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3966x Pt.1

Fiction
Ryan W. Morgan

3966x Pt.1

Jay *Boss* Dawson is not a hero. Broke and beaten down, he half-works a shitty government job while drowning himself in whiskey and chasing tail to pass the time. But when a fully-loaded Mexican cartel cargo drone crashes in the backyard of his little blue rental home, everything changes.

Laredo, Texas

Monday, August 7, 2023

3:32 a.m.

I was so fucked up I’m surprised I heard the bang.

Even after everything went down — especially, maybe — I’m glad it woke me up. Before that sound, I didn’t have a lot of runway left. Couldn’t live like that much longer. I was done with it.

I reached toward the nightstand, fumbling around to find my gun. Genetic memory reaching for something that wasn’t even there. I don’t have a gun in Laredo.

Most of my shit got left behind when I moved from Phoenix. My Sig was just one example.

See, I’m a man of twists and turns. That meant things fell by the wayside. I moved fast and I moved on. I wasn’t always that way, it came to me honestly.

I didn’t give a shit about most of the stuff I let go, but at that moment I sure wished I had my fucking gun. I came to and stopped groping around for my old Sig, finally realizing it wasn’t there.

Is a tweaker breaking in? A pack of niggers?

I tried to shake myself awake. The whiskey wasn’t the issue, I could handle that on its own no matter how much. I just couldn’t combine that much whiskey with waking up from a short sleep and be good to go right away.

The system reboot would take a few minutes this time. Faster, Boss. Someone’s fuckin’ with you.

Eight weeks into my stay in Laredo, and I’d gone to the bars oh I don’t know nine nights out of every ten. Got lucky ‘bout one out of every three.

Almost always at Reyna’s, a dive on San Agustin. Tenth night? Beam, straight out the bottle, at home, in my shitty blue rental shack. Rent was fuckin’ $1750 to top it all off. Right into Evvy’s fat pocket. This night? One of the nine. I remember being happy there was no sexy little mamacita sleeping in my bed, not this time. Happy I struck out, for once.

Back to the noise, that loud-ass bang I heard out back my rental house had me rattled. I grabbed a black backpack, one of those shoulder slings with one strap. Had a Velcro patch on the back. The old-style California flag, stitched in black and white. I snapped it on, fastening the clasp in the front.

I have no idea why I did that.

I didn’t even bother to put on a shirt or a pair of boxers to go with it. The backpack was all I had on. A few seconds later I made my way to the back yard, a shitty square of dirt and weeds and ant hills and empty bottles of Jim Beam, stubbed-out cigarettes tossed out back for safe keeping.

The sliding glass door stuttered as it opened. And once it did, the August heat punched me in the face. I hated my first summer in Texas.

It was just so damn hot all the time.

An unrelenting inferno. I detested the fucking summer weather in Laredo, just like I did in Phoenix. In Phoenix, though, if felt like the heat came from the sun. In Laredo, it felt like the inside of an oven. I don’t care if admitting that makes me some kind of a pussy. I never said I’m a cowboy. I hate it. It’s too hot for humans to stay sane.

The clock ticked toward 4 a.m.

The night was black. No moon. I remember taking a second to think, to despair, before I gave myself a little pep talk. Be resilient, mother fucker. Don’t give up. Something will happen, it can’t get any worse. Be a Boss.

I turned around, went back into the kitchenette. It wasn’t a break-in.

The noise came from the back, but the door and windows were secure. Nobody inside the house. Made sense, to be honest. Who would break into this shit-hole? And why? To take what? You’d really have to be a broke ass nigger to try to steal from me. My sense of urgency went away, I breathed deeper and felt my heart rate normalize.

The sense of relief left an opening for a flood of thoughts. Everything rushed back, my past, how I got to Laredo. It made me feel sick, a tidal wave of regret. The adrenaline sobered me up. I grabbed a full bottle of Jim Beam from the counter.

Just calming my nerves.

Beam had become my go to whiskey. Before that, Jameson — black barrel — was my ride.

