This Week's Excerpt
Instead of a preview this week I have something different for you. For a long time I have been a fan of Russian literature. As a tribute I wrote Lacunashka some time ago but it has been languishing quietly on my computer. I think I may have published it briefly on Amazon or Smashwords but I withdrew it, probably because it is such a relentlessly dark tale. People who lived through the terror of Stalin's reign must have experienced such darkness and a bleak existence, so as a tribute to them I have placed it inside Vampire: Beneficence (Short Stories Volume III). Here is an excerpt:
Copyright © 2010 by Lazlo Ferran
All Rights Reserved.
Lacuna: a blank gap or missing part.
-shka: Russian diminutive ending for male names.
For Comrade Ilya it was like any other day in the Ministry. At 9.30, after already working for two hours, they broke for coffee or a shot of vodka. Volodya, as usual, was holding forth in his loud voice, leaning back against the edge of his desk.
“Ilya! Have a shot of vodka. Just once?”
“No, Misha,” he said placing his hand over the dirty porcelain cup. “I have to work anyway.” He walked the short distance, past dirty mullioned windows to his office and started to check through the list of mail for the day.
Fourteen pieces on arrival list. Good. Now let's check yesterdays. Fifty-seven in, and now the receipts.. Fifty-six. Fifty-six Fifty-six! That's not right. That hasn't happened for years!
Ilya was proud of his system and for years now, it hadn't let him down. The 1930s hadn't been kind to Ilya Kuznetsov. Once considered a talented Clerk, one small mistake had mean that he was now just one of many thousands, and his ministry of Dudinka was in Siberia. It hadn't escaped his notice that he was not far from Comrade Stalin's gulags. Nevertheless Ilya hadn't given up and when it became apparent a large amount of mail was not reaching its destination desk, once it arrived at the reception of the Ministry, he introduced a system of receipts, to be signed and returned on arrival, and thefts had decreased to zero. Ilya stroked his neat, brown moustache with his forefinger, relishing the hunt. Okay, I will find you whoever you are.
Patiently he went through the receipts in the Tuesday slot of the rack behind his desk and checked them against the arrivals list. The one missing was for Ivan Dimatov.
Third floor, Detainment and Punishment Department.
Ilya put on his jacket, to ward against the cold in the corridors, He pulled on the gloves of leather, lined with reindeer fur that his parents-in-law had given one Christmas and headed for the stairs, his breath forming little clouds for his face to pass into as he panted, after two flights of stairs.
“Hello Vanya. Are you … busy?”
“No Comrade! What can I do for you?”
“I am missing a receipt from you for a letter yesterday. Did you receive one? It was from the Ministry of Justice in Moscow. “No Comrade Kuznetsov. If I had I most definitely would have signed the receipt!” Vanya spoke loud enough for those around to hear.
“Hmm. Of course. Sorry to have bothered you. If you find one, let me know.” “Of course! Immediately!”
So it didn't reach his desk. I know Vanya. Scare of his own shadow so even if it had something valuable inside like a pass or tokens for something, he wouldn't have taken it and hidden it. Anyway he couldn't because he would have to bribe whoever delivered it. I must find out who that was.
“Who delivered the mail to this department yesterday Vanya? Do you know?”
“No. I don't think I had any mail yesterday.”
A lot of blank faces stared back as Ilya cast his probing eye around the large office. He had no real power. It was only the usual fear that pervaded all offices.
“Tch. Alright then.” He resigned himself to a slow search, and headed for the small reception office on the 3rd floor landing. Yrgi, the bearlike guard, sodden with cheap vodka, slouched on his stool in the bay next to the postal rack. His rifle was propped against the door-frame.
“Comrade Yrgi,” said Ilya quietly, not wanting to shock the guard, who was probably asleep.
“Comrade, do you know who collected the mail for the Detainment and Punishment Department yesterday?”
“Whaddaya want to know for?”
“Mail has gone missing Comrade. It is most important that I find out who delivered the mail. Think hard. Can you remember?”
“Hm. No. I don't remember. Wait! No, that was last week. I did remember Tomasov coming because he told me a joke about his wife. Haw! Haw! Very funny. Shall I tell you?”
“No Comrade. That will not be necessary. Please think one last time. It is very important. Who collected the mail yesterday?”
“Hm. No I don't know. Sorry. My memory is not what it was. The drink you know?” he said patting his vast jacket-pocket that chinked slightly against the side of the stool.
“Please may I check the rack for misplaced mail?”
“Sure boss. Go ahead!”
Ilya checked every cubbyhole for the missing envelope. Most were empty but a few still had a neat row of envelopes waiting to be collected. It wasn't there. He sighed.
“Thank you Yrgi. I will try the other floors.”
“Go ahead but you are wasting your time. Since your little revolution no mail ever goes missing.” “Even so...”
Ilya patiently climbed to the top floor, checked the mail cabinet there, and worked his way back down to the ground floor. He didn't find the missing envelope. He returned to his office.
“Uncle Ilya. This letter needs your signature.” Sasha, his nephew, stuck his hand out from behind the desk outside Ilya's office as he passed. “Where have you been?”
“Some mail has gone missing Sasha. Nothing to worry about,” he said through tight lips. Sasha was a good boy but he worried too much about his uncle. Ilya took the single sheet of type into his office, signed it and returned it to the waiting hand of his nephew.
I am working with Amit Bobrov on the final draft of his Second Edition of The Journals of Raymond Brooks. I am also near to completing a fair copy of Attack Hitler's Bunker. I also had to contact Bombardier (who bought Short Brothers - manufacturers of the Short Stirling) and Michael J Bowyer, author of The Stirling Story for high-res images of the Stirling to be used on the cover of the book. So far I have not been able to find any. If anybody knows of any, please let me know.
Good Luck to Valentino Rossi tomorrow. I really hope he can win a race or two: it would be a fitting tribute for Simoncelli. I missed the Formula 1 race last week because I was at the Punch & Judy Fair in Covent Garden (see my facebook page for pictures), but from what I have heard, I didn't miss much! Bring on 2014 when we have turbo engines again. Who can forget the awesome power of the Renault turbos of the 80s producing up to 1400 bhp from 1.5 litres?