Tag Archives: The Things

Part 4: Recap

After the problematic extraction of “the key” – actually a preteen girl named Avis, as well as her friend/handler Neal – Devlin O’Brien and the rest of his team soon discover that their exploits in the London countryside have garnered the attention of the London Metropolitan Police and, in a spectacularly unfortunate turn of events, Adlai Neetipal, Devlin’s own personal nemesis.  With his name and face publically displayed on the news and the noose slowly tightening around his neck, Devlin and Sarah decide that they must first tackle the problem of the police before turning their attention fully towards whatever challenge lies around the next corner.

First, he must find a way to steal an authorized identification card, from someone with the clearance necessary to enter Scotland Yard and retrieve or destroy any incriminating evidence.  Sarah works her networking magic to ensure that Adlai’s superior, Inspector Lane, will be at a specific location at a very specific time and, as Devlin’s face is the one on display, Mila and Michel take point on the initial leg of the operation.

The plan is deliberately uncomplicated.  Michel is to pour shots down Lane’s throat, until such time as Mila is capable of lifting and copying the man’s identification card.

Immediately, the framework of that plan falls to ruin, when Mila and Michel discover that Adlai himself has joined Lane at the bar.  Instead of calling things off, however, Michel musters the resolve to follow through with the approach.  With Devlin in his ear to guide the conversation, Michel deftly navigates past any conversational traps planted by the Indian agent.  Even Mila’s unplanned detour – leaving her ward momentarily for a hasty discussion with the Japanese twins that Devlin calls The Things – doesn’t cause too many ripples.  At least, until Adlai discovers the miniature camera on Michel’s lapel.

Some fast thinking, faster fingers, and a touch of a silver tongue manage to derail Adlai’s suspicions.  Michel manages to convince both the agent and his Superintendent that he is a police officer, planted undercover in Hill’s organization.  A quick call from Lane luckily provides confirmation that at least one officer is, in fact, working to derail the operation from the inside.  Using that serendipitous knowledge as a basis for his new cover identity, Michel is able to distract Lane long enough for Mila to do her work, and then beat a hasty escape before any questions can be asked that might compromise his true goal.

Before the night is out, though, Devlin receives a terse phone call from associates he had not expected and was not prepared for: Stanislav Novikof, the Russian Mafioso, and his two lieutenants.  Stani requires Devlin’s presence in the slums of London, for some task that might potentially provide illumination to the mystery of the Magi, the ephemeral crime lords that seem to be providing Asher with both support and considerable firepower.

Mila cannot be contacted, for some reason, and Michel is incapacitated by one too many celebratory shots.  Sarah’s physical presence is completely out of the question, so Devlin goes to meet the Russians alone.  The meeting is supposed to take place within a local black market, an impoverished pocket of commerce and activity within the world of the downtrodden and destitute.  Devlin meets the Russians and, after a short conversation, discovers that Stani now suspects that he is involved with the Magi and might actually be working on their behalf.  The unexpected arrival of Mila, walking the black market for her own mysterious reasons, doesn’t help matters.

Devlin temporarily diffuses the situation long enough for the group – consisting now of Devlin, Mila, Stani, Leonid, and Iosif – to head towards their true destination: a building constructed of black stone, standing tall and unbowed within the poverty of the black market.  Inside, they meet a man with ties to Hill, the Russian mafia, and to the people who seek shelter in his Halfway House, who introduces himself simply as Billy.

Billy makes a request of Devlin’s team that might help all parties involved.  A processing plant in the area is run by Hill and serves as a cover for his drug smuggling.  Inside, a special type of plastic can be transmuted back into pure cocaine.  Billy wants to sabotage the plant entirely, by replacing the treated plastic with a special version.  This version, when subjected to extreme heat, will produce extreme quantities of toxic smoke, forcing a shutdown of the processing plant and hobbling Hill’s efforts.

In exchange for leading this raid, Billy offers to answer any question that Devlin has about the man. The opportunity to deal another blow to Hill – and, by extension, Asher – is too much for Devlin and Sarah to turn down.  With the addition of James and Chester, two of Billy’s men, they set off for the factory with a hastily constructed plan and no real idea of how badly things could go wrong.

