I don’t believe in coincidence. In my line of work, there is a natural flow and ebb. Just a matter of watching for the signs. If given a chance and a bit of research I can often stand to get enough to semi-retire for a year or two. Fully retire? I don’t have a choice. The work chooses me.
The phone rang. My shelf of music fell over.
“If you got this number, my rates are not negotiable. Thirty percent is due within the hour. The job runs my way or not at all. If you don’t like it and cross me, you will regret it. If you are member of law enforcement or judicial, identify yourself or hang up now.”
The only sound I heard was an automated subway recording to ‘Stay Away From the Edge’.
“In ten seconds a trace and report will be initiated if you do not speak.” I grabbed a handful of the plastic cases, and randomly placed them onto of a stack of books. I picked up a Guns and Roses cd, then it caught my eye. Slash. The top hat, the shades, the cigarette. Something cold ran down my back. The Baron was ready for me at the crossroads.
“Remy, I got a job for you.”
I never could say no to her. And today, it could be my last job.
“What floor?” I asked, patting down my jacket. The envelope inside with the instructions for when ‘Things Go Wrong’ was there. The small charms, Mexican Day of the Dead doll, clump of sweetgrass, pagan star…
“Thirteenth. I knew you weren’t superstitious. Wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Just making sure everything is smooth.”
The equipment looked more than legit. It looked like a very new model; sleek and easy. My eye saw the wear. It had been used several times over the past year. “Came to me last huh?”
She looked away from the back of the van to the tall office. “The job. We need to know what they are working on. Intelligence shows that they don’t appear to have any blocks or guards in place. It’s an information black hole.”
“Which your employers hate. I want a clean record and double my rate. Twenty minutes.”
“Seventeen and consider it done. You going to start?”
Ripped open the amp strip and applied it to the fresh shaved spot on my chest. Laying down, I pulled the bracelets over my hands, letting the machine interface. Feeling the icy cold snakes of electrical leads laced with chemicals race up my veins and into my chest. The heaviness overcame, my flesh only weight now, pulling me down. My brain kicked in endorphins, the tunnel, familiar visions. That sweet first step: sharp and clear. Then the slippery, beyond the matter, the physical didn’t matter.
It was getting a little boring actually. Getting paid to die. Time is running, so I pushed.
I rose the twelve floors, pausing slightly to see a Chinese restaurant flyer float by. Smiling Buddha stained with soy sauce. Sign of second stage reincarnation. Already? The job wasn’t done yet, just starting.
And she was wrong. There was security. Another ghost, everything I wasn’t. Young female: spunky and optimistic. I pushed a mandarin love poem to her. She twitched, unsure how to handle the attack and flitted out of the room. There were ways to induce visions, even on this side of the veil.
There was my target, surprisingly an ex of mine. She was intently reading four articles open on the secured reader. My Russian was rusty, but I recognized several words. Perimeter, failsafe, UVB-76 new signal. Her hands were slowly moving to the keyboard, then there was a flurry of movement. Time was stuttering. I pushed again, instinctively I felt the amp kick in releasing the stimulants directly over my heart. The young ghost was back again, attacking me.
The kick, back spasming. Emerging, coughing and struggling. The machine withdrawing from my being.
“Got it. Russian. The Dead Hand. Perimeter program. Something about shortwave. Probably nuclear arms control.”
After a moment, “Remy, I got another job for you.”
I never could say no to her.