Adin stood behind the counter of his Father’s dry cleaning business, holding the claims ticket of a customer who hadn’t quit talking for the last ten minutes. If the man hadn’t held Adin in a one-way conversion, he could’ve already presented the man his clothing and rang him up. Instead, Adin listened as patiently as he could as the man ranted about his marital problems and how it harmed his hernia.
Adin wanted to scream. This was more information than he wanted to know about his customer’s personal life. Especially since he really did not know the man. Adin whipped his hand across his forehead. He brushed his dark black hair out of his eyes and tried to act interested. The man finally took a breath and Adin made his move.
“Well that sounds really terrible sir but if you will excuse me I will get your–” Adin looked quickly at the ticket. “Your tweed suit. Coat and trousers.” He did not give the man a chance to say another word. Adin disappeared through the door, behind the counter.
Adin collected the items and returned to the counter as quickly as possible. He rang up the tags and added the tax on the cash register. The man seemed to have lost his energy as he watched Adin move so quickly. The customer paid the bill, collected the clothing and left smiling.
Another satisfied customer! Adin thought as he checked the clock. Only two more hours until closing. He pulled out his Algebra homework and started on the problem that he was working on before the long winded man had interrupted him.
No other customers came into the store until almost closing time. Adin was able to finish all his homework and was starting to get ready to close when three people showed up at once. Adin watched the people heading for the door. He let out a long sigh. He would be closing late tonight.
Adin was happy when he finally turned the store lights off and locked the front door. He really did not know how his parents had kept this business going all these years. What he did know was that he did not want to inherit this business. Adin knew his father expected him to take it over when he retired. After all, his father had started it and now trained him on how to run the store by himself. It was only natural that Adin would take it over next.
However, this was one family tradition Adin had no intention of continuing. Adin had a totally different plan for his life. He planned to go to college. He was going to spend his life designing video games.
In fact, he was already designing video games in his spare time, and doing alright with them. He’d released a few simple games on the app store already, which received positive reviews and made him a couple extra hundred bucks a month in download sales. But if he was going to get out of here, Adin needed to make a lot more money in the next two years. He had already made budgets and lists of what he needed to have before he left after graduation.
Adin received an allowance by working after school and some weekends at his parents’ business, but it was not much. He could not ask his parents for anything more. They already had their hands full paying for his sister’s education and trying to help his brother’s family while he was in prison.
No, Adin had to find a good paying job before summer started. That way he could start saving money, help out his parents a little and his father could hire someone else to help with the store. Adin figured hiring extra help was probably the easiest way for his dad to get used to Adin not being there.
Adin believed he had enough retail and customer service experience that he could probably get a job at any store, but he was hoping on finding something that made more than minimum wage. Adin had already applied for a couple of math tutoring jobs that offered good pay. He had also applied for a couple of handyman jobs, although he doubted he could get them because of child labor laws. They could hire an adult and have a lot fewer headaches on the number of hours he could work.
Adin stopped by the arcade on his way home. He had time for a couple of foos ball games. His friends were there and he wanted to ask one of them about a driving job they had told him about last week.
The foos ball tables were empty when he walked in. He scanned the rows of arcade game machines and found who he was looking for. Trevor and Mason were busy banging away on one of the machines. Adin walked up and watched them until they noticed him.
“What’s up Adin, my man?’ Trevor said with a grin on his face.
“Not much, “Adin answered. “Came by to see if you two were here and maybe play some foos ball if you’re up to it. Also wanted to know if you found out anything about that driving job?”
Trevor and Mason stopped playing on the machine and they all headed to the foo’s ball game. Mason dug around in his pocket and pulled out a wadded up piece of paper which he handed to Adin.
“That’s the name of the guy to contact and the email address to send your application to. The company is a new rideshare app, like Uber. It’s called Charonn. You download the app to your phone, and you see requests from people to get picked up. You’re basically a taxi driver and you get paid when you deliver the rider to their destination. From what I understand you have to be eighteen and sign a legal contract.”
“Great, “said Adin.” There goes that idea!”
“Why do you say that? All you got to do is get a fake social security card and Driver’s license. It’s known they don’t do background checks like Uber or Lyft, which is why underage guys like us are applying for it. Everything is done over the internet. Besides, you have a real driver’s license to show if you get stopped by the cops. Heck, you even have your own car. So what’s the problem?”
“Mason, how am I supposed to get a fake social security card?” asked Adin.
“Just make one on your computer,” said Mason. “Use Photoshop on a scan of your real card and change the numbers. That’s what I did.”
