Black Petals Issue #81, Autumn, 2017

Nowhere Man in a Nowhere Land
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Mars-Chris Friend
Big Bear-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Drogol's Institution-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Haunting of Hell House-Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Killing Time-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Nowhere Man in a Nowhere Land-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Surviving Montezuma-Chapters 11 & 12-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Box with Pearl Inlay-Fiction by Roy Dorman
What was Lacking?-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
The Statue-Poem by Janet C. Ro

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Nowhere Man in a Nowhere Land

 

By Roy Dorman

 

Exchanging dimensions

 

 

“A mutual friend told me you could do something for me.”

“It must have been a mutual acquaintance; any friends I ever had died off more than a hundred years ago.”

Edward Alderson tried to suppress the gulp that had formed in his throat as he stared into the eyes of the old man behind the counter. All that struggle managed to do was to create a small shudder that ran from head to toe.

“Let’s not quibble over semantics,” said Alphonse Marcovici. “What do you think I may be able to do for you?”

Although Marcovici was very old, he still stood tall and straight. His long gray hair was shiny and full, swept back from his high forehead. He was a very imposing man.

“I, um, need to have a new identity. I need to disappear,” said Edward, getting himself under control.

Marcovici stared at Edward as if trying to understand what had been said. Edward thought that maybe the old man was telling him that the answer was “no.”

“Coming into a new identity and disappearing are two entirely different undertakings. Which would you like to discuss with me?”

Edward was feeling like this had been a bad idea. His friend, homicide detective John Avery, had told him that he had heard from a suspect that Marcovici could “make things happen” for people. Edward thought he might agree with that. If Marcovici was to say “Boo!” Edward felt he might wet his pants.

Edward decided he would start again. “I’m an attorney with a big firm downtown. I borrowed money from bad people to pay off some gambling debts. When those loans came due, I had to embezzle money from several of my clients’ accounts, or I would have ended up in the Hudson.”

He had blurted this out without taking a breath. It had taken a lot out of him to reveal the mess he’d made of his life to a stranger. Now, shoulders slumped, he stared at the floor in front of him, waiting for Marcovici’s response to his confession.

“Let’s talk first about what it means to acquire a new identity. Someone, maybe me, could help someone, maybe you, with the identification you need to start a new life elsewhere—like a driver’s license, passport, new credit cards, and other necessities to let people know who you are. A résumé for new employment and a good credit rating would also be helpful. Social Security and IRS history are more difficult, but it can be done. All of this someone like me could supply to someone like you. It would take a few days and it would be expensive. Of course, even if this work is the best that can be found, there would be no guarantee that you would not at some time in the future be discovered. That could happen in a year, or ten, or twenty...or, if you are lucky, maybe not ever.”

Edward listened to all of this and felt his disappointment grow. “Expensive?  How expensive?” he asked.

“The full package, as much security as can be supplied in dealings such as this, would run close to one hundred thousand dollars.”

“But I don’t have that kind of money,” Edward wailed. “If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Think. You still have a job, don’t you? You could embezzle the needed money and be gone with your new identity before it was discovered,” said Marcovici.

“I don’t want to hurt any more people than I already have. Sure, some of them are probably assholes who can afford it, but I don’t want any more on my conscience. Tell me about the option to disappear. Does that cost a lot?”

Marcovici stared at Edward. Edward thought about how this wasn’t working out and maybe he should leave.

“I could help you disappear for six thousand dollars. Five thousand would be my fee and the other thousand would be for things you would need to purchase to take on your journey,”

“Journey? Where? What about the cost of my new I.D. and changing my records? Do you mean I just up and wander off with the clothes on my back?”

Marcovici’s nostrils flared and his eyes flashed a bright red. (Edward involuntarily took a step backward and shielded his face.) “Do you want my help in getting out of the mess you are in? Would you like me to help you prepare for prison? Should I help you commit suicide? You have a number of options. I’m merely a person who can help you with the option you choose.”

