Two text extracts
On this page and the next one you can read short extracts from the novel, just to give you a flavour of things to come........
Pavel Leskov had never killed a man before. He had been trained to do it, in many different ways, but now that the time had come his hands were shaking and there was cold sweat on his forehead. He had drunk too much vodka, and was unsteady on his feet. He was almost overcome with a wave of nausea, but then Tolstoy said to him: “Concentrate, Pavel! There won’t be a better opportunity. No second thoughts. Put your whole weight on him, hold his arms and stop him from kicking. I’ll look after the pillow. Now!”
It was absurdly easy. There was no struggle, and no sound. The Norwegian had been fast asleep on the bunk bed, and breathing deeply, and then there was no more breath, and he was dead. The murder weapon, a dusty old pillow filled with goose-down, was flung into the corner, and the two assassins sat back and looked at their victim, as if they half expected him to spring back to life. But he lay perfectly still. Tolstoy nodded to himself and folded his arms. “Good, good,” he said, as he had done many times on the completion of some task or other since their arrival in Greenland. Several minutes passed, and it was so quiet, now that the rain had stopped, that they could hear the sound of the last water droplets pitting the soft ground beneath the roof overhang. The only other sound was that of a great northern diver, far out on the fjord. Leskov had hated that wild and lonely call ever since childhood, and he was still only partly convinced that it came from a living creature and not from a ghost. He could not take his eyes off the dead man’s face. He shivered, and whispered: “Did we have to do that? He meant us no harm.......”
Tolstoy put his arm around his shoulder. “We had to, my friend. God knows where he was headed for, but wherever it was, news of our presence here would have been echoing round these fjords within a couple of weeks. In a week, he could have reached the working radio in the hut on Ella Island, or he could even have walked round the coast to Blyhavn. Tonight, he had the best part of a bottle of vodka inside him, but tomorrow he would have been sober, and inquisitive.”
“You’re right,” Leskov shrugged. “It’s done. I suppose he felt nothing. Shall we finish what we’ve started?”
The two men decided that the Norwegian should leave the hut dressed exactly as he had been when he entered. So with great difficulty they pulled on his soaking wet over-trousers and boots and carefully tied up his boot-laces. They fitted him into his sodden parka, with even greater difficulty. Then they carried him out into the deep evening shade and down to the shore of the lake, about three hundred yards away. That was hard work, for he was a big man. They did not try to bury him, since it was still early summer, and the permafrost, as hard as concrete, was only a foot or so beneath the ground surface. They had seen a big male polar bear on the shoreline twice during the past two days, and they had fired a few rounds over its head, to frighten it away when it had shown an unhealthy interest in the hut and its contents; it would not be far away, and they knew that it would probably be along within a few hours, attracted by the smell of death. Long before anybody else reached this God-forsaken place, there would be nothing left of the corpse but a few scattered bones and shreds of clothing. Not the first trapper in East Greenland to have come off worst in an encounter with a polar bear........