ADVENTURE THE 34TH - RECORDS
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Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
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ADVENTURE THE 34TH - RECORDS
Mama used to say, when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place – it’s time to use the shovel instead of a teaspoon. I was never sure what she meant until today. Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to get out’a bed…or be a gentleman.
“Your friend was the man who double crossed you tonight,” explains Don Alvarez.
It’s true. I’m surprised. Everyone plays a percentage. Bryan’s no different. That isn’t what peaks my curiosity. Only, after botching Somerset’s hit and being patched in the shoulder and forcibly dragged off shore to a waiting yacht, I would have thought if Bryan had wanted to ditch me he wouldn’t have had too much difficulty just dropping me over topside in the middle of the tropics. Why go through all the trouble of kidnapping me to…where was I now? Certainly, not among friends.
“You were already in the Bahamas when word arrived from Dubai that you might never reach your destination,” Migrya adds.
“Yes,” the Don agrees, tipping Bryan’s severed head a quarter to the left, just to admire the handiwork, “He was sent…not for you…but to you. To confirm your death and steal Somerset’s money and information.”
“Then why save me?” I ask.
The Don’s a clever man. He has all the answers…not just the one’s I’d want to hear.
“To live…” Migrya reasons, “…to confuse us and you. To make it appear as though others were conspirators in search of a false assassin.”
“It’s always best to draw attention away from yourself, my friend,” the Don concludes.
Worked for me. I had taken Bryan into my confidence – almost. I thought we were partners; sort of. Guess I was just as naïve and clueless as that poor bastard turned into a puddle of mush on my terrace.
. . .
It’s late. After we incinerate Bryan’s remains in the Don’s furnace, each of us retires separately to our rooms. Why not the police? Simple. One murder per household is a mere coincidence. Two is a conspiracy.
I’m usually able to dislocate the day’s actions from my mind. But in the steely gray darkness of looming dawn I find a restless streak itching to break out. I doze a half dozen times, waking with a startling each time, my eyes loosely ricocheting about the darkened recesses of my room – always with that same lazy drugged out response of floating back into the ether.
At six a.m. I’ve officially had enough of pretending I’m awake while knowing that I’m tired. I roll over, grab my robe and saunter down to the kitchen. At times like this I know exactly what I need…the cure; my comfort food.
. . .
I find the lights, a pot and a mixing spoon – then discover I’m not the only one who can’t catch forty in the lap of luxury.
Migrya materializes in a slinky sheer negligee from an open doorway, her eyes half open, the bright flicker from within slowly igniting.
“Good morning, angel,” I say, “Sleepless night?”
“Yes,” she admits, “I can’t understand it.”
“It must be love,” I tease.
“Don’t be so sure,” she tells me, canceling the free show by folding her arms in front of her ample bosom, “You?”
“Oh, I’m a night owl,” I lie, “This is my time and nobody else’s. My thoughts are my own.”
“Don’t be so stingy,” Migrya suggests with a half crooked smile.
I appeal to her – superficially at least. Most idiots do. I can tell. I’m not particular how I get her in the end, so long as I get her.
“Oh, not always,” I admit, “Sometimes I like to share.”
I give her the once over.
In all the excitement of the past twenty-four I’d rather forgotten how smoldering hot and tempting she was. For the record: three alarm fire is an understatement. Her present attire leaves little to my imagination and I’m suddenly hungry for different reasons.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“Whipping up a little something to set the world right,” I explain.
A glycerin smile intrudes, spreading like Silly-Putty on ice until it seems to separate the entire width of her face.
“Let me…” she offers.
I’d let her just about anything, only the real question is ‘would she let me?’ I’ve heard it said that there’s nothing quite so sexy as a gal who can cook – except maybe a gal who actually wants to.
“What shall I make?”
“And how do you take yours, Mr. Mars?”
“Like my women,” I admit, “Hot and lumpy.”
She grins slyly, only she’s too controlled to actually laugh out loud. I amuse her – maybe more like a fool than a suitor, but I’ll take my lumps how I find ‘em.
I watch Migrya mix up a pot of the good stuff on high. I’ve never been quite so fascinated by cooking before. Maybe it’s just because someone else has turned up the heat. Under the adage that it doesn’t matter where you plant your spoon as long as you get your appetite at home, I settle in for my favorite fixed up by my new favorite chef.
“Strawberries or cream?” she asks.
She decorates the top of my simmering bowl with a few fresh berries and a dab of whipped cream, licking the spoon after she’s done. It’s the first time I’m envious of a utensil.
“Enjoy,” she offers, placing the bowl in front of me like a puppy that needs his kibble before disappearing up the stairs to get dressed.
I like her. She knows the game and isn’t afraid to keep score. Which side will win at this point is a total toss up. But I enjoy a good toss now and then. For now, it’ll have to be ‘then’.
Oh well, at least I’ve another of my favorite past times to indulge in – one that can’t say ‘no’.
. . .
The dawn is ominous and foreboding – like one of those apocalyptic visions in a Ray Bradbury novel. There’s a thick yellow haze clinging from the tree tops lining Palma Dante – a sort of heavy humidity spreading with the sun across the rolling hills, leaving everything wet and sticky. It’s about a thousand in the shade.
My crisp linen suit pastes to me, practically from the moment I brush freshly showered skin against its soft woven threads.
With the Don’s permission I take one of his cars - a silver Benz - into town to visit the local coroner. There’s something that doesn’t quite fit about Mike’s death. Maybe he’s just not the kind to die. It’s too easy.
