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The woman who was sitting in front of me was truly gorgeous, just as I had thought she would be when we talked on the telephone. She looked like an advertising agent for heaven. I simply couldn’t divert my eyes away from her face and was definitely doing a very good impression of an American redneck who hadn’t seen a woman since the big drought in the nineteen-thirties. Eventually, I gave up pretending I was not impressed and just stared at her openly.

“Would you like something to drink, Miss Bjornson?” I asked, glancing at her business card on the desk.

My courtesy was a bit of a stretch though; I didn’t have much in my liquor cabinet to offer. Fortunately, my client was a decent woman and she refused to drink at noon. Her decision automatically prevented me from having another glass myself.

“Well,” I went on after a while, “now that you’re here, you can finally tell me what this is all about!”

My visitor said nothing and just reached into her purse. She had blue eyes, long blond hair, and pale skin with flushed cheeks. Her makeup was so delicate that it was almost invisible. The nice, sky-blue dress she was wearing was somehow not in accordance with the terrible weather outside and I presumed she had come in a car. She took a picture out of the purse and tried to give it to me but on the way, she accidentally dropped it. The picture flipped in the air and slipped toward the edge of my tiny desk before falling onto the floor.

Being a gentleman, I briskly bent over to take it for her but she turned out to be quicker than I was. We almost bumped our heads beside the desk. I looked at her and promptly drew back but it was too late—I’d already had a glance at her sweetest “secrets”!

Miss Bjornson was in possession of a pair of charming little breasts—so little they were that they couldn’t fill her bra entirely! Leaning in front of her, I could clearly see their cute pink nipples, the size of beer caps. I made a slight attempt not to look at them directly but it was more of a declaration of goodwill than a real action. As a result, I assumed the curious pose of a squint-eyed, stiff-necked moron in the middle of a peep show. My client took up the picture and straighten up, holding it out to me. I grabbed it while pretending I had something in my eye, after which I theatrically glanced at it.

It was a photo of a man, digitally printed on luxury photo paper. He was a queer guy who looked like a Latino thug: thick-set with brown skin, long curly hair, and various marks all over his face and neck—probably mementos from old battles. He wore sunglasses on his face and a bright Hawaiian shirt, unbuttoned to his chest. All his fingers, as well as his wrists and neck, were heavy with golden jewelry. The guy was loaded better than a Spanish galleon returning from a successful marauding raid in the West Indies!

“Who’s this? The king of gypsies?” I asked, none too tactful. The man could quite easily be her missing boyfriend or her husband for instance. Anyway, I didn’t really believe that was the case.

Miss Bjornson looked at me calmly with no sign of insult on her face. She didn’t smile either.

“His name’s Ernesto Chavez. He’s the boss of Greenspace; not the gypsies!”

“Greenspace? Like the environmental Greenspace?” I asked.

She nodded silently.

“And what do you want me to do to him, Miss Bjornson? Kill him?”

“God, no!” the environmentalist suddenly held her hand to her mouth in disbelief. “I just need him snapped!”

“You mean…like kidnapped and beaten?” I grinned impishly even though I knew perfectly well what she actually meant.

“You have a very brutal imagination, Mr. Mellrow,” she said, completely dispassionate this time. “I’m starting to think I’ve come to the wrong office. What I mean is that I want him snapped with a standard photo camera without any lethal extensions on it. To say it in another way, I want you to take a picture of the guy for me. Is it clear enough now?”

I grinned again.

“And why would you want that, Miss Bjornson?”

“Does it really matter?”

“Well, to me it does! If you want me to do this job for you, I’d definitely need the details. If not for the sake of doing the job properly, at least so I know it’s legal.”

“It is legal.”

“Glad to hear that. Now could you tell me why you need that picture?”

She gave me a short, studying look. Maybe it was her first time asking for this kind of service and she hadn’t expected the questions. After a few seconds, however, she ditched her hesitation.

