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Walking Dead – Chapter Four

My son woke-up at five this morning having a coughing fit of such ferocity he was unable, literally, to stop for several minutes. Scared the beejeezus out of him, and I can’t say I blame him for that. By the time we got him calmed down and sorted out and back to sleep in our bed, there wasn’t much point in going back to sleep.

I don’t know what this bug is, but it’s a particularly mean one, and I don’t like it, and I would appreciate its speedy departure from my house and those I love.

I’m late in posting the next preview chapter of Walking Dead, as jonlaw has been gently (okay, nigh-hysterically) reminding me. So here I offer redress for the perceived slight, and a promise that Chapter Five (which will be the last one I post) will be up on Friday of this week (happy Halloween!).

The refresher course can be found here (Chapter One), here (Chapter Two) and here (Chapter Three).

This is


Chapter Four

Alena took the car, leaving before dawn. If things went well, she could do the drive to Tbilisi in four hours. If things went the way they normally did, it would take her closer to eight, accounting for the appropriate check-points and shakedowns. I didn’t fear for her well-being. Anyone who tried to take something from her she wasn’t willing to give would draw back a bloody stump, and that was only if she allowed them to keep their life.

For my part, I knew Alena left before dawn because I was awake when she did it, and that was because I hadn’t been able to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about Tiasa. Whoever Bakhar had been before he’d come to Kobuleti – and clearly he had been someone he was trying to escape, to put in the past – I could imagine Tiasa no more culpable in it than Koba was.

There were a handful of reasons to have taken her alive.

Not a single one of them was pleasant.

***

Georgians, in the main, are not early risers, and Mgelika Iashvili was no exception. I had been waiting at his office for forty minutes already when he arrived just before eleven. Only a handful of officers were present prior, and many of them I knew by name. I spent the wait with small-talk, mostly about how much the tourists were a necessary evil this time of year and how much we all hated the fucking Russians.

A couple years back, the police in the Adjara Autonomous Province, of which Kobuleti was a part, received new patrol cars and new uniforms from the Interior Ministry, as part of President Saakashvili’s efforts to stamp out corruption and rebuild the public trust in the nation’s police. The money came as trickle-down American largesse, brought about in turn through Georgia’s cooperation in the Global War on Terror. In addition to spiffy new duds and shiny new cars, the money also went to training, improving border security, and to aid stamping out corruption in the ranks.

The new uniforms were baby-boy nursery blue, and less totalitarian-looking than the Soviet-era influenced ones that had proceeded them. The cars were white with a navy stripe on the hood. The corruption remained.

Five minutes after Iashvili arrived, he invited me into his office, where a junior officer brought us the ubiquitous hospitality of a cup of tea, leaving us alone behind the closed door after we’d been served. I sipped – drinking tea fast in front of your host is considered an insult, almost, but not quite, as bad as toasting someone with beer rather than wine – and Iashvili and I made more small talk for a bit. By the time he finally asked me why I’d stopped by, I could feel the caffeine crawling in my veins.

“Bakhar didn’t kill his family,” I said. “He didn’t kill himself.”

Until then, Iashvili had been smiling, friendly. Not so much now. “We’re saying he did, David.”

“And I’m saying that I know he didn’t,” I said.

“And how would you know that?”

“It doesn’t matter how I know. What matters is that you understand three things. I know he didn’t do it. I know Tiasa – his daughter – wasn’t killed, at least not at the house. And, most importantly, that I’m not asking you to prove otherwise.”

The hostility that had been growing on his face froze, then shifted to confusion. “You’re not?”

“No, I’m not. I understand your position, chief, I really do. I’m not asking you to make trouble.”

“You’re looking to make trouble yourself.”

“Maybe. But that’s my business.”

He considered that. “You and Yeva, you’ve lived here four years now?”

“About that.”

“Never any problems from you two. Everyone likes you, everyone likes Yeva. Everyone even likes your fucking dog.”

“We like it here.”

“What I don’t like is trouble, David. You remember that thing with the kids, couple years back? You remember?”

“I remember.”

“You know I shot them?”

“So I heard.”

He turned his chair, took another sip of his tea. On the wall he was facing was a picture of six men, all wearing red leotards, in a line. Each held a barbell above his head with what looked to be a couple hundred pounds in weight-plates on each end. Neck muscles strained, and even in the faded color, I could see the flush of exertion in each face. The second one from the left bore a striking resemblance to the man sitting opposite me.

“That was stupid of me,” the chief said. “That could have been very bad for me.”

I sipped my tea, waited.

He swiveled back to look at me. “I could have lost everything, you understand? I could have lost it all.”

“I want to find the girl.” I shifted in my chair, pulled the bundle of Euros I’d taken from Bakhar’s go-bag. I showed them to him, then set them on his desk, between us. “I just want to find the girl.”

The chief stared at me for several seconds, then looked at the bills on his desk, green, yellow, and purple.

“My business,” I said. “No one will ever hear me mention your name.”

He looked at me again, perhaps wondering if he could trust me. Then he picked up the bills, tucking them into the breast pocket of his baby-boy blue shirt.

“You should go down to Batumi,” the chief said. “The port, maybe on the northern end. Ask for Zviadi.”

I nodded, got to my feet.

“If you have friends, you might want to take one or two with you.”

“Just me,” I said.

“You don’t even know who he was, David. You don’t know who Bakhar Lagidze was.”

I stopped at the door. “I want to find the girl. I don’t care about the father.”

“The father and the girl, they’re part of the same thing,” Mgelika Iashvili told me.

8 Responses to Walking Dead – Chapter Four

  1. jonlaw

    Your writing, as always, remains devastatingly effective.

    I am now temporarily sated on the fiction front.

    On the reality front I feel sufficiently like a jerk to try to avoid it for the next little while.

    Thanks (I think) for both.

  2. jared465

    bug bug bug

    We have had the same sort of sick stuff here in upstate NY. My throat has been banged up for going on 6 weeks and 2 rounds of antibiotics, and my girlfriend was super sick also….so i know where you are coming from!

    I’m thinking i’m just going to wait for the book to come out and not read the teasers….I want to get it all in one shot.

  3. admin

    You should not feel like a jerk. It’s always nice when someone clamors for more!

  4. jonlaw

    I just feel bad you guys have been so scik. I’m ranting on about book chapters. REALLY GOOD book chapters, but still.

    Thanks for this latest bit. It is good. I know that the next bit will also be unbearably good. And I also know it will leave me with a horrible cliff to hang over, but it’s a price I willingly pay.

    Good, good stuff.

  5. stealthbunny

    I was trying awfully awfully hard not to rave for more, too, cause I know you were all feeling really wretched.

    Now, I’m gnawing on my mouse, because the little scrolling thingie won’t give me any more. Really! There are teethmarks on it! … well, ok, maybe those are from when the rabbit tried to run off with it one day… BUT THE WOE IS THE SAME!!

    Woe.

  6. jjgalahad

    Fantastic writing as always. I hope your family all feel better soon, especially your son.

  7. snoristed

    Thanks for posting this! Great as always. I’m voting for chapter 5. Please? Pretty please?

  8. lithera

    Continuing to read this, I realize that come payday, PA will have to be found.

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