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30


Someone had put a tail on me and it was making me extremely nervous. I’d had the feeling for a couple of minutes, and it wouldn’t go away. I’m rarely wrong about these things and this time, the feeling was unusually strong.

On my way back to the motel in Fagatele, I had driven to Pago Pago and stopped at the Korean restaurant near my former hotel to grab a bite. I knew it had been a stupid idea but in Fagatele, I couldn’t find anything decent to eat; the place was not exactly a tourist destination and as a result, it was full of rat sandwiches! I had just bought some sushi to go and gone back to my car, when I got the sensation I was being followed.

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t detect anything unusual around me. It was nine in the evening and the streets were almost empty because people here didn’t like rainy weather. When I drove to the next intersection, however, the reason for my anxiety became apparent right away. Before I knew it, two cars had rushed past me and blocked my way—one in front, and the other one behind. Right after that, four strapping white guys jumped out of the vehicles and surrounded me on all sides.

I looked out the window, surprised and desperate at the same time. No one in Tutuila cared about calling the police in such situations, and besides, I had no gun anymore. I could lock the doors, of course, but it was not going to be of any help. Unlike me, the fellows outside were surely carrying their pieces with them! After a vague attempt to calculate my chances, I realized I was helpless and doomed! I breathed heavily and waited for them to open the door, reach inside, and drag me out of the car. When it happened, two of the guys secured their grip on me, and the only resistance I was able to put up, was to rest myself in their hands, thus making them sweat as they were dragging me down the street.

It turned out we were not going for a very long walk. After about fifteen meters, we swerved into a side street and soon after, we sank into a bistro near the beach. Its windows were blacked out and the fact disturbed me—it didn’t promise a nice evening for me! As soon as we stepped inside, the guys let go of me and quickly searched my clothes for weapons, after which they pushed me toward the distant end of the main hall. At one of the tables there, a guy was sitting with his back turned to me. He was having dinner.

I slowly kept walking, followed by two of the thugs, and when we reached the table, the man turned around to wave his hand toward a vacant chair in front of him. It was Ernesto Chavez in all his glory—lavishly decorated with golden jewelry on his neck and hands, and scars on his face. It all suddenly looked to me not only unpromising but also tragic!

I sat down nervously in the chair and put my hands on the table. Chavez said nothing for a while and just kept on eating his dinner—some chicken legs. His hands and mouth were greasy and his long, curly hair was loose on his shoulders. His shirt was unbuttoned to his chest as usual and in comparison, my shirt, which I had considered extravagant, looked like a monk’s robe! Chavez’s had an abundance of naked chicks, sports cars, flowers, and guns on it, all stamped against a background of fireworks and flames. The only thing missing was a tub full of champagne for the chicks to splash around in!

The guy slowly finished the leg he had started and wiped his hands on a white cloth napkin. Then he wiped his mouth too and turned his head to me at last. His eyes were hazel with some touches of green and they seemed surprisingly warm against the background of his marked face. He looked calm.

“Mellrow, right?” I heard his harsh voice after a few moments. It sounded as if someone had tried to cut out his throat. The contrast with his eyes was really startling. “We meet at last!”

“At last?” I asked him, careful to appear cool. “I didn’t know you wanted to see me. I’m not in the habit of running away from people!”

“Really?” he ridiculed me. “I saw you running at the Red Dragon. You were running like hell!”

“Yeah, but that’s a shameful part of my life and I don’t like to remember it! Why am I here?”

Chavez glanced absentmindedly behind him and snapped his fingers without saying anything. The sharp noise echoed sinisterly in the quiet hall and all my coolness evaporated immediately. In a few seconds, a tall Latino waiter came running to our table with an empty expression on his face. He had his right hand hidden under the napkin, which was spread over his left forearm, and I expected him to shoot me in the head any moment!

“You hungry?” the boss of Greenspace asked me and then made a frugal gesture to the bottle of wine near his right hand. It was almost empty and the waiter briefly nodded. “They have excellent oysters here, freshly harvested this morning. The chicken’s delicious too!”