“There’s a huge deal, which Greenspace is trying to broker with the Chinese gang here in Greenland,” she said quietly. “It’s a smuggling thing and we’re talking big money. We want the deal to fail.”

“You want it? Who are you exactly?”

Again she stared at me for a while. It was more than obvious she didn’t want to go any further but after half a minute, she opened her mouth and said: “I work for an organization, named Green Guards. We’re a rival to Greenspace.”

“You mean a sister maybe!” I pursed my lips.

“No, I mean a rival! Greenspace has crossed the line lately and we cannot be sisters anymore. What they’re up to would affect the wildlife of Africa on a very large scale and we need to stop them. I mean hundreds of rhinos will die if we don’t.”

I looked at her, truly surprised. She had almost made me think I had a real client, but now that I’d heard her problem, she seemed rather like a nutcase to me.

“You do know it all sounds a bit ridiculous, Miss Bjornson, do you?” I asked her in a deliberately rude manner after a very long pause.

“I don’t care how it sounds to you, Mr. Mellrow, as long as you do the job!” she snapped, visibly offended. “You’ll be paid very well for it but if you’re not interested, I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time.”

She slowly started to get up but then stopped halfway and did nothing. Her picture was still in my hand and I wasn’t particularly quick or eager to give it back. In the end, she just hesitantly sat down in the chair, and started tapping her fingers on the edge of my desk.

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t do the job,” I backed up cautiously. “At least, not until I hear the entire story, but I have to be careful at the same time. You must agree that not many people would sign up for poking their noses in Chinese mobsters’ business!”

“As I’ve said, you’ll be paid well for the poking. It’s entirely your decision,” Miss Bjornson replied coldly.

I slowly laid the picture down on the desk and breathed deeply, still looking at her. I didn’t actually want to lose the money but I also didn’t like her story. There was something wrong with it and she was definitely keeping many things back. And it’s never a good idea to do business with people who would do that, you know!

“Well, tell me then how well your ‘well’ is?” I asked despite my suspicion, because I was really curious how much I was going to lose if I rejected the case. “What sort of money are we talking about?”

“Fifteen grand,” my client said flatly with no warning, her eyes fixed on me like a sheriff squinting at a wanted cowboy.

Although I had somehow expected to receive a strange offer, I stared at her surprised and bit my tongue when I heard it. It felt as though there were a huge ball of dry sand in my mouth, blocking my throat, because I had never seen that much money piled up except when I had dreamed they’d elected me a sultan of New-Brunei. It had been a crazy dream but even then, I hadn’t got to see my billions and trillions of dollars—I just knew I had them!

“It’s an advance payment. A starter!” the environmentalist went on slyly, making my choice even more terrible. “You’ll get another ten grand later, when we make sure you’ve done the job properly.”

I immediately felt my waist softening and my ass sliding off the chair down toward the floor. My feet promptly tried to counteract in order to prevent that and my legs involuntarily entangled with those of my client. I ended up looking as though I was hitting on her the old-fashioned way—from the times when tacky meant style.

“I’m sorry, Miss Bjornson,” I was quick to draw back out of this stupid situation, “but my office has a rather minimalist flair. Every little move here is a potential threat to good manners and proper behavior, especially if a beautiful woman is around.”

Miss Bjornson unexpectedly blushed. Her left hand grabbed the fingers of her right one and nervously started kneading them; her intense gaze fixed on me. Her reaction was too weird and I suddenly wondered what it was supposed to mean in terms of Freudism. Was it possible that she actually liked me?

To avoid the stupid pause that followed, I quickly went back to business and asked: “So you want me to take a picture of this Chavez guy, right? I could do this for you but I really wonder what difference such a photo would possibly make.”

The environmentalist stopped kneading her fingers and her eyes evaded mine. “Leave that to us,” she said quickly. “We’ll take care of it. You just need to shoot that picture and you can shoot it from a safe distance if you will. You’ll be provided with a camera with powerful zoom lenses and everything else you may need.”

