I turn off the freeway, onto a little road runnin’ some 200 yards towards a cluster of buildings.
Three of 'em, in all, huddling together around a single lightsource, like hobos around a barrel-fire on this cold Jersey night. Only one of them, the largest, faces the road going past, staring 'cross the icy plain of its own parking lot.
Its a big cement-and-glass kind of affair, the abandoned child of some dot.com venture gone awry, a physical manifestation of dead ethereal powers, the internet, God.
On the opposite side of the road lies the forbidding watchtower of this little shrine to futility, a transformer station, with the ever-present wirefence and concrete-block toolshed.
I drive on. To the very end of the road, almost out of reach of the friendly oil-barrel magnesium tube, to where the last hobo rests, perhaps the most tired, certainly the oldest of the three.
It's a small one-story office maybe a mile out from Trenton, maybe two, come to think of it. Used to belong to a phone-sales company, before it served a bookie, or so I’ve guessed from the furnishings. The bookie got shut down, or went legit, or what-have-you, and probably he owed some money to Jorge, and probably Jorge accepted this little rathole, and the guy’s firstborn child as substitution, knowing the bastard.
Whatever its past, it's now one of the places I pick up stuff that my employers want me to use on my job. My job being murder, these objects don’t show much variation. Don’t suppose I’d want them to, really.
Under normal circumstances, I’d go out and... obtain these items myself, but sometimes the situation, or the customer, asks for something specific. Tonight I’m apparently here to pick up a 12-gauge, which I’d guess someone used to blow a few more holes in The Big Apple, so if it turned up at the scene of my next job, implicatin’ some poor fellow in something nasty, I’m guessing, that’d be mighty convenient for someone.
Not a problem with me. Shotguns I can do. Shotguns I can do.
There is just exactly enough room, between the the bigger building and this one for me to turn my battered old Toyota around and point it back the way I came, before turning off the ignition and getting out. The place is every bit as unremarkable as last I was here, though I seem to remember closing the door to the head office, which some quick peeking through the windows tells me is now open.
Jorge probably has more guys like me, and more shady dealings to hold than the board of Coca-Cola, I rationalize as I fish out the key from the ice-caves I call pockets, entering to a dustier, albeit warmer clime. It all looks more or less the same. Someone has had a bottle and some glasses out on one table, judging by the uneven dust-layer. The table to the far left still has a few office supplies left on it. One of them industry-sized staplers, almost hidden beneath crystallized, fallen motes of time and opportunity, scuttled here with no one to use 'em.
I cross over and open the door to the head-office, where by some agreement never put to words, Jorge or more probably, one of his lackeys, always leaves the tools of my trade for me, on the desk of the long-gone holder, of the long-gone power of this place. Like as to invoke whatever energies still flow here.
Unrealised worship of the spirits of everyday.
There is no shotgun, I realise closing the door behind me. I am mildly irritated, thinking of calling Jorge and telling him off for wasting my time. Probably still lying around in the trunk of some young delinquent's car, while he's getting stoned and forgetting that errand for Mr. Querera.
As I stand there, regretting how I didn’t pick up some fuckin' cigarettes on my way here, the silhouette of the little office suddenly travels 'cross the treeline behind it, chased up by car headlights. I notice the sound of an engine the second before it cuts out, which is just plain shoddy performance, for me.
At any rate, somebody just pulled up out front, presumably carrying my package and feeling suitably humble. Doesn’t make it right, though. I’m not supposed to meet these delivery boys, and if they saw my car they should have the good sense to just leave the gun with a note on the ground and scram.
I hear footsteps, and open up the door to the larger office area, ready to tell off some young punk for compromising security like this. Instead I see a clean-cut black man in his thirties, holding open the outside door. We stand like this looking quizzically at each other, like neighbours picking up their newspapers simultaneously by chance, for just a split second.
He sees my face
I see his gun.
Then time seems to speed up somewhat. I slam the door reflexively, retreating to the head-office, but not quickly enough to avoid getting grazed by one of the two rounds the man fires, and my head explodes in a pain that I cannot even find humorous comparison for.
The adrenaline surge almost knocks me out cold, for a moment, and I fall backwards, grabbing the desk for support. Standing there, dumbfounded and cock-eyed, leaning on a desk like I have nothin’ better to do, my brain manages to process what my eyes have been frantically screaming; the lock on the door is the kind with a little button you have to press. I launch myself forward, low, countering an attempt to open the door, even as it happens.
The man on the other side cries out as he is pushed back with enough force to apparently trip him, but still squeezes off another two rounds, which punch impressive holes in the door above my squatting figure. I lock the door and move to somewhere in the office where I can’t get shot. I hope.
My head is hurting like all hell, by now, but it isn’t gushing any liquids, which I take to be a good sign. I spend a moment thinking about my position, and I arrive at the irritating conclusion that I am very, very fucking scared.
I’m a hard man to scare, but right now someone has succeeded to all hell, and it somehow wounds my professional pride. That anger clears my head a bit, and I start thinking constructively, picking up a file cabinet and throwing it through a window. I’m just about to go after it, when I think the better of it. He might not be alone.
A couple of rounds test the limits of an old locks dedication, a pause, and the sound of reloading, then a man bursts in, finally retiring it. R.I.P old lock, you died damn well.
Only seconds have passed. He’s over by the missing window, looking out.
He states plainly, before running back the way he came.
I wait 'till he’s outside, apparently going clockwise around the building, while I digest a bit of info in the, very relative, safety behind the door:
He’s carrying a six-shot revolver, with some seriously high caliber.
He’s alone, or at least not communicating verbally with anyone.
Being reasonably sure he’s somewhere to my right, around the side of the building, I make my way through the office area, stopping to grab that two-foot stapler.
Might be a last job for you, too.
I run, ducking to my car and fumbling with my keys to get it open, not sure if he can hear me on the other side of the building. How far? 25 yards?
With a conscious effort to calm my hands, I stop shaking, open the door and finally manage to drive my keys home, feeling a wave of relief as she starts up smoothly for the first time in years.
That old Toyota engine never sounded so beautiful, as on this last death-defying ride. She has at least 100 yards head start before the assassin even gets in his car.
As tires squeal and burn under him, the motor accelerating too fast for the bulk it must propel, my baby takes a flying dive partially over the ditch along the road, and onto a field. The suspension jumps and threatens to give out, and I wonder if the rear axle survived, but there is no stopping now.
Not with a two-foot stapler jamming on the speeder.
The man trying to kill me is named Sphilman. I’ve met him once before, passing him on my way to a meet with Jorge, and I have actually had some contact with him over the phone. I was of the impression that the Sunovabitch only does background info and detective work, on hard targets, but hey, congrats on the promotion.
What finally rings a bell is his peculiar voice, as I listen to a stream of profanities from the darkness of his backseat.
It is an akward position from which to attack someone, sitting on a backseat, but I put my all in it, and Sphilman has let his revolver ride shotgun, so that it slides down on the floor as soon as my hands close on his pretty neck. The foul language stops, too.
I keep a tight grip for at least three minutes, but he only struggles for the first one, or so.
Once he’s thoroughly unconscious, I retrieve his gun, and open his door so I can kick him out.
Somewhere out on the field nearby my car has dug itself into a hole of mud.
I break Sphilman’s neck, for fear of anyone within earshot hearing the discharge of the gun.
Then I load him in his trunk.
I’ve some cleaning up to do here...
And who the hell wants me dead?
If you liked this, check out this, which is in the same storyline. I think.
Coherence will be added as time and circumstance allows.