19 December 2011

The Fortune Cookie: Part 2

Andrew crouched down. “Oh my God. I haven’t heard from him in four years. I always thought he might be coming back eventually. I reserve a table for us here every week just in case. I didn’t know why he all of a sudden disappeared, but just held hope I would hear from him eventually.” He stood back up and put his hands on his hips. “Look. I’m grateful for your help so far, but I don’t know about this. I didn’t even know my dad did anything like this, or that he was still involved in any of it. I’m going to go home now that I’m out of that restaurant and try to make sense of all of this.” Andrew walked past Michael toward the alley’s exit. A loud crack interrupted him followed by sparks from the dumpster as a bullet whizzed past his head. 

“Get behind me!” Michael grabbed Andrew by the back of his shirt and threw him into the corner between the dumpster and the wall. He drew his silenced pistol and returned fire at the masked man on the fire escape walkway above, striking him twice in the chest and once in the head. A Masada assault rifle clanged to the next landing as the combat-loaded man rolled down the metal stairs. Michael reached for his phone with his left hand while scanning the rooftops. “Baker, where are you! We’re under fire!” he barked into the device before checking the screen. “They’re jamming us! Looks like we’re on our own until Baker gets here.” Michael jammed his phone back into his suit and resumed his lookout.

Shots pinged against the other side of the dumpster as Michael’s back was turned. Three more men slowly advanced toward them, their heavy weapons firing relentlessly.

“Looks like we’re kind of screwed then, doesn’t it?” Andrew said dryly from the corner where he tried in vain to merge himself with the wall.

“We’ll get out of here yet.” Michael turned from cover and blindly fired four shots at their attackers.

Three quiet pops were barely audible through the thunder of the assault weapons bearing down on the pair and then silence.

“Come on! Let’s go!” cried another voice.

“Time to move!” Michael pulled Andrew to his feet and they sprinted to a black Cadillac CTS. A lanky man in a black pinstripe suit motioned for them from the driver’s seat through the open passenger door. They reached the car and Andrew dove in before Michael followed after one last scan. The driver slammed into gear and the car’s tires screeched as they sped away.

“Andrew, this is Jim. Jim, this is Andrew Duncan.” Michael motioned back and forth from the passenger seat. Andrew pulled himself up to a sitting position in the backseat. “You might want to put your seatbelt on, Andrew.” Jim drifted into a hard right turn before Andrew could finish buckling up, throwing him into the door.

“It’s going to be a rough ride,” Jim said as he straightened the wheel.

Andrew recovered and strapped himself in. His wide eyes darted to and from Michael and Jim in the front of the car. “So could someone please tell me what the hell is going on? First I get his weird fortune cookie telling me I have to leave everything and the next thing I know I’m in an alley being told my father, who I haven’t even seen in almost half a decade, by the way, was just killed four days ago. Now I’m in a car with two spooks running from a gunfight! What the hell is going on?” Andrew swung his head around and glanced through the back window.

“As I was saying before we were interrupted, your father worked with our company testing early prototypes for our semi-organic implants. These implants are still in the highly experimental phase of development, but already have the potential to change the world.”

“You’re not telling me shit,” Andrew said, glaring at Michael.

Michael turned to face Andrew and met his gaze. “What I’m going to tell you now you must swear to never tell anyone else, ever, under any circumstances. Do you understand me?”

“Yes already! I’m sick of the secrecy. Why am I so important?”

“These implants, while originally designed and intended for medical use, have attracted the attention of some organizations that have ties to government. The particular organization we encountered today is the one that murdered your father. They took the implants your father was field testing in order to reverse engineer them. They want to use these to create the next generation of weapons.”

“So you mean like Mega Man’s hand”

“I guess you could use that analogy, though it’s a crude idea of what could be possible, should they succeed. The reason they want you is because removing your father’s implants killed him. They need someone new to test theirs with, and it would be much easier to have you than to start from scratch. Your father worked on development of the stolen implants and was the volunteer for field trials.”

“Which I presume started four years ago, when he went missing.”

“Correct. Your father knew the risk involved with the trials including what could happen if the organization knew your identity. He chose to distance himself from you to protect you.”

Andrew stared at his feet. “I didn’t know. Just a letter or a call to let me know he was still around would have worked.”

“To do so would have risked your discovery. Near the time of his death he expressed his concern to us about his situation and about yours. We didn’t act until it was too late, so we found you.”

