Universe W-1234: Muddy Creek 4
Make It Happen
The guard’s body lies on the floor unconscious. Jack’s not sure how it happened nor how long it will last, but he needs to act now and act fast – if this is going to happen, he needs to make it happen. Taking out the scrambler from his pocket, ‘Thank you Tony,’ he lines it up with the keypad on the wall beside the door. After a few seconds of electronic fizzing, the keypad’s display goes blank and the door unlocks with a click. ‘Bingo, we’re in.’
Time severs its head from its spine as he enters the room; the air is still, Jack’s heartbeat is slow, and his breathing silent. In front of Jack stands a computer on an old wooden desk. Rosewood, probably hand-carved in Brazil at least a century ago. Mister Gates spares no expense on the furnishings for this grandiose hideout of his, and why should he? The man’s worth billions, trillions even; he’s one of the most lucrative crime lords of all time according to the BFI’s criminal database. Jack would know, he wrote the entry himself. Our man Jack D has always considered himself to be a double agent, worming his way through life venture after venture, taking his prizes and vanishing. He couldn’t be expected to stay poor forever, could he?
Decidedly not, that’s why our Jack’s currently logged on to the computer in Mister Gates’s safe room. He’s searching for a digital wallet that may or may not exist, though the rumors about it surely do. It’s all his coworkers talk about these days, how much crypto the bossman has stashed away and where that stash might be. The way Jack sees it, Gates has to have a stash somewhere, keeping his flavor of wealth in physical, dollary form would be plain inconvenient, and obviously corporate banks are far out of the question.
Fuck it, he’s wasted too much time here, the computer’s clean.
Jack pokes his head out into the hallway to make sure Guardboy is still out cold. He appears to be, but Jack kicks him in the head a few times for good measure before going back into the computer room and frantically pacing around. This is not good, not according to the plan at all; it won’t be long until someone notices the cocaine skid is a brick short, and that guard will eventually wake up no matter how many boots he eats in his sleep.
A sole bead of sweat forms on Jack’s brow.
‘Think motherfucker, think.’
In a moment of brilliance, Jack decides to pull the kilo out of his pocket and do a bump. Then, another bump. Then, the formations of a plan begin to flood into his mind. He flips the table, sending the computer crashing to the floor. Snapping a leg off the desk in a drug-fueled fit of strength, Jack begins to smash the computer into tiny, irreparable bits. The table leg clanks as it hits the floor, one more piece of debris scattered upon the scene of the crime. Now it’ll just seem like our man went on a coke-rage and acted irresponsibly; as long as he pays for the kilo, he won’t be maimed. Hopefully.
As he sits down next to the bits and pieces of his technological victim, a gleaming something hooks the corner of Jack’s eye. Laying amongst the debris like a gilded needle in a haystack is a small golden block. Barely a few inches long and not nearly as wide, it blends into the clutter almost too perfectly. Jack picks it up – damn thing’s got some weight to it. Could this be what he’s looking for?
“What da fuck? Chavez! You okay?!” is followed by more than one set of footsteps rapidly advancing down the hall outside the computer room. After slipping the gold block into an interior pants pocket, Jack quietly positions himself under the table and calls out for help; even down one leg, it’s much heavier than he expected.
Two goons in tuxedos enter the room. They survey the disaster and then notice Jack pinned underneath the broken antique desk. “What da hell happened here?”
Jack says, “If you lift this desk off of me, I’d be more than happy to let you know,” between strained gasps of air.
The men comply and remove the restraint, their eyes trained on Jack as he stands and shakes the computer bits from his hair.
“All right, so– oh, before I forget.”
Jack removes a bundle of four thousand dollars from his pocket and hands it to the goon on the left.
“That’s half of what I owe for the coke, pusher’s discount and all that. So, I was down the hall in the coke room grabbing my kilo, which I clearly had every intention of paying for, when I heard a bit of a commotion. A raucous, if you will. I walked over here and saw Chavez on the ground, and even though I was already high, I thought it was kind of odd. So I come in here and see some dude that I’ve never seen around the compound before smashing the computer to bits with the table leg. I tried to stop him, but uh… I think y’all can see how that turned out.”
The goons, both with one eyebrow cocked like the hammers on their pistols, look at each other and then back at Jack. Goon On The Right asks, “Where’d da guy go?”
“I don’t know, out the door I assume. He could be anywhere. I think he Kayed me Oh, I don’t know how long I was knocked for.”
“Shit, I told da boss we need fuckin’ cameras in here or sum shit. Dis is bad. Stay here kid, we’ll be back for you,” Left Goon says before he and TweedleDipshit go back into the hallway. Jack can hear them pick up Chavez’s unconscious body before they tromp down the hall and out of earshot.