When I could afford it, that is. Before it all came tumbling down. I had to make a concession to keep my costs down. Jameson was a luxury that went out the window. Beam was the best I could do with prices the way they were.

This time, I walked all the way out into my shitty little backyard. I almost spat out my third swig when I saw a crashed drone on the dirt. It was a massive aircraft, at least compared to those little camera drones you see here and there. Turned out to be a Matrice 600 Pro with a cargo dock attached, I looked it up weeks later.

Eyeballing, I knew right away it could hold fifty or sixty pounds of stuff.

I took a deep breath and stood there for a minute, staring at the busted drone in my backyard, on top of the mix of dirt and weeds and ant hills with a few sprouts of grass here and there. And, for anyone wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, I knew.

I walked back inside. Clock had already jumped past 4:15 a.m. This time, I put on a recycled wife-beater and a pair of black boxers. Put the black sling-pack back on too. Slipped into flip flops. Lit up a Marlboro Red and flipped on the television, a fifteen-year-old plasma that belonged to the landlady. Damn near everything in the house was hers. All the shitty furniture was included in the rent. The TV had three dead spots where the picture looked like it melted away.

I used a cheap antenna to get local stations. An old John Wayne flick, The Alamo, played on GRIT TV. I sat down on the couch. A few more rips off my old friend Beam and I started to feel right. Relaxed, but sharp. My fatigue, suddenly gone, even though I slept less than an hour.

Get back on the horse, they say.

I was in the saddle and we were galloping. Once I finished my Red, I gathered myself. A minute later, I went back outside.

The drone just sat there, disabled, almost butted up against my rotted-out back wall. The aircraft had no power left.

Or, at least, there were no lights blinking. No beeping. Nothing. Totally disabled.

I didn’t have the remote control to activate the claw release of the cargo container so I had to fuck with it pretty damn hard to get that bitch to detach. At first, I tried to finesse it. That wasn’t working so I beat the shit out of the thing and then pried at the connection with a small crowbar I found on the back porch. In the end, the metal bent enough so I could get the ball out of the socket.

That damned Texas heat never went away, of course. Sweating my balls off, I finally got the container disconnected. I took another swig of Jim Beam and ripped through another heater as I stared at it, wondering how I would get that container open. The fucking thing was the thickest canvas I’d ever seen. A padlock ran through a metal contraption up top, securing two heavy duty zippers. They couldn’t be moved with the lock in place.

A decent lock cutter or a big enough knife and I’m good to go. Chop, chop, bitch.

5:00 a.m. came and went. 5:01. 5:02. 5:05. Time, always moving. That’s what time does, the whole point of it. Can’t be stopped. Wouldn’t want to.

5:07, I don’t have any of that shit handy. Just deal with it later, Boss.

5:11, I made a quick calculation to figure out if going back to bed made sense. I decided I should but realized there was no way I would sleep with that fucking container parked in my backyard.

My mind raced.

I decided to move it to the trunk of my car, for closure. Out of sight, out of mind. Might give me a chance to sleep.

I hefted the drone cargo first through the back and then out the front door of my rickety blue rental house, grabbing my car keys on the way. The front porch always sagged, rotten wood, the ground sunk, and this time even more so as I marched across it with what felt like a fifty-pound load.

I stashed the drone cargo in the trunk of my Chevy. Put the black backpack in there as well. Nice and tidy. Slammed it shut. Turned around to go back inside and get some sleep, when I noticed Martha watching me from across the way.

That tubby bitch, why the fuck is she up? What did she see?

Martha lived caddy-corner from me and was always getting in my business, trying to get me to come over and do God-knows-what to her. You’re too big for that, girl. Not climbing on. Imagine the dismount.

‘You’re sure up early, Jay Boss.’

‘You don’t say?’

‘Yeah, even the roosters are still sleepin’.’

‘Ain’t no roosters in Laredo anymore, Martha. I’m goin’ back to bed.’

‘What are you doin’, anyway? And did you hear that loud noise like an hour ago? I came out here to look around but I didn’t see nothin’.’

