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The Moon had disappeared somewhere—maybe in the celestial bar for a quick drink because our world seemed so boring from above—when we slowly crawled to Eternity in our car. Where else, if not here, was the entire investigation supposed to lead us? I doubted there were many other depots of such magnitude in the city serving as distribution centers for illegal drugs. They would probably have competed on the market, and a gangster war would have erupted.

I stopped the Ford far enough from the place, and we sneaked behind the concrete wall on the backside of the bar. We had to hurry if we wanted to know what was happening in the yard because the drink break the Moon was having was going to be over soon, and there was no time. I, in particular, wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to know anything at all.

“We need to get to the other side,” Lara whispered in my ear, looking at the top of the wall and confirming my suspicion that the final decision wasn’t mine to make.

I sighed tiredly and looked there too. As it seemed, I did want to see what was happening in the yard after all—I just didn’t know that yet! As a matter of fact, not only did I want to see it, but I also wanted to take the lead, obviously. And to spare myself at least a bit of the trouble that was to follow, I looked around for a better and safer alternative way. Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t find anything useful nearby—not a tree, a shrub, a dumpster, or anything else for that matter—to make the task more achievable. The bastards had prudently removed everything within a few yards, as if they expected people like us to snoop around the wall. There was quite a lot of garbage down at the canal—where we interrogated the Butterfly—but it was too far away to bring some of it here.

“You know what? I have a really great idea!” Lara suddenly patted me on the back and enlightened me about her “marvelous” plan, which was obviously supposed to make me happy. Naturally, I didn’t want to hear it, but she revealed it to me anyway. “If you lace your fingers and turn your palms up, I can step on them and reach the ledge!”

I looked at her, irritated.

“You know what? I have a better idea!” I enlightened her back. “Why don’t you lace your fingers and turn your palms up so I can step on them and reach the ledge, huh?”

“Dude, don’t be rude! I’m a lady!” my detective partner snapped at me, which I actually expected. “Come on, don’t fuck around, and give me a leg up!”

In fact, if I weren’t supposed to serve as a human ladder at this moment, I might have burst into laughter after hearing her ridiculous statement. Lara was a lady! She was an open-fly-tits-out-swearing-like-a-trooper lady! However, my laughing mood didn’t last very long because soon enough, despite my reluctance to do so, I had to follow her advice and put my hands beneath her dirty soles. She stepped on my fingers and literally crushed them, and when I was just about to start crying from the pain, the fucking “lady” fell back into my arms, which made me drop her immediately.

“It’s not good here,” she explained, unsatisfied. “It’s too obvious!”

After that, she dragged me to the next corner and urged me to repeat my part of the acrobatic performance we had already tried a minute ago. Since, from her point of view, I was lingering too much without any good reason, she started rolling her eyes and making faces to show me what a terrible jerk I was. Eventually, I did the inevitable, but this time, I didn’t wait for her to decide if the spot was okay and gave her a boost over the wall to get rid of her and her terrible shoes as soon as possible. She literally flew over the edge without even touching it, and I heard a dull thud on the other side when she landed on the ground two seconds later. “You, fucking moron!” she hissed quietly, but I ignored it because I was already getting over the top myself. After a minute, I was there with her, which turned out not to be as tough as I thought initially. My regular working out paid off really well, and I was glad I had been doing it every morning before I met Lara.

“Do you know how badly I wanna smash your broken nose, you fucking imbecile?” My assistant promptly met me with more swearing when she saw me by her side. I ignored her vicious remarks again and turned around to continue with Operation Drugs. We were in the backyard, right behind a long but low construction—probably some sort of a service building. I silently sneaked to its distant corner and cautiously peered from behind the edge.

A spacious parking space appeared in front of me. It was covered in asphalt and surrounded by a few more buildings—one of them being the backside of Eternity itself. There, beside a small flight of stairs, I saw floodlights illuminating the yard, and one of the trucks was still waiting there with its cargo hold open. Clearly, the operation wasn’t finished yet, and four extremely big fellows—the size of a small excavator each—were grabbing sacks from the machine and carrying them to the back entrance. Two more guys took it from there.

