Category Archives: General Fiction

Blood in the Stacks (Part 4, end)

“Shit. Shit. Shit!” The gunman swore, pacing frantically.

Inside, Hands echoed the man’s sentiments. They’d been so close to solving the whole situation, and now they were back where they started.

Then the other man turned and looked at Hands and the girls. “Where’s that book? C’mon! Search faster! No more stalling!” He was waving the gun in their direction, and one of the girls started to cry.

“Hey,” Hands said in a firm and calm voice. “That isn’t helping. We’re searching as fast as we can. We want out of here as much as you do.”

“Then find me the goddamn book!” Swore the gunman and kicked a nearby chair to send it clattering across the stone floor.

“We will, man. We will.” Hands said, and turned his attention to the whimpering girl next to him. “It’ll be okay,” he whispered. “Just keep looking.”

The girl nodded, and sucked in a breath. Then she reached out and took another book, opening it.

Seeing she was on the right track, Hands looked at the other girl, the chubby blond, planning to give her a pep talk too. But, he paused when he saw she was staring down at the book in her hand with wide eyes and a pale expression.

Leaning in, Hands could see it was a dogged 2003 paperback copy of ‘Salem’s Lot that had writing scrawled across the margins of the pages.

“Looks like you found it,” Hands said in a very quiet voice. “Can I take a look?”

The girl looked at him, and then her pale expression became sharp and she pulled the book closer to her chest. “So you can share it with your new best friend?” She shot.

“I just want to get out of here like you.” Hands told her. “Besides, if you give it to him, and it’s the wrong book, what do you think will happen?” He gestured towards the gunman with his chin, and she looked over to where the masked man was nervously passing the gun from hand to hand as he stared down at the floor and whispered to himself.

She shoved the book at him like it was on fire.

Quickly, Hands took it and flipped it open to page 153.

The page and the one facing it were covered in finely printed penciled words that were barely bigger than the typed script next to them. At first blush, they looked like someone’s comments about the text, where a character named Straker was buying food at a local store. That was strange enough to comment on, but the writing was specifically commenting on the meat the character was buying from the store. It was to the effect of, “Should have bought 104 steaks, 44 chicken legs, 73 pounds of bacon, 246 wings, 150 bags of home fries, and 204 cans of beer. Now that would be a party!”

Hands stared at the writing- those numbers were too random, it was definitely a code meant to be unnoticed by those making a casual glance at the book. Was this an account number? Or maybe a password?

Then he thought of something, and began flipping through the book.

A smile crossed his face. He’d been right.

Then he heard the sound of the gunman marching toward him. “Hey! What’re you doing?”

The gunman stopped on the other side of the pile just as Hands looked up at him, holding the book in the air. “This one’s got writing on it, you should take a look.”

Jamming his foot into the pile, the gunman lunged forward and snatched the book from Hands, rushing away to pull it open and stare at the pages. “About time!” He crowed, and then rushed over to the front desk.

“Hey! You people!” He yelled into the microphone. “Drop what you’re doing and come to the front lobby! All of you! Now!”

Then he let the mic drop, grabbed the two duffel bags from the floor and put them on the counter-top and moved a few things between them. As he worked, the rest of the tired bookstore patrons came wandering back up from the stacks. When Rick came out, he gave Hands a thumbs up gesture of support.

Finally, the gunman turned around. “I need a volunteer…” He started and then stopped and pointed at Rick. “You’ll do. C’mere!”

“Hey man! I don’t want any trouble.” Rick tried to back off, but the masked man was insistent, and so Rick moved to the front of the group. The man then marched him over to stand in front of the double front entrance doors and spun him around to face the group.

“Now hold this with both hands,” said the gunman, passing Rick one of the duffel bags.

When Rick took the bag from him, the gunman grabbed the strap of the bag and looped it over Rick’s neck so it rested around his head and shoulders.

“This man,” he announced, stepping away from Rick. “Is carrying a bomb with a motion sensor. If he moves, you all die.”

Rick turned deathly pale. “Hey! That ain’t right!”

“Deal with it, loser.” Said the masked man, and then he swung the other duffel bag over his shoulder. “I’m going upstairs. Any of you follow me, I shoot you. Got that?” He said, waving the gun menacingly around before ducking into the stairwell behind the front counter. They heard the sound of boots on metal, and he was gone.

At first, everyone stood there in stunned silence, and then as one they all turned and ran, rushing into the stacks to try and put as much distance between themselves and Rick as they possibly could. It was a smart idea. The place was big, and all that paper and metal could absorb a lot of damage- they’d probably be safe so they hid and waited.

Everyone, that is, except Daimon Hands.

Hands instead walked towards the sweating Rick Moule.

“H-hey man, if you could tell the cops not to come breaking in, I’d really appreciate it.”

“It’ll be fine, Rick.” Hands said calmly. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

“Y-you’re not the one about to go boom. You better just stay away.”

“I think you’re going to be just fine, Rick. I saw him set the bomb, and I think I can defuse it. But you’re going to have to help me.”

“Y-you did?” Rick gulped. “You saw him set it?”

“Yeah. He set it before he shoved it in the bag.”

Rick turned even paler, and seemed to be sweating even more. “Oh geez.”

“But I can disarm it. You just need to listen to me.”

Outside, they could hear Police shouting. It sounded like the cops were getting ready to try to break in.

“O-okay. Whatever you want man, just get it off me.”

“First, I want you to tell me about the book.”

“The book?”

“How did it end up here in the bookstore?”

Rick stared at him, wide-eyed. “How should I know?!?”

“Because Rick, that masked guy knew your name. He said it when we were talking.”

“I know lots of people.”

Hands nodded, “Yeah, I bet you do. But that’s the thing, Rick. If you were working with that guy, a whole lot of things make sense. For example, I thought it was odd how freely you were willing to risk your life by trying to open that back door, even if it was a trap. But the thing is- you knew it was safe from the beginning, didn’t you? You rushed to the back because you were afraid that someone else might think of another way out, and you wanted everyone to know they couldn’t escape. You were a plant to keep us moving in the right direction.

“Same reason you paired up with me, the one guy who looked like he could cause trouble, and when you figured out who I was, you let your partner know he needed to keep me here and keep an eye on me. Hell, you probably saw he’d gotten too close, and stopped me from disarming him on purpose. I’d wondered about that at the time, but it could have been a coincidence.

“And then, to top it all off, when I was stuck here, the gunman who was so careful to pair everyone up let you go running around loose. He could have added you to another group, but he left you free, so you could keep an eye on people. Same reason he picked you to be the one who got the bomb- you’re the one person he knows would stay here in front of the exit and buy time. You wouldn’t throw it down, or try to escape, because you’re here to stall for him while he gets away with the book.”

