Novosibirsk, Russia. 1942.
They were cleaning the train bogeys in the morning when they found the body. It was Jack, to stipulate. He found the body slumped and trashed in the deep corner end which was mostly beside the washroom. It was hidden behind the tall bamboo broomsticks and paint and grease cans and that is why it smelled like a crashed car. He tried to move it away but couldn’t, as he saw that it was carefully placed under the heavy trunks of cleaning stuff and oil.
Within minutes, the whole crew came forward to examine it but they were just as horror-struck as Jack himself. They tried to move the trunks aside but thought that it was better to keep it in the place and not fidget with things. Some of them even puked their morning breakfast when they eyed the dead body carefully. Mutilated. Disgraced. Maimed.
They were given duties in the morning by the owner. They had cleaned the engine well, they had even poured the oil and loaded the dock of coal. Even the steam funnel was scrubbed bright and the scraps of rust were removed from the smoke-chimneys. But the bogeys were the dirtiest part to scrub off. The bogeys had no chairs. It carried machineries, Woodstock, gunpowder, metal scraps, petroleum and many more substances which were the raw material for the war. After the cleaning process, the train used to be assembled by parts and then it was shifted to the loading dock where the equipment and the necessities were stored in the godowns and large storage halls. Then it would continue its voyage to the dockyard and the other part would just directly be taken to the cantonment.
The trains were the only means of transportation of such huge goods. And although the demand of soldiers were food and water more than the guns, the train bogeys were always filled with the contrary. The government didn’t cared about the people starving but they cared about the hands that carried guns. They cared about the numbers, they cared about the deaths, they cared about the destruction, they cared about screams, they cared about the violence. And, most important of all, they cared about the victory.
“There’s a dead body in the bogey, Master.” The one named Cleo said.
The master was sitting in the small hall near the station. It was far away from the cleaning arena and you had to cross three tracks before reaching the platform where all the offices stood in line. The department, mostly the ones who planned routes of rails and other services like the signals and fuel stops, occupied most of the rooms. They even had separated the electric room from the location office where they usually held their meetings. The department had vacation today and that is why the Master had no job but to smoke cigarettes. The room smelled of gas fumes and grease. Mostly of the oil which was decaying in cans at the deep corner beside the table. The master was relaxing on the chair with his legs stretched outwards on the table. Cleo watched as the master puffed out the smoke and crushed the cigarette into the ashtray.
“So what?” the Master said, “Haven’t you ever seen a dead body? Why are you panicking like hell? Tell George, he’ll take care of it.”
“You would like to see it.”
“What the f##k’s so special about it?” The Master said as he landed another cigarette in his stoned lips of which the upper part was completely hidden behind the bushy moustache. “I won’t see it until it’s the Hitler himself, stoned and crushed under the foot of horses. That bloody bas##rd.” Cleo tried to explain but no words came out of his mouth.
Cleo left the place. He hurried to the station manager’s office. George was there, sitting on the bench outside. He watched Cleo as he limped and tried to hurry to get by his side. He could see that Cleo had run all the way from the Master’s office to the stairs and then to the station Manager’s office. His beads of sweat was trickling down the forehead. His apron which was now untucked from the bottom, fluttered in the air and along his slumped belly.
Cleo panted for a while before speaking in pauses which were blocked by the strong grunts as the mucous in his nostrils made it hard to speak.
“George?” Cleo said, “You need to….. come.”
“What’s the matter?” George motioned Cleo to sit down but he refused with a sharp shook. Still panting, he outstretched his hand toward the cleaning arena.
“There’s a dead body and-” he wheezed, “You- You need to take care of it. The- The Master said.”
George got up and adjusted his hat on his head. He took his coat from the hook and walked with Cleo.
“Why the hell are you so tensed?” George lit a cigarette. “It’s my daily job. Haven’t you seen a dead body before? Come with me to the Pass Area tomorrow. I bet you will faint down to your balls when you see it. Just disgusting.”
“There’s something special about this one.”
“Special?” George arched his eyebrow. “What do you mean special?”