As they passed through the middle of the next block a silver Suburban shot from the alley and slammed into the side of the sedan, sliding it over the curb and into the row of shops across the street.

Andrew wearily opened his eyes to the sound of gunfire. Michael and Jim were behind the now upside down Cadillac firing at the attackers with assault rifles. His vision faded again as he passed out.

Andrew drifted back to consciousness. His head pounded. He reached up to cradle his head and brought back bloody hands. He was moving. “Andrew! You with me?” Jim shouted over the gunfire. Andrew watched the firefight unfold as Jim dragged him away from the wreck by the back of his shirt. Michael crouched behind the trunk of the car and reloaded his rifle. He knocked the magazine against the ground and jammed it into the weapon. He fired from around the tail of the car at the men on the opposite building’s roof. Their muzzle flashes were greeted by brick shards as Michael’s shots reached the ledge, striking one man in the collarbone as he ducked for cover.

Andrew felt a sharp pain in his thigh. “My leg!” His voice sounded far away. “I’m hit!”

“We’re almost there…” Jim sounded desperate.

His leg felt warm and wet. He looked down. Red. Blood all over his pants. He looked back to Jim. They were almost to a dumpster in an alley. It looked the same as before. He sung his head back to the fight. His vision lagged. “Jim? My leg.” His voice echoed.

Jim tucked him into the corner opposite the gunfire. He kneeled in front of him and took his tie off. He reached in his jacket. Silver medical clamps appeared. “Andrew? I need you to stay with me now.” He seemed so far away. Another sharp pain in his leg. Blurriness. Black.

16 December 2011

The Fortune Cookie: Part 1

The streetlights flickered to life outside as Andrew asked for the check. “I’ve never seen the Golden Dragon so packed,” he thought as he waited for the waiter to return. The dim light of the lamps shining on gilded wall panels gave the restaurant a kind of seedy charm. Andrew searched the dining room. “It normally doesn’t take them this long,” he muttered.

In the years surrounding his father’s sudden disappearance Andrew hadn’t missed a single weekly visit to the Golden Dragon. The two would eat together every Friday. His father was the only family Andrew had left, and every week he would walk in half-expecting to see him waiting at their usual table, only to be greeted by an empty booth.

He could make out a waiter walking briskly toward his table, but there was something different. The waiter arrived and handed Andrew the check and a fortune cookie. Andrew signed the check and handed the folder back to the waiter without raising his head, and started at his cookie. He noticed the waiter was still standing slightly behind him. Andrew turned around to face him.

“Do you need anything?” Andrew looked into the man’s face. The waiter’s face was flushed, with a few drops of sweat beginning to form on his brow.

“You need to read your fortune,” the waiter answered, with a nervous expression on his face.

“Why do you need to be here when I do? Aren’t these things supposed to be personal?” Andrew said.

“I need to make sure you read it.”

“Whatever.” Andrew said under his breath, and turned back to the cookie sitting on the zodiac place mat. He cracked it in half.

Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Say nothing.

Andrew sat staring at the paper for a moment, stunned. He turned back around.

“What’s the meaning of this? Is this some kind of jo-” Andrew stopped mid-sentence. The waiter was gone. The din of the crowded dining room took no notice of the strange occurrence and Andrew removed his napkin from his lap and slowly walked to the restroom, head swiveling on his shoulders as he pondered the fortune cookie’s message. A suited man rose from a table near the kitchen entrance and followed.

Andrew pushed open the chipped white door to the men’s room and went to the sink. He scrubbed his hands. The door creaked open and slammed shut. A large man in a grey suit stared at him through the grubby mirror.

“Can I help you?” Andrew said.

The man stared at Andrew. “Are you Andrew Duncan?”

Andrew turned off the sink and snatched a paper towel from the dispenser. He turned to face the man and wiped his hands. “Who wants to know?”

“My name is Michael Sullivan. You shouldn’t have come here tonight; you’re in great danger.”

“Tell me something I don’t already know. Listen. I come here every Friday for the buffet without so much as a nod from the staff. Now all of a sudden I get a slip of paper inside my fortune cookie and I’m being threatened? I want to know what’s going on!” Andrew’s voice rose as he continued his rant. Michael stared him in the eyes. “Are you just going to stand here in my way or what?” Andrew waved his arms and motioned at Michael to step aside.

