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The next morning, the ubiquitous chaos that rained over Murphy’s home greeted me in full force. There was not a single thing in its usual place! The clutter had reached such a critical level that I found my safety razor and toothbrush on the TV set and my toothpaste and shaving brush on the couch. Because of the coffee they had absorbed, my magazines in the kitchen corner were entirely consumed by mold now, and the bag of garbage under the sink, which I regularly forgot to take out, stank awfully.

Since I had already discovered my shaving tools, I stopped my explorations and sat on the couch for a moment to have a short rest. Then I grabbed the remote. I secretly hoped my cable company had grown tired of punishing me for not paying them and turned on my television, but I was wrong. They obviously weren’t tired enough yet. It was good that my telephone still worked, though. The device suddenly rang—probably for the last time before my telephone company cut me off too—and I stood up to answer it.

“How are you, sweetheart?” A soft woman’s voice asked me from the other end of the line. Sandra was the only one who called me that.

“I’m peachy!” I replied cheerfully. “I’ve been so busy lately that I feel like my life’s slipping by. I didn’t have time to call you, you know!”

“Really? I thought it was the opposite.”

“Opposite how?” I was surprised that she knew my schedule so well.

“I got the impression you were trembling with excitement about me.”

“Well, I’m a pretty tough guy; you know me! Sometimes I tremble just to burn the excessive testosterone I have.” I started fooling around.

Sandra remained silent for a while, trying to decide whether my stupid attempt to say something funny was worth answering, but eventually, she approved of it and quickly went on, “But it’s such a shame to waste your product for no purpose! I’d be very delighted to sweeten my cake with it, you know. And if you have some extra cream, I might even scream!”

“In fact, I always have something on the side!” I mumbled, suddenly confused because my little arachnid had never been into vulgar allegories so far. I obviously had a superpower to pervert women, which I was unaware of! “Although, the secret’s not about the cream itself but about the way I’m serving it. I’d like to think I’m so good at it that turning it into a trick might be a very good idea, just like Bambo did with the bowler hat.”

“Bambo? And who’s that?”

“It’s Bambo from ‘Bimbo, Bambo, and the Bowler’! Remember the circus act?”

“You like circus performances?” Sandra asked, intrigued.

“Yes, I love it,” I grunted, uncertain because I already had increasing doubts about whether I really talked to the right person.

“In this case, you can take me to see one sometime,” the woman on the other end, whoever she was, replied. By the way, I was starting to guess already.

“Yeah, I might do that,” I answered evasively. “But you should promise Greensboro will never know about it! I suspect I’m too much for him lately.”

“Don’t worry; he doesn’t need to know! But you know what I think? Wouldn’t it be better if we met for a drink first? I mean, why jump straight into the circus ring?”

“Of course!” I surprised myself by agreeing without thinking. “What do you say about tonight at eight, huh? I can take you from—”

“32A Saratoga Avenue,” the inspector’s office beauty readily gave me her address. “Push the buzzer for Jill DeLuca.”

“Okay, sweetheart!”


“And one last question. Can I?” I asked.

“Of course. Shoot it!”

“How did you get my phone number?”

The woman giggled soundly and hung up on me. It was a stupid question, really! It was her job.

I hung up too and worriedly looked around, now really desperate. All of a sudden, I had so many urgent things to do if I wanted to receive guests tonight that I had to put myself into turbo mode right away. I quickly made a list in my mind, and after a brief calculation of the available time, I was dumbfounded. There was simply no chance to check everything off, even if I lived on Mercury and had its exotically long days at my disposal!

Despite that, I enthusiastically embarked on the task of bringing order to my house—at least to some extent—but since the avalanche of chores continued to grow exponentially, it eventually overwhelmed me. At some point, very tired, I opened the fridge, which obviously didn’t work because the only bottle of beer in it was insanely warm, and I grabbed it. I took it to the couch and nervously slumped on it, trying to calm myself down. Very soon, I realized it wouldn’t happen and turned on the TV to help me relax. Of course, there was no chance to watch Tom and Jerry or anything else for that matter, but at least I could stare at the static noise until I got totally bored and forgot about my to-do list. Then, after experiencing so many intense and contradictory emotions for such a short time, I put the remote away, stood up, got dressed, and left my apartment, climbing down the stairs. On the ground floor, I opened the door and stuck my head outside.

