Well, I was thirsty and hot all right, but we weren’t actually heading for a drink right away, as it turned out. First, we had some police business to deal with, then we were in for a small fight, and finally, we had to do some pointless driving before we got to that drink. Apparently, it was quite a stupid situation, one of those that usually come uninvited, and you can’t prevent it because it just happens.
And it all started like this: after we finished with the bum and walked back to our car, Lara suddenly felt the urge to make a complete inventory of her drug supplies, and she took everything she had in her pockets out on the front hood and began checking it out. There were about twenty cigarettes in total, which she smoothed out and started arranging diligently in a small cigarette case as if she intended to sell them in a pot shop, and they had to look really nice.
I was just about to tell her that the weather was too hot for such bullshit when I heard very aggressive rap music echoing between the buildings, which stopped me. I turned around annoyed, expecting to see a gang of hip-hoppers with their stupid boombox, but what I saw gave me the creeps instead. A police cruiser was slowly advancing toward us, and strangely enough, there was a cassette player on its roof, which was where the music came from.
I froze and completely forgot what I was doing. The car was an old and ramshackle Ford—a cousin of ours—and if it weren’t for the police lamp and everything else, I would have thought, “Oh, my Gosh, they’ve stolen our wreck!” There were four cops in the vehicle—all black and wearing dark sunglasses—and one of them supported the device on the roof with his right hand. The music was actually so loud that I had the feeling the car was bouncing up and down with the rhythm like in those moronic MTV videos, which were so popular in recent years.
The Ford kept approaching us extremely slowly, and when it leveled with us, it stopped across the street, right next to a neon billboard. The officers looked at us sourly, bopping their heads with the song and chewing gum as if they were fucking gangsters and owned the entire neighborhood. It was clear that we looked suspicious to them, and I couldn’t even blame them for that.
Shivering and sweating, I slowly turned my head to look at Lara. She had stopped arranging her stupid cigarettes now and just stared at the cops, but her hands were still there—by the incriminating evidence and the cow’s skull on the front hood. At the same time, we stood right in the middle of a pile of smashed garbage cans, and not far away behind our backs, the mobile hotdog cart lay tumbled and beaten on the ground. Luckily, the pavement around it was already licked clean by the starving riffraff who lived under the overpass, so at least stealing sausages wasn’t on the list of our probable crimes—at least for now.
Still nervous, I turned my eyes back to the policemen, putting the most innocent expression on my face and preparing to act stupid. Unfortunately, my ketchup-smeared white shirt, which looked like it was soaked in blood, wasn’t particularly helpful, and I suspected I would fail on my mission. There was only one thing in the whole world that could have made things even worse, and it was if I still had a gun in my hands. Luckily, my weapon was safe in my pocket now, but the situation was still bad enough as it was.
The driver of the squad car kept staring at us silently for almost a minute and then slowly took off his shades in a lousy theatrical manner—probably to demonstrate his negative feelings about us. His colleague in the passenger seat turned back to say something to the officer behind him, who supported the boombox and spread the “discriminating” taste of the group throughout the block, and the cop sitting next to the latter pointedly clicked a lighter in front of the unlit cigarette between his lips. Right then, the driver decided he had enough of us already, and he sharply revved the engine to make a U-turn and bring the car to our side of the street.
His unexpected action definitely took his colleagues by surprise. The officer with the cigarette didn’t have the chance to light it, and it flew out of his mouth along with the lighter he was trying to use, while the “DJ” initiated a desperate attempt to save the cassette player from nature’s implacable centrifugal force. At the last moment, he managed to take it off the roof but didn’t have enough time to pull it inside to safety. As a result, his arm made a wide sweep in the air, crashing the precious device into the pole of the nearby billboard and scattering cogwheels and broken pieces of plastic all around the pavement. Only the handle remained in the cop’s hand.
My jaw and Lara’s just dropped in amazement as we witnessed the unexpected scene. After the U-turn, the car came to our side, but because of the nervousness of the situation, the driver kept driving down the street for thirty feet more—in the direction the vehicle had come from. Then, after stepping a couple of times on the brake, unresolved, the man finally stopped the cruiser. The guys inside immediately started a loud fight, and soon we were no longer on their minds. That was actually the police business we had to deal with.
