A figure detached itself from the crowd around the fight cage. ‘This place is surrounded? Bullshit Major Whoever you are, there is just one old man, you! Surrounded? You think we wouldn’t know!’ Tatiana Ivanova walked calmly and purposefully towards Kuznetsov. ‘Turn and run away Major and you won’t get hurt, take my advice and piss off!’

Kuznetsov shook his head in disappointment. ‘What is it with this town, everyone threatens me with violence?’ Tatiana had stopped about ten metres away from him. ‘I always thought Leningrad was supposed to be a friendly place, but dear me it appears I was wrong.'

‘Yes comrade, you were wrong.’ There was an air of menace about her and the crowd behind her were slowly moving closer. A young man, powerfully built but with very few signs of obvious intellect came forward and stood by Tatiana.

‘Are you leaving Comrade?’ Tatiana called over to Kuznetsov who shook his head.

‘Not without talking to you I’m not.’ The Major stood his ground, standing with his hands behind his back and his feet apart, as if at ease on a parade ground instead of freezing in an abandoned Theatre in northern Leningrad.

‘I have no interest in talking to you, I have nothing to say to you.’

‘But there is a lot I want you to tell me Tatiana, and I will get my information one way or another’ said Kuznetsov with his customary affability.

Tatiana turned away, saying to the young man as she did so ‘deal with him Pav.’ At that point a shot rang out, the boom echoing in the cavernous emptiness of the building. As if in slow motion a small hole appeared in the young mans face where his nose used to be, followed milliseconds later by the back of his head exploding in a shower of bone, brain and blood that drenched Tatiana and made her throw herself to the floor.

As if by a signal the crowd dispersed rapidly, there was clearly a rear exit and Kuznetsov walked briskly forward, grabbed Tatiana by the arm and hauled her to her feet. She struggled and was about to wrench herself free when she caught sight of Tchort, the still smoking gun in his hand, the look of satisfaction on his face marked him out as a killer and Tatiana knew that look.

‘You bastard!’ She screamed at Tchort, ‘you fucking bastard, he was only a kid!’ Tchort said nothing but clicked the safety catch off on the pistol he was holding. Tatiana’s eyes widened in fear.

‘Lower your gun’ said Kuznetsov and Tchort complied at once, snicking the safety back on ‘and I thought I told you not to use those dum-dum bullets again.’ Kuznetsov was speaking to Tchort as if he had spilt biscuit crumbs on a carpet. The gunman said nothing but shrugged non-committaly, reached forwards and grabbed Tatiana who was mumbling something about the dead kid being her cousin and dragged her outside the building and on to the street.

            Standing back in the doorway they had sheltered in previously, Kuznetsov could hear, more than see, that Tatiana was almost at breaking point, he gave a small nod to Tchort who back-handed her viciously across her face. The snivelling and wailing stopped at once.

            ‘Who are you two?’ She said in horror of the summary violence metered out to Pavel whose lifeless body, not one hundred metres away was freezing slowly. ‘How dare……………what…….who? By the blessed virgin who the fuck are you!’ The last five words were screamed at the top of her lungs.

            ‘My dear Tatiana’ said the Major, ‘my name is Kuznetsov as I told you  and I am, as you can see from the uniform, a Major in the KGB. Currently I am based in Lubyanka Square in Moscow where I have an office for what we will call ‘special’ projects. This person is my assistant who goes by the name of Tchort’ Tatiana’s eyes widened. ‘Ah, my dear I see that you are more educated than your rather lowly status would indicate, you know the meaning of the word?’ Tatiana nodded slowly, her eyes never wavering from Tchorts impassive face. ‘Interesting’ said Kuznetsov ‘tell me how a lowly labourer such as yourself, understands the Slavonic language?’ Tatiana remained mute her eyes still not wavering from Tchort. ‘I asked you a question comrade’ chided the Major, there was still no response. Tchort reached forward and grabbed the front of Tatiana’s work shirt. Instinctively she flinched, a reaction that was ignored by Tchort as he ripped the shirt open revealing a gold Orthodox Cross on a chain round her neck.

            ‘And that answers my question, but it would have been a lot easier if you had just told me.’ Kuznetsov took in the fear in the woman, the gold cross around her neck and the lace edging of her bra that was clearly not of Soviet manufacture. ‘Now’ said the Major ‘I have no problem personally with your religious beliefs, I even have no problem with your black market dealings in  underwear’ Tatiana was trying to crouch down and pull her shirt round herself to cover her semi nakedness as much for the embarrassment as for the freezing cold. ‘But what I do have a problem with, a really big problem, is a missing gold box. Do you want to tell me the story or do I get Tchort to make you tell me?’ The steel in Kuznetsov’s voice conveyed his determination to be done with this scene and his anger that he was even there. ‘You see, I have a nice warm apartment back in Moscow, at the Hotel Ukraina and I would rather be there with a bottle of Bordeaux, looking out over the River and the expensive shops in the Arbat, than in this stinking piss-smelling rat-infested shit hole of a town with scum like you. So it’s your call, make life easier for both of us, or harder just for you?’

