Home>>read Tormentor Mine free online

Tormentor Mine(3)

By:Anna Zaires

I jump out of the helicopter the second it touches the ground.

“Peter, wait. You need clearance,” the pilot shouts, but I’m already running, shoving people aside. A young soldier tries to block my path, but I rip his M16 out of his hands and point it at him.

“Take me to the bodies. Now.”

I don’t know if it’s the weapon or the lethal edge in my voice, but the soldier obeys, hurrying toward a shed on the far end of the street. I follow him, the adrenaline like toxic sludge in my veins.

Please let him be alive. Please let him be alive.

I see the bodies behind the shed, some neatly laid out, others piled together on snow-speckled grass. There’s nobody around them; the soldiers must be keeping the villagers away for now. I recognize some of the dead right away—the village elder Tamila was engaged to, the baker’s wife, the man I once bought goat milk from—but others I can’t identify, both because of the extent of their wounds and because I haven’t spent much time in the village.

I’ve barely spent any time here, and now my wife is dead.

Steeling myself, I kneel next to a slender female body, lay the M16 on the grass, and move her headscarf off her face. A chunk of her head has been blown off by a bullet, but I can make out enough of her features to know it’s not Tamila.

I move on to the next woman’s body, this one with several bullet wounds through her chest. It’s Tamila’s aunt, a shy woman in her fifties who’d spoken less than five words to me in the last three years. To her and the rest of Tamila’s family, I’ve always been a foreigner, a frightening stranger from a different world. They didn’t understand Tamila’s decision to marry me, condemned it even, but Tamila didn’t care.

She’d always been independent like that.

Another female body draws my attention. The woman is lying on her side, but the gentle curve of her shoulder is achingly familiar. My hand shakes as I turn her over, and white-hot pain pierces me as I see her face.

Tamila’s mouth is just as slack as I imagined, but her eyes aren’t vacant. They’re closed, her long eyelashes singed and her eyelids glued together with blood. More blood covers her chest and arms, turning her gray dress nearly black.

My wife, the beautiful young woman who had the courage to choose her own fate, is dead. She died without ever leaving her village, without seeing Moscow like she dreamed. Her life was snuffed out before she had a chance to live, and it’s all my fault. I should’ve been here, should’ve protected her and Pasha. Hell, I should’ve known about this fucking operation; nobody should’ve been here without informing my team.

Rage rises inside me, mixing with agonizing grief and guilt, but I shove it aside and force myself to keep looking. There are only adult bodies laid out in the rows, but there’s still that pile.

Please let him be alive. I’ll do anything as long as he’s alive.

My legs feel like burned matches as I approach the pile. There are detached limbs there, and bodies damaged beyond recognition. These must’ve been the victims of the explosions. I move each body part aside, sorting through them. The smell of stale blood and charred flesh is thick in the air. A normal man would’ve thrown up by now, but I’ve never been normal.

Please let him be alive.

“Peter, wait. There’s a special task force on the way, and they don’t want us touching the bodies.” It’s the pilot, Anton Rezov, approaching from behind the shed. We’ve worked together for years and he’s a close friend, but if he tries to stop me, I will kill him.

Without replying, I continue my gruesome task, methodically looking over each limb and burned torso before laying it aside. Most of the body parts seem to belong to adults, though I come across some child-sized ones too. They’re too big to be Pasha’s, though, and I’m selfish enough to feel relief over that.

Then I see it.

“Peter, did you hear me? You can’t do this yet.” Anton reaches for my arm, but before he can touch me, I spin around, my hand curling automatically. My fist crashes into his jaw, and he reels back from the blow, his eyes rolling back in his head. I don’t watch him fall; I’m already moving, tearing through the remaining pile of bodies to reach the little hand I saw earlier.

A little hand that’s curled around a broken toy car.

Please, please, please. Please let there be a mistake. Please let him be alive. Please let him be alive.

I work like a man possessed, all my being focused on one goal: to get to that hand. Some of the bodies on top of the pile are nearly whole, but I don’t feel their weight as I throw them aside. I don’t feel the burn of exertion in my muscles or smell the sickening stench of violent death. I just bend and lift and throw until body parts are strewn all around me, and I’m drenched in blood.