I quietly gasped, delighted, when I saw them working. “We got them!” I whispered excitedly in Lara’s ear. “Now we can call the police and let them do their job!”

“Nobody’s calling the fucking police!” My assistant growled angrily in my ear. “Did you forget about my sister? Until we find her, you will do nothing without my explicit permission! Are we clear about that?”

I looked at her, surprised and slightly worried. I hadn’t received such open and unequivocal threats even from Larry and Bob in their terrible shack! They disturbed my gentle soul to the very core and made me feel like a snail that had just crawled out of its cozy shell to meet the big, exciting world outside, and an elephant had promptly stepped on its eyes! However, since it was neither the place nor the time to start a fight over this, I decided to ignore it again and just look back at the yard to see what the situation was.

The unloading of drugs was going really smoothly, and soon the thugs emptied the hold as if they were born for the task and it was the sole meaning of their lives. At some point, three other people came out of the bar, and in one of them, I recognized the owner of Eternity—the Asian guy with the slicked-back hair and the goatee. The other two I knew as well. They were here to seal the deal they had started at the port. The trio discussed something in muffled voices, but unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a single word of what they were saying.

As I watched them talking, I asked myself, frustrated, what a terrible mess I had gotten myself into with guys like these—Larry and Bob, the boss of Eternity and his thugs, the whore with the white pants, even the fucking Inspector Greensboro! Every one of them insisted they knew me, which was ridiculous since I didn’t remember any of them, and I didn’t want to, except maybe for Sonya, because finding her would solve most of my problems for the moment. Sadly, the only thing that could help me with the task of remembering, and shed some light on this vile labyrinth of complicated interests was my stupid head, which was as empty and useless now as an old pumpkin.

The drug dealers and the Asian guy continued their conversation for a while, gradually reducing their voices to whispers, and at some point, Larry reached his hand into the pocket of his shirt to take something out of there without giving it to the boss of Eternity. It was too thin to be a wad of money and too small to be a pack of drugs. It looked more like a plastic baggie with a sample of something. The men argued about it, but they obviously didn’t reach an agreement because soon, Larry put it back into his pocket and angrily turned around, heading for the truck’s cabin. The Asian looked at him indifferently at first, but then he sharply reached his hand under his jacket, and before anyone could react, he drew out an automatic pistol with a silencer.

I jumped up, startled when I saw the weapon in his hand, and I instinctively grabbed the handle of my Colt. The boss of Eternity quickly pointed his gun at Bob, who didn’t even have time to be properly surprised, and he shot him like a dog. After that, a second hiss echoed in the night, and another bullet flew out of the barrel—this time toward Larry’s head. The two bodies silently hit the ground, and then everything was over. The Asian guy’s problem—no matter what—was solved just a few minutes after it presented itself!

After the murder, I swallowed dryly because I suddenly realized I could have shot myself while watching the scene. I found my index finger in the trigger guard, twitching nervously, and I had no idea how it had happened. Luckily, the safety was still on, and it saved Lara the trouble of dragging my wounded body back to the wall and transferring it over the edge all alone. For her part, she seemed pretty shocked too, because she kept squeezing my shoulder agitatedly during the entire act and for at least half a minute after that.

However, the cold-blooded execution wasn’t over yet, as we soon found out. When he finished with the drug dealers, the Asian quickly approached the vehicle where the driver was still hanging, probably paralyzed with fear, and he shot him too—without remorse. In the meantime, his thugs stood completely inert in the yard as if they were lifeless sphinxes. They didn’t even look at the crime scene!

