Twelve thirty pm. Rozman was transported by three guards and a trained Alsatian towards the recreational centre. There he was joined by Aleksandr Zolnerovich, a man with the blood of two people on his hands and their taste in his mouth. Or at least that would have been the case, had Aleksandr not been missing his tongue.
Rozman and the cannibal had slowly gravitated towards each other. They walked up and down the concrete bunker together and over the years had exchanged a total of five sentences. Aleksandr’s words were slurred due to the missing organ but Rozman almost preferred it that way. Not only were words a superfluous factor when it came to his relationships, but Aleksandr’s tattoos told Rozman all he needed to know. Each mark of ink was a portrait of struggle against the canvas of the underground criminal networks.
Most of the inmates had been in and out of prison their entire lives and accumulated tattoos like badges. Judging by the different styles of ink on his skin, Rozman deduced that Aleksandr had been inside at least five different prisons. The tattoos varied from delicate cursive fonts, to colourful sleeves to one large piece of artwork that covered his entire back. The raven upon Aleksandr’s index finger was evidence of gang membership. The kypr, to be exact. Yet the raven had been badly tattooed over with the Bratva mafia insignia, suggesting an attempt to switch gangs – likely the reason for the missing tongue. By far Rozman’s favourite, and the one that sealed the deal on their tacit friendship, was the thick black writing across Aleksandr’s ribs:
Алты́нного во́ра ве́шают, а полти́нного че́ствуют.
Little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape. It reminded Rozman of a story his mother used to read him. He remembered sitting by the fire in their dacha, his dinner growing colder as he listened in rapture whilst his mother spun a tale about two thieves. One thief stole an altyn and the other fifty kopecks. The first was hung but the latter was praised and escaped with his fortune.