It was eleven-thirty the next morning and my cellphone was ringing persistently. I kicked off the bedsheets and, with my eyes still closed, groped through the bedroom to find it. I put the phone to my ear and listened to what they had to tell me. Then I went back to bed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fall asleep again, after what I had heard.
It had been an insane night really. After letting the Hondsu slide down the street and luring so many enraged Chins into a hunt for me—some of them hanging from the car like fucking stunt men—I didn’t have many options. As I said, I had to surrender or kill myself, or I had to disappear magically from the scene. I chose the third option because I had always liked magic, and because I didn’t have the guts to do any the other two. I just hit the display to unlock the passenger’s door and slipped over to the next seat before sliding out onto the sidewalk. The jerk who was working the front windshield didn’t see anything because the glass had already cracked into a spider web pattern, and besides, it was too dark outside. Then I let the Hondsu and him, as well as all the other Chinese who were chasing me, join forces and run together into the squad car, which waited at the end of the street.
Then, yet again, I had to run through half of Nuuk, breaking Olympic records and exceeding speed limits! As I sneaked away from the scene, I heard some screaming behind me and the clash of metal, which proved that my little plan had worked. Ironically, it didn’t seem as much of a big deal back then as it turned out to be in the morning. That’s what the phone call had been about. The police wanted me to explain, and even though they didn’t say explicitly what they wanted me to explain, it seemed quite clear what it was.
After I had been trying fruitlessly to fall asleep for a half an hour, I got out of bed, feeling pretty nervous, and went to the bathroom to take a shower. Then I made some coffee and thought about the situation. I was going to have a rough time for sure. My dream of being a shepherd in Romania suddenly came back to me, and for a brief moment of desperation, I was almost on the verge of checking for a flight from Anuk Airport to Bucharest. Unfortunately, that was not going to solve my problem with the police so I had to give up on the idea.
In such a shitty mood, and with thousands of false stories going through my head—each of them a thousand times more absurd than the others—I left my place at three p.m. and took a cab to Twelfth Regional Police Station. As I sat in the back seat, I wondered whether the Chinese had known about the car or whether it had just been a coincidence. If they had seen the shooter arriving in the Hondsu, and then they had set up an ambush for me, then my mission in Chinatown had been incredibly stupid—I had just made the things worse! I also wondered what the police could know about last night’s events and as I did so, I remembered something that terrified me even more than the upcoming questioning. I was most probably going to meet Jill in the police station and I had promised to be with her last night, not with the Chins!
After about half an hour, no matter how badly I wanted to hijack the cab and make the guy drive me to Romania, we pulled up to the curb in front of Twelfth. Feeling totally dejected, I paid the driver, jumped out of the car, and went to identify myself with the gamer in the reception booth. He gave me a pass, I climbed up the stairs, and a few minutes later, there was no escaping—I was standing before two-o-seven, ringing the bell.
The door opened almost immediately and Dunkin let me in, beaming from ear to ear. I was in his hands now and the bastard knew it. There were also two others in the room, one of whom I didn’t know, and the other one was whom I was most afraid of: Jill Sanders. They were both sitting in chairs near the window and they looked grim as hell.
“Hi, everybody!” I saluted them, trying to appear as innocent and cheerful as possible under the circumstances.
Nobody answered. It didn’t bode well for me at all.
“What ignorant people!” I thought, aggravated, and slowly stepped inside.
“This is James Hartoongatta.” Dunkin briefly introduced the stranger. “He’s a forensic expert in Seventeenth.”
The man gave me a dry nod without saying “hello” or anything else. He was a short, bald-headed guy, who had about fifteen kilos extra on his body. A pair of huge glasses was precariously balanced on the man’s nose, and the lenses were thick enough to start a nuclear reaction!
“And, of course, you know Jill!” Dunkin got to the point. He was almost ecstatic to announce that.