Then Hands leaned in, close enough that the man could feel his presence. “But you didn’t know he was going to put a real bomb in the bag, did you? Gonna be a lot easier to split that money one way instead of two.”

“D-damn it.” Rick looked like he was trying not to cry as he looked down at the package in his shaking hands. “Bastard told me this was gonna be a f-fake.”

“So, who set this all up, Rick? You or him?”

“He did. He set it up.” Rick said. “This was his idea. His old man sent him that book from prison, but the old guy didn’t tell him was what in it, so Rick tossed it into the book bin. Later on, he found out, but by then it was somewhere in this store. After the store closes, they’re gonna sell or pulp all these books, so we had to find it today, but it’s so big and the stupid bastard thought Stephen King was the name of the book!”

Hands nodded. It was crazy, but he could see how it could all work.

“So, what did his old man do? Bank robber?”

“Jewel thief or something. Look, I’ve told you what I know. Can you get this thing off me?”

Hands gave a smile. “Sure. Sure. No problem.” Then he reached out and yanked the bag from the man’s hands, tossing it casually on the floor nearby. When he did this, Rick gasped and fell over, almost fainting.

“You said…” He managed.

“I lied.” Answered Hands, who reached out to unlock the front doors and let the police in.


The next day, the police arrested the masked man exactly where Hands told them to find him.

It was the simplest way, since there could be real hostages trapped in the building, and the masked man would definitely have ditched the book and just hidden the pages rather than keep it on himself.

When he’d told the Chicago PD inspector where to find the masked man, he’d looked at Hands like he was crazy. So Hands had gone to the pile and produced a copy of Salem’s Lot to show him, pointing out the first words on pages 104, 44, 74, 246, 140 and 204- “Cumberland”, “Post Office”, “Account”, “Drop”, “Box” and “Sixteen.”



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Blood in the Stacks (Part 3)

“I wouldn’t do that.”

The gunman turned and looked at Hands, who was sitting with his arms and legs crossed at against the wall.

“Why not?”

“If you shoot them, who will find your book?”

The man paused, turning to face Hands again. “I can always get someone else.”

“You don’t have time. The longer you’re here sorting, the sooner the police are going to come. Someone will stick a message out a window or pull an alarm, and then where will you be?”

“But if I don’t, what message will that send?” Said the masked man, tapping his gun against his hip in thought.

“That they’ll get out of here alive if they play along? People like things to be predictable. It’s the unpredictable that frightens them.”

The gunman paced a few times, and then nodded. “Yeah. Yeah. You got a point. Okay ladies,” he picked up the timer and gave it a twist. “You got an extension.” Then he grabbed the microphone from behind the desk. “Time is ticking people!” He yelled into the loudspeaker system. “These girls is fine, but I can’t promise they’ll stay that way. Get them books up here, now!”

Then he let the mic stand drop back behind the counter and turned to look at Hands. “Thanks for the tip.”

“You’re welcome,” said Hands. Then after a time Hands said, “Y’no. There’s a lot of books there.”


“Well, seeing as time is important to you. I was figuring maybe I could come help?”

This made the gunman pause, and Hands could feel the eyes on him as he considered the offer. Hands needed information, and sitting here wasn’t getting it fast enough, he needed to be involved.

“You promise not to try anything?”

“Scouts honor.” Hands raised his fingers in a mock promise.

“You ever a scout?”

“Nope.” Hands admitted.

This made the gunman laugh. “Shit. Me neither. Get over there and help.”

Hands took his time standing up, taking a moment to stretch his legs. He purposely kept his movements slow. He was a big guy, and people always assumed big guys were slow- he wanted to preserve that image in case it came in handy. He also didn’t want to alarm the gunman, who seemed plenty jumpy enough.

Hands chose a spot on the other side of the pile from the masked man, facing him, and between the two girls. One of them, a chubby blond, gave him a smile and a whispered thanks when he sat down. He told her not to worry about it, and then looked up at the gunman.

“So, can you tell me what it is I’m supposed to be looking for? It’ll make this a whole lot easier.”

“Yeah. You’re lookin’ for writing. On page 153, or close to it. You find writing on that page of one of those books, you let me know.”

“Simple as that?”

“Simple as that.”

“What kind of writing?” Hands said, reaching into the pile and plucking out a copy of Cujo. “Pen? Pencil? Crayon?”

“Any kind, shithead. Just shut up and look.” The man snapped.

“Hey. Hey.” Said Hands, putting up his palm. “Just asking.” Then he flipped open the book and skimmed to one-fifty-three. Nothing there. So he checked the pages around it, and finding nothing set the book aside.

He did the same for the next book, and the next.

It was when he was on his tenth book that he began to really appreciate the task he was undertaking. The pile in front of him had nearly a hundred books in it, and as he worked the other patrons kept bringing boxes of more to add to the pile! Thin books. Thick books. Books that looked like they could stop a bullet. They kept being put in front of Hands and the girls. And they had so many different titles.

He began to wonder if the guy who’d written all these books was human. He knew King had the reputation of being his own little publishing machine, and had even read a few of these books himself, but when you had his whole library dumped in front of you like this, it really made you appreciate just how much the man wrote. From Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot to Mr. Mercedes and everything in between, and there were enough copies of The Stand on this pile to build a house!

After a time, he asked their captor. “So your wife donate the book without you knowing or something?”

“Or something.” Said the man, alternating between watching them and watching the security monitors. They didn’t just show the inside of the store, and all the patrons moving around the place, they showed the outside too. Everything looked perfectly normal in the outside world. People kept coming up and leaving after they rattled the doors a few times, but except for that all was quiet.

“My ex threw my stuff out once,” continued Hands as he worked. “I used to make models. Little ones, out of wood. I’d make cars, houses, and little ships. Whatever I thought would be a challenge. It was my way to cool off. I’d just sit there and carve.”

The other man gave a snicker. “She catch you out getting some strange?”

Hands shook his head. “She decided that I liked the models more than her. So one day I came back and they were gone. All of them. Years of work.”

“Yeah.” The man nodded. “Bitches be crazy. You show her your hand?”

“Nah,” Hands shrugged. “I use these, she’s going to the hospital, right? So I just told her to get out and don’t come back. But you know, when I think about it, I guess she was right- I really did love those models more than her.”

The masked man nodded, and was silent for a time. Hands, who’d been trying to get a conversation going, wondered if he’d have to try another way, but then the masked man suddenly spoke up again.

“I had a car.”

“Excuse me?” Hands said.

