James awoke this morning as he would have on any other morning, his alarm blaring. Bleary eyed, he rolled towards the alarm clock, unnaturally heavy blankets tossed to the opposite side of the bed. Everything felt just a little bit sluggish, his feet a bit heavier on the frigid wood floor, and his head somewhat foggy from apparent lack of sleep. It was five in the morning, seven after five to be exact, but his alarm clock was set to five so he had overslept, if only by a few minutes. Struggling to his feet, he wobbled slightly before gaining his footing and made his way to the bathroom. Lights would have been optical suicide at this hour, so he relied solely upon the experience of making this exact trek hundreds of times before, with plenty of stubbed toes and feeling around aimlessly to show for it. It was all better than being blinded by light after a forceful awakening from REM sleep. His feet softly plodded across his dark, oak wood floor. They were numb to the cold touch of polished wood against skin. Just before his feet made purchase on the even colder tile flooring of the bathroom, his right foot struck hard against something lying on the ground before him.
A low moan escaped from his lips as pain signals lit up in his mind like fireworks. Even his thoughts felt distant at this hour. He would need at least two cups of coffee before anything would start making sense to him. Maybe three cups. Black coffee. Just the thought breathed some life into his haze.
The room was too dark to make out the obstacle that had offended his foot, but it felt solid, and there would be a bruise later. It was the dead of winter, so five in the morning might as well have been two, as the night continued to make its relentless conquest against the daylight hours. Even so, James was able to bend over and, after some feeling around, take hold of two handle straps on the top of the foreign object. It occurred to him that it was some sort of duffle bag, of which he had no recollection of leaving in the middle of the room. It was heavy too, which would have been odd if he had full cognitive abilities. So, this particular duffle bag found a new home in the corner of the room, and James was finally able to relieve himself.
Lights blazed on, the bathroom exhaust fan chattered as it came whirring to life, and a pleasant downpour of warm water filled the previously dark and quiet room. James only emerged from the shower after washing himself and spending several long minutes just enjoying the warmth of the water against his back. His skin slightly pink from the heat, he finished drying off and draped his towel across his shoulders. The mysterious duffel bag began to gnaw at his thoughts, until he fully realized that something was terribly wrong.
He stopped, standing rigid in front of the bathroom mirror, staring blankly at his own reflection. Slowly his head spun to where the duffel bag had landed in the corner of his bedroom. The light from the bathroom illuminated it just enough so that James could see that it was black, large, made of some military grade fabric, and stuffed full of something. Striding out of the bathroom, he grabbed a pair of boxers and a plain white undershirt to hastily dress himself before making his way to the duffel bag. Illuminated only by the light spilling through the doorway behind him, he bent over the duffel and slowly unzipped the top. He had realized that this was not his duffel bag as soon as he had lifted it, though his faculties were not fully functional at the time. If there was any doubt in his mind, it was dispelled when he finished unzipping the top and stacks of U.S. currency toppled onto the floor.
Words were lost to James, even though there was no one around to share them with. He found himself not even knowing what to think. It was far too early in the morning for something like this to happen to him, and clearly something was not right with this situation. He grasped one of the bundles in his hand, slowly lifting it into the light to read the band across the bills, $10,000 it read. The money dropped to the floor, and James continued to stare blankly at his hand as if he were still holding it. He knew then that he was in possession of at least one million dollars, just by the size of the duffel bag. His eye then caught sight of something in the midst of the cash, and he brushed some more of the bundles aside to fetch out the items in question. In his right hand he grasped all manner of identification, U.S. and foreign passports, various state driver's licenses. In his left, a 9mm semi automatic pistol fitted in a holster. The room began to spin around him and just before he thought he would pass out, a piece of paper in the bag caught his attention. It was buried beneath the items that he had just retrieved, so it was lucky that he had found it at all. He quickly fetched it from the duffel bag and unfolded it to reveal a message. Scrawled across the paper, in what appeared to be furiously written script by someone who was clearly in too much of a hurry to bother with proper punctuation and handwriting, was the following message:
Here's half your payment and the other stuff you needed. I couldn't find the piece you said you wanted, but I figured this one would do the trick. The meeting place has changed. Wait for a call on the burner for more info.
P.S. Nice digs. I didn't take you for the 'settle down and buy a house' type.
As he finished reading the last line of the note, a faint but distinct buzzing began to emanate from somewhere inside the bag. It was the easily discernible buzz of a cell phone, most likely this 'burner' that Kenny had mentioned. James had no time to think, to process exactly what was going on and how he had found himself in this situation. Against his better judgement he plunged his hand blindly into the duffel bag. After a few seconds of fishing around, and more bundles of the money toppling onto the floor, he found the vibrating phone and pulled it from the bag. It was a simple Nokia pay-as-you-go type phone. It was functional, but ultimately disposable.
The display was alight with the incoming call, from a blocked number. He considered not answering. It would be easier to just ignore the bag and go about his day. Before he knew what he was doing, the call had been accepted and the phone was at his ear.
Part Two is live now! Continue reading here.