Fortunately, the heat wasn’t unbearable yet. It was still hot, but not as much as the previous day. When I remembered the terror I had experienced, I shuddered involuntarily and wondered if Earth and Venus had actually swapped their orbits without anyone noticing. The unbroken period of devastatingly hot weather had lasted so long now that if it continued only a week more, it was going to be the last week of my life!

I cautiously stepped outside, and to avoid unnecessary risks, I sprinted to my car as fast as I could. Then I quickly hopped into it before receiving heavy burns or other injuries, after which I drove down the street on my way to Cacadulu. I had approximately eight hours until my date with Jill DeLuca, and in the meantime, I wanted to see if Lara had appeared in our hotel room. I was really, really worried about her and afraid she was conducting a parallel investigation of her own, which might get her into serious trouble. I had no idea why she would do that—it seemed weird because she had already hired me to do it for her—and she had behaved so strangely lately that her actions totally undermined my efforts in this regard. I even wondered why I was still working on her case.

Apart from the terrible weather and the fear that my assistant was missing permanently now, the unfortunate death of the bum also shook me up. His murder wasn’t such a big mystery, actually, because he had so little in life, and the little he had was so worthless that the list of suspects wasn’t too long. Except for Cleopatra, I couldn’t think of many other people who might want him dead. On the other hand, though, maybe I was wrong. The guy probably had friends in the improvised slum under the highway, and some of them might have been envious of his “valuable” possessions—like the radio-frequency shield, for example, or the drug treats he used to pick up at the port. There was also a third option—the aliens! Their screenwriters might have decided to end his role in our movie production because he tried to educate people on shielding themselves from their poisonous whispering. In any case, as the little man with the weird necklace of tiny skeletons put it, nothing could be left out of the equation until chemical and microbiological examinations were done.

About forty-five minutes later, still caught up in my dark thoughts, I reached Cacadulu and stopped the Ford outside the parking lot. Sandra’s Porsche was nowhere in sight, and when I stepped out of my car and walked into the hotel, I didn’t find its owner behind the reception desk either.

I moved on and headed toward the stairs and the elevator. The door of the later was wide open, and the bellhop—quite understandably—was missing inside. Instead, a note was attached to the cabin’s back wall, reading “Self-service!” I didn’t follow the instructions and turned to the left to take the stairs because I didn’t want to think about the guy all the way up while riding his “vehicle”. When I reached the fifth floor, I turned to the right and walked to our room, standing for a few moments in front of the door, listening. Then I quietly pushed it open and entered.

Thank God, I didn’t find Lara inside, sprawled dead on the floor! There were no signs that she had been in the place after my last visit, and the terrible splotch our elevator buddy had left in this world before heading for the next was still there—abhorrent and sickening. Even if the sugar had attracted some roaches at the beginning, they obviously left the feast before they poisoned themselves!

I turned on the lights and approached the mess to get a better look. In the bright light, the situation didn’t actually seem so terrible. Apart from the toothpaste and the sugar, Lara had also used something green and sticky, and the mixture, although disgusting, definitely didn’t look like blood now. The cleaning lady would probably swear for two days in a row when she saw it, but she would eventually clean it without suspecting anything.

I turned around and started gathering our stuff. It was an easy task because there wasn’t much to collect anyway, except for a pile of dirty clothes and a stash of grass. I emptied the bathroom cabinet too. After diligently cleaning every clue that led to us, I rubbed the green splotch with a towel until it turned into something you would expect to see in an abandoned pigsty, and then—totally satisfied by the result—I stomped on it a couple of times until even the term “pigsty” became inapplicable to it. Finally, I put our stuff in a black plastic bag, save for a few personal belongings of Lara, and took everything onto the balcony.

I cautiously looked over the railing. Since there was no one on the street, I furtively dropped the bag with the hypocrisy of a slutty Renaissance bride trying to get rid of her dangerously clean bed sheet after the night of consummation, and it fell into one of the dumpsters. Then I quickly stepped back inside, wrote a meaningful note to my assistant so that she would be the only one who could understand it, put it on the nightstand, grabbed the remaining of her stuff, and left the room.

On my way back, I decided to stop by the bar too. I didn’t mean to stay there because I had to be fresh tonight and only wanted to say “hello” to my friend. Until I reached the place, though, I considered having a quick drink after all. And it was interesting how I always swore it would be a quick or small one—as if I needed to justify myself—but I always ended up with a couple of them!

