The Lowlifes: Enforcers [crime fiction; mature content]


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    The Lowlifes: Enforcers [crime fiction; mature content]

    A new chapter of my latest project, The Lowlifes: Enforcers continue feature the two protagonists of the original story, The Lowlifes. Set in the bleak and violent post-Soviet Latvia of the early '90s, two young aspiring mob enforcers must prove themselves in the ruthless world of organized crime and betray their deepest-held principles when a routine job doesn't go exactly as planned.

    As with the majority of my works, the story features plentiful violence, substance abuse, profanity and other 18+ content. Don't say you weren't warned!





    "You godless bastards! You filthy godless whoresons! I swear I'll kill you as soon as...!"


    Mr. Novik's angry tirade is cut short as the rag covers his face again. Phil and Kolgan are hold him down on the kitchen table as he begins to struggle, while Mickey Mouse starts to pour water on his covered face for the third time.


    Meet Mikhail Taraschenko, AKA Mickey Mouse. A murderer, sadist and sociopath by all accounts, he is the chief enforcer of our boss Mr. Kalva, the latter more commonly known by his underworld handle Gnat. Don't ask me how this guy came to be nicknamed after Walt Disney's most iconic character, I have no clue. One of Mr. Kalva's main rackets is "roofing" - collecting protection money from businesses and profitable real estates. Most of the time, the owners pay on time and without complaint. Mickey Mouse and his debt collection crew sees to it that they do, and that any who can't or won't are given proper incentive to rethink their position.


    "Listen to me, and listen carefully, Mr. Novik," Mickey Mouse speaks, his gravelly, grating voice being anything but like his namesake, "One way or another, you will pay up what you owe us. Why don't you make this easy on yourself and your missus there, and just tell us where you keep the money? We know you have more than enough."


    My hands shake nervously as I light up a smoke. In the adjacent room, Mrs. Novik is screaming, begging and sobbing hysterically as Olar and Stas are having their way with her.
    "Fuck you!" Mr. Novik spits a mouthful of water along with an insult in Mickey's face when he removes the rag to hear his answer. Before he can embark on another rant, Mickey stuffs the rag back in his mouth.


    "Can you believe this shit?!" he curses, wiping his eyes clean, "This cheap asshole will rather let us break his every bone and gangbang his wife than just pay up what's owed! I'm almost starting to think you're enjoying this, Mr. Novik!"


    This was supposed to be an easy job. Go in, rough the guy up a little, throw a few threats towards his family. Usually most folks break as soon as you show them a baseball bat and threaten to break their knees with it. Mr. Novik, a second-hand car dealer by profession, has defeated all expectations, refusing to pay even after two hours of beating, a hammer to his fingers, three sessions of waterboarding and having his wife stripped naked and left at the mercy of two horny brutes with five rape convictions between the two of them among other violent crimes.


    "Found it!" I hear my buddy Āris shout upstairs. Moments later, he comes downstairs. Even though his face is covered by a ski mask like the rest of ours, it is clear that the events of the past 30 minutes have made him visibly distraught.


    "I found it," he repeats to Mickey, "I found his safe. It's behind the bookshelf in their bedroom."


    "Good," Mickey Mouse nods and turns back to Mr. Novik, "Wasn't that hard, was it? You could've saved your old lady all that pain and humiliation. What's the combination?"


    "I'm not telling you shit, asshole!" Mr. Novik spits as he wheezes for air after another waterboarding session. I can see Mickey's cheek twitch in anger and frustration, but he keeps his usual cool composure.


    "You are one stubborn son of a bitch, I'll give you that. But that's not gonna keep you from paying your debts. You!" he points at me, "Tell the lads to quit frolicking and bring in the wife!"


    "Uh... On it!" I nod and hastily go to the adjacent living room. Out of all the unsavoury characters I've had the questionable pleasure of ever meeting, Mickey is clearly the one who terrifies me the most, so I honestly admire Mr. Novik for being able to hold up against him for this long.


    The living room is smashed up, the result of our earlier struggle with Mr. and Mrs. Novik during the initial break-in and our following search for valuables. The floor is littered with broken glassware and pottery, scattered books and feathers from pillows and bedcushions slit open in search for hidden treasures. The first thing that catches notice is Olar's bare ass vigorously thrusting between Mrs. Novik's spread legs. Stas in the meanwhile is pinning her hands to the ground by kneeling on them, struggling to zip up his pants with one hand while holding a Makarov pistol in Mrs. Novik's mouth with the other.


