The Mayonnaise Murders, Chapter 9, Scene 1

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I stood there in the middle of the road watching Vee disappear, I guess just wondering. Not wondering any one particular thing, but just wondering. I think pretty much any man watching a woman like Vee disappear, knowing that his only companions for the next who-knows-how-long were gonna be an ex-rock star, an ugly geek with an addiction to bad clothes, and a pack of muscle-bound chickens with bad attitude, would be forced to wonder about a whole lotta things. Things like, ‘what the fuck kinda wrong choices did I ever make in life to lead me right here right now?’

Things like that.

Anyway, once Vee was all the way outta sight and I couldn’t see any more dust marking her trail, I turned around to face my new best friends. Most of them were standing there staring at me lookin like I had just contracted some kinda disease. Except for Cluck, who was wearin this self-satisfied grin. I wanted to hurt him. I mean, I wanted to expose this little wardrobe malfunctioning idiot to levels of pain and discomfort that would redefine the term. But for now all I could do was grin back, and then wink, which made him take a step back.

Oh yeah. I know how to screw with your head when I wanna.

“So what’s the next step?” I asked, looking straight at Cluck. “What’s the big plan?”

“ You mean now that poor poor baby is here all alone without his pretty little airhead?”

“Would that be the same airhead that made you look like a..”

“You say what it sounds like you’re fixin’ to say to our boss and I’ll tie you up like a shoelace, buddy? You get me?”

That was Butch, which threw me all off since he was one of the first ones to start snickering when Vee was putting Cluck in check.

“So let me get this straight; it’s OK when a woman makes your fearless leader look like a pussy, but when a  man does it then…”

I had no idea chickens were that fast. And I definitely had no idea they could throw a straight right.

“Then it’s different, pal. You got it. The day you grow legs like hers is the day you can act cute. ‘Til then, show some respect.”

I picked myself up off the ground, dusted myself off while trying to make it look like no damage had been done, then shrugged my shoulders.

“Respect. Right. So then back to my question, which is what exactly is the next step?”

“The next step is you, me, Beardy, and Butch shall take ourselves a little trip this evening to begin preparations for our much bigger trip to come. Since standard travel might draw a bit of attention considering the rather disturbing feathered appearance of certain members of the traveling entourage, let’s just say we are required to make more specialized arrangements. Be sure to have yourself ready within the hour.”

“Ready like how? You want me to shower and shave or somethin’?”

Butch took a step in my direction but Cluck waved him away.

“You remember what I said, Pal, right?” he said, still feelin the need to flex.

“Oh, you mean about respect? Sure thing, princess. Respect all day long.”

I could see Butch starting to overheat, which was exactly what I was going for, but Cluck had already peeped my hole card and told his pet poultry to stand down. He shook his head, giving me the tsk-tsk routine.

“Just have yourself ready, Mr. Vid. This is a very important trip.”

A couple hours later, me, Cluck, and Beardy were all crammed into a seriously beat up transport with a paint job almost as bad as Cluck’s wardrobe. I looked out the window and tried to make myself relax for several hours as the Dregs slid by, one stretch pretty much looking like the next, until we started to slow down and I noticed us coming up on what looked like an abandoned warehouse of some sort situated next to a tall pile of rocks stacked up like a small mountain. Everything else surrounding the place was flat, but if you looked in the near distance behind the warehouse you could see outlines of the city.

“Aren’t we a little close to town for some fugitives?” I asked, as the transport came to an abrupt stop.

“Just shut up and exit the vehicle,” said Butch.

“Exit the vehicle. Right. So somebody gonna open this door or am I supposed to make my own?”

“Yo, you break it you buy it, dude,” said Beardy, grinning like he thought he’d made a world-class funny.

Moments later we were all standing outside the front door of this warehouse and I was wondering why the big light hanging over the top suspended by a thick chain from a post had gone out soon as Butch knocked on the door. I glanced around at my new best friends to see if anyone else was concerned, but since it had gone dark I couldn’t really tell. Then there was a loud, metallic groaning sound and the door swung open with a loud bang. Nobody was standing in the doorway, and it was darker inside than where we were standing.