Anyway, this time there was no need to give myself a hard time abstaining from alcohol because the bar turned out to be empty of people. However, I saw a ton of olives scattered all over the floor, among which broken glass glittered. The situation surprised me and even worried me a bit, but I decided not to look for the shooting master and bother him with my stupid questions. Instead, I silently sneaked back outside because it was clear enough that my friend had gotten too far with counting.

I swiftly left the hotel to get to my car and then drove back to my place, spending the rest of my day doing laundry. I did two cycles, and since my tumble dryer was broken, I had to hang my threads on the balcony railing like a Sicilian housewife from the last century. I thought I would need to turn them over every half an hour if I wanted to wear something clean tonight, but, of course, all my worries were in vain because I practically lived in hell. The weather was so hot that my clothes were dry after just a few minutes, and I had to take them back inside because they would catch fire and burn.

Eventually, two hours before sunset, I was ready to head out on my date. I felt slightly nervous about it, but I was also thrilled. I dressed up, walked down to hail a cab, and slumped in the back seat, promising myself to take it easy that night. I deserved at least a few hours of rest from my stupid case! I gave the guy Jill’s address and informed him where we would go next—I considered a visit to Midnight Ride—and then leaned back in the seat, resting.

My cab driver turned out to be a Punjabi, as he proudly informed me when we set off, and he wore such a huge turban decorated with a fake diamond and a peacock feather that I could barely see the front windshield behind it. The man stomped on the gas right away and hurled the car forward, but strangely enough, he kept shaking his head inexplicably the entire time as he drove. And he also never stopped talking! I found the combination of the two very disturbing because he didn’t seem to pay enough attention to his job, and his turban jigged so wildly that at some point, I feared—quite reasonably, I think—it would jump off his head and settle on mine.

The South Asian persisted with his weird ritual all the way to Jill’s apartment and lengthily explained to me that he wasn’t a member of the cab drivers union, and therefore had no intention to observe their price list. He assured me that these bastards were as shameless and dishonorable as the Anjuvannans in the Malabar Coast and that he filled his tank at the only gas station in America where the price wasn’t pumped up. The place was owned by one of his cousins, who bought his product from his other cousin, who, in turn, smuggled it from Trinidad with his third cousin’s boat. He also added that he would take me to Chandrapur, Maharashtra, for only a dollar if I wanted him to.

About half an hour later, he sharply pulled up at the curb on 32A Saratoga Avenue and said it was nine bucks so far. He reminded me too much of another Asian who sold the truest and tastiest hotdog ever, and that was probably why I tried to be careful with him. If you listened to these guys and took their words at face value, you could easily get the impression that their only mission in this world was to destroy the market economy and make people happy. Interestingly enough, their deeds proved the opposite, though!

I told the Punjabi to wait for a second and stepped out of the car, and he reached his massive hand to punch the meter to wait time, after which he started shaking his turban again. I went out to push the buzzer for Jill DeLuca, and it turned out my lady was already waiting for me, her voice chirruping that she would be down in a minute. I said, “Okay!” and stood by the door to hold it for her like a true gentleman. Besides, I didn’t want to go back to the cab because, out of my experience, I knew South Asians were quite touchy, and they had the habit of blowing a gasket for no reason at all. After all, I didn’t want to make Jill walk all the way to Midnight Ride.

Not long after that, my date appeared in the doorway, and I gasped when I saw her. She wore a high-slit black dress with an ultra-deep V-neck going down to under her belly button on the front, and on the back, it was half an inch from revealing her butt. Naturally, such a thing wouldn’t allow her to wear underwear, so she had none. Her hairstyle was very impressive, and her makeup was really nice, but combined with a dress like this, they looked almost trivial. Even if she walked out of her place with a cucumber mask applied to her face and an Angora rabbit wig on her head, I doubt anyone would have actually noticed! In this regard, I seriously started worrying about my choice of venue for the night. Maybe I should have taken her to a fancy casino restaurant instead, across the ocean—say, in Monte Carlo or something.

When I opened the cab door for her, she hopped inside, giving me clear visual proof of her nakedness under the dress. Then I followed her in the back seat. I informed the Anjuvannan hater again where we were going, and he accelerated the car so sharply that my date and I nearly splashed over the back window. I had the feeling the bastard thought a whole gang of fighters from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was chasing him!