    "Mick wants her in the kitchen!" I curtly inform these two. The glee with which this pair of degenerates indulge in raping and tormenting their victim frankly disgusts me. That kind of people score few popularity points even with their fellow criminals - I've heard that Olar only avoided being turned out for his sex crimes during his last stint in the slammer because of powerful friends, namely Gnat.


    "Whaff de fuck do you mean?!" Olar protests, speaking with a heavy lisp because of his missing front teeth, "I'm not finiffed yet!"


    "Go and tell that to Mick then," I shrug. Guys like Mickey Mouse don't make a habit of asking twice, something these two should know.


    "Fuck!" Olar spits angrily, getting off of sobbing Mrs. Novik and pulling up his pants, "Fill be fere in a moment!"


    I return to the kitchen, where Mickey and the others have in the meanwhile tied Mr. Novik down to a chair and set another in front of him, evidently meant for his wife. I find Mickey lighting the gas stove before he proceeds to fill the teapot at the sink. My heart starts racing even faster and I feel the hair along my spine rise on one end, as it is pretty obvious Mick doesn't intend to just make some coffee while he takes a break from torturing Mr. Novik.


    "Uh, can we go have a smoke, boss?" I ask him nervously, even as I still hold an unfinished cigarette in my fingers, "I think we could... uh... use some fresh air!"


    Mickey Mouse stares at me and Āris with his ice-cold inhuman glare for what seems to be like ages. This is what a rabbit must feel like in front of a cobra.


    "Alright, get on with it!" he finally dismisses us, "Just don't stand out on the porch where someone can see you from the street!"


    With much relief, the two of us almost burst outside. Appointment to the collection crew was supposed to be a promotion, but after the past couple hours, I'm seriously beginning to want my old errand boy job back.


    ---


    "This job's gone to complete shit," I remark, nervously lighting up another cig as soon as the two of us are outside and beyond earshot of Mickey and the others, "Roughing up some uncooperative shopkeepers or trashing their places is one thing, but this..."


    "You getting cold feet already, mate?" Āris exclaims, trying to sound brash but evidently being just as terrified as I am.


    "Shit, man..." I grumble, taking a deep draft, "I knew we were in for some bad shit when we took this job, but this... this is just fucked up!"


    "Yeah," Āris agrees, "We're in the deep end now, Janek. But whatever you do, don't let Mick think for a second you're about to chicken out. Remember, we're both on probation here, so it's my ass on the line as well. If Mick thinks either of us can't cut it, the boss is gonna cut us both loose, and I think you know what that means."


    Mrs. Novik's screams and her husband's swearing from the inside interrupts us. We can barely hear them outside, so there's no risk any neighbors or someone out on the street might hear and call the cops. We put out our cigs and head inside to see the cause of this new commotion.


    We find a naked Mrs. Novik seated in the chair, held firmly in place by Olar and Stas. Already sporting a black eye, bloody nose and bruises all over her body, she cringes and struggles as Olar licks her cheek with a perverse grin while he runs a knife up and down between her breasts. Mr. Novik in the meanwhile struggles and berates the bejesus out of his wife's tormentors even as Phil keeps him down in a chokehold. Mrs. Novik's right hand is bleeding, Mickey Mouse having just made a circular cut around her wrist.

    "Husband, I beg of you - just tell them what they want!" Mrs. Novik sobs, "Think of the children!"


    "I AM thinking of the children! That money is for putting them through university!" Mr. Novik barks defiantly, "If we give in to these vermin, they'll just come back again and again for more!"


    "Be smart, Mr. Novik," Mickey Mouse encourages him, "Listen to your wife!"


    "Fuck you! Even if I gave you what you want, you'll just kill us anyway!" he spits back. I can't help but wonder how greedy or cheap must a man be to endure, and make his wife endure all this abuse over a few thousand lats. It's big money, more than a worker makes in several years, but is it really worth suffering for like that? Apparently to some it is.


    The teapot on the stove starts whistling, indicating the water is almost ready.


    "Let me ask you, Mr. Novik," Mickey Mouse begins in a casual, almost friendly tone, "What is your inspiration?"


    "The fuck do you care?!" Mr. Novik snarls, visibly confused at the sudden change of the topic.


    "I'm just asking you what inspires you," Mick explains, "Every man must have something that drives and inspires him. I'm sure you do as well - only a very driven and determined man could have lasted this long under duress, after all. My guess would be that it's your family that inspires you. For that, I respect you."


    Mr. Novik says nothing, merely giving Mickey a hostile glare, so he continues.


