Антон Фарутин – писатель, сценарист, продюсер. Имеет 3 высших образования и самые разносторонние интересы. Автор широко известной криминальной трилогии “Карьерист” (Карьерист, Фармацевт, Финансист), права на экранизацию которой проданы федеральному каналу и в настоящее время ведется подготовительная работа к съемкам детективного телесериала. По роману “Арсанты” в 2020 году выпущен оригинальный аудио-сериал, который собрал тысячи положительных отзывов в Интернете. В настоящее время ведется обсуждение производства полноценного ТВ-сериала по мотивам произведения. Аудиокнигу прослушало свыше 3 млн. человек, №1 в Apple podcasts, Storytel, Litnet и Story4.me
Anton Farutin is a writer, screenwriter, producer. The author of the well-known criminal trilogy “Careerist”, the rights to the film adaptation of which were sold to the federal channel and preparatory work is currently underway for the filming of a detective television series. Based on the novel “Arsants”, an original audio series was released in 2020, which collected thousands of positive reviews over the Internet. Currently, the production of a full-fledged TV series based on the work is being discussed. The audiobook was listened by over 3 million people, No. 1 in Apple podcasts, Storytel, Litnet and Story4.me
Отрывок из триллера “Arsants. Descendants of Gods”
Chapter 1. A mysterious murder.
The old man in the long cloak moved down the narrow, winding street as fast as he could. Fighting to stop himself from glancing behind him, he focused on working one reluctant foot in front of the other. His legs ached from the unfamiliar strain. A pain shot through his side. He gritted his teeth to force himself forward, brushing a hand across his face to push back a strand of wet, grey hair. The sweat stung his eyes and blurred the road ahead. With his breathing long since broken, his cheeks puffed away on either side of his reddened face.
Running up to the heavy door leading to some pub, the old man threw his flimsy frame against it. All the wood did was creak slightly. Locked. The cloak rustled as the man quickly crossed the pavement and gave another door a shove. Frustrated, he even brought a fist down a couple of times on the dark red panel with its carved ornamentation, though he was again left with nothing for his efforts. A filthy curse hung in the air as he battered away at the door until his frantic hands began to bleed. The noise made no difference whatsoever, and that was when a terrifying thought flashed through his mind: the people chasing him could hear the commotion, too.
“Damn it, how could I be such an idiot? They definitely know where I am now!”
Throwing a glimpse over his shoulder, the man listened closely. The panic bubbling up inside him suddenly lashed out at his consciousness, driving out every other sensation. What a fool! He backed away from the locked door before spinning suddenly and rushing off toward the nearest alley. His hurried, uneven steps echoed across the smoothly polished cobblestones.
They were coming for him. He knew that much. And he was entirely alone –there was nobody out on the streets that early on a weekend to help, and the doors were all shut until noon at the earliest. Cursing once more, he realised the alley left him nowhere to go. Why had he agreed to that meeting? Only for the money… But what good was the money if he couldn’t find anywhere to hide? He’d set himself up perfectly.
When he reached the intersection, the old man stopped and tried to figure out which way the central square was. His feverish mind told him there could be people or even whole groups of tourists there. Turning right, he ran hobblingly toward the sun-bathed square. One step, two steps, three steps… His breathing was ragged, and he had to slow his run to a fast walk. Once again, the shooting pain in his side. He clamped a hand against the spot and fought to close the distance to the square and the salvation he was sure to find there. But age was a fearsome foe, and his strength gave out to make way for weakness, gasping for breath, and heavy legs. It felt like he was pushing through a thick layer of steel wool. Finally, his feet were too swollen to follow the commands his brain was giving them. One more step… One more… He just needed to get there.
Suddenly, a light-haired, middle-aged fellow appeared from around the corner. The old man wanted to yell for help, though all he could get out of his burning lungs was an unintelligible croak. His heavy breathing had closed his throat. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Neither was in any condition to make a sound, though he still knew he was looking at his shot at surviving. Fighting to swallow, he happily waved a hand in a bid to attract attention. The tourist stopped quickly and looked around. Was the old man waving at him? Yes, of course! The breathless gentleman looked back fearfully over his shoulder, afraid his pursuers might be overtaking him, but the dark pavement of the narrow street was just as empty as it had been a few minutes before.
