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It was somewhere around seven in the morning when I sneaked out of Sandra’s room on my way to our room on the fifth floor. My brand new girlfriend was still sleeping after the tiring night we had because, as it turned out, our little fight in the rubber plant was nothing more than just the first battle in a long and exhausting war. She needed to recover now. I needed time to recover too, but I didn’t want to wake up in bed with her. Everything happened too quickly, and it didn’t feel like a relationship yet. So I returned to our room instead and lay next to Lara, who snored erratically like a choked lawnmower. She also reeked of alcohol, which clearly indicated how she had spent her night here. I was more than sure the mini-bar had been licked clean, but I didn’t bother checking it out.

I drew as far from her as possible and closed my eyes, hoping to muffle her snoring with my own. At first, it didn’t work; I rather tried to convince myself I was sleeping. At some point, though, my efforts bore fruit, and when we woke up in the early afternoon—almost at the same time—with combined efforts, we had managed to bring the rest of the ceiling plaster down upon us.

I yawned and got up, announcing that I was taking a bath. Lara grunted something of the sort that she knew because it was already afternoon, and I was severely behind schedule. I stared at her for a while, annoyed because I thought there was nothing weird about my desire to be clean. Moreover, at this moment, I looked exactly like the only baker in a city of ten million people at the end of his long and tiresome shift. Anyway, I ignored her nagging and went to dip myself in the bathtub. As I relaxed in it, I asked her through the open bathroom door what she had found in the pimps’ closet while I experienced their raging anger in the living room.

“Oh, stop whining about it, will you? You were just fine!” she snapped at me. “You were outside chatting with the bastards while I was stuck in the stinky, claustrophobic hole with no way out. On top of that, I had to pee so badly that my kidneys were about to explode!”

“What do you even mean by that? I was nearly killed by these bastards!” I tried to object.

“Well, I saved your stupid ass in the end, didn’t I?”

“And I’m thankful for that!” I growled. “I’m really, really thankful that you saved my stupid ass just fifteen seconds before I suffered a heart attack or drowned. I guess you waited so long just to be sure my life was exciting enough, didn’t you?”

In fact, I wasn’t quite right to make such a big fuss about her delay because the situation had been really tough, and she did save me after all. Despite that, I was still angry with her for her total indifference to other people’s suffering and disregard for their feelings.

“You’re one awfully ungrateful and arrogant son of a bitch! Do you know that?” Lara shouted at me from the bed.

Instead of arguing with her and wrecking my nerves in a stupid fight, I passed over her vicious remark and only splashed my feet in the water a couple of times. Interestingly enough, the trick worked just fine, and I immediately felt much better. It was as if I had electrodes installed in my legs, and they discharged into the bathtub all the negative energy coming from the other room. Feeling relieved, I even started humming Gershwin’s “Summertime” and thought that if I patented this method as a cure for clinical depression, I might even get rich.

“So did you find anything interesting in the closet or not?” I asked my grumpy assistant after I dipped into the land of peace and harmony a few more times.

“Of course, I found something!” I heard her bark wickedly through the door. “What do you think I was doing in there? I certainly didn’t enjoy porn movies!”

I splashed my feet into the water, and everything was fine. I found myself a few thousand miles away—in a completely different world, full of endless joy and pleasure. I stayed there for a few minutes until my co-detective in the other room finally condescended to tell me what she had found in the damn closet. Actually, she cried it out so loudly that probably everybody in the hotel was aware of it now, and maybe even Larry and Bob overheard something in their miserable shack at the other end of the city.

“I found drugs and some documents and… pictures!” Lara explained, hesitating a bit at the end of her phrase.

“Pictures? What pictures?” I pricked my ears.

She didn’t answer right away. At first, I thought she hadn’t heard me because, unlike her, I wasn’t shouting as if we were a hundred miles apart, but then, after a couple of seconds, she spoke again, “Of Sonya and a guy.”

“What guy?” I asked, intrigued. “What were they doing?”

“I don’t know him, for Christ’s sake!” She barked, irritated. “I’ve never seen him before!”

“But were they in a friendly situation or what?”

Lara remained silent again. “Neither,” she mumbled afterward. “They were just posing. My point here is that her scumbag friends have definitely dragged her into their nasty shit! She wouldn’t have stayed with them otherwise.”

