Chapter 49

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After David signed the agreement, Doug left and Gabriel entered. He bound David's arms in the back with a zip tie. The man looked equal parts geek and thug, with a black hoodie underneath a thick black leather jacket that smelled of cigarettes and sweat. David wondered if musk was the last thing he would ever smell.

"You can still let us go and we won't say anything," said David.

"Shut the fuck up." He dragged David to the hallway like a wet dog where he saw a badly beaten Andrew. His face looked like a raw piece of meat.

"I'm sorry," said Andrew in a whisper. He wasn't looking David in the eye, but rather staring blankly. "He made me sign my shares away."

"Don't worry about it," said David.

David felt guilty that he had signed over his part of the company without more of a struggle. But just as quickly he wondered why Andrew had put up such a fight in the first place. Why should he care about the company in a situation like this? Cryptobit was going under one way or another.

But then the man kicked David, knocking him to the ground. David realized that maybe Andrew wasn't playing hero after all. Maybe this goon had just been beating Andrew for fun.

"Get up," the man said. "Both of you, stand up and start walking."

They walked outside, out of a large hanger toward endless rows of shipping containers stacked three levels high. He could smell oil and rust in the air. Andrew was limping, so David leaned closer to give him support, but it didn't help. They hopped and stumbled through rushing water and a maze of containers until they reached a large rusty one with the door wide open.

"Get in."

David struggled to focus his eyes inside. It appeared empty. David knew that if they got in, they were never getting out.

"Get in," the man repeated in a shout. "Ahh shit. You've got to be kidding me."

David turned to Andrew, who had fallen.

"Well that makes my choice that much easier."

The man raised his arm and, without any hesitation, shot Andrew in the back. Twice. But David was confused because Andrew didn't seem to move. Had he missed? Then two dark red dots appeared and began to grow. The man walked up to David, stuck the gun in his pants, and brought out a large knife. He grabbed David's arm and violently turned him around, pushing him up against the open door.

"Pick up your friend and put him in the container." David felt the cold blade brush against his hands as the man cut him free from the zip ties. David rushed over to Andrew's side.

"I'm sorry," whispered Andrew.

"Stop that, you'll be fine," said David. "Everything's going to be okay. Just stay with me, buddy."

Andrew's eyes rolled to the back of his head. David picked him up by the shoulders and Andrew came around. He cracked a smile. "I don't have a cunning plan, this time."

David felt a knot in his throat tightening up. He dragged his friend to the back of the container and leaned him against the wall, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. David felt a strange peace flow over him. It seemed like the world had slowed down. Though it was dark, he could see things more vividly than at any other point in his life. The floor of the container had a thin layer of old grease and muck floating on the storm water, but even in the dark, David could see the clumps of muck so clearly. He could see small pieces of wood from the countless crates that had been taken in and out of this container for years. He could see hints of the remnant grain in those small pieces of wood. He had never noticed before that the grains of wood were like a man's wrinkles.

David saw Andrew's face and it felt like he was looking at a stranger. It was familiar but different. Andrew had more wrinkles than he remembered. David wondered when was the last time he really saw his friend. It seemed like just the other day that they were in middle school together, climbing fences.

David stood up and faced the man. His eyes were wide-set and thin, almost like a squint. Time slowed even more, like molasses. The man was moving his mouth, but David couldn't make out his words. He just saw a deep sadness in the man's face. A sadness masked by anger. David's arm began to rise as if it was attached to a helium balloon. He didn't want to lift his arm. In fact, he didn't even feel like he was connected to his body. He was merely an observer of his own actions. Raising his arm aggravated this sad man further. He could see the sides of the man's mouth curl into a deeper frown. David's legs began to move as well. The sad man didn't like this at all, and David felt a vibration in his chest immediately followed by a loud bang.

David looked down at his chest and wondered when he would start seeing a small dot turn into a large red spot. He turned his head to see his friend. Andrew looked so peaceful leaning against the wall. He looked back down at his chest.

Then he looked at the sad man, but he was gone. No, not gone. He was just on the floor. Maybe he was tired from killing so many people, exhausted from being so angry. David realized how absurd that sounded about the same time he heard the sirens blaring. All at once time sped up again. A flood of men with large guns swarmed the shipping container, and one of them grabbed David by the hand and yanked him out into the light. He was shuffled into a large black van where he heard a familiar voice.

"David, David. Are you okay?"

Shawn walked up next to him wearing a bulky bulletproof vest.

"Never thought I would be happy to see your face again," said David.

"Neither did I," said Shawn.

"How's Andrew?"

Brandon walked up to join them.

"He's going to be fine," said Brandon. "EMTs say the bullets missed vital organs. He's one lucky guy."

"You didn't follow the plan," said Shawn.

"I didn't have much of a choice."

"No, not that. The money."

David smiled.

"You promised you would pay it back. Where is the money?"

"I'm no longer the owner of Cryptobit, including the bank accounts or outstanding debts. You are going to have to take those matters up with System."

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