Waiting Menu!
  • light
  • dark
  •  A + 
  •  A − 
  •  ¶ − 
  •  ¶ + 
  • clear
  • Rec. 
  • « Scr
Loading Content!

About fifteen minutes later, I pulled up in front of Cacadulu and wondered what to do for the rest of my day. It was still noon, but the weather was already so “lovely” and “stimulating” that I thought I should keep working on my shape. I thought I could slip into the hotel, take the stairs to the fifth floor, and check for Lara up in our former room, but since I was afraid I might bump into Sandra at the reception, I eventually gave up the idea and left the checking for later. Instead, I turned the car around to drive to Eternity, parked at the curb across the joint, and waited.

I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to achieve. I only knew I needed to change something in my routine because otherwise, my stupid case would stay open forever. I had nothing to lose anyway. In the worst-case scenario, I would waste my time, but time for wasting I had in abundance, so I took that risk. And in the meantime, if someone worth following stepped out of the club, I could decide whether to follow him or not.

The afternoon started lazily passing by without anything interesting happening. The street was totally empty, as if a neutron bomb had gone off and killed every living thing in a couple of miles radius. There wasn’t even half a pigeon pottering around the sidewalk! Besides, the temperature in my Ford kept rising steadily, and it was as hot as an oven in the cabin. At some point, I started breathing heavily, and the leather beneath my ass got so warm that I felt my butt cheeks sizzling like fried eggs, and I seriously worried that if they burned to it, I would have to take the entire seat with me if I wanted to get out.

Somewhere shortly after three p.m., the main gate leading to the yard finally opened, and a dingy white Dodge Diplomat crept out, turning to the right to go down the street. I waited a minute and started the engine of my car. I had no idea who I was shadowing. It could literally be anyone from the boss down to the toilet attendant, although I didn’t really believe the latter would be able to fill the tank of this gas annihilator on a daily basis. Anyway, since I was already on the verge of fainting from the heat and had nothing else to do, I made my peace by following whoever might be in the vehicle.

We kept slowly dragging ourselves down the street—unbearably slowly, in fact—for nearly an hour. In the end, the Dodge stopped shortly after the corner of Washington and Ninth, and the driver prepared to park curbside. He started maneuvering, but he did it in such a complicated manner that after watching him for five minutes, I asked myself if he actually knew how to drive. I had the feeling he wanted to paint the Mona Lisa’s portrait with the trace of his wheels on the asphalt! I turned my engine off, not far from him, and waited impatiently for what seemed like an eternity to me. I might have taken a short nap as well— there wasn’t much chance I would miss anything really important there!

At some point, after the guy managed to render even the famous Gioconda smile exactly as it was in the painting, the vehicle finally stopped moving. The driver’s door opened extravagantly slowly, and something long and very thin appeared out of the Dodge. It looked like a wooden leg, which stepped out on the curb and literally made my eyes bulge in surprise because the thought of dealing with a pirate hadn’t occurred to me. However, very soon, after some intense wriggling inside the car, the situation developed further, and the mystery cleared up.

First, an elbow followed the leg outside, and after that, an arm and a hand, and it turned out the hand was actually holding the leg. It was way too weird to see this, but only until I realized the wooden leg was no leg at all but just an ordinary crutch. After I grasped the reason for my terrible confusion, it was easy. Soon, the rest of the body parts crawled out too, and I recognized the entity—the guy was my dandruff-haired bouncer friend, whose thighs I had shot a couple of days ago. He had his jacket on, but I noticed the bulge of a holster under his left armpit. The man clumsily shut the front door, leaning on his stick, after which he painfully limped toward the nearby apartment building. It was an old five-story structure, some seven yards away from him and fifteen yards from me.

I quietly sneaked out of my car, leaving the door ajar, and hurried down the sidewalk to pick up an advertisement brochure from the previous building’s doorsteps. Then I quickened my pace. In the meantime, the mate gained some distance on me, but he didn’t have much chance to escape or notice I was following him because he was too busy watching his steps. He kept his right leg folded at the knee and used the crutch and his left leg to walk—the one that I shot through the volume of sadomasochistic illustrations. It obviously provided quite decent protection, which couldn’t be said for the pack of powdered sugar. Although the latter was an efficient silencer, it clearly didn’t do as good a job as a bulletproof vest!

The blond-haired thug slowly dragged himself to the entrance and opened the door with difficulty. Then he stepped inside, letting it swing back, and when I saw I was going to lose him after all, I quickly ran to slip the brochure between the doorway and the lock. I managed to do it at the last second, and it prevented the clicking from happening. Then I listened tensely outside the door.

