ADVENTURE THE 47TH: INVINCIBLE & GODLIKE
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
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.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ADVENTURE THE 47th: INVINCIBLE & GODLIKE
“Kill one man and you are a murderer.
Kill millions of men and you are a conqueror.
Kill them all and you are a god.”
- Jean Rostand
It’s odd, but I feel as though Maryilla and I leave Harrods under a cloud of suspicion. Outside it’s dark and damp, my two least favorite climate conditions. A light rain/snow mix makes for an even less appealing first meet to discuss business, but we make out alright just a few blocks east, inside a dimly lit local watering hole. It’s packed, mostly with young trend-setters.
You can feel the electricity of somebody else’s old money bouncing million dollar trust funds off the walls, covered in rare photos of famous people and politicos in a sort of “George Washington slept here” pop-u-tard iconography.
Personally, I don’t mind old people with old money. They’ve earned the privilege to be arrogant, though usually, they’re not. What I can’t abide are their heirs, who think nothing of running the gamut with a sense of entitlement that positively reeks of pomposity.
Most of tonight’s crowd fall under what I would classify as the ‘rich dummy’ category; bored youngsters who have no idea of how a dollar is made but who have all become experts on how more than a few ought to be spent without so much as a single common thought or concerted care for those that made them the spoiled rotten idiot class they currently occupy.
“Over here,” Maryilla calls out amidst the crowd.
We squeeze into a two seat booth facing a large window overlooking Piccadilly. Outside Mother Nature is battling over a decision to dump autumn rain or winter ice water over the heads of these mere mortals.
Inside, the cozy warmth of the place has a mild damp stench all but eclipsed by a pair of overly pancake-plastered waitresses desperately trying to conceal their age and the fact that tonight’s crowd has gotten away from them. We’re only in our seats a moment when one of them sails by our table with a half smile and a pair of menus tossed haphazardly down on the table between us.
Another time/another place and I could have taken her around the world on that hard slick surface then and there; teach the gold digger set how it’s done when all you got is already in your pants and it’s enough to get the job done without breaking the bank. I’m pretty sure she’d a liked it too. Only tonight, I’m not in the mood for love or games or even cocktails. There must be something wrong with me. Maybe I’m just getting old.
“Is she dead?” Maryilla suddenly blurts out, leaning across the table and taking my left hand in hers; her eyes locking like a pair of needy children who have lost their parents at the supermarket.
I’m taken aback by her question, but know instinctively who she’s referring to.
“Yes,” I tell her.
She seems suddenly disinterested and doesn’t ask me how it happened or why? Maybe she doesn’t care. But somehow I think she might, so I go on.
“We were in the Himalayas…and they…”
I find myself developing an uncharacteristic paternal instinct and pull back from the urge to continue. After all, this kid’s been out in the world without my concern or my help for practically as long as she’s been born; maybe longer. The Don strikes me as a guy who laid his lineage with a distinct plan of action for the future of his family business.
“And Alverez?” Maryilla inquires.
“On his back at the hospital,” I confirm, “We were sabotaged at Heathrow but he took care of it.”
“Another attempt at the Dorchester yesterday morning.”
Maryilla releases my hand. Her eyes go shark dead as she shakes her head with disdain-soaked disapproval for the model of efficiency behind all this clever destructiveness.
“They don’t give up, do they?”
“Should they?” I reason, “I mean, we’re not. Or haven’t. And why? What’s it all for? I’ve been asking myself almost from the get go and I haven’t come up with too many clever answers to keep me going.”
“And yet you have,” Maryilla reasons.
I’m suddenly drawn to the purpose of my own futility. It makes no sense. Except now there’s too big a price on my head that someone else has marked down to ‘clearance.’ I’ll die alright. Someday. But if I have any say in the matter, it’s going to be at one-o-five and in my own damn bed with a good bottle of vintage Scotch on the night table by my side.
Just who are they?” I ask.
One of the dimwitted shot glass jockeys returns with her pad and pencil to take our order.
“I’m not hungry,” I explain.
“I am,” Maryilla admits.
Without hesitation, she orders; linguini for two and a bottle of fairly good wine. Our waitress leaves to fetch our order and a couple of glasses.
“You interest me, Mr. Mars,” Maryilla continues.
