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For some time, the situation in Villa Nueva had been extremely unpleasant and unraveled completely out of my initial plan. The place was looking more and more like the unmarked grave of Mellrow, and there was no hope on the horizon. I say “unmarked” here because I was sure the thugs outside wouldn’t give me a proper burial with a tombstone when they finished with me but would rather put my dead body in a pit full of concrete and forget about it. For the moment, even the conversation with them didn’t go very well!

“Hey!” I shouted loudly, trying to overcome the racket in the corridor. “Stop banging on my door if you don’t want your little buddy here to suffer terribly!”

Frankly, I didn’t expect to achieve much with my threats. The fellows with whom I was playing this Mexican standoff didn’t seem capable of experiencing any empathy, including toward each other. It had become quite obvious a while ago when they humiliated their colleague downstairs by pulling his pants down. In my particular case, they didn’t even bother to give me an answer, even though I was sure they could hear me very well.

“I mean it! I’ll blow his brains off!” I threatened them again, knowing I couldn’t do it simply because if I did, I would literally give up my only trump card. Instead, I decided to add a pinch of drama to my statement to strengthen it. “Or you will if you keep shooting blindly like fucking morons, which you definitely are!”

Their response was immediate and more than eloquent. What followed was a reckless barrage of artillery fire, as if the jerks weren’t fighting a single man but a brigade of armored vehicles capable of destroying the entire villa. Pieces of glass, wood, videotapes, and whatnot flew all around me, and I had the feeling the world was falling apart. Besides the swarm of bullets, the guys also bombarded me with a constellation of flaming curses that literally made my head spin. Eventually, I had to answer their verbal assault with a couple of gunshots in the opposite direction so they would know I wasn’t ready to die yet.

In the instant when the situation cooled off a bit—probably because my enemies stopped shooting to recharge their guns—I went to my sleeping hostage and quietly pulled him aside because I was afraid I would lose him too soon and then he wouldn’t have any value as a bargaining chip anymore. After that, I walked to the window to check how things were going outside.

I stuck my head out and cautiously looked down. There was nobody in the yard. The idiots still hadn’t come up with the idea of grabbing a ladder and surprising me from the back, but I guessed it was going to happen at some point later. I was on the second floor, and for a moment, I considered jumping down, but the first floor was actually very high, and the distance to the ground was rather discouraging. Besides, my wounded leg strongly disagreed about the merits of such an attempt, plus the chances for me to cross the open yard unharmed while limping through it were really minor. I would be like a slug trying to outrun an imperial eagle!

I glanced up at the roof as well—just writing it off as an option, not that I cherished any hopes in this regard. As I expected, the place was an unattainable dream for a cripple like me, and I didn’t even know how going there could help me. But then again, maybe it was worth a shot because if I jumped from the roof instead of here, I would have better chances to die and spare myself the torture the vicious bastards would put me through if they caught me alive.

I dejectedly stepped back into my trap, and since I had nothing else to do, I sat on the floor beside the door to check on my wound. Luckily, it wasn’t too serious, and the bullet had gone through and out of my leg. I had the inner part of my thigh injured, five inches from the kneecap, and had it been another five inches up, I would have said goodbye to my balls! I pulled out my belt and fastened it above the wound, although there wasn’t a real danger that I would bleed out. Then I wearily leaned against the wall and thought about how I wanted to spend the final moments of my life.

I didn’t have many options. The jerks on the other side of the door didn’t seem particularly eager to negotiate the terms of my release, and on the contrary, they argued enthusiastically about what they would do when they finally laid their hands on me. To be honest, I didn’t fall for any of the proposals. They even quarreled over which suggestion was the best. However, the bigger problem was that every now and then, I had to send a bullet through the bookshelf and keep the discussion alive because otherwise, they would eventually agree on something and simply begin implementing their ideas in practice. I had already emptied two clips and refilled the magazine with my last rounds, cursing myself for not taking a bag of them. Who could have known I would participate in the defense of Stalingrad, though? Even in my wildest dreams, I hadn’t thought I would have to shoot more than a dozen bullets before achieving a triumphant victory or heroic death.

After a couple of minutes of discussing, the thugs obviously reached an agreement regarding my fate, and they resumed banging on the door—this time using something really heavy. They were close to breaking the resistance of the poor bookshelf, which was almost in pieces now, and soon would collapse under its own weight. I took a few steps back and urged my iron friend to try to pacify them again, but he only barked twice and stopped because he knew we had to save our strength for the end.

