What if every driver on the road really was out to get you?
By 10:00 pm, the schedule had been finalized, printed, and divided.The courier had six envelops, each with a name and address, in his glovebox. By 5:00 am, all the deliveries had been made, on time, and in perfect order.
Suzanne had been with the organization for about 15 years, and was their finest Tarda to date. She was 87 years old, drove a Buick Electra, and had a handicap emblem on her license plate. But her craft involved more than just the car. Suzanne made people late, and therefore, agitated, unfocused, and reckless. She would spend hours researching the mark, learning his driving patterns, his prejudices, and combing his record with an ivory-handled brush. She knew exactly where to be, how to pin him in, and for how long to restrain him. The one detail she was never permitted to know was why. But that didn’t matter. Her monthly checks from jobs across the country had done more than to ensure her grandchildren a comfortable college education. the way she saw it, she had another good 10 years in front of her.
Apart from physically splitting herself in half, Sloan had mastered the deceptive art of being in two places at once. She was 18, drove a Volkswagen Jetta, and had a keen interest in anything but what was immediately in front of her. Oh, she had read the schedule, retaining every detail in the process, but not without engaging in a half-dozen other activities in the meanwhile: texting, eating, exercising, doing her hair, just to name a few, all without losing a single beat. Sloan was an Occupa, not the best, but how does one really measure how distracted a person can intentionally be? Sloan drifted between lanes; her highest fixed cost was on new brake pads, and she could drive safely without looking up at the road. Her skill-set proved most useful, as she was attractive, to steal the focus away from the mark. If he was looking at her (either admiringly, damningly, or some perverse combination of the two), he was not paying attention to more important things – even after he was off the road.
Trevor was an Ampla. He drove a big-rig marked with some generic shipping logo. His average speed matched his age, nearing the sixties, and for the latter 30 or so, he had been a commercial truck driver. During those drawn-out decades, he hadn’t been too bothered by the long hours, the constant regulations, and the slurry of angry motorists. In fact, he loved his job, loved the opportunities it had granted him to see the country. After the accident, he was certain that no trucking company in its right mind would ever hire him. He was damaged, but could still drive. When the organization had approached him with a job, he nearly jumped out of his 40-inch-waist coveralls. Trevor had an expert awareness of blindspots – his own, and those of others. If there was something the mark was not supposed to see, leave it to Trevor’s 18-wheeler to make it disappear. Strategically placed charges on his spare tires also proved effective should a “blowout” be required to divert the mark from his chosen path, and by that right, Trevor considered himself somewhat of a marksman: “a target for every tire,” he would sometimes say to himself.
Axle played the douchebag, sometimes too convincingly, right down to that insufferable “x” in the middle of his name. The 33-year-old wasn’t a bad guy, to be honest. But when your profession calls for fast and furious driving in flashy, expensive cars, not becoming infected with the corresponding lifestyle proves difficult. He had spent years perfecting his stunt driving: intentional fishtailing and hydroplaning, burning rubber, drifting between cars and lanes. Sometimes he would be on a Ducati, other times, in a Ferrari, and other times, in a Frankenstein street-racer whose spoiler was larger than the rest of the car. Axle’s skills as an Agila would provide him with a fairly substantial retirement, if he could make it to retirement, that is. Agilas tended to have a short shelf-life, but he was determined to not be just another statistic.
For someone who hated children as much as Bonnie did, she sure spent a lot of time driving them around. But, ever the professional, she stuck to her route, head down, and obscenities tucked safely under her breath. Bonnie had been roped in by the organization because of some debts that she had lost control of. Her gambling addiction had restrained her to either a life behind bars, or life behind the wheel of a minivan, SUV, or school bus. Somehow, she failed to see the difference between the two options, but at least here she had appearance of control. Bonnie drove faster than normal, usually rode the tailgate of the mark, and had been forced into a number of fender-benders. She hated confrontation, but she was a Matra, and confrontation was simply an occupational hazard. Bonnie was middle-aged by this time, constantly looking in her rearview mirror and asking how it came to this.
Last was Jerry. Jerry was a simple man with a simple purpose. He was to drive completely normally within a 50-foot radius of the mark, so as to throw off the scent of conspiracy. Jerry was one of thousands who had this job, the worker bee, not a specialist; an Apa. Jerry obeyed speed limits most of the time, always signaled, let other drivers in, merged properly, and always showed he paid attention. He contributed to traffic, rarely used his horn, and always went unnoticed in his Toyota Camry.
Jerry had received his envelop last. The courier had received specific instructions from his handler to be present when Jerry opened his schedule, in case he should try to run. The organization had done their homework on Jerry; they knew he had no special skills, no powerful connections, and really no aspirations, a perfect candidate. All that kept him going day to day was his daughter who was none the wiser as to what her father did for a living. The courier handed Jerry the envelop, the folded his arms, his right hand resting on the revolver inside his coat pocket. Jerry broke the seal on the envelope and read the following:
6:00 am: Take the NB onramp at the Main Street exit; maintain a speed of 70 mph.
6:15 am: Jerk your wheel all the to the left into the oncoming limousine. Set the charges.
Jerry examined the back of the paper anxiously, as though additional instructions for extraction were missing, but those two lines stared him in the face, an ignominious epitaph for a lifelong service. He knew that every Apa had and would receive a letter resembling this one.
“Why . . . now?” he asked, shaking a little. He added the “now” at the end knowing the kind of punishment that usually accompanied simply asking “why.” His daughter had long gone to bed, but Jerry still kept his voice down. He wasn’t prepared to die, was even less prepared to leave her, to betray her to a world of unsafe roads, of controlled danger. But, as the courier had reminded him, he had signed the contract immediately after snapping his mugshot for his first driver’s license. That was the arrangement.
Jerry knew better than to run. It was an obvious choice between her life and his own. He also knew that he would be taking better care of her in death than he ever could in life, as per the terms of the contract. Most of all, he knew that what the local news would report as a freak highway accident the following morning, would someday make sense to her; he hoped it would mold her into a better person, more mature and wise than he had been, someone who would know what she was getting herself into.
With that, he signed his schedule and dated it, hoping for better traffic that day.