My life had been a real mess lately. For the last couple of days I’d already had no cases; since the day before yesterday I’d already had no home; and on top of all that, this morning it turned out I’d lost my office too! As soon as I went there—again, because I didn’t want to stay in the miserable hotel where I had checked in—I realized that something unusual had happened.
Firstly, the guard in the reception booth down in the lobby was missing. Secondly, the few people that I met while climbing the stairs, stared at me weirdly and it made me wonder why they did so. Thirdly, and it was the most unambiguous of all, the door to my miniature office on the second floor was broken. The thing had been forced brutally inside the room, but since there was not enough space in there, part of it had remained outside, sticking out.
I stopped abruptly on the stairs and looked around, alarmed. The corridor was empty but I saw footprints on the floor, which seemed chaotically spread around and too numerous for a normal situation. I quietly knelt down and touched one of them—the mud was relatively fresh. Then, with goose bumps, I unholstered my Glock and sneaked to the left edge of the doorframe to my office.
It was a useless precaution. I knew there was no one inside because no human being could hide in there with all the furniture toppled and half of the door pushed inside. Whoever had done this—presumably, the Chinese bastards—had already gone. I re-holstered my gun and slowly walked down the corridor, knocking on every door in turn but without expecting too much.
It was also a useless act. The entire floor turned out to be “empty” despite the fact that I heard ringing telephones, working coffee machines, and babbling TV sets inside the rooms. I managed to get just two of my neighbors to open their doors but they said they hadn’t heard a thing. One of them even claimed he had come just thirty seconds ago, which actually would have made him invisible because I had been in the corridor for five minutes and I hadn’t seen him around.
Nevertheless, I thanked both the guys and went back to my burial chamber. I say “burial” because my career was now buried inside! However, I could fully understand the men’s reaction. After all, it was not easy to bear witness if you had just seen an army of thugs with heavy guns refurnishing your neighbor’s office!
I carefully pulled the door outside in the hallway and stepped inside. It was not that bad actually, because the space was so crammed in the first place that it was impossible for the furniture to be disarranged too much. I looked around for the bottle of White Bear whiskey, which I kept in my desk because there wasn’t much more than this to rescue anyway. I soon found it but it was just its remains—the bottle was broken. Then I went out, leaned the door against the doorframe, and walked down the stairs.
The reception booth was still empty. I briskly left the building and strolled to my car. No one had called the police yet so I gathered that the assault was fresh; people were still afraid the Chinese might be around. I had no intention of calling the cops either but it was for a different reason—I saw no point in doing so. I couldn’t come back to that office again because I was going to be a living target for young mobsters to practice their killing techniques on! The police were not going to help me much in this situation. Instead, I hopped into the Beijing and started the engine. I drove down the road and out of downtown, and half an hour later, I stopped at the house on J. Rose 35. Then I stayed in the car for a while, thinking.
I had gotten into quite a perverse situation. If Bobby was really a mistress to Menelaus and Sharon was his wife, then why didn’t the former warn DuPont that his ex and his chauffeur were plotting against him? It was weird. Maybe Bjornson had no idea yet what the plot was about or maybe she had told Menelaus but he wanted to keep an eye on his enemies so he acted as if he knew nothing. If that were the case, it would explain to a point why Bobby and Sharon were messing me about between them—they were simply trying to ruin each other’s plans. Naturally, I didn’t want to be part of any of them but that still didn’t mean I was free to get on with my life. I had no life anymore! The Chinese were after me and I didn’t know where to go. Speaking to Menelaus Henry DuPont was actually my only chance to get out of this shit. I desperately needed to meet him.
After a few minutes, I puffed heavily, checked the Glock in my holster, and stepped out of the Beijing. I went slowly to the large front door, which was next to the gate from where Marty had driven the Corvic out, and I pushed the doorbell. A few moments passed but, as I anticipated, nothing happened inside the house. I waited for two minutes more and repeated the ringing—to no avail again. In the end, I turned around and went back to my car. I had no other option but to wait.
I kept on thinking as I sat in the Beijing. The situation was truly a crazy thing. Early in the morning, when I’d searched on the Internet, I found out that Menelaus had really married once, or almost married at least. When Bobby had told me this, I thought she was lying to me in order to get away from my questions but she appeared to be truthful this time. Nine years ago, right after the Couloongs’ coming, Menelaus had an affair but it happened under weird circumstances. During that period, he had been visiting the colony quite often on business matters—his empire here had just started becoming global. After one of the trips, the guy came back home wedded but strangely enough, he came alone. What was even stranger, his wife—some Sharon Alebruggen—didn’t follow him to Earth later…or ever. And on top of that, DuPont never went back to Mars again and he never divorced!
