The Card – Rickson Finale

Rickson stared at the damn screen for at least twenty minutes before he shook his fucking head and decided to play with whatever fucking idiot was running this con. He typed, well, henpecked more than anything, and when he was done he was as proud of himself as he ever had been.

MY DEMAND IS FOR THE CITY OF LONDON TO HAVE NO FUCKING CRIME FOR THE NEXT 30 DAYS. NOTHING ILLEGAL AT ALL.

He hit send without thinking about it and went about the real work of the day without giving what he had typed another thought. However, had he been even vaguely observant he would have noticed that the phone had buzzed mere seconds after he had typed up the email and hit send. It was a single line, a single word.

APPROVED

——–

Three weeks later and Rickson was sitting on the porch of his house. There was no noise, no cars going back and forth, absolutely nothing but a light breeze high up in the trees that he ignored because it seemed as fake as the rest of this thing.

Three weeks and there hadn’t been…anything.

Not a mugging, a rape, a murder. Not even a speeding ticket was given in the entire City of London proper. The Mayor was talking of reallocating the police force to the outer parts of the country, where there had been a dramatic rise in crime in recent weeks with as many as 65 murders in Oxford alone. The world was going mad, but London was quiet, serene. People walked instead of taking cars, they smiled at each other and all but ignored The Tube, relishing the fact that they could safely walk anywhere they wanted to and not be molested by anything.

Mayor Khan had as much as got up in front of the city and guaranteed them that the police force was such a threat to the criminal element they had tucked their tails between their legs and they had run away to leave the righteous and beauty of London be as was it’s historic due.

Yeah, he really said that.

Rickson knew that wasn’t true. he knew the truth. He couldn’t believe it, but he knew the truth. That damn card was nowhere to be fucking found anywhere. he knew he had left the damn thing on the desk and someone had come by and bloody nicked the thing. After he says no crime there is a theft. Bullshit promises.

What he wanted to know. What he NEEDED to know and what kept him up for hour after hour the last few days is what would happen when the month was over and the crime returned. The police dispersed over half the damn country, there was going to be a…he couldn’t even think about it without going half-mad from the guilt of a thing he had thought a damn lark.

Nodding his head he walked back into the humble house he had inherited from his mum and dad when they passed a few years ago. He had never been married or even really dated. The job had been his life for more years than he was comfortable admitting and he knew, HE KNEW, that what was to come was directly his fault.

He sighed and stepped up onto the chair in the kitchen. It was a hickory chair his dad had bought when they had a holiday in America. It gave him a smile as he wrapped the bedsheet around his neck and tied it off nice and tight so that he wouldn’t fall out of it when he inevitably started to kick in a few moments. He had left a note on the table and that should be enough.

With a final sigh, he simply tilted the chair and fell into his noose, his neck breaking perfectly at the C2 vertebrae and killing him instantly. He didn’t kick at all it turned out.

_____

The letter was in some kids’ hand now, he had heard the old man next door make a lot of noise and had peaked in just as he had hung himself.

He walked in just as free as you please and loaded up his pockets with anything he thought might fetch a price later and pocketed the letter without reading it just in case it had some account number in it he could use.

There were no words on the paper when he opened it though, just a shiny black card with a .onion address on it and nothing else.

The Card – Rickson

The detective bent low over the body. He had gotten the okay from the tech guys that they had all the pics they needed so, after donning a pair of nitrile gloves, he looked down at what was left of a human being at his feet.

The head had been severed and was still actively being searched for. The hands looked like they had been whacked with something over and over until they were just sacks of flesh containing bits of bone, at least what bones hadn’t already come out and were, like the head, being looked for in the flat that the deceased had been found in. There were bruises and cuts everywhere on the torso. Distinctive marks from what looked like a baseball bat crossed upward from the left hip to the right shoulder.

It was just a bad scene all around. The detective shook his head and carefully reached into the victim’s pocket and almost immediately pulled it out because he could swear he had fucking stabbed himself on something. Afraid that it had been a junkie hypodermic, he quickly, but carefully, repeated the procedure and breathed a sigh of relief when he could find nothing resembling a needle or a blade in the pockets. In fact, all that was in there was this black card.

It was shiny, like one of those cards from that game where you come up with horrible answers to things. It was glossy and mirrored the light perfectly. Despite what had happened to the previous owner of it, it was untouched by any wear or tear. Without thinking twice, he slipped the card into his interior suit coat pocket and continued with his investigation, finding it weird he hadn’t found anything in the pocket after he had just felt a sting come it. He was just happy he didn’t have to go through the tests for HIV and Hepatitis.

