Black Forest (excerpt)

An excerpt from the novel “Black Forest” by Simeon Jankov.

I wanted to ask her something, not to be dumbstruck like an idiot; the first thought that came into my mind was what she does do for a living, but fortunately, I realized right away how stupid I would sound; the next question I could think of was where did she grow up, which would have been more natural in these circumstances, but in the end, the banalest one slipped out my tongue.

“How do You like the winter?” Oh, no! I really couldn’t think of something more stupid. Or maybe…

At first glance, she seriously took the question, or more probably, she had entered into her role; it took her a few moments of thinking, scratched her chin, and softly said: I like snow. The broadcast announced a real nasty snowstorm for tonight. Although, it wouldn’t be nasty for me, no matter how much snow falls. And what about You?”

And I readily replied: “I love snowy winters, but as a child, I had been rejoicing them, I had been happy to see hoarfrost on the windows, as well.”

“But there isn’t any hoarfrost on the windows now. Not on Yours, to say the least” – she said in an unusually slow manner, taking a look at the window. Definitely, there wasn’t any hoarfrost, but even if there was, it would have been rattled across the window glass.  And then, a savage thump on the door!

 “Well, well, well. What have we here?” Crazy, manic glance, a glance with psychopathic rage, and a lot of irrationality for common sense.

Fear made my blood-curdling. My forefinger is trembling towards him. “Mickey Mouse!” Klara tried to stand up, but he threatened her at gunpoint.

“Stay put! I’m going to riddle you with bullets. And you, too! There is nowhere to run!”

She was giving her best to stay composed, but she was obviously unsettled. Her fingernails dug into the armrests. Her veins tightened along the swan-like neck.

Mickey Mouse is going to kill Klara? No way! And he is not Mickey Mouse at all. Some idiot with a mask on his face.

“To lower it?” He started to laugh loudly. “I have been planning this for a while, and now you are telling me to lower the gun? You think I’m an idiot? You are dead! And you too!”

The fear curdled my blood. Not for me. For her.

“Don’t do that, Mickey Mouse, you can kill me. Spare her.”

“Shut up, asshole!” – he shouted.

He made a step towards us. He has a funny mask, but his eyes are gleaming with rage.

“Listen to reason. You’ll be regretting.”

“To listen to reason? You are telling me I’m crazy?”

“I didn’t say that. Just calm down, let me help you.”

“To help me?”

To help him? So, she is definitely being familiar with him. Jealous husband? No, she isn’t married. This is some pimp of hers. There must have been some unsettled contention between them. And he is definitely going to kill her. She slowly sat back on the armchair. Her tragic end is right away. Mine too. No, it won’t happen!

“Hey, Mickey Mouse! Do you want a trip to Disneyland!?” A single shot and he fell. Disgusting red splatter smirched the wall. I blew his brain up! He had so fixedly stared at her and didn’t notice when I jumped over the bed, grabbing my gun. I reacted sharply. A precise shot to the head.

She covered her mouth with her palm, before giving me a cold stare: “Why did you have to shot him to the head? Maybe he was only trying to daunt us.”

“To daunt us?… He would have killed you! Who is this guy? Your boss?”

“What? I don’t know him.”

“It appeared to me that he knew you”, I insisted poignantly.

“There are a lot of madmen out there. Maybe he had been obsessed with me…” She closed her eyes, pressing her thumbs against the temples.

“It’s not how it seemed to me.”        

“I don’t care how it seems to you”, – she replied indifferently. We didn’t even feel that we are already standing. That is so. When engulfed in fear, one loses the sense of space. I slowly stepped toward the motionless body. I wanted to see his face.

“No! Don’t approach him! You would leave your fingerprints, and the police are on their way. We have to get lost from here.”                       She is composed even now. Only a few minutes back she was trying to make him to listen to reason, and now she is applying the same on me. She is doing well, but not completely.

“How about checking his pulse? I mean, to finish him if necessary.”