“I’m here to help you.” Michael stepped back and folded his arms across his chest. His suit opened up slightly and from under the lapel Andrew noticed a black knob protruding slightly. “We only have a limited window of opportunity to leave the city. Do you have everything you need?” Michael leaned against the wall and glanced out the window and at the door as he spoke.

“Yeah I guess. When do we have to leave?”

“Right now.” Michael had already moved to the door, which he held slightly ajar, and was scanning the dining area. “We can’t leave this way though. It’s too visible.” He gently closed the door and walked back over to the window, where he peered out into the garbage-ridden alley. On the left side of the window a concrete wall blocked access to the other half of the alley. Soggy cardboard boxes were piled high in a sagging mountain against the concrete wall. Michael looked to the right to see the opening of the narrow alley, partially obscured by an overflowing dumpster covered in graffiti. “The alley looks clear. Time to go.” He announced as he opened the window further and climbed out.

Andrew clambered out the window after him and dropped down the six feet to the street. He landed on a ripped trash bag from the dumpster and his right foot sloshed into a mound of egg foo young. Andrew looked down in disgust. “Ugh. Why?” He walked stiff-legged to the cardboard mountain to wipe his shoe off. “I just got these shoes a week ago, you know?” he called over to Michael.

“Stop worrying about your shoes and just stay quiet. We’ve got bigger things to worry about right about now.” Michael shot back. He pulled out a phone and tapped two buttons before bringing it to his ear. “Baker, it’s Sullivan. Alley next to the Golden Dragon. We’re ready for pick-up. Yeah I’ve got him.” Michael stood in the middle of the alley with his feet planted widely as he spoke. His coat hung open and Andrew got a better look at him. The grip of a nine millimeter pistol hung out from a shoulder holster under the coat, and Andrew could just see the outline of a vest underneath Michael’s shirt. “We’re going to sit tight here.”

Andrew’s eyes widened at Michael’s statement. “You guys like CIA or something?” Andrew said.

“Sort of.” Michael leaned against the brick wall. “Before you were born your father worked with our company testing early prototypes for our semi-organic implants. When you were born your genes were sequenced and you have very close matches to his, to the point of… usefulness.” Michael said. “We followed you to the restaurant and paid the staff to assist us in verifying your identity. They brought us your teacup and we did a field sequence of your DNA.”

“So what, you want me because of my genes? That’s it?” Andrew straightened up as he spoke.

“You can help change the lives of thousands.” Michael continued. “There are those who would see that it never happens, though, and that is why you are in danger. You see in order for our work to happen you need to be alive. Your father was murdered four days ago. We only found him yesterday. We need you to continue our work.”

01 December 2011


“Ha! Got the little blood sucker,” Jim said, wiping the blood from his forearm. “Bastard didn’t even know what hit him. Got a piece of me though. I hope these mosquitoes in Sri Lanka don’t carry that one disease. What is it—East River, right? Yeah. East River.”

“Yeah sure.” Jane was transfixed by the cheesecake in front of her. “Do you think it’s safe to eat? I mean, I don’t want to ruin my Barbie good looks.” She opened her makeup compact and contorted her face examining herself.

Jim sipped his whiskey and stared out from the balcony of the hotel. “You know what this place reminds me of? King Kong’s island. It’s just so wild. You have kids playing in the streets with rusted out Tonkas and not 200 feet away there’s the jungle, wild as can be. I can just imagine Indiana Jones is hacking through thick vines on the way to investigate some ancient king’s sarcophagus inside a ruined temple or something.”

“That’s great, babe,” Jane said as she slipped the foil off a stick of gum and stuck it in her mouth. “There’s definitely something wrong with that cheesecake. I’m not eating it.”

This was written using a bank of words taken from Kanye West’s “Monster.” The goal is to create a flash fiction story using as many words from the list as you can. Give it a shot!

Blood Sucker
King Kong
Sri Lanka

17 November 2011

The Last Job - Part 3

“Take a different way back to the flat,” Jason said, out of breath, wincing with the pain in his knee. “The police can’t know exactly where we were.” He breathed hard and clutched his knee. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“What the hell happened in there?” Richard demanded. “More importantly, what the hell am I going to do about Priscilla? I can’t tell her what happened. She trusts me.”
“I don’t know what happened. That woman. She was supposed to be asleep. All of a sudden she just rolled over and turned the light on.” Jason grimaced. “We need to get something for my leg.”
“We can’t go back to the flat,” Richard said, panicked. “I can’t tell Priscilla what happened.”
“Well, let’s at least go to mine,” Jason pleaded. “I need to ice this real bad.”