Cleo didn’t answer but continued his walk. He was sure that even George would be surprised. Not just surprised but aghast. Horrified. Stunned. Dazed.
As they reached the Cleaning Arena, George could see the bunch of cleaners gathered around the bogey. It was number 13. Just like the pack of lions thrusting their hunger on the only deer they have caught in weeks of draught. The crowd was crammed and hushing. Not the whispers of surprise, but that of tension. As he neared the bogey, George could smell the disgusting rot of flesh which had been canned in grease for very long time. The Russian railways were always cleaned for the goods to carry. He just couldn’t understand why the hell it smelled so rotten. And even if it did, why didn’t anyone noticed it before? What were the cleaners paid for? Bloody bas##rds.
Jack came forward with his hand wiping the grease off his forehead. His apron was covered with dust and oil. He carried a broomstick which was in the worst condition of cleaning. The handle looked brand new and George could deduce the amount of work he had done today. He lowered the broomstick and let it drop.
“What’s the matter? Why so much gathering here?” George asked raising a question to the tensed congregation of people.
“Go inside and look it yourself.” Jack said motioning his fingers toward the bogey. The crowd parted as they made their way to let George enter. He could see their brow lines clearly showing their existence and crammed with the disclosure of approaching instants. He went to the door and opened it. A warm and sickening smell welcomed him. He quickly pinched his nose and waved his hand in front of his face. As he closed to the washroom corner, he could see the cans of paint and grease scattered and the bamboo broomsticks lying aside. The goddamn bastards had tried to muddle with it. They shouldn’t have.
As he reached the corner, he saw the body. The horror struck him and he knew that there was going to be a chaos. A great trouble. Pandemonium. He had lifted and disposed many dead bodies to the crematory and even transferred some to the Pass Area but he knew he could never dispose this one. He couldn’t even touch this one.
The dead body belonged to a man named Karl Ricoletti. A deadly name on the tongues of Russian these days and the top ranker of Russia’s most wanted list. He was a Russian spy once. One of the twelve civilians severely trained for the worst situations and condition to adopt and adjust. Sent secretly though the reporting service to the allies via the captured trains covertly transported to the Axis powers. But it turned out that he was a traitor. He had already killed seven of the twelve and was keen on hunting for the other four. He was supplying the Axis with the information of Russian arsenals and military status. He had even given them details of fading portions of the Allies. It had resulted in large erosion of distinction between military and civilian resources. Three years ago, he had fled and joined the secret service with the Axis powers and had successfully turned them profit.
The two consecutive bombings in modern day Syktyvkar and Vyatka, followed by the epidemic terror in Nizhniy Novgorod has made a knot in the Allies powers. The Russians were depleted of supplies and necessities resulting in famines, incomplete and unstructured warfare, destruction of many army encampments, supply depots and the civilian residents. In short, he was a man who deserved to die.
It was believed that he wasn’t alone. There was a crowd of people from Tomsk and other big cities like Krasnoyarsk involved with him. Of course it wasn’t possible for one man to gain this much output. The departments were set for everything. Deep checks, examinations, investigations, surveys, etc. were conducted to unveil the traitor’s forward. The exertion was in vain until the last year when they found a team of three people involved with Ricoletti. Their linking to him was later discovered through the undisclosed messaging services used only by the Axis. Three months ago, another two of his team were caught in Barnaul and Biysk who were punished for treason. But still the eye of suspicion was open. Anyone who would have caught acquaintance to Ricoletti was punished for the offence of treachery.
But now he was dead. Dead as a deceased rabbit in his burrow. Nobody in the cleaning area worried about who killed him and why. They were worried about why would someone put him in the place where he was now.
Hundreds of miles away, from the appearance of dead body on the station, the army colonel sat smoking in his chair on the outskirts of Yekaterinburg. A faded man carrying the aged mask of appearance but still the guts as strong as that of a lusty horse. He had trained many soldiers and cavalries for years. Anyone could tell that he was a man of metal and if you commit any kind of violation to his rules, your as##ole will be the size of dish with fear the very next moment.