I wanted to shout in his face and ask him what the hell she was doing here but I said nothing. Instead, I gave Jill a crooked smile but she ignored it and fixed her eyes on Dunkin’s desk, where various leftovers from former lunches resided peacefully on the counter. She had obviously been invited here to witness my spectacular crucifixion.
“So, how did you sleep last night, Mellrow?” Kathungattachek initiated the procedure when he saw the jury was ready for my execution. He waved a hand toward a plastic chair by his desk, inviting me to sit in it, but I remained standing.
“Like a rock!” I smiled and then sharply turned to the tubby guy in order to lure him in a joyful conversation. “Or a dead man, if you will!”
Everybody ignored my witty joke as one. Obviously, they didn’t think it was witty enough and it was definitely not fun to play three against one!
“So you weren’t, by any chance, in…Chinatown?”
I was just about to say, “For what? Hookers are higher class here!” but because of Jill, I had to stop myself and mumble, “No. Why are you asking that?”
“Well, your car—” Dunkin went on slowly. “It has been found in a ditch a few blocks away from one of the Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood.”
“No way!” I exclaimed, sincerely surprised to hear it. On the other hand, if that was why they had me here, then it was not going to be such a problem. “I came out one morning and my sweetheart wasn’t there anymore. I thought someone had snatched her and I would never see her again!” I started with the bullshit.
“And why didn’t you report that?” the cop asked.
“Well, it was…this morning actually! You kind of beat me to it.” I spread my hands to indicate my presence in the room and my inability to report earlier.
My three executors looked at me seriously as if I was making jokes about my dead mother, not about my car. Jill, especially, was extremely bleak.
“Don’t make a fool of yourself, Mellrow!” Dunkin frowned resentfully. “A shooting has been reported and it came from your car. It’s a serious business!”
“And now you think I did it? Just because it’s my car, you think I acted as a midnight cowboy?” I said, still outwardly composed, but inside I was starting to worry again. “I told you, it was stolen!”
The cop discreetly cleared his throat. I felt that something bad was about to follow.
“We’ve found another car too.” He carefully prepared my coffin before pushing me in and putting the lid on.
“Was it also involved in the shooting?” I asked, feeling ever more worried. They had obviously found the Hondsu and I was expecting real troubles now.
“No, but it was involved in an accident with a police cruiser from Seventeenth. There was a whole bunch of Chinese around the car, crushing it.”
“Really?” was all I said.
“And why do you think this has something to do with me?”
“Because all the clues point to you and they are quite convincing,” Dunkin replied, slowly increasing the pressure after seeing that I was not going to cooperate.
“Really?” I asked again. My mouth was dry already.
“Listen, Mellrow, this stupid game won’t take you anywhere!” he puffed impatiently. “We’ve found a bunch of photos on the back seat of your car, more precisely—printed pictures of the nearby Chinese restaurant. The place is owned by a local gang, which is involved in the drug business. There was also a whole bunch of receipts for necessary expenses and for photographic materials in your glovebox. We think you were in that car when the shooting happened and you were spying on someone in the restaurant!”
“What about the other car?” I asked, ignoring his accusation because I didn’t know what to say.
“The other car is registered to GTS. Its presence on the scene is weird too and that’s why you’re here. We need you to explain!”
“It’s registered to what?” I asked surprised.
“Global Transportation Service. Menelaus Henry DuPont is the owner. We think you’ve been working for him and we wanna know on what!”
I looked at Dunkin, confused, and then I looked at the others. They remained silent like a true jury—waiting for my trial to be over. Global Transportation Service was the biggest transport corporation in the world and its boss was a bigshot. He was a trillionaire. I couldn’t even imagine what business I might have had with him if I’d had any. If I really worked for him, I’d have definitely had no troubles now, whether financial or with the law.
“If you think I work for DuPont, why the hell, don’t you ask him about the accident?” I turned my eyes back to Dunkin. “You know full well that I couldn’t reveal my client’s business!”
