A Second Chance to Live Another Lifetime.

More chapters from Night Side of Dark

A VG Serial: Night Side of Dark

Episode 74

Caples Gusarov sensed there was someone in the room before he heard the sound of breathing or glimpsed a shadow as it stepped through the doorway and moved like a ghost toward his bed. He came awake immediately. He had trusted his instincts for a long time and, unlike his aging and aching body, his mind remained as sharply focused as it had ever been.

The figure stood above the bed, a man most likely.

He wasn’t particularly tall.

His shoulders were narrow.

The collar of a heavy coat had been pulled tight around his neck.

A woolen cap covered his ears.

Gusarov could not see the man’s face.

He had no interest in the man’s face.

His eyes were fixed on the snub-nosed barrel of 7.65 caliber automatic pistol his was holding.

Gusarov had a decision to make.

He had made it many times before.

Shoot now.

Or shoot later.

Either way, the intruder was a dead man.

Gusarov would pick the time.

He chose to wait.

The man was staring down at the crumpled covers of a dark bed.

Gusarov wasn’t sleeping in it.

Gusarov had not slept in a bed for a long time.

A bed, he believed, was little more than a place to die.

He might be in a hurry to depart this world some day.

It would not be today.

He rose from the chair in the corner, took two quick and silent steps across the room and jammed the barrel of his Nagant M1895 handgun into the man’s neck.

Gusarov didn’t say a word.

He did not have to.

The automatic pistol bounced on the wooden floor, and the man bowed his head.

He wasn’t praying.

He was waiting to die.

Gusarov reached down and switched on the lamp beside the bed.

“I don’t believe we had an appointment tonight,” he said. His German was almost as good as his Russian, and he spoke with a thick accent, the kind that could inflict fear in lesser men.

He was looking into the face of a lesser man.

Pale.

Thin.

His chin had a nervous twitch.

Gusarov waited for a response.

The man tried to speak, but it was little more than a stutter.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, his eyes staring at the snub-nose automatic on the floor.

Gusarov kicked it away.

“Did you come to kill me?” he asked.

The thin man shook his head.

“I was asked by Captain Heim to come and fetch you,” he said.

Gusarov chuckled.

“Why bring a gun?”

“He feared you would not want to come.”

The Russian shrugged.

“The good captain has promised me two million dollars,” Gusarov said. “Why would I not want to come?”

“He has a certain reputation.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“People are afraid of him.”

The chuckle turned into a laugh, boiling from deep inside Gusarov’s gut. It exploded from his throat like a growl.

“Does Heim think I am afraid of him?”

Silence.

It lingered between the men.

The yellow light in the lamp flickered, and a rush of wind rattled the window. Gusarov glanced outside and caught the dim glow of moonlight falling across the streets.

Maybe the weather was changing.

Maybe his life was about to change.

Two million dollars could take him far away from the war.

He was tired of it.

He was tired of being the predator.

He was tired of being the prey.

He no longer feared death, but it was no longer a stranger.

He and death had known each other for a long time.

Death had never wanted him.

He never knew when death would change its mind.

“Do you have a name?” Gusarov asked?”

“Wasicky,” the thin man said. “Erich.”

“You’re not a soldier, are you?”

“No.” His voice was flat and without life.

“What do you do for Heim?”

“I’m a pharmacist.”

“You collect drugs for the good doctor.”

The thin man nodded.

“I hear he does strange things with them.”

“Captain Heim is a brilliant doctor,” Wasicky said. It was the first time his voice had any emotion at all.

“Tell me about his experiments.”

The thin man stood and squared his shoulders.

“What Captain Heim is learning during the time of war will advance science and medicine far into the next century,” Wasicky said.

“From what I have learned, the good Dr. Heim has killed more than he has healed.”

“That is sometimes necessary.”

“The patients might not agree.”

“It does not matter.”

“Why not?” Gusarov asked.

“The patients are Jews.”

“Jews have feelings.”

“Jews are dogs.”

Gusarov’s face turned grim, then ashen. He clenched his jaws, and his eyes narrowed. They were black even in the glow of the yellow light.

“I will kill a man who hurts a dog,” he said.

“But Captain Heim has promised you two million dollars.’

Caples Gusarov reached down and picked the snub-nosed Saur automatic off the floor. He stuffed his own revolver in his belt.

“It may cost him more,” he said.

“Why?”

“To pay for the dogs.” He took the thin man by the arm and led him toward the door. “I am under the assumption that Heim wants to see me tonight.”

“As soon as possible.”

“I don’t have the painting.”

“He wants to make sure you are still confident you can find it.”

Gusarov and Wasicky walked out into the hallway. The Russian closed the door to the room, and darkness fell from the cracks around them.

“The good doctor thinks he’s running out of time?” Gusarov said.

“All of Germany is running out of time.”

“You sound like a defeatist.”

“I am a realist.”

“Heim taking you with him?”

“He would not leave without me.”

“Do you have any idea where you are going when you walk through that gate in the painting?”

Silence again.

The thin man was breathing hard.

“I don’t care where the gate leads as long as it is not here.”

“Tired of the killing?”

“We will all be dead soon.”

“And you’re willing to pay two million for a second chance to live another lifetime.”

“Isn’t everyone?”

The hallway was filled with the dull sound of footsteps walking unsteadily toward the staircase and nothing more.

Chapters of Night Side of Dark will be published on  Saturday and Sunday.

Please click the title, Night Side of Dark, to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his novels on Amazon.

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