Time was passing by, and darkness slowly crept into the city. I was standing on the balcony at home, smoking a cigarette, and watching one of the photo negatives I had found in Sandra’s hotel. The thing was part of the same sequence as Lara’s picture with her message to me on its back.
In the shot, this time in the background of a violet lawn behind a big black two-story house, there were two figures. I could distinguish three patio chairs around a patio table with a bottle of Champaign and two glasses on it, and right next to them, Sonya and John Kurvallo. A piece of dull yellowish sky was also seen in the upper left corner.
The Chief of the DEA was bending over the table, clutching to it for support, and Lara’s sister stooped behind him with her hands holding to his hips. She wore a long sky-blue dress with the neckline unbuttoned, exposing her naked breasts, while the lower part was wrinkled around her waist, revealing her thighs. Kurvallo had a formal white suit and black shirt on with no tie. He was barefoot, with his trousers down to his knees. His face and ears were greenish with excitement—probably because of the orange dildo that served as a bridge between his ass and the woman’s private parts behind his back. The toy in his butthole obviously made him very, very happy.
I thoughtfully put the frame in its baggie with the rest of the film and then tucked it into my shirt pocket. After that, I finished my cigarette and looked at my wristwatch. It was a little after nine, so it was time. I stepped inside and walked to the kitchen, opening the fridge and taking out ten pounds of pork chops with bones to examine them. Since the refrigerator didn’t work, the meat had already turned bad, but I couldn’t care less. It was even better this way. I stuffed it into a plastic bag, grabbed a few things from the tool chest in the entrance hall—a pair of pincers, a screwdriver, a rasp, a flashlight, and a few others—and moved them into a kitbag. Then I carried everything down to my car, threw it in the passenger seat, and walked around to sit behind the wheel, taking a long sip of Tennessee Whiskey from the flask in my glove box. After a minute, I started the engine and slowly drove down the block.
The streets were almost empty, and traffic was low. Soon it got completely dark, and the moon appeared in the sky in its third quarter. The night breeze made the air breathable again, and the heat wasn’t as oppressive as in the daytime. I drove with one hand, barely touching the gearshift, and let my other hand hang outside my glassless window. Between my lips, I had a dead cigarette, and with it and the dramatic nature of the situation, I felt like the young Capone heading over to the North Side in the mid-twenties to finish his rivals and put the whole of Chicago under control. The only things I missed were the machine gun and the Fedora. There was a small problem, though. I had no idea whether I would return safely from my trip.
I kept driving like this for about an hour and twenty minutes until I reached the familiar sign that read Villa Nueva, and then I stopped the car and backed it up under my tree. I grabbed my stuff from the passenger’s seat, downed another sip from the flask, and stepped out of the Ford to look around.
The area was dark and quiet. The gate at the end of the alley was closed, and the yard beyond seemed empty of people. Unfortunately, it was an open space without trees, and the moon cast enough light to make my raid through it nearly impossible. All the way to the main house, there were no suitable spots where I could hide, and I was going to be an easy target. For a moment, I hesitated about whether it was the right thing to do. Maybe I just had to forget about it and head back home. “Why do someone else’s job?” I asked myself, irritated, but then I thought, “Well, it’s because I have no fucking way to make the damn cops do their job. That is why!”
Still being sour, I wondered why all my cases had to be such a terrible mess, and after a while, I came to the conclusion that my stupid name was to blame. I had heard that fate didn’t love Murphys, considering them miserable sons of bitches and usually punishing them by dropping their toast butter-side down. Nevertheless, I had to admit that under these circumstances, I would be really grateful if it was the only bad thing she held for me. I really hoped to get away with just a wasted slice of bread!
I stayed there for a few minutes, uncertain and waiting for a sign to convince me that it was objectively impossible to get to the house and that there were insurmountable obstacles blocking my way, but after I eventually received nothing, I sighed heavily and moved quietly along the fence to find the secret opening in it. With the bag of pork chops in my hands, I probably looked like a down-and-out butcher who tried to sneak the loot out of the meat factory after his work shift was over! I couldn’t see Zachary Carpenter anywhere around, and although the previous evening I had talked to him over the phone and informed him about my intentions, the bastard clearly decided it wasn’t his war. Obviously, the compromising picture of Kurvallo I let him snap was enough for him, and I couldn’t even blame him for that. Overall, this whole adventure was nothing less than a suicide mission.
Pondering that, I sneaked through the bushes for about ten minutes, and when I finally approached the right place—having my entire face and hands scratched and grazed—I suddenly heard a suspicious noise, which made me stop, alarmed. At first, I thought my paparazzo friend had changed his mind, but since I couldn’t see well in the darkness, I quietly waited behind a tree, just in case.
A man was lying on the ground near the fence, breathing heavily and panting like a steam locomotive at a stop. He tried to squeeze himself through the hole, but his body was too big, and he was stuck there. After I watched him for a while, I decided it couldn’t be Zachary because he was as nimble as an eel and would have slipped inside in no time. This guy, however, was too clumsy and awkward, and at some point, he even started whimpering like an abandoned puppy trying to find its mother. Behind the tree, I nearly burst into laughter because the man was so funny, kicking in the dust and screaming like that. After a couple of minutes, he made it through, though, and when he stood up on the other side, I finally recognized him. It was Boris. I could tell by his gait and limp.
I wondered what to do. I kind of didn’t want to call the guy because he had made it very clear that he wouldn’t work with me, and besides, I had no idea how the bouncer would react if he knew I was messing with his plans. Apart from that, I wanted to see how he would cope with the dogs, which would surely get a whiff of him very soon and pay him a visit. By the way, I was really surprised to see that Boris had recovered enough to come here tonight. Although he did limp a bit, he had lost the crutch and walked relatively well. I also wondered what was on his mind, although it wasn’t so difficult to guess. He obviously wanted to save Marilyn because I seriously doubted he had come for Sonya or me. It meant that my bait had actually worked. I didn’t get him to cooperate, but at least he would take some of the heat off me now.
