8th 10 - 2010 | 2 comments »

Fiction: Mr. Borhan and Ms. Kendricks Travel

Process: This isn’t a scene that we’re particularly happy with. It lacks punch, especially on the heals of Preparations. The Preparations chapter is currently getting a rewrite and some of the content from it will moved into this scene. In the end, this lull might work better when all is said and done.

A few weeks back I wrote a short short for 52|250 featuring Mr. Luck. While whimsical, it isn’t cannon. “Magic, Inconspicuous” gives Aleister abilities that are beyond his capacities.


Mr. Borhan and Ms. Kendricks Travel

When travelling alone, airports were tiring places for Aleister Luck.

On one hand, every traveler was the object of vigilance. Cameras, security personnel, bored people-watchers in airport bars all observed with varying levels of interest. Under those circumstances, it was difficult for Aleister to do anything.

On the other hand, an airport offered many options. Aleister knew that fellow passengers are truly interested in one thing: what they themselves are doing. Travel veterans who were used to the routines of kiosks, metal detectors, and transferred flights showed purposeful disinterest in what happened to others. It was within those gaps that Aleister could work.

But with Dana Spelman at his side? Aleister steeled himself for a series of very long trips.

“Did you print out our confirmation numbers?” she asked as she headed toward the check-in kiosks. Aleister stopped her with a hand on her elbow and steered her to a counter.

“Follow my lead,” he reminded her.

The young man at the check in counter gave Aleister a strained smile. “Where will you be flying to today?”

Most of his job involved verifying boarding passes and checking bags. These days, it was rare that someone approached his counter needing to book a flight.

“New York. La Guardia.” Aleister hadn’t glanced at the departure board.

With a look at the impatient queue of passengers, he tapped his touch screen. “There are three seats left on the 9:55 flight.”

“When is the next flight after that?”

The clerk’s eyebrows lifted. “2:35 in the afternoon. Five seats available.”

“We’ll take the 9:55.” Aleister drew a credit card and his driver’s license from his wallet. Without looking at them, he knew the names on them all would match.

“Would you like to book a return trip as well?”

“Not at this time.”

The clerk saw that Aleister was only carrying a backpack, but still asked, “Checking any baggage this morning, Mr. Borhan?”


The clerk drummed his fingers in the top of his console while the boarding pass printed. He tucked it and Aleister’s card into an envelope and wrote the departure gate number on the outside in green marker. “And you as well, ma’am?”

“Yes, we’re…” To Aleister’s relief, she didn’t try to justify their pairing with any particular story. “Yes, La Guardia. Same flight.”

She also remembered to use her Kendrick ID and didn’t bat an eyelash when called by that name.

“Have a good trip. Thank you for flying Southwest.”


They rented a car and Aleister drove out of the city.

“Wasn’t one of the researchers at Columbia? I assumed that we’d be visiting him first.” She dug her notebook computer from her backpack and balanced it on her lap.

“We’re going to New Jersey,” said Aleister. At least, that was where he was headed at the moment.


As Aleister drove along the I-278, Dana checked through her files and list.

“Princeton?” she asked.

Aleister knew that if he ignored her, Dana would repeat her question and ask more.

“Listen, Dana. You’re here because it was dangerous to leave you in Las Vegas. I have a very specific way of working and I’d rather you didn’t impinge on it.”

“If you let me know what you intend, I can…”

“No. It doesn’t work like that. I go where I need to be.”

“And we need to take a drive to Princeton instead of meeting the researcher at Columbia?”

“It would seem so.”

“And, this information that you stole, does it have any purpose? Because I’ve turned it every which way and it doesn’t tell me any more about Benes’ research than I already knew.”

“It has a purpose.” He had transferred the files to Dana’s computer, but Aleister kept the flash drive and Dana’s old SIM card in a secure travel wallet.

“You know what it is yet?”

Aleister shrugged. “You’re just going to have to trust me.”

“Fine.” With a sideways glance, Dana closed the laptop.

To further discourage conversation, Aleister turned on the radio and switched stations until he found something loud. Stone Temple Pilots from their first album. Dana winced and made a face but was quiet until the song was over.

“Would you mind if I put something on?” she asked.

“Knock yourself out.”

Dana hooked her MP3 up to the car’s stereo and fiddled with its dial. Eventually a woman’s voice filled the cab of the car, soaring over a hybrid of electronic and symphonic melodies. It was unfamiliar to Aleister and pleasant enough, but he didn’t ask Dana any questions about the artist. Aleister wasn’t in the mood to converse.

