Wednesday, 9 February 2011

LISITSKAIA'S QUARTER by KEITH GINGELL


Lisitskaia’s Quarter
Lieutenant Grigori Tselikova was in no mood for bullshit after an eight hour drive from  Kemerovo airport on bad roads in a worn out Volkswagen hire-car, and a night getting bitten by dog fleas in a run down pension. Before he even opened his mouth Grigori could sense Yakov Lisitskaia, the area uchastkovyi was full of it, and more than ready to dish it up.

‘So, what brings a Militisya detective to my quarter, Comrade?’ Lisitskaia asked as he finished pouring himself a slug of vodka and prepared to fill a glass for his “guest.”

Grigori placed his hand over the empty glass and leant forward. ‘We’re called Police now and the days of being Comrades are long gone . . . . Comrade Lisitskaia.

The man sitting opposite Grigori appeared un-phased by his aggression. He leaned back and burst into spluttering phlegm choked laughter which terminated in a short coughing fit. ‘Not in these parts, Mr. “Medvedev policeman.” Time goes very slow around here.’ He paused to slug down the vodka. ‘We are 4000 kilometres from Mr Putin’s “new” Russia in one of the most isolated quarters in the federation. There’s nothing around here except Wolves, Bears and trappers.’ Lisitskaia became serious and leaned right across his desk until his fat round unshaven face filled Grigori’s view. ‘So, what the fuck are you doing in my quarter ? . . . Comrade.’

Grigori slapped a photograph of a long haired young man on the desk. ‘I’m investigating the disappearance of Andrei Slavina.’

Lisitskaia ignored the picture.’ Like I said. What the fuck are you doing here.’

‘We know he came to this quarter. This is the last thing we know about his whereabouts.’

‘I don’t know any Andrei Slavina.’

‘You’re the uchastkovyi. He must have come to register his presence here.’

‘Not if he had something to hide.’

‘He didn’t.’

‘Sez, you. Everybody has—‘

‘He didn’t. Look at the picture, Lisitskaia!’

Lisitskaia glanced at the photo. ‘So. You want something from me. We all want something.’ He sat back, crossed his arms and waited.

‘I don’t do bribes.’

‘Then you’ll go back to Moscow empty handed, lieutenant.’

Grigori stood and stretched himself to his full 2.03metres. He picked up his chair and carried it around to Lisitskaia’s side of the desk and placed is very close to him. Then he sat down and leaned his massive body into Lisitskaia’s shoulder and looked ahead.

In a collaborative tone, Grigori said, ‘You know, I think it’s time to let you know where I worked before I became a policeman.’ He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a badge decorated with a KGB emblem and laid it on the desk. ‘Did Andrei Slavina register with you?’

Grigori felt Lisitskaia’s shoulders slump. ‘Yeah, he came in here about three months ago.’

Grigori grabbed the label of Lisitskaia’s uniform. ‘I know that you dog’s turd. I want to know where he went after he signed in. You were supposed to ask him.’

‘He went where all the others went. What’s so special about this guy anyway?’

‘What d’you mean? All the others?’

‘People’ve been coming here and disappearing for years. Didn’t you hear the rumours, Mr. Ex-KGB?’

‘I wasn’t based in Russia.’

‘Yeah, well. Some of your colleagues knew what was going on up there, I’m damn sure about that.’

‘Up where?’

Lisitskaia pointed vaguely to his left. ‘Ostrov-in-the-valley. It’s a settlement from medieval days. Nobody knows where the people came from, but there’s been stories about weird things going up there for generations. It seems to attract all sorts of nosey bastards.’

‘What kind of weird things?’

‘I dunno. Black magic or something like that I suppose.’

‘Hey, you’re the uchastkovyi. Why didn’t you look into it?’

‘You of all people should know that. When I started in this job thirty-five years ago I asked questions, but I gave up on that when I reported the disappearance of a young couple and your “people” paid me a visit. After that all I did was try and talk those idiots out of going there. In the end I gave up on that too.’

‘Why didn’t you ever go and investigate?’

Lisitskaia picked up the Grigori’s KGB badge, then threw it down like it was red-hot. He ran his finger down the four inch scar on his cheek. ‘Why d’you think?’

Grigori started to feel some empathy for Lisitskaia: he had cared once.

‘What is in this, Ostrov-in-the-valley?’

‘I told you it’s a settlement. Houses I guess.’

‘Can you show me how to get there.’