“I need to sit down, please, Mr. … What should I call you?”

“Come into my back office. I am Count Alphonse Marcovici. You may call me Marcovici.”

Once the two were situated, Marcovici offered a chair. “Sit. My family lived for thousands of years in the area that is now Romania. I came to New York City back in.… Well, it was a long time ago. I desired privacy.”

When Edward furrowed his brow, Marcovici responded, “You think it odd that I say I have more privacy in New York than in my home country? When your family lives in an area for thousands of years, everybody knows your every move. If a child goes missing, the authorities come to you. If there is a drought, the farmers come to you. Just living life, even without taking advantage of its bounty, becomes tedious. Here, no one knows me and I know no one. As to my business, you might say I’m semi-retired. I choose my customers as much as they choose me.”

“I choose you. Will you help me with the disappearing option—the cheaper one with the journey?”

“I choose to help you, but not because I think you are a good person. I don’t place much value on good people. My empathy usually lies with bad people and the things they do. I guess your impulsive gambling and embezzling have touched me. Or maybe I’m just getting senile. Hah!”

This was the first time Marcovici had smiled. Edward was not comforted by it at all, since the smile seemed rather predatory.

“I will give you a list of the things you will need for the journey. You must secure for yourself everything on the list and come back here tomorrow with everything on that list and nothing else. Anything that is not on the list will not go with you on the journey. You can purchase it all with credit cards if you are low on funds, but my five thousand dollars must be in cash. Get that cash however you can. Understood?”

Edward nodded and took the list. It had been prepared in advance and seemed to have been professionally printed. Edward left the office with the promise to return by ten the next morning.

 

There were things to wear: blue jeans, a heavy work shirt, socks, underwear, and sturdy hiking boots. There were things to pack in a large backpack: extra socks and underwear, energy bars and energy drinks, a .38 revolver with a shoulder holster, a couple boxes of ammo, a hunting knife and sheath, and some bottled water. Also allowed were four packs of cigarettes and a couple rolls each of quarters and dimes for trading. There were things specifically mentioned not to bring: alcohol and drugs.

Edward felt a little happiness slip back into his psyche. This was a pretty bare-bones list, but it seemed like Marcovici knew what he was doing. He or someone knew exactly what would be needed on the journey. And, best of all, Edward would disappear before his embezzling was discovered.

 

The next day, Edward stepped into Marcovici’s office precisely at ten. He had everything on the list and not a single thing not on the list. Marcovici didn’t frisk him, but rather looked him over for a bit before staring into his eyes. Edward thought Marcovici could probably tell if he had brought anything he shouldn’t, much like some poker players can read the other players at the table.

“Good,” said Marcovici. “You have everything you need and nothing else. You are ready to go. My price doesn’t include a tutorial on how to stay alive while on the journey, but I can give you some very practical advice: Don’t trust anybody.”

“That’s it?” asked Edward. “That’s all you can tell me? Not whether it’s hot or cold, full of hostile natives or dangerous animals—”

“For five thousand dollars I help you disappear. If you’d rather stay here, you will eventually be in prison or the morgue. If you go and follow my advice, your destination will allow you to live for a very long time, maybe even longer than I have lived. Now, if you are ready, I will see you off.”

There was a heavy oak door in the back of the office. Marcovici walked with Edward to the door. Before turning the knob, he said, “I will open the door, you will walk through, and I will close the door. Once you are through the door, and it is closed, you will not be able to see it. This building and neighborhood are in a different dimension from where you will be. I tell you this so you will not be alarmed and possibly panic. Your first few minutes of the journey are probably your most important minutes. Don’t trust anybody.”

 

Edward stepped into another dimension and blew out the breath he had been holding. The first thing he noticed was that the sky was a much deeper blue than he was used to. In that deep blue sky were two suns more reddish than yellowish, and he could look at them without shielding his eyes. The terrain was level for as far as he could see, with few rocks, trees, or anything else breaking the view to the horizon.

