I spent a terrible night full of horribly vivid nightmares. My hideous experiences from the previous days had turned my brain into a cesspit, and all sorts of unrelated memories and imaginary events mixed there and fermented into a foul substance, which poisoned my dreams.
Firstly, five huge and incredibly ugly apes chased after me. Two of them had an abundance of gold bracelets, chains, and rings everywhere, including on their monstrous penises. I really hoped they just wanted to beat the crap out of me, but I was afraid they actually aimed for something slightly different and in the realm of pleasure.
I managed to escape them by hailing a cab, but when I hopped inside, I realized Greensboro was driving it. Before I knew it, he cuffed my wrists to the gas and brake pedals and said his next stop was Belvedere, Argentina. While driving, he kept stomping on my hands every time he revved the engine or reduced the speed, and also kicked my head with his knees every other minute. He excused himself for doing it so often, but “the road to Argentina was terrible and full of kids who jumped out of nowhere”, as he put it.
At some point, two schoolboys did jump out of nowhere, and he stopped for them. They wore school uniform shorts with white shirts and knee socks. Instead of notebooks and textbooks, their backpacks were chock full of weapons, and some of the barrels and blades stuck out because they didn’t fit inside. Right after the little punks hopped into the car, they somehow turned into drug dealers and started doing cocaine.
I looked at them, frustrated. The bastards said they were going to a place a couple of miles down the road to buy ammunition for their guns, and one of them sprawled in the back seat with his feet sticking out the side window. The other one was in the front seat, resting his feet upon my back, and while Greensboro was driving, the stupid fucks were telling each other dirty jokes about shitting. At some point, the inspector interrupted them because he thought they didn’t use enough passion and wanted them to tell the jokes again. The drug dealers gave him middle fingers and urged him to go fuck himself. Naturally, Greensboro was pissed off and he kicked them out of the car while still driving. Then he started slapping my face and shouting that it was all my fault.
Right at this moment, I woke up startled, and it turned out Lara was slapping my face. She was convinced that we were far behind our schedule, and although I wasn’t aware of any schedule, she didn’t let me say a word about it and just kicked me out of bed.
Still feeling drowsy, I got up and walked to the bathroom to wash my eyes and brush my teeth. On my way back, I stopped by the kitchen and looked at the mess I had left there. The sink was still clogged with dishes, the swill on the floor had destroyed my magazines completely, and the plastic bucket in the middle of the room remained full of empty whiskey bottles—Johnnie Walker, by the way. It was no wonder nothing had changed here because my kitchen had always hated self-cleaning, and this kind of job usually rested on my shoulders. Just for the record, I tried to tidy up a bit, but it was more of a pose rather than real action. Only a minute later, I was already bored, so I reached out to pull a dirty mug out of the sink. Naturally, it was full of coffee, and when I tasted it, I decided it was good enough. Satisfied, I took it to the living room, wondering why the hell I made fresh coffee every single morning. After that, I sat on the couch with the idea to watch TV.
As expected, Lara got terribly mad at me as soon as she saw me there. I tried to explain to her that watching Tom and Jerry helped me concentrate and work out a strategy for the day, but, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I was only trying to relax and clear my head of everything the old Murphy had left here for me. I wanted to forget about the blue plastic bucket, the handcuffs, and the strange Polaroid picture, which I found stuck to the inner side of the bathroom cabinet door. There was a cargo vessel in the photo weirdly named Blue Grasshopper, but I had no idea what it was supposed to mean. “And what idiot would give a ship such a stupid name anyway?” I asked myself, irritated when I thought about it.
However, the most disturbing detail I wanted to forget was the little story I had read in Greensboro’s office the previous day. It bothered me a lot, and it could easily beat every other mess I had gotten into so far—mainly because it involved money. My reckless adventure threatened to increase my financial troubles to the level of the Great Depression in the Thirties, multiplied by the Nineteen Seventy-Three Oil Crisis, and all that raised to the power of the Apocalypse—whenever it was supposed to happen.
