Saturday, July 20, 2013

Progress and Chapter Two

I'm at Elliot Bay books, working, but my battery is dying, so I'll share what I have and scurry home. I'll be posting more, probably a LOT more, tomorrow.

In the meantime, some generous souls have already thrown down with their support for the book which just makes me very happy. Thus far, they are Gordon, Jason and Seth. I am very grateful and will probably do terrible things to people with their names when I need someone disposable.

Chapter Two

Once upon a time, Baxter was a spy. There are plenty of fancier names, of course, agent, operative, operator, what have you, but the job was the same, and there’s no need to be coy. He was a spy, and he was one of the best. In 2001 he worked for a subsidiary of a splinter of an agency. Complete deniability. No records. no blowback. 
He was on the XXXX line at XXXX a.m. when phones started ringing. He heard people talking about planes and buildings, but none of it made much sense. Then someone hung up and spoke to the train car. “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” 
When he stepped off the subway at Fulton Street station (it was announced that the train would go no further), it was xxxx a.m. The crowds meandered and mumbled, a herd without a leader. 
The air was dusty when he came out onto the street. He went to the corner, saw the smoke, saw the stunned faces all around him. He heard an unnatural sound, realized it was the rending of metal, and he saw the tower tremble. Part of his brain was planning already as the rest of his mind tried to process what he was looking at. 
He tore his eyes away, knowing he would hear all about what was happening on the news soon enough, and mentally preparing himself to never return to New York. 
He bought a cheap nylon backpack and a knockoff I Heart NY hat from street vendor who was packing up his stock. The merchant was so shellshocked he didn’t even shortchange Baxter. 
Baxter ducked into an alley and hunched into a space between two dumpsters, one of the few ways you could actually disappear in this city. When he emerged, his face was dirty, the hat shadowed his face, and he was simply wearing now-mussed slacks and a plain white t-shirt. Everything else, jacket, dress shirt, tie, briefcase, were crammed in the backpack. He quickly disassembled his Glock hand gun, wiped the parts, scattered them. The magazines would go down a storm drain. 
The wallet which contained his present alias had to go, but couldn’t go somewhere it would be found. He’d have to actually destroy the drivers license and credit cards. Couldn’t risk them turning up anywhere. There was only $35 in his wallet, but there was another couple hundred in a secret pocket in the cuff of his pants, and that would have to do. 
He may have been able to find a cabbie who was willing to drive instead of rubberneck or speculate, but no one was actually driving anywhere, thanks to the panicked gridlock. He realized with a small hint of rising panic that all transportation would be shut down soon. Planes first, of course, but soon after that, everything, the bridges, the tunnels, the trains... They wouldn’t be looking for him, not yet, maybe not for weeks, but they’d be looking very hard at everyone leaving the city. But he was getting ahead of himself. First he had to become someone else. 
If he could get to his office of his home, this would be much easier, he had go-bags in both places, a simple shoulder bag with everything he’d need to vanish very efficiently. Unfortunately, he didn’t have that privilege, so he’d have to vanish with what he had. When you really got down to it, working with what he had was one of the reasons Baxter was so damn good.
Baxter walked toward Wall Street, the smoke of the destruction on his right, flashing into visibility through the street canyons as he crossed clogged streets. 
The Wall Street station was open, and he wondered how much longer it would be. He bought a metro ticket at a kiosk, using cash. The Metro card could be traced to Baxter as easily as a credit card, and the name in his wallet, the name on all those cards, that guy had to be dead and had to stay that way. 
On the other side of the pay gate were lockers, and Baxter was annoyed, but not surprised, to see that the locker he thought of his was taken. He could pick the lock, given time and tools, but he had neither. He stood on tiptoes and ran his hand over the top of the block of lockers. Above his locker, he felt a seam, and he picked at it with a fingernail, eventually peeling back a piece of stiff, sticky aluminum, colored to match the lockers. Stuck to the underside of it, shining against the flat grey of the aluminum, was a shiny locker key. He peeled the key off and put the tape back where he’d found it, smoothing it down again. 
Even in New York, certain actions draw attention, and someone would have asked what he was doing dicking around with the lockers on any other day, but today people had other things on their minds. He thought grimly that if the day shook out like he expected, people doing anything vaguely suspicious might be getting arrested soon. 
The key turned, the locker popped, and Baxter pulled out the messenger bag he found inside. He dropped it to the ground, thought better of it, and then rifled the bag quickly, now at least looking like a normal person doing a normal locker thing.
He was far from astonished that the bag’s interior smelled like a homeless person, or that it had a kilo of white powder wrapped in plastic, in turn wrapped in a shitty old t-shirt. Baxter considered it, then decided it wasn’t his job or duty to fuck with someone else’s stuff. Live and let whatever. Anyway, periodically around him he would hear people say the word “terrorist” and he assumed that every damn locker in the city, if not the country or world would be getting a very close examination sometime soon. 
