Express Delivery Service

When you hear the word Express Delivery, the first thing that comes to your mind is Amazon, right? Or maybe FedEx?

Well, the one I worked for was a bit different.

It was run by one man only, Mikhail.

I got to work with him because I fucked up big time.

It all started when I dropped out of university. After that, I blew two apprenticeships, worked a bit here and there and finally ended up living on welfare.

To be honest, I was never serious about work. I was looking for ways to make big money, easy ways. At first, I tinkered around with various forms of earning money online. Eventually, though it drove me to my city’s shitty casinos. When I say shitty, I mean it. My city was no Vegas, so all you could find were shitty basements with slot machines and dirty poker tables.

Gambling is a fucked up thing, especially if you are desperate. You tell yourself that all it takes is one more game and you only need to win once.

It didn’t take long for my measly welfare money to melt away. A week later the limited credit I took out in my desperation was gone as well. All the while I told myself I needed a bit more time to get the hang of things. Guess it’s what every gambling addict tells himself.

It was at one of the casinos that I got to know Aleksey, a second generation Russian immigrant. There are quite a few of them living in eastern Germany.

Aleksey was a blast. After I’d dropped out of university, I’d lost contact with quite a few of my friends. The rest started avoiding me more and more when they noticed my gambling addiction. It felt great having someone to play poker and slots with.

The best thing about Aleksey though was that he introduced me to Yuri when I mentioned my money troubles. I’d not paid rent in two months and I’d not even be able to pay my monthly credit rate. I was looking for some serious trouble. That’s when Yuri said he’d led me some money. Enough money to pay off my credit and to keep up playing.

Of course being the idiot I was at the time, I didn’t even think about what was going on. Instead, I accepted the money right away. I paid off the bank and after that, I kept gambling with Aleksey. I only had to hit it big once, I told myself. That was the only thing I had on my mind, and that was what brought me a lot of trouble.

Looking back, I can’t believe what an idiot I was. I must have been mad to not having seen what was obviously coming.

Well, fast forward a couple of months. I was at Yuri’s once again, to take out a new loan. It should have been my fourth one. That day though, things were different. Yuri told me he’d not be able to lend me any more money. It was the opposite, he needed his money back.

That day I finally learned that neither Yuri nor Aleksey were my friends. They never had been. I finally understood. They were the type who preyed on idiots like me. People dumb enough to fall for their charade and come to them for money.

All those thoughts went through my head as I sat in Yuri’s backroom. My nose was bloody, two of my fingers were broken, and I had at least half a dozen severe bruises all over my upper body.

They kept me there for almost four hours. They made sure that I knew they weren’t fucking around. I was never so scared in my entire life. At the end of the whole ordeal, Yuri told me he knew of a way to get his money back. He had an acquaintance who needed someone for a job. There was no question if I’d do it or not. Instead, he handed me a note with an address and a time.

“You’ll be there. If not, I’ll find you and kill you.”

I had seen his gun, and I’d seen his eyes as he’d broken my fingers. I knew he’d not even think twice before shooting me.

After this interrogation was over, they kicked me out. I was left to drag my throbbing and trembling body home.

Three days later I found myself in the outskirts of town. The address Yuri had given me was a parking lot near an old industrial area.

I’d not slept all night. I had no idea what would happen. I told myself over and over again that Yuri needed his money back, but could I be sure? What if they led me out there to get rid of me or something? Maybe they wanted to harvest my organs?

As I felt panic overtake me, I told myself to calm down. I’d be alright. Nothing like that would happen to me.

I could have taken a bus there, but I felt like walking. It would calm me down, I thought.

It did not. After every few meters, I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder. Whenever a car drove by, I had to fight the urge to jump into bushes next to the street.

Once I could finally see the empty parking lot, I started to meticulously scan the area. Was there anyone there? Was someone hiding and waiting for me to get closer?

Shit, what the hell was I even doing? Don’t run, I told myself. Don’t you dare run. It was still early. Still, more than half an hour before I was supposed to be here.

In the end, I decided to hide in some bushes next to the parking lot to see what would happen. I didn’t even know what I was waiting for. I had various movie scenarios in my head. In one a group of Russian street thugs arrived. In another, it was a black car with tinted windows.

It was a good ten minutes later that something happened. What I saw didn’t fit any of the scenarios I had in my mind. It was a shitty old delivery truck that arrived at the parking lot. I waited to see if someone would get out, but nothing happened. The truck just stood there, and I was sure, it had nothing to do with me.

