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Excerpt for Dreamhaul and other stories by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Dreamhaul


And Other Stories


Copyright 2018 by Sean Monaghan

All rights reserved

Cover Art: © Grandfailure | Dreamstime.com


Published by Triple V Publishing


Author web page

www.seanmonaghan.com


This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Smashwords Edition.



Contents

Dreamhaul

Apply Up to Three Drops, With Caution

May Contain Traces

The Moments of Death of Rebecca A

Paying Out Line

About the Author

Other Books by Sean Monaghan

Links





Dreamhaul


One


Bright sun beat down on the wide concrete running path. Winter waves slammed against the tumble of rocks separating the path from the ocean. The cool salty spray tickled Cal Kegan’s face as he strode along.

Cal had new Nike lace-ups. Discount from Running Shed, which was good on his wallet. Cal’s father had been a competitive runner and wound up with practically debilitating shin splints.

Better to spend money on good shoes. And to walk. Reduce impact.

Cal completed the outfit with standard gray track pants and a fleece jacket over a black Lycra shirt. On his head, a 49ers cap. One size fits all.

Out in the ocean, close to the horizon, a long, low tanker trundled by. Cal tried to track its movement, trying to keep pace. Overhead, a calling gull wheeled.

Other walkers and joggers and cyclists passed by, in both directions. Some he recognized. The guy who had to be a hundred pounds overweight, striding valiantly. The pair of too-thin mid-twenties mothers, running hard with buggies ahead, tires whirring. The elderly couple, with walking sticks and binoculars.

They made eye contact as they passed. Nodded or smiled. Or said a quick ‘morning’ before continuing on their way.

To Cal’s right, as he strode, lay the twin tracks of the railway line that led to the port. And beyond the tracks, the storefronts of the dilapidated old shopping precinct. A few years back some enthusiasts had found money and paint and spirited cohorts to decorate many of the buildings with rainbows and cartoon characters and pictures of pies and hot dogs and cupcakes. All the paint was now faded, peeling in places.

Cal strode on. Fifteen minutes more to the where the path turned inland. A footbridge crossed the rails and the path went on inland around the port. At the bridge, Cal would turn and head back to his ageing Corolla parked at the other end. As faded as the old building murals, the car served him well.

As he stepped by a toddler wheeling along on a wooden tricycle, Cal got the sense of someone following him.

He resisted the urge to turn around.

It wasn’t the first time he’d had this feeling. In fact, he’d been having it more and more since the dreams began.

Or began changing.

A cyclist darted around him. Head down. Shoes locked into the pedals. Fast.

Cal took a glance behind.

No one. At least, no one out of place. Mostly familiar. No men in black suits, or white suits. No one suddenly attempting to look discreet.

Cal strode on, enjoying the tingle of his muscles working.

Thirty minutes later he was back at his car. A couple of other cars stood in the gravel lot. Wind rustled the leaves of the pines and eucalypts around the margins.

Cal was looking forward to getting home for a blueberry smoothie. As he slid the key into the lock, a silver BMW pulled up beside him. A woman hopped out. Peaked cap like his. A dark ponytail poking through the adjustable strap.

Hi Cal,” she said with a wave. “I thought you were selling that car.”

I...” Cal glanced at his Corolla. Back at the woman.

He didn’t recognize her. Didn’t know her car.

She ran around the hood. Trim figure, expensive running gear. She didn’t say anything more. Just gave him a wave and a bright smile. She ran off toward the path, ponytail bouncing. She vanished through the trees.



Two


Cal’s apartment rental included a spot in the long, outdoor covered carpark. The monthly payment also included weekly trash removal and a covenant about pets. Cats, allowed but no dogs larger than a Pekinese. Some tenants pushed that, with terriers and schnauzers.

It didn’t bother Cal at all. The dogs were friendlier than the cats.

Cal parked. Among the others, his car was about average age and condition. A new Volkswagen gleamed next to a rusted-out Mazda. A black Trans Am had been abandoned at the far end of the row since Cal had moved in.

The complex had four buildings, with sixteen apartments each. The carparks lay in the middle, behind gated access. Both gates were busted and simply stood open all day and night. Sometimes Cal thought about moving.

Inside his second floor apartment he dropped his keys on the tall vase table at the door. He had four rooms; open plan kitchen, dining and living room, bedroom, bathroom with laundry and a tiny study. Any other place the study would have been listed as ‘roomy closet’.

He showered, running the water hot. He liked the sensation across his back. Like a heat massage.

Dried, and dressed in jeans and a Twenty-One Pilots tee-shirt, he made a sandwich–pastrami on rye–and coffee. He retreated to the study.

A narrow desk supported five screens, with a sixth on the wall above. When he’d been a kid, computer monitors had been huge chunky things. Squarish cathode-ray tubes. Heavy and ugly. He never would have fitted enough in the closet space to work the markets.

