In “Time to Disappear,” Romario specializes in helping his clients vanish, until a suspicious client with a secret changes everything…
by: Stephanie Daich
“I need you to make me disappear.” The stranger hoovered in way too close. I looked past him, leaning to my right trying to ignore him. He shouldn’t intrude upon my summer escape on Encinitas Beach.
A salty breeze passed over. I sipped my mimosa with the sweet citrus bubbling in my mouth. How dare he disturb me.
“What’s it to me?” I watched a miniature poodle barking while still not giving the intruder the benefit of eye contact. The poodle chased the waves, only to retreat when they rolled in too closely.
The man rubbed his chin and shaded the rising eastern sun from his eyes.
“I come with the referral of Randolph.”
“Don’t know him.” I took another swig of my crisp drink.
The man shoved a shiny black business card into my face. I took it and rubbed my finger across the glossy surface. The thickness and weight seemed correct. I bent down with my hair flopping into my eyes and fished my UV pen out of my beach bag. The UV light illuminated my brand on the back of the card. This indeed was my card, or an expert replica.
I studied the man’s face. He wrinkled his forehead in dismay and tried to look pitiful, yet his eyes lacked desperation. Perhaps he wore a poker face. Usually, my clients had a desperation I could feel.
“Sit,” I commanded. I couldn’t have him in the power position over me. His eyes dashed to the sand, then back to me. I kept a stone face, and he obliged my wishes. He looked up at me from his inferior position below me in the sand, and now I towered over him.
I studied his brown hair, caucasian face, and slim build.
“You are aware of my fee?”
“Yes, sir.” His left eye twitched, not a good sign. He held a secret from me.
I drank the last of my mimosa, wanting another. This assailant of my time prevented me from running up to my summer home and crafting another drink.
“Now, that is a base fee. Depending on the logistics of the case, it could go up.”
“I understand. Money is not a hindrance.” He rubbed the arm of his Italian suit, an attempt to persuade me that he had money.
I ran my finger over the card again.
“You understand this is final. Once you establish a new identity and they find your ‘dead body,’ there is no returning to your old life. You have to sever all contacts.”
I tightened my face and bolded my words. “Permanently.”
The man leaned his weight to his back arm as he peered up at me. “I understand.”
Bodies bobbed up and down in the ocean like buoyant apples, with the occasional surfer mounting their board and riding a wave.
“If you breach this vital part of the contract, you will become the next dead body in my disappearing act.”
His eye twitched again. “I understand.”
“Being an average-looking American male, I only need two weeks.”
“Two weeks,” he said flatly, then raised his tone for effect. “I need it complete in four days.”
“Four days? That’s near impossible.”
“It has to be four days.”
A flock of seagulls flew above. Instinctively I covered my head, the once victim of their bombings. Their squeals broke our conversation.
“Listen, your fee will double. We must start this very minute if you want it done in four days. You will spend the next ninety-six hours with my team until it is done. Are you prepared to walk away from your life, your family, all you know this very minute?”
The man stared into my eyes. “Yes, but I have a few questions?”
I leaned back in my beach chair. “I imagine you do.”
I dug my feet into the cool sand. I couldn’t place it, but this man seemed off, like a terrible actor in a low-budget junior high play. But Rodolph had given him my card and info, and I trusted Rodolph.
“The body you will use for me, don’t they do a dental record search?” I could hardly hear his weasley voice over the roar of the surf.
“Every crime scene we create, we mutilate areas of distinction. We are thorough.”
“Where do you get the dead body that will take my place? You don’t kill someone do you?”
“You ask questions that don’t concern you.” Who was this joker? I should have walked away. Ended it then and there. I had body suppliers from all the big cities, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Chicago. Bodies unlimited. The trick came in finding a dead body that matched my client’s age, frame, and any other unique features.
“What about my fingerprints.” He looked at his fingers. “Even if I am registered dead, they could give me away.”
“On day three, you will meet with my fingerprint technician. He will melt your prints and replace them with a new set.”
His eyes widened. “They can do that. Does it hurt?”
“Listen, you want to disappear. Any pain this process puts you through should be the least of your concerns.”
“Sorry,” he looked down in his lap. His conformity lacked backbone.
“You will need to transfer most of the fee right now.”
He flipped his phone out of his breast pocket.
“Open your account, and I will put my account number in.”
The man tapped at his phone and then handed it to me. I held a relict iPhone, about three years old. He had the funds to pay me but not upgrade his phone? A red flag for certain. Could I trust this man? His eyes bothered me. Could I believe his desperation?
Against my gut feeling, I put my account number in his phone and $625,000 for him to transfer over. I handed the man back his phone and watched him complete the transfer. I opened my account on my phone and saw the transfer had posted.
“Tomorrow, you will send over $125,000 and do so daily. I will let you know on the fourth day if any more will be added.”
This man didn’t negotiate my fee. Most of my clients negotiated. The hairs on the back of my head stood up.
A commotion captured my attention, and I saw a swat team of agents surrounding us.
My muscles tightened. Suddenly, the rising sun seemed like a furnace.
Why hadn’t I used more vigilance?
“Romario Valtagia, you are under arrest.” They swarmed me like angry ants. They pushed my head to the ground, and sand embedded into my eyes and nose.
Acid pushed its way up my throat, and I swallowed it down. It burned.
I didn’t listen to my gut, which cost me.
After a stint in prison, I made the exuberant bail of seventy-five million dollars.
Upon my release, I climbed into the waiting limo.
I knew one thing.
It was now I who had to disappear.
What transpires when Stephanie Daich observes life? She creates stories. What happens when you read her stories? Your imagination explodes. Stephanie Daich works in corrections and writes for the human experience. Examples of magazines and books you will find her work in are Making Connections, Youth Imaginations, Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul: Kindness Matters, and others.