Chapter 5 Benny

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Dahl—Saturday, 8:15 AM

Feels like I've only slept an hour before my phone's cringy 'cocka-doodle-doo' alarm invades. Nightmare must've set it. Gonna need to change that. I roll over and reach for the phone. 

A banner across the screen displays an unsurprising text from Nightmare—'Sorry bro, gotta bounce, be back soon to see the setup'. 

My text prediction is perfect. I flop on my back, force my eyes open and drag my hockey bag closer with my toes around the black canvas handle. I pull out the white phone box and uncover the two accessories I need, wireless headphones and a charger. Brand-spankin' new—maybe they won't self-destruct right away, like every other phone accessory I've owned.

I shoot Gomez a text—'Gym?'

I listen, wonder if I'll hear his phone chime from my room. Might be on silent.

His reply chimes back with a pic of him aiming his phone at the hotel gym's mirror, flexing with the caption, 'Your workout is my warm-up bro. Meet you in the parking lot in 15.'

It's like he doesn't sleep.

—'on my way bro'

Back in my room, I point the shower dial to full-on blue. The cold feels great everywhere, except my shrinking balls, which forgive me after an apologetic hug from my gym-calloused hands. I point the dial to more moderate temperatures and finish cleaning, which doesn't take long when your hair's cropped down to the grain.

Not mixing black and yellow is a challenging puzzle with the clothing pieces I have in my hockey bag. The two sets of blue coveralls folded at the bottom are my new everyday rotation. Socks, underwear, black t-shirt, coveralls, steel toes—who is this hardworking stunner looking back from the mirror? I grab two muffins and coffee from the breakfast area.

The parking is already emptier than when we had pulled in, must have been some early check-outs. I place the coffee and muffins on the hood of the car and dig for my smokes. It's gotta be twenty-five degrees already.

"Ooh!" The look on Gomez's face says he's feeling it too.

"I gotta pick up Benny, our local grunt."

"S'all good, Dahl. I will hit the site and start unloading my toys."

"Good stuff, bro, see you in a minute."

Gomez pulls off, waving like a child on a school bus. I chuckle and set two waypoints after some poking in the box of files. After aux'ing in I turn up the driving playlist that my phone's sync'd and downloaded. Driving through the tiny village makes me feel like a wolf in blue coveralls. It's not far before a robotic female voice guides me to a dingy hotel. Either of two guys leaning outside the lobby doors look like they could be my man. I park and pop out.

"Hey guys, do either of you gentlemen know a Benny," I don't pronounce the last name, "who's a guest here?"

"Yeah, my cousin," one replies.

"Okay, cool stuff. Is he here or do you know his room number?"

"He's in the breakfast area." The guy makes a kissy face at me, but he might just be pointing lazily, I dunno.

"Right on. Thanks."

I head in, annoyed I have to go on the hunt. I spot him, looking like his website picture. No word of a lie—he's wearing the same shirt from the pic. He recognizes me. The three women sitting with him holding cardboard cups of tea—ten to one, must be his sisters or aunts.

"Benny, I presume?"

He approaches like a giddy child called for show and tell and shoots out his hand for a shake.

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