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Thriller – Part four

2010
03.29

Entry no.2 by Marie Peach

In professional silence behind smoked glass, Broucek’s driver took them smoothly along the highway, where snow was piled high against the central reservation, and then past the bleak, graffitied apartment blocks of the suburbs. They emerged onto one of the many bridges across the Vltava, and the depravity of the high rises was all but forgotten as they were faced with the grandeur ahead. It had been four years since Alex had seen that view – the red-tiled roofs; the palace and government buildings; the winding river that sliced the city in two like a lazy cheese wire – and the last time he had seen it, he had been running for his life. Alex took a deep breath and breathed out hard to try and dismiss the memory. He did not have time for this now.

Whoever this guy, Broucek was, thankfully he was not a talker, and Alex was free to stare out of the window and appear to take in the sights whilst weighing up his options. The combination of three plastic cups of bourbon on the plane and the proximity of a man who almost certainly did not have his best interests at heart, made seeming relaxed an almost titanic effort. His knee jigged up and down involuntarily for a few seconds before he got it together and looked round briefly at Broucek, an amenable smile on his face.

The meeting was planned for nine pm at the Seven Angels restaurant, but that was when Katka had been his contact, when she’d been in charge – had things changed? He looked at his watch; seven thirty pm and counting. He had to assume that meeting was still on. He would make it to the restaurant and work out what to do from there if the client didn’t turn up.

Time to cut loose.

He kept his eyes front, kept it casual. “I don’t suppose there would be time to show you the painting now? I mean, it seems the safest place to do it, on the move. Don’t you think?” Alex’s eyes met keen interest and he saw how eager the man was to see it. Good.

“If you wish, of course. I won’t stop you,” Broucek managed to say calmly, although his eyes showed he was anything but. A tight shirt collar cut unpleasantly into his neck, and emphasised uncomfortable warmth. Alex was close enough to see the sweat on the man’s upper lip. Whether its source was excitement or edginess from playing an unfamiliar role in the proceedings Alex didn’t know. Whichever, it was definitely not the climate, as the car’s interior struggled against fifteen-below temperatures outside.

Alex retrieved a small key from his breast pocket, and liberated his hand from the handcuffs, which were attached to the bag. He passed them over to Broucek, absently, saying, “hold these,” without looking at him. Obediently, and almost incredibly, he took them with both hands, allowing Alex to turn and casually slip them over both of his wrists at the last minute. Broucek had time to stare at him incredulously, and say one Czeck swear word before Alex slipped his arm around his shoulders, like the bold teenager in the back row, and yanked his head around sharply. The crack his neck made told Alex all he needed to know and he reached under the jacket for the dead man’s gun.

This development took maybe ten seconds from start to finish, and he hoped that maybe he would still had another few seconds before the driver would notice something was wrong through the inch thick smoked glass. This gave Alex time to attach the silencer he’d found in Broucek’s pocket, which presumably had been meant for him, and get ready for the chaos that his next move was going to cause. He picked up the bag with his left hand, and put the same hand on the door handle leaving his gun hand free. Knowing that he had had better ideas in his life, and also knowing that with Broucek dead this was the only option, he fired the gun, four times at the wooden panel behind the driver.

Things began to happen next in quick succession. The first was that instead of slumping and letting go of the wheel as he met his maker, the driver actually tightened his grip and heaved the wheel over to the left, steering them off the road and directly into the short corridor-like shopping centre next to the Charles Bridge. The car miraculously missed shops on either side, and a young woman with a child, his face painted like a tiger, jumped out of the way screaming. The second thing that happened was that Alex opened the car door and did a kind of rolling leap, landing on the woman and inadvertently dragging her and the tiger to the ground, just in time to see a dead man drive into the glass fronting of a shop that sold nothing but Russian dolls.

For a few seconds following the BANG of the crash, there was silence except for the ping-pong bounce of hundreds of wooden Russian dolls as they made their way down the shopping centre slope towards the river.

Then the shouting began, and all fingers were pointing to him.

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