Leo’s feeling nauseous, and Leo de la Iglesia doesn't get seasick. In his three years of skittering across the channels of Miami, he has never felt his stomach tie itself in knots quite like this. It could be the way that their tiny Thai captain is whipping the boat around each turn, or the fact he's about to set foot into a ten-million dollar villa with maximum potential to break an exorbitantly-priced piece of art, but it's most likely due to the fact that he's going to be sitting face-to-face with one of the East Coast’s most notorious cocaine kingpins, Victor Nikiforov.
The blow business has been booming in South Florida, and while Leo may be Mexican by blood, he's here on behalf of the Colombians. Hand-picked for his exceptional bilingual abilities and sweet, approachable face, he's here to take notes and make sure that this transaction is completed with absolutely no discrepancies due to language barriers. Their partners for this deal are European, primarily Russian, so it’s safe to assume they’ll need all the Spanish-speaking help they can get. His superior, Mateo, will be taking care of the nitty-gritty of the deal itself, thank God.
As he hops onto the private dock and plants his feet on solid ground next to his boss, he isn’t feeling any less ill. The stunning facade of the mansion before them is only making him sweat more as reality starts to sink in that they’re really here. At 25,000 square feet, he’s standing before one of the most massive waterfront residences in Biscayne Bay. The pure-white exterior with its impactful black trim provides striking contrast with the lush greens of the surrounding vegetation and the vibrant blues of the water.
They are greeted at the edge of the pier by one of the manor’s staff, who guides them straight through the gate and into the ludicrously spacious backyard. The elegantly fenced area boasts a breathtaking ocean view, a spectacular garden of exotic flora, and an oversized chlorinated pool.
Two colorful, inflatable floats lazily drift their way across the small body of water. On one, a brown standard poodle is flopped haphazardly across the plastic, dozing with a straw hat thrown over its eyes. On the other, a curvy, black-haired beauty lounges on his stomach, clad in nothing but a pair of sunglasses and a vaguely disinterested expression. Leo diverts his gaze from the expanse of oiled skin as quickly as humanly possible.
Leo's heard plenty of stories about Nikiforov's sweet, little trophy. Like that one guy, Trevor, who used to run numbers and help with shipping container inventory down at the port. Everyone heard through the grapevine about how he tried to sidle up to the pakhan's precious toy at a yacht party. Nikiforov had left his arm candy at the bar just long enough to attend to a ‘heated business deal.’ Supposedly the interaction was fairly demure, Trevor shooting his shot and Nikiforov’s lovely pet politely turning him down. Despite the innocuous interaction, the poor sap was apparently so dejected that he was found dead the morning after, in what was labeled as a 'tragic suicide.' Funny how rejection from someone so beautiful could drive a man to put two bullet holes in the back of his own skull.
The two are escorted over to a large table nestled under a linen-draped pergola. It smells of jasmine, tobacco, and dark tequila. The wispy white billowing of the fabric in the wind is soothing, and for the most part, is now blocking his view of the pool. Leo’s extremely grateful.
A handful of individuals are seated around the table, all European. A tall blond with a tightly trimmed beard and round glasses converses with an overtly annoyed blond who appears to be in his late teens. An older gentleman, Leo knows him to be Yakov, is scolding a darker haired man in a flurry of what must be Russian. Next to Leo, a red-headed knockout is reading something out of a black binder. They each adknowledge the pair without standing.
And at the center of them all, sits Nikiforov, with legs spread wide, chin thrust high, and a pair of shades perched upon his tall, sculpted nose. There's a lit Cohiba Behike cigar hanging from his lips and a crystal glass of dark liquor precariously dangling from his fingertips. His linen shirt isn't doing much to preserve the modesty of his chest as it’s unbuttoned nearly to his navel. It may be ninety-five degrees and beyond humid, but it's hard to believe the fashion choice is anything but aesthetic. At least the guy has good taste in accessories; Leo notes his Versace leather shoes and pricey yet tasteful watch.
The silver-coiffed boss is surprisingly animated. From the way he introduces himself, to his invitation to join them, to the manor in which he motions for his staff to grab drinks for his guests. His intimidatingly sharp beauty is offset by his easygoing demeanor. Not at all the way the Mexican had pictured him from work lore.
Everyone is settled and engaging in a bit of small talk when an errand boy with deep tan and a backwards hat appears to interject. He’s Latino and Leo places him at maybe twenty-one or twenty-two years old. He apologizes for the intrusion and waits for Nikiforov’s acknowledgement before proceeding, "Just something for Miss Babicheva, sir."
Nikiforov haphazardly waves for him to continue before turning back to his conversation about fútbol with Mateo.
The boy offers another small apology as he slides in between Leo and Mila. " No hay problema, " Leo says as he shoots the guy a charming smile.
The go-between’s face lights up as they make eye contact. "¡Finalmente alguien que habla español!” He gives Leo a pat on the back and leans in a little closer to jest, “Es molesto hablar siempre con estos blanquitos." 1. Leo gives him a small, understanding chuckle. He can definitely relate, but he knows the importance of being respectful in El Capo’s 2 home, even if the man can’t actually understand them.