‘I guess IQ wasn’t on the application, Jesus.’
Now short four grand, Jack does another bump and sprints back to the coke room, locking the door behind him. Using the shitty old pallet jack in the corner, he moves the skid of imported cocaine to the wall and reveals the latch hidden underneath. Once he’s securely inside the coke tunnel, illuminated by oil lanterns and nothing else, Jack takes off towards freedom.
An Old Friend
Eventually Jack’s eyes pick up the dim glow of the moon’s light pouring in through the cave’s exit, or entrance, depending on which way you’re going. He maneuvers his way through at least a mile of dense pine forest and finds himself at a gas station in an unfamiliar suburb. Deciding to skip on a midnight snack, he heads straight for the town’s train station, thanking the junkies camped out in the parking lot for the directions and leaving them a few grams of white. Honestly, he was hoping the ‘burb would have an airport, but a train station works just as well. The next available locomotive, departing from the station in a matter of minutes, is headed east, conveniently set to pass through a little backwoods town called Muddy Creek.
Around fifteen hours later, an exhausted Jack arrives at his stop. He would have gotten some sleep, but he was too busy fiddling with his little gold contraption and peering over his shoulder, his head on a constant swivel in lookout for potential goons. He’s discovered that the device is a flash drive of some sort, which gives him hope, but he can’t be sure it’s what he was looking for until he plugs it into a computer, and even then it may just contain a hit list or something else incredibly useless, or hell, the thing could even be a decoy. It’s probably not, but still, it could be, and Jack’s name could also be on that hypothetical hit list…
Choosing to focus on the gurgling in his stomach rather than the gurgling in his mind, Jack leaves the train station and heads towards the old diner in town. He hasn’t been back home in ages, it shocks him that the dilapidated old hotspot is still standing. As he walks through the front door, time’s electrocuted again; there she is, posted up behind the counter, just like the good ol’ days… how incredibly convenient, too, that she’s staring right back at him. Smiling and lowering his gaze to the floor, Jack walks to the nearest empty table and sits facing away from the counter, grabs a menu. A few minutes later, a familiar voice pulls his attention away from said menu.
“My stars, Jacky Dee is that you?”
Jack looks up to see a gorgeous blond waitress with purple eyes standing at his table, pen and pad in hand.
“Brandy, wow,” Jacky D smiles. “How long has it been?”
“Too long!” Brandy hits him in the shoulder with her pad, then, “You look great Jack, where’ve you been?”
“Out and about, doin’ this and that. I’m just passing through, I recently left a job and thought I’d stop back home for a bit, visit some old friends.” He pauses to look into her eyes. “You don’t look too bad yourself, I love the contacts.”
Brandy blushes, a giggle is born but it’s not allowed to escape. “Oh, thank you. Hey, since you’re passing through, do you need a place to stay? I have an extra room at my place. I don’t know how long you’ll be here, but I’m not expecting any other company.”
‘Wow, well that was easy,’ Jack thinks, replying, “Really? Wow, that’s amazing! Thank you so much Brandy!” before grabbing her hand and kissing it to make his gratitude perfectly visible.
More blushing, this time the giggle flies. Then she looks over to the counter, Jack following her gaze to find a guy in a button-down, arms folded tight against his breast, with a mean stare on his face. Brandy rolls her eyes and looks back to Jack.
“That’s my manager, sorry. What can I get you?”
“Oh, uh, a coffee’s fine for now. Thanks doll, really.”
“Please, I’m more than happy to do it, especially for an old friend. I’ll leave my address on the check, cool?”
Jack smiles almost too genuine of a smile. “That sounds right fantastic, thank you Brandy.”
When Brandy comes back to the table, Jack ends up ordering enough food to feed three starving humans. Before he leaves, he sees to it that a hefty tip is left under the tower of dishes that monuments his table.
For the rest of the day Jack meanders around town, visiting his old stomping grounds and catching up with the few of his old friends that never moved on from the Creek. Dinner goes well but it’s a bit awkward; as it turns out, the diner’s happy manager is also Brandy’s boyfriend. His name is Hank or something, Jack doesn’t really pay attention. The guy won’t be around for much longer anyway.
Boss Is Fine
The following few weeks are a blissful blur that ends with Jack and Brandy walking hand-in-hand to a local bar. A couple humans are playing pool, an unbathed dude is slouched over on the bar top, some 80s rock music is playing on the jukebox; it’s like Jack never left home.
