16Sunsets – Centre of Attention, continued


Kristof tucked his book under his arm and looked around the duty free shop. It looked the same as any other convenience store he had been in in his lifetime. He made his way to a pay phone next to an automated teller machine. He picked up the receiver and rapidly punched in thirty-two numbers followed by the pound key. Once he depressed the coin return lever, the payphone spit out a handful of quarters. Kristof reached for the coins but hesitated.

“Making a call, buddy?”

“Hey, Jules,” replied Kristof without turning. “Can I get a little privacy?”

“No problem, buddy.” Jules squeezed Kristof’s shoulder. “I just need to get as many smokes as I can.”

Kristof sighed quietly. “A standard coach bus seats fifty-six people.”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Even if fifteen percent are smokers, you have forty-six potential mules.”

“Mules, buddy?”

Kristof turned to face his excitable seatmate. “Yes. If you ask forty-six passengers to purchase a carton of cigarettes at twenty dollars each and sell them to your carnival buddies at thirty a carton, you can then spend the remaining ten dollars to further your endeavor. If you do it right, say every weekend, you could net fifteen thousand dollars a year after a modest forty-five percent operating cost.”

Jules looked over his shoulder, back and winked at Kristof. “Thanks, buddy. I knew you were something special.” Jules turned and headed towards the bus to recruit mules.

Kristof turned his attention back to the payphone and fed the quarters from the coin return into the coin slot. He quickly dialed the eleven digits to call his house.



Kristof sighed as it rang a third time, followed by a click. You have reached Kristof and Krystal, his own voice intoned on the line; we’re not available at the moment so please leave a message at the tone.

Kristof returned the handset to its cradle. Kristof spent considerable time browsing the candy isle. He read ingredient lists, but selected nothing. He walked towards a cute brunette behind the counter. She absently snapped her chewing gum and flipped through a magazine.

“Can I help you with something, hon?”

Kristof started to respond, but a piece of paper thumbtacked to a corkboard behind her caught his attention: A drawing of the thug that robbed him. The eyebrow ring and angry eyes fit his attacker perfectly.


“Thanks, nothing,” Kristof sputtered. “I’ll just be on my way.”

The brunette nodded and returned to her magazine, but Kristof didn’t see this as he was already hustling out the door.

* * *

“Hey, buddy, can I get your help?”

Joaquin smoothed the folds on the sleeves of his jersey. “What up, yo?”

“If I spot you a twenty…” Jules looked at Joaquin’s face. “Um, never mind, buddy.”

Joaquin scowled. “You got a problem?”

Jules leaned closer. “Keep your voice down, buddy.” Jules looked over his shoulder at the duty free shop. “There’s a wanted poster behind the counter.” Jules licked his lips. “Looks a lot like you, buddy.”

Joaquin followed Jules’ gaze toward the duty free shop in time to see a middle-aged man walk out. “The fuck?”

“That’s Kristof, buddy. He’s a smart dude.”

“I’ll bet,” replied Joaquin. “Catch ya later,” he called out as he slowly moved to follow Kristof.

* * *

They’ve found me, thought Kristof. They’re going to pretend to need me as a witness for that street urchin who stabbed me. Kristof walked slowly, but with determination towards the border. Lies… its all lies. They want to stop me from acting on what I learned in that library. I’ve got to get into Canada. Out of their jurisdiction. Kristof continued to walk and watched for guards at the border.

Hundreds of plans to get over the border undetected formed and disbanded in his head. His brain was running on adrenaline, and he factored in sightlines, position of the overhead sun and average stride length of a guard.

Suddenly, Kristof saw his opening, dropped his heavy book and dashed into the Canadian woods.

* * *

Joaquin saw Kristof run at full speed and disappear into the woods. Joaquin followed, only moments behind Kristof. “I’ll deal with him in the Canadian wilderness,” he thought as he breached the tree line.

16Sunsets – Secrets

On Friday, I stopped just before the 1000-word count imposed by Chuck’s prompt, but there was still a little story left. This is the 700-word conclusion to “Centre of Attention.”

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

One response to “16Sunsets – Centre of Attention, continued

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