Shiva's Messenger

Woebegone for the Bag Lady

Chapter 8 – Shiva’s Messenger

Woebegone for the Bag Lady

 

The BMW was stashed in the Calgary mini-storage and Roger was again driving his pick-up truck. Traveling east with no fixed destination, the Rocky Mountain foothills were soon left behind. The landscape flattened to a nearly featureless expanse of wheat fields. The highway pointed poker-strait and it rolled through shallow dips and over mild rises.
Shiva’s Messenger had selected another Ruger to replace the one that disappeared piecemeal into a string of dumpsters. His father must have also been partial to this model because he’d left a preponderance of them for his son’s use. The new gun was now in the hidden lock box under the truck bed along with another ID set.
“I wonder if I turned my steering wheel even once during the whole tedious highway drive across the Prairie Provinces?” Roger arrived in Winnipeg. Since he still hadn’t decided where he was going, he stopped here for the night. He rented a motel room close to downtown and took a brisk walk in the city core area.
Indian Summer was definitely finished here. If Manitoba had experienced the same mild day that he and Jessica enjoyed on the mountain, it was not in evidence now. A cold front had descended from an arctic air mass and gripped the city in a frosty precursor of the winter to come. Scattered snowflakes swirled in the buffeting winds that twisted about the buildings like skiers down a slalom run.
Winnipeg is often referred to as Winter-peg and where Portage Ave. intersects Main St. is bragged as the world’s coldest street corner. Roger couldn’t argue that assessment. He decided his walk was too brisk in both definitions and made it brief. A café advertised a hot bowl of soup special and it promptly arrived with a biscuit.
He warmed his chilled hands on the bowl before sampling and looked out the window. A homeless bag lady was huddled in a nearby alcove. Sections of her torn clothing flapped and snapped like signal flags on a ship’s mast. Since the standard shopping cart was absent, he wondered if the vessel of her possessions had sailed away without her at the rudder.
The ambient temperature was low enough but it was the biting wind chill factor that threatened to chew the flesh off in jerky strips. No one should have to endure extreme cold when warmth is available. He knocked on the window. The sounds must be muffled through the t-shirt wrapped around her ears. He rapped a few more times to catch her attention and motioned her to come in.
The woman pantomimed something impossible to translate. A best assumption was she had no money to pay for service, as she waved him off at the end. Shiva’s Messenger nodded he understood whatever she was communicating and continued his beckoning until she acquiesced.
As she entered, the café manager’s radar detected the intruder and he scrambled to his intercept pattern. A swift swoop suggested that ejecting the unwelcome woman was a regular occurrence. Roger wondered, what if she only needed to use the toilet? A quick glance at the back of the café showed a bold sign, ‘Washrooms for patrons only’. That was pathetic. The owner was too miserly to expend one toilet-flush on a non-paying customer.
The proprietor’s visage wore a look of disgust as he closed quickly on the bag lady but interference came from an unexpected quarter. A very loud throat clearing followed by a stern look gave a strong cease and desist command.
Roger stood to his full 6’ 3” height in a manner both welcoming to his guest and menacing to her assailant. The restaurateur quickly veered off his attack run with pretence of having crossing the diner only to wipe an already clean table.
The woman checked over a shoulder as she reached the table. The draft of icy cold air she dragged in her wake wafted over before dissipating. The mutter she offered was as incomprehensible under her mufflers as her sign language had been.
“Please join me.” Roger sat but the woman apparently had some complicated work to do that was only possible to accomplish from a standing position. Cognizant of an Egyptian mummification process in reverse, she began unwinding the series of mismatched rags that comprised her thermal protection. As an impromptu dance of the seven veils got closer to the skin layer, Roger guessed she was perhaps 30 years of age. She may have been even younger but homelessness tends to age people prematurely.
“It’s too cold to be out there,” he said cheerfully.
“I’m outside all of the time.” She spoke with an indigenous accent. “They always kick me out of this place.”
Now that her headwear was fully disassembled, Roger took her appearance to suggest she was likely a full-blood native. Her cheekbones were high but most of her features were of an angular cast. Judging only by facial structure, she could’ve been Korean but her skin coloration showed otherwise. This could indicate that her family tree held few if any Caucasian roots.
“Today you’re my guest and they won’t show you the door.” He waited as she pushed her gear, like a pile of laundry, aside on the padded bench to sit. “I’m going to buy you a hot bowl of soup, some coffee and whatever else you want off the menu.”
“Why?” She eyed him suspiciously.
“You looked like you were freezing and it made me shiver just looking at you.” Roger tried humor but her expression remained wary. “I felt like having someone to talk with”
“I’m not used to having people treat me kindly.”
“My name is Roger.” He offered his hand across the table: her fingers felt like animated icicles.
