Andrei Ivanov wasn’t the main character.
He never was and never would be.
It was strangely comforting whenever he thought about it. He did not have the burden of responsibility like most prominent characters, and he wasn’t the center of attention. In fact, he was invisible. Blending into the walls, only a few people noticed him. And for the ones that did, he was just a passing glance; nothing special.
At twenty-eight, he might’ve once believed he would’ve gotten it all figured out already. However, his relationships were non-existing. His social life was the same. His looks were ordinary — a forgettable face, one might add. He worked at the Gu Mvd Rossii Po Sverdlovskoy Oblasti Police Station as a desk officer, writing up reports for petty disputes, and minor offenses. He talked… Quite a lot, though. He dressed like everyone else, too. Except for those God-awful black sweaters he wore on his days to work, unbothered by the piping summer heat blazing down in the center of Yekaterinburg, Russia.
On the bright side, he smiled plenty. And the locals liked him… The ones who lived in the residential building he lived in, at least. Especially the youngsters — the ones he passed by whenever he took the apartment stairs.
But all in all, he was bland. A nobody, really.
Andrei was not the main character.
However, the same couldn’t be spoken for Nikolay Petrov; Andrei’s best friend.
Although they were the same age: Nikolay was the main character. Everybody liked him… Or they favored him over Andrei because everybody liked Andrei, too. Unlike Andrei, Nikolay had this — this glow around him. He talked just as much as Andrei. He was taller, not that it mattered. He was an oddball, though. Clumsy. Weird. Different. Nikolay stood out. He captured everyone’s attention whenever he stepped into a room.
Nikolay followed the wrong path… Or he worked for horrible people.
Horrible, respectable, rich, untouchable people in the upper class of Yekaterinburg.
And despite all this, Nikolay, a once lowly, nobody who came out from Penza, like Andrei, still captured his boss’, Stepan Volkov’s attention the minute he stepped into the Volkov family’s home.
You see, Nikolay took culinary classes for a couple of years before he came to Yekaterinburg. At the time, he didn’t intend on working for Stepan, but he needed the money, so he applied as a joke. It wasn’t a joke when he got in, though. And apparently, the fearsome Stepan Volkov liked his cooking because, after only a month in, Nikolay got listed as Stepan’s personal chef.
That was five months ago.
Nikolay sometimes bragged about how he immediately became Stepan’s favorite. And though he said it was unfair to the other cooks, personal bodyguards, and whoever working, slaving their lives for Stepan for years, and decades; he still bragged.
So, it was safe to say…
Nikolay was the main character.
Andrei, on the other hand… A supporting character.
The main character’s best friend. The person everyone goes to shed all of their problems. The person nobody really cared about… Not enough, anyway.
At least, Andrei wasn’t involved in Russia’s untouchables.
That would never happen…
Andrei promised himself that he would never involve himself in the Volkov’s family affairs. He knew of them, of their wrongdoings, what harm they could do… Everyone in Russia knew. That family was like a pack of feral wolves — Volkov even meant wolf for crying out loud!
Nikolay knew… He had a knack for danger, though.
That was what made up the traits of the main character.
Andrei had none of those… Thank God.
Andrei stared at the wall clock at the opposite end of the station room, wordlessly counting down the seconds ticking by.
It was 4:50 p.m, and his stomach wouldn’t stop grumbling. Plus, he stunk. Under his eyes were turning dark, and his mouth tasted like sandpaper. God-dammit, he just wanted to go home, curl under his blankets, and get some shuteye.
When another minute passed by, Andrei gathered all the files he needed to sort through tonight, shuffling them inside his backpack before standing up. He needed to get out of this damn station; he needed a shower — needed to clear his mind — he was sure he was going crazy from the constant ticking sound coming from that ventilator system above his head all damn day!
The minute he straightened his back, the bones were cracking under pressure, forcing a groan out of Andrei’s mouth.
When he took another glance at the clock; at 4:56 p.m, Andrei slung his backpack over his shoulder, speed-walking over to the front door. He did not bother bidding a farewell to his colleagues, shuffling around the room, working in the night shift. He had been sitting on that fucking desk since six this morning writing up petty crime reports, and he hadn’t moved once. Now, it was their time to suffer through the ordeal.
Andrei groaned before halting in front of the exit door.
Fucking hell, he should’ve walked faster.
Swiftly, he twisted around with a broad smile on his face. “Yes… Ivan?” he asked through gritted teeth.
Ivan, another desk officer, arched an eyebrow at Andrei’s disheveled hair. “Uh, Alexander wants a word with you.”
Andrei sighed. “What is it?”