A couple of minutes later, the action I anticipated really started. The intruder had only made it through a quarter of the distance to the house when I noticed two ghostly shadows flying swiftly through the yard toward him. They were the Rottweilers, and weirdly enough, they didn’t bark. They just growled meanly in the night as if they thought it was useless to strain their vocal cords since they only intended to eat the intruder alive and not chase him around the house and ask him to leave.
Surprisingly, Boris didn’t even bat an eyelid when he saw them coming. I thought he would panic and run back toward the fence, but no! He cold-bloodedly waited for them to approach and then shot them with a dart gun without thinking twice. The animals whined briefly in the darkness and sprawled on the ground, unconscious or dead, making me wonder what I was actually doing here with my laughable pork chops in the bag. I definitely should have thought of Boris’s idea first!
After he neutralized his enemies so goddamn efficiently, my blond-haired friend limped the rest of the distance to the house undisturbed and soon vanished behind it. As I watched him, I realized I had been terribly wrong about this guy the whole time. He wasn’t that stupid, and maybe I should have tried harder to win him over to my side. Anyway, it was too late now, and I had nothing to do but wait and see what his next move would be. I expected a break-in attempt, so I strained my ears to hear suspicious noises, maybe even gunshots, but nothing like that happened. After fifteen minutes of waiting, I was already too nervous because I gradually realized that if they caught Boris inside, they would tighten security and make my own break-in attempt nearly impossible. Very soon, this thought obsessed me, and I decided it was now or never!
I nervously crawled out from behind the tree and cautiously approached the fence, checking the meat in my bag. Then I kneeled down to feel the unpleasantly prickly wire and looked ahead, worried. There were three windows on the second floor of Villa Nueva with lights on, and two on the first. The situation in the mansion looked tranquil and uneventful for now, but its peacefulness was surely deceptive. I knew that Boris’ presence could ignite the festive mood at any time and make it all look like a New Year’s Eve celebration on a military base. If it happened, I could only hope the fireworks that were to follow would be just fireworks and not real ammo! Unfortunately, I knew very well that this hope was unreal.
After ten more minutes of futile waiting for an event in the house to prevent me from starting my mission, I sighed like a prisoner on the morning of his execution, spit out my dead cigarette, and bobbed the bag up and down a couple of times to test if it was heavy enough. Then I shoved it through the hole along with the kitbag.
I really, really hoped my desperate plan would work! I had seen this trick in the movies, and inspired by that, I soaked the meat in a deadly solution of sleeping pills and other sedatives for twelve hours, which had the potential to pacify the entire Tanzanian savanna and turn it into a civilized zoo. Eventually, the meat forgot completely that it had ever been meat! The only problem was that I had no idea whether these substances would even work in my situation. I had heard that tear gas didn’t affect dogs, and maybe medicines for humans wouldn’t do the job either. Quite naturally, the labels didn’t say anything about it, and I didn’t dare ask the pharmacist because I was afraid she would take me for a serial pet killer and call the cops.
Praying that there would be no more dogs in the mansion, I sprawled on the ground facing the hole, took a very deep breath as if I were about to dive into the Mariana Trench, and selflessly crawled forward like a true action hero from the Vietnam War. The fence, which I was sure Heinrich Himmler had personally designed for Kurvallo, towered above my head as an ominous proof of his torturing genius. It had two-strand barbed wire along the top to discourage anyone from the idea of getting over to the other side without being prepared to leave a steak or two of his own flesh behind. “And if these prongs are treated with neuroparalytic poison,” I thought dejectedly, “the fool might even stiffen and remain here forever—like a forsaken color bearer on the top of an abandoned barricade!”
I persistently crawled on for a few seconds more, but then I realized something was terribly wrong with my so-called saving mission. It seemed like I didn’t move at all, and I wondered what was going on. In fact, I was moving—I wriggled like crazy—but I couldn’t squeeze myself through. In my head, the propaganda about the righteousness of my cause, with which I had naively tried to raise my spirit before embarking on Operation Sonya, hadn’t even faded yet when I grasped the actual reason for my inglorious failure. Obviously, I hadn’t planned very carefully because the thought that my clothes might get caught on the wire and prevent me from going further hadn’t even occurred to me. As a result, I kept squirming agonizingly in the dust, and even though I did everything in my power to free myself, I only made things worse. I felt like a carp on a hook, and for nearly five minutes, I achieved nothing at all.
After assuring myself that my exhausting and unnerving battle with the unexpected enemy wouldn’t produce any useful results, I forced myself to stop and go through my options. The first thing I did successfully, but the second not so much, because right after I started thinking, the intrusive thought that on the next morning, I would dry up here like a slug in the sun captured my mind, and it never let go. “Until noon, you’ll be like a replica of Tutankhamun’s mummy in tomb KV62!” I kept repeating myself, totally unable to focus. It was actually very ironic because I laughed my ass off at Boris for being in the same situation just a few minutes ago!
Suddenly losing my shit, I took my knife out of the kitbag, and while still being in an obvious state of mental derangement driven by my adrenaline rush, I cut all my clothes into stripes until they looked exactly like a fringed Indian outfit. I felt like a fucking Geronimo during his famous raids across Arizona and New Mexico, challenging the American Army with a handful of men and a couple of old rifles. And I was all but alone here with a single fucking gun! With such cripplingly negative thoughts, I knew something very terrible would happen to me very soon, and I was right to be pessimistic about it. After a couple of minutes, when I finally managed to release myself from the wire grip and was about to jump up ecstatically and cry victoriously in the night, the evil goddess of fate struck again and heartlessly deprived me of my small victory. Instead, she presented me with her next awful challenge—the Hound of the Baskervilles was already flying toward me at full speed!
