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THE SPARTAK TRIGGER
by Bryce Allen
“What do you call your act?”
The drunken asshole keeled over next to this beat-to-shit garbage can finishes vomiting all over the sidewalk and looks up at me with glassy, reddened eyes. He mumbles something I can’t understand, his slurred words sounding like some kind of extraterrestrial mating call.
I toss a dollar bill at the prick and compliment him on an impressive avant-garde busking routine. The narrator tells me that ‘transgressive performance art’ probably would’ve sounded better just as the boozehound collapses onto a sewer grate and howls an eclectic array of expletives into the crisp night air.
Business is slow tonight. For the restaurant anyway.
A handful of bored-looking customers are scattered throughout a spacious dining area. Dozens of tables sit empty as I continue to linger near the main entrance, pretending to scribe a lengthy email or text message on my state-of-the-art smartphone.
Out of nowhere this clumsy, weird-looking busboy bumps into me. He apologizes. ‘Profusely’. I don’t say anything but give the guy a harsh look, like he’s lucky to still be breathing after invading my personal space. He scurries off with his tail between his legs. I’m finally in character.
The mark is sitting alone at the bar, just as he’s been instructed to do. He looks nervous. Real nervous. I’m ten minutes late and he’s checking his watch every twenty seconds or so, probably telling himself he’ll get up and leave if I don’t show up soon.
But he won’t leave. It’s too much money. He’ll sit there for an hour if I let him. Lucky for him I’ve got a plane to catch, another appointment to keep. I take a deep, easy breath and make my way over to the bar.
The mark is momentarily distracted by something and nearly falls off of his stool when I ‘affably’ slap him on the back. I say hello and swiftly situate myself upon the open seat next to him.
“Jesus!” he shouts, nearly spilling his cocktail. “You scared the hell out of me.”
“Sorry I’m late.” I help myself to a handful of peanuts from a cheap plastic bowl. The bartender asks me what I want and I tell him to grab me whatever beer in his fridge is the coldest. He nods and asks the mark if he’d like another seven and seven.
“Yeah,” he says. “Make it a double.”
As soon as the bartender’s back is turned I reach into my overcoat and pull out a thickly-packed baronial envelope. I slide it along a surprisingly-glossy bar top towards the floor model businessman.
“What’s that?” he asks, his voice trembling.
“Consider it a down payment.” The peanuts are stale and I suddenly wish I’d picked a classier joint at which to ruin this assclown’s life.
“Listen, I’m still not sure if I want to do this… I’m not even sure I can do it. I mean, my security clearance is still only at level five.” The mark runs a recently-manicured hand through his thinning blonde hair, his ‘countenance drowning in a pool of discomfort’.
“Come on now, I thought you were some kind of hot shot Vice President over there at Tetrace.”
“Look man, I’m just a junior V.P. okay - a fucking nobody in the grand scheme of things. There are a dozen or so senior V.P.’s above me, plus the president, the C.E.O., the C.F.O., the board of governors, and so on…” The mark’s awkward anxiety is getting worse by the second, a light glaze now blanketing his dark, beady eyes. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”
I crack my knuckles. Purely for effect. I give the mark the look I gave the busboy earlier, just to let him know I’m not messing around. “You read a letter I sent you that promised you a shitload of money in exchange for betraying your employer and you’re a greedy son of a bitch. That’s what you’re doing here, Daniels.”
The mark glares at me strangely. He seems surprised that I know his name for some reason. The narrator quickly explains why I always set up these types of meetings by corresponding through the old-fashioned ‘snail mail’ system as our surly, beer-gutted bartender brings us the drinks we ordered. I toss a twenty at him and tell him to keep the change. He smiles widely, folding the bill in half and tucking it in his shirt pocket as he waddles back over to a poorly-mounted television set on the far side of the bar.
I lean in towards the mark, injecting a healthy dose of sternness into my ‘sand paper voice’. “Listen, Daniels, your security level doesn’t even matter. All my client needs you to do is copy and paste this file onto the desktop of any computer connected to the communal hard drive. That’s it.” I pull out a tiny flash disc drive and place it in front of him. “It’s foolproof. You can do it from anywhere in the building. Piece of cake, alright?”
He looks at the disc like it’s some kind of disease-infested dishrag. “Why me then, huh? Why don’t you just get some entry-level programmer or an inside sales associate to do it?”