Heavens be praised! It looked like he’d lost them. The tourist finally turned and headed in his direction. As he came closer, the old man got a better look. He was around forty, athletic, and well-built, with light hair and wary, attentive eyes.
Finally… The old man stopped and drooped over with his hands on his knees, struggling to regain his breath. He couldn’t run. He couldn’t even walk. But he didn’t have to anymore. He was saved, and that was the important thing. Another trickle of sweat ran down his face, a bulging droplet hanging off the tip of his slightly hooked nose. Wearily brushing it away, he took several deep, even breaths. His heart pounded and leaped, the pulses echoing through the veins in his temples. And while his eyes were still watering from the salty sweat, a smile was already beginning to spread across his face. He was saved! The tourist’s footsteps had almost got to him. Gulping down air a few more times, the old man tried to straighten up. The cool morning breeze massaged his face, bringing with it relief and the sounds of voices shouting in the square. But when the man met the stranger’s bright blue eyes, he realized his mistake. Freezing in shock, he watched helplessly as the stranger reached into his grey jacket to pull out a pistol. The last thing the old man experienced was two quick shots to the chest.
Jack Stone pulled the cool morning air in through his nose. Interval runs were his favourite way of warming up before the real workout, and he was in fine form. In a great mood, he’d covered his usual distance easily and with relish.
A quick look at his smartwatch told Jack the face was green, meaning he’d beaten his best time.
“Three kilometres in fourteen minutes and thirty seconds,” he said to himself, noting the new record. “Not bad! Not bad at all.”
With the joy of triumph running through him, he decided it would be a good idea to see if he could beat his record a second time. Of course, he didn’t have a shot –he was still going to tire and finish the second circuit slower than the first. But it was a good motivator. After one more peek at his watch, he pushed off from the pavement.
All Jack wanted at that moment was to finish his hundred metres at a dead sprint. Rhythmically pumping his legs, he enjoyed the feeling of hurtling down the empty street, the wind whipping at his face. He wasn’t just running into it; he was flying, his trainers barely touching the pavement. As he neared the crossroads he’d mentally marked as his first finish line, he squeezed everything he could out of his muscles and flew around the corner only to scare an older lady on her way to the shop for some bread. He barely ducked around her and couldn’t slow down for another ten strides, grinning broadly as he did. The look on the old lady’s face when the hundred-kilogram giant had nearly bowled her over was priceless. An indignant shout reached him. Jack turned without stopping, continuing to run backward. Not sure what to say, he just smiled at the old lady and even pressed his palms together in front of his chest. It was a mute apology and an oath never to repeat his antics.
But the old lady didn’t appreciate the gesture, instead whirling around in a huff and muttering what presumably weren’t the kindest words ever spoken about him. Well, he’d tried to apologise. With that said, he wasn’t looking the part of good manners, and the old lady’s reaction was understandable. His left wrist was wrapped, he had thin band-aids on his fingers, and there was raw flesh peeking out around them. An abrasion meandered across his forehead. Coupled with his powerful build and workout clothes, he was more street thug than a police detective.
During his shift the day before, he’d scuffled with three street dealers. That was nothing out of the ordinary, but when it came to knives and brass knuckles, Jack preferred to work hard and fast. He’d knocked out the first criminal quickly. While he was dispatching the second, however, the third had ducked around behind him and leaped onto his back. He latched onto Jack’s neck. Only strangling a trained fighter was a big ask. Jack had tossed him to the ground for a quick wrestle across the pavement, where Jack had knocked the knife away. And even though it went smoothly, his face still showed wear and tear. But that was fine –it was going to heal quickly. He turned and jogged off. The incident with the old lady had cost him some time, and he needed to make it up.
After turning another corner, Jack was about to take off on another hundred-metre sprint when he saw a couple of patrol cars at the other end of the central square, their lights flashing. A crowd had gathered nearby. Fighting to get his bright yellow tape up around the crime scene, a young police officer was trying vainly to push them back.
“Damn it,” Jack said to himself when he realised the second circuit was not to be. “Why did I have to run here today?”
He changed course and trotted easily toward the blue and red lights.
Jack Stone didn’t need to show the patrolman at the cordon his badge. Even if the guy hadn’t known one of the homicide’s best detectives by sight –and he had probably met him personally –he’d heard the stories. But habits were habits, and Jack still pulled it out of the back pocket of his comfy jogging pants.
