David DeLaine Snow
Without being consciously aware of it, Malcom McJones was listening to his favorite music on the radio too loud, and weaving in and out of traffic like a mad man. Only after cutting over to exit the freeway did he even glance into the rear view mirror and noticed a three car pile-up in his wake. Brushing it off as their poor driving skills, Malcom approached the signal light’s intersection, relieved the accident had not slowed him down. All he wanted to do was get as far away from work as quickly as possible to begin his lousy one week vacation. His second week had been denied.
Thoughts whirled is his rock-n-roll pounding mind of how to downsize his plans. Instead of going out-of-town to visit some old friends, he would just stay home and play the lazy bum all week. Actually, shampooing the carpet, reorganizing his seven hundred volume-book collection, moving furniture and playing computer games made the week fly by faster than he wanted it to. Realizing he only had one day left, Malcom decided to make it last by stretching it out doing nothing; starting with sleeping in late.
His plans went awry once again as he heard a thunderous noise, then a knock at his front door. His bedside clock blared in red numerals that for God’s Sake it was only 6:40 A.M. After stubbing his toe on a pile of books that had not yet been replaced to their proper shelf, Malcom managed to unlatch the door’s chain and dead bolt. His neighbor, Jacob Townsend was an early riser. It was Jacob’s smiling, apologetic face that greeted Malcom with an envelope that had been wrongly delivered to his address. Jacob had received some kind of footlocker through the mail, and its dragging must have been the thunderous scrape that woke his neighbor.
Only after watching his early-bird neighbor carry the green box into his apartment did Malcom even look at the envelope. It was plain white, and addressed in a cursive handwritten script: “Good Morning Mr. McJones.” Going inside, and locking the door behind him, Malcom tore it open. Inside was a computer web address. Scratching his head and making coffee, Malcom then pecked in the site’s nomenclature on the Google window. A second later the brightly illuminated screen went black displaying a single question and directions: Well, Mr. McJones would you like to win two hundred dollars, free and clear? If so then go to… Malcom recognized the address, it was just two blocks down the street. Thinking, ‘What the heck I’m already awake now,’ he dressed after his first cup of Mountain grown goodness then walked out to get some free cash.
The grey skies and sporadic puddles gave away the real thunderous noise that had awakened him during the night - rain storms. Yet the perfectly dry white envelope that stood erect at the base of the Stop sign belied the fact it had been recently placed in its careful upright position. Quickly glancing around, Malcom hoped to catch a glimpse of the secret messenger, but was met by empty parking lots and a deserted golf course. Again the envelope was addressed: “Good Morning Mr. McJones.” He tore it open as he walked back home and discovered the promised $200 in cash along with another web address.
Malcom mixed up another potion of black java and hazelnut creamer. The coffee’s delightful aroma waned as he pecked in the new search on his Dell computer. A second later the lime green screen displayed a new question and directions: Good for you Mr. McJones! Now, would you like to collect an easy $500 for a new book shelf? The cursor blinked about as much as Malcom’s staring eyes did. But a thought later revealed he recognized the location of the new address as well.
After his third cup of wake-up juice Malcom found himself flying down the freeway. Locating mile marker 494. He pulled over into the emergency lane of the overpass. At the base of the sign, a string was attached to a badly stained white cord with yet another envelope taped to the tail of the cord. Once again he was greeted by name, but this he time read the card on the spot. Along with another web address, was a note that read: “Sorry but the $500 is at the next location, and bring the cord.”
Back in his car, Malcom thumbed the address into his Blackberry. As it uploaded a picture, Malcom looked around to see if he could notice anyone waiting for his next move. As the traffic bustled beside his car, and the gas stations and hotels declared their own business, no one appeared to be aware of his small existence on the nearby bridge. With blinker on, he merged back into the flow of traffic heading north. Punching the address into his GPS locator, the coordinates pinpointed the exact spot of an area next to his lakeside apartments. A park.
As he pulled into an empty space, Malcom noticed a small hastily-drawn sign in block letters: ‘THIS WAY MR. McJONES.” Curiously, Malcom found himself leaving his car and heading down the sidewalk, then entering the undeveloped woodland. Down the winding pathway’s worn trail Malcom meandered, looking for any sign of another envelope.
He had driven by this very park and wooded area a thousand times but had never actually been here before. He did not have any kids to yell their fool heads off in the playground nor a dog to take a crap everywhere. Just when he was about to call it quits, he noticed something white up ahead in a clearing. Just as he arrived, picked up the envelope and read the: “HERE’S YOUR REWARD,” the sound of a thousand clicks rang out.
Before he could even investigate the sound, Malcom turned around just long enough to see at least twenty odd heavily armed SWAT members aiming their weapons on him. The police were repeatedly shouting for him to get on the ground. A heart beat later and someone had pounced on him from behind, slapping handcuffs around his wrist, as he suddenly noticed that he lay before a freshly dug grave mound.
After his court appointed attorney left his grey jail cell, one of the guards came up to his bared door and reopened it. With squinted hawk-eyes and a shaking head, he announced, “McJones, you got a phone call.” His quick head nod signified that if Malcom did not go now the cell door would be locked again.
Down the long hallway of cameras, locked doors, and watchful eyes bearing down on him, Malcom was led to a booth and picked up the resting phone receiver.
“Well, Mr. McJones congratulations on receiving your just reward; I guess you won’t be cutting me off in traffic any more - now will you? Cop killer.”
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