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Suspense Thriller Fiction

โ€œOh, London is manโ€™s town, thereโ€™s power in the air

And Paris is a womanโ€™s town, with flowers in her hair.โ€


The man silently repeating the words to Henry Van Dykeโ€™s ode to the comforts of home watched the Moscow skyline blur past from the backseat of the Volvo he was riding in. He didnโ€™t even know the rest of the poem. Instead, he liked to conclude it with a stanza he had written himself: โ€œAnd Moscow is killerโ€™s town, where everything is fair.โ€


The man twisting the Van Dyke poem had not been born a poet. He hadnโ€™t been born a killer. Born in Cheremoshnoye, a tiny rural village located in southern Russia, Aleksandr Volkovโ€™s parents had raised him to be a God-fearing, patriotic Russian. They went to weekly service at their local orthodox church and made their money selling crops from their moderately-sized farm. And then, when Aleksandr was twelve-years-old, disaster struck. His parents were killed when a drunk driver swerved into oncoming traffic, leaving a young boy parentless.


โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ.


The mobile phone charging on the bedside table vibrated. The young woman napping underneath the thin flower throw blanket stirred, then reached over and snagged the phone.


โ€œHello, this is Kat.โ€ย 


Katya Lebedeva was an award-winning journalist, known around the country for her propensity to break stories related to corruption within the oligarchy of Russia. In a country where freedom of the press is often under brutal attack from the government, she was a rarity. Armed with stunning good looks and a relentless style of journalism, she was a force to be reckoned with within the Russian power structure. Of course, that also made her a target.


โ€œKat, good to hear your voice,โ€ said the heavily-accented male voice on the other line. โ€œAre we still on for tonight?โ€


โ€œDa.ย Dinner in an hour?โ€


โ€œOf course,โ€ he laughed nervously. โ€œAnd Iโ€™m sure you will be interested in the information I have. Maybe over a vodka at my place?โ€


โ€œNot over the phone. Talk later.โ€ย 


โ€œOf course, of course. Excuse my carelessness. Just wanted to confirm. See you in one hour.โ€


Katya hung up and then fell back on to the flowered sheets covering the bed in her drab hotel room. The light cast from the tall lamp in the corner of the room was dim and depressing, adding to her general exhaustion.ย 


At only twenty-seven, she was one of the most well-known members of the media. But it came with an immense cost. In a non-stop quest for the next story, she constantly moved around, living out of her suitcase in hotels around the country. At the moment, she was in Moscow after staying in St. Petersburg for a month. Before that, it had been Volgograd, and before that, it had been Omsk.


She stood up and wandered over to the window. The sky was grey and the rain was coming down in sheets, covering the cityโ€™s famed onion domes in a continual stream of water. As she started down into the soaked streets, she asked herselfโ€”once againโ€”why she was doing it. Sure, she was well-known and well-off, but she often battled intense loneliness. Her parentsโ€”loyal citizens to โ€œMother Russia,โ€โ€”had disowned her not long after she began her career. She didnโ€™t have friends and she certainly didnโ€™t have a boyfriend.ย 


The constant target on her back was a weight she could never quite shake. She loved the thrill of breaking a story and watching the dominoes fall, but when she laid her head down on her pillow at night she hated the feeling that at any moment the door might break down and she might receive a bullet to the skullโ€”or worse, a trip to Lubyanka.


She pushed aside the thoughts of self-pity, stepped away from the window, and began to pick through her suitcase in search of an outfit.ย Back to the grind.ย 


โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ.


Aleksandr remembered receiving the news that his parents had been killed like it was yesterday. The partly-cloudy sky. Soft grass beneath his feet. The kids engaged in a soccer match running up and down the field.ย 


He will never forget the look on the neighbor that lived across the street as he sprinted across the field to deliver the life-changing news.ย 


He soon moved to Moscow to live with his aristocratic uncle and aunt. The experience had been short-lived and they soon shipped the stubborn teenager to boarding school. While he resented his uncle and aunt on a personal level, he was not above using their name to his advantage. Soon, he was friends with the children of some of the most influential families in Russia.ย 


They partied, they made their rounds with the women, and began to dabble in drugs. Remarkably, the farm boy from rural southern Russia found himself entangled in the Russian Mafia.ย 


โ€œVolkov, look alive!โ€ Snapped the driver of the Volvo. The windshield wipers were flying back and forth, trying their best to beat back the rainstorm.


โ€œYes, sir,โ€ Aleksandr responded, fiddling with his seatbelt.