I heard a lot of puffing and panting on the other side and also an elevator rumbling, which soon stopped and started again. I waited ten more seconds and cautiously pushed the door open, then quickly ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time, stopping at every major staircase landing to listen to the rumbling, and running up again. Luckily, I had to repeat this sequence only twice. On the third floor, the elevator suddenly halted, and the door started opening. The machine was an old model with a cage.

I stood behind the corner until the man came out and limped to his apartment—I needed time to take a breath anyway—and when he lingered for a while to take out his key, I drew out my Colt and slipped noiselessly behind his back. Then I thrust the muzzle of my gun at his right kidney and whispered in his ear, “Last time we didn’t make a proper acquaintance, my friend! What’s your fucking name?”

The guy turned his head to me, surprised, but he had no chance to react because his right hand was busy holding the crutch and he couldn’t reach for the shoulder holster under his left armpit. When the bastard recognized me a moment later, his face literally turned green.

“Boris,” he answered in a choked voice.

“Boris who?” I insisted.

“Boris Halfenaked.”

I really had to make a serious effort not to burst into laughter when I heard him say it. I promised myself to write that down in my notebook of people with crazy names, and then I roughly pushed Mr. Halfenaked into his messy little den. He didn’t resist at all. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t resist because he had to clutch onto his crutch to keep his balance. I waited for him until he crossed the small hallway leading to the living room, and then I stepped in too, cautiously looking around.

His place turned out to be ridiculously small, and it could hardly be called living quarters at all. It looked like it was built with pieces from a Lego set. It was a single-space studio apartment with a tiny kitchenette in one of the corners, a folding bed in one of the others, a combined bathroom and toilet outside in the hallway, and nothing else. On one of the walls, I saw a poster of Elvis, which was almost full size. On it, the King was caught in his late years—with the enormous sideburns, the white aloha costume with an extravagant collar, and everything else. I also saw an acoustic guitar right next to it, and all the other walls were adorned with various ninja and karate stuff—a nunchuck, a tonfa, three shurikens, and a couple of knives. Among all of them, a pair of handcuffs hung.

By the window, I noticed another aspect of my friend’s soft side. It was a pretty tall and well-groomed Dracaena plant. There was also a spray bottle on the windowsill behind it—obviously, a tool to help keep the plant’s leaves healthy and good-looking—and a plastic container full of fertilizer with a soil scoop stuck in it. When I glanced at them, something suddenly moved near the pot and grabbed my attention. It was a white kitten hiding behind it, looking at me with its big eyes, frightened but also curious.

I turned my eyes back to Boris and nodded friendly toward the enormous poster behind me. “Are you a fan?” I asked.

He didn’t reply.

“What’s your favorite song?”

The guy stared at me, confused. Clearly, the conversation seemed too weird to him, and he felt insecure.

“Heartbreak Hotel,” he answered after a while.

“Tsk, it’s a cliché.” I clicked my tongue disapprovingly. After that, without losing sight of him, I went to unhook the handcuffs from the wall. I quickly stepped back toward him with the toy dangling from my left index finger and my other hand aiming the gun at him. Then I jerked the barrel up to show him the chandelier on the ceiling. It was huge and flashy, with lots of crystal ornaments attached to it—like shiny, glistening specks of light jumping across waterfall streams. It didn’t go with the room’s style at all.

“Put your left wrist in here and click the other part over there—above your head,” I ordered. “And don’t forget to take your piece out of the holster under your armpit. Be extra careful and wise when you put it on the floor and kick it toward me!” Then I stepped back.

Halfenaked cast a weird glance at me but didn’t move. He had an expression like I wanted him to cut off his own arm and eat it! I invitingly moved the barrel of my Colt, pointing it up and down his body, and my gesture convinced him to cooperate. He disarmed himself, put the weapon on the floor, slid it toward me, and clicked the handcuffs around his left wrist and the chandelier stem—all without my help. In the end, he leaned onto his crutch again because he couldn’t maintain his balance in this weird position. I relied on it; it was my intention to make him feel uncomfortable.

I bent over to grab his piece from the floor and put it on the desk beside the window. Then I glanced at his legs. They weren’t injured too bad, actually. The right one was shot about five inches above the knee, slightly to the right of his thighbone if I remembered correctly. Neither the kneecap nor the femoral artery or vein had been affected, so it was going to heal just fine. As for his left leg, it was fine even now. Boris stood on it clearly without feeling any pain, and only once in a while would he reel for a moment. When he did it, his left arm pulled at the chandelier slightly, and it rustled restlessly above his head.

“What the hell do you want from me?” he asked me nervously after I gave him the silent treatment for a while.

“It depends on how far you’re willing to go,” I answered nonchalantly. “The more you tell me, the less I will want from you, and the less painful it will be for you!”

“Yeah? How about I tell you nothing instead, and you just get the fuck out of my apartment right now?” The thug tried to scare me off very naively.