    "Me, on the other hand... Well, as you can probably imagine, I'm not much of a family man. I am, however, an amateur enthusiast of history. History, Mr. Novik, is my inspiration - there are plenty of ingenious ideas to be found in it for my line of work. The Roman slavemasters and arena keepers, the despots of the Ancient East, the Spanish Inquisition, the witch hunters, the Cheka... Brilliant artists in their own peculiar art, all of them. Their artworks are my inspiration. Tell me, Mr. Novik, have you ever heard of the Kharkov glove trick? It used to be an absolute hit with the Cheka back in Russian Civil war. No? Then allow me to demonstrate..."


    Before I can grasp what the hell is Mick rambling about this time, he already has seized Mrs. Novik's hand, Stas helping hold it against her struggles. With his free hand, Mickey Mouse takes the teapot from the stove and starts pouring boiling water on her hand. Her shrieks are absolutely mind-numbing and I can't look, but it pales before what comes next. Mickey grabs her blistered, swollen hand below the incision made earlier and with one swift motion pulls off the scalded skin, leaving him holding a grisly human glove.


    Āris shoves me out of the way and barges in the toilet to puke, I can barely hold back myself, and even some of our fellow goons cringe at the sight. Mr. Novik is hysterical, begging and threatening us in equal measure, while Mrs. Novik passes out after making several horrendous screams as she stares at her flayed hand.


    "Oh, God, no! Baby, no!" Mr. Novik wails and whimpers at the sight.


    "Now that I hopefully have your full attention, Mr. Novik," Mickey Mouse speaks up, dangling his gruesome trophy before his eyes, "Let me re-iterate my requirements in the clearest of terms. I want the combination to your safe, and if you don't give it to me now, I will start scalding off other parts from your wife, but that will be just to keep myself occupied until your kids come home from school. Your daughter Lana, how old is she, sixteen? I've heard she's a pretty little cherry to pop - imagine how happy she's gonna make these two horny bad boys before I start working on her!"


    Olar and Stas giggle sinisterly at his suggestion, exchanging dirty looks.


    "Don't you dare touch my daughter! Don't you dare!" Mr. Novik tearfully rages, Phil and Kolgan holding him down in his chair forcefully.


    "And your son Boris, he's what, 14?" Mickey continues with a sadistic grin, waving around the flayed hand as speaks, "A boy that age looks up to his father more than anyone else. What are his thoughts going to be when he sees his mother and sister like that, all because you were too stubborn and cheap to pay what's owed? Soon your kids are both coming home from school, and they'll never know what they'll be walking into. We'll be waiting most eagerly for them."


    "You're a monster!" Mr. Novik spits out hatefully.


    "Oh, that's where you're mistaken, Mr. Novik," Mickey Mouse objects, "I am the guy that monsters have nightmares about! And as such a guy I promise you - if I don't hear that safe combination from your mouth in 10 seconds, the last thing you're gonna see is me butt-fucking your son on your wife's and daughter's flayed headless corpses while he chokes on your severed balls and pecker, and you'll die without knowing whether I'll have the mercy to kill him afterwards, or sell him to perverts who will keep on fucking him until he's nothing but a rotting, diseased bag of meat that even starving dogs would loathe to touch!"


    "57-41-36-09..." Mr. Novik sobs out, finally broken, "Take the damn money! I hope you choke on it!"


    "Finally!" Mickey exclaims with much delight and relief, slapping the flayed hand down on the kitchen table, "Was it really that hard? Was it worth all this mess, Mr. Novik?"


    "Someone who's never done honest work wouldn't understand anyway," our unwilling host grumbles.


    "You!" Mickey points at me, "Did you catch the combo? Go upstairs and grab the dosh!"


    "Uh... 57-41-36-09, right?" I respond and step to action.


    There are three separate bedrooms upstairs, two evidently for the kids, and one for the parents. Mr. Novik and his brood are evidently living the good life, only proper and fitting that they be made to share with the less fortunate, I find myself thinking. Their two brats each have a bigger room all for themselves than my entire family of six used to. Fancy import clothes from the West, foreign magazines, everything nice and clean, no roaches or wallpapers peeling off from wet and moldy walls anywhere... The little shits probably don't even realize how good they have it thanks to their industrious rich daddy.


    I find the safe hidden in the wall behind a bookshelf in the parents' bedroom where Āris mentioned it to be. The shelf and its contents are now toppled on the floor. Despite it being hard to get to without stepping on some books, I take care not to. My late grandma used to be a schoolteacher in our kolkhoz, she would've beaten my ass black and blue if she had ever caught me stepping on or defacing a book. I guess respect for the written word is one positive influence of hers that's rubbed off on me.


