Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dream Vision

Dream Vision
Shariq A Madani

"What a baybee, man. She's gorgeous!"

The object of his desires was not a woman, but the all-new F-type Jaguar convertible sports car. The mist of his hot breath blurred his view of the car from outside the showroom glass walls.

"Okay, Benz boy, lets do it." he said to himself, smiling and not taking his eyes off the machine. He loved his nickname.

Benedict Hammett was a car enthusiast. Heck, he was a walking, talking car encyclopedia. Its not that he was crazy about cars. He was just obsessed with them. Give him an opening and he would go on blabbering about them with the speed of a Diablo.

Twenty-eight years ago, he was born in a working class family of Muskegon, Michigan, and gifted with six brothers and three sisters, all elder. With his father mostly "in-between jobs" and mother doing housework all over the neighborhood, his childhood consisted of mostly being bullied by his siblings. He never loved his family. He considered himself to be living with other humans but he never felt any sense of attachment towards his parents or his brothers or sisters.

He moved, ran away, to Detroit at the age of nine, and was barely a teenager when he knocked on the doors of crime. It was not necessity or prejudice that took him there. He went by choice, wanting to fulfill one dream he had since he was a child. He wanted to drive the best cars in the world. The first ride he ever had in a car was one of the most exciting moments of his life. The pale blue Ford Taurus was driven by a kindly old man, who had given him a lift from out of town when he was seven. He dreamed and fantasized about all sorts of cars. He would bury himself in Wheels of Fire, Fast Track, SuperCar and all the car magazines he could get in his possession. He would think and imagine all possible ways to drive all those wonderful cars. At thirteen, he finally decided what he wanted to do. He wanted to become a car thief.

Taking in the beautiful sight of the Jaguar on the other side of the glass, he realized that he had indeed become a car thief. Ah! But not just ANY car thief, he was a celebrity in his own right. Uncle Sam hadn't seen a better car thief in his entire life. Well, for that matter, they hadn't really seen him, too. Just heard of him. Knew of him from all his exploits. His Modus Operandi was a case study with criminologists. His thefts were recognized by the original letters that news agencies initially received, and now anticipated. They had even become collector's items now. Benz would always write the letters himself, and always took care not to respect grammar or vocabulary. His assignments took him all over the world and he would only "deliver" the cars that infatuated his eyes, without as much as a scratch on it. But it was Benz's principle never ever to be a part of anything else that broke the law. Yes, he WAS breaking the law, but apart from the package-deal of auto-theft (comprising trespassing, assault, stealing and property damage) that he offered his clients, he was very-much a law abiding citizen of the country he was anytime in. Benz did not believe in unnecessary violence, stealing, smuggling, or loss of lives. One of his clients had tried to use him to smuggle drugs once. Benz showed his appreciation by driving the Marnello all the way from Baltimore to Chicago and introducing the Ferrari to the bottom of Lake Michigan. He had seen what drugs could do to a person, and he knew what was better.

In Singapore, halfway across the world from Chicago, Benz walked to the back of the showroom, pulling the collar of his coat closer to his face. Reaching into his coat pocket, he pulled out the surgical mask, and crept towards the box where the guard was on duty. The mask was heavy on chloroform.

The guard was sweating. It was cold, and he was not dressed well enough to keep his body heat trapped, but he was sweating. It had been three days since Liu had broken his record, and he was desperate to regain the title. He was trying harder and harder with a level of concentration he had never shown towards his job. The last thought he had in his mind before he lost his conscience was how close he had been.

Benz slipped the elastic band of the surgical mask behind the guard's head and picked up the object the guard had dropped. "What a luxury", he thought. He threw the GameBoy into the bushes before starting towards the security alarm.

He had seen this one before. It took him thirty-five seconds to disable the alarm and 12 seconds later, he took off his coat and walked into the showroom. He made his way towards the console room, and flicked the switch that raised the back wall all the way up. He picked the key marked "F-Bl-C" (F-type, Blue, Center), stopped to look at the car for one final time before making his way towards its passenger door. He replayed the scene from morning in his mind's eye and mimicked the salesman - opening the passenger side door and reaching under the steering wheel to disable the alarm. He walked back to the driver's side door and opened the door. He put the key into ignition and waited. Benz had been doing this for twelve years now, ten to twelve times a year but he was always nervous switching the ignition to on. "Hell", he could feel the cat purring with life as soon as he twisted the key, and he found the now familiar feeling of excitement tingling his spine. He checked the fuel gauge next and ticked off another item of his mental list. Twenty minutes later, he was driving away from the main city towards the Chingmui docks, 210 kms southwest of Singapore City.