The authorities in some states did try this method to reduce their budget costs sometimes; it wasn’t such a novelty. Since crime was flourishing lately and funds were drying up, the police outsourced some minor cases—usually ones that lacked enough evidence to press charges. I had taken such a case, namely. I was obliged to investigate it, and if I gathered enough clues, I would pocket eight grand. If I couldn’t, though, I would owe five, which was actually the thing that disturbed me the most. The problem was that I had nothing in my bank account—zilch, nichts, nada! I didn’t even have a bank account, to begin with, and I had only hoped to open one when I finished the damn case. By the way, it was highly doubtful it would happen now, with my amnesia and everything. On top of that, my signature on the contract in Greensboro’s office was clearly authentic, and there was no escape!
Unfortunately, when I was in the inspector’s office, I couldn’t actually grasp much about the case itself because his assistant gave me only the papers we signed, and then after I read them, I was too shocked to ask for more details. However, based on what little I knew so far, I had clearly landed on investigating a drug gang that operated locally. It explained the picture in my bathroom but not why I had taken it or put it there. It also didn’t explain how deeply into the mess I was or why I hadn’t given Greensboro any report on the case, as he assured me before we left.
Anyway, this entirely stupid situation, as hideous as it was, only convinced Lara that I was the guy she needed for her little investigation. After letting me watch Tom and Jerry for exactly three and a half minutes, she kicked me off the couch and dragged me out of the apartment. I had absolutely no desire to resist or defend myself because just a day ago, I thought I was only a month’s rent and a couple of utility bills behind, and now I was suddenly nose-deep in shit. I literally had to go out on the street with a huge bag full of money and start giving away dollars randomly if I wanted to settle my debt with everyone!
When, after a few minutes, we were down on the sidewalk, we stopped and hesitated, frustrated and confused. The weather was so terrifyingly hot that we didn’t even know which way to go. Every step further out of the building seemed like madness, and the temperature was probably a hundred and ten degrees. Because of it, the street smelled of freshly laid asphalt, and it reminded me of the previous day when we met the guy with the ice cream cart.
When I thought of him, I looked around, and oddly enough, I saw him again, pushing his mobile cart along the sidewalk—still grumpy and irritable. It meant I hadn’t dreamed of him after all. The old-timers weren’t here, though. Either I had imagined them, or the vendor had actually killed them, and they were in the morgue now. The black Mercedes was missing too, and the currency exchange office was fine, but something had really happened to the flower shop across the street. Its windows were still broken, and flowers were scattered all around the place, as well as on the pavement in front of it.
When I satisfied my curiosity about these events, I wearily turned my eyes back toward Lara, waiting for her decision. I really had no idea what she had in mind, so my intention was to let her drag me somewhere as usual. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would at least keep my balance this time and wouldn’t bump into any trees or street lamps. So I stretched myself a bit, warmed up with a couple of squats, and prepared for a long and tiresome marathon through the city. It turned out, though, that her imagination wasn’t so wild. Her “grandiose” plan was to visit the nearby milk bar and have some hot drinks there. I thought she just didn’t want to admit it, but her head was clearly even emptier than mine at this moment!
The place we slipped into only a few minutes later turned out to be surprisingly cool and relaxing. It was clearly designed for children between three and five years old, or at least for very short people. When we tried to sit in the tiny chairs arranged around the miniature tables, my knees felt offended, and they propped up against my chin, promising me they wouldn’t let me speak until I found a more proper position for them. I listened to their complaints and attempted to set them apart, but then they blocked my ears and protested again, and although I was still open to negotiation, our communication had already died for obvious reasons, so our argument hit a dead end. As a result, I decided to leave the situation as it was for now.
Unlike me, Lara took a far more radical approach to tackle the space deficiency, and she stretched her legs across the neighboring tables, leaving our table rocking unsteadily between her thighs. I had to admit she had a remarkable knack for making herself comfortable in every situation in no time, and I wished I had that quality myself.