“I used to have a car,” continued the man. “An old Cadillac I’d fixed up. Bought it from my buddy, and spent everything I had working on that thing. Custom engine. Custom hubs. Custom seat covers. You name it, I gave it everything.”

“Then she came?” Hands offered.

“First time we met, she asked for a ride in it. I gave it to her both ways.” He paused, as if remembering something happy, and then the gun began tapping at his hip again and the masked man began to pace. “Next thing I know, though. It’s the car or her. She’s got dreams she says. She wants a ring. I told her that the car was my life. So when I’m sleeping she steals my keys.”

“The junk yard?”

“The river.”

“Bitches be crazy.” Said Hands in commiseration.

“Yeah.” Said the other man, and then sucked in a breath. “Well, I showed her. I stuck all her nudes from my phone online.”

Hands shuddered, but kept a neutral face.

“You sure showed her.”

“Yeah,” nodded the gunman. Then he paused and said, “Showed her off to the world, right? That’s pretty funny. I like that.”

Hands, who hadn’t intended it as a joke, just played along. “Thanks.”

“So how’d you end up here?” The guy asked, taking a seat on the counter facing Hands. “You into reading?”

“I like history,” Hands told him. “Mostly Asian stuff. There’s a few rare books I’m looking for, and I came here to see if they had any cheap copies.”

“You sure picked a bad time to come.”

Hands nodded, risking a glance at the formerly friendly girl next to him, who was now scowling as she listened to them pal it up. He ignored her and smiled. “Tell me about it. Couldn’t you have hijacked the place an hour later?”

“Sorry about that, man,” the gunman laughed. “But tell you what- you find me that book, and I’m not gonna make your day any worse.” Hands could tell from the man’s tone that wasn’t a threat, but an honest promise between men.

“I’d appreciate it.”

“No problem. So, those books are like kung fu books? Rick said you were into MMA?”

“No. Mostly philsophy books and poety. You ever hear of Li Bai?”

“Nope. Just his brother, ‘Goodbye.'” Then the man laughed at his own joke.

Hands suppressed a grimace and nodded his head, “That’s a good one. He was a Chinese poet and I try to read his stuff when I feel stressed. He gives me a sense of place in the bigger scheme, and makes me think about my life, y’no?”

“You mean fish in a pond stuff?”

Hands nodded. “See, you’re getting it.”

“I read that on the back of a Chinese menu one time.”

I bet you did, Hands thought, but kept it to himself. They kept the conversation going for a few more minutes, the pile beside Hands growing, and then Daimon said. “So, tell me, what’re you going to do if this book isn’t here?”

“It’s gotta be here.”

“Maybe they sold it. You don’t even know which book by King you’re looking for.”

The gunman jumped off the counter and began to pace again. “We’ll find it. It’s gotta be here.” Then he whipped around. “What’s taking so long? How are there so many goddamn books by that guy in this place?”

“He’s a popular writer,” said Hands. “But, you know, there’s still a chance to get out of here. If you run now, nobody’s gonna catch you. Nobody’s been hurt and the police won’t try too hard.”

The man stopped pacing and Hands could see he was thinking about it. He kept looking between the stacks and the front door and mumbling to himself.

Come on, said Hands. Take the chance and run.

“Get out now,” Hands encouraged. “While you can still get away. The book’s not here, man.”

The masked man took a step toward the front door, pivoted, and looked at the pile.

Hands could feel the tension the man’s body gave off.

He was getting ready to run.

Then, from the outside, the piercing sound of sirens penetrated the thick walls. The gunman and Hands both turned to look at the monitors, which showed police cars pulling up in front of the bookstore, grey lights flashing on the monochrome monitors.


Time had just run out.

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Blood in the Stacks (Part 2)

Theatre of Books was housed in an actual old theater in a run-down neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and as a result there were three things that were true. The first was that the building was big, really really big, which is why it was able to house so many stacks of books in the former theater space. The second was that it was solidly built. The masons who had put this building together had great pride in their work, and they spared no expense in making the brick and stone walls of this former theater to last. And the third was that every single window in the building had nice, thick iron bars. The kind that were great at keeping thieves out.

Of course, all of these things that made the bookstore such a safe vault of slightly used knowledge also made the bookstore an excellent prison. There were, as Hands and the others quickly discovered, only four ways out, including the front door, the two very blocked fire doors, and the rooftop exit. And the rooftop exit required you to access the roof, the stairs to which were reached via the front lobby- where the gunman waited with his ticking time and hostages.

“I don’t think we’re getting out of here,” the skinny guy lamented as he and Hands walked back from checking the second fire door.

“Sure we are,” Hands said. “We just have to find those books, right?”

That brought a smile to the other’s face. “You know what the kicker is, man? I just came in here to use the bathroom. I don’t even like to read!”

Both of them chuckled over that irony a moment, then the smaller man stuck out his hand. “Rick Moule.”

“Daimon Hands”

As they shook, a light suddenly appeared in Rick’s eyes. “Well shit! I thought you looked familiar! You’re “Demon Hands” right? The Mixed Martial Arts fighter! I saw you fight Lester Rodriguez last year.”

Hands shrugged. “It pays the bills.”

“So, you gonna use your kung fu on this guy? You got something planned to take him out?”

Hands shook his head. “I’m just trying to get out of here in one piece. Kung fu don’t stop a bullet.”

“But you could just take him, right?”

“Not unless I have to,” Hands answered, then stopped and plucked a book from the shelf with “KING” on the side in big block letters. “Grab that empty box over there, will you? We’d better get the books from this row.”

Rick did as he was told, and Hands slung the box under his huge arm like a basket, putting books into it from the right side while Rick put them in from the left.

“I thought,” said Rick. “That bookstores were supposed to be organized or something. Why the hell are these things everywhere?”

“It’s a used bookstore.” Said Hands.

When more information didn’t seem to be forthcoming, Rick asked. “So what? They just dump them here?”

Seeing his companion wasn’t going to be quiet, Hands finally said. “Not enough staff. They don’t have time to sort everything, so they just stick them up on the shelves.”

“No wonder this place is going out of business.”

Hands shrugged. “Some people think of it as a scavenger hunt.”

“That include you? Don’t tell me you’re a reader, man?”

“Let’s just say I didn’t come in here to use the washroom.” Hands said in a tone that indicated that the topic was finished.

“Hey! Hey! Nothing wrong with that.” Rick continued. “Readers are fine. You can learn stuff. Like apparently you can learn a lot from Stephen King, eh?”

Hands said nothing.

He was too busy thinking about this situation, trying to figure a way out.

