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The air in the room was very tense and depressing. I was sitting in one of the plastic chairs with all my stuff spread on the table before me, thankful that I had stopped myself from shooting in the very last moment. The cops, who were pacing impatiently around the room, weren’t even aware of the fact they were living a second life. We were all waiting for someone to come to take off my handcuffs, or at least, I was waiting for it! Knowing the situation on this island, most probably, it was going to be Peularia Gzundis and sure enough, she appeared at the door about half an hour later. As soon as she saw me, she rolled her eyes. I was seeing her alone for the first time since we had met at the airport.

“I kind of expected it would be you!” she said after stepping inside. “They reported a murder and that the murderer was busted on the crime scene, so I thought, ‘It must be Mellrow!’”

“Well,” I smiled bitterly. “You know me! I’m always looking for a chance to get busted!”

“Yeah, you never miss!” she looked to the cops and briefly waved her hand at me, ordering them to take off my cuffs. They did so. “You’re my bonanza, you know! Ever since you arrived, corpses have started raining—it was so boring before that!”

“But this’s just the first!” I protested vaguely. “It’s not rain; it’s just a brief shower!”

“No, it’s the second and I expect more,” Gzundis corrected me in an even tone. “We found a dead body down at the harbor this morning and I bet it has something to do with the murder here!”

“Who was it?” I asked, surprised.

“A smuggler—he’s not local. We don’t know the name yet but we know the name of his boat—‘Mountain Cougar’! Isn’t that the same boat your Marty Cork used last night?”

“Right! I called the guy Spit Master because he loved spitting so much!” I nodded thoughtfully. The poor jerk had survived the attacks of stingrays and sea eagles but a much bigger fish had given him more than just a mark now. Cork had obviously started cleaning up!

“Well, he won’t be doing it anymore! We found him with his eyeballs popped out; he’d been strangled with a wire,” Peularia informed me. “Pretty exotic, you know!”

“That’s Marty’s style!” I said. “The guy’s very creative when it comes to killing people, although—” I nodded dismally to the bathroom, “the girl over there doesn’t qualify. She’s just been shot.”

The inspector said nothing as she put on a pair of rubber gloves and went over to see the dead body. All the while, the cops and I looked awkwardly at one other. After a few minutes, she came back over to us.

“Such a pretty girl!” She took off her gloves. “And she died in such an ugly way—drooling like a baby! The charge burned a hole in the area of the heart about half an hour ago. She suffered a lot in the few moments before passing away!”

“Half an hour ago? Are you sure?” I asked confused. “It seems at least two hours to me. The bathroom’s dry!”

Gzundis looked at me, unimpressed. I was not an expert, it was true, but I thought I was quite good at this. Obviously, she didn’t think so.

“That is if you assume she’d had the chance to take the shower!” she explained. “And besides, you don’t know if she even undressed herself because the murderer might have taken her clothes off to mislead us! Anyway, there’s still some moisture preserved beneath the corpse, which actually supports you conclusion, but still, we can’t be sure at this point!”

I pursed my lips. It seemed I was not that good after all!

“Why do you think they’ve started killing each other?” Peularia asked me and sat in one of the chairs.

“I don’t know!” I answered uncertainly. “Cork’s a sick bastard—I suspect he loves killing people. And now that my Greenland mates are close to achieving their goal, they probably need to clean up!”

The inspector stayed pensive for a while without saying anything, casting her gaze over my stuff on the table.

“Because it’s weird,” she went on a few seconds later. “The squad car came here, following an anonymous report about a guy who was trying to fit a chopped-up female body into the trunk of an old Ford near 27B. But it’s all too picturesque and detailed, you know, so I assume they simply wanted to make sure we were going to buy it and come! I just wonder why they needed it so badly.”

“A chopped-up female body?” I turned around, astounded, to look at the guys who had arrested me. They were Indians and they looked intelligent. One of them shrugged.

“We had to check it out,” he said. “We don’t think how it sounds!”

“Was it a man or a woman who reported it?” I turned back to Gzundis.

“Don’t know. It was a text message; we’re tracking down the account now. It came half an hour ago, which is the time of the murder. Did someone know you were coming here?”