The feeling’s mutual, but I’ll never tell.
“I’m glad to see I haven’t lost my touch.”
I scan the room for a few brief moments before suddenly noticing the reflection of a man in his rain soaked trench coat staring at us through the window. I turn to Maryilla to suggest we skip dinner. But when I turn back again, at a moment’s glance, both the man and his reflection have disappeared.
“I’ll be back,” Maryilla suggests, rising from her seat, her scissor legs in clinging nylon effortlessly slipping past the cluttered assortment of crowded tables on her way to the loo.
I decide to telephone the hospital on my cell and check up on the Don’s condition. But there’s no reply and with each passing moment that Maryilla remains indisposed I get more antsy and impatient about wasting my time over a plate of hot noodles.
A few more glances around the place and through the window do not yield any more casual glimpses of the mysterious stranger. I begin to second guess my initial hunch. Maybe he wasn’t looking at us after all. Maybe he was after some other hard case; a jilted lover perhaps, or some married gal pal who’s been sparking his fancy in between luncheons with the man who put a ring on her finger and chairing the PTA. Or maybe he was just reading the half lit menu posted on the outside wall and thinking how overpriced living in London had become.
You know, it’s a terrible thing to leave a man alone with his imagination. Especially living in the kind of conspiracy soup I’ve been subjected to. The possibilities are endless. Then again, wasn’t it Hitchcock who said that just by walking down the street you could see a sadist, a rapist and a murderer?
I get a break from my thoughts. Maryilla returns and the food arrives. Both smell pretty good, but the linguini appeals more to my sense of hunger this time around.
Our waitress is one cold fish. She gives a fairly good Marcel Marceau, all visual exposition without so much as a word, laying flatware and cutlery and then our food with a ‘self-serve’ pepper mill and parmesan cheese dispenser between us, before vanishing into the crowd once more.
After she’s disappeared into the kitchen, I get an immediate directive from Maryilla. Foreplay is over.
“There is a man in Tumbridge,” she begins.
“Good for him,” I wax back while diving into my linguini, “There’s also one sitting across from you right now. Which do you think would rather enjoy your company?”
“His name is Jeffrey Lynn-Montague,” Maryilla continues.
“What’s it to me what his name is?”
“I want you to kill him.”
Even as smooth as it is, the last string of linguini goes down like a lump of dense clay.
“And why would I want to do that?”
“Because Lynn-Montague is Das Englander.”
The name’s familiar only I can’t quite place the face. No one can. Das Englander is either a myth or a joke. Either way he doesn’t get my vote of interest any more than Obama did and neither does all this espionage small talk.
“I suggest you concentrate on the food,” I reply, washing down a bit of wine to help the blush sauce along.
“I didn’t come for food,” Maryilla says.
She’s different somehow, as though some miraculous ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ identity conversion took hold in the crapper. I don’t do schizophrenia. I won’t do schizophrenic chicks. Perhaps it was just a difficult stool.
“Then why order dinner?” I suggest.
“Because it’s not quite so obvious,” Maryilla explains.
“It will be if you don’t eat it,” I reason, “Besides, I never make love or war on an empty stomach.”
There’s a long silent pause between us. I return my attentions to my plate with no intension of leaving until I’ve cleared as much away as I can.
A moment later I observe that the knife and fork on Maryilla’s end are busily cutting into her plate of noodles.
She’s good a decisions, or thinks she is and that gives her the air of confidence to carry on as though we’re very much an item. A moment later I feel the slight tap of her shoed toe dig into my calf from under the table as she uncrosses her legs.
“Not yet,” I reason, “But the night’s still young.”
We eat in silence – never a good sign, but a more pleasant one than indulging in shop talk on how to commit the perfect murder. After our plates are nearly cleaned, I get the sense that Maryilla’s patience is wearing thin. I decide to throw her a bone.
“Where does Lynn-Montague live?”
Her eyes sparkle to life. Death excites her. Now, that’s kinky.
“On a country estate,” Maryilla whispers.
“Very nice,” I reason with a polite smile, “But don’t country estates grow out here like warts on a toad?”
“We’ll go there tomorrow,” Maryilla explains.
I nearly spill my wine.
“I’m going with you.”
