The phone call was over, it seemed, before it had even begun. “Hello?” James’ voice was only slightly shaky, which was surprising to him, given the circumstances.
“Straver?” The voice on the other end was a man, mid to low register, but otherwise non-distinct. He could have been anyone.
“Yeah,” the reply was nonchalant. He realized that he was trying too hard. He was, in truth, terrified and utterly confused; however, the last thing that he wanted to do was convey those feelings to whomever had put him in such a position.
“The drop-off is in two hours, at Centennial park near the Ring Fountain. You know what to do from there.”
“Wait I…” James’ voice trailed off as phone beeped, signaling the end of a call. He pulled it away from his ear and gave it another cursory look before tossing it atop the open duffel bag. He sat there, just staring at the duffel bag. His mind was in contradiction with itself, simultaneously thinking of nothing and of everything.
He of course did not know what he was supposed to do after this “drop-off” that the unnamed man spoke of. It hardly mattered though, because he had no intention of being anywhere near Centennial park in two hours. He was unsure of his next move, but could say with certainty that he would not be cooperating with whatever these people were trying to do to him. There was really only one decision, and that was to go to the police. He knew that he would have some difficulty trying to explain this situation to the authorities, but he did not see any other options.
With new resolve he pulled himself back to his feet and hurriedly dressed. His hair was still disheveled by the time he was out the door, car keys in his hand and some of the papers from the duffel bag in his pocket. His home was a modest, three floor townhouse. It fit in nicely with the other townhouses on the street, and for that matter it fit in well with the city as a whole. It was fitting then that, like almost everyone else in town, his home was also under water. He had bought at the height of the market, hoping to have an investment for the future. The market had come crashing down merely months after he had closed, hitting this particular neighborhood hard. Fortunately for him, or unfortunately depending on whether or not you were speaking to his mother, he was unmarried and had no dependents, so the house payment was easily made each month on his regional sales representative salary.
The lights flashed on his black BMW sedan, parked on the curb in front of his home. The car was new, but that was one of the perks of being in sales. He could always count on having a nice car to meet potential clients. He made the trip down his front porch stairs, across the quaint sidewalk that ran the length of his street, and into his vehicle. The BMW’s six cylinder engine purred to life just as the cell phone from the duffel bag began to buzz once more. James retrieved the phone from his pocket and noticed that it was a text message, again from a blocked number. He opened the message and read.
“You get the meet up info?”
He studied the message for a few moments, racking his brain in search of the proper protocol for the situation. Coming up with nothing in particular, and against his better judgement, he decided to reply. He typed a short message out on the device’s small number pad and remembered just how difficult it was to compose a message in this manner. In the age of full keyboards on touchscreen phones, the art of texting on a number pad was all but lost. “Yeah, just got the call” eventually found its way onto the SMS interface and he hit send. He was puzzled by who would be texting him on this number, but then again the entire situation was puzzling.
After a few minutes, a response came in. “When and where?”
“Who is this,” James texted back. He could only take so much confusion in one morning and wanted some answers before he gave any information away. His friends always told him that he was too nice, that he should put his foot down. “Oh, if they could see me now,” he said to himself.
“Are you joking? It’s Kenny.”
Kenny. He was the reason for all of this, at least in James’ mind. There were too many questions, and he did not have the luxury of time to entertain each of them. He tossed the phone on the passenger seat, threw the car in gear and tore down the road.
“It’s awfully early in the morning to be asking for a detective Mr…” The man’s voice trailed off, waiting for James to fill in the blank.
“It’s James. James Straker.” James obliged as he took a seat across the desk from the officer.
“Mr. Straker,” the detective continued, “now I understand that you came into the possession of, what you believe to be, stolen goods?”
“That’s right sir, I woke up this morning and…” James had no time to interject before the detective was on him again.
“Slow your roll there Jim. Let me just recap before we go spinning more details.” The detective was methodical if not a bit rude.
“It’s James actually.”
“That’s what I said.”
