If you see a video linked during the tale, just press play and keep reading, the embedded media is an optional add-on meant to provide you with the right atmosphere for the story.
Without further ado, here comes the second chapter of Midnight Mysteries:
#02 – See You at The Party, Richter! Meteor Dust Can Get You High!?
They were riding in the car, far enough from the madness in the bar.
“Eliza! You are okay!?”, asked Amanda, grabbing her shoulder, panting.
Eliza could feel a bruise in her chest, but it was still way better than a bullet hole.
“Yeah. I’m okay. I don’t understand what happened.”
“A fucking miracle, that’s what happened!”
“That gun was really old, probably malfunctioned.”, she lit up a cigarette. “Guess I was just lucky.”
The Sea Queen corner bodega shone in their way. It’s phosphoric lights contrasted with the unlit street. It seemed inviting.
“How about we just forget about all of that and try to get that drink in peace, huh?”, she pointed to the bodega.
“What? Eliza, we should go to the poli…”, Amanda remembered. “Oh. Alright.”
“Not much we can do.”, Eliza said.
As she saw on the rear view mirror, a car slowly approached them with the lights off.
By the time they’ve realized it, it was too late.
It sounded a warning siren, then turned on its headlights, the reflection blinding them with intense brightness.
“Oh shit. It’s the cops.”, gasped Amanda.
Eliza grunted and pulled over her vehicle. Not again.
Two uniformed officers walked out of the car. A skinny man and a strong woman.
“Worse.”, Eliza said, clouding up a ring of smoke. “It’s my sister.”
VICTORIA HATCHET! A Pragmatic Policewoman!
While some would describe Eliza’ s eyes as fiery, Victoria’s eyes are considered smoldering magma. Folks in their neighborhood joked that she was born at thirty years old. Vicky was already a tough woman from a very young age. At the age of 16, she was Rio de Janeiro state’s Jiu Jitsu champion, no small feat, fast tracked for a scholarship in Law in the biggest university in the city of Rio de Janeiro, until fate has reminded her that sexual preservatives have a 99% rate of success. The 1% got her pregnant. The father of her child was Quincy Hatchet, from the famous Petropolis Hatchets, a military police officer in training, two years her senior. They’ve been together since her freshman year in high school. The couple was married in a small closed doors celebration and Eliza, still a smiling snot nosed kid, was her maid of honor. Victoria Hatchet was happy in those days, as her pregnancy was tough, but she was tougher. Her mother and grandfather said it had something to do with her genes. Everything was going fine. That was, until the day Quincy was caught in a retaliation from a devious gang. After celebrating his child’s birth with his precinct friends at a local bar, he was ambushed by men riding motorcycles, who shot him four times in the chest.
Quincy was rushed to the hospital, but medical malpractice caused his death by general infection. Eliza held her nephew Bobby for the first time, while Victoria punched clean through a wall in raging anger. “Death! Injustice!”, she screamed. Victoria stormed out of the hospital while the baby screamed loud enough to scare Eliza into giving him to the arms of his grandmother.
Ophelia Wood took her grandson in her arms for the first time, while clutching her chest in dismay. Quincy’s own parents stood by in silence and awe at a bright day turned rotten. They wanted him to be a carpenter in the family business.
It was a record-breaking graduation. Victoria was a natural policewoman and no commanding officer has ever seen such dedication. There were jokes and jests, but the took them all down without prejudice. She could take a whole battalion by herself if she wanted it, that was the general consensus. ” What did she want, anyway?”, asked her fellow officers, “she is too damn good for this.” After graduation day, they stopped asking those questions, for that was also the day she brought down the Big Drip Gang.
Joe Big Drip was the leader of a ragtag crew of thugs that sold cocaine and rode motorcycles to rob random folks in the street. Mere hoodlums on the cusp of a big deal. Quincy was getting close to nailing him down with the law when he was ambushed by two of his cronies. Victoria spent every waking second of her life since Bobby’s birth investigating Drip’s gang. Of course, by the time she actually found out his location, Victoria Hatchet didn’t care much about investigating anymore. She didn’t have time for that.
A good thug is a dead thug.
It was the bleak hour of night in the hills of Shades and she was silent enough to put three spotters out with the lion killer choke hold. After an advanced questioning of one of the perps, she found her way to their drug packing room and set it on fire.
The thing about fire is that when left alone, it spreads really quickly.
From a safe distance, Victoria watched Joe Big Drip scramble his thugs to put out the raging flames that devoured the hill, but it was lost. All was lost. Over two hundred people lost their homes that night. She didn’t care. Armed with a rifle borrowed from their precinct’s warehouse carrying explosive rounds, she blew up Drip’s head in front of his entire crew. And she kept firing.
After it was done, she returned the equipment and faced herself in the mirror.
Whatever was wrong with me, she thought, it’s over now.
It wasn’t. High brass got wind of all that happened and they’ve loved it! They adored it so much that the assault was covered up as a local accident and she was transferred to special operations in Rio. She was the first woman to serve in the Elite Squad. Since then, she’s been eliminating thugs that prey on honest people.
