Gimme my Hammer
Iceport is a different town from most. A once-little hamlet, the establishment of an international port company and expansion of said harbour brought with them brisk growth, and today, what would have been considered a quaint relic a few decades ago is now a conurbation that ships millions of metric tons every year to destinations as far flung as the United States and South Africa.
What has not changed, though, is the weather. Iceport is cold nine months of the year, and positively arctic for the other three. One would assume that, having grown up here, I would be at least somewhat adapted to this eternal chill. But that's not the case; any time I feel I am acclimated to the constantly buffeting winds and obdurate chill, the temperature finds a new low to sink to. More intriguing than the town's consistency is the fact that, somehow, the water in the port never freezes. That little geographical anomaly was what drew the port conglomerate here in the first place. Every other harbour similar to ours is almost impossible to navigate when in the harshest throes of winter, but ours stays remarkably even. No one has ever been able to explain the water's resoluteness, much like no one has ever been able to rationalize why any sane individual would live here.
I am one to talk: not only have I lived here my entire life, I also established my writing career in Iceport. My success in my chosen field of endeavour has been moderate…but that is all about to change. It is a gamble, sure, but no greater risk than the cold showers I take every morning just to show the cold that it will not win. I will not lie; I am somewhat hesitant, but if I get nothing else out of my venture, I will at least be going to somewhere warmer.
The grey sea is barely visible from my car. Even when I wipe away the frost from my windshield, it still only resembles a sluggish mass of salt and water. I fantasize of sun and warmth and of actually enjoying my cold showers as I await the arrival of the most crucial piece in my escape bid. Minutes later, a large black sedan pulls up. The kind of indistinguishable automobile made by those anonymous car manufacturers scattered all over Europe, it bears no logo and a name that only the most flexible of tongues could tackle. I flick my headlights twice, and the driver responds with a singular flick. A moment's hesitation before I stuff the padded brown envelope on the passenger seat into my coat pocket and step out of my car.
I immediately regret not wearing something heavier. The cold creeps through my trench coat and into my bones, gripping them with an icy clutch of equally cultivated indifference and malevolence. The wind, perhaps sensing that our time together will soon draw to an end, kisses my face with an unwanted pummeling of numbing affection.
The car's interior is not much of an improvement from the outside, with the pleather seats cold to the touch, and the dank air heavy with the odour of cigarettes and, inexplicably, sweat. I make a motion to turn on the heater, but he intercepts my hand with his. Unceremoniously, he runs his mittens all over my body, in a ritual to which I am now accustomed. I understand his caution, but it does not make me any less uncomfortable when his search lingers a second too long around my breasts and legs. Seemingly satisfied, he leans back in his seat, his grizzled, bearded face knotted up in an expression of weariness and contemplation.
“You know…murder ain't a thing,” he starts, “But this…this is different.”
“I know. You can do it though, right?”
He nods curtly and extends his left arm, palm up. I turn on the heater first, and only when the air starts to lift in temperature do I hand him the envelope. He makes a show of counting the bills slowly before he stashes it in his own coat pocket.
“What do you want it to look like?” he asks.
“Like a robbery gone wrong. Make it messy and make it loud. I don't want it to just fade into the news cycle; it has to be talked about for at least a week. Everyone needs to hear about this – everyone.”
I take that to be his laconic way of telling me we have a deal, and I move to make my exit.
“Why are you doing this?”
The answer is clear in my mind, but I consider it before I tell him.
“Melville, Tolstoy, Kafka, Poe. You know what they all have in common?”
He shrugs his ignorance.
“All of them were geniuses, but not a single one got the recognition they deserved in their lifetime. Not a-one.”
He nods his understanding, and I step out his car. The gusts of air have not relented in their quest to get as much mileage as they can from this last encounter. This time, however, I open my coat, breathe in deep, and turn two gloved fingers up to the colourless sky.
The story breaks two days later. The details are still muddled, but it appears that Iceport's resident writer is missing and, from the nature of the scene, presumed dead. Good, I think to myself. We are almost there. Three days later, the woman on the news delivers a solemn verdict from the police: they believe that the chances of finding the victim are next to none, but they urge the public to keep hope. I will her to talk faster as she speaks about the victim's life and family. Finally, after interminable chatter, she tells the audience that, since the victim's disappearance, the sales of their book have almost doubled, and are rising steadily, coupled with flourishing interest in the author's subject matter. I smile to myself, and go out to the porch to sunbathe.