Leaping the yellow tape, he looked around quickly, locking the surroundings into his memory bank. His visual memory was phenomenal. He knew for a fact he would be able to remember every minute detail even years later.
Still, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to remember. The body of an elderly man wearing a long black cloak and wrinkled blue trousers was lying on the cobblestones, which were still slightly damp from the morning fog. With long, shaggy hair framing sharp features, it was like his Creator had run out of time for the finishing touches. He had a tall forehead, deep-set eyes, a hooked nose, jutting cheekbones, and a narrow chin. Grey, creased skin featured a small birthmark just above his left brow. After noticing all that with a glance, Jack looked over the rest of the body.
There was more to him than “elderly man”. He looked to be 55-60, he was skinny, and everything about him screamed exhaustion. He was lying on his back with his face to the sky. His right hand clutched the folds of his long cloak at his side. But there was no blood, and his death didn’t look violent. Off to the side, a witness mentioned something about the man running out of the alley into the square before dropping to the ground.
“His heart probably gave out. My uncle in Kentucky had the same thing happen to him –he was on his way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and bang. On the ground.”
Experience had taught Jack how useless that statement was. Some people just liked to be heard, so they were liable to blurt out anything. Lying was second nature.
Jack crouched down carefully and peered once more into the dead man’s face. The hair and shirt collar was drenched in sweat; both pant legs had been splashed by puddle water. With none of that possible at walking speed, the old man must have been running for a while before he died. Running and suddenly dying of a heart attack? But why was he running that early, and to the point that his heart couldn’t take it? Jack’s instinct told him something wasn’t right. He looked back at the old man’s face, which was frozen in a look of surprise.
“His lips aren’t blue, so it wasn’t his heart…” he said slowly, and the bad feeling began gathering momentum. “Something’s wrong. Look, Jack, look.”
Peering at the folds of the dark cloak, Jack finally realised what was bothering him. There were two barely visible holes in the cloth right around the dead man’s chest. Given how small they were, they might have been made by a safety pin, only they were about four centimetres apart. It was hard to imagine the kind of badge the grey-haired old man might have needed a pin that size for.
Jack called over a medic from the ambulance that had just arrived. After he pointed out the holes, the two of them gently pulled the cloak back from the dead man’s chest and moved his shirt aside. There were two swollen red marks the size of mosquito bites.
“What do we have here?” Jack said aloud to nobody in particular.“Looks like fresh needle marks,” the medic replied, deciding the question was directed at him. “Almost like someone injected him right in the heart. But that’s not something you do…”
“That’s for sure…” the detective replied thoughtfully as he gazed down at the unusual wounds. His first theories were taking form in his head. Meanwhile, the medic headed off for a stretcher. “Well, what kind of injections could you make through someone’s clothes? None. Somebody must have shot him with a poisoned dart or tranquilizer.”
After giving orders to have the cloth taken to the lab, Jack stood up and took a newly enlightened look around the area. If he was right that the man was murdered, it was certainly a strange murder. He had to get on the scent while it was still warm, and he could see the crowd breaking up out of the corner of his eye. The morning wasn’t worth spending around a stranger’s body. An experienced glance picked a middle-aged woman out of the crowd, and Jack led her off to the side with a firm but gentle hand on her arm.
“Detective Stone,” he said the same way he always did. “Ma’am, I’d like to ask you a few questions. You were here when it happened, right?”
“Honestly, I already told the sergeant everything…” The woman tried to pull free of the giant in the tank top, a concerned look tossed in the direction of the patrolman. Jack quickly pulled out his badge to head that problem off.
“This will only take a couple of minutes. Were you the first one to go over to the man on the ground?”
“Yes… I mean, no…” she said haltingly. Jack was still holding her by the arm, his grip equal parts tight and gentle. “When I went over, actually, a man was already trying to help him and—”
“Help him? How?”
“Well, he was massaging his heart and checking his pockets for medicine…”
“Checking his pockets for medicine,” Jack said thoughtfully as he let go of the woman’s arm and looked around. “Is he still here? Could you point him out for me?”
“Who? The man? Oh, no, that good Samaritan ran off right away to call the police and an ambulance! He said his phone was out of juice, so he needed to find a payphone. You know, not many young people these days are so sensitive and helpful, ready to help someone in trouble on the street…”
Jack’s bad feeling had become a certainty. He knew the patrol car had just happened by the crowd gathered around the dead man –nobody had called the police. He looked the woman dead in the eye.