“No, thank you!” I was quick to divert his offer because I suspected I was going to die soon. I didn’t want to experience bullets entering my full stomach. “Very kind of you but I had some sushi just a while ago. I’m not hungry now.”

The waiter went back to the bar and Ernesto slowly started chomping on another chicken leg, while throwing looks at me every now and then.

After a while, he got back to the point. “You’re here to tell me some things.” His serene tone clashed with his hoarse voice and the threatening meaning of his words. It was confusing. “I’m sure you’d be happy to do so. People rarely deny me, you know.”

“No, I’m sure they don’t,” I said, increasingly nervous because I couldn’t predict his intentions. The guy was very weird. “What specifically do you want to know?”

“Well, for a starter, you can tell me who hired you to poke your nose into my business and why. Lately, too many people have started doing it and it makes me…uneasy.” He shook his head hesitatingly. “How would you react if you arrived back home and found a bunch of guys sitting in your living room, watching your TV and eating your food, huh?”

“I’d probably shoot them, I guess!” I said before even thinking over my words.

Chavez sharply turned his eyes to me, surprised. I hadn’t said that intentionally—I had just been nervous but he couldn’t know the weird patterns of my thinking when I felt under pressure. Then the guy smiled, which surprised me a lot because he had a really charming smile!

“In that case, you’ll know exactly how I feel!” he said. “So, go ahead! Tell me what you’re doing here?”

“You know,” I began cautiously, “I’m actually afraid to tell you. The story sounds so ridiculously that I’m worried you’ll want to shoot me just because you’ll think I’m trying to fool you.”

He stopped gnawing at the chicken leg and kept his eyes on me behind the piece of meat. He didn’t make any gesture to encourage or threaten me; he was just looking at me, patiently. Then he resumed his eating. All the while, I was very careful not to express my fear because I knew it usually makes people like him hate you. They just see it in the eyes of other people too often!

“I was hired by two chicks independently,” I went on. “One was saying you were smuggling rhino horns into Chinasia and the other one claimed it was South African swallows. They both wanted me to take some pictures of you and the Chins at the restaurant in Nuuk. I gather that the main idea was to associate you with them in some nasty way!”

Chavez paused the gnawing again. The waiter appeared with the bottle of wine and refreshed his glass, then disappeared. The boss of Greenspace took a large sip of it.

“Who are they?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin.

“Well, I couldn’t know that for sure. The first one told me she was Bobby Bjornson but she’s dead now. The other one is some Sharon-god-knows-who. She has a handful of family names—none of which are real!”

“Any relation to DuPont, any of them?”

I smiled. “The first one was his mistress; the second—his wife!”

Chavez wrinkled his forehead and pursed his lips in surprise, remaining thoughtful for a while. The marks on his face stretched across it in different directions like an elaborate tattoo.

“That’s what I thought!” he said after a few moments. “They wouldn’t have had the guts otherwise! Which one sent you down here?”

“None of them!” I sharply waved my right hand in the air because I felt I had started tapping my fingers on the table. “And I don’t think you understand the situation. After the events at the Red Dragon, my case was actually over—I fired myself from it! Unfortunately, the Chins didn’t think so and they turned my life into hell. I had to come here because it was my only chance of survival and my only chance to stop the bitches!”

“You’re absolutely right. I don’t understand!” Chavez sharply fixed his eyes on me and they didn’t seem warm anymore; they looked cold and evil. “You somehow ended up on the island of Ofu while stopping them, which I find very weird! How exactly were you planning to stop them?”

I hardly restrained myself from swallowing because I had hoped he didn’t know about my trip. My eyes cautiously drifted over to the entrance—three of the thugs were blocking it and there was no other way out.

“That’s actually the craziest part!” I forced myself to smile. “Your business doesn’t concern me at all. As far as I know, it’s legal and even if it weren’t, I still wouldn’t care. I was simply following Sharon’s boyfriend.”

