"The Killers" begins with two men walking into a lunchroom. They’re clearly from out of town, and they act like jerks by giving George, the man running the place, a hard time. They also taunt Nick Adams, the young man sitting at the other end of the counter. When they’re done with their supper, they order Nick behind the counter. One of the two strangers, named Al, ties up Nick and the Sam, the cook, in the kitchen. The other stranger, named Max, stays out at the counter with George. The men reveal that they’re planning on killing "a big Swede named Ole Andreson" who often eats supper at this lunchroom. They’re basically staking the place out. So everyone stands around and waits until 7pm, at which point it’s clear that Ole isn’t coming. The killers leave, rather anti-climactically.
Once the men are gone, Nick runs over to Ole’s place, a room at a boarding house. He finds the man, a former heavyweight prizefighter, lying in bed fully dressed. He knows there are men coming to kill him, Ole says, and he doesn’t want to run away. He accepts that he’s going to die, but he still can’t bring himself to leave the house (knowing he’ll be killed when he does). Nick returns, defeated, to the lunchroom, where the three men stand around talking about how awful this is. While George and Sam seem ready to forget about it all, Nick declares that he’s "going to get out of this town." George tells him that it’s best just not to think about it.