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Inside the room, Lara was waiting for me, totally pissed off.

“Where the hell have you been all afternoon?” She asked me, annoyed.

“Doing chores,” I said curtly.

“Shall we go now? Finally?!” she jumped impatiently from the bed.

“Of course, not!” I answered stolidly and stopped in the middle of the room, just hanging there. I wanted to get on her nerves. “I actually need to take a leak!” Then, without looking at her, I turned around and walked to the bathroom.

“Ugh-h!” I heard her grunt behind my back.

In the bathroom, I did everything to waste as much time as possible. I shaved my beard, washed my face, cleaned my ears, clipped my nails, arranged my hair, pissed… In general, I did my best to lose myself there, but in the end, I ran out of fresh ideas and had to go out after all. Lara endured the outrage without saying anything, but I knew she was on edge. That was my intention, actually.

Eventually, despite all my efforts to sabotage our next suicide mission, a few minutes after nine, we were ready to go. I was rather reluctant to get it all started, but my assistant was bursting with desire as usual. She was actually so psyched about it that she tried to leave the room almost naked. Her fly was open, and her breasts were practically out because she had only two buttons on her shirt buttoned up. It wasn’t such a novelty in her world to walk around the street like that, but I decided to bring it to her attention—just to humiliate her if nothing else.

“Oh, you’re such a boring prick, aren’t you?” She grunted and reluctantly closed her zipper. Then she did one more of her shirt buttons, but that was as far as she wanted to go. Her tits didn’t suffer a significant loss of social status, nor did her ass, because my pants were slightly too big for her and hung pretty loose on her butt.

When she was all “dressed up” and “groomed”, we finally left the room. Naturally, we did it via the fire escape—just to observe the tradition we had established and also in case something got wrong. This time, however, I insisted on climbing down after her. When a couple of minutes later we reached the end of the stairs, Lara stepped down, spread her arms in the air like the statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, and shouted, “Jump!” I looked at her, surprised, because if I were a little young walnut, maybe there would have been a small chance to survive in her hands. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t a walnut! That’s why I never considered following her advice, and I adopted the most boring but also secure approach to the task—I cautiously felt the pavement with my right foot before letting go of the staircase.

When we were both on the ground, things went on as they usually do in this sort of adventure. We stepped out of the trash, stumbled a couple of times in the darkness, and then walked around the garbage cans. The unusual thing was that we ran into Sandra right after that. She passed by with her little dog, which I didn’t even know she had, and wished us a good evening. She also added that if we wanted to leave the hotel more thrillingly, there was a bungee cord on the roof. “One of the painters who refreshed the building last year left it behind,” she explained. “He was also a mountain climber and kind of mixed up his job with his hobby. That’s why the walls look so weird now!”

Since it was already too dark to discuss the walls and their paint job, we thanked the hotel owner for her kind suggestion and insisted that the fire escape was all we needed for the moment. Then we casually walked to our Fords and got into the one we stole from the scumbags, after which we drove away peacefully. We did our best to pretend we weren’t on a mission to snoop into drug traffickers’ businesses, but I didn’t think we were very convincing in this role.

“What’s the fucking bitch doing out here so late?” Lara grunted sullenly later when we turned the corner in our car.

“She was walking her little puppy! Didn’t you see?” I snapped at her because I was a bit angry and frustrated by the entire situation. I just wondered why it all had to be so difficult between Sandra and me. “It’s not like it’s three in the morning, you know. And, by the way, why do you even ask me? I’m not her male secretary!”

“And aren’t you?” She murmured grumpily and turned her head to look at me. “I thought you had an in with her!”

“What ‘in’? What do you even mean by that?” I pretended I didn’t get her point.

“You know exactly what I mean! You dig in her backyard, don’t you?”

I grunted disgustedly because I didn’t like her metaphor, but I said nothing. I had no idea how she knew about our little romance, but anyway, I chose to leave it open and not comment. Instead, I lit a cigarette, and it made me realize that, with all the problems I had had with Lara lately, I had started smoking again.