When I recognized the danger, I feverishly jumped to my feet, throwing myself back at the fence, completely forgetting that getting over it was practically impossible. Clearly, one of the Rottweilers had somehow recovered from Boris’ darts, and now it was coming for me—a bit dizzy but also irritated and angry. In the next quarter of a minute, the animal, which turned out to be a male, drastically shortened the distance between us with the clear intention to take it out on me for what the previous intruder had done to him, and after coming close enough, he jumped for my throat like a Japanese kamikaze who had spotted a missed American ship in the Pacific Ocean right after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Realizing what was going to happen, I momentarily panicked, and since it was already too late to play fairies with the hound and fulfill his three wishes, I just grabbed my bag of meat and instinctively landed him one in the muzzle. I did it with a wide swing of my right arm while he was still in the air, and I didn’t even think for a moment about inviting him to dinner!
Good grief, ten pounds of pork chops with bones turned out to be a really serious weapon! Everything that happened afterward took less time than smoking half a cigarette, and the dog flew three yards back, performing a series of acrobatic tricks with which he could definitely make a glorious career at the Monte-Carlo Circus Festival or some other event of that rank. When I saw the result of my first strike, I felt mildly encouraged, and since I suspected that the Rottweiler and I wouldn’t come to terms after such a hostile acquaintance, I swung my bag again and landed three more uppercuts in his snout before he had the chance to pull himself together and get back to his feet. Thank God, he was still light-headed from the dart, so the task was easily achievable. After that, I just stepped up and literally smashed the bastard, hitting him with pork chops.
The poor animal couldn’t even grasp what was happening; it was such an unfortunate situation for him! He was spinning to the left and right just like a skydiver caught up in an erratic air current, and he was sensing the pleasant smell and suffering the unpleasant pain at the same time. When he finally decided he could no longer bear it, he disgracefully tucked his tail between his legs and broke away in the darkness with quiet whining. It happened right at the moment when the second Rottweiler appeared.
I immediately braced myself and prepared for an encore. While I waited for the right moment, the wind dramatically blew in my hair and ruffled it, and the moon came out from behind a cloud just in time to cast suspenseful light on my resolute face. Then my right hand raised the bag, and I froze in nervous anticipation with my eyes squinted, ready to detect the first signs of an attack.
The dog, a female this time, came closer, but she was far more careful than her partner was a few seconds ago. She had most probably seen how painful some of the pleasant things in life could be, so she hesitantly stopped at a two-yard distance. I found it necessary to bare my teeth and warn her against stepping further, but, at the same time, I was slightly worried because I felt something wasn’t right with my extravagant weapon. It made me look down. It didn’t actually take too long to know what the problem was because my bag hung torn and tattered in my right hand, and my ammunition lay scattered on the ground all around me. Unfortunately, though, I had no time to pick them up and reload, and besides, I had no spare “gun” where I could put them.
Feeling very concerned, I nervously turned my head back to the bitch, trying to judge how determined she was to attack. After a moment, when I saw there was no sympathy in her unblinking eyes, I sighed desperately. It had all started so romantically and promisingly, but now my plan was so fucked up, and my only hope remained that the security guys would discover my presence soon enough and shoot me before the Rottweiler had the chance to eat me alive. And since I had already lost the initiative and my “stick” was ruined, I had no other option but to return to the idea of trying again with the “carrot”. So I slowly moved my right foot forward, hesitantly pushing one of the pork chops with the tip of my shoe closer to the dog. The four-legged guard cautiously stepped toward the meat to sniff it, but after taking it into her mouth for a moment, she spat it out with disgust without even trying to chew it. Obviously, in my attempt to secure a positive outcome, I had gotten too far with the “salt”, and as a result, I now had useless duds instead of ammunition!
I sighed again. So far, things really, really weren’t going well with my stupid raid into Villa Nueva. I had hoped my troubles would start inside the house, but there you go, the situation hit a terrible snag right outside in the yard! In the following minutes, the female dog and I started a very unnerving and exhausting game of examining each other, and meanwhile, her partner recovered from his shock and hesitantly joined us. He wasn’t even half as confident as before, though. He agreed to the revised rules we had established, and even though he cast malicious looks at me every now and then, he kept a reasonable distance without making stupid objections. I used the temporary truce between us to think about my options. The animals’ new tactics turned my mission into a race against the clock, and someone from the villa could easily spot me here any minute now!
Not long after that, the entire standstill in the yard started getting on my nerves very badly, and I tried to stir things up. I cautiously bent over—almost endlessly slowly—and I grabbed my kitbag, praying that it wouldn’t raise suspicion among the dogs. When I had my tools in my hands, I rose and took a few small steps around the Rottweilers, moving behind their backs. The animals looked at me, surprised at first, but then they unexpectedly mirrored my maneuver, walking behind my back. Now, it was my turn to be surprised, which I didn’t like, but I had no choice but to slip behind them again because I needed to stay on top of the situation. Unfortunately, my hairy friends wanted exactly the same thing, and they casually, as if wandering aimlessly around, repeated my move. Very soon, dancing like this, we waltzed through the yard like a bunch of Papuans performing a weird fertility ritual, and a couple of minutes later, namely in this ridiculous fashion, we tightened the final loop of our spiral, approaching the house.
It all happened right on time, as it turned out. Only a second more, and my desperate mission was going to end prematurely, because when I was just taking the last few steps and my head was already spinning from the turning around, a quiet whistling echoed in the darkness, making the skin on my back crawl. The dogs promptly reacted to the signal and looked around impatiently, wagging their tails. On my part, I just threw myself toward the first door that sprang before my eyes, and it was such a miracle that it appeared there in the last possible second before it was too late.
