Another fifteen minutes and I was driving down my Capilano street. On the way, I was justifying my failure to try to call Lisa on the basis that I couldn’t tell her anything anyway. Military confidentiality and all that. It was a weak excuse, I know. As I neared my house, I was telling myself that there wasn’t anything to worry about. I was just making a mountain out of a molehill, and why would any of it come back to haunt Lisa, anyway? I do have a tendency to assume the worst, so maybe there wasn’t anything to worry about. I was wrong. There was lots to be worried about. And I’m a shit who should have called home to check in before this. There was a black sedan parked sideways across my driveway so as to block both sides of my double car garage. It was obviously parked that way so no one could shoot out of the garage and escape. I pulled in and parked my Jeep behind the sedan, but didn’t turn it off. My head was going a mile a minute. I thought about backing up and taking off. I was trying to think of where I could get a weapon or if maybe I should go back to the private office and get the coffee can so I had a bargaining chip.
Maybe the coffee can was all these guys wanted (or at least the antigravity ball in the can).
Screw that. I turned the Jeep off. I needed to get inside and check on Lisa. I walked up to the front door. I hardly ever enter my own house through the front door. I tried the door — locked — so I opened it with my key and cautiously stepped inside.
All clear in the entranceway. The house was quiet. “Honey,” a male voice called from the living room. “Is that you? We’re in the living room.” I frowned, but slowly made my way down the hall to the intersection where the kitchen and living room met. My wife was seated on a couch opposite a man in a dark suit. A big guy, almost my size from the looks of him. Movement caught my eye, and I turned to see a second suited guy in my kitchen, bent over to look in the fridge.
“You got a pop or something in here?” that guy asked. I ignored him and turned back to Lisa. “What’s going on?” She looked shaken, but not panicked.
“These guys say they know you.” The couch guy stood. He wasn’t as big as me.
“You remember us, right, Doc? We’re friends of Dr. Zwicker. I think he asked you to hold onto something for us?” He winked at me to encourage me to go along with this story. I hadn’t looked away from Lisa. “Are you okay?” She nodded.
Now I turned to Couch Guy. “I’d like it if you two guys left now. I don’t have anything for you. There’s been a misunderstanding.”
“I don’t see it that way,” said Fridge Guy. He’d come up behind me and was close enough to reach out and touch me. Or hit me. I was hoping he wouldn’t hit me, but I took a step away just to be sure and also so I could see both of them.
“Whatever you think is here, isn’t.”
“Where is it then?”
“Where is what?” I said.
“Whatever you were talking about?” Couch Guy said.
“I don’t have anything,” I said.
“What’s the thing you don’t have?” Fridge Guy asked.
“Jesus Christ!” Lisa shouted. “What the hell is the matter with you guys?” Tears blew out from her eyes and she stood. “I’m going upstairs.”
“Sit down!” Couch Guy shouted at her.
“Go fuck yourself!” she shouted back, and left the room.
Couch Guy and Fridge Guy just looked at each other and shrugged. They probably weren’t used to that level of resistance from a petite five-foot-six woman in yoga pants. It was pretty cool. It made me want to follow her upstairs and pull those yoga pants off.
I flicked my thoughts away: Fingers. Forehead. Flick.
“Hey,” Couch Guy yelled at me, and snapped his fingers. I was staring at Lisa’s ass storming down the hall. Fridge Guy was too. “Dr. Zwicker left you something.
Perhaps something shiny with some very unusual properties?”
“Unusual properties?” I asked. Do you see how good I am at playing dumb? Most people can’t believe I have a doctorate.
Fridge Guy pulled a gun out from inside his jacket and pointed it at me. “Where is it? We know he left it with you.”
Couch Guy strolled over and put an arm around me.
“You don’t need this kind of stress. I know it. You know it. Just give us the ball and we’ll be gone. We don’t need anything else from you.” I was silent.
“Did Zwicker tell you that that thing is dangerous?” Couch Guy asked. He was close enough now that I could detect a faint smell of garlic (or salami) wafting out with each word. “The thing will eventually explode. It doesn’t belong here. We need to get it back to protect you. To protect that lovely wife of yours.” He looked down the hall in the direction Lisa had just gone. I still didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything, partially because I didn’t want to and partially because I didn’t want to get his salami breath in my mouth. Gross.
“If you hand it over,” Salami Breath said (he used to be Couch Guy), “it will just save time. If you don’t, then we’ll tear your house apart and get it anyway. The first way is just way more pleasant for you and your sweet wife.”
I shrugged his arm off me to get away from his horrible breath.
“I don’t have anything. Nathan Zwicker didn’t give me anything.” Which, as I said before, was true — his wife gave it to me. “So I’m trying to save you some time. You can pull my house apart, but you won’t find anything.”
“You’re making a mistake,” Fridge Guy said, and wagged the gun. “We don’t want to hurt you. We don’t care about you. Just hand over the ball.”
“Oh,” I said before I could stop myself. “You don’t want to hurt me because all you need to do is get the ball and then Constant White sweeps in and finishes the dirty work.”
That made both men pause. “Who’d you say?” Salami Breath asked.
“Constant White,” I said. I couldn’t stop myself now. I was fed up with this shit. “I know she’s here. I know she’s here to clean up this Zwicker mess.”
Fridge Guy was about to respond when the front doorbell rang. Now we all froze.
“Who the fuck is that?” Salami Breath hissed.
“I don’t know,” I said.
The doorbell rang again, and the person banged on the door too. A muffled “Hello?” came through it.
“Don’t answer it,” Fridge Guy said in a menacing tone, but no sooner had he said it than Lisa’s feet pounded down the stairs and she was at the front door.
“Is it more idiots to join your goon party?” she announced, and flung the door open before anyone could react.
Fridge Guy jammed his hand in his coat to hide the gun as my fat neighbor Roland stepped in. “I knew you guys were home. I saw the Jeep….” His voice trailed off as he looked past Lisa down the hall to where he could see me and the other two. “I’m sorry. Do you have company?”
“Come on in, Roland,” I yelled before anyone else could answer.
This is an excerpt from Tell Me More (Insomniac Press, 2018)