My assistant, for her part, dropped the subject too, and soon she started playing with the radio, changing stations every ten seconds. I smoked and drove silently and pretended I didn’t care. In such a hostile atmosphere, we flew through the gloomy, dark neighborhoods, surrounded by the irritating voices of a whole bunch of sports hosts and country divas who competed in hysterical gabbling and delirious whinnying the entire time. At some point, they all made me so nervous that I hit a rough patch on the street, and Lara nearly punctured a hole in the car ceiling with her head.

“Ouch!” she cried, frustrated, but she didn’t have the chance to explain to me what a jerk I was because her knee accidentally caught the glove compartment and got it open. In a second, a whole lot of joints fell on the floor, which totally distracted her.

“What the fuck?” My assistant gasped, and her face shone as if she had just seen manna from heaven. “Look at these little motherfuckers! Look at this beautiful shit!”

And then, she curled up on the floor between the seat and the dashboard to pick up the cigarettes. I glanced at her—absentmindedly at first—but then I started worrying. It was a gradual feeling, like watching a river swell. In the beginning, it was subtle, but soon the sense of imminent danger increased exponentially, and at some point, I realized I had to react urgently because, literally, a thousand things could go wrong when you put Lara and drugs in the same sentence!

Naturally, since I kept thinking about it, I forgot to keep an eye on the road, and a minute later, I hit another rough patch—this time significantly bigger. As a result, I lost control of the car, and for a moment, it veered off-road. Suddenly, there was horrible tire screeching, sharp steering wheel turning, wild stomping on the pedals, and generally—almost everything you would expect from a decent action movie. Eventually, I managed to get the situation under control, and the Ford jerked nervously before stepping back on the road, but when I turned my eyes to see if Lara was okay, I saw her sitting among a pile of cigarettes, kneading them on the floor with her ass.

“Don’t you have any shame?” She shouted at me, furious. “Do you really have to destroy the good stuff with your hideous driving?”

I angrily stepped on the brake and stopped the car on the roadside. Then I bent over to pick up whatever of the dope survived and put it back in the glove compartment. The rest of the weed I threw out the window because it was mixed with dirt from the car mat.

“Don’t even think about lighting one!” I hissed uncompromisingly.

“And why is that?” my assistant asked me, irritated. “What will you do about it? Spank me?”

“I don’t intend to save your junkie ass from whatever bullshit you might land yourself in after using. That’s why!”

She made a sulky face but said nothing. For the first time since we met, she obeyed me and put the cigarettes she held in her hands back into the glove box. It actually surprised me. After resolving the matter—at least for the moment—we continued our journey, but I drove much more carefully now. About forty minutes later, we approached the port, and since the shack of our drug friends wasn’t far from here, the thought of it made me extremely nervous. I reduced the speed further and anxiously looked around, and as I did it, another disturbing idea occurred to me.

We were driving in the bastard’s fucking vehicle! If they saw it parked here, they would surely recognize their car and know we were in the area. We were so stupid! I was actually so freaked out by the thought that I shared my fears with Lara, but she only mumbled, “So what’s the fucking big deal? They would probably think we dumped it here last night!”

“So soon after we escaped from them?” I looked at her, astonished. “And then what? We continued on foot?!”

She shrugged indifferently. I shrugged too, because it was simply useless arguing with her, and I didn’t want to wreck my nerves further. If the drug dealers were so hopelessly dumb, they might even think we were returning their vehicle, and in this case, maybe we should leave a fucking postcard on the windshield with our sincere apologies!

Eventually, I decided to be on the safe side and just ignored Lara’s “phenomenal” planning skills, stopping the Ford far enough, under the shadow of a big tree. Then we stepped out, and after I locked the vehicle, I walked off silently with the blonde-haired prima donna nagging me about my decision because she thought we were too far from our destination. Ten minutes later, however, we reached the place, and she had to stop.