I recklessly sank into the space behind it with my heart beating like a war drum, and only a few yards from me—on the other side of the door—someone started feeding the Rottweilers real, juicy, not impregnated with unhealthy ingredients, chops. Naturally, I had to wait politely until the guy finished his job, finished the tune he whistled with his mouth, took his empty buckets, and finally moved away from my hiding place. The only problem was that just a moment before he did so, he casually reached out his hand to slam the door closed in front of my nose, and then latched it tightly from the outside.
“Oh, God, no! Please don’t fuck me right now!” I whispered anxiously, barely stopping myself from banging on the door in a desperate attempt to attract the guy’s attention and save my life, even at the cost of losing it only a couple of minutes later.
An icy shiver crawled up my spine for the zillionth time that night—now because of the impenetrable darkness. Everything had gone terribly wrong again! I defensively spread my arms in the air, attempting to grasp at something, but there was only an empty space around me. I was also unsure how to take the situation—as a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, it was nice that I was still alive, but on the other, maybe it was just a delay to make my agony here longer and even more painful. I was locked in the basement, and I clearly escaped the prospect of drying up in the sun and turning into a mummy, but I had a pretty good chance to die now, starving to death.
As there was no point in hanging by the door or scratching on it like a puppy—if not for something else, simply because there was no one outside to hear my screaming—I turned around and tried to explore my new surroundings. I could hear a quiet humming in the darkness and considered it a wise idea to discover what caused it, but unfortunately, my adventurous impulse nearly cost me my life the next second. It turned out I was standing on a small landing, and from there, a steep staircase led down to a lower level. If I hadn’t checked myself in time, I would have tripped, and then who knows how long I would have rolled down and where I might have crushed my skull? I opened my kitbag and feverishly rummaged through the stuff inside, but half of the things were missing, and, of course, the flashlight was one of them. I had probably lost them in my battle with the dogs, and it was only natural because Murphy’s Law would never allow a Murphy to have a break in this universe!
I cautiously felt the ground with my left foot before taking my first step downward, and then switched legs like that a couple of times more. It was dark as a mole’s asshole in the basement, and I had no idea where I was going. It was also very hot. At some point, I reached the end of the stairs, and while following the noise, I found massive machinery not far from there. It was only about twenty feet away, but it was enough distance to literally cripple myself in the darkness, bumping into sharp objects. I blindly felt the thing while walking around it and soon concluded it was a power generator or something. It was vibrating and hissing threateningly, and when I realized what I was dealing with, I stepped back, frightened because I thought I might accidentally suffer an electric shock.
Since I couldn’t see how this machine could help my case in any way, I continued my search in the rest of the basement. I pretty much followed the established pattern and kept hurting myself to make the thugs’ lives easier and spare them the effort of doing so when they found me later. I smashed my head really hard into something big and heavy, grazed my elbows against the walls, nearly broke my right knee, bruised the ankle of the other, and generally injured myself like a dog. I was paid back for treating the poor Rottweilers in the yard so badly!
Eventually, after wandering aimlessly for about ten minutes, I finally saw something that gave me a bit of hope. It was a faint light glowing in the darkness above my head, a couple of yards away from me. Just like a naïve and stupid insect, I opened my wings and flew toward it without considering even for a moment that it might be dangerous. In the next second, I tripped over something and fell. I hit my nose on the ground so hard that the entire basement exploded before my eyes, brighter than a newly opened trade center, and it was only now that I realized the premises were actually half a level underground. The light was coming from a tiny window—probably the size of a handkerchief—almost at ceiling level.
I immediately jumped to my feet and excitedly ran to it, but since the thing was too high, I had to break a couple of Olympic records before I finally managed to grab the sill and pull myself up to the opening, where a very solid grating cooled my enthusiasm right away. Its bars were nearly an inch thick, and although I still had my rasp in the kitbag, I was going to need more time to break their resistance with it than natural corrosion would.
I dejectedly let go of the windowsill and hopped down, turned around, and leaned against the wall, tired. It all seemed to be over now; I had failed completely. I had no other “bright” ideas in my head, and the others—not so bright—included kicking up an enormously huge racket here and waiting until someone came down to help me meet my death or just quietly and stoically hanging around until I got the same result without anyone’s help. After a short hesitation about which way to go, I chose the first option, and I was just about to start screaming into a spare part that looked like a metal pipe, which I hoped would amplify my voice and raise it to the skies, when all of a sudden, I had to reconsider my tactics in a very urgent manner. Shivering, I sharply turned to the left, my eyes trying to pierce through the darkness, because I sensed someone’s maddening presence disturbingly close to me.
My cowardly brain frantically started hitting itself against the walls of my skull in panic and feverishly wondered what on earth the strange thing was. It was probably a ghost! What else could it be? That was my first and most idiotic assumption. Somewhere between the second and the eleventh, all the other dangers people would normally encounter in such horrible places lined up: a bloodthirsty shark, a hungry leopard, a man-eating grizzly bear, alien agents from a hostile planet, the High Priest of the Illuminati, and so on and so forth. Taking the humble twelfth position on my exotic rank list, the ordinary and unremarkable urban rat waited quietly, and eventually, it turned out to be the exact reason for all my troubles.
As soon as I identified the enemy, I started plotting ways to scare the nuisance as far away from me as possible. I threateningly waved my arms in the air and loudly clapped my hands a couple of times, but my gestures failed to impress the little punk even a bit. It remained there, balancing on a water pipe, its little red eyes flashing at me in the darkness. The roaring and hissing I did later didn’t work either, and the rodent clearly wanted to test my limits. It proved it unambiguously after a few seconds when it suddenly decided to shorten the distance between us even more and replace the passive and relatively comfortable alienation that we had so far with an open hostility.
