Chapter 1: Nick
My boss finally fired me today, the fat idiot. He called me in to his office, gave me a whole speech, it was an outrage. "We run the Times like a family Nick," he said, "And in a family we trust everyone to do their part, we don't want to force them to work, that's not what a family does." On and on like that for a half-hour. Then after all that he broke the news, I just nodded, didn't say a word. Went to my desk, cleaned it out, and left. Good riddance.
When I became a journalist I don't know what I was expecting. I think I wanted it to be like it was in the movies, you know? Some intrepid reporter, going undercover and exposing a crime ring or whatever. Running around with my pen and notepad, with a fedora and a trench coat on like it was the 1930s, that's how I pictured myself. What did I end up doing when I became a reporter for the Times? Gossip, I ran the gossip column. Unbelievable.
No idea what I'm going to do now, I could try and get another job, my therapist recommended I take a month, just to get my thoughts in order. I have a money buffer, I could make it last a year if I needed to. He also told me to start writing this journal, 'act like you're writing it to someone, explain your emotions'. Explain my emotions. Then maybe I could dance with the fairy princess and fly over to Oz, just to make sure that I get rid of all my masculinity.
Matthias (the guy in the apartment down the hall) is making a racket again. I swear he's up to something, he's got people coming and going all day. Drug dealer probably, wouldn't surprise me. What I want to know is what he's doing when there aren't people pounding at his door. Sounds like he's welding crap, once I swear I heard an explosion. He's a nice enough guy, but there is something just... off about him. It's probably cause he's Australian. I've never trusted Australians, they're too nice, with their kangaroos and their Crocodile Dundee...
Speaking of Matthias, I was talking with him at the bar about an hour ago. Told him I was between jobs, and he said he had something in mind for me, if I wanted to take him up on it. At first I told him there was no way. He probably wants me to be like, a drug runner, or to blow something up. But now that I think about it, what if he did want me to be a drug runner. What if, for whatever reason, I agreed to do it, and I kept a journal the whole time. What if I documented the life of someone caught up in America's favorite industry? Isn't that what I've been wanting to do? The whole undercover reporter type? I should stop writing, it's mostly the booze talking at this point. I'm amazed I can even formulate coherent sentences.
I ran into Matthias again today, told him I'd take whatever job he has for me. Screw the whole 'wait a month' thing, screw my therapist. What does he know right? I don't know who I was kidding anyway, I only have a thousand in the bank, I can't last a year. I can't even last until the end of the month. And for all I know Matthias has a legit job offer for me, I'm just being paranoid with the whole drug running thing, and it's not like I have a choice.
You know, I wonder what that guy is smuggling, cause whatever it is, he's making bank. Yesterday, I saw him driving home in this nice orange, vintage car. Studebaker Avanti I think, convertible. It didn't have a scratch, the paint looked new, leather interior. I'm sure it cost him a small fortune, and I don't even know about anything under the hood.
Met with my therapist today, despite me badmouthing him in the first paragraph he was actually the one who pushed me to meet with Matthias. I know, I know, I said 'screw him, what does he know', then tak his advice. We also talked about my mom and... you know what? I don't feel like writing about her, and you, my imaginary reader, don't feel like hearing about her. So that's it, this is her last mention. Unless, she gets- I don't even want to think about her. I'm just sick now. I think I'll go for a jog or something, just to get some air. It's normal to jog at 1:00 AM, right?
I lost my journal, being the total idiot that I am. It's not like anything important happened, but just goes to prove what everyone's been saying about me my whole life. 'He can never finish things, he always starts then drops it when he gets bored.' Nag, nag, nag. Whine, whine, whine. Shut up. Anyway, I talked with Matthias, that's about the only important thing I have to say. He said to meet him in his apartment on the 24th, and that we'd discuss my job then.
Really, I cannot decide whether I trust him or not. Not that it matters, I've got to take his offer. I just spent my last hundred on groceries today, I'm no good with money. As long as he gives me a job like "here is a box, move the box from point A to point B and don't ask questions" I'll be good. If I don't know what I'm doing, if I can sleep well afterward, I'll be good. That's all I ask
I just got back from my meeting with Matthias, I think it did a lot to calm me down. There were two other people there, and both of them gave off pretty good vibes. It definitely was not the criminal, Godfather-esque atmosphere I was expecting. The first of the two was named Jones, but everyone called him Smith. Then when I started calling him Smith everyone switched to Jones. At first I thought it was an in-joke, but then I realized we were all meeting for the first time, with the exception of Matthias, who knew all of us. Smith (Jones?) had a kinda post-punk rock feel to him. Black hair, black button-down shirt, and jeans. He gave off a real friendly feel though, I think it might have something to do with his British accent.