“No.” I shook my head thoughtful. “I specifically checked that no one was trailing me when I was driving! But I got a phone call from Sharon right before I came here.”

“Did you tell her you were coming?”

“Of course not!”

“Then it must have been her who texted to the police!” the inspector presumed.

“No, I think it’s rather the man!” I disagreed. “Only a mind like his could think up such a scene to report. Besides, the bastard did just the same thing in Greenland when I found DuPont in his house—he reported to the police while I was still in there!”

“I don’t know,” Gzundis remained reserved about my theory. “You can’t exclude the possibility that she wanted her associate to be the victim of this set up. Why are you so sure it was going to be you?”

“Why would she frame him? What do you even mean?” I said, hesitating. I hadn’t thought about that yet and it seemed reasonable enough but I just didn’t believe it.

“On my way here,” Peularia went on, “I looked around the place where you’ve parked your car. I noticed a fresh dent on your front bumper and tire marks on the asphalt in front of it. It looked like you had blocked another vehicle before coming down here. Is that possible?”

“I…might have…done!” I opened my mouth, surprised by her prophetic abilities and then forgot to close it. “So?”

“Well, it might have been the car of the murderer then! In the bathroom, I noticed a weird oozing from the victim’s wound—not very typical for positron guns. They just burn the tissue, you know, and no fluids would come out! So I assume the guy may have stepped on the woman in order to reach the bathroom window on the ceiling, which is not very wise when the woman is naked and dead because you’d leave your shoe print on the skin and it wouldn’t settle. You wouldn’t think about that if you were in a hurry though! So if I presume correctly, I’d definitely think you had caught the guy by surprise here. The problem is that no one really sends text messages to the police under these circumstances. On the other hand, if this Sharon couldn’t be sure if and when you were going to come here, and she knew her associate was coming—”

The inspector suddenly stopped talking. I was looking at her with my mouth still open. I had noticed none of these things! Aside from being very beautiful, Peularia was apparently very bright and observant too. I suddenly realized I was seeing in her a real human being for the first time since we had met. Until that moment, she had been just a weird lesbian movie character to me.

“But you said the message reported a chopped-up female body being pushed into the trunk of a Ford?” I hesitated, still not entirely convinced. “Doesn’t that mean Sharon was framing me?”

“I said it was an old Ford, yes!” Gzundis smiled. “But is yours unique? Where did you get it from?”

“A car…rental company!” I mumbled while already remembering that the car, behind which I had stopped, had actually been another Ford!

“The trees up there have shadowed the area and they preserved the tire marks on the asphalt from the rain,” Peularia went on with an air of self-complacency. “New models have tires of silicone compounds, however, and they wouldn’t leave such marks, while on the other hand, rental companies are full of old Fords like yours. It’s not that hard to recreate the scene in fact!”

I didn’t answer and just kept staring at her. In my mind, I was returning to the moment when I had heard a car engine outside for the first time. She was definitely right! Marty had probably been in the bungalow when I knocked on the door and he had slipped out through the bathroom window. In this situation, he couldn’t have stopped to text the police unless, of course, he had prepared the message in advance but that would be pretty strange. Sharon had done this! Oh, I was so stupid—the bitch was trying to get rid of her puppet!

While I was recalling the scene, Peularia took her cellphone out and arranged for a forensic team to come to the place. She also asked for an ambulance to transfer the body to the morgue and for a cleaning service. The last thing surprised me because we wouldn’t have done it in Greenland—we would’ve left it up to the concessionaire of the beach to take care of it. Here, on this island, however, everybody was very mindful about things related to tourism. After she finished, she came back to me.

“Speaking of corpses,” she said and smiled at me rather weirdly, “I forgot to tell you I have some exciting news for you! Do you want to hear it?”

I looked at her, alarmed, without answering because I didn’t feel I could handle more “exciting” things of that sort.