Interestingly enough, there were no kids in the so-called “milk bar” or short people, for that matter. There wasn’t even a short mom without a kid! Except for us, there was only one guy in his mid-forties, sitting in his chair at one of the other tables. He wore a very long brown leather coat—awfully dirty and punctured with holes that looked suspiciously like bullet holes—and he had something very weird on his head, resembling an old tin basin. Actually, with some stretching of the imagination, it could probably pass for an extravagant helmet or a sort of head armor from the time of the Barbarian Invasion in the Roman Empire, but honestly speaking, the stretching had to be really serious for it to work. The guy didn’t pay the slightest attention to us.
Since Lara couldn’t wait patiently for someone to come and take her order, which was obviously one of the characteristics of her temper, she coughed like a drug addict in the middle of her most terrible withdrawal fit. Her voice came so harsh and loud that it almost shook the undergrown furniture as if a whale had hit the floor with its massive flukes. And it worked! The waitress ran over immediately and in such a hurry that she nearly broke her legs on her way to us.
When I saw her, I gasped, surprised and not believing my eyes. Although her appearance matched the juvenile character of the establishment—up to a point, at least—she looked way too perverse to work with kids. She was a solid lady with fiery red hair braided in huge fluffy bows, whose exact color was nearly as unidentifiable as the mess in a vegetable market after a very busy day. The woman’s eyes were tantalizingly green, and she had pitch-black lipstick on her lips. Her infant dress was too short and barely covered half of her childishly yellow panties with a red ladybird printed on the pubic area, and her extra-heavy breasts stretched the neck almost to the point of ripping it apart. The waitress also wore snowy white knee socks and black patent leather shoes.
“What would the handsome gentleman and the young lady like to have?” suddenly, the creature roared with a voice so hoarse and low-pitched that even a two-thousand-pound male crocodile would have run away scared. The sound of it terrified me to my very core.
“Do you serve alcohol here?” Lara wanted to know, forgetting about the hot drinks right away. Obviously, the word “milk” in the phrase “milk bar” didn’t mean shit to her.
“We serve everything here!” the answer of the barmaid came booming as she took out her notepad and pen.
“Very well, then! In this case, the young lady will have a double shot of vodka and a double shot of gin,” the thirsty customer commanded while stretching back in her chair to demonstrate her readiness to consume. “You may substitute with a double shot of Tequila if anything is missing!”
“Nothing’s missing in our bar!” The beast croaked hoarsely, and I just couldn’t shake off the feeling I was listening to a Mesozoic bird of prey. “But all of our cups are actually parts of toy sets, so I’ll serve your drinks in very small portions. What about the gentleman?” She then turned her eyes to me and put her ballpoint pen into her mouth, licking it to the nib and back.
“A glass of… milk, please,” I mumbled, confused because I found it kind of indecent to have a strong drink here.
“A glass of milk, very nice!” The pervert’s tongue brushed the tip of her nose for a moment and licked her lips. “And what kind of milk would that be?” she wanted to know.
I looked at her, confused again.
“Vanilla, chocolate, fruit, coconut, soybean, iced, hot, skimmed, dietary, fizzy…?” The milk lady started naming them and then stopped to hear my answer.
Since my head literally started spinning from the overwhelming assortment they obviously had here, I blinked twice and only stuttered, “You know, I’ve changed my mind! Could you, please, bring me a glass of lemonade?”
I knew I had made a mistake! I regretted my choice right after I heard the milk fairy’s nostrils whistling as she took a very deep breath—almost half a minute long—and then her lungs ballooned like dirigibles, making her dress shrink with fear. Its neck didn’t endure the pressure of her boobs, and two buttons shot through the hall, hitting the stranger behind us right in the head. His tin basin, which took most of the heat, produced a loud ringing sound, and after that, I heard the buttons fall on the floor.
In the corner of my eye, I noticed the stranger turning his head to us and opening his heavily bearded mouth to say something, but the waitress was way quicker than he was—shooting a warning glance at him. The wretch only wheezed as if suffocating, and he turned his head away immediately.
Then a thundering voice boomed too close to my ear and scared the shit out of me. “Blue or yellow lemonade would it be?”
“What? Green would do!” I promptly made my next mistake, answering too quickly because I actually expected to hear a ton of options.
“Very well!” the monster hissed and surprisingly vanished in a hurricane of chairs and tables.
