Bibliogasm

Blonde, Black and Blood Red

February 9th 2062
That morning I got up at nine. If I had to meet with Johnnie at 10 o’clock, I would have to leave at half past nine. The rush-hour in the morning was always ghastly and if I stuck to the traffic regulations (which I did more and more often these days) it would surely take me thirty minutes to get there.
But before I left, I went to check on Butch. When the door to the spare bedroom opened I heard a sound like a truck having trouble starting, emanating from under a disorderly heap of covers, pillows, arms and legs; he was still asleep.
I left him a note that I had gone off to work.
The trip didn’t really take thirty minutes; that was because I couldn’t resist riding over the sidewalk to kick a dent in the door of that bastard who had cut me off at the last turn. He got quite angry and started swearing. I laughed at him and almost drove into a parked truck; I managed to pull over just in time. Fortunately, he didn’t. So, I arrived at the French Lunchroom a little early.
Johnnie was wearing his usual blue suit with a black tie, sunglasses and his brown hair in a neat parting. He was talking to an older man in an exceptionally expensive, dark suit. It was quite a discussion, by all appearances. I stealthily approached and listened to them from a safe distance.
‘Now remember that we must have it back as soon as possible.’ the man said.
‘Don’t you worry, sir, my contact will do fine…’
‘For your fantasies, I suppose?’ the man rudely interrupted. ‘Johnson, this is a matter of the utmost importance; we must be able to rely on your contact, not just to look good, but to do the job properly! Now, can we?’
‘Sir, she may be a blond, but that has nothing to do with her capa…’
‘Can we rely on her, Johnson?’ the man interrupted again.
Johnnie was sweating. He swallowed, then said: ‘Yes, we can, sir.’
The man nodded harshly and left the building. Johnnie sat down at a table, straightened his glasses and wiped his forehead with a chequered handkerchief.
I walked up to him. ‘Johnnie, I didn’t really expect your little note.’
He got up to kiss me. ‘You should have known I wouldn’t give up on you so soon.’
Yes, I guess I should have known. I sighed. ‘So, you had a job for me?’
‘Yes… down to business…’ He looked very nervous. ‘Please, sit down.’
I sat down. ‘What’s going on then?’
‘It’s something really big this time, you mustn’t let me down.’
‘Honey, have I ever failed you?’
‘Well…’ He looked at me accusingly.
‘That one doesn’t count.’ I said quickly. ‘I was injured.’
‘A sprained wrist.’
‘And I was upset because I had just left the assault team.’
‘You were hangover from the celebration.’
Suddenly something hit me. ‘How do you know those things?’
He just smiled and sipped his cappuccino.
‘Anyway,’ I said. ‘If it’s that important, then why can’t you get someone better to do it?’
‘No one else wants to do it.’ he said tonelessly. I swallowed.
‘And besides,’ He added. ‘Who’s better than you?’
I shook my head. ‘Johnnie… always flattering.’ I sighed. ‘What do I have to do?’
‘An object, originally in the possession of Ores Industries has been stolen.’ He said.
‘It is your job to return it.’
‘To steal it back, right?’
He tried to ignore my remark. ‘The object is held in a suitcase and…’
I knew that things were always held in a suitcase for a reason.
‘I’m not going to need a Geiger teller, am I?’ I asked quickly.
‘No. Now will you stop interrupting me?’
‘Sorry.’ I leaned back in the chair. ‘I’m listening.’
‘As I said, in a suitcase. The object itself is a black cube with red symbols on it. The plan is to just get hold of it without being noticed and bring it back to us as soon as possible, for the usual payment, of course. Any questions?’
‘Can I say something now?’ I asked.
‘Yes, now you can say something!’ He sounded a little agitated.
‘Where and when is it?’ I asked.
‘Philips research labs and as I said: as soon as possible.’
This was at Philips as well? It seemed that I would have to go there after all.