After five more minutes, the driver-side window was lowered. I could see the hard face of a middle-aged man inside of the truck.

He was staring straight into my direction. At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but he didn’t look away. When our eyes met, I knew in an instant, that this was the guy.

I cursed and almost jumped up. He must have seen me as soon as he arrived and waited for me to get over there ever since. Fuck!

“Are you Mikha-?”

“Get in,” he cut me off with a thick Russian accent.

Right as I walked over to the side of the truck, the doors unlocked. I got in awkwardly and took the seat next to him. The moment I closed the door, he locked them again.

I sat there in utter silence, not just a bit scared. Out of the corner of my eye, I scanned the man.

His face was rough and he had hard eyes. I couldn’t guess how old he was. He might have been in his early thirties, but could very well have been in his late forties. His hair was dark and short, as was his beard.

He wore a dark muscle shirt and a pair of army pants. His arms seemed to consist of nothing, but muscle and his hands seemed to be twice as big as mine. He must have been an ex-military man or something.

For a few seconds, no one said a word.

“So, what am I-?”

“First rule, you only speak when spoken to.”

When I didn’t react, he jerked over to look me straight in the eyes. I gulped and nodded.

“Good. Second rule, you do everything I fucking tell you too, no questions asked.”

“Third rule, you don’t tell anyone what we are doing. If you do, I’ll kill you.”

Again I nodded, multiple times. His eyes were narrow and hard. After a few more seconds he started the truck and we drove off.

That’s how I started to work with Mikhail.

We drove in silence for the first couple minutes. Then he started to explain what my job consisted of.

Mikhail was a contracted courier, one of the best, he said. “Express Delivery Service,” he said with a big grin on his face.

What this meant was simple. We were transporting goods from one place to another. What we were delivering? It didn’t matter. I didn’t need to know. The pay was good, that was all that was important.

“Well, not like you’ll see any of the money. Goes straight to Yuri anyways.”

 

 

Our very first stop was at a beverage shop near a small town. Mikhail stopped the car and got out. When I tried to do the same, he turned around.

“You stay,” he instructed me.

With that, he made his way inside. What the hell? Was he getting himself a beer or something?

It was five minutes later that he returned, got in and drove the truck to the back of the shop. Then he told me to get out and opened the end of the truck.

A short while later, some bald eastern European guy walked over towards us from the store. I could tell almost in an instant, that he wasn’t a regular employee.

The guy who followed him was. He was carrying the first of many unmarked wooden boxes and dropped them next to the truck.

“Load them,” Mikhail said to me, “carefully though. You drop one, you pay for all!”

I went and lifted the first one. They were quite heavy. Were we going to smuggle booze? I could live with that, I thought.

While I was loading the truck, Mikhail and the Eastern European guy were talking a bit further away. They both lighted a smoke and seemed to discuss a serious topic. When the guy saw me looking at him, he turned over.

“You are too slow, get a move on for fuck’s sake!” he yelled at me with an accent even thicker than Mikhail’s. Then he started laughing and went back to his talk.

Once I was done loading the boxes, Mikhail showed me how to secure them as best as possible with the tension straps. Then he left me to do that as well. While I tried my hardest to get things done, Mikhail and his client were both shouting as well as laughing at me. It took about half an hour, quite a bit of help and more than half a dozen insults by Mikhail before I was finished.

At this point, Mikhail got into the truck without another word and we drove off. It took another hour until we crossed the border into the Czech Republic.

We passed the old empty border patrol building without any issue. Thank god for open borders, I thought to myself.

After two more hours, we arrived at an old, abandoned industrial area in the middle of nowhere. As soon as we parked the car, two guys made their way towards the truck.

“Those are the brothers, Otik and Juro, old friends of mine,” he said grinning.

As the two of them got closer, I couldn’t help but think something was wrong with them. Otik was the older one of two and the fatter one. He greeted Mikhail while the other one, Juro, stood behind. That guy gave me the creeps. He was tall and scrawny, the complete opposite of his brother. He stood behind Otik without saying a word, eyeing me curiously.

“What the hell are you waiting for!?” Mikhail screamed at me.

For a moment I was dumbfounded, but then my brain started to work again. I opened the back of the truck and began to unload the boxes.

