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22


The dream I had that night literally left me dumbfounded. It was such a crazy thing that I couldn’t even believe how my mind imagined it in the first place. I dreamed that Lincoln had come to our time and zealously begged the President of the United States to teach him how to play the saxophone. Right in front of the President, the guest from David Letterman’s show—the lady who looked like an old potato—kneeled, and she was taking his socks off while giving him a surprisingly skillful blowjob with a reverent expression on her face.

Near the two, I saw Jefferson as well, hanging around with a scruffy draft of the Constitution in his hand. He looked confused and desperate, trying to figure out which amendment to take out so he could put in a new one, according to which the President was obliged to receive at least four blowjobs in public places from his subordinates every single day. The goal was to achieve full transparency on the matter, eliminate any chance for a public scandal to erupt, and, at the same time, allow the head of state to attend to his duties completely satisfied and undistracted by sexual tension.

The actual problem was that the volume was already so full, and all the amendments were so relentlessly referring to one another—sometimes mutually exclusive—that it was simply impossible to add anything else. In the end, Jefferson found himself at his wit’s end and scribbled the new amendment on a ragged piece of paper, after which he attached it to the last page of the volume using a big yellow paperclip. All the journalists immediately nicknamed it “Jefferson’s loose amendment” and took turns shaking his hand and taking pictures of him embracing the United States Constitution in various poses.

Then I dreamed of something even wilder than this.

I was at the head of a huge, raging wildfire. It was hot—terribly hot! At some point, the severe flames surrounded me from all sides, and I was caught in a trap. Behind my back was the Great Wall of China, which I had just built, hoping to protect myself from the insidious Mongols. Unfortunately, though, their barbarous warriors had kept a close eye on me the whole time, and right after I finished my work, they set the steppes north of Hetao on fire. Now the entire valley of the Huang He River was burning, with black, pungent clouds of smoke rising in the sky and advancing north—all the way to Genghis Khan’s yurt. Every morning, he came out of it yawning; he stretched and sniffed the air, and if the smoke wasn’t enough, he sent his leather-clothed men to flame the fire with giant bellows made of ram hide. He had just announced his brand-new doctrine called “Asia is for Asians”, and all his subjects and voters were very excited about it despite the horrendous ecological and war crimes their hordes were doing in northern Cathay. Eventually, the fire closed in on me, wedged me in a narrow gully, and burned the tip of my nose.

I nervously woke up.

My nose was still burning, and that definitely wasn’t a good sign! I worriedly rolled my eyes, focusing them on the tip, but I didn’t see any smoke or flames. It just felt hot. I blinked a couple of times and looked around. The sun was peeking through the window from behind the corner, and its light was crawling furtively toward my face with the obvious intention of making me blind. For now, only my nose was in danger, though.

I drowsily turned around and tried to go back to sleep. It was nearly September, but the hellish heat clearly continued, and no relief was expected any time soon. I never managed to doze off after that. I turned and tossed in bed for about half an hour, and in the end, I got up.

Lara was missing again, and this time, it didn’t surprise me at all. As promised, she had sprinkled sugar on the bloodstain, although I had no idea where she got that from. I went onto the balcony still having a bad feeling about last night’s accident, but when I looked down over the railing, I didn’t see any trace of the dead bellhop in any of the dumpsters. They were all clean, and the sunshine reflected brightly off their metal bodies.

I stepped back inside and looked through the pile of dirty shirts and t-shirts for a relatively clean piece of clothing, and when I found something that wasn’t scandalously foul, I put it on, happy and satisfied that my little trick still worked. Then I put on my pants, brushed them clean of the dust, straightened my collar, and left the room. I climbed down the stairs, deliberately avoiding the elevator.

Down in the lobby—so much closer to the ground—it seemed at least four times hotter than upstairs. I had the feeling I was in limbo! The heat was truly devastating, and I could feel the sizzling hot air coming from the outside, making me want to run back to my room, fill the bathtub with cold water, and submerge in it until midnight. Obviously, Sandra had done just that because she was nowhere in sight. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t seen her around for a while.

