The next day came and was quite possibly the most uneventful day I think we had ever had since we opened the store, which given our financial problems was saying something. It was all we could do for most of the day to just stay awake, so I had no real expectations for sales for the day, but as time slowly crawled ever onwards found myself getting a little nervous about the coming evening’s festivities. I was not looking forward to having to take William along with me. He would be nervous and that nervousness would be more than a little infectious.
But it had to be done, so as it started to get late I thought maybe he could find just enough courage to make it through in the midst of a couple of drinks. We lied to our wives telling them that we’d be working late doing an “after hours” inventory of everything in the store. They seemed to buy it, which made no sense, but they knew how much the store meant to us so it could just have been that they didn’t really mind. We were just a couple of harmless shits after all, it’s not like we were even capable of doing anything remotely dangerous or potentially exciting. At least that’s how Mer explained it to me later.
So, when we closed up for the day we went and had a couple of drinks and waited for the hour of the meet to start to roll around. About 11:15 we decided to head on out to the airstrip for this clandestine cloak and dagger bullshit.
My only current and nagging concern was the potential language barrier, because at the time I did not have a viable workaround. I was at least happy that the meet was happening so soon, because we were going to need to move product as close to as soon as we got it as possible. At the same time I was kept circling back to my disappointment that neither of us could speak nor even comprehend a word of Russian. I could only hope that it wouldn’t be a problem. What other choice did I have?
William and I arrived at a quarter till and decided to just sit and wait. We both spent our time waiting by chain smoking. Right at midnight though, a looking sweet black Mercedes slowly pulled up. I was certain that even if it weren’t dark out that I’d not have been able to see through the dark windows. I was curious how many guns were trained on us. I know that is how I would have played it. It seemed like the car just sat there forever before the door slowly opened and a couple of slickly dressed clearly European guys got out.
They had the sort of chiseled, blocky features one would have expected from a prototypical Russian gangster. As if to feed the image I’d built in my head even more, they all wore what looked like a 5 o’clock plus shadow, which made a little jealous since I couldn’t grow any discernible facial hair of my own. But all in all they looked like some seriously bad dudes.
The pair looked just like something out of some kind of spy movie, which kinda felt cool. I had to mentally check myself. I couldn’t nerd our about how cool the spy shit was. They looked at us and spoke in hushed tones for a minute before they said anything to us. Then there was a knock on the glass of the car, at which point the window slid down and apparently some sort of all clear was given at which the Russians seemed to relax a bit and address us.
“Which of you is de comic guy?” William raised his hand like he was back in grade school. I suddenly realized that he looked like he was gonna shit himself. Pressure was rarely if ever his friend.
“Excellent. Then that must make you Mister H. I’m told you have something you’d like to sell me.” That meant it was time for me to be me.
“I am and I do. First let me say thank you for meeting on such short notice. Second, I have what no one else does…” And he fucking cut me off.
“I can get guns anywhere Mister H. They are, how you say, a dime a dozen.”
“Well, I can assure you that even though our prices are higher than that we have the one thing you can’t get from just everyone, dedication. If we don’t have what you want, we’ll work to get it. That’s how we operate. Customer satisfaction is a top priority. Well… that and money.” The guy just chuckled and nodded.
“Ok, so tell me what it is you have then?”
“Well, as you’re aware we have guns, most any and all make and model of a type that the US government has been and is using to outfit its troops. And this is current or last generation gear, not some piece of shit surplus from World War II. In addition we have a selection of explosives, as well as a small assortment of rockets and the like. Now on top of this, we very shortly will be offering additional services of a threat removal nature should you require such things, and of course it would be very hands off on your end and very discrete on ours.” I just stood there for a moment waiting for all of it to sink in.
“And you will deliver these things to me?”
“To any location you want in the continental United States. We will not ship outside the country, as it lessens our risk of getting caught by the authorities.” He spit at his feet on that one. I may have struck a nerve. I’d have to remember that for later. Might just be useful.