Benz left the Jag with the key in ignition next to the green shipping-container at the east end of the dock-yard and walked towards the Mustang he had left a few hours earlier at the gate, taking the narrow paths walled by containers on containers. He looked at the stars of the night sky as he pulled out a cigarette. Stopping to search his pockets for a lighter, his eye caught a glint of shining metal. He looked to his left and saw a container with its door slightly open, and walked towards it. Flicking the lighter, he held it up. His lips went dry and the cigarette clung to his lower lip for a moment before dropping to the floor of the metal box. The lighter flame cast eerie shadows over the walls of the container and further added to the sight before his eyes. There, in all its glory and splendor the cameras only could try to capture, was the car anyone would willingly kill for. Atleast HE could kill for it. A silver, convertible Mercedes-McLaren Vision SLR, with its top down. There was no way he would walk out of here now. He had to drive out.

Benz reached for the Tri-World logo and as he touched it, he felt all his other senses go numb. He was excited beyond his rational thoughts, and immediately decided to take it. He HAD to drive this baybee, and there was no stopping him. He was going to steal this piece of art for himself. After all, he WAS the best in the world. He deserved it.

He walked to the door and noticed that it was unlocked. Strange, he thought. He cautiously opened the door, and as he got into the gray leather seat, he felt the spring-cushion of the seats adjust to his body. The key. There had to be one spare in the glove compartment, but obviously, the glove compartment had to be locked. Nevertheless, he reached over and tried it, and to his amazement, it was also unlocked! "One piece of rich ass is gonna lose his girl tonight". Murmuring to himself, he put the key in the ignition and waited. Taking a deep breath, he twisted the key and found himself not believing his eyes, as the fuel gauge shot towards the '1/1' mark. "One unbelievably stupid piece of rich ass is gonna lose his girl tonight"

He got out of the car and walked to the door of the container, pushing it fully open. He smiled at himself and jumped over the door into the driver's seat. He pushed the gearshift to "D" and eased the car out of its cell. He drove very slowly and comfortably around to get the ride into him, and then sped out the gate, into the roads of Singapore. This car was designed for luxury, and Benz felt it respond to his every maneuver as an extension of his self. This was the most he could have felt alive. He screamed his lungs out into the night wind, as he bulleted at close to 320 km/hr down the road towards Singapore City.

As he drove on, whizzing past all inferior vehicles, he noticed a line of cars jammed ahead. "In the middle of the highway? There's an accident, I suppose." Thinking thus, he slowed down and joined the line behind the last car. As he drove towards the cause of the jam, he realized that police had setup a check post and were checking the vehicles passing through. They were letting all the cars pass, and checking all the larger vehicles. Occasionally, they would stop a car, and check its trunk. They were trying to be as fast as possible, and did not want to hold up too many cars. Benz relaxed himself, and put on the attitude of a rich American, taking a night drive out of town. As he approached the check post, he was asked to stop.

"Good Evening, Sir. Just a routine check. Would you please open the trunk."

"Make it fast."

The policeman frowned. These rich American bastards think they own the world, he thought, and went to the back to check the trunk, and get rid of this "white guy" as soon as he could.

Benz was casually looking at the passing cars on the other side when he heard the man shout out something in Malay. He saw the Lieutenant make his way towards the policeman. As he got out of the car and made his way towards the back, all that had happened came rushing back to him.

The open container door.
The unlocked car.
The unlocked glove-compartment.
The readily-available keys.
The almost-full fuel tank.

It was too good a coincidence. A trap he had not anticipated in his excitement. "Shit! As long as they don't find my real identity, I'll be out of business for not more than three years." What else could he get for Auto-Theft?

The lieutenant looked at him expressionless and asked "Sir, is this car yours?"
"Why? You got a problem?"
"Sir. Is this car YOURS?"
"Yes. I don't have the papers with me now to ....."

He stopped talking as he reached the back and looked inside the trunk. His eyes stood out with horror, as he stared at the trunk filled with plastic packs of white powder.

In Singapore, Drug-trafficking is punishable by the Death Sentence.

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