These Toys Are for Tough Boys

K. A. Laity/Graham Wynd

‘But why do you want to kill him?’ Patrick tried to pay attention to the words instead of the way Simone’s low cut dress revealed her ripe breasts a little too evidently to the eye.
‘Does it matter? He has to be dealt with and I need one more in on the job.’ Simone gave him a look that made him feel both aroused and insulted. ‘Are you up for it?’
He knew what she was insinuating and he also knew that she was taking advantage of his lust for her. It had made him do stupid things before. But never killing someone. It was a big step up to go from a few shady grifts, a bit of petty larceny and the occasional minor break-ins to the ultimate crime.
Patrick had thought he could steer clear of that one. It wasn’t like they hanged a man for the crime. Anymore, that is. Back in the day that had provided the final exit for his old man. He’d sworn to his mam he’d never go that far.
But his mam had never met Simone. If she had she’d have clouted him round the ears and told him not to waste his time. ‘Water finds its level, find yours.’ How many times had she said that to him? Simone was not his level. An ocean of water lay between his expectations and her aspirations, yet somehow he thought his luck might hold long enough this time to see if she looked as good naked as his dreams had promised him.
‘I’m up for it. When do we do the deed?’
Simone smiled. It was so very cat-like that he almost expected her to purr. ‘We’re going to meet tomorrow night at the back of Chantey’s and talk the details through. No slip ups. This is well planned.’
‘Your plan or Shadey’s?’
Simone made a sound of annoyance. ‘Some from column A, some from column B. What do you care?’
‘Who else is in on it?’ Patrick thought it might be wise to know after all.
‘Not the usual lunkheads. You’ll meet them tomorrow. No need to get people yammering ahead of time.’
‘I’m silent as the grave,’ Patrick protested.
‘Is that the one your banshees howl over?’ Simone laughed. It was not a kind sound. Some women really shouldn’t laugh. They stabbed a sliver of iron into your heart whenever they did. Patrick stopped himself from making the sign of the cross, knowing what Simone would say about that.
‘Fancy a drink now?’ He thought it was a pretty smooth segue but she didn’t respond favourably.
‘I’ve got things to do. I’m no idler.’
‘Are you suggesting I’m some kind of layabout?’ Patrick felt stung but the truth was his plans hadn’t gone much further for the day than trying to talk Simone into having a drink. He figured if he just got her to let down those monumental barriers for a wee while, she might just discover his hidden charms and let him see some of hers more closely. He’d said as much to his sister Margret the day before. She had laughed too, then asked when he was going to be paying his overdue rent to her.
‘I don’t run a charity here. If you want charity, go see the Magdalens.’ Now there was a heartless woman. Of course she had been kind enough to have given him a room on the cheap, albeit in the noisy house with her sour husband and five children. On most days it was as good as a free ticket to an insane asylum without any of the comfort that suggested.
But if he could get a big score now — why, he could be his own man. It would be a novel thing. He’d been under his mam’s thumb until she died and lacking wherewithal after her funeral, his sister had grudgingly– so very grudgingly — given him a roof over his head. Literally, as his room might more properly be called an attic eyrie.
With nothing to occupy him, Patrick decided to pop along and check out the intended victim. Simone might look askance at the move, but wasn’t that what they called ‘casing the joint’? Besides the Nun & Dragon had cheaper pints than Chantey’s anyway. And far be it from him to disparage a fellow traveler but the lad at Chantey’s couldn’t pull a decent stout if his life depended on it.
Patrick chuckled to himself as he pushed the door in at the pub, unconsciously making the sign of the cross as he passed under the nun on the sign, squeezed in the dragon’s coils. He rather hoped that would be a foreshadowing of his time to come with Simone and lord knows he’d squeeze her tightly as any dragon might.
The Slovenian was behind the bar as usual, chatting to a couple of students. It was a bit off the beaten track for the uni but occasionally a few would discover the pub and try to make a habit of it for a few weeks, but they always went back to the cheap, loud vulgar places next to campus. There was only so far you wanted to walk when you were on the piss.
‘What can I get you?’ Borut had finally finished his tale of a water sprite that lived in the Black Lake. When Patrick was slow to answer, he immediately tried to convince him to order some Slovenian beer that was called something like Lash Co, with the funny accent marks that seemed entirely unnecessary. It was almost as bad as Irish.
He watched Borut pull the pint of Guinness and wondered again what the man could have done to get on Shadey’s bad side. He seemed the soul of affability with his genial air and halo of grey curls. Then again, he had to get out of Slovenia for some reason, too. At least Simone had hinted as much back in the day.
‘So why did you leave Slovenia to come here?’ He asked after the students had drifted away. ‘You always make it sound like such a paradise.’
‘It is! Mountains, vineyards, air you can breathe. Not like this city. Poisonous, isn’t it?’ Borut shook his head with regret.
‘Then why come here?’ Patrick insisted.
Borut laughed. ‘I fell in with a bad crowd and didn’t have an alibi.’ He shrugged as if that were somehow self-explanatory.
Patrick nodded. ‘Was there a woman?’
The Slovenian sighed. ‘Isn’t there always?’
Patrick couldn’t disagree. He figured all his own problems probably could be attributed to women from his mam to the elusive Simone. Probably his sister, too, as she was always nagging him to get a steady job and give up this hustling life. Let a man be. He drank his pint and imagined all the things he would do with plenty of money and Simone.
The next night they met in the back room of Chantey’s. There was Simone of course, Blue Jake, and a guy called Einar. ‘What sort of name’s that?’ Patrick asked with genuine curiosity.
‘Icelandic.’ The man gave him a challenging look that made him seem far more imposing than his height.
‘Oh, you fellas did all right in the cup. I was rooting for them when they smited England. Bloody brilliant!’
The Icelander gave him a broad grin. ‘I wish we had continued on the same. Alas, it was not to be.’
‘We’ll see what happens in four years. I know who I’m betting on. We’ll see some Renaldo tears yet—’
‘If you lads are done talking footie, could we get to the matter at hand?’
Simone sounded cranky so Patrick did his best to cheer her. ‘Anything for you, darling.’ She only made a face at that. Some women just did not appreciate his charm. But she would come around, he was certain of it.
‘Tomorrow night we are going to snatch the Slovenian. You’re not to hurt him at first if you can help it. You have to wait for word from Shadey. When we’ve got the money, then you can whack him.’ Simone smiled as if promising a story to kids at bedtime. ‘We’ve got a car that belongs to a little old lady from Lyme Regis who doesn’t even know it’s gone. You’re going to take him to a cottage just across the Welsh border — don’t worry, I’ve got the coordinates for the satnav.’
‘How will we communicate with you or Shadey?’ The Icelander asked.
Simone handed him a cheap mobile phone. ‘This is the only one. When it’s done you destroy it and chuck the sim into a river or some such place where it won’t be found. We’ll only call on this line so don’t lose it too soon.’
‘How do you know we won’t be seen grabbing him from the pub?’ Patrick thought it seemed like an obvious question.
Simone withered him with her glance. ‘That’s your job.’
They waited until closing. The night had grown rather chilly for September and they shivered a little amongst the bins and whatnot behind the pub.
‘What if he locks up and goes out the front door?’ Blue Jake asked in a too-loud whisper.
‘No, that his car there. See the Maribor sticker on the bumper? He’ll come out this way.’ Sure enough some minutes later they heard the door creak open and Borut came out, shrugging into his jacket and dangling a backpack from one hand while he locked the door with the other. They let him get over to his car and then stepped out of the shadows.
‘We need to take you somewhere,’ Patrick said, hoping he sounded like a movie tough.
Borut looked at the three of them without much expression. ‘Where?’
‘That information is what they call on a need to know basis. And you don’t need to know.’ Blue Jake tapped his palm with the tire iron he’d brought. It was an odd choice of weapon. They had to improvise. Patrick had through they’d all get guns, which alas proved not to be true. Only Einar got a gun which hardly seemed fair. When he’d protested Simone gave him a withering look. ‘Those toys are for tough boys.’
That hadn’t been kind, but he was determined to show her that he could be one of the toughs.
The Slovenian muttered something Patrick couldn’t understand then took a step toward him and swung the backpack at Blue Jake. Patrick had taken a step back just by habit when the man moved up and cursed himself at once for doing so. The backpack blocked the tire iron’s belated swing so for a moment Blue Jake looked quite put out, his one move already frustrated.
Patrick dove in to grapple with the man. When he slammed into him, he figured he’d go down but the man didn’t budge. Blue Jake threw himself onto the guy too and their combined weight knocked him back against the car. He wasn’t done though. The Slovenian brought up a knee and it connected with Blue Jake who made a sound like oof and doubled over. Patrick did his best to try to get a hold on the man’s neck just like Giant Haystacks. Kids always said wrestling was fixed and Patrick now had a feeling they were right because the smooth moves didn’t seem to have any effect at least not until Blue Jake once more added his weight and a volley of oaths to the attack.
The three of them hit the ground grumbling and writhing and then they all heard the click of a cocked gun. Looking up they saw Einar standing over them. ‘Get in the boot now.’ He looked dead tough standing there pointing that big shooter at them. Patrick was ready to get into the boot himself. He and Blue Jake let the Slovenian rise and sort of shouldered him into the boot of the Ford Festiva.
‘It’s a bit small,’ Borut said as he climbed in.
‘Sorry about that but we didn’t get to choose the car.’
‘Who did? Was it Shadey?’
‘You don’t need to be asking the questions.’ Blue Jake smirked and slammed the lid down with unnecessary vehemence. Naturally it popped open again without latching.
‘That was quick,’ Borut said.
Patrick closed the lid until it clicked. Then they all piled into the car. Patrick had made a point of declaring himself the wheelman which did t sit too well with Blue Jake who drew the back seat. ‘This back seat is about as spacious as the boot.’
‘At least you can see the sights as we drive along.’
Blue Jake snorted. ‘It’s the middle of the night.’
‘I think technically it’s past the middle of the night, if midnight is the middle.’
‘Shut up and drive.’
‘In two hundred yards turn right,’ the satnav bellowed.
‘Oh Christ, who set the voice to Brian Blessed?!’
‘He could almost hear Simone chuckling at that. Her sort of joke no doubt. There was no time to fuss with the settings. He’d make her pay for that later. For now he concentrated on getting them out of the city and on their way without giving way to the desire to shout, ‘Gordon’s alive?!’ It was difficult not to given in to temptation.
Blue Jake was snoring in minutes, a sound of infinite irritation. The Icelander, although awake, had little desire to chat. He might as well have been a Finn. It was flabbergasting how long it took to get across this country which most of the time seemed so small. Especially once they crossed the Welsh border and all attempts at order disappeared. If the satnav didn’t bark it’s orders now and then, Patrick would easily believe they were in the middle of nowhere.
Glancing off to the side where a good impression of the Hundred Acre wood surrounded them, Patrick suddenly saw a huge black dog keeping pace with them. Which seemed mad: what dog could run that fast. ‘Do you see that?’
The Icelander turned. ‘See what?’
‘That big dog. See there? Running through the trees. Look how fast it’s going.’
‘I don’t see it.’
‘Right over there. Not a hundred yards away. Going real bloody fast.’
Einar shrugged. ‘It’s probably your fetch.’
‘Fetch?’ Patrick frowned. Something lost in translation, no doubt. ‘Fetching what?’
‘No, your fetch. Your spirit animal. That’s what we call it.’
‘What, Icelanders are like Red Indians, I mean Native Americans, that’s what they say now, right? Or like Harry Potter, a whatsis.’
Einar shrugged. ‘I don’t know about all that. We say every person has a fetch. But you only see it when your fate is come.’
‘My destiny you mean?’ Patrick liked the sound of that. He was destined for greater things.
‘Your final destiny,’ the Icelander said. ‘It’s a premonition. A death sign.’
Patrick snorted. It was only because it was so late at night that he had even entertained the notion of some crazy folk magic. Silly kid stuff. ‘How do you know it’s not your fetch?’
‘I didn’t see it, you did.’ He lapsed back into silence. Patrick would have continued to question him but just then the satnav barked at him once more to let him know that the next right would bring them to their destination in one hundred yards.
The cottage looked like it had been abandoned by hobbits about a century ago. And they hadn’t got their security deposit back either. In fact to call it a cottage was a kindness it hardly deserved. Patrick supposed that was why Simone had warned them to bring torches. It hardly looked as if there would be any electricity in it, but sure enough when they staggered in and hit the switch, a feeble light shone in the dawn, hardly matching its brightness.
‘We can bring him in here,’ Einar said as they looked at the forlorn siting room, or what might at one time have been referred to in that way. They turned over what was left of the furniture and found chairs that would at least hold weight, unlike the table that fell to bits when they put it on its feet.
‘Mother Mary, I hope we don’t have to stay here long. We’ll all be covered in fungus by nightfall.’ Patrick shuddered at the thought. He had a recurring image from childhood of a corpse rotting under mushrooms in the wood that probably came from one of his dad’s stories from the old country. Or else his own criminal past. A shiver went through him again.
They went back out to the Festiva and opened the boot to hustle Borut out again. ‘Oh but I was so comfortable in there, please give me a few more minutes. I didn’t say good-bye to the toolbox. It would be rude after we were so intimate.’
The three of them shoved him inside. Blue Jake revealed the coil of rope he’d discovered in the back seat and they tied the Slovenian to the sturdiest of the crap chairs. He seemed resigned to his fate for the moment, though Patrick kept a wary eye on him.
‘I’ll call Simone,’ Einar said. ‘Hopefully the reception’s better outside.’
As he sauntered out the door nonchalantly the thought popped into Patrick’s head that there was something a bit fishy about that. What were the odds that the reception was really all that better? ‘You keep an eye on him,’ he told Blue Jake.
‘What the hell else have I got to do?’
Patrick stepped into what had been the kitchen before some epic conflagration and cocked an ear toward the broken window. Even with careful attention he couldn’t quite hear all that the Icelander said, though of course he was only getting half the conversation. But he heard one very important word: MacGregor.
Christ on a crutch, was Shadey going up against Ma MacGregor? Was he mad? The woman would skin him and all the rest of them alive and boil their briskets for Sunday dinner. She was ruthless. It made no sense. What possible connection could she have to all this?
‘You know, I think you may have made a serious error,’ the Slovenian said when Patrick stepped back into the room.
Blue Jake shook his head. ‘Don’t even listen. He’s mental, I swear. Says we’re going to hear from Ma MacGregor.’
‘Bollocks. What she got to do with you?’
‘Who do you think owns the Nun & Dragon now?’ Borut gave him a smug look.
‘It’s that other woman, Fox or something like that.’ Patrick could feel sweat break out under his arms despite the day’s chill.
‘No, not for months. I was brought in by her special to run the place. A favour owed.’
‘What kind of favour?’
‘If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.’
