Disclaimer: Tintin and Co. belong to Moulinsart and no profit is being made from this work.

For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. –Galatians 5:17, Douay-Rheims Bible

Prologue: In Medias Res

If this is what Costya had meant by his best table, Tintin thought sardonically, he would hate to see his worst. The only virtue it had was it was hidden from the view of the rest of the nightclub. And in his position, the young journalist really couldn't bring himself to see the privacy in such a positive manner.

A lone light shone above them, fighting valiantly in the murky gloom that seemed to permeate every corner of this hateful establishment.

Costya placed the pistol on the table in front of him, "You have not touched your drink."

Tintin eyed the weapon, before meeting the huge man's stare. "I can't say that I'm really thirsty. You understand."

Smoke swirled up from the cigarette on the ash tray, spiraling wildly into the light cast by the dirty chandelier. A barking laugh came from Costya's throat, utterly without any true humor to it. Sick enjoyment, yes, honest amusement, no.

"No, no I imagine you wouldn't be." Two thick fingers retrieved the cigarette. He leaned back away from his captive, took a leisurely drag, the tip glowing eerily in the semi-darkness. He waved the serving girl over to the table, and she quickly bent to retrieve the wine glass.

As she did so, Tintin caught a whiff of something familiar lingering under the sharp sting of cheap perfume. Oil and gunpowder. He didn't know where exactly she was hiding it in that skimpy costume of hers, but the woman was armed. The small glimmer that had been his hope of escape all but extinguished itself. Even the wait staff was packing!

"Now, I believe you have something of mine, Monsieur, and I would have it back," The man's accent became heavier, even as his tone stayed perfectly nonchalant.

"And if I refuse to give it?"

"Then we will take it." White teeth glimmered as the Russian grinned, "One way or another."

Tintin's gaze fell once again on the weapon posed menacingly in his line of vision.

"I think," He said slowly, "That things will end the same for me if I give it to you willingly or not. So, let's just get this over with."

"As you wish."

Pain lanced through the back of his skull, the impact of the blow causing his teeth to come together with a resounding clack. Stars exploded behind his eyes and left darkness in their wake.

A/N: Alright, a short prologue to kick things off, before this thing sprawls out of control. It will be my first take on a semi-linear narrative, let's see how it goes. Takes place after Tintin and the Alpha-Art and like all later Tintin works, is set in some sort of non-specified post-War timeline. This story has been brewing for quite some time(Think: nearly a decade), but it wasn't until I saw the movie that I got my butt in gear to actually write the damn thing. Might be a little grittier than some like their Tintin, yet I'm writing for a different audience than Hergé was. I also apologize for any shifts between French and English terms for characters/places/etc., since my collection is bilingual and I am an easily confused creature. –Cries-