The Mini flew through the cramped city streets in the early hours of the morning, arriving back at Jason’s flat. Jason left the car and limped his way up to the flat. He turned the key in the lock, then hobbled into his living room, setting down his backpack on the way to the kitchen.
“We can’t stay here, Rich. You know that, right?” Jason asked Richard, who had just entered the apartment. “I think we should try to get out of the country.” He took the ice pack out of the freezer and secured it around his leg.
“What do I do about Priscilla?” said Richard. He paced back and forth running his hands through his hair. “I was going to ask her to move to Naples with me once she finished finals. That takes a lot of trust, and I betrayed that trust.” He sat down on the futon and rested his head in his hands. “I should never have gotten involved with this. It’s cost too much over the years.”
Jason sat down next to Richard. “Rich, we’ve known each other since our freshman year at college. I know we really screwed up this time, but it’ll get better.”
“No.” He stood up and paced again. “There’s no way I’m going to leave Priscilla behind. She deserves to know the truth about what we do, where I get my extra money from. Door to door sales doesn’t bring in enough to live like we live. I’m going to tell her and then turn myself in. It’s the best thing I can think of.”
“Rich, don’t do this to yourself.”
“I have to! You’ve been so hung up on that rush you feel that you’ve lost all sense of responsibility. This was supposed to be the last one. I was finally going to get what I wanted—a life without secrets, and now we’re stuck in this mess because you screwed up!” Richard said.
“Look,” said Jason. “Just go along with it for now. We need to get out of town for a little while. That couple tonight saw both of us and they’ll have called the police, who WILL be looking for us, whether you like it or not. Now I know a guy north of here who can help us. We can lay low for a while there."

“I don’t know,” Richard said. “Priscilla will wonder what happened.”
“Just tell her you have to go out of town for business.” Jason shrugged.
“Errrr…” Richard’s face contorted as he debated whether or not to accept Jason’s proposal. “You’re sure this guy can help?”
“Positive. When have I ever let you down?” Richard glared at him. “Besides tonight,” Jason responded with a grin.
“I don’t know. I will lose her if she finds out,” Richard said.
“Rich, they saw you too. If they catch you they’ll throw you in jail,” Jason said. “Do you want Priscilla to have to deal with that?”
“I just don’t think running off like this without any warning is the best idea for my relationship,” Richard said.
“Look, Rich. I know how attached you two are and you don’t want to hurt that, but the police are going to be looking for us,” Jason said, his voice slightly elevated.
“But you don’t know that!” Richard stood up. “I think you’re just trying to get out of here because you’re in trouble, and I’m the only ride you have.
“Richard, I’m dead serious. I know that man in the house saw you too. He almost hit you with that damn bat. How could he not have seen you?” Jason shot back.
Richard paced back and forth, brow furrowed. “How long would we have to be gone?” He said.
“I don’t know. It would probably have to be at least a week. Most likely two,” Jason said.
“That’s a long time.”Richard said. “She won’t buy it.”
“If you don’t want to go to jail, you would be wise to join me,” Jason said.
“Ugh, why did you have to screw this up?” Richard asked. “I really don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“Sadly, not much of one, unless you want to get picked up by the police soon,” Jason said. “I just have to grab a few things from here.” Jason said as he got up and went to his room. “You know, I really think you’re doing the right thing here if you come with me,” he said from the other room as he stuffed clothes into a large duffle bag.
“What, abandoning Priscilla for two weeks? How is that the right thing?” Richard asked.
“What I meant was saving yourself from jail so you two can still be together.”
“Well we wouldn’t be in this situation if things had gone according to plan tonight,” Richard said.
“Yeah, well. Shit happens. You just have to adapt when it does,” Jason said as he strolled into the living room with his bag over his shoulder. “Let’s go. Time’s wasting.”
Richard broke his long stare at the coffee table and met Jason’s gaze. “I guess this is goodbye then.”
“Rich, you can’t be serious.” Jason looked crestfallen. “We’ve always been in this together. You can’t just give up.”

“This obsession of yours ruined my life. Either choice I make will likely destroy everything.” Richard slouched back in the futon. “I’m done hiding.”
“The key is on the counter. Just lock the door when you leave then.” Jason opened the door and looked back at Richard. “Take care of yourself.”
“Likewise.” Jason shut the door.

