by Anahit Petrosyan
Now that he was suspended, Levi lied down in the back seat of his car and closed his eyes, going back three weeks to when he had been assigned this undercover mission as an agent. He had known well what he was going into and with whom he would have to deal with. All of that was still fresh in his memory and played like pictures before his closed eyes.
He was eight, his brother, Jon, was four when they were separated, never to hear of or see each other again. Their parents had kept them apart and erased any memory of them being family in the first place. Levi avoided going back to that day no matter how hard his mind tried to remind him. Twenty-one years apart from Jon was enough to keep Levi awake. He recalled the morning he was to get on a flight where he would have to enter his brother’s life again, not as Levi, but as someone else, someone with a mission to lure a criminal into his trap.
His team was with him each step of the way, tracking his trip to the airport through a chip implanted under his skin. Levi was to check in every now and then to report of his observations. That morning was the start of Levi’s new identity, one rehearsed continually at the agency until it became the only identity Levi related to. There was one shot to take. Levi rested his head with his identification and flight ticket in his hand, feeling hungry and nervous as he analyzed the strategy.
“Let’s rehearse again,” called the voice of his analyst through his earpiece. “Your name is now Ivan Asbury, you’re a professional sniper and a contracted hitman. You’re after two wanted men- Mavis and Glib Gudenko.”
Levi frowned at the name of Mavis. The agency had not yet discovered who Mavis was to Levi. All they knew was that Mavis was top for wanted killers. He worked for Glib Gudenko, who in turn provided his safety and hideaways. Gudenko was known for his strategies as a mastermind criminal. He directed an infamous Ukrainian mob comprised of young men who had been victims of kidnap and abuse, who carried out his agenda, one of whom was Mavis. Levi, with the help of the agency, had taken down the next man to work with Mavis and succeeded in forging his identity to the real Ivan Asbury, a sniper hired by Gudenko to call the next shot with Mavis.
“Mavis is Gudenko’s right-hand man,” rang the familiar voice through his earpiece. “Your job is to organize the rendezvous point where Gudenko is to meet Mavis and Ivan. Buy some time before backup arrives.”
Nearly twelve hours in, Levi had arrived at Kiev, Ukraine, where one of Gudenko’s drivers was assigned the task of transporting Ivan Asbury to where Mavis awaited his arrival. Levi was trained to control his stress levels, but his heart beat rapidly in his chest. He was now a new person, one with a completely different identity, and the charade had begun.
The car stopped by an abandoned warehouse. Levi was escorted in by the driver who waited for clearance from Mavis before heading out. It was dark inside where Levi stood. There was no sign of Mavis yet, until a door creaked, and a slim figure appeared in the shadows. He gestured with his hand for the men to follow him inside. Levi fixed his jacket and walked forward to the lighted room where Mavis stood. He motioned for the driver to leave, and the brothers were left alone.
Levi wished to smile and tell Mavis who he really was. His little brother was now a grown man of twenty-five. He still had those curios brown eyes and the turned-up nose. His ash-brown hair was now clean cut and brushed. From his cheek to his chin ran a deep scar and Levi recalled the day of their separation, when he and his brother were only children. That was who Levi saw, Jon with his childlike wonder, not Mavis, the top wanted sniper and right-hand man of one of Ukraine’s strongest mafias.
“Ivan Asbury,” Levi stretched his hand out. Mavis shook it with a firm grip and a cold stare.
“Which division?” Mavis asked.
Mavis nodded, keeping his curios eyes on Levi, as if to catch him at fault. “I was from 414, month of April, first day, kidnapped at four. Twenty-one years I’m at this,” he grinned, haughtily.
Levi tried to look impressed. He couldn’t help but study his brother’s face.
“Must have been difficult, training with guns and the mafia at such an age,” Levi inquired.
Mavis shot him a passing glare, leaving the question hanging in mid-air. Levi was quick to catch the resentment in Mavis’s eyes, not particularly for him, but resentment directed toward everything he looked at- everything but his snipers.
That evening was spent planning the tactics on paper, burning the evidence, and mentally rehearsing the plan, location, and angles which were to be taken. Levi listened and kept his own agenda in mind. He provided his methods of the assassination, which pleased Mavis, and the men worked to build the final plan.
