Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Humble Devil - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The two hour long flight passed in a blur, and very soon the gang landed in Stockholm Arlanda Airport.  It was a chilly Friday morning, and they still had a long eight hour drive to their destination – a small town of Adersund, in the northwest of the country, ahead of them. However the long and arguably dangerous journey was not what occupied their minds as they walked down the boarding stairs of the shiny private jet that took them there. The majestic machine was glowing proudly in the rays of the morning sun. The airplane lacked any corporate signs or writings, like most commercial planes, instead it was painted jet black and only had a single symbol painted in gold on its side – a stylised raised eyebrow and a crooked slim smile. The expression was all too familiar to them, as Cree exited the vehicle with the exact same look on his face.
“Welcome to Sweden, my friends!” He said throwing his hands up into the air, as if to welcome a cheering crowd. Thankfully there was no crowd there, only two fairly worn Land Rovers with their respective drivers. “Guys, grab your luggage, I’ll take care of this quickly” Cree said with a wink and slid down the safety railing, waving at the drivers. “Hej Hej! Henrik! Hur mår du?” One of the men smiled and said something in return, too quietly for any of them to hear over the sound of the still revving engines.
Hema huffed and picked his big bag off the small conveyor that lowered their luggage from the plane. Even though the flight in what could only be described as an overly luxurious aircraft (seriously, it had a dance pole in there for Christ’s sake) was very comfortable, his legs were still itchy from sitting. He swayed under the weight of his luggage and slowly headed towards the cars, where Cree seemed to be passionately arguing with the two men in what Hema could only describe as a barking language. In the meanwhile Liene, still very happy from the free on-board champagne easily picked up her bag, which was at least three times the size of Hema’s, and turned to Rami and Wolf to say something. However after a few failed attempts at communication Rami waved his hands at her pointing to his ears and then to the engines, which were just above them. Liene gave an understanding nod and trailed off after Hema.  The guys grabbed their (far smaller) bags and jogged over as well, giving one last look of admiration to the plane. 
Cree and the man he previously called Henrik were still arguing about something. That is to say Henrik was yelling at Cree, waving his hands as if trying to convince him of something, while the bastard stood there with his arms crossed and a displeased look on his face. “Du är galen, Cree!  Du-“ He got cut off by Cree raising his hand. “Håll käften, Hen. Kör!” Henrik quieted down, glanced at the gang and gave Cree one more judging look before signalling his friend, who remained silent the entire time, and started loading the bags into the cars.
 “The hell was that all about?” Wolf slowly approached Cree, giving a nod towards the two men. Cree waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t bother yourself with it. It’s all right.” However Wolf couldn’t help but make a note of a very visible frown on his face. As if noticing that, Cree quickly put on his usual smile and turned to the rest of the gang. “Well what are ya’ll waitin’ for, ya bastards?! Jump into the cars!” Then he turned on his heel and headed for the front passenger seat in the first car.  Liene patted Hema on the back with a wink. “Well, let’s go” He smiled in return and nodded. As they both disappeared inside the backseats of the first car, Rami quietly turned to Melo, who was observing his surroundings with a concerned look on his face.  “Did you get any of that?” Melo shook his head. “Parts of it”
“Please tell me it’s good.”
“It didn’t make much sense… but what I got wasn’t nice. I can definitely tell you one thing though, bro.”
“What?” Rami leaned in closer to Melo’s face.
“Shotgun.”  Melo said quietly and smiled.