The middle screen showed Hong Kong and Tokyo. Just open. Trading ticking along nicely. The very right hand screen showed smaller markets. Sydney, Auckland, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur. Sometimes it paid to shift money around quickly, and those places were always more than happy to slurp up funds.

Cal sipped at his coffee. One day he might acquire a taste for mocha-frappe-whatevers, but for now simple black instant suited him. It tasted just fine.

On the second right screen he had the west coast markets, and Mexico. On the screen left of middle he had closing from the European markets, and relevant news feeds. On the screen above, he currently had the news on the approaching hurricane bearing down on Atlantic City and surrounds. Hatches battened down.

Lastly, on the very left hand screen, he had a World of Warcraft game in play. His character fully AI-ed so he could just sit back and watch.

Mitsubishi Holdings had dropped six points since he’d gone out for his walk. But they had that new aircraft technology that had already been approved.

Cal smiled. He clicked in a buy order for thirty thousand shares. Siphoned the money quickly by selling his full holdings in Shanghai Real Estate and Transportation. Ready buyers there, even though the company was overreaching.

From elsewhere in the house, Cal’s phone rang. A merry chime, probably composed by Beethoven.

Cal didn’t know. His phone rang so infrequently it actually startled him.

Probably his mother. Back in hospital, perhaps. Needing some cash.

Cal had a Samsung. Made sense since he owned substantial shares in the company. He followed the ringing out to one of the drawers in the kitchen.

Pushing aside wooden spoons and the potato masher, he swiped at the phone’s screen. Held the phone to his ear.

Hello?”

Cal. There you are. Are you coming down?”

Unfamiliar voice. Male. Slight Midwest accent.

Down where?” Cal said. “Who is this?”

Des. I know, my voice sounds different on the phone, right? Dunno what that’s about.”

Des?” Cal said.

Listen. Alli says she can get the boat, but we need two more people. To make up numbers.”

Two more.”

Yeah. Do you think Lena would come? I’m going to ask Jo. See if she can get the weekend. I think she’s up in Seattle.”

Seattle.” Cal leaned back against the cool edge of the kitchen bench. He stared outside. On the angle he could just see his car, parked down in the covered lot. In the shade the car looked more orange than its natural faded red.

Yeah. You know how she gets around. Figure she’ll make it back.”

I don’t know how she gets around,” Cal said. “I think you have the wrong Cal.”

A laugh from Des. Slightly nervous.

It was bound to happen sometimes. A wrong number where the person on the other end had the same name as the person the caller wanted to contact. Plenty of times.

Have a nice time out on the boat, Des,” Cal said. “I have to get back to work.”

He rang off.



Three


Money made for the day, Cal grabbed a lite beer and settled in for a movie. Before he could even search through his streams, the phone rang again.

Des,” Cal said, staring at the ceiling. “Why?”

It wasn’t Des.

It was Miranda. Cal took the call.

Hey you,” he said.

Don’t get cutsy, mister,” she said. They’d been friends for a decade. Dated a few times early on, and then again a few years later. She liked her guys healthier, with real jobs, and he liked his girlfriends to remember to invite him along to the beach or parties.

Cutsy?” he said.

Where have you been?”

Bombay,” he said. “There’s a battery manufacturer there selling stock for peanuts. I bought–”

Ho-hum.” She even yawned. “I mean I called you yesterday and the day before. No reply. You do realize that you can actually take your phone with you? Right? Wonders of modern technology. A phone is not tethered.”

Yours is.”

What does that mean?”

When did it last leave your hand?” He liked their banter. An easy shorthand that maybe said I love you without them having to be lovers.

Ten minutes ago when I was on the toilet.”

Important information that.” Intimacy had its limits. “Also, I’ve been here. Unless I went out walking. Or a couple trips to the 7-Eleven.”

You need to drink less soda.”

I was getting cookie dough and Doritos, thank you.”

A laugh. A soft cheerful tinkle that buoyed his heart. So good to have an anchor in his life.

All right. Want to do something tomorrow?”

So long as it doesn’t involve a boat.” Who the hang was Des?

No boat. If figured a gallery, a chocolate malt at Maebede’s followed by a walk on the beach. Either that or paintball.”

Cal smiled. “Name a time. I’ll come along.”

You’re sweet. Pick you up at eleven? Tomorrow morning?”

South gate.” Cal was looking forward to it. Miranda drove a red Camaro, and drove it like the city had constructed the roads for her exclusive use.

South gate. Eleven. See you then.” Miranda rang off.

Smiling, Cal put the phone back in the drawer. Nice to be not losing his mind.



Four


At eleven thirty PM someone knocked on the door. Cal stood at the kitchen sink, washing the day’s dishes. Smoothie blender, glasses, plates and utensils. He liked the warm, lemony feel of the water.

Strange how we like odd things. The texture of a hedgehog, the shape of a Rodin, the schlocky roughness of 1950s science fiction films. He’d just finished watching Escape from the Naked Planet. Schlocky, start to finish. Great fun.

The knock came again.

With a sigh, Cal took his hands from the water. He dried with a hand towel as he went to the door. Very late to be calling around. Impolitely late, really.

Almost time for bed. His stocks had rallied, surprisingly. He’d sold off and skimmed the profits. Nestled those into his burgeoning bank deposit. Low interest, but less volatile than stocks. Rainy day funds.

Who’s there?” he said at the door. With the busted gates, anyone and their uncle could wander around the complex.

Rudy,” a woman said. “Got a retrieval contract for you.”

You must have the wrong apartment.”

A laugh. “That’s what you said last time.”

I don’t know any Rudy.”

Seriously, guy, get some therapy. I’ll slip it under the door like last time.”

A hissing, scraping sound came from the bottom of the door. The corner of an envelope appeared. Kept growing. It stopped moving when it was about halfway through.

Usual fee,” Rudy said. “See you tomorrow. Or never.” Another laugh, followed by the sound of footfalls and the steel stairway rattling as she departed.

Cal watched the envelope for a moment, as if it might begin moving again. It didn’t.

Leaving the envelope, he returned to the kitchen. Finished up the dishes.

Teeth, and other ablutions. Checking the feeds. Little progress in World of Warcraft, but good headway in the Dubai markets. Oil seemed to be the thing to pursue for the next year or two.

Closing the curtains in the bedroom, Cal hummed to himself.

The phone rang again. Still in the drawer, he went to check. Same number. Des. Cal had programmed it after the call, as a contact, so Des’s name came up on the screen right way.

Cal shut off the ringer.

Turned it on again right away. If Miranda tried to get hold of him about tomorrow, he needed to take the call. No matter how late.



Five


Cal lay in bed, eyes on the dim ceiling. Light from the security lamps around the apartment complex bled through the curtain fabric. It was a cool night and he kept the blankets pulled to his chin.

Sleep didn’t come.

The envelope still lay half under his door. Perhaps he should just go pull the envelope through. A half-exposed envelope was kind of like an advertisement to burglars and thieves: no one home here.

Shivering, he padded to the door. Pulled the envelope through.

It was the kind with two rivets, card washers and a piece of string wound around to close the flap. He unwound the string and lifted the flap.

A single slip of paper lay inside.

Handwriting. Diamond cluster necklace, East and West Jewelry, 5673 Campbell Arc, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Nothing more.

He turned the page over. A single thing written there.

$800.00.

Cal put the note and the envelope into the trash under the sink.

Back in bed he fell asleep quickly.



Six


The sign over the door read East and West Jewelry and below that, on the transom, 5673.

It seemed familiar.

Something buzzed through the air. A bumblebee the size of a bird.

Cal ducked forward. Stepped through the jewelry store’s door.

Here you are,” someone said.

Cal looked, but didn’t see anyone. Glass cases filled the store, and jewelry filled the cases. Blurry, though. Cal couldn’t make out any of it. Just the blue and white refracted glints. Gold in what might have been chains. To his left, the floor seemed to tip upward like a skateboard bowl. A skateboard tumbled down. Bumped his foot.

Quickly now,” the voice said.

One of the cases stood out. Bright and clear. It had a sign. Hand-written on a piece of folded card. Like a tiny tent.

Diamond Cluster Necklace.

And below that, with a fatter pen, $800.

The front of the case was open. Cal reached in.

He picked up the necklace.

It felt cold in his hands. Dozens of diamonds. They sparkled like nighttime headlights passing below an overpass.

Got it,” the voice said. “About time.”

Cal left the store. He walked across an overpass. Hundreds of semis on the freeway below. Across the other side he found himself in a campground.

A woman pulled up in a silver BMW. She got out, dark ponytail bouncing.

It gets great mileage,” she said.



Seven


Cal woke with a start. Birds twittered outside. Daylight poked through the curtains.

He blinked. Sat up. The air was cool. His belly rumbled.

As he swung his legs off the bed, he knocked something.

A diamond necklace.

Just like the dream.

The necklace lay on the white sheets like a string of fractured ice. Coiled and twisted. Unfastened at the ends.

Silver clasps held the diamonds in place, both in the cluster at the end, and along the silver chain.

Strange to look at it now. In the dream it had seemed so clear, but now it had a whole other level of reality.

And impossibility.

Cal picked it up. Heavier than he’d thought. The cluster swung. The diamonds felt sharp against his fingers and palm.


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