“Audrey.” She smiled for the first time.
Casually conversing for a few minutes, Roger learned that her tribe was Dene and she hailed from a small community in the Northwest Territories.
“Do you speak People?” Roger inquired in that language. In some Northern native languages like Dene or Inuit, the name of their nations was the same word as for the community as a whole.
“How can you know that?” Audrey was surprised that someone obviously non-native could converse in a tongue that most people, even of that heritage couldn’t.
“I don’t understand it very well.” It was shocking that he had any fluency but when you already speak several languages, another is easier to learn. Roger told her about the elderly couple that lived in their traditional manner in the wilderness near his home.
Over soup and coffee, Audrey espoused her sadness that so few of her people retained their customary ways. Her grandparents had no English so she had picked up some of the language on her occasional visits. Otherwise, she may never have learned any.
Generations of government-mandated resettlements combined with a religious parochial school system had robbed many of their culture. Appropriately, the word ‘parochial’ is dictionary defined as both ‘belonging to a parish’, and ‘narrow-minded’. It was a sad commentary on the prevalent society to strip a people of their roots and then chastise them for their failure to conform to a foreign mold.
“Why is a healthy young woman like yourself living on the mean streets? You should have a home and some babies.”
“I did but they’re gone.” Her face dropped. “I lost them.”
“What happened? I hope you don’t mind my being curious.”
“It’s okay.” She tried to force a smile but failed to conceal her true emotions. “It’s nice to talk someone to. The government said I didn’t pay enough taxes so they put me in jail and my son into foster care. When they let me out, I couldn’t get a job because now I’m a criminal. I don’t want to whore for money, so this is what’s left.”
“Why wouldn’t welfare get you a place to live at least?” He thought this situation was exactly what the Canadian social assistance system was meant for.
“If I get money, the government takes it to pay off the taxes I owe. Welfare won’t give me anything unless it goes directly to support me. So I’m stuck in the middle and on the streets.”
“Do you have a status card?” On her affirmative nod, Roger continued. “Then why do you owe taxes at all?” Treaty rights made First Nations people tax-exempt in Canada.
“It isn’t income tax I owe. It’s sales taxes.”
Now she explained it that way, it made even less sense. Sales levies had to be paid when you bought something. If one didn’t have the extra percentage to pay, then they didn’t get to buy the item. It wasn’t possible to accrue a provincial sales tax liability, unless you did retail. Then you did owe the province the revenue collected at the point of sale. “Did you own a store?”
“No.” She tried to laugh at the absurdity but her mirth wasn’t convincing. “I only bought a car. The court said I sold a bunch of them and I never paid some taxes.”
“You didn’t sell any cars?”
“I didn’t even get to sell my car, cause the government took it to help pay themselves.”
“What was the length of your sentence and how long ago did you finish it?”
“One year,” Audrey daubed at her nose and eyes with a napkin, “and they took my son away while I was in jail. I’ve been out for about six months but I haven’t seen him since. They said if I can get my life straight maybe I can get my son back but they don’t even promise it then.”
“Do you use drugs or alcohol?” Roger handed her his soft cloth handkerchief to use instead.
“No, I have to be stable again with a job and a home but that’s really hard with my prison record.” The conversation was causing havoc with Audrey’s attempt to remain stoic. “I didn’t want to give up but maybe my baby does need a better mother than me.”
How can a mother be pushed into thinking she doesn’t deserve her child? Shiva’s Messenger could see he had stumbled into a life that was sorely in need of repairs. She was seemingly a decent person and by her own account, Audrey wasn’t even guilty. The woman was destitute and bereft but didn’t even fully understand what she’d done wrong.
“Thanks for the soup and letting me warm up.” Audrey again attempted a strained smile and tried to hand his hanky back. “You were nice to listen. I’ll go back outside now.” She had taken his momentary thoughtful silence as a polite dismissal. Most people didn’t like to hear sad stories and she shouldn’t have troubled him.
“Would you come back to my motel with me?”
“No!” She stiffened back in offence. “I’m not a whore.”
“That’s not what I meant. I want to look closer at your situation closer and I need you in a place where I can contact you. I’ll pre-pay the motel bill and you can stay there for as long as it takes me to get information. I’ll stay somewhere else.”
“You don’t want to screw me then?”
“Someone else has done that to you already.” There was no humor in his voice. “Now it’s time to determine who and why.” Only he knew the deadly impact of those two crucial questions.
As he walked with Audrey back to his motel, Roger asked more questions and filed the answers in his mind. When the got to the room, he extracted $1000 from his wallet and handed it toward her.
