The Mayonnaise Murders, Chapter 3, Scene 1

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CHAPTER 3

“WHOA! Where the hell did this guy get his license from?”

I was wondering the same thing myself. For the past half hour, Vee and I had been trying to keep up with this Mr. Deep Cluck clown as he darted in and around the street traffic like it wasn’t even there, ignoring any and all stop lights or anything else that might be offering the slightest suggestion of safety. It was no easy job. The critter drove like he was gettin paid for every pedestrian he nearly plowed.

“So answer me this, Vee. You believe this guy?”

“About what?”

“You know, about Johnny Beardy not bein dead and all that. You think that could be the truth?”

“I dunno. I mean…DAMMIT! WHAT THE…this guy’s tryin to kill us both, Vid, I swear he is. So you were askin me…? Oh, Johnny Beardy bein dead. Not. Yeah, I guess maybe it could be, hey? It’s possible. I’ll tell you one thing for sure. If Johnny really isn’t dead? This Deep Cluck sweety’s gonna give us a way to check it out real quick. I guarantee you that.”

“What makes you so sure?”

` `Cause I’ve seen his type before, hey? Had sources like him. I mean, like, if he wasn’t being truthful about something that big, then why’d he drop that bomb in our laps like he did? It’s …SHIT! YOU FUCKIN JERK! YOU ALMOST… `cause he wants in, Vid. He’s droppin this one on us to show mostly you that he’s got somethin to offer this whole thing we’re workin on. It’s kinda like cards, hey? But backwards sorta. He’s laying out his big deal card early to pull us in. Anyhow, that’s how I read it.”

“You know, I’m startin to think maybe you shoulda gotten yourself into my line of work insteada wastin yourself…”

“HEY!”

“What? We almost run over somebody again?”

“Nope, that `hey’ was for you, Vid. Look, we’ve been over this one before, all right? And I’m not wastin myself. I happen to think what I’m doin is a valuable service to the V-5 community. The people have a right to know, and I’m the one makes sure they know, hey? It’s a good way to make a living. Kinda makes up for my old ways, I like to think.”

Personally, I think Vee woulda been better off stayin a crook than turnin herself into a page scratcher. At least back in those days she knew she was crooked. A paycheck don’t make a profession respectable in my book. Not that I’d ever tell any of this to Vee…

“WHOOOOOOAAAAHHH DAMN! What is it with this guy, Vid? And where are all the keystones? Me, I get pulled over just for crossin in front of some critter too close, but here this guy is racin through town chasin a land speed record and I can’t see one of those wretched little wheelies anywhere! What gives?”

I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed that any sooner myself. Probably `cause I was too focused on all the pedestrians flippin us sign language from the sidewalks.

Yeah well.

“Say Vee, it just hit me. If Johnny Beardy really ain’t dead, like Mr. Fashion says, then what do you figure possessed him to fly all the way up here from Earth, strip off his clothes, stick his mug in a mayonnaise sandwich, then stretch his naked butt out in the middle of a public street on V-5 like that? Huh? I mean here’s a guy who’s supposed to have everything, right? He’s from the big deal host planet, he’s a rock star, he’s got all this cash, he’s got chickadees on Earth and chickadees scattered all over Planet 10, but still this guy figures he wants to pull a stunt like this. You figure he’s bored or just stupid?”

“Maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe it wasn’t his body we saw, hey?”

“But you said so yourself, Vee, remember? You pointed at the body and you said, `Hey, ain’t that…?’ Just like that. OK, so maybe you didn’t recognize him right off, maybe not as quick as I thought a smart kid like you mighta done, but you recognized it. Eventually.”

Vee gives me this look, which lets me know it’s time to brace myself.

“So now you’re saying I’m sloooooow, Vid? A little too much fog in the chickee’s upstairs chamber, is that it?”

“Now Vee, wait a minute now…”

“You know, I can’t believe you sometimes, I really can’t. We’re supposed to be working like a team on this thing. Together. At least that’s what I thought, but then you’ve gotta go and say something stupid like you always do. I mean it, Vid, you really need to…”

“Look, let’s don’t go there just yet, all right? See, now you’re gonna go off on this discrimination thing and you know just like I do that’s when we always end up and…hey…Vee? Are you seein what…?”

“You mean, like, where’d everybody go?”

“Yeah. Like that exactly.”

It happened that quick. One minute, Vee and me were perched on the edge of a tiff; the next we were tryin to figure out what happened. One minute you’ve got pissed off pedestrians divin outta your way, then suddenly everything goes black. Only thing we could see was the front light from Vee’s mobile, the rear light comin offa Deep Cluck’s machine, and the road passin between us. When I looked out the rear window, I could see the glimmer of the city fadin fast. Lookin out the side window I could make out some shapes here and there, some of em rounded, some of them sharp. But what they were shapes of I didn’t have the slightest.

I’ll be damned. The Dreg region. All these years on V-5 and I never…

“You ever been out this far, Vid?”

Vee’s voice sounded tiny, like it was comin from the bottom of a cup.

“Not me, doll. This is firsties for the both of us.”

“Firsties, Vid?”

No way to defend a word like that. Erase it and move on. Few minutes later, Deep Cluck signals he’s pulling over to the side of the road. We pass him by a few yards, then pull over in front. He leaves his light on as he slides open the door to step outside. I appreciate his decision to keep on the light. I appreciate it a lot.

Once he’s standin outside our window, I push a button and it comes down just a few touches. I still don’t trust this guy enough to be givin him a full open window-type greeting. He grins.

