On a Leash
Caleb opened the door of his economy hotel room and found a briefcase resting on the balcony walkway outside. Keeping his gun hand behind his back, just in case any of the other residents of the rundown motel stepped out of their rooms, he scanned the balcony and stairs, first on one side, then the other. Seeing nobody, he slipped his gun hand inside the open front of his Hawaiian shirt and stepped out onto the balcony to scan the parking lot.
Three college girls in bikini bottoms and cutoff t-shirts. A family of five, which had certainly be unaware of the quality of this motel when they made their reservations, hauling heavy bags of beach toys down the sidewalk. A maid on the opposite balcony pulling her cleaning cart along the mouldering outdoor carpet.
Caleb turned back to his room, grabbed the briefcase, and kicked the door shut being him. He tossed the briefcase onto the bed, then turned to lock the deadbolt on the flimsy hollow core door. This motel would normally have triggered every instinct for security in his body, but that was why it was perfect for the exchange. None of his former employers would ever suspect that Caleb would come to a place so impossible to secure and, if his new patron had any designs on his life, Caleb thought that he had a better chance of spotting an attack coming here on the desolate fringes of Daytona Beach than in a more populated hotel.
Caleb sat in the ratty wicker chair beside the ancient tube screen television and waited.
Ten minutes later he burner phone on the battered card table rang, breaking the stillness of the room with its chirping rendition of some classical piece that Caleb couldn’t quite place.
“Caleb here,” he said.
“You have received the package?” the voice said.
“Have you opened it?”
Caleb looked at the briefcase and shook his head slowly as he replied, “No.”
“I assure you that it is safe. We have no need to harm you, Caleb. You have provided us a valuable service.”
“And if you kill me there is no chance of someone else learning what I did.”
There was silence for a long moment, broken only by the soft crackle of compression static over the phone signal. Then the voice spoke again. “You are a valuable asset, Caleb. We would like to keep you in our pocket for the future. That is difficult to do if you are dead.”
“So I belong to you now.” Caleb said. It was a statement of the facts as he perceived them, not a question.
“Think of us as your patrons. You are welcome to do as you please, but I expect that you will remain open to completing work for us in the future.”