Now it was me who remained silent for a while and thinking. It felt quite weird that she suddenly started beating around the bush instead of explaining what she had seen in the pictures. Anyway, despite my asking her about it again, she minced her words and said nothing more about the subject.

“But why didn’t you take the photos with you?” I wanted to know before dropping it.

“Because the jerks would have known I had been there, and besides, I had to save your lazy ass, remember?” She replied tartly, which actually solidified my conclusion that there was something wrong with the pictures. “And everything you did was drink beer and watch porn!”

I shrugged, and to make things right again, I splashed my feet into the water. This time, I found myself lying on a desert beach in Micronesia in the company of a bunch of Micronesian girls. They were all heavenly pretty, the sun shone brightly in the sky, and the sand beneath my body was pleasantly hot. There was also a beautiful waterfall in the vicinity, surrounded by palm trees, and its waters fell into the blue lagoon with a soft and soothing murmur.

“What about the documents then?” I tried another approach when I returned from my Pacific vacation completely refreshed and rested.

“They were all technical shit,” Lara replied from the bed. “As far as I could figure it out, they referred to a cargo ship, whose name I forgot. I think it was supposed to carry timber or something of the sort, but I guess the documents were bogus. The real cargo must be drugs!”

“Most probably,” I said thoughtfully.

My assistant nervously scratched her head in an attempt to remember another detail—or at least I imagined her scratching it because after a short pause, she went on rather desperately, “But what the fucking name of the damn ship was? It was something totally stupid and pretentious, and I was sure I would never forget it!”

“Blue Grasshopper?”

“That’s it! That’s the name!” She shouted excitedly, her shrill voice going on a quick trip to the moon and back. “How did you know that?”

“It’s a simple deduction,” I decided to use the situation to enhance my professional image without mentioning the picture I found in my bathroom. “Was there a date or a cargo bay number?”

“Yes! There were such things. The clearance request read 22-B, and processing was scheduled for tomorrow at noon, but I’m afraid it’ll be fake. The real stuff should be extracted earlier, I guess—probably tonight, if it hasn’t been extracted already!”

I pursed my lips, and I had to admit there was a good reason in her thinking—an unexpected new feature, which I thought her character lacked completely. I agreed with her conclusion and mentioned—rather casually—that maybe we should drop by the port to check it out after all. I actually didn’t think we were going to do that because I was just playing detective when I said that, and besides, it was very unlikely to find Sonya there. Unfortunately, though, after I dropped the bomb, it had an immediate effect, and then I had no way out of it.

“We definitely should! Tonight and tomorrow at noon again—just in case!”

When I heard this, I sighed dejectedly. I had just brought more trouble into my life, and it was only because I couldn’t keep my damn mouth shut! I figured splashing my feet in the water was to blame because it was so soothing and relaxing that it made even the idea of chasing the Loch Ness monster in Loch Ness Lake look like an innocent tag game with roaches. Maybe I just had to stop my “vacations” before some other reckless thing occurred to me, and I shared it with Lara.

I quickly got out of the bathtub, wiped myself with a towel, and grabbed my clothes. I looked at them for a moment before putting them on. They seemed so miserable! I definitely had to drop by my place and change again because soon people would stop allowing me to visit decent places dressed like this. The only problem was that I had no clean clothes to change into because I hadn’t laundered anything for weeks. The damn case had destroyed my daily routine completely, and my apartment was a total mess now. Besides, I was late on rent too, and I didn’t even know if I still had an apartment to get to!

A few minutes later, when I was ready, I looked at myself in the mirror, fixed my hair, and stepped out of the bathroom. Outside, I found Lara staring at the TV screen with the sound turned off. She was watching a chess tournament, and I wondered where such an impulsive and impatient person like her would get so much self-hatred to torture herself with such an extremely boring program. However, when she saw me coming out, she instantly revived, and I knew she had just been waiting for me. She wanted to convince me that we should drop by the port right now.

“You know what?” She attempted a maneuver to that effect.

“Yeah, I know. But no, thanks!” I cut her off before she even started it. “We said tonight, remember? Now I have other plans!”