When she was gone, I wriggled agitatedly in my chair and sighed with relief. I was happy to be still alive.
“Why everything has to be so slow with you, for fuck’s sake?” I suddenly heard Lara’s discontented grunting by my side, which made me turn my head to her, surprised. “Is that your normal routine when working on a case?”
I just stared at her without saying anything because I didn’t know what she was talking about. Our coming here was actually her fucking idea, and it wasn’t even part of the investigation! She had obviously thought that finding someone in this human swarm was like standing out in your backyard in Sheyenne and calling him out over the fence, and now she was clearly disappointed. Anyway, I decided not to argue about it.
“I’m not so sure it was such a smart idea to hire you, you know,” she kept attacking me, though, as we listened to the noise coming from the area behind the counter. “Your approach seems so lame! Do you always waste your time like that?”
“No, usually I don’t!” I lost my temper at last. “Usually, I sit in my rocking chair at home, and my assistant—Dr. Watson—visits crime scenes instead of me. In the evening, I just analyze the data over a glass of whiskey by the fireplace.”
“Oh, you’re so funny!” Lara picked on me like a child, clearly seeking a reason to fight. “I think you’re more of a Dr. Dolittle actually! Do you even know what you’re doing?”
“For Christ’s sake, we’ve just left my apartment!” I snapped. “Did you expect that your fucking sister was hiding on the street behind a dumpster and waiting for us to find her?”
“No, but I expected you to know something about the case already. It doesn’t seem so, though. So far, you’ve given me nothing else except a bunch of I-don’t-know-anything-about-your-case excuses.”
Her words annoyed me further.
“Listen, since I’m the detective here, I suggest you stop messing with my methods and breathing down my neck! Okay?” I tried to make a scene. “Otherwise, feel free to hire someone else! And just so you know, it always takes time to find a person who doesn’t want to be found. Real-life investigating has nothing to do with the stupid books you’ve read; it’s time-consuming!”
Honestly speaking, maybe I overreacted a bit after all. The actual problem was that I hadn’t demonstrated any methods so far, so perhaps my employer was entitled to be a little nervous about it. Nevertheless, her behavior was definitely condescending and rude and deserved a strong response. I was probably going to say something more and escalate this into a full-fledged battle, but I suddenly realized the stranger behind us was eavesdropping, which stopped me.
My “assistant”, however, wasn’t quite ready to give up yet, and she went on nagging, “Well, tell me, please, how exactly watching Tom and Jerry relates to your stupid methods? I’m really curious how it helps us find my sister.”
I just looked at her and shook my head disparagingly. In fact, I couldn’t have started a fight even if I wanted because right now, the stranger decided it was time for him to come alive. His small chair screeched mournfully under his weight, and his voice rasped through the empty hall.
“Listen,” he said and paused, “to my,” he said and paused, “unfortunate,” another pause, “life story!”
“Oh, fuck off! I don’t give a damn cunt,” my sour assistant unexpectedly turned around to look at him and paused, “about you unfortunate,” another pause, “life story!”
After she said this, I shivered, scandalized because the man hadn’t done anything to us, and I was just about to say something to defend him when our waitress appeared back in the hall. She ran over to us like a tornado, tumbling a couple of chairs on her way, and her coming back made the stranger give up his intentions and turn away immediately. Obviously, today wasn’t his day for telling unfortunate stories!
“So what do we have here? It’s half of a single shot of vodka and half of a single shot of gin,” the milk fairy announced excitedly as she presented the drinks to us. Lara grabbed them from the tray and gulped them all at once. “Then we have another half here and another half there!” Lara pounded them down too. “And the next two batches are here and here!” Lara jumped on them without delay, returning the empty plastic cups to the tray.
Her eyes shone.
“And finally, here it is—the green lemonade!” The waitress proudly announced her life’s work, showing me a big mug. “I made it by mixing blue and yellow!”
Lara took it from the tray and put it to use before I could even blink my eyes. Then she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, satisfied, and there was nothing else for me to do except belch instead of her.