He took the .38 and shoulder holster from his backpack and strapped the holster on. He chuckled to himself as to how he immediately felt more macho. He had never fired a gun in his life, and here he was, alone against whatever this dimension could throw at him.

About a hundred yards off, he saw someone stand up from the ground. The person waved and yelled, “Hey, did you just get here?”

Edward watched as the person started to walk toward him. When the person Edward thought was a man stopped about fifty yards away, Edward could see he was holding his right hand behind his back. At thirty yards, Edward pulled his revolver and shot twice, missing both times. The stranger pulled his own revolver from behind his back and leveled it at Edward. But Edward already had his .38 aimed at him, and this time didn’t miss.

Holding his gun on the stranger, Edward cautiously walked up to where he lay. His shot had caught him in the throat and the man lay there with his hand over the wound, trying to stop the flow of blood. Edward kicked the dying man’s gun from his other hand and then fell to his knees to throw up.

“It gets easier!” yelled someone off in the distance. It was a woman’s voice. Edward wiped his mouth and stood up to face her. She was about seventy or eighty yards away and held her pistol in her hand. “Welcome! But remember: Don’t trust anybody!” she yelled. Having said this, she turned and started walking away from Edward.

“Wait!” Edward called. “I’m Edward. Who are you?”

“I’m Anybody!” she called over her shoulder. “And you’re Anybody too!” She raised her pistol and fired a shot in Edward’s direction. At that distance she probably couldn’t have hit him: it was a warning.

“Maybe that’s how they say good-bye around here,” mumbled Edward. He thought about firing an answering shot in her direction, but decided to save his ammunition.

 

He watched her walk off until she was just a spot on the horizon. He then did a 360 degree turn, scanning the land between himself and the horizon, to make sure he was alone,

“I’ve been here ten minutes and already killed someone,” he said to the body that lay in front of him. “Ten minutes and three bullets.”

He found a flat rock and sat down on it. He hadn’t been here long enough to fully assess his new world. The temperature was moderate, probably about 70 degrees, and dry. He’d had breakfast just two hours ago, and, after killing a man and throwing up, wasn’t hungry. But he decided an energy drink would be smart and fished one out of his backpack. After finishing the drink, he retrieved the backpack from the man he had shot. Opening it, he found some of the same things he had brought with him, but also duplicates of some of those items.

“This guy must have killed at least one other person, and then taken their things. He may have set up shop near here waiting for people to come through Marcovici’s door.”

This made Edward think about the kind of people he would be running into. White-collar crime like his would pale in comparison to the murderers and strong-arm robbers who would have gone through Marcovici’s door to disappear. He wondered what the woman who had welcomed him was running away from. Maybe she was running from an abusive spouse. Or maybe she had killed an abusive spouse. 

“Don’t trust anybody,” he whispered.

 

Edward transferred most of the contents of the backpack of the man he killed to his own. He kept the bullets, but didn’t have the room or the need for another pistol and holster. He left these and one bottle of water in the backpack and then buried it in a shallow hole thirty yards from the body. He found a rock that would be recognizable if he had to come back for this stuff in the future.

“Marcovici said I could live here for a long time if I was careful. Where do people get things like food and water after what they brought with them is gone?”

He took note of two trees near where he had buried the backpack and would use them as landmarks. He then started off in the direction the woman had taken.

“Marcovici called this a journey. I’m less than a hundred yards from the door. I guess I should get journeying.”

 

Maybe More to Come

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, WI, who wrote BP #81’s “Nowhere Man in Nowhere Land” & “The Box with Pearl Inlay”  (+ BP #80’s “Andrew’s War” & “Down at the Hardware Store”; BP #79’s “Cellmates” & “Get Some Shelter,” BP #78’s “All Is as It Should Be,” BP #77’s “Essence of Andrew,” BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley,” BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy…” BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others,” BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower,” BP #72’s “The Beach House,” BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites,” BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love” and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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