We had just slipped back down to the seat, and I was wondering how to start a conversation when Jill suddenly launched herself at me without further ado. Usually, when people meet for the first time, there is an awkward silence between them, lots of clumsy gestures, and even exaggerated courtesies, but my date decided to skip these unnecessary conventions. Instead, she started casting lustful glances at me, thrusting herself into my lap at every turn, rubbing her hip into mine, and she didn’t miss her chance to press her right breast against my left elbow every now and then. On top of that, very soon she initiated a series of panting, puffing, and blowing sounds as if we were stuck in a terribly overheated sauna and she couldn’t breathe. Eventually, her moaning distracted our Punjabi driver completely and turned him on so badly that he stopped looking ahead altogether and nearly scooched back to sit with us.

About twenty-five minutes later, we reached our destination, and he had to stop the car. He totally forgot to ask for his money, though, and he only stared in the rearview mirror, hypnotized and unable to move or speak. To distract him for a moment and give Jill a chance to survive, I pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of my wallet and shoved it into his hands, after which I pushed my date outside. Then I stepped out too, and we hurried to the bar, where I finally sighed, relieved.

By the way, Midnight Ride hadn’t changed much from what I remembered when Lara and I visited it more than a week ago. After hanging around Cacadulu and Eternity for so long, I had forgotten how refreshingly weird the place was. It was already crowded, and in the main hall, a bunch of hookers attacked us right away, pulling me in different directions. They tried to persuade me to a threesome, foursome, gangbang, anal, dominance, bukkake, and all the other configurations and sexual deviations that came to mind, even though I already had company. I was rather annoyed by their nagging and roughly pushed them away because they obviously wouldn’t give up. I thought my brutal gesture would alienate my girl, but that wasn’t the case—she was actually very impressed by my approach.

“You’re so tough!” She cried in my ear, expressing her high opinion of me, when we finally walked away from them. “Your species is going extinct these days!”

“Well, it means you’re lucky!” I kind of got carried away, building on my style with the hookers. “I may let the tyrannosaur out of the cage then. Watch your panties!”

Any other woman in this situation would have just stared weirdly at me after such a brainless declaration of masculinity at the beginning of our date, but not Greensboro’s secretary! Instead, she lovingly rubbed her hip into mine as if she were a farmer girl from the Dakotas, and the Marlboro Man had just arrived in her town to shoot another commercial, and he agreed to take a picture with her. Her stupid veneration encouraged me further, and I took the liberty to put my arm around the waist of one of the waitresses who was idling at the counter. She had her back turned to us, and I only wanted to attract her attention and order some drinks, but the girl totally misunderstood my intentions and sharply turned around, winking at me naughtily. Then suddenly, she pulled at the base of her tank top, and its square neckline slid down, revealing the upper part of her blessings. Her right nipple promptly used the chance to slip out of prison and pop up over the edge. By the way, the chick had a really gorgeous pair of boobs; they were like Hoover Dams of breasts! I smiled awkwardly and decided to walk away and bother the bartender instead because it felt wrong to disturb such an overqualified waitress with my stupid order.

Well, I walked away, but Jill actually didn’t. She lingered behind, and when I turned around to urge her to come with me, she unexpectedly reached out and pinched the girl’s nipple, pulling it slightly until it slipped off her fingers. The shocked victim goggled her eyes in disbelief and sharply pulled the neckline back up to hide her boobs. Then she turned around and quickly moved away, offended. I promptly grabbed the hooligan by the elbow and hauled her toward the other end of the counter, embarrassed.

“Why did you do that?” I asked her, astonished, as we walked.

“I thought it was what people normally did here,” she explained to me without shame. “I did it out of politeness.”

I didn’t say anything else, but I secretly promised myself to keep an eye on her for future acts of this sort because she obviously tended to behave weirdly sometimes. Then I found two vacant stools and signaled the bartender to come around. Unlike the zombie I remembered from my previous visit, this guy was almost as quick and devastating as a spring tornado. He ran over to us but tripped and knocked over a box of beer cans and a crate of lime fruits. He never bothered to clean up the mess, though, and instead asked us what we wanted to have. I ordered a vodka soda for myself, and Jill settled on some sweet bullshit containing Curacao. I had never been into such drinks, but since the cocktail had a very exotic name—Caracas Nights—I decided to try one as an aperitif for my vodka.