“Oh, there is a boyfriend now!” The boss of Greenspace pulled a wry face.

“Yeah, there’s a boyfriend! Actually, he’s been there for a while. Remember the shooting at the Dragon’s windows?”

“What about it?” the guy wrinkled his forehead again.

“He did it!”

“Yeah? And why would he?”

“I can hardly tell you that,” I shrugged. “He was probably attracting attention to me or something. I was supposed to serve as a fall guy after they killed Menelaus a few days later.”

Chavez looked searchingly at me for half a minute and then he slowly started the last chicken leg, tossing his head toward the bottle of wine.

“You care for some?” he asked.

“No, but I’d have a glass of whiskey, if you don’t mind.” I really needed something to drink at that moment.

The guy snapped his fingers at the waiter and the latter came immediately. I ordered my whiskey and then he vanished. After another half a minute, the glass was already on the table in front of me. Chavez slightly raised his glass in the air and took a sip. I took mine and gulped half of its content at once, but to my disappointment, the drink was awful. It tasted like the piss of a camel that had died of alcohol intoxication two days ago!

“So, you really think they killed DuPont?” the boss of Greenspace asked me after patiently waiting for me to finish pulling a face of disgust.

“It’s not so easy to grasp their complicated plan,” I coughed. “At first, I thought they just wanted to seize his company but then I realized it was nearly impossible. You know, guys like Menelaus would have prenups and stuff, and besides, the marriage was kind of controversial.”

“And now? What do you think now?” Chavez looked at me from behind the chicken leg.

I briefly considered my options. They were not too many. Since Bobby was dead and Chavez knew I had been on the island of Ofu, there was no need to hedge anymore. I was probably going to die anyway so I decided to come clean. It was the wisest thing I could do in this situation.

“Because Menelaus was trying to drive you out of the business here,” I went on, “which I guess you know, I assume these guys have adopted his idea and they want to take his place now. In a way, it’s them who are trying to drive you out of business!”

“You visited Olosega as well, I presume. What do you think DuPont was trying to build there?” Chavez asked me cunningly.

“Well, magnetic serpentines can serve no other purpose except for assembling docking stations, can they?” I shrugged. “I’m really amazed the guy actually thought he could finish it though. Such a thing is a financial tar pit!”

“But if you’re attempting to monopolize a whole business, it’s the right thing to do, I suppose.” The boss of Greenspace dipped his fingers in the bowl of lemon water. “I hear he had close contacts with the high command of the aliens so it probably gave him some peace of mind.”

“I guess so. If he had succeeded however, it would’ve been the end of the world for the poor men here!” I laughed nervously and then stopped abruptly.

Chavez looked at me sharply and I just looked back because I didn’t know what to say. It was a dangerous subject and I knew it! Probably the whiskey had made me a little crazy and it would be a good idea to stop drinking immediately.

“I mean the situation with all these local people going nuts about ammonia is too weird, isn’t it?” I went on hesitantly after a few seconds, because my previous phrase somehow hung awkwardly in the air between us. “I’m sure you do know they just can’t produce the stuff!”

The guy said nothing as he calmly finished his last chicken leg, after which he slowly pushed his plate aside. Then he sluggishly wiped his hands in the napkin, and took a long sip from his glass. Finally, he brought his eyes back to me. For a moment, I thought he would snap his fingers at his thugs to bring him a machete in order to cut off my fucking tongue for talking too fucking much!

“You know, I was raised in a poor family in the suburbs of Buenos Aires,” he started very obscurely after that. “We were four brothers and two sisters, living in something that you’d consider to be a slum. That is to tell you that I really have known poverty, right? These people here, however, are beyond every possible idea of poverty that you, northern people, may have! They would’ve been happy if they had even what I had, and because of the globalization, they live on leftovers now! Someone has to give them something in return for their suffering. Don’t you think so?”