I winced, shocked after seeing the animal’s nasty eyes getting closer. I just couldn’t believe my eyes and the fact that the little bastard had such a distorted idea about itself and its own significance. When the creature approached enough, I raised my hand, infuriated, and gave it such a harsh blow that I probably sent it as far as Mars! I heard it screaming on its way to the stars, breaking the sound barrier and some glassware before that. The latter made such a terrible fuss that I jumped up, horrified.
I worriedly stepped back and curled in the corner, my body shivering in anticipation that someone would come around and ask me why I was taking the liberty to make so much noise during the quiet hours. Since no one took the effort to do that for more than five minutes, I eventually had to scold myself instead of them. Then I agitatedly looked around, wondering what caused the damn noise of broken glass.
After a while, I managed to discern with great difficulty something that looked very much like a window on the wall dividing this room from the next, and my unexpected discovery made my heart skip a beat. “There’s no food in here. The stupid rat must have come from there,” I thought, hopeful. “If it did that, maybe I would be able, too!”
Suddenly feeling optimistic about my escape, I quickly walked there, and this time, I didn’t even register when I banged my head into something so hard that a lump as big as the Rocky Mountains popped up right in the middle of my forehead. Completely oblivious to the pain, I spread my longing arms in the darkness as if I wanted to embrace Jesus and absorb his blessings, but unfortunately, I absorbed or embraced nothing. Instead, I realized that Murphy’s Law still worked flawlessly and that the so-called “window” was nothing more than a wall segment painted glowing white for some weird reason.
Fully aware of my bitter delusion, I cursed angrily and sharply turned around, accidentally kicking an empty bucket, which scared the shit out of me again. “Of course, it would only be paint!” I was irritated. “What architect in their right mind would design an inner window between two premises instead of a door? And what idiot would think such a ridiculous element would make any sense? Only Mellrow would do that!”
Feeling down and out of options, I groped my way back to the power generator and desperately embraced it. Since I didn’t know what else to do, I searched for buttons, levers, or plugs on its metallic body, even though I knew my idea was stupid. First of all, it was unclear what implications stopping the machine might have, and secondly, the thugs in the house would instantly know there was someone down here messing with it, and then my mission would be compromised. Nevertheless, I recklessly clicked, pushed, or pulled everything my fingers touched, already expecting the machine to explode with a spectacular bang and end my life when it coughed nervously, vibrated erratically, and simply seized working.
Extremely delighted with my small victory, I quickly turned around and ran up the stairs as fast as I could, hurting a few more of my body parts in the process. In fact, if I had drawn any lessons from the events so far, I should have known I didn’t need to hurry because my name was Murphy. There was just no chance my plan would work so easily! I lurked behind the door at the top of the stairs, waiting nervously, but then time started slowly passing by without anything happening at all. It was also quite obvious that the machine wasn’t a power generator but rather a heat generator because, nearly half an hour later, still no one cared about it. With my current luck and everything going on like this, I could expect someone to notice the breakdown in the middle of the next winter!
I thought about the situation I was in. I was such an idiot. Really! I should have called Boris and negotiated some deal with him. Together, our chances were much stronger, plus the bastard seemed better prepared for this raid than I was. Maybe he knew things I was unaware of—like the place where they kept the girls, for example. Now it was too late, though. Now I could only pray he would create a big enough fuss in the house, which would attract the attention of the police, and the cops would eventually find me here before I kicked another bucket—in the metaphorical sense this time!
I kept blaming myself like this for probably twenty more minutes, during which time I grew really desperate, and just when I started believing that no one would ever come and I would die alone in the basement, I caught some noises in the yard. I heard people talking, but they weren’t close. Interestingly enough, the prospect that I might be saved suddenly didn’t seem so appealing to me anymore, and I felt the urge to run down the stairs and hide behind the machinery. Nevertheless, I resisted the impulse because there was simply no point. The guys would surely turn on the lights and find me, which actually brought up the question of why I didn’t search for the light switch myself. I had no answer to that!
I waited nervously for a few minutes, but soon I stopped hearing the voices, and the oppressive silence once again reigned over the dark basement, causing my next sharp and unnerving mood change. I swiftly reconsidered my priorities and decided I wanted to be found again! However, I didn’t have much time to dwell on my regrets or dream about the future because, when I pressed my ear against the door in an attempt to pick up something else, I heard scratching on the other side, and it startled me. At first, I thought it was some of the dogs, but then the scratching turned into the shrill sound of metal scraping against metal, which made me feverishly press my back against the wall, wanting to merge myself into it. It seemed that the door was opening.
In the following couple of seconds, nothing really happened, and at some point, I wondered, very puzzled, if the man outside had actually come with the sole purpose of setting me free and going back. Fortunately, before I embraced this incredibly stupid idea and recklessly tried my luck, the door moved a little, which prevented me from making a terrible mistake. I stopped breathing and waited until it swung all the way in with a creak, and just before it smashed my hurting nose, a trembling flashlight beam pierced the darkness, nervously dancing on the basement steps. Then I heard someone’s feet thudding down the stairs and his quiet, muttering voice.
I acted lightning fast. It was my only chance! I sneaked out from behind my hiding place, and before the guy even reached the basement floor, I rushed outside, taking the risk of running into some of his colleagues in the yard. Fortunately, my luck worked this time, and there was no one there. The man inside didn’t even realize what had happened behind his back until I slammed the door and latched it.
“Hey, what the fuck?” I heard his alarmed voice, but I wasn’t in the mood to start a conversation with him.
