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I got back to the hotel, whistling merrily and thinking about my case. I hadn’t made too much progress, actually, but it was definitely better than nothing. At least, one thing was perfectly clear now—not all roads lead to Rome. Some of them ended up at the villa of John Kurvallo, the eccentric DEA chief. I just had to find out which ones exactly.

I stepped out of my car without making the effort to lock the doors because nobody was going to steal such a wreck anyway, and walked into the lobby. Sandra was missing behind the reception desk again, and there wasn’t anyone else around either. I wanted to go up to our room and grab our stuff—it was mostly a stash of grass and a bunch of dirty clothes—and carry it to my place, but I didn’t think my assistant had come back yet, so I decided to drop by the bar and have a quick drink instead. I hoped a little booze in my stomach would help me convince her to move to my place when we argued about it later. In the meantime, if she appeared down here, we could fight over a couple of drinks, and if she didn’t appear at all, I was just going to leave her a message in the room and move on according to my plan.

I swerved toward the bar, and when I walked inside, the bartender met me happily shining like a Renaissance maiden who had just gotten rid of her old-fashioned and boring virginity. It made me think he finally managed to drive that stupid olive into a stupid glass.

“Don’t tell me; let me guess! You did it, didn’t you?” I asked him when I sat on the stool in front of him.

“Oh, man, I sure did it!” He cried ecstatically. “I hadn’t dumped for three days! It scared the shit out of me in a very literal way, you know!”

“Well, I’m glad you were victorious!” I tried to match my tone to the festive mood his extraordinary achievement deserved and to show a little respect. I wasn’t sure I did a very good job with the latter, but it didn’t matter because the guy was so happy that he didn’t pay any attention to my words.

“And what about the olive?” I attempted to keep the conversation alive. “Did you get it in the glass with a cushion shot?”

Instead of replying, the man grabbed a martini glass, put it in front of me, and ran to the end of the shelf. After a second, I saw him throw something my way, and I promptly leaned back—just in case. The green missile zipped by my face, thudded on the counter far enough from the target, rolled along to the edge, and fell over on the floor. It didn’t even show a sign of intent to get in the glass.

I looked back at my friend, feeling sorry for him. I expected him to get sore about it, but he endured his next failure with the dignity of a queen.

“After you pulled that nasty trick on me,” he explained curtly, “I put my foot down and stayed awake for two nights in a row, trying to catch up with the odds. So far, I’m seven hundred forty-six and still counting!” Then he grabbed another olive to make a second attempt, but it slipped from his fingers and fell at his feet. He looked at it angrily and stomped on it without overreacting, though.

“You know, clearly, it all depends on who’s tossing,” the unfortunate olive-thrower summed up with a philosophical touch after returning to me. “It’s like everything else in life! Some people nail it almost every time, and some people never do. The rest of us—the majority—waste year after year trying to figure out which group we belong to. I guess you just have to know when to give up!”

I turned to look at him, surprised because it was probably the wisest thing I had heard in a long time. He was actually right. Our success in life is measured not by our achievements but by the balance between our achievements and the price we pay to achieve them!

“You know what?” I asked him after a while to distract him from his misery, at least a little bit. “Let’s forget about all the shit in life for a moment, okay? Instead, why don’t you mix something really strong and funny for me?”

“How strong do you like it? You mean like ‘Moscow sock’ is strong?”

“And what on earth is that?”

“It’s Tsarskaya vodka, Pliska brandy, and aftershave to taste,” he smiled, suddenly invigorated.

“Well, it sounds… a bit too smelly,” I remarked, uncertain, and frowned.

“Never mind, I can’t mix it anyway! The ingredients are too rare. I busted my ass searching for ‘Tsarskaya’ for a whole year, and in the end, I managed to get a fellow bartender from Russia to send me a few bottles at the cost of a cheap Rolex, but nowhere in the entire country was he able to find the manufacturer of ‘Pliska’!”

“Okay, hit me with something else then.” I sighed, relieved that I would never try ‘Moscow sock’ in my life. “Let me have a less exotic drink!”

“Is ‘Mexican smog’ okay?”

“I don’t know. You tell me!”

“It’s tequila, liqueur, lemon juice, and juiced roach maggots.”

I pretended for a moment that I was considering it. “I don’t know about the liqueur.” I tried to back out of it as if I were a great lover of roach maggots.