I shook my head disapprovingly and smiled at him sourly. Then, just before I answered him, I suddenly felt something moving at my feet. It was the kitten, who had come to rub its side against my left ankle. I slowly bent over to pick it up and ran my left-hand fingers along its furry back. It purred with pleasure, snuggled into my hands, and licked my right thumb, which supported the gun handle. Then I turned my eyes to Boris. He was staring at me, shocked, as if he had just seen Hannibal Lecter chatting with his infant daughter.

Still holding the animal, I asked him, surprised, “What? You think I’m gonna take it out on your pet? What kind of monster do you take me for?”

I let the little creature go, and without saying anything else, I sharply stepped toward him to thrust the gun at his left kneecap. I also put my left hand over the barrel as if I wanted to shield myself from the blood that was going to spurt out. My prisoner jumped up immediately, as if a bee had stung him.

I froze in my pose and looked at him for a moment with a grim expression on my face. He was pale as a ghost now, and apparently, he thought I wasn’t bluffing. I wasn’t actually sure if I would shoot him again—probably not—but, lucky for me, I had already proven myself to him in a similar situation, so I didn’t have to put too much effort into my act to convince him.

“I think the last time we got off on the wrong foot!” I meaningfully tapped the barrel on his kneecap twice and slowly raised my hand, pointing the weapon at his face. “Let’s not do it again! So how far would you be willing to go, you said?”

This time, the bastard had no desire to test me. He caved in right away.

“What do you wanna know?” He barked, seemingly ready to talk. “I’ll tell you everything!”

“Everything? Really?” I decided to test him myself. “What was your first love’s name?”


“Did she love you back?”

“I think so.”

“So why didn’t it work out?”

“Because I couldn’t make her come.”

Wow, this guy is really willing to tell everything!” I was surprised and delighted at the same time. Then I immediately embarked on the task of turning his determination to talk into viable information about my case.

“Okay, we can come back to this later.” I smiled. “Now I wanna know what you know about a girl named Sonya. She’s cute, green-eyed, and usually a bit sulky. She likes hanging out with the scumbags who delivered dope for your boss.”

My prisoner stared at me, confused and uncertain. He didn’t seem to remember her, which was suspicious because I couldn’t believe the bastards kept her in the shack the entire time. Nevertheless, I doubted my friend here was such a good actor to fake it convincingly.

“She pretty much looks like the one I was with when we played a tag game with you in Eternity.” I decided to aid his memory. “Except Sonya has brown hair, and her boobs are smaller.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen her,” Boris answered, glancing uneasily at the ceiling. Aside from being inconvenient, his pose was also really ridiculous, with his right leg folded at the knee and his left arm raised in the air like that.

“Think again!” I snapped, annoyed. “I know you’ve been to the shack where they all lived before your boss decided to shoot his own suppliers!”

The man looked at me, curious how I knew these things. In my opinion, he shouldn’t be because he, Lara, and I played the tag game in question just about an hour after the killings had happened. Anyway, my attempt to stir his memory obviously didn’t work.

“I’ve never been inside,” he grunted peevishly, and although his answer actually corresponded to what the Butterfly had told me, I wasn’t happy to hear it at all. “Plus, I never liked these scumbags; it was only business between us!”

“Listen to me!” I growled impatiently and waved my Colt in front of his face. “It won’t work like that! I don’t wanna hurt you again, but I will because we haven’t even started yet and you’re already pissing me off! One way or another, you’ll give me what I want.”

Suddenly, there was a noise behind my back, which interrupted me, and Halfenaked anxiously glanced over my shoulder with a worried expression on his face. I turned my head around, too. It was the kitten who played with one of his slippers and accidentally tumbled the guitar over. It actually made me feel stupid because the guy clearly thought I was capable of hurting his little friend. For now, I didn’t want to convince him to the contrary, though.

“The scumbags’ other girlfriend is a whore who often wears a tacky white pair of pants with a butterfly print on them,” I continued after the pause, still irritated. “Now tell me you don’t know this one too, and I swear we’ll be both sorry for that!”

“I know her!” My prisoner hurriedly admitted before I even finished my sentence, probably because he was aware he had to give me something after all. “Her name is Cynthia.”

“Okay, that’s good! We can start from here, then.” I urged him. “She’s a very weird chick, and I’d like to talk to her very much, but the problem is she disappeared all of a sudden. Do you know where I could find her?”

Boris gave it a thought for a moment. “She doesn’t hang around the club anymore. Did you try in Villa Nueva?”

“Do you really think I could try that?” I asked him tartly. “The place’s secured like a fucking military base. I would need an armored vehicle to get in!”

“Well, that’s not my problem, actually.” He attempted to shrug, and the chandelier above his head rustled agitatedly again. “But you’re wrong! She’s just a fucking whore and there’s nothing interesting about her.”

