“So, I can come to the meet?” I ask.

“Yeah, but you best keep your mouth shut,” Val Replies. “This isn’t the time for you to make an introduction.”

“Got it.”

Val closes the driver’s door of his nondescript, black rental sedan and starts the engine.

I slide into the passenger seat. I hope I haven’t soaked thru my suit, I surreptitiously inspect my armpits, they’re thankfully dry.

We cross the Brooklyn bridge, ‘Left on Fulton, right on Logan;’ I rehearse the route we take through town. I’ll need to remember it for my report.

Val pulls the car up to the curb in a dense, residential area. “Get out,” he opens his door, “and keep your fucking mouth shut.”

Val’s not known to mince words, but he seems on edge, like he’s out of his element. I’ve never seen him like this, but I’ve also never done actual business with him before.

“Got it.” I follow Val toward a boxy, Brooklyn townhouse, complete with a large aerial TV antenna and a bright-red portico.

I hold open the screen door for Val, and, without even a simple knock of announcement, he swings open the inner door and practically storms into front hall.

‘So much for pleasantries,’ I follow Val into the hall. The house is totally empty.

“We’re upstairs,” a baritone voice calls from the top of the staircase on our right.

Val climbs the stairs two at a time, “Mikey!” He jovially turns ‘Mikey’s’ hand shake into a bear hug. “I haven’t seen you since… that thing we did.” Val clears his throat. “You know, that thing?”

“I’m not sure I do,” Mikey replies. “Why don’t you refresh my memory?”

“C’mon,” Val elbows Mikey in the ribs, “you know…”

Mikey leaves Val’s words to hang in the air.

“Well, we best go inside,” Val releases Mikey from his lingering handshake.

I follow Val into the room. The sparse hall is in stark contrast to the mismatched clutter of furniture strewn around the ‘meeting’ room. It was like an 80’s Sears catalog had exploded into a splattered mess of flower print, pastels, and bold red velvet.

“Stay near the door, stay quiet.” Val says to me through the corner of his mouth.

“Gentlemen!” Val raises his arms high, motioning for the dozen men occupying the room to sit. “I hope you weren’t all waiting for me.” He feigns embarrassment.

A balding, overweight man with an obtusely large mole on his forehead stands. “You were going to tell us about your plans, weren’t you?”

Every man at the table nods in agreement, a vaguely affirmative murmur fills the room.

“No, no, no,” a sheen of sweat shows on the back of Val’s neck. “It’s your turn, I’m absolutely cer-“

“Stop it with this nonsense!” Yet another balding, mid-fourties, overweight man stands—thankfully this one lacks a pulsating mole of his own. “I have the minutes of our last meeting. You are clearly scheduled to give us your plans. We’ve all been waiting for weeks to hear them.” Out of breath, balding man number two takes his seat.

“Well, surely I would’ve remembered such a thing,” Val stutters.

Val turns to me, “this is my associate, John.” His eyes burn with a mix of rage and terror. “Tell them, John, tell them about, the, uh—business.”

“Which, business exactly?” Smoother than I expected.

“The business, that, you’re, uh—the business you’re working on.”

“I’m waiting for you to tell me what that is,” I’m all in, I may as well throw him under the bus, maybe I’ll get closer to the real boss. “I thought that’s why we’re here.”

The first balding man pounds his meaty fist into the table. “This is horse shit!” he looks at each man, one by one, directly in the eyes. I’m not sure if I should be worried or laughing hysterically, this pantomime is funny. “How are we supposed to be a crime syndicate if none of us ever do any crimes?” Baldy number one runs out of bluster and falls into his bright pink, plastic patio chair.

“Wait…” my wandering mind slips out thru my mouth before I can stop myself.

Everyone is looking at me.

“Hey, so, call me crazy,” I pause, “but is anyone here with law enforcement.”

Everyone turns to look at their neighbour, then back at me. A pregnant silence hangs in the air.

Val clears his throat. “So, if I was law enforcement. What would that mean?”

Laughter is pounding at my chest, “well—“ laughter bursts forth uncontrollably.

“Why’s he laughing?” Asks, baldy numero uno, but it’s too late. Half the table is on the floor, rolling around like a bunch of doped-up manatees.

I recover enough to gasp out a few words. “We’re… all… cops?”

The roaring laughter serves as sufficient reply.

 

Josh Harkema

Josh is a English major studying literature and critical theory at the University of Calgary. An avid writer of both science fiction and philosophy, Josh is comfortable writing both fiction and creative non-fiction. As an editor, Josh has worked on multiple works of short fiction, as a copy-editor at The Gauntlet, and is currently working on a study of temporary identities in online communities.

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