“This is actually the light version,” the bartender made up his mind to satisfy my demanding taste. “There’s a medium variant too. It’s the same, but instead of liqueur, you put vodka and gin. This shit is also called ‘The Devil’s Piss’. And if you add chili pepper extract, it becomes ‘The Hot Squirt of the Devil’s Bride’!”

“Look, why don’t you pour me just a glass of gin?” I asked wearily. “I’m not exactly in a mood for squirts and stuff!”

“Sure thing! As Englishmen like to say, ‘Drinking gin is like pissing. You can never overdo it!’” My weird friend laid yet another piece of bartender wisdom on me. Then he put a clean glass and an opened bottle of Beefeater on the counter.

I slowly poured myself a large dose after waiting a couple of seconds for him to do it.

“You know what? Let me ask you something!” I looked at him after that. I tried to sound as inconspicuous as I could. “What do you know about Villa Nueva?”

The guy grabbed his shaker and started fiddling with it, but then he stopped for a moment to think about my question.

“What is there to know?” he asked me. “Isn’t that an island in the Sargasso Sea?”

“For Christ’s sake, no!” I grunted because I had totally forgotten about his “profound” geography knowledge and “quick-witted” thinking. “It’s over there, just outside the city. It’s the residence of the DEA’s boss.”

“Oh, yeah! DEA’s boss, definitely!” He repeated my words and nodded his head foolishly.

I looked at him, rather disappointed, because it all seemed like a complete waste of time to me. He was just a simple junkie, and maybe it was pointless to ask him anything. I slowly put the glass to my lips, and he resumed fiddling with the shaker, but after a moment, he suddenly blurted out, “The CIA director says it’s a really nice spot, you know. It has a fancy winter garden and a pool full of champagne for the chicks!”

“You know the CIA director?” I turned to him, amazed.

“I bartended at The Company’s Christmas party,” my cocktail friend casually put in. “They usually don’t let outsiders in, but the original guy got terrible parasites while on a mission in Nicaragua, so they called me to sub for him.”

“No shit!” I was curious to hear his story. “And what else did he tell you?”

“Well, it was nothing too spicy. He was just tipsy and mentioned that the chicks at these parties were always the hottest and ready to serve.”

“What does that mean ‘to serve’?”

The bartender shrugged.

“He wasn’t plastered enough to explain, you know. We literally exchanged two phrases, but I know a field agent—he’s an ex-agent, in fact—who told me really amazing things about the government’s mess-ups. Inside shit, not rumors! Did you know about the moon, for instance?”

“What about the moon?” I looked at him, not quite happy that he had suddenly shifted the subject. “You mean the story that we simulated the entire landing?”

“No, it’s not like that. The landing is a fact. That’s for sure. But why did NASA hide all the details about it afterward?”

“And why did they do it?” I humored him. Something made me believe I was about to hear another ridiculous theory like the one about miniaturized broadcast units.

“It was because when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, something very strange happened, and the astronauts did an orgy the night after their arrival! NASA was literally knocked out when they watched it on their monitors, and after that, they simply had no other option but to classify a huge portion of the materials. That’s why so many people have been skeptical about the landing ever since!”

“And why would a CIA agent reveal such a horrible and discrediting secret to you if it was classified?” I expressed my doubts about it.

“Well, he’s an ex-agent, I told you! But wait to hear more. That’s not all! After the incident, the administration was determined to find out what was going on, and as you know, they sent a few more missions, but every time the same thing happened—the crew banged each other’s asses as soon as they hit the ground. In the end, in seventy-two, after failing to get to the bottom of it, the government couldn’t waste any more resources on the astronauts’ sexual satisfaction, and they finally aborted the program!”

“No way it’s true!” I refused to believe him because he really crossed the line with this one. “Although, I’ve always thought they might have met aliens on the moon and just got scared!”

“Well, no! That’s a whole different story,” the most well-informed bartender in the world who had direct links to CIA headquarters corrected me. “The aliens came straight to us down here, in Roswell, Nevada. They built a ranch for themselves, but our military officials had it fenced off, and then they turned it into Area-51 to prevent interactions between our population and the extraterrestrials.”

“Do you think these albino guys who often hang around here have come with the same group that landed in Roswell?” I suddenly saw my chance to bring him back to where I needed him to be.

“I really doubt it!” My friend shook his head skeptically. “The little guys in Area-51 are blocked there. These ones here have taken our image. They’re probably diplomats or the trade department. They communicate with their mother ships in outer space, and their task is tossing old stuff to us in exchange for little favors.”

“I see, I see,” I tried to demonstrate that I was well-informed too. “They use miniaturized gadgets to broadcast their messages, right?”

