SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig

Part Six
"You have two seconds to let go of me before I start screaming for help."

    For the record, I am not at all happy to be here.

    Actually, take that off the record. I don't want any of this on the record anywhere.

    Fuck. Drugs.


    The same car from earlier comes and gets us later that evening and it's a long drive out to the docks. I feel like I'm in some sort of old movie when we're dropped off outside of a warehouse. This is the scene where the good guys show up to bust everything open, only for one of them to find out that his partners have betrayed him and they're really bad guys all along. In this situation, though, I get to go straight to the "get shot by former partners" scene, since I already heard the truth back at the apartment.

    No wonder my mother always told me not to talk to strangers.

    A man comes out to meet us, dressed not in the flowing trench I expected but in a fine business suit. He's not smoking or wearing sunglasses and he looks like your average Joe, certainly not anything like what I expected of a druggie. He greets us in Japanese, sounding rather casual about it, and Crawford answers back. I stand up straighter when I realize I understand the barest snatches of the exchange- they've introduced themselves. Nice. I pat myself on the back and manage to draw their attention to me in the move. Not so nice. I've gone from genius to total moron in two seconds, a new record for me. Everyone should have goals.

    I think I'm going to be sick.

    The man says something to me and my mind skips for a moment before latching onto what it recognizes. It's a variation on the simple greeting Tot told me and I hope that the parts I missed weren't a death threat. I latch onto my tiny lessons, digging through the mental list to find what I need. Stupid Tot, anyway, for refusing to teach me "Mastermind" in Japanese. She said it wouldn't sound good if I introduced myself that way, since I'd usurp authority from Crawford. We argued about it for a bit before I realized I didn't want to be the one they turned to with their lousy language if they thought I was in charge.

    Pity she didn't teach me how to say "Did you know selling drugs is illegal?".

    "I'm Schuldig," I offer him in Japanese. "Nice to meet you."

    Total lie. I don't want to have ever met him. Tot really should have taught me how to say something along the lines of "Don't worry, I would never tell the police, so please just let me live tonight." We're all going to die tonight. I'm too young to die. Stupid Crawford. Stupid Farfarello. I blame that damn apple for all of this. If I survive this mess, I'm going to boycott fruit. It'll be a worldwide movement: Fruit is Bad for Your Sanity, So Burn It All. Yeah. Sounds good.

    Yeah, definitely going to be sick.

    The man's serious expression gives way to the smallest smile- not amusement, but approval. I guess that means I did something right. Maybe they won't kill me after all. I look over at Crawford and his careful mask gives way to a bright smile for just a moment. The stranger- I think he said his name was Kanazawa when he introduced himself to Crawford- is too busy looking at Farfarello to notice the smile. Good thing or he'd shoot us for giving ourselves away as total amateurs and loons.

    Crawford has it under control just a second later. He has enough brain cells to know that beaming like a daft lightning bug isn't a good idea around here. He steeled himself for this for several minutes before leaving the apartment to get into a "bodyguard mindset". I'm actually surprised he lasted this long before cracking.

    Farfarello has nothing to say to Kanazawa, so the man turns back to Crawford. With a beckon of his fingers he motions for us to follow him and we head inside.

    There are three other men in an upstairs meeting room, all looking just as respectable as our guy Joe Kanazawa. I'm starting to think this is all just a joke Crawford's playing on me- "Ha ha, got you!" sort of thing. Then I notice the stacks of bagged white stuff piled on the table between the three. I can almost hear police sirens. Fingers threading through a cell door, testing the lock. Yank yank yank and spider webs.

    More introductions. Kanazawa jabs a thumb at me and says something to the other guys. I have no fricking clue what he says but it makes them smile. He flicks another smile at me and I smile back. Just keep smiling like a good little bodyguard. Nothing illegal going on here, no way, and of course I don't think you'd stab me in the back just as soon as you'd pay us to support this sort of junk. My mother would kill me if she found out what I'm doing. Oh wait, she's dead. Right.

    The men say a couple things to us and Farfarello and I stare back at them as if we have a half-assed clue what they're saying. Keep smiling. Farfarello's not smiling. Dumbass Farfarello, but I won't mourn you if they toast you. Someone's gotta die. People always die in the movies because it makes it more exciting. Right? Right. I nominate Farfarello. Crawford may be a total punce but he speaks Japanese and he seems to be the one with the money and connections.

