Kristy's place was located uptown, where life was still peaceful and you could walk the streets without fear of being held-up for your wallet; or in my case, your fedora. I knew that this kind of life-security didn't come cheap, and that Kristy was obviously not short of cash. As our taxi pulled up outside her building, it struck me as being closer to a palace than just a home and I felt a sudden desire to burn it down just to spite her. It was huge - at least three floors tall, with marble columns lining the entrance to the front door. Even in the darkness I could make out the vague form of a tennis court around the back, and even a swimming pool. Damn.
Already I could imagine what I would find inside: expensive but stupidly tall leather chairs, modern art that no one ever understands but that looks good anyway, Imperial Storm Trooper costumes, strange objects suspended from the ceiling? and one of those swanky five foot India erasers. Behind my slurred smile I gritted my teeth, which made it very difficult to speak. I hope she thought it was just the booze making me incomprehensible, "Nish plash you got here."
"Thanks, though really the only reason I can afford to live like this is because of my husband's success. I suppose once you've killed him everything will belong to me though" she sighed, feigning regret while unlocking the front door.
"You shure your hushband won't mind my being here?" I said, looking around suspiciously.
"Would you care if he did?"
And with that, the door opened with a reluctant creak and we moved inside. Immediately, I was met not with the objects I had imagined but something far worse; stuffed animals, flowery wallpaper and framed poems about enthusiasm and having a good day. My anger instantly subsided, and I could feel myself stifling the urge to start laughing. The place was just tacky.
"Make yourself at home, my hostess said warmly, and I'll get us a couple of drinks."
"Oh, don't worry about that, I have plenty here" I quickly called out as she left to enter what was presumably the kitchen, pulling a particularly exquisite bottle of champagne out of my trench coat. I set it down on a nearby coffee table, "And don't bother with glasses. This stuff always tastes better straight out of the bottle."
Kristy smiled and slumped down onto one of several bean-bag chairs, having returned from the kitchen, "I suppose the fact that it was free also adds to the flavour."
"Always" I replied smugly, uncorking the bottle with the care of an old professional, "So, my dear, down to businessh if you don't mind. What exactly does your husband do for a living, and where doesh he work? If I know that, it'll make my task a lot easier and a lot less traceable."
The femme fatale leant forward and took a swig of the now-open bottle, glugging the stuff down as if she'd been dying of thirst for days. Half the bottle had disappeared down her throat before she finally laid it back down.
"Jesus Christ, I'm not sure if I should be impressed or intimidated by that."
"Both, if you know what's good for you" she retorted with that same hint of suggestion I knew from the bar. God, she was sexy. "My husband, you say? Hm, well, he's an entrepreneur of sorts"
"Where I come from that's usually just a euphemism for a criminal" I said cynically, wondering if it was worth removing another bottle of champagne from my bulging pockets. She rustled uncomfortably on her bean bag.
"Listen, Mr Zaitzev. I know what it is you're looking for. Your teddy. Truth is my husband was one of the guys who set up the whole thing. My coming to your office earlier was no coincidence; I was supposed to seduce you to throw you off the track, but now that I see what an honest, loving man you are, I just, I can't go through with it."
I listened in utter disbelief as the beauty confessed to her part in that most heinous bear-napping. Was she serious? Me? Honest?? There was no way I could take this at face value, and before she could continue I got up off my beanbag and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her to her feet. I opened my mouth to begin an angry rant, but she suddenly lunged forward and began to kiss me frantically. Before I knew what the hell was going on, I found myself returning her kisses. Together we fell to the floor, and impulse quickly took hold as we became lost in the passion of the moment.
Somehow she was able to murmur, "Let's go to the bedroom" through the passion, but that was all it took to break the spell. I shoved her aside and jumped to my feet, grabbing the half-empty bottle and preparing to defend myself, though I had no idea from what. "Just who the fuck are you?!" I roared.
"Oh Mr. Zaitzev, you have no idea who you're playing with." She said, pressing her fingers against her moist lips with one hand and with the other revealing a gun she'd hidden god knows where.
It was an old fashioned stand-off.
"Heh, you know, even when I first saw this place I felt the urge to burn it to cinders. Looks like I might just have to do that if you don't put that gun down" I threatened, trying to look confident while fighting to keep my balance in spite of my being seriously drunk.
"You wouldn't dare," Kristy said defiantly, removing the safety from her pistol. She too was struggling to keep her balance, the effects of the champagne obviously beginning to take hold.
"Oh no? Do you have any idea how much I HATE flowery wallpaper?! It?s like? I didn't know you were going for the Peter Rabbit effect! Hire an interior decorator or something, I'm sure you've got the money for it."
"Who the fuck are you to give me tips on how to decorate my house?!" She said angrily, firing a shot just left of me. She hit the glass patio door, which promptly shattered, sending shards sprawling across the floor, giving leave for the cold night air to enter and break the tense solitude our situation had created.
I felt my trench coat swaying lightly, and I tipped my fedora rakishly to its best effect, knowing how good it made me look. Then, I took my lighter out from my pocket and positioned it against the top of the open bottle, just to let her know I was serious, "You can't scare me that way, missy."
"There'll be a bullet in your chest before you get the chance to light that thing," the seductress warned me, eyes widening all the same. It looked to me like she was losing her nerve.
I took the chance and slowly began to step back, glass cracking under the pressure of my shoes, to try and get into the open garden - keeping my hand ready to light the bottle at any moment. Kristy simply stood there, watching me. Seconds later I was outside, about to make a run for it when my ex-client fired off another shot, ripping a hole in my fedora. I took the damaged hat from my head and tossed it aside, "Do you know how hard it is to find these things?! They ain't cheap you know!" I exclaimed furiously, sparking the lighter and waited for the alcohol to ignite. When it did, I chucked the bottle straight at her. The flaming booze found its mark, and Kristy screamed in abject shock and terror as her entire body went up in flames.
Before she had the chance to run at me, or fire off the gun again, or do anything remotely threatening, I made a dash for it. Okay, so my reaction was a little extreme, but when you've got an image to maintain things like hats are important. Besides, she said herself that she was involved in napping my bear.
As I rapidly made my way back to the street, I could hear her screams piercing the night air like some otherworldly ghoul. Soon, her house would be on fire too, and with her death would be the end of my last solid link toward getting my bear back. All I had now was the name of a club. The Belgian Truffle. Still, at least I'd gotten her to pay me in advance on the assassination job.