“Exactly! And since they use them openly and publicly, I think it means they have already sold the technology to our stupid government!” Nostradamus put the shaker away as he clued me in on his next theory. “After a couple of years, they’ll probably hit the market!”

“And then if someone farted in Minneapolis, in Australia they would already know about it before the smell reaches Saint Paul!” I suddenly lost track, forgetting what my real goal was.

My nutcase friend didn’t even register I was kidding him.

“And the self-driving cars are just around the corner too!” he assured me, excited. “And data hubs will be built to store all the information in the world in one central place. Actually, it won’t just be information but also music, movies, and other stuff!”

“What a minute! Do you mean there will be one giant library for everything, and self-driving cars will zip around the globe to deliver books and films to people?” I made a really huge effort to raise myself to the level of his craziness. It was hard, though, because I wasn’t as good as he was.

“No. I guess in the future, there will be no hard copies anymore. The art will be immaterial and compressed in some way, and you’ll receive it over the air—sort of like the way television works now.”

“But that’s wild! It means half of the population will have to work as librarians and coordinators to serve the other half!” I speculated, perplexed. “Searching, extracting, and transmitting so much information will be a real mess, especially if a large number of people place different orders at the same time!”

The bartender shrugged.

“I don’t know, man! They’ll think of something. Maybe they’ll train bees to help them. You know how insects are so efficient at finding their way to things? They can be manipulated to do various tasks for us through chemical signals.”

“Oh, come on!” I smiled condescendingly. “Bees are stupid. They just follow scents; they cannot understand words or concepts!”

“Bees are not stupid at all!” My friend almost took offense at my ignorance. “They are well ahead of us in many areas, but we just refuse to admit it because we’re so self-satisfied. However, in the future, we’ll evolve into highly specialized individuals just like them and the ants, and then everyone will see that we were stupid!”

“You really believe that?”

“I definitely do! I think aliens will help us achieve it at some point. They’ll teach us how to alter our bodies so that the scientists have two heads, the workers have four arms, the breeders have eight dicks, etcetera. We’ll be ten times more efficient in everything than we are now!”

“Phew! I wonder what detectives will have then—maybe guns instead of hands and cameras instead of eyes!” I practically admitted to him that I was a PI before realizing what I was doing. It wasn’t such a big deal, though. The guy lived in his own bubble, and probably it wouldn’t have meant shit even if I told him I was the President of the United States!

“Listen! I wanted to ask you something else before I came here.” I decided to bring the guy down from the clouds for a moment—partly because I didn’t want to listen to his bullshit anymore but mostly because it was time to go to our room and check on Lara. “Has someone asked about me lately?”

He looked at me, surprised.

“What do you mean, ‘about you’? Who are you, by the way?” He wanted to know.

Then it was my turn to look at him, surprised. Who was I, indeed? He didn’t know shit about me. He didn’t know my name, my occupation, or even the room I was in! Although his drug friend—the bellhop—might have mentioned something after all!

“I’m nobody!” I quickly said, “I’m just a guest at the hotel. Anyway, has someone behaved strangely recently?”

“No, I don’t think so,” the visionary bartender replied. “Who do you suspect in particular?”

“The two albino guys, for instance—the aliens.”

“Do you work for The Company or the government?”


“Then you’re a small fish for them. They aren’t interested in ordinary guys.”

“Or maybe it was someone from Eternity?” I narrowed down the list of suspects. I wanted to mention Sandra as well, but, of course, I didn’t because she was his boss. Besides, it was obvious that she already knew everything about me.

“No,” the weirdo shook his head without looking at me. “I don’t know the guys across the street; I never visit there.”

Then he grabbed a cloth and started wiping the counter.

Although, when I really think about it,” he casually put in after a while and stopped his work for a moment, “a blond-haired fellow did hover around this morning.”

His words suddenly made my flesh crawl.

“You mean the bouncer from Eternity? The one who hunts coyotes with his bare hands and eats scorpions alive?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s him! I didn’t know you knew him.”

“Just vaguely!” I shrugged, deciding not to get into details and reminding him that he was the one who told me about the thug’s heroic deeds with wild beasts. “What did he want?”

“He asked about a chick—some blonde with big tits. I think I’ve seen her somewhere around.”

“Did you tell him anything?”

“I told him she was a guest. I think her room is on the fifth floor. Where’s yours?”

“On the third,” I lied to him.

“Then maybe you haven’t seen her!”

“And that was everything he wanted to know?”