09 November 2011

The Last Job - Part 2

Jason leaned his bike against the stone wall of Richard’s apartment building, then walked up to the stained wood door and rapped the cast-iron knocker against it three times. He shivered slightly in his blue button-down shirt. Slung across his back was a small black bag containing his supplies for that night. The door swung open and a girl roughly the same height as Jason stood in the doorway. She had shoulder length black hair done up in a ponytail and ice blue eyes that examined Jason from head to toe. She glanced with suspicion at the bag slung on his back.

“Evening, Priscilla,” Jason said. “Is Richard there?”
“Yes. Come in, Jason.” Priscilla stepped back and called down the hall. “Richard! Jason’s here.” Richard walked out of the hall to his bedroom in jeans and a collared shirt. “Ready to get out of here?” he said.

“Yeah.” I’ve been ready to go since I got here.”
“Alright, Baby, we’ll probably be back pretty late. Don’t wait up for us.”
Priscilla nodded and gave Richard a kiss on the cheek, glaring at Jason over Richard’s shoulder. Following the streetlights the two walked down the street and turned into the alley where Richard kept his car. “We’ll change here.”
Jason took off his button down shirt, revealing a solid black t-shirt. He quickly threw on a pair of black cargo pants and a pair of solid black Chuck Taylors. Over the top of his t-shirt he zipped a black hoodie and put a black beanie on his head to darken his light brown hair.
“Rich, have you ever told Priscilla what we do?” Jason asked.
“No, why would you ask that?” Richard’s voice was muffled by the black turtleneck he pulled over his head.
Jason grunted. “The past few times I’ve met you at your house she’s given me a look that tells me she knows what’s up,” Jason said. “It’s kind of unnerving.”
“I haven’t told her anything. You can be sure about that. I don’t want to think about how she would react if she found out,” Richard assured Jason.
“I dunno. I just get this weird feeling about it whenever she looks at me,” Jason said.
Richard wore almost the same gear, although his height made him look rather awkward. Jason snapped his tool belt around his waist and shoved his other clothes inside his bag after tossing a small bag onto his back. “Let’s roll,” he said as he climbed into the passenger seat.
Richard lowered himself into the driver’s seat and started the car. The familiar cough and sputter of the engine greeted the two as the car came to life. Richard turned left and drove past his apartment into the roundabout at the bottom of the hill he lived on. The ride to the target house was uneventful as the majority of the city’s residents had turned in for the night, save for the occasional couple on a late-night stroll through the streets.
The target house sat on a narrow, poorly lit street. “Are you sure about this place?” Jason looked doubtfully at the cracking shutters and the poorly maintained tile roof. As the two stared at it from down the lane Richard assured Jason that the house was worthwhile.
“Wait here,” Jason said, exiting the car. “I should be out of there in about an hour. Be ready to get the hell out of here if anything happens.” With that Jason scaled the low wall onto the back of one of the houses and made his way to the tile roof. Stepping gingerly to avoid setting any of the tiles loose, Jason reached the rooftop of the house. Slowly, he lowered himself to the outside of one of the left windows into the spare bedroom, his feet resting lightly on the outcropping below the windowsill. He grasped a drain with his left hand while he carefully opened the window, shifting to the left as the right side swung towards him.
“He’s crazy,” thought Richard as he watched the performance unfold from down the street. Jason crept into the spare bedroom pausing to survey his surroundings. To his right was a single bed with a multi-patterned quilt draped over the top and at the foot of the bed sat a small dresser. The door to the upstairs hallway was closed. Jason silently moved to the door and opened it inward to the room. Two doors other doors opened onto the hallway further down from the bedroom door he had just come from. Jason assumed these to were master bedroom and the bathroom.
He walked down the staircase and into the living area. A sofa stood in front of a large fieldstone fireplace, upon which a flat-panel television was hung. The coffee table was littered with various market magazines, and National Geographics were stuffed in the magazine holder on the left end of the sofa.
As he moved into the study through a door to the right of the kitchen, he noticed a flicker of movement in his peripheral vision. Jason’s heart raced while sweat collected under his sweatshirt. He peered out of the door only to see a small grey cat happily flicking its tail from side to side while it drank from its water dish below the granite kitchen counter. Jason breathed a sigh of relief. Turning his attention to the study, he searched the room for anything valuable. The walls were lined with bookshelves filled with books, including a full encyclopedia set, something he hadn’t seen in a house since he was young.
Finding nothing in the study, Jason headed back upstairs to search for the safe. He figured the most likely location to deter such an easy theft would be near the family. He crept up the stairs, watching the cat carefully to make sure it didn’t follow him, and slowly opened the door to the master bedroom. He glanced around to make sure he was safe in entering the room. Seeing the elderly couple sound asleep in bed, he decided to enter.

