This is the second part of a story about time travel, valet parking, and an inexorable personality known as Bruno Brax. Part 1 is here.
“At least I’ve never killed anyone,” I said to myself as Bruno’s phone number rang. I wanted to say it now while it was still true. I had just sent a man ahead into the far future, asleep in the back of a Hummer.
Bruno picked up at last. “Hello?”
“Hello, Bruno? Hello?”
“Bruno, it’s Jimmy!” I shouted. “I’ve got a problem. Where are you anyway?” I had to repeat the question.
“Have you heard of a cock fight? Well, that’s not what this is.” In the background, I heard seals barking.
“You’re fighting seals?”
“They’re not fighting each other. What’s up?”
I explained the situation. “Yeah, that happened once before to a Chihuahua. It was fine. Pretty incontinent afterwards, but otherwise fine.”
“What do I do?”
“Bring the car back, of course.” Click. Bruno had a real gift for brevity.
I selected the Hummer in the computer and pushed the red button. It appeared as smoothly as it had disappeared and I opened the back door, afraid of what I might find.
The car was empty. I even checked under the seats. Nothing.
Just as I was starting to feel a hurricane of panic sweat start to build, Bruno strode in.
“The fight’s over?” I asked, as sarcastically as I could.
He nodded. “The robot won. Nothing?”
He went to the control booth and started typing things in. “You know, this is what I’m paying you for.”
“You’re not actually paying me anything,” I said.
Bruno pushed a button decisively, then nodded. “Okay, it’s set. The computer will scan for life in the area and automatically bring it back. Should get him back soon.” He typed in some numbers and hit the green button. The Hummer disappeared again.
“Where did you send that?”
“The future, of course. You can’t have the car here if something else comes back. Very messy. Very messy, indeed. Well, I’m off.”
“Wait! So this will bring back any life that comes into that area? What if it’s not him? What if it’s a dinosaur?”
“There aren’t any dinosaurs in the future,” Bruno called back, already on the street. “Probably. If there is though, catch it alive. I’ll pay good money.”
Another car honked its horn outside. My sociology dissertation, which had looked like a hopeless quicksand pit a few hours ago, was now looking like a quicksand pit with a silver lining and a great place to drown myself.
At that moment, there was a pop and a large rat appeared on the receiving pad, standing on its hind legs and waving a pistol. I ducked behind the control panel just as a shot rang out and the control panel exploded in sparks. By the time I gathered up the shattered pieces of my courage and crammed them back into my psyche, the rat was gone.
I called Bruno.
“You know, I don’t even know why I hired you,” he said, his voice almost drowned out by what sounded like metallic whale songs.
“You didn’t! You press-ganged me.”
He sighed. “I thought you’d be more grateful, considering. Look, I’m busy now but just push the black button, call in a gas leak, and go home.”
“Isn’t that illegal?”
He chuckled. “Ah, you’re cute.” There was an explosion in the background of the phone and a loud roar. “Oops, things just got interesting here. Gotta go.”
I tried to push the black button, but it had melted in the explosion from the gunshot. The other buttons didn’t work either.
Suddenly, what looked like a cross between a python, a millipede, and a Tickle-me-Elmo appeared on the receiving pad. At this point, calling in a gas leak was like turning down your thermostat in a forest fire. However, before I could react, a car also popped into existence on the pad, combining most interestingly with the abomination that had just appeared before it. The results looked like Jackson Pollock trying to cook a whale liver with a pile driver.
This last nightmare-inducing episode was enough to throw me out of the gravity well that was Bruno Brax’s hypnotic personality. I went home, threw the sociology dissertation in the garbage, then thought better of it and put it in the fridge instead. Then I started to drink and write fiction. None of it made sense, so I assumed I was on the right track, art imitating life and all.
By the end of the day, the restaurant district was cordoned off and sealed. The official story was a gas leak, but I knew better. There were also reports of a gun-wielding rat riding a small dinosaur.
Two weeks after my short-lived valet job, the phone rang and I answered it without thinking.
It was Bruno.
“Hey Jimmy. I found you a job. You’ll need your own harpoon though.”
It was me this time.