“OK, am I the only one…”

“Shut up and go inside.”

“Screw you Chicken Little. There’s a lot more poultry where you come from which makes you expendable, so why don’t you hop on through yourself?”

Butch started to make a move on me, but Cluck grabbed him by the elbow – or whatever you call that part of the anatomy on a freak chicken – and told him to do like I said. Shocked the hell outta me, but I’m glad probably nobody got a good look at my expression as dark as it was.

“You takin’ his side?” asked Butch.

Beardy was crackin’ up.

“Chicken Little. That’s rich. Say, where’d you hear about…”

“In five seconds this door will close. It will not be opened again.”

“Who the hell was…”

Just like that Cluck gave Butch a hard shove toward the door, and the rest of us followed real quick. The door slammed again, and for a few really nervous moments it was pitch black. I don’t think any of us was even breathin, and I was wonderin if Cluck had done any kinda background check on these clowns we were supposed to be meeting with.

Then I heard a loud click, and suddenly everything went from pitch black to blinding light. I’m pretty sure all of us cried out at the same time with some pretty choice expletives.

Dude! Is this really necessary?”

“Actually? Yes. Yes it is. Considering that we’re all meeting here to conduct some pretty damned risky business, I’d say yeah. It’s more than necessary. So judging by the long hair I’m guessing you’re Beardy?”

My eyes were starting to adjust, which means I could start to make out a short, squat outline of a critter I could quickly tell was easily the size of two or three normal size critters, and he was chompin down on a cigar that he must have picked up on one of his runs to Earth since there was no way to grow tobacco on Planet 10. As my eyes started to adjust even more, I was starting to wish maybe they’d kept the lights off for awhile. This guy and his friend, or business partner or whatever he was, standing beside him with his arms crossed chewing another cigar, had to be two of the ugliest critters I had ever seen in life. Having to look at Deep Cluck day after day had been bad enough, but this just wasn’t fair. Both of them had huge heads, like someone had decided to use ‘em for balloons, and their skin coloring was all off, kind of like whatever color you might get if you ate a bunch of eggs and then a bunch of broccoli and then threw it all up. The rest didn’t get any better, but it’s painful enough just describing this much.

“Yeah, dude. I’m Beardy.”

The Twin Uglies stared at Beardy for an uncomfortably long time, then looked at each other, shrugged, back at Beardy, then started to nod in unison as if somebody was pulling the same string.

“Yo, what the fuck? Something wrong? Am I the wrong pretty face or what?”

The Twin Uglies shook their heads. Shifted their focus to Cluck.

“So we should get to it then? No need this taking a lot of time, right?”

Cluck turned on his brightest megawatt smile, which was a blatant crime against the very meaning and intent of a smile, as he stepped forward to stretch out his hand like some sorta salesman.

“No need at all!”

The Twin Uglies glanced downward at the outstretched hand, scrunched up their faces like they smelled something rotten, then waddled away toward the far corner of the room where a large round table was squatting kinda off balance. Looking around, it didn’t seem like there was much of anything else in the room except for the chairs surrounding the table and the bright light swinging back and forth up above from a thick chain suspended from the ceiling. There was a door in the rear with a small square window jammed in the middle, but the window was covered with a square piece of dirty red fabric so you couldn’t see whatever was on the other side.

Cluck kept standing there with his hand outstretched like he figured they musta forgot something, but it was obvious they didn’t forget a damned thing. They left Cluck hangin ‘cause that’s what they meant to do. Pretty soon the smile faded by about half the amount of watts as Cluck motioned for the rest of us to follow his lead toward the table.

Once we were all seated, Twin Ugly # 1 spoke up.

“So it looks like you might need our help.”

“That would be why we’re here. Correct.”

“Um-hm. And that help means getting you guys smuggled onto an Earth transport?”

“That would be why we’re here. Correct.”

“That supposed to be funny?” asked Twin Ugly #2.

“Is what supposed to be funny?” asked Cluck, his grin stretched real tight.

Moment of silence, then, “Um-hm.”

“Can we get back to business please?” asked Cluck.