“Use this money to eat and to get whatever else you need.” He poked the bundle of banknotes at her several times before she put out a hand to accept it. “Buy yourself some warmer clothes with it too.” After the cash was in her palm, her shook an admonishing finger at her. “Don’t worry about how much you spend. If you need more I’ll give it to you. I only ask that you stay here until I can contact you.”
“Okay, but I don’t know why you’re doing this for me. Are you an angel?” The crisp bills still rested on her flat hand. She seemed to feel that if she closed her fingers, the money might dissolve into vapor like everything else tangible in her life. “I prayed for someone to help me.”
“No.” Roger chuckled at the preposterous suggestion. “I’m anything but an angel. I’m just a white knight that wants to reunite a mother with her son. Someone has to make things right for you.”
He took a room elsewhere in the city and got busy tracking down Audrey’s story. Working in reverse chronological order, he began at the end with the clerk–of–the courts. Identification wasn’t even required to obtain a copy of the court documents, as they were public record. He just needed to pay a photocopying fee. Only the information containing her son’s name and his current whereabouts were protected and the amateur sleuth didn’t need that knowledge.
“Everything appears legitimate albeit heavy-handed on the part of the government.” He reclined on his bed to read the acquired file. The revenue ministry didn’t care how much blood had to be spilled so long as it received a full liquid measure. From legal transcripts, he gleaned the name and contact information for both the defending attorney and the crown prosecutor.
Looking dapper in one of the suits he bought in Calgary, Roger paid a visit to the defense council. The office was a private practice that was located on a side street. If the lawyer had a receptionist, then he or she was currently out of the office. Anthony Faraday, a man in his mid to late thirties, answered the door chime himself. His eyes caught the expensive cut of Roger’s clothes and his internal currency detector wailed. The lawyer must have been caught in a moment that he was billing to someone else, as he had ample time to chat: especially with a man of apparent means.
“This is nothing official.” Roger caught the observation of his suit and smiled. The effect expensive threads had on some people was a joy to watch. He thought of one of his father’s favorite lines: ‘Always look like the part you’re playing: to excess is even better’. “I’m just trying to find out something about a situation involving my girlfriend’s aunt, Audrey Capot-Blanc. This case would have been about a year or so ago.”
“I don’t really remember it specifically.” Anthony styled himself after a turn of the century barrister, complete with moustaches that connected on his lower cheeks with thick lamb chop sideburns. He scanned the proffered paper briefly and brightened in recollection. “Oh, yes. I do remember it now.”
“Then you could probably be all over it in a heartbeat.” Roger nodded approvingly. “Can you tell me about your actions on it?”
“At the time, it seemed fairly open & shut.” The lawyer leaned against the counter. He hooked his left pointer finger across his lower lip and curled the others loosely under his chin. His eyes lost focus to give the appearance of his being lost in his profound thoughts. “But there were a couple of things that bothered me and I wish the legal aid program would’ve allowed me to delve deeper.”
“Interesting.” Does a shark’s school teach that particular pose? It was probably covered in the money-come-hither-101 subject. Roger couldn’t resist noticing that Anthony’s facial hair made his wide protruding nose look much more obvious. His eyes were also wide set and dark. Lawyers are often compared to sharks but this man actually resembled one. “How about starting with just the case as it first unfolded?”
“The woman claimed she hadn’t sold any of the cars but the prosecution had a stack of receipts conclusively proving she had bought all of them.” Faraday recounted. “I was forced to suggest to her that the crown had the evidence necessary to convict her so she should plead guilty to get a lighter sentence. I’ve had many cases like this before.”
“Really? How so?” Roger imagined that if Anthony were to shave his heavy sideburns, his gill slits would be visible on his jowls.
“Yes. It’s quite common. A person wants to buys a vehicle on the cheap. A native buys the car using their tax-exemption to avoid the sales levy. The status person sells it to them at the price plus commission. The person breaking the law is the first nations one if they don’t remit part of their commission to the government.”
“How did Audrey feel about pleading guilty?” The richly attired man asked. If the don’t? Why would they? For the status native to pay the tax and also turn a profit, the cost to the car buyer would have to be higher than just paying the sales levy.
“Well, she didn’t like it but none of them do. More to the point, they’re unhappy about being caught.” Faraday’s hand smoothed his moustache. “However, if crown is able to conclusively prove a case, then a guilty plea is the best option.”
“My fiancé believes her aunt didn’t do it.” Roger remarked but then deferred to the lawyer’s wisdom. “But I suppose the prisons are overflowing with people protesting innocent but whom the court have deemed guilty.
“What’s the problem with this case?” Despite the prospective client’s apparent means and his wracking his brain, Anthony was having difficulty understanding how this was going to turn into a fee-paying case. “She should be out of jail by now.”
“Audrey is paroled but with a shattered life.”