“I’m quite afraid you’ll need to step outside, Mr. Vid. You too, Miss Vee, unless you’d prefer to be left out. You being the more delicate member of the species and all.”

“All right, Spud. You win. Now step back, unless you want this door to relocate your family production mechanisms.”

His cracked lips curled back to make way for a bigger smile fulla more and bigger screwed-up teeth. This was one butt-ugly critter. If I was him, I’d spend a whole lot less time smilin and a lot more tryin to raise some money for a corrective procedure. It just ain’t considerate of others to walk around lookin like that.

“Certainly, Mr. Vid. And might I say that must be quite some door you have there.”

“Don’t go gettin smart on me, Cluck. Let’s just get to it, all right?”

Vee stood there in front of him with her arms crossed. If you ever wanted to get that woman ready for a fight, just call her delicate.

“You drive like a lunatic,” she said.

“So I’ve been told, but ah well. We are none of us all that we should like to become someday. I’m sure you’ll agree.”

“Appears to me you might be a bit further from the goal than most,” I replied. “And by the way, you need to trade in that accent. Earth London don’t hold the same sophistication up here as it does down there. Up here, anybody talks like that is just a funny-talkin so-and-so. Y’know?”

He kept smiling, but his eyes let me know I’d slipped one through the defenses. I gave him a half grin for free.

“So all compliments aside, Cluck, what’re we doin way out here in the Dregs? What’s this got to do with the disappearance of Johnny Beardy?”

Cluck looked down at his left foot, which he was kickin hard into the dirt beside Vee’s car. Then he looked back up. Still the smile.

“You may recall I warned you to beware the chickens?”

This guy wasn’t turnin loose this accent. Whoever sold it to him musta sold the hell out of it.

“Yeah, so? What? That some kinda code language signifyin we oughta watch our step around you?”

“Quite wrong. I need no code to tell you that. As a good scavenger, you ought to realize when you’re dealing with someone who should not be tampered with. Enough said? Good. Now about the chickens, Mr. Vid. I’m sure if I were to leave you alone for a long moment, or even the delicate Miss Vee here, one of you would be able to add it up with just a wee bit of rational thought.”

“Well perhaps we oughta skip the long moment since we don’t have all night and you tell us what it is you know. Otherwise, we might as well all hop back on the road and make better use of our time.”

“Mayonnaise.”

Vee’s arms unfolded as she took a strong step toward our man.

“What’s that, Mr. Cluck Deep? What do you know about mayonnaise, hey?”

“I believe it is the substance of the sandwich in which young Mr. Beardy found his face on the night of his supposed death, just before he was supposedly abducted.”

“What’s with all these `supposedly’s’, Cluck?” I asked.

Cluck clasped his hands behind his back, then began to pace back and forth in front of us. Damned drama hog.

“Are you saying he wasn’t swiped?” asked Vee.

“Precisely.”

Vee and I exchanged glances. Something in the way he said that `precisely’ made me nervous.

“So what happened to him, then?”

“Perhaps it was what he wanted to have happen.”

“I’m losin you, Cluck.”

“Quite the opposite, Mr. Vid.”

Then he pointed over the top of Vee’s machine to a location somewhere way off in the darkness that was impossible to make out. After keeping that long, bony finger stretched out for a good long stretched-out moment, his eyes focused hard on whatever was supposed to be out there, he squinted back at the two of us. Didn’t say a thing, like we were supposed to pick up on whatever it was by mind transfer or some other way he knew damned well I wasn’t evolved enough to get. I glanced at the side of his cheek for that telltale red slash that’d let me know if he was one of them that could. He wasn’t. So now I’m wonderin what gives with the silent pointing bit.

I pointed in the same direction, looked him dead in the eye, then shrugged my shoulders.

“Over there what? You gotta speak up, Cluck. I can see you ain’t no telepath, and even if you were, you know I’m not one either. Now what the hell is it you …”

A noise. For a moment, all three of us just stood there with our ears cocked, gills tight, strainin to hear exactly what it was. Then, off in the distance, we could see two more white dots approachin fast. Another transport. When I looked back over at Cluck, I could see he’d just discharged a large amount of water straight out his gills into that hightop collar of that ugly shirt he was wearin, and he was startin to tremble.

Right about then I’m guessin we were in some trouble.

“Ohhh…” was all he said.

“Cluck? Hey. Buddy. We in some kinda deep…”

“Ohhhhhhhhh…”

“I’ll take that as a yes. So who is this racin out here, and why?”

“No time. You must…”

“Cluck, I gotta know what’s goin on. Me and Vee, if we’re in the kinda trouble it sounds like maybe we are, then we gotta know what we’re up…”

“NO TIME! Now please, you must listen to me closely, and do as I say. What I was pointing to? It is a shed. The road to that shed is two clicks up on the right-hand side. Once inside, you wait for me until I contact the both of you. Do not leave until I have contacted you.”

“What’s in the shack, Mr. Cluck Deep?” asked Vee, sounding not anything like somebody whose life was on the short timer.

“Chickens, Miss Vee. Lots and lots of chickens.”

“You want us to drive out to a chicken shack in the middle of the Dregs and wait for you? Cluck, there’d better be a damned good…”

“Please. You must go NOW.”

I looked back down the road and could see the twin pinpricks of light grown considerably larger. The noise of that machine was louder as well. Too loud. Had to be souped up.

“OK, OK, we’re gettin there. But one thing you gotta get straight. Two things. Where the hell you goin to get away from whoever this is, and why is this chicken shack so important?”

“Answer 1; none of your business. Answer 2; consider what are the ingredients in mayonnaise. And now I must go.”

Vee and I looked at each other.

“Eggs.”

 

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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