Short Stories


By October 24, 2022No Comments


It’s always a pain in the arse if you end up having to take prisoners and keep them in reasonable shape, unharmed apart from a few cuts and bruises, that is. Ask anyone who’s ever fought in a war. Get lumbered with a prisoner, even worse, one who’s wounded but not about to die, decide whether to just get rid of the burden with a bullet.
In Syria, when I was given the job of pushing back the rebel front line, I’d line the prisoners up with a few reassuring words, tell them in broken Arabic to calm down, that no-one was going to hurt them. Then I just pressed my hands against my face, gave them the ‘omin’ face-washing gesture we use to give thanks at the end of a meal, blew their brains out. I never used humiliation, violence, torture. It’s about respect, see? Giving them a bit of dignity, perhaps even a little hope, then a quick and relatively painless death. Easier for everyone in the long run. Especially me.
The bitch had seen me walking across the car park; in fact, I’d gone to some trouble to make sure she noticed me. I’d jotted down a few car number plates on my way to her, doing my best to look like a low-grade civil servant making a routine traffic check.
I was pretty sure she didn’t suspect anything when I reached her, but I knew enough about her reputation to make sure the Glock on my pocket was ready for trouble.
There’s a sense of excitement, anticipation, when you’re about to make a snatch. I’ve been told it’s sexual for some people, but it’s never been that way with me. To be honest, I prefer to stay detached from emotional mess and involvement. In this trade, you need to stay sharp, focused, objective. Distraction can get you killed, and I’ve a lot more living to do before they slide me underground.
I tapped on her window with my pencil, smiled, made the universal ‘wind down your window’ circle with my hand. I’m certain the uniform must have reassured her; if I ever meet the man I’d stolen it from, I’ll be sure to thank him.
‘There’s a problem parking here?’ she asked. Uzbek accent, but refined, obviously educated. I’d expected something harsher, guttural, but it didn’t make any difference to me. I could smell the perfume she was wearing, something subtle, lemon-fresh, elegant. I’m not an expert but I admire restraint in a woman.
‘I just need you to fill out a form,’ I said, reaching into my pocket, apologetic smile on my face, ‘A questionnaire about parking problems here in the centre.’
The pepper spray took her by surprise, but credit where it’s due, even as she was rubbing her eyes with her left hand, she was lashing out with her right. Came close to hitting me as well. Another blast in her face let me return the punch, the only difference being I connected.
She was dazed for long enough for me to open the door, put the plastic ties on her wrists, slap the chloroform pad across her mouth. You have to be careful with that stuff, no point in killing the person you want to question, but I’ve used it a few times now, know how to time it just right.
Everything seems brighter at that instant, as if someone turned up the voltage of the sun. Tree branches seem blacker, stark against the sky, city noises echo and dance in your ears, blood pulses through you like a fountain that’s suddenly been turned to full. Perhaps it’s a strange sort of pleasure, an odd route to satisfaction, but it works for me.
I walked over to my van – never run, you stand out like a one-legged trapeze artist – and climbed in. Parking next to her took less than a minute, and I had her bundled into the back in seconds, even as she started to come round.
I wondered about shutting her car door, decided to leave it open. Maybe some gopnik would take it for a non-returnable test drive. And if her boyfriend came back and found the door open, well, a little anxiety on his part could only help me.
I pulled out onto Kiev, turned left, headed towards Tungush. Everything was going exactly as I’d planned it.

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