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Chapter Fourteen

Agony! Sharp, stabbing, searing pain. On the way home from the Gates of Heaven, Markus twisted around in the driver’s seat of his PT Cruiser, trying to find a comfortable position. He couldn’t move without feeling the effect of Grisha’s assault on his tailbone. His spinal cord was sending one signal to his brain: PAIN! Every nerve in his lower back radiated the aching message from the spot where Grisha had kicked him. He stopped in Burbank and hobbled into a drugstore to buy aspirin, but knew he needed something much stronger.

Back on the 405, he had visions of Grisha creeping…no…stomping up the stairs to his apartment in the middle of the night. Dressed in his shiny blue suit, white shirt and skinny tie, he carried a pistol in his belt. Instead of his scuffed black funeral shoes, Grisha wore heavy military boots, which he used to pulverize the front door of the apartment. Once inside, he smashed the bedroom door with his ham-sized fist, held the gun to Markus’ forehead and demanded payment.

Pain and panic competed for control of Markus’ brain.

By the time he pulled into the carport at 4:00 p.m., Markus wanted to die. His stomach was still churning; the taste of vomit lingered on his tongue and bits of regurgitated food stuck to his shirt. The aspirin wasn’t helping his back. Grisha had kicked him so hard that Markus thought a bone might be broken. He opened the door of the PT Cruiser and eased out of the driver’s seat. Pain shot up his spine. He climbed the stairs to his apartment one at a time, stopping on each step to let the stabbing sensations subside.

Markus unlocked the door, stepped into the gloom and without going to his computer to check incoming e-mail, went directly into the bathroom. He stood with his back to the mirror, pulled off his shirt and dropped his pants. In the reflection, he saw an ugly bruise starting to form above his butt. It wasn’t black and blue yet, but he could see the spot where the tip of Grisha’s shoe hit him and scraped away a large patch of skin. It looked like the surface of a giant raspberry and for once, the sight of his own blood did nothing to excite Markus. He pulled up his pants, opened the medicine chest and went through a dozen plastic bottles with prescription medications until he found the Vicodin. He shook three of the white football shaped tablets into his hand, tossed them into his mouth and slowly bent down to suck cold water from the tap.

Markus hobbled out to his desk. He could barely sit down. What had Grisha done to him? Markus googled TAILBONE PAIN. Several entries came up, including BROKEN COCCYX. Markus skimmed the pages and became more alarmed. His tailbone might be broken, chipped, cracked or even shattered. Markus saw no references to a kick in the ass from an angry Russian but every medical page focused on the acute and long-lasting deep body pain that came from trauma to the tailbone. He went to the webpage of and discovered that in the worst injuries, surgeons performed a Coccygectomy, the removal of the tailbone. His pain intensified with every word Markus read. The fucking Russians, how could they do this to him? How could Dr. Damian have gotten him into this mess?

He struggled out of his chair and went into the kitchen. He had six days to come up with the money and was afraid to think of what would happen if Grisha really tried to hurt him. Markus figured he might draw as much as $100 from his credit card. Next week he would receive a paycheck for $800, but not until Wednesday, and that still wasn’t enough. He thought about calling his parents. His mother would be hysterical. He could cope with her meltdown if she had any money to send him, but his jackass father controlled the family wallet. Markus knew all he would get was tears from his mother and a lecture from his father.

Did Audra have any green stashed away? He knew she had no checking or savings accounts, not even a credit card. She lived a marginal existence and spent everything on her tats. Markus had never seen her spend a nickel on anything else. She must have hidden some money in the apartment. He thought of her at the Alley Kat, taking hundred dollar bills after doing tricks. She was living with him for free, sucking up his food, his water, even his electricity, like a sponge, without contributing a penny. She probably had thousands hidden away for herself, while he couldn’t even get together enough money to save his life. She owed him! He slammed his fist down on the counter and the impact sent a wave of pain through his lower back.

Markus opened the freezer and took out the plastic baggies containing his treasures. He took the hand out and put it on the counter. The fingers were now contracted and bent. It looked as if it came from a body that had been clinging to a windowsill on the thirtieth story of a building. Could he return the hand to Alexei and call it even? Markus dismissed that idea as soon as he thought of it. He took out the foot and placed it next to the hand. The foot was so delicate, the skin spotless, the second toe so sexy.

How quickly things soured and turned to shit. Just last Sunday, he found the foot and everything was insane. Since then, the Chinese bitch got away from him, he owed Alexei money for an ugly hand and Grisha was coming to beat the crap out of him. To top it all off, he might need a Coccygectomy. How would he pay for that? How could all this be happening to Markus, the uber vampire?

Markus put the hand and foot back in the freezer and went into the bedroom. The first warm feelings from 1,500 milligrams of Vicodin began to wash over him. He eased into bed and pulled the covers over his head. Soon he was floating in a deep, dark, warm ocean. The gentle waves rocked him back and forth, as his mother had done.

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