ADVENTURE THE 30TH: DOGGIE TREATS
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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 30th:
There are many masks to the human condition. We all play the parts we’ve been assigned. That’s fate. Shakespeare claimed as much. “All the world’s a stage…” But that poor bastard never considered that sometimes the last act isn’t pretend – it’s murder.
I’ve suddenly found myself the folly of my own undoing. At this moment, there are more masks to the game than realities. Who am I supposed to be? The lover? The liar? The angel of death? How can I play my part with a straight face?
For starters, I shut off my heart. That helps and it’s not as difficult as I expected it to be. Maybe, I have no heart. Maybe, it’s just sympathy pains for that part I sold at auction the day I became the guy with a price on his head.
“There you are!” Amanda buoyantly declares, giving away far too much of what the last twenty-four have meant as the sun glints off her raven locks pinned upward in a French braid. Daddy’s too smart to think I’m the accidental tourist but he plays the game like the master manipulator that he is. The specialty of the island may be Tarot card readings, but Somerset has his own deck and it’s stacked against me.
“Do we know each other?” he says, leaning forward and extending his hand.
I switch off my radar signals. He needs as little information as possible.
“We do now,” I suggest, heartily shaking his hand while thinking to myself how easily I could break it.
I’m invited to table and served the compliments of the house, but mindful that lunch is only an exercise for analyzing me between the lines – or in this case, 400 thread count Egyptian cotton bed sheets still stained with the sweat from last night’s guilty pleasures.
Body language is our only genuine communicator and I can tell from Somerset’s that he doesn’t trust me for a second – even though the act I’m putting on seems to be working its overtime charm on his daughter.
“Amanda tells me you met only yesterday,” Somerset says after the champagne cocktails have been poured.
“Yes,” I agree with a note of playful fancy, “It was rather unexpected. You see, I wasn’t planning anything except a little ‘R’ and ‘R’, but I got off alright.
I decide that’s enough foreplay for him and switch topics in midstream, confident my oscillator is set to smooth flow.
“Amanda tells me you were looking after your own interests. I hope everything went according to plan.”
By the sudden change in his grip tightening around that thin flute of champagne, he’s very good at deciphering double entendre.
“Yes,” Somerset coolly replies, “Yesterday was extremely useful.”
“For me too,” I tease.
“And what about your interests?”
I cast a nonchalant glance in Amanda’s direction, making them both aware of my meaning.
“Oh, I’ve many, Mr. Somerset,” I suggest, “But only one driving ambition at the moment.”
I decide it’s time to lighten the mood considerably.
“…to have a fabulous lunch in good company.”
. . .
The rest of the meal is a carefully orchestrated charade. Amanda says very little – perhaps because there is very little left to be said without giving away the full account of her indiscretions. That wouldn’t be wise and this babe graduated with honors. She knows that it’s over between us even as her father gorges on his lobster in silence.
I eat just enough not to go hungry before excusing myself to make a phone call. It’s short and to the point.
“Have made contact. Will finish the job tonight.”
. . .
I go back to my suite and wait out the afternoon. It’ll be better if I take care of things under the cover of night. There’s no point in reasoning the divine logic behind my reoccurring weakness for companionship. I suppose it’s a human frailty I ought to be able to do without by now – but I can’t.
At three in the afternoon there’s a polite tap on my door. Bryan, the night manager appears with Poopsy under his right arm and an envelope in his left hand.
“This just arrived for you,” he tells me.
“I’ll take the paper,” I admit, “The pooch is all yours.”
“Don’t be too quick to discount loyalty, Mr. Mars,” Bryan suggests, “After all, dog is man’s best friend.”
Poopsy gives out with a loud and somewhat unpleasant yelp, like someone’s been stroking his testicles too hard.
“You’ll have to excuse him,” Bryan admits, petting Poopsy on its nose. “He hates to be alone.”
“Don’t we all,” I reason, taking the envelope and closing the door.
I remove my gun and silencer from their hidden luggage case and open the envelope. Inside is a plane ticket and instructions on my next port of call – Cordoba, Spain.
I wait. The hours pass like a decade. I suppose I could take a stroll on the beach or a spin around the island – just to blow off some of this mounting tension. But then, I might run into…her.
. . .
The color of the room changes by the hour; from the vital splash of natural light filtering through the many open windows, to that fiery blaze at sunset when every spec of reality is transformed into a backdrop of burnt sienna; then twilight and the gradual numbing of the visual nerves and senses, melting into encroaching darkness.