The other one though, she was flat-out creepy. Natasha, she was Russian. Black gloves, black leather jacket, black khakis, and a shirt that started white and faded to red. Her hair was insanely blonde, almost white, and she wore it up with the exception of some bangs that she let hang down in front of her right eye. The tip of the bang was died red, matching her shirt.
Matthias was actually late, meaning we were left for about fifteen minutes awkwardly making smalltalk. Natasha introduced herself, and shook hands, but aside from that she stayed in her own corner while Jones (Smith?) and I talked about trivial things like the weather, and movies. He was apparently part of a rock band that had recently split up. I asked him what they were called, he said they were 'The Hedgeclippers', when I told him I had never heard of them, he looked surprised. "Really?" he asked, "We're pretty big back home." Natasha spoke up, making a point to let Jones know she had never heard of them ever. I swear she did it just to push his buttons.
Finally Matthias showed up, apologizing for making us wait. He offered to make us some tea, I casually declined, but when Natasha and Smith'n'Jones accepted it, I changed my mind. We were all sitting in his apartment's living room, and I was closest to the window. Down in the street I could see his orange Avanti, I'm insanely jealous of that thing. "So, down to business," Matthias said, "I've got a really good buddy up in Chicago, and he is loaded. He treats me alright, let's me borrow his private jets, always has me stay with him when I'm in town... Anyway, he has asked me to do him a really big favor, I mean really big, and he's said he's willing to pay me eight hundred thousand dollars to do it, that's enough for us each to walk away with two hundred thousand dollars. We wouldn't be set for life or anything, but we could definitely take a two or three year break from our respective jobs," or lack there of in my case, "with that kind of money."
"That sounds... highly illegal, what did you say we're gonna be doing again?" Smith'n'jones asked.
"See that orange Avanti out on the street?" Matthias said. Smithnjones walked to the window and peered out, "We're going the be driving it from here to Chicago for him." There was a silence.
"That's it?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's all we got to do," Matthias said, "He's a vintage car collector, and this Avanti is an extremely special one, he's willing to pay a lot to get his hands on it."
"So, why do we need four people?" Natasha asked.
"The thing about this car is that it's... well it's stolen," Matthias said, and a little red flag went up in my mind, "So we've got to be, you know... subtle about getting it from here to Chicago. Smith here is a master of disguise, if you'll excuse how ridiculous that sounds."
"It's true, when I was back with my band we used disguises to sneak out after a gig, avoid the fans."
"That like it's a bit excessive for a band I've never heard of before," I said.
"I told you, we're real big in Britain."
"Natasha is going to be our driver, her past line of work involved an underground racing ring, meaning she's a very skilled driver. She's also very good at staying unnoticed." Matthias trailed off.
"I won every race in that ring, until I brought it down anyway," she said, looking at her painted red nails rather than us.
"And Nick... you... uhm. Well, you need the money," Matthias said, I sank back into my chair and looked away, Smithnjones whispered in my ear, "Ouch man, it just got really cold in here."
And that's about all that's worth mentioning about my meeting. Tomorrow we're going to set off for Chicago, so I really should start packing. I think I misjudged Matthias, I was probably just in a rut because of being fired. He seems like a nice guy, maybe he operates slightly outside the law, but he's definitely not a drug dealer, and he's not going to blow up someone's grandmother. I've been worried about the whole 'blowing things up' deal... maybe that says something about me. I called my therapist, told him I was going on a road trip with some friends for a while. He said it would be good for me, and I'm inclined to agree. I don't know Smith or Natasha too well, but Matthias has been good to me for the short time I've know him, and Jones seems like he'll be fun to hang out with. Even Natasha seems to have a sense of humor, so it's not like I'm going to be driving across country with Hannibal Lector, Charles Manson, and Dracula. I have to be up at six though and it's already ten and I have to pack and eat dinner, so I'll write more later.