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Road To Con City - Excerpt One

The Con County savanna is a vast expanse of grassland fields and sparse oak woods occupying nearly half the county. It stretches from Con City all the way to the western edge of Con County. Small towns like Brickton, Desert Rock, and Greenwell litter the landscape here and there but most of it is as uninhabited as it was before civilization. And that's how Daniel Richard Jones liked it.

Jonesy, as most people called him, was a man fed up with civilization. In his mind, civilization was every bit as barbaric as it was sterile. He had grown up in it and lived in it for most of his life. He had worked in Con City as a professional hitman for the better part of a decade until he had had enough. Then he had left civilization behind and retreated to the tranquility of nature. Here, he sought to find his inner peace.

He appreciated the savanna, looked upon it as a work of art made by the greatest artist that had ever existed: nature. When he thought back to the old tales of the birth of civilization, of how man had created civilization to cheat the laws of nature and avoid being eaten by tigers, of how man had built great cities to escape the barbarism of nature... the only word that came to his mind was bullshit. As a man who had worked as a hitman for many years he had seen the dark side of civilization. He had concluded over the years that man had simply exchanged the barbarism of nature for a different kind of barbarism, and that man lived under the illusion that they had the barbarism of civilization under control. He and his former colleagues were the living examples of how false that belief of control really was.

In contrast, the savanna offered an appealing alternative. Pure air, idyllic landscapes, and most of all, not another human soul for a hundred miles. At the very least.

Yet even a man like Jonesy needed his luxuries. Three of them, to be exact. First, there was his campervan. Living in a tent in the cold of night would not do, after all, and he needed to have decent transportation anyway so a campervan was a wise investment for him when he retired. He chose the Landshark, a robust four-wheel drive campervan ironically made by the Runamok Corporation, an automobile firm who were not exactly famous for building slow and robust vehicles. Jonesy did not care what drove the firm to design the vehicle, all he cared was that the Landshark suited all his needs. It was a vehicle that could traverse the roughest terrain in the savanna with ease and yet offered plenty of comfort in the living compartment.

On that fateful Monday morning when Ralph Briggs became acquainted with his boss's most insane corporate strategy to date, Jonesy was quite comfortably asleep in his luxurious campervan. He took his time getting out of bed and prepared himself for the day. He stepped out of the living compartment of the Landshark and stretched his arms. He walked past the large pile of garbage that had accumulated beside the campervan over the course of the past week, walked up to a lone tree and raised the groundwater level. Then he walked back to the campervan and leaned against it.

This was when the second item of luxury in Jonesy's life came into play: his pack of cigarettes. Of all his old bad habits from his tenure as a hitman, the one thing he could not shed was his love of tobacco. Back in Con City he was quite the chain smoker, easily consuming a pack each day. Compared to that he was content with half a pack a day since retirement. His brand of choice was the Souleater, a brand famous for its support of lung cancer research.

He took a cigarette out of the pack and put it between his lips. Then he took his lighter out of his pocket. It was a golden cigarette lighter, Jonesy's most prized possession. Most hitmen kept some of their weapons upon retirement. If not for practical reasons, then for the sake of nostalgia. Not Jonesy. He wanted to leave everything about his old life behind and he couldn't care less about guns or grenades in the savanna. All he wanted was a solid gold source of flame to carry in his pocket. He even had a name for the lighter. He called it Joybringer. Joybringer was Jonesy's best friend in the entire world. Like a true best friend, Joybringer had never let Jonesy down.

Yet on that fateful Monday morning when Jonesy tried to light his cigarette, Joybringer produced no flame. That was when all the trouble began.

*

Jonesy tried in vain to get Joybringer to produce some flame for over two minutes. He shook the lighter and judged that there was still sufficient lighter fluid inside, and the lighter did seem to spark. He had no idea what was wrong with it. The thought that the lighter may be broken made him very uncomfortable. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and broke it in half, then tossed the remains into the garbage pile beside the Landshark. He pocketed the lighter. Then his cell phone rang.

He took it out of his pocket and looked at it. He could not imagine who it could be, nor could he fathom how there was reception so deep into the savanna. He accepted the call and raised the phone to his ear, but did not speak into the phone.

`Hello? Jonesy?' the voice on the other end of the line said. Jonesy said nothing. He recognized the voice, and was both surprised and unhappy to hear it.

`Jonesy? Are you there?' the voice said. Jonesy decided to get the inevitable over with.

`Hades...' he said, not even trying to hide the palpable disappointment in his voice.

`How's it going Jonesy? Enjoying your retirement?'

Jonesy took just one glance at the broken cigarette in the garbage pile and he was already mad enough to want to strangle Hades with his voice.

`Yeah. What do you want?'

`Nothing special. I just wanted to catch up with you. I've been wondering what you've been up to, I haven't heard from you in years.'

`You're not the type that makes social calls,' Jonesy sneered, no less angry than before. `Spit it out, what do you want?'

Hades went on the defensive in a hurry.

`Okay, okay, if you insist... Jonesy, how would you like to make some money?'

Jonesy rubbed his face and shook his head, suddenly sure that Hades was either playing dumb, or he was being a complete fucking idiot. Either case would give Jonesy ample reason to break all his fingers.

`Hades, I'm retired,' he said finally, slowly, to be absolutely sure Hades would understand.

`I know that, thank you. Fortunately it's not a hitman I need, it's a courier.'

Jonesy's anger disappeared in an instant and was replaced by utter and complete confusion.

`What?'

`I need a courier,' Hades repeated. `You know... A delivery man. I need an item of mine transported to a client in Con City. A simple delivery job. Interested?'

Jonesy scratched his head and thought hard about Hades' words. They made no sense to him at all.

`Why do you need a retired hitman for a delivery job?'

`Assassins are extremely reliable, Jonesy. In fact, before I called you about this job, I offered it to Jake. Sadly, he declined.'

Jonesy couldn't help but laugh.

`Ha! Jake? The Jake? Ha ha! He hates Con City.'

`Yeah, I figured that out by now. Anyway, want the job? Again, simple delivery. Nobody has to die. Just take the item to the client. Very. Simple.'

`If it's so simple, why don't you do it yourself?'

`I'm busy. Things are pretty hectic around here and my presence is required. The delivery on the other hand is quite urgent, which is why I need you. Come on, don't let me down. I'll pay you handsomely!'

Jonesy took Joybringer out of his pocket and looked at it. He tried to produce some flames from the lighter, but to no avail. He sighed.


*

For more, please proceed to the novel Road To Con City.


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