There was a mouse in my room.
It was small, and white, with little beady red eyes and creepy toes.
There was this crack in the wall, in the corner, where the molding had been installed years after the original construction of the house and had therefore been smashed nonplussedly into the drywall. Very unpleasant. Quite the eyesore.
Anyways, I’d been staring at this mouse in the crack in my wall for the better part of an hour.
It was a Tuesday, I think.
I was at Mason’s.
“Mason.” I entered the kitchen to see my companion leaning his forehead against the cupboard. A soft rain was pattering on the floor-to-ceiling window facing the street below. They’d turned on the streetlights. The sky was a dull, clear, quiet gray. It barely rippled and waved in the air currents. Trees shivered and swayed but held their leaves.
The distinct sound of a coffee cup being set down brought me back. Mason had moved to the table in the next room with all the mismatched chairs. We rarely spent time there anymore.
“Mason.” I repeated.
Mason sat very meticulously in his preferred red velvet armchair. His face angled toward the table, he beckoned me over with two fingers.
A car drove by. Upstairs, one of the girls was taking a shower. The water in the pipes was a harmonious addition to the quickly growing squall outside. The tones and rhythms in the water combined and morphed into something completely new.
Mason cleared his throat. I padded across the carpet and took a seat in the hard yellow egg chair opposite him. After realizing I would have to adjust my legs so many times per minute to stay comfortable, I swapped it out for a regular wooden dining chair. Then he spoke.
“Mr. Lexos, it has come to my attention that you haven’t been working any cases for the past few months.”
My heart stuttered to a halt at the high, girlish voice that echoed from beneath Mason’s face. I stood abruptly, my thighs hitting the table. It bumped the person across from me, which turned out to be......
Kit. Dressed like Mason.
What the f.uck.
“What are you doing here, Kit?” I coughed several times, my voice coarse.
“What do you think I’m doing here, moronn? I’m here to give you a case.”
The light outside threw yellow bars onto my bedroom floor through the battered shades. Rain was still falling lightly, just enough to make a little white noise.
In my hand, the manila folder was thick and smooth. Its heft was unusual, given my current instructions.
“Find this guy, get this suitcase, and then come back for more instructions?” I had repeated to Kit in the dining room earlier. She had nodded eagerly. Her orange hair bounced along. She’d held the manila to her chest like her most-favorite childhood toy before she’d given it to me.
For now, this was only partially my case. Kit was working a lot in the background area, and I was basically her field pawn. Oh joy.
I was going to fly to Barcelona the next day. I had packed all my things after dinner, and now, too wired to fall asleep, I was starting the case. I had taken out a sub-folder from within the main one (Yes, subfolders. The file was f.ucking huge.) and spread out all of the pictures it contained on my floor. I kept the lights off, letting the light outside shine on the black and white prints arranged before me. I dangled my fingers into my shirt pocket, retrieving a carefully rolled join.t and a lighter.
When I opened the window so the smoke would have a place to go, a cool gust of rich, wet air blew my face. It wasn’t freezing, but rather relieving in the stifling heat of the townhouse.
I lit the join.t and blew a puff of smoke out the window before turning to look at the pictures on the floor.
Somewhere below me, maybe in the kitchen, somebody had turned a radio on to an old slow jazz classics station. Piano meandered through the rain sounds, saxophone slid with the thunder.
All of the pictures were of a man I needed to meet, an older gentlemen named Ricardo with hair like Fabio’s but grey. He was a heavy cigar smoker, he always wore a full suit to work as host at the cigar lounge and dancehall on the corner of his street, and he absolutely hated strawberries. Like, with the burning passion one usually reserves for childhood bullies and the soggy mushrooms your grandma makes you eat whenever you’re over. I don’t know why they tell us these things, I think it’s just to scare you because they have so much knowledge.
So anyways, this guy apparently had a package that was due to be delivered to a mo.b boss at 6 tomorrow night, and I had to pose as the mo.b guy picking up the package and then take it with me on an immediate flight to Tokyo to await further instructions. Just a pawn.
For lack of anything better to do, I studied his face from about 10 until about 2, until his face was as familiar to me as my own, and then I went downstairs for tea. Sometime while I’d been killing time, whoever had been listening to the radio had turned it off and gone to bed, but I turned it back on.
It was still raining consistently and heavily, with the occasional clap of thunder. The kitchen was cool and had a beam of yellow light pouring in the enormous window from the streetlight outside. As I waited for my tea water to heat, I stood and stared at the streaky rivers on the window, midnight blue and gold and black and grey. I let my eyes unfocus, and it wasn’t until the teapot started whistling that I realized something was written on the window, smeared into the condensation.
Completely deaf to the whistle of the electric teapot (which eventually went quiet by itself), I strode over to the window and dropped to my knees so my eyes were level with the message. It said, simply,
p i n k r i b b o n .
To say it was cryptic would be an understatement. So I’ll just let you imagine the adrenaline that was pumping behind my ears, the dryness of my mouth, the clamminess of my hands and feet. It was a nervewrackingly neutral message, connotation wise. And without anything else, it meant nothing.
Shaken, I finished preparing my tea, turned the radio off with a click, and headed back upstairs. On the landing, I noticed a bar of light under Mason’s room door. I knocked softly with my knuckles.
“Come in,” was his muffled reply.
He was slumped in his office chair at his desk, the computer screen stark and bright behind him, but aimed at the ceiling. All the lights were on. On his bed, Becca lay asleep on her stomach in a skimpy nightgown that barely covered her as.s. I enjoyed the view for a while before moving further into the room. Mason turned to look at me and smiled somewhat sadly.
“So what, you’re leaving us?” He said. He didn’t bother to keep his voice down for Becca.
