The harbor warehouse was cleaned out except for a plastic table with a handgun, smartphone, and open laptop on it. A small dock led into the building, and at the edge was a steel fold-out chair with a short coil of yellow rope tied around the taupe backrest. The other end of the rope was fastened to a cinder block. In a corner there was a forklift, but was so long unused some unnamed squatter’s turd had dried in the driver’s seat. Though the air stunk of a man's cologne instead while he paced in front of the table.
“Shit,” he said. “I should have brought an extra chair.” He had a nice set of legs on him, toned and tanned from nights at the gym and the tanning bed. He wore khakis and a blue blazer, his sunglasses were propped along his brow. His bald head was pink enough to be a pencil top. He had been pacing for an hour.
“They always drag their feet with this and I never remember to bring anything to make me comfy. Shit. Next time I’m setting this up with a big screen and fat Laz-E Boy.”
“We could trade places,” said the man sitting bound to the chair. “My butt went numb twenty minutes ago.” This darker man had a finely groomed mustache with grey whiskers. He wore a personally tailored brown suite with a red tie. His glasses hung low on his nose and it annoyed him that could not push them up.
The first man said, “We might if something doesn’t happen soon. My feet are killing me.” He shook his head. “I chose today of all days to go to work in my slip-ons.”
Police sirens sounded in the distance. The first man darted to the table and snatched the gun; he swept around the second man and leveled the barrel to his temple. The second man rolled his eyes. The sirens ran off somewhere else and faded.
The first man pursed his lips and threw the gun on the floor. “Come on!”
“You want them to find us?”
“I want something to happen,” the first man said. He went to the laptop and refreshed the page on his browser. He was checking his facebook.
The second man said, “It’s the middle of the day, everyone’s at work.”
“What are you, stuck in the 90s?”
The second man said, “Bah.”
“Hey, Peter’s baby was born today. Eight pounds, a big sack of shit right there.” He looked over his shoulder. “You want to see?”
The second man said, “Only if it’s cute.”
“Oh it’s better than cute,” the first man said. He grabbed the laptop by the screen and carried it over for the second man. The second man checked the screen and found the first man’s name in the corner: Chuck Marlin. The photo of the baby was not long after birth, its softened skull had been shaped into a traffic cone when it was forced through.
“They should paint him orange, right?” Chuck said. He went and placed the laptop back on the table.
The second man said, “What an ugly baby… Chuck.”
Chuck said, “Nice to meet you, Jeff.”
“Only my wife calls me Jeff.”
“Geoffrey’s a mouthful—what do your friends call you?”
“Thom is my middle name.”
Chuck said, “Nice to meet you, Thom.”
Thom straightened in his chair. “Yes well now that that’s out of the way. You should know my family are firm believers in defending this country from terror. They won’t—”
“Does Chuck Marlin sound like a terrorist to you? Jeeze. My family’s been here as long as yours—” Chuck stopped, noting the color of Thom's skin. “Sorry about that.”
“It happens more than you’d think,” Thom said. “Typically I’m what you people would call your ‘black friend.’”
“Does that mean I can say racist jokes now?” Chuck said.
Thom said, “Sure, what do I care?”
“Bah,” Chuck waved his hand. “Nothing gets to you. You don’t even so much as sweat.”
“This chair has gotten to my ass,” Thom said.
Chuck said, “At least you have a chair.”
Thom said, “We’re back where we started. Why are you doing this?”
“I’m in the business of hostage things and killings and whatever. Me and a bunch of other guys. It’s like a party.”
Thom said, “It does look like you never moved on from your dorm in college.”
“What college? You think a degree pays like this?”
“Who is paying you?”
“You can probably guess.”
Thom shrugged. “I spent the past ten years making my own company and carving out my place in the software market, and now this.”
“You should have hired body guards. Good CEO’s do.”
“That’s what my wife told me,” Thom said. He spat. “I can’t believe this bullshit. You know where I came from? Baltimore slums. I clawed my way out of the muck into MIT and then into my own business and now this. Now you. I have a wife and two kids, we were going to our summer home in Florida next week. What shit.”
Chuck smiled. “Finally frustrated?”
“You could have at least graduated from a state college,” Thom said.
“Hey, I went to tech school, alright? I’m a certified plumber.”
“Do you actually do that?”
“What? Hell no! Working in shit isn’t for me. But it’s good for the taxman. Got to launder money somehow.”
“How much would I need to pay to hire you?”
Chuck shook his head. “You can’t buy out your life. That’s just bad for business, no one would trust us.”
Thom sighed. “Not for that. How much is your going rate as a plumber?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t touched a pipe in years,” Chuck said.
“Well the water pressure in my showerhead is off a little. Do you think you could fix it?” Thom said.
“Sure, I guess I could take a look.”
“It’s the least you could do for me,” Tommy said.
“Yeah, no problem…” Chuck nodded. “Yeah I’ll do it for free, how’s that? That way no one thinks I’m a racist for killing a black guy.”
Thom glanced at the cinderblock. “You are using rope.”
“Hey but this is mafia style. Way cooler, you get to die like some mob owing owner of an Italian deli,” Chuck kissed to of his fingers and made an okay sign with his hand. “Magnifico!”
Chuck checked his phone for messages. “Jeeze, will they just hurry up?”
“What are you waiting on?”
“For our employers to transfer the money,” Chuck said. He looked up at the ceiling and blew out another sigh. “At this rate I’m going to shoot myself.”
“If you do, untie me first.”
“So you can do the honors?”
“Tsk, and risk getting blood on me? I’ll pass,” Thom said.
Chuck went over and felt his collar. “That is a nice suit.”
“Hot as hell, though.”
The phone on the table vibrated. Chuck checked it and whooped. He aimed the phone at Thom and took a picture while Thom sneezed. Chuck checked his bank account on the laptop while the picture was forwarded to his employers. Thom noted his account password consisted of the man typing the letter “m” ten times. A fat sum sat on top of his recent deposits.
“Well, time to do the deed,” he went over to Thom and said, “My Sunday mornings are free, so I can visit your family then. You guys go to church?”
“Not even baptized.”
Chuck placed a hand on Thom's shoulder. He said, “Aww, where do you think you go when you die, then?”
“It looks like the bottom of the ocean if you just shut your mouth and do your job.”
“I’m about to get murdered by a plumber of all things,” Thom said. “You could at least have been an accountant.”
Chuck set his foot on the cinderblock. “Any last words?”
“Get yourself a real job.”