“I don’t know,” Ivan shrugged his shoulders before turning his back to Andrei. “Did you fuck up today, or something?”
“Then don’t worry about it,” Ivan said, plopping himself on the desktop. “He probably just wanna have a little chat or something.”
Alexander was their superintendent. A middle-aged, grumpy-looking, pot-belly man — and the head of the department. Since Andrei started working at the station, Alexander never favored him, or anyone, really. It was the reason he was stuck on desk duty. He was positive the man wouldn’t want to chat.
Alexander must’ve just wanted to yell at him, or something.
Andrei must’ve done something wrong — or something to upset his superintendent.
“Mm’k.” Andrei dragged a palm over his face. And without pondering too long, he took slow steps over to Alexander’s office on the second floor.
God, he just wanted to go home.
“You want to see me, sir?” Andrei asked after he opened his boss’ office door.
“Ah Andrei, my boy!” Alexander dropped the stalk of papers down the desk, and smiled a bright toothy grin. Odd. The man never smiled at anyone. Never. “Yea, close the door… Grab a seat — I have exciting news.”
Call it a gut instinct, but something was definitely up. Still, Andrei did as told; he carefully closed the door, before eyeing the older man skeptically.
When he took a seat on the opposite side of Alexander, the older man looked him straight in the face and said, “Remember that promotion you wanted?”
Andrei lifted a questionable eyebrow. “Yes?”
“Well… I got good —”
“I’m being promoted?!” The words excitedly slipped from Andrei’s mouth before he could stop himself as he nearly jumped out of the chair.
Call him delusional, however, since he started working in the station three years ago, he was stuck doing desk duty despite applying for fieldwork. It wasn’t like he couldn’t handle the job — he was a damn good shooter, and he aced his taekwondo class last year, coming in third in his batch of thirty men. He was a natural… Yet nobody seemed to notice.
“Uh,” Alexander scratched at the back of his neck, avoiding Andrei’s glare. “Not exactly.”
“Oh,” Andrei mumbled, falling back into the chair.
He should’ve known better.
“But you will be,” Alexander added.
“Really?” Andrei asked blandly.
This time, he wasn’t believing Alexander’s lies.
“Yea… I have an assignment for you,” Alexander said, opening the left desk drawer before retrieving a folder. “It’s sort of out of your league… But if you can successfully complete this… You’ll get promoted. You have my word.”
An assignment… For a desk officer?
Andrei scrunched up his nose. “Uh-huh… So what assignment is it, exactly?”
“Yea… About that,” Alexander answered flipping the folder open. “It’s dangerous.”
Andrei sighed: Of course, it was — not like his life mattered. “Am I going to get killed?” he asked.
“If I’m being honest with you… You might,” Alexander replied.
“I see… So why me?”
Why would Alexander ask him of all people? Weren’t there like hundreds of field officers in the district to do the job?
“Well… You’re an officer, and you’re obligated to the same responsibility as the rest of my men. ”
A strange feeling twisted in Andrei’s stomach — something didn’t sit right.
“Sir,” he said, his voice deep, profound.
“Listen, Andrei, what I’m about to tell you is between us alone.”
Andrei sank himself against the chair, hoping the leather might swallow him up. “Okay.”
After a long pause, Alexander spoke; “I’m opening an investigation for the Volkov’s family. We need to put those criminals behind bars for good.”
Andrei leaned into the desk, staring at the older man in disbelief. “Sir, you want to send me in to investigate the Volkov family?”
The Volkov family was the biggest mafia-run organization in all of Russia, and they were leeches to the streets of Yekaterinburg — even the police stations here wouldn’t lay a hand on them.
A couple of decades ago, two brothers ruled over the Volkov’s business, Boris Volkov and Igor Volkov. After Igor got murdered in his sleep five years ago — rumors were that his own brother killed him; Boris Volkov split the family business between his two sons.
Boris’ sons were half brothers, though. And rumors were that he favored his older son over his younger son. It must’ve been true because his older son, Stepan Volkov inherited the trump card over his younger brother, Dimitri Volkov.
Stepan was the first ruling or the leader in the business, controlling most of the wealth flowing through the family name. His younger brother, Dimitri, the second ruling, controlling a minor part of the business. The brothers weren’t best of friends, but they weren’t enemies, either. They did most of the dirty work in the names of their father since their father still carried the upper saying in what went on in the business.
Nikolay worked for the first ruling leader of the Volkov family… For Stepan, to be exact.
Still, it didn’t matter who he worked for because they were all part of the same family. They were all the Volkov. They were all mobsters, vile, cold-blooded killers prancing around Yekaterinburg in fancy suits, shiny cars, and cold stares.