‘Just bringin’ out some… shit for work. I couldn’t sleep because of it, all the papers and stuff makin’ me crazy, so much to process, you know, at the border. I thought I’d bring it out to the car to get the crap off my mind.’ I said, then paused. ‘I didn’t hear a noise, but I had the tee-vee on so who knows.’

‘Yeah, it was like this pretty loud bang. I dunno. Prolly nothin’. I couldn’t sleep either, so I just come out here to pass some time.’

‘Well, good seein’ you, sweetheart.’

‘You too, Jay. You know you can always just come over if you’re having trouble sleeping. I got somethin’ for that,’ she said, licking her sausage lips.

‘You know I don’t have trouble sleepin’, Martha. Except tonight.’

‘I’m just sayin’ if you do… I got somethin’.’

‘I bet you do, Martha. I bet you do. And it’s tempting. I guess you never know.’

‘G’night honey.’

Before I walked back into the house, I did a quick double-check to make sure the trunk closed right. Good to go.

My bedroom hung cloaked in darkness and filled with the metallic hum of the air conditioner. Thing rattled loud as fuck but still could never manage to get the house to cool down. It’s no exaggeration to say that the blackout shades were the nicest thing in the house.

I stared toward the ceiling, wondering if the drone cargo held the answer to my life’s misfortunes. Packed into the back of my shitty old emerald green Chevy Malibu. Could be. Could also be a ticking time bomb. Could be really bad news.

I considered making some predictions. What’s in the cargo container? Who crashed it in my backyard? What would happen if I took off with it? What would happen if I stuck it out in Laredo?

Fuck it. Why? None of that shit ever turns out how I thought. Figure it out, Boss.

Part of me, even then, knew it was disappointment taking hold of me. Shaking me out, trying to get me to give up before I even did a Goddamn thing. A series of disappointments, like the ones that had landed me in fucking Laredo in the first place.

You see, failure and despair, they’re like a deep black shadow that follows you around.

But shadows can lift. Sometimes, you gotta lift ‘em. Then, light… hope… can break through. Right?

 

Laredo, Texas

Monday, August 7, 2023

7:19 a.m.

That fucking alarm came way too quick. It felt like one minute I put the drone cargo in the trunk and the next my phone blasted that damn noise in my face.

I need a shower… bad.

Didn’t get one ‘cause I hit snooze six fucking times instead. I’d have to settle for a swig of Beam and a cigarette.

Damn it. Damn it to hell, Jay Boss.

I fished around some clothes piles in my bedroom. Looking for something, anything, kind of clean. Something passable, that’s all I ask.

Options weren’t great.

I hadn’t done laundry in months. In fact, not since I lived in Phoenix. Worse, I had a bunch of shit at some cleaners in downtown Laredo.

Can’t remember which one.

I dropped it off right when I moved out, thinking I would start fresh, but never picked the shit up. And a metric fuck-ton of my clothes never made it out of Phoenix. The stuff that did make it to my rental house smelled like stale whiskey and cigarettes. Most had spots, stains, grease, grime.

This is far from ideal.

I patched together a blue suit and shirt. Suit, medium. Shirt, powder, and it had these enormous French cuffs.

Outstanding, I forgot all about this fucking shirt! A classic. Style, you are my friend.

No tie, though, and I buttoned a couple up from the bottom. Baller status. The shirt had to be five years old, and I hadn’t worn it since my friend Tim Timpkins got married. Wedding turned into a shit-show. And, yes, that’s his name. For real.

Found some cuff links, a miracle I still had them, after burrowing around for a while. I laughed. This shit has to do.

Not gonna lie, while I fastened the cuff links, I felt ridiculous.

I look like a fuckin’ homo.

But only for a minute. A second look in the mirror and it went away. I decided I could make this getup work with the right amount of confidence.

Be the Boss.

I splashed some water on my face and hair, pushed my hair back with my hand, grabbed my amber-colored distance glasses and hit the road. Hungover, but no big deal. The familiar ache in my muscles and the parched dryness in my throat were like old friends. A little annoying but all in all they were good to have around. They kept me down to earth.

I lit up and inhaled. No more Beam, though. Not yet.