I blinked, surprised, because I hadn’t expected to hear anything like that. I wasn’t prepared for the fairytale about the knight who fought for eradicating poverty—I wasn’t prepared to hear it from him at least. I thought he was just a former environmental guerrilla who had converted to making money out of his ideals.

“Maybe, but business is business!” I said cautiously since I vaguely felt I needed to maintain my position as equal to him. “And what’s bad for the business, it’s bad for the businessmen too! I think the entire fuss about it is too much.”

I didn’t actually have a clear idea what I was doing. In general, I was improvising a lot, which was probably why I sharply gulped down the rest of my disgusting drink to help make my suicide easier. Weirdly enough, Chavez didn’t react to my words the way I thought he would. On the whole, he seemed a reasonable guy, and in any other situation, I might have even liked him.

“You are probably right to think so,” he shrugged, “but only to a point, you know! That’s how it looks to outsiders—like you—but I have my headquarters here on these islands. In a way, this is my kingdom and I’m the king! And being a king, I have to keep my subjects happy because almost all of them have no other way to make their living. And I can’t just ignore them all, can I? They’re too many and this’s their territory!”

He suddenly stopped and looked at me searchingly. I looked at him too.

“So sometimes, in holidays,” he went on after a moment, “I ignore the fact that I’m encouraging them to keep coming and I buy some of their shit. It’s worthless, of course, but that’s the way to keep the business going. That’s the fucking rule—you always have to keep your subjects happy! And besides, it doesn’t cost me anything at all!”

He stopped again and I remained silent. I actually didn’t know what to say. Despite his tacky style of a redneck, the boss of Greenspace was much cleverer than most politicians were, or at least, most of our politicians in Greenland! Behind this idealistic plea, I saw the real reason for the circus here: he needed a physical place for his hub but his organization was shady and it couldn’t have stability anywhere. Through his influence over the people, however, no government of SPC could ever touch him as long as his “subjects” were happy. The guy was really, really clever!

“So let’s get back to the point,” Chavez went on. “You said these guys were trying to drive me out of business. I’m curious to know how they thought it would happen.”

“Well, I couldn’t know that; maybe you should ask them instead,” I shrugged, uneasy. “Next time when the boyfriend carries his containers to your purchase hub, do so!”

“He really did that?” Chavez raised his eyebrows in surprise. “He made some small money out of me? Isn’t that too cheap for a guy who wanted to acquire a business empire?”

“Actually, he’s even cheaper than that!” I replied, wondering whether to tell him about the change of seals. I didn’t see why not. The guy had done nothing to ruin my life and Sharon and Marty had done many things. It was kind of putting Chavez and me in the same boat. His face darkened as soon as he heard my story.

“Well, this is really upsetting now!” he said gloomily, although he remained calm. I had the feeling he could never lose his temper, which was weird for a guy in his position. “It’s always a disappointment to hear that someone is trying to make a fool out of you! How many containers are we talking about?”

“There were five—approximately ten tons each.”

“Five’s not many!” He pursed his lips but it was rather a pose—he was not ready to swallow the insult. “I can live with it, although I’m not sure I can live with the humiliation!”

I also pursed my lips because I couldn’t disagree, and besides, I didn’t care what he would do to my Greenland “friends”.

“You probably should be careful though,” I decided to warn him because he seemed to be my natural ally now. “The chick’s close to Chandrakant Sengupta. And he’s beloved by the Moon, you know!”

The guy’s face darkened again. Unlike before, now when I mentioned Sharon’s new boyfriend, it changed in such a dramatic way that I suddenly feared he might flip out. I could only hope he believed that the enemies of his enemies were his friends!

“And how close is she to him?” he asked after a while, his voice still low.

“Well, intimately close. They kissed!”

“They kissed, huh?”

“I think she’s trying to entice him in order to help her get into the business. Alone, she has no resources to do so.”