His resources were thin and the demands, thick. Extreme, as he could say. The army needed supplies more than they needed comfort. The Germans had been bombing many of their cantonments with the air fighters they have got. They always came in a formation, fooled as a strategy of birds seen in the sky along sunset and then they would drop it. Explosions on top of tragedies. The Russian dugouts were located on the reach and the Germans had somehow managed to destroy a major part of their airfields. The soldiers were set on the routine patrol. The air signals were sent immediately if they spotted any kind of disturbance. There were seizer planes from Japan too. The Japs seemed to take the revenge of the border division but more than the Germans, they had fussed up a great big of trouble in their noses. The situation was dicey, maneuvering and terrific with all the ongoing.
The attackers outnumbered them outside the parameters. The skinning military had to somehow boast its foot on and carry with the further duels without going much harm. They couldn’t afford to lose more supplies and their manpower. That’s the best they could do.
Chet, the soldier-in-charge of the troop, entered and handed a few bunch of papers to the colonel. His name was Ivanovich. He looked at it for a long time before setting them back on the table and puffing his cigar for one last time. He let the deep drag flow all over his body to his mind and then burst out in fumes and smoke though the passage of his mouth and nostrils.
“Is the preparations going on all right?” Ivanovich asked as he turned to face Chet. “I heard there is a trouble going along a few days.”
“We need food, colonel.” Chet said with his hand behind his back and his straightened figure producing a creaking sound of a rusted metal being rubbed with another one. “The supplies are draining. The shelters have been set up at the allocated area. The medical help had been revised and their equipment had been ordered. But there still is the problem of feeding. Our soldiers don’t have enough strength to face the coming moments.”
Ivanovich was silent for a long time. His eyebrows squinted as he though and then squashed his eyes. “I will further the report to the headquarters. And the soldiers have to fight. Come what may. We should stand strong and valiant. Unflinching. If our enemies even had a hint of our flaws, they will try to rub salt on it.”
“Don’t worry, colonel. They won’t get any hint.” Chet said, “Other than that, there are the messages from the troops of Perm and Serov that they are going to join us with provisions soon. The fighter jets have arrived and the ones with the broken propellers had been driven off to the mechanics. They are doing a good job. We need more mechanics.”
“Sure we do, but for now we need more manpower.” Ivanovich fumbled through the papers while stopping to take closer look at few.
“There’s a news from the Federal Security Committee.” Chet said advancing forward. His voice dropped to a low whisper. “Another clutch of spies was sent from Italy and the Pacific areas. They have already landed in Moscow a month ago. Must have spread out, of course. But the news is that they haven’t left yet. Maybe it’s the time to set up a trap. The officers have been guarded on constant duty in disguise. The search is still going.”
“What have you got for me in there?”
Chet closed again to the table. He looked around to see whether there was anyone eavesdropping. The bugs were already a lot in the cavalries and each secret step you take, you had to take with your mind in your shoes. “The news is that, Ricoletti is one of them.” Chet sighed. “And it is believed that he is leading the force. A special flock has been arranged, especially to cage him before the door opens again.”
“There are very rare chances of Ricoletti escaping as the other four members of his former gang is searching for him like a hound. There had been many attacks on the North Western area by the airliners. Drones have been consequently flying over. It had made us clear that the flock is hiding somewhere over there. The Axis made a mistake for sending their best group. And I am hell of a sure, sir. They are going to repent this one.”
“Do one thing for me, Chet.” Ivanovich said, “Inform the Federal about their unconfirmed locations. And I want the file of all the other four members on my desk. Get me that as soon as possible. Maybe there’s a clue somewhere concealed. We have to bet our asses to find it.”
“Yes sir.” Chet said and left.
The Master’s name was Anton Boris. He was still smoking cigarette when George arrived on his doorstep, panting. As a kind of holiday-duty, the Master was reading a newspaper which mostly had the news about destruction done along the borders and sidings of the military areas. He lowered his paper as he heard the thumping footsteps approaching on the concrete floor and moments later George’s face appeared.
