Knacker was woken at half-past three in the morning by a persistent sound like metal scraping.
It was coming from somewhere beneath the roof. He tried in vain to get back to sleep. This had been happening to him for several years – here on Vystrk Street, at home and elsewhere. This year on the Canary Islands, for instance, he’d hardly slept at all the whole week. He loved the Canaries, and he flew out there two or three times a year. Among all the German retirees he didn’t consider himself that old; he was even happy to dance. So that he’d have someone to go with, he’d phone up a woman. Get ready to go, he’d announce. She’d scream with joy. Sometimes he’d even let her bring a child along. But still he couldn’t sleep. While the woman and child were miles away in the Land of Nod, he’d be sitting on the balcony watching the roundabout below the hotel, concentrated on the cars that passed around it more than twice. It wasn’t much better during the day. His nerves were in a pretty bad state. When a local policeman on a quad bike came speeding across the sand dunes towards him, it nearly gave him a heart attack. All the other holidaymakers waved and smiled at the policeman. This was the difference between Knacker and other people.
It wasn’t even dawn yet. He gazed into the dark of the room, then stood up and switched on the lamp. As always, the lamp flickered: in summer the electricity supply was patchy throughout the complex. He washed, then left the villa through its front door. Low waves rippled on the black surface of the Orlík reservoir. He’d loved it here for as long as he could remember, and besides, it was close to Pøíbram. He had a good look around. At last he found it – the wind was toying with the guttering where it had worked itself free. Once upon a time things got repaired around here, Knacker told himself. These days such work doesn’t get done. There was a light on in the Chemist’s villa, too. How strange the times that keep everyone awake! But it’s hardly surprising, you can’t rely on anything these days, you can’t trust anyone. The boss coughs up for a league result and still the opposition wins because someone else passed the referee a bigger sum. What’s more, the ref simply gets away with it. What is this place? One day they call you brother, the next they bump you off. That’s the way things are, Knacker told himself. Nothing is as it used to be. A veritable jungle. Anyone with ten million considers himself a tiger, no questions asked. Then there were the Russians, Chechens, Armenians, Croatians and all the other foreigners who had changed the ground rules. In this regard, Knacker had always been a patriot.
He tightened the rubber ties on the tarpaulin over the Rolls-Royce. The cars of the dead always made Knacker sentimental. Five-seventy HP, nought to a hundred km/h in less than five seconds – but what good is that to you if you’re dead, he said to himself. Like the previous owner of this car. Everything is relative. In the whole of his life Knacker had killed seven people, which in the crime world (he called it the ‘half-world’) had earned him exceptional prestige. In the ordinary world it rendered him automatically a murderous monster. Of course Knacker had no truck with such journalist’s nonsense, although there were times when he experienced an irritated desire (which naturally went unfulfilled) to explain to all those in the normal world that he was not an ogre, that he was just a man like everyone else. He was like a writer who was reviewed and acclaimed by the experts but went unread by ordinary people.
Knacker went back into the villa and made himself some tea. He’d been through all kinds in his life and took most things stoically; it was the trivial stuff that upset him. Like these little arrows on the biscuit packet, which APPARENTLY pointed to the place where SUPPOSEDLY the packet could be opened, although the human eye could tell you that there was NO SUCH PLACE. NO SUCH PLACE. No perforation or that little string that you pulled and the packet gaped. NOTHING! Ras tried in vain to get at the biscuits with a fingernail. Who made these things? His movements quickened. In the end he tried to rip into the packet with his teeth, but even this was a failure. What kind of packaging can’t be opened by a man six foot six inches tall?
“Fuck!” he yelled.
He hurled the packet to the floor, pulled his Colt Defender from under the pillow, trained the gun on the biscuits and emptied all eight barrels into them. His ears were ringing but at least he could no longer hear that damn guttering. He was gasping for breath. In the neighbouring villas the windows lit up one by one, but otherwise nothing happened. It seemed that shooting in the early morning was OK. But if someone were to shoot at him, no help would be forthcoming, Knacker realized bitterly.