Senior Lieutenant Arkady Sergeyevich Kolyin was having a bad day. Most of the problem stemmed from the fact that his “day” had extended beyond a mere twenty-four hours, and had become two.
He’d had night duty with his usual partner and rankmate, Semeyonev, last night, when Sergei had died, but the next morning, he’d had an additional shift playing at babysitter for the MENTs, partnered with none other than the squad’s sullen sniper, Irinarhov.
When he’d finished the guard detail, he’d barely had time for a meal and shower before it was back on night duty with Semeyonev, who, as usual, had a quick grin and smile. Kolyin didn’t know how Savva could do it given everything that had happened, but at least he was better to patrol with than Irinarhov.
“And I swear, they’re fucking,” Savva was saying, filling him in on the latest gossip.
Arkady sighed. “I don’t care. Good for them.”
“You’re a beam of sunshine tonight.”
“You try spending all day with Irinarhov. I swear, that guy never says anything. No personality.”
Savva shrugged. “Snipers are like that,” he said, as if he had some special knowledge. “He’s just quiet. Anyway, Isaev seems to like him well enough.”
Kolyin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’ve noticed.”
Actually, the relationship between Andrei and the sniper had been fodder for unit gossip lately. No one fucked regularly without everyone else knowing, and the fact that Andrei was rarely in his bunk in the mornings when Kolyin and Semeyonev got off duty hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Semeyonev laughed. “He’s not a bad looking guy. I’d do him.”
“Well, that’s not saying mu – ”
A shout broke the evening’s relative silence, followed by a call for help. Kolyin’s chest started pounding, and his gut twisted in the silent fear that it was another Serhyoza, that another Ocelot had died.
He and Semeyonev met gazes briefly, then ran forward to the sound of the disturbance.
One of the regular GRU stumbled out of the main wing, pointing a shaking hand behind him. “He’s dead!” the soldier barely managed to get out before he bent over and vomited.
“Who’s dead?” Kolyin shouted, but Savva was already running toward the building.
Arkady gripped his AK-47 tightly as he rushed after his rankmate.
There was already a stir inside – more GRU, running around uselessly, bumping into things like headless rabbits.
One had the presence of mind to run up to them and signal them forward frantically. Kolyin and Semeyonev followed the soldier down the hall, to a half-opened door.
“In there,” the soldier said, stopping in his tracks, showing no sign of accompanying them the last few steps forward.
Savva looked at Arkady again, and reached out to touch his shoulder briefly. Kolyin understood what it meant. Whatever it was – whoever it was – they’d face the horrible truth together.
Side by side, they walked down to the open door and peered in.
The room beyond was simple but spacious, and featured little more than a table and desk and wardrobe, and a giant, oversized bed. And there, near the bed, was the body of a tall and muscular man with a near-Herculean build, clad in a forest green greatcoat.
…and rubberized boots, Kolyin realized, after a moment, but his mind balked even then.
Together, he and Semeyonev edged forward, and saw that the body had only a gaping, bloody ruin where the top of his head should have been, and the floor around the body was decorated liberally with pink brain tissue.
It looked like bubblegum, Kolyin thought, vaguely.
“God,” Savva said, “It’s Volgin.”
“Oh God,” Kolyin said. “We have to tell someone. Major Raikov.”
Semeyonev shot him a look. No, not Major Raikov, he though in faint horror. Never mind his patented ball-crushing maneuver; someone would get castrated.
“Ocelot. We have to tell Ocelot. You call him, Savva. He likes you.”
Everyone knew that Savva got called for Special Duty more often than anyone else.
“You call him! No sense in having him pissed at the both of us. This way, if he gets pissed at you, I can calm him down.”
Semeyonev had a point, Kolyin thought, though he felt reluctant to concede it.
Suddenly, Savva grabbed his arm. “Fuck, bratan, do you see that? There’s a hole in the window. A sniper did this. We need to get back.”
They retreated into the hallway, and Kolyin let out a pained sigh. “All right, I’ll call him, but you’d better have my back on this.”
Raising a hand to his ear, Kolyin slotted Major Ocelot’s frequency and prayed for the best.