The envoy lets out a ragged sigh and subtly rolls his eyes in Nikiforov’s direction before continuing, "Estoy mamado de este trabajo ya y con el rubio dañaparche." 3
Leo and Mateo instantly go rigid at the bold comment. He can feel the guevón 4 trying to drag him into banter that he wants absolutely nothing to do with it. He’s trying to leave today with his tongue in his mouth and all of his fingers and toes. Yet the guy continues, "De todos modos no es más que droga chimba..." 5
With that, Nikiforov is on his feet and yanking the grunt away from the table by his collar. Victor’s hand is full of the boy’s shirt as he’s spitting harsh, rapid-fire Russian consonants into the other’s face at a dizzying rate. He knocks the cap clean off with a mean left hook into the kid’s eyebrow, his gold signet ring making a sickening sound as the hit lands. Leo braces himself to see another strike when—
The intensity instantly drops from Nikiforov’s face as he turns from the task at hand, platinum hair whipping as he looks towards the pool. He calls back in his heavily accented English, “Yes, Yuuri?”
Leo cranes his neck looking for the source of the sound. It’s the Asian boy on the float. He has a glass delicately hoisted overhead, giving the empty cup a shake for emphasis. “I’m out of ice!”
In an instant, Nikiforov releases his victim, letting him fall to the ground in a whimpering heap. “Of course, darling!” The mob-leader-turned-lapdog looks back to the mess on the ground. “Pardon me, I’ll be right back,” he chirps before sprinting into the house.
Leo and Mateo look at one another dumbfounded for a few moments, both too afraid to move or ask what the hell is actually happening. Everyone else at the table appears unphased. Mila has returned to her paperwork and the blonds are mindlessly chatting about a new restaurant that just opened up in South Beach. The only other person in the vicinity that seems unsettled is the one who’s currently holding his face in a futile attempt to stop the blood pouring from his brow.
The faint sound of loafers clacking returns as Nikiforov bounds back outside. He dutifully heads straight for the pool and crouches to present a gleaming bucket of crushed ice to the man in the water. He waits there, on his hands and knees, as the smaller of them examines and then scoops some of the ice into his own glass. He’s rewarded with a tiny peck on the lips before the nude figure dismisses him, and then he’s back on his feet to rejoin the rest of the group.
Victor’s giddily grinning from ear to ear as he saunters over, a bright, self-satisfied thing so intense you might as well be staring into the sun. He stops in front of the kid laying stupefied on the patio before inquiring, “Now, where were we?”
A kick lands straight in the poor errand boy’s gut. Leo is also positive he hears his own jaw hit the floor in awe of the weirdest fucking “meeting” he’s ever been a part of. Nikiforov barks more Russian at the tiny blond sulking at the end of the table. The small teen huffs what can only be a series of curses before getting up and dragging the now heaving, blood mess of a page into the house.
He bends down to pick up his abandoned, still-lit cigar before aiming that broad heart-shaped smile at Leo. "Please, disregard him. I can assure you, Russians do know a thing or two about snow." He pulls at his sunglasses just enough to throw a coy little wink his way. The old man, Yakov, scoffs at the quip and cuts his eyes at Victor.
“Anyway, ¿te estás vacilando la estadía?” 6 Victor punctuates the question with a little tilt of his head and a puff of smoke.
That queasy unease has crept its way back into Leo’s abdomen as the realization sinks in that his services weren’t needed here after all. He and his boss are starting to feel like the güevones now. Mateo opens his mouth to answer when another call comes from across the garden.
“Vitya!!! More sunblock!”
Victor scrambles up from his seat yet again, calling, “Be right with you, zolotse!” How this man goes from pakhan to puppy in a snap is starting to give Leo whiplash.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to reschedule,” Nikiforov says as he purposefully snuffs out the tobacco this time and reaches to quickly shake both of their hands. “I appreciate you making the trip out here, but I’m afraid I have more pressing matters to attend to.”
Before either of them have a chance to reply, they’re being shooed from the courtyard and escorted back out to their boat by the dark-haired Russian. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon,” the drug lord calls, giving one final wave over his shoulder as the gate locks behind them.
From over the fence they can hear Nikiforov bellow for everyone to “Get the fuck out,” followed by a series of giggles and a particularly loud, explicit moan.
The walk down to the water is eerily quiet save for a few erotic sounds that manage to leak that far out into the property. Leo finds himself choking on his own question as they make their way down the dock, “Not to be disrespectful but...” He can feel his face going hot. “Does El Capo usually subvert himself like that for his...uh...boyfriends?”
The man laughs heartily at the inquiry as he helps the two of them back onto the boat. “ El Capo ?” He crosses his arms across his chest. “If you’re thinking Victor is the boss, then you’re mistaken.”
His next comment, muttered through a tight-lipped smirk, is almost drowned out as the sound of the motor kicks back to life. “We all answer to Katsuki Yuuri.”