Authors: Robert Wilson
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Suspense
Love is the master key that opens
the gates of happiness, of hatred,
of jealousy, and, most easily of
all, the gate of fear.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Table of Contents
Seville – Thursday, 14th September 2006, 19.30 hrs
The ice-cold vodka slipped down Vasili Lukyanov's throat as the traffic thundered past the lay-by on the new motorway from Algeciras to Jerez de la Frontera. The heat had started the sweat beading in his dark hair as he stood by the open boot of the Range Rover Sport. He was waiting for it to get dark, didn't want to do this last stretch into Seville in daylight. He drank, smoked, ate, and thought about his last night with Rita, the whole escapade making him silently, but grossly, oral. My God, she knew how to do it to him. He felt bad leaving her behind. He'd trained her to perfection.
The blood thumped hard in his throat as he looked down on the solid block of Samsonite luggage, jammed up against the open cool box with its chilled champagne and bottles of vodka set in blocks of ice. He tore another chunk off his bocadillo, enjoying the rip of the ham between his teeth, chugged the icy vodka. Another carnal scene from his last night with Rita came to him. Her violoncello waist, the caramel of her skin as soft as toffee in his kneading fingers. A chunk of the bread roll suddenly clogged his throat. He gasped, his eyes came out on stalks. He struggled and finally
coughed. A clod of masticated bread and ham shot out over the Range Rover's roof. Steady, he thought. Don't want to choke now. Die in a lay-by with the trucks rumbling past and your future all before you.
Pepe Navajas had just finished loading the steel rods, the twenty bags of cement, and the wooden planking for making reinforced concrete pillars, which he'd stacked alongside some plumbing equipment, sanitaryware, floor and wall tiles. He was going to build an extension for his daughter and son-in-law who'd just taken delivery of twins and needed more space in their small house in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. They also had no money. So Pepe was buying everything on the cheap and, because his son-in-law was useless, he was doing the work for them over the weekends.
Pepe parked the heavily laden truck outside a restaurant in Dos Hermanas, a few kilometres before the start of the motorway heading south to Jerez de la Frontera. He'd had a beer or two with the guys from the building supplies depot. Now he was going to have an early dinner and wait for dusk. He kidded himself that the Guardia Civil didn't notice so much between dusk and night and only stopped cars later on, when people were more likely to be drunk.
Vasili turned on his mobile phone for the first time that day at just after 11 p.m. He had resisted the temptation until he was through the tollgate on the last stretch of motorway to Seville because he knew what was coming. It had been a while since he'd spent a whole day on his own and he was bursting to talk. The first call came through in a matter of seconds and, as expected, it was from Alexei, his old fellow at arms.
‘Are you alone, Vasya?’ asked Alexei.
‘Yes,’ said Vasili, his lips thick and mouth slow from the vodka.
‘I don't want you to get upset,’ said Alexei, ‘make a mistake while you're driving.’
‘Have you called to upset me?’ asked Vasili.
‘Try this,’ said Alexei. ‘Leonid's back from Moscow.’
‘Did you hear that, Vasya? I'm not breaking up, am I? Leonid Revnik is in Marbella.’
‘He wasn't supposed to be back until next week.’
‘He came back early.’
Vasili opened the window a crack and sniffed the warm night air. It was pitch black, flat fields on either side. Only tail lights in the distance. Nothing coming the other way.
‘What did Leonid have to say?’ he asked.
‘He wanted to know where you were. I told him you'd be at the club, but they'd just come from there,’ said Alexei. ‘They'd found your office locked and Kostya on the floor unconscious.’
on your own at the moment, Alyosha?’ asked Vasili, suspicious.
‘Leonid already knows you've crossed over to Yuri Donstov.’
‘So what is this? A warning?’
‘It's me finding out that Leonid's not lying,’ said Alexei.
‘Something's gone missing from your office,’ said Alexei. ‘He told me that, too.’
Vasili closed the window. Sighed.
‘I'm sorry, Alyosha.’
‘Rita took a heavy beating for you. I haven't seen her, but Leonid had that animal with him – you know, the one that even the Moldovan girls won't go with.’
Vasili hit the steering wheel five times. The horn blared into the night.
‘I'm sorry, Alyosha,’ said Vasili. ‘I'm fucking sorry. What more can I say?’
‘Well, that's something.’