George Pitzner lived in the middle of a tree-lined street of row houses. Each townhouse was painted a slightly different shade of blue-gray and had their own stoop. Aleister parked across the street and did not hesitate to approach Pitzner’s door.

“Shouldn’t we wait?” While Aleister had crossed the street without concern for traffic–there was none–Dana glanced back and forth with a paranoid air.

“Wait for what?” Aleister asked.

“I don’t know. To make sure it’s safe?”

“We’re safe.”

Aleister rang the bell twice. When his patience wore thin, he pounded with the side of his fist.

“Doesn’t seem to be anyone at home.” Dana peeked through one of the windows that flanked the door. “I think I have a work address. And a phone number or two.”

Aleister shook his head. None of those things would do any good. He beat on the door again, harder.

George Pitzner’s door didn’t open, but a window in the next townhouse did. A woman with cottony white hair poked her head out.

“He’s not home,” she said.

“Can you tell us when he’s coming back?” Dana asked.

“He’s not. He’s dead. I take it you didn’t know that.”

Aleister wasn’t surprised. “How long ago?”

One of the woman’s bony shoulders raised in a disinterested shrug. “Few days. Luckily, he carpooled and one of his coworkers had a key. Well, I think she was more than a coworker. Anyway, she found the body.”

“That’s terrible,” said Dana.

“How?” Aleister asked.

“Heart attack, they say.”

“Do you think it was something other than that?” Aleister skipped down the steps of Pitzner’s stoop and leaned toward his neighbor’s window.

“He was a quiet guy. Kept to himself. Acted kind of strange sometimes.” The woman settled in on the window ledge. Her fingers tapped on the casing and Aleister wondered how long she had smoked before she gave it up. “I think he was on some medications. You know that type. Maybe he’s on some meds, maybe he drinks a little, maybe he forgets and takes an extra dose of whatever.” She waved her invisible cigarette toward the sky. “You know like that actor. That good-looking kid that they said was suicide, but was really an accidental OD.”

Aleister nodded. He didn’t remember the details. “Did he have many visitors? Other than the coworker that may have been more than a carpool buddy?”

“No. He was real quiet,” she repeated.

“Nothing a few days back, maybe at night?”

“Truthfully? I don’t hear so good anymore.”

“Well, thank you for your help,” said Aleister.

The woman’s bony shoulder rose and fell. “Are you two police or something? ”

“Or something,” Aleister agreed.

“Nothing to me.” She pulled her woolen head back through the window and shut it.

Dana was still standing on George Pitzner’s stoop. She had worn the gold earring, a cascade of gold substantial enough to set off the metal detector at the airport. They glittered against the paleness of her face. “So, he’s dead.”

“Seems so.” Aleister headed to the car and Dana followed after a moment.

“We’re too late then,” she said once they were in the car. “I thought you said this is where we needed to be.”

She turned away from Aleister and stared out the passenger side window.

Aleister started driving, heading in the vague direction of New York.

This situation was trying. Aleister had always worked alone, though he had done so mostly through lack of opportunity. While he had confederates like Smith and Mr. Schlotz, a partner had never sought him out. His magic had failed at the casino when she watched him, and it was quite possible that her very presence was confounding. Still, Aleister couldn’t accept that Princeton was a mistake.

“Will we be going into his apartment tonight?” Dana asked.

“I’m not sure there’s any reason to,” said Aleister.

“Do you think he only had a heart attack?”

“I think that’s fairly unlikely.”

“So, he was murdered too?”

Aleister didn’t answer.

“Then all these men are in danger? All the ones on this list?”

“There are several women too.”

“Yes, that makes me feel so much better. What a waste of time.” Dana thumped the car door with the side of her fist. “Now we’re behind. Whoever DCM sent, they’ve probably been to Columbia as well. We might as well go back to Las Vegas and wait for them to hunt us down.”

“Whoever DCM sent is patient. He’s good at what he does, and he’s not going to rush what needs to be done. He needs time to survey his mark. The few hours we spent in Jersey aren’t going to affect that.”

Dana still watched the traffic through the passenger window. “I hope you’re right. Time is but stream we go a-fishing in.”

About This Blog

In July of 2010, Katherine and Eric Nabity began work on a novel featuring Mr. Luck. This blog includes some proof-of-concept vignettes, progress notes, "alternate takes", and commentary on the collaborative process that Eric and Katherine engage in.

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