“Yes, that was all. Then he left.”

I looked at him suspiciously. He seemed honest, though. He wasn’t a man from this world and barely cared about the things that ran it, so I chose to believe him. I was also glad I had never come here with Lara, but I was also worried about her.

My friend hung around for a few more minutes, but we didn’t talk anymore. He finished wiping the counter, aligned the glasses on the shelves, arranged the bottles so their labels faced the hall, and then turned around to go somewhere. I followed him with my eyes until he vanished behind the glass door. I was still worried. Things were obviously getting hot here, and we had to leave sooner rather than later. We already had targets on our backs!

I knocked back my gin and stood up to leave too. I walked out of the bar and took the stairs to our room, thinking about how everything in my case had suddenly become such a huge mess. This entire fucking story looked so much like a bucket full of shit, which was extracted from different crappers, and now I had absolutely no way to know what was what! For instance, what was the CIA director supposed to do in the private residence of the fucking chief of the DEA? On the other hand, what business did the DEA’s chief and Eternity’s boss have together, where Sandra stood straddling so dangerously? It certainly smelled of drugs and maybe prostitution, but why would she want to be part of it if she had her own business to run, which wasn’t so bad? And last but not least, how did the “extraterrestrials” from the planet Scandinavia fit into all this?

As I thought about it all, I felt like a movie character in the type of Hollywood thriller where the protagonist was used by secret services without his knowledge. I felt like both the CIA and DEA were pulling my strings to help them break a drug trafficking channel, and if, in the end, it turned out that Lara was also in the same game with the task of pushing me in the right direction, it would have been just awesome! I would surely end up in some gutter as a scapegoat while caught in their vicious and complicated game.

Lost in my dark cinematic thoughts like that, I kept climbing up the stairs, and until I reached the third floor, I was still in a relatively optimistic mood. When I stepped on the landing between the flights, though, it all suddenly changed. The thought that in mob thrillers, characters like mine are usually thrown into pits full of wet concrete or have their heads severed and posted to someone as a threat hit me really hard, and I felt sick. When I climbed up to another floor, I was already sure that my horrible death was inevitable and literally wanted to cry because of the terrible role I had been given in this awfully cruel production.

On the fifth floor, I turned around to pass by the elevator, and while still feeling devastated, I looked inside with hope. The door was open, but the bellhop wasn’t there. “What a pity!” I thought disappointedly. “I’m so in the mood to solve puzzles right now, and he and I play this game so well! He could have even helped me get out of the scapegoat role!”

Incidentally, it was very funny that I wanted to see him, although I didn’t know it yet. I realized it a few moments later when it struck me that the bellhop just couldn’t be in the elevator simply because he—or anyone else, for that matter—couldn’t be in two different places at the same time. The thing was that right now, he was comfortably resting—bodily, spiritually, or in any other way—in an armchair in the middle of my room, his arms hanging over the armrests, and his blood drying up while trickling down along them. There was a big, nasty-looking puddle on the floor behind his feet, and I knew the guy was stone dead even before stepping into the room and checking him.

I promptly turned around to close the door, horrified. Then I cautiously pulled out my gun and examined the situation in the bathroom, on the balcony, and under the bed, after which I stuck the weapon into the back of my pants and locked all the doors, closed the curtains, and turned the lights on.

The sight of the dead body was truly disgusting. I had seen a dead man before—it wasn’t the first time for me—and I had had my fair share of wounded people too, but the inside of a human skull I hadn’t seen before! The wretch’s head was cracked open like a ripe watermelon, with multiple mini-fractures in his left temple—as if pellets from a shotgun shell had made them. Between the shuttered bone segments, I could see hideous-looking reddish pulp.

I felt sick.

I sighed and forced myself to touch the right side of the corpse’s neck, near the carotid artery. The guy hadn’t stiffened yet, but his skin had started to turn blue. He probably lived until two hours ago, which meant the killer got to him just before I entered the hotel. The moment was actually so tense, as I still looked at the dead bellhop—thoughtful and confused—that when the window curtain unexpectedly danced in front of me as if someone was hiding behind it, it caught me totally unprepared, and I couldn’t even think, let alone react.

Since I had checked it there just a minute ago, it literally scared the crap out of me. Startled, I only jumped up and nearly threw myself toward the nightstand to write a full confession of the crime before shooting myself in my head so I wouldn’t have to go to jail. It was good that I lingered a bit, thinking that the police wouldn’t choose this way to come in, so I managed to stop myself before it was too late.

