By Matthew Buza
Alone In The Darkness - CHAPTER ONE
The red evening sky peeked through the clouds and flowed through the city of Everett out along Ebey Island. The river split cupping the island dotted with homes and wire fenced pastures. The island levy was barely visible from the hill above where the man stood next to his car thumbing a cigarette nervously in the light drizzle. Behind the man came the night pouring through the Cascades.
He pulled out his phone swiped quickly with his thumb. The message still said delivered.
The man paced around his car, thumbing through his contacts selecting a number and brought the phone to his ear.
“Hello,” the phone answered.
“George, it’s Steven.”
“What’s up, man? You want to come over tonight?”
“No I can’t. Actually I’m in a tough spot. I owe some money and I need a little help.”
“How much do you owe?”
“A couple thousand. “
George’s voice couldn’t hide his surprise, “Who do you owe it to?”
“Hector and his crew.” There was silence on the line.
“Shit.” George’s voice sounded like the air had been taken out.
“I know man, it’s bad.” Steven's head dropped to the ground and then back up as traffic passed by. Vehicle headlights illuminated his car. His shadow stretched along the brambles and out over the cliff.
“Steven, I…” He paused for a moment, “I don’t know if I can help right now. I’m out of cash and the stamp money won’t kick in for a few days. How soon do you need it?”
“I need to make a delivery tonight.”
“Is there anything you can pawn? Can you talk to your mom?” Steven winced.
“I turned in what I could and scraped together a little money, but I still need more. I’ve moved some of the product, but I’ve got more.”
“Damn, why did you get in with that guy? You have a good thing going on right now.”
“I know, I was dumb. I was speaking with one of his street guys one day and it sounded like a sure thing. I thought I could move some on the side and no one would know. “
“How much do you have left?”
“About 10 bags of Meth.”
“That’s not much. How much did you pull down?
“Shared some with some people and moved a little.”
Steven could feel George’s disappointment on the other side of the line. He had known George since high school and it burned to think of involving him. George questioned Steven, “How soon do you need it?”
Steven paused, “I’m not sure. I sent a message to Juan asking for more time.”
“Man, I will see what I can do but I don’t think I will be able to help. I’ll check to see if anyone might want your excess. I’ll let you know if I hear anything. I’m sorry.” Another pause, “Be safe, these are not good guys.”
Steven let his breath out as he spoke, “I know, thanks for the help.”
He brought the phone to his side and stared back towards town. A light mist fell around him. He walked around and got into the car and reached down under the dash pulling on a hidden compartment. He removed the bags and rolled them in his hands. The green light of the dash illuminated his face in the failing evening light. He had been in tight situations before, but this was the first time he felt this type of pressure.
The door closed and he slumped into his seat. He mouthed to himself, Think, think, think. He pulled out his phone and began to type the same message to a wave of contacts, I have some ice I need to move. Any takers?
He sat back and rubbed his hand repeatedly on his pants as if trying to remove something unseen. His fingers crooked like claws. He needed help focusing so he reached into his jacket and pulled out a small glass pipe and laid it on his lap. He reached for a small metal plate near the dash and removed the knife from his jacket, opening the blade. He pulled out a small bag and placed the translucent rock onto the plate. With the butt end of the knife he ground the rock into a fine powder. He pulled a small straw out from the dash, filled the bottom end and placed it into the glass bulb. He raised the bulb to his mouth with the lighter underneath.
His phone lit up and buzzed, I’ll take some.
Steven’s eyes closed. He opened the flame and rocked back and forth under the bulb. His mind shrank to the green swirl of the flue. He rocked the lighter over the bulb ensuring even heating. The powder slowly began to melt into a clear liquid. A light smoke began to lift from the bulb and Steven began to pull. His lungs filled. He could feel the burn and held it in. 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds. Out. He placed his lips on the glass piece and pulled again. The smoke pulled into his lungs, entering his body, racing to his heart and mind. He lowered the bulb to his lap. His eyes opened to the world clear and smooth.
Another buzz and the light from his cell phone, If you have something I’m interested.
Steven leaned back. He could feel the rush and he began to focus. The minutes rolled off as he sat in the car. He checked his phone messages and scrolled past the junkies and meth heads; there was one message that mattered, and that was from Juan. The message was clear and it was marked Read. His eyes drifted from the screen empty and wishful. He could only imagine the discussion occurring on the other side of that text, Read. That tenuous link over the digital distance. Meaning and mystery. What could they be thinking and would he get the time to make things right?
The screen turned black and then began to buzz. the name Juan appeared over the front. Steve let out his breath as he pulled back into reality. His thumb hovered over the red button on the screen. In this moment he was overwhelmed with hope and fear. The phone buzzed again. He pressed and pulled the phone to his ear.
“It’s Juan.” As if Steven hadn’t seen that on his phone.
“Hey man, did you get a...did you get my text?”
“I’m sitting here thinking. I’ve got a lot to do today. One of those things is you walking up to me and placing an envelope of cash into my hand. I would then count that cash. Look up to you and then smile saying ‘Thank you for your business, Amigo’ and then watch you leave.”
“And then you would walk back to your car, get in, and drive off.”
“And I would then go back to Hector and say, ‘That Steven guy paid up’ and we could all have a beer. But in reality I’m sitting here, with lots on my mind, and my phone tells me that you’re off probably smoking up the stash, shitting your pants, hovering over a keyboard asking for more time. This makes me upset.”
“I just wanted to know if I could hold off until tomorrow.”
“Steven...you’re free to hold off until tomorrow. That is fine. Your choice, my friend.”
Steven leaned back with a small smile and let out a breath, “Thank you.” He could feel the pressure lifting. Another day might be all he needed.
“You’re free to do that. And when you’re sleeping tonight it will be my choice on how I am going to scatter you across this county.” There was a pause as the word scatter hung in the air. “Tonight at 11pm you will be here in front of my house handing me cash. By the look of it you have just over three hours.”
Steven’s chin hit his chest.
“Steven?” There was a pause. “Steven?”
Steven could barely open his lips. It was dry and his tongue was sticking to the roof. “Steee...ven?”
Steven licked his lips. “Yeah.”
“Steven. I need you to acknowledge what I just said.”
“I hear you.”
“11, Steven.” The call ended. There was a silence in the air and he couldn’t breathe. His body was frozen in fear. The car sat motionless in the light rain. From the road the lights showed on the brambles as cars and trucks drove by. Steven began to punch the steering wheel and scream into nothingness. The sound of his screams and the screech of the horn were drowned out by people rushing by, trying get home for the evening. Ahead of the car a valley opened up to an island wrapped by a river and in the distance, a city on the sound. A city that offered Steven no peace.
The above chapter was an excerpt from Alone In The Darkness. Which is available on Amazon, Buy Now.
About The Author
Part-time engineer, part-time farmer, part-time author, full-time stay at home dad. I’m a Podcast Junkie and addicted to storytelling and radio dramas. I have been known to dabble in the Belgian Trappist Beers.