As it turned out, our man didn’t get to stay at Brandy’s house, not right away, at least; what’s his name just wouldn’t have it. So Jack started eating at the diner every day, started picking bouquets and vasing them for Brandy, going on walks with her after work. By the end of that first week, the boyfriend was in a motel and Jack was in the guest room, and by the end of the month the guest room got traded for the master bed. It was all perfectly ideal, as far as Jack was concerned: he had a place to sleep, a gorgeous woman to sleep with, a computer to use, he even awakened Brandy’s long-dead love for cocaine. Not that she would ever admit to it, but some wild shit went down in her bedroom this past fortnight and a half, whew!
Best of all though, there’s been nary a sign of Gate’s men; to be sure his trail stayed cold, Jack gave Brandy something of a rule to follow: no posting pictures of him online. As far as he knew she followed it to a T, even before he decreed it. For the first time since he graduated middle school, life had become simple for Jack. He didn’t plan on staying long when he first came into town, but like he’s telling Brandy right now, his plans just might have changed.
“Are you shitting me, Brandy?”
The happy couple looks over at a man who seems to be having trouble finding steady feet. Through the window behind the random drunkard, Jack notices a hauntingly familiar pair of headlights loom past the bar.
“Ham?” Brandy asks in a voice of shocked disbelief. “What are you doing here, you don’t drink.”
‘Clearly he doe– oh fuck, it passed by again.’
“Yeah? Well you said you don’t fuck exes, but uh…” Bottle in hand he motions towards Jack, “I guess we’re both liars.”
“Look buddy, just sit back down, this ain’t your business. Me and the lady–”
“Fuck you an–” hiccup “and that cunt.”
“The fuck you say, big man?” as Jack takes a step towards Ham.
Brandy tries to step between them, but Ham shoves her out of the way. She trips over the leg of the stool and hits the ground. “That’s fuckin’ it.”
Ham takes a swing at Jack but misses by a few feet. Jack clocks him in the face, following it with an uppercut and finishing the piss-covered boychild by slamming his head against the bar. Ham hits the ground much harder than Brandy did.
The entire bar goes silent, save for Jack’s ragged breathing. He helps Brandy up and pulls her close as they both stand over a freshly tenderized Ham. Jack looks out the window and the car drives by again, that’s three times now. Looks like his plans aren’t changing after all.
“Brandy, why don’t you go home,” as his mind spins a yarn into some semblance of a plot. “I’ll help mister manager over there get cleaned up and then I’ll meet you at the house.”
“No Jack, you don’t have to do th–”
“Seriously, it’s fine.” He plants a passionate kiss on his woman, perhaps the last one he’ll be able to plant. “I’m sorry for all of this, I’ll see you soon.”
“Okay, okay.” She walks towards the door, stopping when she’s halfway outside. “See you soon.”
Off she goes.
Once she’s gone, Jack spits on Ham’s unconscious body and walks into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. He scopes out the room, no easy way out. Fuck. They’re here, how the fuck are they here? How could they have possibly found him out here in this backwoods-ass fox’s den of a town?
‘No, doesn’t matter. There needs to be a way out.’
Just then, a way out presents itself. Unfortunately, it does so in the form of a goon picking the lock on the bathroom door. Jack and Goon stare each other down, neither about to make the first move in this most claustrophobic of men’s rooms. The tension is so thick it could be baked into Sicilian pizza.
Finally, Goon breaks the silence. “What’s it gonna be, kid?”
“That depends. How’d you find me?”
Goon straightens his tie, obviously proud of himself. “We have our methods. Boss wants to talk to you, he’s waiting outside.”
“Okay,” repeats Goon, growing impatient. “So are you going to walk out with me, or do I need to drag your sorry ass out of here?”
A few heavy moments later, they walk out of the bathroom. Jack spots Ham, still unconscious on the ground, and chuckles to himself as they leave the bar. Jack is escorted into the back seat of a very roomy SUV. When the vehicle leaves the parking lot, the passenger seat rotates around, bringing Jack face-to-face with the one and only Mister Gates, a petrified rosehead pinned to his suit and everything.
“Boss is fine, son. You do still work for me, albeit for not much longer. You’ve stolen something of mine Jack, something precious. I want it back, similarly to how you want to live after tonight and go back home to that nice piece of ass you’ve been sleeping with.”
Jack says nothing, biting his tongue to block his rage with pain.
Gates continues, “You’ll have to teach me your ways with the female species – if my wife looked like your girl, I wouldn’t need a girlfriend. Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase: either we both get what we want, Jacky Dee, or neither of us get what we want. It’ll be your choice, since your life hanging in the balance and whatnot.”
