“Falconer” by S.J. Rozan
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Bronx Noir editor S.J. Rozan brings us a tale of falcon selling from the Republic of Mongolia. Next week, Unmentionables author Laurie Loewenstein takes us to Ohio for a tale of murder and leeches.
by S.J. Rozan
Ulan Bator, Republic of Mongolia
Tuguldur didn’t like the city.
His father had never come, nor his father’s father. Nothing called them. They drove their herds to the ridges, within sight of the distant towers and haze, and sold them to middlemen. They turned their horses when the business was done and rode back to the steppe, to the autumn camps and their families and the young, strong animals that would survive the howling winter and fatten in the spring.
The city called Tuguldur, though. To do his business he had to be seen as a man comfortable with the new ways. He had to walk the streets, drink salt tea in a cafe, throw back vodka in a hotel bar. The first few times he’d come to Ulan Bator he’d ridden his horse, but when he started this business he left her behind and borrowed Jeeps from friends, from cousins.
He drove now with distaste through dust and noise, hating most those times when he was immobilized until the steel herd started forward again. Never on the grasslands did this happen, never was he unable to move. In the iciest blizzards of deep winter leaving the ger might be ill-advised, but it was possible.
Finally: the Naran Tuul market. The enormous parking area nearly made him laugh, so crowded and chaotic was it, cars like his own sheep, standing dumbly or trying to pick a path. The trucks might be his yaks, aloof, wading in only when they had no choice.
He left the Jeep and went to meet the client.
By the market’s entry a man stood smoking. This was a Mongolian; he never met the Arabs here, where they might be remembered. A client from Dubai or Kuwait he’d direct to a second-rate hotel, different each time, like the Jeeps, somewhere foreigners and Mongolians doing business wouldn’t be remarked upon.
He approached the man. “Bataar?”
The man streamed smoke. “Tuguldur?”
He nodded, though that was not his name. Nor was Bataar the name of the other, he was sure. Why would it be? Their business was illegal. And why would he care? The client had come to purchase falcons taken from the mountains of the west. He had been told by people well-paid to tell him that Tuguldur could supply them. For what purpose would they need each other’s name?
He led the way to the Jeep. Once settled, the other man spoke. “Are the birds close?”
“Of course not. Do you want them good for hunting, or do you want them terrified and broken? The capture and the hoods are hard enough. I would not bring them near the city.”
The other man didn’t answer, but seemed satisfied. Tuguldur always gave this answer and it always satisfied them.
They drove for two hours, without talk, leaving the road for a rutted trail into the steppe. The wind threw dust in the open Jeep but Tuguldur didn’t mind. This was not city dust; this was the soil he was made of. If the other man minded he didn’t say. He’d been told Tuguldur had three birds, two large powerful females and a smaller, agile male. In Dubai and Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, rich men would pay a great deal for birds like those.
At a lone ger surrounded by miles of empty grassland Tuguldur stopped and the men got out. The client entered, stooping low through the wooden door.
The ger was empty.
He turned. “Where are the birds?”
“There are no birds.” Tuguldur’s knife was in his hand. “Or: there are birds. In the mountains. Hunting to feed their chicks. Not as sport for men who believe they can trap strength and buy freedom.”
The other man never spoke again. Tuguldur sprang forward and cut his throat. He dragged him out the door and laid him to die in the ger’s shadow, where if anyone should happen by he would not be seen.
Tuguldur went about the business of dismantling the ger. He was a herdsman; in half an hour, canvas, felt, poles and lattice were all stowed in the Jeep.
Killing the middlemen wouldn’t stop the sales of falcons, he knew. But it would buy them time. Each aborted sale meant more chicks growing to adulthood, to mate and breed. Each dead middleman meant more birds to re-populate hillsides decimated by wealthy foreigners who dreamed themselves warriors with falcons on their gloves.
He prepared to leave. This body, like the others, would be found, but not first by men. The carrion crows would arrive, and the wolves and rats would follow. The cause of the middleman’s death would not be discovered.
He was ready; but before he drove away, Tuguldur took his knife and did what any predator would do.
He cut out the middleman’s heart.
* * *
S.J. ROZAN was born and raised in the Bronx and is a life-long New Yorker. She’s the author of eight novels in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series, the standalones Absent Friends and In This Rain, and is the editor of Bronx Noir. Her book Winter and Night won the Edgar, Nero, and Macavity Awards for Best Novel, and was nominated for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards. Two of her previous books have won the Shamus for Best Novel and another won the Anthony for Best Novel. Her short story “Double-crossing Delancey” won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story. She’s at work on another series novel, Shanghai Moon.
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Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: May 6, 2013
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