– A Synco Mares short story in serial form
Posting three paragraphs at a time.
[POSTED Feb. 16, 2015]
He sat in his car and watched the front door of the house from a quarter of a mile away. The floorboards were littered with food wrappers, styrofoam cups and empty cellophane. The ashtray wasn’t the only thing that stank.
It wasn’t the gig he had wanted, though he had certainly campaigned for the opportunity to have it. It was the money from the gig he wanted. “All said and done, I’d rather have the money and not have to do the chore.”
But now, the chore was all that stood between him and getting paid, so he put down his field glasses, checked the rounds in his Glock, holstered it, and headed toward the squat adobe building he’d been watching for two days.
[POSTED Feb. 17, 2015]
Synco Mares advanced on the house knowing the pre-dawn breeze was coming off the canyons to the north and east. It blew across the rim of the gorge and carried his stale scent over his shoulder to the desert still wrapped in purple darkness.
Synco knew the woman in the house, Susan Alexander had a little dog. It posed no problem but he didn’t want to give her the heads up that he was there.
His plan was to reveal himself, take advantage of the surprise to grab what he had come for, be out the door and back in his car before she could even find her cell phone.
[POSTED Feb. 18, 2015]
By the time she’d get 911 on the line, he’d be halfway to Española and one step closer to giving that jerk from Mangrove Corp. the thing they wanted so badly.
Synco was on the front porch in the deep shadows of the portal on the western side of the house. His window of opportunity to get in and get out was right now.
He was only somewhat surprised to find the front door unlocked. It opened without a sound, but the air-pressure change created by its opening caused the wind chimes hanging in the archway between the kitchen and living room to sing a little. Synco stood still and listened.
[POSTED Feb. 19, 2015]
In the liminal light of pre-dawn, he could see the interior of the house and it was just as he imagined it would be from having watched the woman come and go.
There was the Navajo rug, the bulky leather-clad three-piece living room set, the coffee table made from a Pueblo drum. He imagined the kitchen had a red-chile ristra hanging in a corner. Based on the six weeks she’d been living in Taos, Synco knew it had gathered a little dust, but it didn’t matter because she wasn’t going to be cooking those chiles. Strictly decoration.
“Strictly decoration” was how he would have described the woman of the house to a close friend – if he actually had one. Susan Alexander, a skinny blonde in her late-40s, was Mangrove scientist Davis Alexander’s grieving widow. She’d come and gone from the house the last two days carrying paper shopping bags from the town’s expensive organic grocery store into the house. She had left the house once to go into town – her little doggie on one arm and a yoga mat rolled up and under the other.
[POSTED Feb. 20, 2015]
Davis Alexander, a typical-enough looking Los Alamos science guy in his mid-50s, was on Mangrove’s payroll prior to his death eight weeks ago. Within two weeks of her husband’s memorial, Susan had packed up their condo and moved to Taos from Los Alamos. She told her acquaintances in Los Alamos she was going to start over and that she’d be fine.
The guy from Mangrove, Jason Whitcomb, told Synco they a key piece of equipment Alexander had been working on was not in the lab after he died. Then the widow had left town. All attempts to contact her through conventional means had gone unanswered.
“It’ll be simple,” Whitcomb had said. “Just go get it and bring it back to us here,” and he pointed to the table in front of him.
[POSTED Feb. 23, 2015]
If Whitcomb had snapped his fingers before he pointed, Synco would have decked him and walked out of his office. I’m not a dog, he thought and regarded Whitcomb through eyes that had been trained not to narrow while they appraised.
“Sure. No problem. Piece of cake,” Synco said. He just wanted to know about the money. The rest of the gig seemed routine enough, except now, based on Whitcomb’s body language Synco knew he was not getting the whole story. He was being handled. Sniff it, find it, get it. Bring it.
He regarded how Whitcomb plucked at his shirt sleeve cuffs and a brushed off a minute piece of lint on the expensive navy blue suit sleeve. Textbook tells.
[POSTED Feb. 24, 2015]
“How much?” Synco wanted to know.
