“Greetings, sir,” said the butler, stretching one gloved hand out to shake Vladimir’s. Vlad took it firmly and strode through the threshold. He smiled.
The room he entered was
vast, stretching the entire width of the manor and at least twenty paces deep. A crystal chandelier dangled from the
centermost point of the mahogany-paneled ceiling, sending a cascade of light
down upon the shimmering dresses and pastel suits of the guests. Vladimir blinked at the contrasting
brightness, coming in from a cold, dark December night.
A pack of people danced
in the western side of the room. Six
violinists played a lively, yet elegant, tune.
There was no sign of the party’s host.
The eastern side of the
room held a much more boisterous air. A
long bar sat against the back wall, staffed by young girls pouring only the
most carbonated champagnes. One woman
swayed as she tried to migrate to the other wing. Vladimir caught her before she could fall.
“I’m sorry,” said a
vested man hardly old enough to drink.
He hurried over and took the woman from Vladimir. “My mother is a little too fond of the
“It is all well,” Vlad
said, stroking the corners of his thick mustache. “Quite a gala, do you not say?”
“Yes, I must say so,
“Bradley Morse,” the man
said, taking Vlad’s hand in a weak grip.
“How do you know our host?”
“He was an old business
partner of mine. Great man,
brilliant. By the way, have you seen
“Upstairs, in the
billiards room. He has a nice break for
an old guy,” said Bradley. “No offense,”
he added at the last moment.
Vlad began walking
toward the staircase in the rightmost corner of the room. “Great man,” he whispered. “Too great.”
The Sig beneath his shirt felt cold.
His heart beat hot.