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I woke up about a minute later. I was sitting on the floor and a terrible pain was pulsing at the back of my head. I had a brand-new bump there, right next to the previous one, but I couldn’t feel with my fingers how serious it was because my hands were tied behind the legs of a kitchen table. In my lap, I saw my shirt rumpled into a ball. I stirred and tried to look around, still dizzy. The injury was obviously serious enough because it felt as if I had a tennis ball attached to my head!

“What were you actually trying to do? Seduce me with your natural scent?” I heard someone asking.

It was Sharon. I turned my head to her. She was sitting on the sofa in the distant corner of the bungalow, wearing only a white robe. Her legs were naked and she held a smoking cigarette in her right hand.

“You wouldn’t be so happy now,” I said coarsely, “if your monkey hadn’t come from behind!”

She just smiled and came to the kitchen corner to pour a cup of coffee. She wore nothing under the robe, and naturally, she flashed me with her privates when she stood up—it was already an established tradition in our relationship. This time, however, she was bald down there. Just then, the door opened and the jerk who had “attached” the tennis ball to the back of my head appeared.

“Well, hero’s up!” he jeered, satisfied to see I was conscious again.

I left his wicked remark without comment and groped with my fingers to explore the situation behind my back. The table wasn’t too big but it was made of solid wood—something not very typical for a motel bungalow furniture. My wrists were tied up with something that felt like cooking rope. It was fastened to the corner brackets right under the counter, which made my potential attempt to escape a bit problematic. The rope cut painfully into my flesh every time I pulled my hands.

The man stepped inside and went to kiss Sharon, grabbing her ass with his left hand. In his other hand, he had a camera hanging down on its strap. It looked like one of those I had used on my Chinatown mission.

“So you work for Bobby Bjornson now, huh? She’s your boss?” He turned back to me.

I tried to shrug, which was virtually impossible in my position. “What makes you think I’ll discuss that with you?” I asked coldly.

“Well, the fact that you’re in a shitty situation! Isn’t that enough?” the guy sneered and put the camera on the sofa.

I ignored his sneers. “If I answered, would it make my shitty situation less shitty?”

“As a matter of fact, no!”

“Speaking of shitty things,” Sharon suddenly broke in as she unexpectedly dropped her robe and started to put her clothes on, “you did a really shitty job with the camera, Mellrow! To be honest with you, I had my doubts, but you actually surpassed everything I thought you could mess up!”

I turned my eyes to her. She was putting on a see-through bra and her breasts bobbed a couple of times before the brassiere restricted their movement. She came to the wardrobe and pivoted left and right to take a look at herself in the mirror, which gave me the opportunity to explore her ass from different perspectives. I wondered why she did this. Yes, I had already seen her naked, but anyway—she could have easily put on her underwear with the robe still on. If we had been alone, I might have thought it was her natural womanly instinct to attract a man’s attention, but we weren’t alone. Her boyfriend was also here. By the way, he was enjoying the show just as much as I was!

“You know what?” I said after a while, looking at her disparagingly. “It wouldn’t have made any difference even if I’d taken a picture of Chavez and Li Jin Tao making out. With a lousy plan like yours, nothing really matters! You’re pure amateurs!”

Sharon suddenly turned around and came to me, furious. She slapped my face. It felt really weird to be slapped by a naked woman in a see-through bra. I hadn’t experienced such a thing ever before.

“What do you know about our plans, you slug?” her boyfriend asked suspiciously from behind her.

“He knows nothing!” Sharon hissed without turning to him. “He’s just bluffing!”

Then she walked back and went on with her dressing.

“Well, I think that for some reason, you want Menelaus messed up with the Chinese,” I said just to tease her and let her know that I knew something after all. “You hired me to do the dirty work for you, didn’t you?”

They looked at each other. It was not such an extraordinary insight of mine—it was actually quite an obvious thing—but I had to say something in order to dent their confidence. For a moment, Sharon stopped putting on her stockings, her hands pausing over her right thigh, but after a second, she carried on.

“It doesn’t really matter what he knows,” her boyfriend put in. “He’s a loser and he won’t know it for too long!”

“And what if there are other losers, huh?” I began to improvise, taking random shots in the dark. “Why do you think these were the only pictures from the meeting in the Red Dragon?”

