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The woman drew back and slowly crossed her legs a la Sharon Stone. It gave me a perfect view of her panties, which as it turned out, didn’t have a particularly puritan attitude toward her private parts. Part of what the underwear was meant to hide flashed for a moment outside the limited crotch area and made me wonder whether it was a theatrical act or an innocent gesture. I figured it was the second thing because my desk was extremely small and the chick had long, gorgeous legs. She just couldn’t cross them under the table!

“So you have a case for me, Miss Vorder…brug…gen, right?” I asked with difficulty. These German names have always given me a headache and she had mentioned hers very briefly.

“You can call me Sharon if you will,” the woman answered. “Yes, I have a case for you, if you actually want it! Answering your phone took you like…forever, I should say!”

I frowned. She was a grim person, around thirty, with long dark shiny hair, green eyes, mathematically perfect but somehow sterile features, and almost the same coolness about her facial expressions. Her cheekbones and jaw had some sort of Alpine vibe; I mean the vibe of people who lived there before the Second Barbarian Invasion, as racists here tend to call it. I just didn’t know why she thought I had some kind of duty to guard my telephone from excessive ringing twenty-four seven!

“You know, Miss Vorder…bruggen,” I said coldly, “my career has been blooming lately. I’m busy with a couple of cases between the Small Antilles and here and it makes my professional life a bit harder to organize. You should try walking in my shoes if you want me to hear your story!”

The woman didn’t react to my joke at all, not did she show any hint of uneasiness. She looked around my office instead, trying to estimate my “blooming career.” Unfortunately, there weren’t many obvious signs to support such a conclusion.

“If you’re really that engaged, Mr. Mellrow,” she went on after a while, “it’s probably a good idea to take a better office, or an assistant, or at least a secretary!”

“Sure, Miss Vorderbruggen,” I dodged her attack coolly. “First thing tomorrow, I’ll rent Voxhaff Grand Arena! Till then, though, you’ll have to make your piece with presenting your case here, in this rather small but cozy environment. I mean, if you’re here for my services, of course! Stop talking small talk and getting down to business seems to take you forever!”

She shot me a malicious glare. From her look, I thought she was going to reach out and slap my face but she only drew back again to uncross her legs, flashing me with her tiny black lace panties for a second time. By the way, it was very hard for her not to do so because the black dress she was wearing was as naughty as hell. Its fabric was so light and delicate that the gravity of this planet was simply not enough to keep it to her body. I could see every little muscle trembling under the clothing and even the detailed “topography” of her nipples. The woman took a picture out of her purse and her gesture seemed alarmingly familiar to me. It made me shiver.

Still watching her, I wondered with a dose of uncertainty whether I would be able to cope with two cases at the same time. I had actually made up my mind to stop answering the telephone after Miss Bjornson had left but the device kept ringing so urgently that I eventually caved. Now I was sorry about that. If Bobby Bjornson had seemed slightly untruthful when we talked earlier, this one here, I felt I wouldn’t trust even if she just wanted to shake hands with me!

Sharon, or whatever her real name was—I just couldn’t believe her about anything—held the photo out to me and stayed like that, waiting. I left her hanging for a while just to humiliate her and show that I was my own boss; then I slowly took the picture. At first, nothing seemed strange about it. On the piece of paper, there was a sidewalk with some old building behind it. It was a grimy structure, more of an uptown place, with peeling walls and small terraces—one of those that gives you just the illusion of a balcony on which to have a quick cigarette or two. Down, along the sidewalk, there was a fast food restaurant with big French windows and dark red sofas around dirty wooden tables inside. The establishment looked like one of the Chinese restaurants that are more common these days in Greenland than trees on the streets! Realizing that, I shivered again and a red light started pulsing in my head, eating me from the inside. Was it a coincidence? I really doubted it!

I turned my eyes to Miss Vorderbruggen, this time truly intrigued. She was looking at the wall to my left as if gazing through a window there, which was definitely missing in my office. She was obviously allowing me to take my time with the picture. I stayed patiently and kept silent as I held the photo in my hand. I didn’t know what to say and I definitely wanted to hear her story first. Eventually, she drew her eyes away from the magnificent “view” of my wall and looked back at me.

“The job’s pretty simple, Mr. Mellrow,” she started then. “I think maybe you’ll able to do it.”

I didn’t like her overture at all nor did I like the fact that she stressed “maybe” but I said nothing because my curiosity was far stronger at that moment than my pride. Suspicion was slowly rising in my mind.

“You’ll go to that particular place on the picture,” the woman went on, “which is on Fifth and Thirty-Sixth uptown, at half past noon, the day after tomorrow. There’s a red telephone booth tucked in the shadow of the trees right across the street; you’ll see it.”

She stopped to make sure I was following her and gazed at the desk between us. It was obvious that she didn’t think much of me, which normally wouldn’t concern me, but I was alarmed now because of the weird similarities between my two cases. Something was definitely wrong about these clients of mine and I decided to try throwing this one off-balance.

