Skip to main content
Short Stories


By September 26, 2022One Comment


The only person I ever meet face to face is the boss. It’s one of my strictest rules. Talk to the top man or don’t talk at all. When you’re dealing with a boss, a pakhan, there’s no one above him that he can sell you out to, no one who’ll pass on a thick wad with pictures of US presidents in exchange for your name and contact details. The boss is loyal to you, because there’s one-one around to pay him to be otherwise.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll always be loyal. Maybe you fuck up and earn his displeasure. Maybe he worries you know too much, or you might be sawing at the legs of his throne. Perhaps he thinks you can be bought, for cash or drugs or sex. After all, he’s either bought everyone else who works for him, or he thinks that a higher bidder will come along one day.

Not me. It’s not like I’ve sworn an oath, cut my finger with a knife, and sworn a blood oath spat on a statue of the Virgin Mary, or burnt a pack of cards; none of that bollocks. It’s just good business sense, that’s all. Learn who holds the power, make sure you never let them down, earn their trust, take their dollars. Help keep them in their place, and you’re on the winning side. But always remember, money isn’t everything. You can’t spend it if they send a hit squad to punish your disloyalty. That’s why you always have an escape route planned.

I wasn’t worried when the boss summoned me. The mobile rang and woke me up from a dream about a beach house in Phuket, waves lapping at my feet. I knew it was the boss: only he has my number, and I’ve made sure it’s unlisted, unavailable, untraceable. Again, it’s a case of trust no-one, cut out the middle man. I said I’d be over right away, got dressed, caught a late-night taxi cruising for work, walked the last half kilometre. I could feel the nine pressing into the small of my back. I’m always cautious. Not so much a routine, more a precaution. The only tracks I ever leave are the ones I make in snow, and even then, only when I know there’s another storm on the way to obliterate my path.

The boss wasn’t pleased; I’d expected that. When he gives you an order, he wants to see bodies at the end of the day, and that hadn’t happened. I knew better than to give excuses; the flurries of snow, only a couple of seconds to sight on the targets, the worry about being spotted from the apartments all around. He doesn’t give a shit about that, and if I were the one handing over the orders and the money, neither would I.

‘You fucked up. A simple enough job, surely? So what went wrong?’

I shrugged. Another rule; if they think you’re scared, intimidated, they know you’re theirs, and they’ll give the big stick to you twice as hard.

‘I had the shot, they moved fast, I missed. It’s not like blowing the head off some soft-bellied businessman in a car park. They’re professionals, same as me. Harder to find, harder to kill.’

‘You were Spetznaz; they didn’t tolerate mistakes and neither do I.’

You’d be amazed how many people know they could have done a wet job better than you. Why don’t they save the money and do it themselves?

Because deep down, where they wouldn’t admit it to anyone except themselves in the darkest night, they don’t have the balls. 

Because that’s what it takes to squeeze a trigger, or cut with a knife, or strangle with a cord, and wipe out a life in the time it takes to unzip and have a piss.

‘The Spretznaz? They would have worked out a proper strategy, worked the angles, given me a backup crew, covered the exit routes, made sure everything was in place. You gave me an hour, no team, not even a sniper rifle. That’s what went wrong. You wanted them dead but miracles take longer than that.’

I walked over to the bar, poured a couple of vodkas, put the larger one in front of him. He scowled, grunted, threw it back. Always spot a weakness, use it. Another of my handy little rules. I poured him another, put my glass to my lips, put it down untasted.

‘You made it amateur hour, not me,’ I said, ‘So it’s three in the morning and you send for me. Tell me.’

The boss likes to surround himself with stuff. Nothing wrong with that. But everything has to scream ‘look how much money, how much power I have’. Family photos lined up on a credenza? Sure. But ornate gold frames that say wealth and no taste? A desk carved out of rare African hardwoods that cost the average Kyrgyz their lifetime wages? Dyed-blonde girlfriends who think themselves better than other women because their pussies have been trimmed and sculpted by Moscow’s best surgeons?

  You have to be very insecure to need to shout that loud. And if all that shouting doesn’t impress, you have to get serious. And that’s why I was there.

‘Nothing’s changed,’ he said, ‘They still have to go at the end of the day. And go down hard, make an example, show what happens when you fuck me about. The money is still there for a successful hit, same as we agreed. No half-price for second chances. On top of your wages.’

I nodded; no point in disagreeing, is there?

‘One more thing. I’ve added a target to your list. And this one should be a piece of piss for you. Any easier and you’d have to pay me.’

I wasn’t happy about more work for no more money. Did the boss think I didn’t have expenses, that I lived a spartan existence on bread and cheese? I stored the thought at the back of my head, looked around, gave the room the hard eye.

Don’t get me wrong; as far as I’m concerned, you can spend your money how you like, impress everyone with your wealth and taste and sophistication. Me, I’m ready to walk away with thirty seconds notice, blend into the crowd, wear a new mask to replace the one I’ve got. Where will I go? Well, that’s for me to know and no-one else to find out.

#tomcallaghanwriter #writer #akylborubaev #akillingwinter #aspringbetrayal #asummerrevenge #anautumnhunting #amorningresurrection #bishkekmurdersquad #inspectorakylborubaev #crimewriter #crimenovelist #thrillerwriter #thrillernovelist #kyrgyzstan #crimebooks #thrillerbooks #booksinstagram #bookreviews #bookreader #crimeauthor #thrillerauthor