Rick wasn’t wrong. He could disarm and subdue the hostage taker with ease if he got close enough, Rick was a guy who taught the real military and law enforcement how to do exactly that. But this guy was pretty cagey, and didn’t seem like the type to let Hands get that close again. The last time the gunman had surprised Hands when he’d been coming out of the washroom. There’d been an announcement that a special free give-away was happening over the intercom, and so the emerging Daimon wasn’t at all surprised to find a group of people in the front lobby. As it turned out, that had probably been the gunman rounding everyone up, but it had had the extra benefit of putting Hands off-guard.

He wouldn’t let that happen again.

He just didn’t want to risk a confrontation, or a potential random shot killing someone, unless he had to do it. So, the key now was twofold- one) figure out what the gunman’s real motivation was (if whack-job wasn’t the order of the day) and two) figure out how to talk him into stopping this whole situation before someone got hurt. All before someone managed to alert the police, turning this into a true hostage situation and making things a whole lot worse.

‘I think that’s it.” Rick wiped the dust from his hands on his jeans. “This row’s done. That box full?”

Hands glanced down. “Pretty much.”

“So lets go dump it and make him happy.”

“Right.” Hands agreed, and the two of them began to make their way through the stacks towards the front of the store. Once they’d reached the lobby, they found that other groups had already been there, and there was now a small pile of Stephen King paperbacks in the middle of the aged marble floor. Next to the stack, the two teen-aged female hostages were busily working to sort through the books.

“Dump it there,” the gunman ordered with a nod towards the pile, looking bored.

Hands walked over, paying careful attention to what the girls were doing as he dumped his collection.

As he watched, they each picked up a book, flipped to a particular page, skimmed the pages around it, and then added it to another smaller pile which was growing beside each of them.

This made him stop and stare, until he heard a bark from behind him.

“Hey! What’re you doing?!?”

Hands raised an apologetic palm to the masked gunman. “Sorry man, just surprised at how many books they have.” The gunman had come over, and was now just within arm’s reach, the gun pointed at Hands’ chest.

“This ain’t none of your business,” he told the big man. “Get back to work.”

Hands’ muscles tensed.

It was his chance.

Throw the empty cardboard box in his hand left as a distraction. At the same time, move to the right, grabbing the gunman’s wrist in a lock and twisting the gun out and up out as his other hand struck the man in the throat. It would be over in seconds.

Then Rick stepped between them.

“Hey man!” The skinny youth told the gunman. “You don’t want to do this. This here is Demon Hands, the MMA fighter. You don’t want to mess with him.”

The gunman’s eyes looked shocked, looking between Rick and Hands, and then he smiled. “So you’re Demon Hands, eh? I’ve heard of you.” He took a step backwards. “You probably wanted me to get close enough to try something, right?”

Hands cursed the kid’s clumsy attempt to help him.

“I don’t want any trouble,” Daimon said, raising his hands.

“You bet you don’t.” The gunman used his weapon to wave Hands over toward a nearby wall. As he did, he tilt his head to look at Rick. “What’re you looking at? Get back to collecting books!”

With a worried glance at Hands, Rick turned and disappeared back into the stacks.

Then the gunman looked back at Hands again.

“So, what do I do with you?”

Hands said nothing. The guy was taunting him, and he wasn’t going to fall for it. He’d met people like this guy before, and knew his best weapon was to stay calm and cool, so that’s exactly what he intended to do.

The gunman’s interest slowly faded under Hands’ unflinching gaze. Eventually, he motioned for Hands to sit down. “Just…Stay there.” He ordered. “You move, I shoot you.”

“I won’t.” Hands told him.

Then the gunman turned his focus back on the two girls at the pile. “Hey you two! Hurry it up! You got…” He started, and he was cut off.

The shrill sound of the egg timer alarm rang out and echoed in the marble stone lobby.

He gave it a light tap to turn it off, then looked back to the girls.

“Well, I did promise.” He said, raising the gun. “Nothing personal.”


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Blood in the Stacks (Part 1)


(Modern, Action, PG (Language))

The gun that was shoved in Daimon Hands’ face was a 9mm Glock, the kind you buy at a gun show to have, but nobody ever uses. That told Hands that this wasn’t a professional job, but then what kind of professional robs a bookstore?

“You!” Shouted the masked man with the gun. “Get over there!” He waved Hands towards the knot of people gathered in the bookstore’s front check-out area.

Hands raised his palms in a submission pose. “No problem,” he said, backing away toward the other patrons.

“There anybody else in the store?!?” Yelled the gunman, a stocky broad shouldered guy wearing a flimsy red rubber skull mask that covered his whole head but left his white throat showing. Based on voice, Daimon guessed he was in his twenties or early thirties, and he moved in the clumsy way of someone who hadn’t seen exercise in a long time.

The skinny man he’d pointed to shook his head. “N-no, man! T-this is everyone! I swear!”

Satisfied, the gunman nodded to himself and looked around. “‘Kay.” He said, clearly thinking about what to do next.

This surprised Hands a bit. If this was a robbery, the thing to do next was to empty the till, maybe have one of the three employees open the safe for him. That was why he was here, wasn’t it? Theatre of Books, Chicago’s largest used book store, was having its closing day sale, and the cash register made a tempting target. This guy was after the money. It was all so simple.

So why was the loser in front of them thinking?

What was there to think about?

“All of ya,” said the gunman. “Pick a partner.”

Pick a partner? Thought Hands. What was this guy’s game?

The skinny guy, the one who the gunman had threatened earlier, was beside Hands, and he looked up at him. “I’m sticking with you, if that’s okay?”

Hands gave a noncommittal shrug that could be interpreted the way the guy wanted.

This wasn’t exactly a surprise. Most people had two reactions to Daimon Hands when they first saw him- they either stuck real close or got as far away from him as they could. Hands was six foot four, weighed two hundred and forty pounds, and had muscles that made his dark skin look like it was going to pop at any second. He wasn’t ugly by any means, but had an intimidating air about him that made most people stop and ask themselves if they really wanted to bother this person. Of course, in a crisis, this also made Hands the first person most people gravitated towards.

Once everyone had paired up, the gunman gestured towards a pair of girls who were trying to look as small as they could towards the back- “You two! Get everyone’s phones and put them right here.” He tapped the counter-top. “I’m gonna check, and if anyone doesn’t hand over their phone, I swear to god I’m gonna shoot them right now.”

Nervously, the girls began to gather the phones. When they got to Daimon, he shrugged. “Don’t got one.” He said. Then, when the girl gave him a pleading look, he repeated. “Really. I don’t carry a phone.”

So the girl nodded and moved on, then joined the other one in dumping her armload of phones to clatter on the plastic counter-top.

“‘Kay! You two, sit right there!” The gunman said to the scared teens, gesturing to a spot in front of the check-out counter. The girls did as they were told.