Still astonished, I looked at Lara, but she just shrugged and began collecting her cigarettes unabashedly. Then she got into the car. I quickly brushed the skull off the front hood and followed her inside, after which I stepped on the gas, leaving the cops behind. I felt kind of revenged for all the hostility I suffered from them, and I thought that sometimes, fate really had a strange sense of humor. Luckily, this time it was in our favor!
Since I had no idea where exactly we were supposed to go because we actually forgot to ask the bum about Eternity’s location, I just kept driving in the opposite direction from where the cruiser moved, and I hoped we would never find the place. The problem was that after our troubles with the cops, I didn’t feel thirsty anymore and rather wanted to go home. On the other hand, I knew it wouldn’t happen because I had to earn my detective’s fee somehow and also justify torturing Lara a while ago. And as I hesitated and wondered where to drive, a little quarrel burst between us.
It started with an innocent question: I asked my assistant what the time was because I thought it was too early and figured I might use that as an excuse for not going to the club. Instead of answering me, Lara simply glanced at my pants pocket and asked me to give her my gun back. I was well aware she was still angry for the humiliation I had inflicted on her, but letting her have my Colt was certainly out of the question. I missed my old iron friend so much, and besides, I didn’t see any reason why she should have it. When I asked her why she thought she should have it, she looked at me bluntly.
“You know what?” she explained grimly, “I’m not really sure you can use the weapon properly. It’s for your own safety!”
I gasped, indignant, when I heard her stupid argument. Since I hadn’t expected such a brazen answer, my mouth fell open, and I forgot to close it for nearly a minute. She had that quality to make my blood boil in no time, but her effort here exceeded every boundary, and it literally made the shit in my asshole boil!
“What do you even mean by not being sure I can use it properly?” I barked, offended, when I gathered myself together. “I’ve had a permit since 1979!”
“Well, you said you’d had a driving license since 1976, but if you shoot as well as you drive, it’d be better if I had the weapon and gave it to you every now and then to clean it!”
I gasped again. This was way too much, really! She literally crossed the line with this one and made me jump on the brake, bringing the Ford to a halt with tires screeching.
“Okay, you know what? Get out!” I shouted angrily. “I won’t be your fucking chauffeur anymore! This case is closed now!”
“Oh, come on! There’s no need to make a lousy scene for nothing,” the blonde-haired monster sneered at me, obviously not impressed with my outburst at all. “You just look for an excuse to give up because you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“That’s right! You’re absolutely right. I’m an idiot and don’t know what I’m doing. Now get out!”
“Okay, no problem. But you should give me my advance payment back, remember?” She hit my weak spot. “You give up the service, you give back the money. That’s how it works!”
This sudden turn of events actually sobered me up a bit. I had already lost a significant part of the advance payment, and I didn’t have my money to compensate for it. The only thing I actually had was a ton of overdue rent and bills.
“Half of it, we left at the club because of the unfortunate accident with the stripper?” I tried an evasive move without raising my hopes too high.
“Yeah? And whose fault was that?” Lara didn’t bite.
“The rest of the money just covers my services so far!”
“Excuse me?” My assistant screamed, exasperated. “What kind of service is that exactly? Please explain that to me because I’m obviously blind and I don’t see it!”
“Oh, you think investigating is what you see in the movies?” I started the old song because I didn’t know what else to say. “Let me break the news for you, Colombo! It’s actually a very slow and painful process, and it’s even slower when the fucking client doesn’t know shit about her damn sister! What did you expect me to do? Wave my magic wand and pinpoint her exact location among a couple of million people without any reasonable clue?”
She just sneered at me and said nothing. She had already changed her mind; I could feel it. And I had changed mine too. Our situation was pretty simple: I couldn’t give her money back, and she didn’t have another option but to use my service, no matter how inefficient it was. We were simply two losers stuck together! Nevertheless, we kept arguing for ten more minutes because none of us wanted to give up, during which time our fight gradually lost intensity.