“There were no more cameras. He keeps bluffing!” Sharon said evenly, this time without pausing her erotic show. She was putting on her panties now—also made of see-through stuff. I wished I could say something else to make her stop and come to slap my face again, but there was nothing valuable in my head. That’s why I just went on jabbering bullshit.

“I’ve been to the police,” I said casually, “and I’ve talked to Menelaus. If you think your little plot’s going to work, then maybe you should think again!”

“How did you get to Menelaus exactly?” Sharon asked without looking at me.

“Bobby got me a pass,” I said quickly, hoping I would accidentally hit on the right answer. “She got in touch with him.”

The “stripper” sharply raised her eyes and for a moment, I thought I had succeeded. I thought she was going to come and slap me. She proved me wrong, however.

“Bobby Bjornson’s his mistress, you fool!” she sneered. “She doesn’t need to ‘get in touch’. She’s in full bodily contact the entire time!”

I blinked twice and my face stretched as if I had been poisoned. I couldn’t know if it was true, but it was possible. Anyway, it caught me completely by surprise, almost as though Sharon had slapped me for real. That’s actually the problem with improvising—you usually miss the real target!

“Well, she plays double!” in the next moment, I tried to recover my position, up to a point at least. “What’s the big deal? I knew it! Besides, she’s not much different than your little buddy here—playing games behind his boss’ back!”

This shot was rather too long but unexpectedly, I hit on something. They glanced at each other again only this time they looked anxious. Sharon kept her eyes on her boyfriend, pressing him, and eventually, he shrugged uneasily.

“I guess he followed me here. His car’s a little bit down the road.”

“For God’s sake, Marty!” Sharon snapped, holding her black skirt in her hands. “Is it so hard to take a look behind your back every now and then? He could screw us over!”

“How was I supposed to know? I left him in a pretty pickle!”

“That’s how you were supposed to know! He was in a pickle! He’d start poking his nose just everywhere in order to get out!”

Marty was obviously not happy to be peppered by his girlfriend with me watching but he said nothing, except for, “He won’t leave here. Don’t worry! He won’t be a problem anymore!”

I shivered uneasily, even before he had finished his phrase. His words had the effect of a cold shower on me and I suddenly realized I might die here. The threat made me grope feverishly behind my back with my fingers. The table was not too heavy and I could probably stand up while still being tied up, but I didn’t know how that was supposed to help me. The bastard had a gun and he would shoot me long before I had broken the Olympic record for table lifting!

A minute later, Sharon finished her dressing and took a long sip of her coffee. She looked beautiful, just as she had been when we met in my office for the first time. Yet she was somehow frigidly beautiful—like an evil queen from a fairytale or a movie. It was a beauty you should be careful with! After a while, she slowly lit another cigarette and came to me.

“You know what, Mellrow?” she said playfully, looking me in the eye. “You’re a very, very weird dick! I’ve never met anyone like you before. I hate to admit it but you have some primitive charm and maybe in some other time, perhaps in another universe too, you and I could’ve had a different story—one, which wouldn’t end so tragically for you. Unfortunately, here and now, you’re just a dick. I mean one of those dicks who dies before the story has even started to unfold!”

I pursed my lips and tried to look tough even though my situation was desperate.

“Not too sure about that, babe!” I said sourly. “Time and universe tend to be relative, you know. You shouldn’t miss your chance with me just because you’ve been too quick to shut doors. I think we’ll meet again very soon!”

“Doubt it!” she shook her head. “If it happens, I may reconsider my chances with you, but I really doubt it! Farewell now!”

She turned around and walked to the sofa to take her handbag, and then she left the bungalow. I followed her sadly with my eyes. Despite her coldness, she still looked awfully hot and for a moment, I regretted that we weren’t in some other universe at some other time.

As soon as the door had closed, things immediately turned business-like. Marty promptly grabbed his camera again and came to me to hang its strap on my neck. He wound it around twice and all the time he was smiling derisively. I just wanted to punch him in the face but unfortunately, I couldn’t move.

“For God’s sake, what do you think you’re doing?” I asked him, annoyed.

He took out his gun and cheerfully waved it before my eyes. It was a Beretta Necrophile-707B—a really nice piece!

