Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
While the water drummed, the group of people stayed by the cave hole and rested.
The mountain scenery was beautiful, and the evening breeze was gentle. The weather was so nice that it looked like paradise, but with many mosquitoes living in it.
The peak of mosquito activity was in the evening, and the area near the stream was full of them, so the people hanging around the mouth of the cave became their targets. They fell upon the prey, gorging themselves on blood.
Li Du and his men were exhausted. They just lay there and tried to ignore the bite because they were lazy to do anything.
Brother Wolf said in concern, “Firecracker, you go to get some dry wood and light a fire. The smoke will drive the mosquitoes away. Do not let them bite the boss.”
Firecracker said, “Since you care about the boss, why don’t you go yourself?”
Brother Wolf said impatiently, “I’m tired. Go!”
Firecracker cried, “But I’m even more tired!”
They did not want to move. Markelov, who had been thrown over the edge of the stream, rolled his eyes. He moved his limp body quietly. He had regained his energy after resting for a while and the efficacy of the anesthetic was dwindling, so that he could move again.
As Markelov stirred, Brother Wolf’s voice rang out again. “Don’t move, unless you think you can fly faster than my bullets.”
Brother Wolf had two guns in his hands, one of them Markelov’s own shotgun, and the black muzzle was aimed at him.
Markelov gulped and said in a hoarse voice, “We have no grievances between us, and we’re not really enemies either. Why do you have to keep me captive?”
Li Du hummed. “No grievance, no revenge? Who said that? Didn’t your companions tell you where they got the bruises on their faces?”
Big Markelov looked stunned, and asked, “You did that?”
“Don’t act stupid,” scoffed Li Du.
Big Markelov said with a wry smile, “I’m not. They didn’t say who hurt them. They just said they got into trouble with some guys. My brother and I are not very familiar with them and did not pay much attention to their injuries.”
Li Du hummed and said, “If so, why did you follow us? Why would you want to get back at us?”
Markelov said, “It’s just that we had no supplies and no equipment, it was all lost in the cave. You can’t live in the mountains like that, so we just want to grab some stuff from you.”
Li Du sneered, “Whatever you say, no one will believe you anyway.”
Markelov fell silent, evidently aware of this.
The sun went down, and the moon rose. As it shone, the light was better than it had been in the evening.
Everyone was exhausted and could think of nothing but rest. No one spoke and the atmosphere was dull.
At last, Big Markelov spoke again. “What are you going to do with us, gentlemen? You’ve got my brother, haven’t you?”
Li Du said, “Yes, but now he is in better condition than us. He has food and drinks.”
“What are you going to do to us?” Markelov insisted.
Li Du said, “Give you to the police and let them take care of you. Your companions said you are a murderer…”
Markelov said vehemently, “F**k, this is a groundless accusation. These motherf**king worms, cowards and scoundrels! We haven’t killed anyone, at least not since we came to America!”
“Never done anything illegal?” asked Li Du.
“Of course we did. We smuggled into the United States. We had no documents, no shelter, no money, and we had to survive, but we only poached some animals and birds, nothing else!” Markelov insisted.
Li Du said, “Tell this to the police.”
Markelov was worried and said, “Listen, sir, if you hand us over to the police, we’re sure to die, because they’ll send us back to Ukraine, where we’ve offended the rich and powerful. It was to avoid them that we came here.”
“We don’t deserve to die. We just offended some rich and powerful people. Please spare our lives. If you let us off, I can tell you a secret!”
Li Du became interested, and asked, “Secret? What secret?”
Big Markelov breathed a sigh of relief, sensing a possible way out.
He gulped and said, “You must let us go. Just let us go and give us some food and tools. I swear I will tell you the secret. The secret has something to do with a monument, you will be interested.”
Li Du looked at him curiously and said, “Two questions. First, how could you be so sure that I will be interested? Second, are you not aware of your position? Don’t you know that you are now in our hands and not in a position to set the terms?”
Big Markelov said, “Two answers. First, the presence of this monument can change American history. Second, I know my position. I am qualified to bargain. I know what my terms are. If I am in the police’s hands, they would take my bargain.”
His words did have some interest for Li Du. This stuff sounded like a real mystery.
Li Du said, “OK, so go to the police and bargain with them. If you can do so, why do you need to talk so much with me?”
Big Markelov replied, “First, they might be too stupid to appreciate my information. Second, I would trade with you because I admire you. You are amazing, and I am willing to bow to the strong…”
Li Du was even more interested in what he had to say about the relics of North American history. What could this be? He felt that the other side was not just talking nonsense.
Firecracker interrupted: “What are you doing? Practicing the script? Boss, no need to listen to his bullshit, just tie him up and make a phone call to the police. I think this bastard is making fake promises.”
“Everything I say is true, and if you don’t believe it, you’re missing out on a chance at fame and fortune!”
Firecracker clenched his fist and stood up. “Hey, you fool, you still don’t know what’s going on, do you? I’ll kick you. I’ll wake you up.”
Undaunted, the great Markelov sneered, “Better tie me up before you do.”
Li Du stopped Firecracker and looked towards Big Markelov. “What is this relic about? How do I know you’re telling me the truth?”
“It’s true, it’s absolutely verifiable. It’s an ancient relic, and I can tell you that part of it is ancient petroglyphs!”
Li Du studied his face in the moonlight, considered it for a while, and then said, “Tell me what happened in Ukraine. Who did you offend?”
Markelov sighed. “It’s a long story. I have to start with when we first joined the army. You might have noticed that both of us are soldiers…”