I was sitting in the middle of an open air courtyard, finishing my roast beef on rye, when a simple little flyer caught my eye.
Curlon Deals. Text CURLON to get local deals right to your phone.
It reminded me of a coupon texting service that popped up around my university in my last year. It was a great deal; free fries with a pita every Monday, buy one get one tacos, half off a pizza. Really useful things. I signed up, hoping this would be the same.
For about a month, I didn’t hear a peep from Curlon. I assumed it had shriveled on the vine like a lot of cheap startups.
One evening, on the considerable walk through the company garage to my car, I got a text from Curlon.
“Take the I-10.”
What the hell kind of deal was that? I could have used the I-10 for my commute home, but it was usually pretty packed. I liked taking the 202; it was a much calmer drive.
That day, however, the 202 had come to a dead stop. Literally. The radio report said a person in an old Mustang had entered the freeway with a pistol. He fired into vehicles near him, killing six people instantly. The resulting accidents killed a handful more. Police had arrested the suspect, but couldn’t find the gun he used. Drivers in the melee were urged to notify Highway Patrol if they saw anything resembling a firearm.
A week later, I go my second text.
As soon as I had read the text, my phone rang in my hand. I jumped, getting a few questioning looks from my coworkers.
“Uh, hi. I was told to call this number?” said a timid male voice on the other end.
I laughed. “I was told to answer this number.”
“They said you could drop me off at the VA Hospital in Gilbert to visit my mom.”
I rolled my eyes. Was Curlon trying to get me to be a fucking Uber driver? But the hospital was on my way home.
“Yeah. Where are you now?”
“The bank in Phoenix Corporate Tower. 3003 North Central.”
“Ha! I’m in the north building of the plaza south of you. Greyburn Indistries, 6th floor. Come over at 5 PM.”
The kid, who told me his name was Ken, had his car in the shop. It had been smashed up pretty bad in the wreck on the 202. When I got home, I found an envelope taped to my door with $1000 inside. Curlon deals, indeed!
I was considering going out Saturday night when I got another text from Curlon. They wanted me to pick someone up from an old industrial park. A guy in a suit emerged from behind a large, metal storage tank. He had a white silk bag over his head. Blood, or something red, stained the bag where it kicked out over his nose. My throat started to tighten in fear, but his unconcerned gait toward my car calmed me slightly.
When he got to the door, he stood there until I realized his hands were bound behind his back. I got out, opened the door, and tried to untie the ropes around his wrists.
“Uh uh! Uh uh!” he murmured and shook his hands away, clearly telling me no.
Was this a kink thing?
Curlon texted me an address.
The bagged man was silent the entire ride, save for a nasty cough every now and then. When I arrived at the location – an old, abandoned roadside motel – Ken stopped me.
“I’ll take him from here, I guess,” he said. His eyes were puffy and red like he had been crying. He held a gun in his right hand.
“Jesus, Ken! Where’d you get that?”
“That pile up on the freeway. They told me to get it. They say they can cure my mom.” A tear ran down his cheek. Before he could start to cry more violently, he opened my back door and pulled the hooded man out.
“Get out of here, man,” Ken said. “And stop answering their texts. They just pull you deeper with each one.”
As I drove away, I heard two shots. Then my phone jingled with a new text.
“Your passenger unsubscribed. Don’t follow Ken’s advice.”