“No, you’re wrong!” I disagreed with him, remembering how she tricked us when Lara and I talked to her outside Eternity. “She’s a whore, alright, but she’s a shrewd whore and quite skilled at making people underestimate her. She knows very well what she’s doing and why. Are you aware she delivers girls to Kurvallo now?”

The guy looked at me weirdly. “She was absolutely nothing at first,” he suddenly explained with disdain. “A sleazy, unsavory, and shabby-looking nothing! But then she somehow hit it off with the clown in Villa Nueva and started considering herself his private pimp. But she’s still the same piece of shit!”

“Well, I think you’re unfair and not giving her due credit,” I disagreed again. “Before getting along with Kurvallo, she used to work with your boss, didn’t she? So he must feel the same about her.”

“What do you mean?” Boris decided to act dumb.

“You know exactly what I mean! She delivered girls to Tanaka before switching to his business partner!”

“How do you even know that?” The bouncer fixed his eyes on mine, puzzled.

“It doesn’t matter how I know it,” I replied curtly. “I’m actually a bit like her—I make people misjudge me. What really matters, though, is that your interests and mine intersect and they aren’t as different as you may think!”

He didn’t say anything and just kept looking at me, but he still seemed suspicious.

“Look, I know how badly you hate Cynthia and Kurvallo, and I think you’re right to hate them!” I made another attempt to get him on my side. “Now, I don’t know all the details, but I do know this whore kicked you out of your previous role and kind of demoted you to a simple bouncer. Because it was you who was in charge of delivering fresh meat before she stepped in, wasn’t it?”

Halfenaked turned his head away to avoid looking me in the eyes. I was taking a bit of a long shot here, but I believed I was right. He had always struck me as a guy who kept an eye on the strippers in the club, and besides, when I interrogated the bellhop in my hotel room, the bastard mentioned that one of Tanaka’s thugs had delivered hookers before Cynthia. I was almost sure it was my friend here.

“Now that the whore has scrammed,” I confidently went on, “you have a real chance to regain your previous position! Cynthia has surely siphoned off staff members from your boss, and he must be terribly pissed off. But guess what? I’m pissed off at her too because I have reasons to believe that Sonya—the girl I’ve been looking for—is being kept at Kurvallo’s residence. So you can see how we share a common interest, can’t you? We shouldn’t be enemies!”

My prisoner remained silent and thoughtful for a while. I let him think about it, and while he was doing so, I felt sorry for him for standing upright in such an inconvenient pose, switching from a leg to a crutch with an arm handcuffed to the chandelier. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything to help him because I needed him this way. I just wasn’t sure he would behave if I didn’t have the upper hand.

“He has always been a miserable son of a bitch!” Boris unexpectedly started explaining after a while, and I presumed he was talking about the DEA’s chief. “The jerk had absolutely no reason to make a mess of the whole deal. He had enough girls for his parties even before that and didn’t need to let this damn whore push his buttons!”

“Wait a minute! Are you telling me your boss used to send strippers to his house?” I was surprised. “I thought he had his fun here, at the club!”

The guy looked at me hesitantly. It was clear he didn’t want to discuss the matter, but it was also obvious he had bones to pick with Kurvallo and the Butterfly. I noticed his left cheek twitching when he talked about any of them. I actually started liking him to a point now that I had seen his house with the poster of Elvis, the Dracaena, and the cat. In any case, he had nothing to do with the atrocious character my crazy bartender friend described for me, and I certainly didn’t believe he ate scorpions alive, let alone strangled his own mother or gutted his father!

“We never sent them against their will,” Boris continued talking when he calmed down. “All of them were free to go and come back. And since we’ve never experienced personnel shortages, it wasn’t such a big deal. However, none of the girls returned!”

“None?” I asked, puzzled. I was also worried because he was the second person to tell me such a thing!

“I don’t know. Maybe they liked it there. Maybe he’s taking really good care of them!” the bouncer murmured, unconvinced. “I have no idea what he’s making them do.”

I shook my head distrustfully. Something was definitely wrong here! This story smelled too bad, and I couldn’t accept that Tanaka had never wondered what was happening to his strippers in Villa Nueva.

“Why would a high-ranking official need a constant flow of women’s flesh in his house?” I mumbled thoughtfully as if I was talking to myself. “It makes absolutely no sense, and besides, it’s too risky!”

“I could never know. People are different, aren’t they?” Boris shrugged and tried to switch legs again, but then he remembered he couldn’t. “Everyone in this world has a weakness, so I guess his weakness is chicks. The dirtier and sluttier they are, the more attractive they are to him. He just couldn’t help it!”