Then he looked at the rest of the people, taking a moment to count the pairs off. “…Seven…Eight…Okay. So listen up. Here’s what you’re gonna do. I want you all to go through this bookstore and find me every copy of a book by Stephen King. You’re gonna gather them up and put them in a pile right here.” He pointed at the open space in front of the check out counter. “Got it?”

This guy’s a nut, thought Hands. God. I’m locked up in here with a certified psycho with a gun.

From the murmuring of the people around him, Hands could tell the rest of the people there were thinking the same thing, and for a moment, he saw indecision flash through the gunman’s posture. Then it was replaced by anger.

“Hey! I’m not fooling around here!” He yelled, then Hands’ breath caught as the gunman leveled his weapon at one of the two young girls next to him. “You do it, or I start shooting. And, if any of try anything, I’m going to shoot them too, so you’d better do what I say! No calling out. No trying to run away. One person leaves, I shoot the other. And remember,” he gestured at the bank of fuzzy old black and white monitors behind the counter. “I can see your shit. You got me?”

“Umm…” Said an older grandmotherly woman to Hands’ left. “What Stephen King book are you looking for? Maybe we can find it easier if…”

“Shut up!” The gun was now aimed at her. “I said I want you to bring me every Stephen King book you can find. I want all of them. And…” He pulled a broken plastic red egg-timer out of his pocket. “In one hour this thing’s gonna go off. And, if I don’t have a big pile of books here, I’m gonna shoot one of these girls.” He gave the timer a twist and slammed it down on top of the counter with a loud clang. “Now move!”

The crowd looked at each other, and then began to shuffle off, dispersing to the shelves.

“C’mon,” said the skinny guy with Hands. “We’d better go.” But, as soon as they were in the stacks and out of the gunman’s view, he began to rush forward and waved Hands to follow. “Hurry up! We gotta get to the fire door at the back.”

Hands nodded. That was the first thing he’d thought of as well.

9/11 had changed Americans. There was a time when people obediently did as they were told in hostage situations, confident that if they just played along they’d get out okay. The hostage takers wanted to live. They wanted to live. People figured that their safest bet was waiting it out and hoping that it was all going to turn out okay. Not anymore. Now people assumed that every hostage taker was going to get themselves and the hostages killed, and their natural reaction was to get as far away from ground zero as possible.

So it was no surprise that Hands and his companion found most of the other patrons were moving in the same direction- everyone following the emergency exit signs. Sure those girls were hostages, but there was no way they were staying if they could help it. That was something to be left for the police hostage rescue team.

But something bothered Hands- If it was such an obvious thing to do, why hadn’t the masked guy told them to stay away from it? Was he just relying on their concern for those girls to keep them here? Why hadn’t he warned them off from trying to use the exit to escape?


Hands and his companion reached the back door before any of the others, and his companion went straight for the door, reaching for the push-bar to open it…

Hands grabbed his shoulder and pulled him to a stop.

“What?” Said the other man, giving Hands a shocked expression. “Hey man, what’re you doing?”

“Hold it,” said Hands, gently pushing the man to the side. Then he leaned down and examined the fire door’s push mechanism. The door was red and ancient, probably dating back to when the building had housed a theatre, and Hands let his eyes run across the metal push bar and the mechanism it was attached to.

When he’d finished, most of the other patrons were behind him and asking what the hold-up was.

“C’mon man, out of the way! We gotta get out of here!” Said the skinny guy.

“Just making sure,” said Hands. “He might have rigged something up.”

That made the rest of them pause. “Does it look okay?” Asked another man.

“Can’t see anything wrong.” Hands answered.

“Well then,” said the skinny guy. “Push it and let’s go!”

Hands stepped to the side, moving so if there was any funny business the doorframe would probably shield him from it. “You first,” he told the skinny guy.

Without hesitation, the skinny guy stepped forward again and shoved the handle.

It depressed, there was a click as the latch was withdrawn.

Nothing happened.

Not a fire alarm, which big letters above the door said would sound if the door was opened.

Not an explosion or other trap.

Not a door opening.

The door stayed firmly where it was.

So the skinny guy tried again, pushing harder.

Same result.

“It’s stuck,” said someone from the group, and others stepped forward to give it a shove.

But the door stayed where it was.

“Oh man, he’s blocked the exits!” Said the skinny guy. “Now what do we do?”

“I guess,” said Hands. “We’d better check the windows.”


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Sunday Drivers (End)

I think about dinner, but my stomach is too full of butterflies to eat anything big, so I just summon a Cloud Car and head down to Toyota’s Michigan center. It’s just outside of the core in Auburn Hills, and I spend the drive thinking about what I’m going to do, and what I’m going to see.

As the Cloud Car drives off to find another passenger, I’m standing in front of a huge warehouse of a building. It looks like it used to be a factory at one time, but now it’s a like giant garage with thirty little garage doors along the sides of it. Each of those is a maintenance bay, automated of course, and will do what needs to be done to get the cars back on the road.

I walk over to the small office in the middle, where the few actual humans on the site do administration and security. A bell rings as the doors swish open, and a dark skinned woman looks up at me from the receptionist’s desk.

“Yes? Can I help you?” She says in a tone that tells me I probably just interrupted a very important discussion on social media.

“Yeah,” I give her my best professional smile. “I’m here from True Blue Insurance,” cue (expired) ID card, “I’ve got a maintenance check to oversee. One of our clients is bitching because they screwed up the last install and damaged the side of the car.” It’s a real situation I’ve dealt with lots of times, so this is all pretty routine.

“Uh-huh,” she says, not caring. “You got an ID number on that vehicle?”

I rhyme off the car’s VIN number, she checks it. “You can find it in Bay 23, honey.” Then she passes a guest lanyard over the counter, and I’m not even out of the office before she’s back chatting with someone, someplace.

I don’t care though, it suits me fine.

The lanyard will keep security from bothering me, all I need to do is get down to Bay 23. The sun’s setting a dull orange on the horizon, and as I’m watching it I see the car I’m looking for drive onto the tarmac. It’s a grey Toyota Fasta sedan with tinted windows, and it hums past me into the bay with its hybrid electric motor barely making a sound as it pulls up for its required maintenance check.

The garage doors slide up, and I follow it in.

The maintenance bay is a hoist surrounded by an octopus’ worth of robotic arms designed to do an hour’s worth of human work in a couple minutes. As it lifts the car up into position to be worked on, I walk around the edge in the places marked for human observers and call up the control screen for the bay. I tell it I want to manually check the car over, and the robot arms stop their work and retreat back, leaving a space for me to walk around the car.

My heart’s beating a mile a minute as I approach the vehicle.

