William Fitzgerald Drives North

William Fitzgerald had been in an odd mood when he agreed to take the job as courier and he had been kicking himself all the way up the coast. It had been a stupid thing to do, and he had realized it before the door had closed behind his client, a weedy young man who couldn’t meet his eyes. He might have called him back, returned his money, and bowed out; it would have been a blow to his professional pride but William Fitzgerald had long ago rooted every last vestige of that from his soul. Instead it was a deeper, stranger urge that made him swallow his words and saw him driving a rattling tondeleo north along the ocean.

He couldn’t explain it to himself, so he kept turning it over sourly in his mind. Outside the sun blazed on the vineyards and the hills, but he didn’t see it. There was nothing for him between the city and Marinas, nothing except traffic and car noise.

There was a turn-off where the road dropped down a long grassy slope into Marinas, nothing more than a smear of asphalt with a whitewashed metal fence to keep everyone but the determined from falling down the cliff. William Fitzgerald stopped the tondeleo and pulled at his flask, eyes dazzled by the sunset. Marinas was laid out below, but he saw no maps, no circuit boards, no puzzles, only the alien industry of an anthill, or a termite nest when the rotten wall falls away.