Franklin looked up nervously as the thunder clouds rolled in. Great, he thought, first the sun had set, leaving him to wander around without a flashlight, and now he was going to be soaked to the skin.
He squinted, searching for his distinctive orange Dodge Charger in the gloom. This may have been the only time since he’d bought it he’d not regretted the purchase. He’d spent all his savings, and then some, on the famous 1969 Dodge Charger from the movie Dukes of Hazard, and what had it got him? Laughs, and more than a few insults. He hadn’t gone so far as to have a confederate flag painted on the roof, but people still knew the reference.
He had no proof, but he could have sworn that was why it’d been towed to begin with. Had he really had that many parking tickets? It hardly seemed reasonable to scrap his car. He considered taking a look in the box he threw them all in, but dismissed it. Right now he had higher priorities.
His choice of car was about to pay off big time, it would stand out like a sore thumb in the junkyard of dull rusted cards. Or it should of. As he trudged through the mud he was struggling to find it in the moonlight. The compound was by no means small, and there were a lot of stacks of cars to check. He resigned himself to the fact that he would be there for a while.
There had been a faded ‘Beware of the dogs’ sign on the fence he had climbed, but he had yet to see any. That didn’t mean they weren’t there, but he was more worried about the older mounds of scrapped cars, where several piles had sort of collapsed into one tangled mass. He’d heard stories….after the nuclear incident ten years ago, certain animals had grown to…unusual sizes. The rumour was some of them made their homes in junkyards. As he stared into the dark he could have sworn for a second he saw a pair of yellow glowing eyes staring back at him. He blinked and they were gone.
Slightly shaken by the experience he decided searching in the opposite direction was a better idea. Why had he left the case in his car? He asked himself. Why had he even taken it to begin with?
“Men hurt women every day, fact of life, no need to follow them and steal their briefcase.” He wasn’t sure who he was talking to, himself quite probably. When he had come across the two men beating up a woman down an alleyway, to his shame he had hid. After they had left he’d checked if the woman was alright, but she had been too scared and wouldn’t let him touch her. She had run off at the first opportunity. He’d felt bad for hiding, and worse when he couldn’t help, so he’d somehow got it in his head to follow the men and hand out some form of justice.
However, after trailing them back to their hideout he discovered not only that there were several more of them, but also that they were part of the chinese triad. The triads had gained power in the UK since the nuclear meltdown and the following riots. The country had been thrown into chaos, and they had no problem profiting off it. He hadn’t fancied getting beaten up himself…or worse, so he’d taken their briefcase without them noticing. Some form of alternative punishment he’d convinced himself.
The felt weird to Franklin, despite the fact that it was entirely normal and unassuming. Your standard black briefcase with a silver handle and combination locks. There was something about it though, something he couldn’t put his finger on. It was so nondescript that he felt like it must contain something of great value. It exuded a sort of aura that made him desperate for it, and to find out what’s inside it. If it had been any normal briefcase he wouldn’t have bothered, but this one was different. So he’d taken it.
Boy what a mistake that had turned out to be. He could have sworn people kept glancing at it, and he was he was being followed. How had they known it was him? Perhaps there was a tracker in the case. He groaned at this sudden realisation. He’d been doomed from day one, and he’d not even managed to get inside the case. The code seemed uncrackable and the locking mechanisms were studier than they looked.
Shaking off his dark thoughts he rejoiced as he finally recognised his distinctive orange car on top of one of the tangled piles. Filled with renewed energy he climbed towards it. His celebration was short lived however, because as he climbed he noticed the light come on in the nearby crane cab. The engine rumbled to life after a few seconds and slowly but surely the claw arm swung around, directly towards his car.
His eyes went wide and he raced up the pile of cars, desperately trying to beat the fast approaching crushing claws.
Sat in his cab, with ‘I believe in a thing called love’ blazing out of his headphones, Paul wasn’t paying much attention to the world around him. With practised ease, he moved his hands over the controls. He only had to crush one last car and then he could finally go home, where he knew his girl was waiting.
Arriving at his car barely seconds before the claw, Franklin fumbled with his keys. They caught on his jeans though so he yanked hard in frustration. It worked, the keys came loose. Then he watched in silent horror flew out his hands and began to tumble down the stack of cars. He cursed and grabbed for them but missed. Clanks and clunks echoed from below as they fell forever beyond his reach, lost to the graveyard of forgotten vehicles. With the claw now looming overhead, he quickly looked for some other way to get the boot open.
He spotted something in the rusted heap to his left. Reaching out, he pulled a jagged piece of metal out from the rest of the scrap. It felt strong in his hands and was a good two foot in length, perfect. He quickly jammed it into the boot latch and pushed down on the opposite end. His attempts were for nothing however, despite it being originally produced in 1969 the car was in good condition and the lock simply wasn’t budging. Wistfully he thought that if he still had his old rust bucket he could have just kicked the boot open.
