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I’d smelt violent death before, that sour mix of blood, urine and fear bubbling away like some vile soup. Having been an Inspector in the Bishkek Murder Squad, there was no way I could avoid it. Stabbings, shootings, murder by bottle, boot or bullet, I’d smelt them all. The stink settles into your clothes, your skin, your soul; nothing ever fully washes it out. And no matter how many times you smell death, you never become used to it.

I pushed the door a little further open, hoping the only other person in the room was the one no longer breathing. The man’s body was huddled in the far corner, the other side of a large bed, as if he’d tried to take shelter from his death. I turned on the light, wished I hadn’t. The large abstract painting on the wall was created by long scarlet smears and splashes someone had turned into letters. It looked like a child’s first attempt at writing, as if the finger dipped in blood was unused to the Cyrillic alphabet we Kyrgyz use.

Svinya. Pig. Short, sweet, and from what I’d learned earlier, accurate.

I walked over towards the body, crouched beside the corpse. It wasn’t hard to tell where the red ink had come from. The man’s ears, eyes and tongue were missing. Well, not missing, just not attached to him anymore, scattered across the tiled floor like abandoned rubber toys. The wounds gaped like ugly open mouths, the sort that yell and swear and sneer.

A punishment killing? This will teach you not to hear, see or talk about our business? Perhaps, but that didn’t explain why someone had scrawled Svinya above the body. That seemed personal, an epitaph or a proclamation.

There’s something depressingly familiar about most murders, the unmistakable way the body sprawls as if all its muscles had snapped at once. A lifetime’s energy and ambition, dreams and anger, gone without trace. It’s hard to believe life is anything more than a series of random collisions, with one final inevitable crash.