About ten minutes later, highly depressed by everything that had happened to me and even more depressed by the monstrous heat that suffocated the city, I decided to quit playing fucking games and close this stupid case once and for all. It had managed to piss me off before it even started!
To demonstrate my determination and also convince myself, I made a lightning-fast knife hand strike in the air, but unfortunately, my gesture didn’t produce any of the desired special effects like hissing noises or thunderbolts, as it usually does in Kung Fu movies. Well, the air moved a bit, but that was all. Still unsatisfied, I repeated the strike, hoping to be more successful this time, but alas, I failed again. And, you know, when you do stupid things, you usually get stupid results! It all came out as if I wanted to hail a cab, which I actually did.
In the next second, we heard a nerve-wracking tire screeching too close to us, and a beaten Chevy materialized out of nowhere like a ghost in a graveyard. It almost ran over our toes! Then, before we knew it, the cab driver jumped out of the car and pushed us into it in panic, after which he stomped on the gas, violating every possible speed limit in this area. It was totally against traffic regulations to stop here, he explained, and gangs of fat cops had been watching twenty-four-seven to bust his poor ass. “I just made an exception for you because I have a heart of gold, you know,” he assured us, but I rather suspected him of laying the groundwork for his tip later.
Anyway, while still explaining his motives to us, the man kept driving fast and furious, and we flew through a dozen blocks even before we knew where we were going. As a result, we were given a detailed tour of the city and visited its most notable sights and attractions in no time, such as the public cemetery, the pound, the wrecking yard, and a few others.
As I said, I was determined to close this case, and after fifteen minutes of pointless racing through the streets, I thought it was time for me to get out of the car and do it. Lara was dead against it, though, and she pointed out that I couldn’t close anything until I found her sister.
“But I never agreed to take the case!” I insisted, scandalized.
“But that didn’t stop you from taking my money and spending half of it on strippers!” She counterattacked cold-bloodedly, which I actually expected. Unfortunately, I had nothing to counter her counterattack with. Then, with an expression even more serious than those of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore’s monument, the blonde-haired general informed me that I had no civil rights anymore and that I was practically a slave to her until I finished the job or returned the down payment. And since I had no money to reimburse her for her loss, eventually, I had to admit she had some point after all—although not a very strong one. It all led me to another decision—to find her stupid sister as quickly as possible and then get rid of them once and for all.
After carrying out an in-depth analysis of the situation and considering all the variables, and after realizing we weren’t that far from the Twelfth Precinct anyway, I decided maybe it was a wise idea to drop by the place, particularly its toilet. It was almost the time of day when I usually care for my bowels, and besides, we could also check on this mysterious Inspector Greensboro and see what he had to say about Lara’s sister’s shitty friends. I suspected he had something, and by visiting the precinct, I was going to kill two birds with one stone, which would be wonderfully effective.
Happy with my decision, I informed the cab driver about the sudden change in our plans, but the fucking bustard played dumb and hit a few more blocks before turning the wheel and finally heading downtown. Soon he zipped along George Washington Boulevard like a mad dog and stopped dead just a couple of feet from the precinct’s front door. Then the motherfucker kicked us out, almost forgetting to ask for his money because gangs of fat cops were waiting to bust his poor ass and issue him a ticket, as he put it. Seconds later, we stood on the sidewalk, and the Chevy was already speeding down the street in a big cloud of smoke. It was moving so fast that I really doubted the driver would be able to stop the car before hitting the Pacific Ocean on the west coast!
We quickly turned around, headed to the entrance—mainly because of my urgent needs— and then passed by the receptionist’s boot. The guy inside had sunk his teeth into a chocolate donut as big as the Appalachians, and he didn’t even notice us. Since his face was distorted by bloodlust and he had smeared himself with chocolate cream so severely, we decided not to disturb him. We thought the situation might only get worse if we did it. Instead, we moved further inside, and it happened just a second before he jumped up with his cheeks still ballooning with food, and he literally ripped a hundred-and-two-year-old lady to pieces while searching her handbag for hidden bombs and grenades. She came right after us and tried to follow our lead, but unfortunately, she didn’t have the luck we had.
