Marked Difference

(About 1000 words)

“Uber for Mark?” the handsome middle-aged passenger peeked through the front window. The driver took one look at him and almost fainted.

“You’re… you’re Mark Romero, right? Agent Mark Romero?”

Romero sighed. It had been fun at first, but now it was starting to get seriously annoying. Damn that Tina for convincing him to get on TV.

“That’s the one.”

If the driver could’ve jumped, he would have.

“Omigod, sir, big fan, sir, big fan—”

“Thanks, now, I need to—”

“The way you busted that coke ring, sir, saw it on TV sir, heroic, absolutely fantastic.”

“Yes, thank you, flattered; now listen to me—what’s your name?”

“Kevin, sir, at your service.” The man actually saluted.

“Look, Kevin, I have my nephew’s wedding to get to, now, and Juárez’s nearly three hours away. I’m running an hour late already, so I’ll make you a deal– you step on it, and I’ll tell you about that cocaine ring on the way. How does that sound?”

Kevin took a second to take the panicked man’s information in. “Very good, sir, very good. Hop in.”

***

Kevin had stepped on it. Juárez was less than an hour away now. It looked like Romero was going to get there on time after all.

As promised, he’d given the man the cocaine story.

“So it ended with a car chase, sir? Just like in the movies?”

“Just like in the movies.”

“That must ha’ been exciting, sir,” Kevin said, turning around in his seat.

“Actually, it— whoa, eyes on the road, Kevin!” They’d barely just swerved around a large pole.

“Sorry, sir.”

“You know, you don’t have to keep calling me ’sir’. Mark’s fine.”

“Jus’ habit, sir. Sorry, Mark.” He glanced in the rear-view mirror. “What was it you was sayin’ about the car chase?”

“A car chase isn’t exciting when you’re in it. It’s just a load of barking and receiving orders over the radio. Too much panic to feel anything but stressed. It’s only after it ends that the reality of what you just did sinks in.”

“Well, that’s with a lotta things in life, I s’pose. You only get what happens after it happens,” Kevin remarked.

Romero was caught off guard by this casual piece of wisdom. “That’s deep, Kevin.”

“Thanks, sir. Mark.”

Romero allowed a moment of silence to pass. Just before it became awkward, he said— “So tell me about you, Kevin. I’ve been talking about myself this whole time. You got any family?”

“Oh yeah, su- Mark. I got a lovely wife and two beautiful girls. Jus’ thinking what they’ll say when I tell ‘em I drove Mark Romero.”

Romero laughed. “You think too highly of me, Kevin.”

“You’re a man that deserves to be highly thunk of, Mark.”

“Hey, look at that. You finally caught on to Mark.”

Kevin laughed. They’d just passed a milestone informing them that Juárez was seven miles away when Kevin’s phone rang.

He clicked his tongue. “It’s the wife, Mark, I won’t be a minute.”

“Sure.”

He pulled over and took the call.

“Jo, how many times have I told ya not to call on duty?”

A pause.

“Yes, I’ll get eggs.”

“Whatsat? Hoisin sauce?” He looked towards Romero for help.

“It’s a… thing they put in Chinese food,” he ventured.

“Yeah, and… hello? Jo? Hello?” he looked at his phone in dismay. It had switched off.

“Stupid phone battery. Terribly sorry, sir, could I use your phone for a second? The wife’ll murder me if I don’t get all her things.”

Romero unlocked his phone and handed it over. “I thought you said you had a ‘lovely’ wife.”

“When she gets what she wants, she’s lovely all right.” Kevin turned and tried to find the call app. “Sorry, sir. Yours is one o’those new-fangled smartphones. Gonna take me a second to figure out.”

Romero tapped his foot impatiently. He hoped they’d still be able to make it on time.

Kevin, meanwhile, had finally figured it out. He placed the call.

“Yeah, Jo, I’m usin’ a passenger’s phone, so be quick.”

A short pause.

“Eggs, Hoisin sauce, onions, Sichuan peppers. Got it.” He handed the phone back. “Thanks terribly, sir.”

Now that they’d resettled into a comfortably high speed, Romero eased up again. “Your wife cooking Chinese today?”

“I think so.”

“You’re a lucky man, Kevin. My wife’s away a lot because of her job, and all I know to make apart from frozen food is ham sandwiches.”

“Well now my number’s in your log, Mark, so feel free to call. My wife’ll be only too happy to teach ya.”

“If you say so.”

Fifteen minutes later, they arrived.

“And there’s your stop.” Kevin pulled over. “Wish your nephew a happy married life from me.”

“I will.” The agent walked away.

Kevin drove on. He declined the next trip request and stopped at an abandoned junkyard.

After making sure no one was around, he bent and slipped his hand over the fender. Covering the brown package with his shirt, he walked in.

The man, known to him only as el tiburón, or ‘the shark’, was leaning against a rusted blue Cadillac, staring at his phone with dirty white earphones plugged in. Still, he heard Kevin coming and yanked his earphones out. He looked pointedly at the bulge under Kevin’s shirt. He tossed it to him.

The shark opened the caddy’s door and weighed the consignment. He seemed satisfied.

“Tell Walt we’ll need double this crystal next time. Here’s your cut.” He threw him another brown package.

Kevin was about to turn and walk away, when el tiburón said— “Liked the little daughters’ impromptu you put on there.”

The shark was not someone who often gave compliments, so Kevin took it. “Thanks, tiburón.”

“Hey, you sure you loaded that spyware on his phone prop’ly? You didn’t seem to have it for long.”

“Of course. And another thing— Romero might call my ‘wife’s’ number for a recipe, so make sure you’ve got that covered.”

The shark soured instantly. “Don’t teach me how to do stuff, Uber. I been here long before ya.”

Kevin threw up his hands defensively. “Of course, of course, señor. After all, you won’t be making the same mistakes as the coke ring now.”

Kevin jogged to his car before el tiburón could say anything else. He stowed the bag of cash beneath the steering wheel and accepted the next trip.

 

 

 

 

 

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