I lay back in the seat, pondering. It made no sense for Menelaus’ wife to come and have an affair with his chauffeur now—nine years later. So maybe Sharon Vorderbruggen and Sharon Alebruggen were different persons actually. The similarity of the names remained though, and if Sharon Vorderbruggen was Sharon Alebruggen after all, and she had lied to me about her family name, I wondered why in this case she hadn’t done so about her first name! Why was she giving me hints? Incidentally, after arriving back, Menelaus made the whole story about the marriage even more complicated by never confirming, denying, or revealing anything about the event on Mars, and never explaining why Mrs. DuPont was not coming. At first, there had been a huge fuss about it, but without the persona of his wife, everything gradually faded away. To make things worse, the marriage turned out to be kind of fictitious because down here on Earth, Martian law had no legitimacy and they didn’t even have such ceremonies on the red planet officially. And because of our recent problems with the colony, no one even knew what the bride looked like!
I stretched in my car, stiffened, and glanced wearily at my cellphone. It was eleven-thirty and the waiting here reminded me of the previous time when I had almost ended up dead after following Marty to the bungalow. At the thought of him, I nervously wondered what I was supposed to do if he drove in his Corvic out of that same gate again. Was I going to follow him and try once more to meet my death, or was I going to stay put and wait for some less harmless guy to come out?
A minute later, while I was still thinking, something really funny happened. I noticed my old friend—the silver rat—squeezing out on the sidewalk, and just as it had done the previous time, it waved its whiskers and went to the curb to sniff at it. “Well, that’s nice. It’s a good omen!” I thought and smiled at the little creature. Since it was here, someone else was sure to come out soon! Full of hope, I took my shades out of the glovebox and put them on, and then I laid my hands on the steering wheel, impatiently tapping my fingers on it. The rat was already at the storm drain!
Unfortunately, although they say that history repeats itself, one never actually knows when exactly it’s going to happen. To my disappointment, I soon realized that no change would come in my case. The animal stayed around for a few minutes, waved its whiskers again, vigorously sniffed the air, and then it trotted down the sidewalk until it vanished around the next corner. Afterwards, the street was as empty and peaceful as it had been before. I sighed, disappointed, and took my shades off, going back to my thinking. I had no other bright ideas in my head so I had to keep waiting for DuPont to appear. I hoped he would help me persuade the Chinese I was not spying on them—probably he too didn’t like them thinking so.
The guy was a true maverick, however, and I knew it was not going to be easy. He was secretive not only about his marriage but also about his deals. GTS’ headquarters were down on the continent—in Brussels—but he was controlling his empire from here. He held the last three floors in a ninety-floor office building in downtown and when I searched the Internet about him, I came across some very interesting things regarding his projects. For one thing, lately he had started buying up chemical factories around the world, and since he had a successful business already, it looked weird to me. Maybe that was actually the reason to hire Bobby in the first place! Another thing was that he had bought an island in the South Pacific and when I read about it, I wondered whether the purchase might have something to do with Sharon and Marty’s plans. The name of the place was Olosega and Menelaus had started something huge there but no one really knew what it would be.
In fact, I wouldn’t have paid much attention to it since the guy was a trillionaire and trillionaires do such things, if something in the name of the island hadn’t piqued my curiosity. It sounded like the name I had heard Sharon and Marty talk about in the bungalow. Even in this case, I still wouldn’t have been too suspicious, because I actually forgot the name almost immediately, if there hadn’t been another small island located right next to Olosega. Its name was Ofu, and that one I remembered well! Back at the bungalow, I had thought the guys were talking about Corfu in Greece but in the context now, everything suddenly made sense and their interest about the place where Menelaus had started a project raised suspicion in me.
I glanced at my cellphone again and reached into the glovebox to find something to help me kill an hour or two. I found nothing appropriate because in order to do so, I had to have put it in there first. There was only a crossword puzzle tablet. I hesitantly took the gadget out and tried the first level but unfortunately, the questions turned out to be too tough for me. They were asking about the last monarch of the former United Kingdom before Emigrant Revolution burst; about the name of China’s first human cloning; about some edible flower on Mars with golden petals and a red stigma; and about a sex toy for horny Couloong ladies. I knew none of these.
I played with the thing a little bit more, but after a few minutes, I threw it back in the glovebox, disappointed. The experience only made me feel stupid. I had just closed the cover and wondered what else I could do, when I noticed a small step van coming up the street to me. I slid down on the seat, just in case, and watched it, intrigued. The vehicle slowly climbed up and stopped at the distant end of the white wall near a rose shrub.