We quickly moved forward, and I started a frantic search for the can, leaving Lara behind. I saw her idling and watching the propaganda materials, which hung on the walls in praise of our policemen’s heroism. On them, mutants in uniforms with arms like sequoia trunks and chests like petroleum tanks disarmed villains whose limbs looked like cockroach legs. I ignored the exhibition completely because my bowels were already threatening to give me a huge problem, and I was worried I would literally drop the “ball” right here, in the hallway!
Soon I found the place I was looking for—it turned out to be empty of people—and I did a real good job inside. Everything went so smoothly and for a few minutes, it even felt magical. The firm and shiny lavatory pans, the cool touch of air in their deep throats descending many feet under the ground, the tranquility, the sweet scent of primroses, and the tender murmur of urinals—it was like paradise!
However, when the reason for my being there slowly faded away, the magic did too. The tranquility turned into ordinary waiting for something more to happen, the murmur of urinals dissolved into the trivial noise of pipes, and the sweet scent of primroses became the smell of cheap toilet deodorant. It was still pleasant, but definitely not paradise! And since I had no need to stay there anymore, I stood up, washed, and quickly stepped outside. I was ready to fight the shitty world waiting for me there, and my first task was meeting the mysterious Inspector Greensboro, whose business card I still had in Lara’s pants pocket.
The inspector was currently sitting behind his fancy oak desk in his gleaming little office, which was lavishly decorated with photographs of political celebrities from the 1970s and 1980s. The guy supported his right temple with his index finger, just like a statue of an ancient Greek philosopher, but the entire composition lacked a hidden artistic meaning, so he looked rather phony and irritating.
A heavy and oppressive silence hung between us as he stared at us thoughtfully.
I stared at him too. The man was a bit unpleasant. He had dark oiled-back hair, a cleanly shaved face with stylishly groomed brows, bluish-green eyes as big as oversized decorative buttons, and a dull and empty gaze that was impossible to read. Judging by the unhealthy yellowish tan of his skin, he probably attended a solarium every Sunday, and his jacket was worth the GDP of some banana republic in the Lesser Antilles, along with its entire banana crop and all the serfs who gathered it. There was an unnecessarily large badge on his left lapel, which read his name.
The cop remained silent in his philosophical pose for a while, and since we also remained silent and waiting, eventually, he sighed like a martyr who wanted to be remembered for his immense suffering. His gesture was way too exaggerated, and he made a very good impression of a dying protagonist in the last act of a tragic play about love and betrayal.
“I’m afraid I don’t quite understand what it is that you want from me,” he informed us tiredly, pausing theatrically after every other word. “Because you’ve found,” he finger-quoted the last word, “my business card in your pocket, you actually assumed I was supposed to tell you why it was there and who all these people were. Do I presume correctly?”
I puffed, frustrated, and looked at Margaret Thatcher’s portrait behind his head just to avoid his eyes. That was exactly what we wanted, and we had already told him so at least three hundred times. He was so quick on the uptake! At the same time, the inspector’s eyes kept ping-ponging annoyingly between the picture on his desk, the business card next to it, and our faces over and over again. At some point, I thought he really lost himself in it, and I wanted to reach out my hand and slap his face.
Nevertheless, I managed to keep it cool and only gave him a silent nod. Lara, who was sitting in the chair next to mine, chewing gum, didn’t perform so well, however. She suddenly grunted like an angry hog and accidentally spit out her gum, which fell in the middle of Greensboro’s fancy desk. She quickly mumbled something that was obviously meant to be an excuse, but it sounded more like swearing, and then she reached out to take her property back into her mouth. In addition to its inadequacy in terms of hygiene, her gesture was also disgusting, and it immediately ruined our chances of getting what we wanted. I suspected we had no way of obtaining any information now and that our visit here had been completely in vain.
Surprisingly, the inspector didn’t react at all, as I expected. Instead of leaping to his feet to condemn us with eternal disgrace or arrest us, he only looked at the place where the gum had been with nothing more than mild irritation. Then, in a strangely calm voice, he said something that literally knocked me down.