Now, this is a wrinkle I didn’t expect and one that I’m not particularly happy about.
“Why?” I ask.
“I have my reasons.”
“Then permit me mine for saying ‘no’,” I add, wiping my lips with the cloth napkin before summoning the waitress over to pay.
Maryilla reaches for the bill first.
“This is my affair,” she tells me, handing a credit card to the waitress who leaves us yet again without uttering a single syllable.
“You’re a fairly bossy girl,” I explain, the twinkle in my eye belying the more direct point of my statement.
“I like to be in control,” admits Maryilla.
“That’s a pity,” I reply, my manner turning instantly cold, “Because I don’t do personal favors. This isn’t request night. If you’re so damn needy for a stiff one, kill Lynn-Montague yourself. No doubt he wouldn’t be the first man you ‘controlled’ that way.”
The waitress returns with Maryilla’s card and the bill requiring her signature. She signs, right on the dotted line; the pressure point of the ballpoint nearly going through the paper. Tense little vixen, isn’t she, I reason to myself. She’s not bad when the balls are in her court, but when the guy gets a mind to sink his own grand slam she folds like a novice rather than a pro. I’ve made my point and it’s a good thing too – because the meal’s at an end and so are my patience.
“Well,” I suggest, reaching for my coat, “I’d like to say it’s been memorable. Maybe it has. I won’t go so far as saying it was a pleasure, because it wasn’t. If you ever get the urge to plug somebody else there’s probably a whole list of career criminals you could choose from to get the job done. Too bad I don’t happen to be one of them. Good night.”
I don’t give Maryilla an opportunity to respond. What for? She’s become a one hit wonder whose tune is tired and played out. If this were American Bandstand I’d have to give her a two because I couldn’t dance to it.
. . .
I return to the hospital at around eleven, well after closing time. There’s something hauntingly unsettled in these semi-darkened corridors; as though all the ghosts of those who died in less than a state of grace or while under the knife have returned to make trouble for the remaining patients still clinging to life.
I slip past the night nurse on duty and into the Don’s room. Only he isn’t there. At first I think I have the wrong room, so I shadow my way into the adjoining wards, careful not to disturb the sleeping patients.
But I accidentally walk in on an elderly woman with oxygen tubes wrapped around her head, attempting to mount her hospital bed in an ill-fitting Johnny shirt with too much gap in back after a bathroom break. Brother, if that doesn’t kill your interest in women in general, nothing will.
“Oh,” the woman calls out, “Young man. Will you help me?”
I don’t want to, but do. After she’s up and tucked beneath the sheets, she thanks me profusely in the kindly and overly appreciative way a fellow human being does when they know they’ve become an obsolete relic to the rest of the world.
“They took me kidney out,” she explains.
“That’s too bad,” I admit.
“Yep,” the woman reasons, “And now I’m constantly running to the shed like a race horse.”
“At least you won the Grand National this time,” I reason, fluffing the old woman’s pillow before slowly backing away and right into the night nurse who has already begun her rounds.
“What are you doing here?!” she asks me, her stern note of amazement coupled with a decidedly hideous visage and an intense scowl that could stop a coal barge.
Where the notion derived that all nurses are sexy is beyond me. This one’s a poster child for the Robert Lewis Stevenson Award for bestiality.
“I just came to check up on an old friend,” I reason.
“Don’t you yell at him,” the old woman chimes in, “He was here to help me back into me bed. Where were you? I rang three times.”
“And here I am,” the nurse reasons in a tone more kindly and professional as she turns her attentions to the patient, leaving her wrath for me in a nearby bedpan, no doubt from whence it will spray up if I don’t get the hell out right now.
I duck into the hallway unnoticed and make my way to the nurse’s station. I’ve only a few moments before Dracula’s daughter returns for a fresh pint – and I don’t mean ‘of Guinness’. I wish I had been born a Catholic. At least then there’d be a crucifix hanging around my neck for protection.
I reach back behind the high counter ledge and pull up the daily log. Only I suddenly realize that according to hospital records the Don was never a guest of this place. I check the previous day’s log. It’s a blank too.