Something about the calm way he said it made Patrick see the great black dog running along in the back of his mind and he didn’t like it one bit. ‘Pull the other one, it’s got bells.’
At least when Einar walked back in it gave them a distraction. ‘Now all we have to do is wait.’
‘Is that right?’ Patrick said with as much sarcasm as he could muster. The Icelander just stared at him. ‘What did Simone say?’
‘That’s what Simone said. We just sit and wait.’
‘Wait for Ma MacGregor’s toughs to come after us?’
Einar stared at him with something that looked suspiciously close to pity. ‘Simone will took care with this gig. We’ll be fine.’
‘If I’d known you were going up against Ma, I’d have said you can count me out.’ Blue Jake shook his head.
‘No good will come of this,’ Borut said with mock sorrow.
‘Shut your gob,’ Patrick said a little too quickly. Why was the Icelander so chummy with Simone now? She was meant for him, she must have known that. Not some foreigner.
‘Hey, be cool now,’ Einar said, his voice as coaxing as any virgin’s promising tomorrow or the next day, any night but tonight.
‘Be cool? Who are you to tell me to be cool? I’m always cool.’
‘Hey, I brought snacks,’ Einar said, lifting a carrier bag full of groceries.
‘Snacks? What are we, five year olds to be bribed with sweets?’
‘Shut up, man,’ Blue Jake said. ‘I’m hungry.’ Einar doled out the crisps and Babybels along with cans of lager.
‘What about me?’ Borut asked.
‘You’ll have to wait,’ Patrick told him.
‘You could untie one of my hands,’ he offered.
‘Don’t you watch films? That’s how things always start to unravel. Not going to happen here.’ They munched their food in silence otherwise while the Slovenian sighed. ‘No, not going to happen,’ Patrick repeated.
‘I’d just like to eat before Ma’s guys get here. I may lose my appetite with all the blood on the floors.’
‘Shut up, you.’ It was a bit dull as insults went but Patrick couldn’t think of a good taunt against Slovenians. It wasn’t like he was a frog or a kraut. What did Slovenians eat anyway? Did they have some national dish that the people around them recognised at once? Like potatoes and the Irish forever inextricably linked. Maybe he could google it. But his phone didn’t get any service around here.
Wales: you might as well be in Antarctica except for the trees.
‘Right, we’ll take turns keeping watch. Since I drove I’m taking first sleep.’ Patrick waited for an objection but none came. He wandered around the small house. There wasn’t much left as furniture, so he took off his jacket and stretched out on the floor of a bedroom with it folded beneath his head like a pillow. He was asleep before he could remember the song that had suddenly sprung into his mind just then.
Patrick awoke from a dream of the huge black dog, immediately suspicious that all seemed so quiet when his head had been so loud. The giant gnashers flashed vividly behind his eyes and the growls made him shiver again in the cold room.
He scrambled up and went to the sitting room. Blue Jake was also asleep in his chair, head lolling like a puppet without strings. Borut appeared to be dozing as well. Einar was reading a book.
Who the fuck brings a book to a kidnapping? ‘What are you reading?’
Einar lifted the book to show him the cover. ‘This is a good one. One of the characters ends up in a bottle dungeon, which is just about the worst torture I can imagine.’ He shook his head in wonder.
‘What’s a bottle dungeon?’ The Icelander started to explain but Patrick interrupted him. ‘What’s the deal with you and Simone?’
He offered an innocent look. ‘It’s just business. Why?’
‘You sure about that?’
‘It’s not just business,’ Borut said quite loud. Apparently he had not really been dozing after all. ‘I’ve see them together. Quite chummy they looked.’
‘It’s a lie. He’s trying to manipulate you,’ Einar said, refusing to rise to the bait.
‘He was like a snake coiled around her. Or a dragon, you know.’ Borut nodded as if to verify the sight.
‘He’s just trying to provoke you,’ the Icelander said. ‘You’re not that foolish, are you?’
Patrick looked from one to the other. ‘I’m not sure I trust either of you.’
‘But you trust Simone, right? And she said stay here, stay quiet and just wait. All will be well.’
‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well,’ Patrick said with mock solemnity. The two men stared at him blankly. Blue Jake snored. Patrick grabbed another bag of crisps and tore it open. He didn’t really know what to think. But it was a challenge not to picture that Icelander groping his Simone. She’d probably like that hairy troll. Smiting indeed. He crunched the crisps much louder than necessary.
He had a bad feeling. Normally he might offer a wee prayer at a moment like this but the idea of appealing to Saint Jude irritated him for some reason, but nobody else came to mind immediately. There was always Brigid but somehow even she didn’t seem to suit the moment.
Einar’s phone rang again. He reached for it quickly, standing up and putting his book down. Before he could answer Patrick said, ‘Why don’t you take the call in here so we can all hear it?’
The Icelander looked at him with a little impatience. Patrick took unexpected pleasure in rattling the ice man a little. ‘If I lose the signal, Simone will be quite irritated.’
‘Let’s take that chance.’
He glared but tapped the phone. ‘Hallo?’ He turned away from Patrick and spoke quietly.
On impulse, Patrick jumped up and grabbed the phone away. ‘I want to talk to Shadey,’ he demanded. He was rewarded with nothing but silence at first. Then a familiar voice spoke to him with unfamiliar anger.
‘What is wrong with you, imbecile! Put Einar back on at once.’ Simone’s fury was audible. If she could have reached through the phone to throttle him, he was quite certain she would have done so.
‘I just want to know what you’ve got cooked up for us poor sods. Bugger me if I’m going to be cannon fodder for Ma MacGregor.’
‘You’re a moron you are, Patrick. I don’t know what you think is happening but you need to take a chill pill and let Einar do his job as well. You’re supposed to be keeping an eye on the Slovenian.’
‘Aye, well, Blue Jake has that covered.’ He hoped she couldn’t hear his snores over the connection, which come to think of it didn’t sound all that weak after all. ‘I just want some assurance from you that you’re not planning to abandon us in the case of trouble.’
A sigh, then, ‘Patrick, would I really go to all this trouble just to get you killed? If I wanted you dead I could have pushed you in front of a lorry on the high street. Now give the phone to Einar.’
Reluctantly, because he had no other bright ideas, Patrick handed the phone over to the Icelander. He got another glare in return. The ensuing conversation didn’t tell him much as it mostly consisted of Einar saying, ‘Yes, yes.’ At least it was mercifully brief. Maybe he had flown off the handle a bit. However, there could be little harm in letting Simone know what kind of man he might be underneath the easy-going exterior.
She had to reckon him a little higher on the scale now. He was a take-charge sort of fellow. Simone would see he was serious.
‘The exchange will be tonight,’ Einar announced as he thumbed the phone. ‘We have to sit tight until then. They will be phoning to make sure he’s alive.’
‘Surely now I can eat something,’ Borut said. ‘I’m really hungry. You wouldn’t want me to die of hunger before ten o’clock.’
‘You won’t die of hunger.’ Patrick was certain it could only be a ploy.
‘I also have to piss like a racehorse. Unless you want me to do it here.’ He looked ready to accommodate. Upon arrival they had all pissed up against the side of the cottage in turns. It was only natural a man would have to relieve himself, surely.
Einar finally said, ‘All right, but I am going to have the gun pointed at the back of your head the whole time. And he’s coming along to make sure nothing happens.’
‘I’m what?’ But Einar insisted so they all trooped off outside. They untied his hands and Borut amused himself with making elaborate designs on the side of the house. ‘That word? That’s what we call the English behind their backs.’
‘I don’t care,’ Patrick said. ‘I’m Irish.’
‘Are you the famous Saint Patrick? Well, you know what we call the Irish?’
‘What?’
‘Nothing.’ The Slovenian laughed heartily even as Einar retied his bonds. ‘The Irish are so unimportant we don’t even have an insult for them.’
Patrick felt flustered. ‘Well, we call you all Haribos. You know what they are, Haribo? Silly candy.’
Borut looked thoughtful a moment. Patrick thought the dig had got to him, but in the next moment he said, ‘But Haribo is German. We’re not German.’
‘No, don’t you get it? Maribor-Haribo. See?’
‘What if I were an Olimpija supporter?’
‘What? No, it doesn’t matter. You’re all Haribos.’
‘I think you need a little history of Slovenia. Come visit, taste the grapes, climb the mountains.’
‘What are you, the tourist board of Slovenia? Can’t we gag him?’ Patrick didn’t want to admit to being a bit nettled and went to kick Blue Jake awake while Einar situated their captive back into the one sturdy chair.
Blue Jake yawned. ‘When are we leaving?’
‘Not until late.’
Patrick wanted to do something. Mostly he wanted to hit somebody. He couldn’t decide between Iceland or Slovenia. Someone deserved it. And he was feeling peevish and rather tired. Driving all those hours and then barely getting any sleep. It hardly surprised when you got right down to it.
And hours of just hanging around. It was madness. It couldn’t last. He had a bad feeling about this. Mostly it was a desire to be in his own bed — yes, even the little twin bed in his attic room while the children shrieked below him and the television blared. He tried to imagine bringing Simone to his room. He made a face. That was not going to happen. It would have to be her place.
If it ever happened. Suddenly everything seemed rather hopeless. She probably would go with some jerk like Einar with his smooth Icelandic talk and that hair. And get that Borut. Was there anything worse than having a Slovenian laugh at you. It was bad enough being taken for English, but to have the entire island insulted as well! Never mind he hadn’t been back to the homeland since he was six. You carried your country with you wherever you went. Look at all those crass Americans, they surely did.
He blinked. Had he really seen someone through the trees? Patrick squinted into the gloom. It should be brighter by now. Bloody Wales: it seemed to have its own extra darkness that it called up whenever it was in the mood.
There! Definitely something blinking. It could be a tag on a dog or a cow, he thought but what were the odds, way out here in the middle of nowhere? At least it seemed like the middle of nowhere. He turned away from the dirty window. ‘I think we’ve got company.’
Three heads turned at once. Blue Jake hopped up and tried to look out the window with just one eye as if it somehow concealed him. ‘I don’t see anything.’
‘If it’s Ma MacGregor’s lads, you won’t see anything until it’s too late,’ the Slovenian said.
Einar shoved their captive back into a corner, away from direct view from the front. ‘One of you go run recon outside. See what you can see.’
‘Oh, one of us unarmed folks then? We should maybe run out there naked too.’ Patrick laughed. The sound managed to convey his mirth and a good bit of his anxiety too.
‘I can’t risk letting our only bargaining chip go.’
‘Well, let us watch him with the gun and you can reconnoiter outside. How about that?’
‘It’s not like I am asking you to fight hand to hand. Just see if you can see more, see what we’re up against.’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake, I’ll go,’ Blue Jake said, exasperated into action by their bickering. He ambled out the door and ducked behind the house. Patrick crossed to the back to follow his progress. To his surprise, Blue Jake lit out in the opposite direction from the road and crashed into the woods, running at a speed he’d never seen him attempt before. For a minute he just stared. Then he tried to imagine there was some sort of clever ploy the man was putting into play. But he didn’t reappear.
Bugger that, Patrick thought. He’s scarpered.
He went back to the sitting room where Einar still levelled the gun at the window. ‘He’s done a runner.’
The Icelander stared at him. ‘Who has?’
‘Blue Jake.’
‘What?’
There were only so many ways to explain the same thing. After a moment it would sink in, surely. He could see the moment when the penny dropped. Then the Icelander looked grim. ‘If I see him, I shoot him.’
‘He could be in Ireland by now.’
There wasn’t much to say to that. They both squinted out the window but there was nothing to see in the Welsh gloom. Patrick couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom. Should I stay or should I go? The song started looping in his head. ‘So, what do you think it is?’
‘Are you sure you saw anything?’
If he hadn’t had a gun, Patrick would surely hit him now. ‘Yes, I did.’
‘I bet he imagined it,’ Borut suggested.
He and the Icelander both told him to shut up. Einar frowned. ‘Well, if there is someone out there, how do we best defend ourselves?’
‘In the films they stack all the furniture up to make a barricade.’
‘Does all your experience come from movies?’
‘You got a better idea?’
They moved some of the ramshackle chairs and what was left of the table to block the window and give them some cover. The approach from the road seemed the most likely direction as that’s where Patrick had seen whatever it was he saw.
‘Can you at least give me some cheese? I’m really hungry.’
Patrick glared at the Slovenian. Though fair enough, he probably was hungry. Einar stared intently through the broken table top. What harm could there be? ‘You’d better appreciate this,’ he said while he peeled the wrapper off the cheese.
‘I promise not to bite,’ Borut said with a smile.
Just then the window shattered. Einar swore and tried to get the broken glass out of his hair. More bullets flew.
‘How many of them are there?’ Patrick crouched below the window, waiting for his heart to drop back down from his throat.
‘I can’t see a fucking thing. This country has too many fucking trees.’ The Icelander shook the blood off his hand.
‘Well, why don’t you shoot someone and at least make it less?’
‘I’ve only got six bullets. I can’t waste any of them.’
‘Six! Mother of god, why only six?’
‘Fuck you, I didn’t get an option. We were just supposed to be watching this guy until we iced him. I wasn’t going to need more.’
‘We need them now.’ More bullets rained in on them. It was hard to tell how many people were shooting but at least they were all coming from the front. ‘Hey, you don’t suppose they trying to distract us while they send someone in the back?’
‘That’s what I’d do,’ the Slovenian said.
‘Shut your face.’
It didn’t faze him. ‘I get chatty when I’m hungry.’
‘Maybe you should go check,’ Einar said.
Muttering a prayer to Saint Jude after all, Patrick made a crouch run through the bombed out kitchen and took a quick look through the broken pane and yelped.
The enormous black dog stood at the edge of the forest. Its head was massive. The body was easily as large as a Shetland pony’s. The great white teeth shone in the gloom. It had to be real.
After a moment or two Patrick realised the Icelander was shouting at him. ‘No, no one out this way.’ The big black dog stared as if it were waiting on something. Patrick couldn’t tear his eyes away. All of the sudden it turned tail and left, disappearing between the trees
That’s when the shot hit him. The force of it spun him around. He thought his shoulder had exploded. ‘I’m hit!’ A hundred war films flashed through his mind like a macabre kaleidoscope. Patrick staggered into the sitting room. ‘I’m hit,’ he repeated. Then he fell to his knees.
‘Untie me. I have medical training. I might be able to save him.’
Einar hesitated. Patrick lifted a hand to his neck where he could feel the blood pouring out. He felt dizzy. Swearing, the Icelander untied Borut and then turned back to his post. The Slovenian kicked Einar so he crashed into the broken furniture, dropping the gun. There was a brief struggle that ended with a shot. The Slovenian rose and waved his arms. The gunfire stopped at once.
He walked over to where Patrick lay. It was getting harder to concentrate. ‘Can you stop…stop the…’ he couldn’t remember what he was going to say.
‘I’m sorry. I lied about the medical training.’
Patrick began to sob. ‘Simone…’
‘Yes, she and I thought this would be a good way to get Shadey out of the picture. It seems to have worked.’ Borut patted him on the arm. ‘Sorry about this. But she’s kind of got a thing for me.’
Patrick heard a buzzing in his ears. He wondered if it came from outside. ‘Is she here?’
‘No, no. These are Ma’s guys. But she approved of the plan. Can I ask you one last thing?’
Patrick coughed. His mouth felt very wet. ‘What?’
‘Do you know how to change the voice on the satnav?’
Patrick closed his eyes for the last time.

