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23


I regained consciousness just a few seconds later. The people who were crying hadn’t even got any closer to me by the time the darkness started tearing apart and rays of bright sunlight pierced through the ragged holes. I hesitantly rose to sitting. I was still in the parking space and there was no trace of Marty Cork or Bobby’s car.

“Hey, mister, you okay?” I heard the voices again.

I looked around. There was just one guy actually—a native Indian man—but weirdly enough I was hearing him doubled.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I muttered, surprised that I heard myself doubled too. “I’m from the police. I need you to show me the room of the woman who just ran away.”

The guy eagerly nodded his head. He also wanted to call the ambulance but I decisively stopped him. Firstly, I knew they wouldn’t come before next month; and secondly, I didn’t want to make a news headline out of myself. It was the last thing I needed right now.

We headed up to the room but before that, I went to grab the thing that Marty had been looking for. It was a Luger MML—point-three positron—lying in the ditch between the driveway and the fence. It was not a very good idea to take it because I had no permit for it, and also I didn’t know how many people Cork had killed with it, but I obviously needed a good gun. It was just the perfect piece!

Bobby’s room turned out to be on the third floor, facing the street, just as I had presumed. I had difficulty climbing up the stairs because my hip hurt terribly but the good thing was that it wasn’t broken—just bruised. I clenched my teeth and kept walking. When we got to the room, I asked the guy to give me a few minutes alone. He agreed and said he would be downstairs if I needed him—indigenous people on Tutuila are so charmingly naive! Then he left and I went inside.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to look at in the room. Except for a few articles of clothing in the wardrobe and a small suitcase with some woman’s beauty inventory in it, the room was almost empty. I had no time to waste so I hastily searched the pockets of the clothes—I found nothing there—and then checked the nightstands drawers. Nothing again! Bobby had obviously had to abandon her room quickly so she’d had no time to gather her stuff. When I looked down, however, I saw something shiny on the floor near the right nightstand. It was a silver memory stick and I knelt down to take it.

The entire accident in the motel looked very weird in fact. It changed everything in my head because after Bobby had set me up so ruthlessly back in Greenland, I thought she was in the game with Marty and Sharon but the present situation supported a completely different conclusion. Marty had definitely tried to kill Bjornson here because I could see the burn holes from the Luger in the wooden door. And besides, the memory stick advocated that she was not expecting him—she wouldn’t have ditched it on the floor if she hadn’t been surprised! So even if they had worked together before, it was not the case anymore.

I thoughtfully put the memory into my pocket and quickly assured myself there was nothing hidden under the bed, in the cushions of the sofa or behind the wardrobe. Then I left the room because I had to hurry—I needed to do a few very urgent things before the end of the day.

I walked down to the ground floor, quietly passed through the reception hall without calling the receptionist who was sitting in the small room behind the desk, and then I went straight to my car. I prayed that Marty hadn’t broken the vehicle—it would have been easy enough since the Ford was a wreck anyway—but the bastard had missed his chance to do so. Maybe he had hurried after Bobby and had no time. I started the engine and drove down the road to Pago Pago as fast as the gas technology could deliver. On my way, I connected the memory stick to my phone and checked its contents.

I found only three folders inside. The first one was full of files, which looked like specifications for containers with an autonomous temperature supporting system. There were a lot of pictures and schemes, and as far as I gathered, the system seemed to support high temperature. At least the charts that represented the timeline of cooling down of the stored materials in case of malfunctioning said so. The details were too many, and because I was driving, I couldn’t pay much attention to all of them.

The second folder was also devoted to technical specifications. These ones described asbestos jackets however. I presumed they were going to be used for isolating the containers from the environment but I was not quite sure because I didn’t have the right education to understand them. In any case, it seemed there was something wrong about these containers. Ammonia had a boiling temperature of minus thirty-three degrees Celsius and they would have to be refrigerators instead of heaters so as to be of any help! Unless of course, my presumption was completely wrong about the stuff inside them. Maybe it was not ammonia at all! Nevertheless, I was somehow sure it was—something in the air of this region was telling me so. Here, everything revolved around this substance!

The third folder turned out to be almost empty. I found only a few pictures inside and they confirmed the general idea I had gained so far. All the photos showed a boat—a cargo vessel, which looked pretty old and rusty—with a weird sign above its bridge. I couldn’t see it well because of the perspective—the angle was too sharp—but it resembled a group of blue balls and a few letters. Fortunately, the boat’s name was recognizable enough. On the bow, it read “Southern Star” and it was most likely the vessel that was meant to carry the aforementioned containers.

I disconnected the memory stick and put it back into my pocket. Then, I tried to sum up the new information. Even if the guys who had messed with me had been in on the same plot somewhere in the past, they were obviously splitting now and competing in whatever it was they were trying to achieve. Bobby had obviously engaged “Southern Star” and Marty had done the same thing with “Mountain Cougar”. Most certainly, after Menelaus’ death, Bjornson was trying to accomplish his ideas and it was probably the reason why Cork had followed her in the motel here—he wanted to stop her and clear the playground. Despite everything the little mantis had done to me, I really hoped she had escaped the sick bastard!