“We’ll pay your usual rate plus a bonus of 250-percent if you can wrap this up in four days. After four days we still want the equipment, but just think of the bonus as an incentive to help us tie up this last piece of Alexander’s research.” Whitcomb smiled and tilted his head suggesting this last piece of strategy was his idea and he was eager to take credit for everything once Synco brought in the McGuffin. “If she refuses to give it up, persuade her to change her mind. Do what you have to do.”
Synco couldn’t count the number of times he had heard that phrase and how many times the person who had uttered it was surprised when Synco had done just that.
[POSTED Feb. 25, 2015]
That was why Synco’s usual rate for doing anything was on the high side. He was quick, quiet and thorough.
So, when Synco let himself through the unlocked front door into Susan Alexander’s upscale adobe house on the western rim of the Rio Grande just before daybreak he was seeing plenty of what he expected to see in the home’s interior gloom.
When he slid past the archway into the kitchen and looked across the stone-topped prep island through the glass patio doors, though, he saw something he wasn’t expecting at all.
[POSTED Feb. 26, 2015]
Susan Alexander was sitting at a patio table with a white-haired man who had his back to Synco and the glass door. Synco wasn’t expecting her to be up and he wasn’t expecting her to have company. He hadn’t seen anyone else besides the woman come or go for two days.
Light streamed from something just behind them. At first, Synco thought it was a copper water fountain, overflowing. Something was shooting from its top in a gentle arch and landed in a pool of light. It wasn’t water but it glowed with a strange violet-blue haze and flowed around the feet of the two sitting at the table.
Susan looked up from studying the face of the man at the table and stared right at Synco who now was on the other side of the glass patio door.
[POSTED Feb. 27, 2015]
“He’s here, but he’s not all here if you know what I mean,” she said, smiling a little and returning her eyes to the white-haired man. “You’re here for The Singer, aren’t you. Mangrove sent you.” She said it like a fact and not a question.
Even though Whitcomb had not given him the code name for the item he was to recover, Synco was sure that was what Susan Alexander was talking about.
“I told you they’d be after it, Susan. I warned you,” the white-haired man said.
[POSTED March 2, 2015]
Synco slid the screen door open and Susan’s little dog – some kind of terrier mix – jumped down from a chair with a low growl but nothing more. He sniffed Synco’s shoe, looked at the woman then hopped back on the chair in a state of watchful attention.
Synco stepped out onto the patio far enough to see the fountain-like object and also the face of the white-haired man.
It was Davis Alexander. Synco recognized him from his research. Several ideas ran through Synco’s head and none of them made any sense. He didn’t want to signal that he was at a loss for anything, but this was baffling. Synco had examined Alexander’s death certificate and had watched Susan scatter what he had supposed was his ashes.
[POSTED March 3, 2015]
Susan watched Synco. He could almost swear she was suppressing a smile.
“Mangrove sent me to get this,” Synco said finally and indicated the fountain-like thing with a lift of his chin and a twitch of his lip. This marked him more like local muscle than a high-priced tracker and private detective, but he figured Susan would never catch this gesture.
Davis was staring off into the half distance, also looking at the fountain. Synco concluded this fountain was The Singer. The MacGuffin. The item he was to fetch and bring back to Whitcomb.
[POSTED March 4, 2015]
Davis now turned his face full on Synco and said, “Sit down Mr. Mares. Everyone has been anticipating your arrival and since you chose to sit outside in your car for these last two days instead of coming to us Susan and I have used the time together but now everyone would like to move forward.”
“How do you know my name?” Synco said. Nevermind how did these two know he had been watching them. Though Synco did not trade in self-doubt, getting caught while tailing people embarrassed him more than leaving the john with his fly unzipped.
“There’s plenty more you don’t know and the sooner we can fill you in, the sooner we can advance,” Susan said. She looked away from her husband’s face, took in Synco’s baffled expression and smiled fully, then dabbed at her husband’s chin again as Davis’s face assumed the absent expression of before.
[POSTED March 5, 2015]
Synco didn’t want to sit but it seemed like these two posed no threat, so he pulled the chair out and sat down at the table. The little dog was no threat either and eyed him from the fourth chair but kept quiet.
“Why don’t you start from the beginning,” Synco said. “Tell me what The Singer is and why they want it back, and I will tell you what I think you ought to do, under the circumstances.”