Well, at least I could do two jobs at the same time, which meant twice as much money. And if Hathor, Butch and Thermo hadn’t changed, they were going to make a bloody mess out of that job for Duke. They would be attracting so much attention that no one would notice me taking a small suitcase. This would be a piece of cake!
‘That’s alright, honey, I’ll do it.’
‘You might run into some competition.’ He warned me.
Well, that competition might run into my colleagues, who would surely be able to take care of them. ‘No problem, you’ll be hearing from me. Maybe tomorrow.’
He smiled and kissed me again. ‘Saris, I knew I could count on you.’
Poor sod, he didn’t even notice that I didn’t kiss him back.
I went back home to do some more repair work on an old computer. After an hour or so I heard some noise in the kitchen. I guess Butch had finally decided to get up. I told him that I could maybe use some help, but he just sat down his enormous butt on my velvet couch to watch 3DTV. Voodoo Channel, no doubt. I took up my things and went to my office, because I didn’t feel like watching anything like that.
Around five o’clock the doorbell rang. Through the window in the hall I could see a car parked out front; a six-wheeled car. I opened the door.
‘Good afternoon.’ Mizander said. ‘I was in the neighbourhood and I thought I might drop by to pick you up and give you a lift.’
I nodded. ‘To make sure I was still coming to work for that creep you call your boss.’
‘No, of course not!’ he said. ‘I never doubted you would come.’
I smiled. ‘No honey, you didn’t, but your boss did.’
Butch came into the hall. ‘Someone phoned, Saris.’ He said. ‘Guy called Jeo looking for his dotch, or something. Hung up when heard it was me.’
‘You fool!’ I muttered and went over to the phone. ‘That was Gio, he calls me Dolce.’
Mizander asked: ‘I thought your name was Saris Lenon.’
I sighed and turned around. ‘Gio is an Italian, so he calls me sweetheart in Italian, but if you really want to know, my full name is Sarisse Amandine Sapphire-Lenòn, which is French, with an accent on Le-nòn.’
Butch was surprised. ‘Sapphire?’
‘Yes, that was my husband, Winston Sapphire.’ I said quickly.
‘You, married to the famous fashion designer?’ Butch started laughing.
‘Wàs.’ I said clearly. ‘Haven’t you been following the news? He died a month ago.’
‘I’m so sorry for you.’ Mizander said. ‘I heard it was very tragic.’
‘Oh, very tragic indeed.’ I said scornfully.
‘Typical.’ Butch sniggered.
‘I’m sure.’ I picked up the phone to call Gio back.
‘DiSilva Private Services.’
‘Gio, this is Saph, you called?’
‘Who’s the pezzo di merda who picked up your phone?’
Butch looked up. ‘He called me what?’
‘Not important.’ I said. ‘Why did you call?’
‘Is the pezzo di merda listening?’
I looked up at Butch. ‘You wouldn’t be calling him that if he was standing next to you.’
‘I’m sure he’s very tall, muscled and ugly, I don’t care. Is he listening or not?’
‘Yes he is, but he is a friend. I trust him.’
‘Well I don’t. Listen Saris, I never get into anyone’s business, but what you got yourself into now is dangerous, capiche? Don’t get too involved!’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Just listen to my advice and stay out of it, you promise?’
‘No, I don’t promise. I can take care of myself very well, thank you.’
‘Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ he said. ‘You’ll be hearing from me when there are no pezzi di merda listening. Ciao.’ He had hung up before I could say anything else.
Butch looked at me. ‘What’s a pesto demarda?’
‘What am I going to do with that?’ I mumbled.
‘Don’t worry too much about it.’ said Mizander. ‘You’ll hear from him again, that’s what he said. The only thing you can do now is be very careful.’
Maybe he was right, but that still kept me wondering about it all.
‘Let’s go to Duke’s,’ He suggested. ‘We might still be on time.’