“That would be nice,” I agreed, “but I keep asking myself, you know, why won’t you shoot it if it’s such a safe job?” Something deep inside me was still unsatisfied and I wanted to make sure she was not trying to set me up.

Miss Bjornson promptly regained her calmness. Her angel blue eyes looked at me without blinking. “It’s because we need a specialist,” she explained composed now. “You are a specialist, right? You’ll go to the place, look around, choose the right spot and everything. We wouldn’t want to mess it up because there may not be a second chance afterwards. Besides, if something messes up, God forbid, we wouldn’t want to be involved. That’s why we are asking you for help!”

I said nothing. Her explanation felt convincing but the job itself was still suspicious. I didn’t know what to do.

“May I ask something else too, Miss Bjornson?” I decided to try one last time to make her spill the beans. “Tell me, why would the Chinese mafia in Greenland want to kill rhinoceroses in the first place? They got a real business here, I mean, like killing people and selling drugs and stuff! Why would they risk the publicity and attract such a huge attention?”

My weird visitor bit at her lower lip and stayed completely silent for a few seconds, just looking at me. I gathered she was trying to come up with a lie. Incidentally, she had beautiful and inviting lips.

“You’re not familiar with eastern cultures, Mr. Mellrow, are you?” she unexpectedly said afterwards.

“I’m afraid not,” I agreed.

“People in Asia are really crazy about rhino horns—especially the Chinese! They believe the substance in them has the power to cure infertility. Ever since China disintegrated, this problem has deepened and the birth rate in the country now is only one per one thousand people. It’s a serious social issue, you know!”

“So you mean they may become an endangered species?” I smiled, smirking at my own wit.

“You could say so!” Miss Bjornson tried to smile too but it was a very weird smile. Not a single muscle on her face pulled in the right direction and I wasn’t even sure it was a smile really! “It’s a delicate matter for Chinese males, and after so many painful losses, the country needs more people now. I guess you could imagine what a profitable business this powder has turned into!”

I looked at the door behind her, pondering her last words. It was actually all true. Modern day China really suffered too many losses after communists failed to hold power, and its territory was only half the size it used to be. First Tibet split away; then Inner Mongolia and Manchuria went, respectively, to Mongolia and Korea; and the last hit was when Vietnam annexed the entire southern fourth of the country. China was now just a ghost of her previous self and it was often referred to as Chinasia—a collective term for all the territories, in which Chinese lived. Chinasia consisted mostly of independent city-states.

“I can imagine,” I turned my eyes back to Miss Bjornson, still hesitant. “But I don’t see why Greenland is the middleman here? Why wouldn’t Greenspace direct the stuff to Chinasia instead of making round-trips to here?”

“Well, you know the situation in the South China Sea! It’s risky to go through Indonesia and the Philippines.”

“What do you mean risky? Because of the pirate territories?”

“Yes, of course! Besides, pirates are hungry for rhino horns too. Going to Greenland and then through the North Pole to Chinasia is the safest path. The Chinese will keep part of the stuff here to distribute it among their neighborhoods in America and Europe, and the rest is heading for their motherland. By the way, Mr. Mellrow, you’re asking questions now, the answers of which I do not and could not know for sure. You make me speculate! And I think I’ve already delivered sufficient information for you to take your decision so maybe you should just take it!”

“Well, excuse my ignorance, Miss Bjornson,” I ignored her last remark, “but isn’t Greenspace supposed to take care of nature instead of devastating it? At least that’s what I thought!”

She gave me a very tired smile. “It used to be like that, indeed, and maybe in an ideal world, it would be again. Over the years, however, with global problems piling up and governments failing, preserving nature turned into a business and some preservationists became very rich. But money corrupts, you know! Some of our ex-sisters have gone really far and Greenspace, in particular, is one of them!”

