Interesting Times (Interesting Times #1) (22 page)

BOOK: Interesting Times (Interesting Times #1)
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“You did
have a choice,” she shrugged. “We are none of us slaves, Oliver. You had to
choose to be one of us freely, without conditions attached. And now you’ve made
that choice. Congratulations are in order, I suppose. Are you sure you won’t
have some tea?”

“You’re
crazy,” Oliver said. He looked back at Tyler and Sally.  “You’re all crazy!”

“You
really have no idea,” Sally smirked.

Oliver
heard a commotion at the restaurant’s door and turned to look. A thin man with
short, wildly uncombed hair and round eyeglasses was hurtling toward their
table, carrying what looked like an iPad. From his twitchy, nervous demeanor,
Oliver guessed he was an aficionado of strong coffee, or quite possibly much
more serious stimulants.

“Oh,
good,” Tyler said. “You can finally meet Seven.” He turned to the approaching
man. “Seven, this is…”

Seven
brushed past him. “Not now,” he said, thrusting the tablet computer he carried
toward Artemis. “You are not going to believe this,” he said.

Artemis
studied the screen for a moment, her expression never changing. “My goodness,”
she said. “That is quite a problem, isn’t it?”

“What
is?” Sally asked, coming around to look.

“Mr.
Jones, I hope you don’t mind, but time is a factor now,” Artemis said. “We will
have to discuss your salary requirements and conduct your orientation later.”

“You do
an orientation?” he asked.

“Of
course we do,” she said. “Do you think we just send people out into the field
without any training?” Tyler glanced at her skeptically. “Don’t answer that,”
she continued. “Tyler, we’re going to need some candy.”

“You
want me to run to 7-11?” Tyler asked in disbelief. “Now?”

“Not
that kind of candy,” Artemis said. “What we need is in the Vault.”

“Oh,”
Tyler said. “Oh wow.”

“Indeed.”
She stood up. “Come along, Mr. Jones. We’ll have to explain things to you on
the way.” She headed for the door.

Oliver
hesitated for a moment, and then turned to follow her. He wasn’t sure what this
new life was going to be like, but he was certain it would never be dull. He
was living in interesting times, like the old Chinese saying went. Time would
only tell whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. “May you live in
interesting times” was a curse, after all.

Three
hours later, when he saw the dragon for the first time, Oliver had his answer.

Did you enjoy this
story? If so would you consider leaving a review?
To
leave a review for Interesting Times, click here.

 

ALSO BY MATTHEW STORM

 

In the mood for something a little darker? Why not try out the first
chapter of “
Broken
,” the new mystery by Matthew Storm. It begins on the
next page. If you’d like to see more,
please click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

I don’t know how long I
lay in my bed listening to the wind chimes before I realized they weren’t wind
chimes at all, but the sound of my doorbell ringing. Nobody had rung my
doorbell in quite some time and I’d forgotten what it sounded like. I didn’t
get a lot of visitors.

Who
could be at the door? A particularly aggressive bill collector, maybe? That was
awfully ambitious of them. It would also be fruitless. I didn’t have any money
in the house to give anyone, and there was very little anyone could threaten me
with anymore.

I
considered ignoring the bell, but the noise was interspersed with knocking now.
Whoever was out there was not going to give up. I groaned and looked over at my
bedside clock. It was 10:42 am. But on what day? The last day I had been aware
of had been Thursday, but my blackouts were getting longer and longer these
days, lasting upwards of a week sometimes. That made it hard to say for sure.
Not that it really mattered. I didn’t have a job and it wasn’t like I had any
place I needed to be.

The
doorbell rang again and I finally gave up. I hauled myself out of bed and
noticed that my legs were already beginning to tremble. That wasn’t a good sign
this early in the morning. A small glass tumbler sat on the bedside table, half
full of clear liquid. I reached for it and took a sip, hoping that I hadn’t
gone crazy during the night and poured myself a glass of water. It was vodka,
thank god. I downed the glass. The rush of alcohol hitting my stomach made me
choke, and then I had to spend a minute swallowing hard to suppress my gag
reflex to keep myself from throwing up. As long as I could keep it down, the
vodka would keep withdrawal at bay for a little while.

I’d
blacked out in street clothes, dirty jeans and an old t-shirt. At least I
didn’t need to get dressed. That would save me a minute of listening to that
damn doorbell. I frowned, noticing I was only wearing one tennis shoe. What had
happened to the other one? I pried the shoe off of my foot so I wouldn’t be
forced to limp around the house. I could find its mate later.

My
bedroom floor was a forest of empty vodka bottles littered with fast-food
wrappers I hadn’t bothered to throw away. I tended not to worry about trash
until insects started showing up in my house, and even then I was rarely sober
enough to worry about it all that much. I started for the bedroom door,
carefully picking my way through the mess. If I fell down in this condition, I
wasn’t going to be getting up again for quite a while.

The
living room was in no better shape than the bedroom. The piles of garbage were
bad enough, but worse was a sour smell that lingered in the air. It had to be
something rotting, or maybe I had vomited on the carpet recently and failed to
clean it up? That also would have done it. Later on I’d open a window up and
get some fresh air into the place. That would help, at least a little bit.

The
person outside was knocking again. “God damn it!” I snarled. The police department
had taken my gun away when they’d fired me, but I could find another way to
make whoever was out there wish they’d spent their morning bothering somebody
else.