My suspicions are confirmed when the dental records on file and those in Mikey’s dead frozen noggin don’t quite match. The coroner, a fat little man with pudgy fingers and a perpetual scowl seems disinterested at best.
“This is not the man,” he tells me.
“Yeah,” I say in my usual deadpan way, “No kidding, Fred.”
“My name is Domingo,” I’m corrected.
“Well, you look like a Fred to me,” I reply, “Don’t bother telling me what I look like. I can guess. Besides I have a pretty good idea.”
. . .
I telephone the Don from his car phone with the news. He doesn’t seem particularly surprised either.
“Listen,” I tell him, “Any thoughts on where I might find Herr Kriegler?”
I get an address for the fashionable Hotel AC Barcelona – a steel and concrete paradise overlooking Costa Brava.
. . .
Pulling into the drive, I toss the keys to this thin little garden gnome squeezed tight into his valet’s waste coat and pinstriped pants. My moves mean business but my jacket’s in desperate need of a pressing. Catching a glimpse of my wrinkled self in the mirror on the way in, I toss off my coat for a more casual look.
I feel about ninety pounds lighter, even as I fan my lats like a peacock strutting onto the wood decked terrace. The lovelies at poolside seem to approve, their brown bulbous bodies pointing happily to the sun – a delicate absence of the male element suddenly making me prime choice. These are my kind’a odds. Stacked – literally and figuratively, and in my favor. Hot and ready – but more hot right now than anything else.
I’d like to stay and chat with the supple young thing, poised in her lime green string bikini for maximum effect at the end of a long line of deck loungers - but business and duty dictate my next move. I approach the concierge for some information.
“Yes,” I interrupt the short balding man behind the desk, “Franz Kreigler’s room.”
“Your name, please.”
“Is for my friends…” I add with conviction, “Besides, I’m expected.”
The concierge reluctantly rings Kreigler’s room. But there’s no answer and I’m asked to park it in a cushy recliner inside the lobby to wait. Maybe I will chat up the lime girl of my rancid little daydreams.
I strut back out to the pool’s edge, confident I’ll make a score. But my exotic gal is nowhere to be seen. In fact, she sees me just fine, rising from the silent surf and breaking the liquid skin just where I stand. I turn, but before I know what’s happening, she’s reached out for my ankles, her wet hands suddenly soaking through my cotton socks. I’ve never been grabbed there before. It sort’a tickles, like a python cutting off your oxygen supply.
“You look like a man who’s lost something,” she tells me, her long black curls perfectly matted against tanned cocoa skin.
“I think I’ve found it,” I reply, extending my hand and hoisting her out of the pool with one light tug.
She weighs practically nothing, tiptoeing wet little puddles around me en route back to a thick cotton terry resting against her lounger. I follow like a little lost puppy – enjoying the rouse that I couldn’t have it my way on her back in ten if I wanted to.
“You amuse me,” she says, as though my entire purpose on this planet had been destined for just such a moment.
“Well now…” I admit, my smile sharp and seasoned as a crocodile, “I can’t say the same for you.”
She glances at me curiously, as though she knows some sort of insult has just occurred, only isn’t quite clever enough to figure out by how much she ought to be offended.
“I don’t amuse easily,” I say, offering to wrap the oversized towel about her slender shoulders, but at the last minute twisting it playfully, yet ever so tightly around her neck, drawing those severe red lips to my own for a light smack. It’s refreshing, but I’m done with her for now. It’s too hot to contemplate anything else.
I seem to have confused her. She has that deer in the headlights look as I pull away.
“My room is 265,” she quietly admits.
“Such a pity,” I tell her.
“I’m not registered.”
I leave her as she stands; dull, intoxicated and thinking that outward perfection is the hallmark most desired by any man she meets. But just once I’d like to give it all up for a gal who knows her own mind instead of her shallow heart.
I’m not a very patient guy, so when the opportunity presents itself, I saunter behind the front desk and glance at the computer screen, calling up Kreigler’s room number – 607.
. . .
I haven’t the faintest idea how I’m going to angle the conversation once I get there. In the elevator, I grasp at creative straws; how best to introduce myself to the little Nazi – then decide that blunt forced entry and a couple of threats are probably the most efficient route to go. Tough guys know the score. I know it too. Nothing impresses a cutthroat more than seeing a mirror image of himself reflected in another’s eyes. Whoever said ‘violence is never the answer’ clearly never left the green lawn suburbs of Stepford Lane.
The elevator doors open onto a long wide hall; stark, high ceiling back lit with searing white halogen spots. I feel more like I’m heading to an inquisition. Hell, I’m certainly in the right town for it.
607 looks like 608 or 609 or any of the other doors lining the hall for that matter. I politely knock, feeling the door loosely rock on its hinges, then suddenly realize it’s already open.
Was I expected? Was somebody else? Or was I too late for housekeeping?
I find my answer inside: Kreigler, lying face down in a bloody pool on his dark veneer desk, gun still firmly planted in his left hand, a beautiful sun spray of gray matter plastered against the wall behind him.
It’s an elegantly staged suicide; for looks and for show – a flashy epitaph to satisfy the police and quell any inquiries that might suggest he had help making up his mind. And I thought ‘check out’ time was at eleven.
THE END…not for too long.
EDDIE MARS will return in his next adventure –
The Back Packer on Nov. 23, 2007.
@ Nick Zegarac 2007 (all rights reserved).