And I quickly went out. I had absolutely no intention of hanging around the port in the heat, and I wanted to go to the lobby instead and see if Sandra was there. My idea was to have a couple of drinks with her and maybe some more “Mexican food” afterward. Unfortunately, my little arachnid was missing, leaving me no choice but to drink alone. It didn’t matter, actually. It was definitely a better thing to do than stay up in the room and argue with Lara.

Inside the bar, quite a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere met me. Except for a few guests, the place was almost empty, and the lights were dimmed. The air smelled of lavender, and delicate jazz music poured out of the speakers, which hung in every corner of the hall attached to the ceiling. I walked straight to the bartender and sat on one of the high stools in front of him, but he obviously wasn’t happy to see me. It was clearly because of last night’s bottle accident, and I was glad that he, at least, got away with it without losing his job.

The guy asked me what my poison was, and I said “Bombay”, which was quite inconsiderate of me. After hearing my order, he sulked even more and silently poured my drink into a glass, putting it on the counter near my right hand. Then he went to serve some other guests who were early drinkers like me. Since something still bothered him, though, he came back after he finished there.

“And what was the matter with you, man?” He jumped on the subject right away.

I looked at him, and even though I knew well what he was talking about, I raised my eyebrows, pretending I was confused.

“It was number seven hundred thirty-three. It could have been it, and you totally ruined it!”

Now I had to raise my eyebrows again, and this time, I was genuinely puzzled.

“The fucking olive, man! Do you know how long I’ve been trying to calculate the chance of it entering the glass with a cushion shot?” he explained, frustrated. “It was number seven hundred thirty-three, and after you screwed it up, I had to start over!”

I slowly turned my head back to look at the pool table in disbelief. It was at least fifteen yards away from here—near the opposite wall—and I couldn’t even imagine its relevance to the situation.

“Not that cushion!” the NBA champion grunted as he followed my eyes. “I meant the glass rim. The glass rim is the cushion!”

“Oh, I see!” I finally grasped his idea. I didn’t actually give a shit about his stupid counting, but I decided to demonstrate some false compassion after all—mainly because I wanted to soothe my throbbing guilt about the unfortunate bottle accident, which he obviously didn’t even remember.

“I was so desperate,” the bartender went on, “that I drank too much and eventually got shitfaced. I poisoned myself to the point that I kept throwing up all night long, and the next morning, I felt so sick and tired that I jaywalked, and a bus hit me. It literally broke my body into a thousand pieces! Then, in the hospital, they had no supply of my blood type for transfusion, and I had to get up and leave. And since no cab wanted to take me because the drivers were afraid I would soil their backseats, I had to walk all the way here and was late for work. Sandra was really furious, and she slapped my face. Then she deducted twenty bucks from my paycheck!”

I gasped, dumbfounded, when he finally stopped talking. I hadn’t heard such a tragic story in my entire life so far, and I was so moved that, at first, I wanted to raise my hands toward the sky and pray for the soul of this miserable fellow. Since I had never been a religious man, though, I just swallowed my tears and prayed that he should finish the bullshit soon enough so I could down my drink undisturbed.

“What about the bus driver?” I had to ask him when, after a while, my gin was over, but he kept looking at me, waiting for my reaction. “Did he beat the crap out of you for getting in his way?”

‘No, but he beat the crap out of me for soiling his windshield! He yelled that the blood was too hard to clean, and now he couldn’t see the road clearly.”

I nodded my head sympathetically and said, “Yet for a man who took so much beating, you look pretty good!”

“Thanks, man! I have the quality to recover really quickly!” He smirked and grabbed a bottle to refill my glass. He was just monkeying around; he just invented the entire story!

“Look, can I ask you something?” I took my drink and sipped it.

He glanced at me, expecting me to ask about his imaginary accident.

“Are many Eternity customers coming around?”

“They’re mainly customers from Eternity around here!” he answered and started wiping the counter. “Why do you wanna know?”

“It’s nothing. I’m just looking for a girl; she’s a dancer in the club!” I lied to him and quickly described Sonya.

“Nope! Rings no bell,” the man shook his head. “Why don’t you go there to look for her?”

I stared at him for a moment. That was actually a good question. I had no prepared answer for that.

“Because,” I mumbled, confused, “there’s a nasty bouncer who works there, and he doesn’t like me. He’s a huge fellow with blond hair full of dandruff!”