“You’ll see,” he answered. “You’ll serve a purpose!”

“A purpose? Won’t you ever quit your bullshit and just shoot me like a normal person would do?”

“Is that what you want?” Marty put the gun under my right cheekbone. I said nothing and only looked at him coldly. I knew he wouldn’t pull the trigger. He had something in mind and besides, he wouldn’t want my blood all over him.

“Na-ah, you’ll serve a purpose!” He soon proved me right.

The guy slipped his gun into his pocket and went to the kitchen sink to fetch a bottle of cooking oil. Then he took a few steps back toward me, carefully examining the floorboards in front of the wardrobe to my left. He poured a load of the oil there, crossed the room to strip the sofa of one of its cushions, and then brought everything back to the kitchen area, putting it on the kitchen counter. Soon he added a huge pot to his acquisitions, and finally, started digging for something else in the cupboard above the sink. All the while, he was whistling some popular tune without paying any more attention to me. It gave me time to resume my examination of the situation behind my back. Every now and then, I cast a glance at him, however. I was terribly curious to know what he was doing.

“You know she’s dumping you as soon as you’ve served your purpose, right?” I said, trying to distract him from his search because I was afraid he was going to finish soon. I needed more time.

He turned around sharply.

“What do you mean?”

“I bet you think she’s hot, huh? She’s hot alright, but in the coldest of ways! She is incapable of real feelings and you’d be a fool to think she’s not using you!”

“That’s none of your fucking business, Mellrow!” he exclaimed irritably. “Just stick to your purpose and stop worrying about mine!”

He turned around and went on digging.

I continued my work beneath the table as well.

“She’s too good for you!” I kept teasing him in order to buy a couple of minutes more. “And blowjobs are a delicate business, you know! You do one with such a passion in only three cases: if you do it for a living; if you really love the man; or if you have a cause that makes everything else irrelevant. Well, she’s obviously not a hooker and she’s clearly not in love with you so what do you think it is?”

He stopped again and turned around to come to me. He didn’t pull out his gun however.

“She’s unbelievable, huh?” he grinned lewdly and I instantly knew I was not the only one who had experienced Sharon’s oral skills. “She makes you forget everything; just blows your fucking mind!”

“She does,” I agreed. “Is this Bobby’s camera hanging on my neck, by the way?”

“Uh-huh. Why?”

“Did you know about her game from the very beginning?”

He smiled.

“We’ve known everything, Mellrow. Even the color of the boxer-shorts you were going to put on the morning before you went to the Red Dragon!”

“But you didn’t know I was going to come earlier and see you arrive!” I sneered. “So you didn’t know everything after all! Is that why you switched the cars?”

Marty showed me his teeth. “Yeah, you’re a very annoying dick, you know! At first, I just wanted to shoot from a safe distance; there was no need to steal your fucking car.” He turned around sluggishly and went back to the cupboard, after which he went on digging inside for the mysterious thing. “If you’d played your cards better, you could’ve actually lived a while longer. Maybe even get another blowjob, you know! But you really made yourself useless, buddy. You just can’t follow simple instructions!”

“Yeah, you’re right. I can’t.” I murmured vaguely. Behind my back, I was still working feverishly. The cooking rope around my wrists, though in abundance, was not enough to restrain my movements entirely. Obviously, they’d had nothing else at hand when they had tied me up. And the knots were an amateur job too. I found that if I moved my wrists in the opposite direction to the way the rope had been wound, I could slacken the grip enough to free my hands. While doing so, I also felt I could reach the brackets that held the table legs to the counter. Some of their bolts were loosened. I couldn’t figure out how to use this yet but it was worth knowing!

“Yeah, if you had been a little bit wiser, your dick wouldn’t be hanging down so sad now, but maybe joyfully sticking up right into her mouth!” Marty kept on directing virtual porn scenes for me, and a minute later, he finally found what he was looking for. He took it to the sink where he filled the pot with water and then put the pot on the hot plate of the stove, which he turned on. After that, to my surprise, he came to me with a gigantic ladle in his right hand. “You can only be sorry you’ll never have another chance!”

At first, I was so amazed to see him like this that I almost forgot the terrible situation I was in. For a moment, I just wanted to know what the hell he had in mind!