“Take it easy!” I only murmured, giving him a little know-how. “Keep the power generator off, and someone else will come to set you free!”
Then I anxiously looked around myself. The cool night air gently caressed my face and allowed me to breathe again. I filled my lungs with it and stealthily sneaked along the wall without worrying about the jerk anymore because, from my experience, I knew no one would hear his wails for help any time soon. On my way to the other side of the house, I passed another door, but now I didn’t even think about trying it, and when I reached the next corner, I cautiously peeked from behind its edge.
The yard stretched before my eyes open and clear, but unfortunately, a few thugs stood on the porch, chatting. I definitely couldn’t sneak past them unnoticed, and since they didn’t seem in a hurry, I hesitated for a moment and returned to the door I had ignored. Then I looked at it grumpily. I certainly didn’t like the idea, but I had no other options, and besides, the door was latched from the outside, which meant there was no one in there. It also meant I could easily get back if the whole thing didn’t work. The main reason to convince myself, though, was time. The clock was wildly ticking, and if someone went to look for the pal I locked in the electrical room, I would be screwed up. Eventually, I forced myself to gave it a try. I worked the latch as quietly as possible and opened the door, stepping inside and closing it quickly to reduce the chance of being caught.
More frustrating darkness waited for me in the room when the light from the yard disappeared behind my back. I grunted angrily and stretched my arms to search for the light switch, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. “It’s just perfect!” I cursed and reluctantly stepped forward. “My odyssey in the kingdom of Hades continues!” I was already starting to believe that Villa Nueva was really the Illuminati’s secret headquarters, as the yellow press journalists suggested. If it were all true, this was probably their larder because the unpleasant smell of something sour hit me in the face right after I took a few steps down the stairs. I couldn’t say what the source was—maybe bad cheese, maybe pickles—but in any case, it was strong enough to be a chemical weapon. After only two minutes, I felt dizzy, with my eyes burning, and my only hope being that if the place was really a larder, there was a chance it was connected to the kitchen, and I could use that to invade the house.
I wandered around the basement for a while, trying to navigate like a bat in an underground cave—using my hearing—but since such an endeavor was clearly beyond me, I brought many new injuries upon myself and soon exhausted my repertoire of swear words. Regardless of that, I eventually found what I was looking for: another flight of stairs at the far end of the room. I got very excited, and after doing so many stupid things that night, one could think I had learned my lesson, but I hadn’t. I recklessly rushed ahead like a total jerk, and the result was that I kicked the next bucket, which was so frustrated by my unexpected assault that it expressed its understandable discontent at least twice as loud as the previous one—back in the electrical room. Panicking, I hardly stopped myself from pulling my gun out and shooting myself in the head, simply to get ahead of the events and deprive the thugs of the pleasure of butchering me, chopping my body into small pieces, and putting them in a freezer.
To my surprise, no one came to see what was going on here again. It was getting too weird already because either everybody in this house was deaf as a post or they simply had an extraordinarily high tolerance for noise. After I waited for something to happen for nearly as long as the lifespan of the universe and there was still no change, I stirred awkwardly and cautiously sneaked up the concrete stairs toward the cherished door that presumably waited for me at the top. Something in my heart told me not to hold my breath, though. It just didn’t feel right that I would be able to leave this awful basement yet. And I was totally right about it! There was a door, indeed, but it was locked, which was only natural given my luck so far. I desperately kept trying the thing for more than two minutes, hoping that Harry Houdini’s spirit secretly lived in me, but alas! Despite my efforts, it remained tightly shut and refused to let me through.
Feeling humiliated and in great emotional pain, I raised my arms in the air, desperate, and I opened my mouth to curse the hostile and unjust world I was living in, asking all the major gods, “Why?” Why, on earth, would anyone do such a thing? Why would they have the passage to the yard open but keep the other one, which was supposed to supply the house with provisions, locked? Why would stupid things like this happen to me every goddamn time? And while I was swearing quietly and bitching about it, in order to prove how big an idiot I was, I accidentally pulled the door instead of pushing it, and… it worked! It was just meant to swing inward, as it turned out. The accident made me realize that the biggest enemy to Mellrow in this “hostile” and “unjust” world wasn’t actually fate or anyone else for that matter, but Murphy Mellrow himself!
Feverish and impatient to get out of the trap at last, I sharply jumped forward without even thinking about what might be waiting for me on the other side. I just wanted to leave as soon as possible, and besides, no matter what was out there, it surely would be preferable to me hanging around in here alone and injuring myself out of sheer stupidity. For one thing, I was right, though. The larder was really connected to the kitchen, and when I rushed into it, thank God, it was empty of people.
I nervously glanced at my watch. It was close to midnight, and it wasn’t such a bad result, considering how complicated my “brilliant” plan turned out to be. At least I was alive—beaten and bruised, yes—but still capable of moving! I briefly looked around the kitchen to get a sense of the situation, but the only interesting thing that grabbed my attention was a baking dish on the kitchen counter full of sausages and mashed potatoes. They looked very tempting. I wasn’t actually hungry because I had a few bites before leaving my place, but still, I felt a strong impulse to taste them. It was probably the stress talking. It was catching up with me already, and since I had no idea how long my so-called rescue mission in Villa Nueva would take, I stuffed my mouth with food and grabbed two sausages in my left hand. Equipped with ammunition like that, I squeezed the gun in my other hand and walked out of the kitchen, only to throw myself on the floor in a panic the very next second.