Although Andrei didn’t know them personally, he had read about them from the files back at the station’s storage room. And he knew there was a reason the policing committee in Yekaterinburg turned a blind eye on the Volkov family. The last time a couple of rookie officers tried sticking their noses in the Volkov’s family affairs, a street janitor discovered their bodies minced to pieces inside garbage disposal bags across the city.
They were called the untouchables for a damn good reason.
He had seen Stepan Volkov on the streets, too.
Whenever the mobster was doing his shopping or running errands… Or just mingling about the streets of Yekaterinburg, surrounded by bodyguards.
Stepan was a good-looking man. Late thirties, strong jawline, six feet, filthy rich. Stepan wasn’t a terrible man, either. Or at least, he didn’t cause a nuisance to the residents of Yekaterinburg. He kept a low profile… His younger brother kept an even lower profile, though.
Andrei had never seen Dimitri Volkov.
However, if Alexander thought it was a wise decision to send Andrei — of all people — to the most dangerous place in all of Russia, the older man must’ve been fucking crazy.
“But, why me?” Andrei hissed. “Can’t someone else, do it? I mean… I’m just a desk officer — don’t you know what will happen if I get caught?”
“You’re a trained officer, Andrei,” Alexander said, folding his arms.
“But sir —”
“Andrei, I’ve been watching you,” Alexander said, dangerously low. “You aren’t like those sellouts sitting outside this door pretending they stand for justice. I don’t know, but let me tell you… Half of your colleagues out there are working alongside the Volkov family. That’s why we can’t do anything about this family. But you… you aren’t like them, Andrei. You’re good… And you also have connections. That’s why I’m trusting you with this.”
Andrei tilted his head to the side: Connections?
Alexander must’ve gone bonkers because the only connections Andrei could conjure up was getting free liquor from that pretty girl who worked at Danny’s on Sunday afternoons.
“I don’t understand… What connections?” he asked, frowning.
“Look Andrei,” Alexander sighed. “We all know you are friends with that Nikolay —”
“I’m not involving Niko in whatever you’re planning,” the words slipped from Andrei’s mouth before he could stop himself.
No matter what, he would not involve his best friend. Nikolay already worked for the devil himself, so Andrei wasn’t about to stir trouble. Besides, a couple of months back, he secretly asked Nikolay to help him get information about the Volkov family. It was just a bunch of drug cartels’ names from Vietnam who Stepan dealt alongside.
It was a risky, stupid decision. Thankfully, nothing happened.
“Nobody says anything about involving Nikolay — can you keep your mouth shut and let me finish?” Alexander hissed, flinging his arms in the air dismissively.
Andrei tsked before muttering, “Sorry.”
“Anyway… As I was saying,” Alexander leaned closer to the desk, wanting to keep their conversation as private as possible. “I know Nikolay works for the Volkov family. He’s a chef there, isn’t he?”
More like the best in all of Yekaterinburg of the Volkov family kept him.
“Yes,” Andrei answered.
“Let him get you a job there,” Alexander ordered.
“It’s difficult —”
“Your friend can do it.”
Alexander was right, though: Nikolay could do a lot of things… Things Andrei couldn’t dream of doing. That was why he was stuck in an office job, eating noodles from a cup every day, while Nikolay was living the high life, hanging out with the wealthy people of Russia.
Some might say Andrei sounded jealous of his friend… And though there might’ve been a bit of envy lingering in his brain, he was angrier at himself for becoming a failure in life.
“I don’t know he can,” he mumbled, contemplating.
“Do you want this promotion, or not?”
Andrei wanted it more badly than Alexander could’ve ever imagined.
Andrei wanted to be noticed in life.
“What if I get caught?” he asked.
“You always wanted to go out in the field, Andrei,” Alexander said seriously, avoiding the question. “This is your time to prove you’re capable enough. Not just to me… But to yourself, too.”
Alexander was right.
Perhaps this was a way to prove to himself once and for all.
Perhaps faith had given him a chance to go on this mission — to prove himself worthy.
“Alright,” Andrei sighed in defeat. “I’ll ask Nikolay tomorrow.”
Alexander chuckled before slamming his palm against the wooden desk. “That’s my boy,” he said, smiling all wide with excitement.
“But I can’t guarantee you he’s going to agree,” Andrei said.
“He doesn’t need to know what you’re in there for — just don’t tell him.”
Andrei wanted to roll his eyes… Of course, Nikolay would know — he wasn’t stupid. Andrei was an officer… Why on earth would he want to work for criminals? Nikolay would see right through his white lies if he tried to lie his way in — which he wasn’t planning on doing.
“Mm’k,” Andrei mumbled instead.