The drug back at his feet, he held the locker open and considered the back panel. He’d done good work, you really couldn’t tell anything special by looking at it. 
But it turned out his work had been too good. He pressed his hand against one side, then one corner, then the top, and the panel wouldn’t give. He fought the human impulse to look over his shoulder, but nothing is more suspicious than checking who is watching before you do something. 
He pulled his hand back and did a palm strike, pushing from the elbow, exhaling sharply, using the locker door and his body to shield his actions. There was a small snap as an epoxy dab broke, and after a moment’s fiddling, the back panel came away entirely. He slipped it into the backpack, along with everything behind it: A smaller Glock with extra magazines and a box of rounds (you never store bullets in the magazines, it wears out the springs, he had been taught), two passports with his picture on them, neither American, $50,000 in US dollars, and two wallets with IDs matching the passports. There was also a folding SOG knife that he tucked beneath his belt at the small of his back. He didn’t carry a knife in the office, but if he was fending for himself, he’d feel naked without it. He folded several hundreds into the wallet with Canadian ID and felt the confidence that came from a fresh cover identity seep in. Now his name was Gordon Duke, but probably not for long. 
The drug bag went back into the locker, the key went in the lock, then the key went in the trash. The trash can openings weren’t big enough to accept the false panel from the locker, so he left it on an empty seat on the train he caught to Grand Central. 
The train station was an absolute zoo, people trying to get to the WTC site for their own reasons, people trying to get home, the commute a shambles, but trains were still running. He booked a ticket to Toronto, mentally crossing his fingers. The train left in less than an hour and he would have to check in soon. 
He found a bathroom and washed his face. He found a boutique in the Station with some men’s wear and did his best to look as un-Baxter as possible. He bought another backpack, a better, bigger one, and bought a new hat, sneakers, and a warm-up suit. He rolled his eyes at himself in the mirror, but the costume did the trick. His dirty clothes and shoes were balled up on top of everything else, providing some scant cover.
He went to another wall of lockers and performed the same trick. At least this time the locker was open. He added more to his stash and remembered the last time he’d crawled through the city at four in the morning, moving his caches, installing new ones, clearing old ones. It was worth the effort, always, even if now it meant he had two guns and several heavy bricks of cash bouncing against his spine. 
He gobbled a hot dog and a Coke and found his train. No one asked to see his idea, his ticket was scanned, and he was waved aboard. 
Those on the train with cell phones or walkmans whispered updates to others. Both buildings had fallen, one plane had hit each, the descriptions from onsite were hideous, speculation was wild. None of it surprised Baxter in the least, other than the fact that it had actually happened, of course. There had always been rumors. He figured there always would be. 
The were stopped at the border, but as a citizen returning home rather than someone trying to leave the US, Baxter, as Gordon Duke, barely got a glance. He was glad, as the substance of the two Glocks and mass of cash in the bag beneath his seat felt like a homing beacon inviting trouble. He still needed to torch his old ID, too. 
Baxter took a cab from the station to a seedy area south of downtown. There he found a flophouse motel that took cash and didn’t ask questions. The price was fairly reasonable, but included the necessity to dodge hookers, johns, and junkies on the way to and from the room. 
He locked the door, shoved a chair under the lock out of habit, and was pleased to see the bathroom window could not open, and was too small for anyone other than a bulimic ballerina to crawl through. Firetrap as the motel might be, the security of one point of egress made him feel better. 
He turned on the news and sat on the end of the bed watching as he used his knife to shred every piece of ID in his old wallet. He flushed some of strips of plastic, and put the rest in a pocket to seed in several storm drains. 
Then he emptied his backpack, taking inventory. He made a mental list of what he’d have to buy, and that was reassuring, because, no matter what else he needed, at least he had money. There were the bricks of US currency from his caches, of course, but there was also the briefcase. 
It lay in the center of the bed, things to get rid of (wallet, slacks, etc) on one side, things to keep (guns, cash, new IDs) on the other. He knew what was inside, but he hadn’t bothered to look. It wasn’t his job. His job was to deliver. Of course, he had the combination, just in case. He put in the numbers on the touch pad and heard a click. He took a deep breath and popped the latches. 
The case was empty but for a sheaf of papers, banded together and sealed in plastic. He didn’t know where they came from or who they were going to, he never did. It never mattered. What mattered was that they were funding for, or profits from, something shady, and as such, were never inventoried, never tracked, never admitted to even exist. 
The case held five million dollars in bearer bonds. 
Baxter couldn’t help but grin. 

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