“Yep, him, I know!” the bartender unexpectedly said. “He comes here sometimes to deliver messages from his boss to my boss. You’d better stay away from this guy, though! He could be more than just nasty if you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t! What do you mean?”

“The rumor is that he strangled his own mother and gutted his father. People also say he eats scorpions alive to strengthen his system with their venom, and he hunts coyotes with his bare hands to consume their hearts. There are some other terrible things I’ve heard about him, but believe me, you wouldn’t want to know them!”

“Wow! He seems like quite a character!” I murmured, impressed. “Doesn’t he kill grizzly bears with pocket knives to consume their testicles?”

“I don’t know about any testicles,” the bartender looked at me pretty seriously, “but I’ve heard he could punch a hole in a half-dollar with his index finger! Can you imagine that?” And after saying this, he turned around to rearrange the bottles on the shelves, completely sure now that he had scared me to the very core of my soul.

I looked at him for a while thoughtfully and then grabbed my glass. I didn’t know who fabricated this ridiculous shit—the bouncer or my weird friend—but it didn’t matter. They were both the sort of people who would do that. And since I didn’t want to go back to our room yet and definitely needed to take some rest from my case, I pounded my second gin to let it join the first one in my stomach, which felt really bored already, I believed. With combined efforts, the two drinks fired up my bloodstream, and until my third drink was over—about an hour later—the bartender and I were already best pals. I knew everything about his life and the lives of the bunch of people he had met and worked with. By the way, nearly ninety-nine percent of his stories were clearly untrue.

At some point, I got really carried away listening to him, and when I remembered that Lara was waiting for me, I looked at the clock above the shelves, startled. It was nearly seven p.m., and my assistant was probably nervous like a teapot on a stove! I stretched myself lazily and wondered whether to go back to her and let her drag me to the port and ruin my good mood or to knock back one last drink. I felt so well! I guess I couldn’t punch a hole in a half-dollar with my index finger, but I was pretty sure I could kill a coyote—with the help of a rifle, at least—and I could definitely stomp on a scorpion if I met one.

The bartender, who still loitered around, suddenly glanced over my shoulder and said he would be right back. Then he winked at me smugly, gave me the thumbs up, and went to serve a strange couple who had just entered the bar after returning from their vacation on Maui. I had no idea what his gesture was supposed to mean, but my blurry mind decided that he had seen Sandra come down to thank me for my stellar performance in her room last night. It made me feel sorry that I hadn’t ordered that drink already because my evening was clearly going to get very good very soon.

Feeling excited, I turned my head to look behind me, but unfortunately, I didn’t see Sandra anywhere. Instead, I noticed a stunning blonde-haired chick sitting alone at a table in the middle of the hall. She was who my bartender friend pointed my attention to, and even though she wasn’t exactly my type, I still felt kind of intrigued. The beauty wore a black dress and a matching black jacket and stared fixedly in my direction. Noticing her obvious interest in me, I suddenly wanted to have some fun with this easy prey before “shooting” her for dinner. She was going to help me endure Lara and all her bullshit later that night.

After a while, I found myself slowly lifting off my stool like a Harrier fighter jet going on a mission. My tank was loaded with too much gin, and my guidance system was pretty faulty right now, but I didn’t care and was fully resolved to act. I prepared for a short flight across the hall and a headlong dive for the knockout. Right before attacking, I locked her on my radar to take a better look at her. She was a real sex bomb! She had a dangerously hot ass, explosively big tits, and legs longer than US 20. As I watched her so hot for me, a weird euphoria seized me, and I felt I was dying to take a bath in her glass of Johnnie Walker under her craving look. Her big, smoky eyes were greener and wetter than a Malayan jungle during hurricane season, absorbing me passionately behind her glasses.

And right after that, for reasons I didn’t know, I unexpectedly changed my intentions. In fact, I knew very well why I did it—it was because Sandra might suddenly pop in and see me—but why I did what I did before sitting back on my stool was a total mystery to me. I opened my mouth and whistled recklessly at the chick like a lousy cab driver who considered himself a top Casanova!

My moronic gesture would have been a true deal breaker in almost any other situation, but here and now, it served as a powerful chick magnet. The beauty just fixed yearning eyes on me and used her index finger to call me. Since the unexpected gesture seemed too cheeky, I gave her the finger gun—now like a lousy Marlboro man—and again, she wasn’t scandalized at all. Instead, she blew my imaginary gun a kiss over the air, and it happened right when I turned my back on her, and my eyes accidentally brushed over the bartender and his weird customers at the distant end of the counter. Then I froze, stupefied. They were the albino guys!