It was only after the witness was taken care of that the boss of Eternity returned to Larry’s body. He quietly bent over to search the drug dealer’s pockets, and he took the object of their dispute out of there. Then he gave more orders to his men and slipped back inside the building. The thugs suddenly came alive and briskly pulled the dead driver out of the cabin to put him in the back of the truck, along with the other two bodies. Two of the guards jumped into the machine and drove it out of the gate, while the rest turned off the floodlights and followed their boss into the bar. Eventually, the yard remained dark and empty in front of our eyes.

“So that’s what everybody was looking for in the shack!” After a few seconds, Lara murmured quietly to herself.

“Huh?” I turned my head back, still shocked by what I had witnessed.

She didn’t repeat her phrase and kept looking fixedly into the darkness.

“You think the murder has something to do with the blackmail the Butterfly talked about?” I asked her, puzzled.

“I don’t know,” my assistant shrugged nervously, “but I do know the whore was damn right. They all started killing each other now that the deal is over!”

“I wonder what could be a good enough reason for a man like him to do what he did!” I mumbled, uncertain. “I mean, it doesn’t add up; it compromises the entire supply chain! Maybe it’s an incriminating photo or something.”

“No, it isn’t!” Lara replied too confidently and quickly. She didn’t even wait for me to finish, and I glanced at her, surprised.

“I mean, it could be a document, yeah?” She tried to avoid my eyes. “People of this sort always stash something on their associates to control them!”

I thoughtfully looked back at the yard. She was right, in fact. People of this sort certainly did that, and in the process, lots of dead bodies usually emerged from rivers and woods. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day for the police, for sure! Nevertheless, the stupid thing about the entire mess here was that Larry and Bob’s murder actually left us nowhere near the end of our investigation. We still had to decide what to do next.

I dejectedly considered our options. A disturbing suspicion was eating into my mind, making me think I would probably have to visit this horrible club for the third time in my life. We knew about the drugs in the basement now, but we still had no proof. Even if we set the police on the trail, they would wait for a search warrant before storming in, and until they had the warrant, Eternity would be wiped clean of any incriminating evidence. And besides, in light of the past events, there was a pretty good chance now that Sonya was locked inside, and who knows if she would make it alive when the cops raided the place.

As I thought about all this, I wondered why all my cases always had to be such a terrible mess. I literally couldn’t think of one time when everything worked out as planned. In detective books, every mystery usually unravels with every step the main character takes—sometimes it is resolved with him just sitting in his rocking chair by the fireplace and analyzing the situation—but it never works like that for me. Murphy Mellrow always had the most original approach, and his cases got more and more entangled the more he tried to solve them. In this train of thought, maybe I really had to ask myself in what state of mental derangement I had actually decided to become a detective. I had always avoided thinking about it, but maybe it was time for me to face the truth, especially after Bob asked me the same question before he died!

I kept self-pitying myself like that for a few minutes, not getting to any particular decision, but at some point, Lara pulled me back to reality by stabbing me impatiently in the ribs. Her rude gesture reminded me that we had to act quickly. Despite the fact that it was quite clear what she implied, I swiveled my head to look at her, hoping it might be something different. As I expected, I found absolutely no sympathy in her stone-cold blue eyes.

Eventually, I turned around downheartedly, took a deep breath, and reluctantly stepped out into the open, looking around tensely. In my despair, I inflated myself like an Australian moloch who wanted to scare his enemies with his frightening appearance. When I moved toward the bar, being very careful not to let the air out, I really, really hoped I would make it there before the unfriendly fire put an early end to my life and made my self-sacrifice totally pointless.

Lara, for her part, didn’t seem worried at all. She stepped out too, following me, but then she started jumping around like a Little Red Riding Hood who picked mushrooms in the forest on her way to her grandmother’s house. After a while, she obviously felt bored and hurried in front of me, hopping on one leg and then on the other. Despite that, I was far from thinking she would be willing to do the job herself. As soon as we reached the door, she promptly stopped and politely waited for me to walk in first. I slowly dragged myself to her like a heavy artillery gun and stepped inside, wildly pointing my Colt .45 in every possible direction.