—–

The detective, Rickson, sat down at his desk with a fresh cup of tea and saw that the autopsy report on John Doe from the other night was on his desk. A little early for gore and horror, but it went with the job. He took a sip from the tea and opened the report. Apparently they had found a wallet on the corpse that identified as a man named Alphonse Jacobi. A work-from-home accountant for the big firms. Massive internal bleeding was the cause of death, apparently, all signs pointed to him being alive when all of the injuries were sustained, the head was removed post-mortum for reasons as of yet unknown. Those things that were missing, the head and miscellaneous bone fragments, had yet to be found and a deep search of the area surrounding the flat was being conducted even as he read this grisly report in front of him.

He stretched, his arms shooting out to both sides and bunching his jacket like always happened. When he put his arms back down he noticed a black card on his desk. A shiny, black card, a playing card? It was completely devoid of detail, at least on the side that he could see. He picked it up and flipped it over and there was an email address printed neatly on it. Eyebrow raised in curiosity Rickson logged into his computer and put the email address through the database with no luck. The domain didn’t have any websites and, without getting the tech guys involved, that was all he would be able to tell.

His questioning getting the better of him, Rickson pulled out his mobile and opened the email app and placed the email address in the To field and simply sent a message saying hello. He hit send without a second thought and put his phone down and took another sip of his tea while he turned the card over in his hand. It felt like it should mean something, it was tickling some part of his brain but he couldn’t quite place it no matter how hard he tried.

He heard his phone buzz on the table and he picked it up and looked at the screen and saw that the email had been answered:

PLEASE STATE YOUR QUERY/REQUEST/DEMAND.

Well, wasn’t this just a big pile of shit all of a sudden.

The Card – Introduction – Finale

A few hours before…

Al had been putting off everything for weeks now. He could not think of a way to come up with that much money no matter where he parked his brain. At first, he thought he could shift a few ones and zeroes in the ledgers of his clients and maybe get what he needed that way and then he realized he never touched the fucking money. All that would do is make someone very happy, or very, very mad. He didn’t have anyone in his life with that kind of money, he didn’t have any credit to speak of so a loan that large was out of the question.

In short, he was fucked.

He was sitting on the steps outside of his flat, his feet tapping like a dancer on the cobblestone of the street. His hands were twirling a pen like it was a baton and his eyes were staring at nothing his mind pretty much have decided to give in to the infinite and die, at least if he died first he wouldn’t have to sit and watch all those wonderful people in his life die. He was ashamed he thought this way, but he had nothing at all left, nothing.

Al sat there, feeling sorry for himself and he felt a pain in his right thigh.

“What the fuck!” He jumped up and smashed his hand against his pants, hopefully killing the fucking bugger who had bit him. Damn thing must have crawled up his bloody pant leg as he was sitting out here feeling sorry for himself and condemning the people he loved the most in the world to die most likely very slow and painful deaths ant the hands of a man who more resembled an angry baboon than a human being.

Al looked at his hand and did not have the satisfaction of seeing a smashed bug, shaking his pant legs he saw nothing tumble out and the bite was still smarting. He reached into his pocket, the thing might have gotten into it and pit him from there. He dug around and at first, he thought he had the little fuck but when he ran his fingers over what he thought was a bug he furrowed his brown in confusion as he pulled a card out of his pocket.

That old man who had asked for a light, this was the card he had given him right? He looked and it and it was nothing special, nothing special at all, except all he could do was look at it. He didn’t particularly want to, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the damn thing no matter how hard he tried. Flat black, nothing on it at all. nothing.

Al was getting fucking spooked now and he blinked a few times and he saw the fucking thing change. A number, a number was there. What the fuck is this shit. Now the world was completely fucking crazy.

The card changed in front of him. A little tear here, a little wear there. it was spreading and even as he looked at it. His finger started to burn where it was holding the card and he cried out, the damn thing was like fire but…in the muscles and the bone.

He screamed as it got worse and his eyes shut and he was out.

When he came to he was staring at the card, he had no idea why he was looking at the stupid card he had been given, but he knew, just knew, he had to call the number.

He just had to.