I stayed like this—paralyzed and unable to move and just staring at them—because I still couldn’t believe I hadn’t recognized them so far. They sat on their high stools, wearing their usual beach shorts and flower-patterned shirts, looking exactly like a pair of parrots perched on a tree branch. Regrettably, I didn’t have much time to think about it because only a second later, I sensed someone’s fingers gently touching my neck and slowly moving down while counting the segments of my spinal column on their way toward my ass. I didn’t react at first and waited for the fingers to reach my tenth vertebrae, and when they did, I sharply turned around with a false expression of boredom pasted on my face. Then I bulged my eyes, horrified.

Mamma Mia, what a fool I was! I literally jumped up in disbelief, because the glasses of the so-called “breathtaking beauty”—a pair of which I probably needed too—were bigger than the orbit of Saturn, and their lenses were thick enough to start a nuclear reaction! In addition, the creature had a nose as hooked as a toucan beak, a pair of sly, round eyes with addict-like contracted pupils, and extremely thin lips, on which lipstick was smeared well beyond their line. Generally, the woman looked very much like a terrible bird of prey, which had just come to life out of the scariest Mayan myth!

“You wanted to tell me something, I think!” The monster’s high-pitched voice scraped like nails on a glass window when she opened her mouth.

I didn’t answer at first and just looked at her nervously. I quickly weighed up all the pros and cons of sleeping with her and found myself at my wit’s end. Such a huge negative imbalance I hadn’t seen in anything else in my life so far, and without even knowing the creature, I was sure that if I touched it, it would immediately turn into one of those tropical flowers that allured naïve insects into their hungry trap—usually disguised as something beautiful. The only problem was that this particular “flower” didn’t even have anything beautiful in it. If it were a real flower in the jungle, it would surely have died of hunger!

“You’re completely wrong!” I hastily tried to save myself when I was finally able to talk—after a few seconds. “I’m just sitting here and absentmindedly looking around. That’s all I’m doing!”

“You don’t seem absentminded at all when you look at me!” The predator didn’t buy my lame explanation. Her eyes tore me apart—hungry and anticipating—and I could see in them how badly turned on she was.

“I guess it’s because of my penetrating look,” I mumbled, confused. “Inexperienced beauties like you usually get it all wrong!”

It was a terrible mistake, actually. It was a huge mistake, and I knew it. I should have picked my words more carefully!

“Well, you should definitely penetrate me then! I’m ready to accept everything you’ve got!” I heard my death sentence.

“No way! I don’t have the habit of penetrating into things randomly.” I tried to back out, but it was too late because I had already set her on a hunt. “I’m not that cheap!”

“Come on! Everyone has their price,” my stalker cunningly licked her lips. “Name yours!”

“Believe me, it’s nothing that you’ll be willing to pay!” Instead of just saying no, I made my next horrible mistake.

“I dare you to try me!” The hunter got really excited and squirmed impatiently by my side. “I’m willing to pay dearly for you!”

“No, you don’t!” I insisted, wondering why on earth we were still talking about money. I wasn’t ready to sleep with this griffin with an eagle’s head, even if she gave me a hundred grand! “Give it up already! Can’t you see I’m too big of a bite for you?”

“And why is that? Tell me, please!” The creature extended her arms, which suddenly looked like tendrils to me, reaching out to suck the life out of me. She was starting to scare me big time now.

“It’s because I’ve got an eleven-inch-long gun in my pants!” I cried out, making my biggest mistake so far. At the same time, I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with the entire situation. I didn’t feel like myself, and the woman was so ridiculous that she didn’t seem real.

“Aww, I’m really curious to see it!” The harpy went crazy, and she licked her lips again. Her hooked nose wiggled as she did it.

And here, I finally grasped what was wrong with the situation and me. As I looked around in panic, hoping to find someone to help me, my eyes fell on the damn albinos, who still stared at me, grinning. They had slipped out of my mind for a moment because of my terrible experience, but now I suddenly realized I felt exactly the same as I had felt back in Eternity. Somehow, the damn bastards had messed with my subconsciousness then, and they were doing it here too! At this moment, the bar was already empty except for them, the harpy, the bartender, and me, but the bartender was talking to the jerks, hypnotized, without paying any attention to anything around him.