“So you’re cooking me now?” I asked, bewildered, when he started slipping the ladle handle between the camera strap and my neck.

Hearing me, Marty suddenly stopped and let go of me. He turned around to look anxiously at the kitchen counter and quickly went over to take the cushion. Then he moved back toward me.

“That’s a really interesting idea!” he grinned, raising the cushion happily. “But you know what? I’ll try that some other time, okay. Now I’ll just—”

And that was all he got to say. The fool had completely forgotten about the cooking oil by the wardrobe and he carelessly stepped upon it, turning such an extravagant somersault that for a moment, I thought his ass would crash against the ceiling. His weird “weapons” flew all around him and his body flopped down heavily onto the floor, as he cursed severely.

My jaw just dropped with amazement when I saw his performance. It was more than I could take. I would’ve surely laughed my ass off had I not been tied up with my life in danger. Since the moment was perfect for my insidious plan, however, I pulled myself together and struggled up to my feet. My insidious plan was mainly based on the eagerness of the table to fall apart and free my hands, and the chance that some of its legs would hop into some of my hands to serve as a challenge to Marty’s “deadly” ladle. I had already managed to loosen two of the bolts enough so I really believed it would work. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Just like Marty’s plan, mine failed spectacularly too!

In a second, I stood up with the camera wildly swaying on its strap and beating upon my chest, and although I was almost free, the damn table still refused to fall apart. It was hanging down from my shoulders in the most ridiculous way and Marty was already getting up. His right hand reached for his pocket where he had his gun. I looked around desperately and since I had no other option, I grabbed the table legs with my hands and tried to take a few steps forward, while turning around. I hoped that the table would catch Marty and he would slip on the oil again. I made a wild pirouette, and just at the moment when I almost lost consciousness from straining too much, I felt a sudden relief on my shoulders. The table unexpectedly decided to conform to my plan and it disassembled loudly.

All the pieces except for the two legs in my hands violently showered upon Marty like a furniture avalanche. The poor bastard flew back toward the kitchenette with the table counter pursuing him closely. Feeling hopeful now, I took a few steps forward, properly armed with my wooden legs, but I saw that the jerk had already drawn his gun. I had no time to stick to my ruined plan anymore! I quickly turned around instead, and ran out of the bungalow before he had fully awakened to action. After that, I raced through the back yard as if hundreds of daemons were chasing after me.

In about two minutes, with one of the table legs still in my hand, I made it to my car and feverishly started the engine. I did it just in time to see Marty appear from out of the motel area with his gun. I zipped by him in the Beijing and he shot at me once, but he only hit my left tail light. Weirdly enough, he didn’t hop into his car to follow me. I saw him in the rearview mirror staggering, with his left hand pressed against his temple. He seemed dizzy.

I stepped on the gas and quickly drove away. Soon I was on the First Ring Road, storming into the city, and half an hour later—into downtown. As I drove home, I couldn’t stop wondering what the jerk had actually wanted to do. I was so curious that if he’d had no gun, I would’ve probably gone back to ask him to continue just to see what he had in mind!

Knowing his love for plotting, and judging by his actions, I suspected that he had wanted to break my cervical vertebra, using the ladle handle for a better grip on the camera strap so as he could pull it sharply enough. What the pot on the hot plate and the cooking oil were for I couldn’t know for sure. Maybe he wanted to frame an accident or something. Perhaps, while cooking and walking merrily around my bungalow with a camera hanging on my neck, I was supposed to have slipped on the spill and the strap of the camera was supposed to have caught on something. I had no idea where but the wardrobe handle was a candidate because the jerk had inspected that area very carefully before he started. And the cushion was simply to prevent my screaming in the moments before he killed me, I guessed. Anyway, these all were just speculations!

I looked down at the camera still hanging on my neck, took it off, and threw it on the back seat with the table leg. The bastard was obviously not giving up on his initial plan to set me up with the pictures of Li Jin Tao and Chavez in the restaurant. I suspected they were important for what he intended to achieve later on. “What an idiot!” I thought. “What moron would walk around a bungalow with a camera hanging round his neck, while cooking? Sharon is surely going to kill him for that!”

©2016 S.T. Fargo

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 13 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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