Just a second later, Lara’s head appeared from behind the curtain without any warning whatsoever. Then she swooped into the room through the balcony window, which I had obviously left ajar, and she did it without even caring about the delicate mental condition anyone in the room might be in. At the same time, I felt relieved to see her alive.

“Why are all the doors locked?” she asked me when she jumped inside.

After receiving no answer from me, she stepped ahead, briefly glanced to the left and right, wanted to know where I had been all day, and then, when she looked at the armchair and saw what was in it, she finally froze, obviously shocked.

Her jaw slowly dropped.

“What have you done here?” she whispered, appalled.

Since I did not intend to explain to her what I had done here because her question seemed totally stupid, I only said, “I had a drink down in the bar. Why?”

She stared at me with eyes so bulging that I had the feeling she had just heard the nine justices of the Supreme Court crying as one, “Fuck the motherfucking constitution of the fucking United States!”

Then she asked me again, stressing every word she said, “Are you sure that was all you did?”

“Well, no!” I grunted, annoyed. “Before that, I walked around the hotel and slaughtered everyone below the age of sixteen or above the age of sixty-five because they’re all lazy motherfuckers who don’t contribute to the federal budget. This valuable member of the community I actually killed by mistake!”

Lara slowly scratched the back of her head, trying to think. I gathered that it helped her decide whether I joked about saving the federal budget or not. Then she approached the corpse to get a better look.

“Aww, it doesn’t look pretty!” She announced her judgment after a while.

“His job is not to look pretty, but just dead!” I answered sourly.

“And what the fuck do we do now?”

“Oh, don’t worry! This is not the first bellhop I have found dead in my house after getting back from work. I’ve got a ten-point plan ready for these exact cases!”

My assistant looked at me, irritated.

“You know what? It wasn’t me who shot him dead and planted his body in your room. You being grumpy won’t help us solve this terrible problem!”

She was, in fact, absolutely right. Being nervous wasn’t going to get us anywhere, but the situation was so disgustingly impossible to solve that I didn’t even know where to begin. I kneeled down by the corpse to think about it for a moment.

“We could take him to his room,” I murmured, not entirely convinced of my idea because I was probably going to be the first to object to it if we really carried it out. Besides, I felt sick again, even just standing near the body.

Lara pulled a wry face.

“And how do you know he has a room at all?” She asked me.

“I suppose he has. He’s a fucking junkie who gets high three times a day; he needs a place to do it undisturbed!”

“I’m pretty sure he was doing that in the elevator!” My assistant bluntly noted, and I found her remark more than appropriate. “And even if we assume he does have a room, how do you suggest we find it? We can’t just ask someone, ‘Excuse me! Would you tell us where we could put our dead friend to rest in peace? We found him in our room, but we don’t think he belongs there!”

She was right again. I had absolutely no intention of carrying anyone anywhere. We were going to smear the entire hotel with a leaking brain, but unfortunately, we couldn’t leave the body here either because it would start stinking by tomorrow morning.

After asking me this, Lara didn’t wait for my reply and turned around to go to the bathroom. After a while, she returned with a white towel in her hands, which she unabashedly wrapped around the wretch’s head. The dead man suddenly looked even creepier than before—as if he had just taken a quick shower and then come here to wipe his broken head before taking a short rest in the armchair.

“So he doesn’t ruin the carpet!” she explained to me. “Otherwise, we couldn’t clean it.”

I looked at her and dejectedly nodded. I didn’t see her point because the carpet was already ruined, but it was good that at least one of us was thinking straight since I was rather unable to do so. To distract myself from the disaster, I went to turn on the TV, switching it to the most neutral channel possible—MTV. Unfortunately, Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” was on at this moment, so I had to turn the device off quickly. After that, I dragged myself to the bed and sat on it.

When she embellished the bellhop’s head, Lara started walking agitatedly around the room, obviously searching for something else. She grunted unsatisfied a couple of times and checked the wardrobe, then behind the TV set, under the bed, in the drawers of the nightstands, and even behind the curtains.

I looked at her surprised for a while, and after she didn’t stop for nearly two minutes, I couldn’t resist asking her, “You search for the next corpse? I guess you suspect the murder was serial!”

“Oh, you’re so funny!” She sneered at me. “You’re such a good cop, you know! I suppose you haven’t even thought the killer might have tossed the weapon here, do you?”