“Don’t worry! It’s just the result of the autopsies in Greenland,” she laughed. “They confirmed your story about the killings. DuPont was murdered first—between ten and eleven in the morning; his head was smashed with the wrench. Shortly after that, the gardener’s head was smashed too—maybe the murderer had run into the guy accidentally. The other two victims were killed about two hours later, which is roughly two hours before you entered the house. The housemaid was strangled and the bodyguard was shot in the back on the stairs through a silencer.”

“And why were his pants pulled down?” I suddenly remembered the weird circumstances of his death.

The inspector pursed her lips, puzzled by my question. “How could I know? Autopsies usually don’t reveal such things! Maybe the perpetrator had something specific in mind but he overestimated our intellect, and because we can’t understand his idea now, it was actually ruined! In any case, the murderer acted out a lot on that crime scene!”

“Yeah, that’s how it goes with Cork!” I said. “Did the gardener come out of the coma?”

Peularia shook her head. “I don’t know. There’s something else, however. At twelve-thirty, a car from the catering firm, which had been serving DuPont’s house for the past few months, cut in front of a black Corvic, which was just coming out of the estate. There was a short row at the gate and the driver of the Corvic rolled down his window for a moment. It was your Marty guy—they recognized him!”

“Fuck him! What an idiot!” I exclaimed impulsively.

“You know, I wouldn’t want to be boring,” the inspector insisted after my spontaneous outburst, “but I’d suggest for a zillionth time that you should leave this island as soon as possible. You must understand this place’s not for you, Mellrow! You don’t belong here and people like Sengupta and Chavez won’t leave you alone. Moreover, you are free to go home now.”

“I guess it’s not that simple.” I shook my head uncertain. “The Chinese are still there and besides, things are personal now between these guys and me!”

“You’re stupid, as most men are!” Gzundis looked at me, unsatisfied. “You suffer from too much testosterone in your bloodstream and you’ll eventually die because of it!”

“Yeah, we will all die, sooner or later! Can I get my stuff back now?” I jerked my head toward the table.

She glanced there. “Sure, go ahead! I can’t let you take the gun, however. You have no permit and even though I know it’s a death sentence for you in this situation, I still can’t do it!”

I said I understood and started gathering my belongings. The weapon wasn’t mine anyway! I hadn’t told Peularia it was Marty’s gun because she would’ve been mad at me for taking it—she thought I had bought it on the black market. Besides, I had already erased all his fingerprints there so it would be of no use. The inspector watched me silently as I put my belt on and meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think about her. She was a very weird woman; I had started to like her.

“Well, this is a bit strange,” I heard her voice again half a minute later. “Why are you carrying iodine crystals with you?”

“What?” I looked up, surprised.

“Why the iodine crystal?”

I glanced to where her eyes looked. She was talking about the weird piece of rock I had snitched from Sengupta’s yacht. It was on the table with my other stuff and I had completely forgotten about it.

“Is this iodine?” I asked, puzzled.

“Didn’t you know what you had in your pockets?”

Peularia’s phone unexpectedly rang. She gave me a nod to go on and picked up. I looked back at the thing on the table. With resumed interest, I asked myself why they had really left such material on the pool table. Provided that Sharon was working with Sengupta now, was it possible that the stuff in the containers was iodine too? I couldn’t figure out the purpose of this, however. Market prices of ammonia and iodine were probably very similar and it just made no sense! I played with the crystal for a few seconds, but I didn’t come to any conclusion. It was just a piece of rock as far as I was concerned.

Soon everything except for the gun was back in my pockets and I turned around to take one last look at the bathroom. The doorway was hideously framing Bobby’s naked legs behind it and I shuddered. Even though she had fooled me so much, she had been a cute little mantis and I felt I would have done anything to save her if I only could. I actually wanted to see her once more to release the “tension” between us but unfortunately, I had arrived too late for this—just a few minutes too late! She would never return home now; she was staying here for good! Since I didn’t want to remember her like that, I went outside to take a breath of air.

The rain and wind had stopped while I’d been inside the bungalow. The air was cool and refreshing and the weather reminded me of Greenland in the summer. I extracted the crystal from my pocket and knelt down to wash it in a puddle at the base of the shrubs. Then, I put it close to my nose. Now that Peularia had said it was iodine, it really smelled like it—at least, I imagined so. I wondered again, why Sharon and Marty had needed it.