At first, nothing happened at all. No one came out and the van just stayed there, but since there was a reflection of light on the front windshield, I couldn’t see who the driver was. After a while however, I noticed some strange shadows moving inside and I recognized a few arms and legs, and maybe an ass sticking between the front seats. Eventually, all this disappeared and for about three minutes, nothing happened again. Then all of a sudden, the step van shook slightly and I heard a short shriek followed by laughter. In the end, the driver’s door opened up.
A really huge fellow clumsily stepped out of the vehicle. I wondered how he had even managed to cram himself inside, and his appearance put an end to my hopes of a harmless guy to follow. He could easily carry two younger rhinoceroses in his left hand and their old mother in his right one, and he also had an ill-hidden piece stuck in his pants on his waist. It was bigger than an artillery gun! Fortunately, the guy was not going anywhere but coming, which spared me the trouble of going after him and putting myself in trouble.
Right after him, a girl quickly jumped out through the passenger’s door. She was a southern type beauty—maybe Filipino or close to that—and she wore the knee-length black dress of a housemaid, garnished with a tiny little white apron with lace trimmings. She was gorgeous, and after the playing around on the front seat, she even looked a bit naughty in her uniform now. She stopped for a while to smooth her dress and put her hair in order, after which she and the guard went to the back of the van where the guy opened the door and put a small basket full of washed clothes in the girl’s hands. Then he patronizingly slapped her ass and she briskly ran toward the wall like a young filly. Then she just disappeared!
I jumped up on my seat, surprised. It turned out there was actually a small service door near the rose shrub, but looking at the place from my car, it was almost invisible for me. The shrub had blocked it entirely and the door was white—just like the wall itself. When the girl vanished into the yard, the guy grabbed two bigger and heavier baskets in his hands and went after her, barely fitting through the doorframe. After a minute, he came back out, closed the back door of the van, went around, and ignited the engine.
The vehicle moved to the huge front gate, which started slowly opening. Right before going into the yard, however, the van coughed a couple of times and the engine stopped. The guard tried to start it again but it wouldn’t. He got out and went round to the front hood to open it and look under. I waited for a minute and then stepped out of my car, sluggishly approaching the guy.
“Hey! You need some help?” I asked when I got near him. He turned his head to me while still bending over the engine. The latter was an old technology and consisted of many weird components—pipes, pumps and wires. It was identical to the one I had in my Beijing.
“Fuck off!” I heard him say after a moment as he turned his head back.
“Mr. DuPont in the house? I need to speak to him!” I ignored his bad mood.
“Fuck off!” he repeated but his voice sounded louder and more threatening now. He didn’t bother to look at me this time.
I shrugged and drew away while glancing inside the yard. I couldn’t see the house from where I was standing but the garden was truly spectacular. It looked like heaven—full of exotic plants, which were blooming in the first days of spring in Greenland! I hadn’t seen such a place before.
I went back to my car and very soon, the guard got the engine working. He drove inside and the gate closed. I waited for a couple of minutes, nervously pacing around the Beijing and eventually, I went back to the main door. I didn’t want to give up, and besides, I knew now that the house was not empty. The Filipino was inside and she was supposed to come and open the door for me. I had just pushed the doorbell button when a very loud cry came from inside. It was an angry cry and it sounded like the voice of the jerk, whose “friendly” attitude I had experienced a while ago. It seemed like he shouted, “Fuck off!” again.
I waited before the door for two more minutes just to be sure that no one was going to come, and when I was sure, I went back to my car. Feeling desperate, I started the engine and drove back to downtown. I had decided to start with the house because I doubted I was going to be allowed into the office. Plus I was going to find out nothing while waiting at a place like this—ninety floors full of strange people coming in and out. Now I had no other option however. Half an hour later, I stopped at the skyscraper and went in to go to the reception. I asked to visit GTS’s office on business matters, although it was a stupid idea because I had no appointment. The girl on the reception looked at me weirdly, but she called up after all. Unfortunately, no one answered and I wasn’t even surprised. I kind of expected it.
After almost twenty minutes of insisting to let me go up there, I had to give up on the idea because security was becoming nervous and they started giving me bad looks. Eventually, I made my peace with leaving a message and then I left the building, devastated. I spent some more time sitting at a cafe and trying to think of a single reason why the guy wouldn’t want to speak to me but I came up with no reasonable explanation. In the end, just before paying for my coffee and going back to my miserable and oppressive hotel room, my cellphone rang. It was Bobby.
©2016 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!