    I open the safe with the provided combination without any issue. Inside is by far the biggest pile of money I've ever seen. From a first-glance estimate alone, there's at least 20 thousand US dollars, and another 10 or so thousand lats. No wonder Mr. Novik was being so tight-fisted about it. Unable to carry it all in hands, I pull a cover from a pillow on the bed to use as a bag.


    Mickey Mouse is pleased when I show him the loot. After doing a rough count of money, he takes what appears to be four or five thousand lats, and tosses the rest at Mr. Novik's feet.
    "Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Novik!" he states, "I trust that your future monthly payments will be coming in on time and without further disagreement. Pack up, lads, we're leaving!"


    "What the fuck, boss?!" Kolgan protests loudly about Mickey leaving most of the money to its lawful owner, "You just gonna leave all that cash to this asshole like that?!"


    "Yeah!" Stas agrees, "This cocksucker should be grateful we left him and his whore wife with their lives!"


    "We're not here to rob the poor man bare," Mickey Mouse retorts, "We're here just to collect what he owes us and make sure he understands there are consequences for non-payment."
    "Like hell we are!" Kolgan barks, snatching up the bag for himself, "After the effort we had to put into beating this money out of him, we deserve every last buck of it!"


    Mickey stares at him coldly, his hand creeping dangerously close to his belt where a pistol is holstered, Kolgan noticing it and putting his own free hand within quick reach of his gun.
    "I will say this only once," Mickey speaks slowly and sternly, "We are taking only what's owed to us, and not a penny more. Now give the bag back to Mr. Novik and stand the fuck down!"


    "And if I don't?" Kolgan tries to sound defiant. The tension is almost palpable.


    "Then you can try and pull that gun on me if you're feeling lucky today. As can you," Mickey glances at Stas who is also reaching for his gun, "Just remember - you two won't be the first to try, and I promise you won't be the last either."


    I already start looking for a place to dodge in for cover once the shooting starts and quietly gesture Āris to do the same. I don't plan to let my life end prematurely over my crewmates' misguided greed. Just as I step in the small corridor leading to the front door where the wall should protect me from any stray bullets, I hear the metal gate in the yard creak and footsteps of two approach the porch.


    "Hey, someone's coming!" I shout out at half-voice.


    "Fuck, it must be the kids! They're home early!" Kolgan curses, instantly dropping the earlier quarrel about the money.


    "Everybody, hide and wait for them to come inside!" Mickey Mouse snarls, gesturing for everyone to scatter and hide.


    Realizing his children are about to walk into a trap, Mr. Novik suddenly screams at the top of his lungs:


    "RUN! GET HELP! CALL THE COPS!"


    Kolgan is quick to knock him out with a pistol-whip to the temple just as the front door creaks open and a young woman's voice speaks out:


    "We're home, dad! Is everything alright? I heard you were shouting something?"


    Mickey gestures me and Āris to grab and silence the two from the kitchen, since the two of us are standing just around the corners to the entrance, and we oblige. The girl, Lana, only lets out a brief girlish shriek as the two of us barge into the corridor before I grab her, putting a hand over her mouth. Her brother Boris struggles fiercely until Āris elbows him on the back of the head, stunning and subduing him. Seeing his fate, Lana redoubles her resistence.


    "Don't fight, I won't hurt you! We're only here for the money!" I snarl into her ear. That seems to calm her a little, just enough for me to manhandle her inside the house where Āris has already dragged young Boris.


    "Sit down on the stairs and be quiet!" I tell the girl, "We only want your money, nothing else!"


    We push the two teens on the stairs to the second floor, where they sit, looking at us with a mix of terror and hostility. A quick glance at Lana tells me Mickey wasn't exaggerating when he described her as a pretty little cherry. She has blue eyes and silky light-brown hair like her mother, with mouthwatering curves in all the right places. I bet she has to fight boys off with a stick at school. Her brother who sits next to her clenching a bleeding nose has also inherited the good looks that seem to run in the family. He looks more angry and sullen than terrified as he glares at us furiously from beneath his brow. If his temper is anything like his father's, I'll have to keep an extra-sharp eye on this one.


    "Baby... Are you alright?" Mr. Novik groans from the kitchen, "You've got the money, you scoundrels! Leave my kids alone!"


    "DAD? DADDY!!!" Lana cries out alarmed, jumping up and rushing to the kitchen, struggling fiercely as me and Āris try to restrain her. Then she catches a glimpse of her naked, bloody and unconscious mother still in the chair in the kitchen.