“But wasn’t it you who was supposed to give me that information, Mellrow?” he wanted to know. “And wasn’t it me who was supposed to receive it?”
“Excuse me?” I blinked my eyes, confused and not knowing what to say. “I don’t follow!”
“You don’t?” Greensboro continued even more confusingly. “Or you don’t want to! If you actually meant to cancel your contract, you didn’t have to pull this elaborate show, you know. You should just sign a check and call it a day! It’s not like you’re a prisoner or something!”
Being completely in the dark about the meaning of his strange words and utterly shocked by his unexpected and unprovoked hostility, I opened my mouth in disbelief and forgot to close it. I could swear I had never seen the guy before, but I could also swear I had never seen Lara’s sister, and yet she had seen me! Moreover, the cop had some point here—his business card on the desk—which didn’t exactly help my case. On top of that, after hearing what the man said, Lara started snorting agitatedly in my left ear, trying to get some explanation from me. Fortunately, she was too surprised to ask the proper question, so she just sprayed saliva on my cheek.
“Contract?” I only repeated stupidly after pushing my clingy assistant away. “What contract?”
“Listen, Mellrow!” Greensboro openly showed his annoyance at last. “This is too much, even for a patient man like me! And, by the way, it’s too ridiculous, even for a weird guy like you who knows no boundaries of ridiculousness. I really have no time for this!”
“No, wait a minute!” I quickly tried to stop him before he kicked us out. I suspected he wanted to do this. “You should know I’ve recently suffered a terrible car accident and lost my memory. I must remember everything that has happened to me in the last few days, or else my condition will worsen!”
Right after I stopped talking, I sensed Lara turning her head toward me, surprised. She clearly thought my idea was a good one because soon, I heard her inarticulate grunting as she tried to build on my theory, chewing her gum at the same time, “It’s the absolute truth! Since then, he has developed multiple personality disorder, and one of his personalities needs to be treated very gently because it tends to split further!”
When she stopped talking, it was my turn to look at her, surprised. Unlike her, I definitely didn’t think she helped our cause! And to make things even worse, she blew a huge bubble in front of my face while diagnosing me.
At this moment, I turned my head to look at the inspector because I noticed him rolling his eyes impatiently in the corner of my vision. He was clearly pissed off and suddenly held his hand out to me with a theatrical gesture as if we were meeting for the first time. “You know what? I give up!” He sighed, frustrated. “I really don’t have time for this, so for the sake of it being over soon, let’s start over from the beginning, shall we? My name is Inspector Greensboro, and I’m really glad to meet you again!”
I stared at him and did nothing because I didn’t know how to react. He seemed very angry. Lara didn’t think so, though.
“Nice to meet you too! I’m Lara Haggblom,” my blonde-haired boss cried, promptly grabbing his hand without feeling any awkwardness. In fact, I only thought she said that because she was still chewing horribly and half of the words didn’t even come out of her mouth. The guy was actually lucky she didn’t spit her gum in his face!
“And now that we have acquainted ourselves properly, maybe we should proceed with the rest of the farce. Is that right?” Greensboro began his weird act. “I suppose we should resign the papers now? And since you’ll be working for me again… well, at least, you’ll pretend you’ll be working, I think we should—”
“I will do what?” I didn’t let him finish.
“He will do what?” Lara grunted in my ear, and she didn’t let me finish.
The guy looked at us, confused. “Since you’ll be working for me again, I suggest we go through the financial part before the case details. This was the procedure we used last time, and it worked just fine. I guess the thought of money just kept you going through the rest of the meeting, which you obviously considered boring!”
I had a sneaking suspicion that I should be offended by his words, but I actually wasn’t. I was so surprised again that I felt completely unable to reply. In fact, it was even more than that! I felt I was dramatically losing my shit, and my life was suddenly as meaningless as the life of a male mantis at the moment when his sexual act with his hungry female partner was over. In this horrible situation, Lara was obviously supposed to be in the role of my partner because she choked while preparing to have me for dinner and started hiccupping by my side. Hearing her, I hiccupped too, and after a while, I hiccupped again. After that, I hiccupped again, and again, and eventually, I started hiccupping like hell.