“No! Pull yourself back together and come with me! No one could survive such a shot.” She is right.

“Let’s run downstairs.” She grabbed my arm wrist, preventing me to step towards the elevator. She is resourceful. Faruk was right. So, without exchanging a single word, we run downstairs. I’m getting her silent message. We have to remain silent.

“Get in! No, you are a way too unsettled to drive, and it’s my car, by the way.” I’m relieved by the revving of the engine. Sirens are wailing from a distance. There will be here in two minutes.

“Help! Help!” – the old lady from the fourth floor window started shouting.

“Militia!”

It’s police, you fool, – I’m thinking to myself.

“I know you are in a shock, but you’ll have to listen to me.” I’m keeping still, looking at the patrol car we passed each other in opposite direction. She is amazing! She did that without giving a damn. I looked back and I saw them pulling up near the building.

“Where we are heading to?” – I asked.

“To my company’s. They are going to save our butts at first. You’ll be completely safe there.”

“Your company?” I can imagine. Now I’ll have to hide among a bunch of whores. What the heck? – I thought to myself.

 She registered my contempt. “I think you are disdaining them.”

“I’m sorry”, – I said ironically. “They must be some professors and doctors.”

“Actually, there is one doctor” – she replied calmly, hitting the gas. “A lot of things are up to him. Therefore, I advise you to be respectful to him.”

“A doctor? Isn’t some madam in charge there?” – I asked her even more tauntingly.

“You are becoming vulgar. The first impression you had left on me was a nice gentleman.”

You aren’t the best version of yourself, either, – I realized on time to keep the thought for myself. I’m getting tired. I don’t want to quarrel anymore. I leaned my head against the window, starting to observe without interest. The headlights of the vehicles from the opposite direction are glittering in my eyes.

The weather seems to be mild, but it’s December, however. Maybe new snow will fall. The one from the previous week isn’t melted completely, either. On second thought, this girl knows what she is doing. There isn’t panic on her face, which is good. She is breathing normally and driving inconspicuously. She is intelligent. She doesn’t want us to appear suspicious. She knows, the police are looking for us. And maybe someone else, as well. The mixed emotions make my cheeks flush.

At first, I thought it was stupid to flee the scene. I’m not a murderer. Didn’t have a choice. Clear-cut self-defense. Furthermore, I believe I have saved her life, as well. I’m even terrified to imagine her dead body. Nobody deserves such a grotesque death, especially her. With exception of that idiot, of course. Regardless of the problems she had involved me in, I don’t blame her anymore. I’m starting to care for this dear human being. She deserves to live. I don’t care about her furtive life. I’m not regretful at all for killing that bustard. He is the only one responsible for his tragicomic Mickey Mouse-like death. I can imagine the news broadcast. “Shootout in Skopje. Mickey Mouse shot to death.” My laugh is almost childish.

“Well, you brightened up.” Shadow of sadness, intimate, naïve, attractive in a peculiar way, without being completely defined, shined on her forehead with wispy strands of blond hair.

“Not exactly, I was just thinking of that Mickey Mouse, such an idiotic death.”

“Maybe. This world is full of idiots. And people who don’t know what they live for.”

Her words hit me hard. The conversation was going to take a new turn, and I didn’t like that.      

“You know; I’m amazed by your calmness. As if you cannot be scared of anything”, I tried to flatter her and correct the first bad impression.

“Fearless? Me?” Her lips pursed. She pulled up on the e side of the highway. “You are naïve. I’m not.”

I gave an astounded look. “Why did you pull up?”

“Because I’m not like that. Fearless, as you say.” She rolled her eyes theatrically, being a little shy. “My stomach. It’s unbearable. I have to go to a toilet, which is that little grove.”

Her nose pointed towards the trees approximately 20 meters from the road. It isn’t a forest at all. Around 30 fir-trees and some brushes among them. “It is little, but I hope, dark enough. But not pitch-black”, she said while getting out of the car.