That’s where she would be if her commie sister hadn’t been arrested. If she herself hadn’t broken her out.
It was one year since she was transferred back to Petropolis, one year since Ophelia’s passing. One year since her child’s care returned to her hands.
It hasn’t been easy.
And there her little sister was, making trouble again, as if nothing happened before.
“Lieutenant! What’s wrong?”, asked Corporal Douglas, but inside he knew better than to question Hatchet.
“I will handle this, Maicon! ELIZA! Stay right there! What the hell are you doing!?”, yelled Lt. Hatchet with her command voice.
Eliza got out of the car, blew a smoke ring and rolled her eyes.
Amanda looked frozen in place with a worried expression stuck to her face.
“Just be cool, Amanda. She will yap, yap and go away.”
Victoria walked over to the driver’s window and frowned at Eliza.
“I’m right here, sister. Cleaning up your mess. Again!”, she said.
“I have never asked you to do that. Never.”
“Yet, here I am. Who is your accomplice? One of your commie friends?”
“Shut the hell up, Victoria!”
“Whenever I’m wearing this uniform, you will call me Lieutenant Hatchet!”
“I will call you whatever I want, Lieutenant Fascist.”
Victoria’s face twisted in pain.
“How can you be so cruel, Eliza?”
“Look who’s talking. You are a government patsy with an itchy trigger finger. Just a gun for their interests. They point, you shoot. No matter the target. Why aren’t you going after the real criminals?”
“Real criminals? Like the ones that destroyed the entire city in the name of social justice?”
“The ones paying your salary. The ones who are actively destroying the cities.”
“The taxpayers are the real criminals, then? No wonder you lefties care so much about pocketing taxes! Grow up, you fool.”
“Easy to say that, when the only real decision you ever took in your life was the one to murder poor people in the name of a corrupt government!”
“I protect people, Eliza! And at least I give a damn about family. Something you obviously do not, given what happened to Mother. ”
Eliza stiffened, grinding her teeth with the pressure of a steel clamp.
That was not fair. She looked at Amanda, thinking about all the ways engaging in direct conflict with her cop sister could end. None of them were good. She wasn’t willing to drag Amanda down with her.
“Now who’s being cruel?”, she spat casually, “If you care so much about family, go take care of your son. This conversation is over.”
Eliza walked to the other side and opened the car door.
“Come on.”, she took Amanda by the hand and walked off. She could still hear Victoria rage in the distance, but at some point her big sister got into the squad car and drove away.
The shiny bodega Sea Queen stood right in front of them.
At the Sea Queen, there was a perpetual cloud of grease smoke, a few wooden tables, plastic seats and nice cold brew served 24 hours a day. A jukebox in the counter played this song while an old couple danced as hard as their joints could muster:
When the ladies finally sat down at a wooden table, Eliza was clearly shaken by what just happened. Amanda placed her warm hand over hers, and made a sign for the waiter to bring ’em a cold bottle of brew and a batch of chicken goujons. The stoic Eliza was shivering, eating fried bits of chicken with the hunger of a thousand warriors after dipping it in a delicious tartar sauce.
“So that’s how you got out! I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“And now you know why. She is a bloodthirsty cop.”
“But she’s still your sister, you know?”
“What happened between you two?”
Eliza picked up another chicken goujon.
“Last year, after the demonstration–.”
They were interrupted by the arrival of an old friend.
Lucas Richter popped up like a pimple, his usual style of appearing.
He was a journalist, after all. An up-and-coming one. One of his stories was just featured in the daily National News, the most watched informative show in the country. It was about exploding manholes in Rio de Janeiro.
Lucas was a nice guy, but a little bit too overeager sometimes. He used to be the leader of their student union back in college. Usually the one who would be dragging them to all sorts of crazy places, under the guise of an “anthropological experience”.
“Ladies!”, the copper haired gentleman beckoned. “It’s been a while!”
“Lucas!”, Amanda smiled. “You came!”
“I managed to get away from the newsroom for the wee–Are you okay, Eliza?”
“She is having a bad day. Let it go.”
Eliza lifted up an eyebrow. “Ÿou called him? Not enough manholes in Rio?”
“Since I’m already here, we might as well get the old gang back together. Right?”, Amanda said, throwing her arms up in surrender.
Eliza was surprised.
“The gang? Who else is here?”
Amanda started counting on her fingers.
“Kyle, Juju, Isabelle, and, of course, Benjamin.”
That name made Eliza feel like hearing nails scratching on a chalkboard. Did she set this up?
They motioned to respond but Eliza sighed and interceded.
“What about Sam?”, she questioned.
Amanda and Lucas froze. Their tanned faces turned pale like an empty canvas.
“Eliza, no one has seen Sam in months.”
One year ago, Eliza saw him being carried away from the bars of a police truck.
Eliza wrapped her hands around her own face in disgust.
“He’s been missing. Kind of presumed dead. There was a memorial service. Haven’t you seen Facebook, Twitter? There is a hashtag and everything.”
Better not think about it.
“Nah. I haven’t got time for frivolous bullshit.”
“Oh yes. Because you’ve been incredibly busy doing what? A masters in self-pity?”