I’m more angry than perplexed and frankly, not amused. My first thought is to haul short fat and ugly on the carpet for some answers. I think better of that idea, particularly as I reach into my left coat pocket for a cigarette and discover a loose slip of paper floating inside that I don’t remember putting there in the first place.
It’s a thin sheet from a memo pad with the name of Harrod’s stenciled in the upper right corner. Hand written in some fairly good penmanship is an address; 1719 Kenton Lane. ‘Oh well’, I reason, tucking the slip back into my pocket, ‘Misery loves…’
. . .
I hail a taxi outside the hospital. The rain’s turned entirely to snow and coming down like a hailstorm of Jerry’s bombs during the blitz. My cabby’s not talkative but he’s damn good at his job. I’ve never felt so many quick maneuvers through heavy traffic without dinging a single bumper. This guy ought to have been driving NASCAR. Eleven city blocks later I find myself at the foot of 1719 Kenton Lane; a cozy townhouse backing onto the picturesque silver meadows of Regent’s Park.
Except for the dim flicker through heavy frosted glass in the front door, the place looks all closed up for the night. The sky and my mood match. They’re both gray.
I ring the bell, expecting a familiar face to open the door. It does, only it’s one that’s less familiar than I thought. In fact, it takes me a few moments to register those dull, but beady eyes. My focus shifts to a nearby coat rack just beyond the front door where a sopping wet trench hangs limp, a small puddle of dirty water collected on the floor below.
The man at the window. Perhaps he’s just come to dinner or merely stepped in from the cold, but it’s him. He gives me a half smile. Strange – but it doesn’t seem sinister. So, I suck in my suspicions and step inside.
It’s a cozy place, probably older than the last century, but done over in contemporary hues and with a woman’s touch. Pale satin striped wallpaper lines the foyer – silvery purple and mint green, complimented by some out of season lilies in a tall vase at the end of a short table. A steep set of stairs rise almost immediately to the second floor, done over in a soft maple finish.
“Expected?” I ask the man at the door.
He nods politely but doesn’t say a word; taking my coat and directing me upstairs. I’m thinking that if this goes on, Beady Eye can make himself the nice ham in a sandwich of two over the hill waitresses who haven’t seen male flesh in well over a decade.
From the second floor landing, my silent guide points to a room at the end of the hall, the door half open, a soft yellowish glow radiating through the slit with all the warmth of a sunny spring morn. Inside, I find what I expect and another surprise to match the one downstairs.
The Don’s lying comfortably asleep in the center of a massive four poster cherry bed, kept warm by a silky periwinkle comforter and some expensive looking shams; kept alive by a drip of something plugged into his left arm. Maryilla is seated at his bedside.
I can’t swear it, but I believe she’s been shedding a few wet ones over the weakened state of her father. A creaky floorboard under my left foot alerts her to my presence. She looks up; her eyes suddenly soulless, her face instantly angular with deep panged lines of bitterness and anger – as though I’ve just parted the curtain on a very steamy shower she had been enjoying in private.
“Hello angel,” I say quietly, “You’re just full of surprises tonight. Murder she wrote and now this hocus-pocus with daddy. Suppose you leave the healing to the professionals. You’re hands weren’t meant to Florence Nightingale.”
She rises like a delectable female serpent, gliding in silent approach across the wooden floor. Funny, how nothing creaks under her feet. When she’s within earshot, Maryilla leans into my space, her lips so close to my ear.
“Outside,” she whispers, exiting the room.
I follow, but only for a few feet. Maryilla closes the door to the Don’s bedroom, folding her hands before an ample bosom in such a way that augments every little detail of that perfect cleavage.
“You follow directions well,” she says.
I don’t go for the distinct tone of condescension in her voice.
“I can read,” I tell her, “But that’s as far as it goes. Besides, you’ve already one lapdog downstairs. How many does the well appointed bitch need?”
“Sergei’s been with me a long time,” Maryilla explains.
“Define long,” I reason, “Or aren’t you the kind that kisses and tells.”
Maryilla smiles. She’s read my inferences all wrong. I haven’t the jealous nature and I’m not into mutts. Where the night takes us from here isn’t open for discussion. I’ve come for answers. I won’t for anything or anyone else.
Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure:
The Bleak Bleak Winter
on January 6th, 2009.
@Nick Zegarac 2008 (all rights reserved).