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Short Stories


By August 15, 2022No Comments


I didn’t hear the first two shots, just saw splinters of concrete fly off the wall and sparks dance of the steel door frame. We both dived towards the trash skip, unholstered our guns, looked around. The attack could have come from anywhere, a parked car, a window in one of the buildings opposite, even a gunman on foot and already halfway round the corner to the safety of his waiting car.

‘See anyone?’


I looked up at the blank eyes of the tower blocks opposite. Nothing to give us a clue about the shooter, nothing to suggest it had anything to do with the case we were investigating. Alamedin may not be a gangster ghetto, but there are still lots of residents with no love for the police, and always on the lookout for ways of showing it.

I knew we were sitting targets for anyone with a rifle and a decent set of sights. We were pinned down, but at least there seemed to have been only one gunman. I looked down, saw my hands were trembling. Maybe I’d lost more than a fingertip and a spleen. When you get that close to death, you realise more than ever before just how final the last curtain is when it drops.


‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘But the shooter is probably halfway to Victory Square by now.’

Saltanat looked across at me. As always, she was calm, unruffled, and I looked as if I’d rolled around in rotting trash and fallen leaves.

‘It’s your town,’ she said, ‘But I think it’s safe to go back to the car. But maybe not hand in hand, unless you feel like making us an easy target.’

I nodded agreement, stood up, did that curious crouching half-run you do when someone’s just tried to kill you. I unlocked the car, drove fast back along the path to where Saltanat was waiting. I scraped the car wing as we turned the corner of the building, but I didn’t care. After all, it wasn’t my car.

I kept my foot to the metal until we reached the relative safety of the main road that led up to Chui Prospekt, the tower blocks an image in the rear view mirror. I swerved to avoid a van, pulled over to the wrong side of the road, jumped out and emptied my stomach in a series of long shuddering spasms.

Saltanat got out of the car, shielded me from any inquisitive eyes, gun hanging discreetly by her side, finger on the trigger. I didn’t have to look to know the safety catch was off.

It was only when there was nothing left for me to vomit up and my throat felt raw and burnt that I noticed the splashes of blood on my shirt. I wondered if I’d torn my stitches, split and reopened the wound. Saltanat must have seen the sudden worry on my face, because she pointed to the left side of my temple. My fingers came away bloody and I realised I must have been cut by a fragment of flying concrete or a brick splinter.

With the wounds I was wearing like some insane medals, I could only move at half-speed, probably think even slower. At my best, Saltanat was far deadlier than me. In my condition, I was the liability that might get her killed.

‘We should split up,’ I said, ‘You stand a much better chance without me.’


‘Of not getting gunned down,’ I said

For the first time since I’d known her, Saltanat showed the death of anger I’d always suspected, but she’d kept hidden.

‘Do you have to be an idiot all the time?’ she snarled.

Hormones, I thought, probably because of the baby. But I didn’t share my guess. I may be an idiot but I’m not suicidal.

‘I’m not leaving,’ she said, ‘For two reasons.’

‘Which are?’

‘I’m here to avenge my uncle and his family. Unconditional. And terminal.’

‘And the other reason?’

‘If I let you get killed, who’s going to change the nappies?’

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