The master bedroom was larger than Jason expected. Against the wall at the foot of the bed stood an ornately carved dresser, topped with a mirror which had various reminders and photographs tucked into the frame. A sliver of moonlight illuminated a bench at the foot of the bed, upon which a yellow robe was draped. Large photographs of the couple on vacation hung on the sponge-painted plaster walls. Finally Jason’s eyes drifted to the center of the room, where the couple was tucked into a four-poster bed.

Jason stepped into the room and closed the door nearly shut, then crept to the dresser. He examined the mirror and the wall behind it, finding nothing, then moved on to the picture hanging above the wife’s nightstand on the far side of the room. The picture looked to be from early in the couple’s marriage. A young man with a backpack on his back posed with a young blonde woman in the mountains, the snowcapped peaks visible in the background. The man was dressed in slacks and boots with a red collared shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. He had clean, combed-over brown hair and his arm was around the blonde-haired woman, who wore a yellow sun dress with red polka dots. Jason noticed this picture hung slightly further from the wall than some of the other pictures he passed in the room. He carefully removed the picture from the wall, revealing the dial of a small safe.
Jason reached into his belt and pulled out a small stethoscope which he put on before holding the bell near the dial. The dial clicked away in the stethoscope in Jason’s ears as he listened for the low clicks of the tumblers. He turned the dial until he heard the three tumblers move then turned the handle slowly to avoid the grinding noise of metal against metal. As he opened the safe door he glimpsed various legal documents and valuables. The minimal light in the room winked off of jewelry adorned with precious stones sitting on the small shelf. Carefully grasping the documents to keep them from falling everywhere, he pulled them out and set them on the floor. He reached back in to grab the jewelry, pulling out a black pearl and opal necklace and sapphire earrings. Jason’s heart beat faster as he looked through the documents. Among them he discovered various legal documents, deeds and savings bonds.
Distracted by his discoveries, Jason failed to notice the movement in the bed. The woman stirred, rolling over towards the windows. Her eyes slowly opened to see a black shape moving around the nightstand. “Alan?” she said groggily.
Jason froze, his heart pounding. He had never been caught before. All his attention to detail, all of his planning, went out the window. Slowly, his mind returned to reality. He tried to hide behind the nightstand and stuff the safe contents into his bag. He moved quickly as everything around him seemed to move in slow motion. The woman fumbled for the lamp chain in the darkness, clicking the light on to reveal Jason’s bag sliding behind the nightstand.
Down the street, Richard sat behind the wheel of the Mini, drumming his fingers on the dash. He watched the guest window waiting for Jason. Something was wrong. Richard opened the door then walked toward the house.
Back in the apartment, Richard cowered behind the nightstand while the husband, who he now knew as Alan, scrambled out of bed. Jason peeked around the nightstand to see Alan reach under the bed and pick up a baseball bat. Jason grabbed his bag and jumped to his feet. For a second the two froze, staring at each other as though daring the other to make the first move. Jason bolted towards Alan, swinging his bag at his face. The bag connected with Alan’s face and he staggered back, allowing Jason to run towards the door. As he entered the hallway Alan threw the baseball bat at Jason, hitting him in the back of the knees and causing him to fall. Jason slung the bag over his shoulder, then sprinted to the guest room window.
Nearing the house, Richard saw Jason peek his head out of the guest window and jump from the second story, hitting the cobbled street hard with a roll. “Get the car going!” yelled Jason as he ran limping toward Richard. His right leg had taken the brunt of the fall out of the guest bedroom, and his knee radiated pain with every step. He winced whenever that leg hit the ground. Alan ran to the window and shouted at the pair. He threw the baseball bat after them, which landed just shy of Richard.

Richard sprinted back towards the car. He turned the key in the ignition in a panic. This had never happened before. The Mini coughed and sputtered as it tried to start, yielding no result. “Dammit!” Richard exclaimed in desperation.