“We’ll ask him later!” Dunkin said, not very convincingly. “But now we are asking you. You are in the shit and I would be far more cooperative if I were you, you know!”
“I can’t say anything about this.” I shook up my head. “I don’t even know this guy and if I worked for him, you would’ve been talking to his layers right now, not to me! Don’t you think?”
“And why was your car full of pictures of the Red Dragon?”
“I don’t know. They were slipped in.”
“And how do you explain the receipts then?” Dunkin asked.
“What about the receipts?” I shouted irritably. “They were slipped in too, just like the pictures!”
Dunkin sighed pointedly and went around the desk to sit in his chair. He started tapping his fingers on the counter. The bald guy behind him remained passive and emotionless as a statue and Jill just rolled her eyes. They were both pissing me off with their silent and hostile disapproval. However, their behavior was telling me that there was something terribly wrong about that car accident.
“Listen, Mellrow!” Dunking said sharply after a while. “I got no time for your games! You either give me a reason to keep this accident here—in Twelfth—or you’ll have to explain everything to the Feds and the Drugs. It’s your call! I’m giving you one minute to think and then I want everything! You have to tell me why you took these pictures and what the Chinese are plotting. If you don’t work for DuPont, I wanna know why there were receipts for necessary expenses signed for his company; and if you do, you’ll tell me what the guy’s up to. Between the other things, you can also tell me why there was coke in the glovebox in your car and I won’t accept one of your stupid jokes that you’re just a junky!”
I almost hiccupped when I heard this. Coke in my glovebox! The bastards who messed around with me really stuck at nothing! I could hardly imagine what they wanted to achieve with such an inconsistent and chaotic set up.
“You know what, Dunkin?” I turned to Kathungattachek wearily. “You’re a cop, goddamn it! Can’t you see this is all bullshit? Do you really believe I would stuff my glovebox with snow before going to work? It’s just insane!”
He was looking at me without saying anything.
“No matter what you’ve found in my stupid car, it’s probably fake,” I went on. “It’s been planted there. Think about it! Why would I keep the receipts inside the car if I was about to go to a shitty place like Chinatown to spy on someone? Why would I print the fucking pictures and put them on the back seat, instead of giving the memory card or the film to DuPont? Does that make any sense to you? And why would there be a second car around, which was registered to DuPont’s name if we are talking about spying on his behalf. Moreover, why are you asking me about all these things if this is his fucking car? And why do you even think I have anything to do with it?”
Dunkin briefly scratched his head and glanced uneasily behind him. The other two were still silent. The forensic expert was wiping off his glasses and Jill was just looking away.
“It’s because of what we found inside the second car,” he said, quietly now. “It was full of your fingerprints and DNA—that’s why Hartoongatta is here. And also, because the back seat was just smeared with your semen! Are you going to say you were set up with this one too?”
Now I really hiccupped. I froze with my mouth open and then I forgot to shut it. In the commotion of the previous night’s events and now the interrogation, my little fumble with Sharon on the back seat had completely slipped my mind. Terrified, I looked back at Jill but she refused to look at me. She was staring at the wall to her left and biting at her lower lip, barely stopping herself from crying.
Almost a minute of unbearable silence followed. I knew it didn’t work well for me but I couldn’t figure out what to say. All the while, I was nervously playing with the wallet in my pocket, trying to pull out my ID card and rip its chip off. It was a useless act of sheer nervousness. My entire biometric information was replicated on hundreds of police servers anyway. In the end, I just had to give up my stupid resistance.
“Okay then, here’s the deal!” I said quietly to Dunkin, turning my side to Jill so I didn’t have to look at her. “I’m in the middle of a terrible mess of a case and it becomes weirder and weirder. At first, I thought my clients were just pulling tricks on each other but now I’m starting to think that it goes much deeper. At least one of them wants to mix DuPont up with the Chinese. I still don’t know why, but I’m sure it’ll clear up soon.”