Juro came forward without saying a word and started moving them inside. I didn’t know what it was, but there was definitely something wrong with him. The way he walked, his half-smile and the way he eyed the boxes. It was all wrong. For a moment I even thought that he had an erection.

I looked away and told myself to focus only on unloading the boxes.

While I was busy with that, Mikhail took out an envelope and handed Otik a couple of banknotes. Otik counted them greedily, then smiled and nodded at Mikhail. They exchanged a few more words. After that Mikhail went back to his seat in the truck and waited for me to finish unloading.

Once I was done, we sped off. I had no idea what had happened. Thinking back to ‘the brothers’ as he’d call them, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be the last time I saw them.

I had thought we’d drive back to Germany. Instead, Mikhail drove the truck further into the Czech Republic.

That’s how I spent my first couple of weeks working for Mikhail. Sitting in his car, loading and unloading boxes and most of all, keeping my mouth shut. We were out on the streets for at least eighteen hours per day. We didn’t stop anywhere to spend the night. Instead, we slept right in the truck. When it came to food, we either ate shitty fast food or the diner type.

I didn’t get to go home for weeks at a time. It was rare that I ever got to take a break. If I was able to go home, it was never for more than a day. I usually spent all of it sleeping. After weeks in a truck, a good night in a bed is heaven.drop

As the weeks went by, Mikhail got a bit more talkative. I learned that I wasn’t there to only load and unload goods.

“If it’s only me in the truck, the police might get suspicious, but with a pussy like you around, no one thinks of trouble,” he said laughing his ass off.

Another one of my tasks was to be a scapegoat. Something bad happened? The cops caught us red-handed? It was me who was supposed to take the blame.

I asked Mikhail only once how long I was supposed to work with him, but I didn’t get a clear answer.

“Until your debt is paid,” was all he said.

 

 

Work was almost always the same. Sure, at times, I was loading boxes. At others, I’d heave huge crates into the truck. One thing didn’t changed though, I never found out what it was we were transporting.

Considering the money Mikhail was paid by his clients, it was pretty clear we weren’t transporting common goods. I was sure it was drugs or some other sort of contraband. Hell, it might even be weapons.

For a month and a half that’s how things went. There were a few times when I’d almost dropped a box, but thankfully it never happened.

I guess it was due to the clients that Mikhail kept. They were usually armed and looked like serious trouble. Knowing that you’d get a bullet between the eyes if you dropped their goods, puts you in a state of hyper focus.

The mistake I made though was much worse.

Mikhail had stopped the truck at a random resting area at a Polish Autobahn. It was around two in the morning and Mikhail said he’d get cigarettes and something to eat.

Once he was inside the diner, I left the truck as well. You see, for the past half an hour I’d heard one of the crates we’d loaded move around in the back. Mikhail either hadn’t heard it or chose to ignore it. I thought about telling him, but there was his rule of not speaking to him. I’d gotten a bloody nose twice by now, for approaching him without his permission. So I kept quiet.

What I was worried about though, was that some of the goods inside the crate might get damaged. I was the one who’d loaded them and only God knew what would happen to me if something broke.

Being the scared idiot I was, I went to the back of the truck right then and there. I had to see if the crates were okay and if the tension straps were still fastened.

Busying myself in the back with my flashlight I checked here and there. After only a few moments I saw that some of the tension straps had gotten lose. This had caused one of the crates to move to the side of the truck. There seemed to be no real problem. I also knew that our destination was only about an hour or two away. Still, I didn’t want to take any risks. For all I knew, I might already get into trouble if the crates weren’t adequately secured.

So I jumped in, pushed the crate back into its original position and loosened the straps a bit. I was about to fasten them again when I heard someone call out to me in Polish.

I turned around to yell at whoever it was to go away. I broke up when I saw that it was two police officers. I could feel the color drain from my face and myself getting sweaty.

I cursed at myself for showing my fear so obviously. They must have seen me rummaging in the back of the truck and decided to check out what was going on.

Did they notice my reaction though? Oh god, please tell me they didn’t see it.

“Eh… everything is fine, just checking if the crates are secured properly,” I stammered in my best English.

They both didn’t say a thing for a few moments while eying me. Finally one of them said something in what I presumed was Polish. I didn’t understand a word.

“Only English or German,” I said awkwardly.

“What are you loading?” one of them asked.

I stood there and couldn’t think. What the hell should I tell them? I had no clue what was inside the crates. Hell, I didn’t even know what they were usually used to transport. Where they used to carry booze? Construction materials? Tools? I had no freaking clue. My brain was frozen. I could see the officers starting to get impatient.