Te igrače so za žilave dečke

K. A. Laity/Graham Wynd

“Ampak, zakaj bi ga rada ubila?” je skušal Patrick posvetiti pozornost besedam namesto temu, kako je Simonina nizko odrezana obleka razkrivala njeno bujno oprsje na oko nekoliko preveč očitno.
“Je to pomembno? Obračunati je treba z njim in za to potrebujem še nekoga.” Simone mu je naklonila pogled, ki ga je obenem vzburjal in žalil. “Si dovolj pokončen za to?”
Vedel je, na kaj namiguje, vedel pa je tudi, da izkorišča njegovo strast do nje. Zaradi tega je že prej počel neumnosti. A nikogar še ni ubil. To je bil velik korak naprej od par dvomljivih golufij, nekaj neznatnih tatvin in občasnih manjših vlomov do dokončnega zločina.
Patrick je mislil, da se bo lahko temu izognil. Saj ni, da bi obešali ljudi zaradi zločinov. Se pravi, ne več. V preteklosti je bil to njegovemu staremu zadnji izhod. Mami je obljubil, da ne bo nikdar šel tako daleč.
A njegova mama ni nikoli srečala Simone. Če bi jo, bi ga oklofutala okrog ušes in mu rekla, naj ne zapravlja časa. “Gliha vkup štriha, najdi svojo.” Kolikokrat mu je to rekla? Simone ni bila njegova gliha. Med njegovimi pričakovanji in njenimi prizadevanji je bil ocean, ampak nekako je mislil, da bo njegova sreča trajala dovolj dolgo, da bo videl, ali je gola videti enako dobra, kot so mu obljubljale sanje.
“Dovolj pokončen sem. Kdaj bova to opravila?”
Simone se je nasmehnila. Tako mačje, da je skoraj pričakoval, da bo zapredla. “Dobila se bova jutri zvečer za Chanteyem in dorekla podrobnosti. Nobenih napak. Vse je dobro načrtovano.”
“Tvoj načrt ali Shadeyev?”
Simone je spustila nejevoljen zvok. “Nekaj iz stolpca A, nekaj pa iz stolpca B. Kaj te briga?”
“Kdo je še zraven?” Patrick je mislil, da bi bilo vseeno modro vedeti.
“Nobenih običajnih butcev. Jutri jih boš spoznal. Ni treba, da bi ljudje vnaprej jamrali.”
“Molčim kot grob,” se je uprl Patrick.
“Tisti, nad katerim se derejo srake?” se je zarežala Simone. Ni bil prijeten zvok. Nekatere ženske se ne bi smele smejati. Kadar koli se, ti zmeraj zapičijo drobec železa v srce. Patrick se je premagal, in se ni križal, ker je vedel kaj bi na to porekla Simone.
“Si zdaj za pijačo?” To se mu je zdel precej gladek prehod, a njen odgovor ni bil pozitiven.
“Opravke imam. Nisem lenoba.”
“Bi rada rekla, da sem delomrznež?” Patricka je zbodlo, ampak v resnici njegov načrt dneva ni predvideval nič več, kot da Simone prepriča, da gre na pijačo z njim. Predstavljal si je, da bi, če bi jo prepričal, da vsaj za trenutek spusti tiste monumentalne zapornice, mogoče le odkrila njegov skriti šarm in mu dovolila, da si jo pobliže ogleda. Tako je povedal tudi svoji sestri Margret dan pred tem. Tudi ona se je smejala, potem pa ga je vprašala, kdaj ji namerava plačati najemnino, s katero je precej zamujal.
“Nisem dobrodelna ustanova. Če bi rad usmiljenje, se oglasi pri Magdalenkah.” Brezsrčna ženska, ni kaj. Seveda je bila dovolj prijazna, da mu je dala poceni sobo, čeprav v hrupni hiši s svojim zagrenjenim možem in petimi otroki. Največkrat pa je bilo kot brezplačna vstopnica za norišnico brez kakršnega koli udobja.
Ampak, če bi mu zdaj ratalo – potem bi bil neodvisen. To bi bilo nekaj čisto novega. Bil je pod maminim nadzorom, dokler ni umrla, in ko je po njenem pogrebu ostal brez sredstev, mu je sestra nerada – tako zelo nerada – ponudila streho nad glavo. Dobesedno, saj bi se njegovi sobi bolj prav reklo podstrešno gnezdo.
Ker ni imel pametnejšega dela, se je Patrick odločil iti zraven in preveriti predvideno žrtev. Simone ga je morda pogledala nekoliko nezaupljivo, ampak ali ne pravijo temu ‘čekiranje terena’? Poleg tega je bilo pri Nuni & Zmaju pivo cenejše kot pri Chanteyu. In daleč od tega, da bi omalovaževal svojo sopotnico, ampak tip pri Chanteyu ni mogel naliti poštenega piva, pa če bi bilo od tega odvisno njegovo življenje.
Patrick se je zasmejal pri sebi, ko je porinil vrata pivnice in se podzavestno pokrižal, ko je šel mimo nune, ki se je stiskala z zmajem na označevalni tabli. Upal je, da je to znamenje, da bo prišel čas zanj pri Simone in gospod mu je priča, da jo bo stisnil tako močno, kot bi jo kateri koli zmaj.
Slovenec je bil za šankom kot ponavadi in klepetal s par študenti. Bilo je malo odročno od faksa, ampak vsake toliko jih je par odkrilo pivnico in se skušalo nanjo za par tednov navaditi, vendar so se vedno vrnili v poceni in glasne vulgarne prostore v bližini študentskega naselja. Samo toliko daleč si bil pripravljen hoditi, ko si šel popivat.
“Kaj vama lahko ponudim?” Borut je končno zaključil svojo pripoved o povodnem možu, ki je živel v Črnem jezeru. Ker si je Patrick vzel čas za odgovor, ga je takoj skušal prepričati, naj naroči slovensko pivo, ki se je imenovalo Lash Co ali nekaj takega, s čudnimi narečnimi poudarki, ki so se zdeli povsem nepotrebni. Zvenelo je skorj tako grozno kot irščina.
Opazoval je Boruta, kako naliva Guinnessa in se znova spraševal, kaj je lahko človek napravil, da se je tako zameril Shadeyu. Zdel se je prijazna duša s pozitivnim pridihom in svetniškim sijem sivih kodrov. Ampak Slovenijo je moral zapustiti z razlogom. Vsaj Simone je toliko namignila pred časom.
“Torej, zakaj si zapustil Slovenijo, da bi prišel sem?” je vprašal, ko so se študentje umaknili. “Vedno govoriš, kot da je nekakšen raj.”
“Saj je! Hribi, vinogradi, zrak, ki ga lahko dihaš. Ni kot to mesto. Strupeno, ne?” Borut je z obžalovanjem zmigal z glavo.
“Zakaj bi potem hodil sem?” je vztrajal Patrick.
Borut se je zasmejal.
“Zapletel sem se v slabo družbo in nisem imel alibija.” Skomignil je, kot bi bilo to samo po sebi umevno.
Patrick je pokimal. “Je bila ženska?”
Slovenec je vzdihnil. “Kaj ni vedno?”
Patrick se je moral strinjati. Razumel je, da bi vse svoje težave verjetno lahko pripisal ženskam, od mame pa do izmuzljive Simone. Pa sestre najbrž tudi, saj mu je vedno težila, naj si najde redno službo in se odpove prosjačenju in goljufijam. Pa pustite človeka. Spil je svoje pivo in si predstavljal, kaj vse bi lahko počel z ogromno denarja in s Simone.
Naslednjo noč so se dobili v zadnji sobi pri Chanteyu. Tam je bila seveda Simone, Modri Jake in tip po imenu Einar. “Kako ime je pa to?” je vprašal Patrick z iskreno radovednostjo.
“Islandsko.” Možakar mu je namenil izzivalni pogled, zaradi katerega je bil videti še bolj impozanten kot zaradi svoje višine.
“Ah, dobro vam je šlo na prvenstvu. Držal sem pesti za vas, ko ste nabili Angleže. Briljantno!”
Islandec se mu je široko zarežal. “Ko bi vsaj nadaljevali v istem tempu. Pa žal nismo.”
“Bomo videli, kaj bo čez štiri leta. Jaz vem, na koga bom stavil. Še bomo videli Renaldove solze.”
“Če sta končala razpravo o fuzbalu, potem bi se lahko pogovorili o zadevi?”
Simone je zvenela tečno, zato se je Patrick potrudil, da bi jo razvedril “Vse zate, ljubica.” Samo spačila se je. Nekatere ženske preprosto niso znale ceniti njegovega šarma. A si bo že premislila, prepričan je bil v to.
“Jutri bomo zgrabili Slovenca. Na začetku ga poskušajta ne raniti, če vama bo uspelo. Počakati morata na to, kar bo rekel Shadey. Ko bomo imeli denar, ga lahko razbijeta.” Simone se je nasmehnila, kot da bi otrokom obljubljala pravljico za lahko noč. “Imamo avto neke stare ženice iz Lyme Regisa, ki niti ne ve, da ga pogreša. Zapeljala ga bosta v kočo nasproti meje z Walesom – ne skrbita, imam koordinate za navigacijo.”
“Kako bova komunicirala s tabo ali Shadeyem?” je vprašal Islandec.
Simone mu je podala cenenega mobilca. “Ta je edini. Ko končata, ga uničita in zabrišita kartico v reko ali kak kraj, kjer je ne bodo našli. Samo tega bomo klicali, zato ga ne izgubita prehitro.”
“Kako pa veš, da nas ne bodo videli, kako ga vlečeva iz pivnice?” Patricku se je vprašanje zdelo samoumevno.
Simone je s pogledom povzročila, da je ovenel. “To je vajino delo.”
Počakali so, da se zapre. Noč je postala precej hladna za september in tresli so se med kantami in drugo kramo za pivnico.
“Kaj pa, če zaklene in odide skozi glavna vrata?” je preglasno zašepetal Modri Jake.
“Ne, to je njegov avto. Vidiš mariborsko nalepko na odbijaču? Prišel bo semkaj.” Čez nekaj minut so zaslišali škripanje odpirajočih vrat in Borut je prišel ven, z rameni zlezel v jakno in zvonil z nahrbtnikom z eno roko, medtem ko je z drugo zaklepal. Pustili so ga, da je šel proti avtu, potem pa so stopili iz sence.
“Nekam te moramo odpeljati,” je rekel Patrick in upal, da je zvenel dovolj filmsko.
Borut si je vse tri ogledal brez kakršnega koli izraza na obrazu. “Kam?”
“To je informacija za tiste, ki jo morajo nujno vedeti. In tebi ni treba.” Modri Jake ga je potrepljal po rami z železom za snemanje pnevmatik, ki ga je prinesel s sabo. Čuden izbor orožja. Morali so improvizirati. Patrick je mislil, da bodo dobili pištole, a se je žal izkazalo, da jih ne bodo. Samo Einar je imel pištolo, kar se je zdelo nepravično. Ko se je uprl, ga je pogledala tako, da je ovenel. “Te igrače so za žilave dečke.”
To ni bilo prijazno, ampak odločil se je, da ji bo pokazal, da je lahko eden od žilavih.
Slovenec je zamrmral nekaj, česar Patrick ni razumel, potem je stopil naprej in zavihtel nahrbtnik proti Modremu Jaku. Patrick je stopil nazaj čisto iz navade, ko se je tip dvignil, in se v trenutku preklel zaradi tega. Nahrbtnik je prestregel zapozneli zamah železa za pnevmatike, tako da je bil Modri Jake za trenutek videti precej razdražen, ker je bil njegov edini gib onemogočen.
Patrick se je vrgel na tipa in se spoprijel z njim. Ko ga je sunil, je predvideval, da ga bo podrl, a tip se ni niti premaknil. Tudi Modri Jake se je vrgel nanj in njuna skupna teža ga je prevrgla proti avtu. A še vedno ni bil sesut. Slovenec je dvignil koleno in ga povezal z Modrim Jakom, ki je izpustil nekakšen uf in se preložil. Patrick je dal vse od sebe, da bi se obdržal na tipovem vratu kot Velikan Haystacks. Otroci so zmeraj govorili, da je bila rokoborba dogovorjena in Patrick je imel zdaj občutek, da so imeli prav, ker gladki gibi niso imeli nikakršnega učinka, vsaj ne dokler ni Modri Jake napadu še enkrat dodal svoje teže in salve kletvic.
Vsi trije so zadeli tla med tožbami in trpljenjem in vsi so slišali klik napete pištole. Ko so pogledali gor, so videli Einarja, ki je stal nad njimi. “Zdaj pa se spravi v prtljažnik.” Videti je bil na smrt žilav, ko je stal in meril svojo ogromno pokalico proti njim. Patrick je bil pripravljen, da se spravi v avto. Z Modrim Jakom sta pustila Slovencu, da je vstal in ga nekako z rameni spravila v prtljažnik forda festive.
“Nekam majhen je,” je rekel Borut, ko se je stiskal vanj.
“Se opravičujem, ampak avta nismo izbrali mi.”
“Kdo pa ga je? Shadey?”
“Ni treba spraševati.” Modri Jake se je zarežal in zaloputnil s pokrovom z nepotrebno vehemenco. Seveda se je odprl, ne da bi se zapahnil.
“To je bilo pa hitro,” je rekel Borut.
Patrick je stisnil pokrov, da je kliknil. Potem so se vsi zgnetli v avto. Patrick se je razglasil za pristojnega za volan, kar Modremu Jaku, ki je dobil zadnji sedež, ni najbolje sedlo. “Ta zadnji sedež je prostoren kot čevelj.”