“Her situation was in shambles before that.” Faraday’s interest was quickly waning, as the fish-swill chum of a cash retainer wasn’t in the water to incite his feeding frenzy. “People capitalizing on their status cards are invariably doing the transactions to support drug or alcohol dependency. As I’ve said, instances aren’t uncommon and in each one I’ve handled, the defendant has entered a guilty plea. Would you like me to take up the case again?”
“You mentioned earlier that you had some concerns with this case but you didn’t elaborate.” Roger dialed his charm back up a notch. It’s no wonder he’s working out of a shabby office. He just told an obviously well heeled prospective client that he’s never won a single trial. “Did that mean you have some ideas on how we could get Audrey’s conviction redressed?”
“I might be able to see it overturned or possibly even better for her.” Faraday took the blood bait and grinned expansively.
“Then today has turned out better than I expected.” Roger looked at the lawyer’s teeth. I wonder if there are another two rows of them behind like a great white has? “I thought I was just getting some info on what happened.”
“Let me check my schedule.” Faraday pulled a blackberry and tapped a couple of buttons for show.
“Finding that we could clear her family name is going to make Jessica a happy camper.” The remark required a girlfriend’s name and that one instantly sprang to mind. Perhaps his next persona would preplan and file an alternative name.
“I could start working on it right away.”
“Excellent.” Roger considered tantalizingly extracting his wallet briefly only to shove a card back into it but decided it would be nonproductive toying with the man. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I receive the go ahead.”
[A Ketaki flower is on a Linga.]
“And with that fertilizer, it should grow nicely.” Roger’s retort to Shiva’s comment could’ve also reflected a bullshit smell in his nose. He took a deep breath of the crisp outside air to clear his sinuses. The man’s prejudicial attitude seemed to give the office a stench.
What did Shiva mean though? According to legend, Lord Shiva banned the use of Ketaki flowers on a linga alter because the plant once bore false witness. How does that equate?
As the defense councilor, Faraday was getting faster convictions than a crown prosecutor? Anthony was obviously taking the briefs to milk what he could from legal aid money before rubber-stamping the defendant into jail. That’s a case of opportunism: it’s not really false witness. Roger discounted the advice from his left-brain entity.
Everything about Audrey’s case so far indicated that she was probably as innocent as she claimed. If the sales tax scam was indeed lucrative for status persons and if she had done it before going to jail, then why wouldn’t she be earning money with the same scheme now: instead of living on the icy streets?
“I wish I could think of a valid reason to give that lawyer an early retirement from his life.” That option wasn’t possible though. The young assassin hadn’t even been tempted to exhibit rudeness to the offensive Faraday due to his father’s exquisite training. A maxim applied to this scenario. ‘Don’t burn a bridge unless someone is chasing you over it.’
Anthony Faraday was only doing a job in the manner the law required. Legal aid wasn’t high paying. It was designed to shuffle people through the system as expediently as possible. Most, as the shark had said, were possibly guilty. This only paved the track so that ones who were guiltless could be railroaded through more easily. If I killed Faraday for only that reason, then I may as well run a murderous rampage up the entire jurisprudence system. Roger’s itchy trigger-finger had to go unscratched, for the moment.
Audrey’s champion had started by examining the last link in the chain first and proceeding up from there. That meant that now at the end of the search he was back to the beginning. The start of her problem was back at the lot where she bought her car.
“For one to multiply suddenly into numerous, an additional integer is required.” The crown showed receipts to prove she had bought many cars. Audrey only purchased only the one. “I must ask the dealership to elucidate my math skills.” Not quite yet, though. “I need a compelling scenario.
Roger now had to drive his truck all the way to Toronto, which was on a horrendously long road around the top of Lake Superior. He used much of the time formulating his plan. It was handy that he hadn’t changed his Romero appearance and clothing yet. Only his name and background had to be modified.
Since the journey was so long through mostly forest and rocks of the Canadian Shield, he had plenty of spare moments to idly think. It was odd how I coincidentally bumped into Audrey at her time of most urgent need. When she’d guessed that he might be an angel, she had also said that she prayed for someone. Having died in Creston, Roger knew there was truth in the existence of a spirit. Wouldn’t it be nice if our souls were attuned to others’ prayers?
Was that what happened? It was either by design or just a dumb fluke compelling him to summon the bag lady inside. Maybe sometimes things did happen for a reason. Providence might have been how he came to meet Cindy Smart but that was more of a stretch, as he’d found her story in a newspaper archive. Still, Cindy had been a doctor that desperately needed an assassin and he was a killer who urgently required a physician. “That is a happenstance of awfully long odds.”

