It is always at some warehouse, the last building on the left, Gene thought to himself as he slowly turned the steering wheel of the minivan. The tires crackled and crunched over the asphalt covered in cracks, weeds, and pebbles. It looked like no one had been here in over a year, the warehouses needing a fresh coat of paint and the large cargo dock doors covered in rust and cobwebs. What made the scene a bit ominous, Gene thought to himself, was the evidence of removed security equipment. Brackets that used to hold cameras now hung empty at the corners of the buildings, faint traces of wire still evident. Card readers and electronic locks on doors were now replaced with sturdier industrial strength locks requiring a thick key. This place used to be watched, observed Gene, but now someone wants its history unwritten. The minivan continued rolling past the buildings, alternating between shadow and deep gold afternoon sunshine.
After the 11th scarred warehouse, Gene realized that the building he was seeking was a small garage at the back of the property, almost swallowed by weeds encroaching on the cracked asphalt. The fence back here was high, and he saw nothing but trees beyond. Hidden in an extra layer of the obscure, he thought. Gene chuckled silently as he directed the minivan to the front of the garage. The garage could have been a miniature copy of the mammoth warehouse buildings that led to it, same scarred cream-painted exterior, same tall white doors with faded marks at the top where there used to be numbered signs.
Gene stopped the van about 20 feet from the building, his foot on the brake. He scratched his beard absentmindedly and wondered what he was to do next. Councilman Warrick had not given much instruction other than the address and a warning to be a bit more discreet than usual about the delivery. Gene had taken his time preparing, getting the anonymous-looking van from Toby at Whittier Pizza, packing the cargo in the usual fish-smelling, dirty coolers that he always used. He did a brass-check on his pistol before putting it in a zippered clutch in the dash. Now he was wondering if he should have put it in the waistband of his jeans. Too late now, he knew that someone was watching him, and he didn’t want to raise any unnecessary alarm from the clients.
Gene slammed the column shifter into park, took his numbed foot off of the brake pedal. There was little to do but wait. This was not the first time Gene had to wait, but this time made him feel a bit uneasy. He rolled down the window a crack to listen to the ambient noise, see if he could pick anything out. All he heard was the buzzing cicadas and the distant roar of 494. He was confident something would happen, hopefully business as usual, but in the meanwhile he just needed to wait.
For the next 30 minutes, Gene inspected the sleeve tattoo on his left arm, contemplated planning a happy hour with friends from work, and pondered where to go furniture shopping with Jolene (her tastes ran a bit far into the realm of vintage, which limited choices). The summer had been rolling along quite rapidly; there was still quite a bit to do before the new house could be considered “settled”. Gene’s errands for the Councilman and his associates had increased as of late, he was seeing new people around the firm, receiving new instructions sending him farther into the bedroom communities, particularly into the humid basswood congregations of the southeast metro. This meant more driving time, less time to unpack boxes and go to the farmer’s market.
The sun slid further and further towards the horizon, and the grim exterior of the garage darkened with twilight shadow. Gene picked at his t-shirt collar, circled his finger around the Chevrolet logo in the center of the steering wheel, when suddenly he heard a mechanical noise that make him jerk his head up. One of the doors on the garage was opening with a dinosaur hum, slowly ascending. Two figures became visible as the door rose up and stopped. When Gene saw who they were, and what they were holding in their gloved hands, he felt profound regret for not coming better prepared.