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17


I was sitting in some windowless hole, which was serving as an interrogation room and two highly unpleasant jerks—both because of their size and because of the essence of their job—had been taking turns to slap me across the face for about twenty minutes. My hands were handcuffed tightly behind a metal chair that was welded to the floor. Unlike Marty Cork, they were not taking chances here!

I looked at the jerks. One of them was a huge guy of thirty, probably one-point-nine meters, and more than a hundred kilos. He had a massive square jaw, small evil eyes, and short blond hair. The knuckles of his hands were rounded almost in a flat line. He would’ve certainly felt nothing even if he hit a concrete wall!

The other one was just a little bit shorter and bald. He was the worst however. He knew how to hit painfully, without leaving bruises behind. He was sitting on the edge of the desk, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up, and he was looking at me nastily. The badge hanging on his neck just read, “Bob”. The rest of it was scratched with a marker.

“Again, what did you say you were doing in that house, Mellrow?” he roared while shooting evil looks at me. He was cracking his knuckles too.

“Why does your badge say Bob?” I asked tiredly. “But your buddy’s badge over there says Robert! Is this just so people can tell you apart?”

He leaned forward and gave me the next slap in my face.

“What were you doing there?” he repeated.

“Because it would’ve been a lot easier if you just hadn’t scratch your family names, you know!” I said. “Isn’t that the right way?”

Another slap and, “What were you doing there?”

I exhaled as noisily as I could. I had answered that question at least twenty times but obviously, he didn’t like my answer. I had said I had an appointment in the house, but he wanted me to say I had gone there to satisfy my thirst for serial killings.

“Well, you know, I was out for a walk,” I started this time, “and I unexpectedly came across this lovely garden—”

Slap!

“—and I thought it would be a wonderful idea to take a short tour—”

Slap!

“—inside the yard and take a look at the house too—”

Slap!

“—and check for some dead bodies, you know!”

Slap!

“Could you, please, stop doing this and let me answer your fucking question!” I suddenly hissed.

Slap!

I glared at the guy for a moment with the most contemptuous look I was capable of. Then I silently swore to God I would never utter a word again, at least not until I saw my lawyer. My expression was probably quite telling because the bastard got up and went to his buddy in the corner. They talked quietly for a while and the sudden pause gave me a little time to think about my complicated situation.

Clearly, I had been set up again—it was more than obvious. The stupid cops had burst into the house about fifteen minutes after my going in there and they hadn’t lingered in the rooms downstairs—they had come right upstairs to me. The chance of such a coincidence happening was simply unrealistic and I bet they had come after a report—maybe from Marty or Sharon. The wrench on the mantel supported my assumption perfectly because I had used the thing to “fix” Sharon’s damn car a few days before. Unfortunately, that was not the entire problem. The set up was lousy enough and it was not going to make a suspect of me for too long but my real concern was Bobby. I couldn’t believe she had helped them. She was the one who had lured me into the house and she had said she wouldn’t bite my head off, but she just had! Now I had to accept the fact that she was in the game with Sharon and Marty and it really hurt.

The cops in the corner suddenly stopped whispering and the bigger one clumsily came back to me. They had obviously switched again and it was his turn now. I wondered where the inspector had gone and why I had to be stuck here with these two morons. They knew no better than slapping me in the face and asking me the same fucking question again and again!

“Okay, Mellrow!” Without delay, the jerk started the theater, shaking his big blond head threateningly. “I’ll ask you a simple question!”

“Okay, Robert, would you stop there!” I interrupted him. “Let me guess the question! It’s why I was in the house, right? But you know what? Let me ask you a simple question too! How did you actually know I was in there?”

The guy blinked at me, surprised, and at first, he remained still because he didn’t know how to react to my cheekiness. However, a few moments later, since he had no routine in this case, he felt the sudden urge to hit me.

Slap!

“We are asking the questions here!” he roared angrily in my face.

“I’ll ask you the same thing in court, Big Robert!” I warned him.

Slap!

“If you ever get to the court!” he hissed viciously.

“Oh, I will! And it will be sooner than you think!”

“I doubt it!”

Slap!

“Oh, you’ll see!”

Slap!

“I doubt it!”

Slap!

“You’ll see!”

Slap!

“I need the toilet!”

“I doubt it!”

Slap!

