The Zalozhniy Quartet

A City Break-out

At the end of the road three more silver police cars dopplered past, speeding towards the warehouse. Low clouds glowed red and blue from the gathering emergency vehicles. The nest is stirred and looking for the invaders.

Somerset and Sergei wordlessly turned and headed away. The pre-dawn streets and pavements were deserted. A taxi turned down the street, light on.
Somerset stepped out, and held up his hand, smiling. His suit was dirty and crumpled, but in the dark he passes for a drunken businessman. The taxi stopped, the drivers’ window open to discuss a fare. Sergei stepped out from between the parked cars, “Out! Out!” he ordered and put a gun to the drivers’ head.

The driver scrambled out, terrified, pleading. Somerset dragged him onto the side, and took his place at the wheel. Sergei scanned around, pointed his gun at the man on the road and put a finger to his lips. It won’t stop the taxi driver talking to the police, but might give them a minute more.

Somerset drove calmly, like a taxi driver would, out of the seafront area, toward the suburbs. Sergei checked his guns, and watched behind and side. The tacnet in his ear was buzzing with signal again. He’s about to try Katya, when blue lights appeared behind them.

Somerset pulled in to one side of the wide avenue, a good citizen letting the police car past, but it crash stopped in front of the taxi, blocking them. Somerset ground gears into reverse and floored it. The worn engine screamed, but the car moved backward, gaining speed. The policeman is getting out, pulling a gun, when Sergei destroyed his front tyre and wing with a three-round burst. Somerset spun the taxi round in the narrow street, de-clutching, yanking on the handbrake and effortlessly changing into second gear in one motion. The taxi sped off, leaving the ruined police car.

In the wing mirror, Sergei watched the policeman radio in. It’s time to see who’s on tacnet.

“Anyone online?” he tried over tacnet. A long pause.

“ You are alive! Where are you?” Katya sounded relieved, tearful.

“We are in a taxi just trying to leave the area. Hang on.”

The trees and parked cars ahead were suddenly blindingly bright, a white light flowed down the street, searching for them. Somerset turned the wheel, worn tyres slipping on damp tarmac, then found grip and the taxi scraped into an narrow alley. There’s one lane, parked cars on the left, buildings on the right, no space to turn. The searchlight hunted the street behind them. They heard the whump-whump of a helicopter, low.

Ahead Somerset could see another main road at the end of the alley, blue lights visible in the reflections of a shop window. He pressed down harder on the accelerator, though the taxi has no more to give. Cars and walls were flicking past, close on either side, then through the rear window the alley whited out, the whump-whump deafening.

“Trouble!” yelled Sergei.

“Not yet” responded Somerset.

He saw what he needed, flicked the headlights off, stood on the brakes and yanked the taxi hard into the only empty parking space in the alley. The brakes were good, the taxi skidded, turned, and stopped. Sergei’s hand on the dashboard to brace. The engine died, and they were sat completely dark, hot metal pinging.

For a deadly second, Somerset watched the parked car on his left rock slightly, the alarm light blinking in the window. No alarm called out.

The searchlight rolled over them, they held their breath, but it continued down the street without pausing. The helicopter sound disappeared over nearby roofs.

Sergei put a finger to his ear, speaking to Katya over tacnet. “Thanks for waiting customer. Your taxi is on its way. We will meet you at the corner of Sofiiska Str in ten minutes. Don’t be late.”

Katya picked herself up, and with the tired, hunched walk of a derelict barely faked, headed down the main street towards the rendezvous. They were still alive.

Many police were at the warehouse district, and many not-police. Large, ugly men. Armed. Gangsters. She watched one Lisky Bratva discussing and planning actions with a policeman. It was not clear who was in charge, but it was clear they were on the same side.

The taxi pulled up at the corner, indicator blinking. A dark shape detached from a shop doorway and quickly got into the backseat.

“I thought you were dead, down in the tunnels.” she said.

“No, we came face to face with a doctor, the coffin and then Lili Blaise and had to get out, fast.” Sergei said.

“I kicked him hard” Somerset said with a smile, “We need to contact Donald and those Russian soldiers, get us a diversion so we can get out.”

“The soldiers are all dead, so is Donald. We met something.” Her voice was thin.

“What happened?” said Somerset.

“How do we get paid now?” said Sergei at the same time.

“I think, I’m not sure, but we met a zalozhniy, a dead soldier but alive, in the tunnels. I went in with the naval soldiers to rescue you. It killed them, or is killing them. I left them down there.” She’s shaking.

“The zalozhniy, it was in an American army uniform? With a chest wound?” Sergei leaned over the passenger seat. Katya’s covered in dust and blood, she didn’t look good.

“No, a Spetsnaz. It had a big hole here” she pointed at her front left forehead.

“There? Nobody should be moving after that.” He turned back around, thinking.

“We need to get out of Odessa, it’s a Lisky Bratva town and not very welcoming.” said Somerset. “Suggestions?”

Everyone thought, Katya said “Donald Caroll said he had hidden something in his safehouse in Vienna. Check the airport left luggage 827. Then he died.”

“We could get a flight from Kiev or Sevastapol to Vienna.” Sergei suggested.

“The Lisky Bratva are everywhere, it’s not just Odessa, it’s the whole Ukraine and probably most of Russia that’s not the Chechens. And they have cells everywhere in Europe and the Middle East. We’re not safe anywhere.” Katya replied.