Since I was a bag of nerves, it took me almost twenty seconds to realize that the place was actually empty. It was a small entrance hall—ten by ten feet large—from which a steep spiral staircase with concrete steps climbed up. I let my old iron friend step in, and he cold-bloodedly rushed forward, angrily looking to the left and right. After him, I advanced cautiously, and after me, Lara followed hesitantly. Walking into an Indian file like that, the three of us successfully reached the second floor without anyone asking us what the hell we were doing there or whether we wanted to die.

When, after half a minute, we reached the second level, two unpleasantly long corridors stretched in front of us, with doors every ten feet along their walls. One headed to the left, and the other to the right. The first corridor was painted burgundy, decorated with pictures of showbiz celebrities and beautiful, nearly naked women, while the walls of the second were plain and just painted orange. Both corridors promised a lot of trouble if we were stupid enough to follow them. In contrast, the concrete staircase behind our backs radiated peace and harmony, and its winding emptiness was soothing and relaxing.

Unfortunately, we were lured by the luster of sin. We walked along the burgundy corridor, probably because that was why we had come here in the first place—to search for naked ladies! Nevertheless, something kept bothering me the entire time. I had a stupid feeling of déjà vu because everything here looked so familiar. The actual reason turned out to be very trivial, and it became clear right after we climbed down another short staircase and unexpectedly found ourselves behind the main stage of Eternity—the same one where we had had our first fifteen minutes of fame. We had simply been in this corridor already but the previous time we came from the other side.

In the following few minutes, we kept hanging there, in the middle of the lion’s den, without making any effort to hide, and since I felt exposed and vulnerable, I started calculating in my mind the chances of everything going wrong. Dark red curtains divided the stage from the main hall, and the airflow made the velvet move very unnervingly. I could also hear quiet music coming from behind the curtains, which was definitely not a positive sign, but since there was only music and nothing else, I figured it wasn’t so bad either.

Sadly, as I kept analyzing the situation, digging deeper and deeper into it—almost to oblivion—Lara, whose patience had obviously grown thin, just thrust her head between the curtains without thinking twice. I literally jumped up, horrified by her recklessness, and in my nervousness, I was an inch from shooting her in the back. I promptly grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and pulled her back while hissing into her left ear, “Are you fucking nuts? Is it juggling with bullets that you’re trying to perform here?”

“There’s no one out there!” she replied sourly.

I grunted, still frustrated, and cautiously demonstrated to her how it was supposed to be done. I pulled the curtains’ edge with professional finesse and peered behind them. There was indeed no one there. All the chairs were turned upside down on the tables, and the hall was empty of people. Nevertheless, the lights were still on, and as I said, there was quiet music playing—at this moment, it was “Annie May” by John Lee Hooker. I listened to the tune for a while. Charles Brown’s nervous piano was literally getting on my last nerve, foreboding terribly bad things for us. On top of that, the song ended very soon, and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” replaced it, which made the situation even worse. It sounded like a direct criticism of our behavior in the past few weeks!

I stiffly moved away from the curtains, still terrified and having goosebumps. Then I turned my eyes to my blonde-haired employer, almost sure I would never see the light of day again.

“Okay, there’s no one in the hall! And now what?” I asked her grimly.

“Now we wait to see what happens!” Lara replied casually. I looked at her, baffled because she was clearly still under the influence of the chess game she had watched at the hotel. She obviously thought that endless waiting for something to happen applied to real life too, and since it was an unbelievably stupid idea, I spontaneously reached out my hand and slapped her face to help her get a grip on herself. It happened right at the moment when the first move in our virtual chess tournament was unexpectedly made, long before we had time to prepare for it.

Behind the curtains, we heard a door opening and some muffled male voices talking. The sudden change caught my humiliated assistant off guard, and it nipped in the bud the hatred she harbored for me at this moment. Her jaw dropped, her face distorted with rage, but that was all she could do about it. Without even knowing if we had revealed our presence, we both jumped toward the velvet almost simultaneously to see what was going on out there, and we hung on to it in such a way that we almost brought it down. It was incredible luck that no one noticed what we were doing!