Two things had to happen before I went in to pretend to push paper around. One of them coffee, a big coffee. The other? Of course, that cargo container, the one stashed in my trunk. Had to open her up and spread her out. Had to know what she carried in her belly. The possibilities gnawed at me.

I decided I’d pick up some bolt cutters instead of knifing the thick canvas open. Easier to carry later if I did it that way. Better to open it up real nice and keep it packed up good. I shook my head. Every respectable man has bolt cutters. But mine were gone, lost in the hurricane of my life. It’s just one extra stop. No big deal.

8:17 a.m., sun really starting to cook. I skidded out in the Malibu, heading east. Blink, ripping up the road. Blink again, slamming on the brakes in the parking lot, like an airplane making a rough landing.

The barista at Café Radical seemed zoned-out at first. Can’t blame her. She looked pretty damn good. And I hadn’t seen her working before, even though I hit this spot a couple times a week. Southern goth, White chick, maybe with a touch of Spanish blood judging by her eyes (dark green) and butt (round). Black tats, outlines only. She needs to finish those. I’d guess twenty-two, twenty-three. Something like that.

Great tits.

She managed a smile. ‘Good morning… what can I get for you today?’

‘Black coffee. A large. Or extra-large. I’m keeping it simple.’

The smell of fresh-brewed coffee offered a welcome change. As I ordered, I noticed that she gave me that little smile, that look.

She nodded. ‘Got it, one black coffee coming right up. Anything else for ya?’

Go for it.

‘Well, I was debating whether to add a splash of adventure to my day. Any recommendations?’

She laughed. ‘You know you’re in Laredo? Not sure we have a lot of that ‘round here. You can go bowling though. Name for the order?’

‘Boss. Name’s Boss. And I’ll bowl if you bowl with me. We can bowl together.’

She laughed again and looked me in the eye. ‘Boss it is. Better than the usual fake names I get here. I never heard that one.’

‘Oh yeah? What if it’s not fake, sweetheart?’ I said, slipping her my personal card from my wallet. ‘My friends call me Boss, always have. Jay Boss Dawson. Text me sometime.’

I thought the cards were hilarious, just a simple white card with my name, Jay Boss Dawson, and my current cell phone number, still from the 602 area. Surrounded by a thin black border line. Girls under twenty-five were never ready for that shit, they saved everything on their iPhones.

It’d been that way their whole life. This chick didn’t look annoyed. Instead, she blushed.

Cute.

‘I gotta run, sweetheart. Gov’ment job and all. But I mean it.’

Judging from her smile, I figured I’d get a text when she got off work.

Too bad I won’t be around much longer. I frowned as I headed for the exit. Partly because I doubted I’d ever get a chance to get to hang out with Ashley. Partly because I remembered the shit I stashed in my trunk with anticipation and a hint of foreboding.

A minute later, I barreled toward Clark Hardware. Doin’ a cool 55 m.p.h. in a 40. At checkout, I muttered some bullshit as I forked over the $203.38. I’m living broke-dick in a gay blue rental on a low-level government salary and they made me back up the cash truck to buy some fucking Chinese-made bolt cutters.

Not even well-made. Trash.

I told myself I would return them soon as I had the chance. In fact, fuck it, I decided I’d do it right after I cut the lock. You want to play games marking up cheap-ass imports?

Okay, let’s play games you sorry mother fuckers.

Back in the parking lot, it felt like the sun grew closer and closer to earth by the second. Just descending, right on my face. Down my throat. The temperature making a bee-line toward one hundred degrees, as if Hell’s furnace had relocated up my ass. I stood behind the trunk and took a few sips of coffee to force the moment to linger. I knew the stakes. Put the cup in the driver-side holder and snapped the zip ties off the bolt cutter.

I dripped sweat, pure Jim Beam streaming down my face and back. Shit’s 20 proof. Maybe 30.

Popped the trunk.

The cargo container stared back at me. Uneasy, but curiosity and exhilaration outweighed my discomfort, maybe 90 to 10.

Fuck it, let’s go.