Despite everything, I naively headed toward the exit, and while stepping outside, I immediately realized the magnitude of my stupidity. If it felt like limbo inside, this was true hell! Nowhere around could I see any living creature except for a couple of mentally deranged pigeons, wandering tiredly on the sidewalk like lost phoenixes, looking for a shadowy place to burn down in peace.

I braced myself and ran to the Ford, but this time I decided to act wisely. I didn’t hop in right away but opened the front doors and waited a couple of minutes for the inside of the car to cool down a bit. Unfortunately, staying outside wasn’t the best option either. Not more than thirty seconds later, after pacing nervously around and probably looking too much like the crazy pigeons, I impatiently placed my butt in the front seat.

I momentarily felt the urge to grab my gun and blow my head off. In any case, even in hell, the temperature would be far more agreeable than it was inside my car. The only problem was that my iron friend surely wouldn’t do such a horrible thing to me. He would misfire, so there was no point in trying him.

Instead of it, I opened my mouth as widely as I could, put my asbestos mitts on, and drove down the street as quickly as possible. There were only two places in the whole city where I could escape the terrible heat. One was the milk bar near my apartment building, and the other was the Twelfth Precinct with its cool and relaxing toilets. I chose to visit the second because if Lara appeared at some point later, she would definitely reject what I had in mind, and now was the time to do it.

Exactly twenty minutes and seventeen seconds later, after a wild race against the cruel and heartless death galloping after me, I made it to the police station and halted the car at the curb, my tires screeching with what little rubber they still had. I felt as if I had just won the Paris Dakar. When I jumped outside, I could hardly believe I was still breathing, and I didn’t even bother to close the door because no one would be able to get my car moving in this weather.

After that, I ran to the building, stooping as if thousands of meteorites were falling from the sky, and wildly rushed inside, zipping behind the receptionist’s back, who had just taken on the task of patting down two schoolboys for explosives. The guy didn’t even know what flashed for a second beside him. He turned around to see, but it was in the wrong direction, and after that, it was too late—I was already gone.

I impatiently jumped into the elevator, hyperventilating from the temperature change, and it wasn’t until I reached the second floor that I was finally able to close my mouth. I literally sweated a dam lake’s worth of sweat, and when I started knocking on Inspector Greensboro’s door, I felt as if I had come out of the shower without toweling off. My sweat splattered everywhere, and even the door became wet! Maybe that was why I pushed it open and just stepped inside without waiting anymore.

Inside the office, the familiar furniture style that I remembered from my previous visit here met me—the fancy oak desk, the pretentious executive leather chair resembling a king’s throne, and the numerous portraits of political celebrities hanging on the walls as if the people working here needed a constant reminder that we were in the middle of the Cold War. I recognized Kissinger, Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the latest Dalai Lama—the rest were unknown to me.

I timidly looked around myself. There was no evidence that Greensboro was at work. It was quite dark in the room because the blinds were almost closed, and I wondered what to do. Probably it wouldn’t have been very nice of me if I started ransacking the magnificent desk without asking for permission from its owner, but on the other hand, I was presented with the rare opportunity to look at the documents he kept inside. Maybe somewhere in the drawers I could find my report, which Greensboro claimed he didn’t have, but I didn’t believe him. In any case, I hoped at least to take a better look at my contract again because I desperately wanted to reexamine the part about the penalties.

I hesitated for a brief moment, then rolled up my sleeves and started searching. I was racing against time because I found all kinds of bullshit in the drawers that didn’t concern me. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to give up. I just had to remember at least part of the mysterious events in my life during the past few weeks because otherwise, I would never be able to close my damn case.

Unfortunately, after ten minutes of hideous rummaging through documents, I found nothing worth my attention. I looked around again, desperate, but then I suddenly remembered that the previous time, Greensboro’s copy of the contract didn’t actually come from his desk but from his secretary’s. So it was probably still there—in the secret room where the inspector avidly kept his peculiar office nymph.