By the way, it turned out it wasn’t so hard to find 22-B after all. I thought we would wander around the neighborhood in vain for half an hour or so, but we didn’t. Unlike in the area where Larry and Bob lived, there were street lamps and signs here, so after sneaking in unnoticed, we found our way to the place pretty soon. It was actually a far bigger problem to pick a suitable place for surveillance because nowhere around could I see anything good enough.

We slowly kept advancing between the huge containers—some of them were laid on top of the others—as if we were marching through a deep ravine or a canyon. The situation made me feel exposed and vulnerable, and I expected a bunch of security guys and evil dogs to jump upon us any minute, ripping our asses apart, before even thinking of asking us what the hell we were doing here.

Luckily, none of this happened. After nearly fifteen minutes of hideous searching, we approached a very tall tower, which cast light over the entire dock area, and I turned my head up to look at it. There was an iron ladder attached to it, leading to its top, where I noticed a small platform with powerful floodlights clustered together in four groups—each pointing in a different direction. It was just the right hiding spot for us!

“Okay, that’s it! We camp up there!” I whispered, relieved, and I went to the tower to grab the bars and start climbing. After a few seconds, Lara followed me, looking distrustfully at the top of the thing. Despite that, she started climbing too, without expressing her obvious doubts about it.

In fact, the entire adventure I embarked on turned out to be a bit of a rush because it wasn’t exactly an easy job to do. Two minutes hadn’t even passed since I started executing my plan when all my confidence evaporated like morning dew in May, and I realized that our final destination was actually a heck of a lot higher than it looked from the ground. Somewhere in the middle, my arms and legs were already shaking uncontrollably—especially after I turned my head to look at Lara, who was breathing heavily a couple of feet below me. When I saw the ground so far away beneath my feet, my head literally spun from the intimidating height. Unfortunately, though, there was no turning back now. My assistant was blocking the way, and besides, I couldn’t just give up like that. I was going to lose my face and look like a pussy in her eyes, and it wasn’t good because I had already lost so much authority in this department!

I puffed heavily, took a deep breath, and kept climbing up. It was a real challenge, and I felt like I would soil my pants any minute now. At some point, the floodlights at the top dazzled me, and since I couldn’t feel my limbs anymore and couldn’t see a thing, I was afraid I would accidentally miss the bars and take a plunge for the ground. Eventually, I reached the cherished platform on my last legs, but when I got my body over the edge—trembling like a leaf—I stopped there and looked around, alarmed. And then… Oh, my dear God! Oh, dear mother of all surprises!

Someone was waiting for us behind the floodlights!

I shivered unpleasantly and asked myself, was it really possible that I was such a moron to believe that a wonderful surveillance spot like this one was built unintentionally and it wasn’t meant for the port’s security? It was, in fact, so much easier to sit here and shoot potential intruders from above while they ran like rabbits at your feet instead of chasing them around the area and risking your own life. After a moment of thinking, I answered this question affirmatively. Yes, it was definitely possible that I was such a moron to believe all these things!

Despite everything, though, I soon realized I was rather jumping to conclusions because the man who lurked here didn’t actually have the appearance of security personnel at all. When, after a few seconds, my eyes adapted to the bright light, I managed to take a better look at the guy, and when I did, my surprise was so huge that I reeled back and nearly tumbled over the edge of the fucking platform.

Right in front of me, my old ice cream friend—the one with the shabby brown leather coat—lay sprawled on his stomach, bulging his junkie eyes at me. However, there was one little difference from the previous times I had seen him, and that was the tin hat. It usually stayed on his bushy head, but now it was casually balanced on his ass instead. After examining me for a while, the bum’s eyes blinked a couple of times, and then the mighty beard on his face slowly split in the middle.

“Hello,” the man mumbled quietly, indicating that he recognized me too.

