Adventure Suspense Thriller

Dale Street was the name. Taking down lowlifes was his game. Today was no different. Dale was always aware of the back alley ways and who came and went. What was moved, what stayed. Faces were the symbols of the neighborhood. It was part of the bigger picture and the real reason he was a trash man. He had kept a low profile when this assignment had him move into a small neighborhood near to the questionable area on the radar. No one knew any more about him other than what he presented when he would, say, step outside and venture over to get his mail, put out the trash or maybe have a random chat with a neighbor. His manner was casual and friendly, no more, no less. He did not have a significant other with him and no one pried into his personal business. His story, when asked, was that he worked as a computer geek from home for a made-up company. He would venture out to locations across the country on occasion to meet up with clients. This was not true but he needed to maintain a middle of the road image. So far, so good, until today. He never shared the Dumpster Digs side as this was no one's business to know. 

Street was just your average Joe when he headed out this morning to his other day job, albeit with a different face for the crowd. Thankfully, today was to be the day Dale would be getting the call as to his next assignment. It has been four long years where he has been shoveling shit, literally, for a business where he took out the waste that people left in the dumpsters behind the fancy restaurants on the Golden Coral boardwalk in Soho. The business owners wanted nothing to do with who, what, or why landed in their behind the scenes or back stage areas. Their glitzy glamour show was only visible out front for the hoity-toity to linger and grace the center stage of each establishment. The stuff found out back was beyond garbage and Dale encouraged the scavengers picking through to just take their time. This usually happened a good hour before his daily duty for Dumpster Digs began. His purpose was to focus on the vibe he felt with people, things, vehicles, etc. going on in the area. Scrounging was sad but a part of life for many people. One guy who he saw more often than not, always showed up at the crack of dawn. The reason seemed obvious. First dibs and best pickings was the way it was for each and everyone. Whatever your version of those top prizes were, was, what it was. Maybe there were gourmet leftover scraps of food, a bottle tossed with remains of dregs of fine scotch, and a family of rats to bargain for it all. Beyond all that, the two of them had a friendly vibe going and when each spied one another somewhere along the way, each doing their own thing, they just rubbed fingers together. It was 'I got this', you first, then, 'me'. It was friendly and Dale opted to be the better person to help out. 

Back in his neighborhood disguise, Street was putting together the latest intel of a notorious drug cartel that was using a local shop to get their products into delivery crates. These were then packed up, sealed, and put aboard a freight truck, destination unknown. It seems that they had a system where the long hauler only had an address to get to where another driver would be waiting with a clue to the next point of contact. This rouse was thought out with extreme perfection with those who had their 'A' GAME. Street needed to coordinate the target spot with his TRACE app. He figured every angle of this 'game' hacking into their intel using his government codes. A ship was due to arrive in the nearby port with an estimated time frame close to midnight. Extreme chaos happening like a new action video game, was taking over Dale's mind. This is when he decided to pause for a moment and looked out the window. There were a few neighbors he noticed laughing and having a good time just talking away. One held a beer and cheered to the others. For some odd reason, they looked to Dale's house, motioned with subtilty and seemed to talk amongst themselves. An occasional chin nod seemed to keep the conversation quiet with fingers pointing in his direction. This guy was not who he appeared to be as he played the good neighbor. The moment passed and the guy waved them to his place and they did not hesitate to follow. The evening was winding down and Street sat back with a hand to his forehead. Then he swore out loud, got up, strode to the fridge, and grabbed a tall pale ale. With a creak, he shoved the screen door open and sat on his front step. Who cares? I need a moment. This agenda was becoming more consuming of his life and Street started to question all of it. Not the game itself, as he called it, but how it was sapping his every day life. Was this all that he lived for or was it more of something expected of him? 

He took a heavy swig and Stellar was soon in his thoughts as she often was lately. He could never forget her smile, passion and zest for life. She had been gone or purposely disappeared now for over a year from their last gig. It proved to be a major take down within the drug market that the two worked together deeply undercover to fight the good fight in many ways. They were part of the same intel team. On occasion the two would be paired up as a couple when necessary in whatever game was do to unfold. They would be sent on an 'errand' and end up on the chosen location. There they would engage in the local scene by blending in, but working to feel the heat. One day Stellar met Dale at a prearranged dinner party. It was a fund-raiser for the local Boys & Girls Club. The two could relate with this need as they grew up with being the kids in this type of group. The invited guest list were ones on the top shelf in the community. How Stellar and Dale made it to the list, was only through someone who knew someone. This would be their last time together. There was more happening at this particular event behind the scenes. It was bigger than the fancy unique appetizer assortment, gourmet farm-fresh dinner, and specialty dessert ensemble combined. They were on it. 

It was the best time ever in a long time to relax for a split second or two for Stellar and Dale. While enjoying an after-dinner cocktail in the gazebo, the two noticed that the kitchen was changing their staff. When and why this was happening was what they expected as it signaled more of the behind the curtain event changing up. This was deliberate and there seemed to be a stern added demeanor from management. It was timely noted as the clock was ticking. Dale briefly interrupted the moment and offered a hand to his lovely co-worker. "Hey, Stellar. You needed to find the powder room, right? The bidding event starts in five minutes." Dale looked at his date, winked, and gave her the 'I know you can do this' look. She leaned over and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek with an added message, "We're not alone." Her subtle look said it all. She was working her own angle. What she knew was beyond his level as that was her strong suit. He knew when to give her space to find the game winning puzzle piece. 

As soon as Stellar disappeared from view, Dale was approached by two men in suits. They were the security staff of the event and the organizers had a few questions. "We need you to follow us." They were vague in the request as it seemed that the organizers of The Boys & Girls Club fundraiser wanted his personal information; why he was there, who he came with, where his tickets were acquired. Basically, name, rank and serial number. This was not good. They left the keynote main event area and proceeded upstairs to another suite. Dale put on his game face as they headed down the hallway. In the distance there was a janitor cleaning the area. He recognized him immediately as it was his buddy from the back alley Dumpster Digs moments. A cautious glance by this guy, added to Street's determination to play this out to the max. But it registered intensely when the janitor, with purpose, subtly rubbed his fingers together. It was, 'I got this'. Immediately, Dale knew there was a security layer to this person and gestured discretely back. The suits had no clue. 

Where was Stellar? He knew to look for the message she would casually send in a random location. But now, there was a change in the matrix that he needed to adjust and play the victim. He threw top names at them to push the right cards. It worked for a minute until someone appeared out of the shadows. "Well, well. Look who it is." It was one of his neighbors, the one who raised a beer one late afternoon and everyone followed him to his place. What was going on? This guy grinned like the creepy Jack Nicholson in one of his many cleverly made up movie characters. 

A new game was on. Bring it.

August 11, 2023 23:56

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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