It takes a while for Mac to understand that no signature is required for the delivery. However, this was against regulations (Meyer's). Even when he got threatened. Like that time at the bar.
"Just take it to the address, go inside the gate, then the door to the station, and leave it."(Meyer)
"Who's going to sign--"
"Nobody will be there. Just leave it and go on, okay?"
The box was stamped with the city government insignia; chemicals for the water treatment substation on Roselawn at North Tenth. Direct to the site to save costs. Mac casts about for a mental picture; he'd never thought about those streets particularly intersecting. That area was an undeveloped patch of woods, anomalous among fifties-era low ranch houses.
Pulling up, he's encouraged to see a white city pickup parked off the pavement. A short drive leads to a grassy plot and new pump building. That trees have been cleared for the plot is vaguely satisfying. He scoots along the chalky shell path through the open hurricane fencing gate.
The sun is directly above, burning fragrances out of the high grass. He can hear traffic from over on Eighteenth. The new building is very tall and only about twenty feet square. He pulls the steel door open and peers cautiously inside.
Everything is dark, except the tangential glow from side vents in the wall. No one inside. He scans the huge machinery as it becomes visible, his clipboard and delivery schedule and pen at his side. The pickup truck sits outside, eerily empty. He places the package on the floor beside a switchboard of flashing diodes and can't resist a look around.
The pipes are massive and curving, cold to the touch. They plunge into the concrete foundation with great acuity of form, as though shaped by imagination rather than wrenches and torches.
Then, quite suddenly, there are voices about his head. He steps back to the door, eager, looks out upon no one. He makes a quick tour of the small room of machinery. Looks straight up into the vast space above. Nobody up there.
The voice again: a woman's. It's distant-sounding and refracts off the walls, hollow and rushed like Oz behind the curtains. Mac is only able to decipher one thing, an address on Standifer avenue. Before long the echoes of the voice are gone. But it was there.
Neglecting subsequent deliveries, he proceeds to the recited address, jumpily anticipating. He finds another building, similar to the one he has just come from, in another undeveloped field. The gate here is locked. He waits. Traffic sporadically passes by, blacks of the vicinity eyeing him. At one point a city pickup like the one before veers over, slowing, but does not stop. The guy driving doesn't look at Mac.
There, at the address he's sure the voice specified, no one arrives. Nothing happens. Long hours pass.
By five Mac is forced to return to the warehouse to be (not atypically) fired by Meyer when undelivered packages are found in the back seat of the Fury. That, and the mysterious matter of the bar owner not receiving his package.
Mac gets supper at Hendrix's bar-be-que at the foot of the bridge, asking the guy if he's related, receiving a blank stare for his effort. Then he proceeds upon his rounds. After midnight he is driving south on South Grand, cool enough for windows down without a/c, when he passes the holding facility for the yet-to-be judged criminally insane.
He slows down, pulling over in front of the charity hospital.
Schizophrenia--the word is like a secret prize. The TV documentary, the people in the facility. Voices. The inaccessibility of the world somehow justified. A sort of "Ohh, okay," he's never had on his side. To explain.
Mac drives on, feeling vindicated, a sensation almost erotic.
In the morning when he wakes late in his motel room and no job to go to he calls the lady at the facility and relays his experience. "And you did what the voice told you?"
"I went to the address like it said."
"And what happened?"
"Have you experienced any pain in your head? Have you fallen?"
"Nope." She asks a rote list and Mac answers efficiently. He wants to know if he should come check in. She tells him to return to the location where he heard the voices and see if there is any repetition of symptoms. Mac obliges.
The white city truck is still there as if it hadn't moved since yesterday. Mac parks beside it and goes inside the building again. He stands a while. The package he left is there untouched. Everything looks the same. There he assumes an unwitting lotuslike position on the cool, smooth concrete floor. Attentive. Prayerful, almost.
The wait takes approximately fifteen minutes. He does not move at all until he hears the voice again. He leaps up immediately, then splatters on the gravel outside, failing to notice that both of his legs have fallen asleep. After stomping around to get the feeling back he proceeds toward the car.
The sky is blue, the sun high and warming. The sound of traffic drones several blacks over. Got to find a phone.
And then, in passing the pickup, Mac hears the voice, this time loud. The pickup? The windows are down.
Mac disheartedly spots a radio inside the cab hosting the instructions of the city maintenance dispatch.
Heat rises from the shell drive, wavy and tiresome. A balky ambulance sounds from over near the river, hauling another victim toward reticent charity.
He returns to the motel room with observable lack of speed and does not call the lady back.