“Because all non-executives at Tetrace are inspected upon entering and exiting the building, you know that. Take the disc. Do the job. Take the money. Buy yourself a nice condo someplace tropical.”
“Who’s your client? Is it Bleep? It is, isn’t it?”
“I’m not at liberty to divulge that information.” I decide to start talking to the mark like he’s a dimwitted schoolboy - a technique I used quite a bit on uncooperative gangbangers back when I was on the force.
“Okay. Look. This is really simple, junior V.P. boy. Pick the disc up and put it in your pocket. When you go to work tomorrow morning, plug it into the data port on some seldom-used computer on the tenth floor, which is being renovated.”
The mark’s disposition swiftly graduates from restrained fear to outright alarm. His lower lip stops quivering and then begins to convulse wildly, like a trophy-sized trout being pulled into a row boat. “H-H-How did you know about that?”
“It doesn’t matter.” I’m looking down at myself playing this character, the level of cool I’m radiating rapidly approaching absolute zero. “No one important will be around, just a few guys on the construction crew maybe. If someone you do know sees you just say you got off on the wrong floor by mistake, that you haven’t had your triple tall mocha latte bullshit yet and that’s made you disoriented. If you can’t get it done in the morning, just sneak down at lunchtime. It’ll take you five minutes tops. Two hundred grand per minute’s a pretty decent wage the last time I checked.”
Daniels clearly doesn’t like being addressed in such a condescending manner. He’s not afraid anymore, far from it. He now seems kind of pissed off that I would dare to talk to him like he’s some kind of simpleton. Good. Fear is almost never productive. Anger is at least a facilitator for action in most situations.
So now this skinny Ivy League graduate is ‘glowering’ at me. Harshly. I get the sense he’d punch me in the face if he wasn’t such a pampered weakling. That’s exactly what he is though. That’s exactly what all these guys are. He won’t do a goddamn thing.
“And you’re absolutely sure there’s no way this will get back to me?” the mark asks.
I peel the label off of the glacier-cold beer bottle I ordered earlier, its contents still untouched. “Absolutely not. The virus is on a three hour time-delay and will automatically wipe out any traces of when and where it’s uploaded as soon as it’s activated. Trust me. If you get busted it gets them one step closer to my client. Obviously that’s something we’d like to avoid.”
He takes the disc and the envelope, releasing a heavy sigh as he accepts that logic and tucks both items into his jacket pocket. “When do I get the rest of the money?”
I look around to give the impression that I’m concerned that someone might be watching us before responding in a ‘hushed’ tone. “There’s ten grand in that envelope I just gave you. I’ll transfer ninety more into your third party’s off-shore account later tonight. Have you got the routing digits?”
Daniels half-stands up and pulls a light blue index card out of his back pocket, clumsily handing it to me like a fourth-string quarterback nearly botching a basic run play. “And the rest of it?”
“The rest of the million will be automatically delivered as soon as Tetrace dot com goes offline. So. Do you understand completely what you’re meant to do here, sport?”
Daniels nods reluctantly, wiping a shimmering sheet of sweat from his brow with a grimy bar napkin prior to guzzling the entirety of his drink in a single swig. It hasn’t been one of my better performances but he seems to have bought it - hook, line, and sinker.
“Okay then.” I stand up and straighten my overcoat. The mark refuses to acknowledge me. He’s fixedly staring into the empty glass sitting in front of him.
“Aren’t you going to drink your beer?” he asks, plainly.
“I’m not thirsty. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Daniels. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
According to the narrator I’m ‘bounding giddily’ as I depart the scene but that sounds pretty fruity to me so let’s just say I’m glad it went well. Once I’m a few blocks away from the restaurant I whip out my smartphone and text my boss a pair of asterisks, letting him know that he should go ahead and proceed with the phony wire transfer. He texts me back one of those stupid colon/bracket smiley face things. I send him the account number Daniels gave me and shut my zPhone down for the night.
The only thing that can screw things up now is if the mark tries to use any of the counterfeit bills I gave him later tonight. But that probably won’t happen. I seriously doubt it anyway. You never know though. You can never be one hundred percent certain of anything after all, especially in situations such as these…
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About the Author:
Bryce Allen was born in Atlantic Canada in the early-1980s. He graduated from the University of King’s College in 2004 with a BA in History and currently resides in the United States. The Spartak Trigger is his first published novel.