After about a quarter of an hour, the forensic team arrived, and when they finished their work half an hour later, they put Bobby’s body in a black plastic bag. Then they took it out. Gzundis made a few more phone calls and she gestured to me that I might go. Weirdly enough, she never said anything about writing a witness report, being available and so on. The situation on this island was totally different from what we had in Greenland. Police inspectors here just gave orders and no one dared to oppose their decisions. Inspectors in my motherland had no such power; up there, we had strict procedures, omnipresent bureaucracy and tons of paperwork instead.

When they started cleaning the bungalow, I slowly climbed up the concrete stairs toward the road. At my car, I knelt down to look around. Peularia turned out to be entirely right about every little detail! My Ford had the mentioned dent on the front bumper, and on the asphalt in front of it, I saw the tire marks, which the other car had left while trying to push mine back. I stood up thoughtfully, and I had just got into the Ford and started the engine, when my cellphone rang. I briefly looked at it and promptly reached to stop the car. “Unknown caller ID” was flashing on the screen!

“Don’t worry! She’s dead!” I picked up and hissed into the receiver. There was no video stream available. “Everything’s fine now!”

“What?” I heard Sharon’s voice.

“Bobby’s dead! That’s what you wanted to know, isn’t it?”

“What the hell are you talking about, Mellrow?!” she snapped with her usual tone of disapproval. “I told you I would call again with a proposal!”

“And I told you I didn’t care about your proposals! So fuck off!”

She stayed silent for a few seconds but she didn’t hang up. She was probably thinking. After that, I heard her voice again. “You think I have something to do with the murder?”

“I don’t need to think, you unscrupulous bitch! I just know it!”

“Well, you only think you know it. You often make that mistake!” Sharon went on true to her style. “Bobby’s games were irrelevant to me, you moron! It’s Marty, acting off his own bat.”

“And you think I’d believe you just because you say so?” I laughed.

“I don’t really care if you’d believe me. It’s just true! Anyway, as I told you, I have a proposal for you,” she insisted again but paused for a moment before throwing it into my face. “It’s a matter of one hundred grand and the head of Marty. What do you say about that?”

I said nothing. I just thought, “Phew! One hundred grand is a pension! This woman really sticks at nothing when she’s proposing!”

I didn’t have the slightest intention of falling for it again. Her call now backed up Gzundis’ presumptions entirely and I knew I had to be an idiot to accept it. There was a ninety-nine percent chance it was a trap!

“What happened with you two?” I asked her instead. “Your boyfriend ditched you because you played around with your new Indian toy?”

She didn’t falter. Her voice remained even when I hinted that I knew about Sengupta. Maybe she had rehearsed it or maybe she simply didn’t care.

“I just want to get rid of him, that’s all! The bastard went too far and he’s uncontrollable now. I’m afraid he really likes killing!”

“Ha, ha!” I laughed a bit too vocally. “Welcome aboard, baby! It took you a long time to realize that! But you’re wrong about me—I’m not a murderer like you!”

“You’re acting like a virgin,” Sharon said coldly. “You want it and you don’t want it at the same time. And besides, I’m not asking you to kill him. Just bring the police—it’s a fair deal!”

I remained silent for a moment because her suggestion really surprised me. I hadn’t expected it.

“And if you’ll do a little bit extra for me, you’ll go home one hundred grand richer,” in the next second, she went on.

“U-huh! A little bit extra?” I muttered spitefully. The bitch was starting it now!

This time, it was Sharon who remained silent for a moment, obviously thinking how to present her proposal to me in a more appealing way. Then, I heard her voice through the receiver again.

“Back in Greenland, I gave you a camera,” she started cautiously. “You snapped pictures of the meeting in the Red Dragon with it, remember?”

“You mean the camera, which your ex-boyfriend stole from me just an hour after that?” I asked her viciously.

“Let’s not go into insignificant details now,” Sharon rebuked me. “You were working for Bobby at the time and you didn’t tell me—I had to protect what was mine. Anyway, the bitch snitched that camera before coming here and now I want it back.”

