Once Harbinger and Pitt departed, everyone broke open.
“What did we just agree to?” Tony asked frantically, his Italian emotions pouring forth, “Who were those guys?”
“Yeah,” Ryan agreed, “How do we know anything about them?”
Phil was quieter. “There was something odd about that Harbinger guy. Something just wasn’t right.”
I stared at him. “I didn’t get any bad vibes, buddy. Not in that way. The whole situation was weird, but . . . I didn’t get any weirdness off Harbinger.”
Everyone continued talking until early the next morning. By three, we were all exhausted. “Okay,” Ryan said, “Here’s a thought. Why don’t we just go, and do it, and see what’s up, and if something’s not right, we cut our losses and go. We don’t ever even have to think about this whole thing again.”
Everyone considered this, and finally everyone agreed that would be best. We were going to be Monster Hunters.
The next week passed quickly. I signed the paperwork to put my apartment back up for grabs, rented a storage unit for all the furniture that was actually mine, and quit my job. Most of it had come with the apartment, but the bed and a few chairs were mine. I also bought a few suitcases for my clothes, my laptop, and a some heavy-duty boxes for books. The books went to the unit, but everything the other stuff came with me.
I also bought several more hard gun cases for my ever-growing gun collection. Since the PUFF check had cleared, my gun collection had grown almost exponentially, and I had a hard time deciding what to bring and what to lock up.
Ryan did mostly the same things as me. He also put his house up for rent, and it was snapped up before the week’s end. Phil actually sold his, and added another 215k to his bank account. He then moved in with me, as did Ryan.
Tony mostly partied. He rushed through putting his affairs in order, sold his townhouse, and then spent the rest of the time in a constant state of amorous inebriation with some fast women at the local nightclubs.
Phil, by now the richest one of us by far, went out and bought a giant Ford E-350 Extended Length van the day before we left for all of us to make the trip down in, and we christened it Big Blue. The fact that the van was red did not affect our decision.
We celebrated the end of our time in South Carolina by throwing a lavish party. We rented a convention room in one of the hotels downtown and invited everyone we knew. Our official story was that we had all joined a contractor that did government work. This kept us from having to share details about what exactly this contractor did or even where he was located.
The party was a bash; the booze and merriment flowed freely. We had around 150 attendees who all gave us gifts and wished us well. Tony enjoyed the party the most, mostly by getting blasted, but we did see him leaving halfway through the party with a cute blonde. We didn’t see him until the next morning.
We all ended up outside my apartment at about five a.m. that chilly Wednesday morning. We piled all our bags, boxes, and suitcases in the back, drew straws to be the driver, and set off to . . .
“What do you mean it’s not in the GPS?” I asked Phil disgustedly.
“I mean it’s just not there!” He shot back, “None of these roads on the directions, none of the towns he mentions, nothing! I’ve never even heard of these exits!”
“Then just get on the interstate and hope for the best!” I replied irritably. Two hours of sleep made me cranky, “Let’s just go, at least!”
“If you don’t like-” Phil was beginning his response when he was interrupted by a piteous moan from the back seat. We had been forced to literally carry Tony downstairs from his hotel room at three in the morning while he snored calmly. When it was time to get up, we had to carry him to the car again while he whined about “how bright it was” in the blackness of the morning. He still couldn’t open his eyes, and he winced whenever one of us even shifted position. He’d really indulged himself last night.
“Guys . . . please,” he whispered, “Please . . . Just shut up and drive.”
Phil grinned apologetically at me, and flipped me the bird. I gave it back and patted him on the shoulder. With everyone pleased with everyone else, we pulled out of the parking lot on to a new chapter in our lives.