The bar virtuoso enthusiastically approved our choice and launched himself on the shelf behind his back. I saw him doing three somersaults, four pirouettes, and five Wushu poses, after which he threw a few bottles at himself, let a couple of glasses chase them, broke half of the glassware in the process, and soon two cocktails and a vodka soda appeared on the counter. Right after that, the acrobat took a mutated banana that was bigger than an English cucumber, cut the tips off with a mini-machete like a skillful coconut harvester, chopped up a slice into each cocktail glass like a master samurai, set the drinks on fire like a devoted pyromaniac, extinguished them feverishly like a broken fireman who was saving the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from the flames, and finally pushed the glasses to us, showing us that all his fingers were still intact. We gasped with amazement, grabbed our drinks, said “cheers” to each other, and drank. I actually gulped down my Caracas all at once. Then I coughed loudly.

Oh, my gosh! Such a disgusting thing I had never tasted in my entire life. The liquid slipped down my throat and drove every last bubble of air out of my system, just like copper alloy in a mold cavity. I was sure I would never be able to burp again, and it felt like my head was attached to the shoulders of a lifeless bronze statue in the park.

Since I couldn’t breathe and was afraid I would suffocate and faint, I grabbed a forgotten lime that rolled around the counter and chewed half of it off as it was, spitting seeds and pieces of peel all around me. I was only an inch away from making a full inventory of my stomach contents, as I used to do in my shameful past. Fortunately, the juice did its job well enough, and the emerging chain reaction was soon stopped.

“Well, how do you like it here?” I asked Jill after a while, still coughing.

She looked around with greedy eyes like a crusader’s wife who had accidentally found herself in a harbor pub without her chastity belt, and then licked her lips and turned her eyes back at me. I was almost sure the only places Greensboro had taken her were the opera house and the ballet theater.

“It’s so wild! I like it very much!” she cried, trying to overcome the increasing racket. “Do you come here often?”

“I sometimes sleep here!” I cried back, taking on the enthusiasm of the crowd around us. “I even puked into a stripper’s pants once!”

Right after making this incredibly stupid confession, I stopped talking, embarrassed. It was completely unnecessary to share such a shameful memory with her, and I wondered what was wrong with me. I suspected it all had something to do with Lara’s poisonous influence on me, but she wasn’t here now, so I had no excuse. In an attempt to cover my stupid blunder with a casual gesture, I grabbed my glass and tried to drink, but it was already too late for damage control.

“Was it you?” I suddenly heard someone asking me, which interrupted my drinking.

I shuddered unpleasantly because I thought it was the disgraced stripper—the victim of my unfortunate mistake—who said that. It was going to be a monumentally awkward situation if it was true. Fortunately, it was only the bartender. He still idled around, looking at me like I were a Broadway star who had knocked back a couple of drinks and decided to tell people a few spicy stories from New York’s high life.

“Well, it happened accidentally. I didn’t actually mean it!” I mumbled, ashamed as if anyone could possibly mean such a thing. I was also afraid that the bastard might jump into intimate details and reveal that it wasn’t the poor girl’s pants where I actually puked but her vagina.

“Are you kidding me? You’re a celebrity here; everybody knows you!” My new friend promptly smashed my hope for discretion to smithereens. “Every guy who works at Midnight tells the story about Sessile and what you did to her to the rookies that come after him!”

“Is Sessile… still here?” I looked around nervously, now seriously worried about the situation.

“No. She moved to Eternity to work as a restroom attendant because, after the incident, people started calling her Dirty Vag, and she couldn’t take it.”

I literally wanted to dig a hole for myself after hearing this. I felt so bad that I thought, devastated, “Poor girl! That’s what excessive drinking of Johnnie Walker does to people and their unfortunate victims!” Then I anxiously turned my eyes to Jill to see how she felt about it. Needless to say, she wasn’t shocked at all, which confirmed my old belief that a man could never wrap his head around women. They were creatures from another planet!

“So what happened to the guy who worked here before you?” I quickly asked the bartender, attempting to change the subject away from Dirty Vag before it was too late. “I mean, he seemed to like his job pretty much. Did he leave?”

“No, he died!” My admirer informed me in a tone that was too casual. “He was so big on inventing new drinks that it was just inevitable he would screw up in the end. And he screwed up big time!”

“What do you mean, big time?” I wanted to know.

