European crime fiction in the crosshairs
n°4 February-March-april 2006


Ceylan's Compass (Excerpt)

Mariano Sanchez Soler
Translation: Steve Novak


Where in the past one could find the Mountain barracks and where now start the small steps of the Debod temple, I was called to a meeting with several labor organizers led by a Venezuelan man called Blackie who had, they said, participated in guerilla activity in his country.

It was precisely there, on the deserted courtyard swept by a cold wind that went straight through to your soul, that Blackie told us that the object of this meeting was to prepare a string of robberies so that we could update our press office, in a sad state since May and in need of a new ‘supply’ of equipment. Only the Brujula sector, the only one to communicate with the central directorate, knew about this operation about which we were to keep total secrecy, to refrain from talking to anyone even party members, while taking all the security measures that seemed appropriate. My legs were tembling. Somebody in Brujula had decided that this job would be my baptism by fire as a member of the workers section of the organization.

The next meetings were held in a sinister house in Pozuelo, lfar removed from looking like a villa, where Blackie, seemingly a genius for these jobs, scrawled with a chalk his guerilla tactics on a blackboard. Tension among us kept raising with days passing. And for a simple reason ! No one in his dog’s life, had ever tried something like stealing a rotary press machine from a girl boarding school. Besides the operation didn’t look easy at all since the boarding school was filled with people at all times and since the assailants, having raised the guard’s slightest suspicion while approaching, would have to knock down the door of his booth, in which he would have had ample time to lock in, before his raising the alarm or calling the cops. To our lack of experience one had now to add the divisions in our group. Some intended to be armed, others – those who had know how – refused, claiming that our lack of pratice would result in internal bloodshed at the first trouble.

Finally we decided to pick a group of studs like Blondie, Celtic, Suntan, and Noodle Head, all militants from the construction, and carpenters’ sections. In support would be Frog, driving his twin stoke box, and myself on the lookout under the awning at the main entrance. The plan would go as follows : on a Sunday morning at 7 AM, the four would enter the boarding school faking being drunk and spewing : « We’re gonna fuck them all ».

This would make the guard come out, who then, once strayed from his jug of chuck wine, would be taken and bound, while the two other guys would grab the press and carry it to a van waiting outside while I would be on the lookout at a street corner. Celtic and Suntan would be the ones taking out the machine and carry it to the stolen van driven by César. Noodle Head and the Blondie would escape in another car driven by Frog in which I would have already climbed.

The most impressive is how nervous we were, and it was increasing as the big day approached. Frog, Blondie, Noodle Head and I decided to board in the same house. That night Noodle Head having slipped a glove on, tested on Frog’s jaw the sway to give his knock and further frightened him to death as, without thinking, he punctuated his knocks with loud ‘han’ in his direction.

Nervousness was such that upon going to bed Frog said in the dark :

- Are you guys awake.
- Yes answered the Blondie. Even the Lord wouldn’t sleep..

When we got to the rendez-vous point, at 6AM, everything was already set. Blondie, Frog, Noodle Head and I were in the twin stroke box, the Suntan and Celtic, wearing Rank Xerox repairmen overalls, were in a van driven by César. We were so frightened that we stayed put for an hour half of us in front of a hedgerow, half of us behind, yet without ever meeting up. That morning we had to postpone the job due to fear overdose. The bosses in Brujula decided that we would be up again the following Sunday.

At 7PM we arrived at the Santander boarding house also called ‘piranha’s’ because of the reputation for the accumulated sexual frensy of its lodgers. Noodle Head and Blondie came in acting drunk and punking it up as usual. I stayed at the door.

- Hey, where do you think you’re going ? shouted the angry guard as he bolted out of his booth.
- We’re gonna fuck all the broads here ! shouted Blondie convincingly.

When the man reached them Noodle Head punched him so hard that the poor guy fell flat on his belly bleeding profusely, yet still twitching, as his furious attaker tried to knock him out as planned and while Blondie was sectioning telephone wires.

The two guys in overalls came in to pick up the machine. Blondie was painting swastikas on the wall and under Noodle Head’s wrath the guard wimpered :

- Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me! me, I am a working man!
- Shut the fuck up! Don’t push or I’ll mess you up good !

Blood prevented the tape to stick to his mouth ;
They decided to stick him in a phone booth but they tied him up so badly that the hysterical guard was able to get out moaning and Noodle Head had to restrain him behind a door threatening him :

- Do not get out, ‘cos we’re gonna wait and if you don’t follow, you’ll really get it !

The guys in overalls had already left with the rotary press. As soon Noodle Head and Blondie started to follow them, the guard, bleeding from mouth and nose stumbled out behind in the street screaming :

- Help, help, they’re trying to kill me.

We ran out to the cars. So nervous were my buddies that they had not changed the licence plates and the real numbers were only taped up. As soon as we climbed in the old box, it rumbled out just to stop ten yards later. I came out to remove the tape from the plate, but the car surged and with half of my body out I lost my balance :

- Watch it fucker!!!

In our retreat we went down two streets the wrong way and a truck was about to topple us over while the other one kept on shouting in the middle of the street

- Help ! Help! They tried to kill me!

We left the area finally. We were all silent except for Noodle Head, wide eyed, and mumbling:

- Why did he put up a fight? I didn’t mean to hit him so hard.

And he was looking at his carpenter’s fists.

– I didn’t mean to .

One couldn’t forget the mix of his gilty eyes and pungent reek of sweat:
Seated behind, on my left, Noodle Head was near tears. Advocating revolutionary violence was one thing, practicing it was very much another, especially when you were fundamentaly a nice guy.
Blondie in the passenger seat, turned back and tried to calm him down :

- There, there, Noodle Head, he’s a retired cop from the ‘guardia civil’, a facist.

Noodle Head looked at me before answering.

- Easy for you to say, you didn’t have to bash his head in.

On Main Steet as soon as we got off, Noodle Head and Blondie threw away their blood stained shirts in the garbage and as we were going to the security rendez-vous checkpoint my new buddies went over the assault down to the smallest details.

- Fuck it, I hit him too hard, man. He was just a poor bloke like us.


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