Eliza tightened up her hands and gritted her teeth. She heard them still talking, but it all faded away in a moment of pure white noise inside her mind.
Lucas Richter relented, throwing up his hands in surrender. A gesture that was starting to become common in Eliza’s presence. As if she became some wild animal.
“All right, I’m sorry. You are going through a process. I get it. But can’t you have fun with your old friends for one night?”
Amanda put her hand on Eliza’s shoulder. “Come on. It will do you good.”
Eliza finally breathed out, slowly.
“Fine. What’s the plan?”
“An anthropological experience! Where is your car?”
They stood in front of a gate, holding packs of beer cans. Music boomed from the other side. The house was constructed at the edge of a hill, overlooking the city below. Smoke ran up above and there was a slight burning smell.
Eliza knew where she was.
“Really? Victor Lamb‘s place?”
“He’s been throwing the best parties lately.”
“Didn’t he join a cult a few years ago or something?”, asked Amanda.
“I’m pretty sure he started one.”, said Eliza.
The door burst open and a big bearded man showed up, a bottle of beer in his hand and drops of sweat running down his forehead. He was panting, as if he’s been exercising.
“Enlightened ones! Welcome to the heavenly birthday of the God Cobra!”
“Victor! Long time no see! Is that a thing, now?”, questioned Lucas.
“Does it matter?”, he took a fresh swig of the bottle, “Have you brought consumables?”
They raised the packs of beer in agreement.
“Then put ’em in the fridge!”, he ran off into the house, and they slowly followed him to the patio, and gazed at a crowd of people dancing around a fire, jumping over the burning logs.
Victor himself jumped in the fire with reckless abandon.
“Who is the God Cobra?”, asked Lucas, confused at the display of energy from the small crowd gathered among the flames.
Eliza lit up a cigarette. “I… think it’s Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, played by Silvester Stallone in the film Cobra?”
“I’m pretty sure you need something more ancient than that to start a cult, Eliza.”, dismissed Lucas.
Amanda pointed at the flames, there were posters from all over Stallone’s career in the fire, Cobra, of course, but also Judge Dredd, Demolition Man, and even Stop! Or my Mom will shoot! Rocky Balboa and Rambo action figures blazed in the red hot flames, praised like holy effigies by the red hooded people, who growled in unison in what sounded like impressions of Stallone’s signature slurred speech.
“They are burning Stallone stuff! Look at that!”, she immediately pulled out her phone to record the happenings. “I gotta post this on Stories!”, she ran off to get closer to the fire.
“AAAAADRIAAAAAAAAAAAN!”, the cultists chanted in a bizarre tone.
The heat of the flames felt good in contrast with the winter mountain air, which made them relax for a bit, even if they were watching crazy people mosh in a smoldering pit of fan memorabilia to the tune of Metallica.
Eliza smirked. “Told ya. I’ve heard about them. This is an off-shoot. A sub-sect created after the original one disbanded a while ago. They mainly celebrate Action Heroes, in their own way.”
“Are they dangerous?”, asked Lucas.
“You should have asked that question before we got here.”
After staring at the flames until Amanda got all the footage she needed, they slid the glass door to enter the massive house.
The living room looked like a professional gallery, filled with paintings, fancy couches and wine glasses, consumed by a group of well-dressed people holding their chins while analyzing it all to the most intricate detail, the enlightened crowd.
They were gathered around a crude drawing of a cola bottle hung on a wall.
“In regards to our theme of iconography, I wanted to express my particular view of happiness in a capitalist society using a descriptive concept based in the nietzchelist way. In the current world, we are sold the idea that happiness is a refrigerated dark liquid that contains cancerous properties encapsulated in a glass bottle”
“I hate it. It looks too cheerful. I can’t find the irony in that. And it’s nietzchiesque.”
Amanda butted in the conversation, “I like the reds. And shouldn’t it be nietzcheistic?”
The critic lifted an eyebrow, “Positively not.”
“Could you point me to the fridge?”, she asked.
“To stock up on more liquids of involuntary bondage? Spare me.”
Victor burst in the room, sweating, a deranged look on his ashen flecked face.
“Are you still filling people’s ears with Nietzchelistical bullshit!?”, he bellowed.
“No, of course not, Mr.Lamb. Our objective is only to guide–”
The bearded man’s face raged like the sun.
He stomped the painting on the wall with a heavy kick, smashing a massive hole in the middle of the canvas.
“What are you doing!?”, the artist queried in a high pitched scream.
“He’s gone mental!”, howled the critic.
Victor took the painting out of the wall, and ripped the canvas in half with his bare hands, like a Mortal Kombat character would do in a Fatality.
He threw the pieces on the ground and snapped his fingers.
A group of red hooded figures appeared at his side.
“You know what to do, boys and girls.”, he said, as the figures took the pieces and carried them outside to the fire.
“How could you?”, asked the artist, wide-eyed, a vein popping on his forehead, the face of frustration.
“I bought it, haven’t I?”, answered Victor, “You wanted money for your work, and I gave it to you. I can do whatever I want with it.”