“His last cocktail was supposed to be an enormous hit,” the man explained. “At least he believed so. He ordered the ingredients from Burma, which were the excrements of rare tropical maggots containing an enzyme to make people totally relaxed and easygoing. Unfortunately, though, the guy who was selling the shit turned out to be a Vietnamese swindler, and he pawned off a bad batch. Now I don’t know exactly what happened, but there must have been living larvae left in the bottle because one evening, as our friend stood at the counter, he just fell on the floor, and his body burst open, letting thousands of worms crawl out. It was a really disgusting thing to see, but at least his cocktail was still in development, and he experimented on himself, so none of the clients were harmed!”

I choked and coughed when he finished his little story because I had never heard something so horrible. I thought these things were only in the movies! Then I grabbed my drink and took a very large gulp to disinfect my bowels—just in case—and I secretly checked for escaped maggots lurking under the countertop and waiting for a chance to kill me in a very gruesome way. Fortunately, I found none, and I relaxed.

“Well, the dude was a screwball. There’s no doubt about it,” I said after a while, remembering that the guy wanted to make a cocktail with roaches for me when I was here with Lara. I was happy now that I had refused. “But curiosity killed the cat, didn’t it?”

“Oh, no. Absolutely not! It wasn’t a curiosity. He actually invented that drink to help Dirty Vag forget her trauma!” The bartender unexpectedly returned to the subject I wanted to forget so desperately. “She was so fucked up that at some point, she couldn’t bear being near men anymore, and that was definitely a problem for a stripper, as you’d expect!”

I looked at him, very frustrated now. I frowned and decided I had enough of his stories already, swearing I wouldn’t talk to the guy for the rest of the night, even if he were the only man in a hundred-mile radius. However, when I turned to Jill, I saw she was still impressed with me as if I were some kind of superhero—an Assman or Superass, maybe!

I thought about Greensboro’s secretary. She was sipping her cocktail and looking around with the curiosity of a child. It was very clear that the inspector had kept this weird chick on a short leash, and now she discovered for the first time in her life that there was a whole world outside, which was also excitingly dirty. On the other hand, seeing what kind of things impressed her, I started to suspect there was nothing more in her head than what you would normally find in a hard-boiled egg! She was actually pretty dumb if I was honest.

After a while, Jill suddenly stood up, grabbing my hand and trying to pull me onto the dance floor. I obeyed reluctantly, but I promised myself this time I would lead. When we found an empty space, I stopped for a second, stretched myself, straightened my shirt, spread my arms aside, and prepared for a passionate tango. Unfortunately, that was all I could do. Right at this moment, the DJ unexpectedly decided it was time to harden the mood and switched to heavy metal music without any warning whatsoever, which reminded me of the previous dance I had on this very dance floor. Everybody around me instantly got wild, and I remained the only person standing in the crowd like a crazy prophet who wanted to embrace the world and wrap it in his endless love. The Jesus statue in Rio was nothing compared to me!

And just then, since it took me way too long to retract my arms, the inevitable happened. An overheated fan appeared out of nowhere, recklessly jumping and headbanging, and he accidentally walloped his forehead against my left fist. Due to the heavy impact, his head shook like a church bell and bounced back, his legs entangled like well-done spaghetti, his body reeled to the right, and he finally collapsed on the floor, seemingly unconscious.

“Oh, God! I’m so sorry!” I mumbled worriedly and squatted down to see if he was okay.

“Fuck it! I don’t care!” I heard someone shout, and I looked up. It was another “dancer” who thought I was talking to him. He jumped around wildly and wielded an imaginary sword like a true Highlander.

I watched him for a few seconds, startled, and after the injured guy at my feet showed signs of life, I stood up and searched for Jill in the crowd. Unfortunately, she had already sunk deep into it at the far end of the dance floor. I could see her head bopping up and down among a sea of overzealous metal fans who obviously thought the end of the world was coming, and since I felt pretty awkward here, I decided to return to our seats and put an end to my dancing career for good. Obviously, these things weren’t for me.

“Oh, man, you really rock! How do you do it?” My new bartender friend cried excitedly when I sat on my stool. “Every time I see you, you do something so cool!”

I smiled politely but didn’t answer because I wanted to be true to my promise and not talk to him. Despite that, as a joke, I scribbled a quick autograph for him on a paper napkin, and he thanked me with half a bottle of Absolut for free. Then he moved away to serve other clients. About ten minutes later, when I had already started using his gift, my lady ran back to me, breathless and butt-naked.

“Where did you disappear?” she asked me, all sweat. Her cheeks were blushing red.

