Authors: John Mackie
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by John A. Mackie
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-9881253-0-8 (print)
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I closed my eyes and inched under the hot spray, careful to shield the six fresh stitches on my forehead. The water thrummed, easing the tension in my neck and shoulders, while clotted blood from my hair sluiced down my side. At my feet, ribbons of red curled slowly around the shower drain.
My first day on the job. I’d be lucky to make it through the week.
Five jobs in my thirty-four years on this big ball of dirt, and every time, the first day had involved the same routine. Rush from one blurry introduction to the next. Murmured references to a project I could help with or a new deal coming down the pipe. Abandoned with a nameless lady from Human Resources and her stack of incomprehensible forms. Go home at the end of the day tired, but humming with the excitement of new challenges.
Five times I’d had that experience. But nothing could have prepared me for my first day at Arcane Transport.
I might never have joined the company, if fate hadn’t intervened. Nearly six months earlier, I’d lost my last position in a “restructuring” affecting “valued but not critical employees”.
I’d been Director of Marketing for an enterprise software company, a decent job with a six figure salary and five staff reporting to me. Not bad for a guy my age. Too bad the company was losing money like a pensioner in Vegas.
But when I started getting calls from recruiters wanting to get me placed and collect on a commission, I found myself putting them off. Fact was, I cringed at the notion of more battles over advertising campaigns, sixteen hour days at trade shows and endless meetings with no real agenda. I needed something
, and ironically, it was my mother – the backseat driver of my life – that found it for me, in the form of Arcane Transport.
Clay Jarvis was the founder and President of Arcane – Toronto’s “Premium Courier for Unusual Goods”. Specifically, he was the President of two delivery vans, one beat-up Honda Civic, three full-time drivers, one office clerk, one dispatch-lady who was a Jackie-of-all-Trades, and a couple of part-timers.
Clay was also a family friend. My mother had known Clay and his wife for nearly thirty years, since before my father died. And as it happened, Clay was looking for a business partner – someone to take over the business when he retired at sixty, just a few years down the road.
If I hadn’t spoken to Clay’s banker and several of his customers, I never would have believed it was a successful business. Especially when Clay told me about the “unusual goods” that Arcane shipped for clients.
But Clay handed over his entire customer list, and told me to call anyone on it. So I called a bookstore on Queen Street that looked pretty reputable, a local museum, and a West End art gallery. All gave glowing reviews, citing years of faithful service by Clay and his company. They also verified the nature of those “unusual goods”. Sure, it all sounded a bit strange, but I’m an open-minded guy.
Better yet, the company’s financial statements were spotless. Either Arcane Transport was a thriving venture, or Clay was a master chef when it came to cooking the books.
So I took a deep breath and made the plunge. Over three days, Clay and I worked out the details of our new business relationship. The net result was that I would start as a minority partner, earn a fifty percent interest over three years, then gradually buy out Clay’s interest. It meant a much smaller salary than I was used to, a small upfront investment and a lot of work for the next few years.
It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done.
Despite my efforts in conducting due diligence and a (relatively) open mind, my first morning had been an eye opener. Even Clay seemed to acknowledge it when we left the office just after lunch.
“This afternoon we’ll visit with some of our more
I snorted, mulling over the list of deliveries that morning. Celtic Cross Healing Arts? A psychic consultant? The Third Temple of Crocar? What was unusual about any of them? We could have dropped in on the Burning Church of Satan, with naked middle-aged men prancing around a fire wearing dead animal carcasses, and I wouldn’t have been surprised.
When Clay had first told me that Arcane was a delivery service for magic objects, I checked his pupils. No signs of drugs. Now, after talking to a few of the customers and seeing their businesses, I’d come to believe
believed, too. More important, they were paying customers who didn’t seem to be doing anything illegal. So I’d decided to treat it like a courier business for religious artifacts or historical treasures.
And if it turned out there was something to this magic thing? Well, it would be more interesting than sitting at a desk.
I had the wheel for the afternoon route, which took us east along Dundas, traffic lurching along in ten yard bites. Over the next four hours, we worked the van from Etobicoke into Toronto’s Financial District, hitting six drops and four pick-ups. Traffic was the typical Monday mess for Toronto, cars darting in and out of lanes as though competing in an Indy car race for the visually impaired.
Finally, we came to the last delivery of the day.
“Yup. Pull over wherever you can find a spot. And grab the package for Sun Consulting, would you?”
I followed instructions and joined Clay at the curb. Clay stared up at me for a moment, one eyebrow raised, before I clued in and clicked the remote locks on the van. It felt as though we were constantly getting in and climbing out, like some giant Whack-a-Mole game.
“Sorry. So, who are these guys?” I waved the package destined for Sun Consulting.
“The brochure says they’re a strategic advisory outfit.”
“Yeah, right.” If I’d learned anything in my half-day on the job, it was that the customers were never what they seemed to be.
Inside, though, the building was pure Bay Street. The security guard at the front desk, not so much. He looked like he would fit in well at a tailgate party, scruffy beard and a gut that slouched over his belt.