Written by Carter Pierce
It only took a few minutes for Ivan to realize that staying where they were wasn’t very productive. Jack was hurt, and they had no food. No way to stay alive for any extended period of time in the middle of a forest.
They’d have to move, sooner or later. They’d have to find a town.
Ivan turned to his brother’s killer. “You know, we can’t stay here forever.”
“You look old.”
Ivan was silent.
Nothing more was forthcoming. Ivan awkwardly replied: “You look bloody.”
Jack didn’t crack a smile. At least not any more than it already was. After a while he said, “What’s your name?”
“Ivan. Ivan Molchalin.”
“Rings a bell.”
I wonder why, Ivan thought. I’ve stayed under cover pretty well for years. Out loud he said, “Molchalin was the name of a pretty prominent software salesman based out of Denver . . . maybe you knew him?”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Yeah. Maybe that was it.”
Ivan was growling inside. But he didn’t show it. “Are you a salesman or something yourself? Your suit used to be something worth looking at.”
“Banker,” he said laconically. “You?”
Ivan was at a loss for words. At last he said, “I technically run a weapons factory in Montana. But I’m rarely there. I dedicated the last several years of my life to hunting down the man who killed my brother.”
“Your brother was killed?” This seemed to pique Jack’s interest. “Who did it?”
Ivan really did growl this time. He wasn’t feeling very merciful at the moment. His fingers were itching to get around the wretched man’s throat. But he disguised the growl in a cough. Maybe Jack would expose himself. Then he’d really deserve the punishment he had coming. “Uh, I don’t really know.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Ivan gave him a sidelong glance. Doubt formed in his mind for the first time in years. “Never mind. It doesn’t bother me anymore,” he lied. “It’s been a long time.”
There was a silence between them that wasn’t quite awkward. At last Jack said, “Do you mind my asking how he died?”
“Knifed to death in an alley at night.”
Jack stared at him. His mouth dropped open. His next question came in a whisper. “Where?”
Ivan felt a sneer curling his lip but refused to let it show. Either this man was an extremely good liar, or he was actually being genuine. “Pinedale, Wyoming. Across the street from a cowboy shop of some kind. After 10:30 pm. Why do you ask?”
“Because . . . I was there.”
No slip, Sherlock, he thought. “How do you mean?”
“I tried to help him. I saw the man who did it: he got away scot-free.”
“What did he look like?” Tall, lean . . . wearing a nice suit? Maybe with the name RAUMMI, JACK engraved on a metal nameplate on his coat?
“Like . . . like that,” Jack said. He raised one hand weakly, pointing over Ivan’s shoulder. “Just like the man that’s standing behind you.”
Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved