“Wahid,” I barked into the handset. “Wahid!” Down the line I heard a sound like boiling soup.
“Justin, I told you never to call me before 2pm.”
“You said don’t, but-”
“If you’re intoxicated or it is money that you want, then please, not today.”
“No, it’s much worse.” I recounted the morning’s adventures to Wahid. “And now it’s blinking like a ballerina in a boxing ring and I don’t know if I should touch it.”
Wahid was, in a way, my business partner. We shared the cab. He drove nights and I drove days. It was a mutually beneficial agreement: Wahid studied chemistry during the daytime, and at night I loved to get drunk and then pass out big time on the couch while watching the midnight movie. Last night was rum and Mad Max 3.
“You should be phoning the police.”
“With my record? Are you mad?”
“You are currently at the beach.” That was something about Wahid: I wasn’t sure whether he lacked the inquisitiveness or the grammar or just couldn’t grasp the subtleties of intonation, but he seemed incapable of forming questions.
A mid-morning jogger shuffled behind an excited labrador. I looked out to the waves. White sails were cutting across the harbour. On the horizon beyond the heads, I noticed something curious – clouds were forming. Rapidly, like mercury being churned into whipped cream. “Yes,” I said finally.
“Then throw it into the sea and then you are rid of it. Let it float to New Zealand.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
“You can – me up – – uni tonight at – same….” Wahid’s voice crackled and fizzed.
“What’s that? I think the reception’s gone bad…”
I gazed up at the telecoms tower on the hill.
“Hello? Wahid?” But the line clicked and then went dead. My phone battery was full.
The clouds continued to snake towards the shore. I went over to the metal railing that separated the road and promenade. Apart from the gently washing of waves in the shallows, everything was still. Not a breath of wind blew over the promenade, not a grain of sand stirred. The morning sun was still thumping heat down onto the edge of the city, but out there – out on the ocean – a black wax poured into the sky.
Bone it. I would dump the cargo in the trees and drive the hell out of there before the storm hit. That sounded like a rational plan. Why was I being so paranoid? My doctor warned me neurosis was a possible side effect of mixing barbiturates. Unfortunately that consultation had taken place at three in the morning in a King’s Cross bar. Nevertheless, I’d decided. “Let’s go”, I muttered.
I turned around and dropped my phone. It fell to the concrete with a tinny clap, ting, tack.
There he was. Still brandishing that same moronic smile; not a drop of sweat on his mealy face.
It was my spaceman.