“We don’t need to ask you what we should do,” Davis said, “We already know. We were waiting for you to get here so we could do what has to be done.”
[POSTED March 6, 2015]
“And what is that?” Synco asked. He sat with both palms flat on the table. What was that odd vibration he could feel through the inch-thick green glass of the patio table?
The sun had crested over the mountains to the east and its full force was leveled at the three of them as they sat at the table. Susan reached over and tugged on a cord wrapped around a cleat screwed to the wooden post of the portal and a bamboo blind unrolled, partially blocking the sun’s nearly horizontal rays.
The sudden motion caused Synco to think about reaching for his gun, but his eyes adjusted right away and he was glad he hadn’t. No need to stir things up before they needed stirring, Synco thought, as he made himself smile and lean back in his chair, just a little.
[POSTED March 9, 2015]
“We need to destroy it. You can’t give it back to them. If you do, you’re dooming the dead to servitude and without a way to move forward through time into the light.” Davis’ voice sounded passionate even though his face remained bland.
“And don’t forget, before he destroys it he has to help me transition,” Susan said, reaching out with her hand to cover Davis’s right hand which also rested flat on the table.
“I won’t forget, Susan.” Then he looked back at Synco and said, “It’s the reason I didn’t destroy it sooner. I only wish I had destroyed it as soon as I knew what it was doing and why Mangrove was giving me the money to finish my research.”
[POSTED March 10, 2015]
“What does it do?” Synco asked.
“It keeps the dead on earth, uses their energy before they can employ that energy to transition to the next mode of existence. Once that energy is used, like a simple alkali battery, the dead disappear and never move on,” Davis said.
“You probably can’t see them now that the sun is up, but if you were to walk over to the rim of the canyon and look down, you’d see a milky haze filling up the area above the river. This milky haze is the stagnant backup flood of souls that have died since we brought The Singer here and fired it up, two weeks ago,” Susan said.
[POSTED March 11. 2015]
The odd vibration Synco could feel through his hands on the glass table was now noticeable through the soles of his shoes. He imagined, over time, the strange frying feel to the vibration would become uncomfortable.
He also noticed an odd ringing in his ears. It was coupled with pressure and the sense that someone was trying to call to him through the air as thick as syrup.
“Mangrove isn’t going to like your plans,” Synco said. “But I have to say I’m not happy with their plans, either.”
[POSTED March 12, 2015]
“Yes. There really is no question about destroying it. I am sorry I invented it. I am sorry about everything,” Davis said.
Synco’s left ear became a noise gate with a fast attack and slow release. Even though it sounded like Davis was talking to him through cotton wadding in his left ear, with his right ear could hear dogs barking nearly a mile away. It felt like there was something stuck in his left inner ear.
“There is,” said a voice which rode on top of other voices, which now flowed through both his ears as if he had finally zeroed in on a radio station with an old fashioned analog dial. “We’re all stuck here waiting for you and you better hurry because someone is coming for you right this moment.”
[POSTED March 13, 2015]
“They don’t think I’ll turn it over, do they?” Synco decided to question the voice rather than argue with it.
“That’s right. You have about three minutes to act and get away cleanly, or if you delay you might get away but it won’t be clean and you’ll be on the run from more than just Mangrove,” the voice said.
“Use this,” Susan said handing him a taser-like device. “Your gun will cause too much pain and confusion and I have to be ready to go as soon as I transition. We all do.”
[POSTED March 16, 2015]
“Listen to me carefully. This is how it must go. First, you must cause Susan’s heart to stop. She’s going to show back up right here, next to the Singer on the porch. Then, I want you to kill the dog,” Davis said this and put up his hands to ward off a protest that wasn’t yet offered. “It’s going to be harder than you think.”
Susan stood up and took five or six steps out into the middle of the backyard. She glanced around the garden then looked toward the mountain. It was like she was doing what she could to soak in as much as she could.
“Then, I want you to shut off the Singer. Just unplug it. You’ll see us fade out. We’ll look like our light is gone and that’s the easiest way to think about it. You’re going to have to give us 30 minutes to completely fade and transition. Not just us, but all of us.”
[POSTED March 17, 2015]
Davis’ gesture was small but it encompassed all the dead pooling up in the gorge, Synco was certain.
