Roanapur, the crown jewel in the Asian pacific underworld. Things can be bought and sold here that are unattainable anywhere else in the world. In truth that includes people and, until recently, the trade of Vampire Slayers. Mystically empowered warriors. usually female, destined to fight the darkness and the things that dwell within it.
I had a hand in putting a stop to that along with my partner and, surprising even to me, friend - Xander Harris. He got an army of Slayers needing training for his trouble. Me - I got a job. A promotion of sorts, The City's leaders, and by leaders I mean the ganglords that control life around here now rely on me to keep Xander in line and focused on keeping the creepy crawlers at bay and not interfering with the daily business of this villain's paradise. It's a full time job.
I've get a nice place of my own, unlimited access to some of the most powerful gangsters in the city and enough resources to take care of any job they want me to do ...as long as I don't sweat the details like, you know, the overall legality of some of what goes on in Roanapur.
Not bad for a kid from South Boston everyone said was going to wind up a feature entertainment on police blotters everywhere.
"... There was a small nest only a half-a-dozen vampires, easy prey for a Slayer who knows how to handle herself. Anyway Xander says that he broke it up and delivered a pretty effective warning, I'll keep an eye on things of course." Faith was saying.
That was what Faith's days were like lately. Bull Sessions with Roanapur's elite.
This meeting was with Russian Mob Boss Balalaika who was dressed even at this early hour in a navy blue tailored powersuit that showed off her figure, still impressive for a woman in her late forties. With her long blonde hair, blue colored eyes and warrior's build, Balalaika could have dominated any runway on Earth; where it not for the grotesque burns working their way down the right side of her body, a reminder of the conflict in Afghanistan that had shaped her into a tactical genius and principled, if ruthless warrior.
"What are the chances this was more then a random incursion - perhaps a deliberate territorial thing?" Balalaika was asking as she tapped ash from one of her expensive cigarettes into a tray.
"I don't think anybody is stupid enough to make a direct play for your territory." Faith commented wryly, "you've made it pretty clear how you deal with the people who do that. They were looking for a new place to squat and picked the wrong patch of real estate."
Indeed Balalaika's reputation was no bar room exaggeration or tall tale to amuse and awe. Faith had personally witnessed Balalaika order the deaths of enemies both large and small and show less emotion doing it then Faith did ordering a pizza. It was one of many reasons Faith enjoyed being on her good side.
"Smart work Faith, I like smart work it renews confidence in the trust I place." Balalaika smiled as she reached into her desk, She pulled a thick envelope out and slid it across the desk to Faith who looked at it.
"A little something to show my appreciation for your efforts." The Russian said politely.
"I know I'm going to kick myself for saying this but... Slayage isn't a pay-for play operation, it's more of a public service."
"Faith, no one does anything for free in this city. If I've placed a dollar value on your services it is because I want to show the respect I hold for your abilities and talents."
Faith looked at the envelopes contents and whistled, "Quite a bit of respect apparently, Is this all in American."
"Indeed, the ironies of my life are an endless source of amusement, American currency still carries a great deal of weight that can be felt even here. Now is there anything from your end?"
Faith nodded and pulled out a sheet of paper. "You'll have to cut me slack, Xander made me practice this a few times." she took a breath and started in "We've become aware a certain Mister Leptev has arranged to ship a large quantity of cargo through the area. He picked up the job from The Lawyers so Xand thinks it's something we might want to get our hands on. Xander wanted to know if you're still on the outs with Mister Leptev... Whoever that is?" Faith paused, "how did I do?"
"Your delivery is fine but we really need to work in the confidence level but otherwise ...I'd give it a B-plus." Balalaika scanned the paper and snorted, "Vasili Leptev is my Tokyo counterpart, he's also a repulsive little ex-KGB cockroach. What is he up to."
"Xand thought you might want plausible denialability?"
"How charming," Balalaika said dryly "Alexander's concern is touching. Now details Miss Faith."
"His operation is bleeding money and to get some of it back he's smuggling high-end cargo for the Lawyers, The goods are passing close by on their way out of Brunei. I guess they're going by boat. Don't quite know what exactly but it's Wolfram and Hart so I'm guessing it's not Hello Kitty merche. Anything the Lawyers get up to is usually the kind of stuff we Watchers like to keep an eye on. Did he say anything to you?"
"Vasili isn't a man concerned with proper courtesy We despise each other."
Faith sighed in relief, "Thank God, I was worried for a second there."
Balalaika smiled grimly, "Dear it's not so easy a thing as that. Just because I dislike Leptev enough to WANT to see him humiliated by the Watchers it does not necessarily follow I'm going to want the implication that I gave you permission to steal from the organization."
Faith paused, "How much is he cutting you in for?"
"...Not a penny. I didn't even know the little Sooka (traitor) was shipping cargo through the area."