It was all the mutants were waiting for. They braced themselves for the final attack and started whacking the door so violently that the bookshelf creaked mournfully, and if the dresser and the few chairs I installed behind it didn’t help, it would have probably given up already and run away to the room where the girls in sexy outfits were hiding. Thinking of the latter, I suddenly wondered if they could help me in some way. “If I’m lucky enough and I manage to communicate a message to them by knocking Morse code on the wall, maybe they will rise to a rebellion and take the thugs by surprise, turning the situation in my favor!” I speculated although I was not very hopeful about it.

Ten minutes later, during which time I used my last ammunition to delay the inevitable as much as I could, I gloomily gave up my daydreaming and instead started assessing the pros and cons of the various ways to die. Unfortunately, they were all too heroic for my taste, and eventually, I rejected them. “In the final reckoning, maybe I’ll jump after all,” I decided instead. “It’s definitely no solution to my problems, but at least the choice will be mine!”

I had just given myself up to this thought, taking a crouching start pose and making my peace about my life coming to an end, when all of a sudden, the thugs brought the heavy artillery and interrupted me. The plaster around the doorjamb cracked like a pudding crust after the blow they gave to the door, and a whole avalanche of it rained down from the ceiling. I had no idea what tool they were using now, but it seemed to have enough power to penetrate a bomb shelter. With my head turned back, I flexed my muscles, ready for the dramatic change in my life, and when I saw there was no escape, I shot myself forward.

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly the spectacular sprint I wanted it to be, but in any case, I gave my best given the circumstances. The problem was that my left thigh hurt terribly, and my limping prevented me from gaining enough speed. In addition, my right arm had stiffened from the firing and recoil of my gun, and on top of that, I wasn’t actually quite sure about it all. I rather wanted to have one more cigarette before taking the terminal decision, but unfortunately, I had left the pack in my car because I didn’t believe I would need it. Plus, I got distracted at the very last moment before jumping. Something wasn’t quite right behind my back.

I stopped suddenly and looked behind me, puzzled. The deafening racket in the corridor was gone. I mean, I could hear nothing out there at all—not even whispers! At first, I thought my enemies were trying to set a trap for me and lure me outside, but it made no sense. They had nearly made it inside already, and my flimsy barricade, which was now heavily distorted, was about to fall apart any minute.

And then I unexpectedly heard gunshots outside in the yard!

I feverishly jumped back toward the window, expecting to see the thugs opening a second front from the other side, but surprisingly, the situation turned out to be different. I noticed that the party had really moved out there, but not because of me. I spotted a bunch of people running around, and among them were Boris and some girl who was screaming wildly and trying to break away from him. He dragged her along the alley that led to the gate, and behind them, a few guards were following at a safe distance. Weirdly enough, the latter seemed reluctant to use their weapons, as if they were afraid the girl might be hurt. It puzzled me a lot.

However, after a couple of moments, when I identified Boris’ captive, it became perfectly clear why they were so careful. The victim wasn’t some ordinary whore, but the Butterfly. She wore her ubiquitous white pants, and they helped me recognize her. Obviously, my blond-haired friend hadn’t found Marilyn anywhere in the mansion, and he decided to take a hostage to secure his escape. Or maybe he just wanted to use her as a bargaining chip later; I couldn’t actually know his exact reasons. Unfortunately, when he and the Butterfly reached the small parking lot, one of the guards ventured to shoot, and the bullet caught the kidnapper’s butt, making the man roar loudly and lose his grip on the woman. She promptly grabbed the moment to break free, running back to the house, and Boris crawled painfully behind a very expensive and fancy-looking yellow Rolls-Royce, from where he opened fire at the thugs.

I watched his lonely battle from above, amazed. His situation was definitely worse than mine. He was going to die at least a couple of minutes before I did! The guards began surrounding him immediately while using the shrubs and garden sculptures around the house for cover, and soon enough, their advance made the bouncer crawl into the Rolls-Royce and shoot from there. His opponents kept shooting too, and not long after that, the car started looking like well-ripened Swiss cheese.

On the second floor, I nervously glanced around myself. I had no reason to feel sorry for Boris, but I did and suddenly wanted to help him. In any case, he and I were in the same boat here. However, I had no resources to change anything. I desperately looked at the empty gun in my hand and then feverishly scanned the room for something lethal enough to be a weapon. On one of the bookshelves, I saw a big glass bowl full of oranges and a crystal vase with dried flowers, but nothing more belligerent. Still frustrated, I tucked the Colt into my pocket and went there to grab them, and then I returned to the window to begin a lonely uphill battle with the army in the yard using citrus ammunition! I just had to find a way to draw the fire away from the stupid bastard in the Rolls-Royce, at least for a minute, and give him a chance to regroup.