Eventually, we decided to pause it for now and resume our war later—over a drink in Eternity. It was actually a funny situation because I believed we had been doing just that the entire time—looking for the club—but after asking a whole lot of people about it and spinning around the neighborhood in vain for half an hour, it turned out it had all been just the “pointless driving” that I mentioned earlier. The one that followed our fight, which followed the “police business” we had to deal with!
When we suddenly returned to the same billboard where we had started and passed by it, I felt really stupid. All the broken pieces of the unfortunate police boombox were still there, spread out on the ground, but the cruiser and the cops were missing. On top of that, the billboard itself advertised precisely the bar we were looking for, which we spotted about thirty yards down the street. When she realized how close we had been in the first place and that we had suffocated in the car for no good reason, Lara looked at me, frustrated, but I pretended I didn’t see her. In light of our recent reconciliation, she decided not to make a fuss about it, and instead of fighting again, we simply stepped out of the car, approaching the place in total silence.
The main entrance was actually on the other side of the building, near the canal, and well hidden from prying eyes. The club followed the style of drinking establishments in the early Thirties—during Prohibition—and from the outside, it resembled an abandoned factory, but inside, it looked surprisingly fancy and even cozy. I expected to meet a real hangout of criminals in it and maybe a couple of mafia bosses surrounded by scary-looking thugs, but I saw nothing like this. The place was almost empty.
After orienting ourselves in the interior, Lara, who had clearly been nonstop thirsty, went directly to the counter to inspect the inspired variety of liquors on the shelves. She found the bartender and ordered a few drinks, repeating the routine she had established at the milk bar and emptying the glasses right off his hand. For my part, I decided to take it easy. We were behind the enemy line here, and it was a wise idea that at least one of us stayed sober for at least a couple of minutes. That’s why I just ordered a glass of gin for myself and casually started sipping it while secretly checking out the place.
The main hall was, in fact, pretty large and nicely furnished with oak wood and smoked glass. It had enough space for forty or fifty tables and a few wall-mounted counters at the back, near the performance stage. There was also a spacious game room with pool tables, foosball, and darts to the right of the entrance, but it was empty now. We were the only customers around, and except for the bartender and us, I saw a bunch of noisy strippers in a service room behind the stage, a platinum-blonde beauty in a naughty white dress near the coat check, and an old janitor mopping the floor in front of the toilet area.
Obviously, I focused my attention on the beauty since she seemed the most interesting subject to me. Her overall appearance was a bit slutty, but in a good way. She had beautiful breasts and a killer butt, and although she wasn’t exactly my type, she was worth my attention for a while because her dress was Marilyn Monroe style—the one from the subway “accident”. It made me think the garment might catch an air current at some point and ride up, revealing her gorgeous ass.
Soon the girl got two guys to keep her company. I didn’t see where they came from, but they seemed to be insiders. One of them was an Asian in a fancy gray suit. He had slicked-back dark hair, an arched nose, a goatee, and a pair of small eyes that roamed nervously around the place, making him look threatening. I presumed he was the club manager or owner because his confident manner implied so. The other one was clearly a bouncer. He was a nearly seven-foot-tall, broad-shouldered, blond-haired thug whose figure resembled a small three-leaf wardrobe in size and angularity. He wore a cheap black suit.
I looked at the trio talking for a while, but I couldn’t figure out from so far what they were discussing. At some point, the Asian guy left, and since the thug glanced a couple of times at me when he noticed I had taken an interest in him, I decided to leave him alone. I grabbed my drink instead and tossed it down, playing the role of a local barfly who was just warming up before the evening kicked in and he started swilling without remorse.
When I swallowed my gin, I turned my head to Lara to see what she was doing. Unlike me, she didn’t seem worried at all and was not even curious enough to look around her. She was rocking dreamily on her stool, her eyes mooning at nothing in particular, and since she had already knocked back three shots in almost no time, I was sure she didn’t even remember she was mad at me. About two minutes later, she proved me right, sliding unsteadily off her chair and telling me something inarticulate about toilets. Then she clumsily waddled toward the janitor.
I shook my head disapprovingly as I watched her. She obviously couldn’t hold her liquor, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to drink, and I was afraid she would get us in some sort of trouble very soon. On top of that, I didn’t even know why we were here in the first place. The chances for us to discover anything related to her sister were like checking out the entire population of musk oxen in Greenland in an attempt to find a very particular flea. It was just madness!
