The entire room felt like a swirling buzz. With weak, labored breathing, Bryan roused to consciousness, unable to completely grasp the situation he’d found himself in. Blinking rapidly, yet unable to see, he gradually became aware of his scenario and surroundings. There was a course, black bag on his head; nothing porous enough for him to get more than a dark glimpse of moving shadows, rhythmically swaying in front of him. Muffled sounds, like what you’d expect from an old phonograph, teased his ears behind the humming of faint tinnitus. Eventually, the dull sound fluctuations evolved into recognizable speech. Two men were in the room; older, rugged, yet distinguished sounding men whispered loudly to each other, not far away from where he sat.
“How did I get here?” Bryan asked himself in his head, realizing he was tied tightly to an old wooden chair.
He then took inventory of himself; despite not actually being physically hurt, and judging by his woozy and foggy mental state, he concluded he must’ve been drugged and carried there. He began to move his head around slightly, wary that the two men might take notice of his quick movements. The slow, rotating dance of shadows across his face grew stronger as he looked up.
“…A big fan?”
As the ear ringing finally subsided, he could hear the rough and hard scuffling of the two men’s boots against the ground; and very faintly, a small drip would sound every once in a while.
“A concrete building…Maybe I’m in an old warehouse; but, why me? I’m just a normal kid,” he wondered.
Despite his athletic prowess in High School, his biggest interests were, in fact, his Science and Economics classes, and he would ace them.
“Bryan,” his favorite science teacher, Ms. Glade, would constantly tell him, “you’ve got a great brain, but, to use it properly, you must always pay attention to your surroundings, and apply that knowledge. That’s how the greatest thinkers became great.”
His father was always a very successful and skilled businessman, who’d teach him the principles of money, investment, and innovation. He’d, in fact, just graduated from his high school with basketball and honors scholarships. Just like Ms. Glade had taught him, except this was no longer a fun game, his brain currently fired on all cylinders, scanning his surroundings for useful information through any senses available.
Becoming too caught up in the analysis, however, he eventually realized the whispering and movement of the men had ceased. Immediately, he could sense something different, like eyes were on him. He froze, petrified, hoping that his stillness would prevent what he was afraid was about to happen.
Sure enough, after a few moments of awkward silence, he could hear again the heavy, rough steps of boots, this time approaching him. A large hand, almost the size of his head, swiftly snatched the coarse bag. Eyes closed at first, Bryan cautiously opened one eye, and then slowly the other. The men standing in front of him looked exactly like the kind of men that, if they were walking toward you at night, you would cross to the other side of the street. One of them was bald, with a thick, brown beard and a long, deep scar down his left eye; he was tall and athletic looking, and although he wasn’t old, his skin looked quite hard and aged. He was bent forward, hands on his knees, squinting inquisitively.
“OK, let’s hurry this up,” the other man muttered, tapping the bald one on the shoulder anxiously.
The second one looked significantly younger; he had jet black hair, he was clean shaven with strong features, was a couple inches shorter, and also very well built. He was also very nervous, despite the imposingly confident disposition of his partner.
“He already took longer than we thought to wake up, we only have so much time,” the second continued, whispering close behind the first man.
Pausing for a moment after the other’s statement, the first man stood up from his bent over position, his gaze still mechanically fixed on the young man.
“Where is it?” he growled.
“Huh? Where is what?” Bryan replied quietly, in a shaking tone.
“You know what. Where is…it!?” he said, bending over forward again, this time more angrily, and placing his massive hands on Bryan’s shoulders.
“I-I-…I don’t know what it is!” Bryan mumbled, visibly nervous, averting his gaze from the man.
“The twenty thousand!” the second man yelled, throwing his hands up, and pacing behind the other one. “We know you either have it, or know where it is! And you will tell us, kid! We don’t have the time, or the patience to play games with you!”
“The Ledger; that little black book that you picked up earlier today…we know you know where the twenty thousand is,” the first man stated, in a calm, but obviously agitated tone, motioning to the small table behind him with his head.
“Ledger…” Bryan whispered, peering over the man’s shoulder at the table.
On it, a little black book sat, bound in fresh, quality leather, with a buckle on the front. As he stared at it, he remembered walking home from school and picking it up off the ground. The little book just looked interesting to him; he hadn’t even opened it yet. But then, he realized, that’s where his memory became fuzzy.
“This is mistake,” he then mumbled.
“Hmm? You bet it’s a mistake, kid, your mistake for being sloppy and getting caught!”
“No! You have the wrong guy! I don’t know any of what’s going on!” Bryan then yelled, tensing up his body and pushing against the rope restraints of the old, creaky chair.
The two then paused for a moment, looked at each other, and began chuckling.
“What do you take us for, runt, amateurs? We can make you talk,” he continued, walking over to the table to open up a small, rusty tackle box.
“No…NO! I’M TELLING THE TRUTH!” Bryan yelled, frantically.
“The truth, oh, you will be telling us that. I have no doubt about it,” the first man casually stated, returning with frighteningly sharp tools in hand.