“However, since we know that you then have to assume some of the risk on the transport side of things, this is reflected in our pricing.” He scratched at his stubble for a moment and then gave the affirmation I was hoping for.
“That sounds reasonable, though the way you talk is troubling. Some of the things you say, I once heard from a woman, a German woman. Our dealings did not end, how you say, amicably. Any chance you know her.” Huh, it was a small world after all.
“I think it would be a very poor business practice to discuss any of our other current or former clientele. I’m sure that you can appreciate that, and you can expect the same treatment in regards to your privacy as well.” Hopefully that would be evasive enough that he’d let it go, and confirmatory enough that he’d gotten what he’d wanted.
He just put his hand in the air in a sort of mock surrender. At least that’s what I took it to be.
“Fine, fine. How do we contact you?”
“Well that’s the thing. You don’t…” The puzzled look that crossed his face was truly priceless.
“Not directly anyways. William, if you please. Give them the packet.” In preparation for this, I’d had the guys collect all the pertinent contact information in regards to the web comic and collate it by relevance.
“This will explain all you need to know about contacting us. All I can ask is that you ensure the destruction of that packet of information after it’s been committed to someone’s memory. I trust that you’ll find that acceptable.” I was getting so much better at this on an almost daily, nay hourly basis that I was starting to scare myself. I started to wonder just when I’d know what I was capable of, cause right now it seemed as though the sky was the limit.
“I think that can be arranged. We’ll be in touch.” And he turned to leave.
“Wait, what do I call you?” I never did find out his name. He turned and smiled.
“You don’t Mister H. Like you, I prefer my anonymity, but if you must have a name you may call me Boris. That should be stereotypical enough for you Americans, yes?” I had to fight back a laugh when he said Boris, but sure whatever works. Looking at William I could tell he was having the same problem.
“Yeah, that’s fine by me. Have a nice night. Let’s go William.” And we did. Much like the last evening meet, that I’d gone to with Ralphie, we passed the time in total silence. I finally got William back to his car at around 1:30am and told him to drive safe.
And then we both headed home. Two down and one to go, and we were taking receipt in less than a week. Everything was going swimmingly, but I still had some nagging doubts. It all felt too easy. It couldn’t really be this easy, could it? It was late and I was tired. I’d worry about it in the morning if I was gonna worry about it at all.
So, now that everything was all but in place the only thing left to do was to wait for the goods. The time seemed to slow even more as the date of receipt approached, but we were able to get some minor issues hammered out in the meantime. We concocted such a bullshit story for the womenfolk to cover our trip to meet with the Cartel, but the only problem was that it was so bad that even we didn’t believe it, and if we weren’t gonna buy it then our wives shouldn’t either. They were all rather smart, though they married us so maybe we did have a chance.
William was able to focus and get the first issue of our webcomic up and online, which would ultimately give us a base from which to start from. I spent a majority of the week making sure that T was fully apprised of all the happenings at and around the store and ensuring that the books were in fine form, since he was supposed to be coming back from school soon and would, I was sure, want to make sure I hadn’t fucked them all to hell.
Other than that, there was nothing of merit that occurred during that week. Well, there was Stevie and his newfound and obsessive love of learning. He was like a wee little man possessed.
In seven short days he’d been able to teach himself, a conversational speaking capacity in Spanish, Russian and German. He was spending his free time, I would later discover, working with Ralphie on it as well. I don’t know how he had any free time when he was either working at the store or learning more shit, but if anyone can squeeze extra minutes out of a day it’s him. Regardless, one of them had the bright idea that if Ralphie was always going to be with me it would be to my benefit for him to know what was going on. I couldn’t argue with logic like that. It could ultimately end up saving my life.
And so that week passed and on that fateful Tuesday, we went from being a bunch of jackasses who talked a mean game, to a bunch of jackasses with a couple million in stolen military goodies. Things were finally coming together.