Monday, 27 May 2013

The Humble Devil - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Melo looked around to make sure there was nobody in the corridor and quickly snuck into his room, quietly closing the door behind him.  There was no need for any of the staff to see him carry an assault rifle around. He shuddered at the idea of having to deal with police on top of all their existing problems.  But now that nobody could see him, Melo carefully placed the weapon on the table and reached into the small bag he had thrown over his shoulder. Inside were all the cleaning utensils for maintenance, and a half-empty bottle of rum that he took from Cree. Lord knows he deserved the damned drink. Throwing the cleaning kit on the table, Melo proceeded to search the cupboard for a glass – drinking a thousand dollar rum out of the bottle seemed a tad juvenile. Having only managed to find a cup he finally sat down at the table with a sigh. It’d have to do.

The soft light of the small lamp that stood on the table, even mixed with the erratic blinking of the half-muted TV was not enough to illuminate the table properly. Drunk and drowned in twilight Melo picked up the gun. Quickly, with a steady, almost surgical precision he removed the studs and took off the stock. Next came off the handle. One by one every piece took its own place on the table. The removed mechanism unit and mobile assembly were carefully placed next to a clean ashtray, where Melo had stored all the removed studs.  He took a sip of the rum, and involuntarily smiled. Say what you will about the ungodly price, but the rum was good. The kind of rabid bitterness he usually got from most hard drinks was not present, instead it went down smoothly. Too smoothly perhaps. He took the bolt, twisted the amp lever – removing it, and pulled out the firing pin. The drumming of the rain, heard even through the quiet murmur of the telly, was getting on his nerves. The details of the case just weren’t sitting right with him. The entire thing – the town, the people, the killings, the guns… it was all making him a bit paranoid. He quickly dismantled the head and with a strong jerk twisted off the bipod. Melo shook his head and refilled the cup.

“Morning’s always wiser…” He said quietly under his breath and, taking a piece of special cloth, started cleaning the barrel. Once that was done with, it took him a bit of effort to locate the brush in the bag. His vision was slowly getting blurrier as he found himself amidst a warm, soothing haze. All of his worries slowly became insignificant, as he steadily and carefully cleaned the firing mechanism and the chamber with a brush. All other metal parts he worked over with a piece of clean cloth. The rum was taking effect all the more quickly, as it made friends with the scotch he drank earlier. Melo could no longer hear the TV, his mind completely, blissfully blank, as he pushed the firing pin back into the head and installed it back into the assembly.  Next the mechanism unit was returned back to its place. Then the handle… then the stock… Finally the bipod found its way back. Barely conscious, Melo staggered to his bed, falling asleep before his head could touch the pillow. Only the drumming of the rain and the quiet murmur of the telly remained, along with an empty bottle of rum.

The morning was murky and just as unwelcoming as the evening before it. Liene stretched in her bed and got up. Looking out the window she shivered a little. She was feeling cold just by looking at the weather. If anything it seemed to have gotten a bit worse than yesterday.  The wet brown leaves were spun around the street by strong wind, giving it a dirty look. Liene sighed and, quickly throwing on her jeans and shirt, disappeared in the bathroom. Rain or no rain – teeth gots to be brushed, eh?
The bathroom was small but tidy, as usual with most ensuite rooms. A tiny bar of soap was sitting on the sink, next to three tubes of toothpaste. Liene shot her eyebrows up in surprise. That was quite unusual, but she wasn’t about to let anything free go to waste. She quickly popped one of the tubes open, and pocketed the other two. As Liene began brushing her teeth she could feel her mouth going slightly numb, much to her surprise.  She grabbed the tube again and read the English description carefully.
   “Lavendik-Straub toothpaste. New Innovative Formula! Say NO to bleeding gums!” Followed by a long list of chemicals and other ingredients and warning: “May cause a slight feeling of numbness.” Liene shrugged and continued brushing, if anything it really was better than most other things she normally used. Unless it was all a ploy by their enemies!? Maybe they planted this toothpaste here for her to use! And the mouth feels numb because of the poison they put in it?! Could it be that she was being sneakily assassinated at this very moment-

“Heeey, Liene, are you up yet?” Rami’s voice, followed by a hard knock on the door snapped her out of it. She quickly washed out her mouth and rushed out of the bathroom.
“Yes yes, I’m coming” She swung the door open, nearly tackling Rami in the process. “Crap, sorry gramps!”
“Never mind,” Rami waved his hand dismissively, purposely ignoring the nickname. “Cree is waiting already. And I don’t want to hear his sarcastic remarks this early in this shitty morning, so let’s go.”
“Well, somebody’s grumpy…”
“I’m always grumpy.”