He put his whole weight behind it, sat on it, jumped on it, even pleaded with it. Nothing. No matter how much he pushed, the boot just wouldn’t open and the crushing claw had almost reached the car. In a final attempt he yelled and pushed with a supreme effort, but the metal was slick with the first splatterings of rain and his hands slipped. Instead of opening the boot, he managed to fall against the car hard and open a gash in his forehead. Blood ran into his eyes and the rain was only getting heavier. He just looked at the still locked boot and threw his arms up in defeat.
All the things the triads would do to him ran through his head. Sure it would have been bad if they’d found him with the case, but what if they found him without it. He wasn’t entirely sure they were the only ones after the case either. He could have sworn at some point there were two or more sets of people following him. He couldn’t be sure. It could just be an overactive imagination. God he hoped so.
He watched in despair as the claws slowly closed around his car…and then he froze. He looked down at the lock suspiciously. Reaching forward he gently pushed the button on the boot. With a slight click, the lock popped open. He both cursed and praised himself for being stupid enough to not lock his car.
Franklin grabbed for the briefcase. As his hands closed around the handle he tried to pull it free, but the car had buckled a lot under the crushing power of the claws and it caught. Slightly panicked he tried again but to no avail. Madly he pulled at the case, desperately trying to retrieve it from the ever disappearing car. Eventually he took a breath and told himself to calm down, bending down he slowly pulled at the briefcase, easing it out through one of the last gaps. It only took a moment, but with the claws still closing it felt like an eternity. Finally, it pulled free.
In celebration he jumped into the air, letting out a “whoop!”
Unfortunately, at the same time, the claw finished attaching itself to his car and lifted it off the junk pile. This moved the car underneath it, the car on which Franklin had been standing. The movement wasn’t massive, but it was enough to throw him off balance when he landed. He slipped and yelled in surprise. As he fell he watched in horror as the briefcase flew out of his hand, bounced down the stack of cars and out of sight into the murky sea of mud that the rain slick junkyard had become.
After overcoming the initial shock he regained his senses and darted after it, unwilling to give up. He moved too quickly however, and didn’t check where he was was stepping. Unfortunately, one of the car roofs that he stepped on wasn’t solid at all, it was a convertible, and old worn convertible. As all his weight came down on it the roof gave way, he foot ripping straight through. As he fell his forward momentum meant that instead of simply falling into the car, his trapped foot tripped him up and sent him flying. He tried to stop himself as he fell but everything around him was slick with rain. He slid forward, head first, down the bonnet of the convertible, with no way to stop. Instead of another car at the end of the bonnet however, there was a gap. It was about a meter or so wide and seemed to Franklin to open up before him like a gaping maw, and with no way to prevent it, it swallowed him whole.
Paul carefully dropped the orange car into the crusher. Smiling to himself, he shut down the controls and climbed out the cab. He wondered idly if his girlfriend would be wearing anything special for him when he got home, he hoped so. With that thought in his mind he picked up the pace.
As he walked towards the exit however, he couldn’t help but notice a briefcase half buried in the mud. Strange, he thought. Pulling it out the mud with a noticeable slurp, he turned it over in his hands. It was a pretty standard black briefcase, silver handle. Combination locks on the top. He tried the switches just in case but no luck. It would have been too much to hope for an open briefcase with a bucket load of cash in it he supposed.
He looked over at the office at the other end of the yard, he could barely see it in the gloom. Officially he should store the briefcase in the office for safe keeping. Technically anything found in the junkyard was company property. There was weird something about the briefcase though, it was so normal…it had to contain something interesting. He shook his head, it was dark and the mud was thick, not worth the effort. He convinced himself that he’d take it home tonight and bring it back in the morning…once he’d had a look inside. Tucking the briefcase under his arm, he trudged off home.
“Looks like it’s my lucky day.”
Franklin wasn’t sure how many bones he’d broken, but it felt like more than one at the very least. After he’d fallen through the darkness, he’d been dumped unceremoniously in a heap of mud at the very bottom of the pile. Groaning he tried to get up, but felt his leg give way. Well that’s one broken bone, he thought, wondering what else might be. Wiping the blood from his eyes, which was made more difficult now he’d gained several more gashes to his forehead, he tried to get his bearings.
All around him were cars. He realised he was at the bottom of the pile he’d been on top of only moments before. The cars surrounding him were badly rusted, barely cars at all any more. The wrecks of decade old beetles and mercedes formed a cage to which he could find no immediate escape. There were gaps, but they didn’t look big enough for him. Maybe the size of a dog or…
He froze. Out of the tangled mesh of metal, several pairs of glowing eyes moved. Franklin was petrified, unable to move as they came closer. It was almost pitch black, but he got the impression of rat like shapes, about the size of a large dog. There was nothing he could do, even if he could run there was nowhere to go. He picked up a small metal bar, intending to fight, but he knew it was hopeless even as he did it. Despite the situation he let out a rueful smile as he spotted his keys on the ground nearby. Typical.
In Franklin’s last moments, as a swarm of unusually sized rodents overwhelmed him, he didn’t cry out for help or scream in pain. He just sighed and thought of the briefcase, cursing the day he’d taken it, but also disappointed that he’d never know what was inside.