My goodness! It all came out so hilarious! I really hadn’t done anything so weird in my entire life so far. When I started my little sketch, I didn’t think much about it, but when I realized what I was doing, I asked myself how I even came up with such a crazy idea. Obviously, the thugs marveled at the same thing because they stared at me, not believing their eyes. Some of them were just shocked and unable to move; others rolled on the ground, unable to stop laughing; a few opened fire at me; and the rest ran around in panic, attempting to take cover as if I were throwing fragmentation grenades at them instead of overripe oranges.

Sadly, I ran out of my exotic ammunition too soon, and when a moment later, I finished my bombardment with the glassware without achieving the desired effect, I wondered what else of the furniture I could exploit. Unfortunately, there was nothing heavy and mobile enough, so I had to put a leash on my extraordinary imagination. I had one more orange left, but it was so squashy that I felt ashamed to use it. Right then, I unexpectedly heard some noise behind my back and shivered. I slowly turned around, squeezing my fruit bomb so hard that it literally dripped between my fingers.

Thank God, I managed to stop myself before I went too far. The noise didn’t actually come from the vicious bastards outside in the corridor, but from the poor wretch inside the room. He was just waking up from his heavy sleep, wondering who had tucked him into bed. I was definitely going to damage my caring motherly image if I forced him to eat a half-fermented orange!

After coming to his senses, the bastard raised his head a little, looked dizzily around, and when he realized he was tied, he growled angrily. I walked to him to pull the tassel out of his mouth.

“Listen, do you know a fine, good-looking, green-eyed chick named Sonya?” I asked him. “You can save yourself a lot of trouble if you tell me!”

The jerk didn’t even bat an eyelid when I threatened him. “Go fuck yourself!” he grunted maliciously, spitting in my face. Furious, I pulled out my Colt and sent him back to where he came from. This time, though, I spared him the pillow beneath his neck. He didn’t deserve it! Then I raised my head to look at the table, frustrated because I completely forgot about his gun.

I jumped forward and grabbed the weapon in my trembling hands. It was a Desert Eagle, .50 AE—an impressive and very reliable beast. Next to it, I found the shoulder holster with a spare magazine, which gave me fourteen powerful rounds in total if counting those in the weapon. I was fully equipped now!

Happy with my new acquisition, I returned to the window with renewed confidence. Considering the heavy situation, maybe the ammunition I got wasn’t quite enough, but it was better than nothing. I just had to use it wisely. In this train of thought, I wondered whether it was a wise idea to waste my bullets helping a guy like Boris, but when I looked at the punctured yellow Rolls-Royce with him trapped inside like a bird in a golden cage, I decided to shoot a couple of times to buy him some breathing space. My decision definitely caught the guards by surprise. Especially after the fruit bombardment I gave them two minutes ago!

And here, actually, the strangest thing happened. I was just about to go back to the door and check the corridor because I suspected the guys outside were too engaged with the battle in the yard, and maybe they had left their positions, when a car’s horn started honking like crazy in the darkness. At first, I was so surprised that I thought Boris flipped out and came up with the extravagant idea of scaring his enemies to death. After a few seconds, though, when I saw headlights flashing alarmingly at the gate, I realized it wasn’t him. There was a car there—maybe an old Oldsmobile—and the man inside clearly wanted to amaze everyone from here to Japan with his weird light and sound show. Either that, or he just wanted them to quit what they were doing. And the strangest thing was that he actually succeeded in the task!

After a while, the honking suddenly stopped, but the headlights remained on. Since I already had a vague idea of what was going on, I quickly scanned the area near the fence and soon noticed what I thought I was looking for. There was a shadow jumping like a kangaroo around the bushes—probably Zachary Carpenter because I couldn’t think of anyone else who would pull off such an act at this late hour—and after every jump, my paparazzo friend did a really hilarious forward roll, standing for a moment on one knee, and then repeating the whole sequence. After the third roll, he added a new element to his performance—when he stood on one knee, something briefly sparked in his hand, and a gunshot echoed throughout the night.

Despite the entire drama and all the tension, I hardly restrained myself from bursting into laughter. Carpenter’s tricks definitely outdid my show with squashy oranges a while ago, and even though his incompetent shooting couldn’t help us much, it confused the thugs, at least. I promptly grabbed the opportunity to join the party and started shooting myself, and Boris was kind enough to pitch in too. For a moment, it looked like the three of us had the situation under control and could tip the scales in our favor. It was only for a moment, though.