“Well, will you take it out?” I suddenly heard the creature’s shrilling voice, which sharply dragged me out of my stupor.

“What?” I cried out, startled.

“Will you take the big gun out of your big pants?” My devoted fan begged me again with eyes full of hope and hands stretching greedily toward me. It was actually more than I could take. These were my limits, and after a few seconds, I simply went nuts.

“I’ll take it out, okay? I’ll take it out and smash your fucking teeth with it!” I shouted and stood up, furious. “I’ll break your nose too!”

“That’s it! That’s right! I’m a dirty whore. Smash me!” The bitch literally lost her mind with excitement. “Beat the crap out of me! Rip my asshole open!”

And in the next moment, the psycho jumped upon me and squeezed me like a suffocating liana, her hands embracing my neck, her nails digging into my flesh, her mouth biting at my shoulder, and her legs clenching my right thigh between her thighs. Eventually, she hung on my body with her entire weight.

“I’ll rip your sick fucking head open, not just your asshole!” I hissed out of myself with rage, and in my panic, I sharply turned around because the situation was really out of control now. Since we were too close to the counter, the lunatic’s right shoulder caught it, and she lost her grip on me. While falling on the floor, she hit her head on the edge of my stool, and her nose started bleeding. The accident, however, didn’t discourage her at all. In fact, she was turned on even more, and only a second later, she was back on me again.

I suddenly started throwing kicks in the air like crazy. It was easily the most hideous situation I had ever been in, and I simply couldn’t believe it was happening for real. Desperate as I was, I raised my hand to grab her by the hair, and who knows what a terrible thing I would have done to her if the bitch hadn’t anticipated my move and pulled back quickly. She literally shot herself away from me without even touching the floor. She looked like a witch riding a jet broom, and she practically spit on every law of dynamics and gravitation in this universe!

I abruptly pulled myself together and prepared for the second attack. When, after a few moments, I had the chance to look around, though, I realized that there wouldn’t be one. And it wasn’t because of the bitch’s supernatural ability that she flew, but because of my friend—the bartender—who had grabbed her from behind and pulled her back. Now he was dragging her toward the exit, pushing some of the tables aside as she kicked like crazy and tried to get away from him. The nutcase’s nose was still bleeding, and as I watched her, I thought of the two jerks who were responsible for the situation. It made me turn around sharply, but unfortunately, their seats were empty now. They had used the commotion to scram.

“Wow! That was really rough, but you really rocked it, man! You really did!” After he came back, the bartender winked at me as if nothing more than just an ordinary bar fight had happened. Then he started clearing the mess.

“Did I?” I just mumbled sourly because I was still charged with too many emotions and having too much trouble processing the entire situation.

“Yeah, you were the real deal tonight!”

“And what the fuck, man? Is this bitch even a hotel client?”

He stopped for a moment to look at me. “No, she comes here sometimes to give it a try with someone who doesn’t know her. She’s actually nuts. I think she’s schizophrenic or something, but I’m not entirely sure.”

“What? You knew about her?” I cried out, frustrated.

He only shrugged.

“And why the hell do you let her in?”

“Well, we don’t!” my bartender friend explained curtly. “But she keeps coming. At first, we used to call the police, but it didn’t work because they would just take her out and let her go, so eventually, we stopped calling them. We thought we could throw her out ourselves!”

“Well, you’re really doing a terrible job here!” I grunted, still pissed at him.

He smiled and kept cleaning. At this moment, a bunch of guests came in, and they all looked around, surprised, and then they looked at me as if I was the reason for the entire mess there. Since I thought it was a ridiculous assumption, I started casually tapping my fingers on the counter to indicate that I had nothing to do with it. It didn’t help, though. It came out like I was definitely responsible for the disorder, and now I just felt guilty about it.

“You should have warned me if you knew about her condition,” I said grumpily when my weird friend finished the cleaning, and I slowly realized that he had deliberately waited to see how I would cope with the situation.

“Yeah, maybe I should have!” He smirked without caring too much. “But then again, you should have let the olive into your glass, but you didn’t do it, did you? You know how it is in life. It’s usually not fair!” Then he went to serve the newly arrived guests.