The critic, shocked and appalled, confronted Victor directly.
“Mister Lamb! I thought you invited me to a serious gallery! How can you do this to such an incredible painting?”, he demanded.
“Didn’t you just say you hated it?”, Eliza exclaimed.
Victor, the big man with a beard, casually stroked his chin, impressively calm after his early outburst.
Before the critic could answer, Victor held up a hand to stop him.
“And how do you feel, as an art critic, that you will never see this piece again?”
The small crowd, previously scared, was now collectively scratching their heads in thought.
Eliza and Lucas watched in silence as Victor had the whole room’s attention in the palm of his hands.
“Creation is a choice. Destruction is a fact. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but the future will consume us all. Entropy is our inevitable destiny. You were one of the last people to ever see that piece in its intended form. Now it’s gone forever. Do you still think it was that bad? Or was it just your desire to be greater than the pieces you review that held it down? For your own benefit?”
A man passing by with a blue bandana wrapped around his head, wearing a leather jacket, shouted “WOO! NOW THAT’S NIETZCHIAN!” and went back to a phone call.
The whole room was applauding now. The critic wept streaming tears of joy.
“Yes, Missy. I am here.”, the man with the blue bandana walked through the ruckus, talking on the cellphone as if nothing was going on. He vanished in the crowd.
Victor raised both his hands to the air and the chattering stopped once again.
“Okay, my people, settle down, go outside, get some air. Every single piece in this gallery is going to the flames until the end of this night. Enjoy them while they last, take pictures, I don’t care. It will all return to the fire of knowledge. Now if you excuse me, I have some consumables to store in the fridge.”
Victor clapped his hands once and the music returned.
He led Amanda, Lucas and Eliza to the kitchen. His followers stood dazzled for a second, then returned to their endless debates over subjects out of their control.
They walked into the open planned kitchen, Victor was too damn excited about himself.
“Better put these ones in the freezer.”, Victor handed a few beer cans to Lucas Richter who was organizing the fridge.
“So your solution is to burn it all?”, asked Lucas, trying to find space amidst the confusing mess that was the packed refrigerator.
Victor laughed, seeming more like their old friend and less of the cult leader that just made a speech for an organized religion of crazy people.
“Of course not! Have you seen my record collection? Can you imagine me burning my first edition Paranoid album? We just burn pointless shit like bad paintings and junk we found at the remains of a Blockbuster! Anyway, how you folks been keeping on?”
“Why go to all this trouble then, Victor? Those hooded figures out there seem pretty wild, you know?”, asked Amanda.
“He is doing it for the tax break.”, said Eliza, arms crossed, a scowl in her face.
“What? For real?”, exclaimed Lucas.
Victor let out a sigh. There was pain in his eyes.
“Yes. After my uncle’s passing last year, I inherited all his stuff, but the government’s inventory fees almost put me in the streets. I was desperate, so I read about some cult online, and copied their business model. Since religions don’t pay taxes, my problems were solved. I didn’t expect it to become this popular, though. It turns out that people really enjoy the whole cult mentality. And the attention isn’t too bad. How did you know this, Eliza?”
“You left me a drunken voice message not long ago. Said you wanted to go to the show and confess. I ignored it, of course.”, she crossed her arms in disregard.
Victor seemed to be incredibly embarrassed. He opened one of the beer cans and guzzled it down frantically.
“The only thing I would confess right now is of being a successful entrepreneur.”, Victor pridefully said.
“You don’t care about the truth no more, do you? You can’t keep lying to these people.”, Eliza lifted up an eyebrow.
“There is no such thing, Eliza.”, said Lucas, “Humanity has made the truth obsolete a long time ago, right around the rise of civilization.”
“And I thought I was the cynical one.”, said Eliza, “My grandfather has spent the latter half of his life chasing the truth, regardless of editorial imposition or whatever it is they have at your corporate newscast.”
Lucas crossed his arms, unbothered by her jab.
“Yet he never positioned himself politically. He never even backed our cause. Therefore, irrelevant. His work is entertaining enough, but there is no truth there. He is no journalist. So yeah, he can chase it, but by no means will he ever find it And I mean no offense, you know I got nothing but love for him, E.”
Eliza had it with his blanket statements. Condescending bastard.
“We positioned ourselves politically last year didn’t we, Richter? Look what that got us. Our directory in shambles, people jailed, people disappearing. Disappearing, Lucas. We were just a bunch of hipsters with a place to listen to music and debate life’s bullshit. Now I’m on the run, left alone simply by the fact that my sister has enough clout to grease the right palms in my favor. All because you wanted to raise a few red flags and pretend we are in the fucking sixties.”, she blurted out.
“Damn.”, said Victor, who went back to nervously chugging his beer.
Amanda’s forehead was glowing red. That was a very bad sign. She remained silent.
That hit him hard. Eliza immediately regretted her words. Lucas sipped his beer and grabbed Victor’s shoulders to get his attention.
“Where is the rest of the crew?”, he asked the host.