“Oh, hi there!” I heard someone greeting him cheerfully behind my back. It was Lara who was joining us on the platform. She had clearly forgotten what a huge grudge she had held against the guy just a few days ago.

I turned to look at her, quite astonished. I had the feeling she thought we had climbed on top of a garbage pile and that the presence of the bum here was the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes, I really wanted to be as insensitive as she was, because it seemed like a much easier way to live your life.

Anyway, after my two colleagues in surveillance finished with the protocol formalities, the three of us stared at each other rather awkwardly because we didn’t know how to proceed in this strange situation. I, in particular, felt even embarrassed for crashing the bum’s little party here, but then he suddenly opened his bearded mouth again, and just asked me, “Are you loafers too?”

“What?” I blinked my eyes, confused.

He repeated his question, articulating it very clearly, “I say, are you loafers too?

“Of course not! We are from Cats and Kittens Rescue, and we’re on a rescue mission here!” Lara cut in before I even had a chance to answer.

“Oh, really? But what’s wrong with the cats and kittens?” The man with the basin on his ass wanted to know.

“Nothing! They’re just fine.”

“They are?” Our friend thoughtfully stroked his beard with his right hand, visibly confused. His gesture allowed his mouth to appear briefly behind the impenetrable bush of his facial hair.

“Yes, they are!”

“You mean they’re not in danger?”

“Not in the least!”

I sharply turned my head to look at them, puzzled—one after the other. Their stupid conversation seemed pretty nuts to me, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about. As a matter of fact, it didn’t matter much because I suspected they didn’t have any idea either.

“But if so, why are you rescuing them?” After finishing his evening toilet and leaving his beard alone, the man with the tin hat wanted to know.

“Pardon me?” The CKR activist with an extremely short memory smiled softly at him. “Who are we rescuing?”

“Well, the cats and kittens!”

“Well, we aren’t!”

“But a couple of seconds ago, you said you were!”

“Yes, but a couple of seconds ago, we just joked!”

Lara was clearly having fun with him. I didn’t mind that, but I didn’t think it was the right place or time because I actually felt pretty nervous at the moment. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t know how to stop all this, so I said nothing.

“Oh, you’re joking! That’s wonderful!” After a short pause, the bum attempted to go on with the ridiculous chat they were having. “I love jokes too. I really do! And if you were loafers like me, we could have told many jokes while waiting!”

Here, I couldn’t bear this any longer and decided to end the madness.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, we’re no loafers, okay?” I grunted angrily. “We’re just taking a walk. That’s all we’re doing!”

“But why did you have to climb all the way up here then?” the cuckoo asked me a very reasonable question.

“It’s simply because of the path of our walk. It passes through here!” Without even realizing it, I started losing myself in the same kind of bullshit. “Why are you hanging out on this extremely high platform, by the way? I mean, besides the loafing!”

“Well, I’m here for the performance, you know. Just like you, I guess. The ship’s here, and the show is about to start soon!”

It was only then that I finally started to catch on. He was here for the same reason we were. The only thing I didn’t understand was his motive because as I watched him, he was hardly carrying out an investigation. I was just about to ask him what business he had with the damn ship when Lara beat me to it with her next question.

“In this case, we intend to join you and watch the performance with you. Do you mind?” She smiled again.

“Please be my guests!” The man kindly invited us to come and made room for us next to him. There were plenty of empty ice cream boxes and cigarette butts everywhere around him, so we had to push the garbage aside to lay down—Lara in the middle. I figured all the junk here had played the role of popcorn for him while he had been watching the previous “films”.

“And when is it all expected to begin?” My assistant tried to inform herself about the start of the show after she made herself comfortable between us.

“It’s about thirty minutes after midnight,” the loafer replied, making me wonder if he really knew how to tell the time because I doubted he had possessed any watch for the last twenty years at least. I looked at mine, and if he was right after all, we had an hour and twenty minutes to go.

“Is it interesting to watch?” I decided to ask him just for the sake of the conversation.