I know there’s nobody inside, but since you can’t see in, it’s hard to escape the feeling there could be. All I can see is my own reflection on the driver’s side as I reach for the door handle.

It’s automatically unlocked for maintenance, so it pops open the moment I touch it, opening with a click and a hiss. The moment it does, an intense stale smell washes over me, it’s so bad I begin to retch and empty my last coffee onto the bay floor.

What the hell is in there?

The smell leaks out and purveys the whole bay, and I’m forced to cover my mouth as I lean forward and peer inside. I didn’t know how much of this I’d be able to take, but I needed to know what’s in there.

The four inside seats are in “family mode”, turned to face the middle, and I have to lean in see inside. The moment I do, I jerk back, banging my head as I pull away, not believing what I’ve just seen.

It makes so much sense, but…

“Well, this sucks.”

I spin- Eddy is there in the bay door with two big guys.

“Eddy… I…” I stammer, we’re beyond excuses- way beyond. Then I look at the car. “Did… you?”

He snorts. “Us? Naw, John. We didn’t kill that guy.”

“So, why?”

He thinks about it a moment, “We call ’em “Sunday Drivers”. You ever go for a Sunday drive when you were a kid, John? The whole family just out and goes for a trip?”

I nod. “Yeah, sometimes.”

“Well people like him, they go for a drive and they just never come home. Life just goes on without ’em, and everyone’s happy.” When he sees me staring at him, he continues. “Legally, as long as they’re in the car, they’re just on vacation, so our clients can keep doing whatever they want.”

“But…” I say, “Who would pay for this?”

“Lots of people. Some people need time to get their affairs in order, and others want time to clear out. Then, when the time comes, the body turns up, or not, doesn’t matter as long as someone keeps paying the bills.”

I step back, not sure how to deal with what I’m hearing.

Eddy walks over, covers his mouth and looks inside. “I heard a lot of the cars on the road are like this. People out for a Sunday Drive. Cars filled with dead people, or people who might as well be.” Then he laughs. “Then again, the way most people used to drive, I guess things haven’t changed that much.”

“But, cars need fuel, they need…” I say, and then catch myself.

“Do they?” He looks around the bay. “We’ve created an automated system here, John. People don’t matter. They aren’t needed anymore. We’re just the meat that the system carries around, and they take care of themselves. Machines don’t care if we’re alive or dead, and thanks to profit margins and efficiency they’ve worked us right out of the system. Hell, every car could have a corpse in it for all they care- they just do their job, and there’s nobody to check on anything anymore. Except maybe during maintenance, which is why we’re here, aren’t we?”

I’m looking for way out of this, but the big guys are between me and the bay doors. I glance around, looking for something I can use as a weapon.

Eddy sees the look on my face.

“This is why you weren’t supposed to know, John.” He sighs. “We tried to keep you out of this after what happened to the last guy we put in charge, but here we are.”

“What are you going to do to me?” I ask, too focused to be scared.

He shrugs. “Nothing.”


“Well, you’re fired. We can’t trust you anymore, that’s for sure.”

“But… I’m…”

“Free to go, yeah.” He gestures toward the bay door, and the guy there moves aside. “Sorry it didn’t work out.”

Surprised, I stare at him a moment, and then decide to get out while I still can. “Y-yeah. Sorry it didn’t work out.” I echo, and then walk as fast as I can for the door.

A million thoughts run through my head, things I have to do as soon as I’m out of there. I need to grab my stuff and go as fast as I can. I’ll get out of state, maybe head South to see a few Net friends. Disappear. Then, just as I’m passing the guy on the way out I feel a sharp pain in my side as the barrel of the gun is pressed into my kidney and he pulls the trigger.

There’s pain, and I hear another shot, and then blackness.

When I wake up, I’m lying face-up at an odd angle, with something under me. The smell tells me where I am and I can feel the vibrations as the car drives along. Thump Thump. Thump Thump. I’m not sure if that’s the sound of the road, or my heart.

It’s hard to breath, and my clothes are wet and sticky.

I try to pull myself to the controls at the front, but find they’ve been shut down. There’s no steering wheel, pedals, nothing. I’m in a coffin going 120 mph down the highway, and there’s no way for me to get out. My phone is gone. I have no way to communicate with the outside world. The door handles are computer locked.

I check the other guy, or what’s left of him.

He’s got a digital pen in his inside jacket pocket- the type that records sound for later transcription, so I start using it, hoping it’s got enough power left to record this. Hoping somebody’s going to find it.

Hoping I last long enough to tell you what happened.

Because you see, there is a way to stop the car- I just need to yank the wires under the dash. I know about them because I used to investigate accidents all the time. The problem is that if I do it on the highway the system will crash, and there will be an accident- a big one.

But I’m dying already, and it’s my only chance, so I have to try.

Wish me luck.

‘Cause I’m not going to be another Sunday Driver.


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Sunday Drivers (Part 3)

I tell myself it’s just the bad Russian-English kicking in, and not to worry about it. But, the next morning I find myself staring at the lists of account numbers- what are these really? It’s like an itch in my brain that I can’t seem to scratch.

There is something familiar about these numbers, I noticed it the first time I started using them, but could never figure out what it was. I mean, it’s not like a string of numbers means anything, but there was something about them I couldn’t quite place.

I’d always pushed it away, but now…

The software doesn’t allow copy/paste, so I copied down a random number from the list into my phone’s search App and let it run. I get a couple thousand results- all kinds of numbers from social security to random pieces of code. This could be anything. So I decide on a different tack- I copy down a couple numbers and search for them as blocks with quotes around them so that they’ll be used as-is.

Still too many.

Then I have a bit of inspiration.

I only search for the first four digits of each of the numbers. Most identification numbers are broken into blocks with each group representing a different piece of information. These blocks tend to be in threes and fours, so that’s where I’ll look.

I get it on the first try, and I stare at the window.

Now I know why these numbers seemed somewhat familiar.

They’re partial VIN numbers- Vehicle Identification Numbers, just missing the first two number blocks.

My head swirls. These aren’t apartments, they’re vehicles.

Then it all clicks.

These are cars or trucks, and I’m topping off their fuel and maintenance accounts. That’s why the system lost contact with that unit, it got into an accident or something.

It’s somebody’s fleet of trucks or taxis or something.

But why did Eddy lie to me? If it was just a vehicle fleet- why the secrecy?

I call up the portal to the True Blue Insurance system and stick in the number and password of someone I know is still working there. We used to log in for each other all the time to cover for people who were late or snuck out- I know how to access the accounts of half the office. Management knew, but never cared much.

Works for me.