At the rooftop of Victor Lamb’s massive house, there was a strange apparatus built with old junk and computer parts. It stretched as a towering antenna up to 30 feet in the sky. From there, anyone with a functioning set of eyes could gaze at the wonderful sight of small city lights smeared by the chilling fog of the night.
Kyle, Juju and Isabelle were huddled around a small radio tuned to the frequency of Galacta Radio. Frank’s voice emerged from it.
“Getting back into our discussion of multidimensional rifts, we are joined by a phone call from our usual skeptic, renowned scientist Dr. Luco Benitez, author of the book ‘Schrodinger’s Fallacy’.”
“As I’ve been telling you, Frank, there is no concrete evidence of the existence of these rifts. This is just pure conjecture.”
“Of course there isn’t concrete evidence, Doctor! They keep all that data hidden from the records! What would define multidimensional evidence, anyway? Why don’t you explain to me the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle…”
“Magnetic shifts on the edge of the hemispheres!”
“A question better suited for archaeologists!”
“…Or even the gigantic face carved in the Gavea Stone, a mystery quite near our backyards, in the city of Rio de Janeiro.”
“The supposed ‘face’ is just a byproduct of thousands of years of humidity and erosion.”
“What about the ancient writing on its side… The description of–”
“Tyro, Phoenicia, Badezir, the firstborn of Jethbaal?”, the scientist laughed, “That’s just foolish babble, random scratch marks inscribed by hooligans or officers in the tourism department of the Old Empire! Perhaps even cultists. I heard those have been on the rise lately…”
Benjamin shifted from beneath the machine.
“Benitez is clearly dodging the questions. Once again.”, said Benjamin, from under the big piece of junk, turning a screwdriver to tighten up the mechanism.
“Who would have ever thought that a establishment scientist would lie to protect the system’s interests, right?”, retorted Isabelle, in her usual crisp tone.
“It makes sense to me!”, yelled Juju, puffing her chest to sound serious, “The Gavea Stone is definitely a product of erosion! Nothing mystical about it!”
“What do you know of erosion, Juju?”, asked Kyle.
“I was always pretty good at Geography, alright? And I’ve actually been there, unlike you lazy bastards! There is only the wind and an amazing view.”
“That’s a question for Geology! And you are an evangelical christian! Don’t try to pull that science card now!”, spat back Kyle, with a vicious grin.
“So I can’t believe in Science just because I don’t believe in the Theory of Evolution?”
“You claim your Pastor knows better than Charles Darwin!? Or in all the evidence of extraterrestrial life?”, asked Kyle.
“I’ll ignore your obvious attempt at diminishing my religion. Multidimensional rifts are pushing it a little too far. I can take some UFOs here and there, the constant vigilance of global authorities, the invisible hand of the market and the existence of a secret colony in the north of France where celebrities go to fake their deaths, but Multidimensional Rifts? That’s ridiculous.”
“What’s ridiculous is the new Michael Jackson album.”, said Benjamin.
“I’ve read that Michael Jackson was engineered by Aliens! A prototype for the next wave of human beings.”, said Isabelle.
“That is an extremely disrespectful statement to the Jackson family–“, retorted Benjamin.
Juju interrupted Benjamin holding her hand high, “This Multiverse business is a farce, Kyle! The Illuminati are already controlling the entire world around us, trying to keep us away from God’s teachings, and now Frank wants to waste time talking about rifts and people who’ve been dead for thousands of years. Get on with the show, you know!? It’s those damn globalists who are actually behind all of this, George So–”
“Oh, don’t you finish that sentence, Juju.”, interjected Isabelle.
“Why not!? It’s true, you know. Soon there will be trumpets announcing the second…”, continued Juju.
“There is a grain of truth in there somewhere. Who knows what’s out there in the hollow earth–“, said Benjamin.
“The Gods were aliens. The monotheistic deity is a lie–“, screamed Kyle.
“The world is run by Pharmaceutical companies! Nearly all products use rubber and they own all the rubber produced everywhere in the world. Look it up!”, said Isabelle.
They were all screaming at each other’s faces when a trapdoor on the floor swung open and Amanda’s face popped up.
“Hey People!”, she greeted them with a wide smile. She was genuinely happy to seem them, especially to get the subject away from Eliza’s previous rant.
“Amanda! You’ve arrived! Thank God!”, said Kyle, exasperated from the discussion.
“Come again? Who’d you thank?”, slyly asked Juju, with a daring look.
“Let’s not start this again.”, said Benjamin, getting up from the floor.
Amanda got up and embraced them all.
“Look who I found!”, exclaimed Amanda, pointing at the trap door.
Eliza’s gloomy face arrived, but seeing her old friends took a little bit of the gloom away.
“Hey. Folks.”, she slowly waved.
“Eliza!”, they’ve said in unison.
“You folks look like you are having fun.”
“Ah, just listening to Ol’ Frank.”, said Isabelle.
“You are just peddling nonsense, Frank!”, said Benitez over the radio.
“Benitez is at it again, huh?”, said Eliza.
She looked up to the junk construction that ran all the way to the top.
“What the hell is this?”
“Oh.”, Kyle smiled, “So, you’ve heard about the whole meteor shower thing?”
“THIS IS THE ROCK CATCHER!”