“Very!” the connoisseur of industrial art confirmed excitedly. “And do you know what the most interesting part is?”

We didn’t answer and just looked at him expectantly.

“The most interesting part is that everything happens in total silence! First, a ship comes so quietly that you would think they had put it in slippers. Unfortunately, you already missed that act because the boat is already here. Then they open the hold, and a mobile crane in slippers approaches to unload all the hidden things. Other people come—they’re in slippers too—and transfer the stuff to the hold of a truck in slippers. When everything is done, everybody disappears in a few minutes without making any sound again. It’s really amazing! It feels as if you are watching a silent movie.”

“And how many times have you watched this silent movie?” Lara stirred uneasily while looking around impatiently.

“Many times, I lost count.”

“But what’s your role in it exactly?”

The bum suddenly turned his head to look at her and blinked twice without saying anything. It took him some time to answer the question as if he were on television, and he wanted to think it over very carefully because he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the entire nation. After almost one minute, his beard slowly stirred.

“Well, I’ve never been a lead, you know,” he started explaining rather vaguely. “They never gave me a secondary or supporting role either. I’ve always been a simple extra, and I suppose I’ll always be!”

“Oh, come on now! What are you talking about? Are you telling me you play in the movies?” I exclaimed, expecting more bullshit.

“We all play,” the crackpot explained knowingly. “And don’t get me wrong here! It’s not like I don’t want to be a star or something, but unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me. They think I’m only good for a loafer, and that’s what they give me, probably because I’m not interesting enough of a character. They wouldn’t even allow me to be a loafer with artistic value, you know!”

Lara and I simultaneously looked at him, totally confused and not understanding a single word of what he was saying.

“But who are they?” I asked, frustrated.

“The masters of our universe! You see, this is not the real world we live in. It’s a movie production in a bigger world, which is also a movie production in a bigger world, and so on and so forth. It’s all connected! And the screenwriters above us decide what we do, and in turn, their screenwriters decide what our screenwriters will write about what we do, and it goes on like that up the ladder. We’re all puppets!”

For almost a minute, neither of us said anything. We only kept looking at each other, and I, in particular, had no idea what to say, even if I wanted to.

“So?” At some point, Lara couldn’t endure the silence. “What was your role exactly?”

“I don’t know. That’s the point!” the cuckoo shrugged, trying to sum it up. “I guess, as a loafer, my job is to hang around here, in the middle of the mise-en-scene, and watch the show, regardless of my ambitions. And if something falls out while I’m still hanging around, all the better. If something falls out, the entire hanging around wouldn’t be in vain!”

“What do you mean, ‘if something falls out’?” I ignored his other blabbering, focusing on the last sentence because it suddenly looked suspicious to me.

The professional loafer didn’t answer, though. Instead, he started shaking his bushy head as if hypnotized and somehow forgot to stop it. His eyes stared fixedly at something invisible in the air, and he seemed totally lost in his loafer’s thoughts. He just repeated endlessly, “That’s right! That’s right! If something falls out, it’ll be totally worth my time.”

I watched him patiently for a while, but eventually, I got really tired of listening to his stupid chanting. I thought that maybe he had gone too far with his hanging around here or with his chewing of cigarette butts because, back in the milk bar, he seemed a lot more adequate. To get him out of his stupor and restart him, I sharply clasped my hands in front of his face. He jumped up, startled, as if a bee had stung him, and the basin slid off his butt, rattling hideously in the darkness and making me look around, worried. In a flash of panic, the guy turned around to grab it.

“We have stayed unguarded for far too long now!” he explained in a confidential tone after regaining possession of his property. “It’s time for safety measures!”

And when he said that, the crackpot put the tin potty on his head, pulling it low over his eyes. Then he assumed his previous pose and stared at the loading dock again.

“Does this thing actually help?” I couldn’t restrain myself from asking him because I suddenly remembered our meeting at the hotdog stand. Back there, he mentioned it was a radio shield or something.

