Katya and Yakovlev run on through the rough tunnels. The adrenalin and blood loss are beginning to take their toll on him, he’s running ragged. Katya runs alongside, listening. Shouts and shots fading from behind, echoing.
Yakovlev stumbles, but recovers. Katya slips off the heavy, dirty coat and drops it. She pulls Yakovlev’s arm over her shoulders and takes some of his weight, it can’t be far now to get out.
A memory has been trying to get her attention, but she’s been blocking it. No time for distractions in combat. Her legs settle into their running rhythm, moving automatically.
The dead Spetsnaz.
The childhood memory floods in before she can stop it.
Orphanage No. 2, the top dormitory. Dark. Luka was still there, sat on his bed, he’s telling them another ghost story. Aleksandr’s holding her hand tight in the dark, frightened. She must have been nine, maybe ten?
Scary stories were fun because they didn’t happen, they were stories. Not like the scary things that did happen everyday. Luka’s telling the story of a farmer killed by a thief, who comes back from the dead for revenge, and more. He said a word.
A person who dies before their right time, and becomes evil. Who lures the living to premature deaths, glorying in the suffering. Has her childhood stories come to life?
Yakovlev’s breathing is heavy, he’s trying to speak.
“Who what was that? He looked dead.” He’s in shock, his training keeping him moving.
“I don’t know. We’ve seen odd things, people moving faster than they should, time stuttering.” When Volkov died, she felt the time disconnection again, like when Caroll died.
A second piece falls into place. After Vienna, she had been trying to understand what they had come across . She had read books by Pier Daelman, a vampire expert, if such a thing was possible. He described a link between the Zalozhniye and Romania and died in a fire at his house in Amsterdam. The fire service found clocks in every room, the newspaper had pictures of the scorched cogs in the ashes.
She has to get out, get this information to someone. Glancing down a side tunnel she recognises the pattern of a street rain sewer. Smaller tunnels every twenty feet off to each side of a main tunnel.
She guides Yakovlev into the main tunnel, stops searching upwards. Twenty feet overhead is a metal manhole.
Before thinking, she climbs half-way up the side-wall, jumps and grabs on to the remains of a rusted fitting next to the cover, swinging. Hanging one-handed, she pushes it up carefully and scrapes it over to one side. Streetlight and damp air flow down through the hole.
She swings, twists her legs up, and flips up out onto the street, scanning. Clear, no-one around.
Yakovlev is looking up at her, wide-eyed. “I can’t do that.”
Katya lies on the pavement, and lowers her arm down to him. “Jump, I’ll pull you up!”
Her hand hangs ten feet above his head. He crouches and jumps, but their hands are far apart. He tries again, but is lower still.
“Come back down and I’ll climb up from your shoulders” he says, suddenly scared.
His upturned face is white in the dark tunnel below. Katya’s stomach sinks, she knows what she has to do.
“I’ve got to…” Her voice chokes off. Chechnya. Vienna. Now Odessa. Why does she always kill Russians, the people she should be protecting?
“No! Don’t leave me! Help me up!” he holds his arms up.
She crouches, and slides the manhole back over the hole, his last cry of “Tell my boy I love him.” cut off as the cover slams into place.
Katya runs on, as far as she can before collapsing sobbing against a dark alley wall.