“Boš vsaj lahko občudoval znamenitosti, ko se bomo vozili.”
Modri Jake je prhnil. “Sredi noči je.”
“Tehnično smo že mimo sredine noči, če je polnoč sredina.”
“Utihni in vozi.”
“Čez dvesto metrov zavijte desno,” je zarjovela navigacija.
“O, kristus, kdo je nastavil glas na Briana Blesseda?”
Skoraj je zaslišal Simone, kako se je zahahljala. Njene vrste šala, brez dvoma. Ni bilo časa, da bi se gnjavil z nastavitvami. Bo že kasneje plačala za to. Za zdaj se je osredotočil na to, da jih spravi iz mesta in na pot, ne da bi podlegel želji in zavpil “Gordon je živ?!”. Skušnjavi se je bilo težko upreti.
Modri Jake ja v minuti zasmrčal, zvok neskončne nadležnosti. Islandec, čeprav buden, ni čutil neke želje po klepetu. Prav lahko bi bil tudi Finec. Bilo je šokantno, kako dolgo je trajalo, da so prečkali deželo, ki se je večino časa zdela tako majhna. Še posebej, ko so enkrat prečkali mejo z Walesom in so vsi poskusi reda izginili. Če ne bi navigacija vsake toliko zalajala navodil, bi Patrick brez težav verjel, da so sredi niča.
Ko je opazoval stran, na kateri jih je obkrožala impresija gozda Hundred Acre, je Patrick nenadoma zagledal ogomnega črnega psa, ki je lovil korak z njimi. Kar se je zdelo noro: kateri pes lahko tako hitro teče. “Vidite tole?”
Islandec se je obrnil. “Vidimo kaj?”
“Tistega velikega psa. Vidiš tam? Teče med drevesi. Glej, kako hitro gre.”
“Ne vidim ga.”
“Točno tam. Niti sto metrov stran. Prekleto hiter je.”
Einar je skomignil. “Verjetno je tvoj ulov.”
“Ulov?” Patrick se je namrščil. Nekaj se je nedvomno izgubilo s prevodom. “Ulovil je kaj?”
“Ne, tvoj ulov. Tvoja duhovna žival. Temu mi tako pravimo.”
“Kaj ste Islandci kot rdeči indijanci, mislim, ameriški domorodci, saj se jim zdaj tako reče, ne? Ali kot Harry Potter, one.”
Einar je skomignil. “O vsem tem nimam pojma. Mi pravimo, da ima vsak človek svoj ulov. Ampak vidiš ga samo takrat, ko pride tvoja usoda.”
“Mojo usodo misliš?” Patricku je bilo všeč, kako je to zvenelo. Usojene so mu bile večje stvari.
“Tvoja končna usoda,” je rekel Islandec. “To je slutnja. Znamenje smrti.”
Patrick je prhnil. Samo ker je bilo tako pozno ponoči, je gojil predstavo o nekakšnem norem ljudskem čarovništvu. Neumne otroške zadeve. “Kako veš, da ni tvoj ulov?”
“Nisem ga jaz videl, ti si ga.” Znova je zdrsnil v molk. Patrick ga je hotel še nekaj vprašati, a je prav takrat nanj znova zalajala navigacija z obvestilom, da jih bo naslednji desni zavoj čez sto metrov pripeljal na cilj.
Koča je bila videti, kot bi jo pred sto leti zapustili hobiti. In tudi are niso dobili nazaj. V resnici si prijaznost, da ji rečeš koča, komaj zasluži. Patrick je domneval, da jih je zato Simone opozorila, naj prinesejo svetilke. Ni bilo videti, da je bilo kaj elektrike v njej, a ko so se opotekli noter in pritisnili na stikalo, je v zoro zasijala slabotna luč, ki se je komaj ujela z njeno svetlobo.
“Lahko ga prinesemo noter,” je rekel Einar, ko so si ogledali zapuščeno dnevno sobo oziroma čemur so včasih tako pravili. Preobrnili so, kar je ostalo od pohištva, in našli stole, ki bi vsaj lahko prenesli težo, za razliko od mize, ki je razpadla na kose, ko so jo postavili na noge.
“Mati Marija, upam, da nam ne bo treba dolgo ostati tu. Do noči bomo vsi prekriti z gobami,” je ob tej misli streslo Patricka. Od otroštva se mu je prikazovala podoba trupla, gnijočega v gozdu pod gobami, kar je bilo verjetno posledica ene očetovih zgodb iz stare dežele. Ali pa njegova lastna kriminalna preteklost. Spet je zadrgetal.
Vrnili so se k festivi in odprli prtljažnik, da bi potegnili Boruta ven. “Oh, pa tako udobno mi je bilo tu notri, pustite me še, prosim, par minut. Nisem se poslovil od škatle za orodje. To bi bilo nevljudno, potem ko sva bila tako intimna.”
Vsi trije so ga zrinili noter. Modri Jake je pokazal zvitek vrvi, ki jo je odkril na zadnjem sedežu, in zvezal Slovenca na najrobustnejšega med zanič stoli. Zdel se je za trenutek sprijaznjen s svojo usodo, čeprav ga je Patrick budno opazoval.
“Poklical bom Simone,” je rekel Einar. “Upajmo, da je sprejem zunaj boljši.”
Ko se je nonšalantno sprehodil skoz vrata, je Patricku padlo na pamet, da je tu nekaj sumljivega. Kakšna možnost je bila, da je zunaj dejansko kaj boljši sprejem? “Imej ga na očeh,” je rekel Modremu Jaku.
“Kaj hudiča pa bi lahko počel tu?”
Patrick je stopil v prostor, ki je bil pred epskim požarom kuhinja, in usmeril uho proti razbitemu oknu. Kljub vsej pozornosti ni prav slišal vsega, kar je Islandec povedal, čeprav je seveda ujel samo pol pogovora. Ampak slišal je eno zelo pomembno besedo: MacGregor.
Kristus na bergli, se je Shadey spravil na Mamo MacGregor? Kaj je zmešan? Ženska bo odrla njega in vse ostale in spekla zrezke iz njihovih prsi za nedeljsko kosilo. Bila je neusmiljena. To ni imelo nobenega smisla. Kakšno zvezo bi lahko imela ona z vsem tem?
“Veš kaj, mislim, da ste se resno zmotili,” je rekel Slovenec, ko se je Patrick vrnil v sobo.
Modri Jake je zmajal z glavo. “Sploh ga ne poslušaj. Psiho je, prisežem. Pravi, da jih bomo slišali od Mame MacGregor.”
“Sranje. Kaj pa ima ona s tabo?”
“Kdo pa misliš, da je zdaj lastnik Nune & Zmaja?” ga je samovšečno pogledal.
“Tista druga ženska, Foks ali nekaj takega.” Patrick je čutil, da mu je kljub hladu vrel znoj izpod pazduh.
“Ne, že več mesecev ne. Pripeljala me je posebej za to, da bom vodil lokal. Usluga, ki ji jo dolgujem.”
“Kakšna usluga?”
“Če ti povem, te bom moral ubiti.”
Nekaj je bilo na tem, kako mirno je to povedal, da je Patrick v mislih spet videl ogromnega črnega psa in to mu ni bilo niti najmanj všeč. “Potegni drugega, zvončke ima.”
Končno se je vrnil Einar in ju zmotil. “Zdaj moramo samo še počakati.”
“A res?” je rekel Patrick sarkastično, kolikor je šlo. Islandec je samo bolščal vanj. “Kaj je rekla Simone?”
“To je rekla Simone. Samo sedimo in počakamo.”
“Počakamo na gorile Mame MacGregor, da pridejo po nas?”
Einar je strmel vanj s pogledom, ki je bil sumljivo blizu pomilovanju. “Simone bo poskrbela za vse. Vse bo v redu.”
“Če bi vedel, da se želita pomeriti z Mamo, bi vama rekel, da ne računajta name.” Modri Jake je odkimal.
“Iz tega se ne bo izcimilo nič dobrega,” je rekel Borut z narejenim obžalovanjem.
“Drži gobec,” je nekolikanj prehitro rekel Patrick. Zakaj je zdaj Islandec tako ljubezniv do Simone? Namenjena je bila njemu, to je morala vedeti. Ne pa nekemu tujcu.
“Hej, zdaj se pa ohladi,” je rekel Einar z glasom, mamljivim kot devica, ki obljublja jutri ali dan zatem, samo ne nocoj.
“Ohladi? Pa kdo si ti, da mi boš govoril, naj se ohladim? Vedno sem hladen.”
“Hej, prinesel sem prigrizke,” je rekel Einar in dvignil vrečko polno živil.
“Prigrizke? Kaj smo petletniki ali kaj, da nas odrasli lahko podkupijo s sladkarijami?”
“Zaveži, človek,” je rekel Modri Jake. “Lačen sem.” Einar je razdelil čips in mini sirčke skupaj s pločevinkami piva.
“Kaj sem pa jaz?” je vprašal Borut.
“Ti boš pa moral počakati,” mu je povedal Patrick.
“Lahko bi mi odvezali eno roko,” je rekel.
“Ne gledaš filmov? Tako se stvari začnejo razpletati. Tu se to ne bo zgodilo.” Žvečili so svojo hrano v tišini, medtem ko je Slovenec vzdihoval. “Ne, to se ne bo zgodilo,” je ponovil Patrick
“Rad bi samo jedel, preden pridejo Mamini fantje. Lahko, da bom izgubil tek, ko bodo tla vsa krvava.”
“Utihni že.” To je bilo malo topo glede žaljivke, a Patrick se ni mogel spomniti ničesar, s čimer bi se lahko posmehoval Slovencem. Ne da bi bil žaba ali zelje. Saj res, kaj pa jedo Slovenci? Imajo kakšno nacionalno jed, ki jo ljudje naokoli v trenutku prepoznajo? Kot krompir in Irci, ki ga neizmerno obožujejo. Morda bi lahko poguglal. A njegov telefon tu naokoli ni imel sprejema.
Wales: lahko bi bil tudi na Antartiki, če odšteješ drevesa.
“Okej, izmenjavali se bomo na straži. Ker sem vozil, bom spal prvi.” Patrick je počakal na ugovor, a ga ni bilo. Sprehodil se je po hiški. Ni ostalo kaj dosti pohištva, zato je slekel suknjič, se raztegnil po tleh spalnice in si ga zložil pod glavo kot blazino. Zaspal je, še preden bi se lahko spomnil pesmi, ki mu je ravno takrat prišla na misel.
Zbudil se je iz sanj o ogromnem črnem psu in takoj se mu je zdelo sumljivo, da se vse zdi tako tiho, ko pa je njegova glava tako glasna. Ogromni čekani so živo zasijali za njegovimi očmi in zaradi renčanja ga je spet streslo v mrzli sobi.
Spravil se je pokonci in odšel v dnevno sobo. Modri Jake je tudi spal na svojem stolu, glava se mu je zibala kot lutka brez vrvic. Tudi Borut se je zdel, da drema. Einar je bral knjigo.
Kdo pri pizdi prinese s sabo knjigo na ugrabitev? “Kaj bereš?”
Einar je privzdignil knjigo, da bi mu pokazal naslovnico. “Ta je dobra. Eden od likov konča v tajni celici v grajski ječi, ki je najverjetneje najhujša muka, ki si jo lahko zamisliš.” Začuden je odkimal.
“Kaj je tajna celica?” Islandec mu je začel razlagati, a ga je Patrick prekinil. “Kaj imata vidva s Simone?”
Ponudil mu je nedolžen pogled. “Samo posel. Zakaj?”
“Si prepričan?”
“Ni samo posel,” je precej glasno rekel Borut. Očitno sploh ni dremal. “Videl sem ju skupaj. Videti je, da sta se lepo ujela.”
“Laže. Hoče te zmanipulirati,” je rekel Einar, ki ni hotel prijeti za vabo.
“Bil je ovit okoli nje kot kača. Ali pa zmaj, saj veš.” Borut je pokimal, kot bi želel potrditi podobo.
“Sprovocirati te hoče,” je rekel Islandec. “Saj nisi tako butast, ne?”
Patrick je gledal zdaj enega, zdaj drugega. “Nisem prepričan, da zaupam kateremu koli od vaju.”
“Zaupaš pa Simone, je tako? In ona je rekla, naj ostanemo mirni in počakamo. Vse bo v redu.”
“Vse bo v redu in vse bo v redu in vse sorte stvari bodo v redu,” je rekel Patrick z narejeno svečanostjo. Moža sta odsotno strmela vanj. Modri Jake je smrčal. Patrick je pograbil naslednjo vrečo čipsa in jo razparal. Ni zares vedel, kaj naj si misli. Ampak moral se je truditi, da si ni predstavljal Islandca, kako otipava Simone. Verjetno ji bi bil všeč kosmati trol. Zares udarno. Z zobmi je drobil čips dosti glasneje, kot je bilo potrebno.
Imel je slab občutek. V normalnih okoliščinah bi v takih trenutkih malo pomolil, ampak ideja, da bi se pritožil svetemu Judežu, ga je iz nekih razlogov vznemirjala, čeprav mu nihče drug trenutno ni priše na misel. Vedno je bila tu še Brigita, a tudi ona nekako ni ustrezala trenutku.
Einarjev telefon je znova zazvonil. Hitro ga je pograbil, vstal in odložil knjigo. Preden je lahko odgovoril, je Patrick rekel: “Zakaj ne prevzameš klica tukaj, da bomo vsi slišali?”
Islandec ga je malo nestrpno pogledal. Patrick je nepričakovano užival, da je ledenega moža rahlo spravil ob živce. “Če izgubim signal, bo Simone precej jezna.”
“Pa tvegajmo.”
Srepo ga je pogledal, a je prevzel. “Prosim?” Obrnil je hrbet Patricku in govoril tiho.
Patrick je spontano skočil in pograbil telefon. “Rad bi govoril s Shadeyjem,” je zahteval. Bil je nagrajen z molkom na začetku. Potem je znan glas spregovoril z neznanim besom.