I made
it to the door and opened it without bothering to look through the peephole. A tall,
grey-haired man stood on the other side. He wore a dark suit that had never
seen the rack and shoes that looked like they’d been shined two minutes before
he’d started ringing my bell. The man smiled pleasantly at me. “Nevada James?”

“I gave
at the office,” I said.

A
puzzled expression crossed the man’s face. “Gave what?”

“Never
mind,” I said. I was never funny first thing in the morning. “What do you
want?”

“My name
is Chandler Emerson,” the man said, extending a hand to shake. It was difficult
not to notice his perfect manicure. He was definitely not a bill collector,
then. I didn’t offer him my hand, anyway. He held his own in the air for a
moment, then dropped it back to his side as casually as if he’d never made the
gesture.

“What do
you want?” I repeated.

“I
represent Alan…” he began, but then his face suddenly wrinkled and he took a
step back. The smell had hit him, then, either my own or whatever was stinking
up the inside of my house. I wasn’t sure when I had last changed clothes, but I
probably hadn’t showered in even longer. I didn’t much care how I smelled. It
wasn’t as if I had a social life. I only left the house for food and alcohol.

“You
were saying?” I asked.

Emerson
cleared his throat. “I was saying, I represent Alan Davies.” He looked at me
expectantly, as if I was supposed to be impressed with this information.

I
thought about it for a moment. I’d heard that name before, hadn’t I? Was it
someone I had borrowed money from? No, I’d probably be able to remember that.
But then I placed him. “Alan Davies? The Mafia guy?” What the hell could Alan
Davies possibly want with
me
?

Emerson
scowled. “Mr. Davies is a well-respected businessman, and scurrilous
accusations like that…”

“Oh, I
don’t give a shit,” I interrupted. “I’m not a cop anymore. You said you
represent him. You’re his lawyer?”

“Yes.”

“Why are
you here?”

I saw
Emerson’s lips tighten into a thin line. “Mr. Davies has a business proposition
he would like to discuss with you. I have come to convey you to his estate.”

I looked
toward the street and saw a black Lincoln town car parked at the curb. A
muscular man in a grey chauffeur’s uniform stood waiting next to an open rear
door. He even wore a jaunty little cap to complete the outfit, but I was more
interested in the bulge I could see in the left side of his jacket. He was
either carrying a pistol or his lunch under there, and he didn’t look all that
hungry.

“Some
people call,” I told Emerson.

“Mr.
Davies felt that would be impersonal, and asked me to come myself in order to
convey his respect for you.”

I
stifled a laugh. I had no idea what Alan Davies looked like, but it was hard
not to imagine Marlon Brando when Emerson talked like that. “So I’m supposed to
get in there and take a ride with you?” I asked.

“Indeed.”

I shook
my head. “Look, I don’t know what your boss is thinking, but I didn’t switch
teams when the cops fired me. I don’t do jobs for gangsters. Tell him to fuck
off.”

“The
proposition Mr. Davies wishes to discuss with you is entirely legal,” Emerson
said primly. “I can assure you that none of your ethics will be compromised.”

“Get
lost.” I started to close the door on him.

“Mr.
Davies will pay you ten thousand dollars simply to meet with him,” Emerson said
quickly.

I
hesitated for a moment, then opened the door again. “You’re serious?” I asked
him. “Ten grand?”

“Ten
thousand dollars,” Emerson repeated, looking annoyed. “Cash. If you don’t care
for what he has to say, you can walk away, and the money is yours to keep.”

“He’ll
let me just walk off with ten grand, and I don’t have to do anything but listen
to him? Why am I having trouble believing that?”

“He
gives you his solemn word.”

I
thought it over. Alan Davies’s solemn word didn’t mean a lot to me, but ten
thousand dollars would pay a lot of bills, and I was behind on my rent and…I
was behind on
everything
.

“He’s
wasting his time if he asks me to do anything illegal,” I said. “Don’t give me
that legitimate businessman shit.”

“Nothing
illegal,” Emerson said.

I
frowned. “He knows I didn’t work organized crime? If he wants to know what the
cops have on him, I have no idea, and I wouldn’t tell him even if I did.”

Emerson
opened his mouth and I could tell he was about to deny what Alan Davies did for
a living again. I cocked my head at him and he caught himself. “Mr. Davies
knows you were a homicide detective. He will not ask you for any information
with regards to your former employer.”

I
shrugged. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Emerson
pursed his lips, looking at me skeptically. “Perhaps you’d like to…”

“What?”

“Bathe?”
he suggested. “And change clothes, perhaps?”

I looked
down at my t-shirt. I really had been wearing it for quite a while. It was
stained with things I didn’t particularly want to think about. I should
probably change it before it rotted and fell off. Maybe I’d even stick it in the
washing machine. “All right,” I told Emerson. “You can wait out here.” Even if
I had been in the habit of inviting Mafia lawyers into my house, it probably
would have been a good idea to clean the place up a little first. I wasn’t sure
Emerson would have been able to handle the smell.

“I’ll
wait in the car,” Emerson said, looking just a bit relieved. “See you soon, Ms.
James.”

 

Want to read more?
Please visit the Amazon page by
clicking here.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Matthew Storm lives above a bar in Tokyo,
where he is occasionally visited by a stray cat who may or may not speak.

 

Matthew is on Twitter:  @mjstorm

 

BOOK: Interesting Times (Interesting Times #1)
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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