Instantly, a massive blast echoed through the building, from not far away, shaking the room. The two men ducked, warily, and whipped their heads around in a panic at the commotion.
“I told you we didn’t have enough time!” the second man shouted, darting toward the table to grab a gun.
As Bryan remained trembling in the chair, the two men busted out of the room with their pistols. With a couple blasts drawing closer, indiscriminate yelling could be heard amidst the turmoil, and then, gunfire. Sitting frozen, as the building went silent a few moments, he saw a couple metal cans bounce into the room. Smoke immediately poured out from them, burning his eyes and lungs; right after, he could hear a horde of heavy boots swarm the room, and a mask was fastened over his face.
“You’ll be alright, kid, we got you,” declared the strong, calming voice of the man fastening his gas mask, from behind a mask of his own.
The smooth rays warmed Bryan’s face as the small SWAT team escorted him out of the abandoned warehouse. Regardless of the shortness of the ordeal, he smiled underneath the mask, never having been so happy to feel the sun on his face again. As they all approached the armored truck out front, and two of the agents jumped in the front seats, one of the agents tapped him on the shoulder.
“Kid, come over this way for a sec, we have some important questions to ask you,” he said, motioning to the side of the building, where two other agents waited.
Of the two awaiting them while they walked over, one of them was staring at him with a cold, almost empty, gaze. Immediately, Bryan felt the same unease as he had in that room. As he drew within feet of the two agents, he could hear the one behind him, the one who’d fastened his mask and walked him out, who’d seemed so kind, pulled the bolt on his rifle. His blood froze in his veins. Looking up from the ground, he saw, in a lightening flash, the cold looking agent pull his gun and instantly shoot the other two in the head. Again, petrified, unable to even fathom what was happening, Bryan stood with his eyes wide in fear.
“C’mon, kid, now! I’m not going to ask you twice, and they’re not even going to ask!” the agent exclaimed, yanking off his mask and uniform, pointing his head at the other two agents in the van, who’d began looking through the side mirrors.
“W-what is happening!? I just want to go home,” he whimpered, shivering in fear.
“Listen, you come with me, or you die. Pick, NOW,” the agent warned, shaking him by the shoulders.
Sprinting after the man, who was now in the black suit that was under his fatigues, Bryan struggled to keep the strength in his shaking bones and muscles while the remaining agents shot at them. Only a few seconds behind the suited man, after he’d dashed into a nearby alley, Bryan could hear the aggressive rev of a powerful engine. As he got close to the alleyway, the man pulled in front of him, nearly hitting him, in a jet black Mercedes AMG.
“HURRY UP!” he shouted from inside, as the windows rolled down.
Leaping in head first through the back window, he could hear the searing bullets ricochet off of the car’s body. Speeding away, and fish tailing, the car left a heap of smoking tracks, accompanied by the harsh smell of rubber.
“WHAT IS GOING ON, WHO ARE YOU, AND WHY IS EVERYONE TRYING TO KILL ME!?” Bryan yelled from the back seat, on the verge of tears.
Sitting silent for a few moments, as he watched the enemies in the mirror, the suited man then focused his eyes on him.
“Raven…I don’t have a name, so you can just call me Raven.”
“Raven…like, from Teen Titans?”
“What?? Do I look like an emo teenage girl to you!?”
“Sorry,” Bryan whispered, dropping his head.
“Do you really not know what this is?” Raven asked after a brief pause, holding the black notebook up in his right hand.
“I just…I thought it looked cool, and I wanted to draw in it,” he sheepishly responded.
Raven then paused, squinted at him through the mirror, and chuckled.
“Well then, kid, I guess we shoul –!”
Instantly, as Raven’s eyes opened frighteningly wide, the car was smashed from its side, launching it into a tumbling whirlwind.
With a blistering headache, Bryan was awakened by the car alarm. He blinked away his blurry vision. He was upside down, glass everywhere, and he felt blood. Shocked to alertness, he fumbled to undo his belt, as a puddle of blood spread around him. Feeling himself, and looking around, he realized in horror, it wasn’t his blood.
“Kid…Kid, come here,” a faint voice called from the driver’s seat.
Wriggling from the car, he crawled up to Raven, who was upside-down in the seat belt, impaled by a stray piece of metal.
“We have to get you out!” Bryan yelled, clawing at the shrapnel.
“Stop,” he coughed, “it’s too late for me. Just…take this. This is all that matters!” he asserted, tossing the ledger toward him. “The twenty thousand…40.69 north, minus 74.04 west,” he whispered, losing consciousness. “Whatever you do, do not read what’s inside.”
Whipping his trembling head toward the sound of footsteps from the assailing truck, Bryan quickly grabbed the book and darted into the nearby alleyways. Looking over his shoulder briefly, he could see and hear the sharp flashes of gun fire. After reaching a point he felt safe, he stopped for breath, slumping behind a dumpster.
“All this…for a little black book?” he said to himself, staring at the bloodstained leather.