“Kaj je narobe s tabo, imbecil?! Takoj mi daj Einarja nazaj.” Simonin bes je bil slišen. Če bi lahko segla skoz telefon in ga zadavila, je bil prepričan, da bi to tudi storila.
“Rad bi samo vedel, kaj si skuhala za nas, uboge reveže. Vtakni mi ga v rit, če bom topovska hrana za Mamo MacGregor.”
“Res si kreten, Patrick. Nimam pojma, kaj misliš, da se dogaja, ampak moraš se skulirati in pustiti, da tudi Einar opravi svoje delo. Ti bi moral imeti Slovenca na očeh.”
“Ja, no, Modri Jake ima to pod nadzorom.” Upal je, da prek žice ni slišala, kako smrka, kar pravzaprav sploh ni zvenelo tako šibko. “Rad bi samo nekakšno zagotovilo s tvoje strani, da nas ne nameravaš zapustiti, če bi prišlo do težav.”
Sledil je vzdih. “Patrick, bi res šla skoz vse te komplikacije samo za to, da bi te ubila? Če bi hotela, da umreš, bi te lahko porinila pred tovornjak na glavni ulici. Daj zdaj telefon Einarju.”
Nejevoljno, ker pač ni imel drugih bistrih zamisli, je Patrick predal telefon Islandcu. V zameno je dobil še en srepi pogled. Pogovor, ki je sledil, mu ni kaj dosti povedal, saj so ga v glavnem sestavljali Einarjevi “Ja, ja”. Če drugega ne, je bil vsaj milostno kratek. Mogoče je šel malenkost predaleč. Po drugi strani pa tudi ni moglo škoditi, če je Simone dal vedeti, kakšen moški je bil pod sproščeno zunanjostjo.
Zdaj se je na njeni lestvici moral malo povzdigniti. Bil je tip, ki prevzema odgovornost. Simone bo videla, da je resen.
“Izmenjava se bo zgodila nocoj,” je oznanil Einar, ko je odložil telefon. “Do takrat moramo potrpežljivo čakati. Poklicali nas bodo, da se prepričajo, da je živ.”
“Potem lahko zdaj kaj pojem,” je rekel Borut. “Res sem lačen. Saj nočete, da umrem od lakote pred deseto.”
“Ne boš umrl od lakote.” Patrick je bil prepričan, da gre za zvijačo.
“Pa poscati se moram kot dirkalni konj. Razen če hočeš, da se poščijem tukaj.” Videti je bil pripravljen, da se razkomoti. Vsi so se izmenično poscali na zid ob strani koče. Gotovo je bilo edino naravno, da se moški olajša.
Einar je končno rekel: “V redu, ampak ves čas ti bom s pištolo zadaj meril v glavo. In on gre z nama, da se ne bi kaj zgodilo.”
“Jaz grem kam?” A Einar je vztrajal, da se vsi zberejo zunaj. Odvezala sta mu roke in Borut se je zabaval z risanjem premišljenih oblik na stranski zid hiše. “Katera beseda je že? Ki jo uporabljamo za Angleže za njihovimi hrbti.”
“Briga me,” je rekel Patrick. “Jaz sem Irec.”
“Si ti znani sveti Patrick? Veš, kako kličemo Irce?”
“Kaj?”
“Ne kličemo jih.” Slovenec se je navdušeno smejal, čeprav mu je Einar ponovno vezal roke. “Irci so tako nepomembni, da zanje sploh nimamo žaljivk.”
Patrick se je zmedel. “No, mi pa vas kličemo Hariboji. Saj veš, kaj je to Haribo? Neumni bombon.”
Borut je za trenutek zamišljeno pogledal. Patrick je mislil, da se ga je zbadljivka dotaknila, a je Borut že v naslednjem trenutku rekel: “Ampak Haribo je nemški. Mi nismo Nemci.”
“Ne, ne kapiraš? Maribor-Haribo. Vidiš?”
“Kaj pa, če bi navijal za Olimpijo?”
“Kaj? Ne, to sploh ni pomembno. Vsi ste Hariboji.”
“Mislim, da potrebuješ lekcijo iz slovenske zgodovine. Obišči jo, poskusi grozdje, splezaj po hribih.”
“Kaj si ti Slovenska turistična organizacija? Ga ne smem zajebavat?” Patrick ni hotel priznati, da je postal rahlo živčen in je šel Modrega Jaka brcnit iz spanja, mendem ko je Einar spravil ujetnika nazaj na robustni stol.
Modri Jake je zazehal. “Kdaj gremo?”
“Pozneje.”
Patrick je hotel nekaj narediti. Najbolj si je želel koga udariti. Ni se mogel odločiti med Islandijo in Slovenijo. Eden si je zaslužil. In bil je razdražen in precej utrujen. Vse te ure vožnje in potem komaj malo spanca. To ni nobeno presenečenje, če smo iskreni.
In ure visenja naokoli. Norišnica. To ni moglo trajati. Imel je slab občutek. Večinoma je to bila želja, da bi bil v svoji postelji – ja, celo v tisti mali enojni postelji v njegovi podstrešni sobi, medtem ko so spodaj vreščali otroci in je donel televizor. Skušal si je predstavljati, kako pripelje Simone v svojo sobo. Spačil se je. To se ne bo zgodilo. To bi moralo biti pri njej.
Če se bo sploh kdaj zgodilo. Naenkrat se mu je vse zazdelo precej brezupno. Verjetno bo šla s kakim kretenom, kot je Einar s svojim gladkim islandskim govorjenjem in tistimi lasmi. In potem še ta Borut. Je še kaj hujšega, kot da te te zajebava Slovenec? Dovolj je že, če te imajo za Angleža, da pa mora užaliti še cel otok! Pa kaj potem, če ni bil v domovini od svojega šestega leta. Svojo domovino nosiš s sabo, kamor koli greš. Poglej samo te prostaške Američane, oni jo gotovo nosijo.
Pomežiknil je. Ali je res med drevesi nekoga zagledal? Patrick je škilil v temo. Zdaj bi že moralo biti svetleje. Prekleti Wales: videti je, kot da ima čistvo svojo posebno temo, ki jo prikliče, kadar koli se mu zazdi.
Tam! Nekaj se je definitivno zabliskalo. Lahko bi bila pasja ali kravja ovratnica, je pomislil, ampak kakšne so bile možnosti tukaj sredi ničesar? Vsaj zdelo se je kot sredi ničesar. Obrnil se je proč od umazanega okna. “Mislim, da imamo družbo.”
Tri glave so se istočasno obrnile. Modri Jake je poskočil in skušal pogledati skoz okno samo z enim očesom, kot da ga je nekako zakrivalo. “Nič ne vidim.”
“Če so pubeci Mame MacGregor, ne boste videli nič, dokler ne bo prepozno,” je rekel Slovenec.
Einar je porinil ujetnika nazaj v kot, stran od neposrednega pogleda s sprednje strani. “Naj eden od vaju preveri zunaj. In pogleda, kaj se da videti.”
“O, en od naju, ki sva brez orožja? Mogoče bi morala steči ven naga.” Patrick se je zarežal. Zvok je izražal njegovo radost in dobršen del zaskrbljenosti.
“Ne morem tvegati, da bi naš edini pogajalski adut odšel.”
“No, potem pa ga bova midva pazila s pištolo, ti pa lahko pregledaš okolico. Kaj praviš?”
“Ne gre zato, da bi vaju prosil, da se tepeta z golimi rokami. Samo preverita, če lahko vidita več, ugotovita, s kom se spopadamo.”
“Ma, kurac, grem jaz,” je rekel Modri Jake, ki ga je v akcijo pognalo njuno pričkanje. Sprehodil se je skoz vrata in se sklonil zadaj za hišo. Patrick se je premaknil nazaj, da bi videl, kako napreduje. Na njegovo presenečenje se je Modri Jake pognal v nasprotni smeri ceste in zgrmel v gozd s hitrostjo, s kakršno ga še nikdar ni videl teči. Minuto je samo strmel. Potem si je skušal predstavljati, da je to nekakšna bistra zvijača, ki jo je skušal izvesti. A se ni več pojavil.
Jebeš to, je pomislil Patrick. Stisnil je rep med noge.
Vrnil se je v dnevno sobo, kjer je Einar še vedno meril proti oknu. “Zbežal je.”
Islandec je strmel vanj. “Kdo?”
“Modri Jake.”
“Kaj?”
Število razlag ene in iste stvari je bilo omejeno. Čez nekaj trenutkov bo gotovo jasno. Lahko je videl trenutek, ko je končno skapiral. Potem se je Islandcu zmračil obraz. “Če ga vidim, ga ustrelim.”
“Lahko je že na Irskem.”
Ni bilo kaj dodati. Oba sta s priprtimi očmi bolščala skoz okno, a v valižanski temi ni bilo videti ničesar. Patrick se ni mogel otresti občutka neizogibne pogube. Naj ostanem ali grem? Pesem se mu je začela vrteti v glavi. “Torej, kaj misliš, da je bilo?”
“Si prepričan, da si kar koli videl?”
Če ne bi imel pištole, bi ga zdaj Patrick zagotovo udaril. “Ja, sem.”
“Stavim, da si je samo predstavljal,” je rekel Borut.
Patrick in Islandec sta mu rekla, naj utihne. Einar se je namrščil. “No, če nekdo je tam zunaj, kako se bomo najučinkoviteje ubranili?”
“V filmih naložijo vso pohištvo na kup in naredijo barikado.”
“Si se čisto vsega naučil od filmov?”
“Imaš boljšo idejo?”
Premaknila sta nekaj razmajanih stolov in kar je ostalo od mize, da bi zablokirala okno in imela kritje. Dostop s ceste se je zdel najverjetnejša smer, saj je Patrick imel občutek, da je prav tam videl, kar koli je že videl.
“Mi lahko data vsaj malo sira? Res sem lačen.”
Patrick je srepo pogledal Slovenca. Čeprav je, če smo pošteni, najbrž res bil lačen. Einar je pozorno strmel skozi polomljeno mizno ploščo. Pa saj ne bo nobene škode. “Glej, da boš znal to ceniti,” je rekel, medtem ko je odvijal ovoj s sira.
“Obljubim, da te ne bom ugriznil,” je rekel Borut z nasmeškom.
V tistem trenutku se je razletelo okno. Einar je zaklel in skušal spraviti zlomljeno steklo iz las. Priletelo je še več nabojev.
“Koliko jih je?” Patrick je čepel pod oknom in čakal, da se mu srce spusti izpod grla.
“Pizda, nič ne vidim. V tej deželi je preveč jebenih dreves.” Islandec je stresal kri z roke.
“No, zakaj potem koga ne ustreliš, da jih bo vsaj manj?”
“Samo šest krogel imam. Ne morem jih zapravljati.”
“Šest!” Mati božja, zakaj samo šest?”
“Jebi se, nisem imel izbire. Samo tega tipa bi morali paziti, dokler ne zmrzne. Ni bilo potrebe, da bi jih imel več.”
“Zdaj je potreba.” Še več nabojev je padlo proti njima. Težko je bilo oceniti, koliko ljudi strelja, a vsaj vsi so prihajali s sprednje strani. “Hej, misliš, da naju skušajo zamotiti, medtem ko bodo poslali nekoga z zadnje strani?”
“Tako bi ravnal jaz,” je rekel Slovenec.
“Drži gobec.”
Ni ga ganilo. “Zgovoren postanem, kadar sem lačen.”
“Mogoče greš lahko preverit,” je rekel Einar.
Mrmraje molitev svetemu Judežu je Patrick čepe stekel skozi zbombardirano kuhinjo, na hitro pokukal skoz razbito šipo in zastokal.
Ogromen črn pes je stal ob robu gozda. Njegova glava je bila masivna. Telo je bilo veliko kot šetlandski poni. Veliki beli zobje so se svetili v mraku. Moral je biti resničen.
Čez trenutek ali dva je Patrick ugotovil, da Islandec vpije nanj. “Ne, v tej smeri ni nikogar.” Veliki črni pes je strmel, kot da nekoga čaka. Patrick ni mogel odmakniti pogleda. Naenkrat se je obrnil in izginil med drevesi.
Takrat ga je zadel strel. Sila ga je zasukala okrog. Mislil je, da mu je rama eksplodirala. “Zadet sem!” Sto vojnih filmov se mu je odvrtelo v glavi kot grozljiv kalejdoskop. Patrick se je opotekel v dnevno sobo. “Zadet sem,” je ponovil. Potem je padel na kolena.
“Odveži me. Študiral sem medicino. Mogoče ga lahko rešem.”
Einar se je obotavljal. Patrick je dvignil roko proti vratu, kjer je čutil, da mu odteka kri. Vrtelo se mu je. Islandec je zaklel, odvezal Boruta in se vrnil v prejšnji položaj. Slovenec ga je brcnil, da je zgrmel na polomljeno pohištvo in izpustil pištolo. Kratek boj se je zaključil s strelom. Slovenec je vstal in pomahal z rokami. Streljanje je v trenutku prenehalo.
Stopil je proti ležečemu Patricku. Težko se je zbral. “Ali lahko … ustaviš …” ni se mogel spomniti, kaj je hotel reči.
“Oprosti. Lagal sem glede študija medicine.”
Patrick je zaihtel. “Simone …”
“Ja, mislila sva, da bi bil to dober način, da zradirava Shadeyja. Zdi se, da je uspelo.” Borut ga je potrepljal po rami. “Žal mi je. Ampak nekako je zagreta zame.”
Patrick je zaslišal brenčanje v ušesih. Spraševal se je, če prihaja od zunaj. “Je tukaj?”
“Ne, ne. To so Mamini pubeci. Ampak Simone je odobrila načrt. Te lahko še nekaj vprašam?”
Patrick je zakašljal. Usta je imel polna vlage. “Kaj?”
“Veš, kako se zamenja glas na navigaciji?”
Patrick je zadnjič zaprl oči.

