The wind rocked the car, and spray broke across the traffic lanes and misted the seaward window. The glove box popped open to reveal a dog-eared daily missal and a broken rosary. There was also a black handgun: the Beretta Px4 Storm.
Eugene pulled off the road and slammed the glove box closed. On the horizon, was a freighter moving at its deliberate inbound pace through the white-capped sea. The vessel was right on schedule, heading for Liverpool to discharge its declared (and undeclared) cargo later that evening.
Eugene turned off the engine when the phone rang.
“Yeah, Chauncy, I see her. ‘The Ever Constant.’ Liberian-flagged. She’s listing a bit, but she’s been through gales before. I’m headed for the Seaforth Dock now.”
Having resumed his drive, Eugene carefully avoided the potholes now quickly filling with rain. There was no point in using the windshield wipers in this sudden deluge, so he kept his head pressed over the wheel and nearly against the glass.
The phone rang again, but this time, he did not answer it. The call was coming from home. He did not want to think about home now. He wanted to concentrate on work. The work that brought him this far, and the work that had yet to be done. The unclean work.
When the terminal gates came into sight, he slowed down and flashed his headlights. Two men in rain slickers emerged from their shelter, waved in recognition, and gave his lorry a cursory inspection. Once through, he motored down a path adjacent to the River Mersey wall, and parked beside the warehouse.
Eugene reclined in his seat and closed his eyes. He had not intended to sleep, but slumber came nonetheless.
It was a deep and troubled journey, that had him mired in distant memories of his youth. He was back roaming the South African plain. A pride of lions were casually moving toward a small cluster of trees in the savanna. Once they arrived, a mating ritual ensued. The skies darkened, and then became radiant with streaks of blue and magenta.
Following their frenzy of intimacy, the big cats turned their attention upon their human stalker. He was fully exposed, and even with a rifle, quite hopeless. The lions slowly gathered in a wide circle and began pressing in upon their prey. A collective roar erupted, and the sky became even brighter…then Eugene was awakened.
The truck, which had been rocked by the evening’s thunder and lightning, now stood placidly at rest. The rain had stopped, and the wind was just a soft cold breeze. Eugene glanced at his watch and realized that he’d overslept. The ship was berthed at its pier, and dockworkers were already unloading cargo containers. He scanned the docks for a box labeled FAK – Freight All Kinds.
His manifest claimed that these were “relief supplies,” described as dry goods and pharma.
The red herring planted among the goods was a large package of grey market painkillers. Should Customs wish to seize anything, they’d go for the obvious, and likely leave the precious smuggled goods alone. The prize: black market Rhino horns crushed into a soft powder, and poured into cartons labeled “non-fat milk.” Chauncey’s syndicate was selling the stuff primarily to cancer victims, but also to clients who believed that it was an aphrodisiac and an impotence remedy.
The phone rang again. It was Kate.
“Where are you?” she asked. “Are you drinking?”
“No. I’m working.”
“I’ll be going out with a girlfriend later today, but will be home to make dinner.”
“That’s fine, love. This job’s almost over, but I better go.”
This was a good conversation. Not like the one they had the other day.
It’s the drinking, she told him. It’s sapped his sexual energy. He wanted that energy back, but he was not about to stop drinking. She had told him it was not his age.
Men older than he could still do it, she said. They could still satisfy their women. It was not a thing he would dispute, nor was it a topic he could bring up with other men.
Speak with a priest? Forget it.
He’d replaced the flask with his prayer book for this trip. But he was not about to leave the gun.
The gun he always had with him. There was a loud rap on the window. A courier was outside with a large crate perched on a forklift. Eugene reached for the glove box.
“Eugene, this is from Chauncy,” said the courier. “You may take a carton with you after the delivery, as agreed.”
Eugene jumped out of the truck’s cab and lowered the tailgate for the cargo discharge.
He was going make it after all.
This was his new moment.