“Only alcohol,” I blurted out.

One of them raised his eyebrows and grinned before he translated it for his colleague. They exchanged a few more words.

Oh god, please go away, I thought while I tried to appear as relaxed as possible.

“No,” the same officer said.

He pushed me aside with his arm, while his colleague jumped into the back of the truck. He took out a flashlight and started to check out the crates.

I stood there, but couldn’t do anything. I was frozen solid, with one of the officers standing right next to me.

Fuck, how did this happen? How the hell did this happen? Shit, I am a fucking idiot, I cursed at myself in my head.

What if they-

I was cut off as I saw Mikhail appear. He suddenly stepped out from behind the truck and stood right before the officer and me.

“What’s the problem here, officers?” he asked with a smile on his face while smoking a cigarette.

“Who are you?” the officer next to me asked in surprise. I saw him put a hand on his hip instinctively. All the while the other officer was still checking out the inside of the truck.

“I am the driver,” Mikhail said almost emotionless.

“What are you shipping,” the officer asked once more, this time with more urgency in his voice.

At that moment Mikhail said something in Polish.

In an instant, the cop in the back stopped checking the crates and turned around. I could see how surprised he was. Then he left the truck and asked something else. The only thing I understood was a Russian name.

Then Mikhail nodded and went up to the driver’s seat. He gave the cops a full view of his hands. Then he got out an envelope filled with money. Finally, he handed it to the officers.

They counted it, nodded and walked off. I didn’t get to think about what had taken place because as soon as we were alone, Mikhail hit me square in the face.

In tumbled to the ground as my whole head erupted in pain. On the ground, I could feel the blood rush from my nose. Mikhail had hit me before, but never as hard as this.

He shouted something in Russian at me and when I didn’t react, he repeated it so I’d understand.

“Close the back and get in, you bloody idiot!”

Once I’d sat down in the passenger seat, Mikhail threw a dirty rag at me.

“Clean yourself up for fuck’s sake,” he yelled at me.

While I did so, he started the truck and we drove off.

“This all comes from your pay! I’ll tell you once and only once, you don’t touch anything when we are out in the open.”

“Okay,” I said in a low voice and nodded.

He stared at me in anger and I winced, thinking he might hit me again. Then he spat out a few curses in Russian before he spoke again.

“Can’t take that route anymore. They are going to wait for us now and bleed us dry. Fuck! What the hell were you even doing!?”

I could see how the knuckles on his hands grew white as he held onto the steering wheel. I sat there, not sure what to say. Should I tell him the cops walked over and demanded I’d open the back? Would they do this? In the end, I decided to tell him the truth.

“I heard a noise and I thought one of the crates had gotten lose. I didn’t want anything to get damaged, so I went to check and refasten it.”

For a moment Mikhail watched me, trying to make sure if I’d told the truth. Finally, he sighed.

“Okay, you are not a total idiot. You had the right idea, but what you did was still stupid. If anything like this happens again, you tell me before you act. Don’t ever just touch things. If the police find out what’s inside, we are in trouble. Serious trouble.”

Well duh, I thought, if the cops find out we are trafficking drugs or shit, then we are in trouble. Not that I didn’t know that already.

At least that’s what I thought we were transporting. I should find out what it really was five weeks later.

At the time we traveled through the back-lands of the Czech Republic. We’d loaded some crates and were on our way to bring them back to the brothers.

For two hours we’d followed nothing but back-roads. We’d driven through so many poor, half-empty villages, I’d stopped counting. Out of nowhere, a police car appeared behind us.

Mikhail stopped the truck right away. When the guy appeared at the window, I knew in an instant that he was trouble. His expression was serious, almost angry. I could tell that the moment he’d seen Mikhail he was suspicious. He pointed the flashlight directly at his face and told him something in Czech. When Mikhail got out of the car, the cop turned to me and yelled at me as well. I didn’t understand a word but got out as well.

Once we were out, the cop started to ask Mikhail a few questions, to which he gave short answers. After that, the officer instructed him to get to the back of the truck. I did not understood a word, but it was clear that he wanted to know what we were transporting. Mikhail gave him one of our standard answers: clast, the Czech word for alcohol.