I looked at her, bewildered. While in the melee, someone had ripped apart the ultra-deep neck of her dress on the back, and now the garment had sagged, revealing half of her bare ass. She didn’t seem to care too much, though. A cocktail glass of Caracas Nights had obviously provided enough fuel for her not to worry.

“I just remembered that someone had to watch our seats,” I replied, making her turn around so I could help her. I clipped the edges of her dress together using a champagne stopper wrapped in a wire cage, which I found lost on the counter. While I was working, she kept squirming in my arms and made sure I groped her entire body, leaving no part of it untouched. Eventually, despite her sabotaging efforts, I managed to do the job, and I should say the stopper actually made a pretty decent brooch. My date turned her head back to look at it, and she was ecstatic when she saw the result of my work.

“Where did you learn to do this?” she asked me, walking on air with joy like a female bowerbird seeing a colorful cocktail straw in the nest her partner had built for her.

“One learns a lot of things in Nam!” I pompously smiled, although my only contact with this country was a very boring documentary about the monsoon season in South Asia, which I saw almost a thousand years ago.

“You fought in Vietnam?” Jill was astonished.

“It’s a long story,” I grunted, reluctant to say more as if I were Captain Willard and I had killed a battalion of Kurtz’s copies, but I just didn’t want to brag about it.

This last piece of information literally swept my date off her feet. She clearly hadn’t seen a more interesting person than me in her entire life, and it wasn’t even such a hard thing to achieve—it only took me watching a single television program! Nevertheless, I prudently decided to change the subject because I was afraid she might want to learn more details about my heroic past, and then I would have to kill her to keep the secrets of the American government safe.

“You know what? I don’t really believe I’ve never sent any report to your boss.” After sipping my drink, I maneuvered to swerve the conversation toward a more useful subject. I tried to sound as casual as possible, but it didn’t come out like that. “Are you sure it’s not lost somewhere in the red tape?”

She smiled flirtatiously, leaning toward me, putting her hands on my knees, and looking me in the eyes. By the way, when she kept her mouth shut, she seemed pretty cute.

“Do we have to talk business right now?” Her lips sulked as her hands slowly moved up and down my thighs.

“No, of course not, but this forfeit of five grand bugs me quite a lot, you know. If I could turn it into an eight-grand bounty, I would be much happier!”

“Well, I don’t think you’ve sent anything.” Jill let go of me and returned to her cocktail. “But I have no way to be sure. It’s not exactly my job to know.”

I looked at her, puzzled. It seemed strange for her to say it because I thought that was exactly what her job was, but who knows, maybe I was wrong. Maybe her actual job in Greensboro’s office boiled down to just making tea and giving late-afternoon blowjobs under her boss’s desk!

“Anyway, I don’t even understand why you took this complicated case in the first place! What did you expect to gain by poking your nose into the business of these big shots?” She asked me after a while, still annoyed by the sudden turn in our conversation.

I thought for a moment, wondering what to say. As a matter of fact, I had no idea what I expected to gain. I probably just wanted to make a few bucks to pay my apartment’s rent. In any case, I was going to gain absolutely nothing from this evening too, if I kept asking Jill questions like these.

“I’m not exactly sure why I did it,” I admitted dismally. “Is the triumph of justice a good enough reason?”

My companion smiled commiseratingly at hearing about my naïve dream. I couldn’t blame her for that; it was indeed a stupid thing to believe. It made me feel like a third grader who also believed that Indiana Jones won World War II for us by stealing the lost Ark.

“Where do you think you live?” Greensboro’s favorite secretary attempted to drive some common sense into my head and relieve me of my newly bloomed proletarian illusions. “This is America here! First, you’ll need to talk to the U.S. AG’s PR agent or the Secretary of State’s sister-in-law’s nephew, and then you could try changing anything in this country!”

“Why would I need to talk to any of them?” I was surprised.

“Because these two cute little boys are very, very close, that’s why! And when I say close, I mean more than the relationship between you and your pillow!”

“So?” I asked, still confused and embarrassed. I just couldn’t get her point, and I obviously needed extra help understanding the structure of our contemporary political system.