While desperately trying to stabilize the curtains and even the stage, I tensely scanned the area. I saw two men at the distant end, but they were too far away to suspect anything. One of them was a seven-foot-tall specimen whose “nice” blond hair was laced with dandruff. I was sure it was even without being able to see it because I recognized the guy immediately. This time, however, my old friend had ditched his usual black suit and instead wore a red bellhop uniform, adorned with golden buttons and braiding along the seams. He had a red cap on the top of his head, and even though it looked a bit funny, it surely neutralized the visual aspects of his terrible seborrhea—to a point, at least.

His buddy, on the other hand, was drastically different. He was an ungainly and inconspicuously looking fifty-year-old baldy with thin, reddish hair, which resembled patches of burning savannah where it was present. His unimaginative but very expensive gray suit was worth at least twelve hundred dollars, and his luxury black leather shoes nearly doubled the sum. The man was about five and a half feet tall and walked rather awkwardly, turning his head to the left and right as if afraid someone might recognize him.

“It’s the Secretary of State!” Lara and I almost cried out in amazement when we recognized the guy. The loudness of our voices almost matched the uproar in an overcrowded baseball stadium during the playoffs, but lucky for us, the men we were spying on were either deaf or wearing earplugs because they didn’t react to the noise at all.

The huge “blonde” with the red cap led the high-ranking official to the bare wall behind the last line of tables, and for a moment, I thought he was about to execute him there. Nothing like that happened, though. Instead, he just pushed an invisible button, and after a while, a segment of the wall unexpectedly slid aside to turn into a secret door. A few moments later, the wall transformed further, revealing a fully-fledged elevator cabin where the two men stepped in. Soon the crazy door closed behind them, and they disappeared from sight.

Again, we gasped, amazed, and since I still felt pretty confused, I turned my head to look at Lara, waiting for her reaction. I actually didn’t need to do that because I already knew what she was about to say.

“We’ll wait here to see what happens, right?” I rushed ahead to demonstrate to her my amazing intuition.

“Fuck, no! We’ll go down there and check it out!” She grunted, annoyed, without explaining why she even thought it was down there and not up.

I frowned, frustrated. I considered the idea very bad and decided that for once in my life, I would stand up to her and have it my way no matter what. I was determined to use the full potential of my proverbial stubbornness, even though it tended to be proverbially non-proverbial when I was around this terrible woman.

“You know what? I’d rather stay up here and watch your six,” I said firmly and looked away to make the upcoming battle easier for me. “You may go check the situation wherever ‘down there’ is!”

“But what is there to watch up here?” She pretended she didn’t get my drift.

“Well, it’s our evacuation route, of course! You wouldn’t want to get stuck in the basement forever, would you?”

“But couldn’t we both go down and watch each other’s six instead of you watching mine from here and nobody watching yours?” She tried to trick me.

In my mind, I solemnly promised myself it wouldn’t work this time.

“Uh-uh! I don’t think so.” I rejected her idea. “I’ll stay up here. You go down.”

Lara looked at me for a few seconds, not knowing what to do, then she made a wry face, and started thinking. I was sure she was searching for another way to seduce me into action, and I braced myself to resist all the heavenly temptations she was about to pour over my poor head.

“Okay, what are we gonna do then?” she dejectedly asked me after failing to find anything convincing enough.

“You’ve said it before! We’ll wait to see what happens next. I liked your idea very much, in fact!”

“And what if all the big fellows who processed the stuff back in the yard came around here to beat the crap out of our asses?”

I smiled, very confident about my revised tactics.

“What about them?” I wanted to know. “How’s that worse? You think the elevator will take us to the Little Red Riding Hood grandmother’s house, and she’ll treat us to a cup of hot milk and cookies?”

“No, but my sister’s probably locked up in some of these rooms on the lower level. She can’t save herself without our help!”