The Card – Introduction – Part Two

Three Weeks Earlier

There was something so very wrong about sneaking out to the pub when he should have been trying to find a way to find the money he needed to find. The pub only made him owe the bastard more money, and he knew that by the end of the night he would be sitting at the bar ten pints in laughing like an idiot and cavorting with people he hadn’t even known three hours before. He knew he was an alcoholic, but there was this very dark part of him that simply didn’t care, as long as it got a pint or five poured on it, occasionally a gin or three, it stayed quiet and let Al do what he needed to do in his everyday life.

It was made even funnier when you learned was the accounts receivable clerk for a half dozen companies. A really good one at that. Loyal and honest and true and never once had he moved a number from red to black that shouldn’t have been moved. He did almost all of his work from home, mostly because he didn’t particularly enjoy wearing pants and offices frowned on that kind of thing. When he did go to the offices down on The North Colonnade, he was a sharp dresser and made sure that all of the ducks he needed to have set were in a row and he had a swig or two from the filigreed silver flask in his breast pocket.

He walked into the pub and took a deep breath and released every ounce of stress he had in his shoulders and his mind was at peace, or at least it would be when he got a couple in him to steady the nerves and hush that annoying inner voice that always seemed to want to get in the way of his fun.

He walked up to the bar and the barkeeper, Jake, shook his head as he saw him coming and lifted his arm and pointed to the smoky and mostly obscured back room of the pub.

“You go ask Loroche if you can a drink, not a damn drop from me until you do, understand you little fuck?” Jake’s right eye was swollen nearly shut and as purple like an aubergine. Loroche must have found out he had let Al top off a few pints last time after he had said he wasn’t allowed to drink anymore. Al held up his hands in surrender and nodded vigorously to the gatekeeper of his deepest desire.

“Oi, I will mate, I am going now.” Even as he said it he was walking toward the smoke, the walk of shame he liked to say. For a man to be so much in debt after getting himself such good jobs in life. It was pathetic, and that is precisely what men like Rochelle could smell in the air in every pub in London. Desperation and need, raw and hungry want. He walked through the thick smoke, it didn’t even sting his eyes anymore he had done it so many damn times. Loroche saw him right away and smiled.

“I thought I might be seeing you today lad, come and sit down and we will have ourselves a little chat.”

He was a gigantic man, close enough to two and a half meters than not and he must have weighed almost 29 stone. It wasn’t fat though. The man was made of muscle and all he did was accidentally flex the damn things one after the other. Antoine Loroche, or just Loroche, thought his first name was stupid and he hated the word Mister with a passion. So you addressed him like the comic book villain he wanted to be or you got to see all of those muscles moving in ways you never thought they could as they came toward you. Al sat down at the chair that had been vacated as the man spoke and looked at Loroche with as close to desperation as he could, which was good because the hunger for a nip of the Creature was getting to be fierce. Damn Irish blood.

“Al, my favorite lush. We have a problem that we need to take care of. You owe me a large bit of coin and I, in turn, owe that money to others. We all have our masters lad. Now, I will give you a few hundred quid credit for the night, you deserve to drink. You don’t get me the money I am owed, which is nigh on 240 thousand euro, by the end of the month, I will go to the house where you grew up and I will kill your mother, your baby brother, your blind as a bat gran. Your wee little sister will be sold to pay off your debt and I am pretty sure I don’t need to explain what that means. Now, get your ass out of here and make sure I have my money by the first.

Al got up slowly, his palms ice-cold, his face pale from what he heard from the demon-man and he walked to the bar and sat. Jake had one ready for him and as much as he wanted to be afraid, the Creature sang to him and he drank it and five of its brothers down as quick as you please.

“Excuse me, young man, would you perhaps be able to give me a light? I cannot for the life of me remember where I but my matches and I have this delightful cigar that I wish to enjoy and I cannot do much without a light, I am sure you understand.”

Al turned to the voice and he saw, well, the most ordinary-looking man he had ever seen. From his haircut to his loafers, he was the average bloke. He smiled and pulled a pack of matches from his pants pocket and handed them to the man without a second thought.

“I have been trying to quit for months, I don’t have the matches it can’t hurt the cause right?”

The man smiled and reached into the breast pocket of the jacket he was wearing and came out with the aforementioned cigar and a black business card.

“I thank you for your kindness stranger, so for you, I will do a service in return. If you are ever in need, call the number on this card and speak the words “Delightful Occurrences Happen For Reasons No One Ever Actually Imagines.” and then you will get the help you need.