“Well, here’s the deal: back in the day, the Secretary of State’s sister-in-law was actually one of the bridesmaids at the Vice President’s sister’s wedding, who, in turn, is thought to have a secret affair with the President’s brother nowadays, who, in turn, is a longtime fishing buddy with the Attorney General. Now since the President is very eager to return to his acting career when his term is over, as everybody knows, and since the Secretary of State’s sister-in-law’s nephew is a very successful and well-connected Hollywood agent, it’s only natural that the President would be very fond of him. Right? But apart from having the attention of the President and being a nephew of the Secretary of State’s sister-in-law, this guy, as I said, also has a gay relationship with the United States Attorney General’s PR agent, and, of course, the PR agent has the attention of the AG himself. Besides, the PR agent is also a Latino dance buddy of the House speaker’s wife. You follow me? You should just do a quick math, and you’ll see how much power is concentrated in the hands of these two little motherfuckers!”

I looked at her thoughtfully and felt even more confused. Until now, I had absolutely no idea of these viciously close connections between the key figures in the U.S. administration, and although I had never believed we were the most advanced democracy in the world, I thought we were a democracy, at least! Actually, Jill and I talked about different things here, and she got me completely wrong when I mentioned the triumph of justice. I simply meant that I wanted to take my money for the case, and I cared very little about justice in the world, if not at all, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t find it necessary to explain myself.

Besides, after a while, when we touched on more abstract subjects, I realized it would be best to cut off the bullshit and start planning for the rest of the night because my office beauty and bowerbird showed clear signs that she was ready for me. Her eyes became sparkling and impatient, and her hands on my knees were restive. It was more than obvious that she had already approved of my love nest decoration!

I bought one final drink for my lady—just to ensure there would be no bumps on the road—and when she finished it, I said a few more flattering words to her, took her out, and threw her in the back seat of the first cab I saw on the street. Thank God, this time our driver was quite an ordinary American citizen—obese, narrow-minded, and boring—and after half an hour of nagging about a whole list of things that didn’t concern us, he dumped us in front of my apartment building, sulking like a spoiled child. I helped my turtledove get out of the car, slammed the backdoor as hard as I could, and saw the guy off without tipping him. He was so furious that the tires of his cab smoked as he revved the engine to peel out. With this, he probably wanted to express his bitter resentment of the cruel capitalist system, or maybe just of me, but this didn’t concern me either.

I grabbed my beauty and took her upstairs to my place, trying to suppress my concerns about the mess we would find there. My apartment looked worse than a barn in an abandoned village, and I feared she might be shocked. Fortunately, all my worries were in vain. Jill didn’t even bother to open her eyes and look around to see where she was.

As soon as we stepped inside, my little bowerbird turned into a furious grizzly bear that had starved for three years in a row. She immediately threw herself on me, and her first—still restrained—moans, I took as a positive sign. However, after a few minutes, when she lay naked on the bed and started squirming in my hands like a garden hose under pressure, and she howled like an elephant cow that had just lost her only calf, I really started to worry about her. I asked myself if I was actually doing something very bad to her! The jerky situation was so frustrating and confusing—at least to me—that at some point, I began having great trouble finding my way in. Once I thrust inside, once I missed, once inside, then I missed…

Eventually, Jill entangled herself in the bed sheets so badly from all the squirming that when she braced for the climax, she almost tied herself in a knot. I never knew if she really had an orgasm or just tore a hamstring! If it was the second thing, now Greensboro would have a really good reason to hate me, aside from the bunch of small ones he already had.

The weirdest thing, though, happened right after the act was over. I hadn’t even managed to leave the worksite officially when Jill DeLuca jumped off the bed and quickly ran to the bathroom, where she washed for probably thirty seconds at most. Then she returned to the bedroom and grabbed an old pajama from the wardrobe, although right next to it, I always kept a brand-new nighty, ready for occasions exactly like this one. After that, she put the thing on and buttoned it all the way up to her chin, as if it were a diving suit, and she would use it to visit the bottom of the Barents Sea. She hadn’t even come back to bed when she was already fast asleep!

I looked at her, surprised, and suddenly felt like the loneliest person in the world. She was the first woman I had seen in my life so far who hated cuddling after sex so badly that she barred and bolted all the doors in her house, including the yard gate, for fear that someone might want to caress her. I lay next to her for a while, but since I was bored, I eventually got up and went to the balcony for a cigarette.

About a quarter of an hour later, still feeling rejected by my Ice Queen, I returned inside and gladly rummaged through Lara’s stuff, hoping to revive the image of her rough but somehow warmer and more humane personality.

And that was how I actually found the picture.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 23 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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