“What the hell do you mean, you doubt it? You want me to piss here?” I looked at him with resentment. I had just decided to quit this stupid game because apparently, it was more unpleasant for me than it was for him, but his momentum had carried him into the next hit before he registered my words.

The guy looked at me, surprised, and I saw a sign of uneasiness in his eyes—he was not as tough as he thought he was after all. He stood up and walked away to consult Little Bob.

Just then, the door was sharply yanked open, and to my astonishment, Dunkin burst inside like a hurricane. He seemed angry. I noisily sighed with relief when I saw him. In that moment, there was not a single face in the whole world I would’ve been happier to see then his, even though we were not the closest of friends!

“Okay, guys, I’m taking it from here!” he shouted, waving his inspector’s badge. “This case is still open with us so Tanittakam is transferring it. Now, stop the bullshit and uncuff him!”

The two morons looked at him surprised and confounded, then looked at me disappointed, and although reluctantly, they obeyed the order. Bob took his cellphone out to make a phone call, and Big Robert came to take my cuffs off.

“You see? I told you!” I sneered at him. He avoided my eyes and said nothing. I rubbed my wrists a little to let some blood into the flesh.

“What fucking mess have you gotten into again, Mellrow?” Dunkin pulled a frustrated face when he came to us and handed a stack of papers to Robert. “You’re a true disaster!”

“I’ve gotten nowhere!” I rubbed my cheekbones as well. “They’ve set me up again!”

“Yeah, of course! I’ve heard the whole world is just dying to get you in trouble! I saw the initial report of Tanittakam and this time it doesn’t seem good at all. You’re throat deep in shit, you know!”

“You think I’m not aware of it?” I started rubbing my wrists again. “When you dig shit, you usually get dirty with it. That’s the way it works!”

“And you went into that house because you didn’t find enough of it outside?”

“I had an appointment inside! I told it to these two gentlemen here probably a hundred times but they were too busy plotting my future in jail and they wouldn’t listen!” I turned my head and gloated at the jerk on my left for a while. “I just wanted to talk to Menelaus and see why the guys who set me up needed to mess with him and the Chinese.”

Dunkin shook his head disapprovingly, and as Big Robert went away, he put the briefcase he was carrying onto the desk. Then he pulled more papers out of it.

“The lawyer will be here any minute,” he announced. “Meanwhile, you can tell me again why the guys who set you up would want to do this in the first place. I didn’t quite catch your story the last time I heard it because it sounded too ridiculous!”

I shrugged because I couldn’t deny it. It did sound ridiculous but it was not my fault.

“I got no idea why they persist!” I said. “They obviously have something in mind but I don’t know what it is yet. However, you may check up on the guy. His name’s Marty Cork and if you’re tough enough, he may sing. He’s Menelaus’ chauffeur but I think his girlfriend is pushing his buttons. She appears to be Menelaus’ wife or ex-wife, although I’m not quite sure because their marriage is not legal here on Earth.”

Dunkin looked at me intrigued and wiped his forehead. His round face was all wet. It was pretty hot in the room—probably being an interrogation tactic of the two jerks who had maltreated me.

“The ‘wife and chauffeur’ story?” Kathungattachek pulled a skeptical face.

“Yeah, classics!” I glanced at Bob and Robert. They stood embarrassed in the corner while we were talking at the desk because there were no other chairs and besides, they had nothing to say in the presence of a police inspector. I didn’t seem like a prisoner anymore and they obviously felt hurt about it.

“And now you think this guy killed them all?” Dunkin shook his head, still not convinced. “It’s not really plausible. It’s a lot of work and a lot of risk!”

“I didn’t say it was part of their initial plan,” I puffed. “Clearly, some of it was accidental. Now when I think about it, the first time when I rang the doorbell, it was about eleven-thirty. At that time, the bodyguard and the Filipino had already gone out for washing and they came back later while I was still waiting. I gather Cork just wanted to kill Menelaus and the gardener and the other two come as a surprise to him.”

“What time did you see them arrive?” Dunkin asked.

“It was twelve-thirty. We had a little chat but they didn’t let me in so I went to try in DuPont’s office and when I went back to the house—it was almost three p.m.—they had been dead for two hours. On the other hand, when I found DuPont upstairs, he had died three or four hours before that—his body had just started stiffening and the lividity was almost in full stage. So it fits perfectly!”