Somerset looked at her in the reat-view mirror, “Vienna’s neutral, the Lisky Bratva won’t, and can’t, act there without bringing down more trouble than we’re worth.” I hope, he thought.

He continued. “We can cross into Hungary and then to Vienna on the road..”

“What about Moldova? Or, even better, Transnistria! I know a good fellow in Tiraspol. Mr Happy.” said Sergei.

“Transnistria is a criminal state, it’s not controlled by anyone” Katya said, “well, not by the Lisky Bratva. It’s totally corrupt, dangerous Wild West.”

Somerset smiles, “Sounds perfect for a city break. We’ll need cash to get in though, and we’ll need another car to get out of Odessa.”

Somerset abandoned the taxi across the street from the sprawling Continental Hotel. Sergei booked a room, Katya borrowed a couple of expensive looking suitcases and all three rest, order room service and got freshened up. A few hours later, dressed in someone’s nice clothes, Katya’s back herself.

She flirted shamelessly with the young valet, lifting a set of keys while he wrote down his phone number.

Ten minutes later, Somerset’s at the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee and the team were heading for Transnistria, an hour down the highway.
Something’s went wrong quickly though, and outside Odessa, police cars wailed in the distance.
Somerset drove like a demon, 40km to go, 30km to go. Suddenly on a highway, the front tyres exploded, and the Jeep slewed across the road. Somerset fought the wheel, trying to control, trying to drive on rims, but the Jeep wouldl go no further.

“Spike strip on the road” he said
The windscreen cracked, a small hole appeared in the right, passenger side. Sergei grabbed his shoulder and blood welled through his fingers, “Sniper!”

Everyone bailed out of the car, running for the verge. The driver side was open fields, the other side woods. Somerset stumbled then ran on, the sound of the shot arrived a second after the bullet.

“He’s far off. Too far.” He said, grimacing at his wound.

The sound of a helicopter overhead came overhead. Katya could just make out a lay-by in the trees, 150’ away. There’s a shape there, a car shape. She turned and sprinted for it, pistol in hand.
Maybe she can get there before the sniper realised.

Sergei turned and shot the Cherokee’s fuel tank, a huge orange flash lit the area and oily smoke poured into the sky. Somerset ran full pelt into the undergrowth, closely followed by Sergei. It’s dark under the canopy, the burning SUV screwed their night vision.

“Did you see where he is?” Sergei asked Somerset, then noticed Katya, lit by the flames, running down the road, in the open.

A chunk of tarmac exploded at her feet, she’s randomly jinking across the road, the theory she was taught to avoid snipers. Ahead she could see movement at the car, but couldn’t make out what it was. The leg she landed on in the tunnels was hurting badly. She’s breathing hard, but there’s only 30’ more to go.

The movement beside the car resolves into three shapes, three people. They opened up with SMG’s and pistols. She got hard punches in her chest and stomach, staggered, her pace broken.

“Chechnya manoeuvre!” Sergei shouted. Somerset’s simpler, “Duck!”

Sergei squeezed off a three-round burst into the location a petrol tank should be on the dark shape. The car exploded into an orange fireball, blowing the armed men apart and scattering them. With the split second warning Katya threw herself to the verge, as a ragged piece of metal scythed over her head.

The bark of a tree next to Somerset’s head erupted as the sniper got a clear line. It’s pitch black, so he must had some sort of night-vision goggles. Nobody moved in the lay-by. Somerset and Sergei headed through the undergrowth, calling in Arabic to each other and Katya, hunting the sniper.

“We’ll circle round to get close enough to finish him off. Stay there.” Somerset ordered Katya.

Katya heard the helicopter close by now. She pointed her pistol down the road, trying to stay out of sight. The SUV was burning on the road, as was the car in the lay-by. The helicopter was hovering overhead, it was about to open fire, Sergei thought. A shot rang out and the chopper rocked, then rose up, out of sight.

Somerset creept through the undergrowth, he could hear the sniper a way ahead, moving stealthily but fast. Really fast.

A bullet hit the ground in front of Katya, she ducked down more. The helicopter came back down, over the field now. It hovered a couple of feet off the ground, perfect height for fast-deploying troops. Katya watches it waiting for enemy reinforcements.

There was a wild shot from the sniper, into the dark.

Somerset crouched down and motioned Sergei “We’ll never get him, he’s too fast.”

“Are you lot gonna get in my nice helicopter before I get shot again, for fecks’ sake?” Patrick said over tacnet.

Inside the helicopter, Sergei treated Katya’s bullet wounds and braced her knee damaged in her fall. Somerset’s bullet wound was mainly bruise under the flak-jacket.

From the cockpit, Patrick’s talked non-stop.

“Odessa was all a mess, and so I knew you lot couldn’t be far away. And then I saw this beaut sat all alone, pining for a good flight she was. So it was a merciful thing liberating her, like. And luckily you were lighting bloody big bonfires on your stealthy escape there, so I found you easy enough.”

He flew just above the pylons and trees.

“ We want to get to Transnistria. We need to hide from the Lisky Bratva, they are working with the police, and have helicopters.” Sergei climbed into the front with Patrick.

“They really don’t like you, that’s for sure, they’re spending a devil’s fortune to kill you.” Patrick guided the helicopter through a valley, just above the roofs of a village.

Sergei fiddled with the transponder. “That will make us look like Bulgarian Diplomatic flight. They won’t shoot us down now.”



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