The approach goes perfectly.  The infiltration, with Sarah’s crucial long-distance assistance, goes perfectly.  In fact, everything goes wonderfully until Devlin and Mila reach the center of the operation, where the chemical process is supposed to take place.  Then, and only then, do they discover that the product contained in the loading area is common baking soda, not cocaine.  And the center of the plant does not harbor the mechanism for transmuting plastic into cocaine.  For some reason, nothing is the way it should be.

Instead of a successful raid, Devlin and Mila discover that they have walked themselves directly into a trap.

With law enforcement on the way, summoned by a deliberately triggered alarm, and Aiden’s group of cutthroat mercenaries even closer, Devlin makes the call to finish with the plan.  Instead of relying on a scheduled chemical process to activate Billy’s fake plastic, he uses two of the chemicals located within the plant to forcibly create a fire that will provide cover for his escape.  The fact that the factory is not up to safety standards, and the localized reaction results in a massive conflagration instead of a controlled burn, comes as a surprise to everyone in the building.

Chaos rains from the sky around them, as Devlin and Mila, as well as Stani and his lieutenants, search for a way out of the burning factory.  A path out, via the loading bay, is provided by Sarah, but the presence of Aiden’s man Carlos complicates matters.  In complete defiance of Devlin’s wishes and fervent requests, Mila takes it upon herself to do her job: protecting Devlin from harm, no matter the cost.  She stays behind, firing blindly into the fire to distract Carlos until Devlin and the Russians can make it to the relative safety of Billy’s Halfway House.  Devlin watches, transfixed, as the building tears itself apart and Mila is lost to the blaze before the toxic fumes he has inhaled drag him away from the world of the conscious.

When he wakes again, Devlin is surprised to see that Sarah has left her command post at the Brooklands.  She informs him of his injuries and informs him that Mila survived the explosion at the processing plant and is now held at Scotland Yard, awaiting further questioning.  Devlin rallies and marshals his wits for an impassioned speech, only to learn that Sarah and Michel have already decided on the only appropriate course of action.  Mila is one of theirs.  Where the previous twenty-four hours had been bent wholly to the task of removing Devlin from beneath the watchful eye of the police, now they must go directly into the dragon’s lair to retrieve their teammate before things can find a more disastrous path to follow.

Billy, and a few more men in his employ, join them for the initial approach on Scotland Yard.  Billy engages with several workers and a foreman, working on the reconstruction of the building, and provides Sarah with access to a working set of blueprints.  Michel uses the stolen identity card, as well as a falsified uniform, to gain access to their internetwork.  With all that done, Sarah readies herself to do something she has not done since joining forces with Devlin, so many years ago: she must go into the field, to provide a distraction for Adlai that he cannot ignore, so that Michel is able to steal, destroy, or corrupt anything that might provide the police with any solid basis for further investigations into Devlin or his allies.

But Adlai is not interested in Sarah’s stories and he shows no weakness to the Ford name.  With time running out, and fearing that Sarah might be compromised, Devlin takes it upon himself to sever the complicated knot.  He presents himself to the agents, prepared to match wits with the man who has hunted him for nearly a decade.

The conversation between Adlai and Devlin is civil, yet charged with a terrifying energy.  Their ideals clash in violent exchanges.  Just when Devlin is convinced that he will be forced to spend even more time in jail – only thirty-six hours, instead of the two and a half years inflicted on him by Asher – he is rescued by the intervention of a mysterious figure.  Within seconds, he discovers the identity of that savior: David, the giant who stood like a sentinel over the shoulder of the Lady in the Black Dress.  She greets him as he exits the police station, gives him a thick file of information pilfered from the clutches of Scotland Yard during his operation, and leaves him with a few cryptic words: “Your friends will be the death of you.”

It is not until some time later, safely ensconced within the protective walls of the Brooklands, that Devlin remembers the ignored calls and missed text messages from his old friend Alex in Berlin.  While he listens to those messages, an email arrives from an anonymous source, whose identity is quickly made clear: Asher, reaching out to taunt his former partner just a little more.

Instead of attempting to run down Devlin, Asher has also elected to cut the knot and take the shortest path to his goal.  Why search for his former partner when the kidnapping of Allie, Alex’ only daughter, will accomplish the same goal?