Adin thought about the rideshare driver job on the way home. He had to, at least, try to find a way to get it. It was the best paying job he’d heard of and it seemed simple, too: just drive people around. He needed to find a job before summer. If he waited until then there would be no good jobs left.
Mason was right about the fake ID’s The only thing they would be used for was to get hired. He was sixteen, so he had a valid driver’s license, but Adin did not know how he was going to get a fake social security card. He thought about using his brothers card number. But decided against that. How could his brother explain to the IRS that he had worked for these Charonn people while he was in prison?
Adin was still trying to figure out what to do when he walked through the door of his parents’ house. He stood in the hallway and listened to the noises that meant everyone was home. His father had his radio going and his mother was cooking in the kitchen and the sound of the air pump going in the front room’s aquarium.
“Adin is that you?’ His father’s voice came from the kitchen. Adin headed that way.
“Yes, Papa,’ Adin answered, walking into the kitchen. He stood and watched his parents’ cooking together. His father was just taking the pot of pasta off the stove and he was headed to the sink to drain it. His mother was sprinkling garlic powder on the French bread.
“Everything go alright at the store this afternoon?” Adin’s father asked as he finished draining the pasta.
Adin smiled as he answered. “Yes, Papa.”
“Go and wash up. Dinner is almost ready,” Adin’s mother said as she put the bread in the oven. “Oh, Adin there is a large yellow envelope from on your dresser. I picked it up this afternoon from the post office. Maybe it will be early college admissions.”
“Thanks, Mama. I will open it after we eat,” said Adin.
A little while later they were sitting at the table eating. The spaghetti was always good and tonight was no different. There was a knock at the door. Adin’s father went to answer it. He came back with Trevor and Mason, who had decided to stop by to visit Adin.
“Have a plate, boys,” said Adin’s mother.
Mason and Trevor grabbed plates and soon all five of them were eating dinner. When they were done the three boys cleaned up and then headed for Adin’s room.
The first order of business was to find somewhere to get a fake social security card. That meant that they needed to get into the dark web. They looked at the computer for a minute then Mason sat down and started typing into the search engine, “How to fake a social security card number.”
The first webpage he visited, Mason read that the easiest way to fake a social security number was to find someone who had died who had the exact same name as yourself. The site then recommended a service where you could research a database of recently dead people and locate someone with a name like yours, and even get their social security number. The webpage had a clickable link to the service.
Adin and Trevor watched over Masons’ shoulder as he maneuvered his mouse cursor to click on the link. Almost immediately, the screen started acting weird. The picture on the screen flipping around and became distorted. Mason thought he clicked on a virus and started panicking, but before he could say anything the screen went black, then large white text appeared onscreen.
The website page had fields for entering your name, address, and birthday.
Adin reached past Mason and was going to turn the computer off when Mason grabbed his hand.
“Hey, what are you doing? Adin you need to get that card now if you are going to apply for the job.” Mason looked up at Adin.
“I really do not know about this. It is already too creepy for me. Mason, I need to think about this some more,” Adin had a very serious look on his face.
“Look, just don’t use your real birthday,” said Trevor. “The only thing important is the name, right? They just have to match.”
“Fine,” said Adin. He’d come this far already and he did want to work.
So when they had filled everything out and pressed the enter button, the screen switched to the billing process.
The company wanted to be paid in Bitcoins. Adin looked at the bill on the computer screen and knew he’d be able to pay. He’d been collecting Bitcoins for about six months as payment for some of the games he sold on the app stores, and he had a good amount saved up.
After making payment, the next screen thanked him for his transaction and immediately downloaded a document.
Opening the new folder, Adin saw that it contained a printable document that contained a template for a Social Security Card with his name on it. The next thing for Adin to do was to email a photo of this card and his driver’s license to the email address for the Charonn app company, along with his driver’s application. Then he was done.
Trevor was busy copying Adin’s homework and Mason was trying out Adin’s latest game when Adin received an email response back from the Charonn company.
The email contained a link to the Charonn app website, which brought up a contract for Adin to electronically signed by simply typing his name into a field. Adin started reading the contract, thinking it would be a good idea, but it was about forty pages long. Adin didn’t really understand much of the legal language used to write the contract anyway. He skimmed to the bottom and typed his name into the field, effectively signing it.
The last thing Adin did was download the app on his phone and then register himself as a driver by pressing his thumb into the screen for several seconds for it to record his information. Adin thought this was weird, but he went along with it.
As Adin held his thumb firmly on the glass screen of his phone, the app grew hot. Then there was a sharp pricking sensation. Pulling his thumb back Adin saw it was bleeding slightly. Adin shivered and turned off the phone.
“You must have bumped your thumb at work or something, and just now noticed,” reassured Mason.
