Yuri dipped his fingers in the ground dust of Faberge's swan egg, mauve enamel and coal dust slurring with the powdered diamond and flecks of aquamarine lake. Illusionary carbon-steel surgical blades descended from the tips of Yuri's fingers and he caressed his hand along Alexandre's cheek blending a stinging sense of salt in with the illusion of blood running down the man's cheek. "You did a bad thing."
Alexandre's shivering shook the gurney, but the nylon bonds held his arms and legs securely. "I... did... my... job." Sweat beaded between the blood lines.
The edges of Yuri's mouth curved like the blades on his fingers. As long as he didn't overstress the man's heart, using illusions for torture had all of the benefits, watching the prey squirm, creating fear, and modifying behaviors, without the drawbacks, unintended deaths. "I didn't like your story." Yuri gripped a trailing flap of skin and ripped it from the journalist's face. The man howled. Blades retracting into the oligarchs's fingers, Yuri licked the blood.
The door creaked open.
A woman's gasp escaped before she cut off whatever she was going to say. Yuri dipped his fingers into the dust, touched his lips and moved forward quickly to grab Cheryl's hand, lips pressing against her knuckles as he tasted the fear beneath her skin. Behind him, light flashed and when the girl's eyes would readjust to the room she would see Yuri's illusion of a basement garden with blooming dahlias, orchids, and lilies, orange and black-veined butterflies flitting between the flowers and the miniature eucalyptus.
Igor, the butler, massaged his hand. "I told Miss Parcells that you were occupied."
"What did I see?"
Yuri took the opera singer's elbow in his and led her out of the room and up the stairs to the main floor. "I have one of the largest personal collections of butterflies."
Cheryl raised a hand. "But --"
"You didn't see anything. Sometimes, long cross-Atlantic flights and the cold of our Russian winters can make one imagine unusual things." Yuri squeezed Cheryl's upper arm. "How did you get past Igor?"
Cheryl opened her hand, an electric handshake-zapper lying in her palm. "There was a man bleeding in the room. I think I've seen his face somewhere. A newspaper?"
She knew too much. "Igor, clean up the butterflies. And be careful. We wouldn't want any of them to escape. The cold would kill them."
Cheryl opened her mouth, but before she could say anything Yuri placed finger on her lips.
"It was good of you to come to my party." It had taken a small sum to lure her from New York. "You remind me that the Metropolitan Opera may have to cancel this season if they don't find a foundation donor. It would be unfortunate if your first primary role was canceled."
Cheryl's face whitened. "What? James didn't mention money troubles."
"You know I'm good friends with Peter Gelb. The news was sudden. He didn't want to scare you. I think we can solve their troubles. Will you accompany me to New York where I will donate the money they need?"
"You're trying to distract me."
He lifted her chin to look in her beguiling green eyes. "No, you are distracting me. We can talk more about your concerns on my private jet." Yuri snapped his fingers for his limousine.
Cheryl sat in the seat across from him as the jet engine's roar became louder and the floor of the jet rumbled as the landing gear descended. The opera singer looked out the window. "Hey, this isn't New York. The water is too cyan. Where are we?"
"Refueling. I will show you my favorite lounge while we wait for the plane." The lounge was inside the medical center he'd funded and although he liked Cheryl's vivacity, she asked too many questions and seen too much. He frowned. The lobotomy and dust reanimation were necessary.
This flash is set in the same world as Bengal's Flowers.