The Handoff

Tris was a common courier. Sometimes he carried entirely above-board materials--legal documents, collectibles, legal wetware--but usually it was illegal contraband of one form or another. The types of things that, when in need of transportation, should not be trusted to be under the panoptical eye of a big corporation. Usually drugs, sometimes cash, sometimes a black market embed snuck into the province by some boat-bound courier before him. Something like the one playing Chatty Cathy in the base of his brainstem. 

Bill was a common fixer. He connected the ambitious capitalists in need of a westbound railroad with the slacker couriers who could be trusted to mind their own business, just freight cars carrying pixelated pickaxes to the digital gold mines of the Districts.

Tris was precisely that type of neutral professional, but even so, his curiosity was crescendoing by the time he’d found Bill on the side of the Hill. Sure, their business was almost always in hushed tones, but this level of secrecy indicated something beyond the norm. Tris expected detailed instructions, or possibly a trip away from the Districts. He imagined renting a scooter for a trip to some secret lab in the jungle.

Bill dropped his cigarette on the ground and smashed it with the toe of his sneaker. Then, without words, pulled an envelope out from the inner pocket of his black puffy jacket. He handed it to Tris, who took it and shoved it into the front pocket of his jeans. Bill then produced a small piece of paper. On it was an address hand-written in black pen. He palmed it and held it out towards Tris. Tris read the address--just some unfamiliar East District location, potentially anything, a bar, an office, a residence--and nodded. Bill then took his lighter and burned the paper. Before he flicked off the lighter, he lit another cigarette and nodded back at Tris. “See ya,” he began to say, but Tris was already headed down the stairs.

The envelope wasn’t thick but it was somewhat stiff, like a piece of cardboard or a folded stack of thick paper. It stuck out of his pocket and stabbed at his waist annoyingly. Tris pulled it out as he continued his descent down the new-to-him staircase down the Hill. He moved it between his thumb and fingers but its shape revealed nothing about its contents. Just as well, he thought, and carefully bent it in half so he could plunge it entirely into his pocket. When he reached the bottom of the stairs he found himself in an unfamiliar section of the Warehouse District. The cavernous, nameless streets between the grid of metal boxes lay just ahead, but the lush green canopy of the Hill still cast a shadow over this backmost alley. 

A native in a straw hat rode by on a bicycle, his head on a swivel, making eye contact with Tris in a way that made him uncomfortable. Tris didn’t like to make eye contact while on a job. The bicycle encountered a pothole, forcing its rider’s eyes back onto the road ahead. Tris exhaled and stepped out of the shadow of the trees and into the shadows of the warehouses. Having come this way down the Hill, he would now need to traverse their entire expanse, down to the docks, to then make his way along the bay to the East District.

Echo and the Bunnymen