I slowly turned my head to look at the door and then back at the desk, where the big, red button glowed alarmingly in the semi-darkness. The drawers were still open, and the mess inside was horrendous! It all looked like a stationary store after heavy bombardment with the full ammunition load of a B-52. There was simply no reasonable chance I would ever be able to put everything in order, even if I spent ten years there, arranging things. Everything in Greensboro’s life had its strictly reserved place, so his secretary was probably the only person who could accomplish such an ambitious task. On the other hand, if I left everything as it were and just pushed the button, and it turned out the inspector was banging his office beauty in her room, the situation would become even more embarrassing for me.

Despite the risk, since I really didn’t want to sneak out of there empty-handed, I hastily shoved all the documents inside and closed the drawers, making a detailed plan on how to distract the inspector’s attention from the disarray if such a need emerged. My plan relied mostly on performing magic tricks and various stunts, and when I was ready with it, I bravely pushed the red button.

I heard familiar humming, and the secret door cracked a bit. It made me shudder, anticipating something terrible to happen, like hell breaking loose and spilling over my poor head, but fortunately, everything was alright. Instead, the situation remained peaceful, and I thought delightedly, “What a wonderful surprise! I just can’t believe that, for once in my life, my luck worked!”

After that, I approached the door and recklessly pushed it open. The soft and gentle light from the only window in the premise fell on my face and allowed me to see the interior, which an industrious woman’s hand had taken care of, obviously. Everything in there was in pristine order! Compared to it, the inspector’s office now seemed to me like a pigsty. And besides, I happened to be totally right about the banging! Inspector Greensboro was really inside, screwing his secretary, who lay on the desk beneath him. Well, he wasn’t exactly screwing her, but her skirt was twisted around her waist, and her blouse was almost undone, with one of her breasts popping out of it.

They both slowly turned their heads to look at me, and since we were clearly in the middle of a situation where I didn’t belong, the expressions on their faces were rather enquiring. I stared at them too, and although I desperately wanted to say something reasonable to explain my unreasonable presence here, I couldn’t find anything in my stupid head. So I just closed the door quietly and walked back to the desk in the other room, embarrassed.

I sat in the visitor’s chair and patiently waited for Greensboro to come out and execute my death sentence. I thought he would rush inside, furious and sputtering; he would slap my face twice and call security; and they would throw me out his office window on the second floor, but nothing like that happened. Instead, I had to wait for a good three minutes, sweating, before he appeared in the doorway, perfectly good-looking—wearing a buttoned-up shirt, a tie, and a jacket as if he had just returned from an audience with the queen of Great Britain. He walked to me and sat on the edge of his oak desk—a gesture rather too casual for his style, which probably indicated he was mad at me. Then he tapped his immaculately manicured fingernails on the desk surface.

I kept waiting patiently without saying anything because I was determined to see where the wind would blow me before I talked. After a while, the inspector stood up and walked to the window to let some light into the room. He adjusted the blinds so that the entire opposite wall was covered with flecks of sunlight, and a couple of them fell even on Margaret Thatcher’s face and made it look like she had a piece of white duct tape on her upper lip. She reminded me of Hitler but with unruly hair.

“You look awful,” Greensboro remarked when he returned to me. This time he sat on his “throne” with his back straight and his hands palm down on the desk like a freshman in a religious boarding school.

“Well, no. I feel wonderful!” I answered. “Never been better, actually. I’m just returning from hell, and down here on Earth, it looks like paradise to me!”

As far as I knew the guy, he probably wouldn’t mention anything about my unforgivable intrusion into his personal life, so I played possum and spared my excuses. I was totally right; he didn’t say a word about it.

“Well, what brings you here so urgently?” he asked me instead.

“For now, it’s not too much. It’s only a blackmail case, two kidnaps, and four murders!” I grabbed my Santa Claus bag and started taking out presents in an arithmetic progression.