A deep breath filled my lungs with hot Texas air and with a 5 second exertion, squeezing the bolt cutters, I snapped the lock off the container. Strained my shoulder in the process. I felt like an idiot, jumping up and waving my arm around like a windmill to get rid of the shooting pain.

The sweat kept coming, but with that son-of-a-bitch off the container I was free to open up the thick nylon bag. Just had to pull on her and take a look inside.

The Texas orange sun beat down. Moisture hung heavy in the air. I glanced back at the entrance to the hardware store. Foot traffic picked up as the clock ticked past 9:00 a.m. Handymen, contractors, workers sauntering in and out. Buying two-by-fours, nails, screws, drywall, razor blades, replacement power tools if one went bad or walked off a job site. Clark’s wasn’t doing bad business.

You ready for this, Boss?

I stewed in my own sweat, in the humidity… in the gravity of the moment. Then I went for it. I pulled the damn thing open. I expected it, but still strange to see the drugs in front of me. Packed in plastic, saran-wrapped inside big Ziploc bags. The container was stuffed with white cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, brown heroin, green weed, and, in the area farthest from me, cold hard cash. I didn’t see any Chinese-Mexican fent, the shit these cartels were becoming known for recently.

Not sure I would recognize that anyway.

I fished around inside for a minute, trying to do inventory.

I had the final tally at 8 bricks of coke, 2 to 4, each, of the other stuff. The money was wrapped with bank paper in fat stacks, bound together into bigger stacks with rubber bands. I couldn’t make a good estimate of how much cash exactly. Definitely more than I had ever seen at one time, even in Vegas. It was a fuck-load. Over a million, if I had to guess.

I kept digging around in the container. A rectangular black stick, it looked like a big thumb drive, rested on top of some weed and underneath some of the dough.

I worried, for a second, that it could be some sort of tracking device but then it hit me. From my crypto days… from before the Luna crash… When I went from hundreds of millions to nothing in 24 hours… another story for another time… It was a hardware wallet.

A Ledger Nano X.

I hadn’t looked at one of those in about 15 months, since I chucked mine into the Caribbean, right off the coast of Puerto Rico. One look and it all came rushing back.

Fuckin’ magic internet money.

My own reaction surprised me. My heartbeat stayed steady, same with my breathing. My eyes darted a little bit, as I processed. But I felt no exuberance, no despair. No chaotic thoughts rushed through my head. Just stillness. Not happy, not upset. An intangible shimmer of the unforeseen, dancing in my mind like the radiant heat waves rising off the asphalt.

8:57 a.m. A minute later, as it sunk in further, I thought maybe, just maybe, it would be this fucking container which would make me exceed my own expectations. Cartel drugs and money, the pressure of having it, and keeping it. Somehow. Not sure how.

Either that, or I’d end up with my balls cut off and stuffed down my own throat by some guy named Rodrigo.

We’ll just have to see.

And, oh yeah, I shut the trunk, made sure it locked, and walked the bolt cutters right back into the hardware store to get my money back. Told the gimpy clerk I changed my fuckin’ mind and didn’t need ‘em. Miffed, he opened the register and gave me back my money.

Don’t fuck with Jay Boss.

 

 

Laredo, Texas

Monday, August 7, 2023

9:23 a.m.

I decided to fuck off of work for the day. Running late already, and I didn’t give a shit about the place anyway.

My job was a boring shit-show, why did I need to be there to pretend to process a bunch of illegals into the country? Some of them cartel-affiliated, for sure. I’m gonna go do paperwork for the guys whose shit I have in my trunk?

I don’t think so. Nope.

Those fucks weren’t going to show up for their court hearings anyway. That meant the paperwork I didn’t do wouldn’t be missed.

That flood happened with or without me, nobody who mattered cared. I didn’t want to be part of it.

Not today. Not anymore.

The rest of the government staff wouldn’t even notice that I didn’t show up. My supervisor, a fat dipshit, would have no clue. A credulous system pig on direct deposit, chewing up two weeks at a time and shitting out pay stubs and perquisites. Nobody there gave a damn, they all hated the fucking place and just showed up because they thought they had to in order to get paid.