โ€œLetโ€™s go over the plan one more time,โ€ the muscular man in the passenger seat said. He turned in his seat to look Aleksandr in the eye. โ€œGive it to me, Volkov.โ€


โ€œSo, the plan is for us to wait outside the restaurant until the woman and Peter come out,โ€ Aleksandr gestured to the man in the backseat next to him. Peter was good-looking, tall and slender with a trendy business suit. โ€œThey will exit the building and Peter will lead the woman to the alley where the car will be parked. When he opens the passenger door for her, thatโ€™s when I move in.โ€


โ€œWhereโ€™s your weapon?โ€ Asked the driver.


Aleksandr patted the shoulder holster concealed underneath his dark blue windbreaker. He was packing a Russian-made PSS-2 handgun, one of the most silent firearms ever created. The PSS-2, or Vul as it is known, had been developed by the KBG in the 1980s for missions in which the utmost silence is required. Thanks to an internal piston, the weapon is almost completely silent and releases no smoke.


โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ.


After ten minutes of standing outside her hotel in the rain, Katya was finally able to wave down a taxi to take her to the restaurant. Collapsing her umbrella, she slid into the backseat and told her driver the name of the establishment.ย 


Dressed in high-heels and a red dress, Katya sat silently as the cab made its way through the rain-slicked streets of the Russian capital. This was certainly not her first meeting with Peter. She found him charming, friendly, andโ€”most importantlyโ€”an excellent source with contacts in high places. Even so, this was business. The greatest asset in any conversation or interview was always preparedness and knowledge. She refused to ever let her guard downโ€ฆas much as she sometimes wanted to.


โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ.


Aleksandr was soaking wet. He had been โ€œhiding outโ€ in the alley where Peterโ€™s car was parked for almost thirty minutes, waiting for him and the woman to come out.ย 


The wet brick walls and a stray cat were his only companions as he waited for the moment. Sitting next to a dumpster, he tried to steady himself. He was alone now, this was his jobโ€ฆand he was scared.


He had been a member of the Russian Mafia for years, but his involvement mostly involved smuggling and trading illegal drugs. He had been in a few scrapes, but never anything like this. His job was toโ€ฆmurder someone.ย 


โ€œOh, London is a manโ€™s town, thereโ€™s power in the air,

And Paris is a womanโ€™s town, with flowers in her hair.โ€ย 


Aleksandr waited, continually repeating the altered stanza to himself.


โ€œAnd Moscow is a killerโ€™s town, where everything is fair.โ€


A rat ran past his feet in search of a meal. He watched with interest as the creature scurried about, collecting the refuse generated by the restaurant. A bread crumb here, a piece of chicken breast there. Survival, by any means necessary, was the ratโ€™s sole goal in life.ย 


Suddenly, there was a double click in his earpiece, the sign that Peter and the woman were exiting the restaurant. Aleksandrโ€™s heart began to pound as his mind left the rat and returned to the mission at hand.


I donโ€™t even know who this woman is.ย Aleksandr thought.ย Can I do this?ย 


He didnโ€™t have a choice.ย Steady yourself, Aleks. Everything is fair in Moscow.


He wondered what his parents would think about him now. Huddled next to a dumpster, clutching a silenced-pistol, about to do the unthinkable.


Peter and the woman came around the corner.ย Thatโ€™s her. Just as beautiful as the photo.


Arm-in-arm the couple walked towards the red BMW Peter and Aleksandr would soon be using as a getaway car.ย 


Peter said something to the woman and they both began to laugh. She wasnโ€™t expecting a thing. She had let her guard down.


They were within twenty feet of the car.ย 


Now, fifteen.ย 


Ten.


Aleksandr rose slowly, tensed and ready to pounce.ย 


Donโ€™t do this!ย Screamed one side of his brain.


You have no choice!ย Screamed the other.


Five feet.


Peter reached for the door handle and time seemed to slow to a crawl. Aleksandrโ€™s heart was begging him to drop the gun, while his head pushed him along. He had to do this.ย Everything is fair.


When Peter opened the passenger door of the BMW, Aleksandr made his move. Pouncing from his spot behind a dumpster, he aimed and fired twice.ย Click, click.ย The first shot hit Katya in the shoulder, the force of which threw her body against the car. The second bullet hit dead center in the forehead.ย 


Crimson red blood mixed with the falling rain as the award-winning journalistโ€™s lifeless body hit the pavement. The rat Aleksandr had observed skittered away, fearing for itsโ€™ life.


