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It was the middle of March and the weather totally sucked. Streets had turned into rivers, the water following their curves as if the entire city were some weird urban canyon. Here and there, puddles were almost as big as Hudson Bay, and parks looked like Louisiana swamps. The heavy wind made raindrops whip people’s faces like small daemon tails. Winters here are not what they used to be. It’s all different now, probably because of the Chinese: they fucked up global climate about a decade ago with their large-scale industrial revolution and then the country disintegrated, leaving the rest of the world to deal with the consequences.

I was sitting in the chair in my miniature office on Lacuna Drive 85, a glass of White Bear whiskey in my hand, my feet up on the desk, watching a muted, portable TV set placed next to my shoes. The set was so close that I could have easily kicked it down if I had stretched my legs a little bit more but I couldn’t care less. Firstly, the TV set was very old and, therefore, insanely cheap. Ironically, it was made in China. The second reason I didn’t care was that even if it fell, it still wouldn’t have hit the floor since my office was only just bigger than the desk itself. There was simply not enough room for the device to fall all the way!

For the sake of being precise, I should mention here that my office was exactly two hundred and thirty-five by two hundred and forty-five centimeters. It was the smallest one in the whole building and probably in the whole of Greenland too. I was not even sure it was a good idea I had rented it in the first place; partly because I was not using it much, but also because of the money—I just didn’t have it!

In order to be even more precise, I should note that I never have enough money actually. Moneyless is my natural state of being and sometimes I wonder whether God created me just to serve as a byword—so as people could say, “Poor like a Murphy”! On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure it was God who created me anyway. I’d always doubted it, but after aliens turned up, it felt more than ridiculous to keep speculating on such a thing. Their appearance made a total mess of my head and upset the fragile system of beliefs I’d had before that!

From somewhere in the depths of the desk drawers, the telephone suddenly gave a hollow ring and startled me from my thoughts. I slowly put the glass down and reached to open the right lowermost drawer. I pulled out only the receiver to say a brief “hello” into it.

At first, no one answered. I could just hear heavy breathing at the other end of the line. Then someone cleared their throat and cautiously asked, “Mr. Mellrow, the PI?”

“Yeah, you got me right here,” I answered cheerfully but without raising my hopes too high. “How can I help you?”

“How much do you take, Mr. Mellrow?”

“How much do I take for what? Washing up your dishes? Going for a night out? Wiping out your neighbor?”

She hung up on me. It was some old lady, I gathered, maybe on the verge of death judging by the efforts she took to breathe. She was definitely not a real client. No one who starts a phone conversation with, “How much do you take?” would be. I’m not selling apples and oranges for God’s sake! I breathed a deep sigh of despair and put the receiver back into the drawer. Then I reached for my glass again.

It was all a very bad idea in the first place. I couldn’t even say why I had done it—probably because, lately, I felt lost. If you want a piece of advice from me, you never put advertisements in local newspapers, especially if you’re a PI! The reason is that no one reads them these days; only people of eighty and above but they shouldn’t be your target, you know. Internet changed the world for good.

And the worst thing was that I had found myself caught in some kind of catch-22 with my moneyless situation. I couldn’t actually aim at the proper audience in the other media because I didn’t have the money, but without advertising at all, I had no chance of getting a client. That’s why I’d had to listen to all sorts of bullshit the whole week: a lost cat in the basement to be rescued; a lost parrot on the roof to be rescued; a lost husband in the garage not wanting to be rescued; or an unreasonable wife of ninety-three having an inappropriate attraction to the milk boy: I had to persuade her to give him up, thus rescuing her. I even received an offer to chase a pigeon in the garden of an old lady and stop it from stealing her beans!

I took a sip of my drink and reluctantly thought about the future. As always, soon I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t holding anything bright for me, but on the other hand, maybe I had to stop caring so much about it. Earth had been changing rapidly after the Couloongs arrived and future simply didn’t matter. It was not quite clear how much longer our planet would continue to exist and lately, our way of life was taking it day-by-day.

Couloongs were an alien species that had been hanging around for the last few years. They were much ahead of us in technology and they could easily wipe us off the face of the Earth if they wanted. For now, the little bastards were making their peace with just trading, but if one thought rationally, a war was inevitable someday. That would be the last day of our civilization, I thought!

The telephone rang a second time. My hand mechanically reached down but the device stopped before I even had the chance to open the drawer. My weird telephone setup was also a result of that catch-22 I talked about. The phone company had shut down my cell account a week ago because of unpaid bills so now I had to rely on the ancient technology my insanely cheap office was offering. Unfortunately, this technology was not going to serve me for too long either. I had already missed paying the rent here too!

The phone in the drawer resonated again. This time I waited a few seconds for it to stop, but it didn’t. Maybe it would have been far more appropriate to have the device up on the desk with me but there simply was not enough room: the counter barely contained my feet and the TV set. In the end, I wearily reached down and pulled out the receiver.

“It’s Mellrow’s office at your service and Mellrow himself on the phone. How can I help you?”

“Hello, Mr. Mellrow.” A surprisingly pleasant and soft voice of a young woman caught me completely off guard. “I would like to meet you to talk business. Can I come to you?”

“Tell me what it’s all about?” I spontaneously asked without much consideration. I simply didn’t want another pigeon case!

“Well, it’s about a thing that shouldn’t be discussed in a phone conversation,” the woman said, a little annoyed. “It’s not very professional for you to insist on knowing everything before we’ve even met! Don’t you think so?”

“Maybe, I do,” I drawled, trying to recover my professional image—a little too late. “I just wanted to make sure you were deadly serious. A lot of people have been pulling pranks on me lately, you know!”

Then I stopped confused. I had absolutely no idea what “deadly serious” was supposed to mean. Generally, I tend to act weirdly around beautiful women and that was most probably the reason for me to say it. In some way, I was sure that this one at the other end of the line was truly a beautiful one, and maybe she was even deadly beautiful!

“I’m totally serious, Mr. Mellrow. Just tell me where to meet you.”

I shrugged and quit my stupid resistance at last. I gave the woman my address and she said she would be around in ten minutes, which made me think she was calling from some place near my office, which, in turn, made me think she already knew the address. In this case, it was a bit weird that she called instead of coming straight over here but I was not in the mood to speculate regarding her reasons, so I hung up and forgot about it.

Just then, when my hand was still holding the receiver, the phone started ringing again. I looked down in disbelieve and let the damn thing ring. It was too much for me, this sudden and unexpected consideration for my financial troubles! Besides, it seemed that I already had a client. Instead of picking up, I briskly finished my drink and put the empty glass away. Then I put the TV set down on the floor in the corner, took my Glock-47AK out of my jacket and placed it into the upper drawer on my right—just in case.

After doing all that, I simply leaned back in the chair and waited patiently for ten minutes to pass. Soon the phone stopped ringing.

©2016 S.T. Fargo

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 1 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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