Butch said he had to go check on his weapon supplies and afterwards he would pick up Thermo. I was still a bit suspicious, so I took some small microphones with me to bug Duke’s living room. I just wanted to get on my bike, when Mizander offered me a lift in his car. I stood still to have a look at it. It looked like it had once been a truck, but someone had taken the cabin off and replaced it with the interior of a modern posh car.
‘What do you think?’ he asked.
‘It’s a… eh… very original car, Mizander.’ I said carefully.
‘I had it made exactly as I wanted.’ He said proudly.
I shook my head. This guy had strange taste.
He opened the door for me and I got in. Something that hit me was that old, musty smell again. It seemed unlikely, but Duke might have driven this car as well.
We drove off and Mizander started talking about how he had this car made. It didn't interest me at all, so I didn’t say anything. It took him quite some time to find out that I wasn’t listening, but then he fell silent.
He was driving slowly, we weren’t in a hurry. I searched for something to say and looked at him. His bright blue eyes noticed me, but didn’t dare to look back at me. He tried to make some shape out of his shaggy hair, but it just stood right up on end.
He seemed a little nervous, and frankly I felt a little nervous too.
‘You know your eyes are beautifully blue?’ I said then suddenly said. ‘They remind me of a cloudless sky on a sunny day on the beach.’ And this next phrase had come out just as quickly as the first one. I didn’t even know why I had said it.
He blushed lightly. ‘Do you think so?’ He looked at himself in the rear view mirror.
‘I always thought they were steel blue.’
Then there was silence again. I stared outside. What was going on with me? I wiped some sweat-drops off my forehead.
‘Did you know that your eyes are beautifully… eh… greenish bluey graylike?’
I couldn’t believe my own ears!
He said: ‘They remind me of a … eh … of a bog in the swamps up north, a very romantic place.’
A bog! How romantic! Where did this guy get his lines?
I was very glad to see we had arrived at Duke’s and I was very glad to get out of that weird car. In the living room it was a bit dark, because for some reason all the shades were closed. Doc, Red and Hathor were looking over the map of the Philips building under the light of a desk lamp.
‘Then we gonna go down this hall here to those three doors over there, so we split up in two groups and then we gonna… uhm…’
The tip of Doc’s cigarette lighted up as I entered the room. Hathor suddenly stopped talking and Red turned her face away.
I got suspicious and asked: ‘Is something wrong, Hathor?’
Doc got up and put an arm around me. ‘Saris, we’ve got to talk, we haven’t seen each other in such a long time and…’
‘We talked long enough yesterday, thank you very much.’ I pushed his arm away.
He sat down again and looked the other way. Hathor was making plaits in his beard and Mizander was plucking at his badly shaven chin.
‘Would someone please tell me what’s going on?’ I yelled.
‘Well…’ Red said slowly. ‘They find it a problem to tell you where we’re going.’
I was getting a bit annoyed now. ‘So where are we going?’
‘The 72nd floor of the Philips skyscraper in the centre of town.’
I swallowed and tried to calm myself down with the thought that from the inside you can’t really see how high up you are. ‘I guess I can get over that.’
She closed her eyes. ‘And I’m afraid we’ll have to enter the building from the roof of the building next to it.’
My knees were trembling, but I tried to convince myself that I might survive standing on top of a very tall building. ‘Maybe that’s not a very big problem.’
She took a deep breath. ‘And we’re going there in the helicopter.’
Okay, that was it! ‘I’m not coming!’
‘I thought something like that.’ Doc said. ‘That’s why I brought some pills to c…’
‘I don’t want your chemical junk! I’m not coming!’
Mizander walked up to me. ‘Maybe I can help you to get over your f…’
‘You keep your mental claws out of my head! I’m not coming!’
Hathor tried to smile in a friendly way. ‘I’m sure Butch’ll fly very carefully.’
‘Read my lips: I am not coming!’
Thermo and Butch entered the room. ‘What’s happening?’
Butch had a feeling of what was going on. ‘One guess: chopper?’
‘Yes, and I’m not coming!’ I said stubbornly.
‘If you really don’t wanna come, we can’t make you.’ Red said.