“Naturally!” Our weird friend nodded vigorously, and the basin did too. The thing fell even lower, covering his eyes entirely, so he had to push it back up a bit.

“And what is it you are protecting yourself from?” I wanted to know.

“Many things! A lot of objects fall from the sky these days,” he answered meaningfully.

“Like raindrops, for example?” I suggested hesitantly. I just didn’t want it to come out as if I ridiculed him.

“Raindrops, yes! And much heavier things as well.”

“Like wild geese and seagulls shot dead?” Lara attempted to initiate the next round of their absurd conversation from before.

“Well, flying saucers often fall down too!” The bum immediately bit the bait.

“And when you wear this, they bounce back from your helmet and return into space?” I was amazed at his strange way of thinking.

“No, but at least their whispering is blocked!” The man knocked knowingly on the basin with his right hand. “It’s a radio-frequency shield, man; it’s not a helmet! Without it, I would be brainwashed like everybody else nowadays!”

“Ahaa,” I drawled, fully enlightened now, recalling the theories of the other cuckoo I knew—the bartender with the crazy ideas about a miniature broadcast unit that fits in the pocket of your pants.

“Besides,” the bum kept shocking us with more information on the subject, “lately, even Coca-Cola bottles started falling down from the sky!”

“Is that so?” I gasped in disbelief.

“Definitely! I watched it in a documentary about the Kalahari Desert. There they fall quite regularly, in fact, because the air traffic is so heavy, and there are too many irresponsible pilots!”

I nodded understanding because I had seen this material too. It was called “The Gods Must Be Crazy”—a nice “documentary”, which hit movie theaters recently. I just wondered where the hell he had watched it.

And after filling us in on the dangers of desert life, our friend pulled the basin back over his eyes as if the aliens in the flying saucers were going to shoot bottles of Coca-Cola at him any second. About half a minute later, when nothing really happened, he took the luxury to cut himself some slack and went through the empty boxes around him in search of god knows what. Naturally, he didn’t find anything in any of them. Eventually, he dug into the as deep as septic tanks pockets of his coat and pulled out a horribly looking and unfinished cigarette butt.

“This is top quality!” He showed it to us with pride. “It shoots you right into space! Do you want some?”

“No, thanks!” Lara was quick to refuse his generous offer. “We actually have ours!”

And then she reached into her pocket to find a lost cigarette. It was probably part of Larry and Bob’s little treasure, which she had obviously scrounged from the glove compartment under my nose, and I didn’t like it, but I said nothing about it. When she pulled out a joint, my assistant used the bum’s matchbox to light it while he pushed his cigarette butt into his mouth, munching with gusto. After that, the two junkies momentarily forgot about me and embarked on a hideously ridiculous conversation again. For a whole hour, I had to listen to the stinker’s life story: how he didn’t want to be part of society because he was too lazy to work; how he became a bum; how his father explored Canada in a coal train car; how he got lost in the woods near Lake Huron; and so on and so forth.

Interestingly enough, his narrative was suspiciously similar to the one his successor at the milk bar had told me about—especially the part about his father in Canada. It actually made me believe there was a whole business of begging for drugs, and the competitors were actually stealing each other’s unfortunate stories to achieve an advantage on the market. Anyway, I didn’t want to comment on the subject, so I just listened to the bullshit silently, keeping an eye on the loading dock at the same time.

At some point, my two companions got so lost in the chat and started having so much fun that Lara turned to me, frustrated, and attempted to thrust her already fourth or fifth cigarette into my hands—probably to encourage me to join the party. I refused with dignity, and by doing so, I wanted to demonstrate to her my disapproval of her irresponsible behavior at the moment. Unfortunately, though, she was too high to get my drift, so nothing really changed.

