"Your uncle was a great a-man once, but he's a-lost his edge. I'm a-sorry that it came a-to this, but you understand that a-business is a-business." The fat man shovelled pasta into his mouth, traces of sauce clinging to his corkscrew whiskers.
"You will understand, Don Compario, that it is not my business," Mischa said diffidently.
"It's a-everybody's business," Compario replied. "It's a-the way of the world. The strong eat-a the weak."
"I understand, Don Compario, and I am here to speak of peace." Mischa's dark eyes flickered to the window, to the corrupt cop acting as peacemaker at this twisted summit, and back to the fat man.
"It's a very easy," Compario assured him. "I send-a my consiglieri to speak with a-your consiglieri and we make a deal, to pass over all of the Orlov family's assets to my little enterprise."
Mischa began to protest. "Don Compario..."
"Aleksandr is as good as a-dead. Who else will a-run his business? We're a-the future, you are the past." He rose in his seat, moustaches quivering and sang out:
"Do not stare! Just compare!
You must know, you must go, and beware!
Don't mean to gloat, but life is cut throat!
And you'll curse the day that you fucked with Go Compare!"
As he held his final note, the DLR rattled past outside the restaurant windows. Calmly, Mischa stood up and shot Compario in the throat, then turned the pistol on the fat man's pet cop. He spun as the waitress dropped a plate in terror, his nervousness suddenly welling up to drown out the strange calm that had settled on him. He turned away from the waitress, so shaken by the act, so nervous, that he almost forgot Sergei's instructions and left with the pistol in his hand.
At the last moment he stopped, dropped the weapon on one of the tables and hurried out.
The cool night air soothed the adrenaline sickness. After two blocks, when Sergei pulled the car up to collect him, his hands were barely shaking.
"How is my uncle?" he asked.
"Aleksandr will be well now," Sergei assured him. "Were there any problems?"
Mischa flashed Sergei a thin smile. "Simples," he assured him.