The police officer grinned, pointed at the back of the truck and instructed Mikhail to open it. When Mikhail didn’t move, the cop pulled out his gun. The next thing he made us do was to get out one of the crates. Both Mikhail and I heaved it from the truck to the ground.

I noticed how the cop’s eyes focused on Mikhail. It was clear to him that if anyone would cause him trouble, it wasn’t me.

Mikhail told me to open the crate. While the cop watched, I got a crowbar from the front of the car. Then I started to remove the large nails that held the crate shut.

Once the front popped open, two black sacks fell out onto the dirt.

The cops face turned bleak and his mouth became a hard line. I could see that he now pointed his gun straight at Mikhail, snapping a command at him. Mikhail turned to me.

“Open it,” was all he said.

I blinked and looked at him, but didn’t understand. He wasn’t suggesting I’d… but right then he pointed at the sacks. Oh fuck no, I thought. From where I stood it was obvious what was inside. The form, the outlines, everything. Fuck!

I went forward and ripped one of them open. I had only opened it for a bit and was greeted by a face staring straight at me. Even though I’d know what was inside, I still stumbled back a step in surprise.

The cop was still looking and pointing his gun at Mikhail as he walked to the bag. When he saw the corpses inside, he took out his radio.

Right at that moment, Mikhail yelled something in Czech. I had no idea what he was saying, but the cop turned and pointed the gun at me. His finger was on the trigger and I saw the shock and anger on his face.

In one short moment, my mind became blank. This was it. I was convinced I was dead. Then the cops face exploded.

Blood, bone and brain matter rained down on me.

At first I was surprised that I was still alive. Then came the confusion. When I finally realized what had happened, I screamed.

Mikhail was with me a moment later, putting his hand over his mouth.

“Stop screaming idiot, you are still alive.”

Once my legs started working again, he helped me up. Then he brought me a rag and helped me clean off the worst. After that, he stuffed the corpse of the officer in the crate as well. I was still completely numb as we loaded the crate again. Mikhail told me to get in the truck, while he fastened the crate as quickly as possible. Then we drove off.

It was only about ten minutes later that Mikhail drove the car towards a forest and stopped.

“Why are we-?”

“Shut up,” Mikhail said.

My eyes grew wide. Was he going to shoot me? Was it because I saw what was in the crate, or that he shot the police officer?

When I saw him lean behind his seat to search for something I started rummaging around with the seat belt. Before I’d even opened it in my state of mind, I was hit. Not by a bullet, but by a bag.

“Change into these, can’t have you running around all bloody and shit.”

I looked at him confused before I realized what must be in the bag. I stepped out of the car, undressed and put on the clothes he’d thrown at me. They smelled quite a bit and were way too big for me. I didn’t complain, I was more than happy to get out of the blood and brain covered ones I’d been wearing. We dumped the rest of the clothes in a bag and put them behind my seat.

“Otik and Juro will take care of it, the cop, the clothes, everything. Cost a bit more, but whatever. Common procedure. Not the first time something like this has happened.”

It took more than an hour before my brain started working again. I finally realized that I really was a scapegoat. I’d been Mikhail’s distraction. He’d waited for the right moment to shout something that would make the officer turn to me. I don’t know what it was he’d said, but probably something like ‘Yes, shoot him!’

If Mikhail had been a moment late, I’d be dead as well. I’d be stashed into the same crate as the cop. He probably did so with others who worked with him before. Common procedure he’d said. Watching him now, from the corner of my eye, I could tell he didn’t give a shit. He did not care one bit if I’d been shot back then.

I had thought I was an alibi or someone to take the blame. That was only half the reason for me to be there. If necessary, I was there to take a bullet or if things got bad, to die for Mikhail.

There was nothing I could do about it though. I couldn’t even complain about it. I could only sit there, in this shitty truck, in the middle of nowhere. All the while I had to fight the urge to jump the asshole sitting next to me. Not that it would do me any good.

I was surprised when he spoke up.

“It’s a safe route. There should’ve been no one there. Could be that someone ratted me out. Wasn’t careful enough, my fault.”

Now he hadn’t apologized and I was damn sure that I’d never hear this guy use the word sorry. Still, that he’d said anything at all…

Shit, to be honest, I’d thought he’d hit me again for not tackling the police officer earlier.

After that, he said nothing until we reached the brothers.

 

 

Mikhail was right, the brother’s really had no problem taking care of things. They took the crates we brought and took care of the police officer as well.

Hell, Otik even joked about our run-in with the police and what happened.