‘You sure can’t!’ I said, and walked outside.
Suddenly a thought struck me. Johnnie. I promised him not to fail, to just get that suitcase for him. If I didn’t, that guy in the suit would surely get even more angry and Johnnie might get into trouble.
But what would I care if Johnnie got in trouble? I was trying to get rid of him.
Although, getting rid of him like this would be a bit drastic. And, even worse: I wouldn’t get any pay at all; neither from Johnnie or Duke.
I made a decision I was going to regret and turned around very slowly.
‘Doc, how strong are those pills?’
‘Strong enough.’ He smiled. ‘Welcome back, Saris.’
‘What made ya change your mind?’ Hathor asked.
I looked at my feet. ‘Well… I could use the money.’
Butch (who had seen my “humble” apartment and knew about my late, famous husband) cleared his throat.
‘Anyway…’ I said. ‘How did you honeys want to get in without me?’
Oh yes, they laughed, but it was the truth. They wouldn’t be able to open a single door without me, and they knew it.
Duke finally came in and complained about there being too much light in the room. Then he stared at me for a moment, and I saw Mizander look at him, as if they were having one of those wordless conversations again. Only this time Hathor didn’t seem to notice it. I shivered and tried to look as if I hadn’t noticed either.
Their discussion ended with Mizander shaking his head and turning his back to Duke. The last grinned and then gave us the details about the assault:
We had to go to the 72nd floor of the Philips skyscraper. And because the laboratories were locked away from the public, the only way to enter was from the roof of the smaller Philips building next to it. We were supposed to land on that roof with the helicopter and then, while I was taking care of the lock and the security system, the others would deal with the guards and the drones, or whatever was hanging around there to defend the place. Once we were inside we would go to the laboratories down the hall and in short: tear them apart. (while doing that I could sneak around looking for that suitcase) and after that we would leave again. This was all supposed to happen in twenty minutes.
I was just wondering one thing: why? Why would he let us tear everything apart without taking anything? Duke didn't seem like the type to demand "protection money" like old-fashioned mobsters. So what was the point? I didn’t have the courage to ask this, and no one else seemed to come up with the same question, so I kept it to myself. He must have had his reasons, or he wouldn’t be paying us that much.
Still I was very curious, so I took a microphone out of my pocket and planted it under the small, ebony table, standing next to the couch. With the equipment I had at home, I would be able to record and listen to every word said in this room.
When darkness fell we left. Butch and Doc in the cockpit of the helicopter, Red, Mizander and me (with trembling knees and clattering teeth) in the back and Thermo and Hathor hanging out of the slide door with their semi-automatic guns.
I guess those pills were working pretty well, because I was still able to think straight even though I was several hundreds of feet above the ground.
Once we got near the Philips buildings we could see a little of their defence: a drone flying around above the bridge that linked the two buildings, a helicopter parked on the roof of the lowest building and three lightly armed guards.
Butch said: ‘Saris, you’re good at that sort of thing.’
‘What? You want me to shoot them?’
‘Yeah,’ He grinned. ‘You just push Hathor aside, lean out…’
I quickly shook my head. ‘Why don’t we just let Thermo do that?’
Thermo fired at one of the guards, who was hit so badly that he fell of the roof.
Because Thermo’s gun was silenced, the other two guards didn’t know what had happened and they went to look over the edge to see their colleague plunging down. Hathor grabbed Butch’s bazooka. (he had always wanted that thing, but was hardly able to carry it) He aimed and shot both of the other guards off the roof as well.
Two men came hastily running from the stairs towards the parked helicopter. Red revealed a mini rocket launcher, pushed Thermo aside and reduced the helicopter to a heap of smoking ashes in one shot. Then she blew the smoke away and kissed the barrel, which was painted fiery red. Thermo looked at her.
‘Red hair, red clothes, red car, red weapons, don’t you think you’re overdoing it?’
‘I happen to like red, alright?’ She snapped at him.
