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Short Stories


By December 5, 2022No Comments


I was parked across the road from the lawyer’s office when Borubaev emerged, holding the handrail as he made his way down the steps. Even from a distance, it was obvious his wounds were still a problem, probably always would be. You don’t recover completely from being shot, no matter what the movies tell you. Tear away flesh and muscle and bone and the body’s mechanism is compromised, like an engine whose parts are worn out or beginning to fail And even when the physical wounds heal, there’s always death’s shadow glimpsed out of the corner of your eyes, waiting. A tap on your shoulder, a collision with a stranger on a busy street, a car exhaust backfiring; they all remind you how terrified you were and of what the future has in store.

 Borubaev was wearing a black glove on his right hand, hiding the absence of a finger, his other hand pressed against his side. It would have been an easy shot with a quick escape, but those weren’t my instructions. The boss told me, make it nice and slow, dripping with pain and fear, make him want to die before you kill him. The boss isn’t what you might call a forgiving man.

And as always, I was doing my best to please him.

Halfway down, Borubaev stumbled, held on to the handrail to keep his balance. I wondered how he would manage once the winter arrived in earnest, and the broken pavements were sheathed in ice and snow. Not that he was going to live that long, of course.

He stood by the road for a couple of minutes, collar pulled up against a biting wind, smoking that cheap brand he favours. I’ve never understood when your work involves death, very possibly yours, why you’d skimp on the small pleasures of life. After all, people rarely get buried with a full wallet. 

A taxi lurched to a halt in front of Borubaev, one of Bishkek’s beat-up semi-wrecks with a blanket spread over the back seat to hide the stains and a roadmap of filler on the bodywork. I didn’t have to hear it to know the driver would be listening to some mindless Korean pop, wouldn’t take kindly to being asked to turn it off. Don’t expect much from a Kyrgyz taxi driver and you won’t be disappointed.

I watched as the taxi shuddered and shook like a horse in pain, farted out several guata of black smoke, headed off down Sovetskaya. I didn’t need to follow it; I could always pick up Borubaev at his apartment. He wasn’t difficult to find and I wasn’t in any hurry. After all, he’d be looking for his girlfriend, and I could spread a trail he could follow, breadcrumbs leading to the witch’s cottage.

I waited until the taxi was out of sight, locked the car door and walked across the road to Guliya Sabirova’s office, dodging the traffic. Dead leaves were piled up in heaps beside the pavement, and muddy water trickled down the roadside gutters. The air tasted cold but clean, the way it does when winter starts to prepare a state visit. I felt good, energised and strong, as if the chill in the air had given me new purpose.

I wondered how the bitch was, chained to a radiator back at the house, bottle of water to hand, bread and cheese on a plate by her side. No one could say I’m a cruel person. I don’t believe in torture for its own sake, only when it’s absolutely unavoidable. Until then, you keep your prisoner as comfortable as possible, circumstances permitting.

My boots echoed on the marble floor of the building hallway as I strode towards the lifts. I liked the sound, ominous, menacing.

It was time to twist the knife a little more.