Faith nodded "Xander and I'll handle it, we'll ... "
"You will do no such thing.' Balalaika cut her off, "If Hotel Moscow has made deal then I am obligated to honor the letter, if not the spirit of that deal." She paused looking at Faith meaningfully, "However the waters of the South China sea can be ...dangerous. If an ... accident were to befall the vessel and its cargo especially if it is manned by crew I do not know as competent, like say Dutch and the Lagoon, ... that would be different."
Faith nodded, "Just so I know what to say to Xander when he stops freaking out , how is this going to work?"
"You can intercept the ship as they are crossing the South China Sea, sink the boat and the cargo. If they are heading out of Brunei, they can only be making for one of the smaller islands nearby, no doubt one with a private airstrip. It's quiet and I've little doubt they'll wish to avoid official government notice. When the ship goes down - they'll not raise too much of a fuss."
"Not to be a picky Paula," Faith asked slowly, "but won't he suspect you were behind screwing him over anyway."
"Leptev can THINK whatever he likes. It is what he can prove to the executive that concerns us. ah here is Boris and Bella now."
Boris was the Mob Boss' second in command. Bella was a Slayer rescued from Servitude. Her Russian heritage and obvious combat potential lead Balalaika to induct her into Hotel Moscow as a solder.
Faith watched as Boris and Bella dragged a middle age black man into the room depositing him none too gently at The Mob Mistress' Desk. Faith recognized this man as Rowan Jackpot Pidgin.
Like everyone else in Roanapur, he had a fairly iconic sense of style, in his case, Seventies blaxpoltation, He ran a combination strip club and brothel, one of the more infamous in the city. He was well known and little loved for his annoying tendency to size up any female as potential entertainment in his establishment. Balalaika was one of the few exceptions to that rule. Rowan was afraid of her like virtually everyone else who had sense.
His club was on Hotel Moscow territory so he had to pay tribute to Miss Balalaika.
"Rowan how are you this morning?" Balalaika asked with false sincerity.
"Fine fine I wasn't aware it was pay day yet but if..."
"Oh our relationship isn't all about money surely. i was under the impression that we had a mutually beneficial partnership." Her friendly tone was belied by the cold stare Balalaika fixed Pidgin with.
"We do." Rowan whined.
"Then why am I seeing footage of that whorehouse of yours on Youtube. did you set that up?"
"I can explain," Pidgin said quickly, "There's this show see, this idiot goes around the world , has sex in exotic locations and talks about it. He came here a few months ago before that Maid thing. Next thing I know some guys show up wanting to hold a bachelor party at the Goofest. They paid in cash and they paid alot. one of them had a camera and he filmed some of what happened but come on. I film what goes on in the club. Buddy must of posted his video online "
"Neat, we're on youtube, can I see?" Faith asked.
"It's mostly footage of strippers dancing with some clips of more interesting activities. There are hotlinks to adult video sites where more risque footage is being archived."
Faith tapped keys on Balalaika's laptop computer. "OH that's wild." she said as she looked at a video.
"Maybe, but others in this city find the presence of cameras distracting. They're wondering if this is a blatant attempt on your part to challenge my authority." Balalaika reached out and grabbed Rowan's jacket yanking him closer to her scarred face. "Have you any idea how upsetting it was to hear those kinds of rumours about my partner. i would not be pleased if that was the case "
Rowan gritted his teeth, "Look Balalaika I've done some stupid things, really, really stupid if it comes to that, but if you think I would knowingly screw myself, especially knowing what you would do to me... I may be stupid; but I don't have a death wish."
"What is it?" Balalaika asked.
"Dude just posted a new video a few hours ago. It's already at a few hundred thousand views and raising, video of Xander and one of his Slayers taking out a vampire."
"Isn't that what your people are supposed to be doing?" Boris asked.
"The Watchers Council is considered to be a Terrorist organization. especially after they decided we destroyed a major American city. If this goes viral and it gets out where Xander is living now..."
"Roanapur might start to attract the kind of attention that makes business difficult."
"Are the guys who took this still in the city?" Faith asked
Rowan shrugged, Bella dropped her hand on his shoulder and began squeezing it, Rowan writhed in pain.
Balalaika hissed into Pidgin's face, "Rowan Miss Faith asked you a question requiring an answer, perhaps you'd consider being a little more accommodating."
"I don't know but I can find out." Rowen gasped.
Balalaika nodded, "My advice to you Rowan, is to go back to that whorehouse you run and tell every girl there to put their asses to work. Listen at every door, make note of every moan and groan. If anyone so much as whispers a word about what's going on I'll want to know about it and Rowan. So help me God, if i find out you've lied to me, you and I will have a very different conversation and it will be very unpleasant ... for you. Am i clear?
"Crystal - Miss Balalaika, crystal."