The door to Cree’s suite was slightly creaked open in an inviting way. Music could be heard from the inside. It felt a bit nostalgic to Liene – he was listening to Die Toten Hosen. Hearing German again, for the first time in weeks was refreshing.  The room itself looked very different from yesterday. The excerpts from local newspapers and pages from the case file covered the walls. The glass table that used to stand in the centre of the room was gone and the glass from it was mounted on the wall, making an impromptu whiteboard. The photos from four specific victims were pinned to it with writing done in a red marker listing key similarities between them. Before Liene had a chance to express he legitimate feelings of “what the flying fuck” Cree himself entered the room from the kitchen. He looked surprisingly energetic. His suit’s jacket was gone, leaving him in a white shirt and black vest. Rolled up sleeves added to the dishevelled look, created by messy hair and faint black circles under his eyes. He placed the jug full of coffee that he had in his hand on the cupboard and waved at them.

“Good morning ye lazy bastards! Grab some coffee and freshen up, we have a lot of work to do!” He opened the cupboard and pulled out several cups, gesturing the due to grab them.
“W-what the hell have you done to this place?” Rami finally managed to squeeze out the lingering question.
“Huh? I turned it into a proper workplace, obviously.” Cree raised an eyebrow. “Stop asking retarded questions bro.”
Rami opened his mouth to say something, but failed to come up with a decent enough comeback. Liene in the meantime gladly poured herself a cup of hot coffee. If anything she was glad to drink some proper brew, and not the dissolving instant shit-drink they served back at her work.  Taking a nice savoury sip, she turned to Cree.
“When did you get the time to do all this?”
“Mmm? Ah, tonight. I did it tonight.”
“Really? Did you even get any sleep?” Liene raised her eyebrows in disbelief.
“Please,” Cree smirked. “Sleep is for weaklings! Hahahahah!”

“Kill me… kill me now….” With a loud moan Melo stumbled into the room. “Seriously, just shoot me… ughhh…” He had sizeable black bags under his eyes. Arms trembling and with a breath that could rival a dragon’s, Melo was a positive wreck. A massive splitting headache signalled the mother of all hangovers. Liene jumped up and helped him down into a chair while Rami reasonably turned down the music.
“The hell happened to you, Melon?” Liene scurried about trying to find something that would make him more comfortable.
“Good half a litre of a 45% high quality Rum on top of a litre of cheap 55% scotch, that’s what.” Cree replied with a smirk. “Told ya to be careful with Appleton’s - it hits heavy if you’re not careful.”
Melo only groaned in response.
Cree sighed at the glare Liene and Rami gave him and disappeared into the kitchen. A minute later he returned with a cold can of Duvel in his hand.
“Here, have this then top it off with coffee, should bring you back to life.” He threw the can to Melo. “Nothing better to beat a hangover than a can of Belgian lager, eh, bro?”
Melo caught the can and quickly popping it open, began drinking greedily. Less than a minute later he leaned back into the chair with a sigh of relief.
“Thanks that helped.” He gratefully nodded to Liene and picked up the cup of coffee she brought for him. “So, where are Wolf and Hema?”
Cree shrugged. “Late as usual, I suppose. We’ll wait for them, and then go over the plan for today.”
Rami and Liene nodded in agreement.