“Then what do I need to do with it?” Synco asked. He was sold on the course of action. Whatever Mangrove was up to, now, Synco wasn’t about to deliver the MacGuffin as planned.
“You’re going to have to melt it. Incinerate it. It’s the only way you’ll cut the thread,” Davis said. Synco could tell Davis was relieved he didn’t have to do any more convincing.
[POSTED March 18, 2015]
Davis might be relieved, thought Synco, but he was far from it. To do the things these two were asking meant Synco would be giving up things that were very important to him.
Incinerating the Singer meant he would collect no money. That meant his sister, Felicia, wasn’t going to get bailed out of Rio Arriba County Adult Detention Facility where she was being held on a $250,000 bond for charges of extortion and attempted murder.
Melting the Singer also meant Synco was also going to have to go into hiding immediately. Especially as he slipped down to Española to a cremator he knew was down in the basement of the DesMontes Funeral Home. When Mangrove found out what he had done, Synco was certain they would leave no stone unturned to find him.
[POSTED March 19, 2015]
Susan stepped into the house, was gone for a few seconds, then came back out onto the porch and said, “I’m ready.”
Synco looked down at the taser-like thing in his hands.
“Please don’t look at me when you do it. It will stay with you,” Susan said, her face pulled into a smile that did what it could to cover up her fear and resolve. She reached over to her dog, stroked its head then motioned for Synco to tase her.
POSTED March 20, 2015]
“Thank you,” Susan said. She looked away from Synco and toward her husband who sat at the table. He watched proceedings as if interrupting a human heart were something casual and every day.
Synco clenched his teeth, extended the taser-like gun, pulled the trigger and waited for the crackling zap sound he expected and the thrust of hot wires. He averted his eyes to the ground. There was no zapping sound, but he felt a thud in his own chest below his solar plexus.
He heard Susan slump to the ground. Her breath was already gone. Whatever this gun was, it wasn’t a taser.
POSTED March 23, 2015
“Now, you have to do Poncho,” Davis said. “Don’t look at him when you do it either.”
Synco dropped down to one knee and made a kissing noise to the dog. It was as if the dog knew exactly what was needed. It came to him, sat down and waited. Synco’s jaw tightened. He looked up and out toward the rim of the gorge and used the taser-like gun. The dog crumpled to the ground.
Davis was smiling now. His bland expression was exchanged for a cheerfulness that seemed inappropriate in the appearance of things.
“You did it. Susan is coming closer. I can feel her. Poncho will be here soon. Once they are with me, I want you to unplug the Singer. Wait 20 minutes. Susan made you a pot of coffee. Take a shower or whatever then grab the Singer and go,” Davis said. “The men from Mangrove are almost through Española now. By the time you get out of the shower, they will be out of the gorge and headed this way.”
Synco knew Davis was right.
He stood up and waited for Davis to tell him Susan and Poncho were with him.
“They’re here,” Davis said. His voice was full of emotion. “Do it.”
Synco unplugged cord to the Singer from the outlet. The steady humming and thrumming he had felt ceased. He watched as Davis seemed to unresolve and fade.
He poured himself a cup from the pot of coffee Susan had made for him but he decided to skip the shower.
It was still for 15 minutes, then a breeze blew past Synco in a direction that was unusual for breezes. It blew toward the gorge rim instead of away like it usually did as the light from the sun advanced across the high desert.
He pocketed the taser-like gun. Whatever it was, Synco thought, he was probably going to need it. As he opened the door to Susan Alexander’s house to leave, he saw a post-it note over a basket with “Charger for the gun” written on it and an arrow.
They thought of almost everything, Synco thought and barked a little laugh, except for what I do next.
He placed the new gun and its charger in the glove box and started up the old blue Subaru he had acquired for the stake-out. Some people have a burn phone, Synco thought, but I use burn vehicles. The VIN number was ground off and the plates belonged to a newly crushed Dodge Neon.
He tugged black ball cap onto his head, backward, making him look like the vato he knew he essentially was. The guys in the big black Lexus didn’t even give him a second look as he drove off past them. The rooster tail of dust streaming from behind their car was like a signal to clear out.