By now it was clear to me what their job was. I could see the chimneys of the old furnaces in the back. It was probably quite easy for them to get rid of almost anything. And out here, no one would give a damn.

For a moment, as I heaved one of the crates out, I remember Juro’s weird smiles and his odd behavior. I thought back to what I thought I’d seen that one day. As a result, I felt nothing but disgust for the guy.

Once I was done with the last crate, I found him standing right next to me.

“Too bad, by now I thought I’d find you in one of them too, oh what I’d do then…”

I almost jumped back as I saw his half-empty gaze and smile right next to my face.

“Fucking shit,” I screamed at him. He reacted by laughing out loud, but I could see, that he was grinning at me for the next few minutes we were there.

“He’s one sick fuck,” Mikhail said when we were back in the truck, “knows what he is doing though.”

Once we were back on the street, Mikhail told me it was time for a trip to Bratislava. An old acquaintance of his needed a prompt delivery. The pay was worth the long journey he said. I said nothing. I knew damn well that I’d not earn a dime of what we’d make anyways.

This was not the worst though. Knowing what we were transporting scared me more than anything. Before I’d thought it was drugs or contraband, but now that I know what it was, I couldn’t help but be afraid. I didn’t want to know who Mikhail’s clients really were.

What if he’d tell them I knew what was in the crates? Would they shoot me then and there, right after I finished loading? Would they stuff me in another crate and that be it? What about Mikhail? Would he get rid of me at one point? For two whole weeks, I almost freaked out whenever we stopped, thinking this could be it.

In time though, those feelings went away. I got used to the work and what we were transporting as well. I guess I grew desensitized to it all.

After a while, I even picked up some Czech and Polish. I at least wanted to understand what the cops and some of Mikhail’s clients were yelling at me.

By that time, work felt almost normal, not much different from any other job.

It shouldn’t stay that way.

I had worked with Mikhail for half a year when it happened. We were on our way back from Belarus to Poland, to one of our end destinations. Turns out Mikhail didn’t work with only the brothers. He knew a couple of other trusty people who were also specialized in corpse removal.

Mikhail drove the truck and I was reading through a Polish lesson when I heard a knock from the back of the truck.

At first, I thought I imagined things, but then a heavy thud followed. I looked at Mikhail, who as fuming. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen him this angry before, including the night of my first major mistake.

“What is-?”

“Nothing,” he answered between clenched teeth.

We drove on for a while longer until Mikhail brought the truck to a halt a bit off the road.

“Go check,” he commanded me.

Once I was in the back of the truck, I could hear it clearly. Someone was rummaging and moving in one of the crates. I could hear a muffled voice from inside.

I went back to Mikhail.

“Someone is alive back there,” I pressed out.

I could see Mikhail’s expression darken. He cursed in Russian and spat out of the car. For a long minute, he sat there, not doing anything. Then he got out his gun.

Oh shit, he is going to shot the guy, I thought. Then I noticed that he wasn’t getting up from his seat nor did he open the door. He was looking at me holding the gun up to me.

“Wait, what are you… no, I can’t, I mean…”

Mikhail’s face turned hard. “You do it.”

I stared at the gun, not sure what to do.

“Take it!” he screamed.

I took the gun and stumbled to the back of the truck. I stood there, staring at the crate and listened.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Some pleading in Russian. Another Thud.

I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t fucking do it! That’s a person in there. I can’t freaking shoot someone. I was starting to freak out.

I don’t know how long I was standing there when I heard Mikhail curse.

“What takes so freaking long?” he asked in an angry voice. Then I heard him get out of the truck and saw him walk over to me.

“I can’t freaking do it,” I said to him, almost pleading with him.

“You have to,” Mikhail said with a thick Russian accent. His face was completely empty of any emotion.

“N-no, it’s impossible, I can’t kill-”

“Then you die.”

He said it matter-of-factly. I stood there and felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead and on my hands. My heart started to beat faster and faster. How did it come to this? What the hell was I supposed to do? I couldn’t shot someone, could I? I wasn’t going to be a murderer. Fuck this shit. Fuck it all. Fuck Mikhail, fuck Yuri and fuck this guy in there!

“Dyes-yat. Dyev-vat. Vo-syem,” he started all of a sudden.

What the hell was he doing?”

“Syem. Shest,” he continued.

He was counting I realized. The memories of Russian class in sixth grade came back to me. It was the numbers from ten down to one he was reciting!

