On a classic British autumn Wednesday of metallic gray skies, clean, brisk winds and multi-colored Sycamore trees, an afternoon lecture was taking place on the campus of Oxford University that was causing the masses to converge upon one of its most sacred buildings in record-breaking numbers.
The Sheldonian Theatre, situated in the city’s center, has long been a ceremonial gem. The eight-sided, historic fixture adorned with detailed tapestry, awe-striking brick masonry and overall old world opulence, was perfectly fitting for hosting the world’s most, powerful and wealthy crime lord.
Dmitry Medlov remembered visiting the campus many years back as a young man, when he attended his former lover Elsa’s graduation. Even then, after seeing so much in the world, he had been in complete won-der of the stately institution’s beauty. He still remembered feeling small and insignificant on campus and in comparison to the great thinkers who had matriculated here.
However, never in a million years, did he think that he would be a guest lecturer for its most prominent criminal justice academic community.
The appeal had come via FedEx and de-livered to the front door of his palatial mansion in Prague. Royal had delivered it with urgency, thinking that it had something to do with their son.
When he had first received the invitation from Oxford, he had understandably dis-missed it. There was no way that he was going to allow himself to be put on display for greenhorns and their ridiculous journals.
However, his son Maxim – one of those reluctant greenhorns – had begged him profusely to change his mind, arguing that, “Everyone already knows who you are and what you do. Now the University would like to understand why. Do this for me, please, Papa?”
His boy. His very own greenhorn.
The rest was history.
Unable to deny his son’s request, he accepted the invitation against his other children’s wishes. It was probably their urging not to do it that made him want to speak. He might have retired but he was by no means….soft.
After all, it wasn’t him who was in charge of the Medlov Crime Family any-more, and it wasn’t as if he was going to give any real specifics about any illegal activities that had taken place over the years.
In essence, he would just speak on the perception the world had of him throughout the decades, and how wrong they all were.
Now in front of a lecture hall full of over 1,000 hungry college students, professors, reporters, and curious fans with eyes glued to him and ears opened wide ready to receive his every word, Dmitry stood behind the podium in his signature, tailored black three-piece suit in complete silence.
The entire lecture hall was ominously still, waiting on bated breath for an answer to the question just posed by the student standing at that microphone.
A woman, whose resemblance to Elsa was uncanny, stood up during the Q&A and posed very specific questions to him. “Why did you feel the need to acquire so much wealth in your life? And do you feel that that greed has affected your ability to really be human?”
Dmitry raised a brow at the question. He could tell that despite the department’s previous assurances, this was not going to be a soft ball interrogation. With careful thought, he mulled through endless experi-ences to arrive at an answer appropriate for her delicate mind.
She deserved an answer and in some way, it was karma-like that he’d be addressed by a woman who reminded him so much of a past that started right here on the campus where Elsa had experienced some of her most exciting and turbulent times.
The gray on the sides of his golden blonde hair was accented even more by the gold rimmed glasses angled downward on his perfect nose. He rubbed his brow and looked down at his hand-scribbled notes under the desk light. Clearing his throat, he balled up the papers.
Bending toward the microphone, his bari-tone voice boomed and echoed throughout the acoustically superior room. “I never set out to acquire the wealth that I have been blessed to have acquired. I actually just wanted to not starve to death, and more than that, I didn’t want my little brother, a man whom I saw more like a son, to starve to death. This is one of those times when the saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions actually fits.”
Dmitry smiled a little, thinking of Ivan when he was yet a boy standing on the pavement outside of their old apartment in Moscow waiting on him to return from prison. A tear started to form in the side of his eye, but he quickly pushed it back. In his older years, he often thought of his brother often and often with painful side effects.
“We were beyond poor, and so alone, but we were determined to take our destiny into our own hands and make something of our futures. When you have that type of deter-mination, nothing is impossible, not even becoming a billionaire. And when you have that type of experience, nothing makes you more human.”
Maxim Medlov was sitting in the front row of the large group with the other col-leagues of his class in a pair of tweed slacks, a white button down shirt and a sweater, looking as splendid as a man of his stature should.
More of an academic than any other child of Dmitry’s, Maxim had grown into a hand-some, tall, young man with dark striking features and an equally striking thirst for knowledge.
Boasting ink black wavy hair curled at the nape of his neck, wearing silver-rimmed glasses over his bright blue eyes the color of a London topaz and looking so much like Ivan until it made his mother sick, he often was referred to as the “Clark Kent of the Medlov men.”
Only, despite all of his heavenly features, there was nothing adventurous about Max-im. He was a settled man who believed in reasoning and non-violence.
Even as a boy, he had always asked the question why and now in his adulthood, he sought out the reasons as a budding educa-tor, destined to be a professor at this very same institution. In fact, if his future was simply based upon the large endowment that Dmitry had given the school, Maxim’s grandchildren would also be professors here as well.
Watching his father answer the questions so candidly made him shift in his seat in discomfort. Maxim knew this scene would only anger Konstantin, his twin brother, more. He looked over across the room to find Konstantin glaring at him with an angry scowl on his face.