We started circling above the building and because the drone had noticed us, Doc leaned out of the window to shoot it down. He had been bragging about his new, home made acid bullets and now he wanted to show them off.
I think something must have gone totally wrong, because he suddenly dropped his whole clip of bullets. Of course, exactly at that moment we were flying right above the bridge that linked the two buildings. I don’t know exactly what kind of acid it was, but the bridge dissolved with a hissing sound until there was nothing left but vapour.
‘Fantastic Doc!’ I said angrily. ‘Just wonderful, never before have we made such a mess before the assault has even started. You can be very proud of yourself.’
‘Don’t be so sarcastic.’ Thermo said. ‘We’ll just have to find another way in, now that the bridge is… eh… gone.’
‘There!’ Hathor pointed to a balcony on the skyscraper, only three floors higher.
‘It’s big enough for the chopper to land on and we can use a rope to get to the door.’
I didn’t like the idea of hanging on the end of a rope at this height, but apparently there weren’t any other solutions.
The drone was shot down successfully this time and we landed on the balcony. Butch held out his hand and told Hathor with a silent look that one should never use weapons that are bigger than oneself. Hathor smiled guiltily and gave back the bazooka.
A rope was lowered and I had to go down first, because I was to open lock on the door. I wasn’t very happy about all this, but Red assured me that she would watch the rope and hold it while I was going down.
I swallowed, took a deep breath and started climbing. The wall was smooth, but fortunately not very slippery. I looked down just once and I instantly wished I hadn’t done that. It was so horribly high that I couldn’t even see the street, although the main reasons for that were the smog and the darkness of the night.
I passed by a few darkened windows before I reached the door. By this time I was getting pretty nervous and I had some trouble opening the lock because my hands were shaking so much. The lock wasn’t even that complicated and neither was the security system, I was just going to need some time. After a minute or two there was some noise coming from the balcony. I could hear gunfire.
‘Got company, Saris.’ Butch said through the com-link. ‘Hang on a minute.’
Hang on a minute? That was easy for him to say. I swallowed and felt that I was getting sweaty. I had finished with the lock, the door could be opened easily now. I tried to climb up again. Gunfire or not, I was not going to hang all by my lonesome on to a rope at a height like this. I suddenly calculated that, at 72 floors of 7 feet each, I was over 500 feet above the ground. I was struck by fear and started trembling all over, cold sweat running down my spine.
Then Red shouted: ‘Saris!!!!’
The rope had gone loose! Screaming wildly I plunged down, and in severe panic I thought for sure that I was going to die, and the worst thing was that it was still a long way down. I suddenly got very morbid thoughts and wondered whether it would hurt much to die like this.
Then I suddenly landed in Mizander’s arms. We flew up again until we were near the door. He opened it and put me down in the hall. I didn’t stop screaming until I felt the floor under my feet.
I was shaking all over and I had some trouble trying to calm myself down. The question of how he had done that almost didn’t occur to me, so shocked I was.
‘The least you could do is thank me.’ he said.
With a trembling voice I uttered: ‘Good Lord in heaven, am I glad you can fly.’
He smiled. ‘It’s just simple levitation, but that’s close enough.’
It didn’t take long before another rope was lowered and the others joined us in the hall. Doc calmed me down, gave me some more pills and told me what had happened: there had been a gunfight with some guards. One of them had fired at Red and she was hit in the arm, which forced her to let go of the rope. Luckily Mizander had jumped after me.
I guess he wasn’t much of a romantic, but at least he was a bit of a hero.
We made two groups, because we would split up at the end of the hall. Doc, Thermo and Mizander formed one group, while I had to go with Red, Butch and Hathor. At the end of the hall there were three doors. We would go through the one on the left and the other group would take the right one. The middle one was safe. For now.