“Yeah? And what good do you think will come out of it if we get caught in some of these rooms on the lower level? Who’s gonna save your sister then? And who’s gonna come to save us?”

After I said this, Lara’s face darkened even more because she clearly didn’t know what to reply. So far, I had done an excellent job repelling her first attack, but I knew she wouldn’t give up, and I was afraid I would eventually cave in. In fact, she was right. Her sister was probably locked up somewhere in the building, and waiting here wasn’t exactly the best option because the matter was time sensitive. The only problem was that we had no recourse to do anything more than that.

“I’ll let you fuck me, okay? How about that?” My assistant grunted desperately in the next moment. “I know you’ve always wanted to bang me; I’ll let you do it!”

I turned to her, really shocked. I had no idea what exactly was happening in her stupid head, but it was obvious that she didn’t think very much of me. Maybe she imagined I was a thoughtless prick who made all his decisions for the benefit of his dick! It made me smile when I pictured the weird prize game she was trying to get me involved in. It probably went like this: visiting a shady club—standard bunging; a fight with thugs—double bunging; a car chase with shooting—double banging with a bonus blowjob. At the same time, I was almost certain I wouldn’t feel any pleasure even if I agreed to participate in her sick show; I was sure she was a frigid jerk with serious sexual issues. Nevertheless, I decided to tease her a little bit—just for fun.

“Can I go anal?” I asked her cunningly.

At first, Lara looked at me, furious, and her face contorted with rage, her mouth ready to explode with all the verbal hatred she was capable of, but then, after considering the situation, she clenched her lips tight and hissed maliciously, “Okay!”

I stared at her, surprised, because I couldn’t believe she was ready to sacrifice her poor ass for the cause. The thought that she might be taking me for a ride occurred to me, so I decided to raise the bar a bit. “May I also cum into your mouth? What do you say?”

“And why don’t I give you a nice kick in your teeth before that?” She couldn’t hold her temper. “So you’d feel more excited before you cum, you know!”

“Well, it’s your call!” I shrugged indifferently. “No mouth, no deal!”

She kept glaring at me, still out of herself with rage, and after a short struggle, she cried out, “All right, you sick fucking bastard! Have it your way! I can even piss on your stupid face if you want. Just help me!”

I grunted disparagingly when she stopped her outburst. I had never actually said I wanted her to piss on my face. I thought I had been clear enough that she was the only recipient of bodily fluids in this game!

“You know what? I want nothing from you!” I replied sternly. “It’s a two-way street, and you don’t seem committed enough to me.”

Then I turned away again to demonstrate a complete lack of interest. Lara kept panting helplessly by my side, but since it was my intention to piss her off, I just waited without doing anything. She couldn’t decide how to react for a while, and I was glad I had my gun with me now because she could easily shoot me in her wild frustration. However, a minute later, she abruptly changed the tune and suddenly begged me.

“Listen, what happened to us being partners, huh?” I heard her disarming voice. “Partners don’t do that! They have each other’s backs! Right? I saved your ass last night, so now it’s time for you to return the favor.”

“Well, I don’t think so,” I said, turning my unsympathetic eyes back to her. “I don’t see your life hanging by a thread, so there’s really nothing to return. If you were in real danger, I might reconsider, but for the moment, I think you’re safe.”

“What do you mean you don’t see my life hanging by a thread? If I walked into that elevator alone, it’d hang by a split thread, not just a thread!”

“Well, don’t walk in then! The risk is too big, and you know it. And besides, no one in the world would return anything to you if you acted suicidal!”

“And how in the hell am I supposed to save my sister then? Just tell me!”

“And how in the hell do you even know she’s down there waiting to be saved? You tell me?”

She didn’t answer. She kept looking at me, confused, and she was obviously trying to come up with creative ideas to convince me. After a few seconds, she confidently navigated through her options and hit the weakest spot on my defense line.

“What about our deal, huh?” She claimed the moral high ground, which I expected. “Will you dishonor our deal too?”