I shuddered unpleasantly when I heard her remark. Of course, the murderer would want to toss the weapon here! What was I thinking? Otherwise, he wouldn’t have killed the guy in our room in the first place. It made me wonder who did this. It wasn’t Sandra for sure because she definitely wouldn’t do such a thing in her hotel, so the other options were Tanaka or Kurvallo.

“It’s interesting,” Lara murmured as she kept ransacking the place. “Where would you put the gun if you wanted it to be easily found? It must be some very obvious place, you know.”

And as she said that, she casually reached her hand under one of the pillows on the bed and pulled out a scary-looking, redesigned smoothbore revolver. It immediately solved the mystery of who the murderer was.

Seeing her, I quickly jumped on the bed to pull the gun out of her hand, using the edge of my shirt.

“Have you lost your mind?” I cried out. “Why would you want to leave your fingerprints on every weapon recently used for a first-degree felony?”

“Does it really matter?” She replied curtly. “We could just clean it later!”

“A weapon with no fingerprints is just a possible murder weapon, and that’s all. A weapon with someone else’s fingerprints is a far more interesting situation, which is definitely more desirable!” I explained.

“How could you know it has fingerprints at all?” She asked me.

“Well, now, I surely know it doesn’t!”

And I quickly wiped the gun clean and dropped it in the right pocket of the bellhop’s coat. Lara patiently waited for me to finish the task and move away, and then she kneeled down by the corpse.

“Would you please give me a hand here?” She roared with annoyance after a while, still trying to push the armchair with the dead body closer to the balcony door.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I cried again and jumped toward her.

“I’m throwing the bastard out!” she answered unabashedly. “What do you think?”

“Did you throw out your brain before deciding to throw him out?”

“Why? You want us to keep him here until a bunch of stray dogs gather down on the street and start howling?” The professional murder cleaner ridiculed me.

“I don’t! But you can’t just throw him out the window!”

“And why is that? You have a better idea?”

I looked at her, totally confused, without knowing what to say. I just wondered why people always asked this annoying question in similar situations. Of course, I didn’t have a better idea! I actually had no idea whatsoever, and right now, my head was as hollow and empty as an empty watering can, but that still didn’t mean we had to do the first thing that flashed across my stupid assistant’s mind.

“Yes, I have!” I shouted despite that. “We can leave the body here until something at least ten times cleverer than this occurs to us!”

“Until Mister Think-it-Over-Three-Times finishes his thinking, the bellhop’s remains will dry up and stick to the floor so badly that afterward, we’ll have to scrape off his stinking flesh with a spatula!”

“And what will Miss Act-and-Never-Think tell the police when they ask her if the guy with the broken head under her balcony has fallen precisely off her balcony?”

Lara didn’t even bother to answer me. She just raised her arm and jabbed her elbow into my ribs so unexpectedly that I doubled up and dropped to my knees from the pain. While I was still gasping for breath, she opened the balcony door and pushed the armchair forward, but it stuck to the threshold, and since there was so little space outside, she only had to tip the armchair a little to make the dead bellhop sprawl over the railing with his upper torso and arms hanging on the other side. After that, my assistant pulled his legs up, and the body plunged down from the fifth floor. At the very last second, I managed to jump outside, but I only grabbed the coat pocket, which ripped off and remained in my right hand.

The bad thing was that it happened to be the pocket where I dropped the gun just a minute ago. The weapon and the dead man flew down independently, and a few seconds later, they flopped into one of the dumpsters lined up along the hotel wall beneath our feet. It was the same dumpster where Lara crashed when we raided Larry and Bob’s shack.

In fact, the gun and the body didn’t thud inside at exactly the same moment. Due to its late start, the revolver lagged behind, and when it plummeted into the garbage, the bellhop had already managed to occupy most of the space there. However, since the white towel had unwound, the weapon whacked the corpse’s forehead directly and it cracked completely from the impact.

“That’s a hell of an unlucky head!” Lara remarked curtly as we both watched the scene from the balcony. Unlike her, I didn’t think it was amusing at all.

I worriedly looked around to see if anybody had witnessed all this. It was already getting dark, and the streetlights had started to turn on, but luckily, none worked here—on this shitty street. Despite that, the fact didn’t make me feel better.

After that, I sighed grimly and tried to focus on all the unfortunate events that were soon to follow. The situation was completely out of our control now! My mind quickly went through the possibilities, and they weren’t good. They mostly gravitated toward a dozen police cruisers swooping in from the neighboring streets and half of China’s population gathering to watch the murder show. None of it happened, though—at least not immediately. Instead, the street remained empty and quiet for now, and there wasn’t even a stray cat around to meow at the bellhop’s death.

