by Gary Clifton
“I’ll reach out. I’m sure Kozar will take the contract.” The small woman with coifed gray hair picked up a cellular.
A fiftyish, balding man at the next desk turned his chair toward her. “Anna, I think you should call his regular number. They can’t defeat the scrambler.”
“I’m in charge of this operation, Oleg. I don’t trust those damned technicians and their scramblers. Never have.”
Oleg chuckled. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t really mean they’re not out to get you, right?”
Anna dialed. “Is this Blackstone 555-3424?”
“Hell no,” Kozar said and hung up.
She waited twelve minutes, then dialed the number she’d just given out.
“What’s up?” Kozar answered.
“Priority action. Your contact is waiting for you with the envelope in front of the pharmacy across the street from your payphone. Double pay.”
The line went dead. With cold, hard eyes, Anna looked at Oleg “He’s greedy and can’t resist the money.”
Out of caution, Kozar circled the block before approaching a nondescript man holding an envelope.
“The weather this time of year is unpredictable,” Kozar said to the courier.
“We must pray for better.” The courier handed over the envelope and quickly disappeared in the crowd.
Back in his apartment, amidst beer cans and fast food wrappers, Kozar decoded the file and stuffed the wad of cash in his coat pocket. A seedy little man with gold, half glasses, five years in New York had not improved his housekeeping habits.
The instructions were to proceed to an address in Brooklyn and “deal with” Besima Gujic, which he recognized as a Bosnian name. Good, he’d speak her language.
Besima’s photo showed her to be blonde and attractive. He vowed this would be the last female priority — or any other level of assassination of the opposite sex — that he would accept from the Russians.
Kozar cleaned the .22 pistol, checked to see if the silencer was properly fitted, stuffed an extra magazine in his inside jacket pocket beside the cash and the pistol, and started toward the Flatbush Avenue subway line.
The target’s apartment was a second floor walkup. He slipped the simple front hallway door lock with a credit card, crept up a flight, and rapped softly on her door. No answer. He’d become accustomed to waiting. This job seemed routine. Why the urgency?
Picking the lock was easy enough. He carefully searched the small flat. He was alone. Slumping in an easy chair, he sat facing the door. If she came in alone, the task would be a gut shot. He inwardly chuckled at his pun. If she was accompanied by anyone, they’d be dead, too.
Footfalls in the hallway gave warning, then a key rattled in the lock.
The photo had been misleading. Besima looked like a dairy farmer. She closed the door before she saw him.
He raised the silenced pistol. “Besima Gujic?”
“Oh, Mother of God,” she gasped. “Who... why?”
He thought she seemed unusually calm, facing eternity.
“Only business, Besima. Nothing personal.”
He squeezed the trigger twice, watching the familiar pattern of two rounds holing her coat as they hit her squarely in the heart.
Watching people die had honed his insight. All people don’t follow the same pattern. Instead of slumping to the floor or falling back, she slid down the wall beside the door, sitting upright against the baseboard.
He started to rise to put a bullet in her forehead.
In horrifying slow motion, she drew a small pistol from her coat pocket, and the door flew open at the same instant. A husky man, his features partly hidden by a heavy fur collar and a fedora pulled over his eyes, also held a silenced pistol. But it wasn’t small.
“Lay it on the floor, Dodic,” the man pointed his weapon between the assassin’s eyes six feet distant.
Kozar’s weapon dropped to the floor. “My name is Alif Kozar... I know no Dodic.”
Besima scrambled to her feet. “You murdering traitor, we know Alif Kozar is an alias. You murdered my father, Thomaslav Gujic and a thousand others of your own countrymen like stray dogs during the purge. Your Bosnian name is Branko Dudic. Your Russian masters have sold you out. Now you die.”
“Mother of God, no.”
The man in the doorway shot the assassin three times in the chest. Kozar slumped forward onto the floor, twitching in death. Besima put two silenced rounds in the top of his head as he fell toward her.
Besima stuffed her pistol back into her coat pocket. “Excellent, Miko. Excellent.” Leaning to touch his carotid, she looked up and shook her head.
The man stepped inside, then closed and locked the door, the odor of cordite heavy on the air. He pulled a worn photo from his pocket and partially turned the corpse’s face.
“It’s Dudic the Butcher, all right. He’ll murder no more innocents.”
“Besima, help me get him into the bathtub before any more blood gathers on the carpet. We’ll need time to cut him into small enough pieces to fit into the dumpster. We still have two to go. Anna has already signaled she’ll have the next one queued up at your door this time tomorrow.”
Bessima removed her coat. The Kevlar vest evidenced why she still lived. “I never fully trusted them to give him up.”
“The old KGB would not have. But these people in the new version of state security need money for retirement. They’re all for sale. Most fortunate they have such a strong presence in New York. We paid only 200,000 rubles for this piece of garbage.”
Besima went through the dead man’s pockets. She held up a roll of bills. “Haw, Miko, he’s still carrying the $10,000 American they paid him. That’s uh... over 700,000 rubles. Our section has made a handsome profit by ridding the world of this vermin.”
Miko smiled and repeated, “Bathtub.”
Besima grabbed the corpse by the ankles. “Still ‘nothing personal’, swine?”
Copyright © 2016 by Gary Clifton