A MORNING RESURRECTION – CHAPTER 2
Resurrection? Easy to say, harder to achieve. Even the acknowledged expert in the field took three days, and I was no expert. Then again, he wasn’t shot three times on a remote Kyrgyz hillside, with cold rain slanting down hard and winter lurking on the other side of the mountains.
I was in the hospital for almost a month, the first two weeks unconscious, tethered to a tangle of tubes, wires and drips. When I finally surfaced, all I could do was stare out of my hospital room window, watching the first winter snow mounting up on the sill, nothing else to see but sky the colour of a dead man’s skin.
Getting information out of a nurse is harder than questioning a deaf mute. I got my pillow straightened occasionally, and a spoonful of some awful soup ladled into me three times a day, but what I didn’t get fed were answers.
The last thing I remembered before regaining consciousness and learning how to piss in a bottle was being at the Ata-Beyit Memorial Complex up in the mountains a few kilometres outside Bishkek. It was there I’d killed Kanybek Aliyev, a top Kyrgyz gangster, a pakhan of the Circle of Brothers. I’d pulled my trigger at the same time as he shot me twice. I had the more powerful gun, an eighteen shot Yarygin, which probably explained why he was dead and I wasn’t. I should have been grateful it was him being trimmed into meat steaks on a morgue slab and not me. But that didn’t stop the image of his head exploding into bloody flesh and fragments of bone appearing in my dreams every night.
How I’d managed to find myself in a private clinic in a room of my own was a complete mystery no one seemed ready to explain. All I knew for sure was I needed a shave and a new ring finger on my right hand.
The pallid waxiness of my skin told me I’d lost a lot of blood, and I knew I’d sustained some major damage. Breathing was a series of old man wheezes, groans and gasps; sitting up was out of the question. The one time I tried it, I thought Aliyev had risen from the dead to finish the job he’d started.
I’d tried to ask about my injuries with the doctor who did his rounds every couple of days. Russian by the look of him, one of those blond-haired, taut-jawed men who never drink or smoke or fuck or get shot, and who have every intention of living to be a hundred, if you call that living. He had all the bedside manner you’d expect from a funeral director, and he was as talkative as the nurse, which meant silence all round.
A constant dull throb in my gut and my thigh, the nagging pain of my half-finger and the eerie sensation of feeling in the missing part, the tug and tightness of ribs that were either broken or shattered; none of it put me in the best of moods. The bedside table was noticeably lacking in get-well cards, flowers or baskets of fruit. That’s what happens when you’re an Inspector in the Bishkek Murder Squad. Most of the people I’d had dealings with were already dead when I met them, and weren’t in a position to wish me a speedy recovery.
It wasn’t having been wounded that bothered me; more whether I would recover enough to go back to the job. Being a policeman is all I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t see myself working in an anonymous government office hoisting papers from one pile to another. I’d rather be standing on Chui Prospekt, letting passersby stand on my bathroom scales for a few som.
Lying in bed for so long gives you plenty of time to review the failures, mistakes and general fuck-ups of your life, and I had plenty of those to reminisce about.
A wife dead from breast cancer that ate her body until I ended her pain.
A pregnant Uzbek girlfriend who I probably wouldn’t see again.
And a government minister who thought I knew too much and who could make me disappear at a whim.
None of it felt like a recipe for success and a long life.
I’d tried getting out of bed a few times, once the novelty of raising and lowering the remote-control bed wore thinner than the mattress. But even if I hadn’t been tethered by the drips and tubes, the pain ordered me to lie still. Strange that being shot hurts a lot less at the time than recovering from the wounds later.
The TV on the wall opposite seemed permanently tuned to some cookery programme, the sound turned off, just to remind me how foul the food was. And of course, the remote control was on the window ledge, safely out of reach. Someone had a sense of humour.
Watching a rerun of how to make mutton plov, I heard footsteps coming down the hall towards my door. Not the dragging clumping noise of the nurse, accompanied by the squeaking wheels of the food trolley, but quick, determined steps. Someone in a hurry, who knew where they were going and what they wanted to do. I hoped they wanted to give me something decent to eat.
The footsteps stopped.
Maybe checking the room number, which meant it wasn’t the nurse or the doctor.
Maybe moving the bouquet of flowers from one hand to another to open the door.
Maybe checking the gun’s safety catch was off.
I wondered if this was one of Aliyev’s crew, come to make amends for the pakhan’s death, or an emissary from his replacement, making sure everyone knows the underworld always retaliates. Would the last thing I saw be the flame from the wrong end of a shotgun?
The strange thing was I didn’t feel frightened, only numb. Perhaps if you’ve already died once, the second time holds no fears. One of the benefits of resurrection they don’t tell you about.
I watched the door handle slowly turn. One of those handles that needs oiling, so it’s hard to open the door without a noise. The only weapon I had to hand was my urine bottle, but at least that was full.
And then the door opened.
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