About fifteen minutes after midnight, the talks on the platform gradually died out, and we all fixed our eyes on the “screen” because the ads were obviously over now and it was time for the show to begin. And it really began ten minutes later. First, he heard some quiet humming, and from the port darkness, two trucks and a car came out. They quietly crawled to the waterfront with their headlights off and then stopped. I had to admit we had an excellent view of the whole thing from our seats on the “balcony”. The entire area lay stretched out at our feet, clearly visible and convenient for observing without any risk at all.

After that, two men stepped out of the car, which was a Chrysler Plymouth Fury. It was exactly the same as Larry and Bob’s, so it was only natural that it was them. I was actually able to confirm that pretty soon. When the guys started pacing back and forth and giving orders, their gold chains rattled so loudly that all the “slippers” the bum had talked about earlier became totally irrelevant. The jerks were making more noise with their jewelry than all the machinery combined!

I stared fixedly at the bustards. They seemed quite agitated and nervous, and I could easily understand that because the deal was obviously a big one. As I watched the huge trucks down there, I really doubted they would ever need to make another one again. It made me remember Bob saying that when all this was over, they would take a long vacation on the shore of another ocean. Back then, I thought he meant Southern California, but now I realized he had actually talked about the Southern Pacific or the Indian Ocean!

Very soon, a second car came out of the darkness behind our backs, and it startled us. This time, it was a Lincoln sedan, and it quietly pulled behind the Chrysler. From there, a tall man in a suit stepped out, and as soon as I saw his silhouette, I knew who the guy was. He had the figure of a small three-leaf wardrobe, and when the light from the other vehicle hit his face, it became clear that he was blond-haired. He was one of my other dear friends—the dandruff fairy!

“This must be the middleman the whore told us about,” Lara whispered tensely, even though there was absolutely no chance they could hear her voice from so high.

“No, I don’t think so,” I shook my head without elaborating on my reasons for believing that. “He’s just an ordinary thug who oversees the deal.”

“What middleman?” The bum immediately pricked his ears.

“Never mind. We just commented on a documentary,” I answered curtly.

“Oh, okay then!” Our pal nodded his head. Then he started blabbering again. “I love documentaries too! Although, if you think about it, most of them are actually made by aliens, which is their way to keep us misinformed. They think they can have us all, but they don’t have me!”

I didn’t bother to answer, and I let the nutcase blather on because the next moment, I had to lay low since a phenomenally quiet rail-mounted port crane crawled out of nowhere and scared the shit out of me. The cabin literally passed only ten yards from my head before slowly sailing away. I could even see the wedding ring of the man who operated it while pulling the levers! In fact, everything that had happened so far had happened exactly as the bum had predicted it—as if we were watching a silent movie. It was really amazing, and it was just the beginning!

In the minutes that followed, the crane briskly approached the ship and started taking the goods out of its hold and putting them on the loading platform almost without any noise. The entire operation ran very smoothly, and at some point, the dandruff-haired thug paid another guy some money. The latter was clearly a security guard, and when he took the bribe, he turned around and silently vanished into the darkness. Soon the crane finished all the work, and the operator drove it back to us and further away. Then a dozen dockworkers moved the drugs into the trucks in no time, and they also left. At last, the trucks and the two cars left too. No more than half an hour after it all started, everything was quiet and peaceful on 22-B—as if nothing had ever happened!

“What a perfectly organized smuggling operation!” Lara expressed her admiration after the “film” was over, and we waited a couple of minutes for the final credits to roll.

“Yeah, what a pity we missed the trucks!” I added casually.

She suddenly looked at me, startled, and jumped to her feet, but then grasped the entire situation and stopped. We were going to need at least half an hour more to climb down, so there was no need to hurry. It seemed that we didn’t think all this through very well after all, which is to say, I didn’t actually.

“What’s going on? You want to watch the movie about making the movie?” the bum asked skeptically. “It’s not that interesting, you should know. The freebies here are far more exciting!”

And he nodded meaningfully toward the dock.

I had no idea what he meant, but I didn’t bother ask him. I just assumed he was talking about the “exciting” effort we had to do to get to the ground. One of the most unpleasant things about climbing high—apart from the paralyzing fear—is that climbing down is usually ten times more unpleasant. My stomach hurt even if I just thought about it!

