That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More
Download this chapter in PDF format. (Right click: Save As)
“What the hell is going on?” Archie yelled loudly over the squeaking wheels of the cab. No-one would answer him. Not this time, not any of other times he had tried either. Archie remembered that the cab had pulled over after something had hit them. He didn’t know what had collided with them. Well, actually he could guess. It was probably a car or a truck of some sort. He couldn’t get more specific about the make or the model or even the colour though. “Can’t have been too big,” he reasoned to himself.
There was a point just after the crash had happened that Archie had willed the impact to be harder. There might have been a chance to escape, to get attention to call the cops. But the more that Archie thought as he lay in the trunk, it was probably for the best. If whatever had hit him had been bigger he’d probably dead and never find out what happened to his daughter.
Archie tried to twist into the position he had been lying in before the impact. He tried to think of wide open spaces or lying in a hammock somewhere tropical, his cares floating away with each sip of a margarita but it didn’t help, Archie’s back was killing him, the ride was playing havoc with a trapped nerve. The cab was moving slower now, over something resembling railroad tracks, shaking the hell out of him and his fillings.
“I thought the cabs in this city were supposed to have good suspension?” he said to the suitcase that he’d named Wilson for lack of imagination and because he’d seen the Tom Hanks movie the previous evening on TV while pacing the hotel room waiting for words he didn’t really want to hear.
Wilson said nothing. It didn’t have a face and Archie wasn’t really sure he was talking to the right end. Beyond that Wilson knew next to nothing about cabs except for the spaciousness of where they happened to be riding right now.
Archie was going to chastise his silent companion to stop himself losing more of his mind when the engine died. Archie lay still for a second, his body stiff and tense. A thousand scenarios raced through his head, nearly all ended with him being beaten to a pulp, but in a few he managed to surprise his captor, make a run for it and grab the attention of a passerby. In one it was an ordinary citizen, in another an army of cops and in the final one, perhaps most implausible of all he managed to attract the attention of the Hulk.
Hulk mad. Hulk smash. Archie free. Archie hallucinating. Archie mad.
The trunk popped and Archie tried to spring forward before the metal had even been fully lifted, catching whoever it was off guard and sending them both to the floor.
Archie screamed. Not in rage, but in pain. That hadn’t done his back any good. Part of the bodywork had caught the captor in the head, Archie fell into him and the two crumpled to the ground. Archie’s captor was now down and out cold on the ground.
“That’ll teach you for kidnapping me and my daughter,” Archie yelled before grabbing the captor by the lapels of his jacket. Archie’s jaw dropped as he realise it wasn’t the same guy who had bundled him in the back of the cab. This guy was smaller, more rat looking. Archie looked down as he stumbled to his feet and turned just in time to be cut down by a glancing blow from the fake Russian.
Archie landed atop the other captor.
“Get up,” the fake Russian said, now with some sort of Mediterranean accent. Archie couldn’t be sure exactly. Greek maybe, definitely one of those islands around there.
“I was until you hit me.” Archie’s own comeback surprised even him. He usually wasn’t that fast with the wordplay and realised that it probably wasn’t going to make this experience any less painful.
He checked his teeth, they all seemed to be there, except for the one that his brother Johnny had tied string around and attached the other end to the door when they were kids. Their parents had refused Johnny an allowance raise so Johnny had decided to just get money from the tooth fairy. All he ended up getting was the belt, and he wasn’t even allowed to keep that.
The fake Russian kicked him in the hand. Archie felt something snap. He looked down. Sure enough his pinky digit had been bent a little more than normal. He could still pretend he was drinking tea the posh way though, so perhaps it wasn’t all bad. Archie contemplated asking for a drink for a brief moment. The fake Russian kicked him again. It hurt just as much the second time, and Archie decide it was best to get up and perhaps not ask for a cup of tea right this second. Perhaps later after the Stockholm syndrome had kicked in. Maybe he would even make this guy a nice cup of tea.
The cabbie raised the heel of his foot about to bring it down across the back of Archie’s hand before Archie managed to scramble to his feet.
“Alright, alright.” Archie said. There was more than a hint of desperation in his voice. “What the hell happened on the way here? Why was I hit?”
The cab driver said nothing, and just simply checked his watch. A thin smile crept across his lips.
It was only now that Archie was able to look at where they were. His bearings weren’t the best, it wasn’t his city. To Archie’s less than discerning eye, it seemed like some sort of abandoned industrial unit. Weeds were growing through cracks in the asphalt. The cab parked outside of a gray glass fronted building set in the middle of nowhere as though this was a development brought to a halt from lack of cash flow and only the show office remained.
The cabbie thumbed in the direction of the office building. Archie didn’t move. The smile fell from the cabbie’s face and he grabbed Archie by the shoulder and began to mach him towards the dirty glass structure across the parking lot.
“What about your friend?” Archie said looking back over his shoulder at the prone figure by the trunk of the cab. “What about the suitcase? I was supposed to deliver the suitcase. I need to deliver the suitcase.”
“It’s too late for that,” the cab driver said as he pushed Archie through the glass doors with a rough shove. “You fucked that one right up.”
The cab driver retrieved a Beretta from the back of his jeans and turned off the safety.
Or go to Chapter 5 (now with downloadable PDF!) (last updated 03 October 2009 @ 4.15pm)