"Man's attention is almost permanently narrowed.
        Hypnosis is basically a loss of the sense of reality 
       (clinically speaking, this is known as schizophrenia).
        Man spends most of his life in a semi-hypnotized state 
            that makes us feel trapped in triviality.  
          Rupert Brooke welcomed the First World War, 
                and compared it to the experience 
             'of swimmers into cleanness leaping'.
      Violence usually has this effect -- like a thunderstorm 
               that clears the air.  Violence is 
              the snap of the hypnotist's fingers."
      -- Colin Wilson, A Criminal History Of Mankind.


I turned off the engine and got out. The garage door closer whirred and clanked, cutting out the fading daylight, leaving only the dim yellow glow of an underpowered bulb. I walked to the back of the wagon, unclipped my keys from my beltloop where I had fastened them out of habit, even knowing I would be using them in seconds. I looked around while I opened the window -- there had to be a camera in here somewhere, unless they were sure that Michelle's presence inside would ensure my good behavior. Who knows, there could have been a whole platoon of Russian goons hiding in the rafters. I would never see them past the light.

I reached inside and pulled out a worn chunk of sawn-off broomhandle, closed the glass, and turned the key clockwise this time. I heaved against the heavy tailgate, shouldered it, and propped it open with the short staff. "You're getting new air shocks as soon as we get home, Hatari," I told the car. I always name my cars, or they name themselves. I started unloading our road gear -- tent, sleeping bags zipped together and tightly rolled, a large powder-blue Rubbermaid tub holding clothes, smaller plastic tubs with first aid supplies, miscellaneous camp supplies -- until the cargo space was empty.

I opened the rumble seat. The bottom half was covered with a homemade slipcover of braided fabric. I untied the knots holding it together and slipped it loose. The vinyl seat was battered and torn, held together with duct tape old and new. I peeled back a few newer pieces. The entire chunk of cheap padded vinyl came up, revealing a layer of dense foam rubber. I lifted that out too.

There was a cheap tan nylon gym bag in the right-hand cargo pocket of my coat. I shook it out and started loading the rubberbanded blocks of money into it. It was all there, of course. Since not a penny of it was mine, it had better be. My hiding place wasn't the most secure in the world, but it would withstand a cursory search. I had never been questioned about it, anyway. I always joked that my car was like the Millennium Falcon -- it looked like a piece of junk, but it had its surprises. Speed, however, wasn't one of them. The engine was well tuned and maintained, though greasy, but it was standard. The whole point of Hatari wasn't to outrun the cops -- it was to avoid them in the first place. Not like I'm some kind of major hotshot smuggler, or anything. Michelle and I stood to make ten grand clear from this, as well as having her little debt cancelled. That was the important part.

The only reason we got in this deep, in fact. We were way out of our league this time. This wasn't a couple kilos of smoke from Arizona to Idaho or a couple cases of cigarettes hauled into Canada on a lark. This was big time.

And this was a big guy. I looked up at him, something I am not accustomed to doing. He stood inside the doorway of the house, taking up most of it. He looked at he with flat dead eyes under cropped blond hair, then stepped to his left. I took that as my cue to go to my left, into the dining room, where Michelle sat at one end of a large oval table. She had a little lab set up, test tubes, a few bottles that used to hold nasal spray but were now loaded with reagents that, we were told, would establish the purity and potency of our cargo. Nobody told us what we were supposed to do if the tests came up with the wrong answers -- something tells me that if that ever did happen, there isn't much we could do anyway. Brazen it out, I guess.

Tinfoil-wrapped bricks the size of double packs of playing cards were stacked on the table. The four in front of Michelle showed clear signs of being opened and resealed. It was some new system of packaging, I think. I really didn't care how they packaged it. Hell, I didn't even care what it was, as long as it was what they expected me to be carrying.

At the other end of the table was our contact. He was tall sitting down, his head nearly shaven, and he had classic Caucasus features and the palest blue eyes even in the inadequate lighting. "Mr. Crowden? Your associate has verified the purity of our goods. You have something for us." He had a thick Slavic accent, so thick that it had to be a put on. Instead of answering, I opened the gym bag and flipped it onto the table, lifting it to reveal a tower of used bills. He nodded his head.

The reason for the partial darkness moved into view. I felt my pulse increase half again. Stupid, stupid amateur. Check out the garage and not bother looking around the room where it was actually going to go down. This guy could have been the twin of the door, but bigger. He moved silently to the money and scooped it up. "There's no need for us to count this, is there, Mr. Crowden." It was not a question.

So I didn't answer. I just started reloading my bag. The Russians looked on with apathy until I was done, then uncuffed Michelle and faded into the blackness of the empty house. We went out into the garage, reloaded our gear, and pushed the button on the wall to get out. I half-expected it to not open, but it did. I backed out, nearly losing the passenger mirror, then down the driveway and out through the winding dark streets of the development. We were surrounded by houses in various stages of construction from tyvek-wrapped to holes in the ground, and a few model homes like the one the meet was held in.

We didn't breathe until we passed the empty brick guardhouse that marked the entrance.

E2 fiction 1 2

This is part one of a medium-sized work that I have approx. 1/2 completed (7 parts of probably 15 or so). The purpose of noding this is to spur me to complete the piece so that I can attempt to have it published conventionally. If you wish to comment on it, private messages are encouraged. Thank you for your support. I will space the first parts at intervals rather than dump it all into the database at once, to give me time to proceed with the writing of the whole and to, hopefully, prevent a major hiatus in the middle of it all.