“‘The f##k’s matter, George?” Boris said. He lowered his legs from the table.
“There’s a body in the bogey. Bogey no. 13. You gotta see it.”
“For Christ’s sake don’t tell me it’s Hail bloody Hitler. Even Cleo brought the same news and now you?” Boris arched his eyebrows.
“It’s Ricoletti. Karl fu##ing Ricoletti.” George said and then he recounted the whole story of how the body had been prudently disposed off the eyes of anyone and it had been found. Trashed. Almost like a bakery flour being beaten to molten it. As George was narrating the incident he could see Boris’s fear rising. He was almost on the verge of a heart attack.
“Jesus f##kin Christ!” Boris almost whispered. He slumped his figure into the chair ad wiped his sweat off his forehead with the newspaper. “How many of them?”
“How many of them are there in the cleaning area? How many bas##rds saw it?”
“A bunch of fifteen, I guess.”
“Call them right now. We are going to have a meeting.” Boris said.
Exactly three hours earlier, in the western-Siberian border, near a small village alongside the road to Yekaterinburg, a man was hunting for a shelter. His name was Gregor DeMelov. He had been hiding for years. From the threats as everyone was trying to hide from the threats to save their little lives. But DeMelov had been hiding for a special reason.
He knew that Ricoletti was returning back with his crazy flock and this was the chance, he was never going to miss. His secret sources have clearly hinted him that. Years of revenge had been boiling inside him and the target being only one man, Ricoletti.
He had found Ricoletti twenty days ago in Ukhta. He was disguised as a fellow Siberian traveler but that didn’t help him escape from Demelov’s eyes. He had followed Ricoletti for another week before planning his murder. Their flock was scattered. Everyone was trying somehow to gather any information about the armies or encampments. They wanted to destroy the supplies coz, at the moment, Russia needed supplies more than anything.
Even with his group dispersed, he had three men with his disguised as fellow civilians. Their main motive was to gather the details of ground force reinforcements and the airfields. Supply it to the Germans and Japs and then boom, they have already blown up your base right under your nose. Ricoletti was a sharp man. But he was a traitor, who received death before the reward.
He was disguised as a man named Adam Burman, one of the American soldiers sent down the cantonment, a few months ago. They had been a great help as the southern Siberian border had already saved from attack twice due to their ferocity and intelligence. But Ricoletti had somehow used the chance to extract the bulletins of secret warfare going around in the upper Russian state. Their meeting was scarcely held but DeMelov could see that they all were working like a race horse.
DeMelov got a job as temporary worker on the Ukhta station. His duties were to crunch the coals, extract the mines, load the vacancies in the engine fuels, and then finally shipment of docks before the train’s departure to the further journey. Ricoletti used to travel daily. He used to pick up the morning train to Voyvozh at 6 am sharp in the morning and return nearly around 7 pm by the last reworking trains. This was his daily schedule. Maybe he had found out the arsenal bases but DeMelov got to know that their service was soon about to end. And Ricoletti will be gone, forever.
One night, Ricoletti returned late by the last train he could have managed from the later stations. It was nearing midnight and there were very few, almost no passengers on the tracks or even in the waiting areas. The bunch of cleaners and refuelers were hustling three tracks away in their own shed before morning so that the train should be able to leave with fresh goods. One hour went by, before Ricoletti crossed the tracks and came into view. He was having some freshly fluttering papers in his hand and his coat was damp with the molten snow. He managed to climb up the last track and led his way towards the line of offices and then to the stairs. This was the only opportunity DeMelov was ever going to get. And he couldn’t afford to have missed this one. He secretly crept from the coal depots and trespassed the line of department before Ricoletti could climb the stairs. He waited under the step-house, as Ricoletti came into view.
