The Road to Vitebsk

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Inspector Dimitri Kirilenko stepped off the taxiway’s pavement onto a grass verge. Scanning the ground, he walked toward a gap in the airport’s wire fence. Freshly cut wire-ends shone in his flashlight’s beam. He raised his portable radio.

“Officer Peshkov?”


“The passengers are off the plane?”

“All in the terminal, sir.”

“I’ve found an illicit entry point. Take care with your search of the aircraft.”

“This is the final cargo compartment, sir.”

“Perhaps it is only thieves.”


(Illustration by Marie Ginga from an image by ThankYouFantasyPictures from Pixabay)

“Sir! I’ve found . . . “

A white flash seared toward heaven. Kirilenko dove into the shallow drainage ditch that ran parallel to the fence. Debris howled, whizzed and fluttered past. He counted to ten and raised his head.  Orange flames boiled through swirling smoke where the Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner had stood a moment ago. Half a dozen people, including his assistant, had been on that plane searching for explosives. A foul curse rose in his mind but froze on his lips as a voice sounded in his earpiece.

“It was a big bomb.”



Kirilenko took a deep breath. “How is this possible?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“How did you survive the blast?”

“I don’t think I did.”

“Officer Peshkov . .  .”

“Please call me Olga now.”

Kirilenko took a deep breath. “Olga, where are you?”

“I don’t know.  It’s very bright. The others . . .”


“The ones who were with me on the plane – they are running down a hill.”

“Running, you say?”

“Running and talking and laughing.”

“You . . . ” Kirilenko hesitated. Perhaps he’d suffered a head injury and this was his hallucination.


“You are not with them?”

“Something holds me here, something down the road to Kiev.


“Another bomb.”


“A truck bomb.”

“Kiev? The cathedral?”

“It is a feast day at St. Sophia. The square will be packed.”

Kirilenko switched his radio from his team’s frequency to that of the airport police. “I need two cars and half a dozen officers.”

The voice on the radio complained.

He watched fire crews pumping foam onto flames. “Do as I say. The threat here is over, but there’s another bomb. Have my cars ready in two minutes.”


Kirilenko settled into the front seat of a 4×4 truck as his driver pulled away from the curb. A similar car carrying three policemen followed them. Kirilenko stared at his radio and then switched to the team frequency.


“I’m here.”

“Can you tell where the truck is?”

“Thirty kilometers this side of Chernivtsi.”

He switched back to the police frequency. “I need a roadblock ten kilometers west of Chernivtsi. Use trucks, or buses. Pull your personnel 200 meters back from the barricade.” He patted the driver’s shoulder. “Faster.”


A dirty, white delivery van partially blocked the road a hundred meters ahead. Its rear wheels were mired in mud on the road’s northern shoulder. A man sat in the driver’s seat.

Kirilenko opened his door. “I’m going to have a chat with the guy in that van.”



“Shouldn’t we wait for the special weapons team?”

“No. There may be more bombs. If we take him alive, he may reveal where they are.”

“That van could hold a sizeable bomb.”

“I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t.”

“There will be a suicide pressure switch.”

Kirilenko nodded. “Don’t worry. This terrorist wants to kill hundreds, not just one.” He unstrapped his harness and laid his holstered weapon on the seat.

“You’re leaving your weapon, sir?”

“He’ll feel less threatened if he sees that I am unarmed.”

Hands raised, he paced slowly toward the van.


“Yes, Olga.”

“What will you do?”

“Perhaps nothing. Perhaps quite a bit.”

He strolled closer to the van. The driver’s face – eyes dark, wide and staring – became visible. A scraggly beard softened a sharp chin. Kirilenko slowed. “You in the van, let’s talk.”

The driver remained motionless.

“The pressure switch is in his left hand.”

“Thank-you, Olga.”

“If he releases it . . .”


Kirilenko stepped to the driver’s side. The window was down. “Your way is blocked and you’re stuck. Dying today would be useless for you.”

The man said nothing and did not move.

“You may walk back to the cars with me. I will protect you.”

The man defiantly raised his left hand.

Kirilenko was a big man, but he moved swifter than any snake and gripped the bomber’s closed hand with his. The bomber smashed at his face with his right fist. Kirilenko held on. The hard, lean fist pounded his forehead, cut his eyebrow. Kirilenko squeezed harder.

Suddenly, the bomber screamed – a sound to lift the hair of any sane man. He screamed and then fell back, motionless against the seat.

Kirilenko walked back to the parked police cars. “Olga, are you still with me?”

“I’m here.”

“You saved many lives today.”

“Thank-you, sir.”

He stopped beside his truck. Four stunned policemen stared at the blood dripping from the heavy combat knife in his right hand. Many of his subordinates, he knew, had made fun of that knife, always in its sheath in his boot. No longer.

He held up the bomber’s severed hand, still gripping the pressure switch. He turned it, studied it. “I don’t need this any longer.” He tossed the hand into the ditch.

Red flame bloomed behind him. The explosion’s roar rolled to the nearby forest and then back again.

The blast’s pressure wave knocked them to their knees. Kirilenko rose slowly and watched the flames recede. “Stupid terrorist – he used too much explosive, both times.”

The policemen looked at him in frightened awe.

Olga’s voice whispered. “Good-bye, Dimitri.”


“My work here is done.”

“But . . . “

A vision – almost as bright as an exploding bomb – bloomed in Kirilenko’s mind – sunny grass rippled and flowed down a slope to the sea. Olga flashed a smile and waved. Then she turned and walked toward waves of midnight blue.


This story previously appeared in Horror Tree.
Edited by Marie Ginga


Robert Walton is an experienced writer with published works including fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and poetry. His fantasy novels include Joel in Tananar, The Dragon and the Lemon Tree, and Chaos Gate. His Civil War novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction. His SF novella Vienna Station won the 2011 Galaxy Prize and was subsequently published by Rosetta Books. Most recently, Joaquin’s Gold, an anthology of Joaquin Murrieta stories, is available on Amazon. Learn more on his website Chaos Gate. Find his other books on Amazon.