In a flash, I was into the system and accessing the state’s vehicle record database. Pretty soon, I’m looking at the vehicle records for each of these cars. And they are cars, not trucks- every one of them is different make or model, the only thing they all have in common is that they’re all driverless. That last part explains why they need to have their accounts tracked and topped up- there’s nobody behind the wheel.

But the truth is, now I’m even more confused.

I’d started to think this was a Cloud Car taxi service of some kind, but when I look at the ages and types of vehicles it doesn’t add up. There are crap cars and there are luxury cars worth more than my apartment building next to each other on the list- no taxi service has this kind of variety.


So I pick one, a Chevy Sonar, and call up it’s GPS location tracker- Interstate 90, three miles outside of Missoula, Montana. It’s two years old, licensed to a David Miller of 432 Main Street of Wichita, Kansas. Which is definitely not Montana, or Michigan, so why am I taking care of Mr. Miller’s car?

Then I see the odometer reading and I need to do a triple take.

657,492 miles.

What the hell? How does a 2 year old car have that much mileage on it? Is that even possible? Could that be a mistake?

I pick another- this one’s in Washington State, 1 year old, 347,573 miles on it.

Another- Florida, 3 years, 1,456,231 miles.

New York, 1 year, 298,742 miles.

California, 763,221 miles.

Louisiana, 89,000 miles.




These cars are all over the place- on highways and freeways scattered across the country, they’re all less than 4 years old, and they all have ridiculous amounts on their odometers. I’ve never seen numbers like this outside of taxis or transport trucks, and even those were lower than some of these cars. It was like they were being run on the highway 24-7.

But why? What were these cars transporting?

My mind immediately leaps to drugs.

It’s gotta be drugs.

I’m managing a fleet of drug delivery cars.

Oh crap.

I stare at the screen. Now what do I do? This is actually a pretty good job, and those are hard to come by these days. But drugs? If I’m an accessory, how many years? Is what I’m doing illegal? Of course it is, somehow. But I didn’t know… Maybe I could plead the fifth? Maybe if they get found out, it’ll be okay? Nobody knows I’m the one paying the bills, right?

Oh wait, my IP address will be logged somewhere.


I shut down my system and go take a walk.

A couple hours later with a full stomach and having thought it over, I decide I don’t know enough. Yeah, it could be drugs, but it could also be some other black or grey market merchandise like untaxed cigarettes or booze. Maybe they’re running a courier service. I just don’t know enough.

A smart man would call Eddy and quit, maybe tell him that I have a better job, thank him and get the hell out of town.

I’m still trying to salvage things, like the idiot I am.

So I decided to watch the GPS beacon of one of the cars and see where it went.

I figure maybe it’ll give me some clue what they’re up to.

One’s coming into Michigan, so I call it “Todd” and start watching it.

Three hours later, Todd is in Indiana. Never stopped, never left the highway.

Okay, so it’s traveling between states, not uncommon. I pick another one I call “Betsey” and follow it into my state.

Same deal. Betsey comes in on I75, loops up the peninsula and then comes back down on her merry way to Illinois. She stops once for some automated gas, I see the money charged to my accounts, but that’s it, and then she’s on her way. No other stops.

I pick another car. And another.

None of the cars coming into the state stop, and if they do, it’s only for gas, and those are all different gas stations in different places. Those could be drop-off points. Somebody could be swapping the goods when they stop for gas, but…

I go back to Todd.

He’s in Ohio now. I start following his progress.

He continues to lazily buzz along the interstates, stopping only for gas as he makes his way around the country. Betsey is the same, she never seems to go anywhere, just drives. They’re not even taking any kind of direct routes to anywhere, they’re just driving, and it’s almost random where they go.

The more I think about it, the more puzzled I become. What are these cars doing? It’s like someone just told them to drive, and to keep on driving, and not to stop.

Who would do that? And why?

Watching Todd and Betsey becomes my new hobby, and I keep a window open with their progress in the background as I work. Watching them and looking for patterns as the days pass by. After a few weeks, the frustration builds up, I’m obsessed with them and trying to figure out what they’re doing, but I can’t seem to find any patterns.

Finally, I decided to take action.

Using the True Blue Insurance system, I designate a car coming into the state as “in need of a recall”. It’s a selective alert going out to just that car, and it will force the car to come into a dealership for maintenance. Since I chose a Toyota car, and there’s only one maintenance bay in the area, I know exactly where the car is going to go.


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Sunday Drivers (Part 2)

So here we go.

“Yeah,” I answered. “You know of anyplace that’s hiring?”

“Maybe. You still in Greektown? Can we meet?”

“Sure am. Sure can. Where?”

“Mama Sitta’s in thirty?”

“K. CYA there!”

I cleaned up a bit, pulled on a fresh shirt, and headed down to Mama Sitta’s. It was just two blocks away, and I found Eddy talking with the bouncer at the front door. He turned when he saw me coming, and gave me a big smile.

“John!” He says, and shoves his hand at me.

The skinny awkward kid who smoked too much pot in high school was now clean cut, with a designer shirt and shoes that probably cost as much as my month’s rent. He’s still Eddy, though, with that big nose and those small eyes.

We greet, he says goodbye to a bouncer he clearly knows personally, and then we go inside.

It’s Wednesday night, the restaurant has only a couple of people, and the bar side is empty. He takes a stool there like he owns the place, and summons the bartender with a wave. “Two Grosse Points,” he says, then looks at me. “You’re okay with Artisan beer, right?

“Sure,” I say. I don’t really give a crap, but this was a job interview situation so…

We chit-chat for a bit. Catch up on old times. The last time I saw him was during my second year at Michigan State. Then I get around to asking, “So you work here?”

He shakes his head. “Nah. My boss owns this place, so we come here a lot. He’s gotta steal his money back somehow, right?”

I bob my head in agreement, and then decide to go for it. “So, what kind of business are you in these days?”

He pauses to crack open a pink dyed pistachio, and then pops it into his mouth and smiles. “Property management.”

“Really?” This does sound promising, people still need a place to live.

“Yeah, and that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”


“My company’s got a contract to take care of a bunch of rental units, and we need a manager.”

“I dunno, man.” I said, “I’m not the most handy guy on the block.”

He laughs, “Nah. Not that kind of property manager. It’s for taking care of old people’s apartments. You don’t even have to meet ’em, you just pay the bills and see that they’re taken care of. It’s all done online.”

“Whoa,” I nod. “Yeah…Uh…That does sound interesting. How many units are we talking here?”

He shrugged. “A couple hundred.”

He saw the look in my eyes and laughs. “Like I said, you never meet ’em, just keep an eye on them.”

“Sounds like something somebody in Indonesia could do. Why are you hiring local?”

