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The Red Hand by Peter Temple

The Red Hand by Peter Temple

Author:Peter Temple
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: The Text Publishing Company
Published: 2019-09-30T16:00:00+00:00


FLIGHT

THE VILLAGE was a long way from the coast, the last thirty kilometres steep, the road narrow, twisting, potholed, not maintained since the fall of Salazar. It was a nothing place—no shrine, ugly, cold. No tourists came.

Sturt and Celik spent two days in the rooms looking onto the quadrado, a square designed for a big town, some long-ago dream of prosperity. They listened to Sturt’s shortwave radio, played chess. They were of even ability, not very good.

Celik was a Turk from Dogubayazit who spoke many languages badly. They spoke English, Celik’s choice.

On the third day, they were playing chess, it was 3pm. Celik’s phone made a sound. He spoke to his man on the road.

They carried on playing for ten minutes, then they went to the slit window.

A Mercedes, blue under yellow dust, came into view, parked in the square.

Two men got out, stretched, looked around like health inspectors. Gazzard was the passenger, driven by the thin Hungarian Sturt had once given a package in Vilnius.

‘I’ll point at you,’ said Sturt.

He put the Python into the clamp, went down the back stairs to the alley, walked half a block and turned into the slim passage.

The Hungarian saw him at the last minute, shouted to Gazzard.

Gazzard walked towards Sturt, smiling, right hand out. He had 1950s male-model looks, three days of beard stubble, oiled.

‘Hey, man,’ he said. ‘Fucking shithole, what is this?’

‘In the crosshairs,’ Sturt said.

He pointed without looking.

Gazzard looked.

‘Totally uncalled for,’ he said.

‘Sit down over there,’ said Sturt. To the Hungarian: ‘Don’t move.’

They sat at a tin table outside the bar, Sturt facing the square. The owner came.

‘Beer?’ said Sturt.

Gazzard nodded.

‘Tuborg. Three.’

Gazzard combed his thin hair with fingers. He had long nails, well kept. ‘Listen,’ he said. ‘Something shorted, I don’t fucking know.’

‘Who killed Khalid?’

‘What?’

‘You die right here.’

‘I didn’t know that, I swear. When?’

‘Five, six hours after. The girl too.’

‘Jesus.’

Gazzard put fingers to his lips, breathed loudly. ‘Well, shit, they must know.’

‘Don’t be a cunt, Barry,’ said Sturt. ‘They knew, I’m blown away long ago. Me and the girl. The fact that it fucking happened means they don’t know.’

The chainsaw sound. Sturt looked at Celik, who raised a thumb. They waited. The trailbike came into the square, two youths up, did a casual lap, revved away.

Celik’s people.

‘So,’ said Gazzard. ‘You can imagine the chaos. Jeez, I need a fucken smoke.’

He went into the bar, came back opening a packet, offered. Sturt took. Gazzard’s old Zippo took many scrapes to fire. He lit the cigarettes, hand unsteady.

‘Four days,’ said Sturt. ‘Four fucking days. Who’d you tell? The woman on the switch? The fucking intern?’

‘Well, I don’t get through to the President,’ said Gazzard. ‘I’m a nothing.’

The bar owner’s idiot son-in-law arrived. Sturt told him to give a beer to the Hungarian.

They watched him deliver it.

A whistle.

Sturt looked. Celik made the signs: something coming.

‘What’s Katzen say?’ said Sturt.

‘Number’s dead.’

‘You’ve got one number?’

Gazzard put up his hands. ‘I’ve left messages.’

Sturt felt the breeze. It came up in mid-afternoon, disturbed the square’s poplars, blew sadly till dawn.



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