Now, Devlin finds himself faced with an even more impossible task than any he has faced thus far.  How can he steal Allie away from Asher’s clutches, without exposing his team to even greater risk?  Is there a way to turn events away from their inevitably disastrous conclusion and to pull success from the clutches of almost certain defeat?  If one man can go from most wanted to exonerated in a single night, might it also be possible to go from defense to offense?

He does not know.  What he does know is that he will have to find new reserves of intelligence and cunning, lest his alleged crimes against Asher finally come calling for a price too expensive for anyone to pay.

Chapter Seventy

I wrote a quick note to Sarah, asking her to handle Michel’s side of things for the moment, and moved from the kitchen counter over to the couch.  She passed me a tablet after a few seconds, without a word.  She had opened a document containing the information the two of us had managed to cobble together about Mila.  The file was depressingly thin.  We knew her name – or, more likely, the name she’d chosen for herself – and I could personally attest to her combat skills.  There were some speculations, written in a different font for ease, about where she might have worked in the past.  That part was new; I looked over the list of ideas, trying to draw connections to jobs I’d been a part of or heard about.

Caracas.  Barcelona.  Honshu.  Some of those locations sparked faint memories, but none came with a solid image.  All that I knew for certain was that, if Sarah’s guesses proved accurate, Mila’s professional career had taken her around the world.  Which wasn’t really surprising, if I gave it more than a few seconds of thought.  The jobs I worked didn’t typically require physical security, but I’d met more than a few crew leaders who preferred the smash-and-grab to the carefully planned heist.  They were the type of people who might find use of someone with Mila’s skillset.

Sarah tapped me on the shoulder and handed the slip of paper back to me, folded in half.  I opened it and read her words: “leaving this in your hands, for the moment.  will provide more information when i have it.”  The earbud popped twice in my ear and I thought the line had gone dead.  A heartbeat or two later, I realized what Sarah had actually done: removed Michel’s conversation from my ears, so that I could focus entirely on Mila.  That also freed me up to speak to her without worrying Michel any more than was strictly necessary.  I nodded to Sarah in appreciation, and navigated to a new page of the file.

“Mila,” I said out loud.  “What are you doing?”

“Handling something,” she said back.

“Is this something that could be handled later?  Maybe when you aren’t in the middle of an operation?”

“Obviously not, or I’d been doing it later, wouldn’t I?”

There were pictures in the file now.  Crime scene photographs, gleaned from local newspapers and some police files.  Each picture was accompanied by a tag at the bottom of the screen and those helped solidify the links I’d begun forming between Mila’s supposed previous jobs and the things I’d heard in the underworld.  To my relief, I didn’t see any murder scenes in the pictures.  I wouldn’t have necessarily been surprised if there had been, but what I did see was only marginally better.  Instead of killing the victims, Mila had gone to work on them: fracturing arms, splintering bones, and generally reducing her competition to unconscious meat.  It was the violence I’d seen at the warehouse, and again at the manor house, raised exponentially.  These files weren’t the work of a calm, dispassionate professional; the only way a person could cause the kind of damage I saw would be if they were trying to hurt their opponent.

I shivered at the thought.  “You’ve still got a contract with me,” I said, when I had my voice back under control.

“I have a contract with the Lady,” Mila corrected.  “But that’s irrelevant, because I’m not breaking it.  I’m allowed to take care of personal stuff.  Unless you’re saying you want me off the team, then…”

I blinked.  It hadn’t occurred to me that she might actively try to force me into a position where cutting her loose was the only real option.  Our conversation hadn’t gone the way she expected…or had she wanted it to go badly?  I didn’t know enough to draw a conclusion in either direction, and I resolved to take strides towards rectifying that problem.

“That’s not what I meant,” I said.  “But you agreed to this plan.  If something happens to Michel, then…”

“I’m not going for a joy ride,” she interrupted.  “Nothing’s going to happen to Michel.  Now, be quiet…I’ve got company, and I’d rather these two not know that I’ve got a little leprechaun in my ear.”

Irritation at the comment warred with amusement at its content.  I went with silence, instead, and listened.  Mila walked to one corner of the bar, next to a well-dressed man.  The angle presented by the security camera wasn’t a good one, but it was better than nothing.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Mila was saying.  Not to me, but to whoever her company was.

“We saw you at the gala,” a masculine voice responded.  The words came out a little too quick, cut shorter than they would normally be, and the rhythm was off.  Whoever the company was, he or she wasn’t a native speaker.  It almost sounded like they’d learned English, but refused to practice the language until its cadences became second nature.  What did that tell me?