I was in a large hall, and there were people in it! In fact, I shouldn’t have been surprised to meet them here, but I was, and in my anxiety, I accidentally dropped my snacks, letting them roll around the yellowish tile floor. Meanwhile, I nearly broke my teeth when I hit the pot of a gigantic plant behind which I tried to hide. Freaked out by the images my eyes delivered, my brain made my heart boom so powerfully in my chest that pieces of potato flew out of my mouth with every thud. At the far end of the hall, there was an opened door, and right behind it, in what looked like a large dining room, a whole army of thugs as huge as gorillas were hanging around. Most of them carried powerful automatic weapons more suitable for guarding Area 51 in Nevada than private residences.
Completely terrified now, I closed my mouth and tried to swallow everything in it as quickly as possible, also being careful not to choke or cough because the moment was really inappropriate. When I was done, I wiped my right shirtsleeve across my lips, and since my left hand was hideously greasy too, I wiped it on the shirtsleeve itself. Then I glanced at the latter and quickly wiped it across my butt, but after that, I just had to stop. I had nothing else on hand to continue cleaning myself, so instead of taking care of my overall appearance, I cautiously poked my head out from behind the plant to see what was going on in the dining room.
The situation in there wasn’t good at all. I had very limited options, and one of them was returning to the terrible basement with rats, bad cheese, and empty buckets. The alternative was to move forward to the wide red-carpeted staircase that led to the second floor but to do that, I had to cross the hall. The distance wasn’t too big—just a couple of yards—but I would be exposed the entire time, and the bastards in the dining room could see me. Right now, they were busy playing a game—probably craps or something—and they made so much noise while scurrying around like ants that it rendered my task nearly impossible.
I stooped behind the plant again and thought for a moment. Were I a character in an action movie, I would probably jump out of my hiding spot behind the ceramic barricade, aim my bad-tempered Colt at the DEA chief’s vile entourage, and shoot them all to the last bastard. And if, by any chance, my loyal and devoted iron friend misfired, which was absolutely and totally impossible, I would do a side roll to deceive my first enemy, then break his neck with a lightning-fast combat technique, and while hiding behind his body, I would start a gunfight with the rest using the weapon in his own hand. After finishing the scum here, I would storm the second floor to do the same, and after that, I would light up a cigarette and wait for the cops and journalists to come over and start asking me questions and taking pictures of me. Unfortunately, though, since I wasn’t a movie character but only a Murphy—the guy next door who couldn’t pay his utility bills—nothing like that happened, and such heretical thoughts terrified me to the very core of my soul, making me pray that no thug would get hungry any time soon and come to the kitchen to have a midnight breakfast.
This entire standstill didn’t actually last for too long—maybe six or seven minutes tops—but it was enough to shorten my life by seven years, wrecking my nerves so badly that I started having tics. On top of it, one of the leaves kept brushing my face very annoyingly, no matter how persistently I pushed it away, and as a result, the plant shook hideously. It all looked like a pair of horny squirrels were having fun in its foliage, and it was only a matter of time before someone saw it and came around to ask me what I was doing here.
Luckily, my patience eventually paid off, and the chance smiled at me for the first time since I left home. One of the thugs suddenly jumped up agitatedly, and while shouting like crazy, he grabbed his gun, waving it in the air, frustrated. It was so weird that, for a moment, I thought he had switched sides and wanted to shoot all my enemies for me. His colleagues got agitated as well, but instead of drawing out their weapons, they actually chased after him. After a while, they got him, and surprisingly, they started pulling his pants down!
As I watched them, I quickly realized that now was the time to escape from the trap. I came out from behind the plant unnoticed, and since I had a couple of minutes to kill, I took my time checking on its health and the quality of its soil, had some fun playing hopscotch on the tiles, learned how to walk on my hands, and did a few somersaults. Finally, I climbed the stairs without any interference or anyone noticing me. I even thought of dropping by the dining room and watching the weird game the boys were playing there, but I decided not to get carried away too much.
When I reached the second floor, the next cynical and annoyingly red corridor in my life stretched out ahead—gloomy and depressing. I saw two lines of doors—six on each side—and in my frustration, I asked myself what kind of stupid omen was cast upon me. I had been to a dozen places like this so far, and I suspected that soon I would visit the last one in the city, and then my career would be over!
I looked around, worried and unwilling to go, but since this was why I had come here, I tried the first door. Of course, I listened tensely outside before pushing the handle, and when I did it, by old tradition, I found the place empty. Apart from being empty, it also struck me that there was a doorknob installed on the inside—something that was totally counterintuitive and didn’t fit normal logic. Anyway, I didn’t have much time to think about it, so I just went on with the search.
However, as soon as I tried the second door, which had exactly the same vibe, the mystery of the doorknobs was immediately solved. I rushed inside the room on the premise that it would be empty too, but as it turned out, I was wrong. Surprisingly, I ran across four people. Actually, they were four girls in sexy outfits who stared at me, confused. They stood by the window, frozen in various poses as if waiting for an artist to paint them on his canvas, and they seemed a bit disappointed that it was only me.
Since I was pretty shocked to find them here, almost naked, I remained in the doorway, staring at them too. I was afraid they would start screaming any minute and alert the security guys downstairs, but it didn’t come out this way. A few moments later, I realized why. They clearly thought I was one of them, and it actually made sense. With so many guards here, I found it very reasonable that the girls didn’t know them all—especially if the bastards had the habit of drugging their prisoners.
After I stupidly hung like this for nearly a minute, hesitating, I slowly turned around and quietly closed the door behind me. I felt so uneasy that it didn’t even occur to me to ask anyone about Sonya. I literally sneaked out as if I were a virgin boy who had seen a naked woman for the first time in his life, and he was too embarrassed to utter a word. Besides, there was really no chance I could talk to the girls without blowing my cover, and if I did that, who knows what might happen afterward?
Outside in the corridor, I cautiously moved forward and wondered whether to check the rooms in a checkerboard manner. Eventually, I decided to go for the linear approach—first ticking off the left side and then the other on the way back—but my decision turned out to be a mistake. If I had switched the lines of doors, I would have spared myself at least some of the troubles that followed my regrettable choice.
