Monday 14 – Tuesday 15 July 2014
‘How do you think Mason knows about a military installation in Porterville?’ Greg Carter kept his eyes on the road ahead. The need to dodge abandoned vehicles was decreasing the further they drove into the countryside, but there was a need, nevertheless.
‘No idea. Why don’t you ask him?’ Luke replied. Carter glanced in the rear view mirror at their sleeping companion.
‘How can he sleep at a time like this?’
‘Again, Greg, I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him when he wakes up?’
‘What better time to sleep than when we’re on the move and relatively safe?’ Mason piped up from the back seat. ‘Anyone need water?’ He stuck his hand in the closest bag and pulled out a bottle of water.
‘Yeah, pass a couple over,’ replied Luke. He held up his hand to take the bottles that Mason would pass over. Keeping one for himself, Luke loosened the top on the other and held it out for Carter to take.
‘Thanks,’ said the driver.
‘To answer your other question, Carter, I know about the installation because my brother is stationed there. I figure that if anyone can help us in this current . . . situation, it’s gotta be the military, right?’
Carter considered Mason’s response. With the bottle of water that Luke had just handed him firmly between his legs, Carter removed the top from it, and then brought the bottle to his lips and took a few small sips of the water. He pushed open the cup holder near the steering wheel with the index finger of the hand holding the water, and slipped bottle carefully in before loosely replacing the top.
‘Unless, of course, our current situation was caused by the military, and then we’re just fucked,’ he replied to Mason.
‘Well, Carter,’ said Mason, ‘I guess anything is possible. Let’s hope that they aren’t complicit in this.’ He settled himself back in to a comfortable position and closed his eyes. ‘Judging by how long we’ve been travelling, the last gas station between here and Porterville is a few miles up ahead. You’ll wanna fill up on gas in case we need to keep going.’
* * * * *
A career criminal who had, for the last decade or so, appeared to have kept himself out of trouble, Ray Laxton knew that his time was up. While he’d kept himself out of trouble, Laxton had engaged the services of a number of small time, but highly effective, criminals to undertake his bidding. On many occasions he’d joked with his attorney that he’d outsourced his evil deeds, a view his attorney had not seen the humour in.
Laxton’s empire had slowly been crumbling around him, and the job he’d sent Carter and his team on was to bring Ray, financially, back to the top of the underworld heap. But things hadn’t seemed to follow the plan that Ray had constructed.
Three and a half, maybe four hours had elapsed since Carter’s designated contact time. It was a sort of fail-safe that Laxton insisted upon with every job, regardless of how experienced his associates were.
‘Fucker!’ Laxton threw a glass half-filled with scotch across the room. It shattered when it hit the display cabinet by the office door. Upon hearing the disturbance, Laxton’s right-hand man, Mal Baker, cautiously opened the door and poked his head into the room.
‘Anything I can assist you with, Ray?’
‘Sorry if I disturbed you, Mal. I’m . . . a little bit angry.’
Laxton gestured for Mal to join him in the office. The six feet seven giant ducked his head out of habit as he walked through the door. His left foot landed in a pool of the amber liquid and glass shards that had previously been a half-filled glass of scotch. It crunched under Baker’s enormous foot.
‘Carter’s missed his check in time.’
Baker lowered himself into one of the two chairs opposite Laxton’s own. ‘By how long?’
Laxton slapped his hand down on his desk. Baker flinched, clearly not expecting the action or the sound.
‘How long is irrelevant, Mal. The fact is that he has missed a check in, and I want to know why. I also want to make sure that my money is in safe hands, and that Carter hasn’t been a dick and run off some place with it. Find out for me, Mal, find out.’
Baker sat stony-faced and unmoving.
‘What are you waiting for, Mal? An invitation?’
‘Ray . . . c’mon . . . you don’t think that Carter and his crew might have got waylaid by that?’ Baker pointed to the world outside Laxton’s office window. ‘It’s not like things are, y’know, normal out there.’
‘Carter’s a human version of a cockroach, Mal. He’d survive anything. Those things out there won’t stop him.’
Laxton swivelled his chair around to face the window.
‘Whatever is happening out there, I want Carter found because wherever Carter is, my money will be there too.’
Baker inhaled sharply, believing he knew what was about to come next. ‘You want me to go out there and find Carter.’ It was more of a statement than a question.
‘No, Mal, I want you to send whoever is our best man after you to find Carter. I need you here. There’s no one else that I trust to have my back.’
Baker relaxed ever so slightly in the chair. ‘I’ll get right on it, Ray.’
. . . To be continued . . .