“Data Crossing Act,” he says, referring to an effort by the government to restrict online jobs being outsourced to overseas. “Plus, we want people we know and trust on this. When I saw you were looking for work, I thought it was great timing.”

“Last guy quit?”

He bobs his head. “Yeah, he caught a ride out of state. Didn’t want to be here anymore.”

I couldn’t blame him, Detroit was supposed to be having it’s zillionth renaissance, but it sure didn’t feel like it.

“So, you in?” He says, giving me a serious look.

“Yeah,” I said like an idiot, “Definitely.”

We had a few more beers and memories, and I wander home.

The next morning, my Keurig is buzzing out a cup of coffee when there’s a chime from my system and a Direct Message from Eddy pops up with an attachment. I follow the instructions, download the software, and let it run. Once it comes up, I take the day to read through the docs. After dealing with the software True Blue Insurance used, this was a piece of cake, which is a good thing, because the docs read like they were translated from Russian- badly.

Like Eddy said, the job is simple- I monitor the master accounts for a legion of seniors rental units. If the unit accounts are low on funds, I go to a series of designated accounts, take money and top the unit accounts up so the bills are paid and everyone is happy. Each unit has a number, and it’s all anonymous. I can’t even see where these units are, I assume they’re in Detroit, but they could be anywhere.

Finally, if there are any issues, I’m supposed to let Eddy know.

It’s stupid data grunt work, but they pay a bit above minimum and it doesn’t look like it will take more than a few hours a day. I can use the rest of the time to hunt for more work, or whatever.


It takes me a few days to get up to speed, but once I have it down I’m sweeping through the list in no time. It flags any issues, so it’s not hard to find the accounts that need checking, and each day gets a bit faster. Pretty soon, I’m playing online Poker more than I’m working. I tell myself I’ll start looking for another job soon, but never seem to get around to it.

This goes on for a couple months, and then one day something happens- I get hauled out of bed one night by an emergency message from the system. Bleary eyed, I stare at the message window.

“Unit 556847932 has lost contact, please advise.”

I don’t know what to do. I call Eddy.

He’s high as a kite, but comes down hard when I tell him the message. When he’s done swearing, he says “Send me the number. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it. Just…Everything else is okay, right?”


“Then don’t worry about it. You’re doing a good job, Johnny. The boss is happy.”

I smile. “Oh yeah? Cool.”

“Sure is. I gotta go. Let me know if you get any more messages, ‘kay?”

“No problem.”

Then he’s gone, and the place is dark again.

I go to bed, but as I’m trying to sleep a thought strikes me.

How the hell do you lose contact with an apartment unit?


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Sunday Drivers (Part 1)


This week on KFAT fiction, we have a visit to the Twilight Zone. In a not too distant future, an auto insurance investigator loses his job to the driverless car revolution, but when he’s offered a new job it might just turn out to be his last. Can he keep himself from becoming just another Sunday Driver?

Sunday Drivers

by Robyn Paterson

(Science Fiction, Near Future, Mature.)

Lots of kids have nightmares about being buried alive.

You wake up and you’re in a tight, dark enclosed space. The air inside is stale and hot and you can barely move. You scream. You make as much noise as possible, hoping that someone is going to hear you.

But nobody does, because nobody can.

I’m going to tell you the story of how I got buried alive at 120 mph.

It starts with 14 words.


Come see me in my office when you have the time.

Bill Class.”

Bill was my boss at Trueblue Auto Insurance, and his office was at the end of a nearly empty cubicle farm. I barely had time to read it when Hadley from security showed up next to my desk. He gave me an apologetic look, but I just nodded and grabbed my coat. I wasn’t going to make a fuss, there was no point. He was just doing his job, like I’d done mine.

Bill was as apologetic as he could be, but he too was just doing his job.

“It’s just the way things are, John,” he said. “Nobody’s buying cars anymore. Hell, why should they? They can just use those damn apps on their phones and some Cloud Car will show up and take them to wherever they want to go just like that.”

I got it. I knew.

Nobody buying cars meant nobody needing auto insurance.

It had been coming for years.

First a few driverless cars on the road, then once the Cloud Car services like Uber caught on and people realized they didn’t need to pay for insurance, or gas, or maintenance, the bottom fell out of the whole industry. Why pay for that crap when you could let someone else handle it?

Like an idiot, I thought there’d still be a need for insurance investigators- after all, people still had accidents, right?

But then the new legislation came in- no more human drivers. Things reached the point where there were so many driverless cars on the road that the only ones having accidents were humans. So they solved that too.

Now, there I was.

“Of course, there’ll be a severance package,” Bill continued. “You’re a good man, John. I hate to see you go, but you’ll bounce back, okay?”

I swallowed the bile in my throat and smiled. I shook his hand. Hadley escorted me from the building.

I wanted to torch the place, maybe it was good they stuck Hadley with me.

Instead I put out a location event alert on my G_Phone and invited everyone I knew to join me in getting drunk. Lots showed up. It wasn’t like they had jobs to worry about either.

America has 4.12 million miles of roads, it’s a country built around cars.

When you got 90% of the cars off the road, you got rid 90% of everything that went with them. Insurance. Car Loans. Auto Parts. Auto Plants. Parking Garages. Road Maintenance. Traffic Ticket fees. Gas and Oil Production. The DMV. City Parking Meters.

Driverless vehicles caused a huge pileup in a system built around people owning cars.

I was just another piece of hot, sticky roadkill.

Viva progress!

Still, the bills came, because everyone was trying to get what money they could. And pretty soon I was having to decide between paying for my glorious one-room apartment on Detroit’s lower east side, water, power, Internet, or phone bill. I could have one or two, but I couldn’t have them all.

I have to admit, I was thinking about saying screw it and just ignoring them all, but the idea of being homeless didn’t fill me with wonder.

The problem was, the last thing anyone was looking to hire was an insurance investigator- we were a dime a dozen, and someone had dumped a hell of a lot of dimes on the pavement. I could try other jobs, but those took training, and training cost money, and what was it that I didn’t have? Severance only went so far, and hell, I couldn’t even work at McDonald’s, those had gone totally automated ten years  before.

Every time I saw that cute anime-type face on the ordering screen asking me if I wanted fries with that, I wanted to punch her- hard.

So, one night I drunk posted to my G_book page:

“Bill Deathmatch! Rent vs. Power! Who will win? You decide! Vote below!”

The usual bunch of joke replies, and a few posts showing serious worry followed, but then I got a Direct Message from one of my old high school buddies.

The truth was, I’d even forgotten I’d added him to my friend’s list.

But there his name was on my message bar: Eddy Saint.

“Hey man. You needing some cash?”

I wish to god that I’d ignored that message.


But I didn’t.

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