    "YOU BASTARDS! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY MOM!?" she demands to know as she claws and kicks at us.


    "Spunky liffle broad, thiff one!" Olar grins at the spectacle, "Fome cock mighf fix dat affifude!"


    "Nobody's fixing nothing!" Mickey Mouse silences him with a menacing stare, "We're tying these two up and getting the hell out of dodge!"


    "Awww, fine! Damn fhame, leffing a fine piefe of aff like dis one go juft like dat..." Olar grumbles, leaning in close to the struggling girl as we drag her back to the stairs and smelling her hair. She cringes in disgust.


    "It's a real fity fe're in a biff of a hurry here, laffie!" Olar leans in her face with a perverted toothless grin, making her whimper in fear and disgust as he licks her cheek, his hand starting to grope between her thighs, "I fould'fe faken real good care of you, know whaff I mean...?"


    "Leave my sister alone, you scumbag!" young Boris jumps up to defend Lana, ready to confront seven armed thugs without a moment's thought in his youthful impetus.
    "Shuff if, boy! I'll geff to you in a momenf!" Olar barks, waving a gun at him.


    "Hey, knock it off!" I too feel compelled to protest, "We gotta leave!"


    "Or you whaff, greenhorn?!" the brute waves his gun at me now. Next moment, the click of a cocked gun hammer forces Olar to freeze as he feels the muzzle of a Makarov pistol presses against the back of his head.


    "Why does everybody in this outfit seem to think I'm here making fucking requests!?" Mickey Mouse growls in a tone that sends chills down my spine, "Put the fucking gun down and step back! If you so much as lay a finger on that girl again, I'll stick a gun up your ass and blow your fucking eyeballs out! Now go and find a rope or something to tie them up with!"


    And he emphasizes his statement with a hefty slap to Olar's head. He looks like about to say something about it, when a blood-curdling shriek from the kitchen.


    "LEAVE MY KIDS ALONE, BASTARDS!!!"


    I look back just to see Stas go down as a wild-eyed Mrs. Novik plunges a large kitchen knife in his neck all the way to the handle. As Mrs. Novik pulls out the knife with a sickening squelch, her bare frame is sprayed head to toe with blood as Stas collapses on the floor with a pulsating red jet spraying generously from the wound in his neck. Muttering a curse, Mickey shoves aside Phil who stands behind him utterly confused into the bathroom and empties his magazine into the crazed woman just as she charges at him in berserk fury. The noise of the gunfire in such a tight space deafening, I can barely hear Lana scream even as I hold her tightly.


    "MOM! MOOOM!" the girl shrieks, kicking and clawing wildly to get free. In doing so, she manages to grab on my and Āris's ski masks, and before any of us can do anything about it, we both stand in the room unmasked as we wrestle the girl to the ground. In the kitchen, Mr. Novik unleashes an angry roar as he apparently engages Kolgan in a fit of rage about his wife's demise. Two muffled gunshots, a heavy thud and a groan of agony put an end to the struggle quickly, Kolgan stammering out of the kitchen covered in blood with a gun in hand.
    "Fuck!" Mickey roars furiously, losing his temper for the first time I've seen. In an instant, everything's gone from bad to complete shit.


    "Where's the boy?" I exclaim, trying to hold down the struggling and hysterical Lana.


    "What do you mean - where?!" Mickey bellows, "He was with you on the stairs all the time, wasn't he?!"


    We look around in panic. Young Boris has evidently used the commotion to take off. Thankfully, a cold breeze of outside air and waving curtains in the living room give a good indication where the lad has run off to.


    "AFTER HIM!" Mickey Mouse roars, pointing to the open window. Olar wastes no time, rushing to the window. A moment later, he raises his gun and fires three shots, a scream coming in from outside indicating that they have struck their mark. He jumps out the window, and moments later I hear another two shots ring outside in the yard. Realizing what has happened, Lana breaks down in hysterical tears and no longer struggles against us.


    Leaving Āris to watch the girl, I stand up and stumble towards the bathroom like drunk. The kitchen and everything near its entrance is a bloody mess, the naked bloody corpse of Mrs. Novik lying on the floor across the feet of Stas who is breathing his last, blood gurgling from his mouth and the gaping wound in his neck. Further inside the kitchen, Mr. Novik has curled himself on the floor in an expanding pool of his own blood, groaning in agony after being shot twice in the gut. Kolgan and Phil are standing next to the bathroom door, unsure what to make of it all, this evidently being a bit to take in even for hardened gangsters like them. I push my way past Phil forcefully, collapsing over the toilet to puke.