I want you to be ready when I come

Vassilis Danellis

 

“Be ready when I come”, he had said. “I want you to be ready. Do you understand?” he had shouted.
Yeah! I understood. But the damn engine wouldn’t start.
Everything had gone according to the plan -until that moment of course- although none of us had faith in it at the beginning. Why in hell would they keep so much money in the factory? Sure, it was a big one. Sure, it was a payment day, but who pays the workers in cash these days?
“Oh no! You got it all wrong”, he had exclaimed.
It had nothing to do with the workers. Nothing to do with the business. The legal one at least.
Anyway! We didn’t need to know much. He was the brains. He knew things. He was right. Always. The other two were the muscles. I was the driver.
My part was to wait for them outside the factory. Not so close, not very far. It would take some time, so I shouldn’t attract attention on me. When they would come out, I’d drive by, they would jump in, I would take us away. There was a second vehicle waiting in a parking lot some kilometers away. We would change the cars, I would drive through the borders. We would be free. Plain and neat like the old good heist movies.
The only problem was that he had chosen a crappy car.
“We must pass under the radar”, he had said.
I had complained. Nothing too loud, not my character. He was different. He had shouted and spit all over my face. Orders. And saliva.
“Just be ready when I come out! Do you understand?” he had asked.
Yeah! I understood. But the damn engine wouldn’t start.
I heard the shots. I turned the key. It just growled, a sound like a death rattle.
They came out with the bag. I turned the key again. Nothing.
“Be ready”, he had said.
I tried. The car was crappy.
Then it went even worse. A police car passed by. Bad luck. The officers dropped their coffees and took off the guns.
I turned the key all the way. Again and again. I was focused on that and I didn’t really see what happened. When the engine finally roared and I took a look around, everyone was down. Dead.
What a bloodshed! Damn car! Damn!
He, however, was still alive. Wounded, but alive. I pushed the gas pedal. The tires squealed. I stopped next to him. He had the bag in his hand. I got out and tried to help him into the car.
I didn’t notice on time the security guard. A tall, beard guy with glasses. He was shot at the hip. He dragged his left leg while he was walking towards to us. He kept his weapon on his right hand. He shot. He missed. He shot again. He got me. My partner killed him. Then he died himself too.
What a mess! Only if I were ready, when I had to. It was all my fault. But the damn engine wouldn’t start. Wouldn’t start.
I grabbed the bag. I threw it at the back seat and I drove away. I changed the vehicles as planned. I put the money in the trunk. I turned the key. This engine was obedient. Only if I… Damn it! It was over. Now, I just had to run away.
I couldn’t take the highway if I wanted to avoid the police. I headed to the mountains. Narrow winding roads, covered by the mist. I drove through it for long. Probably it was only a couple of hours, but it felt like days. My consciousness was bleeding away from my wound. Time became as misty as the sky. The sun went dark and then sent back its hectic rays and then dark killed the light again. It was so confusing.
I’m not sure how I kept myself awake. Even more miraculously I kept the car on the road. But I couldn’t go further. I needed to take care of my wound and a place to rest. There was nothing else but woods around me. I was ready to quit.
“I had my run”, I thought, “Time to die”.
I guess I heard it screaming before I saw it. The hawk maneuvered before my windshield and made me push the break. Then I noticed the wolf. A big grey wolf. He was there in the middle of the road staring at me. His eyes sparkled in the mist.
He made sure he got my attention. Then he walked into a dusty path. It was wide and smooth enough for the car. I didn’t know why, but I was sure he was showing me the way to somewhere. What an absurd thought! Yet the only rational option right then. I couldn’t go further; I had to trust the beast.
I climbed the hill. At that height the sky was clear, but the valley beyond me was covered by a thick layer of the fog. I reached a glade where there was an old, forgotten village. I stopped the car and stepped out. Three or four abandoned farms, with collapsed roofs and walls, and a church in ruins.
The wolf was gone. The hawk wasn’t around either, but I wasn’t alone as I thought. Two other wolves, black those ones, had appeared. They didn’t seem friendly like the grey had been. They smelled the blood and came to claim their feast. They moved closer with a slow pace. One licked his snout. The other showed me his teeth. White, sharp teeth.
For a second time, I thought it was over. For a second time, I was wrong. Fates had a different plan for me. They spin their threads in very mysterious ways. Believe me, I can tell.
The hawk screamed. My grey guardian came out from the woods and charged to his lot. The predator flew in circles above our heads.
The beasts fought each other fiercely. My champion was outnumbered, but he was brave. The black wolves were eventually convinced to go hunting somewhere else. The victor stood in alert until they disappeared deep in the forest. The price he had to pay, however, in order to defend me was heavy. Blood stains all over his grey fur. A deep cut at his snout. A bad limp.
The hawk screamed again and flew away. The wounded wolf followed it. I followed them both. They led me to another glade, higher on the hill. A linden stood alone in the middle of it. A tall silver linden with a great shade. And under that shade stood a house.
The door opened and a woman came out. A woman with long red hair. So long and so red that it seemed like flames were devouring her whole body.
The hawk and the wolf ran to her.
“Here are my boys”, she said. “Where have you been?”
The bird sat on her shoulder. The beast licked her hand.
“Oh! My poor one. You had a tough day, didn’t you?” she told the wolf.
Then she stood her head up and stared at me. It was the first time she saw me, but I felt like she knew all about me.
“You are bleeding too, stranger”.
I put my hand on my wound.
“Don’t trust her”, a voice whispered in my head, “She is a charmer”.
Her eyes, deep blue eyes, had already cast a spell on me.
I said I needed a place to stay for the night. I’d be going next morning before the dawn.
“Do you have money to pay, stranger?” she asked.
I could afford her hospitality. She smiled.
The house was full of wooden furniture and spices aromas.
She let me lay on a bed. I was weak and had a fever.
Then it was when she gathered her hair in a knot and pierced it with a silver brooch, a silver snowdrop flower.
She took my shirt off. She poured water, cleaned the wound, spread some oils and massaged it. She talked about the robbery at the factory. I pretended I had no idea what she was talking about.
She brought wine in a clay pot. She poured it into a glass, added a potion and some leaves and gave it to me.
I asked what it was.
“Just drink”, she said, “It will make you feel better”.
I drank. I drank and it was really good. My mind became light and the pain sweet, almost a pleasure.
She talked more, but her words were mixed with thoughts, desires and dreams. Her fingertips set fire on my chest, her lips burned my belly and when she came on top of me and let her hair free, she set my body ablaze. I passed away.
When I woke up I was thirsty with a thirst of a month. I couldn’t say for how long I was there. The house was empty, the clay pot dried, the furniture covered with dust, the aromas vanished.
My wound was much better, almost healed, but the memory of that sweet pain and her touch still haunted my body. The taste of that wine and her kiss still haunted my tongue.
How much of that was real? What if she was just a feverous hallucination?
I got dressed. I found the silver pin brooch among my clothes. The silver snowflake that could tame the red flames of her hair.
I walked down the hill to the car. I opened the trunk and found it empty. The bag with money was gone.
I’m back on the road now. For how long? Is it days, weeks or years? Who knows? Who cares?
I’m not after the money. It’s her wine and her kisses I miss. I drive around the woods. I look up to the skies. I look through the trees. I wait for the hawk and the wolf to take me back to her.
No luck so far.

The end

Hočem, da si pripravljen, ko pridem

Vassilis Danellis

 

“Bodi pripravljen, ko pridem,” je rekel. “Hočem, da si pripravljen. Razumeš?” je zavpil.
Jaaa! Razumel sem. Ampak prekleti motor ni vžgal.
Vse je šlo po načrtu – do tistega trenutka, seveda – čeprav nihče od nas v resnici ni verjel od samega začetka. Zakaj hudiča bi v tovarni imeli toliko denarja? Seveda je bil velik. Seveda je bil plačilni dan, ampak kdo v teh časih delavcem še plačuje v gotovini?
“O, ne! Nisi razumel!” je zavpil.
To ni imelo nič z delavci. Nič ni imelo s poslom. Vsaj ne z zakonitim.
Kakor koli! Ni nam bilo treba preveč vedeti. On je bil glava. Poznal je stvari. Imel je prav. Zmeraj. Druga dva sta bila mišica. Jaz sem bil šofer.
Moja vloga je bila, da jih počakam pred tovarno. Ne tako blizu, ne zelo daleč. Vzelo naj bi nekaj časa, zato nisem smel pritegniti pozornosti. Ko bi prišli ven, bi pripeljal mimo, oni bi skočili v avto in jaz bi odpeljal. Na parkirišču nekaj kilometrov stran nas je čakalo drugo vozilo. Zamenjali bi avto in jaz bi zapeljal čez mejo. Bili bi svobodni. Preprosto in čisto kot v dobrih starih filmih o ropih.
Edina težava je bila, da je izbral zanič avto.
“Ne smejo nas opaziti,” je rekel.
Pritožil sem se. Ne preglasno, to ni v mojem značaju. On je bil drugačen. Kričal je in me popljuval po obrazu. Ukazi. In slina.
“Samo pripravljen bodi, ko pridem ven! Me razumeš?” je vprašal.
Jaaa! Razumel sem. Ampak prekleti motor ni vžgal.
Slišal sem strele. Obrnil sem ključ. Samo zarenčal je, zvok mrtve raglje.
Prišli so ven s torbo. Znova sem obrnil ključ. Nič.
“Bodi pripravljen,” je rekel.
Poskušal sem. Avto je bil zanič.
Potem je šlo samo še na slabše. Mimo je pripeljal policijski avto. Smola. Policisti so izpustili svoje kave in pograbili pištole.
Obrnil sem ključ do konca. In še enkrat in še enkrat. Bil sem osredotočen in nisem zares videl, kaj se je dogajalo. Ko je motor končno zarjovel in sem se ozrl naokoli, so bili vsi na tleh. Mrtvi.
Kakšen pokol! Prekleti avto! Prekleto!
Kakor koli, on je bil še vedno živ. Ranjen, ampak živ. Pritisnil sem na stopalko za plin. Gume so zacvilile. Ustavil sem ob njem. V roki je imel torbo. Izstopil sem in mu skušal pomagati v avto.
Nisem opazil varnostnika. Visok, bradat tip z očali. Bil je zadet v bok. Ko je stopal proti nama, je za sabo vlekel levo nogo. V desni roki je držal pištolo. Ustrelil je. Zgrešil je. Ustrelil je še enkrat. Zadel me je. Moj partner ga je ubil. Potem je umrl tudi sam.
Kakšna zmešnjava. Ko bi le bil pripravljen, ko je bilo treba. Bil sem kriv za vse. Ampak prekleti motor ni vžgal. Ni vžgal.
Pograbil sem torbo. Vrgel sem jo na zadnji sedež in odpeljal. Zamenjal sem vozilo, kot je bilo v načrtu. Denar sem dal v prtljažnik. Obrnil sem ključ. Ta motor je ubogal. Ko bi le … Prekleto! Konec je. Zdaj sem moral samo še zbežati.
Nisem smel na avtocesto, če sem se hotel izogniti policiji. Odpravil sem se v hribe. Ozke vijugaste ceste, prekrite z meglo. Dolgo sem vozil skoznjo. Najbrž zgolj par ur, ampak zdela se je cela večnost. Moja zavest je krvavela skozi rano. Čas je postal zamegljen kot nebo. Sonce je potemnelo in potem ponovno poslalo mrzlične žarke, nakar je tema spet ubila svetlobo. Bilo je tako nejasno.
Ne vem, kako sem lahko ostal buden. Še večji čudež je, da sem avto obdržal na cesti. A dlje nisem več mogel. Moral sem poskrbeti za svojo rano in potreboval sem prostor za počitek. Okoli mene ni bilo nič drugega kot rana. Bil sem pripravljen na predajo.
“Imel sem svojo priložnost,” sem pomislil. “Čas je za smrt.”
Mislim, da sem ga prej slišal kričati kot videl. Sokol je manevriral pred mojim vetrobranskim steklom in me prisilil, da sem zavrl. Potem sem opazil volka. Velikega sivega volka. Bil je tam na sredi ceste in strmel vame. Oči so se mu iskrile v megli.
Potrudil se je, da je vzbudil mojo pozornost. Potem je stopil na prašno stezo. Bila je dovolj široka in gladka za avto. Nisem vedel, zakaj, vendar sem bil prepričan, da mi je kazal pot proti nečemu. Kakšna nesmiselna misel! Ampak edina razumna možnost v tistem trenutku. Nisem mogel naprej. Moral sem zaupati zveri.
Vzpel sem se v hrib. Na tisti višini je bilo nebo jasno, dolina pod mano pa je bila prekrita z debelim slojem megle. Dosegel sem jaso, naketeri je bila stara, pozabljena vas. Ustavil sem avto in izstopil. Tri ali štiri zapuščene kmetije s sesutimi strehami in zidovi in cerkev v ruševinah.
Volk je izginil. Tudi sokola ni bilo, ampam nisem bil sam, kot sem mislil. Dva druga volkova, tokrat črna, sta se prikazala. Nista se zdela prijazna kot sivi. Vohala sta kri in prišla sta si privoščit pojedino. Približevala sta se s počasnimi koraki. Eden si je oblizoval gobec. Drugi mi je kazal zobe. Bele, ostre zobe.
Že drugič sem mislil, da je konec. Že drugič sem se zmotil. Usoda je imela z mano drugačne načrte. Svoje niti je pletla na zelo skrivnosten način. Verjemite mi, vem.
Sokol je zakričal. Moj sivi varuh je prišel iz gozda in zasedel položaj. Plenilec je letal v krogih nad našimi glavami.
Zveri so se besno spopadle. Moj šampion je bil kljub številčni premoči pogumen. Črna volkova je na koncu prepričal, naj gresta lovit drugam. Zmagovalec je stal v pripravljenosti, dokler nista izginila globoko v gozd. A plačati je moral ceno, da bi me obranil, in to visoko. Krvavi madeži po vsem sivem kožuhu. Globoka zareza na gobcu. Hudo je šepal.
Sokol je še enkrat zakričal in odletel. Ranjeni volk mu je sledil. Šel sem za obema. Peljala sta me na naslednjo jaso, višje na hribu. Na sredi je stala osamljena lipa. Visoka srebrna lipa z veliko senco. In v tej senci je stala hiša.
Vrata so se odprla in prikazala se je ženska. Ženska z dolgimi rdečimi lasmi. Tako dolgimi in tako rdečimi, da se je zdelo, kot da ji telo požirajo plameni.
Sokol in volk sta se pognala proti njej.
“Tu sta, moja fanta,” je rekla. “Kje sta bila?”
Ptič ji je sedel na ramo. Zver ji je polizala roko.
“Oh, Ubošček. Težek dan si imel, ne?” je rekla volku.
Potem je privzdignila glavo in se zastrmela vame. Videla me je prvič, a čutil sem, da je vedela vse o meni.
“Tudi ti krvaviš, tujec.”
Položil sem roko na rano.
“Ne zaupaj ji,” mi je šepnil glas v glavi. “Prilizuje se.”
Njene oči, temno modre oči so me že uročile.
Rekel sem, da potrebujem prenočišče. Odšel bi naslednje jutro pred zoro.
“Pa imaš denar, da boš plačal, tujec?” je vprašala.
Lahko sem si privoščil njeno gostoljubje. Nasmehnila se je.
Hiša je bila polna lesenega pohištva in vonja po začimbah.
Pustila me je ležati na postelji. Bil sem šibek in imel sem vročino.
Takrat je zbrala svoje lase v vozel in ga prebodla s srebrno sponko, srebrnim cvetom zvončka.
Slekla mi je srajco. Nalila je vodo, mi očistila rano, nanesla nekaj olja in jo masirala. Govorila je o ropu v tovarni. Pretvarjal sem se, da nimam pojma, o čem govori.
Prinesla je vino v glinenem vrčku. Nalila ga je v kozarec, dodala zvarek in nekaj listov in mi ga podala.
Vprašal sem jo, kaj je to.
“Samo napitek,” je rekla. “Bolje se boš počutil.”
Pil sem. Pil sem in bilo je res dobro. Moje misli so postale svetle in bolečina sladka, skoraj užitek.
Še več je govorila, ampak njene besede so se mešale z mislimi, željami in sanjami. Vršički njenih prstov so mi prižigali prsi, ustnice so mi žgale trebuh in ko je sedla name in si razpustila lase, je moje telo spremenila v kres. Onesvestil sem se.
Ko sem se zbudil, sem bil žejen, žeja meseca. Težko bi rekel, kako dolgo sem bil tam. Hiša je bila prazna, glineni vrček se je posučil, pohištvo je prekrival prah, dišave pa so izpuhtele.
Moja rana je bila precej boljša, skoraj zaceljena, a spomin na to sladko bolečino in njen dotik je še vedno preganjal moje telo. Okus tistega vina in njenega poljuba je še vedno preganjal moj jezik.
Koliko tega se je zares zgodilo? Kaj, če je bila zgolj vročična halucinacija?
Oblekel sem se. Med oblekami sem našel srebrno sponko za lase. Srebrn zvonček, ki je znal ukrotiti rdeče plamene njenih las.
Sprehodil sem se po hribu navzdol do avta. Odprl sem prtljažnik in videl, da je prazen. Vreča z denarjem je izginila.
Spet sem na cesti. Kako dolgo že? Dneve, tedne ali leta? Kdo ve? Koga briga?
Ne gre mi za denar. Njeno vino in poljube pogrešam. Vozim okoli gozdov. Gledam proti nebu. Gledam skoz drevesa. Čakam sokola in volka, da me popeljeta nazaj k njej.
Zaenkrat nimam sreče.