“What about our deal?” I pretended I didn’t get her point.

“You know what I mean! I hired you to solve my case. I didn’t hire you to sit on your hands while events unfolded naturally!”

“If by solving your case you mean to look into the barrel of every gun for the bullet that was cast to blow my brain out, then I prefer to solve nothing. I’ll take the risk of being the most dishonorable man alive in the world!” I tried to save my face while still being true to myself.

“In this case, you should give me my money back!” She took out her big “gun” and confidently “shot” at me. “You owe me two grand as an advance payment and another as incidentals!”

I looked at her gloomily, and at first, I said nothing. She always played that card when we argued, and I never had anything convincing to counter with. However, this time I decided to kick back a little bit more—for the record, at least.

“I’ll pay you every penny back, I swear!” I promised. “I would rather give up my future and let my unborn children die of hunger than know I owe you something!”

In fact, I didn’t cherish much hope that I would be able to hold my resistance for too long, nor did I believe I would be able to pay her back any time soon since the pile of money I owed for various utility bills, combined with two months’ rent, was probably taller than me already.

Lara immediately sensed she had the upper hand and went for my blood without hesitation.

“Okay, let’s cut ourselves another deal then,” she started negotiating, whereupon the hair on my head bristled because I knew I would only sink deeper if I said “yes” to whatever she had in mind. At the same time, I was afraid I wasn’t in a position to say “no” either. “If you come with me and help me find my sister or at least some evidence that she’s been here, we’ll automatically assume you’ve made good on your end and earned all the money I’ve spent on you so far. And as a token of my goodwill, completely outside of what was negotiated, I’ll give you another five grand. How do you like that?”

I looked at her, hesitating, and hardly restrained myself from swallowing because I suddenly felt I was losing my backbone and couldn’t control my reactions anymore. It was a rare chance for me to settle all my debts with one blow, and if I discovered anything about my case in the process, I could give it to Greensboro and get the life I had lost back. Unfortunately, Lara’s generous offer had one small problem though. I just couldn’t accept it and spit on my dignity so soon after defending it so passionately!

“Actually… I don’t think your proposal… is very… convincing,” I drawled helplessly, and then promptly stopped because I suddenly realized I was going down. Something wasn’t right with my statement, and if you ignored the words and only judged by the tone, it could be easily interpreted as, “Gimme the fucking money, and I’ll stick a kitchen knife in my head and walk around like that all day long if you want!”

“Don’t you believe me?” Lara asked cunningly. “Here!”

And she reached into her right pocket to take out a fat wad of bills. They were easily five grand, and I couldn’t even believe she carried them there the entire time.

“Oh, my God! How do you have so much cash on you?” I exclaimed, unable to stop staring at her hand. At this moment, my eyes were as round as donuts, and since she had extracted the wad from my property, I wondered if someday, I got my pants back, would the magic trick still work? I really hoped the bills multiplied in there!

“My father worked on a drilling rig! Didn’t I tell you?”

“So what? Do these damn bastards really earn that much?”

“It’s even more! Don’t believe what they say about working like a dog for no profit. We virtually bathe in gold!”

“Okay, for Christ’s sake!” I sharply stopped resisting, forgetting completely about my dignity and everything else. I was aware I was making the same mistake over and over again, but I couldn’t help it. “But I’m only doing it in the interest of our partnership,” I went on. “You should know that!”

“Of course! I’ll know! The only reason is for the sake of our business relationships!”

And after saying it, Lara smiled smugly and promptly put the wad back in her pocket. I followed it with greedy eyes until it disappeared, and it suddenly occurred to me that it might be the last time I saw it. Then I turned around and prepared to atone for the terrible sins I had managed to commit so carelessly just a few seconds ago.

“Death belongs to fools,” a wise man once said—long before I was born. With this frustrating thought in my head, booming like a war drum, in the next moment, I started marching toward my fate, and right after taking my first step, I dejectedly added to the saying, “And the world will never run out of fools!”

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 17 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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