Al took the card with a smirk and was going to come back with a witty remark but all he could do now was smell the faint smell of cigar as the man and everything about it was gone.

Shaking his head he shoved the card in his pocket and raised his hand for Jake to notice.

Fucking people are strange.

The Card – Introduction – Part One

It wasn’t an overly special thing, just a piece of simple card stock. No embossed this or hologram that. Just a 10-digit number, no dashes or spaces. It looked used, worn somehow, as it had likely been through a lot of things. A little bit of a corner was torn, the space just under the number looked like sandpaper had been taken to it. Even with these things though, it was an unremarkable thing.

The young man, we’ll call him Al for now I suppose, turned it over in his hand a few times and flicked it with the pointer finger of his opposite hand, a satisfying little noise was elicited and Al shrugged and picked up his cell phone and looked at the card again. All he had to do was call the number? All he had to do was say the thing he had been told to say and all of the..everything..would be over? As leery as he was of the claim, did it cost him anything to dial a phone number and find out if it was all bullshit or not?

That thought still in his head, Al decided to bite the bullet and quickly dialed the oddly rememberable number on the card. He didn’t know what to expect but it didn’t even really ring before a very genderless voice spoke in his ear. A pleasant voice and as nondescript as anything.

“Phrase in Full.”

Al swallowed and nodded as he repeated the words he had been told to say to the person who answered the number.

“Delightful Occurrences Happen For Reasons No One Ever Actually Imagines.” He emphasized each word and was probably over-loud as he emphasized the pronunciation and the enunciation of each word.

A half a heartbeat later the voice answered.

“Request?”

Now, this was the thing. The thing he didn’t understand. Al was on autopilot at this point and decided that the worst thing that could happen was that, well, nothing would happen right? So he said exactly what the request was, not a vague thing, a specific thing.

“I owe two-hundred thirty-seven thousand euro to a man named Loroche. He said he will hurt me if I do not pay him the money. There is no way that I will ever be able to get the money together in the time he has demanded and I would like this to..not to be the case.”

Another half a heartbeat.

“Request Processed.”

A click. An audible click before the connection was severed on their end and Al wondered what the fuck had just happened. He looked down at the card and sighed before cocking his head to the side. Was that the number he just dialed? He checked his phone and raised an eyebrow when he couldn’t find that he had even dialed a number. His heart started to pound in his chest and then there was a soft triple knock on his bedroom door that damn near made the skin jump off of him and hide.

“Yeah?”

“There’s a bloke out there that needs your signature on some document or other. It isn’t a subpoena, that’s all I could get out of him.” Trevor, his flatmate, was audibly pissed off and Al knew he needed to take care of this immediately or there would be a huge scene that no one fucking wanted, least of all Al.

As he stood up, he absently let the card fall to the ground as he opened his door to see the rather puzzled face of his flatmate.

“It’s fucking 7:15 in the morning on a fucking Saturday you fucking asshole, Go sign this fucking thing and let me get the fuck back to fucking sleep.” The words were spat at him and then, before a response could even be formed, the door slammed as Trevor went back to his room, leaving Al in the hallway.

He made his way to the front door and a very normal looking guy from the post was there with a half-smile on his face. He had a clipboard with one of those carbon-copy triplicate forms on top of it and he thrust it towards Al as he reached into the pocket of the jacket he was wearing and retrieved an envelope.

“Please, forgive the early hour, it came across as urgent and I was dispatched immediately to make sure you received your letter promptly. I just need you to read the paperwork and sign on the bottom line and I can let your and your house get back to your lie in on a Saturday morning.

Al vaguely looked at the paperwork and scribbled his name on the bottom of the page and the postman gave him an envelope that felt empty. Al thanked the man and closed the door. He opened the envelope rather quickly, hoping this wasn’t some bloody bill.

It was a cashier check, from the Bank of England for €237,000. The memo line simply read:

Request Approved

Gobsmacked, Al made his way back to his room on shaking legs. He sat down on his bed and read the check’s numbers over and over again and still couldn’t believe it. He knew he had to call the number back and say…something. He had to thank them for saving his goddamn life. he had to do..anything.

He saw the card laying on the ground, it’s blank, black, back facing him and he picked it up with still trembling fingers and flipped it over to get the number only to find it blank. Nothing.

Empty.

He flipped it over again and again. It was a perfectly blank piece of card stock. The damage, the aging, gone.

Blank.

New.