“Yes, that very rarely happens. What did the ‘good Samaritan’ look like? Could you describe him? His face, his clothing, something he was carrying?”
“Well, he was tall, well-built, around forty… Wearing a regular jacket… Blonde…”
“Yes, he had light hair and clear, kind eyes…”
“Did anything else stand out? The way he walked or talked, a lisp, scars, maybe tattoos?” Jack was rattling off his usual list of cues in the hopes of finding the blonde man.
As the woman realised the situation wasn’t what she’d first taken it to be, she grew nervous.
“No, no, nothing like that…” She thought carefully, her expression speaking of her concentration. Suddenly, she brightened up and pointed at a spot between her right thumb and index finger. “He had a small tattoo on his hand, right here.”
“What did it look like?”
“Who even knows these days? The kids are all getting tattoos everywhere. I mean, this guy wasn’t exactly a kid, and it’s none of my business…”
“What did it look like?” Jack asked gently, forcing the woman back on track.
“Look like? Well, just some kind of cross, or actually two crossed sevens. Like the number seventy-seven, only the digits were crossed. Something about a game, probably…”
“Two crossed sevens? Are you sure?” Jack’s heart leaped and dropped suddenly.
“Completely. But I’ve been getting carried away. I need to go…”
The woman could see something strange was happening to the detective in the tank top. Taking a step back, she paused before taking another, finally pitter-pattering away from the giant as fast as she could.
The news about the two sevens had hit Jack like a bolt of lightning. He stood frozen, staring dumbly at a single point in space as he fought to maintain his composure. As the strong, unpleasant memories rushed over him, he squeezed his eyes shut as if trying to hide. His heart pounded. A high-pitched, concussion-like sound rang in his ears. Clutching his head, he struggled to free himself of the spell, and it was only a rough male voice that pulled him out of it.
“Jack, buddy, care to explain what you’re doing here and what right you have to question my witnesses?”
“What?” Stone opened his eyes slowly and looked over at Detective Morrison, whose eyes smoldered as he walked over.
“I’m the one asking you! What are you doing here at my crime scene, and what…”
Jack was no longer listening. Shoving the other officer aside, he quickly looked around for the blonde-haired man.
“Detective Stone, I want answers!” came the threatening roar from behind him. The patrolmen standing at the yellow tape took a few of steps away from the looming fight. Detective Morrison wasn’t the kind of person to repeat himself.
The light-haired Samaritan, as the woman had called him, was nowhere to be seen. The sun was climbing higher, and there were more people in the square with each passing moment. Jack’s temples continued to pound. Still, he’d regained control of himself, and he was working through the problem in his head, paying no attention to Morrison. A glance at the crooked alley that had dumped the old man into the square told him where to go. As he headed in that direction, his fellow officer yelled after him.
“Detective Stone! We’re not done here!”
Jack ploughed ahead, ignoring his angry colleague’s rude tone, and the patrolmen stepped aside to let him pass. He didn’t have the slightest doubt now that it was murder. And his job was to find where the old man had come running from fast enough to pick up the clues he needed to track down the stranger with the mysterious tattoo on his hand.
As he walked down the winding streets in the city’s historical district, Jack Stone tried to link the scene in the square with the memories that had come welling up to aggressively attack his consciousness. Had he made it all up? But there was going to be time to wonder about that later. He needed to focus on retracing the old man’s steps.
The street was deserted. Not a single shop was open that early. Walking up to an intersection, Jack stopped to decide where to go. He looked around and eventually headed up the street with the puddles leftover from the storm the night before. Computer-like, his brain was spitting out educated guesses. The dead man’s wet pants told Jack he’d run that way, while the grains of yellow sand on the soles of the worn leather shoes had come from the pile of construction waste left by a rubbish bin. It was the weekend. The bin wasn’t going anywhere until Monday.
Stepping over the large puddles, Jack shivered in the cold. The sun wasn’t going to peek over the buildings into the narrow street before eleven, and it was only 9:48am. His smartwatch was long since in the red zone –he’d completely forgotten to turn off his run, and his statistics were hopelessly ruined. Stopping, he turned the watch face to go through the menu settings and cancel workout mode. That was when an idea struck him.