“Come on, you piece of shit! Start!” Richard swore at his car. He tried twice more, giving it some gas until finally the car cracked and popped to life. He cranked it into gear and sped towards Jason. Jason ripped open the passenger door as Richard screeched to a halt next to him, and dove in, shutting the door as the Mini barreled down the street and away from the house.

29 October 2011

The Last Job - Part 1

The hum of conversations and the chattering of rolling suitcases greeted Jason Hall as he stepped into the terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Over the public address system the flight attendant announced to the waiting passengers that the next scheduled flight would be leaving in roughly one hour. His stomach rumbled with hunger. Jason strolled toward the terminal entrance, glancing at the restaurants in the concourse. Spying a sandwich vendor he strode over to order. He pulled out his wallet, which he discovered was empty. He reached into the pocket of his khaki pants to find three dollars, not enough money for a sandwich.

“Umm, one croissant and a water, please.” Jason continued to the terminal entrance after thanking the vendor. He gazed at the snaking security line full of people waiting to be checked, his steely grey eyes darting between individuals in the crowd, studying their interactions.

One man near his side of the queue caught his eye. He was a middle aged man, somewhere in his mid-forties, with short black hair beginning to grey along the temples, which blended into the jet black hair on top. He was engrossed in a heated debate with another man next to him in line, flailing his arms wildly to drive home his points.

Jason decided the man was the one. His heart rate picked up as he picked his way across the walkway towards the man’s point in the queue. Jason fell. He grabbed at the man to recover, his left hand reaching the man’s belt. After Jason fell, the man turned around, irritated at being interrupted mid-argument, and offered a hand to help him up. Jason grabbed the man’s hand and wrist to pull himself up, noticing the silver watch on the man’s wrist. He thanked the man, grabbed his carry-on, and walked away, pocketing the silver wristwatch and leather wallet as he turned the corner.

Jason reached into his sweatshirt pocket and pulled out his phone scrolling through his contacts until he reached Richard Michaels, a friend of his since college. When he brought the phone to his ear an automated voice spoke. “Please enjoy this music while your party is reached,” the woman’s voice intoned before the first beats of Chingy’s “Right Thurr” assaulted Jason’s eardrums. He held the phone away from his ear while he waited for Richard to pick up.
“Hello?” a deeper voice on the other end said.

“Rich, you know it’s me. I’m at the airport. Come pick me up.”
“Really, man? I just took Priscilla back to her apartment. Why couldn’t you have called then?” Richard said.
“Because the plane just pulled up to the gate,” Jason lied as he approached baggage check, “and besides, I don’t have a beast of a car like yours, remember?” Actually, Jason didn’t own a car. The only means of transportation he possessed were a moped and a beat-up, rusting Schwinn Varsity road bike.
“Screw you. That car’s been through a lot. It’s probably the most reliable thing I know.” Richard defended his blue 1972 Mini.
“Whatever. Come pick me up. I’m at Louis Armstrong again.” Jason hung up, knowing Richard would be late out of spite.

Half an hour later, a blue, rusted out Mini sped around the corner, screeching to a halt outside the airport doors, sunlight glinting off of the Mini crest on the hood, the only shiny part of the car left. Inside, Richard lay on the horn, which sounded more like a duck call compared to the other cars crowding the unloading area. Jason turned his back, pretending he didn’t see Richard pull up, causing Richard to shoot off a few more horn blasts, drawing angry looks from the other travelers outside the airport.
“Get over here!” Richard shouted out the driver’s side window at Jason.
“Alright, alright, I’m just messing with you.” Jason rounded the car and got in.
The Mini sputtered slightly as Richard put it into gear. Fifteen minutes later the car crossed a stone bridge over a creek and stopped in front of a stucco apartment building.
“Come on up and have a beer,” Jason told Richard. “You’re done with work for today anyway, right?”
“Yeah. Let me go park.”
Jason walked up to the green door and turned his key in the lock. He smiled as he walked into the building’s courtyard, decorated by lush foliage and a blue-tiled fountain that trickled into the waist-high basin. A breeze rolled through the courtyard tousling his light brown hair as he climbed the stairs to the third floor, where his flat was situated. He turned to see if Richard was behind him, then opened his door.
The two entered the apartment, a small, cozy place with a balcony overlooking the creek and the walk alongside it. Jason went immediately for the refrigerator to grab the beer while Richard flopped down on the futon Jason used for a couch, turning on the television. He immediately started flicking through the channels. He stopped on a soccer match, for lack of anything better to watch.
Jason sat next to Richard and handed him his beer. “Look what I got today, Rich.” he He tossed the wallet and watch on the coffee table.