“Okay, Miss Vorderbruggen, let me finish here,” I said serenely. “You want me to go to the place, hide in the booth, and snap some pictures of the guys meeting inside the restaurant. Am I right?”

Sharon raised her eyes sharply and looked at me somehow fixedly. She didn’t show any nervousness though. She was cool and her chest was going up and down steadily, and her hands, eyelids, and lips remained calm, which is hard in a situation of surprise.

“You do have an impressive intuition, Mr. Mellrow!” she said. “I admit I didn’t expect that!”

“Well, you know, I have my moments,” I answered humbly. “But before I do anything for you, I would like to know who you are and why you need these photos. I can guarantee confidentiality, of course, but I’d insist on knowing these details in advance. Call it an insurance policy if you will.”

“Insurance policy against what?” she asked, intrigued. Like my previous client, this one didn’t seem particularly eager to give any details.

“It’s an insurance policy against me being left behind in a pickle!”

“Sure, Mr. Mellrow!” she suddenly agreed, which actually surprised me. I though I would have to fight for this information. “I work for an NGO. The name is Global Guards although I really doubt you’ve ever heard of it.”

“Oh, I know!” I exclaimed joyfully. “Environmentalists, right?” I was trying to be cool but inside, my anxiety was taking a harder and harder grip of me. It was way too weird and I couldn’t believe this was a just coincident!

Sharon stood still for a few moments and kept looking at me, thinking. Her face was stone cold.

“Now you really surprise me!” she said then. “You even scare me a bit. Are you a mind reader?”

“No, I’m not,” I said hurriedly. “But this entire thing with preserving nature is turning into a business lately and NGOs of that sort are springing up like mushrooms. They all have names containing ‘green,’ ‘warriors,’ ‘guards,’ ‘peace,’ ‘global,’ and so on. It was an easy guess; that’s all!”

“Yes, right,” she admitted thoughtfully.

“So, what’s the entire fuss about then? Just tell me!” I tried to help her bring up Greenspace and the rhino horns. I was impatient to hear it again.

Sharon kept looking at me, still suspicious, and she silently reached into her purse to take out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Then she stopped and glanced around her with uncertainty. There was no ventilation in my so-called “office” whether natural or artificial. The smoke detector on the ceiling would surely shriek like hell if she smoked. She realized that and put the pack and the lighter back into her purse.

“The boss of Greenspace, Ernesto Chavez, and Li Jin Tao who is the boss of the local Chinese mob here in Nuuk will meet in that restaurant on the picture,” she explained to me instead. “I won’t lie to you, Mr. Mellrow, the place is the residence of the Chinese gang; you can probably recognize it yourself from the news! Its name is ‘The Red Dragon’ and the day after tomorrow, the two bosses will try to make a deal, which we want to fail. So we need some evidence of the meeting—that’s why I’m here.

“Why would you need the evidence? You’re hoping to stop whatever this deal is with just a few pictures?” I asked, overly skeptical. “I think Chins would be barely impressed, you know! They’ve seen worse than that!”

“We already have enough materials against the Chinese and their deals here,” Sharon argued. “Don’t think we’re amateurs! Besides, we don’t care about them. The whole thing’s entirely about Chavez. He’s the real target, but the guy’s clever enough and kind of evasive. The only way of exposing him is to connect him somehow to the Asians.”

“Why do you hate Chavez so badly? What did he do to you?” I asked seemingly nonchalant. I didn’t really expect her to tell me the truth but I wanted to see if she would try to dodge the question in the same way Bobby had done.

“Greenspace’s a global evil,” Sharon explained evenly. “Whatever they do, it always hurts someone or something. In our case, a particular business initiative of theirs is going to destroy the population of rare African animals. We cannot just sit back and watch it happen, you know.”

“What population is that?” I smiled cunningly, almost on the verge of guessing again. I stopped myself though because it would have been too much.

“South African swallows,” Sharon informed me without any emotion at all. Unlike my previous client, she didn’t even try to act concerned. I was absolutely sure she had never seen a South African swallow in her entire life!

“You know how the Chinese,” she went on, selling me more bullshit without feeling the slightest discomfort or shame, “are crazy about these birds, right? They have exterminated and consumed their own swallows along with the nests, which are considered a delicacy in the country. The market price has quadrupled since. It’s a sweet deal and we know for sure that Chavez is planning now to satisfy market demand in Chinasia with foreign swallows!”

She stopped for a moment to see my reaction but I remained silent. I was already feeling that I had made a big mistake taking the “case” of Miss Bjornson before this. And even though I had been ready for this fairy tale here, adding swallows to the rhinos, suddenly made it not only implausible but also ridiculous, if not disturbing!