­I stepped on the gas and drove the last few kilometers to Pago Pago even faster than the car’s capabilities—I was just pushing it to the limit. It was still six in the afternoon but I didn’t know when a typical working day ended here so I had to hurry. When I reached the harbor, I stopped with tires screeching, almost running over the carts of a few Chinese. I leaped out of the car and waved my magical police badge in the air, and it produced an immediate effect. Then, I quickly followed my usual course past the guy with the oysters and I caught up with Spitting Master seconds after he had hopped onto his boat, and seconds before beating it into the sea.

“Hey!” I shouted loudly. “We talked yesterday. I have the stuff now and you have the boat. Let’s make the deal!”

The guy turned around to look at me and when he recognized my face, he rolled his eyes. I had just one shot to grab his attention and no time. I had to show real business flair.

“Listen, I know you’re not a fan of me and I’m not a fan of you either! Business is business though and I need two hundred tons of my stuff transferred to Ofu. I also have an overload of five grand universal. So what do you say? Are you interested?”

He slowly took a step toward me and then jumped down.

“Twelve grand!” he said when he came closer.

“Hey, hey, five grand universal money is big!” I tried to cut his wings off. “Let’s say seven then!”

The funny thing was that I could actually afford giving him the monetary reserve of Chinasia but I wanted to make a plausible businessman out of myself. I had to be stingy!

“Transport your stuff yourself!” he roared angrily and made to turn around.

“Okay, stop!” I grabbed him by his elbow. “I say ten grand! It’s a good compromise. Don’t be an asshole about it!”

He looked at me for a brief moment while thinking.

“When do you want it?” he asked, visibly satisfied.

I remained silent for a while, also thinking. I assumed Marty had negotiated in advance and he wasn’t ready with his stuff yet so I picked randomly after the weekend.

“Let’s say in three days, okay?” I looked at the boatman, studying him.

“Okay!”

Okay was fine in general but unfortunately, his “okay” was not okay for me now. I expected to hear a refusal!

“You won’t be able to do it all at once, will you?” I asked him hesitantly.

“No, four courses—fifty tons each. It’s two and a half grand per course!” He suddenly frowned because he thought I was backing out of the price.

“Money’s not the problem,” I was quick to soothe his suspicion, “but shipping is! Could you do four dates consecutively, at least?”

He looked at me weirdly. “Why not the same day? Didn’t you say your ship was too big?” He was glaring at me with disgust. “Would it ping-pong back and forth with holds half empty?”

“It’s complicated,” I snapped. “Can you do it or not?”

“Okay,” he said and spat on the ground.

I nearly exploded with concealed anger when I heard his next “okay”. Now I had to start “producing” ammonia wildly in order to fill his monthly schedule and hit a busy date!

“Just a sec!” I said and drew away in a businesslike manner, simulating a phone call with my contractor. After a minute, I went back to him.

“Okay, we have a deal. One last thing though: we should start the day after tomorrow!”

It was a very long shot. I couldn’t know Marty’s thinking but I doubted he had made his plans for the end of the next week. If the day after tomorrow was free too, then we were talking about tomorrow or even tonight!

The boatmen bent his head a little and spat again.

“The day after tomorrow’s no good!” he said curtly.

“Well,” I sighed with relief, “then I’ll meet you the day after!”

Over the next few minutes, we quickly arranged some bullshit details and my main concern was whether he would ask for an advance payment or not. Fortunately, he didn’t say a word about it, which saved me the effort of making a fool of myself again. I presumed I was going to “pay” on the day of the course before we left.

When we finished, I turned around, anxious to escape shaking hands with him, and hurried to the other end of the harbor. I had another business meeting to take care of. Soon I found the guy who owned Saranya-82 and told him I couldn’t make it tomorrow at dawn as we had arranged. I asked for a delay of twenty-four hours and he wasn’t happy about the idea, but when I offered him seventy bucks instead of fifty, his face shone. Unlike Spitting Master, he was rather easy to deal with.

After finishing here too, I sighed with relief and headed to my hotel, dreaming of a big glass of whiskey from one of the printers in my room—the drinking gondola. I’d had an unusually successful day. Not only had I arranged everything for my trip to Ofu and found a trace of the Greenland trio, but I had also come into possession of a good positron weapon! I desperately wanted to try it out but I had no idea where I could do it. The problem was that positron charges tended to go through walls a bit too easily and someone might get hurt if I fired shots in an urban area. It had to happen somewhere in nature or in a special shooting range for positron guns, where I couldn’t go because I had no license. It was not as simple as it was in the twentieth century anymore! Anyway, I still had to find a solution to the problem soon because I didn’t want to learn how to use the Luger in a real life situation.


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

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 23 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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