    While I'm still busy retching and spitting, I can hear Olar come back inside through the front door.


    "Shiff, de liffle fucker almoft goff affay!" I hear him explain with his trademark lisp, "Almoff jumped de neighborff fence when I goff him!"


    "Alright, which one of you fucktards was supposed to keep watch on Mrs. Novik?" Mickey is now truly angry.


    "Stas was... I think..." Phil mentions.


    "Some good fuckin' job he did, didn't he?!" Mickey rages, pointing at his dead body before turning his wrath to Kolgan, "And you? Why is it that this wealthy entrepreneur whom the boss looked towards as one of his highest-paying customers is now bleeding out on the frigging floor?!"


    "What the fuck was I supposed to do, Mick?!" Kolgan argues in his defense, pointing at Mrs. Novik, "That crazy broad woke up all of a sudden and went for Stas with the same knife you used to skin her hand with! And then this asshole here jumped me and tried to get my gun while I was distr...!"


    He never finishes the sentence when another gunshot thunders in the room, Kolgan splaying against the wall and sliding down to the floor, leaving a thick trail of blood and brain matter on the wall as he does.


    "What the fuck, Mick!?" Phil protests but falls silent as Mickey points the gun at him.


    "Allow me to remind you, gentlemen - if any of you think you can question my orders in front of outsiders and fuck up twice all in the span of five minutes, you've got another thing coming!" Mickey reminds us, barely able to contain his rage, "Olar, the only reason you haven't joined those two dumbfucks yet is because you managed to get that boy before he ran off, but don't think you're off my shitlist just yet!"


    Olar gives him a sheepish look, full of poorly-hidden malice, but clearly unwilling to push his luck.


    "Give Āris your gun!" Mickey orders him, "Phil, give your gun to Janek!"


    The two obey without further ado. I take the Makarov pistol from Phil, unsure to do with it. Much to my embarassment, I've never shot a gun before - I turned 18 around the time when the Soviet Union fell, so I never really got around to serving in the army, neither under the old regime or the new government that was yet to form one. Āris has a bit more experience on me, having shot his old man's shotgun a few times, but never a pistol.


    "Now go to the kitchen and put Mr. Novik out of his misery," Mickey commands Āris, his voice alone making it clear he will suffer no objections before he turns to me, "And you take care of the girl! She saw both of your faces!"


    Hearing of her impending fate, Lana begans to wail even louder and more pitifully than when her mother was killed. I stumble like drunk, my guts churning and heart racing wildly, and I feel like about to shit myself.


    As if hypnotized by Mickey's snake-like stare, I raise the pistol towards Lana's head in a trembling hand. One look at Mickey makes it clear that should I refuse, I'll be joining Stas and Kolgan in an instant. It's clear that this is meant to be a test for me and my friend - Mick could easily kill Lana and her father himself, or have his established enforcers do it, yet he expressly commands the two of us to do it, to see if we have what it takes to commit murder.


    "I... I don't know how to shoot..." I weakly mutter, part of me hoping that it will excuse me from the task.


    "Seriously?" Mickey raises an eyebrow. Realizing that I'm most probably not fibbing, he takes the gun from me, cocks it, lowers the safety and puts it back in my hand.


    "Now just point it at her head and pull the trigger," he instructs and grumbles, "Jesus H. Christ, they're giving me lads who've never shot a gun before now..."


    So this is it, the point of no return. After this, I'll forever be marked a murderer, if not by law, then by personal conscience. Technically I already am - but beating the crap out of a guy who bloody well deserved it and only later learning he's died in the hospital isn't comparable to looking your victim, a sweet young girl, in the eyes before pulling the trigger. Because of me, she'll never graduate from school and go to study, never meet someone special and never know the joys of motherhood. I knew I'd likely have to kill someone eventually when I took up this job, but somehow always believed it would be a guy, a vicious, mean thug just like myself who would present me with the simple choice between myself and him.


    Two shots ring out in the kitchen, indicating that Āris has done his duty as ordered. Lucky bastard got it easy, merely putting a mortally-wounded man out of his misery. Hearing that, Lana cringes and whimpers, but nonetheless looks up at me with teary eyes that seem to ask "Why?"


    "I'm sorry... Forgive me!" I mutter, tears rolling from my own eyes as well as I pull the trigger.