It was some good twenty more minutes before Wolf and Hema finally showed up. Cree was about to chew them out for being late, but it turned out the duo had good reason. They came in carrying several plates filled with food: several burgers, chips, salad and jugs of sauce. Suddenly everyone, Cree included, realised that they didn’t have a single bite since they got off the plane. The hunger hit them like a truck – hard and quick. In seconds the food was divided between everyone, and for a few minutes, everyone just ate in silence. The much needed breakfast charged everyone up, giving the gang back the energy they didn’t even realize they had run out of. Even Melo seemed to get the colour of life to come back to his face.
Finally once everyone was done with their plates and coffee, Cree clapped his hands and jumped up from his chair and approached the makeshift whiteboard. Picking up a marker he drew a vertical line and marked each side “Recon” and “Info” respectively.
“Alright guys, the plan for today is simple. We’ll be splitting into two teams - Reconnaissance and Information Gathering. The recon team will go with me,” He wrote his name into the recon column. “And survey the known crime scenes. Get a feel for the area, so to speak. The info group, in the meantime will be in charge of gathering as much intel on this little town as possible. Should prove to be quite challenging, since this town has no digital footprint at all. Any volunteers?”
Rami raised his hand. “Info. And I want Liene with me.” Liene moaned in disdain while Cree turned to Rami in surprise.
“Really? I thought she’d be more useful with the recon.”
Rami shook his head. “Since we can’t use internet we’d have to go to the council building to check their physical records manually. And I really bloody doubt that they will let us go through everything. Soo… we might have to gain access to restricted files in a more… direct way. Catch my drift?”
“Hehe, I see.” Cree smirked and turned to Liene. “Any objections?”
“None at all.” Liene seemed a lot more enthusiastic, now that a prospect of breaking and entering was introduced. Cree nodded and wrote their names into the info column.
“But!” Liene raised her finger. “If we’re talking about stealing records from a protected building, we’ll need at least one more person as a lookout. Somebody inconspicuous, somebody young, with an honest face… “A pause hung in the air as everyone turned to Hema at the same time. He blinked a few times before realizing what was going on.
“But-but-but, we don’t know if you’ll have to break into anything, do we? Aren’t we getting a little bit ahead of ourselves? Maybe you won’t need me at all!” His voice was filled with notes of desperation.
Rami shrugged. “While you do have a point, it’s better to be prepared, rather than to be caught shorthanded.”
Liene, Melo and Wolf all nodded at the same time. Cree then clapped his hands with an evil smile, “It’s decided then!” and wrote Hema in under info.
Hema fell back into his chair and hung his head. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……”

Cree turned to Melo and Wolf with a silent question in his eyes. Wolf shook his copy of the case file he picked up from Cree yesterday and stood up.
“Recon, I want to examine the crime scenes myself. Something in the forensic reports just keeps on nagging me.”  Cree nodded and put his name on the board.
Melo stood up with a grunt, checked the Beretta he had holstered on his back, and then slapped himself on the face twice to wake up completely.
“Not much of a choice really. Only fresh air, only recon, only hardcore!”  Having said that he cocked his gun and holstered it back.
 Cree’s smile turned vicious. “Everything is decided then. Now…” He walked to the cupboard and pulled out a plastic bag. He emptied the contents onto the now vacant chair, where Melo had been sitting – inside were five cheap phones. “Burners, pre-paid. We contact each other in three hours or once we discover something. As usual, ditch if compromised. All understood?”
Wolf picked up his phone and handed the rest to the others.
“Business as usual then?”
“Indeed.”  Cree smirked and then threw Rami a car key. “The one on the left is yours. Drive carefully.”
“Wait, didn’t your friends drive off in the second car?”
“Don’t think too much about it,” Cree frowned. “They returned it yesterday night.”
Rami nodded and headed out. Liene and Hema quickly followed suite. Cree casually straightened out the sleeves of his shirt, grabbed the jacket and winked to Melo. “Roll out?”
Melo nodded. “Damn straight.”
“Wolf, you got your gun?”
“Yeah,” Wolf patted his side. “Safe and sound under the sweater.”
“Good!” Cree then reached behind the chair and pulled out his over the shoulder holster. He put it on, tightened it with Melo’s help, and put on the jacket - concealing the weapon completely. He then paused for a second sniffing the air.
“Hmm… looks like I’m driving.”
Melo snorted. “Get going, smartass.”


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