Oh, this is ridiculous, you think as you look at the man lying on the floor. He was buried underneath your couch. Apparently, when you crashed into your living room, this guy didn’t make it out in time and was pinned. Good. Maybe now you can get some answers, hopefully, not in Japanese.
You start with the two most obvious questions: Who are you and where is my wife, the second being the more important of the two. The man coughs up a liquid that wets his mask. Disgusted, you rip the mask from his face and nearly have a heart attack when you see who is underneath it. Joseph? Your first cousin on your mother’s side. What in the hell is going on?
Shaking, you back off of your younger cousin. “What are you doing?” you ask him. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” When he doesn’t answer, you become enraged. This is a man you see every few days at your aunt’s house a few blocks over. This is a man you trust, a man whom you introduced to his wife only a few years ago. What the hell was he doing in your house now and what was his involvement in your wife’s kidnapping? How could he betray you this way?
Still getting nothing from Joseph, you get frustrated. You pick up the first thing in range, a lamp, and crack him in the face. He yells and grunts. As he coughs up blood, you ask him again. “Where is my wife?”
“She’s gone, cousin,” Joseph says. “You failed. And she’s gone.”
You grab Joseph by his shirt and shake him. “What does that mean? Who the hell are you?”
It is then that you notice a pill in Joseph’s mouth. Joseph bites down on the pill before you can stop him. You scream and watch helplessly as foam bubbles up from Joseph’s mouth. Joseph’s eyes roll back in Joseph’s head and Joseph dies right there in your tight grasp. No! No, no, no. This could not get any worse. How were you going to explain this to your mother and aunt?
Actually, it could get worse, you realize as, before you even have time to think about burying the body of your first cousin Joseph, you hear police sirens coming down the street. Damn it all straight to hell. You can tell from how loud the sirens are getting that you have jack shit for time. You force yourself off of your cousin Joseph’s body and run to your room. You grab your wallet, cell phone, and a pair of jeans and t-shirt. You take off out of the back window. There would be no way to explain this situation to the cops. And if you tried, all that would happen is you would end up in jail while the boys in blue did everything they could get you convicted of murder instead of looking for your wife.
You could not afford to have your time wasted like that.
As you sprint through your neighbors’ backyards, ducking and dodging the police like a trained pro, you stop to change your clothes. You pull on your jeans and t-shirt and stuff your pants’ pockets with your wallet and your cell phone. You know there must be at least 25 police officers at your house right now trying to do what you’ve been trying to do all morning. Figure out what hell is going on. Good luck to them. Hell, good luck to you.
You keep running, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before the police officers start canvassing the area looking for you. You emerge on the sidewalk and decide to just keep walking, trying to look like a regular Joe Shmoe and not an unwilling fugitive. You muss your hair before shoving your hands into your pockets. God, it is cold. Why didn’t you grab a hoodie or something? Damn October air.
Trying hard to breathe even though you are still shaking and more than you have ever been in your entire life, you keep walking until you reach the café you frequent. Before you enter, your phone rings. You pull it out of your pocket and look at the caller ID. Unknown. You don’t know anyone who has a blocked number so your first thought is to ignore it. It is most likely just another bill collector. Then light dawns on you and remember the disaster that has been this day the fact that your wife is missing. This may be the people who have her, calling you for ransom or something.
Hiding at the side of the café, you answer the phone. “Hello?”
“Hello, Jacob,” a man’s voice says.
“Who is this?” you ask.
“We trust your morning has not been as easy today as usual. We trust you understand now what happens to people when they fail.”
“Who is this? I have no idea what you are talking about. Failed at what? Listen. Whatever it is that I did, I am sorry. I will make it up to you. Just tell me what the hell is going on.”
“We gave you this life,” the man said. “And we only asked for one thing in return. Loyalty. Since it is clear that that is something that you cannot provide, we have no choice but to take your life back.”
“What? No. You got the wrong guy.”
“Good luck, Jacob.”
“Wait. No. No. Please,” you beg, but it is too late. The caller has already hung up. “Shit!” you yell, throwing your phone to the ground. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” With each profanity, you stomp on your phone. It’s a nice droid you just got for your birthday. But that doesn’t matter to you. You knew you would have to get rid of your phone so that you couldn’t be found. You were just hoping the kidnappers would call you before you had to trash the droid so that you could get them whatever they wanted.
But now you see that they don’t want anything but to destroy you. You have to go about things differently. You need a computer. You have to forge your own credit cards. You have no time to do that before the cops get smart and run a trace on your credit cards and other electronic transactions. You start putting pieces together of a plan that, while you have no guarantee it will work, it definitely beats standing out in the cold hoping these bastards would learn some mercy.
Ignoring the hunger pang in your stomach, and the throbbing in your head that had yet to subside after you took the Aleve, you hail a cab instead of going inside the café to eat. Time was not on your side and you had to do this quickly. You would be able to eat the hotel, once you got your identity settled.
You go to the bank to close your accounts. When they ask you why you’re leaving them after 10 years, you say you’re moving to another state and need the cash for the road trip. You are young and childless so they buy the story. “However, you have over $200,000 in this account. We, unfortunately, are not allowed to give that much in cash,” the bank representative tells you.
You manage to not cringe visibly, and nod. “That’s okay,” you lie. “I’ll take the most you can give me in cash in cash, then the rest I will take on a debit card.”
She smiles and says that she will get her manager to finish up the paperwork. You smile politely as she leaves. You start tapping your fingers on the desk. You have only minutes before your everything is frozen. You can feel it. Or you may be paranoid. But you didn’t believe that for a millisecond. If that last phone call was any indication, you had forces more powerful than the police to contend with. They stole your wife, killed your cousin Joseph, there was no telling what else they were going to do to you.
Finally, the lady returns with her manager. He is all smiles and you are just waiting for him to give you some schpiel about why you should not close your account so that you could cut him off at the pass and get going.
“Hi, Mister Jacob,” the man says, with a big cheesy smile and holding out his hand like you want it. “My name is David. I understand that you are wanting to leave our bank. Is there anything we can to get you stay with us?”
“No. David. As I told Ms. Lindsey here, I am moving out of the state and will be…”
“Well, which state are you moving to?”
“Oh, well, we have…”
“I’m in a hurry, sir, so if we could please get this taken care of, I would appreciate it.”
David gives you a smile that conveys nine kinds of unpleasantness, before he says, “Of course, sir. Lindsey here will finish the paperwork.”
“Oh, well, I need you to sign these,” Lindsey tells David before David can make his get-away.
David gives Lindsey a pained grin as he takes the stack from her hands. David takes a pen out of his pocket-protector, clicks it open, and then proceeds to gloss over the top form before adding his John Hancock and date to the bottom of the page. David turns a few more pages, signs a few more forms, and then excuses himself. You almost feel bad for the guy. He is about to lose a high earning customer. It is going to suck to be him when David’s own bosses come calling. But hey, that was the breaks for guys who wanted to get to the top. Besides, after Hallam left the bank a few years ago, David had never once said hello to you or your wife.
The clock is ticking away, and not in your favor. You look at the clock. It’s been 20 minutes already since you entered the bank. You wonder had you walked in with a gun would you have gotten faster service. Hell yeah, you would have. But you would also end up having even more law trouble. Who needs that?