Very soon, the bastards got it together, brought a powerful floodlight into the yard, and lit the entire space better than the Super Bowl arena during the playoffs. It helped them locate my friend very quickly, and quite naturally, after a couple of minutes, one of the bullets finally caught him. Carpenter squealed like a pig in the night and sharply vanished behind a bush, and his enemies immediately focused their fire to finish him. It all turned out very badly for him in literally an instant. It seemed only a matter of time before his paparazzo ass was riddled like a sieve!

I wriggled nervously when I saw it, but there wasn’t much I could do to help him. I was already short of bullets. In fact, I didn’t actually have much time to think about it because, right at the next second, I heard a weird noise behind my back again. This time, it wasn’t Sleepyhead but someone else who obviously tried to bring my barricade down by kicking the door. I shot twice through the bookshelf at the level of the door handle and then took cover because I couldn’t afford more resources. The guy on the other side roared loudly, and his curses made me think all hell would unleash on me, but it didn’t happen. Instead, I heard heavy panting, someone dragging himself on the floor, and nothing else. It seemed like the attack was just one man’s desperate act, which really surprised me.

Since I suspected this would be my last chance to get out, I started wondering what to do, but then the situation swirled and changed again, and it deprived me of time to consider my options. I heard a very loud rattling in the yard, which was so sharp and abrupt that I thought it was a machine gun. “That’s it! That’s the end!” I sighed in panic and nervously squeezed my weapon. “We’ll be dead within minutes now!”

I feverishly jumped toward the window to see what was going on outside. Now the yard literally crawled with thugs who ran agitatedly in every direction, but despite the turmoil, Carpenter still held his position by the fence. The guy had clearly dreamed of being a war correspondent his entire life because he was in the midst of his weird Vietnam movie, jumping, rolling, and shooting, although not as enthusiastically as before. I figured he was lightly wounded. Nowhere around could I see machine guns, though. I could still hear the rattling, but it was coming from the other side of the house, outside my visual range.

At the same time, some of the guards had already caught Boris in the Rolls-Royce, and he squirmed in their hands, obviously out of ammunition and unable to protect himself. They roughly dragged him out, mercilessly kicking his wounded butt and punching him in the head. As I watched them, I really lost my shit for a moment. It was very stupid of me, but I fired a couple of times at them, being careful not to hit my ally by accident, and by doing it, I probably wasted my last bullets again. To my surprise, their response was rather weird, though. The jerks stared at me, but none returned fire. They stood still, confused and unable to decide what they wanted to do: deal with me, chase the monkey who jumped around along the fence and played cowboy, keep kicking Boris’ ass, or just get the hell out of here before the FBI and the police came around to kick their asses.

And eventually, that was exactly what happened! I suddenly heard the thundering noise of a chopper flying over our heads, and in the next second, another powerful floodlight lit the area, this time from above. Following the helicopter, a couple of Jeeps broke the main gate, swooping in the yard, and a dozen heavily armed men in assault uniforms, as well as a few ordinary cops, jumped out of them, shouting and pointing weapons in every direction. After all that, anarchy came!

Seeing that my paparazzo friend had reinforcements now, I ditched him in the caring hands of the authorities and dashed back to the door. The bookshelf fell apart as soon as I pulled it, and then I cautiously stepped out, sticking my useless gun outside. Fortunately, there was no one waiting for me there. Even if some of the thugs had stayed behind while I entertained their colleagues with my hilarious orange show, they had probably reconsidered their priorities after the arrival of the FBI. In any case, the entire second floor was now clear for me to explore.

I hurriedly moved along the left side of the corridor, checking the rooms facing the yard. Most were empty, or a few frightened whores kneeled under the tables inside them, trembling with fear. It actually took me longer to stop and decide if they were Sonya or Lara. In the farthest room on the other side, there was just one whore. Instead of hiding under the table, she lay naked on a bed near one of the walls, handcuffed to its bedposts.

Surprised, I pushed the door, staring at her for a moment without moving. After a while, I stepped in, closing the door and approaching the girl. She didn’t react at all. Her arms were spread wide open, her breasts barely moved up and down, and her green eyes looked right through me. Every now and then, her head jerked a bit, and her tongue darted out to lick her lips. She seemed drugged.

I walked closer to her and then stopped.

“Is your name Sonya?” I asked her.

It was an unnecessary question. I knew it was Lara’s sister because I had seen her picture many times before. Now that I stood before her, I even began remembering a few things from my past, but they were only blurred details, completely detached from any particular context. It took the girl almost a minute to fix her gaze on my face. Then her mouth slowly opened.

“Larry?” she asked, trying to smile.

“No, not Larry. It’s Mellrow,” I answered curtly.