As soon as I stepped into the next room, I immediately realized I shouldn’t have done that at this particular moment. In the middle of it, a very big fellow with a massive head and square jaws stood up, still unaware of my presence. His chest resembled an airship ready to fly, and his arms looked like pneumatic jackhammers. He was just trying to fix himself up with a cozy little nest for the night, attempting to put two cushioned armchairs together and cheat his employer into thinking he was alert all night. Unfortunately, his brilliant plan was kind of impractical because the improvised bed was too short and uncomfortable for him.
I silently watched the guy for a few seconds, figuring that his job here was guarding the whores in the next room, but then I tried noiselessly to close the door because I was sure that, unlike them, he knew his colleagues very well. Sadly enough, the bastard finished his work right on time and raised his head, spotting me before I could sneak out and let him put on his pajamas and nightcap.
I nervously licked my lips and looked around the room. The guy’s weapon was on the table, some six yards out of his reach and about four yards from me. He turned his head to look at it and jumped, making me jump too. I caught up with him in the last second and walloped him on the head with the handle of my Colt so hard that I literally sensed his brain swirling inside his skull and his cerebellum banging on the inner side of his forehead. He immediately rolled his eyes and thudded on the floor like a log.
“So far, so good!” I sighed, relieved. “Clearly, there’d be no sleeping in this house tonight. Not if Mellrow is wandering about, at least!” After that, I quickly walked back to the door to close it, and I returned to my captive to check his pulse and make sure he wouldn’t swallow his tongue and suffocate. Then, without thinking twice, I just raised my gun again and cold-bloodedly shot the fucking punk in the head.
Well, this last one was a joke, of course! Obviously, I couldn’t do that because I wasn’t a murderer, and because it would attract too much attention. Besides, my iron friend wasn’t used to writing his poetry with blood but rather with threats. He probably wouldn’t forgive me if I did such a gruesome act without any qualms. That’s why, instead of wasting the jerk, I just bent over, tying his hands with the curtain holdbacks, gagging his mouth with one of the tassels, and fluffing a throw pillow beneath his neck so that he felt more comfortable. Then I let the man have his chat with Morpheus and looked around myself.
The room seemed very similar to the one I had seen in Lara’s picture with the message to me on its back. There were many library shelves along the walls, but instead of books, they were full of videotapes labeled with red and blue markers. Some titles seemed very indicative of their content, like “Lulu—front and back, with spanking” and “Jolie—having her leak in the backyard fixed hard”. As I read the titles, I realized I had come to the right place, and I looked for something named “Sonya”, but unfortunately, I didn’t find anything. I did find material about Michael Jackson, though. It was called “Cynthia—in the mouth, and dancing a la Jacko”. I looked through a couple more of these “works of art”, but soon I had to give up because the tapes were literally countless, and I could easily spend a whole month just reading the labels, eventually forgetting why I had even come to Villa Nueva in the first place.
And here, in fact, came my second regrettable mistake. In life, one never knows whether or when he will make a wrong step or hit the jackpot, and at that moment, I didn’t know either. Right after stepping out of the room, I knew it wouldn’t be the jackpot because I ran across a colleague of the sleepyhead that I left behind. The guy was clearly coming to keep his friend company, or maybe to keep him warm during the night. It didn’t actually matter that much!
Noticing him, I jumped, surprised, and then froze, unable to move further. The man had just put his foot on the last step of the staircase, and when he saw me coming out, he stopped too. Sadly enough, I was already out in the corridor, and he, unlike his buddy back in the video library, had his iron ready at hand. He promptly drew it out and didn’t even worry for a moment that he might wake someone up this late at night. Instead, he kicked up such a terrible racket in literally no time that a Sepultura concert would have looked like “Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses” compared to it.
I quickly pointed my Colt at him and sent a bullet down the corridor because it was too late to turn around and take cover. If I did that, my opponent would have had enough time to use a theodolite to determine the exact angle and distance between us, and comfortably shoot me in the back. Despite everything, my decisive answer didn’t help much. It turned out I got myself into a fight with a fucking Charles Bronson, and as soon as we established relative parity in terms of firepower, the mean bastards downstairs sent reinforcements, and two more thugs sprang up behind their colleague’s back. Then the three of them together opened such a heavy fire on me that I suddenly wanted to meet a starving grizzly bear with only a ballpoint pen in my hands instead of participating in this.
In a panic, I threw myself back into the room and did it just a notch before I was seriously injured. I took a bullet to my thigh, though. I fell to the floor, breathing heavily, but there was no time to relax or perform rituals for well-being or prosperity. I reached my hand outside and fired randomly a couple of times more, after which I slammed the door and frantically limped to the nearest bookcase, pushing it to block the doorway. Unfortunately, the thing wasn’t too solid, but for the time being, I hoped it would work. Just in case, I threw a few more pieces of furniture there and then moved away.
As it turned out, building this improvised barricade was a very good idea because, right after I finished it, my new friends came to visit me. It made me shoot the next warning barrage of bullets through the pile of wood, and it was only then that I got a minute to think about the situation and become really terrified of the prospects. I realized that my stupid plan and all the other shit I had in my stupid head not only hit a terrible snag here, as I thought back in the yard, but they literally hit the damn fan!
Exactly three minutes later, not three but three hundred and three angry gorillas, harboring extremely hostile and unfriendly feelings for me, were knocking on my door, and I had absolutely no fucking idea how I would get out of this mess. I had obviously managed to involve myself in the most ill-considered battle I had ever had in my shitty career and life, and I was probably going to die here. About that, I had no doubts anymore.
©2022 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!