61. Have a nice trip, see you next fall

Michel was busy and Jesse figured he and the client could handle it, so he didn’t call George. Parker confirmed that it would be fine with just the two of them. It was a few sticks of furniture and bags of clothes and sports equipment, he said, easy-peasy.

Jesse pulled up in Richmond, in a residential neighbourhood close to Number 3 Road. The driveway was three times wider than normal, with weeds growing through the cracks in the asphalt. There were no lights on in the house.

He killed the engine and waited. He did feel rather naked without the all-seeing eye that George had proven to be.  To be surveillance-proof in the modern world seemed among the best things about being a Sixer, along with almost everything else, except their general lack of friendliness and their sex lives.

The lack of friendliness he could deal with. Anyone friendlier than his mother was +1 out of the gate.  But the sex — the sex really bothered him.  Most of the being bothered about it was his knowledge that he was trying to throw his mental map of how things should be on an alien species. Even when he knew he was being an idiot, he couldn’t help it.

Expending so much as a single calorie worrying about how other people achieved consensual sex seemed a big waste of his tiny emotional poke, and when it came to humans he had no trouble realizing it. 

His continuing anthropomorphic and apparently useless attempts to categorize alien sex, on the other hand, were really starting to bug him.  To understand it he had to observe their courtship, if that was indeed what the hell was going on, talk to lots of other people, and correct for how most of it happened at depth in the ocean, where he’d never see it, unless somebody got footage of it. He had no hope he could twist events to make such information available. 

He had to take George and Michel’s word for it, and that made him profoundly uneasy.  There were other shapes and sizes of Sixer than the two blobular beige jelabis he knew.  To accept what they said on faith transformed him into one of those ancient chroniclers, who believed whatever they were told by exotic people they met in brothels. 

If he was going to be a stooge, he was going to be a good stooge, a learned stooge, a useful stooge, and a stooge forever prepared for disappointment, because that’s the way life trended over the long haul.

He and Colin had talked about it during an evening of serious drinking.

It had been quite the conversation. He was still buzzing with it; how much they had consumed; how much they had laughed. The relief of having someone to talk to about it who accepted the base-line of craziness without balking or scoffing had been immense.

They’d shared notes, fitting together snatches of overheard conversations; certain subjects that only came up to be set aside.

They had agreed that by human standards, they were all asexual except for Michel and Kima, and as many times as they had sex, they couldn’t manage babies. Jesse wasn’t convinced Michel wanted to be a father; George’s desperation to accomplish it as a single task seemed comical at times. Colin’s imaginative description of the mysterious and thus far invisible Kima had made him choke on his nachos.

His client appeared. The house being dark really bothered Jesse, but Parker called, “I’m keeping the lights off to make it look like there’s nothing going on over here.”

He came toward the truck.  He was dressed in dark clothing.  Ill-at-ease, Jesse slowly got down from the truck and said, “Where’s your stuff?”

“There’s a shed at the back.  I still can’t believe my dad moved all my shit out there.”

Jesse’s unease grew.  “So what happened?”

He got closer to Parker, who moved away and turned his back on him.  Jesse got out his Maglite® and Parker said, “Turn it off, man, my neighbours will think someone’s trying to rob the place!”

After leaving the flashlight on Parker long enough to be able to give a description of everything but his face, Jesse complied.

“So where do you work,” Jesse asked.

“For a telemarketing company,” Parker said.  “Like I told you.”

“Which one?” The walkway was uneven underfoot, and the shed seemed very far from the house.

“Consumer Research Canada.  They are a complete bag of dicks, too.”

Jesse had still not seen Parker’s face.

That seemed weird, and there was something else bugging him too.  He sensed that there was something really wrong but didn’t grasp what it was until Parker said, “Look, about your fee, I feel kinda bad about it because I don’t actually have the money on me. Before you get all mad, we can stop at a bank machine between here and my girlfriend’s place.”

Jesse fished the truck keys from his pocket and said, “Gimme a sec,” and casually turned to go back to the truck. On the way to the truck, he collided with another man, who was entirely dressed in black and wearing a balaclava.

“Stop right there,” the man said, in a disguised voice.

“Fuck,” Jesse said.

Balaclava Man pulled a knife and told Jesse to sit down and shut up.  Jesse obliged. His phone, flashlight, wallet and keys were taken from him.

As he reviewed his naïvety, duct-tape was stretched over his mouth (he remembered to tuck his lips in, at least) and wrapped swiftly around his wrists and ankles. After a moment he faintly heard the groan of a metal door being pried away from its lock, and then came a faint light from the backyard, which he couldn’t see the source of, as he was leaning against the side of the house. 

Jesse stood up, balancing against the house, and painfully hopped in a sideways, staggering motion toward the back of the house. He moved as quietly as he could, scuffing his knuckles against the razor-sharp stucco and grunting softly behind his gag as he went. He heard them coming with the first load and turned and sat down. As they went by, he stuck out his feet and tripped Parker.