“Our target will be in Pechersk, conducting his campaign,” Levi added. “This is the best angle to get a clear shot at him,” he said, pointing at the map.
“Gudenko will meet us there only after the shot. Then he’ll send you back to your division.”
“I’m not the person of interest here,” Mavis snapped.
Levi glared back. There was not a trace of Jon left in Mavis. It seemed to Levi that all had been wiped clean. Out of Jon, the child, was made a new identity- a killer with no conscience. Levi turned and looked around at the warehouse. It was beginning to get colder as night approached.
“Ivan,” Mavis called, “the plan is finalized. Gudenko’s driver will take you to one of his hotels now. I’ll meet you tomorrow night at Club Napoyi – drinks on me, for good luck,” he grinned, opening a bottle of beer for himself.
Two killers in a warehouse wasn’t how Levi had imagined his family reunion. He turned his back and walked out of Mavis’s workplace, waiting for the driver’s arrival. It occurred to him that perhaps he should have continued his life as it was, for the deeper he dug into his past, the more he sunk underground. He felt his upper arm, where the tracking device was planted, and sighed. The act had to be believable. Like Mavis, Ivan came from a dark past, and Gudenko was his savior as well. Like Mavis, Ivan was angry and only found solace in successful missions.
“Where’s that driver?” Levi asked aggressively, making his way back into Mavis’s workroom after half an hour.
“Here, have some vodka and calm down,” Mavis responded, leaning back in his chair.
He poured it into two shot glasses. It was apparent that he had been drinking alone until Levi had returned. He spoke more and carried an easy change of tone. The hostile look had left his eyes. Levi planned to use Mavis’s state of mind to his advantage.
“This is Ukraine’s best,” he tapped the bottle.
Levi took a seat, waiting for Mavis to pick up his glass.
“Budmo,” he raised his glass and drank it in a swift gulp.
“Long live Gudenko,” Levi replied.
Mavis set the glass down and poured another drink for the two of them. He stood, with the glass between his thumb and middle finger. He eyed Levi with half-lidded eyes while picking up his sniper with his left hand, resting it on his shoulder. He frowned now and dropped his head.
“This is what we live for now,” he said, raising his glass, “Gudenko and his snipers. May we always be the best in what we do- and this is what we do,” he set his glass down and picked up his weapon, aiming it at imaginable objects and pretending to shoot.
Levi watched with pity as Mavis continued in his pretense. He then turned to Levi and grinned, slowly turning the weapon at him and laughing.
“That’s enough,” Levi ordered. “I want to make a toast,” he filled the glasses, and Mavis went back to the table, impatiently waiting for his fill.
He stood with his glass and Mavis watched like he did when they were kids, his eyes curious and searching. Levi made his toasts short, only to fill the cups and say another one, which Mavis seemed to enjoy. He lit a cigarette while Levi spoke, taking a long puff and returning to a tranquil mood. Levi had managed to use his same drink as if it were a new glass with each toast while Mavis drank until he no longer could.
“Do you remember your real name?” Levi asked, hoping to get answers from the past now that Mavis had let his guards down.
Mavis shrugged, rubbing his chin with downcast eyes. “I was just a kid,” he barely said. “I remember I had parents and a brother. I haven’t seen them since my abduction. Hell, I don’t remember a thing about them.”
Levi felt his throat begin to choke and he coughed for air.
“When my day’s over,” Mavis continued, “I lie down and imagine what they might have looked like, but I see nothing but silhouettes. I don’t know where I was born or who the hell I was,” he paused. “To hell with it,” he smiled, “I know who I am now, a killer, a wanted man.”
It fell silent for some time and Mavis rested his hand on his sniper, laid on the table before him. Suddenly, his eyes shot up at Levi, who had been silent all along. He leaned forward, the cigarette hanging between his lips.
“Take this away and we’re nothing,” he said between his teeth.
Just then, Gudenko’s driver arrived. Levi got to his feet while Mavis stayed seated with his eyes closed.
“Ah, to hell with you too,” he called after Levi. “I had to drink so much just to make you a little interesting to have around.”