“Chye-tir-ye. Tree.”

Oh god, what the fuck do I do?

And then, almost entirely out of it, not even sure what I was doing, I pointed the gun at Mikhail. He started to grin and stopped counting.

“You aren’t going to do it,” he said, “don’t kid yourself, someone like you can’t.”

“Shut up!” I yelled at him.

“What are you going to do? You are going to shot me? What are you going to do afterward? Steal my money and run?”

I didn’t answer. I had no fucking idea about any of that. Mikhail knew and started laughing. Then he took one step towards me.

“Stop, or I’ll fucking shot!”

“You won’t. You are a pussy.”

I said nothing. Instead, I pointed the gun straight at his head and took another step back. I had to keep my distance from him.

“I am not going to shot that guy in there! I am not going to do it! I am not a freaking murderer!”

Mikhail started to laugh again.

“And you are going to prove it how? By shooting me?”

This time I grinned weakly.

“If that’s what it takes…”

I had wanted it to sound hard and intimidating, but my voice almost cracked as I said it.

Mikhail laughed again and a moment later, he came at me. At that moment I closed my eyes and pressed the trigger.

It clicked. Nothing else. I opened my eyes in surprise and the only thing I saw was Mikhail’s fist hitting me once more.

I woke up in the passenger seat of the truck. The moment I opened my eyes I was flooded by a wave of familiar pain. Jesus Christ, that guy hits like a truck!

Then I realized where I was and what had happened.

“What the fuck?!” I screamed and started to pull on the seat belt to get rid of it.

“Stop,” Mikhail said in a low voice. He pushed me back into the seat and slowed down the truck.

“What the hell is going on? What was this whole-?”

“It was a test,” Mikhail said in a normal voice.

“Test?! What the fuck kind of test… are you-”

“To see what sort of person you are.”

I had no idea what the hell he was going on about. Mikhail Sighed, before leaning back.

“There is enough bad in this world, enough people like me. This here, all of this, it is all bad. I wanted to see what you’d do. If you’d shoot a man without any other reason than me telling you to do it.”

“That’s why you handed me the gun and all?”

He nodded. My eyes grew wide.

“What if I’d shot you? What if the gun wouldn’t have-?”

“No bullets. You really are an idiot.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. We both did. I was such a goddamn idiot.

“So what if I’d decided to do it.”

“Then there’d be one more bag in that crate,” he answered grinning.

“What happened to-?”

I broke up when I saw Mikhail’s face. It was hard like so often before. This time though, as he looked at the sky ahead, I saw something else: Regret.

After a few more moments we drove off.

I worked with Mikhail for three more months. Not much changed during that time. We didn’t talk a lot and I didn’t find out more about him. I guess though, that’s the way he is.

It was one day, by sheer surprise, that he stopped the truck on a Germany street.

“Get out of the car?”

I did as he told me and he soon followed. What was going on now?

Once we were out Mikhail started to talk.

Yuri never had any intention of letting me go. I’d work for Mikhail as long as was necessary, then he’d get rid of me. I wouldn’t have been the first one to meet such an end.

“Don’t worry, I am not going to shoot you. If I wanted to, I’d done it much earlier.”

Then he handed me something. It was an envelope and a note. As I checked the envelope, I saw that it was filled with money.

“What are-?”

“Shut up! Don’t make me take it back, okay?”

“You don’t belong in this world. You are not a bad person. In this envelope is enough to last you for a bit. On the note is the name of an old friend. He’ll give you work, good and honest work.”

I couldn’t believe what he was saying.

“Mikhail, what are you-?” I couldn’t finish. Instead, I went forward to hug him, but he raised one of his massive hands.

In a moment his expression grew serious again.

“I know how you ended up in this situation. Gambling. Loans. Easy Money, right?”

I felt so utterly embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say, but then Mikhail grabbed me by the cuff of my neck.

“If you ever do that shit again, I come and shoot you myself, understood?”

I gasped in surprise.

“You understand!?” he asked once more.

“Y-yes, I won’t ever do it again.”

“Good.”

He looked at me once more.

“Now fuck off, before I regret what I’ve just done.”

With that, he got back in his truck and drove off. For long minutes I stood there, sure he’d be back.

Once finally realized he wouldn’t, I checked the address he’d given me on my phone. Then I started walking.

Good and honest work, it didn’t sound too bad.