To take my mind off these gloomy thoughts, I decided to direct my attention to the bartender, who was wiping glasses three feet away from me and pretended that it was the sole most important thing in his life. He vigorously rubbed one of them with a cloth as if he believed a very powerful jinni would come out of it and serve him devotedly until the end of time. I left the guy to his dreams for a couple of minutes, and when it became obvious that the jinni he summoned was either lazy or just unsympathetic, I called him, “Hey, dude! Hit me with another drink!”
The bastard sharply turned around, clearly furious that I dared to disturb his occult activities, and then he dropped his glass. I flinched, afraid he might want to take revenge and ask his jinni to put a spell on me, but he only stooped and did a few very strange dancing steps, squirming like a worm. As a result, a brand new glass full of gin suddenly materialized in front of me before I even knew it. Then the juggler swiftly swirled on his heels, and he still had enough time to grab the first glass, just a moment before it smashed on the floor in pieces!
Highly impressed by his bartender’s capoeira, I silently thanked myself that I hadn’t asked for a slice of lemon in my drink or something else that involved cutting, because god knows what terrible thing might have happened to me then. After that, while playing the role of a Brazilian street fighter who was awfully tired of the European shit, I asked casually, “You know what? I’m looking for a green-eyed, small-breasted, cute-looking brunette woman whose name is… well, it’s… Sonya someone. Have you, by any chance, seen a girl like it around?”
It was actually very stupid of me that I couldn’t give him the family name of the woman I was looking for, but I had no idea what it was, and I had forgotten Lara’s family name too. It was something Dutch or Scandinavian, but I had heard it just once—in Greensboro’s office a couple of days ago—and then it completely slipped my mind. Anyway, my worries were totally in vain, as it turned out. The bastard didn’t even bother to look at me, and he only waved his hand to his left, mumbling indifferently, “Pick one!”
I turned my head to see what he was talking about and realized it was the women in the service room, whose door was still open. I gave the girls a more careful look now. They were of various hair and skin colors, smoking and laughing. Most of them were almost naked, but none was Sonya. One of the chicks really impressed me, though, because she had the figure of a shot putter who had won at least three Olympic medals, and I kept my eyes on her for a while longer. When she noticed I was staring, she gave me a nasty look, and I had to turn my head back.
“No, it’s not one of these,” I grunted, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. “She kicks around with small-time dope dealers—two black guys who love gold chains and a whore in a tacky pair of white pants.”
The bartender stared at me suspiciously and gritted his teeth.
“Nope. Don’t know anyone of this type,” he replied.
I glanced at him, smirking. I had met too many guys like him; they were an open book to me. They always claimed they didn’t know anyone, but I definitely knew them.
“You can’t miss them.” I acted stupid and tried to push him again. “You hang around here all day and night, and they’re pretty memorable. They come every Friday!”
Naturally, the last one was pure bullshit, or a very long shot, to say the least. I simply couldn’t know when or even if the bastards came here, and the bartender obviously thought so too! The expression on his face illustrated his contempt very clearly, and I was grateful that he, at least, restrained himself from spitting into my glass or showing any other drastic form of disrespect. Luckily, I had other techniques up my sleeve for dealing with jerks like him.
“You know what?” I smiled casually, taking a sawbuck out of my wallet and fiddling with it slowly between my fingers. It rustled gently. “A guy on the street gave me this little treat for you. He said you could help me.”
The moron was interested immediately. He suddenly reached out his hand for the money, and I smirked again when I saw his fingers getting closer. Yeah, men of his type, I dealt with them with ease. Men of his type, I knew very well! The only thing I actually didn’t know was that the hand of this particular man would swerve unexpectedly at the last moment and pinch two Jacksons from my gaping wallet before collecting the ten bucks on its way back.
Needless to say, it all happened lightning fast, and given the extraordinary skills the bastard had, I didn’t even understand what he did until the moment he did it. When I finally grasped the situation, he was already at the other end of the counter, where he poured himself a glass of whiskey and drank to my wallet’s health. Then, just before he slipped out through a service door, I thought I heard him say, “Come back tonight around eight!” Unfortunately, I only thought he said that, and I wasn’t sure because it might have been my imagination trying to defend my hurt honor. A few seconds later, I was already alone at the counter, my wallet relieved of fifty bucks.
