ah-ah,” I say, motioning with the barrel of a helical pistol. “Where you are.” They sit on the floor. His consort is looking worriedly at him, but his stone face is fixed on me. From behind his massive desk I let the moment linger; his chair is very comfortable.

He switches languages. “Your S’s. Martian, for sure. Sirenumi?”

“Cimmerian,” I say. “Very close. It’s where my mother raised me. After you had my father killed.” I pause, but he offers nothing. Neither does she. “Miss, do you understand?” I ask without taking my eyes from Raphael. She does not stir.

“Mariah has no need for Martian,” he says, and she starts at the sound of her name. “What is this going to cost me? Ten-million? Fifteen?”

I lean back, perplexed but fascinated. He does not understand. “You are a very powerful man,” I say, “but money is not the only power. This will cost you something else.”

He dives for the sofa and sweeps an arm underneath it. Now he is perplexed. He still does not understand. “Ah-ah.” I hold up the compact shotgun from beneath the sofa, and set it back down on my lap.

“Get it over with then,” he says. “I am ready.”

“But I am not. First, you must atone.”

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