“You mean you’ve actually blocked the guy inside the house between eleven-thirty and twelve-thirty and he couldn’t get out after the killings?”

“Exactly!” I said, quickly arranging the events in my mind. “He had no chance to come out with me hanging around. Then the other two came and the Filipino went in first because the bodyguard had a problem with his van. So Cork had ten to fifteen minutes to kill the girl. Later, I found her strangled in her bed. After the guy went in too, I rang the doorbell and I think I heard a cry. It must have been the moment when Marty shot him in the back, on the stairs.”

“I hear the bodyguard had his pants pulled down and the girl was handcuffed,” Dunkin pursed his lips, not satisfied at all. “What’s the fucking point? And why would the girl be naked? If she had just come into the house, the murderer wouldn’t have had enough time to play games!”

“Yeah, I know that. It’s really weird,” I admitted. “But maybe there’s a different angle to it. She and the bodyguard made out outside in the van for a while so it’s possible that she wanted to be ready for the guy.”

“It still doesn’t explain the handcuffs,” Kathungattachek scratched his head. “She wouldn’t handcuff herself; not before he came at least!”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Cork loves these things—he’s the king of exotic plots—maybe he arranged some of it later!”

“No, I’m not sure,” the cop disagreed again. “In such a situation, one has no time to plot! The way I see it, for some reason, she undressed herself and prepared the cuffs; murderer came and killed her; saw the cuffs and used them; then the guard came, saw the girl dead and he hurried toward Menelaus but the murderer surprised him on the stairs.”

“It makes sense,” I said thoughtful. “Neither of the victims seemed to have been moved so maybe you’re right. By the way, what happened to the gardener? How did he die?”

The cop shook his head. “He’s not dead. He’s just in a coma because his head had been severely smashed. Until he recovers and bear witness, you’re in quite a shitty situation and your biggest problem would be the tool of Menelaus’ murder. It was in your hands!”

“Yeah, and it has my fingerprints on, I know! Sharon took care of it when I fixed her car.”

Dunkin look at me with something between sadness and disapproval.

“Well, at least the guy had made a critical mistake, killing the bodyguard with his own gun. I suppose the bullet in the victim’s body won’t match those in your weapon, will it?” He persevered.

I turned my eyes to him, thinking on his words. He was absolutely right! I would’ve taken the highway to prison if Marty had planned more carefully and killed the guard with the wrench. The mismatch of the bullet was really in my favor!

“You know what?” I speculated as I considered the events. “I think you’re right. The jerk couldn’t have counted on my coming so it couldn’t have been a set up for me in the first place. He just saw his chance when I surprised him!”

“I don’t know. Does it really matter?” Kathungattachek grunted scornfully. “The point is that you shouldn’t have entered that house in the first place. What were you even thinking? Were you out of your fucking mind?”

I shrugged and said nothing. In fact, I had no idea what I was thinking. I had probably hoped to find something to help me get out of the crap I was in, but a guy like Dunkin couldn’t understand that. He was a cop and cops just deal with the aftermaths of crime. For a PI, however, without the legal power, often, there is no other way but to infringe the law a bit.

“How come the cops swooped into the house right after me?” I asked him after a while. “I wonder how they knew where to find me—the house’s big enough, you know!”

Dunkin turned his head toward his colleagues who were talking quietly in the corner. My ex- torturers still stood there devastated and ignored as if they had been punished.

“Hey guys, can I have a cup of coffee, please?” Kathungattachek shouted. “And could you, please, stop the damn heating?!”

They both looked at him sourly and then Big Robert went for the vending machine in the corridor. The other one started turning some thermostat installed on the wall near him, casting angry looks at me every now and then.

“Yeah, and could you please bring another one for me?” I called after Robert when he was almost at the doorway. He turned sharply and glared at me, furious. I could literally hear the sparkling of his eyes—his look was popping like confetti!

“They’ve acted on a report,” I heard Dunkin say. “An anonymous person called the police and said there was screaming and cries for help coming from the second floor of Menelaus’ house. A squad car set off but they grabbed Tanittakam on the way because it was Menelaus, you know. He’s not just anybody!”

“The ‘anonymous person’ couldn’t have known if it was the second floor. The fence is three meters high and the house is far from it!”

Kathungattachek just shrugged.

“A man or a woman reported?” I insisted.

“Can’t tell. Why? You suspect someone?”

