July 1939
Monzie Castle

Miško Čurović walked beside the blond-headed man in silence. He looked behind, at the campsite and the neat rows of white tents dotting the hillside. The men crested a gentle slope and the path they were following, bounded on either side by wet sedge, led into light woodland. A field lay to their right, beyond a teetering stone wall. Miško’s breathing was shallow. His heart was pounding. 

‘I’m sure you did not expect to see me again,’ the blond-haired man said. His accent was European, his tone friendly.


‘It make things difficult for you, I think?’

‘Not really.’

There were starlings in the canopy, flitting energetically, the rush of their wingbeats overlaid on the rustling of the trees, sudden and thrilling. Grass shivered. A recent shower brought smells of the soil to the surface. The air was heavy. There would be rain.

Miško Čurović fell behind and picked a heavy stone from the side of the path. It fitted neatly into his palm. He walked on, listening to the sounds of existence, watching the blond-haired man’s final movements.

He swung his right arm wide and shallow and caught the man on the side of the head with the stone. The crack of crushed bone alarmed the birds aloft and they swooped away from a predator who cared nothing for them. Miško Čurović cared nothing about anybody or anything, other than Miško Čurović and the instructions he had been given. 

The blond-haired man fell to the ground and did not move.

Miško left him where he lay. He placed the stone, blood side down, by the edge of the path and turned and walked back towards the campsite. On the way, he lit a cigarette. 

As he turned into a bend, approaching him was a man with a horse pulling a creaking and aged wooden cart. Miško greeted the man with a wave.


After waiting for a few minutes to be sure the path was clear, István Kedály emerged from behind a monkey puzzle tree and stooped to inspect the dead man. He shook his head in irritation and looked around the lightly wooded slope, deliberating on what to do next. When he saw Miško Čurović returning, he retreated into cover once more.

‘That man is a fool,’ he said. ‘He’ll ruin everything.’

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