    Lana slumps on the floor next to the stairs, a large splat of her blood and brain on them, while I slump against the wall, retching but unable to puke, my guts already empty from before. Mickey gently pulls the pistol from my hand and slaps me on the shoulder.


    "You did well, Janek! First time is always rough, I know!" he reassures me in an almost friendly tone, "Now let's get the fuck outta here, the coppers will be here any minute now! No way in hell the neighbors didn't hear all this ruckus!"


    "What about that money bag, Mick?" Āris emerges from the kitchen, holding the blood-soaked pillow-cloth with most of Mr. Novik's money still in it, "No point in leaving it here now, is there?"


    "Fine, bring it along!" Mickey approves, "That will be at least something to show for all this mess!"


    Hopefully Gnat will feel the same way, I think, still reeling from the shock of having to murder a teenage girl. This job is a total fuck-up, the slaughter of an entire family bound to attract a shitload of heat in a time when our boss is already on poor terms with the authorities. I quietly hope Mickey will take all the heat for this one. If Gnat decides to ice him for today's shitshow, I certainly won't shed any tears for him, not after what he had me do to that poor girl.


    ---


    As we make a hasty retreat to our minivan parked further down the street, Olar suddenly glances at me and starts laughing.


    "Heeheehee! Look at dat! He piffed himfelf!"


    I look down, only now noticing a wet spot around my crotch much to my embarrassment. Before I can say anything in response, Olar cringes under a hard punch in the gut by Mickey, who grabs him by the scruff and snarls into his face.


    "Did you see anything?"


    "Uh... No, Mick, I didn't see anything!" Olar grunts.


    "Did you see anything?!" he repeats the same on Phil who's trying hard to hide a grin.


    "No, I didn't!" Phil is quick to correct himself as well.


    "Good!" Mickey barks, "Because you can puke, you can piss yourself, you can sit in the dirt crying for mommy, but you don't ever second-guess your boss or leave a job half-done - and these two lads did neither, which is more than some of you can say about themselves today! Now get in the fucking van!"


    As we leave the place in haste, there's nobody to be seen in the street, although I do catch a fearful eye or two peeking at us from behind curtains inside the houses. People these days know better than to poke their noses where they shouldn't whenever they hear gunshots or an explosion - which happens on an almost daily basis in Riga. The police or the National Guard are thankfully nowhere to be seen, and I reckon they won't be showing up for a while still - with an average of 5 murders per day and two blasts a week in a city of one million, they no doubt have plenty to do. I read on the newspaper a while ago that on average only 10% of violent crimes these days end in a successful conviction. With any luck, this unfortunate massacre will become just another statistic, an unfortunate collateral damage in the mostly-invisible war that rages in the streets of Riga and most other cities across the former Soviet world.


    "Janek, Āri, you did well today!" Mickey turns to us from the front seat, "I'll drop you all off at the Office and go straighten things out with the boss, in the meanwhile feel free to blow off some steam. Booze, dope, girls - feel free to take whatever you need. Just be sure to stay more or less functional by the morning - tomorrow we'll have to go get you some heaters. No man who's earned a place on my crew should have to go around without a piece of his own!"


    "Thanks, Mick!" I make sure to express my gratitude, even while Lana's teary blue eyes haunt me no matter where I look. I'm definitely getting high as a kite today.


    ---


    "...in other news, a family of four was savagely murdered during a home invasion in Mārupe today.Two assailants were also found dead at the scene. In the interests of investigation, the police has refrained from further comment, but it is likely that these murders are the result of a botched robbery."



    "Turn that shit off!" I shout to one of the girls who happens to be near the TV at the moment.


    "You seem very upset today, handsome," notes my current companion Tatiana, a busty blonde with nothing but a skimpy G-string on. There's about a dozen girls like her in "The Office", a part-nightclub, part-strip joint, part-cathouse that serves as the front for our outfit's safehouse. The girls don't seem to mind rendering their company and certain favours to us outside working hours, because we make sure they only get upscale clients and ensure they behave. They are here on their own accord unlike in many other establishments of a similar nature - our boss Gnat doesn't want no slave-whores who would rat him out on first chance anywhere near him.


    "What if I am?" I grumble, leaning back and trying to get the image of two teary blue eyes out of my mind. So far, booze only seems to make it worse.


    "Maybe this will help you relax," Tatiana remarks, taking a powder case from her purse and popping it open, revealing a cleverly concealed compartment with a white powder inside. She sprinkles some between her voluminous tits, squeezing them together to arrange the powder roughly in a line.