Levi glanced back at his brother, shook his head, and headed out. He was taken to a suite where he would rest to meet Mavis the next day. Levi fell asleep in his clothes that night, too tired to even remove his shoes. His mind spiraled around endless thoughts and his heart ached for his brother. He hid his face in the pillows, feeling the familiar burn in his throat. He began to doubt if he could finish the mission, and in his thoughts, he fell asleep.
The next evening, Levi set out to meet Mavis at Club Napoyi, according to Gudenko’s plans. He made his way through the crowds of people, past the dancing and the flashing lights, through the various odors and perfumes to the bar where Mavis sat with girl in a tight dress. She left at the appearance of Levi. Mavis gave a cold hello as Levi took the seat beside him.
“Quite a place,” Levi said, looking around the club at the Ukrainian women, some of whom had watched him enter. He watched the dancing lights across their moving bodies.
Mavis followed his gaze, feeling his heartbeat fall in sync with the pounding of the music. Gudenko’s bartender approached the men. He would know the snipers by the specific drink they would order- a drink that only the snipers knew within themselves – then send a confirmation to Gudenko on the shooter who was assigned to work with Mavis.
“What will you have, gentlemen,” he asked, looking first at Levi.
“Spotykakh for me,” Levi replied.
Something like an electric shock seemed to go through Mavis’s spine. His jaw clenched, and he shot a glare at the bartender, who returned a similar expression. Levi was unaware, turning his attention to the crowd of women. Mavis took a long look at Levi while the sudden realization dawned on him.
“Don’t make a damn sound about this,” he said to the bartender, who had already picked up his phone, which Mavis forcibly put away.
“You know what, make that two,” Levi suddenly turned back around.
“No,” Mavis replied, “you know what I have. Give me a shot of horilka with one and a half green olives.”
The bartender nodded. Levi watched him pour the drinks, throwing in an olive and cutting another one in half. He thought about Mavis’s unusual order. The two different drinks were slid over to the snipers. Mavis picked his up, raised his glass, and drank. Levi, however, kept his eyes on his drink as an abrupt suspicion took hold of him.
“Budmo,” he barely said, lifting his glass.
As he drank his eyes turned to Mavis who had kept his glare fixed on Levi while leaning forward in his seat, about to spring out of his chair. The tension grew heavy. Levi threw the glass on the table and jerked out of his seat, pushing past all the people who got in his way. Mavis followed, running aggressively behind his target. Mavis knew every pathway in that club, but Levi observed while he ran. Coming to an exit, he flung the door open and made his way down flights of stairs leading to an underground inventory. He ran with his gun in his hand as Mavis shouted behind him. Suddenly, Mavis threw himself over the railings, falling over Levi and beating him with his fists.
“You’re gonna tell me who sent you,” he yelled.
Levi felt the ground for his gun while fighting off Mavis with his other hand.
“I’d kill you right here, but there’s something far worse waiting for you.”
The men were now on their feet, punching and kicking. Levi knew that backup was on its way, thanks to his tracking device. He threw Mavis to the ground with full force, reached for his weapon, and held him at gunpoint.
“Your name was Jon,” he said, breathing heavily, “I can tell you who you were. I know where you were born, who your family is. I have the answers to your past.”
Mavis slowly got off the ground. “Who sent you?” He asked again.
“Whoever sent me will be here with backup in sixty seconds. If you don’t run, you will fall into our hands,” Levi warned.
“You probably don’t know what I’m capable of,” Mavis seethed. “You’ll be the easiest one of my targets, I promise you that.”
“Then your true identity will die with me.”
The sounds of tapping feet interrupted. Levi glanced up the flights of stairs and back at Mavis.
“Jon, run!” Levi’s eyes shot open and he quickly sat up in the backseat of his car. He rubbed his face and wondered how to spend his time on suspension. If Mavis would be coming for him, then he would meet him in the middle.
About the Author:
Anahit Petrosyan is a young writer and graduate of CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She is the author of the young adult novel, Chasing After, the short story, “Mother Wolf”, in the Northridge Review, and her more recent publication, “Wanted Man”, in Adelaide Magazine. She continues to write short stories and is working on her second novel.