Konec

Θέλω να ‘σαι έτοιμος όταν έρθω

Βασίλης Δανέλλης

 

«Να ‘σαι έτοιμος, όταν έρθω», είχε πει. «Θέλω να ‘σαι έτοιμος. Καταλαβαίνεις;» είχε φωνάξει.
Ναι, καταλάβαινα. Αλλά η γαμημένη η μηχανή δεν έπαιρνε μπρος.
Όλα είχαν πάει σύμφωνα με το σχέδιο, μέχρι εκείνη την στιγμή φυσικά, έστω κι αν κανείς μας δεν το πίστευε στην αρχή. Γιατί στην ευχή να κρατάνε τόσα λεφτά στο εργοστάσιο; Εντάξει, ήταν μεγάλο. Εντάξει, ήταν μέρα πληρωμής, αλλά ποιος πληρώνει τους εργάτες με μετρητά σήμερα;
«Όχι, όχι! Δεν καταλάβατε Χριστό!» ούρλιαξε.
Δεν είχε σχέση με τους εργάτες. Δεν είχε σχέση με την εταιρεία καν. Την νόμιμη τουλάχιστον.
Τέλος πάντων! Δεν χρειαζόταν να ξέρουμε πολλά. Εκείνος ήταν ο εγκέφαλος. Ήξερε πράγματα. Είχε δίκιο. Πάντα. Οι άλλοι δύο ήταν μόνο μυς. Εγώ ήμουν ο οδηγός.
Η δουλειά μου ήταν να τους περιμένω έξω από το εργοστάσιο. Όχι πολύ κοντά, όχι πολύ μακριά. Θα τους έπαιρνε λίγη ώρα. Δεν έπρεπε να τραβήξω την προσοχή πάνω μου. Όταν θα έβγαιναν, θα έφερνα το αυτοκίνητο μπροστά στην είσοδο, θα έμπαιναν μέσα και θα μας έπαιρνα από ‘κει. Ένα δεύτερο όχημα μας περίμενε σ’ ένα πάρκινγκ μερικά χιλιόμετρα μακριά. Θα αλλάζαμε τα αυτοκίνητα και θα περνούσαμε τα σύνορα. Αυτό ήταν όλο. Απλό και ξεκάθαρο. Σαν παλιά καλή ταινία καταδίωξης.
Το μόνο πρόβλημα ήταν πως είχε διαλέξει ένα σαράβαλο για την δουλειά.
«Πρέπει να περάσουμε απαρατήρητοι», είχε πει.
Διαμαρτυρήθηκα. Όχι έντονα, δεν είναι του χαρακτήρα μου. Εκείνος ήταν αλλιώς. Είχε φωνάξει κι είχε φτύσει στα μούτρα μου. Εντολές. Και σάλια.
«Απλώς να ‘σαι έτοιμος όταν έρθω. Καταλαβαίνεις;» είχε ρωτήσει.
Ναι, καταλάβαινα. Αλλά η γαμημένη η μηχανή δεν έλεγε να πάρει μπρος.
Άκουσα τους πυροβολισμούς. Έστριψα το κλειδί. Η μηχανή μούγγρισε. Ένας ήχος σαν επιθανάτιος ρόγχος.
Βγήκαν με την βαλίτσα. Έστριψα το κλειδί ξανά. Τίποτα.
«Να ‘σαι έτοιμος», είχε πει.
Προσπάθησα. Το αυτοκίνητο ήταν σαράβαλο.
Τότε τα πράγματα έγιναν ακόμα χειρότερα. Πέρασε ένα περιπολικό. Μεγάλη ατυχία! Οι μπάτσοι πέταξαν τους καφέδες κι έβγαλαν τα όπλα τους.
Γύρισα το κλειδί στην μηχανή. Ξανά και ξανά. Όλη μου η προσοχή ήταν εκεί και δεν είδα στ’ αλήθεια τι έγινε. Όταν η μηχανή πήρε επιτέλους μπρος, σήκωσα τα μάτια μου κι όλοι ήταν κάτω. Νεκροί.
Τι μακελειό! Γαμημένο σαράβαλο! Γαμημένο!
Εκείνος, όμως, ήταν ακόμα ζωντανός. Τραυματισμένος, αλλά ζωντανός. Πάτησα το γκάζι. Τα ελαστικά στρίγκλισαν στην άσφαλτο. Σταμάτησα δίπλα του. Είχε την βαλίτσα στο χέρι του. Βγήκα έξω και προσπάθησα να τον βοηθήσω να μπει στο αυτοκίνητο.
Δεν πρόσεξα αμέσως τον άντρα της ασφάλειας. Ψηλός, μουσάτος, με γυαλιά. Είχε δεχτεί μια σφαίρα στον γοφό. Έσερνε το αριστερό πόδι του καθώς μας πλησίαζε. Κρατούσε το όπλο στο δεξί του χέρι. Πυροβόλησε. Αστόχησε. Πυροβόλησε ξανά. Με πέτυχε. Ο συνεργάτης μου τον σκότωσε. Μετά πέθανε κι εκείνος.
Τι χάλι! Αν ήμουν έτοιμος όταν έπρεπε… Όλα ήταν δικό μου λάθος. Αλλά η γαμημένη η μηχανή δεν έλεγε να πάρει μπρος. Δεν έπαιρνε μπρος.
Άρπαξα την βαλίτσα. Την έριξα στο διπλανό κάθισμα και έφυγα. Άλλαξα τα οχήματα σύμφωνα με το πλάνο. Έβαλα τα λεφτά στο πορτ μπαγκάζ. Γύρισα το κλειδί στην μηχανή. Πήρε μπρος με την μία. Αν είχα… Γάμα το! Πάει, τέλειωσε. Τώρα, το μόνο που είχα να κάνω, ήταν να ξεφύγω.
Δεν μπορούσα να πάρω την εθνική, αν ήθελα να αποφύγω την αστυνομία. Κατευθύνθηκα στα βουνά. Στενοί, στριφογυριστοί δρόμοι, καλυμμένοι μ’ ομίχλη. Ο δρόμος ήταν ατέλειωτος. Μάλλον δεν ταξίδεψα πάνω από μερικές ώρες, αλλά νόμισα πως πέρασαν μέρες ολόκληρες. Όσο έχανα αίμα, έχανα και την διαύγειά μου. Ο χρόνος έγινε το ίδιο ομιχλώδης με τον ουρανό. Ο ήλιος σκοτείνιασε, ύστερα έριξε πάλι τις καχεκτικές ηλιαχτίδες του κι έπειτα το σκοτάδι σκότωσε το φως ξανά. Ήταν όλα τόσο μπερδεμένα.
Ήταν θαύμα που κρατήθηκα ξύπνιος. Ακόμα μεγαλύτερο ότι κράτησα το αυτοκίνητο πάνω στον δρόμο. Δεν μπορούσα να συνεχίσω. Έπρεπε να φροντίσω την πληγή μου και να βρω ένα μέρος να ξαποστάσω. Δεν υπήρχε τίποτα τριγύρω παρά μόνο δέντρα. Ήμουν έτοιμος να τα παρατήσω.
«Καλά ήταν ως εδώ», σκέφτηκα, «ώρα να πεθάνω».
Φαντάζομαι πρώτα άκουσα την κραυγή του και μετά το είδα. Το γεράκι πέταξε μπροστά στο παρμπρίζ μου και με ανάγκασε να πατήσω φρένο. Τότε μόνο πρόσεξα τον λύκο. Έναν μεγάλο γκρίζο λύκο. Στεκόταν στην μέση του δρόμου και με κοιτούσε. Τα μάτια του γυάλιζαν μέσα στην ομίχλη.
Περίμενε να σιγουρευτεί ότι τον παρακολουθούσα. Έπειτα προχώρησε σε ένα μονοπάτι μέσα στο δάσος. Ήταν αρκετά πλατύ κι ομαλό για να περάσει το αυτοκίνητο. Δεν ήξερα πως μου καρφώθηκε αυτή η ιδέα, αλλά πίστεψα ότι ο λύκος με οδηγούσε κάπου. Τι παράλογη σκέψη! Κι όμως, η μόνη λογική επιλογή που είχα. Δεν μπορούσα να συνεχίσω άλλο, έπρεπε να εμπιστευτώ το ζώο.
Ανέβηκα τον λόφο. Σ’ εκείνο το ύψος ο ουρανός καθάρισε. Η κοιλάδα κάτω από τα πόδια μου ήταν σκεπασμένη με ένα παχύ στρώμα ομίχλης. Έφτασα σ’ ένα ξέφωτο και βρέθηκα σ’ ένα παλιό, εγκαταλειμμένο χωριό. Σταμάτησα το αυτοκίνητο και βγήκα έξω. Τρεις τέσσερις φάρμες, με γκρεμισμένες οροφές και τοίχους, και τα ερείπια μιας εκκλησίας.
Ο λύκος είχε εξαφανιστεί. Το γεράκι δεν ήταν τριγύρω. Δεν ήμουν μόνος όμως. Δυο άλλοι λύκοι, μαύροι αυτή την φορά, είχαν βγει απ’ το δάσος. Δεν έμοιαζαν φιλικοί σαν τον γκρίζο. Είχαν μυρίσει αίμα κι ήρθαν για φαγοπότι. Πλησίασαν με αργά βήματα. Ο ένας έγλειψε την μουσούδα του. Ο άλλος έδειξε τα δόντια του. Λευκά, κοφτερά δόντια.
Για δεύτερη φορά νόμισα πως ήμουν τελειωμένος. Για δεύτερη φορά ήμουν λάθος. Οι μοίρες γνέθουν τα νήματά τους με μυστήριο τρόπο. Πίστεψε με, το ξέρω καλά.
Το γεράκι εμφανίστηκε κι έβγαλε μια κραυγή. Ο γκρίζος φύλακάς μου εμφανίστηκε από το δάσος και όρμησε στο σινάφι του. Το αρπακτικό πετούσε σε κύκλους πάνω από τα κεφάλια μας.
Τα ζώα επιτέθηκαν με ορμή το ένα στο άλλο. Ο προστάτης μου πάλεψε γενναία παρά το αριθμητικό μειονέκτημα. Τελικά, οι μαύροι λύκοι πείστηκαν να πάνε αλλού για κυνήγι. Ο νικητής τους κοίταξε να χάνονται ανάμεσα στα δέντρα. Το τίμημα που πλήρωσε όμως, για να με προστατεύσει, ήταν βαρύ. Η γκρίζα γούνα του γεμάτη αίμα, η μουσούδα του κομματιασμένη, το πόδι του κουτσό.
Το γεράκι με μια κραυγή βούτηξε μπροστά. Ο πληγωμένος λύκος ακολούθησε. Προχώρησα στο κατόπι τους. Με οδήγησαν σ’ ένα άλλο ξέφωτο πιο ψηλά. Καταμεσής στεκόταν μόνη της μια φλαμουριά. Μια ψηλή φλαμουριά μ’ ασημένια φύλλα και μια τεράστια σκιά. Και κάτω από την σκιά της υπήρχε ένα σπίτι.
Η πόρτα του άνοιξε. Μια γυναίκα βγήκε. Μια γυναίκα με μακριά κόκκινα μαλλιά. Τόσο μακριά και τόσο κόκκινα που νόμιζες ότι φλόγες τύλιγαν το κορμί της.
Το γεράκι κι ο λύκος έτρεξαν κοντά της.
«Καλώς τους», είπε, «πού ήσασταν;»
Το πουλί κάθισε στον ώμο της. Το ζώο έγλειψε το χέρι της.
«Καημένε μου! Είχες δύσκολη μέρα», είπε στον λύκο.
Τότε σήκωσε το βλέμμα της και με κοίταξε. Μ’ έβλεπε πρώτη φορά, αλλά ένιωσα ότι με ήξερε ήδη καλά.
«Είσαι κι εσύ πληγωμένος, ξένε».
Έπιασα την πληγή μου.
«Μην την εμπιστεύεσαι», ψιθύρισε μια φωνή μέσα στο κεφάλι μου. «Είναι γητεύτρα».
Τα μάτια της, σκούρα μπλε μάτια, με είχαν ήδη γητεύσει.
Είπα ότι χρειαζόμουν ένα μέρος να μείνω για το βράδυ. Θα έφευγα το επόμενο πρωί πριν την αυγή.
«Έχεις χρήματα να πληρώσεις, ξένε;» ρώτησε.
Είχα αρκετά για να ανταμείψω την φιλοξενία της. Χαμογέλασε.
Το σπίτι ήταν γεμάτο παλιά έπιπλα και μεθυστικά μυρωδικά.
Μ’ έβαλε να ξαπλώσω σ’ ένα κρεβάτι. Ήμουν αδύναμος κι είχα πυρετό.
Τότε ήταν που μάζεψε τα μαλλιά της κι έδεσε τον κότσο με μια ασημένια καρφίτσα, έναν ασημένιο γάλανθο.
Μου έβγαλε το πουκάμισο. Έριξε νερό, καθάρισε την πληγή, την άλειψε με έλαια και την περιποιήθηκε. Μίλησε για την ληστεία στο εργοστάσιο. Προσποιήθηκα ότι δεν ήξερα για τι πράγμα μιλούσε.
Έφερε κρασί σ’ ένα πήλινο δοχείο. Έβαλε σ’ ένα ποτήρι, πρόσθεσε κάποιο υγρό και μερικά φύλλα και μου το έδωσε. Ρώτησα τι ήταν.
«Πιες το», είπε, «θα σου κάνει καλό».
Ήπια. Ήπια κι ήταν καλό. Το κεφάλι μου αλάφρυνε, ο πόνος γλύκανε, έγινε σχεδόν ηδονικός.
Μίλησε κι άλλο, αλλά τα λόγια της ανακατεύτηκαν με σκέψεις, επιθυμίες κι όνειρα. Οι άκρες των δαχτύλων της έκαψαν το στήθος μου, τα χείλη της έβαλαν φωτιά στην κοιλιά μου κι όταν ήρθε από πάνω μου, έλυσε τα μαλλιά της και πυρπόλησε όλο μου το κορμί. Έχασα τις αισθήσεις μου.
Όταν συνήλθα διψούσα με μια δίψα άσβεστη. Δεν μπορούσα να υπολογίσω πόσο βρισκόμουν σ’ εκείνο το μέρος. Το σπίτι ήταν άδειο, το πήλινο δοχείο στεγνό, τα έπιπλα καλυμμένα με σκόνη και τα αρώματα είχαν εξανεμιστεί.
Η πληγή μου ήταν καλύτερα, είχε σχεδόν γιατρευτεί. Η μνήμη εκείνου του γλυκού πόνου που είχα νιώσει και το άγγιγμά της στοίχειωναν ακόμα το κορμί μου. Η γεύση του κρασιού που είχα πιει και το φιλί της στοίχειωναν ακόμα το στόμα μου.
Πόσα από αυτά συνέβησαν πραγματικά; Κι αν ήταν απλώς παραίσθηση μέσα στον πυρετό;
Ντύθηκα. Βρήκα την ασημένια καρφίτσα ανάμεσα στα ρούχα μου. Την ασημένια νιφάδα που συγκρατούσε τις κόκκινες φλόγες των μαλλιών της.
Κατέβηκα τον λόφο μέχρι το αυτοκίνητο. Άνοιξα το πορτπαγκάζ. Ήταν άδειο. Η βαλίτσα είχε εξαφανιστεί.
Είμαι πίσω στον δρόμο πάλι. Για πόσο άραγε; Μέρες, βδομάδες ή χρόνια; Ποιος ξέρει; Ποιος νοιάζεται;
Δεν κυνηγώ τα χρήματα. Είναι το κρασί και τα φιλιά της που μου λείπουν. Οδηγώ γύρω από το δάσος. Κοιτάζω ψηλά στον ουρανό. Κοιτάζω ανάμεσα στα δέντρα. Περιμένω το γεράκι και τον λύκο να ‘ρθουν να μ’ οδηγήσουν πάλι κοντά της.
Χωρίς τύχη. Προς το παρόν.
Τέλος

If you liked life you’re gonna love death.