Behind the left door was a lab, now crowded with many heavily armed guards. I jumped behind a table, Butch loaded and aimed his bazooka, while Hathor hid himself behind Butch and Red stormed into the group of guards with a flame-thrower, shouting some kind of battle-cry. Two of the guards caught fire and a third one exploded, because he had grenades on him. Hathor started to shoot with that magical thing of his, which caused the victims to get a severe headache. Butch launched one shot, but the guards spread out and the wall was hit, resulting in a large hole. I fired at one of the guards, when I suddenly noticed that there was another one standing behind me with a big bludgeon. I didn’t have much time before he tried to strike me, so in a reflex I grabbed my laser cutter and aimed it at him. He screamed and dropped his bludgeon as I made a wide cut in his chest and collapsed when I reached the place of his heart. The number of guards was decreasing rapidly and I looked around for the suitcase. It was nowhere around here.
I decided that they could do without me for a while and sneaked into the hall. In the lab on the right, a similar fight was going on: Thermo was demonstrating his amazing skill in firearms, Doc observed with great interest the effect his acid bullets had on a human body and what Mizander was doing, wasn’t very clear to me, but it made a lot of noise and destroyed everything in his way, so I guess it worked.
But I didn’t see a suitcase.
I started to open the lock on the door in the middle. This lock was more complicated than the others, which probably meant that there was something more important behind it. It turned out to be a large lab with all kinds of equipment I had never seen before. On the other side of the lab was a large armed metal door.
After a quick search, I concluded that the suitcase wasn’t here either.
Now where was I going to find it? This building had a hundred and fifty floors (I trembled at the thought of it) and I didn’t have time to search them all; we would be leaving in six minutes. I sighed and opened the large door; it lead to a badly lit stairway.
I looked around; which way would I go, up or down?
Suddenly there was gunfire from upstairs. I quickly hid in a dark corner and hoped no one would see me. I could hear the distinct noise of at least two full-automatics 14mm, a .223 rifle and a Sig Sauer .8, if I wasn’t mistaken. The full-automatics rattled, there was another shot of the rifle and someone yelled something I couldn’t understand. Then a man, carrying a rifle jumped over the banisters of the 73rd floor and landed with a thud right in front of me. I held my breath and stood completely still. He didn’t see me. (I had never been so happy with my stealth armour) The full-automatics rattled again and another man jumped down. There were heavy footsteps on the 73rd floor and the two men aimed their guns at the stairs. The footsteps went by. The man opposite of me put his Sig Sauer away and said something to the other one who was standing in front of me. It must have been in another language, because I couldn’t understand a word of it.
The men were both wearing dark green body armours with the image of an eagle on their back. Then I saw that the one in front of me was carrying a suitcase! Very carefully I reached for my magnum and shoved closer to him. They were still talking and hadn’t noticed me yet. I suddenly put my arm around him and pushed my gun against his head. ‘Go away and leave me the suitcase, or he dies.’ I said.
The man in my arms shivered as the other one grabbed his Sig Sauer.
I got nervous. ‘If you just leave now without the suitcase, I won’t hurt anyone.’
Two shots. The rifle and the suitcase fell to the ground. The man jerked and then hung limp in my arms. I stared at the other man for a moment, horrified. But before he could shoot again, I pushed the dead body on top of him, knocking him over. They fell down the stairs. I fired a few shots after them to be sure. Then I picked up the Sig Sauer and the rifle to examine them. The pistol’s series number was scratched out, and the barrel was cut off the rifle. These men were professionals.
I picked up the suitcase, opened it and found a cube inside. It was of the darkest black and it had bloody red symbols on it, which looked a bit square, like Latin or Greek letters. Probably something magical, which explained why it was kept in a special suitcase. I decided that I didn’t want to know anything more about it.
‘We should be going.’ I heard over the com-link. ‘Saris, where the hell are you?’
‘I’ll be right there, honey, I have to do something first.’
‘In two minutes we’re outta here and you can go walk home.’ Hathor said.
‘Yes, sir.’ I mumbled and shut the suitcase.