“Work,” Mila said, with a little laugh.  “You know how it is.”

“Indeed,” a woman said, as she sidled around to Mila’s other side.  The accent was similar to the first in all the right ways.  A split second passed before I connected the disparate facts into a solid theory: Mila was talking to the twins we’d seen at the gala, and that I’d glimpsed in the bar.

“So,” Mila dragged out the vowel, “what brings you into town?”

“Work,” the man said.  For lack of a better name, I mentally tagged him as Thing One.

“You know how it is,” Thing Two – his sister, maybe? – added.

The Things chuckled and they did it in sync with each other.  Creepy.

“What is it that you need from us?”  Thing One asked.

Thing Two followed immediately in his wake.  “We have never been friends.”

“Only enemies,” Thing One said, agreeing with his sister.

Not enemies,” Mila said.  “We’ve worked opposing jobs, sure, but I’ve never had a problem with the two of you specifically.  And I’m guessing that you’re off assignment right now…?”

She left the question open, inviting them fill the space with an answer.  The Things’ reply took a while to come.  “Our business in the area has concluded, yes,” Thing One said.

“Did you come to hire us?”  Thing Two asked.  “That would be…”

“Interesting,” Thing One finished, for his twin.

“I’m not free to do that,” Mila said, “and I’ve never been in the market for my own muscle, anyway.”

“Then what?”

Mila cleared her throat.  “I’ve got questions.  The two of you have always been more involved in the underworld side of things, so I figure you might know more about…things than I do.”

“This information,” Thing One said, “is worth something to you?”

Silence over the earbud for a long time until Mila, eventually, nodded once in agreement.

Thing Two started speaking again.  “How much are these answers worth to you?”

“I’ve got money,” Mila said.  “If that’s what it’ll take, we can work something out.”

“Not money,” Thing One said.  “That is too…”  He paused, apparently searching for the right word.

“Transient,” Thing Two supplied, in a smooth voice.

“Yes, transient.  Perhaps favors?”

Mila considered that suggestion and made a soft, almost inaudible sound.  The earbuds were sensitive enough that I could hear it, but it had probably been too soft for the Things to catch.  “Depends on what kind of favors you’re talking about.”

“Your assistance,” Thing One said.  “There are times when we find ourselves in need of additional hands.”

Your hands would be most helpful,” Thing Two added, emphasizing the pronoun.

“I’m not going to break a contract for you,” Mila said.  “You understand that, right?”

The Things laughed in unison again.  “Of course not,” Thing One said.  “Your…honor is well-known.  We would not ask you to betray that.”

“If you did not have this thing,” Thing Two said, “we would not be having this conversation at all.”

Mila sighed. “If I’m not under contract, and you aren’t doing anything that requires I break my word, then…fine, I’ll take that deal.  One favor, in exchange for some answers.”

“What if we do not know the answers?”  Thing One asked.

On cue, his sister spoke the next sentence.  “Does this invalidate your part of the bargain?”

“No,” Mila said.  “I’ll do the favor, so long as you give me your word you’ll actually try your best to get me the answers I’m looking for.”

“So easily?”  Thing One’s voice sounded perilously close to laughter once more, but he managed to keep it restrained to a slightly elevated pitch.  “This is hardly an equitable arrangement for you.”

“I’m aware,” Mila said.  The words came out clipped.  “One favor, in exchange for some questions.”


“Ask your questions,” Thing One said.  “We give you our word that we will do our best to give you the answers you seek.”

“Agreed,” Thing Two said.

“What do you know about Aiden?”

Both Things inhaled sharply at the name and their body language – at least, the details I could make out with such poor resolution – became less predatory and more nervous.  “Is…is he in play again?”  Thing Two asked.

“We should leave,” Thing One added.  “If Aiden is here, we should not be.  You should not be.”

“I’d be surprised if anyone wanted to get out of town more than I do,” Mila said, “but that’s not a possibility right now.  So I’ll have to settle for information I can use to avoid him until I can put a couple of continents between the two of us.”

Silence.  This stretch of wordless time somehow managed to possess an ominous quality that I could feel over the comms line.

The Things had a quick conversation with each other in Japanese.  After a minute of that, Mila coughed theatrically.  “Do you know something or not?”  She asked.