shivasmessenger

A search at the Toronto library found a boy that had emigrated from Mexico, only to succumb to leukemia in grade five. Roger grabbed a handful of his shoulder length jet-black mane and looked at it carefully. “Garcia Monterey wouldn’t wear his hair this long. A dramatic shift in my coif is necessary.”
This time he had his now lightening roots re-colored with a non-permanent black dye. I regret that I didn’t have the foresight to do the same thing in Calgary. His natural color was going to have to slowly grow back in. Roger’s new haircut was a classical short one that made him look very professional.
The new look also required a change of his eye color. Garcia’s mother definitely wouldn’t have been a blue-eyed Swedish girl. One visit to an optometrist provided contact lenses to turn his irises to a deep chocolate. Garcia also needed a special item of identification. Shiva’s Messenger didn’t have the talent to make it for himself but he knew exactly who did.
To most, Sam Levi was a just a shopkeeper living in Toronto. Only a select few people knew his real profession was that of a world-class forger. He was also the only man that remained the young assassin’s father’s friend to the end. Seeing him again in his tiny printing shop transported the young man back to a happy time.
Years ago, his father was taking them on one of their extended vacations to live in the world. Of course the boy had been excited. They needed passports as they always did but this time had been different. Instead of just going out to get the documents, his father had taken him to Sam’s shop to pick them up. To the youngster that was so in awe of his father, the meeting of his only friend was a more tremendous thrill than the whole four-month sojourn.
Retrospectively, the meeting had been just another way that the father was preparing a protégé for his future life. He had personally introduced the two and in so doing he had passed on an unshakable message. This old forger in Toronto was one man he could trust intrinsically. The small and bespectacled man perked up from his work the moment that Roger Connors entered the building.
“Ah, the pup has grown full in the flanks.” Sam smiled as he recognized John immediately. “How is the old dog? Is he here?”
“He passed away last month.” John Fitzgerald relayed only part of the truth and felt himself experiencing his heartache again.
“My soul knew that fact when you walked in the door alone.” The aged counterfeiter showed genuine mourning at the news but he didn’t seem overly surprised by it. “I grieve for my dear friend but seeing you consoles me.”
“I miss him a great deal too.” Tears welled up and John tried to blink them away. “I’m taking over his business where he left off, so I came first to you. My father never used any but your services.”
“Ha!” Sam laughed. “He used plenty of others as well but he came to me when he wanted the work done right.”
“Today I’ve come for the same reason. I have an urgent need for several well crafted items.”
“There is nothing better than a second generation customer.” Sam grinned wide enough to display his gold partial bridge. He was a rascal but he had never been caught. That fact alone spoke as an excellent reference for his work. “If you turn out half as good as your father, then you’ll be my new best client. What do you need that old Sam can provide?”
John told him the first item on the shopping list.
“Whoa!” Sam hooted at the enormity of the request. “The pup is asking for the moon. I’m good but this may take a while.”
“It doesn’t have to be real or pass any official inspections. It only has to give a very strong impression of being genuine and for that it must look perfect.”
“Oh yes!” Sam loved a challenge and this was a thorny one. Rubbing his hands together in glee. “I can do that. What else?”
The other small items were much easier and Sam estimated he could have everything accomplished in only three days.
“You’re a marvel of ancient technology.” John tested a verbal jab at the man’s advanced age. His fondest memory from his childhood visit had been the humorous friendly banter between this man and his father.
“Ha!” The counterfeiter chuckled. “The last time you were here I barely knew you had a voice. Your mouth was agape in awe, as you trailed my every step. Suddenly you think you can trade barbs with a master. You may want to sponge off behind your ears first.”
“So how much is my little project going to cost me?”
“Because you are my friend’s whelp and you’re just starting out, I won’t charge you anything for the work.”
“Ah, there you’re wrong.” John’s voice hinted mysteriously that there were things that the old man didn’t know. “My father taught me very well. I’m already above the ladder’s first rung so I’ll pay the full price and gladly.”
“I did offer.” This was spoken towards the sky as if Sam was communicating directly to John’s departed father. “Can I help it if your boy refused my generosity?”
“How much did you know about my dad?” The boy couldn’t resist trying to investigate further.
“We go back some years,” Sam offered a cagy reply, “but in my profession a short memory is an essential job skill.”
It was only when he started the engine and looked in the mirror for clearance that he noticed Roger Connors had vanished. How could he hold pretence intact while in the company of a man who knew his dad? Thinking about that, John realized that of the many gifts his father bestowed, this friendship was the dearest.

