The Price of Extraction

By Monique Berkin

Darius pulls at the thread of a musty wool blanket, and it unravels, pooling on the grimy floor. His life is also unraveling sooner than he predicted. His older brother Kane’s frantic call came four hours, seven minutes, and three seconds ago.

Get out! Leave everything and meet me at the abandoned service station off route 92.

The Black Crosses value control and they run their illegal empire like a military operation. Distribution channels for drugs and weapons flow discreetly, and if you step out of line, you are taken out. No warnings, no second chances. 

The moon through a cracked window is huge and dark orange. A super-moon and meteor showers tonight, according to the podcast Darius was listening to while doing bicep curls. He doesn’t enjoy the gym—the testosterone, the stench of sweat, and the grunting. But it’s expected of him to look like a pumped-up ape. Science podcasts make the gym bearable.    

Where is Kane?

Darius checks his watch.

Five hours, thirty minutes, and twenty-nine seconds.

Kane never wanted out and last year he was promoted to captain. Darius is stuck at private, and he tries to hide his disdain and despair for the life he is forced to live. But he can’t hide it from his brother.

A vehicle approaches, but it doesn’t slow. An owl hoots softly, and other than that, there is silence.

The muscles in Darius’s back are painfully tense, so he wraps the wool blanket around his hands and stretches from side to side. A shooting star streaks across the sky, the moon swallowing it. Maybe it’s an iron meteorite from the core of an ancient planet or a stone meteorite from a planet’s crust?

Where is Kane?

Five hours, fifty-two minutes, and eleven seconds.

Darius drops the blanket and paces the aisles of the service station, past empty shelves, and a smashed cash register. He shouldn’t be staring at shooting stars. He needs to make a plan in case Kane isn’t here by morning. In case their extraction plan fails.

There should be a go-bag with everything they need for survival on the run. Kane never got the chance to tell Darius where he hid it, but he told Darius the lock combination to the garage with their escape vehicle.

Slipping out the back, Darius walks through moonlight to a vine-covered garage. He needs all of his strength to lift the rusty door as it grinds and clicks. A minivan rests in the shadows and Darius finds the keys under a paint can. He can just make out a bumper sticker with Livin that Mom Life in bold neon pink. Maybe they should just drive around in this van for the rest of their lives. Nobody would ever find them.

Kane had the van’s interior modified, and when Darius enters a code, the back seat slides forward and flips up, revealing a stash of guns encased in black foam and a cell phone. No go-bag with their fake, expensive passports and more importantly, money. If they want to get out of the country and change their appearances, they’ll need more than the few thousand in cash Darius has on him.

Where is Kane?

Six hours, forty-four minutes, and sixteen seconds.

The cell phone chirps, breaking the silence, and Kane’s face appears on the screen. Gone is his perfectly styled hair and golden tan. His eyes look haunted and bloodshot, and he is paler than Darius has ever seen him.

“Kane! Where are you? I’ve been here for hours. Will you be here soon?” 

Closing his eyes and opening them slowly, Kane says, “Darius, I need you to get our go-bag. It’s in one of the gas pumps…”

“What? Where are you?”

“I’ll be there soon. Now get to the pumps!”

Darius runs to the front of the station, tripping over broken concrete. “OK, I’m here.”

“The pump you want is number seven. Lift the handle and there is a fingerprint scanner.”

“What? A fingerprint scanner. On a gas pump?”

Kane sighs. “Darius, stop saying what and stop repeating what I’m saying. We don’t have much time.”

There is an echoing boom and Kane glances over his shoulder. “Hurry!”

Darius presses his index finger to the scanner and with a hiss, the gas pump splits in half and a metal case is inside.

“Open it.”

The case holds three passports, another gun, and a flash drive.

“The drive has numbered bank accounts and their passwords. You’ll have enough to disappear and start a new life with your new identities. If you burn one, start over with another. I also set-up podcast accounts for you under your new names, so you can listen to your sciency stuff.”

Darius snatches up the passports as the sun’s morning rays break over the tree line. “Kane, where are your passports? Where are you?!”

“Darius, I’m not coming. You’re going to have to do this without me. I’ve caused a lot of chaos, bro. I’ve killed a lot of people. I tore it all down to buy your freedom. You can’t save me, and I don’t want you to.”

“Don’t do this.”

“Too late. They’ve found me.”  

The booming is louder, and sparks fly behind Kane, but he doesn’t turn around. “I love you, bro. Go to university. Become a physicist or something. I know it’s my fault you couldn’t do that before. I never should have got involved with The Black Crosses, and I know you hate me for that, but can you say it? Come on, you can say it to me just this once.”

“I never hated you… I… I love you, too.”

There is a flash, a muffled pop, and Kane’s eye is gone. Blood seeps from the wound as if he is crying red tears.

The phone hits the ground, and Darius stumbles to the minivan. He stomps on the accelerator, fresh tears stinging his eyes.

Bio: Monique Berkin is currently working on her debut novel Sacrifice. When she isn’t writing, Monique enjoys running on forest trails, boating, or watching a good movie. Monique’s home is in Canada on Vancouver Island, where she lives with her husband and two children.

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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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