“We…know a little,” Thing One said.

“Not much,” his sister said.

“I’m trying to figure out what he’s doing in town,” Mila said.  “Who hired him, what he’s been doing, that sort of thing.  Does this ‘little’ bit of information you have skew in that direction?”

Another burst of Japanese between the twins before Thing One spoke in English again.  “Aiden has not worked much in the past months,” he said.  “After your…disagreements with him, he and his crew went to ground.  We did not even realize he was working again.”

“There’s a new member of his team,” Mila said.  “He had to get him from somewhere.  Do you know anything about that?”

“Mikhail,” Thing Two said, with obvious distaste.  “Yes, we have heard about him.”

“Carlos and I have history,” Mila said.  “What’s Mikhail do?  That might be help me to figure out what he’s after in town.”

I refrained from saying anything into the comms.  Mila knew perfectly well what Aiden wanted from his trip to London.  She also knew – or at least suspected – who had hired the mercenary.  With the exception of this latest question, everything she’d asked so far had been redundant.  I made a mental note to examine the conversation later, with Sarah’s help, for any hidden context that I might be missing.  Nothing about this felt right.  I was missing vital context; I could feel the absence of some important piece in my chest.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time, though.  While Mila’s decision to go off-mission wasn’t ideal, it did afford me an opportunity to get a better feel for the intricacies of the underworld, as it related to hired muscle.  It was much more openly antagonistic than the network of thieves and conmen I worked with, but that antagonism was moderated by a sort of professional respect.  Mila had said something along those lines in the manor house, before things went sideways, and I could hear how that respect played out.  The Things didn’t necessarily like Mila, but they did regard her well enough to comment on their feelings without any subterfuge or double-speak.  More importantly, they were willing to come to an agreement with her and share their information, in exchange for an unspecified promise of future assistance.

They worked with favors.  There had to be some way to use that.

Thing One started speaking, and I automated my train of thought, shifting most of my conscious attention back to the conversation.  “Mikhail is a…”

“Physician,” Thing Two said.

She provided the word before her brother had an opportunity to stumble over the word choice.  She had covered a gap in translation two times, in perhaps the last five minutes.  That had to mean something…I just didn’t know what and didn’t have the mental resources available to figure out an angle.  I shelved that thought for later review.

“Yes,” Thing One said, “a physician.”

“Field medicine?”  Mila asked.  “Battlefield stuff?”

“No,” Thing Two said.  “Perhaps pharmacist would be a better word.”

I tagged my previous thought with a note: Thing Two apparently had no problems with English.  Pharmacist was at least as difficult a word as ‘physician’ or ‘transient,” but she’d pulled it without the slightest hesitation.  Perhaps she’d been taught the language earlier in life, or Thing One simply wasn’t as good with different tongues.  If the latter case turned out to be true, I could hardly judge him: I’d been in a French prison for nearly three years, and I still barely spoke the language.

“A pharmacist?”  Mila asked.  The tone implied that she hadn’t directed the question to either of the Things.  “Why would he need a pharmacist?”

“Perhaps he is sick?”  Thing One suggested.

“Because drugs are tough to get when you’ve got the sort of firepower Aiden’s got?”  Mila shot back.

“We do not know why he needs the pharmacist,” Thing Two said.  Her voice displayed no signs of offense at Mila’s snappy retort.  “Only that Mikhail has a history as one.”

“A drug dealer,” Thing One said.  “Prescription medication, in addition to personal concoctions.”

“Is that disgust I’m hearing from you?”  Mila asked.  “Drug dealers are part of the business.  It isn’t like we’re exactly good people.”

“Mikhail sold to children,” Thing Two said.

“Oh.”  Pause.  “Well, fuck him, then.”

One of the numerous phones I’d begun to collect since Paris vibrated on the table in front of me.  I had become so engrossed in the conversation between Mila and the Things that, for a moment, the reality of my location had slipped my mind.  The vibration against the table’s surface shook me back out of my head.  I grabbed the phone – the one Alex had given me before I’d left him in Munich – and saw that Alex was calling.

I silenced the call and tossed the phone onto the love seat.  I could call him back later, or text; he’d understand if I missed a phone call or two while working.