I looked at him. He was actually damn right! Everyone had a weakness, indeed, but it was also true that everyone tried to exploit other people’s weaknesses to his advantage. As I thought about it, every little piece of this vicious puzzle swirled wildly around and suddenly took its correct place in my head. Suddenly, I knew how Larry and Bob laid their hands on this terribly compromising photo in my shirt pocket. The Butterfly made it happen! After she started working for Tanaka, she met Kurvallo, and that’s how the idea of blackmailing him occurred to her. At first, everything was okay, but then Tanaka learned about her gang’s little plan, and shit hit the fan. After that, she had to switch camps to save her skin!

“So you’re saying your boss was okay with the constant staff leakage to Villa Nueva?” I continued with my questions, still puzzled. “That’s so weird. I bet he had personal relationships with some of the girls!”

My prisoner didn’t answer. He just looked at me fixedly, probably because of the nature of our conversation. The guy he worked for would go to any length to punish his subordinates for their mistakes, and Boris knew it. Of course, I could use my Colt to make him stay on the subject, but the problem was that I didn’t want to. The moment for bullying him had simply passed, and I had lost that advantage now.

“What’s in it for Tanaka, then?” I insisted instead. “What does he gain in return? Protection?”

The bouncer kept his silence.

I waited a few seconds, and after he said nothing more, I turned around and walked to the kitchenette. I found a half-full scotch bottle on the shelf above the sink, but I wasn’t so lucky with the glasses. The space was literally cluttered with kitchen stuff, which all seemed dirty. When I finally picked one that looked acceptable, I poured liquor into it, turning my head back.

“You care for some?” I asked.

Boris just shrugged.

I turned around and found a second glass—far dirtier than mine—prepared another drink and went to my prisoner to give it to him. He reached out to take it but had trouble adjusting the crutch to allow him to hold both. After half a minute, he managed it. He looked quite hilarious with his left hand handcuffed and the drink in the other.

“Believe it or not, I don’t actually have a beef with you,” I assured him, trying to sound friendly. “For all I know, you might be as nice a guy as anyone else. Well, your social behavior surely needs some polishing, but I guess it’s just the rough environment at your workplace.”

Halfenaked kept looking at me without speaking. He wasn’t sure why I was talking this bullshit and what I was aiming at.

“All I want is to find the girl I talked about. You help me do it, and I’ll let you go. Or I’ll let you stay, if you will!” I smiled at him and cast a glance around his tiny room. “For what it’s worth, I think you should take the first option. Eternity’s glory days are numbered now, and there’s no point fighting for the title ‘Employee of the Month’ anymore!”

The bouncer huffed. He obviously didn’t want to listen to me, but he also had no choice. In any case, I saw a glimpse of hope in his eyes now, but I didn’t go out of my way to convince him to grab it. I let him sway in uncertainty before he decided for himself whether it was worth it or not.

“And why should I trust you?” he grunted after a few moments when he finished his self-torture without any particular conclusion.

“Well, it’s simply because you’re not in a position to ignore me. Is that enough reason for you?” I forced myself to rub the barrel of my gun against his left cheek. “Besides, too many people have died lately, and who knows, you may be the next! But why am I actually telling you this? After all, it was you who killed Sandra’s bellhop, wasn’t it?”

My handcuffed friend looked at me, and his eyes squinted for a moment as he tried to figure out how I knew about this. He clearly had forgotten that I saw his weird weapon when we played hide-and-seek in the club—the same one he tossed at the crime scene in my hotel room later.

“You couldn’t know that for sure!” Boris mumbled after deciding I was shooting in the dark.

“But I do!” I answered smugly. “And by the way, don’t bother making up a story! You aren’t that good anyway. The only thing I’m not positive about is why you had to waste the jerk. He was just a stupid junkie!”

“The idiot brought it to himself!” The bouncer shrugged when he saw there was no point in denying it. “He came over to confess that you questioned him!”

“He did that?” I was truly amazed at his stupidity.

“He was scared and thought he was saving his ass. He said you were snooping around and asking too many questions about Sandra and my boss, but he took you for a ride. I think he was expecting a reward or something.”

“Yeah, that sounds just about right.” I nodded and smiled. “He was a complete moron! And while we’re at it, what did you tell your boss about the incident we had that wild night in the club?”

The guy frowned, pressing his lips tightly as if I were asking him some very inappropriate and uncomfortable question—like how often he jerked off or something. It took him a whole minute just to open his mouth, as well as another invitation from me.

“I said nothing,” he answered at last.

“Well, I don’t believe you!” I shook my head and warningly tapped the gun barrel on his forehead. “I thought we had a deal!”

Since my prisoner was so nervous, my gesture worked perfectly.

“Are you kidding me?” He suddenly raised his voice. “He was going to kill me if he knew I had lost you! I told him someone shot me in the yard while I was searching there.”