    They're still smiling at me.

    Please don't kill me.

    "Help," I plead Crawford through my smile.

    "With what?" he sounds confused that I think anything's out of place.

    The small exchange prompts the four men to go from Smiling Mode to Business Mode and they start rambling at Crawford. He listens mostly, then adds a couple things of his own. One of them picks a briefcase off the floor and Crawford turns to me.


    I drag my eyes away from the briefcase and the creepy crawlie bits my spine has turned into. The look in Crawford's eyes is concerned. "Schuldig, don't be afraid." I just stare back at him as the clasps on the briefcase snap open. "Don't show them that you're afraid. Yes?"

    I'm about to tell him that I'm not that stupid when I see what's inside the briefcase. Kanazawa pulls three guns out from their cushioned bed and holds them out to us one at a time. Farfarello's fingers close over his with an ease I didn't realize Irish college students had and I don't like the calculating look in his eye. What's worse is the way Crawford handles his. It's not his first gun. I know it the second I see it in his hands. He holds it the way my mother always held hers, as if she had some sort of intimate relationship with it, as if it held all the secrets in the world. She'd kiss it goodnight before she'd even look at me.

    Mommy, why are you pointing that thing at me--?

    Cob webs and a hardwood floor and there's nowhere to hide if the room is bare of furniture.

    "Crawford?" I say through my smile. He says something to the men and they wave. "Crawford," I say again. "I have to go."

    "Let's find our posts," he tells us.

    I don't wait on him to go first. I'm out the door as soon as he says we can leave. I think I hear the door click shut behind us but I'm already heading down the hall. I make it halfway to the stairs when I lean over and throw up, and I'm absently aware of someone holding my hair out of the way.

    "It's okay to be nervous," Crawford assures me easily. He lets my hair fall free as I straighten and he taps the barrel of his gun against his temple. "Just keep your telepathy up and probing to make sure no one comes by who isn't supposed to be here." He looks over his shoulder towards Farfarello. "You will guard the front door," he says, and Farfarello shrugs and moves past us towards the stairwell. "Schuldich, you should go to the back. I will wait by their door in case they need something."

    "I want to go home."

    He nods. "We will. This will only take an hour."

    "Get fucked."

    "By who?" he asks.

    "I don't think you could pay anyone enough to fuck your sort of madness."

    "That's why we're here," he says.

    "We're helping sell drugs to fund your whores?" I demand incredulously. I hear Farfarello's footsteps stop on the stairs, but a few seconds later he continues down to the first floor.

    Crawford waves at me to keep it down as Farfarello's footsteps fade. "No, no," he answers. "You don't listen, do you?"

    "Why do you know how to use a gun?" He just stares back at me, and that's not a good enough answer. "Whoever taught such a retarded freak of nature how to use a gun needs to be flushed out of an airplane toilet."

    "You really don't like airplanes," he observes, tucking his gun inside his jacket.

    "I don't like you," I snap back at him.

    "I'm sure we can talk about this." He rummages around in his pocket and pulls out a silver-wrapped stick. "Gum?"

    "Do I have to tell you where to stick that?" I ask. He shrugs and starts to put it away, but I snag it from his fingers. My mouth is burning too much to pass it up. Crawford watches as I poke the gum into my mouth and nods his approval when I start chewing. "You really are a jackass."

    "Nagi thinks so, too. Not all the time, but sometimes. I think he's going through a rebellious stage."

    "I'm out of here."

    He reaches up and catches my face with both hands, fingers splayed across my cheeks. I try to lean out of his grip but it just tightens, and I stare up into a gaze that's a thousand times madder than any insane person could try to be. "Schuldig? This will be fine. I've seen it. We will have no problems tonight."

    "And I'm supposed to believe that?" I demand. "You think your turtle-peach fag toy insults you and you want me to trust your visions?"

    "You're getting stronger," Crawford notes. "You should be pleased."

    "…Do I even want to ask what that means?"

    "You called Nagi a fag," Crawford answers. "I don't appreciate the word and I don't think he would either, but seeing as he's not here, he doesn't have to know. Try not to repeat it in front of him when Tot returns him, though. It'll be a test of your new teamwork skills to keep that sort of bias out of your relationship. I'm sure you're up to it."

    "I think the Clue Train left you behind at the platform."

    "They are good together," Crawford insists.