“Whew,” the inspector whistled, impressed. “I can see you haven’t wasted your time with petty thefts or B&E! Wouldn’t you want to throw in some bombing assault or national treason?”

“Of course, but I’ll keep these for now,” I grunted sullenly. “I intend to use them when the local police screw everything up, and I have no other choice but to turn to the federal authorities!”

He didn’t even bother to take offense at my words. Like everyone else in this country these days, he clearly thought he was doing his job just fine, and if something was wrong, the fault lay in the system. And since I was nobody, he didn’t even need to listen to my complaints!

“Okay, let’s take it easy then! Let’s start with the blackmail since there’s only one, you know.” The cop suggested, ignoring my fighting mood.

I shrugged and briefly filled him in on my latest discoveries in the case. Naturally, in order to make things more interesting and eye-catching, I represented Lara’s disappearance as a possible kidnapping too, and I also changed the crime scene and some other details when I described the bellhop’s murder. I just didn’t want to get involved and write statements right now. By the way, I only came as close as three murders—not four—but I was sure they would become at least four until Greensboro moved his ass to investigate them.

Just as I anticipated, the inspector wasn’t too impressed with my little and not very punctual report, although I couldn’t really tell for sure. He wasn’t the kind of person who would show any emotion, even if someone raped and killed his favorite grandmother and sent her severed head to his house with a Christmas card in her mouth!

“I knew you’d stick at nothing when you start mixing yourself up in things,” he assured me thoughtfully when I stopped talking. “And I also knew you wouldn’t bother yourself with insignificant and banal details like hard proofs!”

“Well, if you make the effort to look at what’s happening in Villa Nueva, you might find some yourself,” I snapped, annoyed. “What do you expect me to do in this damn situation? Cross a few cartridge belts on my chest and go for the entire Vietnamese army alone?”

“But you do realize I could not enter people’s houses without a search warrant or suspicion that a person is injured at this particular moment, right? And if I have no grounds to suspect that or even more—I don’t have reasonable proof it is happening—who’s going to convince the judge to issue a warrant for me? Is it you?”

“You can, at least, send two agents to snoop around the mansion, you know,” I replied grimly. “I’m pretty sure they’ll see some very interesting things there. And if you make them drop by the landfill, you might even fix yourself with a few corpses. I don’t think you’d need a warrant for that!”

“If I only had enough people to send them everywhere you go and search every place you visit!” Greensboro sighed wearily. “Besides, even if we find dead bodies in the landfill, how do you suggest we connect them to the DEA’s chief? I think you’re aware that I just cannot attach every murder in this country to Kurvallo! And also, even if I had a reason to believe something was wrong with the Drug Enforcement Administration, I’d have to send the materials to the Internal Affairs Bureau and not investigate myself. I’m just not allowed to!”

It was true, by the way. I knew these things perfectly, and I didn’t even cherish hope, for that matter. I just wanted to make some noise about it and provoke Kurvallo or Tanaka to take the wrong step. And if I managed to learn anything about Sonya in the process, so much the better!

Right at this moment, I heard some noise to my right, and the door to the secretary’s room quietly opened again. The mermaid with arms as slim and finely shaped as fancy French ballpoint pens and a figure resembling an old-fashioned typewriter came out of there. To my surprise, she carried a tray with two cups of tea and a sugar bowl, even though I hadn’t asked for anything like that, and I didn’t even like tea. She came to us and silently put one of the cups in front of her boss, and the other in front of me.

Interestingly enough, the mermaid didn’t look embarrassed by the awkward situation I caught her in a couple of minutes ago, and maybe that’s why—since I had already seen her boobs—she hadn’t bothered to button up her shirt all the way up. When she leaned over to put my cup on the desk, her shirt neck opened slightly, and it allowed me to see part of her right breast with the nipple. After that, the secretary shot a quick glance at me, and just for a moment, a tiny “speck of dust” got into her left eye—the one that Greensboro couldn’t see—and it made her blink.