Partially offended by the bartender’s behavior but also satisfied with my small breakthrough, I looked around to find Lara. She hadn’t returned yet. Instead of her, I surprisingly found myself staring right into the face of the blond-haired thug I had spied on a couple of minutes ago. He also stared at me, and his grayish-blue eyes didn’t bode well. His disgusting and oily hair—the color of wet, rotten hay—was so full of dandruff that the latter literally snowed on the collar of his black suit. He practically wore a scarf of it around his neck!
“Hi there,” I greeted him cheerfully, trying to win his favor. It was a hopeless effort, though—the guy clearly wanted me dead for no obvious reason. I cautiously glanced aside and noticed Marilyn still idling at the coat check, but apart from her, there was no one else in the hall.
“What the fuck are you doing here, you stupid bastard?” The bouncer’s low and grating voice brought my attention back to him, sending an unpleasant thrill down my spine. “You’ve come to ask for more beating?”
“Excuse me?” I only managed to answer, puzzled.
“You heard me, Mellrow. Don’t make a fool of yourself!”
“Do I fucking know you?” I asked him, sulking like a honey badger forcefully dragged out of his dark and stinky hole. In my mind, however, I was aware the next awkward moment in my life was coming.
“Do you know me? I don’t know, do you? I hear you’re having medical issues lately, but you know what? I think you just act dumb as always!”
I gazed at the jerk ever more surprised and even blinked my eyes stupidly a couple of times because I thought I was the only one who knew about my embarrassing condition. Well, of course, Inspector Greensboro also knew about it, but I really doubted he had trumpeted this information to the world right after our meeting was over. Anyway, since I hated the feeling that such a moron would be so well-informed about my health problems, and since I had no idea how to react in a situation like this, I started improvising. At first, I kept it easy.
“Well, you definitely shouldn’t believe every fucking thing you hear on the street,” I grunted, annoyed. “Lending an ear to gossip makes you look stupid! And, by the way, now that we’ve talked, I do think I know you. I remember you’ve always struck me as a complete moron!”
“Yeah?” The guy squinted his eyes and bent over, giving me a threatening look. “Do you want me to refresh your memory even further? I can demonstrate to you that sometimes I can be a very nasty person too!” And he made a stupid gesture with his finger about how he would slit my throat.
“Wow, wow, wow! Take it easy, big guy!” I barked, looking him in the eye. “I’m here just to have some fun; I’ve got no business with you!” And after I said that, I briefly glanced at the girls in the service room to indicate what I was talking about.
The bouncer didn’t buy my devil-may-care attitude, and instead, he opted for escalating things between us. He grinned sourly and showed me his shiny, white teeth—as sharp and wide as adzes. He would have made an excellent horse of high value with so much quality DNA locked in them!
“It’s not important what you want, dickhead!” The bastard hissed viciously in my face. “It’s me who decides whether you’re having fun here or not. And right now, I decide to kick your stupid ass out!”
“And why is that exactly? Who are you to decide? You run this place?”
“What if I did? Would it make you fuck off immediately?”
“As a matter of fact, no!” I answered, still calm. “It’d rather make me wanna prove my point to you. You know what? Let’s play a little game. Why don’t you just tell me which one your favorite whore is, and I’ll bet you twenty dollars that she won’t ask for your permission to have fun with me! What do you say about that, huh?”
The jerk stared at me, flabbergasted at first, as he struggled to reply. My cheekiness definitely caught him off guard, and his eyes slipped away from me to glance briefly at Marilyn. It was stupid of him, but he obviously couldn’t help it. Two seconds later, after realizing his weakness, he erupted, furious. In his nervousness, he ran his fingers through his hair—probably to frighten me with the amount of dandruff he had—and his gesture raised a vortex of skin particles in the air, almost as big as handkerchiefs.
“You stupid fuck!” he roared, but still without touching me. “Your nosing around will cost you dearly! You will tell me right now what you’re doing here, or I swear I will…”
He stopped, uncertain of what he wanted to do to me.