    "They," I echo.

    "Farfarello and Nagi."

    "Right. You have two seconds to let go of me before I start screaming for help."

    He just sighs and lets me go. "Your station is the back door," he says, and he turns and starts back for the door where we left Kanazawa's group. I watch him go for a few moments before stepping over my mess and heading for the stairs. It takes just a second to remember which way we came in and I strike out in the other direction. The nerves that followed me here have mostly dissipated under the more immediate concern of Crawford's illness and if I'm careful in heading to the back of the warehouse, I'm not creeping along.

    It takes a bit of searching before I find the back door and I prop myself between it and the window. I don't really like the idea of standing in front of the window, especially since orange hair tends to stick out even at night, but I can't stop myself from peeking out. I can see the water from here, and the lights from a boat out at sea. The moon is a fat sliver, more like a toenail than a fingernail, and I watch the way it wavers on the surface of the water. At length I look down at the gun in my hands and I can't look away from it.

    A minute goes by, then three, then ten. I wonder how our clients' partners are going to get in if we're guarding all the entrances. Fifteen minutes. No cops, no siren, no disapproving looks as Justice kicks me in the ass once again. Maybe it'd be justified this time. The apple wasn't justified, because it was a lousy apple and I was hungry. People should take that into account before they haul other people off to jail over fruit.

    I can't remember the boycott slogan anymore. Damn. I'll just have to think of another one.

    I'm hungry.

    Twenty minutes, forty minutes, and my feet are falling asleep. Fear has given way to ultimate boredom. I pick my gun up from the windowsill and turn it this way and that, trying to figure out how it works. I imagine my mother's hand curving around it, imagine the way Crawford took it, and move my fingers to match, twitching them over quickly warming metal until I find the exact grip. It feels heavy in my hand and I look around, expecting someone to jump out and catch me with it. No one. I check the ceiling for cameras and the moonlight shows me what looks like a spider web.

    I smack harder at my gum but it's pretty much a rock by now and my jaws hurt from all the chewing. I look back at my gun and aim it at the shadows, imagining the way I looked in the dressing room, imagining myself now with the gun. Do I look cool? Do I look like a movie star? Mom always looked like some sort of badass movie star, like an international spy or some shit. All she needed was a cigarette and a gun and those boots of hers.

    Mommy stop kicking me-

    One two three four five six bang you're dead.

    I should be a movie star one day. Either that or I should take up smoking. Gotta have goals. I pretend-fire on imaginary targets and somehow the last one turns into my mother. Bang you're dead. Bang you're dead. How's it feel now? Ha ha ha ha ha.

    My stomach hurts again.

    I hear a footstep behind me. "I don't really want to go back to Germany," I say.

    "I know," Crawford answers, and I look back at him. He's half-hidden by the shadows and holding a briefcase. Twelve thousand dollars. Shit. I could buy a hell of a lot of apples with that, except I'm boycotting apples. I never liked the things, anyway. I look up from the briefcase and meet his gaze. "Ready?" he asks.

    It sinks in a little what's just happened. "We're done?" I ask.

    "We're done," he agrees.

    An insane American, a half-sane Irishman, and me. Schwarz. I've just helped people sell drugs and I can't even speak the damn language of the country I'm living in. I just helped sell drugs, and the police didn't come. We're not going to be on some TV special and Kanazawa's people didn't kill us. We came, we did jack-all, and now we're going home with a lot of money. I wonder if I'm a little disappointed that this wasn't as violent and wild as the movies. I think I can feel my mind breaking a bit under this and I look down at my gun again.

    "That wasn't so bad, was it?" Crawford asks.

    "No," I admit. "No, it wasn't. The movies made it seem more exciting."

    "I've never watched TV," Crawford confesses.

    "No wonder you're off your rocker."

    "Maybe," he agrees. "Let's go."

    A ticket to Japan, a bed, a home, food, clothes, money, and jobs…

    Madness, a gun, and drugs…

    Where do they balance each other out?

    "Are we still cool even if we didn't get to shoot anyone or run away from the police?" I want to know as I start towards him.

    "Of course."

    I think on that. "Can we have a police chase one time?" I want to know. "Where we all escape, of course. I don't really want to be caught. I just think if we're going to be doing something illegal that it should be a little more fun than standing around like dumbasses."

    "Of course," he says again.

    "Okay then. Let's go."

Part 7
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