DeMelov waited for Ricoletti to come closer, but as he neared, it seemed like he had sensed something. His steps shallowed and he tried to retreat them to the other side of the electricity room where another layer of creaky stairs made a small emergency passage to the bridge above which was joined by the main stairs. But it was too late. He was too close. DeMelov crept from behind the stairs and grab hold of Ricoletti’s neck in his wide and muscled biceps. Ricoletti elbowed him hard in chest and the papers flew out of his hands. DeMelov staggered backwards but before he could regain his balance, Ricoletti was back with a sharp uppercut and DeMelov felt the world flying around him. It landed hard on his lower chin and he bit out his tongue. Blood filled his mouth and he spat as the dark circles still danced in front of his eyes.
He got up and before Ricoletti could kick him another blow, he sidestepped and brought his foot up right between Ricoletti’s legs. He fell down clutching his groins as the massive force of kick of a horse and already crashed his balls. DeMelov held him by his biceps again, but this time, his hands locked behind his back in a spring formation, the move they were taught while training so that the opponent is held dead lock and cannot escape. Ricoletti grunted and his feet made a swimming motions on the tiled floor. He struggled for a while, but he took more time than any grown man could have taken before giving up.
DeMelov kicked the body hard and spat on it. His anger and revenge lay dead in front of his eyes. But still he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted Ricoletti to suffer, even after death. His body should be eaten away slowly by ants, he wanted him to throw the body deep in the coal burners, but that wouldn’t be enough.
He did all the bad things he wanted to do with Ricoletti’s body. He found a shovel near the stairs and crammed it into Ricoletti’s body several times, only stopping to grasp the air and then again continuing with his chores. He then bashed his face with his own fists and covered it with the bloodied mask. At last he was so tired that he began grunting. But he needed the remaining strength. To think and to dispose the body. He just couldn’t throw it away, even though the whole Russian will enjoy his death and celebrate the day as festival for years, but the news of his death will spread like a wildfire. He wanted the country to be silent for some time. He knew that once hearing the news of their leader’s death, the flock will try to escape by any means possible. And he didn’t want that. He wanted to skin each one of them. Alive.
There was news a few months ago that the Novosibirsk area is under suspicion of treachery. Two of the fellow spies had been captured from neighboring towns and there were infrequent raids on the stations and other gathering places to have a check. He could just put the body in one of the trains leaving for Novosibirsk or Barnaul maybe. Then he would be free to hunt for the next flock. He knew his plan would work as the people of Novosibirsk were not fools to expose the body of Ricoletti to public so soon. They would be crammed, if they did. Unfathomable checks and examinations will never end. The whole area will be sealed. The transport of goods will stop as the distrust will rise on everything which ever lands in that circle.
And he knew it. He knew that his idea would work. It had to work. He carried the body to the loading dock were fifteen bogeys were already present. He stuffed the body into bogey no. 13. That would take time. And the body won’t be found out soon. It will take nearly three days. Maybe four.
He stuffed Ricoletti beside the corner of washroom where a small part was kept to carry the cleaning stuff like oil cans, paints and mechanic equipment. He hide it behind the bamboo broomsticks and made sure that the smell should be masked by the greasy and oily scent. Then he got out and went to the stairs straight to his home. He would be leaving tomorrow afternoon as in the morning he would be leading bogey no. 13. And he didn’t want any casualties.
The next day, he carefully disposed the bogey and send it to the attachment dock. When he heard the whistle of the steam engine shrilling loudly in the air along with the wasps of smoke thrown out, and when he saw the train moving, diminishing out of his sight, he took a sigh of relief. Within an hour, he was out of the station with his payment and was running was to live his life. The way he want.
It took Chet, five hours to collect the information about Ricoletti and his former group, from the Federal services and the Military Headquarters. He somehow even managed to find out the history of a few fellows who were already dead. But the others had no database. Felt like they had come out of thin air.
Ivanovich was making war strategy with the other troop-in-charges, when Chet entered. He saw that he had knocked the meet and suddenly apologized. But the colonel stopped him and signaled the others to dismiss.
“What have you got for me?” the colonel asked.