“You will what? Waste me?” I finished the phrase for him, ignoring his empty threats. “No worries! Just get in line! Two ugly Caribbeans who consider gold chains top fashion have already tried that, and as you can see, I’m perfectly fine. Do you know them, by the way?”
My sweet friend suddenly stared at me in surprise, and then he unexpectedly gave me a crooked smile. His expression indicated clearly that either he knew the black scum I was talking about or had seen them around. Maybe they had business with his boss or someone else here, and that’s probably how the jerk knew about my amnesia.
“It’s true then! You three really partied together!” His face shone with delight, less than ten inches from mine. “I didn’t believe it at first, and I thought they were joking, but they had all the hilarious details and kept talking and talking!”
“Really? Did they?” I frowned, sour but also happy that I was getting closer to something at last. “What did they say about me? Only nice things, I suppose?”
“Only the nicest!”
“Well, could you bring it to their attention that I’m looking forward to meeting them again? Tell them I’ve got a sweet deal they may find interesting. I may help them change their gold trifles for platinum ones!”
“I think there’d be no need for me to tell them anything. I’m pretty sure they’ll find you as soon as they know you feel so well again,” the guy kept sneering at me. “They’ll certainly throw another whiskey party for you, and this time, I guess it will be the ultimate one!”
Even though I didn’t want to show my frustration, I shivered when I heard this. More and more evidence accumulated that I had had a very close relationship with the two scumbags, although I didn’t know why. They were drug dealers, and I investigated them—that much I knew—but did I really need to know them so intimately?
“What have you heard about that party exactly?” Eventually, I had to humiliate myself by asking him.
The bouncer’s face became serious again.
“I know that nosy drunks like you never survive for too long, even if they have luck once or twice,” He briefly glancing at the empty glasses on the counter, which Lara had taken care of before heading for the restroom. “And you’re clearly very slow to learn your lessons, which will put you in a body bag sooner rather than later!”
I stared at him, puzzled and confused again, but no matter how badly I wanted to get to the bottom of all this, I didn’t have the chance to learn anything more about the mysterious Johnnie Walker party in my apartment or the blue plastic bucket. The problem was that, right at this moment, we heard distant shouting, which interrupted our “heartfelt” conversation. My blond-haired friend sharply turned around, and I anxiously tried to look behind his massive back too, but the thug’s jerky movement had already raised such an enormous cloud of dandruff in the air that it left me gawking into white mist.
“Stay here! I’m not done with you yet!” He roared in my ear and then ran toward the staircase, beside the restroom entrance. The passageway obviously led to the second floor, where the office area was, but I had no way of knowing what was going on there without following the guy.
After the moron disappeared behind the corner, I quickly finished my drink and got up, ready to sneak after him. I knew it wasn’t a very good idea, but since Lara was still missing and it occurred to me that I might be able to find out something about Sonya, which would spare me the trouble of coming back here later, I decided to go for it. For better or worse, I didn’t go too far. I had just placed my left foot on the first step of the staircase when my assistant unexpectedly jumped upon me from above, knocking me down on the ground and literally sitting on my face.
“Come on, quick! Let’s get the fuck out of here!” She jumped back up to her feet, grunting anxiously and accidentally stepping on the fingers of my left hand. Only three seconds later, she disappeared behind the main door on her way to safety.
Soundlessly screaming with pain, I slowly stood up and looked around, confused. There was absolutely no one in the hall because Marilyn and the janitor, too, had gone to see what was happening on the second floor, and now only the girls in the service room peeked out from behind the doorway, alarmed. Since they had missed the start of the racket, though, they didn’t know where to look, and when I saw them, I theatrically glanced around myself, pretending I was surprised too. Then I quickly sneaked outside to catch up with Lara.
Very soon after that, we were already in our car, and I frantically revved the engine, driving away from the club as fast as our crate could deliver. I was quite worried because my assistant was still panting heavily in the passenger seat without saying a word about the incident, and I had no idea how serious the situation was. And since our old banger turned out to be a pretty decent deliverer after all, after a few minutes, we stirred up the crowd of bums under the overpass as I zipped past them on our way out of the neighborhood. It was only then that I finally sighed, relieved that I would live for another day.
©2022 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!