Chavez didn’t say anything; he was just thinking. His eyes kept looking at me but actually, it wasn’t me. I could feel his hatred penetrating my body like rays of light and going through it, and through all the walls here, and the entire town—all the way to Sengupta. I was afraid I was the link between them now!

“You know what?” I cautiously decided to play my hidden card because I realized it was my last chance. “I don’t know about the chick but I think I can deliver the jerk to you.”

He slowly focused his eyes back on my face.

“He’s always after me—it’s kind of personal,” I explained. “It would probably take just a day or two for you to get him!”

“What possible benefit can I have from getting him?” he quietly asked. “I mean except for killing him, of course!”

“I don’t know but he may prove to be useful. I gather that Sharon has ditched him now so he may want to cooperate. Besides, you’ll know what exactly she and Sengupta are up to.”

Chavez didn’t answer and he kept thinking strenuously.

“Does the whore really have a chance to succeed Menelaus?” he asked after a few moments.

I slowly shook my head. “I doubt it! Things are getting pretty hot in Greenland as I hear. She might easily end up in jail if she goes back there. From what I see here though, she doesn’t need to do so. She’s got a real chance of becoming the Queen of Tutuila now!”

“Don’t say that!” the boss of Greenspace frowned. “Such a thing would be highly annoying. I wouldn’t start a war about it because it’d destroy my business but even so, it’d be annoying!”

“Well, she won’t last for too long, I guess,” I shrugged. “Sengupta will be tired of her in a few months and she’ll be all yours. Until then, you can use the jerk to keep her under control. And as for the iodine, just resell it!”

Chavez looked at me sharply.

“What did you just say?”

“You can use her ex-boyfriend to control her,” I hesitantly started. “He knows her well and—”

“About the iodine!” the boss of Greenspace interrupted me. It was only then that I noticed he had his teeth clenched, and his eyes were sparkling. It confused me because the change was so sudden. “Where did the iodine come from?”

“Well, I told you he delivered a few containers with it to your hub!”

“You told me about a few containers with fake stuff inside,” he hissed. I could barely hear his voice now. “Iodine reacts with ammonia!”

“What?” I leaned forward. I was not quite sure I was getting him.

“Haven’t you made fireworks when you were a kid? It’s an explosive! Ammonia and iodine go boom!” the guy cried out loudly.

I was still looking at him, dumbfounded, and I couldn’t speak.

“Are you positive that the containers were full of iodine?” Chavez asked the next second, lowering his voice to a whisper again.

At first, I said nothing and I was afraid to move but then I reached into my pocket and extracted the piece I had found on Sengupta’s yacht.

“You tell me! Is this iodine?”

The boss of Greenspace looked at my hand, frozen like a statue, and his eyes grew darker and darker. He slowly reached for his cellphone on the table but in the moment when his fingers touched it, it rang loudly. The sound reverberated ominously around the empty hall and his hand stopped for a moment. Then he sharply picked up.

I looked around nervously. I was trapped here with no way out and I had just played my cards very, very badly. Instead of giving the guy a reason to keep me alive, I had involuntary told him what Sengupta and Sharon were up to. I was in no position to deliver anything to him now and my life had no value!

Chavez listened very tensely to someone on the line for a whole minute and he didn’t say a single word. The fingers of his other hand were slightly tapping on the table but without actually touching its counter—he was that nervous! After the phone call was over, he made a short gesture behind his back without looking at me. Two of his thugs immediately came running to us; they grabbed me, and violently dragged me toward the door. I didn’t even try to resist. In a few seconds, they roughly pushed me outside onto the street and slammed the door behind my back.

I looked around, surprised. It had all happened so unexpectedly that I hadn’t even had the chance to fear for my life. Then I instinctively turned around to look at the sea. It was already dark and the sky was cloudy. I could see no stars and no horizon but a pale pink spot was pulsing in the darkness where the horizon normally would be. It seemed like a beautiful, silent firework at first. Then, it quickly grew and a moment later, the thunder came!


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

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 30 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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