Then she disappeared back into her secret cave.

“So what have we got here so far?” The inspector tried to sum it up after his beauty was gone. “It’s two murders in the drug affair you investigate and another one, which might be connected to it, right? Unfortunately, we have no bodies, which is kind of unpleasant, but whatever. Apart from that, we have a possible kidnapping of a girl named Sonya, and we also have another girl who is just missing, but we think she might be kidnapped too. The two victims are supposed to be held in the private residence of the DEA’s boss, but of course, we can’t be certain of that. At last, we got a blackmail attempt, although no one has made a formal complaint yet.”

I looked at him sourly without replying. As always, Inspector Greensboro’s “sharp and investigative” mind kept up with everything I was saying. The problem, however, was that he was totally right this time. I couldn’t blame him for his lack of enthusiasm because, all in all, I was just throwing presumptions at him with not enough evidence to support them.

“You’ll have to write a novel’s worth of statements if any of these crimes happen to be true. You know that, right? You’ll be a witness!” the inspector remarked thoughtfully after a few seconds.

I nodded apathetically.

“Of course. I’ll write whatever you want, but I’m afraid that while we waste time here with red tape, all the clues in Villa Nueva and Eternity will be gone, and with them, probably the girls will be too!”

“That is if there are any girls there held against their will!” He reminded me dryly. “The way I see it, you can’t be sure, actually!”

I didn’t reply again. I didn’t even know why I had come here in the first place. The guy really had no reason to ask for a warrant, and even if he had a reason, why would he stick his neck out and put his career at risk for a failed PI like myself and two redneck chicks from the Midwest? After all, the fucking DEA chief was involved here, not some stationmaster in a godforsaken prairie town!

As a matter of fact, I wasn’t mad at the inspector, and I could totally understand his reluctance to act; I even started to like him to a point. The man was civil, at least. He had every right to throw me out of here after everything I had done to him, especially after my impudent breaking into his office and poking my nose into his love affairs. In this train of thought, I would have probably crushed his skull with a blunt object if our roles were reversed!

“Okay, I’ll send a few officers here and there,” Greensboro unexpectedly agreed after the short pause that followed. “We’ll see what comes out of it. You shouldn’t hold your breath, though! If things are really what you’re saying they are, then there’s not much chance for an active investigation.”

“I won’t hold my breath. Don’t worry!” I promised dejectedly. “I’m famous for my pessimism all the way to China and back, and I’d rather expect to bear the brunt eventually.”

“And about Villa Nueva,” the inspector completely ignored my ironic attempt. “I’d suggest you stay away from this, at least for now. Okay? You can’t prove anything, and the only thing you’ll achieve is bringing yourself severe trouble. Believe me, this is well beyond you or me!”

I thanked him and stood up to go. Again, I felt like a movie character—lately, it was happening quite often! This time I was in the role of Batman, who fought alone against all the villains in the world and even the police. The only difference was that, unlike Batman, I didn’t give a damn about the fucking system—whether it was the most advanced democracy in the world or not, whether it needed change, or anything else. I was just neck-deep in shit and couldn’t give up anymore. So maybe I was more like the catcher in the rye—so desperate and lonely, and unable to understand the world I lived in.

I turned around and left the office, highly depressed. As I closed the door behind me, I suddenly heard a typewriter rattling in the secretary’s room, but the noise seemed rather weird—way too distinctive and rhythmical, almost resembling Morse code. I wondered whether it was supposed to mean something. Unfortunately, I had never learned telegraphy, so the mystery remained unresolved. I just had to contend with my sexual fantasies about it, which quickly faded away as I walked down the corridor.

On the ground floor, the weather hadn’t changed much. The heat was still as devastating as it was when I arrived here, and I was clearly going to experience the same temperature shock again—only that it would be the other way around now. When I looked outside through the glass door, I saw my Ford almost levitating, as if the hot air beneath it supported it and prevented it from touching the ground. Even the receptionist in the reception booth was so dazed that instead of wondering how I had passed by him unnoticed, he only gave me a military salute as if I were a doomed gladiator destined to meet his death in a mortal combat with the terrible Cyclopes.