I made an angry grimace but nothing more. In fact, it didn’t matter that much what Tanaka knew because things had already evolved past this. On the other hand, I thought maybe he was telling the truth after all, because his boss did look like a man who would kill for such negligence, and Boris seemed quite alive to me. Eventually, I just turned around and went to sit on the desk beside the window and the Dracaena plant.

“Will you really let me go?” He asked after watching me for almost two minutes, sipping my drink silently. My idea was to strain his nerves as much as possible.

“I’m not a murderer like you, if that’s what you ask,” I said, looking at him bluntly. “To be honest, I like you a bit better than the bellhop, who you’ll always have on your conscience! He wasn’t much into staying focused, you know.”

“So you’ve got rid of the body?” my hanging friend asked me, shaking the chandelier as he tried to pump blood into his left arm. He looked like a bat resting at home with a glass of whiskey in his hand after having had a busy night catching flies in the woods!

“I did what I did,” I answered bleakly. “Now tell me, why did your boss kill his suppliers so suddenly? It makes no sense!”

“My boss doesn’t usually explain himself to me!” Boris replied curtly and looked away with a gloomy expression on his face. It made me think I was pushing him too hard after all. Maybe I had to reconsider my strategy and cut him some slack because there was a real chance of losing him. Despite everything he had done to me, I really didn’t want to hurt him anymore.

“Well, you must have heard something—rumors, at least!” I tried another approach. “You know, I’ve never cared about your boss’ business. I only care about Sonya! She used to kick around with these two scumbags so that’s why I wanna know.”

“They messed up,” my prisoner murmured reluctantly after a short hesitation. “I think their bullshit threatened our other deals.”

“What deals?”

He pulled a face that was supposed to tell me I shouldn’t ask him such things.

“Is that why you ransacked their shack?” I insisted.

Halfenaked looked at me, confused. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said. “I’ve been there to pay them, but that was all. I’ve never been inside, as I already said, and I don’t think anyone else from the club has either!”

I stared at him searchingly. He seemed truthful in his response, and besides, it all made sense. If Tanaka really had something to do with it, he would have probably found what he was looking for and wouldn’t have had to kill Larry for it later. It meant the Butterfly actually lied to me when I talked to her outside the club. She said Larry and Bob were trying to blackmail their middleman, but it had been Kurvallo from the very beginning. He was the one who ransacked the shack, searching for the photos, and she covered for him because she had already reconsidered her goals.

This little whore was indeed such a character! She was so ambitious. She somehow managed to turn the relationship between a ruthless drug boss and the DEA’s chief into a horrible mess, and it was quite an achievement! It was still weird that Tanaka would risk his profitable business to have these stupid pictures now, but maybe I didn’t have the whole picture. He probably had other plans, and for that, he needed leverage on Kurvallo!

“You know what I wonder?” I went on after a while, looking thoughtfully at my glass. The whiskey was actually pretty good. “I can’t understand why you got involved in all this in the first place. You don’t strike me as a guy who had no other choice!”

“Does it really matter why I got involved?” Boris asked me instead of answering.

“Well, for you, it does! Your boss isn’t exactly Mother Teresa, is he? His employees don’t mean shit to him, and I think you know that someday, you might end up in the back of a truck at the bottom of the ocean—just like his miserable drug suppliers did!”

My blond-haired prisoner cocked his head and pursed his lips. He seemed irked.

“I guess I needed a job like everyone else,” he grunted after a moment of sulking. He tried to sound tough when he said that, but he didn’t do a very good job. Keeping his balance was too much effort, and he felt awkward in this position. “Why do you even care? It’s not like you’re a friend of mine, and you certainly don’t look like a social worker either!”

“You’re right; I’m not, and I don’t!” I shrugged while sipping my drink again. “I’m just trying to understand why a guy like you who has interests in music and stuff would do such a stupid thing like entrust his life to the hands of a brutal man like your boss. I’m curious, that’s all!”

“Well, why would a woman like the one you’re hanging out with entrust her life to his hands? I guess we’re not that different, then, are we? Have you asked her the same question?”

“What?” I suddenly looked at him, alarmed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He looked back at me, confused. “You didn’t know?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I shouted, very annoyed, and spontaneously jumped from the desk to go over to him, still clutching the glass in my left hand and the gun in the other. My eyes must have looked pretty nasty at this moment because my prisoner jumped up too, forgetting he had an injured leg.

“She came to the club to cut a deal,” he cried anxiously. “I thought you knew!”

“A deal? What deal?”

“How the hell would I know that? The only thing I know is that she came, asked for a meeting, and then my boss was really pissed off. Nobody dared speak to him for the rest of the day!”