“Think about it for just a moment!” I heard Lara’s voice next to me, trying to soothe my unspoken fears. “This is the only speedy way to dispose of a dead body in your hotel room! You obviously can’t drag him down from the fifth floor or stuff him in an air duct or something. You can’t use the elevator either because it opens in the lobby. But this way, you quickly solve your first and most urgent problem—taking the corpse outside unnoticed. The rest you can handle on the fly!”

And after saying it, she carelessly moved her left foot over the balcony railing with the clear intention of getting down to the street via the fire escape. I didn’t have the slightest idea what exactly she wanted to “tackle on the fly”, but since I neither had the strength nor the will to ask her, I just watched her impassively. After a second, she transferred her other leg over the railing too, and as she held on to the bars, her ass hung in the air for a moment before she moved on to the fire escape. And that was actually as far as she went! Right in the next second, like in a horrible nightmare, we heard a car engine roaring—two of them, in fact—and then a very disturbing stream of light hit Lara’s sticking butt. The unexpected change in our situation instantly revived all my fears from before.

I froze onto the balcony, horrified and with my hair standing up. Lara froze too and stared at the light just like a dazzled animal on a highway. As I watched her, for a brief moment, I cowardly wanted to hide behind her before someone had the chance to recognize me. Nevertheless, I managed to preserve my dignity and stop myself from doing it, but when I turned my eyes to the light, I shuddered unpleasantly and immediately felt the same impulse again.

There was a police squad car down there, not far from our hotel! It was just turning around the corner to go into our street when a garbage truck from the opposite direction tried to do the same and cut in front of it. “What kind of shitty lack is that?” I immediately panicked when I saw them. “Once in our lives, we would decide to throw away a dead body from our balcony, and the cops would be right there in the next fucking second!”

The two vehicles stopped in the middle of the street, with their drivers hesitating for a while and probably looking tensely at each other, but then the police car reluctantly moved back a bit.

“It could have been much worse!” Lara suddenly whispered to me in the darkness. “If the pigs had come only a second earlier, we could have easily dumped the bellhop right onto their front hood!”

I didn’t know why, but all of a sudden, her remark seemed so funny to me. No matter how nervous I was, I nearly burst into laughter, almost revealing us to the cops. My frolicking didn’t last too long, though. The truck noisily moved forward, advancing toward the hotel, and the police car followed it. The presence of the latter, combined with the corpse in the dumpster, immediately spoiled all my fun.

My hair stood on end again, just like the quills of a hedgehog ready to fight, and at the same time, instead of working on an escape strategy, my traitorous mind took on the task of preparing me for my future life as a prisoner. I pictured myself surrounded by an army of hard-core offenders serving life sentences without parole—all with broad and quite lax sexual boundaries. It even occurred to me that the fucking cops had been here all day, just waiting for some idiot to throw a dead body out of his window, and now they were finally rewarded for their patience. And, of course, that idiot was Murphy Mellrow—who else would be stupid enough to do such a ridiculous thing?

Unfortunately, the horrible events that followed dragged on so slowly that I almost suffered a heart attack worrying about them. I actually suspected it would be like that. First, the truck kept crawling along the street like a wounded snail, and it chopped up my nerves into tiny pieces, allowing my mind to elaborate on the jail scene and increase its emotional impact on me to the point of psychosis. Then, after what seemed to be like a hundred years of waiting, the vehicle stopped under our balcony, and its mechanical arm moved aside inch by inch to grab one of the dumpsters and carry it back to the feeding mechanism. Following that, the mechanism overturned the dumpster as if in slow motion, and the garbage sank into the container’s mouth.

The same painfully slow procedure was repeated again and again with the second and third dumpsters. The whole time I watched it from above, shaking uncontrollably and barely stopping myself from shouting at the operator to hurry up. After exhausting almost the entire lifespan of the universe, the guy in the cabin finally attached the fourth dumpster. It was the one that contained the unfortunate victim and the murder weapon, which was still stuck in his unfortunate head.

Up onto the balcony, with my knees soft like well-boiled spaghetti, I reeled heavily and nearly fainted. When the dumpster shook unsteadily and clumsily started on its way, I suddenly heard Chopin’s funeral march booming in my head—powerful and foreboding. After a while, the dumpster reached its destination, and the lifting mechanism slowly flipped it, allowing the dead body to slip out of it. Watching it, I realized how lucky we were that the container was too big and its mouth was too high, so the cops couldn’t see what was happening up there. But then, all of a sudden, everything went south. The corpse rolled and turned around, and when it slid inside, legs first, its momentum wasn’t enough to go all the way in, leaving the head and arms hanging outside over the container’s edge as if the bellhop had just crawled out to get some fresh air!