That seemed like a logical explanation to Adin.
The next day Adin did not have to work at his parent’s dry cleaning business after school, so he turned on the Charonn app and waited in his room. He had just started looking up a science term for his homework when the phone beeped. Looking at the screen, he saw the client’s information which included their username and pickup location address. His first client was waiting for him. He read the woman’s profile. She was a housewife and mother. She had just finished shopping and needed a ride from the mall to her residence five miles from the mall. Adin accepted the deal to pick her up, and after leaving a note for his parents he drove off to find her.
When Adin got to the pickup point in front of the mall, Adin was shocked. The woman was there alright, with half a dozen grocery bags. But she also had three grubby little children and a dog. The first thing Adin thought of was his seats. He definitely was going to have to get washable seat covers.
Adin loaded the bags and packages in the trunk of his car, and then arranged the passengers. The mother sat in the back with the two smaller children. The older child and dog sat in the front with him. The woman checked the route home twice to be sure it was the shortest one possible before she pushed the app to accept the ride. When she got to her destination she thanked Adin for the ride, and gave him a good rating.
Adin was happy when the last bag was out of his trunk, and the woman and her children took their dog and items with them as they walked toward the house. Adin then got back into the driver’s seat of his car and as he started the car the Charonn app beeped again. The next client was in front of a shoe store across town.
Adin had four clients on his first day of becoming a rideshare driver. He headed home around dinner time and was about to park his car in the driveway when the app beeped again.
He declined the client’s request without even looking at it. Someone else would have to pick them up. It was a school night and he had homework. He went in to talk to his parents about his new job. Of course, he was going to have to lie to them about what he was doing. He decided to tell them he was working at the local pizzeria as a delivery boy, which is why he was driving his car so much. That way he would avoid having to explain how he got hired as a Charonn app driver.
Adin talked to his parents during dinner. They were not happy about the new job but they respected that he wanted to earn money on his own for college. Later, Adin felt very guilty that night when he went to bed. He hated lying to his parents but if he admitted he was working for Charonn he would have to explain how he passed the age requirements.
The next morning, Adin turned on his computer to check on his games and how they were selling, when his phone beeped. It was a message from the Charonn company. The message said,
“Due to your high review ratings, we are going to send you our preferred customers. All these jobs will be at night, but you will earn an extra 20% commission on each job you do. Keep in mind, many of these customers may not have a phone with them, but rest assured you will be compensated for the trips.”
Adin did not really want to work after dark, but he also needed the money. His games had not been selling as well as he’d hoped they would.
Just then his phone beeped again, and a clients’ profile and pick up location appeared on the Charonn app screen. Adin left a note for his parents and asked them not to wait on him for dinner. He would be working until after dark.
Adin had two rideshare clients back to back, from older women who needed rides to work. Then he served as chauffer for a man that needed a ride to the airport. The fourth call was from a priest who needed a ride from the church to his brother’s home, which was just a little bit outside of town. It was a longer trip than usual, but the extra distance meant Adin would earn more money as compensation.
Adin was just getting back into town when the sun went down, and his phone made a buzzing noise. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and grabbed the phone. It was the Charonn app again, but something was different than usual. The screen was a weird orange color and the words displayed across the screen read ‘Preferred Customer: Pick up location Salem Pioneer Cemetery.’
Adin looked at the pickup destination and shook his head.
Okay, this is just a little too creepy, he thought. But he had signed the contract and was being paid more than the regular rate.
Somewhat reluctantly, Adin punched in the cemetery address in his phone’s GPS app and followed the directions.
It was dark by the time Adin pulled into the cemetery.
Adin’s client had waited for him by the front gate. He could not really see the person very well, because he was wearing a hooded jacket and the hood was pulled up over his head. But Adin could see the man had a thick walking stick he was leaning on and when he walked toward the car his hips and legs had a strange motion to them.
As the man climbed into the back of the car, Adin caught a foul smell for just a moment then it was gone. Perhaps the man had not bathed in awhile? The man pulled his hood up a little, and looked at Adin. The man had the clearest blue eyes and almost white skin. The phone buzzed again and Adin looked at the screen. It had his client’s destination written in text: ‘Elsinore Theatre.’
The client said nothing during the ride and neither did Adin. The only noise was that of Adin’s GPS giving him directions to the theatre.
Adin pulled into the parking lot near the theatre, and the man rustled in the backseat. The man got out of the car swiftly, and walked toward the theatre after passing in front of the car. As the man walked in front of Adin’s car headlights, Adin saw that the man had donkey hooves where his feet should have been.
END OF PREVIEW.
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