What Pavel Found by Geoffrey W. Cole
The dead Turk’s moustache held its curl despite the early November downpour. That was something, Pavel thought, as he pushed aside the moustache, gripped the soldier’s false tooth with his pliers, and gave a tug. The wine-bottle pop was the sound of him becoming a richer man. With the tooth and the spoils he’d already liberated from the other soldiers who littered the battlefield, he’d make enough to keep his wife fat, clothed, and content well into the summer. 1912 might not be such a wretched year after all.
“Found what you’re looking for?” a voice said from behind him.
Pavel pressed into the mud and prayed that the voice wasn’t speaking to him. He’d been chased off other battlefields before; the missing pinkie finger on his left hand was a constant reminder of that fateful night. With the rain and the Bulgarian uniform he’d borrowed, he should have been near invisible in the dim light from the watch fires.
“Pavel Dvotch,” the voice said, which sounded like it belonged to a girl. “Quit robbing the dead and face me.”
She was speaking to him all right. As he rolled over, he dropped the pliers and slipped out a bone-handled dagger he’d taken from a Turkish officer.
The young woman stood two paces behind him. How she’d come so close without him hearing, Pavel couldn’t say. Though the rain soaked through his borrowed Bulgarian uniform, she looked dry as kindling in a stain-free overcoat with a texture like ivory. Stranger hair he’d never seen: she’d sculpted her short blond hair into four spikes that jutted out from the corners of her skull.
“Our time is short, Pavel, and we have much to do,” she said. “Run home to your wife; she is in distress.”
“My Svetlana?” he said. At the mere mention of his darling wife, Pavel forgot his well-honed caution. The twenty-year-old shrapnel in his hip grated against bone as he clambered to his feet and advanced on the girl. “What have you done to her?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I’ve merely come to tell you she’s in peril. If you have any hope of saving her, you’d better get moving.”
Pavel tried to grab her overcoat, but she disappeared--Just vanished into the rain. Had he imagined her? He looked around for some trace of her presence, but only bodies surrounded him. The majority were Turkish Ottomans, though the Bulgarian and a few Montenegrins had done their share of dying in this war they started.
Pavel stood all alone, the watch fire’s orange glow glinting off his borrowed uniform’s buttons.
Whether the girl told the truth or not, he had exposed himself, and he had no wish to lose another digit. Svetlana might be displeased that he returned from his work early, but he’d done well enough that night. Gold, silver, and even an elegant pistol filled the sack that slapped against his back as he ran.
Other farms around the city of Luleburgaz had been ransacked by the Turks or the Balkan League forces as the area changed hands, but Pavel’s little rented plot on a steep, weedy hillside that barely sustained the few chickens Svetlana kept, had never been an object of looting. This was why, as he emerged from the woods, he found it so odd that an officer’s horse was tied up to his chicken coop. Perhaps the girl had told the truth.
Pavel fished the pistol from his sack and crept toward the cabin he’d built for Svetlana.
From within came the sounds of sexual ecstasy. First, a man’s low guttural cries, and then, to Pavel’s shame, the even lower moans that he knew could only come from his wife’s throat. His wife was in no distress.
He turned to walk away from his cabin, eager to escape unnoticed, but he stumbled over the feed-bucket his wife used for the chickens and fell into the mud.
“What was that?” he heard the man say.
‘Til Death Do Us Party
Call for Help
What Pavel Found
The Girl in the Glass Case
The Teacher’s Connection
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