Kyle walked to the junk pile with pride flaring in his eyes.
“A structure created for the sole purpose of catching meteorites, funneling to its base all the way down to a trap door, right here!”. he pointed to a small trap door.
“It looks like the work of a crazy person.”, said Eliza.
It’s a UFO catcher
silver taped with a couple of cheap ducts
and the remains of a telephone pole at the top, also known as the Big Ear.
“It would have been a complete waste if Benjamin haven’t created the ultimate add-on! The DUST NET!”
Benjamin got up, boasting with unusual confidence.
“It’s an application that not only tracks incoming meteorites, wind patterns, radio frequencies and ultraviolet light. I also added machinery at its base that turns the top to whatever way we want, so it maximizes the odds of getting something really good. And of course, there is the magnet.”
“The magnet?”, asked Amanda.
“It’s the secret ingredient to our success. An industrial junk magnet faced upwards.”
“Whoa”, she stared wide eyed at the machinery.
Eliza wasn’t impressed.
“This is ridiculous. What if you bring down a helicopter or a plane?”
“It’s not that powerful, Eliza, don’t be ridiculous. Besides, it mostly attracts iron.”
Benjamin reached inside the prize bin of the Ufo Catcher.
“Like THIS!”, he said, as he pulled off a shining rock from the machine.
For a small second, they all froze in awe of the space mineral.
The rock glowed in the dark light from their hands, a calming green pulse of fractals.
“Yes! It’s a rock that came all the way from space to fill up our bank accounts!”
Kyle and Benjamin high fived.
“What if that’s radioactive or something?”, inquired Juju.
“Of course it’s not radioactive, Juju. Don’t start playing the science card again!”, whined Kyle in a high pitched voice. He calmed himself down and spoke with a more confident tone. “We’ve still got another batch coming up in a few minutes. But as it is right now, we are already rich.”
“Congratulations. That’s just what the world needs. Another billionaire.”, said Eliza, bored out of her mind.
The trillions of light points shimmered in the clear night sky over the foggy town beneath them. It was an impressive display of the universe.
Benjamin was happy to see Eliza, but she wasn’t happy to see him.
“There is more!”, said Benjamin, pulling out a ziplock bag with some unknown dust.
“Look, Benjamin, no matter how much you try to sound like a television shopping announcer, I have no interest in talking to you or checking out your weird drugs. We are not okay, okay?”, Eliza said, turning her back.
“Okay. I just thought you would like it, that’s all.”, Benjamin felt as if someone just pulled out his power chord. He shut off from conversation and went back to working in the machinery. Or pretending to be, at least.
Amanda pulled Eliza by the arm to the side of the rooftop so they could talk privately.
“Eliza. That wasn’t nice. He is trying.”
“He left me to die, Amanda! I nearly did!”
“That’s dramatic. What did you want him to do? Fight an entire battalion? Get both of you killed?”
“I just wanted him not to be such a goddamn coward!”
“Better a coward than a fool! You are just looking to fight everyone, Eliza! That’s all you want, isn’t it? Another fight! Like in the bar, earlier!”
“Hey, I was shot by a drunken idiot! What did you want me to do?”
“Learn how to Reason, for starters!”
Eliza pointed to their group of friends, they looked crazed out of their minds now.
“Yes, it all makes sense now… The universe is just a big sheet of paper… Divinity is everywhere. Fruits and vegetables are people. Any food consumption is a crime. We must feed on pure light.”, said Juju, laying on a pool chair, boggled eyes.
“Does that look like Reason to you?”, said Eliza, raising her eyebrow.
“Wow, guys, I can’t believe you didn’t wait for me!”, complained Amanda, but Kyle was dancing frantically to the sounds of the downstairs cult session and didn’t mind it.
“There is enough for everybody, Amanda, just drop it in your beer and enjoy! Worst case scenario is you die to cosmic germs. Hell of a way to go if you ask me.”, said Isabelle, who was staring at the lights in the sky.
“What is this, anyway? Are you all back to dropping acid, now?”, asked Eliza.
“It’s Meteor Dust.”, said Benjamin, who appeared to be normal.
Eliza was shocked.
“Are y’all insane? There is literally a crazed cult session going on downstairs, and here you are mixing an unknown space substance in your drinks like it was a random designer drug? Doesn’t this seem like a don’t drink the kool-aid kind of moment to you?”, she felt like her friends just made a suicide pact.
Amanda dropped a considerable amount of space dust in her can.
“Why don’ t you just chill for a bit, Eliza?”, she immediately gulped it, “Ergh… It’s spicy…”
Eliza facepalmed in disbelief.
Amanda’s vision got blurry, the stars streaked as lines of light completely filled her field of vision.
Her eyes glowed white.
“I can see all the constellations! They have risen like a collective of souls that spin around a planet. We need to unlock our own.”
“What the hell you are talking about?”
Amanda grabbed Eliza by the shoulders.
“Starchild. I am Calliope. You have been assigned for Justice. She will be here soon. They will be here soon. Save her. Fight them. Save the others. Free them all. That is your mission.”
