What is that stupid saying? Never assume, because it makes an ass out of you and me. Well that pretty much fits the bill, except the only ass here is me. I was brought in, I thought, to handle the money. An intermediary. Winslow, the guy who hired me, runs some sort of coke outfit out of Vancouver, BC. The idea was to collect the cash and make sure it crossed the border at Blaine, Washington. I’d heard about the job from a friend of a friend. Winslow needed “a nobody.” I was told he was too heavily watched to take chances transferring his own cash. I didn’t ask who he was watched by. The money up front looked good, and in this economy even crooks have to get it where they can.
I found it funny that the cash was moving to the United States. I always thought the drug business worked with the money going out from the US and the drugs coming in, but I couldn’t tell you anymore than what I’d seen on TV.
I assumed that it would’ve been an easy job. I assumed I wasn’t going to be a patsy for some degenerate drug dealer offering me up for sacrifice in the wake of some bullshit I’d nothing to do with.
Right now I’m lying bound and blindfolded on a cold concrete floor. It gives me time to accept I assumed too much. I should’ve been on my guard.
When I started the job I crossed the border to the Great White North. My passport was in order, so crossing proved no problem. I went straight to an office building in downtown Vancouver and picked up the cash. There was no hoopla. Just a guy who looked shady as all get out, like an extra from 21 Jump Street, waiting outside of an unmarked door on the third floor of the building. He gave me a briefcase.
Leaving the building I decided to grab some lunch at an Indian restaurant across the street. Canada has far better Indian food then the US. I ordered butter chicken and garlic naan. I only remember this as it becomes apparent it will have been my last meal. I thought it was smart to bide my time before crossing the border again. If I turned around and went back after an hour, the border patrol might’ve thought me suspicious. It didn’t matter really, they think everything is suspicious.
I can still get bits of chicken free from my back molars if I suck on them.
I stowed the briefcase in the trunk and headed south. Pandora Radio was on, a station made from the suggestion of the electronica group M83. When I got to the boarder station, one of the agents asked me a few questions, mostly about fruit. He took my ID and passport then headed into a little white guard shack. After a few minutes the same guard came out, handed me my documents and waved me on.
Lying on the icy floor, I can remember the next segment in slow motion. I noticed that no other cars had passed the boarder station after me. Immediately I was flanked by two black Cadillacs. They ran so close to me that they started to steer my vehicle. The one on my right encroaches and I followed his angle to avoid crashing. The left Cadillac backed off a bit and let me swerve. Maybe the left car knocked my tires because soon my turn goes into a spin and I’m in the tall grass of the median.
Groggy and disorientated, my shoulder bounced against the seat belt when I went off the road. The engine cut out. I don’t remember turning off the ignition but I knew that it went quiet. My door got thrown open and there was this big nasty looking bulldog of a brute. He cut my seat belt off with a deer antler blade and pulled me over his shoulder and transferred me to the backseat of a Cadillac. Somewhere in the exchange the bulldog called me ‘Winslow’. The driver of the car pistol whipped me.
When I woke, I was sitting in a metal folding chair. It reminded me of Sunday school. I hated those chairs. My hands were tied in front of me.
A steady deep voice said, “I thought you’d be bigger, Winslow. You interact with someone for so long without meeting them and you build an image in your mind. It is never what you expect when you finally see them in person. I had a mortgage broker like that when I was buying my condo. She sounded hot. I mean Victoria Secret level hot. It wasn’t the case though. After we closed, I went by her office to drop off a thank you bottle of wine and maybe ask her out, which turned out to be a bad idea. I heard the voice and knew it was her. Let’s just say I’ve been more physically attracted to zoo animals.”
I said, “I’m not Winslow.”
He laughed and said that’s what he thought I’d say. He told me that the money was a nice pay off, and that I shouldn’t have done what I did. In this case he means Winslow, not me. I gathered that someone was shorted money or drugs and it made whoever the voice belonged to look like an idiot. The conversation was not long. I continued to deny that I was Winslow, but the voice wouldn’t cave. Soon I was thrown into this room.
I think it has been a few hours. I’m huddled in a ball. The restraints allow me to contort into a smaller form but not to move my hands or legs. It’s very cold and my lips have gone numb. There’s a sound muffled by a wall, and suddenly I make out where I am and what is about to happen. The sound is an industrial band saw, and I’m in a meat locker.
*Swainston’s short stories and flash fiction are printed in Out of the Gutter, The Frist Line, Revolt Daily as well as others. His self-published novel, The Tacoma Pill Junkies, was released in February of 2013 and can be found at tacomapilljunkies.com. He is also the Editor-at-Large for Creative Colloquy.