“Not permanently, man. I have a case. I have a goal.....” I trailed off. And it rained and rained and rained, and we didn’t say anything for a while.
“What are you going to do while I’m gone?” I prompted after ample silence where we both just listened to the rain.
“I dunno man. I’ll probably get a different job, move us to a smaller place that’s easier to afford if I can. I love this house a lot, but it’s a bi,tch to pay for....” Mason said. True, none of the residents of the townhouse had very high paying jobs, except for Mason. But with Elliott gone too, it still wasn’t enough.
“Why do you want to get a new job?”
“You think I want to be a cop anymore?” He let out a sharp laugh. Becca rolled over, still asleep.
“After the way they treated Elliott? Are you kidding? There’s no justice left in this world, mate. And I don’t want to be part of that corrupt system any longer.”
A clap of thunder punctuated that sentence. It hung in the air like a wet towel.
“I get that.” I said, patting his shoulder. “I’ll call when I’m free to get caught up while I’m away.”
I was about to leave when I remembered the message from downstairs. Maybe it would mean something to Mason.
“Hey...” I said.
“No, I heard you mate. I mean, why did you say ‘pink ribbon?’”
“Does it mean anything to you?”
He paused for a while, then said, “Are you fuckiing insane? Why would something as obscure as a phrase like ‘pink ribbon’ mean something to me?”
I made my way back to the door and was almost back into the hallway when Mason grabbed my wrist. I turned to look at him.
“You know, I’m gonna be all alone here... With Becca and Namie, I mean. I don’t have any bros left. At least when I l-lost Elliott I had you...” He paused and sniffed, then stood up.
We hugged and he gave out a little dry sob before saying goodnight and pushing me hastily out the door. In the hallway, I thought for a minute about what had just happened. I felt really bad about leaving Mason alone, but the truth was that I had fallen into an unhealthy pattern of not accomplishing anything at all, and I had to step it up and take control of my life. It would be a nice change.
The next morning (it was still raining) I said goodbye to Mason and Becca at 6 (Namie had spent the night at her new boyfriend’s place) before loading my suitcase into the bug and heading off for London International Airport. I had called Isosceles the night before to tell him I had a case and that he would have to come up with the next person coming into Winchester to get the bug from the airport parking lot and take it back to Whammy’s.
The drive was monotonous and went by quickly. I listened to a tape I’d found in the trunk of some Miles Davis songs. The old bug wipers barely kept up with the steady flow of water over the windshield.
I made it to the airport with an hour to go before my flight.
At Customs, Whammy’s kids have a different routine than the average passenger. We have to put all our various shiit, illegal, deadly, whatever, into a duffle bag to take as a carry-on (you don’t want that stuff falling into the wrong hands). You ship any necessary ammunition to an ally in your destination. You talk to the Customs Head, show them the badge, etc. And then you get to bring a bag of illegal substances, firearms, knives, and whatever else you want to bring (they’re not allowed to search our bags) onto an international flight. And that’s Customs for Whammys.
The flight was painless, no screaming babies or seat-kickers. Flying Economy class has long been a choice of mine but maybe I ought to start doing things a little more streamlined.
In Barcelona, my limo driver held a sign that said
N U C L E A R L E X U S
I snorted. Radioactive car my as.s.
The hotel I was dropped at was beautiful, all peach marble and white roses. I freshened up in my room, arranged my jacket with some gadgets, and set out. I got keys to a rental car at the front desk. It was four in the afternoon.
I drove down to the neighborhood adjacent to the downtown commercial district (where my hotel was). The houses there were big and old and beautiful, but mixed in were ugly, ramshackle apartment complexes from the 70s and harsh neon gas stations.
On a sheet of paper in the file had been this address:
3818 Calle Baila
with instructions on how to get there. I followed them slowly and carelessly at the same time, waitingwaitingwaiting. Then I pulled into the driveway at 20 to 6. My headlights cast over a dark figure on the porch. This was cutting things very close, as the real mob guy could turn up at any time.
I slammed the door, walked up to Ricardo, and stared him up and down. I thought it would give the appearance of a mob guy. I don’t know.
He smiled and held up a suitcase. It was sleek and metal. I grasped it and took it from him. The guy was pleasant enough. I got back in the car and pulled out. My heart was beating fast. I sped away back to the hotel to collect my things and then back to the airport. With the suitcase an added component to my duffle bag, it was a lot heavier to lug to my Tokyo flight leaving in six minutes.
When I flopped down in my seat, duffle bag in my lap, I accidentally elbowed the girl sitting next to me. She was pretty, with long brown hair and a long, slender frame. I had hit her in the shoulder and apologized profusely. We were the only two in our row, being first class this time (I’d switched at the last minute). Eventually I offered to buy her a drink, which she accepted, although we were both underage. My alias ID says I’m 25.
I bought us a bottle of champagne
and we turned the long flight
into a classy dinner party.
With some kissing.
And some other...
apparently didn’t like
PDA on the aircraft so we had to stop.
In Tokyo we parted ways, one-time thingers. I didn’t even know her name.
I took a taxi to the hotel and checked in without any problems. It was fancy and futuristic, but I didn’t feel like exploring, I was exhausted from traveling, so I just checked in and went up to my room on the 22nd floor.
The room had a wall of glass looking out at the lights of Tokyo. There was a waterfall on the bathtub. And a flat-screen across from the bed. I took a long, hot shower. At some point during the day my concealed arm knife had slipped down in its holster, rubbing against my skin. The chafing was incredible. My feet were sore and red from walking in my ridiculously flat Converse all day.
When I washed my hair,
A bit of the red pigmentation from my hair dye ran in the water.
that’s the first part of his adventure.