I am not smart. Still, I knew the deal better than they did. That’s why I skipped three or four days every week. One day — a few minutes — was all I needed to make sure the stack of papers on my desk didn’t get too tall.

No stacks of paper means no attention from the boss.

The heavy-duty shredder took care of that shit.

The Hump Day Shred, I called it. That’s ‘cause my job attendance record stood almost perfect on Wednesdays. The beige walls, the fluorescent lights, the bureaucratic rhythm of nothingness. A symphony of tedium, the weight of meaningless routine. The ticking clock of indifference, with an I-don’t-give-a-fuck look on my face and everyone else’s. Fat, dumb bureaucrats, listless vessels, milling around, waiting to go home at five to watch television and eat processed carbohydrates. Then they fuck off to bed and do it again the next day.

Not Jay Boss. I got other shit to do.

I mastered that Wednesday scoop and dump. I always shoved all the paper off my crappy Chinese-made particle board desk, that toxic piece of shit, into a bin and ran it right through the shredder.

I’d head back to my desk. Then I would type a few emails about ‘circling back’ and ‘touching base’ and ‘re-upping the data points’ or ‘checking the inflow versus the outflow’ and other dumb shit like that. Lots of mentions of ‘procedures’ and ‘protocols’ and always a strong deference to ‘the regulations.’ Pretending to give a fuck, even though in reality I laid it on pretty thick. Took me about twenty minutes to bang those e-mails out.

I can type fast AF if it meant I could get the hell out of that office. The whole scheme worked.

Freedom.

I hadn’t done any real work since I took the job.

Anyway, I’m sorry for that digression. But that’s the skinny on my job. That’s what I used to do there.

Nothin’ more to it than that.

I focused back on my surroundings as I floored my Malibu out of the parking lot onto Clark Avenue, ripping past the murals on some elevated road walls showing Mexicans and flowers, flowers and Mexicans. Lit up a Marlboro and sucked in the sweet tobacco smoke. I held it for a five count, for good measure. I needed some time to gather myself, some downtime to get my legs underneath me. Couple minutes later my coffee’d been drank. Still thirsty, I started in on the Beam.

Time to go home and change.

It was hot as balls and my blue suit and French cuffs were specifically picked for the office. And I wasn’t going to the fuckin’ office, not anymore. I wanted a tank top, shorts and some flip flops. 105-degree temps were coming up in a couple hours. 40 straight days over 100. Almost every day I lived in Texas felt like the inside of a pizza oven. Like I said, hot as balls. The less shit I had on, the more manageable the day would become.

It’s crazy to think, in hindsight, about how slow my getaway started at first. Even with the shit in my trunk, I had a mind to spend the afternoon drinking Whiskey at Reyna’s. On the clock for my government salary job, protecting the border as well as anyone.

I scrapped the shit out of my plan to change as I hung a right on Juarez Avenue, just a few hundred feet away from my crappy blue rental.

Right after I turned, I saw three big-ass Mexicans climbing into a blacked-out Cadillac SUV about fifty feet in front of me.

Tough guys. Neck Tattoos. Trying to look hard. Succeeding, mostly. Their height was funny, but otherwise, yeah, they looked pretty tough.

Coats in the summer. These guys were armed to the teeth, no other reason for dressing that way in these temps. They were about five houses down from mine, standing out like sore thumbs. Not because they were Mexican. We had a lot of them in the neighborhood, a lot of them in Laredo. These ones were out of place because of their size, their tats, their shaved heads, their uniformity of appearance, their vehicle, their black sunglasses, their purposeful manner, the urgency in their motions, their body language in general.

These were some hard-core operators. Probably some pretty bad mother fuckers. At least they wanted people to think that.

The drone. There’s no way those dudes are not here looking for that crashed drone in my backyard. IN MY BACKYARD. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

Fuck.

I remember being amazed the Mexis couldn’t zero right in on the bird. But maybe the battery ran all the way out, or something on the tracking or control panel got busted in the crash. A beacon or whatever. Some receiver, smashed to hell. I didn’t know and to be plain honest I didn’t care. It just crossed my mind as a curiosity.