‘It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Leonid wasn't supposed to be back until next week. I was going to talk to Yuri, get permission to bring you in. You were going to be part of it. You know that. I just had to …’
‘That's just the point, Vasya: I
‘I couldn't tell you. You're too close, Alyosha,’ said Vasili. ‘Yuri made an offer that Leonid wouldn't have given me in a million years.’
You didn't want
protecting your back and … what the fuck does it matter anyway?’ said Alexei, trailing off. ‘What was that, Vasya?’
‘I heard it. You're crying.’
‘Well, thank fuck for that,’ said Alexei. ‘At least you're fucking sad, Vasya.’
Pepe was on the road, a little later than planned, with a few more drinks inside him than he'd intended, all because of the football: Sevilla FC winning a UEFA cup game in Athens. He'd got caught up in the post-match euphoria, eaten dinner with wine and brandy. Now he had the music on full blast and was singing along with his favourite flamenco singer, El Camarón de la Isla. What a voice. It was making him tearful.
Perhaps he was driving a little too quickly, but there wasn't much traffic and the lanes of the motorway seemed as wide and well lit as an airport runway. The music drowned out the rattling of the steel rods. He was happy, bouncing up and down on his springy seat, looking forward to seeing his daughter and the babies. His cheeks were wet with emotion.
And it was at that moment, at the very peak of his happiness, that the tyre beneath him blew. It was a noise loud enough to penetrate the cab. A muffled thump like distant
heavy ordnance, followed by the crack and rip of the tyre peeling off the rim and slapping around the wheel arch. His stomach sank with the cab as it listed to the left. In the break in the music he heard the pieces of tyre smacking down the side of the truck, metal screeching on the tarmac. His headlights, which had been locked steady between the lanes, slewed across the straight white flashes, and although everything was slowing down so that no detail escaped his wide-open eyes, some deep instinct was telling him that he was going dangerously fast, in a cab with a very heavy load behind it.
Fear sliced through his innards but the alcohol in his veins only gave him the presence of mind to grip the steering wheel, which had powers of its own. El Camarón started up again just before Pepe's truck smashed into the barrier of the central reservation. Only with that abrupt halt did he realize the full extent of his forward momentum as he was catapulted through windscreen glass into the warm night air. Over the agonized voice of El Camarón he heard a noise that was the last thing his befuddled brain managed to compute. Steel rods, now loose, taking off like a battery of launched spears into a tunnel of approaching light.
And the reason Vasili was crying was that he'd just undergone that extraordinary human facility for compressing a life into a compact emotional experience. Seven times in six years of service in Afghanistan Alexei had protected his back. And now, having survived all those years fighting the Pashtoons, Alexei was going to get shot in the back of the head by one of his own in a forest on the Costa del Sol, for no other reason than that he was Vasili Lukyanov's best fucking friend.
‘Tell Leonid –’ he started, and stopped when he sensed something flashing towards him, a strange agitation in the air. ‘What the fuck …?’
The steel rods, their tail ends quivering with expectation, entered the cone of light, as if attracted to him at its apex.
They hit with explosive force.
Tyres smeared their rubber on to the dark road, thumped against an unseen obstruction and the Range Rover took off into the abysmal black of the fields beyond. There was a momentary silence.
Falcón's house, Calle Bailén, Seville – Friday, 15th September 2006, 03.00 hrs
The phone trembled under the warm breath of the brutal night.
said Falcón, who was sitting up in bed with a file from one of the hundreds concerning the 6th June Seville bombing resting on his knees.
‘You're awake, Javier,’ said his boss, Comisario Elvira.
‘I do my best thinking at this time in the morning,’ said Falcón.
‘I thought most people our age just worried about debt and death.’
‘I have no debts … not financial ones anyway.’
‘Somebody has just woken me up to talk about death … about
death,’ said Elvira.
‘And why were you called, rather than me?’
‘At some time before eleven thirty-five, which was when it was reported, there was a car accident at kilometre thirty-eight on the northbound motorway from Jerez to Seville. In fact, on both sides of the motorway, but the deaths have occurred on the northbound side. I'm told it's very nasty and I need you to go out there.’
‘Something that the Guardia Civil can't handle?’ said Falcón, glancing at his clock. ‘They've taken their time.’
‘It's complicated. They originally thought there was just one vehicle, a truck, which had crashed into the central reservation barriers and shed its load. It took them a while to realize there was another vehicle, beyond some pine trees down a bank on the other side of the motorway.’
‘Still no reason to involve the Homicide squad.’