“Where did you get this?” Richard said, examining the watch.
“Where do you think?”Jason smirked, rubbing the two day growth on his chin. “I got it from a guy at the airport. He was generous enough to part with them after helping me up when I tripped.”
“Why do you do this shit, Jason?” Richard asked. “One of these days you’re going to get caught.”
Jason met Richard’s eyes. “I don’t know why I keep doing it, Rich.” He swallowed hard, pausing to gather his thoughts. “I guess I really enjoy the rush it gives me.” Jason shrugged. “I want to live a normal life, but I just keep coming back to that rush, that excitement. I am afraid I’ll get caught, but for whatever reason even that risk isn’t enough to stop me.”
Richard looked concerned. He knew the next words to come out of Jason’s mouth. They would be about his job, door-to-door sales. Richard was the case for Jason’s jobs. When he was invited inside to sell the alarm system for the security company he worked for, Richard would give the house a once-over. He would note all entrances and exits, whether the owners had animals, any security issues, and what valuables the owners had. He would then give a recommendation to Jason on which house to hit.
“So, Rich, where’s the job this week?” Jason. Jason looked expectantly at Richard.

Richard looked away. “There isn’t one. Jason, I don’t want to do this anymore. Can’t we just be done? It’s not like another job is going to make a difference in anything.”
“Rich, we agreed this would be your last job anyway. Why do you want to chicken out of this one?”
“I don’t know.” Richard looked at the beer he held in his lap. “We never gained much from this anyway. It was a stupid idea in college to get money, and that’s all it will ever be.”
“Well, it may have been a stupid idea in college, but we’re still doing it, aren’t we?” Jason said. “Besides, we agreed on this a while ago. You would do this last one when I got back from my latest courier job, and that would be the end. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?”
With a look of frustration, Richard finally met Jason’s gaze and briefed him. “In the suburbs. A low-key wealthy home. I imagine there’s a safe somewhere in the house, though I’m not sure. They have a cat, but that shouldn’t be a problem. The access points on the ground floor are the front and back doors, the picture window in the kitchen, three windows in the study, and another two in the dining/living area. There are three windows to the master bedroom over the study and another two in the bedroom over the dining/living area. I estimate the couple is in their mid-fifties, but the man looks strong for his age, so be careful.”
“How tough did the lock look? Were there locks on the windows?” Richard could see the gears turning in Jason’s head.

“I did see locks on the windows and the door locks looked pretty secure. I doubt they have locks on the upstairs windows, though.”
“OK, I guess I’ll have to get in through the second story, then. I would rather not have to pick the doors if I can avoid it,” Jason said. “I’ll meet you at your place Friday around ten?”
“Yeah, the door’ll be unlocked,” Richard said. Richard rose then headed to the door. “And another thing, Priscilla can’t know what we’re doing. Dress as if we’re going to the bar or something,” Richard said then walked out the door.

26 October 2011

The Clean Room

“What are you doing here?” a muffled voice said. A man in a white clean suit and a respirator stepped from behind one of four slender, chrome rectangles evenly spaced in the white room. “You’re going to contaminate the experiment.” A low buzz started in the background. The man in the suit waved his arms over his head and ran to the center of the square formed by the monolithic pillars. “No, No! Not yet! It isn’t ready!” he yelled up at the ceiling.

The pillars rose from the floor and slowly rotated around the man, increasing in speed until lightning arced from their surfaces. “Shut it down! Shut it down!” The man’s voice was now desperate.  “You have to help me,” he said, turning to face me. “Behind you is the interior control panel. Hit the yellow switch. Hurry!”

I turned around to a blank white wall. I could scarcely make out a thin grey line where the control panel was hidden. I pressed the panel.  The panel hissed as it lifted from the wall and slid back to the left. As I reached for the switch I heard a yell and a loud crack and thunder. I turned back around to see a grey cloud where the man had stood. The pillars slowly returned to their original positions and the ceiling turned a faint green.

“Matter transfer procedure completed.” a female voice said.  The ceiling turned bright red. “Unauthorized personnel detected. Facility cleanse initiating…”