I followed him with my eyes. I had no idea why this olive thing was so important to him, but clearly, it was, so maybe he had his point after all. Despite that, I still thought his stupid prank was way too disproportionate. It just wasn’t something you would do to a man whose only fault was not allowing you to mess with his drink!

“By the way, who were these weird birds over there?” I asked him when he returned to me after a minute. “Are they regulars here?”

The guy sharply turned around, surprised, and started scanning the hall to see who I was talking about. He did it so “delicately” that he would have made the “perfect” spy! After his obvious gesture, everybody in the bar looked around too, wondering what was going on and whether they should worry about it.

“What birds?” my friend asked me, not understanding.

“Those two who looked like Scandinavian tourists—you talked to them just ten minutes ago!”

“The guys in the corner?” The man pointed his finger at a pair of Turks, demonstrating to me all the fucked-up geography knowledge he had in his head. The rest of the guests immediately turned around and stared at them too, and the Turks started looking around themselves, confused and nervous, because they didn’t know what they had done wrong.

“For Christ’s sake, stop pointing at people like this!” I whispered, frustrated. “I meant the guys sitting over there, at the counter, while I was having trouble with the psycho bitch!”

The bartender suddenly leaned closer to me—very secretively—and slowly opened his mouth. The visitors promptly quieted down, eavesdropping to hear what he was about to say.

“They’re aliens!” He shocked us all after a short but dramatic pause. “They’re disguised as tourists, but they are nothing like that. Clearly, they’re on a mission here!”

“Oh, come on, man! Be serious!” I laughed in his face. “There are no aliens; everybody knows that!”

He looked at me deadpan. He even seemed mildly offended.

“And what makes you think so?” he wanted to know.

“I don’t know what makes me think so. There is just no evidence to support it!”

“There isn’t?” the conspiracy guru smirked at me. “But don’t you think it’s strange that all of a sudden, we started doing and discovering so many marvelous things: like, stepping on the moon, for instance; splitting the atom; and inventing the radio and television? They’re all freakishly weird technologies that came out of nowhere!”

“What do you mean, ‘out of nowhere’? We’ve known radio for a hundred years!”

“We’ve known it only because the little green men have been around since before that! You see, the problem is that our government keeps them secret. You’ll be amazed at what other fantastic gadgets we will “discover” very soon!” He finger-quoted the last word.

“You really think radio and television are presents from the aliens?” I refused to believe his far-fetched theory.

“Well, they’re not as much as presents because everything has its cost, you know. Our politicians have probably struck some very wicked deals for these trifles. By and large, the green men would only give us their old stuff. They wouldn’t reveal their top technology to us!”

I looked at him, ever more confused. Up to this point, I had somehow stuck to the presumption that he might be kidding after all, but I couldn’t do it anymore. He seemed quite convinced about all this.

“Okay, let’s assume for a moment that the guys in the Hawaiian shirts are truly aliens,” I went on, not very sure what my argument should be because I had no experience arguing in this field. “How did the three of you communicate then? What language did they use to talk to you?”

The bartender glanced around and leaned toward me again to prevent other guests from hearing his next words. Poor guys! I could see the disappointment on their faces when they realized they were deliberately isolated from our conversation!

“Actually, they don’t talk to me!” my weird friend explained, whispering. “I figure they’re conveying their messages to me telepathically because later, I never remember what they’ve said. But this wouldn’t work when they communicate with their mother ship, you know—because of the distance. They use mobile gadgets to that effect, which transmit images and sounds to outer space. It’s like our outside broadcast units but far more powerful!”

I stared at him, not knowing what to say. I was actually inclined to accept his crazy ideas to a point—not because I believed in them but because the bum from the milk bar had already trained me on the subject—but the thing with the mobile broadcast units was way too much. Nevertheless, since I sensed there was definitely something very weird about the Scandinavian tourists, I decided to stay with the guy on this a bit longer.

“That would be quite inconvenient, though! Don’t you think so?” I tried not to sound too jeering. “They must have a plantation’s worth of invisible slaves following them wherever they go!”

He didn’t get my point.

“To carry the diesel generator, the aerials, and all the other equipment around!” I elaborated.