“?????” was the best description for the expression in Eliza’s face.
Amanda’s eyes went back to normal.
“Amanda? You okay?”
“Oooh.. Quite the buzz, Eliza. You should try it. You could use some calming…”, Amanda was dozing off now, ” …dooown…”, she fell asleep in her arms.
Eliza placed her on one of the pool chairs.
While the rest of her friends were enjoying their cosmic high, she lit a cigarette. Someone had to watch out for these crazy people.
It was pretty much around that time, that flying in an incomprehensible speed was a sphere of around 3 meters in diameter. It was being magnetically pulled towards a mountain.
Eliza blew smoke, she was momentarily distracted by the pretty lights in the sky.
“Eliza!”, screamed Benjamin.
“What the hell do you want now? Aren’t you supposed to be tripping?”, she asked, gritting her teeth.
“While feeling like shit? No, thanks. Look, whatever grudge you’are holding against me doesn’t matter now. We have a problem.”, he said, impatiently.
Benjamin pointed at an orange streak crossing the sky.
‘”That fireball is coming towards us.”
ONE YEAR AGO – BACK TO ED BUSH’S APARTMENT IN RIO DE JANEIRO
Ed was screaming, but this time it wasn’t melodic.
“Calm down.”, Ford said, “It just grazed you.”
“It took a fucking picanha chunk out of my shoulder, Ford! Call someone!”
Ford sighed, looking at the golden arrow stuck to the wall.
It pierced a few records. Better not mention it, Ed’s in enough pain already.
“Okay. Just keep pressing the paper towel.”
Trajectory places the assailant quite far. About three buildings away.
“THIS ISN’T EVEN STERILIZED!”, he shouted back at Ford.
The assailant must be cross eyed, to miss this giant man. He did use a bow and arrow in the 21st century. Not the finest weapon when it comes to getting results nowadays.
He pulled out his phone, it was about time to give a sit rep.
Arrows are kind of cool, though.
“Hey Missy, how are you doing?”, he asked Mission Control. “Could be better. Someone is targeting Ed Bush. Stole a Blues Record.”, “That’s the one.” , “Yes. Sorry about that. We can go there after this is done.”, “What? Of course, not. I really want to go there.”, “Always wanted to try that sashimi with mango jelly”, “Okay, I’ll do it. Can you get him to send support and a medical team? Ed could use some patching up.”, “Will do. Okay. Love you too.”
Ed squirmed in his oversized chair. Ford held his phone casually, looking at the screen.
“Okay, Mission Control said it will be twenty minutes. And now I have to cancel a reservation she made at the japanese restaurant. Found the number.”
“Hello, I need to cancel a reservation…”
Twenty minutes later, the team of four armed doctors arrived at Ed’s place.
They were carrying assault rifles, wearing gas masks and tactical gear under their medical coats. And pouches. Lots of pouches. They looked more like soldiers than doctors.
“Doctor Adams reporting in, sir.”, the first one said, through a voice interface that made him sound robotic.
“You need that many guns, Doctor?”
“It’s Rio de Janeiro. You know how it is, sir.”
I know it too well. This city is a wonderful sight to behold. You can stay still for hours just gazing at the beautiful coast, the green mountains and the sea shore. That beauty is what draws everyone in, like the pheromones of a carnivorous plant that ultimately rips everything away from its prey. The supreme femme fatale, the one you live in, where you feel there is no escape, a place where the simple act of breathing can be dangerous enough to end you. And we are its parasites. leeching away at the surface. Destroying each other for a small piece of this false paradise. Kept alive by the assumption that there will be hope somewhere down the line.
Ford wasn’t a fan of heavy weapons. Especially if he wasn’t the one carrying them. Doctors with guns were a curious thing, indeed.
“Have you ever shot people up then carried them to the hospital?”, he asked, wide-eyed.
“The ones we usually shoot can’t pay our fee, sir.”
Of course, they don’t.
Every life lost means another possible future is gone. These guys don’t care.
They don’t know what I know. Time to get back to business.
“It was an arrow. Just grazed the man, but it’s better to get him a complete check up. Check for toxicity, as well.”
Ford lit up a cigarette. Dr. Adams’ square jawed face showed disapproval.
“Those things are really bad for you, sir. Should consider quitting.”
Ford didn’t respond, watching as the team got into the apartment in file and covered the windows. Doctor Adams injected a stimulant on Ed Bush’s neck.
“Here, Mr. Bush, this should help. I’m a big fan.”, said the medic.
“Thank you, Doctor. What’s your favorite record?” , responded Ed.
“All of them. I like all of them.”, the doctor responded, coldly.
“Bag that arrow and deliver it to Experto’s. Control will send you the address.”, Ford said, pointing at the pierced wall.
“Yes, sir. She already did.”
One of them used a device to scan the arrow.
“Gold tipped arrow, contains some kind of oil. This arrowhead should be in a museum.”
They removed the arrow from the wall and put in a plastic sealed bag.
“You should have brought more men if you wanted to carry this guy.”, said Ford.
“Carry him, sir?”