Janez Grm

I park near the church.
They built it in the middle of nowhere, so I’m surprised by its size. Ela said that up in the hills large churches are usually pilgrimage sites. We were sitting by the river, drinking. I had a beer, she had a coke and some cherries on the side. She put a whole cherry into her mouth and formed the stem into a loop.
She’s got skills, like her dad.
Then she quickly finished her coke and I haven’t seen her since. It’s been six months. I wonder how taller she is now, teenage girls grow so fast.
Like these pines surrounding the church.
Pines and church in front of me, hills and vineyards behind me. I open the window and breathe in the air. I can’t sense the aroma of the white grapes very well. My nostrils are partly stopped because of the prosthetic nose. I look in the mirror and check the fake nose, the fake eyebrows, the fake teeth. If i stumble upon someone in the woods, they can say to the cops they saw a man with a crooked nose, speaking in Italian. I’ve worked in Slovenia before. In these parts they understand German pretty well, not Italian though.
I get out of the car with Trieste plates. In the inner pocket of my jacket I can feel the loaded tool. I check the watch. I’ve been driving around several days now, observing the target at jogging. It’ll be on its location in 12 to 10 minutes.
People are creatures of habit. That comes very handy in my line of work. The client told me about the habits of the current target. I don’t ask clients about the motives for choosing the target, I don’t ask about their connections. But in this case the connection wasn’t hard to spot: the client and the target have the same last name.
Father is the client, son is the target.
I don’t ask why. And I don’t ask how much. I say how much. Half of the money before the cleaning, half after the cleaning. That’s why I demand the client’s last name. If they try to avoid payment, I can extort them after the cleaning. No sense in cleaning the client up for punishment. The dead don’t pay their debts. This is my main income. What I sell on the road is mainly for the cover. I haven’t been exposed yet. I’m fluent in seven languages. Someone mistook me for a linguist once. I suppose I could teach at the university. But I would get five times less money.
Now I need even more. For Ela. She wants to travel Germany. She’s interested in art history. Mainly baroque. I think this church belongs in the baroque period. I walk up to it, I still have 10 to 8 minutes. Maybe there are postcards or booklets inside, Ela would want them.
I go to the entrance. It’s locked.
I turn to the woods, when from behind the corner a fat man with a white collar shows up. A priest. He asks if I want to take a look inside. I tell him I don’t understand in perfect Italian.
He repeats in broken Italian what he just said in his eastern Slovene dialect.
I mustn’t arouse any suspicion. I say yes. I still have nine to seven minutes.
There are no booklets. Walls are covered with frescos. He points to a female figure and says it represents the allegory of life. The woman has a fat face, fat belly, fat ass. She reminds me of Ela’s mother. She was a miserable broad. I was still young back then, I had sex with whoever liked my cheap cocain. Fortunately I don’t see her mother in Ela.
Though I feel she has my eyes.
I stare at the allegory of life, the collared man takes that as my apprecation of the fresco. He points at another fresco and smiles: “If you liked life, you’re gonna love death.” There’s a fresco of the allegory of death. It’s a skeleton in rags, with rotting pieces of flesh. Its ugly, dirty. The allegory isn’t really fair. Nearing death may be ugly and messy. But death itself is clean. It makes a clean cut. No more fucking about, no more hope. No more questions: Am I good enough for her? Where will I be in ten years? Does my father love me? Death is the only possible answer. It swipes away all the bullshit.
I’m staring. I thank him and say goodbye. He’s locking the door, I dissapear into the woods.
The target will be on location in 4 to 3 minutes.
I’ll get to the path through the pines. Target will be running along the path, which winds around the hill. I can’t aim from below, the sun is peeking from behind the hill, so I cross the path and climb up the hillside. I lean on the wide pinetree, which provides a good cover. I’ve got the sun behind my back. I ascend easily. I’m in good shape. If we were to climb german castle hills, I could keep up with Ela. She screamed something about me being responsible for her mom’s suicide, but I know that’s not true.
I put on my gloves.
That woman didn’t tell me about our daughter. Ela found out about me only after she killed herself.
I take the tool out of the pocket.
If we went travelling together she would realize I’m not a bastard. God only knows what that whore was telling her about me.
I hear quick steps. That’ll be the target.
I move my leg for better balance. My nostrils are still stopped up. That’s why I can’t smell the shit that I step into.
I slip.
I let go of the tool.
I slip down the hillside, the trees are scraping me.
I hear heavy breathing. The target is on its location. Unfortunately I’m on the location as well. It asks if it can help me. I’m quiet, I’m looking for the tool. It asks me what’s wrong with my nose. I can feel it moved. The eyebrows moved as well. The target is following my eyes. We both see the tool. It’s lying beside the path. The target is as strong and fast as I am. Yet it is younger. It picks up the tool and points it at me.
It’s strong, fast, young. It is also careless and scared, the tool is shaking. I kick it from its hands, the tool flies down the hillside. The kick is followed by a punch in the face. It knocks the target down. It’s rolling on the floor, holding its bleeding nose. It starts to yell.
Time to improvise. Beside the path grows a young pine tree, two feet in size.
What did Ela do with the stem?
I pull out the little tree, roots and all. Resin and needles don’t bother me due to my gloves. I kneel above the target and place the tree behind its neck. It moves its hands for selfdefense. I start to twist the young trunk around its neck. Like daughter, like father. It grabs my neck and starts choking me. We’re so close, I can see the colour of its eyes.
I wonder if it got them from dad.
Its young with strong hands. But it didn’t promise its daughter a trip through Europe. And it didn’t swear to never leave her alone again.
I make a noose around its neck. I squeeze it so hard my palms hurt.
The yelling stops. It is done. Target is cleaned up.
I loosen the little tree. I move the cleaned up target’s legs on the path, with the head pointing towards the woods. This way they can easily spot it, and if someone runs over it, the face would not be damaged. They must identify it easily.
I descend the hillside. The tool is shining in the brushes. I pick it up, I go back the way I came. I run pass the church. I sit in the car. I cose the door.
I calm down. I start to breathe slowly.
I turn the key. I drive off. I start to remove the nose, the eyebrows, the teeth. The job is done. The target is cleaned up. Death is clean, smooth. The end of everything. But not for me. Not yet. I must contact the client, to let it know about its son. It’s time for the rest of the payment. I need it. Ela really wants to go on that trip.
The things we do for our children.

Če vam je všeč življenje, kako vam bo šele smrt!

Janez Grm

 

Parkiram blizu cerkve.
Stoji nekje Bogu za hrbtom, zato me čudi njena velikost. Ela je rekla, da so velike cerkve v hribih pogosto cilj romarskih poti. Takrat sva sedela na pijači ob reki. Pil sem pivo, ona pa kokakolo in zraven zobala češnje. V usta je vtaknila celo češnjo in z jezikom zavila pecelj v zanko.
Spretna je, kot njen oče.
Potem je na hitro izpila kokakolo in od takrat je nisem videl. Pol leta nazaj je bilo. Sprašujem se, koliko je zrasla od takrat, najstnice hitro poganjajo.
Kot tile borovci okrog cerkve.
Pred mano cerkev in borovci, za mano griči z vinogradi. Odprem okno in vdihnem zrak. Slabo zaznavam aromo belega grozdja. Zaradi umetnega nosa imam delno zamašene nosnice. V ogledalu preverim umetni nos, umetne obrvi, umetne zobe. Če v gozdu naletim na koga, bo lahko pozneje policiji povedal, da je videl moškega z ukrivljenim nosom, ki je govoril v Italijanščini. Že nekajkrat sem bil na delu v Sloveniji. Vem, da na tem koncu nemško še kar razumejo, italijansko ne.
Stopim iz avta s tržaško registracijo. V notranjem žepu jakne čutim napolnjeno orodje. Preverim uro. Več dni se že peljem naokrog in opazujem tarčo pri džoganju. Na lokaciji bo čez 12 do 10 minut.
Ljudje smo bitja navade. Pri mojem delu to pride zelo prav. Navade trenutne tarče mi je zaupala stranka. Strank ne sprašujem po motivih za izbiro tarče, ne sprašujem po njihovem odnosu. A v tem primeru ni bilo težko odkriti povezave: stranka in tarča si delita priimek.
Oče je stranka, sin je tarča.
Ne vprašam, zakaj. In ne vprašam, koliko. Povem, koliko. Polovico vsote pred čiščenjem, polovico po njem. Zato zahtevam strankin priimek. Če se skuša izogniti plačilu, jo lahko naknadno izsiljujem. Nima smisla za kazen počistiti stranko. Mrtvi ne odplačujejo dolgov. To je moj glavni dohodek. Tisto, kar prodajam, je predvsem zaradi krinke. Za enkrat me še niso razkrili. Obvladam sedem jezikov. Nekoč so me zamenjali z lingvistom. Verjetno bi lahko učil na univerzi. Ampak plačan bi bil petkrat manj.
Tokrat zahtevam večje plačilo. Zaradi Ele. Rada bi šla potovat po Nemčiji. Zgodovina umetnosti jo zanima. Predvsem barok. Mislim, da je tale cerkev baročna. Stopim do nje, imam še 10 do 8 minut. Mogoče so notri kake razglednice ali brošure, Elo bi zanimale.
Stopim do vhoda. Zaklenjen je.
Hočem že zaviti v gozd, ko izza vogala pokuka debeluh z belim ovratnikom. Duhovnik. Vpraša, če si želim ogledati notranjost. V čisti Italijanščini rečem, da ga ne razumem. V polomljeni Italijanščini ponovi, kar je prej rekel v vzhodni Slovenščini.
Ne smem zbuditi sumov. Pristanem. Imam še 9 do 7 minut.
Brošur ni. Na stenah so še kar dobro ohranjene poslikave. Pokaže na ženski lik in reče, da gre za alegorijo življenja. Ženska je okrogla v obraz, okrogla v trebuh, okrogla v rit. Na Elino mamo spominja. Bila je res bedna deklina. Takrat sem bil še mlad, seksal sem vse, kar je padlo na moj ceneni kokain. Na srečo v Eli ne vidim njene mame.
Zdi pa se mi, da ima moje oči.
Strmim v alegorijo življenja, kar ovratničar interpretira kot naklonjenost do slike. Pokaže na neko drugo sliko in se nasmehne: »Če vam je všeč življenje, kako vam bo šele smrt!« Naslikana je alegorija smrti. To je okostnjak v capah, z gnijočimi kosi mesa. Grd je, umazan. Alegorija ni čisto pravična. Bližanje smrti zna biti grdo in umazano. A sama smrt je čista. Gladko odreže. Ni več pizdarij, ni več upov. Ni več vprašanj: sem dovolj dober zanjo? Kako bom živel čez deset let? Me ima foter rad? Smrt je edini mogoči odgovor. Gladko počisti z vsem sranjem.
Zastrmel sem se. Zahvalim se in se poslovim. Ko zaklepa vrata, izginem v gozd.
Tarča bo na lokaciji čez 4 do 3 minute.
Stezi se bom približal med borovci. Tarča bo tekla po stezi, ki se vije okrog hriba. Težko bi meril od spodaj, sonce se ravno dviga izza hriba, zato prečkam stezo in splezam po pobočju. Naslonim se na širok borovec, ki me zakriva. Sonce imam za hrbtom. Zlahka splezam navkreber. Dobro ohranjam kondicijo. Če bi šla lazit po nemških grajskih hribih, bi zlahka dohajal Elo. Sicer je nekaj vpila, da sem kriv za samomor njene mame, ampak ve, da nisem.
Nataknem si rokavice.
Tista ženska mi je zamolčala, da imava hčerko. Šele ko se je ubila, je Ela izvedela zame.
Iz žepa vzamem orodje.
Če bi šla skupaj na potovanje, bi videla, da nisem prasec. Bog ve, kaj vse ji je tista kurba pravila o meni.
Zaslišim hitre korake. To bo tarča.
Premaknem nogo za boljše ravnotežje. Nosnice imam še vedno zamašene. Zato ne zavoham dreka, na katerega stopim.
Spolzi mi.
Orodje mi pade iz rok.
Zdrsnem po pobočju, debla borovcev me odrgnejo.
Zaslišim sopihanje. Tarča je pritekla na lokacijo. Žal sem na tej lokaciji tudi jaz. Vpraša, če lahko kaj pomaga. Molčim in gledam za orodjem. Vpraša me, kaj je z mojim nosom. Čutim, da se je premaknil. Tudi obrvi so se premaknile. Tarča sledi mojemu pogledu. Oba zagledava orodje. Ob stezi leži. Tarča je močna in hitra kot jaz. Je pa tudi mlajša. Prvi pobere orodje in ga nameri vame.
Močan je, hiter je, mlad je. Je pa tudi nepozoren in prestrašen, orodje se mu trese. Brcnem mu ga iz rok, orodje odleti po pobočju navzdol. Moji brci sledi še udarec v obraz. Podere ga. Valja se po tleh in drži za krvavi nos. Prične kričati.
Čas je za improvizacijo. Ob stezi rase mlad borovec, pol metra v višino.
Kaj je že napravila Ela s pecljem?
Izrujem drevesce, s korenino vred. Zaradi rokavic me iglice in smola ne motijo. Počepnem nad tarčo in mu nastavim drevesce za tilnik. Premakne roke, da bi se branil. Takrat mu pričnem zavijati muževnato debelce okoli vratu. Kakršna hči, takšen oče. On poseže po mojem vratu in me skuša daviti. Tako blizu sva si, da lahko razločim barvo njegovih oči.
Vprašam se, če jih ima po očetu.
Mlad je, močne roke ima. Ampak on ni obljubil hčerki potovanja po Evropi. In ni ji prisegel, da je ne bo nikoli več pustil same.
Uspe mi napraviti zanko okrog vratu. Stiskam jo, da me zabolijo dlani.
Vpitje se neha. Opravljeno je. Tarča je počiščena.
Odvijem drevesce. Počiščeni tarči prestavim noge na stezo, glavo pa proti gozdu. Tako jo bodo zlahka opazili, če pa bi kdo po pomoti zapeljal čeznjo, ji ne bo poškodoval obraza. Zlahka jo morajo identificirati.
Spustim se po pobočju. Med podrastjo se sveti orodje. Poberem ga, vrnem se v smeri, iz katere sem prišel. Hitim mimo cerkve. Sedem v avto. Zaprem vrata.
Umirim se. Počasneje zadiham.
Obrnem ključ. Speljem. Pričnem si snemati nos, obrvi in zobe. Delo je opravljeno. Tarča je počiščena. Smrt je čista, gladka. Konec vsega. Ampak ne še zame. Poklicati moram stranko, da izve, da nima več sina. Čas je za preostalo plačilo. Potrebujem ga. Ela si močno želi iti na potovanje.
Česa vsega ne storimo za otroke.