At a quarter to midnight, staff begins to extinguish the gas lanterns overlooking the beach. The last linger of romantic couples file indoors. It’s about that time. I slip into the comforting stretch cotton of my black pullover and leather loafers with the soft soles. It must be made to look like an accident; either a surprised, botched attempt at a robbery or a suicide or it’s no good. I’ll decide which after Somerset’s quite dead.
Then, I see her – barefoot and sauntering up the walk in her wind swept sarong, sandals slung over the left shoulder. Even in the glint of moonlit I can make out her glassy eyes full of tears. It’s a rotten world that dooms us to loneliness. It’s all wrong. She’s not supposed to be here. I can’t see her or I’ll miss my cue.
There’s no time to close the open patio doors. She can see my bungalow now as plain as her own. I duck behind the slats of a decorative wall divider in my room, piece drawn, praying she’ll turn back at the last minute.
“Hello?” I hear her call into the dark “Is anyone there?”
Go away, I whisper to myself. Go away and stay away. Find yourself a guy who wants to remember his past and make a future. Not someone who doesn’t own even that small strip of quicksand he’s currently sinking into.
She enters cautiously, feeling for the light switch. I’m grateful when she can’t seem to find it. Instead, in the glimmer of pale moonlight, she spots a small note pad and pen set put out by the hotel on my coffee table. I watch as she writes something down, then leaves.
For once, my prayers are answered. Small mercy. The only one that’s in store for me tonight.
. . .
I find the lights on inside the Somerset bungalow; French doors lazily swaying in the night sea breeze as though he were expecting company. Perhaps Amanda hasn’t returned to him yet. I’m about to enter when I sense movement in the next room. A moment later Somerset appears in the hall, steam sifting upward from the hot shower he’s just taken and bundled cozily in his white plush hotel robe.
He takes a seat behind an ornate desk in the living area, opens his laptop and begins to type. It’s now or never.
I materialize from the darkness, gun drawn. Somerset looks up.
“I’ve been expecting you,” he says.
“Did you really think you were fooling anyone today, Mr. Mars?”
I haven’t the time to find out the answer. I let him have two quick shots; one in the heart, the other an almost perfect bull’s eye through the head. His body flails back into the chair, eyes ricocheting back and forth wildly in opposite directions – the super computer of his brain flat lines - then nothing but a thin stream of blood cruising out of his right nostril down his lip and chin, leaving Jackson Pollock styled dots across the front lapels of his bathrobe.
But how did he know my name?
I turn the laptop to face me and am confounded by the sight of my own profile next to a complete dossier on my whereabouts and movement over the last forty-eight hours. The last thing I notice is the imperative next to the header, tagged ‘Current Status.’ It reads – deceased.
The first bullet from an unknown assailant catches me in my right shoulder, causing me to drop my gun to the floor. Before I can fathom what’s happened, a second bullet nicks me in the ankle. I crumple in a heap, falling between the nearby couch and wall and catching only a glimpse of Amanda Somerset standing in the foyer with her gun drawn.
“You stupid little man,” she bitterly declares.
And then we both hear it; that familiar jangle from Poopsy’s collar as that mutt darts into the room. He makes a perfect B-line for Amanda’s ankle, affectionately licking the thin leather straps.
“So much for man’s best friend,” I reason, applying pressure to my right shoulder with my left hand.
“Some animals are very smart,” Amanda reasons, picking up the dog.
It’s only then that I suddenly realize how right she is. We both notice that Poopsy’s collar has been changed; this one is flashing with an infrared detonator. It all makes sense.
Poopsy’s the bomb.
I jam myself between the couch and wall, moments before Poopsy detonates, blowing Amanda to bits and showering the room in a fountain spray of blood and gray matter. The explosion is enough to set off the fire alarm and extinguishers as an airborne severed paw lands close by. My gaze lands on a pair of soft-soled black leather shoes.
It’s Bryan, the desk clerk – or is he, machete in hand, reaching for the left clenched fist of our dearly departed Somerset and lopping off his ring finger with its white gold band attached.
Bryan, leans over me, hand outstretched.
“Come with me if you want to live,” he says.
Eddie Mars will return in his next great adventure –
In A Little Spanish Town on July 27, 2007.
@Nick Zegarac 2007 (all rights reserved).