Suddenly there were those heavy footsteps again on the 73rd floor and they were coming towards the stairs. I got up and ran inside the lab, but behind me I could already hear the dull thud of someone who had jumped down.
(why didn’t anyone use the stairs? That’s what they’re there for and it would give me more time to get away!) I ran faster, only a few more meters until the door.
The click of a safety catch behind me and then the loud blasts of a full-automatic. I jumped, landed against the closed door and turned to the control panel, to try and open it, but the panel had several holes in it and there were sparks coming off.
I swallowed and slowly turned around. In the other doorway stood a tall, ugly man holding a full-automatic in two hands and holding the other two out to me.
‘Be a good blondie and bring me the suitcase, will you?’
I stared at him; four arms? With the modern biotechnology a lot of things were possible, but four arms?
He walked towards me. ‘Little blondie, don’t be afraid, just hand it over and I might just let you live a little longer.’ He grinned.
Okay, he was no doubt seven feet tall, had a hoarse voice, a dirty, stubbly chin and a big loaded machine gun; he scared me. But that gave him no right to call me blondie! I growled and slowly reached for my laser cutter, while I held the suitcase out to him. When he was almost close enough to grab it, I threw it away. I cut his gun in two pieces and hit his arm too. ‘Nobody calls me blondie!’
A very big hand grabbed me by the throat and lifted me up.
‘Is that so?’ He hissed. ‘I say that I call you whatever I want.’
I shuddered and stared at him, gasping for breath. I saw now that his arm didn’t bleed; there were wires sticking out of the cut I had made; cyberarms.
Suddenly something bounced into the lab and then the large metal door closed and locked up. There was a soft hissing sound and the smell of gas.
The man dropped me and turned around. ‘What’s going on?’
I tried to make my way to the door that lead to the hall, keeping my head low and coughing against the gas. When I had reached the door, I found that the control panel definitely wasn’t working anymore and I used my laser cutter to make a large hole in the door. Unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough to push it open.
The gas was getting thicker and I turned around, still coughing.
The man was searching the lab for the suitcase, swearing because he couldn’t find it.
‘Hey big guy!’ I yelled. ‘Have you maybe noticed the gas?’
He ignored me and turned over a desk.
I stamped my foot. ‘Listen, you idiot, you can either look for that thing and suffocate, or help me break down this door and get out of here alive. Make your choice!’
He stared at me, surprised, but then he came over to me and opened the doorway with one great push of his four hands. We both climbed through the hole and closed it up again to prevent the gas from getting into the hall.
We stood there for a moment, panting, coughing, looking at each other.
Under his uncut, dark hair his jagged face had this rough expression on it, as if he didn’t care about anything in the world. The tear in it, which was supposed to be his mouth, looked callous and probably had never smiled in his whole life.
He got up and straightened his armoured leather jacket.
‘For your sake, blondie, I hope we don’t meet again.’
He ran down the hall and disappeared into one of the labs.
‘No need to thank me or anything.’ I muttered.
The rope was still hanging outside the door, so I climbed up quickly and got in the helicopter just as it was going to lift off.
‘So where were ya?’ Hathor asked curiously.
‘As I said, I had to do something.’
Any other questions about where I had been, weren’t answered either.
We flew back to Duke’s. He didn’t seem to be there, so we sat down and talked about combat techniques, weapons, what had gone right and what hadn’t.
‘Where’d ya get those cool weapons?’ Hathor asked Red.
‘Oh, I made most of them myself.’ She said lightly.
I looked at Mizander. ‘And what were you doing?’
Red laughed. ‘That’s Mize’s imitation of a tornado.’
‘My name is not Mize!!’
Everyone suddenly went silent when Duke came back in. He was looking slightly puzzled and just stood there, and to my surprise, he seemed to be staring at me. The silence lasted for a few seconds and I was starting to feel very uncomfortable, because the only sound in the room was Doc lighting another cigarette.
Then Thermo said: ‘By the way, aren’t you going to pay us now?’