“And I want,” a hollow voice interrupted us right at this moment, and it paused, “a strawberry,” another pause, “and blueberry,” pause, “ice cream,” pause, “with walnuts and caramel,” pause, “maple syrup,” pause, “and chocolate sprinkles!” It was the stranger again, but weirdly enough, he said all that without even turning around to look at us. He was just staring tensely at the wall in front of him.
“And how would you like the shit in your fucking asshole beaten into shitty sprinkles without any walnuts, maple syrup, or caramel, huh?” The ice cream lady roared furiously as her white socks slid down to her ankles in terror.
“Don’t pay attention to him,” she turned to us afterward and winked. “He’s just a local motherfucker who does dope in his miserable hole somewhere and always comes here to cure his catatonic state by boosting his blood sugar. He never has the money to pay for it!”
When she gave these heinous offenses to the wretch, the queen of “strawberry and blueberry ice cream with chocolate sprinkles” grabbed a little chair, and as she turned around sharply and took a few steps forward, she delivered such a hideous blow on the junkie’s head that the guy literally flew all the way to the other end of the hall, taking half of the furniture with him.
The poor creature lay there for a while without moving, and at first, we thought he was dead. He wasn’t, though. After a minute or so, he slowly stirred beneath the pile of tables and chairs and raised his right hand, waving a snotty handkerchief in the air. It looked bluish-green and vomited in places, but we all decided it was supposed to be white and serve as an offer of a truce.
“You see his coat?” the red-haired general in yellow panties asked us, still clutching her weird weapon and making smooth swings like a golfer, demonstrating her excellent stance. “You can tell how many deserts he has had here for free by counting the holes and dividing the number by four. The problem is I always take pity on him afterward,” she went on.
And after saying it, the lady warrior ditched the chair on the floor and ran behind the counter, coming back soon with a huge bowl full of strawberry and blueberry ice cream with caramel, chocolate sticks, and everything else. She briskly walked to the wretch, taking the basin off his head and feeding him with a small spoon while tenderly stroking his hairy cheeks at the same time. Blood was still running from the guy’s nose and dripped right into the ice cream bowl.
“Oh, this is so sweet!” I sobbed, suddenly overwhelmed by emotions.
Lara, for her part, wasn’t moved at all, and she expressed her cold disapproval by letting the roar of my lemonade come out of her stomach. Then she grabbed me by my arm and dragged me out of the milk bar, while the guys inside kept playing babysitter and baby. The babysitter didn’t even notice we sneaked out without paying.
“If the baby’s allowed to get away with it, then we’re allowed as well!” My hooligan friend summarized the situation and closed the topic at the same time. I only shrugged, but I thought we would be better off avoiding this place from now on—at least until we arm ourselves with appropriately big and much heavier chairs than the one the Amazon lady had used.
As soon as we got out on the street, my assistant’s first idea—because I had none in my head at all—was that we should rent a car. She explained that it wasn’t proper, quick, advantageous, or reasonable to walk on the streets like this as if we were scumbags. “We’re dragging on our case,” she added, “and it looks terribly suspicious to the cops!”
By and large, I didn’t mind that—at least not until I knew Lara didn’t have a driving license and had never learned how to drive. However, the more serious problem was that the situation was pretty much the same for me. The last time I touched a car was in 1979, on the day when I got distracted for a moment and failed to take a turn, after which my vehicle fell into the Atlantic Ocean. It happened only half an hour after I bought it secondhand from a garage not far from my place and about fifteen minutes before I returned home, where, quite naturally, I returned on foot and all wet.
We had quite an argument on the subject—the blonde-haired nuisance and I—but as it turned out, I needn’t have worried about it at all. My assistant was convinced that driving was pretty much like riding a bicycle or giving blowjobs—once you learn it, you never forget it—and she just grabbed my driving license and dragged me to the nearby rent-a-car company. Then she chose probably the biggest wreck in car manufacturing history and shoved the papers into my hands, looking at me impatiently. I stared at her, confused and still hoping we would somehow go back to the subject of blowjobs, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Lara had already moved on to the subject of driving, and she expected me to prove myself in the role of her personal chauffeur.
So I did have to drive again after all.
©2022 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!