Standing in the half-lit shop I set the briefcase on the counter. Just a plain black case. The kind you’d probably find on sale at Office World for twenty bucks. The simple instruction to NOT open something makes a part of us nearly boil over with curiosity. Humans and cats are both like that. I wondered what I was supposed to do in the absence of further instruction. It almost seemed ridiculous that there would be clear-cut instructions regarding the briefcase and no mention of what to do with the suit. Put it on?
As I rolled that over in my mind a cell phone rang. I was instantly sure it wasn’t my phone, because my ringtone is not Metallica’s “The Four Horsemen.” The volume was all the way up and there was no doubt where it came from…the suit. I patted the coat pockets and found it after a couple skull-splitting riffs. Headbanger bullshit.
“Mr. Reynolds, I see you’re right on time. Are you enjoying your visit to New York? Have you fallen in love? Most people do, you know.”
I didn’t know what to say. The voice was the James Bond fellow from back out west, the limey terrorist.
“I can see you’re currently quite confused. Allow me to instruct you further. There is a dressing room to the right of where you’re facing.”
They were watching me, even now. No real shocker there.
“Ok.” I didn’t have much else for the moment.
“Go into the dressing room and put the suit on. Don’t forget the socks and shoes, too. Don’t want you embarrassing yourself in corporate America wearing a pair of flame orange sandals, do we? Of course not.” He laughed and abruptly hung up.
I removed the suit pieces and the footwear and walked to the dressing room with the swinging door covered in random pieces of magazine slicks with scantily clad women in lingerie that probably wasn’t even available in this venue. Classier stuff. As I dressed I wondered if condemned men on death row felt much the same as they buttoned their final buttons and zipped their fly one last time, knowing those simple and mundane actions would never be taken again. My breathing was irregular and labored, as if I’d just finished two marathons. I know I’m only thirty, but is this a heart attack? No such luck.
The mirror on the inside of the door didn’t give me much to consider except the stark contrast between my appearance five minutes ago and now. I clean up pretty nice. Too bad no one will be impressed for long, not even my mother. The suit had weight beyond what I expected, physically and emotionally. I looked like I belonged in any corporate boardroom. The close-cropped haircut I was given against my will while still back on the West Coast which looked so out of sorts with my usual tie-dye or Rastafarian ensemble now fit the bill to a tee. I am corporate America.
I stepped back out into the shop and heard something thumping around in the back. Unable to resist any further, I gingerly crossed the sales floor and heard grunting sounds. The phone rang quickly. The four horsemen were calling again. I didn’t answer. I had to know.
A divider wall with a few more signs (these were probably part of the shop decor) which admonished customers not to do anything they would go to jail for in public corniced the regular shop area, and I realized exactly how deep and dark this place went. As I peaked around the wall my heart nearly stopped. This was the video room. I didn’t have time or the inclination to check and see if there were titles I’d never browsed. It wasn’t the vast selection of smut that stopped me cold.
Blood was pooled around a bound and gagged middle-aged man. He was twitching and gurgling. A few flaps of skin on his neck were leaking the essence of his life on the floor. He was a goner.
This must have been the real store clerk. I’m not alone in here. Of course not…the nice man who gave Cajun homeless guy the dub spot was surely still here, and he was a vicious murderer. Oh my God. Why am I even surprised?
The phone stopped ringing, then rang again immediately.
“I’m sorry,” I answered, “I couldn’t help it.”
“OWEN. If you want to live five more minutes and don’t want to be held responsible for the deaths of your dear old mum and remaining siblings you will ABSOLUTELY DO WHAT THE FUCK I TELL YOU TO from this point forward!! When I call, YOU FUCKING ANSWER. Quit yanking about and leave us to clean up this unfortunate mess. He’s none of your concern. Furthermore, he was a pedobear. No great loss to the world.”
Obviously he wasn’t in the store with me or I would hear him off the phone as well as on it. Welcome to the network.
“A what? Ah..a what?” I was stammering and glancing nervously everywhere.
“A pedobear, a chomo, a child molesting kiddie porn swapping faggot. What kind of people do you think are drawn to his job? He deserved to die. We killed two birds with one stone, here, mate. We make the world a better place by all means necessary. Now, I want you to do something. Go back to the counter.”
“Ok.” It seemed ok except for the obvious fact that I was still locked in this horrible place with a bloody corpse and a hardened killer. I hate child molesters, and what if they were just lying? Hell, they probably were lying just to get me to calm down and go along with it but it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t holding any high cards.
“Take another look at the sexbot. Lift the back of her shirt. Your instrument is taped to her. This symphony requires your complete and utter cooperation and we expect to have it, unconditionally.”
I walked briskly back around the counter and lifted the camosole. Strapped to the realistically detailed doll was a pistol. It didn’t look like a real gun, though. Something was odd about it. As I pulled the duck tape away and held it in my hand I realized what was amiss. It was lighter than hell. Plastic or polymer of some sort. It wasn’t even the typical Tupperware combat piece that Glock was infamous for. Tapping my fingers along the barrel I couldn’t detect a single piece of metal.
“Yes, Owen..what you now hold is the pride and joy of Cer-tec industries. Only the most special, special folks get their hands on these beauties. It’s a composite carbon-fiber and ceramic handgun. Pop the clip out. Examine the craftsmanship of the weapon and the ammunition. Isn’t it fabulous?”
Unthrilled to participate a second further, but impressed nonetheless, I did as he asked. The entire affair was indeed completely metal free. Even the bullets and casings were made of the same strange looking stuff. It had an eerie greyish-blue hue, something like you’d see skinning a UFO or advanced stealth fighter. Immediately I understood the implication. They were going to make sure I made it past the metal detector. That left an important question.
“It’s amazing,” I murmured, “but if I’m going to use this to do your dirty work, what’s in the briefcase?”
“Life,” he replied, “is just full of surprises, my boy. Don’t ruin this one for yourself or for the city.”
Once again, the cat had my tongue and was raking it’s claws through my brain. Things were far more serious than they were before when I thought only the one percenters around the conference table were to be martyred to the will of these ultra-radicals. Now innocent people were going to die as well. Who knew how many? Then again, who says the bankers and politicians weren’t innocent to begin with? I’d always believed they were just sort of stuck in their mode and didn’t understand the full implications of their actions upon the world. Perhaps I was far more naive than I once thought.
I tucked the pistol into my waistband after familiarizing myself with the safety lever.
“Hold on there, Magnum P.I., you’ve been watching too much TV. Take off your suit coat and look at the liner in back. They may pat you down in addition to the metal detectors. We can’t be too careful, now, can we?”
I despised that he kept chatting me up like we were old pals, and worse yet he made it sound as if I was actually a willing part of the whole bloody affair. Stuck like Chuck, I did as he asked. I located the hidden pocket and velcro-ed seam and slipped the pistol inside a foamy compartment, along with the extra magazines my sadistic “Q” told me to fetch from under the doll’s armpits. Once packed in and on my back I realized it was specially made to meld together into something like a big, flat mushy spot which was nearly indistinguishable.
“Owen, I wouldn’t want you to run low of ammo. We’re going to be doing a LOT OF shooting today. Hahahahaahaaaa! Let’s get this party started!”