After that, I briefly filled Dunkin in on my cases, sparing him some of the delicate details. I was sure that the pictures he was talking about weren’t from any of my cameras because the vehicle had been parked there since before I took them. I asked the cop to show them to me and he did. On most of them, there was just the restaurant—those few that contained people had caught other Chins; not Li Jin Tao. As a whole, it was an amateur and hasty job and while looking at the photos, I realized what the main idea of the set up was. If Chavez’s thugs had caught me, it would’ve been okay—I would’ve served directly what I had to. If I escaped and they had found my car later, or the police found it, they would’ve seen the receipts signed for GTS, and since the other car was registered to GTS too and it was full of my DNA material, it would’ve implied that I was working for DuPont and he had hired me to spy on the Chins. It was simply a fallback!
I shared this with Dunkin and we talked for about a quarter of an hour more, and eventually, he had to let me go because he had nothing really serious against me, except for a case of vandalism and possible drug possession, which he knew wasn’t really mine. The cop went to consult the fat guy with the glasses who had been chatting with Jill for the last few minutes. I was very careful to avoid looking at them. In the process of questioning, I had told Dunkin about Sharon’s broken car, which explained my fingerprints inside, but I desperately kept off the subject of semen. Fortunately, he didn’t insist on more details, probably thinking it was self-explanatory or perhaps he simply felt uncomfortable with Jill listening. Anyway, that part of my story stayed hanging in the air, unexplained the entire time.
After a few minutes, when Dunkin finished talking with them, still angry, I drew him aside. “Why are you doing this to me, god damn you?!” I hissed in his face. “You’re playing a tough guy to gain self-respect or what?”
“What do you mean?” he looked at me, truly surprised.
“What do I mean? You wanna know what I mean? Why do you have Jill here in the first place? Is she part of your little investigation or are you too scared to resolve your problems with me personally?”
Dunkin said nothing and just glanced uneasily behind his back.
“You know you have nothing against me, you rat! This is all bullshit! Every layer will just blow up in your face!” I went on. “You can’t even cook up a charge for car stealing because I bet the fucking car was stolen before that in order to be planted there!”
“You finished?” the cop asked when I paused for a moment, gasping for air.
“No, I’m not! You are pathetic, you know! Next time when you want a woman who doesn’t want you, do something to deserve her! Having your little revenge with me hurts her feelings, you moron! That won’t make her love you!”
I sharply stopped because I couldn’t figure out what other dirt to throw in his face. Dunkin kept looking at me for a few seconds, waiting for me to go on, but when he saw I wouldn’t, he opened his mouth.
“I’m not the moron here, Mellrow; you are!” he said calmly. “The case was already open in Seventeenth because the officers in the squad car reported the accident. And since your fingerprints and other stuff were just everywhere in the Hondsu and you were registered with us as a PI, they wanted us to take the case. As for Jill, I didn’t invite her here—she wanted to come! She wanted me to hold the case until I heard your story. Otherwise, you would’ve been talking to the Drugs right now; not to me! She was trying to protect you even though you didn’t deserve it. Unfortunately, you cannot be protected from yourself!”
Dunkin turned and left me hanging with my mouth open. I couldn’t think of anything to say no matter how hard I tried, and in fact, I doubted that anyone in my situation could come up with an answer. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jill leaving. I jumped after her and held her by the elbow, just outside Dunkin’s office.
“Hey, babe, listen to me!” I said.
She turned around abruptly.
“You know what, Mellrow?” her eyes looked at me piercing. “No one is special in this world! No matter how handsome, how funny, how clever they are, no one is special. You ain’t either!”
She sharply pulled her arm away from my grip and went down the corridor, leaving me speechless. I just stayed there, watching after her and feeling the entire world collapsing upon me. I had really, really screwed it up this time. I had truly hit the rock bottom!
©2016 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!