“They’ll arrange the details on the transport in the restaurant and then the operation will be scheduled down in Africa. The first containers with birds will arrive very soon after that, I guess.” The woman looked thoughtfully at my imaginary window again, obviously feeling she was slowly losing me.

“Alive?” I heard myself asking but without any interest to hear the answer. I felt like an idiot who everybody thought gullible enough to sell him absurd stories about dragons and dwarfs! “Isn’t it cheaper and easier to influence them psychedelically and make them migrate all the way to here?”

“No. They’ll come in containers on a transoceanic ship,” the “environmentalist” didn’t even try to take the joke and I was wondering whether she really thought I believed her! “And since I can clearly see you are not very enthusiastic about the entire thing, Mr. Mellrow,” Miss Vorderbruggen suddenly turned her eyes back at me, “I would say that, from my point of view, it’s a very good job with only a moderate risk, for a very good payment. I wouldn’t hesitate much if I were you! You can get a lot of money for just an hour!”

I remained stone-faced because I knew she was examining me—anticipating my reaction when I heard the money she was offering. At the same time, the edge of her dress had drawn back to the edge of her intimacy again, and because of the size of my office, it was all happening literally before my nose.

Of course, I eventually asked the inevitable question, which usually brings so many troubles into my life. I just couldn’t help it! “And how good is the payment exactly?”

“It’s good enough! You’ll get ten grand in advance and twenty-five when you do the job.”

Even though I was very well prepared for the bid, it still nearly knocked me off my chair. I stayed frozen, afraid to utter a single word—I was afraid mostly about my reaction to what she had said. Twenty-five grand from Miss Bjornson, plus thirty-five here for the very same thing; it was simply unbelievable! Everything inside me was screaming, “Get out!” but how could anyone actually wave a hand and say “no” to such an offer?

“And the only thing you want is for me to take some pictures of the meeting in the restaurant from a safe distance?” I vaguely heard myself saying as if from underwater.

“Yes, the booth I mentioned is very old. Nobody would ever use such a thing and Chavez’s escort would presume it empty. You’ll be perfectly safe in there. In fact, the booth is essential for the job because the perspective is exactly as we need it, so I’d recommend that you follow our instructions closely. You need to be at the place at twelve-thirty exactly. No later; no earlier!”

“Why not earlier?” I asked. It seemed strange to me.

“Chavez’s thugs will search the area first. Yes, I said they’d presume the booth is empty but I cannot guarantee they won’t have a peek anyway. However, when the meeting is on, they’ll stay closer to their boss and you can sneak inside undisturbed.”

I looked at the woman, thoughtful. That was a very good point, which Miss Bjornson had missed to presume. It was actually making Miss Vorderbruggen here much more considerate about my safety and it surprised me. Besides, Bjornson had given me a slightly different timeline too. She had said exactly at noon. I quickly thought it over and impulsively decided to combine both jobs. Both my clients were obviously holding back from me but I had already agreed to the first assignment—the same place, almost the same time—which left me with no options. After all, what was meant to happen was going to happen anyway, no matter what I decided now. With a little luck, I could get away with it with sixty grand in my pocket and have some breathing space, at least for a year.

Over the next ten minutes, with a sinking heart, I cleared the final details about the case without mentioning the other one in my schedule. I was sure I was making a mistake and that it wasn’t about swallows or stupid rhino horns but something else—maybe drugs—but anyway, I couldn’t help it. I had already stepped into the mud and now, when I knew what it paid, I was simply not able to think about anything else. Thus, by the way, almost every trouble on this planet starts! Yet, the money was too good and it blinded me.

After we had settled everything, my new client took an envelope out of her purse. I glanced over with greedy eyes even though my heart was screaming with pain, and sure enough, as she got up Miss Vorderbruggen flashed me with her black panties again. Her dress was unbearably playful and it made me feel almost close to a heart attack every time it rode up. A thick wave of enchanting perfume gently blew into my face as well.

I got up too. Just as we reached the door, Sharon stopped sharply and looked at me. “Goodbye Mr. Mellrow,” she said evenly. “I believe we’ll have a mutually beneficial collaboration in this case. I’ll call you for the camera and the additional instructions soon.”

Afterwards, we did the traditional dance with rubbing hips, which is almost mandatory for going out of Mellrow’s office, and then she finally left. Incidentally, I think she did the dance rather intentionally. It wasn’t Bjornson’s, “I understand the inconvenience of confined spaces” kind of approach; it was a, “I wanna brush my butt against your hips because I’m so horny” kind of a thing!

After she had gone, I thoughtfully closed the door and turned around, fixing my eyes on the second identically looking fat envelope on my desk within just an hour. This one wasn’t promising anything good for me either and maybe it was a reasonable idea to unplug my ancient telephone from the wall outlet before I fixed myself with a third one. I just couldn’t handle sitting through the same meeting with yet another client and hearing the same damn story again. I got too many of these cases already anyway!

©2016 S.T. Fargo

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 3 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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