  The country was quite beautiful this late in August. The road they took only twice passed through cities, and even they were rather on the smaller side. Although Wolf quite honestly preferred it that way. The deep pine sight forests were a welcome after the empty plains of California that he was so used to, or the endless urbanization of England. He kept noticing multiple road signs warning them of various wild animals in the area. Two signs in particular got his attention as they got more and more common the further north they went.  Bears and Wolves. Sweden was known for its Brown Bears and Gray Wolves – neither were an animal Wolf had any excess desire to meet with during this journey. Judging by what Cree told them a day earlier their destination was a city, so he still had hopes that they wouldn’t need to venture into the forest. Although who the hell knows what Cree had in his mind, he thought, especially after their last job in Hawaii. Wolf still couldn’t get over his fear of water caves after that last gig. Or whales. Or harpoons. Or cotton candy. Come to think of it, he has developed quite a lot of traumatic phobias since they first started working together five years ago.  Wolf sighed and opened up his laptop. It didn’t matter; really, he wasn’t going to quit just because of a few bruises and scars. The gigs always paid well and the company was great.  Although, he probably wouldn’t have quit even if the money was shit. One too many times did he have to save one of them from falling into a ravine, or getting eaten by a shark, or flat out getting shot. He couldn’t leave his friends alone with that maniac.
 Realising that he still didn’t get a 3G dongle for Sweden and thus there was no internet Wolf closed the laptop and turned to Rami, who was sitting beside him. “Did you find out anything?” Rami, who as usual was the only one with enough foresight to prepare himself a dongle beforehand, shook his head. “Nothing.  Literally. I can’t find any information on Adersund aside from their official website.” He quickly ran the site through web translator, only to find nothing of interest. Wolf raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “What about news? All cities have their sources of local news. At the very least a local post office would provide some form of information to the citizens. How big is the city?” Rami sifted through the information on the translated page. “Eight thousand one hundred and forty eight souls, according to the voting bill of 2008. And no, nada, nothing, absolute zero!” Rami was clearly getting frustrated. “There is not a single bit of news that I can find anywhere. It’s like the bloody town doesn’t exist at all!”
Wolf fell back into his seat, his mind quickly processing the information. It didn’t make any sense. The city was clearly real; Cree didn’t have enough willpower to hold back something like a “Fake City” from them for this long.  He would’ve blurted it out by this point at least once. Also faking a voting bill was quite a bit harder than creating a website.  His eyes quickly sought out the driver, scanning the front panel of the car. He immediately noticed a GPS navigator. While the writing didn’t make much sense to him, he still managed to single out a single familiar word: “Adersund”. That didn’t make sense. The city existed, it was a fact. But a city that had no news or correspondence whatsoever? Or, more accurately, a city of over eight thousand people that had no digital news?  It was easier to believe that pigs can fly. No, wait, that metaphor didn’t work, they have seen pigs fly before. This situation is more like… Honestly, no idea. This kind of occurrence was a thing unto its own.
 Wolf dug deeper into his seat and closed his eyes. Mind racing for a possible explanation. Then it struck him. Struck like lightning strikes a palm tree in the middle of Antarctic. He quickly turned to Rami again. “Look up the tourist section. See if you can find anything.” Rami gave wolf a confused look then dug into his computer. Minutes went by one after another. The more his fingers raced across the keyboard the more his face lit up. “Well?” Wolfe stretched out towards Rami in anticipation. Rami took of his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then put them back on and started speaking. “There is no tourist section on the official website as well. However, I pulled up the HTML source code – there are traces of a page called “turistattraktioner”. I can guess what that word means. The page was removed quickly, and rather sloppily. There’s residual code left all over. But if I try to look up the city on other tourist websites I’m getting this!” He turned the laptop to show it to Wolf. Several tabs were open showing various websites with text highlighted and their translations next to them. Wolf clicked through some of them – they all said very similar things. “There’s nothing in here but a number of warnings on bears, wolves and elks. Also that one forum post describes the city to have problems with alcoholism…” Wolf murmured to himself as he went through the information. “As I thought, this means...” he finally spoke out loud.
“…That somebody with enough power tried very hard to make sure nobody ever goes into that city, or otherwise finds out what’s going on inside” Melo, who was seemingly asleep the entire time in the front seat suddenly spoke out, opened his eyes and then turned to the startled Wolf and Rami with an evil smile. “Well well, this is getting really interesting…”

Neither of the three noticed the look their silent companion driver gave them as soon as Melo finished speaking.

Liene was blissfully asleep on the back seat; all the champagne during the flight must’ve finally claimed the girl. One could only guess what she was dreaming about, but she was definitely smiling. Hema sighed and then leaned forward, towards Cree’s seat. “How soon do you think we’ll get there, Cree?” He spoke with a slight Arabic accent. Egyptian, to be precise. Cree still had the annoying habit of listening for the hints of nationality in a person’s voice, before hearing what they are actually saying. However this habit saved his ass way too often to be considered “bad” per se. It was just annoying when speaking with people he already knew. “Uhmm..” He looked at the GPS for a few seconds. “I’d say we should see the city in about twenty minutes or so.” Hema fell back with a sigh of relief and then chuckled.
“You know, I actually found the two hours on that plane to be hard. You should have told me that we still had eight hours in a far less comfortable car in store, haha.” Cree smiled and reached to take off his glasses. Now that they’ve been out of the sun’s reach the tint had disappeared completely, revealing deep black circles under his eyes. Hema habitually inspected his old friend once again. The man in the front seat right now was quite different from the flamboyant rockstar-like man-child that got off the plane just a mere few hours ago. Both his black suit and his face looked worn and tired. The brown hair that he kept boyishly shot up showed more than one sign of greying. His eyes looked lifelessly on into the distance, as if looking past the deep blackness of the forest and the hills – deep into the unknown. Hema shuddered unconsciously. It was hard to believe that the man in front of him was in his early twenties. Just two years older than himself. 
“Maybe I should’ve, but I didn’t wanna scare ya too soon. “ Cree’s voice woke Hema up from his thoughts. He once again looked out of the window, at the even line of pines, rushing past them in a blur. “Well in a forest this deep we won’t so much see the city as much as end up in it won’t we? Hah!” Hema said jokingly. Cree laughed out loud, as if gaining his usual energy back. “True enough!  And speaking of which, look!” 

All six of them, despite riding in different cars looked out of the windows at the same time, as if on command. Even the sleeping Liene opened up one eye. The big wooden sign with the word “Adersund” shot by them in a flash. Both cars immediately slowed down, abiding the speed limits.  As the first accurate rows of houses showed themselves from beyond the treeline Cree’s face took on his usual evil smile – all shreds of previous weariness gone in an instant. The usual manic look in his eyes was back. And with it – his voice, filled with as much excitement as blood thirst.
“We’re here.

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