Tasos Kaloutsas: Why did you do it?

Tasos Kaloutsas

Why did you do it?

There are no witnesses now, to anything
George Seferis
(«Three Secret Poems»)

HELP! Help!

       The cry reached their ears in a pleading, almost heartbreaking scream. Undoubtedly, the one who uttered it was in great danger.

       «Help! Help!»

       The sound ripped the silence of the night. He looked askance at his watch: past three-thirty!

       His life-partner suddenly jumped out of bed and made for the window. She put down the blind.

       «What are you doing there?»

       «Ssh», she whispered to him. «Don’t move and don’t turn on the lights, either!»

       Her shaky voice betrayed her fear.

       There was a strip of grass in front of their win­dow; the railings of the yard and the street had been dark the last two days. The post lamps all around were out. She even remembered grumbling to him: «What the hell? Do they save on electricity? Such a resort…in darkness and they hope to attract tourists?»

       «Help! Help!»

       The voice was heard closer now.

       It was followed by heavy, scurrying footfalls along the street. Then complete silence fell. In the hall a dim light burned. The young woman stood quite still between the man, who was half sitting on his side of the bed, and the window as if she wanted to check his movements. Then she bent over the baby’s cradle, like a guardian angel, and listened to his breathing.

       «What are you afraid of…like he’s going to barge in here!»

       The woman, instead of an answer, covered the baby, who kept on sleeping calmly, with his small bedcover.

       When nothing more was heard, the man approached the window and put up the blind to its former position. Meanwhile he noticed that several lights were turned on —too late of course— in the condominium across the street.

       «So you were scared to death, weren’t you?” he asked her. “You even put the blind down…why did you do it?»

       He so much wanted to add that normally they all should have run to see if they could help in something, but he could see she was so disturbed that he did not dare to.

       «You mean you weren’t scared?» she responded incredulously.

* * *

A little way off, at the end of the square there was a small fountain. Each night a jet of water gushed out of its center in fluctuating intensity, scattering a kaleidoscope of luminous colors through the use of proper projectors. Different tourists, couples or families twittered merrily, taking pictures of themselves, against this scenic setting, standing by or sitting on the low stone wall of the pool. A few days before he, with his life-partner and their little one, had posed to be photographed. Today, since the ungodly hour of dawn, the dead body of a young man had been floating in the water with outstretched arms and face down.

       The first rumors went around that it had to do with someone involved in drug and contraband trafficking in the area and done in by a Rumanian belonging to the same gang. However, no necessary evidence had been found yet, nor the victim’s exact residence. Everybody talked of a sort of payback between scoundrels of the under­world, where, it is generally known, none is easily getting away when one is being targeted. Some argued that the man had been a victim of an unexpected nocturnal robbery; he might momentarily have gotten away from his killer’s claws and was chased and killed, in particular he was strangled. There were so many versions as those (with vivid imagination or not) who spread them. Some went even so far as to hint to a heinous sexual crime as the victim had been dazzlingly handsome. The local police had been faxing and emailing messages to all authorities in charge (both local and foreign), but what more could a police service be expected to do when it is understaffed and situated in the far end of this isolated tourist area?

       The crucial question that was originally asked was whether the incident finally concerned the person who had called for help the night before. There was no doubt about this; for there were many – neighbors and others – who though they had not seen either the killer or the victim, they had heard, however, (distantly as in a dream) their voices and their scuttle, and they could precisely determine the route they had moved along, through narrow and deserted alleys until they reached the fountain – their destination. Because of such detailed hearsay evidence, the possibility of a terrorist attack by a lonely wolf – since no relevant cry Allahu akbar! was heard – was excluded. To the perplexity exhibited by the police chief before the fact that there were no eye-witnesses (not even one! Only the ones that had heard the shout from a distance) who could have experienced the incident closely someone had given his own version:

       «I was about to get into the bathroom when I heard the shouts and thought of going out to see what was going on but then I was scared…» He added that once when he happened to encounter (or rather to come across) a person cut of the same mould as the one they were looking for, he saw him in the street brandishing a sharp, thirty centimeter long steel machete… The police officer assumed the man’s answer to be sincere, as he believed that what the man had felt – something like panic – could paralyze one’s right thinking and prevent one from taking action; therefore, he no longer pursued the matter.

* * *

In the same evening, at some moment, the man’s eyes opened by themselves in his sleep as if they had been scheduled to. He looked at his watch askance: past three- thirty in the morning!… He slowly got out of bed and approached to the half-closed window blind. Outside the street was dark again, since the post lamps were out; deafening silence.

       He swallowed nervously as if he was going all out for something and then funneling his palms around his mouth he shouted at the top of his voice:

       «Help! Help!»

       His partner was taken aback by panic.

       «What are you doing? Are you out of your mind?»

       She had at once bent over her baby’s cradle led by instinct; the child, startled in fright, began weeping in its sleep.

       The man stood in front of her, still and mystifying. The thought that he had probably managed to be heard by all made him laugh since that was what he exactly wanted: to disturb everybody by rousing them from their blissful slumber, to sense them again, even for a few moments – he thought maliciously – lurking behind the closed blinds of their homes, penned in their fear.

       He waited for the first lights to be turned on across the street and then went back to bed.

Source: From short stories collection Hypo to kratos tou tromou (Metai­chmio Publi­shers, Athens, 2018).

Tasos Kaloutsas (Born in Thessaloniki, 1948). Short Story. He studied at the Philosophy Faculty of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki and taught in secondary schools.  He made his debut in the literary circles in 1983 with a short story in the magazine Diagonios. His first book The Plum and Other Stories, a collection of short stories, was published by Diagonios Publishers, Thessaloniki, 1987. Hypo to kratos tou tromou (Metaichmio Publishers, Athens, 2018) is the most recent.


Vassilis Militsis (1947). He attended secondary education in Greece and from 1963 to 1965 continued his studies at Apopka High School, Florida, USA. In 1973 he graduated from The University of Thessaloniki, Greece, with a B.A. degree in English. He taught at state Greek schools, both in Greece and Germany. He retired in 2010. He has a good command of German, Italian and French. He and Mr. Wolfgang Reumuth are the authors of the Praktische Grammatik der neugriechischen Sprache, for foreigners.

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