“When did all this happen?” I grumbled with increasing nervousness in my voice.

“Two days ago, I thought you were in this together!”

I looked at him, frustrated. “Yeah, I thought so too! What happened afterward?”

“Nothing happened afterward! I proceeded with my job.”

“Did you see her coming out?”

“I left for business before that.”

“And you didn’t hear anything about it later on?”


I kept my eyes on his face for a while, trying to press him, but he didn’t cave in. Maybe he was telling the truth. Then I slowly returned to sit on the desk. These new pieces of the puzzle actually changed the entire situation drastically. They suddenly explained Lara’s disappearance and the picture with the message she left for me. They didn’t explain why she needed to meet Tanaka, but I suspected her reasons. She probably felt desperate and wanted to trade information with him. What a terribly bad idea!

“Listen, have you noticed anything strange in the club lately? Any change in the routine, schedules, or shifts, maybe?” I asked Boris when I put my nerves under control. I still had a knot in my stomach, though.

The man slowly shook his head. “I would have known if he killed her,” he tried to soothe me because he thought I would lose my shit again. “Someone had to take care of the body, you know. The guys talk about things like that!”

I looked at him grimly. His attempt didn’t bring me much relief.

“You know, you should definitely quit this stupid job of yours!” I grunted after a while, wondering how to get him to help me. The problem was that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted him to do for me. “Take this as a word of advice: the golden age of Eternity has ended. Move ahead before it’s too late!”

“What do you know about golden ages and stuff?!” The bouncer refused to hear my point. “You’re just a gumshoe who barely makes both ends meet. Most of the time, you’re happy if you have enough money for a slice of pizza and a beer!”

I ignored his biting remark and just shrugged.

“You should think about it very carefully! If your boss destroyed his entire supply chain like that,” I snapped my fingers to illustrate how he had done it, “then he has something else on his mind, hasn’t he? It’s a lot of money, so it means something much more important is at stake! Are you so hopelessly dumb to remain the last rat on the ship?”

“Yeah, you would really know if the ship is sinking, wouldn’t you?” He huffed, ridiculing me.

“Can’t you see he’s cleaning up?”

“No, I can’t!”

“Then you’re even more stupid than I thought you were! He’s preparing to move ahead of the events and relocate his business!”

The guy suddenly fixed his grayish-blue eyes on mine as if he remembered something. His face strained for a moment, thinking.

“Look, the whore you hate so much, she actually did you a favor!” I went on playing my cards. “As much a lowlife as she is, she somehow managed to drag Tanaka and Kurvallo into a fight, and soon, their shit will hit the fan. By driving you out of your previous role at the club, she set you free, and now you have a chance to scram before you become a patsy. You don’t really believe your boss will take his entire entourage with him when he leaves, do you?”

Halfenaked kept looking at me without saying anything. I doubted he had enough knowledge to grasp the bigger picture here and the urgency of his situation, but in any case, he appeared to be trying. I decided to strike again.

“Okay, I can see it’s hard for you to believe me, but let me tell you something else!” I continued pressing him. “I’m only doing it because I think you’re not such a bad guy after all! And also because I know you care about the girl who used to work at the coat check. So, she disappeared recently, didn’t she?”

The expression on Boris’ face changed sharply. His gaze suddenly became intense.

“What about her?” He barked anxiously.

“I think I know where she is!”

“How could you even know she disappeared in the first place?” He decided to test me.

“I just know. But that’s not the point! The point is that I’m trying to give you fair treatment, and you can trust me. Believe it or not, you and I have more in common than you think. Our goals aren’t much different!”

The bouncer huffed at me again, but it was more than clear I had his attention. Despite that, it was still tough to win him over to my side. He was taught to think as a thug, and it was too big of a challenge for him to take me for anything other than a foe. I waited a couple of seconds to let my words grow on him.

“What exactly do you mean by that?” After a while, he couldn’t resist asking me.

“What I mean is that we could help each other,” I replied readily. “Your colleague is locked in Kurvallo’s mansion—that’s for sure. And I also believe the girl I’ve been looking for is there too. We could join forces and work together to get them out!”

I didn’t actually have my hopes too high about it. It was a long shot, and the moron had stereotypical thinking, but still, it was worth trying. I had nothing to lose anyway.

“How are you so sure she’s there?” Boris wanted to know.

“I saw a picture of her! Now don’t ask me how I got this picture, but she was there, in the yard, with other girls.”

“And why should I trust you?” The thug grunted, still not convinced.

“Because right now, you can’t afford not to!” I tried to give him a reason. “And it’s also because the longer we wait, the lesser the chances of a positive outcome!”

“Oh, fuck you and your fucking chances!” He didn’t like my explanation. “Do you really think I’m that stupid? You’ll just tell me you saw a picture, and here I come, ready to fight for your cause!”

