“I apologize for the commotion. We don’t normally get unwired customers asking about our personal shit on the first day. I’m sure you can understand.” Everything changed in a mere ten-minute time frame. Ian felt like his life was moments away from ending after asking a regretfully stupid question to a group of obvious criminals who were, themselves, avoiding all contact with law enforcement. The man in front of him was indeed Jebon. He had brought him to another room in the house – a room with more boxes, work desks and chairs.
Jebon sat across from Ian, looking at him – almost analyzing. “So you dyed your hair, you have fake contacts in and you’re looking to change your identity. Am I correct in assuming you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle?”
Ian’s heart was still racing. “You could say that.”
Jebon raised his eyebrows and sighed. He stood up and started walking to one of the walls and examined the boxes. “So what do you expect out of this? What is it that you think I’m able to provide for you?” Ian thought for a moment about what to say but Jebon continued. “Opportunity? A second chance? A way to get away from what you did wrong in your past?”
“I did something,” Ian said, “Something that would get me in trouble if I got caught. I don’t-“
“You don’t need to tell me what you did wrong,” Jebon said. “I want you to tell me what you expect your life to look like after you change your identity.”
Ian stayed silent – mainly because he hadn’t thought about the after. He only thought about the immediate present and getting out of the immediate dangers in which he put himself.
“People change their identity all the time. It never really works,” Jebon said. “Perhaps you know that, perhaps you want to give it a shot anyway but I’ll give you a little food for thought.” Jebon walked around the room, suddenly holding a glass of whiskey or scotch. Ian didn’t see where he got it from but there he was. “The severity of the crime you’re running away from will determine just how hard this is going to be. If you got caught cheating on your wife, changing your look and faking your death will be easy. If you killed someone and people saw you do it, it’s going to be considerably more difficult.”
Ian’s heart sank. His body’s demand for oxygen increased as he suppressed his desire to breathe more heavily. “I just need to get away from what I’ve done.”
“Then the rules are simple,” Jebon said as he sat down in front of him. “No contact with anyone from your former life. Your family. Your friends. Your girlfriend, your dog, your coworkers – nobody. You may be tempted to tell a loved one that your alive or that you’re fine because maybe you’re a good guy. Maybe.” He took a sip from his drink. “The moment you do, whether it be through text or a phone call or even a letter or email – that shit will make its way to the police faster that you could believe.”
The pep talk, though unexpected, was insightful. None of the points Jebon brought up would change Ian’s mind about the matter – he needed to do this. It simply gave him some more details to consider.
“Something to think about,” Jebon said. He stood up and gestured Ian to follow him, which he did. Ian followed him down the hallway and through another door into a room with a few computer screens and a series of other printers and devices. The room had perpetual humming sound.
“This is where your life changes. This is where you get your second chance.” He pointed at a camera on a tripod, one of the computers on the table and another couple machines – “We used to have a guy who was pro at this shit.” Jebon laughed, then took another swig from his glass. “But sometimes shit doesn’t go to plan and team members part ways.”
Ian stared at him, listening and waiting for the process to begin. Jebon shook his head and turned back to him. “What’s your name?”
Ian’s eyes widened once again. The gut-wrenching possibility of Jebon being an undercover cop bubbled back up – however after a moment of thinking, he realized what Jebon was actually asking. Ian smiled and narrowed his eyes. “My name is Kevin Demarcos.”
Jebon raised one of his eyebrows. “Nice,” he said almost sarcastically. He leaned over near one of the computers and opened up a program. While doing so, he asked, “Any reason for that name or were you just going for the fucking weirdest sounding name that sounds nothing like how you look?” There was almost a chuckle in his question, which lightened the mood slightly.
Ian chuckled the same amount, “It was a character from a video game I played years ago. It wasn’t even the official game. It was a modded version of the game with custom characters that someone else-“ Ian noticed that Jebon stopped listening. He did consider the fact that his appearance – a white guy with blonde hair and brown eyes didn’t really look like a Kevin Demarcos. ‘Demarcos’ was a Spanish name, right? Or maybe something else? Technically, the more unlikely the name, the smaller the chances would be that anyone would draw a connection. Right?
Jebon typed a few lines into the program on the computer. Ian saw the letters DEMARCOS appear on one text field and KEVIN on another. “Alright, now for the fun part.” Jebon reached for the camera. “Style up your shitty dyed hair and stand against that wall. This is your new look. Make it count.”
Ian brushed his hair with his fingers and parted his hair the best he could. There was no mirror nearby and even if there was, it was too dark to see anything. He stood against a blank wall and looked at the small red dot on the camera mounted on the tripod in front of him.
He smiled forcefully in a way to make the ID picture look as genuine as he could. Jebon pressed a few buttons on the camera. “Alright, Kevin,” he peered through the viewfinder. “Three, two, one. Say cheese.”
There was a blinding flash from two light fixtures on either side of the camera.