I involuntarily gasped in the darkness, and it sounded almost like a confession. In the next second, the mechanical arm started removing the dumpster, and since it was empty now, it swayed rather frivolously in the air, which literally made me want to throw up. I was just about to run to the cops and turn myself in to reduce my sentence when the dumpster accidentally knocked the bellhop’s head on its way back to the hotel’s wall, and then the body slid inside just a second before the officers in the car noticed it.

Soon after that, the truck roared into the night and slowly moved forward, with the police cruiser following impatiently behind. Both vehicles crawled on like that until they reached the next intersection, where the truck continued ahead, and the cops—already too nervous from the waiting—revved the engine of their car, and turned to the right. Just before they vanished behind the corner, very aggressive rap music boomed loudly inside, and it made me wonder whether they were the same punks who harassed us when we ate the True Hotdog. If they were, they had clearly bought another cassette player, and they were obviously far more careful now when using it.

After everything was finally over, I sighed, relieved, and looked tiredly at Lara. What I witnessed that night was definitely the most horrifying, distressful, and nerve-racking garbage collection I had ever seen. There wasn’t anything even close to it in the entire history of communal services, bellhop murder, or police patrolling!

My assistant, who still hung on the railing like a macaque on a fig tree, skillfully climbed up and over it. Then she quickly walked into the room, and I willingly followed her.

“You see how easy it was?” she asked me, satisfied.

“I see,” I just answered without being able to say anything more.

“It was so fun! Such a wild night!” She continued blabbering excitedly as if we hadn’t just become accomplices in a criminal offense but had participated in a hilarious TV show named “Hide the Corpse”.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think about what an unbelievable irony everything was. It was only yesterday that I warned the fucking bastard that he would fly out of the hotel, riding in the back of a garbage truck. If only I had known back then, it would happen so soon!”

Still enjoying her elevated mood, Lara turned on the TV and went to the bed to grab the remote. Then she quickly swept through the channels, but after a while, she gave up and walked to the bathroom instead. Soon, she returned with a toothpaste tube, a bar of soap, and another white towel in her hands and skillfully disguised the mess on the carpet as a bigger mess, which looked less suspicious.

“Tomorrow morning, I’ll sprinkle some sugar on it, and the roaches will take care of every trace of blood in a day or two!” She assured me merrily.

I looked at her with almost religious awe in my eyes. Until twenty minutes ago, we had a dead body, a pool of blood, and tons of problems, and now there was nothing left. She was so impressively efficient at cleaning up after murders that I wondered if it was actually the first time she had to deal with it.

Since I had no strength left for anything else that evening, I briskly undressed, went to the bathroom to shower the remnants of this inexplicably awful day off me, and then jumped straight into bed. I decided to leave the negotiations about moving back to my place for tomorrow. Now just wasn’t the right time for that!

For her part, Lara not only didn’t feel tired or stressed enough to go to sleep, but she even felt in the mood to watch the late-night show with David Letterman. Sometimes I’m truly amazed at how unconcerned and frivolous she can be! She found NBC, and tonight’s guest was a very weird lady who went into a lengthy analysis of the American political system. In particular, she wanted to know: was the US really the most advanced democracy; was it a good example for the rest of the world; was it necessary for the president to star in westerns to be a good head of state; and was it in good taste or just a disgrace that lately Americans tended to favor and vote for candidates who received regular blowjobs from their female secretaries under the desks in their offices?

Letterman barely got the chance to say anything on his own show, and after half an hour, the guest confidently concluded that America had definitely degraded from what she remembered. Judging by her visual age and appearance—she looked like a bespectacled old potato in Mary Poppins clothes—I thought she probably remembered even the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Battle of the Alamo! I was also sure she dreamed of banning all unauthorized sexual activities around the globe and incriminating all social events except for attending church on Sunday morning.

At some point, I was so tired of her bullshit that I dozed off without realizing it. Shortly after that, though, I woke up for a moment, and while still half-asleep, I heard on the late-night newscast that John Kurvallo was running for president in the next election. He intended to do that as an independent candidate. “No shit!” I murmured, not entirely sure if it was real or just a dream. “Sandra might really become the first lady then!”

Afterward, I finally fell asleep for the night.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 21 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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