I looked at him, disappointed. I should admit, I probably wouldn’t have believed it either if I were him, but still, I was disappointed. At the same time, I felt sorry for him. I could see on his face that a terrible suspicion was already gnawing at him. I decided to give him one last push.

“It was a night picture, so it’s very unlikely she was heading to a party in Villa Nueva,” I said. “She was taken there by Kurvallo’s men, who were armed. You know pretty well nothing good happens to the girls in his house!”

He looked at me sourly but didn’t answer. His expression was still tense, and I wondered how hard it must have been for him to watch her all these years being fucked by his nasty boss and now being thrown away. As I thought about it, I suddenly remembered how she gestured to me to have sex in the restrooms when Lara and I visited the club the second time. In light of the latest events, I realized it hadn’t actually been a sex offer but rather an attempt to escape from Tanaka.

Despite everything, Boris eventually refused to believe me. He closed himself in his shell of denial and completely stopped cooperating. A few minutes later, I was ready to give up because, until that moment, our conversation had become pointless.

“You know what?” I stood up to give him my last words before leaving. “I really hope you’ll take my advice seriously and jump ship. I wasn’t trying to give you bullshit to make you help me! As far as I’m concerned, you’re as much a victim in this situation as the girls in the villa.”

“What did you mean when you said Tanaka was moving ahead of the events?” Halfenaked asked me instead of answering. It actually surprised me because I thought my warning hadn’t touched his consciousness at all. “What do you know about the shit between him and Kurvallo that is going to hit the fan?”

“You’ll know pretty soon!” I assured him. “Kurvallo is a reckless bastard, and his career is in danger. He won’t hesitate to take your boss down with him, and your boss knows it. He’ll take measures before that, and you should too.”

The bouncer replied nothing. His right hand still clutched the glass, but he hadn’t drunk yet. I silently finished my drink and prepared to leave. I had nothing else to say to him. I was just about to take a step toward the door, which led to the miniature hallway when I felt something moving at my feet. It was the kitten who had come to me again. I bent over to take it in my hands, caressed its head, and let it play on the desk. After that, I headed for the door.

“Wait!” Boris’ voice suddenly caught up with me when I was almost in the doorway.

I turned around to look at him. The weird prisoner under the flashy chandelier stared at me anxiously. After a few seconds, he darted a glance toward the desk, where, among my empty glass, the cat, and his weapon, the key to the handcuffs was. Clearly, it was the reason he didn’t want me to go. I just smiled at him crookedly and stepped out of the room.

He was overreacting. It was not a radiator, after all! It was just a stupid chandelier. And he was nearly a seven-foot-tall adult male who could easily rip it off the ceiling with a single jerky movement of his massive arm. Unless, of course, it was a gift from Louis the Fourteenth, in which case, my blond-haired friend was going to face a really terrible dilemma: he had to choose between his precious antique and starving to death!

I quickly walked down the staircase, and the entire time, I thought about Boris and his beloved Marilyn. Five minutes later, I was outside where I had left my Ford—fifteen yards up the street—and until then, the bouncer had enough time to get over the loss of his furniture, grab his gun, and catch up with me. However, something was telling me he wouldn’t do it. For some reason, I was also sure he wouldn’t tell his boss anything about our meeting here and that I would never see him again.

I quickly hopped into the car and headed to my place, still engulfed in my thoughts. The new bits of information I had just learned turned everything in my head upside down. All my previous theories were gone, and I had no option but to start over. The problem was that there was no time. Only one path ahead remained now, and I didn’t even know why it was my path to follow. As always, I ended up fighting someone else’s war and, as always, was left alone to do it!

After an hour of driving, deeply depressed, I was down in front of my apartment building, and since there was no vacant spot on this side of the street, I made a U-turn to go over to the flower shop with the broken window. It looked abandoned like a trashed telephone booth, and no one even cared to put new glass in its window frame. I had just stepped out of my car, feeling a bit dizzy from the heat, when I heard an engine revving and tires squealing not far away from me. I had no time to think. I only knew that the street had been empty a moment ago, and after that, the memory of the black Mercedes and the masked men who robbed the currency exchange office flashed across my mind. It made me drop to the ground immediately, without really knowing what I was doing or why.

I did it right on time! Seconds later, a few gunshots echoed over my head, and an entire waterfall of broken glass from my car rained upon my body.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 25 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

Read this online detective novel for free!

Tags: science-fiction book, SF books, sci-fi novels, detective sci-fi, crime fiction, crime novel, PI stories, criminal investigation, private eye, murder case, mafia, gangsters, thugs, fantasy, mystery, ebook, writing, literature, free-read, online reading, S. T. Fargo, S.T. Fargo, Murphy, Mellrow