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Short Stories


By September 5, 2022No Comments


‘What the fuck you mean, you missed them? And then lost them?’

I did my best to look sorrowful, repentant.

‘It wasn’t an easy shot. Snowing, and no knowing which one of them would come out the building first.’

Excuses never go down easy with the boss. They might be true, but, as he says, ‘They’re no excuse.’

‘Next you’ll tell me you deserve to keep the money,’ he snarled, jabbing a thick forefinger at my face, ‘It’ll be ten times harder now you’ve warned them. And if they split up, you’ll never know whether you’ve trapped them or they’ve trapped you.’

I raised a hand, trying to placate him. Wrong move.

‘I want to know what they know.’

I frowned.

‘With all respect, boss, I don’t think we’ll have the luxury of playing Question Time with them.’

The boss sighed; his face turning a stroke-signalling brick-red.

‘Ten thousand dollars? You’re not worth ten thousand som. Think.’

I nodded.

‘You think I should go question Omurbek?’

‘You know anyone else they’ve talked to?’


‘Then yes, pay the cripple a social call.’

‘He won’t let me through the door, boss. Steel, so it’s not like I can break it down. And he’ll have an arsenal bigger than the army waiting for unwelcome visitors. Retired cops always do.’

‘Use your imagination. If you have any.’

My fists behind my back clenched. The boss may be the man in charge, but that doesn’t mean I have to eat shit for ever. Not even if it’s well-paying shit.

I parked around the corner from Omurbek’s building. The car I’d stolen to get here slithered and skipped on tyres balder than a working girl’s pizda, but I didn’t want to use my own vehicle. Too many eyes and noses pressed against windows. Anyone who saw me would think I was delivering groceries. A carton of milk, a bottle of vodka, lepeshka flat bread. An old friend, a good neighbour perhaps.

I was leaving footprints in the freshly fallen snow, but by nightfall, enough would have fallen to cover my trail. The cold wind stung my face. It was time.

I climbed the stairs up to Omurbek’s apartment, using my mobile phone to light the way. Why is it people have to piss in stairwells? When I reached his door, I made the call, waited until his mobile kicked in.

‘Fuck you want?’

‘What way is that to greet an old friend?’

‘No friend of mine, gopnik.’

‘You don’t call me trash when I deliver your vodka money to piss away.’

A pause. I knew he’d be armed, but it takes a lot more firepower than a handgun to carve a hole through a steel door.

‘You want this or not?’ I asked, sounding weary, ‘It’s not like I enjoy wading through piss to pay for your silence.’

‘I said, what do you want?’ 

Uncertain now, wondering if the money was coming to an end, if it was going to be samogon from now on.

‘Not what I want, it’s what did Borubaev and his tart want? Surely not a reunion for old times’ sake?’

‘Their business.’

‘No, cripple, the boss’s business. So tell.’

No answer.

I uncapped the milk carton, started to pour it under the door. The tang of gasoline went a long way to masking the scent of urine.

‘Fuck you doing?’

‘Giving you an incentive.’

I tore the bread into small pieces, dipped them in the gas, pressed them against the base of the door.

‘I know it’s a long time since you were in a car, but you’ll remember the smell, I’m sure.’

Omurbek’s a tough bastard. You have to be if you want to be a cop. Even tougher if you’re an ex-cop who can’t walk. He wouldn’t scare easy.

‘You’re going to drop a match? Fine. I’m sick of the view here anyway.’

His voice, nearer the door now. I opened the vodka, took a medicinal swallow, winced as it went down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like Sapar or Farid. Killing someone bothers me. But there are times when there are no other choices.

‘I don’t have any matches, Omurbek,’ I said, ‘Just a rather fancy lighter, ex-army, like a Zippo, reliable in all conditions. Listen hard and you can probably hear it spark.’

It’s the gas fumes that ignite, so I obviously wasn’t going to test the lighter. Not yet.

‘They were asking about the Uzbek that had his head blown off,’ Omurbek said. Maybe he was getting soft.

‘Did you tell them about our connection?’

‘What do you think?’

Voice scornful, dismissive.

‘OK, all I needed to know. So now we’re pals again. You want to open the door, collect your wages?’

No answer. I rapped knuckles against steel, staggered back as a shotgun blast smashed against the other side of the door.

‘Sorry you feel like that,’ I said, my voice far away, half-drowned by the ringing in my ears.

I poured the vodka over the bread. The incentive I’d talked about. The bread was going to be toast, and so was Omurbek.

I’d lied about the matches, I struck one, dropped it onto the vodka-soaked bread, which quickly caught. I poured the rest of the vodka onto the surface of the door, watching it trickle down and catch alight. The milk carton with the rest of the gasoline joined it.

I walked back down the stairs, not running, but not dawdling either. No point in drawing attention to oneself.

Omurbek hadn’t left his apartment for years; soon he’d be leaving it for good. I looked up at his window, wondered if the interior had caught alight yet, walked away.

I’m not a sadist. I don’t like to watch people suffer. I just do what has to be done. To me, there’s no pleasure in hearing people scream, no joy in seeing brains splash against wallpaper. And I particularly dislike the smell of roasting flesh.

Probably why I don’t eat pork.

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