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A Simple Handshake


Alice C. Bateman  &  Clive S. Michie

Chapter Two

"This is going to be so easy, it's almost a crime to make Jane pay us at all. But I want that body, and I want it before you, Bobby." Luke looked at his brother and partner and grinned. "Can't wait to see that one with her clothes off and beggin' us to do it to her, ya know?"

Bobby and Luke were brothers, two small-time hoodlums who'd met Jane at a bar on the seamier side of Ottawa. They couldn't believe it when such a classy-looking dame had walked into their local watering hole, and knew she must be looking for something they could provide. They dealt drugs and did all kinds of petty crimes for pay. Spied on people, slashed tires, sugared gas tanks, whatever their customers wanted. This would be their first biggie, but they relished the thought of killing this jerk and getting away with it. Who'd ever catch them here? Nobody was around, too early in the season. He'd just disappear - they'd kill him and drop him into some deep lake or bury him.

They weren't strong on planning, and had been caught a couple of times, but squealing on some of their buddies to the cops kept them out of trouble every time. Luke figured they could just wait until dark, sneak up on the guy, and break his neck or strangle him. They didn't want to use a gun, sound traveled too far out in the country, but some sissy-ass dork who worked for the government should be a piece of cake to dispose of. They'd stroll over to his campsite after they'd gobbled down some food, shake the man's hand and pretend they were fellow fishermen. Then when they showed up later, he'd welcome them with open arms. He must be starved for some company in this godforsaken backwater, as far as Luke and Bobby were concerned. Soon as they were done taking care of this little bit of business, they'd head on back into town and collect from the lovely Jane.

"Hey, wanna do a couple hits of 'cid after we eat? That'd make all this nature crap a little easier to take! If another bug bites me, I swear I'm getting back in that old tub of ours and going back and just tellin' the bitch we did it. Collect, and by the time she finds out we never killed him, we'll have already had our piece of her." Luke couldn't face life without some kind of drug in him. He and Bobby ran the whole gamut, called whatever they were doing that day their 'drug du jour.' Mixed in with plenty of alcohol to wash them down, of course. There were already several empty beer bottles strewn around their campsite, and many more would be added by the end of the day.

"Naw, man, let's wait 'til after we go visit this dude. Don't wanna appear too wasted if we're just meant to be up here fishin', ya know?" Bobby, the somewhat smarter of the two, replied. "Everybody drinks beer when they're fishin', right? He won't care about that."

"OK, c'mon, finish up your donuts, let's get it over with."

"Yeah, gimme a minute, gotta go water some trees too, ya know? Get rid of some of this here beer." Bobby laughs.

"Bet ya I can still piss farther than you, with your teeny weenie weenie." Luke teased his brother.

"Yeah? Eat it, you jerk!" Luke cuffed Bobby on the side of the head, then tackled his legs as the other man stood up. They rolled around wrestling on the ground until their already untidy clothing was covered in grass and twigs. Finally, when a good solid kick in the shins ended the impromptu wrestling match, they stood up laughing, then headed for the nearby trees to relieve themselves.

A little less than a quarter mile away, Dan packed some food to put in the canoe for later. He was confident that he'd catch some more fish, but he planned to take an extended trip this time and not come back to the campsite until sundown. He'd time himself, go out for a few hours, and leave enough time to return before dark.

Before leaving, he decided to go a little deeper into the forest to find some deadfall to chop up for an evening campfire. His trusty Gibson acoustic guitar that he'd had since he was fifteen was safely in its battered case in the back of the Cherokee. He threw the extra blanket he'd brought over it, with a couple of other things under the blanket too, to disguise the shape, all the time telling himself not to be so paranoid. After all, who was around in this neck of the woods that would possibly want to steal his guitar? Surely he was perfectly safe here.

As he'd finished placing the day's food in the canoe, he heard voices coming from just south of him, two men laughing. Surprised, he stopped in mid-motion. Dan had really hoped to be alone up here, with only God and the planet for companionship. He had no desire to make friends. Sighing, he straightened and hoped they were some people just passing through. Of course, following this thought, his mind said 'passing through to where?' He chuckled to himself. Where indeed, in this wilderness.

Oh well, might as well put on a pleasant expression, at least try to be friendly, he decided, much as he hated for his solitude to be breached so quickly.

Very soon, two unkempt looking men came through the tree line at the edge of his campsite. They looked at each other, grinned, and then the older of the two stepped forward, saying, "Hey, Bud, we noticed your campsite when we pulled in last night, thought we'd come over and see how yer doin'." As he came within reach of Dan, Luke extended his hand.

Gripping Luke's hand, Dan felt a sensation not unlike a mild electrical shock. Suddenly, his head was filled with the memories and details of this man's life. Widening his eyes in surprise, Dan abruptly let go, shaken by the sensation. He felt that the process of transfer was incomplete. The memories he'd gained stopped when the man was much younger than the one that stood before him today.

He noticed that Luke and Bobby both had strange expressions on their faces, looking at him, and realized he must have a pretty strange expression himself.

Taking a deep breath, he forced a smile onto his lips. "Nice to meet you, my name's Dan. What's yours?" He addressed this to Luke - he wanted to give himself a few minutes before shaking the other man's hand, to hopefully prepare himself in case whatever had just happened, happened again.