I casually waved my hand at him and walked outside, stepping into hell again. I hopped into the car, but when I sat in the front seat, the hot leather burned holes in my pants, causing two huge blisters to emerge on my buttocks. It hurt terribly, but at least the blisters were going to make my journey a little bit easier from that point on and insulate me from the seat. I only had to keep my balance while bouncing up and down, and everything would be all right. I encountered a small problem while waiting at traffic lights because the fluid in the blisters would boil, but I hoped to solve my problem soon enough by sitting in a bucket full of ice cream when I reached the milk bar in my neighborhood.

Sadly enough, my plans turned out to be just pipe dreams. The establishment was closed. Its roller shutters were down, and there were no signs of life inside, which surprised me a lot because it always worked. It seemed weird indeed, but only until the moment when I noticed a large group of people right across the street.

I made a U-turn and cautiously approached the men to see what was going on, but when I pulled up at the curbside, my ragged brake pads whined so horribly that it looked like I was trying to stop a hundred-year-old locomotive at full speed. Everyone in the group immediately turned around to look at me, which meant half a dozen cops and two plain-clothes guys. They were all gathered around a dumpster, where a pair of legs stuck out sinisterly.

I shuddered involuntarily when I saw the officers and thought that, by some incredibly impossible chance, the bellhop from my hotel had somehow turned up here. I suddenly wanted to stomp on the gas and drive away—tires screeching and everything else—but it was too late. I had already attracted everybody’s attention in the stupidest way possible.

With a trembling body and heaviness in my stomach, I stepped out of the Ford, desperately trying to extract a few foreign words from my mind to pretend I was a lost European tourist. I had two problems: I couldn’t dig anything out, and I also couldn’t decide what sight I was looking for. This was clearly no fucking New York or San Fran, and there was nothing t see here but garbage cans and crime scenes, which, of course, weren’t worth seeing.

Very soon, I realized I was making things worse and acting guilty without having committed any crime. The legs just couldn’t belong to the dead bellhop. The guy inside the dumpster was barefoot, and his feet were so dirty that nobody would let him anywhere near a hotel. His shoes were thrown outside on the pavement, and I could safely bet they had survived both the First and Second World Wars because they had almost no toe boxes left. Besides, the stranger’s pants could hardly be called pants without an enormous amount of imagination, and I was sure the rest of his garments included a long brown leather coat with holes and an old, beaten tin basin.

Far more confident now, I took a few more steps and walked straight to one of the plain-clothes guys. He looked rather unappealing—pretty much like the grocer in your local grocery shop. He was short, baldheaded, with a round face, a round figure, and puffy, round hands with round knuckles. The man wore a cheap blue suit and was smiling somehow grotesquely against the background of the sticking legs behind him. He also had a very strange necklace around his neck made of decorative human mini-skeletons. The dude looked at me inquiringly when I approached him.

“What’s going on here?” I asked him rudely, as if I were the master of all the corpses in this city and had the right to know everything about them.

“Nothing. It’s just a bum,” the little man with the weird necklace answered. “Are you from Forensics?”

“No. I’m Inspector Mellrow from Bad Guys!” I barked and pompously looked around the scene.

He slowly examined me from head to toe.

“You don’t look too bad to me,” he announced after a while.

“My friendly appearance is deceptive,” I roared, trying to impress him. “But I have a vicious mind to compensate for that!”

At this exact moment, one of the unformed cops came to me, visibly annoyed, and he wanted to know who the fuck I was and what the hell I was doing there. The bastard was heavyset, with fists like cannon balls, so I hesitated whether it was worth pulling the same trick again.