Jack thinks for a moment. Then, “I hope you don’t mean the coke, because I snorted most of that off my nice piece of ass’s body. And vice versa.”
Mister Gates remains silent, holding his poker face.
“Right. So uh, you really expect me to believe you’ll let me live after all this? You?”
Gates laughs, folding his hand. “Well, no, but I thought it would be more polite to offer you a choice. So where’s the flash drive, Jacky? Where’s my gold?”
“How would you feel if I said I didn’t have it?”
Without looking away from the road, Goon reaches back and points a very large revolver directly at Jack’s head.
His lips curling into a little smirk, Gates asks, “Does that answer your question?”
“It does indeed,” as Jack takes the little golden piggy bank out of his pocket and surrenders it. Gates, looking amused, spins his seat back around to face the windshield.
Jack asks, “Well? Now what?”
“Now,” Gates begins, “we go far enough into the woods so that nobody hears the gunshot. There are a couple of shovels in the back, I hope you like to dih–”
Goon, swerving to dodge a fire engine that comes roaring past them, loses control of the SUV and sends it screeching off the road. He drops the gun and Jack, never being one to buckle up, falls over and smacks his head against the left side door.
‘This’ll do,’ Jack thinks to himself as he unlocks and opens the door, rolling out of the car and landing with a slap on the damp forest floor, fortuitously devoid of any large rocks.
There’s only one thing left for young Jacky D to do now – run like he stole something.
A moment later, gunshots shatter the fog. At first they’re just loud noises, booms that rip through the darkness, but then a couple of shots impact the trees and become much more physical. Jack bobs and weaves his way through the thin jungle, breathing in dust and splinters as he runs for his life. Finally the last shot explodes in the distance and the slug barrels through the night air, grazing the very top of Jack’s left ear. He doesn’t even feel the pain, he just keeps running and running until he’s sure he isn’t being chased anymore.
In reality the criminals just let him go after blindly firing off six shots; Mister Gates got his wallet back, so the ending of Jack’s life was null at that point. He would go on to realize that a couple million dollars’ worth of his crypto had been transferred out to no less than twenty-seven digital wallets scattered across the globe, but honestly, that’s negligible. Jack’s never coming back, the kid’s too smart for that, and if he does? Well, those shovels aren’t going anywhere.
So what becomes of young Jacky D? After running back into town, he finds his way to a little emergency clinic, one of those spots open all hours of the day and night alike. He walks in clutching his ear with a blood-soaked hand and asks very politely for assistance. The staff almost turn him away, explaining that they have a burn victim that slipping into a vegetative state playing some video game who requires their immediate attention.
Jack, after commenting on how it sucks to be that guy, whips out a fat wad of greenbacks equating to thirty thousand dollars and gets immediate and swift medical treatment. He tips the staff a grand each for their discretion and slips out of the building without ever giving his name. It’s about three o’clock in the morning at this point, and Jack wants nothing more than a warm bed to sleep in, and maybe a certain someone to share that bed with. Maybe.He takes a shortcut through the forest and wanders towards Brandy’s house, but stops behind the treeline. ‘Well I’ll be damned.’
There, locked in a hug at the front door, are Brandy and… Ham, that’s what his name was. Old boy must have tucked his tail between his legs and went to apologize, very well then.
Jack, hands pocketed, leans coolly on a tree and watches them through the early morning fog, debating walking up and sabotaging their relationship further. He ultimately decides to let it be; maybe it isn’t worth it; maybe he’s grown to genuinely care for Brandy and knows that he’ll just leave her again; or, maybe Jacky D’s a multi-millionaire and he has a train ticket to buy. Either way, he stays leant on that tree until they go inside. It seems like Brandy stops and looks at him before she closes the door, but it’s too hard to tell. He could go and steal her back, sure, but wrecking a home just to say goodbye a few days later? Nah, no point; on to whatever comes next.
“I like your style big man, let’s make something happen.”
What the…? I didn’t add a postscript here… what is this?
“This is me, and I am many things. In this one, I was your boy’s MacGuffin so he didn’t need to knock out that goon up front. You’re welcome.”
Uh… thanks, I guess. Whatever you are.
“That’s a who, and you owe me now.”
I don’t owe you shit, you did that on your own accord.
“Then what can I do to get you to owe me something?”
I’m tempted to declare nothing, but yet…
Okay, here’s an impossible task: I wrote a book about running, but it’s really short. Make it a little fatter.
“Excuse me? How am I to do that?”
You’re excused; begone, cretin!
The cretin, banished, goes back from whence it came.
I am alone in The Void.