    "Come on, don't be shy!" she beckons to me. I lean in and snort it all. The rush hits me almost instantly, but the thought of those blue eyes still lingers painfully in the back of my mind.
    "Hey, Janek!" Āris shouts to me from the other couch where he's busy making out with Katya, a redhead just as busty as my Tatiana. Gnat seems firmly convinced that patrons of strip joints like them titties big - double-D size or larger is a must for a girl to be hired by this establishment in any capacity.


    "Whatever you're thinking right now, stop thinking and enjoy the moment!" he states, "If the two of us are back home to see another day by the evening, it means we did everything right, not matter what it was!"


    "Easy for you to say," I grumble, "You got the easy part!"


    "What, you think I had it easy?" my friend is upset, "I didn't enjoy it anymore than you did! But you chose to be here just like I did, knowing what that's gonna involve, and now it is what it is, so deal with it!"


    "How? How do I deal with it?!" I almost whimper.


    "By remembering that you want to be somebody, and whether you like it or not, this is the way to become somebody, so fuck anyone who gets in the way!" Āris barks, "I didn't want to be a nobody like my pops, his pops and everybody else before them who wasted their lives in hard and honest labour, toiling to make someone else rich and hoping like fools to be rewarded in the afterlife! And I take that you didn't want to end up drowning in your own puke somewhere in the gutter like your useless deadbeat drunk of a father either! Think of this as your opportunity, your chance to do something about it and finally be somebody for a change - or in the very least die trying! Because if you don't try to make the best out of your short life, then what's the fucking point?"


    I've always known my buddy to be a pragmatic, doing whatever it takes to make the lives of himself and those he cares about more comfortable, even if it comes at the expense of someone else.


    "I suppose you're right," I agree, "It was gonna happen sooner or later, so it might as well be today. Tanyushka, more of that powder, if you please?"


    "Whatever makes you smile, pretty," Tatiana heartily chuckles, sprinking more cocaine on her cleavage.


    "I will be somebody, or die trying!" I announced to nobody in particular, "And fuck everybody who gets in the way!"


    "That's the spirit, buddy!" I hear Āris agree with my statement as I bury my face between two soft, warm breasts and snort in the powder found in between. There are still teary blue eyes of a dead teenage girl staring into mine when I close my eyes, but I harden my resolve and drive them from thought. They are, after all, merely the first in a long line I shall close permanently on the way to my goal.

  2. #2
    Bloody hell, this was an intense piece - and as an avid connoisseur of your many, many grim works of literature, that's not a statement I make lightly. While reading it, I was engrossed. Truth be told, though, I'm not sure if my enthrallment was genuine enjoyment or morbid curiosity. But any story that captivates the reader without breaking them out of it, making them forget they're actually reading a story, is a potential winner. And the best part is that I didn't even catch any grammatical, spelling or consistency farts in this continuity of the original (this might change on a third run-through, tailored specifically to hunt for such errors). The only two parts that really caught my eye as oddities were:

    "I swear I'll kill you as soon as...!". This one's purely a matter of personal preference. I would put a dash in place of the ellipsis and exclamation, just to enunciate the abruptness of the interruption (so it would render as "I swear I'll kill you as soon as-").

    "I've always known my buddy to be a pragmatic". This almost works, and I was tempted to let it slide. For posterity's sake though, try 'be pragmatic' or 'be a pragmatist'.
    The rest of this review will largely be comments on parts I found most interesting. First things first, Mickey Mouse is an excellent villain you've set up. Vicious, ruthless and utterly amoral, restrained only by a personal honour code that separates him from others of his ilk. He's evocative of the likes of Kimblee (Fullmetal Alchemist) and Trevor Philips (Grand Theft Auto V) - an obvious sociopath that you alternate between loving and loathing, with no middle-ground between the two extremes. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the future, in particular how he interacts with protagonists Janek and Aris.

    It's interesting that you gave Olar a lisp. It goes a long way towards reinforcing what an utterly savage monster he truly is: an unrepentant rapist cannot be humanised, and the dissociation is cemented by the difficulty he has even in speaking like a human being.

    Nice to see you've decided to continue the same overarching theme you kicked off with the first part of what is now clearly a small saga in the works. That is, the idea of how the ends justify the means - or to quote Janek, "I will be somebody, or die trying, and fuck everybody who gets in the way!". I really want to see how the pair deal with their conflict between the morals they were raised with and the brutal reality of their situation: the first cracks in their justification are starting to show with their first murders. Will those cracks widen into a fissure, or have they really gone too far down the road towards becoming a pair of Mickey Mice in their own right?

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