The Twin Uglies gave each other a look, raised an eyebrow, shrugged, then gave their assent.

“So we were discussing the fact that you want our help smuggling you and your friends onto an Earth transport.”

“Yes.”

“Just like that.”

“Just like what?

“You think this is a simple thing you’re asking, Mr. Deep Cluck?”

“Quite obviously not. If it was a simple thing I was requesting then I believe it would be logical to assume a simple-minded sort would have been the perfect sort for the job. This being a not-so-simple task, it becomes apparent that simple-mindedness simply will not do. Which brings us to you. So here we are.”

Lookin’ at the perplexed expressions of the Twin Uglies, I had to practically bite through my bottom lip to keep from laughin out loud. They couldn’t figure out whether they had just been kissed off or wet-kissed. I couldn’t stand Deep Cluck, but the jerk did have his moments.

Says Twin Ugly #1: “It isn’t simple, and I’m assuming you’re aware this isn’t cheap. Costs enough to transport to Earth the regular way. Going off the books jacks up the price a ways because of the risk. I’m sure you can understand that, right? Unless, of course, you’re simple.”

Deep Cluck and #1 stared at each other for a few long moments before Cluck broke the tension with a wink and a chuckle.

“Touché, sir, touché indeed. Quite right. And I believe you’ll find I have no problem in rendering the appropriate compensation for the appropriate services dutifully rendered.”

“Yeah, well. Regardless of whatever it is you just said, I can tell you now this is gonna run you at least fifty thousand to cover you four, and that’s Earth dollars. And we’re gonna need it all up front since we don’t have any guarantee you guys will be coming back and we can’t afford to be tryin to track you down if you disappear down there. Earth’s kind of a big place, you know.”

“Dude, who said anything about it just being the four of us?”

The Twin Uglies looked over at Beardy, both their eyebrows flexed upward into a questioning arch.

“What’s he saying?” asked #1.

“If you’re looking at me then you can go ahead and ask me direct, dude, all right? And what I’m saying is it’s gonna be a whole lot more than just us four. Gonna be more in the neighborhood of 15.”

“Surely you’re joking. I mean, no way can you expect…”

“I can assure you humor is not involved in this transaction, sir. And if you are not capable of doing the job, as I was assured you would be, then I suppose now would be the time to tell us so that we might locate some more able criminally-minded sorts who would be perhaps a bit more prepared to do business than yourselves.”

“And how many criminally-minded sorts unlike ourselves do you think can sneak 15 fugitives illegally onto an Earth transport, my friend?”

“First things first? I am not your friend. Secondly, I would advise that you not underestimate either my ambition or my reach. The money you will require to complete this transaction can be provided to you quite easily. We have been preparing for this event for quite some time, emphasis on the word ‘preparing’. So we have what you need. The question, I believe, is whether you are able to accommodate our needs. Correct? So tell us now; do we have a deal, or do we need to look elsewhere?”

The Twin Uglies glanced at one another real quick, then asked for a minute to leave the table and discuss the matter over in a corner of the room. It was a pretty short discussion.

“What we need is this,” said #1, as he lowered himself back into his chair, grunting and groaning like the last wish of a dying pig. “We’re going to need $150,000 cash by tomorrow night. Brought here. Deep Cluck will bring it and nobody else comes with him. You leave in two weeks from a location that we’ll tell you the night before departure. Have another $150,000 with you when you arrive at that location.”

“Done. But how exactly do you propose to smuggle us aboard this transport if you are asking all of us to show up at the launch site with a case full of money? You don’t think perhaps such a sight might attract just a wee bit of attention from the other nearby passengers waiting to board?”

The Twin Uglies grinned in unison, then said, “Don’t worry.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

The two of them kept grinning then grunted and groaned as they pushed themselves away from the table and stood up. Personally this wasn’t making me feel that assured, but hey. Wasn’t my money.

“Two Weeks,” said #1. “You handle your end, we’ll handle ours. Goodnight gentlemen. I’m sure you can find your way out.” But you might want to wait until the lights come back on.”

“The lights…?”

Darkness.

Like what you’ve read so far? Get the book to see how it all ends! Then get Part 2!

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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