“Well, no. You called me Jim, but that’s not exactly my name, and no one really calls me…”
“Now listen here son,” the man leaned over the desk and glared, his face hardened from what must have been years of interrogating criminals, “are you here to waste my time nitpicking, or shall we get to the bottom of your predicament?” James shrunk back into his seat and slowly shook his head. The detective remained hunched over the desk for a beat or two, eyeing James, before he relaxing back into his chair. He was terrifying.
There was a slight pause while the menacing man sighed and took a swig from the cup of coffee that he had been nursing prior to their conversation. James took the opportunity to look at the nameplate on his desk, realizing that he had yet to figure out who he was talking to. It was the standard brown triangular name plate, its style and color a hold-over from the 80’s. It read: K. Thompson DT. He snapped out of his train of thought when he realized that detective Thompson was speaking again.
“Now Jim, I can see that you are a little confused and have had quite the experience this morning, so I’m going to give you another shot. Just make sure you don’t interrupt again. Comprende’?”
James only nodded, not wanting to upset the man further. He could deal with being called ‘Jim’ if it meant a resolution to his problems.
“Good. Now you claim that you found some stolen property in your home this morning. Items in question are: a 9mm pistol, some fake IDs, and a sum of money. You also took a call from a strange man, giving you details on a meeting place and time.” Detective Thompson looked up from the paper he had been reading to look directly into James’ eyes. “Is that all correct so far?”
“All right,” the detective said. He retrieved the stack of identification that James had deposited on the desk and began absently flipping through each of the ID cards and passports, occasionally looking back to James to verify the picture matched. “You said that there was a letter as well?” One of his eyebrows cocked upwards as he asked this.
James plucked the letter from his pocket, unfolded it, and placed it on the desk with the other items. Thompson quickly read it, then turned his concentration back to James.
“Recap the phone conversation for me.”
“Ok,” James stammered, his heart racing. “I picked up the phone, the voice on the other end told me to meet at Centennial Park fountains, in two hours, then hung up. I didn’t have time to get a word in.” He thought for a moment, then added, “oh and they said that I would know what to do after the drop-off.”
“Oh?” Detective Thompson threw an inquisitive look at him. “And what would that be?”
James shook his head. “I have no idea.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. I don’t even know what this ‘drop-off’ is that they were talking about. This is all just some big misunderstanding.” James responded to the questions quickly. He was still treading lightly.
Thompson slowly leaned back in his chair. His hands were raised together in a pensive position, fingertips meeting just below his nose, thumbs landing underneath his chin. James could see the cogs turning in his mind as the man sat back, looking off behind James but at nothing in particular. He began slowly scratching at the shadowy stubble that must have come from spending the entire day in the office without access to a razor. It seemed like ages before he finally spoke again. “This was all the communication that you have had with them?”
“No actually,” James pulled the prepaid phone from his pocket, “there were some texts.” He handed the phone to the detective, who began studying the messages.
He had received a few more texts from Kenny during the drive over to the police station, but did not bother to read them until he had safely arrived and was sitting in a well-monitored parking lot. He had killed the engine on his car, fetched the phone from its makeshift home on the passenger seat, and paged through the waiting messages. Long story made short, Kenny was not enthused.
The detective grunted, pulling James again from his mental wandering. “Did you meet this man that called you, or this Kenny character?”
“No sir, I came straight here.”
“And you have never, as far as you know, met them before?”
“That is correct.”
Thompson just stared at him for another long minute. James could not help but fidget in his chair, uneasy under the glare of such a powerful man. Finally the detective rose from his chair and retrieved his jacket. “All right Jim, I believe you.”
Relief washed over James. It was comforting to know that he was not in this situation alone, and that even though this detective was particularly daunting, he could count him a friend. He took the cue and stood along with the much larger man.
“Let’s get over to your place and check it out. I’ll see what we can do to help you out.”
Hope you enjoyed it!
Part Three is live now! Continue reading here.
If you missed part one, check it out here.