When the three of us started down the ladder, though, it all turned out to be even worse than I had imagined it—or at least for some of us, it was worse! Our dumbass friend had no problem actually, and he jumped on the task like a chimpanzee chased by a leopard. I had the feeling he was squeezing himself between the bars instead of stepping on them, and he made it safely to the ground before Lara and I had even begun our journey. We panted heavily and swore wildly for almost twenty minutes, and we looked like adult elephants trying to walk down a water slide without killing themselves. On top of it, my assistant, who followed me, hung above my head like the sword of Damocles and regularly stepped on my fingers as if she thought she was helping me get a better grip on the bars.

When everything was finally almost over, I looked down, exhausted, and took the last couple of steps by following the advice Lara had given me when we climbed down the fire escape of our hotel. I just jumped because I couldn’t bear it anymore. My feet hadn’t even touched the ground when she decided to do just the same thing—probably because she wanted to be true to her principles.

We rolled in the dust for a while like a pair of giant sparrows taking their evening bath, and when we got to our feet to pat ourselves clean, I suddenly realized why the bum had hurried so badly to come down before we did. I saw him squirming on the ground like a worm, sniffing and searching for scattered dope. That was, in fact, what he meant when talking about freebies!

“Hey, why did you presume up there that we wanted to watch the movie about making the movie?” I asked him because it suddenly occurred to me that there might have been a hidden meaning to it. “Do you know where it’s played?”

“Sure, I know,” we heard his voice grunt, after which he stopped his search for a moment and looked at us, worried that we wanted a share of the loot. “Eternity’s the place. They won’t let you in at this hour, though. You should be very careful if you go!”

We shrugged and thanked him for his concern, and before we left, I returned his gesture and warned him about Cleopatra and her new boyfriend, to which he didn’t pay much attention. After that, we left him alone and hurried to our car, but just before we reached the vehicle, Lara, who was walking in front of me, suddenly turned around and pushed me behind the trunk of a nearby tree. At the same time, she tried to gag my mouth with her hand and almost broke my not yet healed nose again.

With eyes full of tears, I looked at the Ford, surprised, and saw a dark figure sniffing around. It looked like a cop. The guy was extremely obese, and he examined the vehicle with the help of a flashlight. Since we had nothing else to do except wait, we waited patiently, until he finished his task. The examination turned out to be far more thorough than we expected, though.

First, the fatso went through the exterior of the vehicle and shone the flashlight into every hole there was—he even tried the exhaust pipe—which actually made me wonder what on earth he expected to find in there. He got pigheaded about the interior after that. For almost half an hour, he tried to search the glove compartment and read the nonexistent papers of the Ford while standing outside. He got really lost in it, but when he finally assured himself he wouldn’t do it in this life nor the next, he had to give it up and just check the tires to see if they were inflated enough; check the doors to see if they were locked—lucky for us, they were; and in the end, he turned off the flashlight, very disappointed. Then he reluctantly went away.

After he was gone, we waited three more minutes behind the tree and cautiously approached the vehicle. We hopped inside, and I instantly revved the engine to hurl the car toward Eternity, but just a hundred yards down the street—right behind the next corner—we unexpectedly ran into our fatso again. His cruiser was parked there with the driver’s door open and him standing outside, trying to eat a huge hamburger—almost as big as he was. There was also a Coca-Cola bottle on the roof, and when we zipped past him, exceeding every possible speed limit for this area at least twice, the guy stared at us, surprised, from behind his dinner. Unfortunately, though, the cop was alone—he had no partner—and since his mouth was full of food and his hands were all greasy, he couldn’t do anything about it. I saw him in the rearview mirror waving his left hand to say whatever, and then he greedily bit into the hamburger again.

I stepped on the gas, and soon we lost him in the darkness behind us.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 16 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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