Seeing The Pyramid up close was unsettling for Tyoma. When he had pensive moods, which was often, he would listen to jazz while standing at the wall screen of his seventy-ninth floor apartment and gaze down at the brilliantly lit monstrosity that now filled the air car’s entire view screen. No buildings in Moscow could rival the size of the central skyscrapers, but The Pyramid made up for its lack of great height with ostentatious audacity. The glittering pyramid that gave the casino its name straddled the Moskva River near Gorky Park, while the twin arms of the accompanying hotel towered more than a hundred stories into the sky, curving upwards like a warped horseshoe or the claws of some grand alien crustacean.
Tyoma had always admired the view…from a safe distance. He knew, of course, that the casino was run by Lev Abramovich Romanishin, one of the two most powerful mob leaders in the city. Who else could force the city government to grant The Pyramid exclusive gambling rights within all of Russia while outlawing online betting? Who else could keep such a vast open area like Gorky Park free of refugees when such land was so desperately needed by the authorities? The only real question Tyoma’s friends had when discussing Romanishin was: did the Russian government control the mobster, or was it the other way around?
The shorter thug, Oskar, puffed vapor from his sim-cig and grinned at Tyoma. “You ever been here before? If not, you’re gonna love it.”
The air car dropped steadily toward a dark mouth in one side of the pyramid. Tyoma held a hand up to his eyes to shield them from the nearly blinding lights that flashed silver and blue from every pane of the structure.
“No, I’ve never been here,” he murmured.
“Don’t like to gamble, huh?” Oskar said.
Tyoma glanced sideways at the gangster. “You chat like this with all your kidnap victims?”
Oskar pulled the sim-cig from his mouth and laughed. “I like you, old man. Most people we bring in to see Viktor blubber like babies, weeping and begging and making me sick.” He held a hand up and clenched it. “I just wanna punch them bloody. Come on! Be funny some more.”