Arum took a deep breath of the mountain air. In the east the sky was lightening and the snowy peaks had taken on a faint glow. It would be dawn in less than an hour. From across the valley came the eerie howl of a jackal. He remained still, allowing his heart rate to slow. His slight build masked a sinewy strength, yet his eyes were what people remembered, dark and intense. After a moment he pushed his cap to the back of his head and lit a cigarette.
Unscrewing the silencer from his old Walther, he gazed down at the body of Comrade Surya. He was beside a bamboo thicket near the tiny ridge-top village of Risal in the central west of Nepal, and killing the squad leader had been easier than he’d expected.
Surya’s face was a bloody mess. The bullet had come out through his left eye, leaving a mass of torn flesh, bone fragments and oozing brain tissue.
Arum grimaced, drew deep on the cigarette. He hadn’t shot anyone so close before. But he had no regrets. Comrade Surya had become a liability, suspecting that Arum might not be who he’d claimed. In the group they knew Arum as Comrade Ram, and Surya had begun to mistrust him, begun to doubt that revolution was his real goal.