shivasmessenger

“Hello Pedro Cristobel.” Shiva’s Messenger viewed himself in the truck’s mirror and performed his usual routine. The required tasks barely needed a new persona but Sam had insisted.
The forger had offered to make the first set for free but would likely do others at no charge if needs be. Sam Levi loved the false ID’s he made as dearly as the children he didn’t have. Seeing the use was as feeling parental pride in his offspring’s accomplishments.
After a short drive around the waterfront, Pedro found a small container ship that was being offloaded. The private freighter fit the needs, right down to the rust streaks running from most of the rivets.
“I’ve been asked to transport illicit cargo before.” The captain was apprehensive. “I’ve found the gain is seldom worth the price.”
“I’m not asking you to carry anything and none of this is illegal.” Pedro detailed his requirement.
“The payment is in cash?” The ship’s officer watched for the affirmative nod. “You’ve got a deal.”
Using the same pretext, Pedro easily arranged a set-up with a moderately sized used car lot and a transport company. His next stop was an electronics store for a brand new video camera.
The next morning vehicle haulers pulled into the lot exactly on schedule to load some of the cleanest cars. As agreed, all price stickers and marks had been previously removed. The two trucks followed Pedro down to the waterfront where the ship was ready for them. Several of the cars were already off of the trailer and the ship’s gantry hoist had a small Ford dangling mid-air when Shiva’s Messenger started his taping.
“~Some of the cars here already,” he employed his best Spanish to supply the monologue while he panned the camera mounted on a tripod, “we are starting to load the ship now. The trucks will work non-stop until all are onboard. It will be ready to sail as soon as I finish getting the paperwork for the manifest.”
“Parada! Stop!” Leaving the camera videotaping, he ran into the field of view. Speaking quickly to the man slinging the next car to the hoist, Pedro then nodded approvingly and stepped back to watch as it was lifted onto the ship. The video showed several more vehicles being loaded onto to deck. “See you soon, Uncle Miguel.” He walked back to the camera and waved to his family. “~Kiss Aunt Maria for me.”
Pedro pretended to work the camera from several more angles so as to make his supposed documentary footage appear plausible. He had really gotten all he needed in just the first few minutes. The video photographer called a halt to the operation. “Awesome job, guys!” Shiva’s Messenger beamed. “That’s a wrap.”

shivasmessenger

On Tuesday, John picked up the things Sam had prepared. They were perfect. “You do incredible work. It’s no wonder my Dad kept coming back to you.”
“Only the best for my repeat customers.” The crafty old forger smiled wryly. “Come back for whatever you need or just for a chat.”
“Now, I have a long nasty drive ahead.” John sighed at the thought of the monotonous return journey.
“Take a plane and get there quicker.”
“That would be nice but airline travel leaves a trail that’s easy to follow and sometimes I have to pack along things that they would prefer I didn’t carry in my luggage.”
“Then take a train. It’s not as fast as by air but they don’t look at ID. People just don’t hijack as many trains as often as they did in the good old days, so the security is less stringent.” Sam chuckled, he was old but the age of the great train robberies was far before his time. “The trip is just as long but you’ll get there relaxed.”
“Yes, that’s an excellent idea.” John grinned as the prospect of another exhausting long drive vanished in a phrase. “Sam, you want a nice pick-em-up truck?
“Yee Haw! Does it come with a cowgirl seat cover?”

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