Dutifully standing guard over their be-loved father, Konstantin looked around the room covertly, scanning for threats. To say that he did not want to be here was a su-preme understatement. He loathed these philosophical types with all their tree hug-ging and non-violent ideals. He had seen that the world was made up of wolves and sheep, and nothing in between. It was sick-ening to him that their father had indulged his wimpy, simple-minded brother with this blasphemous request, and he had made sure to tell everyone just that at dinner last night right before he stormed off to be alone and brood.
Konstantin was the polar opposite of Maxim. While both were over 7’ tall, Kon-stantin was an extremely muscular, pure blonde, blue-eyed, olive-skinned monster of a man with a deep voice, brooding, rugged good looks, and possessing true Vor mental-ity.
He had quit college in his third year, re-fusing to further his education. Instead, he took a job under Anya and served as the Head of Security for Medlov Enterprises.
He had been the second of the children to move out of the family home, and was al-ways the one with the shortest temper.
His mother, Royal, was completely against it all, knowing that the company was a front for the Medlov Organized Crime Family’s larger and more criminal global operations. She wanted more for her son than be relegated to the same rules of his previous generation. But he wanted to fol-low in the footsteps of his father, his big brother Anatoly, and sister.
Still, what could anyone do about the boy quitting school?
Dmitry’s final word was that Konstantin was a man, capable of making his own decisions. He felt that he had equipped him with all the tools he needed to make his own life decisions. And if Konstantin wanted to follow in the Vor way, there was no way that he would deny him the opportunity.
Anatoly, was completely behind their fa-ther’s decision and had become his biggest advocate in all family decisions.
Anya could think of nothing better than having one of her baby brothers by her side, along with her husband, Semyon. As the first woman to reign in such a capacity, loyalty was a hard commodity to come by and she would never turn down someone she knew that she could trust.
Maxim was too much of an intellect to even weigh in on the decision. And even if he had, no one would have listened.
Then there was the baby girl of the fami-ly. Demi was, as usual, unaffected by the family feud. She was off planning a wedding and refusing to even accept that her family was associated with the Vor. Maxim would always comment that Demi had drunk the Kool-Aid and was now hopelessly blind to what their family had done in the world while gaining personal wealth.
Dmitry huffed and gazed out over the crowd. “The question of nature versus nurture could be better evaluated at my home. Do you breed criminals or are they born? Some in this world, though I’ve never been convicted of a crime as an adult, would say that I am a criminal.” His eye twitched. “I would ask the question, what billionaire is not a criminal?”
“Show me one, and I’ll show you a man or woman who inherited billions but does not yet control it, because any time that you have that type of wealth and you are in control, something is bound to go wrong.” Scratching his throat, he straightened his long back. “My children have truly made me see what’s important in this life. They have also shown me that despite your best efforts, once they are adults, you have to let them make their own decisions. Even if you tell them a 100 times not to do what you have done…sometimes they still follow in your footsteps.”
Just then, the doors in the back of the lec-ture hall opened and with it came a bright light, cool air and a breathtakingly beautiful tall woman. She appeared through the double doors wearing a black leather jacket cut to fit her small waist and wide shoulders and a matching black leather skirt tapered to fit her wide hips and long legs down to the knee. Although she was well over 6’ tall, she wore leather stilettos that tied at the ankle making her appear even larger than life.
Busty and voluptuous, she walked with a powerful stride, hips moving with a mean sway. The diamonds in her ears, on her neck, her wrist, and finger caught the light and reflected across the room. Throwing her silky black hair over her shoulder, it landed perfectly down her back and feathered around her angelic face.
She strode in with all eyes watching in sheer admiration and curiosity. Right be-hind her were five enormous men, all wear-ing suits, and all very menacing in their appearance.
Dmitry paused, giving his daughter the moment her presence commanded. How she reminded him of her mother. She was al-ways draped in diamonds, always beautiful and always powerful.
“Speak of the devil,” he said, winking at Anya.
“Better late than never, Papa,” she said, walking down the aisle to the very front of the room.
Five scholars on the front row opposite Maxim stood up and moved as if on cue, far too intimidated by the woman to wait for her entourage to ask them to relocate.
Arrogantly, she removed her designer shades and sat down beside her brother. With a venomous glare, she smiled at him. “Enjoying your little show Maxim?” she asked under her breath.
She looked over at Konstantin who was eyeing her every move and smiled at him proudly. How she loved her Konstantin.
“Nice of you to add to the conversation, sestra,” Maxim said, rolling his eyes. He adjusted his glasses in frustration. “If you had let me know that you were coming, there would have been no need to strong arm innocent students for their seats. I would have reserved a few seats for you and your private army.” He looked at the men sitting beside her, so large until they barely fit in the chairs, and sucked in a frustrated breath.
Without asking, he was certain there were more of them outside, causing a scene and circling the perimeter of the building as if she was the Queen of England.
Anya huffed. “Well, there was no way in hell that I was going to allow you to just throw just Papa to these wolves.”
“They are not wolves,” Maxim answered suggestively.
“Really? Then why are they circling like wolves around him? Anyway…you know the saying, where there is one Medlov, there are many. Admit it or not, brother, you knew that I’d be here. I’ll always be here.” Anya crossed her long legs and blew her father an endearing kiss. “Please continue, Papa. Forgive my tardiness and interrup-tion.”
“No apologies needed, princess. I would wait for you until the end of time,” Dmitry said, picking up where he left off with more vigor. “Where was I? Yes, nature versus nurture…”