Using the tablet Sarah had given me, I entered the name “Mikhail” and “drugs” into a search engine she’d helped develop.  The underworld consisted of individuals with vastly different skill sets and navigating between strata was difficult, at the very best.  I’d used the engine to find Anton, back when I’d first had need of his explosive expertise; it was how I’d learned Asher hadn’t died in St. Petersburg; and, now, I used it to double check the information that the Things had given Mila.  If there was something to find about Aiden’s newest hire, Sarah’s search engine would be able to dredge it up, and then we could all go over the details in relative safety.

The search engine began to work, digging through an unknowable amount of information contained within the deepest corners of the Dark Web, and I left it to its work.  Mila was talking again.  “Wait.  You said that Aiden hasn’t been working lately, but you kept up to date on his newest hires?  Why?”

“We make it a point,” Thing One said, “to be aware of his activities.”

“And,” Thing Two added, “we stay far, far away.  You would be wise to do the same.”

Having seen Aiden for only a few moments, I understood why these professional hitters would be cautious of him.  Judging solely from the inflections the Things were using, caution was drawing it lightly; they devoted effort to just avoiding the man.  That knowledge was chilling enough that I upgraded Aiden’s mental ranking from “scary man who frightens professional killers” to “scary man who frightens professional killers, and should be avoided at all costs.”

Even as I did that, I was absolutely certain that we hadn’t seen the last of him.  If he was working for Asher, Hill, or the Magi – and I was becoming increasingly certain that those were three distinct factions, instead of one large enemy to be dealt with – we’d have to deal with him in order to take a run at the golden book.

“Anything else?”  Mila asked.

A few moments of silence passed.  “Nothing comes to mind,” Thing One said.

“That’s more than I knew, at least.  When are you going to want to call in this favor?”

Thing Two made a sound.  It wasn’t quite a chuckle or a cough.  If pushed to label it, I would have said that she purred.  “We will let you know.”

“Assuming,” Thing One said, “that you survive your business in London.  We will be…leaving the country.  Immediately.”

“If something goes wrong,” Mila said, “it won’t end with me dead.  At least, not if Aiden gets his way.”

Thing One pushed the remainder of his drink over to Mila.  She downed it in one go.

“Let us hope, then, that he does not,” Thing Two said.  “Be safe, Mila.”

Mila didn’t say anything in reply, as they took their leave.  A solid thirty seconds passed before she spoke at all.  “I’m assuming you got all of that?”  Mila asked.  There wasn’t anyone nearby, so I assumed she was talking to me again.

“This whole conversation is backed up in a few different locations,” I said.  “What I didn’t catch, we can go over later.  You want to explain why that conversation was so important that you’d risk going off-mission when Michel needs you?”

“Not really.”  Pause.  “The twins have gone up against Aiden’s team before.  It didn’t go well for them, so I figured they might be keeping track of his movements.  So long as I’m working for the Lady, I can’t risk contacting anyone in the underworld that might be working for the Magi.”

“So you trust them?”

“Not at all,” Mila said.  “But I can tell when they’re lying and when they aren’t.  They know more than they’re saying, sure, but the tip they gave me was the truth.”

The tablet beeped to let me know that its search was finished.  A quick glance showed me a list of posts about Mikhail’s work, his back alley business dealings, and a variety of prescription medications he’d arranged to have stolen or redirected.  “Seems like it,” I said to Mila.

“I would have waited until later, but the twins never stay in town for more than a week after a job.  It was now or never.”

I let out a breath.  “Fine.  We can talk about it later.”

Mila switched her camera back on.  I could still see Michel in the corner of the camera’s field of vision.  She hadn’t gone far from where the Frenchman still sat.  “Or not,” she said.  “There’s really nothing to discuss, after all.”

I raised a hand in the air and motioned to Sarah.  She understood the vague gesture – bringing the two my index and middle fingers together slowly – correctly and, two pops of the comms later, we were all connected again.

“Michel,” I said.  “How are things going?”

Even as I spoke, I glanced up at the television screen.  There, on Michel’s camera feed, I watched as Adlai reached across the table to Michel.  His hand went straight to the button camera that Michel wore and plucked it from the Frenchman’s shirt, bringing it up to his eye.  Then, lowering it slowly, the look in his eyes sharpened to a point.

“Ah,” Adlai said softly.  “I believe there might be more to you than just a simple cab driver, hmm?”