"I'm Luke, and this here's my bro, Bobby. C'mon, Bobby, get over here and shake hands with the man."

Bobby stepped forward and extended his hand. Dan had no choice but to take it.

The same jolt. No, not really a jolt, more like a flow from the other man's hand up Dan's arm and into his brain. It happened faster this time, the memory transfer almost instantaneous. And this time, it included a picture of Jane, and her voice, arranging with these hooligans to kill him. To kill him? His mind echoed? Kill me?

Dropping Bobby's hand, Dan surveyed them for the bulge of weapons, but their worn jeans and T-shirts {Luke's said, "I'm with Stupid"} could not have hidden anything more than a pocket knife. He felt he was safe for the moment.

"Nice to meet you guys, too," Dan said. "What are you fellas doing up here?"

Bobby shrugged, talking for the first time. "Aw, nothin', just a little fishin' and a lotta beer."

"Sounds good to me," Dan replied, forcing a grin onto his face. "Brought a dozen up myself, gonna settle down in front of a nice fire tonight and have a few, relax."

Luke and Bobby turned and gave each other a knowing smile. Luke spoke up. "Hey, maybe we could come on over and share that fire, man!"

Dan's mind was racing. What the hell was he going to do? Kill him? These guys were going to kill him? He couldn't believe that even Jane would stoop to this level. He knew she was very angry with him when they'd separated, but what good would it do her to kill him? He'd changed the beneficiary on his insurance to his mother. Jane would get no benefit from him being dead. Would she go to that length just because she hated him? 'Yes,' the other part of his mind answered immediately, 'she would, and you know it.'

Shaken, Dan makes small talk with his would-be killers, and finally gets rid of them by asking if they'd mind helping him hunt for some more branches to chop up. The idea of physical labor always scared these brothers away, and somehow Dan had known that. Not somehow, through the transfer of memories he'd experienced.

And what the hell was that all about? Did God allow that to happen so he was warned about his impending demise? He shrugged mentally, thinking that must be what it was. Simply a phenomenon. But now he had a huge new reality to deal with. He had no intention of letting these guys kill him, but what could he do to prevent it? He immediately thought of just packing everything back into the Jeep and heading home, but if she had killers on him, that would be the first place they'd look.

Maps. He had detail maps in his glove compartment. There were many interconnecting lakes and rivers, he could leave the Jeep here as if he was coming back, load the canoe with as much as it would carry, and plot a route through the waterways and go. Where? He had no idea, all he knew was that he had to get away from here, and do it now. That way he'd be very far away by the time the goof brothers realized he wasn't coming back.

Thinking of Luke and Bobby, Dan realized he was insulted that Jane would pick those two as his assassins. But then, she no longer had the money for anyone resembling a professional, and he'd seen in Bobby's mind what they were expecting as payment. Trust Jane to barter with the only valuable commodity she had. Too bad the boys wouldn't get to collect, unless they lied and said they'd killed him anyway.

He retrieved his guitar, three small boxes packed with food, his utensils, and his sleeping bag, and stowed them in the canoe. It was a good thing  he'd chosen the larger of the two he'd been offered, although he couldn't figure out at the time why he had. But now he needed the spaciousness to pack up his belongings. He hesitated for a long time about the sleeping bag, wanting to leave something that would tell the brothers he'd likely be coming back, but he also didn't want to freeze at night. Especially since he was leaving the tent behind. On an impulse, he took the spare blanket from the vehicle, and opened the package with the self-inflating air mattress that he'd bought in case his back began to bother him.

Unfolding it, he pulled the stopper that began the inflation process. He decided that it and the blanket would make a good enough seeming bed to fool the idiot brothers. He just couldn't believe that Jane would hire such fools to do something so important and dangerous as killing someone! Bobby's memories had shown the kind of work they'd done in the past.

Abruptly, Dan sat down on a large rock to the left of the fire. He reached his hand in his right pocket, and pulled it out with a small doeskin pouch, embroidered with a sacred symbol in small glittering seed beads. A native friend had made this medicine bag for him years ago, and he carried it everywhere. Right now it was filled with some hydroponic marijuana from a friend who was a grower. If there was ever a time that Dan could use a toke to clarify his thinking, this was it.

He slipped his rolling papers out of his back pocket and began to crumble a nicely dried bud. When it was prepared, Dan stuck it on top of his left ear, and began to roll another. He'd save one ready for a few miles down the water, and smoke one now. He patted his shirt pocket and located his lighter. There were also a couple of spares of everything in a plastic sandwich box in his food supplies, in case of a dunking. Dan was confident in his ability to handle the canoe, but better safe than sorry. He'd given up cigarettes several years ago, but he still smoked pot, he thought of it as a God-given herb, a plant that God and the Mother Earth provided for our use, not an addictive, chemical laden drug like cigarettes.

For Dan, the herbal cigarette removed all the mundane thoughts from his mind, and allowed him to focus on the task at hand. Saving his own life was certainly worth focusing his entire mind on.

He had no idea right now what his final destination might be. There were friends who'd moved away from Brockville almost all over the country. He could go east or west from here. He'd put the question to his Higher Mind and let the forces that be direct him.

Chapter Three

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