The environmentalist reached into her purse and slowly took out a fat envelope, twiddling it impatiently in her hands. It was more than obvious that she thought this interview had finished.

“Well, will you do the job, Mr. Mellrow? After so many questions, I can’t decide whether you want it or not. Do you?” she asked me directly.

I furtively glanced at the envelope and swallowed twice before answering this time; I didn’t want to look soft and drooling while talking and fighting sand balls in my mouth at the same time.

“Is that all you want, Miss Bjornson? Just take a picture of the guy and that’s it?”

“Provided that you take it properly, that’s all!”

“And then, I get another ten grand?”

“You’ll get it right away!” She gave me a nod.

“Okay, where’s the deal brokering expected to happen?”

“In a small Chinese restaurant on Fifth and Thirty-Sixth Street uptown.”

“And when?”

“The day after tomorrow, sharply at noon.”

“What happens if I can’t get in?”

“You won’t need to get in,” Miss Bjornson assured me, happy that we were talking business at last. “In fact, you won’t be able to do it! They’ll close the restaurant but you shouldn’t worry. The establishment’s like a fast food thing—long and narrow, stretching along the street. You’ll just have to find a proper place outside on the opposite sidewalk and hide. The meeting will take place on a table right next to one of the windows because the inner parts are kitchen area.

“And what if they put down the blinds?”

She shook her head. “They won’t! Chavez’s a suspicious bastard. He’d want to retain visual contact with his thugs outside on the street.”

“Oh, there will be thugs then!” I exclaimed, suddenly disappointed.

“I didn’t say there would be no danger, Mr. Mellrow. Otherwise, it wouldn’t pay twenty-five grand, don’t you think? And here is the moment to remind you that if something goes wrong, we’ve never met!”

“Of course. I understand that!” I mumbled, suddenly realizing I was going to be all alone on Fifth and Thirty-Sixth with absolutely no backup; alone against a pack of enraged mobsters, probably armed with heavy guns! “I assure you that I’ll take your dear secrets with me over to another world if needed!”

She showed no reaction to my joke at all. I was not sure she even accepted it as a joke, and assuming that the deal was now sealed and I had taken her case, Miss Bjornson stood up, leaving the envelope on the desk. She leaned forward slightly as she did so, but not long enough to flash me with her charming little breasts again.

“We’ll be in touch for the details soon,” she said briefly.

I stood up too and slipped sideward between the desk and the wall to open the door for her. There wasn’t enough room for both of us so I had to rub my hips into hers when I passed her, which she accepted silently. A moment later, when she was going out of the office, she returned the gesture and rubbed her hips into mine. Then, at last, we parted, each of us taking some of the other’s scent with them.

I closed the door and slowly turned around, fixing my eyes on the desk. The envelope there looked like some grotesque wallet stuffed with money, promising a lot of troubles for me. It seemed that my financial worries were gone now, at least for a while, but I wasn’t as happy as I should have been.

Except for leaving me suspicious but richer, my client had also left her business card behind. I went to take it up and looked at it. It was a simplistic piece of white paper that just read, “Bobby Bjornson—environmentalist.” There was absolutely nothing more on the face—no company, no phone number, or anything else—and the back was blank too. This clearly indicated that she would be the one to call me.

I threw it down on the desk and took up the envelope. It was full of one-hundred-dollar bills and my fingers thoughtfully ran along their edges. I couldn’t figure out what part of the weird story I was presented with smelled worse: the fact that someone wanted to pay twenty-five grand for a stupid picture or that they intended to save rhinoceroses with it! Nevertheless, touching these pieces of paper felt really nice; they had the power to restart my life and I liked it. To be fair, I maybe even liked my new employer too because if it hadn’t been for her, I definitely wouldn’t have taken the decision I had just taken. And yet, I couldn’t get rid of the thought that it was a wrong decision after all!

©2016 S.T. Fargo

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 2 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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