“It’s the papers about the twelve musketeers, you asked to bring.” Chet said, handing over the papers to the colonel. “Although I have found a few traces of history of some of them but the others seemed to have vanished from the database straight away. Maybe the higher orders had deleted their details before Ricoletti could snap it out.”
The colonel squinted his eyes as he studied the files. Only four of them were alive. Amado Gridnev, Psokhor Stalin, David Putnin and Gregor DeMelov. The four musketeers, hidden behind the bushes to save their lives. He examined the papers carefully and then set it aside.
“Got any news about Ricoletti and his flock?” Ivanovich asked. He lit a cigarette. “They must have spread out by now, got a hell of space to hide North-Western range. Could be anywhere between Petrozavosk to Salekhard.”
“Yes, sire. But there’s no need to worry as the orders had been sent and the raid groups have alerted to investigate civilian households and other gathering dwellings. They mustn’t have got far. Coz there’s very thin hope of them escaping this time.”
“Have you informed the officers of Federal Agencies? I want the news circulated all over the places including headquarters. I want their holes drilled this time.”
“That has been done, sir.” Chet said. “Hopefully, only a handful of people at the headquarters know that we know that Ricoletti is back. And Director Halton had set up a meet with you. He told me to inform you that there is going to be a tight search under your surveillance. And you are gonna get the complete support from the headquarters team to find out the remaining four.”
“That’s well done.” Ivanovich said. “Keep me informed about the state of affairs.”
Chet nodded. Gave him a salute and then left.
“You bloody ba###rds, do you know how much deep trouble you are in, now?” Boris almost screamed even after knowing that it was not their mistake. The meeting had been arranged in his small office which was now tightly crammed with people and smelt mostly of nasty oil. There were fifteen of them in total. And they had cleaned seven bogeys room the morning. Choosing the numbers at random, that’s what the game they played while working.
Boris sat tensed on his table with horrified expression. Every minute, he took out his hankie from his pocket to wipe the beads of sweat on his neck which never seemed to stop.
“Then what should we do?” Jack asked. The tension in the room rose again. “We just can’t keep it like this. Something’s gotta be done about it.”
“He is right, boss. Something’s gotta be done about it. Let’s call the Parole Officers and hand over them the body. They can-” George was interrupted by Boris.
“Are you fu##in outta your mind, George?” Ivanovich jumped from the table and screamed. “Don’t even think about it. Don’t you know that were are already under suspicion and now if we expose this thing out, we might be fu##in our own asses with big fat cocks. There was a raid three days ago, and somehow the department managed to convince the officers about those extra coal sacks lying hidden under the stairs. The station, the department, the whole crew members will be suspended, and god knows for how much time. I am already fed up with the amount of fussing they do in our business, I don’t want more of it.”
“But we can’t sit like this. Hand in hand? Gods no.” George said. He glanced at the cleaning crew. “One way or the other, the officer or the raiders are gonna find out the body. We just can’t stuff it out somewhere. It will leave imprints and what if they raid us tomorrow again. I know, we are under observations but if they found out the body, we are really gonna be fu##ed up. Jesus, I feel like a heel. ”
“Can’t we just convince the department head or the station manager?” A small stout man named Claude came forward and spoke. “He can help us.”
“We don’t drag the department into this.” Boris said. “Moreover, there are chances that they might escape from this situation but we can’t. We are just ordinary. Who’s on the Parole, by the way?”
“It’s Lipnick.” Jack answered.
“God, that son of a bi##h.” Boris cursed. “He already has violations with me. We don’t fit in a room together. He thinks that I fucked his wife while he was on duty to the encampments. WELL, HELL! He won’t help us. He will surely try to find a way to bury me deep into this. And if I go, you go too.”’
The tension in the room, rose. It seemed like they were tight from all the four corners. No chance to flee. Even if they approach the help of law, they would still be held in custody under wary activity as they didn’t have any proof of truth of the incident they were narrating. Each one of them, ran different ideas through his mind. Carefully studding the odds and ifs.
“If Lipnick can’t help us, why don’t we do something ourselves.” Claude said. Raising his creaky voice he looked at the Master with fear in his eyes. “I mean just throw away the body somewhere or…. Burn it, maybe.”