“Didn’t you say I had done a lousy job and the frames had been useless?” I sneered.

“Leave that assessment to me! Just give me what I want and you’ll have Marty and your reward. Then you can go home and live your life happily. How do you like it?”

I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all! Suddenly the events of that night swirled into my mind again and they started sticking to one other in the right way. She needed her camera because it contained a picture of her! It also contained shots of Marty as he stole my car in front of the Chinese restaurant. The other camera, which was still on the back seat of my Ford in Greenland, was useless to them—that’s why Marty had tried to strangle me with its strap. This one was dangerous, however, and now they were using it to blackmail each other!

“Oh, you’re really so stupid! You guys are real jerks!” I laughed when I grasped the situation. “Why did you keep it anyway? You should’ve destroyed it immediately!”

“I know why I kept it!” Sharon snapped at me coldly. “Don’t be a wiseass! Just tell me your decision!”

“Where do you think it is now?”

“It’s in the motel—in Bobby’s room.”

“Here it goes, clap!” I thought. “The trap is set now!”

“No, it’s not there,” I couldn’t resist the thought of teasing her. “I got it!”

She thought for a few seconds but she didn’t buy my bluff.

“I don’t think so! If you had it, you would’ve started this conversation differently. Besides, my offer is still valid. Give that camera to me if you got it, and I’ll pay you one hundred grand.”

“No, I’d rather give it to the police!” I smirked because the more I thought about the situation, the more convinced I was that when I had snapped a picture of Sharon before having sex with her on the back seat of the Hondsu, she was actually holding the wrench in her hands. The tool of the murder! She had just extracted it from the glovebox to give it to me because she needed my fingerprints on it.

“Think about it!” Sharon desperately tried to convince me. “No one wins if Marty gets the camera! But if you beat him to it, you could choose between taking my money or going to the police. You win both ways! If you hesitate for too long, we’ll lose the chance, however.”

I smiled again. It was “we” now! We were a team! The bitch was relentless; she just thought she could have it all.

“If Marty gets the camera, he’ll most probably want to blackmail you. But he’s a simple guy—he’ll want money. So why don’t you give him the money you’re offering to me? Why do you think I’m a better option for you, Sharon? Why are you so sure I’ll choose you instead of the police?” I asked her.

“That’s why I’m offering one hundred grand!” she admitted. “So as you think twice before choosing the police. And if you choose me, I’ll know you’d stick to your decision, which is not necessarily true about Marty. So, what do you say?”

I slowly shook my head even though she couldn’t see me doing so. It was bullshit, of course! I had searched Bobby’s room and there was no camera inside. I had searched it rather hastily because I had no time, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t missed anything that big.

“I’d say what I’ve already told you a couple of times: I don’t care about your proposals. The camera’s not my problem and if you want it so badly, just go get it yourself!”

“Okay then! If you won’t do it, he’ll do!”

She hung up sharply.

I slowly put the phone down and looked out the front windshield. The raindrops were still dripping from the trees. Then I suddenly realized my evening was ruined. Even though I had no intention of going to the motel, the seed of suspicion had been planted in my mind now. Sharon had planted it there and she knew it would be like that—that’s why she had called. The money she offered was just icing and it meant nothing—the camera was her true bait!

I recalled again all the events at the Red Dragon. I wasn’t supposed to go there before Marty—that’s why Sharon had been so specific about the timeline. I had followed Bobby’s instructions, however, and I had surprised the bastard. So he had no option but to go to my place and wait for me there because if I, by any chance, escaped the thugs at the restaurant with that second camera, Menelaus was going to know about him and Sharon. With these shots the situation was too risky. And now when Bobby had made her move, it was risky again and they were ready to kill each other for the pictures!

“Oh, these guys are really stupid!” I exclaimed loudly, still not believing what they had done. I would’ve destroyed the shots the moment I saw them, but the jerks had been so obsessed with manipulating each other, they allowed the device to become a ticking bomb. And the biggest irony was that they weren’t able to erase frames from it selectively because they had chosen to give me an analog camera with a celluloid film. They were real, real jerks!

©2016 S.T. Fargo

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 29 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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