To be honest, I took it as a slight offense that she thought I was her scumbag boyfriend. I neither wore forty rings on my fingers and a dozen gold chains around my neck, nor was I a bald and mean dickhead.

I slowly turned around to go to the dressing table in the corner, and I rummaged through the paraphernalia on it. Since I didn’t find anything interesting, I checked the drawers too.

“What are you looking for?” I suddenly heard Sonya’s voice behind my back.

“A hairpin or a safety pin. I don’t know. Something!”

“In here. In the nightstand drawer.”

I raised my eyes to look at her. She was obviously coming to her senses now. Her gaze was more focused, and her breathing was steady. “Maybe she’s just in shock from all the shooting and the terrible mess in the yard,” I though. By the way, the situation outside was obviously very serious because, by the sound of it, I got the feeling we weren’t in America but in Tehran during the siege of the U.S. Embassy.

I returned to the bed and opened the left nightstand drawer, where I found a couple of hairpins among the other things. I took one, straightened it, and leaned over the girl’s head. After a short but hideous and rather chaotic poke into one of the rings’ locks, I managed to crack it open, and then I repeated the trick with the other one. After that, I threw the handcuffs on the nightstand, grabbed the bed cover from the nearby chair, and turned around. I did it a bit too sharply, as it seemed. Sonya jumped up, alarmed, her eyes bulging with fear, her legs kicking in the bed in an attempt to get away from me. She clearly thought I would do something nasty to her.

“Okay, okay, take it easy now!” I shouted while tossing the bed cover over her body. “I’m the good guy, remember? I’m Santa, and I’m here to fulfill your three wishes!”

“Santa does one,” the naked prisoner replied after a while when she managed to control her sudden panic attack. “Goldfish grants three.”

“Well, don’t expect that much from me.” I shrugged, smiling encouragingly at her. “I don’t believe I’d fit into a goldfish costume anyway!” Then I turned around again and walked to the window.

The anarchy down in the yard was complete now. Most of the action took place in the house’s west wing, but even from here, I could see smoke grenades rolling around, people running and shouting, and dense clouds of smoke coming out of the windows and rising up toward the helicopter with the floodlights. At some point, a shrill screeching sound tore through the night, and a Porsche zipped out of the garage on its way to the main gate. It was just like Sandra’s, but pink—probably Cynthia’s. When it was there, the car shoved the cops’ flimsy and unreliable metal barriers aside and peeled down the road, roaring like an angry beast. The helicopter immediately followed the vehicle.

“What took you so long?” I heard Sonya’s voice behind my back again.

I turned my head to look at her. She was sitting on the bed and rubbing her wrists. The bed cover was on the floor, seemingly of no interest to her. Clearly, walking around naked was a deep-seated tradition in her weird Cheyenne family.

“I forgot a few things, and it took me a while to remember them,” I replied vaguely. “Now we have to get out of here, though. Grab some threads, and let’s move!”

Sonya nodded obediently and slowly leaned over to take the bed cover. She wrapped herself in it, but she did it so negligently that half of her butt remained uncovered. In this respect, she was just like Lara.

“Do you know where my sister is?” I heard her ask while looking for her slippers under the bed.

“Not exactly. We kind of lost each other.”

I reached into my pocket to retrieve the picture of John Kurvallo in the library and stepped closer to show it to her, but only the backside of it. “Is that her handwriting?” I asked.

Sonya looked at me weirdly and nodded. “What do you mean, ‘you lost each other’? You mean here? Is she here?”

“It’s complicated,” I mumbled because I didn’t want to tell her I had actually hoped to find Lara here. “I mean, she bailed out on me at some point, and I haven’t seen her since.”

“How long ago was it?” she insisted on knowing, standing up to show me she was ready to leave.

“Almost a week ago. Now let’s move!”

I quickly grabbed her hand and led her across the room. The poignant smoke had already spread to this wing too, and it crept inside under the threshold, but it was unclear whether the fire or the grenades that the cops threw inside the house caused it. In any case, it made my eyes sting.

I was just opening the door—it happened against the background of blaring sirens and occasional gunshots in the yard—when a ghostly shadow unexpectedly rushed into the room like a demon and hit me right in the chest. It took me completely off guard. Since I was coughing from the smoke, I didn’t even realize what was happening. I only felt that I lost my balance, reeled backward, and fell down on the floor, banging my head into something really hard. In the last moment before losing consciousness, I managed to think, “The damn dogs! Smoke grenades have no effect on them!”

Then I blacked out.

©2022 S.T. Fargo


Damn you, Detective!—Chapter 29 | a Crime Story by S.T. Fargo

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