“This is Inspector Mellrow from the Rat Squad.” My new friend with the necklace unexpectedly patted my back and explained to him. His colleague suddenly got confused and mumbled something to excuse himself, after which he quickly scrammed. He shot me a disdainful look before he left, though. Following that, I was good to go in my new official role as a bad guy, and I was free to keep poking my nose around, undisturbed.

After a while, the unappealing little man, who was obviously a forensic expert, authoritatively started giving orders to the uniformed cops, and they—reluctant as hell—pulled the corpse out of the dumpster. The entire time I was getting in their way while giving myself airs like a much-hated figure in the police hierarchy who never got tired of offering useless advice to others.

Eventually, the victim was sprawled on the hot pavement, and I was able to identify him with certainty. He was my old friend from the milk bar. Poor guy! I had the feeling his beard had grown twice as long compared to when I saw him the last time. And it was too long even then! Besides, his face and neck were smeared with something that looked pretty much like ice cream—a strawberry and blueberry one with walnuts and caramel, I suppose.

“How on earth did he die?” I exclaimed grimly, without addressing anyone in particular.

The short baldy, who had already kneeled down to the body and taken on the task of examining it, didn’t react at first.

“He was clearly beaten to death like that!” After a while, the expert snapped his fingers to illustrate his words. “There are horrible bruises all over his body and lots of internal hemorrhages. He also has a pretty severe skull fracture, which is the most probable reason for his death. And yet the rest of his skeleton looks quite good; I think I’ll keep it! These days it’s so rare to find corpses that no one claims, and this one here looks like it.”

I stared at him, shocked, and wondered what the hell he wanted to do with my old friend’s bones. Maybe he had an entire collection at home and lovingly rearranged them every Sunday, or maybe he had found a way to make them smaller, varnished them, and then used them to complete his necklace! Anyway, I didn’t really want to know.

“It’s still too early to determine the exact hour of death,” the weirdo kept explaining to me while he was still working, “because such awfully hot weather messes with the natural process of body cooling. If I judge by rigor mortis and lividity, though, I’d say he died between four and five hours ago.”

“And what’s your conclusion about the murderer’s profile?” I thoughtfully asked, even though I had no doubts about it. “I bet they killed him for a very stupid reason!”

“It’s too early for such a thing too,” the expert assured me confidently. “Until the chemical and microbiological examinations of the organs and tissues are made, we’re in the dark here. First, we have to determine the exact cause of death, and then we can search for the possible murderer or his motive. If there is any murderer, I mean!”

“But you just said the victim had a terribly severe skull fracture, didn’t you?” I looked at him, surprised.

The guy looked back at me condescendingly as if such an injury didn’t mean shit and the victim could have easily done this to himself by accident.

“What about the ice cream all over his face then? Doesn’t that mean he had a fight with someone in the area?” I cautiously suggested and turned my head to take a meaningful look at the nearby milk bar, just in case.

The man of authority in the field of death casually followed my eyes and then smirked.

“You guys in Internal Affairs are just killing me!” He smiled sarcastically after a moment. “You always assume everything is so easy, and the suspect is right under your nose. So, in this case, I guess you’d go to the coffee shop, line up all the right-handed men you find inside, check if anyone’s fingers have traces of ice cream on them, and boom! You’ve got yourself a murderer!”

“Why does the offender have to be right-handed?” I wanted to know, surprised, as I watched the guy cut the bum’s fingernails and put the pieces in a small baggie. At the same time, one of the cops drew a chalk outline around the dead body as if they had found it in this exact position.

“Well, it’s because of the fracture on his skull! It’s on the left side, which implies the murderer was right-handed,” the little man explained to me curtly.

“But what if the victim wore a helmet or something else that served a similar purpose?” I speculated, not entirely satisfied with his train of thought.

The expert stopped his work for a moment and looked at me, puzzled.

“If the victim wore a helmet, then such a victim would most probably survive and retaliate, which would have made the situation a little bit different from what it is now.”