“These things are miniaturized, man! Do you really think I’m so stupid?” He suddenly took offense at my words. “Everything fits into their pants pockets! My understanding is that many smaller ships are positioned up in the sky like a fishing net and pick up the signal from their gadgets here, and transmit it to one another until the message reaches the final recipient on the big ship. I’m not so sure about it, though, because they always hide their units from me!”

I didn’t reply. There was simply no point. His words suddenly made me realize that too many lunatics had swarmed the city lately, and I wondered why it was happening now. I gathered it was television to blame because, as far as I remembered, before it came into our lives, people were simple and worldly creatures. Extraterrestrial invention or not, it clearly had the potential to brainwash those who watched it too regularly!

“Listen,” after a second, I cleared my throat to steer the conversation away from his bullshit. I still needed to extract some useful information from this nutcase. “Do these aliens come here often?”

He scratched his head, struggling to think for a while.

“I don’t know, actually. Why?”

“I’m just asking.”

“I suppose they come often because I think I remember them being here many times after I started my olive research,” he said too vaguely, providing me with almost no info.

“And what would that be in terms of months? When did you first notice them?”

“Oh, man, this is really tough, you know! I guess it must have been somewhere between the four hundredth and six hundredth shot.”

“Can’t you be a little more specific?” I insisted.

He shrugged, unsure, and I read quiet desperation in his eyes. It made me realize that he didn’t perceive time as most people did.

“Well, you clearly measure everything in your life in olives, don’t you?” I grunted, unsatisfied after I waited for his answer for almost half a minute.

His face darkened right away.

“It’s not easy to keep count for so long, man! And you sent me back to fucking square one! How could you do this to me?”

“When I did it, I had no idea it was so important to you!” I tried to defend myself. “I just don’t like olives in my drinks, is all!”

“Well, you could have taken it out if you didn’t! There was no need to eat it,” my friend sulked as he returned to the painful memory in his head. I noticed a tear lingering in the corner of his right eye, which made me feel like a real monster—as if I had just raped and killed his wife and butchered the rest of his family.

“I’m really sorry, man!” I mumbled, suddenly giving up on the idea of getting information.

“That’s not the point! You have betrayed me as no one else has in my life. It’s easily the meanest thing anyone has ever done to me!” The guy kept reprimanding me until I found myself sitting right next to Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, and Ivan the Terrible in the deepest hell. Obviously, the olive thing meant everything to him.

“Excuse me!” The unfortunate victim of my vile act looked around nervously the next moment. “I’m too upset now. I think I’ll go to the bathroom and refresh myself!”

And after he said that, he grabbed a syringe, a tourniquet, and a spoon from a drawer beneath the counter and went to fulfill his promise without looking at me anymore. I followed him with my eyes until he vanished behind the glass door. He was a nutcase for sure, but a cool dude otherwise. It was a pity that he lived in a world full of people who didn’t understand him.

A few seconds later, I was sitting alone at the counter and still thinking. The fucking hotel I had checked into turned out to be a real nest of queer birds! By some miraculous chance, it also happened to be just the right place if I wanted to crack my stupid case because everyone here—guests or staff—was somehow connected to Eternity, as it seemed. And if, eventually, Sandra happened to be connected too, which was very likely now, it was surely going to be the end of our fragile romantic relationship. The prospect of this actually worried me a bit.

I looked around myself and slowly stood up. There were still a few customers in the bar, but there was no bartender we could pay, so I guess none of us had to worry about it. And since I didn’t expect my friend to come back any time soon, and even if he did, he was going to be too “refreshed”, I just grabbed a bottle of gin from the counter and sneaked out. It had two fingers of alcohol on the bottom, and that was just enough to help me forget the shitshow the schizophrenic bitch had pulled on me earlier.

Outside, in the lobby, the reception desk was still empty, as was the elevator. The bellhop was missing, but it was only natural because he was probably in the bathroom, helping the bartender refresh himself. Since I didn’t want to operate the machine, I took the stairs, and as I climbed up toward the fifth floor, we kept each other company—the booze and I. In front of our door, I stopped for a moment to put the empty bottle beside the doorframe, and then I walked in—already tipsy and cheered up. I had been a real hero lately! I had managed to overshadow even the exploits of my blonde-haired assistant in this regard.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 15 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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