“That’s a fuckin brilliant idea, but… we can’t burn it. It will catch attention. And even if we tried to burn it, the miners will surely come out to examine the activity and we don’t want any more people involved in this situation. The lesser, the better. We have to do something else.”
“Like what?” George asked.
“Dispose it off.” Boris said and slammed his hand on the table. His face suddenly filled with triumph of winning a war and he started jumping. “Yes, that can be done. Dispose it off. Just bury it deep somewhere. The desolate area beside the loading dock would be a nice place. No one will even get a hint.”
“But-” Jack said.
“But what?” Boris bawled. He glanced at everyone inside the room. He studied their faces and got to know the depth of seriousness hiding on their faces. “Look, if we want to move safely out of this, we got to do as I say. Trust me. It will work. It has to work.”
Everyone hummed and then agreed. Boris could feel the ray of hope in this situation.
“Yes, we are ready.” George said. “But not beside the loading dock, no. it is way too risky for us to do that.”
“Well,..” Boris scratched his head for a while. “What about the waste dumping area behind the mines. It will be agreeable place. No one to disturb, no dram, no fear nothing. What do you say?” Everyone agreed and Boris gave them a thumbs up.
“All right boys,” George said in a serious tone. “Let’s get to work.”
Ivanovich looked at the letter in his hands. Chet had said that somebody just dropped it right in front of the airfields. Must have been anyone from that crowd. There were so many troops out there. The letter was sealed with a red patch used in transporting confidential documents over. It was addressed to him with big and bold letters. But they seemed different. Seemed like they were craved with a piece of pointed charcoal. It was in one of the big envelopes which gave you the thought that they might contain a clean shaved human head, without ears.
Ivanovich cut the seal and tore the envelope. There were a few papers punched and smudged with droplets. Along with it fell a small letter. It was a crumpled paper which was later ironed to keep straight. The smudges of ink were clearly visible making it difficult to decide, which part was a face. He unfolded the paper and squinted his eyes to read.
Karl Ricoletti is dead. And disposed of well. Don’t ever consider this as a joke and throw it off. I killed him myself. He entered our country with a flock of nearly thirteen people. Some of them have scattered to the north to enquire about the Ground Forces and the airfields liners. Till now they might have got the particulars of the supply depots and must be trying to fidget with them. Destroying being their main aim. I have followed Ricoletti since a month. He entered, disguised as an American soldier on the borders. And I have some confidential papers I am sending you with this letter. They contain the information of their hideouts and further planning. It also has a mere route to the channel of their communication system. Might be in use to you. If you don’t believe me, just wait for a few days. But do keep an eye on the hideout places mentioned and the communication channels. You will find out soon.
Don’t disclose the news of his death, now. It might turn the aggressive nature of Germans towards Russia. Currently we cannot defeat them with our limited possessions. Make a trap and set them on fire in your own way.
And please don’t try to search for me. It will be in vain. I don’t want our forces to lose their time and strength in undergoing a job they cannot accomplish.
Ivanovich stared at the letter for a long time. Reread it again and then shifted his attention towards the papers lying in the envelope.
He had to meet Director Halton as soon as possible.
The disposal process was going along fine. They had brought the body stuffed in long sack and passed the miners without a doubt of suspicion. Of course they would be thinking that the cleaners had to dump the waste. They won’t thing that the sack contained a dead body of Russia’s most wanted terrorist who was found thrashed to the core in bogey no. 13.
There were five of them. Three of them were digging the pits while the other two were collecting the waste to dump over the body. There were four more who were set was watchmen on the gates to signal in time of emergency while the complete gang of nine was guarded by the other six along with George to keep the miners engaged.
Jack was the one who thought that whatever was happening, it wasn’t right. He felt a knot of anger in his throat. And then the knot was a mixture of several emotions. Fear, panic, horror but most of all anger. He just couldn’t do it. He was forced to. Even though his mind was supporting the situation, his soul was completely against it. It was fighting back. Yelling that they are going to be in danger sooner or later. Jack wished it would have been later rather than sooner.