“Well, you know who I suspect! And these guys had quite a narrow window of an hour and a half between my first and second visit to arrange everything so I wonder how they managed to do it so quickly.”

“How could they be sure you were going to come again?” Dunkin asked.

I shrugged and didn’t tell him anything about Bobby’s call.

“And why are you so sure these were the guys who did it anyway?” the cop went on reproachfully. “Menelaus was a trillionaire—it could’ve been just anyone!”

“No,” I shook my head. “They had planned this for too long and they wouldn’t give up. Their initial set up was ruined but it’s still important for them to connect the Chinese to DuPont. I think when Marty saw me outside, he saw his chance to fix everything.”

“You just speculate. It doesn’t prove a thing!” Dunkin frowned.

“No. But it makes sense. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have put the pictures in my car, would they? And they wouldn’t have used the wrench! Marty took a serious risk when he stole my Beijing, and he wouldn’t do it unless my set up was important for their plans!”

“It’s too complicated! What possible difference would stealing your car make?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure,” I sighed grievously, “but I involuntary made a mess of Cork’s original idea to put all my stuff in the Hondsu and shoot at the restaurant from a safe place. The thugs were supposed to get agitated, search the area, and catch me in the booth. However, I got to the restaurant a little earlier and saw him coming. He obviously had to change his plan and move everything into my car because he was probably worried that the Hondsu wouldn’t be a strong enough evidence and I would get him involved in all this later.”

“Still, it doesn’t prove these guys have killed DuPont,” Dunkin disagreed. “They have no motive! And I doubt it could be money because even if the woman’s Menelaus’ wife, she probably can’t succeed him anyway. Guys like him have prenups and stuff and by killing him, she could only put herself in trouble.”

“No, I don’t think it’s that simple,” I said thoughtfully. “There must be something else!”

Right at that moment, Big Robert clumsily came back with Dunkin’s coffee. Quite expectedly, he brought only one cup and glared at me when he held it out to his colleague. Dunkin looked at him inquiringly, looked at me, looked at the cup and at last, he offered it to me. I briefly shook my head and smiled contemptuously at the big “blonde”. He squinted at me furiously and bared his teeth. Given half the chance, he would’ve torn my flesh bit by bit using them. It was a nice feeling to see him powerless to do anything about it.

“You know what?” I turned back to Dunkin when the jerk walked away. “Will you do me a little favor, please? I need you to check the passenger lists of the main airline companies for three names. I mean those of the companies that fly to the South Pacific. The past three days would do!”

The cop suddenly narrowed his eyes, looking suspicious now. “Why would you need that?”

“I have a strange feeling, you know. I suspect the bastards are going to scram—tomorrow or even today. There’s something about the way they act, which makes me think so!”

“I don’t know,” Dunkin immediately tried to retreat from my plead. “It’s not legal. I’ll need a warrant to do that!”

“You wouldn’t want the case to stay open like forever, right?” I looked at him urgently. “If they go, it will!”

I grabbed an empty piece of paper from Dunkin’s briefcase and quickly scratched the names of Bobby, Marty, and Sharon. Kathungattachek was clearly not enthusiastic about my idea but he did nothing to stop me. He had no hard evidence against any of the guys and he couldn’t ask for a warrant but I knew he had ways to retrieve the passenger lists if he wanted.

The cop glanced at the names and then looked at me grimly. “You don’t mean to do any more stupid things, do you? I’ve had enough of you already and you’ll really piss me off!”

“For God’s sake, no!” I exclaimed and raised my hands to show him the signs of cuffs on my wrists. “Do I look like I’m able to do anything—stupid or not? I just wanna help!”

In that moment, the lawyer arrived at last. I looked at him. He was a tall, dark guy with a tiny beard, sleek hair, and energetic movements. Dunkin grabbed the papers from the desk and stood up to meet him, after which he introduced him to me. During the next minutes, the lawyer arranged all the details about my conditional release, while Dunkin dealt with the details of transferring the case to his authority. I remained idle in my interrogation chair and patiently waited for them to finish. Soon the formalities were over and Dunkin came back to me with a plastic bag containing my cellphone, credit cards, and other stuff.

“Look, there’s nothing to demand your arrest, right now,” he said as he sat down. “Security cams have caught from the neighboring houses the exact time of your arrival at the place and going in. Clearly, you couldn’t have killed any of the victims because you were too late. Plus you have reported about the tool of the murder previously!”