“Watches!” From what he remembered of that street, some shops were selling expensive watches, furniture, and other antiques. “There’s an idea!”
Jack took a careful look around in search of security cameras. The shop owners liked to set up CCTV systems and finding one was going to make his job much easier. Unfortunately, he was out of luck on that part of the street, though his efforts were rewarded one street over.
Across from a flowerbed with pink violets, a monument to some poet, and three long benches, an antique book store had a camera right outside the door that was trained on the small square. The shelves were brightly lit despite the early hour, and Jack saw someone walk by carrying a stack of what looked like heavy books.
The detective pushed open the door and stepped inside. Behind him, a bell rang cheerily, informing the owner he had a visitor. A voice called over from the depths of the shop.
That much was obvious, but Jack made no move to leave. Standing still for a moment, he looked around to memorise the details of the space. The store was a large warehouse full of antiques, with leatherbound books lying everywhere but also plenty of shelves packed with statuettes, bronze sculptures, wooden Eharo masks, and all the other fineries one might expect in that kind of spot. Soon, a man with a goatee and horn-rimmed glasses with yellow lenses poked his head up from behind a display case. His long hair was pulled into a bun on the back of his head, and his wide eyes were gazing warily at the visitor. He looked part itinerant preacher, part vagrant hippie.
“I’m sorry, but we’re closed,” he said quietly from his spot behind the bookcase. With his body yet to come into view, his head looked to be floating by itself. “I must have forgotten to lock the door. Could you step outside? We’re in the middle of doing inventory.”
The head looked expectantly at the muscular man in the tank top with the cut on his forehead, and the wrapped left hand. For the second time that morning, Jack pulled his badge out of his pocket.
“I’m with the police. Detective Stone.”
“Is that how all of you dress now?” The head disappeared behind the case. There was a rustle of something moving around accompanied by an annoyed mutter.
“No, but we sometimes go undercover. In special cases,” Jack replied, for whatever reason lying to get out of explaining why he was dressed the way he was.
“I’m sorry, Officer… Stone,” the goateed head said as it reappeared. The body still didn’t care to follow it into view. “But like I told you, we’re closed. If you come back tomorrow, I can—”
“I need the recordings from the camera you have outside.” Jack tended to get straight to the point. The dust and antiques everywhere were weighing on him.
“The c-camera?” The goatee twitched as the sharp eyes bored into Jack. “But I don’t have cameras…”
“I’m talking about the one right outside the door.”
“Oh, that… It’s not real…” the man said as he finally stepped out from behind the case. He was holding a thick book with ancient leather binding. “It’s… just for show. It doesn’t record anything, isn’t even turned on –you know, just for insurance and to keep idiots from trying anything.”
The conversation and the ridiculous turn it had taken were getting on Jack’s nerves. He could tell when someone was lying to his face, so he pulled out his phone and held it up in front of the shop owner. On the screen, there was a picture of the man killed that morning. He was lying awkwardly on the pavement. Glassy eyes peered off at nothing in an expression of stunned surprise. When the shop owner’s face turned white, Jack knew the face was a familiar one.
“So, you know him? He was killed less than an hour ago, not far from here.”
“From… here?” the owner asked, his voice quivering.
“Yes. And I didn’t just happen to stop by your store. We have witnesses claiming he walked out of here an hour before he was murdered,” Jack said, having decided to press the point with a lie. “What’s your name, by the way?”
“My n-name? Moroni…” The man couldn’t cope with his emotions and was developing a stutter. The news had made a strong impression on him.
“Okay, Mr. Moroni. I have a lot on my plate, and I don’t like having my time wasted. If you’re not going to think a little harder, I’ll go ask my team to pull the recordings from the cameras in the jewelry store next to you. They’re not for show, unlike yours. And I’m sure they’ll show our victim walking out of your store. After that, you and I will continue this conversation, only we’ll be down at the station. Somehow, Mr. Moroni, I don’t think I’ll be questioning you as a witness at that point. Should I make the call?”
Jack closed the victim’s picture and began dialing a number. Once he was finished, he paused to lend credence to his words and looked expectantly at the shop owner.
Moroni winced as he went through his options in his head, finally waving an arm as if making his decision.
“Fine, screw it! I’ll tell you everything. What do you want to know?”