Duke sighed and handed out the money. Thermo counted it greedily, Doc, Hathor and I just put it in our pockets and Butch kissed it and cherished it.
‘It went pretty well, didn’t it?’ Hathor said proudly.
‘Most of you did what I asked you.’ Duke replied tonelessly.
‘Saris.’ said Doc. ‘Do you remember how you told me that we had never before made such a mess of it before we had even attacked?’
‘I remember saying something like that…’
‘Do you also remember the time that we observed a group of vampires fighting?’
That had been some time ago, when the five of us were still working together. ‘Yes.’
‘What are you guys talking about?’ Thermo said. ‘Vampires don’t exist!’
Duke laughed. Doc and I sighed, and Butch and Hathor looked at each other.
‘When was that?’ Thermo asked.
‘You must remember!’ Hathor insisted. ‘You were struck by a crush-heart spell.’
Ignoring Hathor, Thermo asked: ‘Was that the time I got a heart-attack?’
‘Yes it was.’ I replied. ‘Now what about that, Doc?’
He blew out some smoke, looked at me and said: ‘Think!’
I seemed to remember something about Hathor making a very stupid move then.
‘I’m sorry Doc.’ I said. ‘It seems we have made a worse mess before.’
‘Tell me what happened.’ Duke said.
Butch looked at him. ‘Why? You interested?’
‘Oth…’ Duke cleared his throat and started over. ’Vampires have always interested me a lot. Please tell me what happened.’
‘Well’ Hathor started. ‘It was like this: those guys had been fightin’ there every night for two weeks and Thermo and I had been watchin’ them, hadn’t we Thermo?’
Thermo shrugged and muttered something none of us understood.
Hathor continued: ‘And so we wanted to know what was goin’ on, maybe get some info outta them. So we went over there one night and watched them for a couple o’ minutes, then one of those guys comes up to us and says: ‘Whatcha doin’ here?’ So I said: ‘We’re from the press…’
‘And that’s probably all you need to know about it.’ I finished the story.
‘One of Hathor’s smartest moves ever…’ Butch grinned.
Duke was curious. ‘How did you survive?’
‘We almost didn’t.’ Doc replied. ‘Fortunately they had been fighting all night, so they were pretty worn out. And of course we had some tricks up our sleeves as well.’
‘You’re not making sense!’ Thermo said. ‘Vampires don’t exist!’
I was getting just a little bit tired of all this. ‘I don’t know about you honeys, but I’m going home. I feel like being somewhere quiet and preferably on the ground floor.’
Butch didn’t come home with me, the guys were going out to celebrate our reunion.
When I got home, I was actually glad that he wasn’t there, because now I could try out whether the microphone had worked, without him noticing.
I skipped the bits where I could hear us and the ones where there was no sound; it seemed that Duke had been away for at least an hour that night.
Only ten minutes before we returned there, the telephone had rung.
‘Seyss?’ Duke sounded anxious. ‘How did it go?’
I could only hear a low grumbling on the other side of the telephone line.
Duke sighed, disappointed. ‘What happened?’
More grumbling, it sounded a bit tired.
‘Well, obviously! Or you would have got it…’
Duke was interrupted by the grumbler, who was angry now.
‘You said what?’ Duke was astonished. ‘Are you sure?’
The answer was a very low grumbling and growling.
‘Yes, that’s her.’ Duke sighed. ‘She reminds me of Caroline, and ironically she seems to be interfering.’
A short, eager grumble.
‘No, that isn't part of my plan. Just stick to your job. I’ll handle her.’
Then the grumbling was very slow.
‘I don’t care how much you want for it, as long as you do it! Tomorrow night, I’ll make the same arrangements again. You just make sure you get it this time.’
One last grumble and Duke put down the phone.
I wasn’t quite sure what all this meant, but I would find out soon.
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Action filled speed reader with nitro instead of petrol. Still trailer or somwhere in middle?

Does remind me a little of Mickey Spillane as well. (Lonely private eye in the '50 and '60)