“What about Marty?” I asked. “Did the cams catch him going out?”

“No, just a black Corvic.”

“It’s his car!”

Dunkin threw the bag on the desk.

“Anyway, for now, it’s just a car. You’ll be free to go but you’ll remain a possible accessory until the first results of the investigation come out. I’ll try to arrange that it happens soon but meanwhile, and for some time after that, your PI license will be suspended. I can do nothing about it; it’s a murder case, you know! Also, you can’t have your gun back because it’s evidence now.”

“Okay, I understand,” I said, happy I’d be able to go home. Then I remembered I couldn’t. I had no home anymore!

“The day after tomorrow, you’ll appear in court,” Dunkin went on. “Since there are no damages in the house and there is no one to claim them anyway, you’ll have the chance for a plea deal, and if you plead guilty on a charge of intruding on a private property, you’ll probably get away with a fine. Something else may pop up too but it’ll be minor. It’ll all take no more than fifteen minutes, I suppose. However, now you’ll be charged five hundred for your conditional release otherwise, you should stay here for the night, which you wouldn’t want I guess!”

“Okay, no problem.” I agreed. “How do I pay?”

The cop stared at me fixedly for a while. I wondered why he did this.

“Actually, it’s already paid,” he murmured at last. “Jill asked me to take care of it. You can pay her off later.”

“Is she here?” My heart jumped hopefully when I heard him mention her name.

“No, she’s not. And she doesn’t want to see you!”

“Is she okay?”

“Yeah, she’s fine,” Dunkin said, and then he quickly added, “when she’s away from you!”

After that, he stood up and turned around to go to the lawyer who was just about to leave. I took my stuff and stood up too. My former “interrogators” looked at me unhappily but they couldn’t do anything to stop me now. I slowly walked to them to take my jacket, which they had thrown on the floor after searching it. I glanced at Big Robert when I passed just a step from him. Then I bent over to take my jacket, thrust my left arm into the sleeve, and while doing the same thing with the right one and standing up again, I made too wide a swing and a small pirouette. My right elbow “accidentally” caught the jerk’s jaw and the entire room exploded with the crunching sound it produced.

I turned back falsely surprised.

“Oh, fuck me! I’m so sorry, dude! I didn’t even see you!” I mumbled under my breath, and glanced behind my back at Bob, ready for his blow now.

“Never mind! Forget about it!” Surprisingly, I heard someone say. I was shocked because I’d obviously missed to notice the sudden pacifistic transformation of my new “friends” but as it turned out, none of them had said the words. It was just Dunkin who had come back to me but he hadn’t seen the accident and he had only heard my apology, and he thought it was for him. He grabbed me by my elbow and impatiently pulled me out in the corridor.

“And listen, Mellrow, don’t fail me, okay?!” he said demandingly. “I wouldn’t want to explain to the court why you’re missing or late! I also want a full report on my desk by two p.m. tomorrow!”

“Don’t worry, Dunkin, I’ll do everything as you want it. I’ll be in time!” I assured him, still feeling sorry I hadn’t had the chance to step on the toes of Little Bob before leaving the interrogation room—“accidentally”, of course!

“And you’ll be considered a witness when all this is over!” The cop went on. “You’ll have to be available any time—day or night—and you certainly cannot leave the town!”

“Okay!”

A few minutes later, we were down on the street in front of the police station. It was drizzling again. The wind was blowing quite heavily but it was not too cold. The winter had almost gone. The cop patted me on the back and silently strolled to his car, leaving me alone on the sidewalk.

“Hey, Dunkin!” I cried after him. He turned around. “Thanks for…you know…”

“Oh, forget it!” he mumbled inarticulately and briefly waved a hand at me. “I’m only doing it for Jill!”

Then he hopped into his car, zipping into the night without even offering to give me a ride.

I looked about. There were no cabs in sight because it was too late. I took my cellphone out and tried to reach Bobby but I knew she would reject me now after what she had done. After a while, I closed the line, wrapped the jacket around my body, put my hands into its pockets, and walked thoughtfully down the street. I had no reason to hurry and no place to go to actually. I was carless, homeless, and utterly hopeless. Very soon, I was probably going to become lifeless too!


©2016 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!
(www.stfargo.com)

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 17 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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