I drove straight past that blue rental house without stopping. As I passed it, I took a glance to the left, more than two months in that dumpy blue rickety-ass piece of shit, sweating my balls off. I wouldn’t miss that fucking shitbox, but I still took a look.

No memories came back, nothing.

Jim Beam, if I had to name something. Drunk, crashing after hitting the bars. Women. I did have a lot of women in there, fifteen prob’ly my best estimate. Or twenty.

Nah, fifteen. And more power to ‘em.

Some of them were pretty fun. Karaoke night was like spearfishing, they were ready every time. Some, to be fair, not so memorable. But like I said, as I drove past I had no feelings at all, I wasn’t anxious about anything I left inside. Maybe the tank top and shorts.

Not worth dying over some cotton.

I couldn’t think of anything I needed that I couldn’t replace with a trip to Big Jim’s Liquor. Keep moving, Boss. Keep pressing the pedal.

I took stock of the shit in my Chevy. My phone. I had a lot of torrents downloaded on my phone, which would be good for the ride. Wherever I went. West, I figured. But my bluetooth speaker is in the house. There. There’s one thing I’ll miss. My fuckin’ bluetooth speaker.

I ran through everything over and over. I had the clothes on my back, the wallet in my back pocket. Some stuff in the center console. CDs. A pack of gum. A 24k gold medallion from the Kennedy Campaign in ‘62 that used to be my grandpa’s. Came from his dad. Random garbage on the floor of the passenger side. In the trunk, a few empty Jim Beam bottles and that cargo container from the drone. Coke. Meth. Heroin. Weed. Cash, a fuck-load of cash. And a crypto stick.

All that shit added together worth… hundreds of thousands? Millions? I don’t know. I mean, it depends on the details.

I had fuck-all of a plan to deal with it. I just wanted to survive it.

I needed to pull myself together, so I drove to Reyna’s over on San Agustin and started ordering whiskeys. Doubles. To be honest, I didn’t have to order them, the bartender knew what I liked and brought ‘em to me on sight. I always tipped well in there, and they never said shit about my smoking. So I chained one after another. I unlocked my phone and fucked around on Tinder. A little bit on Instagram. Also X, just to shit-post and tell Elon Musk to fuck himself for his censorship.

I got a new match on the T and she suggested meeting up on her lunch break. Her profile said 27 and she worked downtown at Border Beauty Supply. Definitely down, you could see it on her face. But before I could plan with the Tinder girl to join me at the bar, I got a text from Ashley, the Barista from earlier, letting me know she got off work.

I guess Ashley’s shift started at 5 a.m.

I chose her since I’d already seen her, and Tinder photos were hit or miss. I didn’t want to invite a unicorn over to Reyna’s and have a donkey show up.

That happened to me, more than once.

I could tell Ashley wanted me to buy her a drink, but I had other plans. Too impatient, too wired up from the drone shit. I suggested we use the bathroom instead. We went in as two but came out as one. She wasn’t bad at all. Tight, wet, enthusiastic.

She looked me in the eye.

After, we hung out for a while longer.

‘So what do you do, Jay Boss?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘I don’t know… work, I guess. Where do you work?’

‘I work for the government.’

‘Do you like it?’

‘No, Ashley, I don’t. I don’t like it… at all.’

‘Then why do you do it?’

Side-eyed her.

‘Why? Why do you work at the coffee shop, girl?’

‘It’s something to do.’

‘Yeah, that’s exactly right.’

I ordered one more double and bought Ashley another vodka tonic. The girl earned it, and I would miss her for sure. The jukebox played some shit I’d never heard before, rockabilly if I had to label it. I settled up with the bartender, a leather-skinned woman whose eyes had seen too much.

Time to go.

A quick goodbye and a kiss for Ashley along with a ‘Let’s do it again, girl,’ and I ventured out in the Texas heat. Sweating balls, again. I couldn’t believe the weather got worse while I hung out in the bar, but it did.

I walked out on the streets of Laredo anyway. I had no choice.

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