As he was engaged in a duel with is feelings, this though process was disturbed by Cleo.
“It’s done, Jack.” He said. “Do you think this much deep will be enough. We don’t want the rollers to pin it out while collecting the garbage.”
“Oh… Yes, I think so,” Jack stammered. “Wait. I’’ call George to have a final look.” And jack left the place. He saw George trying to engage in conversation with one of the fellow miner. Jack went near and signaled the one beside George to excuse him.
“George, the Master has called.” It was their codeword for accomplishing the final task. “He wants to have a word in private.”
George left without saying anything and then turned to the corner without anyone observing him. He started running low and when he reached the dup pit, he saw Cleo waiting with the shovel on his shoulders.
“Will this be enough?” Cleo asked signaling the dughole. George nodded and helped them to lift the sack and throw it into the pit. Then they later tried to refill the mud and level it. As he saw jack return with a sack of mine waste, George signaled the trio to smudge of the evidences. Jack then dumped the waste near the buried hole and then, one by one, they shifted the waste to cover the area.
It took Ivanovich, three hours to reach the federal branch office in his cargo truck. He parked it outside the parameter and entered the gate with his card detection. Halton was sitting there studying the route maps with utter concentration. When he got a signal of Ivanovich’s arrival, he quickly dismissed the security outside his office to have a talk in privacy.
Ivanovich entered with a briefcase which carried an envelope and some papers which were freshly faxed.
“Good evening, colonel. Nice to see you again.” Halton greeted Ivanovich. Ivanovich gave the director a salute and sat in from of the chair where Halton motioned him.
“Good evening, Director. I have an interesting news for you.” Ivanovich beamed and produced the letter from the envelope. He handed it to the director and Halton read it in utter silence. There was a moment of hush before the director lit a cigarette and started fumbling through the papers.
“Is it true?” Halton asked.
“Goddamn true, director. Even I questioned its genuineness, but I got some information faxed from the headquarters. And these are the papers.” Ivanovich handed the freshly faxed papers to Halton. He studied it for a while and then set them down.
“Do you think we should trust him?” Halton puffed out the smoke. “By keeping this info a secret? Not transferring it to the journalism?”
“Whoever he is, he is goddamn talented, director. He has carefully crafted each and every fact he has mentioned in the papers. For now, don’t let the civilians or any one of the armed committee, know that Ricoletti is captured and killed. It might alert their members who have trespassed in out groups. It will catch their aggression, maybe they will set a war right out to rescue the rest of their flock.”
“Then what should we do, colonel?”
“Let the things going as along.” Ivanovich said. “In the meantime, spun the web of lies. Make a trap. Lead them the false info from the communication channels. Tell them that their flock has expanded, new members have been recruited. Row their attention towards the eastern deserted area. And then tell them to destroy the depots located on the eastern side. They will sent a large group of airliner to fight, but we will be alert and grasp them from the hidden route from the north-eastern parameters.”
“They aren’t fools, colonel. They know that the eastern space is desolate.”
“Yes, they know that. We will force them to think that we know that they know it. And make them think that we have moved our bases there just to avoid the attacks and casualties right under their noses. Contrasting their thinking. Believe me, it will work.”
Halton was silent for a long time. Maybe trying to spot some holes in the complete plan. “It better be, colonel.” He said at last when he though he couldn’t find any.
It was nearing night and jack was sitting slumped on the metal bench outside Boris’s office. George was inside telling Boris about the work been done and what to do in coming time. Everyone had gone home. To their humble dwellings. It was only jack, George and Boris.
“Problem, buddy?” George asked from behind.
“Someone’s going to find about it someday,” jack shook his head.
“Listen, whatever happens, no one is going to open their mouth to anyone about this. We took care of this, right? Now just go home and have better sleep.”
George turned to the stairs. The wind was chilling. As jack got up and pulled his coat closer to his body, he saw George lit a cigar.