“That’s easy,” Nuri said. “We have to figure out where they are, or where they will be, and let me handle it from there.”
“I don’t know where they are,” Garret said. “Tomorrow, they’re supposed to call me to arrange a time and place to meet.”
“That’s good,” Nuri said with a nod. “It’s just time is money, and I can’t wait until tomorrow.” He moved to the table and pulled the chairs out. Sticking his hands in his pockets, he pulled three small pouches out and dumped their contents.
“What are you doing?” Garret stepped beside the table and looked at the items. He saw a piece of glass, a metal ring, twine, a dead bug, and various other things he wasn’t sure of.
“Do you have anything personal of your friends?” Nuri slid several items from the table and put them back into pouches. “Preferably something he valued or personal.”
“I have his collection of rare baseball cards,” Garret said and picked up the frame. “We used it as collateral for his loan to me.”
“Is it collateral or did you buy it?” Nuri looked at the frame and raised his eyebrows.
“I bought it, but he can buy it back for the value of his loan without interest,” Garret said. “I think that was how I worded it.”
“That is the definition of collateral,” Nuri said. “Was that your intent? Or did you want to keep the cards?” He turned his face toward Garret.
“Uh, well,” Garret sputtered. “It would be nice, but if he can pay me back, I’ll give it back.”
“Good,” Nuri said. “Place it here.”
Garret laid it on the table where it took up the majority of the surface. Nuri opened a small container and poured a thick liquid onto the glass and traced a circle with a feather.
“That’ll wipe off, right?” Garret looked at Nuri.
Nuri’s lips twitched and flicked as he muttered under his breath. Next, he placed four different colored pebbles in the corners of the frame. Blue, red, green, and black. His hands sprinkled a dust over the frame and he looked at the ceiling with his eyes wide. A wooden match appeared between his fingers, and he flicked it with his thumbnail making it blaze to life with an orange flame.
“Hey!” Garret backed away. “That’s fire. What the hell are you—”
What he was about to say was muffled by the whumpf of the fire that covered the frame and shot flames close to the ceiling. As fast as it appeared, the flame disappeared.
The loud steady alarm of a smoke alarm sounded. Garret and Nuri jumped at the sound. Garret snagged a magazine and a chair. He climbed onto the chair and waved the magazine under the white circle of the alarm. Once his vision cleared of the dingy smoke, he reached up and tapped the reset button on the smoke detector.
“Dammit, this is my house,” Garret shouted as he climbed down and reached for Nuri.
“Map!” Nuri snapped. “I need a map of the city.”
Garret stared at Nuri then blinked. “I don’t have one.”
Nuri leaned in close and growled, “Get one.”
Garret floundered and pulled out his phone. With a few swipes, he had his navigation app up and running with the city spanning off the screen. He held it out for Nuri.
“This’ll work,” Nuri said and poked a finger on the screen. Sliding his finger in one direction he changed what was on the screen. He repeated this twice more and then looked at Garret. “How do I get closer.”
“Uh,” Garret said. “Two fingers and split them.” He imitated the maneuver.
Nuri did the same move three times until a single building took up the phone screen. “He’s there.”
Garret turned the phone so he could see. Two finger taps and he had it marked as a favorite. “It says it’s the Kolalo Warehouse.”
“Does it?” Nuri said, wiping his brow with a purple silk handkerchief. “That is interesting. It means bone.” He stuffed the handkerchief into an inside pocket.
“Are you ok?” Garret pointed as the handkerchief disappeared. “You’re sweating.”
Nuri sighed and looked at Garret. “It happens. I’ve done a lot in a short time. It takes it out of me, but I’m ok. Let’s get going.”
Garret’s voice raised in pitch as his eyes bugged. “Now? It’ll be dark, or close to it when we get there.”
“It will,” Nuri said. “The sooner we get there, the better chance we’ll have of getting him out of there unscathed. You’re driving.” His head tilted toward the garage.
“Fine,” Garret said and pulled his keys out of his pocket. “But I’m hitting a drive through along the way. I’m starving.”
Nuri’s eyes brightened. “Good idea. Could you make it that one with the girl on the sign? I like the one with two meet slabs.”
“Seriously?” Garret glanced over his shoulder as he entered the garage. “You eat fast food?”
“On occasion,” Nuri said with a shrug. “We’re in a hurry and hungry. It just makes sense. And get one of them ice-cream things. The big one.”
“Fine.” Garret sliding into the driver’s seat and activated the garage door opener. “Whatever.”
Garret turned out of the drive-thru and continued on their route to the warehouse.
With his cheeks packed and jaws working the food, Nuri said, “Greasy, messy, and deadly. And oh so delicious.” His lips wrapped around the straw and he pulled in a mouthful of dark fluid. “And this.” He swallowed and his eyes fluttered. “I’m gonna pay for this tomorrow.”
“Are you going to be ok for tonight?” Garret looked over at his passenger as he swallowed his bite of fries. “If we are going to negotiate for Keith, I don’t need you in a food coma.”
“I’m good,” Nuri said as a ketchup-stained smile flashed on his face.
For the rest of the journey, they ate their portable meal as Garret followed the GPS directions from his phone.
Garret stopped next to a curb. According to the phone, they were one block away from their destination. Stopping the app, Garret exited and pulled the burger wrappers and bags with him. He tossed them in a garbage can next to a bus stop as they walked to the Kolalo Warehouse.
Nuri covered his mouth with a fist and belched. “Be careful when we get inside. They’ll have guns and what not.”
“Shit,” Garret said and his face drained of color as he stopped. “I didn’t think about that.”
“What do you think loan sharks carry? Pillows?” Nuri pulled him in the direction they were headed.
“I just didn’t think about it,” Garret said.
They traveled for a few steps without any sound.
Garret broke the silence as they crossed the dimly lit street. “What’s the plan?”
“We get inside and get Keith back,” Nuri said. “Then one of you pays me and off I go. After that, I don’t care.” He waved a hand as he spoke.
“That’s not much of a plan,” Garret said staring at Nuri. “I’ve seen better flag-football plays.”
“Well,” Nuri said. “It’s been my experience that thugs rely too much on muscles and not enough on brains. I bet we can work something out.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out one the pouches. Pulling the strings open, he pulled out a small vial of a dark liquid. “Get me something about the size of a brick.”
“How about a brick?” Garret dashed over next to an alley and picked up a stray red brick. He handed it to Nuri.
“Perfect,” he said and poured the liquid over the brick. After tossing the vial, he put his hand over the brick and said something Garret didn’t understand. The brick shimmered and a wisp of smoke ascended into the air. Glancing back at the brick, Garret saw it was gold in color.
“No,” Nuri answered. “But it looks like one. Even feels like one. For about an hour.”
“What happens after the hour?” Garret asked as he pointed to the warehouse.
“It’s a brick,” Nuri said. “What do you think happens? Sheesh.”