“But if the perpetrator used an unconventional weapon, it would surely fight the presumption of his right-handedness, wouldn’t it?” I didn’t give up on complicating the murder puzzle further and further.

“What unconventional weapon? Like black magic?”

“No! More like a… small chair or something. In this case, the helmet would be enough to neutralize the blow, and there would be no skull fracture, but the victim might reel to the other side and hit his head on something else. It would make you wrong about the right-handed murderer, right?”

The forensic expert stared at me probingly.

“Was it actually you who killed this guy?” He suddenly pierced his small eyes into mine, trying to find the answer even without my help.

“Bullshit! Of course, I wasn’t!” I replied quickly to dispel his suspicions. “I’m just watching too many detective movies, is all!”

The man shook his head meaningfully as if a detective who watched detective movies sounded disgustingly perverse to him, and then he started arranging the clues he had gathered so far on the pavement beside the corpse.

I hung around a bit more, but since I clearly wasn’t going to help the investigation with my original ideas, I decided to walk away discreetly. The bum’s death wasn’t connected to my case anyway, and besides, I had already attracted too much attention to myself.

Before I left, though, I sneaked to the dumpster to see if the tin basin was still inside because I was afraid I had gone a little too far in reconstructing the crime scene and the forensic dude would put me on his list of suspects. It wasn’t there, but then, when I was just looking around, worried that someone might have noticed me, I froze, surprised and alarmed.

I saw a beat-up Chevrolet Impala—definitely older than my Ford—parked at the curb only ten yards from me with its engine running. I had no idea how long it had been there or why, but the more disturbing thing was what I noticed inside the car. I recognized my other old friends—the albino guys—talking to one of the cops who was smoking by the driver’s door. I was slightly behind their backs, so they couldn’t see me.

I shivered, uncertain of what to do. On the one hand, it was a rare opportunity for me to have a brief chat with the bastards at last and ask them what the hell they wanted from me, but on the other, I knew they would probably give me some bullshit and never tell me what they were really up to. I was just going to give myself away and make them more careful! I actually felt exactly like a bum who had found something very interesting in the trash, but it was too heavy to take it with him, although he didn’t want to leave it either. After a few seconds, the guys in the Chevy ended their conversation, the driver kicked the car into gear, and the vehicle peeled out surprisingly fast for a hopeless wreck like theirs.

It was only then that I finally recovered from my indecisiveness. I rushed toward my car, desperate to follow them, but I did it so recklessly that I tripped on the dead body and fell, almost embracing it. I drove my right knee into the corpse’s chest while my left elbow jabbed into his throat in a seeming attempt to kill him again. All the cops goggled their eyes, flabbergasted, as they watched a supposed police inspector—in whose role I still was—destroying evidence and covering up the tracks of the murderer by causing further damage to his victim. I was really lucky that the forensic master had gone somewhere at this moment, because if he hadn’t, he would have surely had a heart attack! After I pulled myself together, I nervously jumped to my feet and ran toward my car, quickly hopping inside.

Unfortunately, it was too late. The albino guys had already gotten too far, turning around the corner a couple of blocks ahead of me. Their clunker effectively demonstrated to me that either we lived in a mirrored universe where older cars were actually faster and more agile than the new, or the physical laws of our universe simply had a day off. My Ford just looked at me, surprised and upset. After so many impossible races during the past few weeks, with so many monsters like Porsche or Ferrari, now was the time for my beauty to shine, but alas! The street ahead was completely empty and boring now.

Since I had nothing else to do here, I slowly drove the car toward my place, but we were both in a very bad mood. During the entire ride, the Ford huffed and complained every time I pressed the gas pedal or the brake, and its almost tireless, round wheels rattled on the asphalt just as if they were tireless and triangular. In such an oppressive atmosphere, we reached my apartment building exactly one minute and thirty-two seconds later, and up there, my relentless radiator met me, promising me an even more oppressive afternoon and a horrible and suffocating night after that.


©2022 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!
(www.stfargo.com)

 
 
 

Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 22 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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