โ€œGet in,โ€ Peter said to Aleksandr. โ€œWe have to get moving.โ€


But Aleksandr was frozen, unable to pull his eyes from the body. He wasnโ€™t panicking as he expected. Instead, there was a strange calmness.ย 


Her blood is the same color as her dress,ย he thought.


Now in the driver's seat of the BMW, Peter was swearing. โ€œGet in the car, fool!โ€


Aleksandr shook off the momentary trance and stepped over the body into the BMW. The door slammed shut and they quickly drove away into the storm.


โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ.


Within hours, the body was found, and the entire street was cordoned off as the police started the search for the killers. Of course, they would never be found. In part, because the police were in the pocket of the Mafia; and in part, because the Mafia was very good at what they did. They left just enough evidence to send a message, but not enough to build any kind of case.


But another murder happened that cold, rainy Moscow night. The murder of Aleksandrโ€™s heart and soul. Everything was fair now, there would be no looking back.


The killer was also the killed, and nobody had seen a thing.


November 13, 2020 06:00

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19 comments

Ray Dyer
20:43 Nov 16, 2020

I really like the opening lines, with Aleksandr quoting poetry and adding his own twist. The way you subtly educated those of us who are unfamiliar with that poem was a nice touch, and it informed the twist a little more when it came. I also love the last line of the first section, "His parents were killed when a drunk driver swerved into oncoming traffic, leaving a young boy parentless." That's a nice way of phrasing what happened. One thing that I'd recommend, especially since you are soliciting feedback. Watch out for sentences tha...

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Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! Your commentary is very helpful and also has me thinking about how I could have improved the story and what to do better in the future. Any suggestions on literature or other authors that may help me in the plot development area?

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Ray Dyer
03:54 Nov 17, 2020

Hi, Antonio! I'm glad that what I wrote came across in the vain I intended. I definitely did not want to be discouraging in any way, and I saw that you are a freelance writer of non-fiction, so I didn't want to give the impression that I was doubting your existing ability. I've been reading a lot of short stories lately. I mentioned to someone else lately that I heard, years ago, that "the short story has more in common with poetry than it does the novel." Only recently did that statement begin to make sense to me. Reading a bunch of sho...

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Tom .
13:11 Nov 15, 2020

Congratulations on your debut piece. You set the scene in Russia well using subtle details instead of heavy description, which is great. The internal monologue was good. The plot a little pedestrian. I look forward to checking out your next piece, great start.

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Thanks! Iโ€™ll work on plot development. Any suggestions or good things to read on the subject.

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Tom .
16:44 Nov 16, 2020

Read Ray dyers stories on here. He is one of the best writers on here but noone knows about him. The karma point scheme is a bit of a false flag shows you very little about the writing Calibre. Your style fits with his. I am following him it is very short list so you should be able to find him there

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Jim Snyder
05:35 Nov 15, 2020

You've got a real knack for the internalized thoughts and monologues of your characters, which makes the an interesting read. You do a fantastic job of letting us into the character's lives at the moment, and I think that will be a great strength as you continue to develop your writing. You also have a great grasp of painting engrossing scenes. From each character's perspective, you can get a real sense of the overall environment, the things that they are paying attention to which are reflective of their mood and their struggles. I th...

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Thanks for your thoughtful comment! Iโ€™ll definitely be working on plot development. My idea for Peter was he was just another member of the Mafia doing his job. An accessory the the crime. Iโ€™ll definitely keep an eye out for stupid grammatical errors, lol.

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Jim Snyder
18:27 Nov 16, 2020

Definitely looking forward to your next story!

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John K Adams
23:35 Jan 04, 2021

Antonio, I liked the kind of relentless progress the story makes. There are no big twists but it is like watching a wreck progress in slow motion and there's nothing one can do to stop it. Just enough detail to fill in the blanks and make the characters feel alive.

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Coco Longstaff
22:19 Jan 03, 2021

Wow you added a mysterious twist to the ending where no one knows what happened. I liked that bit. The beginning starts with a poem, and someone speaking, so I liked that too. Nice!

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I love how the killer being killed meant that he lost his hart when he killed Katya. very poetic and amazing.

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Julia Boddie
18:15 Nov 19, 2020

An interesting story. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

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Natalie Dafoe
01:21 Nov 18, 2020

I love the way I can relate to both characters, or at least empathize with their situation. You do "info-dump" as they call it, putting the character's life story in a paragraph, but usually writers go overboard and put in uneccesary details. I believe you captured both characters life without an overwhelming amount. Your title is also very clever, and your use of the poem was very artistic. Bravo and Happy Writing!

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