Flash fiction: How to kill a man well by Malcolm Mackay

25 July 2016

By Pan Macmillan

The shortest of short stories from the author of the Glasgow trilogy, Malcolm Mackay. 

1 Preparation – They gave me a target. His name is Anthony Hughes, so I have to learn everything about Anthony Hughes. That’s what you do. You learn anything that might be useful, and a lot that won’t be. It’s tedious. But you learn a man’s routine, and you learn his weak spot.

2 Blend in – I’m ordinary. No distinguishing features. You’d walk past me in the street and not even blink. People start taking notice of you and they notice what you’re doing. That happens, and you’re finished. So I know where I’m going to get Hughes. Not at home. He goes out dealing, and every day he cuts along through an old shipyard that’s been closed up for years. Junkies use the buildings, but there's nobody on the little footpath he uses.

 3 Move quickly – I thought about stabbing him, but he’s a big guy, bigger than me. I got the gun this morning, got it in my hand. Got gloves on, obviously, and I’m keeping them dry, because I don’t want to squeeze the gun and have it slip out of my hand. Here he comes. Up the path, walking with a swagger. He has no idea. I’m upright, I’m stepping out of the bush behind him, he’s turning round, but he’s too late. Pull the trigger once, side of the head. Now I'm moving. Off the path, into the car.

4 Know the way home – Fifty minutes after pulling the trigger, all the clothes I was wearing are gone, the gun is gone, and the car I escaped in is gone. You learn the best route to get yourself home after the job. Best route, not fastest, remember that, that’s important. There are things to avoid, routes you could take that make it more likely you get spotted in the car you escaped in. Avoid those, pick the safest route. Don’t go racing off either, that’s dumb.

5 Remember nothing – This is the one you can’t control. Not to begin with, anyway. Takes a hell of a lot of practice to push the things you’ve done into the furthest away corner of your memory. Got to get rid of it though. Don’t think about Hughes with his head sideways and his eyes widening as you pull the trigger. Don’t think about him hitting the pavement, a dead weight, a dead man. And, bloody hell, don’t think about the people he left behind. You dwell on that, and it starts to destroy you too.

Malcolm Mackay's latest gripping portrait of gangland Glasgow, For Those Who Know the Ending, is out now. 



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