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Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Pisztoly | Hungary | Xenophilia


You’re a killer, hiding in the bushes near a bridge. On the fourth day, the Turk pulls up. Every cell in your body is on full alert as you hear the car slow down and stop. It’s a quiet road; you and Falics made sure of that when you built and stocked the shelter. Four or five cars cross the bridge every hour during the day, and one or two at night.

Only one other car has stopped on the bridge. On the first day, as night fell. Trembling in your fortress of stinging nettles, the claw hammer heavy in your sweating palm, you watched the driver get out of the car, hastily open the boot and toss two dustbin bags off the bridge. They fell next to the river. After the car left, you had sneaked over to pick them up, weighing them to assess the contents, before opening them. You found no newspaper among the household garbage, nothing to tell you what you wanted to know. So you tied the bags up and tossed them under the bridge, where the water was so shallow that they lay like twin islands.

In the days thereafter, the little plastic atoll began to annoy you more and more. As you sat picking at your tin-food in the sun outside your shelter, you tried to imagine who would do such a thing. Nature was a magnificent woman, who always did her best to don her finest garb and welcome you with open arms. Why would anyone want to insult such a superb and unselfish hostess by throwing turds at her? Why would you maim her and spoil her beauty for others? What drove such people? Ignorance? Thrift? Haste? Thoughtlessness? Egotism?

Then again, you mused, people might well ask what drives a man to strike another down from behind with a claw hammer, thumping down again and again upon his bald skull, until his fat and bloody body, naked save for big, white underpants, moves no more. You knew exactly what drove such a man: vengeance. Or more accurately: the settling of a score. The alderman had simply failed to realise the high price he would have to pay for his misconduct.

Through your little binoculars, you see the Turk cautiously emerging from his olive-green Mercedes. When the inside light comes on, you see that there was also a young woman sitting in the back seat. She is leaning against the window with her tight headscarf, following the movements of the Turk, who steps up to the parapet, looks around and then pulls a white plastic bag out of his jacket pocket. He peers down into the darkness to gauge the depth of the river, ties a knot in the handles of the plastic bag and lets it drop into the water. The sound of the splash hints that there was something heavy in the bag. The Turk curses when he sees the knot of the bag sticking out above the water like the head of a white rabbit, swimming. The Turk walks over to the steep embankment and looks for a path through the dense, dark bush. He then crosses the bridge and checks the embankment on the other side. You know that the least risky route down to the river can only be reached via a sandy track that runs off into the woodland further down the road. That’s where you and Falics parked the car so that you could head back up along the wooded riverbank to build and stock the shelter.

Suddenly the Turk hurries to the car and drives off. Only then do you hear the heavy engine in the distance. Soon thereafter a truck thunders across the bridge. As you wait and listen, you fix the strap of the lamp around your head. When all is quiet, you flick on the lamp, part the nettles carefully with the long stick and make your way down to the river.

The white rabbit with the handle-ears is near the opposite bank. You consider taking off your shoes and wading through the water, but soon decide that is far too risky. Instead, you break a longer branch off a nearby tree and, after a couple of near-misses, manage to hook one of the rabbit’s ears on the tip. By the bending of the branch, you know that there is something heavy in the bag, possibly made of metal. Once your prize is landed, you carefully finger the plastic bag. The hard outlines hint at the deadly nature of the metal inside. But when you open the bag, the contents come as a surprise, giving you a new quandary to occupy your mind in the long days that follow: What possessed the Turk to wrap the pistol in so many layers of duct tape?

(Photo © Chris Hart)


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