Nauseous and out of breath, Margot stood in the doorway and lit a cigarette, Her hand shook as she pulled the flame closer. Her mouth full of tar and bile, she peeked out of the doorway to see if she was followed. It didn’t matter. Her instinct was to run home, Her apartment was not the best hiding place. She was listed in the phone book. Hell, her phone had GPS. She quickly turned it off, pulled the sim card and tossed the phone away.
If she was going to survive this, she had to be smart, not tough. In the movies, tough is what gets people killed. Tough, causes explosions and property damage. Tough, leaves people broken and crying. She could feel the .38 in her pocket. She dreaded having to use it.
She took the old elevator up to her apartment on the 12th floor. The mechanical parts grunted and wheezed their familiar battle cry as she rose slowly to her apartment. She counted the steps from the elevator to her door. it was 39 steps. It was always 39 steps. Well… almost always, today she stopped at step 39 and was about 12 feet from her front door.
Margot walked the last steps with an odd curiosity. The air smelled of ceap deodorant and marijuana. The door stood ajar. Margot’s hand ound the gun in her pocket. She held it like she had seen in the movies, pointed upwards.
She was about to burst through the door. Smart people don’t burst through doors. Sherlock Holmes never bursted. Sherlock Holmes was never being chased over a lead figure of a British Officer. Margot, gun drawn, slowly opened the door. The smell was stronger. Nothing was familiar.
The furniture that was donated by friends of friends and purchased at garage sales had been replaced. Everything in the room was shiny and new and black and chrome. Margot checked the number on the door. 1206, definitely her apartment, but this spartan furniture, these gray rugs and white walls. The only thing she recognized was the wooden statue of the orangutan on the mantle and the stoned blonde who was passed out on her new black leather couch.
“Beverly?” Margot said. She put her gun away, and tried to look unfrazzled by the day’s events.
Beverly didn’t move. She was breathing and softly snoring. This was not Beverly’s usual posture after a marijuana rendezvous. Margot had seen it back when they shared a room. Beverly was a giggler and usually craved chili-bbq corn chips. Margot’s teen years were a nightmare as her older sister smoked dope and was otherwise perfect.
When Beverly left home to become a singer/dancer in Atlantic City, it broke her mother’s heart. Margot and Beverly reconnected at their father’s funeral and the pair decided to try and act like sisters, whatever that means.
Margot needed to focus. Her head was a jumble of freaks, guns, and tastefully generic furniture. Sherlock Holmes never had these problems, She didn’t really know about Sherlock Holmes, she had only ever seen the movies and watched the TV shows. He just seems calm and together and strung out on opium. She needed a better role model.
She took three deep breaths and began to analyze the situation. Her apartment seemed larger and impossibly clean. Everything was shiny and new except for the ashtray. The ashtray had 3 crushed cigarettes and one half smoked one that sat in one of the
notches. They were not Margot’s and Beverly wore a whorish pink lipstick that stained every cigarette that met her lips. Someone else had been here.
“Duh” she said aloud. Of course someone had been there. New furniture and a bigger apartment takes movers and construction guys and a foreman. The apartment was immaculate. Was the ashtray a message?
Margot picked it up to empty the unsightly ashes. Underneath was a small envelope, the kind that your grandmother used to write and send thank you notes in. She picked up the envelope, cracked the wax seal, and examined the stationery carefully.
The writing was familiar.
Dear Agent Bensen,
We apologize for the condition in which we left your sister . She arrived during the de-personalization of your apartment. All agents of the Mystic Trading Emporium are issued clothing, and personal belongings that reveal not hint of their personal tastes. This measure is taken so that likes and dislikes cannot be used against you in the fulfillment of your duties for the Emporium.
Instructions we may have missed previously:
please remove the sim card and dispose of your mobile phone. The MTE does not usually communicate through electronic media. If you need to contact us, deliver a handwritten note to the front desk of the Jackson Hotel on Superior Ave. If it is regarding an emergency situation, turn the orangutan to face the wall and we will assist you post haste.
The sedative we gave your sister is harmless, several rounds can be found in your box of ammunition. It is a harmless gas pellet that leaves behind the curious odor of an Amsterdam Coffee Bar.
As you mave have realized, the object you are to deliver is greatly coveted by other parties. Please be wary of strangers, follow none of your usual routines, and use cash or travelers cheques whenever possible.
Your electronic identity has been expunged, all official paperwork is on the mantle in the filebox with the contents of your bank account and your first payment for services rendered. All future payments can be picked up on Wednesday afternoons at the Jackson Hotel on Superior Ave.
May you live in Interesting Times,
Gerald Munk, MTE
This was the second time she had received a letter from a dead man. This was more than she bargained . Margot was wishing she had never given away that quarter.
Suddenly, the package didn’t matter, the crazy people didn’t matter, All she cared about was getting her sister off of her couch, getting her life back in its normal boring order, and most of all, finding out what happened to Gerald Munk.Margot marched over to the fireplace and turned the wooden statue of the oranguan to face the wall. She lit a cigarette and waited. She waited for Beverly to wake up, and waited to ask some questions about Mr. Munk.