The blade was rusted, un-ideal—hanging from his hand dead and heavy. Dead weight made new.

Nikolai lit up a cigarette (and allowed Kirill to take it away, snatched in a blink, the smoke still trailing). Show some respect for a dead man, the barber said. Said it loud, clear, and worthless. Said seven words dipped in barely hushed-up venom and threat. His throat all tied up with dread.

"I'll show you some fucking respect," Kirill laughed and perched neatly on the table, still drunk and inside-beaten.

And off came the fingers, one by one. Algid, stiff, a dead man's burden.