Lisitskaia pushed his chair back and turned it to face Grigori. ‘So you want to go up there and look for this.’ He paused and picked up the photo. ‘This fucking whisker-less hippy? What’s so special about this guy that the Moscow Po-lice want to look for him when nobody gave a shit about dozens of others?’

‘Dozens?’

‘Yeah. Dozens. At least twenty in the thirty-five years I’ve been here and sure as Bears fuck in the forest they weren’t the first.’

‘This case was brought to our attention because he’s from Moscow, that’s all.’

‘Bull . . . . Shit! There’s something special about this guy. I can smell it.’

Grigori knew Lisitskaia had him. How could he tell him Andrei Slavina was the wayward, but naïve son of a Politburo minister, and a close relation of Putin, who’d got into Occult and had managed to give his secret service shadowers the slip? Russia had changed in the last twenty years: but not that much.

‘I told you, he’s from Moscow. He’s been reported missing. I’m looking for him.’

Lisitskaia poured himself another vodka and slugged it straight down. ‘Okay, Mr. Moscow, it’s your funeral. I’ll show you the road. It’s a two hour drive, but don’t expect me to wait up for you tonight.’



Two hours on a road barely fit for donkeys brought Grigori to a large sloping clearing in a dark Pine forest. About thirty scruffy wooden houses were spread out in front of him. The windows in all of them were shuttered. Around twenty metres up the road, on the right was a larger building which resembled a barn. A battered ex-Soviet army truck and a horse drawn cart (minus horse) sat along side it. There was no sign of humanity or animals. Grigori stopped his car across the road from the barn and stepped out. There was total silence, not even any bird-song despite it being a fine summer morning. He stretched to un-knot his muscles and looked around, wondering what to do.

Finally, he crossed the road and pushed on the door of the barn. It opened silently. Inside there was a counter, it seemed this place was a kind of general store, but the shelves were pretty much empty and there was nobody inside. He was about to turn around and walk out when he heard a rustle and a sort of whimper come from behind a door which led into a room at the rear the counter. Something told Gregori to take care and he drew his Morakov before slowly entering the room.

He heard a gasp from the right-hand corner. He swung around and saw two men holding a naked young woman on the floor. One man appeared to be in the process of throttling her with a rope. The other was spread-eagled across her, trying to hold her still.

Gregori cocked the gun and aimed it at the men. ‘Get off her: NOW.’

‘It’s not what you think,’ the guy laying over her shouted. ‘We have to do this for the village.’

‘I said, get off her or I’ll shoot.’

‘We can’t,’ the man with the rope said. ‘It’s our only chance.’

The men didn’t appear to be armed. Gregori ran over and kicked the guy on the girl hard on the side of his head. He flew off and lay unconscious against the wall. The other man stared at Gregori and frantically tightened his grip on the half-dead girl’s neck.

‘Let go of the rope or I’ll blow your fucking brains out,’ Gregori screamed.

‘No. Never.’ The guy screamed back.

Gregori fired the Morakov, sending a 9mm bullet ripping through the strangler’s right bicep. He jerked backward and passed out. Just to make sure, Gregori kicked him in the face. He removed the rope and checked the girls pulse. She seemed barely alive.

Within a minute Gregori had the men handcuffed together and hog-tied with the rope they’d been using. He turned his attention to the girl. She was breathing slowly and shivering. He covered her naked body with his jacket and went to his car to fetch the bottle of water Lisitskaia had given him for the journey.

When he returned to the room, he was surprised to find the girl standing naked in front of him. The two men had regained consciousness and were shouting at him to run.
The girl walked up to Gregory and whispered, ‘Thank you, thank you,’ and flung her arms around him.

Embarrassed, he tried to push her away, but her grip became tighter. Her arms seemed to extend and coil themselves around his body several times, gripping him so tight he couldn’t breath. Then he felt a thousand needles pierce his body simultaneously.

The last thing Gregori saw before his life drained away was the terrified faces of the two men he had condemned to death.


Short bio:

I have been writing fiction for about five years firstly as a hobby, but now I am getting serious about it. I have stories published in Volumes 3 and 4 of Radgepacket and one in the upcoming Volume 5. I also have a couple of stories on the Radgepacket website.

2 comments:

  1. Great job Keith. Very well wriiten and the Russian setting and characters made it even mor enjoyable. I also like the Russian words sprinkled thoughout, nice touch. Got me with the ending as well. Seems like this could be part of a bigger story.

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