“Here.” I handed her the newspaper that was laying on the floorboard. She had suddenly brightened up, grabbed it, zealously crumpled it, before throwing it into my face.

“It isn’t necessary, there is still some unmelted snow.” She gave me a stubborn, almost childish stare, full of exaggerated sternness, and took off to the grove.

I put my head in my hands, ashamed of my tactlessness. The sound of crumpling sound kept rustling inside my ears, but it was already getting different, harsher nuances that were now steaming through my nostrils, fogging the review mirror, or maybe coloring or polishing it with rotary light, accompanied by unbearable and already familiar irritating sound. In a blink of the eye, my neck got stuck between the shoulders. I had glanced through the windshield, blinked timidly, and caught myself staring at the police car that pulled over, some 5 meters in front of me.

“Good evening.” Said the fat, middle-aged police officer with a scar on his left cheek. He glanced through the open door on the driver’s side.

“Your ID, please.”

My ID? I rummaged through my pockets.

“I have forgotten it.”

“Hum. Is the car Yours?”

“No, it belongs to a female friend of mine. She got out. Should be back in 2 or 3 minutes.”

“All right, we will wait for her.” He pointed the flashlight to my face, and then to the back seat. Gosh, Klara, why know? I’m simmering while she is wiping her booty with snow. Unbelievable! This guy could arrest me at any moment, and she is not back yet. What if she had noticed that the police were tailing us and decided to disappear with such a pretext? I hope I’m wrong. If not, I’m foolishly credulous. I don’t think this fat guy had already learned about the murder, otherwise, he would have apprehended me right away. But he could learn at any moment. Girl, just finish and get back as soon as possible!

My palm is grasping the trembling knee, pressing hard, the big toe bending like a bow, the toenail painfully pressing against the sole, straining an invisible sweat particle, while I’m straining to compose myself. I’m waiting, still waiting. I’m throwing a subtle glance. One brush is shaking. Quick steps approaching.

“Good evening. Any problem?” She is finally back! His shoulders hunched, I guess, he was taken by surprise, as he hasn’t seen a pussy in his life, open-mouthed, staring at her from the top to the bottom, with an already astonished facial expression. Maybe he had presumed that “the female friend” is some elderly woman and now he was dumbfounded by Klara’s beauty. Perhaps only the last one. However, he had finally pulled himself together and said in a serious manner:

“A little problem, ma ’me. The rear license plate is dirtied with mud. And Your friend doesn’t have any ID.”

“No problem, here You are.” She gave him her ID, reached for the rag on the back seat, and he stretched his neck towards her butt, unsafely half-covered by the coat, his eyes wide open. He snorted resignedly, before glancing at me with jealousy. She had knocked off his socks. She squatted to wipe the plate.

“I hope, it’s better now, officer.”

“Of course. Have a good evening”, he said in a polite manner, at last.

“You too”, she replied with reserved politeness.

“Finally!” A fast sigh of relief.

“You bet! Just imagine, what could have happened, in case the Black Captain pulled us over!” Pretending to be a little girl, she made her face frightened, she stooped a little bit, bending her elbows, her fingers covered the lips, trembling in front of them, uttered an extended “brr”, before pointing at me with her pistol-like hand and winking. A “boom” came out of her mouth, she blew at the index finger, from which she had improvised a muzzle, and gave me a childish smile. I smiled childishly, as well.

“The Black Captain?” – I asked after we were finished with our little buffoonery.

“Haven’t you heard the urban legend?”

I shook my head. She hit the gas and proceeded: “Long time ago, there was some valiant traffic police captain. He was killed in a hit and run, and the perpetrator was never found. Ever since he has been taking revenge on those who drive too fast. His apparition comes into sight after sunset and kills reckless drivers. He cannot find his peace before finding his own killer. Do you believe this?”

“No.”

“Neither I.”

Translated by Simeon Jankov

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