Greensboro only looked at us—totally bewildered now—and since none of us stopped hiccupping in the following two minutes and the situation began to look ridiculous, he reached out his hand to press a big red button conveniently installed in the right corner of his desk. Before doing it, he paused for a moment, still hesitating.
“You know, I’ll be very careful not to ask what you ate this morning because, given your phenomenal memory, I might not want to hear the answer!” The inspector tried to give us a smile, but his attempt was rather unsuccessful. And the most ironic thing was that he had absolutely no idea how damn right he was not to ask! I couldn’t tell him what I had for breakfast, even if I had it just a minute ago, because my brain still felt like a jellyfish that had been drying up on a lonely beach for more than three weeks!
“Very well, then,” the cop nodded tiredly after realizing we weren’t going to stop him. Then he decisively pressed the button. As I watched him do it, I wondered why the damn thing had to be so alarmingly red. It literally gave me the creeps, and I suddenly thought he wanted to execute us. Maybe his interrogation team was going to rush into the room with machine guns in their hands and fill our heads with bullets as we sat in our chairs, lined up like Mexican pumpkins on a wire fence! However, instead of it, we heard a slight humming and a hidden door quietly crack open to the right of us. From there, an unearthly creature looking like a mermaid in a formal skirt and jacket appeared, floating in the air with her feet barely touching the floor.
I turned my eyes to her, surprised because I found her appearance so weird and captivating. Her arms were slim and finely shaped like fancy French ballpoint pens; her shoulders and collarbones followed the smooth and graceful curves of paper clips; and the tips of her fingernails were so pointy that if she dipped them in an inkpot, she could probably use them for writing. As a whole, the austerity of her figure reminded me very much of an old-fashioned typewriter, in the middle of which—at the place where the letters “f” and “j” would be—the bulges under her jacket delicately marked the location of her breasts. The creature was obviously Greensboro’s assistant, and I wondered what she was doing behind that secret door. I found it very peculiar to hide your secretary in a closet instead of putting her in front of you like a shield against idiots and nuisances.
The woman slowly crossed the office with the dignity of an ancient queen; she came to us, silent and strict, and put a yellow folder on her boss’ desk. Then she turned around without saying a single word, and her subtle presence dissolved into the air long before she walked out of the room. I didn’t even hear the door click behind her! After she disappeared, Greensboro briefly nodded at the folder. I looked at him and nervously stirred in my chair, clearing my throat and stretching my spine. Then I timidly reached out to grab the folder and take a look inside.
At first glance, it all seemed like a little crime story. It had a plot, characters, and everything else, and it was sprinkled with a pinch of professional jargon and abbreviations. After reading it for a while, it kind of sucked me into it and got me interested. I recognized the protagonist and the antagonist; I grasped the complicated financial intrigue; and identified the climax with the involved legal catches and deadlines. In general, I coped very well with the task, and I could have done even better if Lara hadn’t distracted me by breathing heavily in my ear while chewing her damn gum.
After a few minutes, I was done reading and was ready to give my analysis. As a whole, my opinion was mainly positive, but there was a small problem. I noticed a few very irritating secret clauses—they were typed in tiny letters, smaller than fruit flies—and they actually spoiled the appeal of the entire story. And since the protagonist was a guy who looked just like me—he had the same name, occupation, and style—it irked me even more. And then, I noticed the last and most important detail at the very bottom of the last sheet of paper, which was, in fact, nothing less than terrifying. I saw the guy’s signature, and it looked exactly like mine again!
As I finished the disappointing crime story, I shuddered unpleasantly. A tiny part of my lost life suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and it hung threateningly over my head, knocking its bony fingers on my crown for me to let it in. If I were standing at this moment, I would have probably wanted to sit down. If I were sitting alone, I would have probably wanted to stand up. However, since I was seated in my chair with Lara hanging on my shoulder in an attempt to get her share of the story, I couldn’t move and just remained there, flabbergasted and shocked. Unfortunately, playing possum wasn’t an option here because it wouldn’t save me from the problems I’d face as soon as we left the stupid precinct, and I knew it! At some point, I just had to explain to Lara what I had just read, and I literally had no idea where to start.
©2022 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!