            ‘Go to hell!’ Tatiana shouted as she stood up, her voice carrying along the empty street.

            ‘Your friends can’t hear you Tatiana. Like the cowards they are they ran back to their gutters, the only people here are you, me Tchort and that corpse in the Theatre. You seem like such a nice girl that I will give you one last chance. Where is the box?’ Silence. ‘Very well, Tchort, shoot Tatiana in the left foot. Tatiana looked towards the younger man who remained expressionless as he took his gun out of his jacket and with slow, deliberate movements, clicked off the safety catch and aimed.

            ‘You wouldn’t, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t’ intoned Tatiana. ‘You’re just trying to scare me.’ There was a crack as the pistol fired, a scream from Tatiana as she slumped to the floor and a pool of blood under her foot that quickly started to freeze so that it looked as if she were in a puddle of jam.

            ‘Fucking hell, fuck fuck fuck fuck’ Tatiana was crying with the shock and the pain as Tchort hauled her roughly to her feet.

            ‘As you can see comrade, we are as good as my word’ smiled Kuznetsov. ‘Now tell me where the box is or the next bullet goes through your right hand. If you still don’t tell me then I might let Tchort reload his special bullets again and you’ve already seen the mess they cause. Kuznetsov nodded and Tchort grabbed Tatiana’s face turning her to face the Major.

            ‘Where is the gold box Tatiana?’ Tears were streaming down the woman’s fat face, what makeup she had been wearing was leaving black and blue streaks that ran past her mouth and dripped off her chin. Kuznetsov continued ‘I shall count to five Tatiana and then if you have not told me what I want to know, you can say goodbye to your hand………One………….Two…………’

            ‘I sold it, I sold it, I SOLD IT!’ Tatiana screamed.

            ‘Who did you sell it to?’ Kuznetsov’s voice remained calm.

            ‘The Vikings, I sold it to the two brothers known as the Vikings.’

            ‘And where do Tchort and I find these Vikings?’ Kuznetsov asked.

            ‘You don’t. They get to hear things about artworks, icons, paintings all that kind of stuff and they contact you. The contact is always from them.


            ‘I don’t know, honestly I don’t know, please believe me’ she sobbed ‘I’m telling you the truth.’

            ‘I do believe you Tatiana, at last I do believe you. Why are they called the Vikings?’ Kuznetsov now sounded curious as if he were asking what the ingredients were in a cake.

            ‘They’re not Russian, they are Danes. Two brothers, the older one is called Cristoffer and Kasper is the younger.’

            ‘Where did you meet them?’

            ‘They pushed a note through my door and asked to see me the following morning in the City Centre.'


            ‘The old ship, by the old ship’ Tatiana was crying again, openly weeping in pain.

            ‘Do you mean the Aurora, Tatiana, the old cruiser on the Neva?’ Tatiana nodded. ‘Thank you Tatiana, you see that wasn’t so bad. Now tell me how much they paid you?’

            ‘You can have it, you can have what I’ve got left, just let me go, please for the love of god let me go.’ Tatiana pleaded but Kuznetsov remained impassive.

            ‘I see no reason for a god to love Tatiana’ said Kuznetsov dispassionately. ‘To love is to give and for that we have the state. A god has no need to give surely? But I digress’ said Kuznetsov shaking his head. ‘How much?’

            ‘Three thousand’ mumbled Tatiana.


            ‘Dollars. American.’

            ‘Tatiana, you were robbed! Those Danish scum conned you! Have you any idea how much that box is worth?’ She shook her head. Kuznetsov was clearly angry as he shouted ‘Tatiana, I have a good mind to let Tchort shoot your hand just for your stupidity, for your sheer greed and incompetence!’

            ‘No!’ The word came out as a scream.

            ‘I am done with you Tatiana, I thank you for your co-operation’ he added, a sad note of kindness in his voice. ‘Comrade, Tchort, perhaps you can help our friend in your usual way?’ Kuznetsov turned his back for a moment as his assistant roughly pushed the barrel of his pistol into Tatiana’s mouth, breaking a tooth in the process. Tatiana could taste the cordite on her tongue from the shots that had killed her cousin and mangled her own foot. She could barely stand, not only from the wound but also through fear, her wide eyes looking at Kuznetsov as he turned to her, the blood from her smashed mouth now running as freely as her tears.

            ‘Tatiana, do you know what Tchort translates as?’ said Kuznetsov. The woman nodded slowly.

            ‘Satan’ she mumbled as clearly as she could, a single tear running down her face; and as the word died so too did Tatiana as Tchort pulled the trigger and the wall behind her head splattered a bright red.

(c) dan canwell

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