The serious Medical Team scrambled around Ed Bush, holstered their assault rifles and scratched their collective heads for a second, calculating the trouble it would be to put the massive man on a regular stretcher.
Ford laughed ridiculously loud. He loved messing with these guys.
“It’s a shoulder wound, fellas. He can easily walk out of here.”, Ford said.
“That’s not funny, Ford.”, Ed Bush said as he walked out of the apartment with the team, “These types of jokes are low hanging fruit. And out of fashion.”, he was sweating profusely.
“Ah, cheer up, big guy, just having some fun. After getting checked out by the good doctor, you’d better check in at a Hotel, Ed. I’m gonna do some digging.”, he responded, cracking his fingers.
Ford finally went on to talk with the doorman at the ground floor, who was a little tense from seeing so many armed people get buzzed in at once.
“When these men arrived and said they were going to Ed Bush’s place, I knew something was up.”, said the doorman, finally lifting his eyes away from the television. His face looked sweaty..
“Wow, you have some serious detective skills. No one else would see the relation between medical doctors armed to the teeth and trouble.”, said Ford, with a slightly amused tone.
“I definitely could. I watch these kinds of shows all the time.”
“Sure you do. Life has a tendency to be even more ridiculous than those. Do you happen to know if the building was recently painted?”
“Of course, I was the one who arranged the whole thing.”
“Oh, were you?”, Ford lifted up his eyebrow. Did this guy just confess?
“Yes, I even hired a renowned painter to do the work. The sindico was thrilled!”
Of course, he was. That way he could justify overcharging the residents on the monthly administrative fee.
I get it now. “And how much kickback did you get out of it, Severin?”
It was the first time Ford said the doorman’s name.
“What? I would never–”
Ford gave him a serious look.
“Maybe–Maybe I got some commission. But there ain’t nothing to it. I was offered it!”
“Offered? By whom?”
“The painter, Ronald Towers!”
That’s why the building looks hideous, I thought that was just a giant billboard commissioned by some tacky ad agency.
Ronald Towers was considered to be the most popular brazilian painter in the world. That by no way means his work was good, just exotic and colorful enough to be considered a novelty. He was very good at painting thick colored lines, squiggly marks and a lot of colors with polka dots covering some areas. “Experts” claimed it was a brazilian take on Pop Art. Since then, his work has been reprinted in posters, shirts, keychains, mugs and tattoos. A few years ago, he sold off his personal gallery in Florida and disappeared from the public eye.
And now he is resurfacing just to paint a random building in Botafogo? Amidst a stolen blues record and an arrow shot at a musician/record collector. Weird.
“How did you get in touch with the guy? I thought he vanished?”. Ford asked, intrigued.
“He lives just in the other street. One day he approached me at the Saint Raphael corner bodega, said he had a vision of the painting he should do in the building.”
Ford tightened his face. It wasn’t hard to see what happened after that.
“He didn’t charge you, huh?”
Severin was sweating, worried for his job, his debts and his future.
“Look, man, I gave the sindico an invoice, you know. Can we keep this on the down low…?
“Fine. If you tell me where he lives. Severin, you should know by now that nothing is free in this city.”
“I still had bills to pay, sir.”
“Don’t we all?”
To Ford’s dismay, something more serious happened due to Severin’s greed.
He reached the house in about ten minutes walking. There was no trouble on the way, thankfully. Ford counted his blessings. It was unusual for the area to live in a house. Most people have drifted off to the newer buildings and old colonial houses were degraded, on their way to a probable demolition.
He walked up a flight of steps and pressed the buzzer.
From the steps, Ford could see that the streets were packed, it was lunch hour. His stomach grumbled. I could be eating salmon sashimi by now.
The smell of a nearby restaurant from the food centre enticed him further.
He pressed the buzzer again. Fine.
Ford grabbed his french fries keychain and pulled out one of the fries, a small metallic yellow stick. While facing the streets, he opened the lock using the magnetic tumbler, a gift from Experto that he called The Master Key.
Ford casually entered the house and closed the door.
It was an interesting hallway, filled with paintings quite different than his usual work.
These were more realistic than Towers’ usual work, throwing away his traditional vivid colors to depict dark, shadow like figures. As Ford kept walking through the hallway, he reached a large room littered with coal chalks, candles and empty bottles of wine.
I guess he ditched his colorful squiggly lines.
The coal drawn figures on the canvases looked like smeared shadows on a cathedral’s wall, Ford got lost in thought, staring at them for a second, wondering if he saw them move.
What a poor aesthetic choice. These are even worse than his regular work. Hope he wasn’t planning on selling these. Ah, what do I know? Someone would probably buy it for a fortune just for Towers’ signature.
There was barely any light on the room except for the small bits filtered by the window blinders. Thin streaks of light were not enough to survey this mess.
He quickly went to open the windows, and that was exactly when the smell hit him.
A powerful odor filled his nostrils with decay. The overwhelming nausea almost made him collapse. He covered his mouth with his leather jacket’s sleeve and looked for the source of it in the sun brightened room.
There goes my appetite.
A golden arrow was stuck to the wall, pinning the decapitated head of Ronald Towers.
TO BE CONTINUED