Part IV: Nowhere All at Once
Moses needed a gun. He wasn’t partial to packing heat, but with his girlfriend kidnapped and at least four other parties bearing down on this strange idol, he’d have to adjust. Stepping out into the street, Moses hailed another cab. It was a noticeably grungier vehicle than the bright yellow taxi he’d ridden in earlier, a faded red sedan with a flickering light crudely bolted to the roof that read “Best Taxi.” The driver rolled down the window and flashed a toothy yellowed grin.
“Where to, Mac?”
“Hammond drive,” Moses said as he got into the car. He’d barely closed the door before the taxi sped off into the brightening dawn. Ironic, Moses thought, usually this was the kind of shot that was saved for the end of the movie, the triumphant hero and his girl Friday settling into the back seat as the music swelled and the camera panned upwards. Funny how that always happened. Funny how a lot of things that had happened to Moses recently “always happened”. The strange idol, the beautiful woman, and the pulse-pounding hard- boiled chase for the unobtainable…thing. It was funny, but Moses didn’t laugh. As the cab ferried him across the sprawling concrete strip that pierced the heart of the city, Moses thought about what he’d have to do, about the men who would probably need to die. Would they be family men? Moses supposed not.
They’d been driving an awful while. The road just seemed to continue on and on. He’d been sure that they were only a few minutes out from the city but he’d been in the car for what felt like a long time. He cleared his throat.
The cabbie kept his eyes fixed on the road and made no move, no gesture to indicate he’d heard Moses. Moses tried again. “’Scuse me.”
The cabbie made no response. Moses reached up through the seats.
“Hey Buddy, you there?” As soon as Moses’ hand brushed against the cabbie’s shoulder the driver turned, quickly but with a stiffness that Moses found odd. He flashed Moses that same toothy grin as before. “What can I do for you mister?” he queried, coyly raising an eyebrow.
“Shouldn’t we be in the city by now?” Moses asked.
There was a beat; a moment of silence and then the driver wordlessly turned his attention back to the road and started to whistle. Something was definitely wrong, very, very wrong, and Moses was about to increase the fervor of his enquiries when it started to rain. There was something soothingly distracting about the rain, about watching the drops scurry down the car window. When Moses had been a child he would race them, selecting a favorite droplet with his index finger and tracing it down, guiding it to victory against the others. Now it was different. The water warped the window, making it into a kind of funhouse mirror, distorting and entangling the taillights with the industrial edifices and the never-ending road. Suddenly, Moses felt very unsure of where he was or in what direction the cab was traveling. A moment ago, he could have sworn that the sun was rising but now it looked like it was setting. Supposedly they’d been traveling to the city, but there was nothing in front of the car, nothing but road and rain. Moses turned around and saw the skyline receding into the distance.
Suddenly, he felt the cab slow to a halt. He looked out the his window; on the road there was a small restaurant, a wood, one floor affair with flickering neon green letters that read “Loucura.” Moses had never seen the place before. As he left the taxi, he remarked this to the driver, who shrugged and said:
“It’s where you wanted to go.”
Moses should have argued, said something, anything. But he felt strangely numb. He paid the driver, who tipped his cap without making eye contact, and walked inside.
The first thing Moses noticed was the smoke. It was thick and bilious, instantly enveloping him like the embrace of a long lost lover. Moses inhaled. The air was rich and the place smelled of smoky wood and drink. Moses relaxed. He’d been under such tension these past days. This case, the dead cat, the lost idol…all this running. Here was something he could appreciate: a dark place somewhere he couldn’t be found. Moses fantasized of curling up in a corner booth and just waiting this all out. The idea of letting the smoke drift over him like a blanket, of being washed out to sleep by a gentle tide of steady booze was so intoxicating that he could scarcely focus his thoughts.
“Janine!” he thought to suddenly himself, and an icy cold determination flooded through his veins, reinvigorating Moses, propelling him towards a bar stool which he slammed his weight down upon with purpose. A tall, tan man in a dark shirt stood behind the bar polishing glasses. Moses brought his palm down on the counter. Without turning around the man said:
“Can I help you?” Moses thought his accent might be South American, but it was hard to tell.
“I’m here to see Big Suze,” Moses said. The man behind the counter turned and stared briefly into Moses’ eyes, sizing him up. He chuckled. “You must be Mr. Moses.”
“I might be.” Moses narrowed his eyes. “What’s it to you?”
The barman chuckled again, a rich, hearty laugh that sent smoke rushing towards Moses’ face like a wave racing towards the shore.
“It is not important to me, Mr. Moses, but it is important.”
The barman led Moses behind the counter and ushered him towards a long passage with a bend in it. As they made their way down the hall, away from the soft warm glow of the bar and into the dim flickering neon light Moses tried to remember why he was here, or where here was.
“Big Suze,” the Barman helpfully supplied.
“Right,” said Moses.
Big Suze was the go-to-gal for a piece in this town. She was a large Albanian woman with one blind eye and a penchant for arms trafficking. Years ago, Big Suze was married to Little Marty. Little Marty was a small ruthless man who through sheer determination and cutthroat dealings had sectioned off for himself a small portion of the city’s arms trade. Unfortunately for Marty, he was as ugly as a bag of possums that had been decomposing for a week, so he ordered himself a bride from a catalogue. Marty was doubtlessly expecting a big-boobed, submissive twenty-year-old with a better grasp of cooking than English. What he got was Big Suze. In a little less than a year, Marty was dead and Big Suze had taken over the family business, doubled its size, and whacked about a quarter of the competition. She also owed Moses a favor. Big Suze was not to be messed with. Moses knew she wouldn’t think twice about having anybody who looked at her wrong kneecapped, but she was good for her word.
Moses and the barman reached the door. As Moses stepped into the room, he caught a whiff that reminded him of when he’d last returned to Janine’s apartment. He should have guessed. Big Suze’s chamber was garishly plush. Purple carpeting and gold leaf wallpaper surrounded him. There were several high backed leather chairs and a fireplace full of burning embers, replete with an ornate set of diamond tipped fireplace tools. A shovel, brush, and pair of tongs all rested gingerly in their ornate holder. The poker, however, was currently lying on the floor, covered with the same dried blood that was caked on the head of Big Suze’s prostrate corpse.
Moses wheeled around, but the Bartender had already left and locked the door behind him. Suddenly, a figure rose from one of the leather chairs turned away from Moses and emitted a familiar throaty laugh.
“You’re a little late, Mr. Goodreau. I’d have expected you to be here at least an hour ago.”
“Oliver,” Moses growled.
“You’re surprised?” Oliver chuckled. Moses held his ground and took Oliver’s measure. He was wearing brown loafers and a well-tailored grey pinstripe with flecks of blood on the lapels. His hands were gloved and Moses watched silently as he examined his suit.
“Well,” Oliver said nonchalantly, “in the pursuit of anything worthwhile there’s bound to be some collateral damage. I’m sure you understand, Mr. Goodreau.”
“Collateral damage?” Moses boiled.
“Yes. It’s a shame too. I just bought this suit a month ago.”
Moses dug his heels into the carpet and sprang forward. Oliver let loose a high-pitched squeal and leapt aside, drawing a small pistol from within his coat pocket. Moses went tumbling into the feet of the chair, his head cracking against one of the solid oak legs.
“Surprising, Mr. Goodreau! Always surprising! Yet, predictable enough.”
Moses cursed and rose to his feet slowly.
“Steady, Mr. Goodreau. Don’t try anything else foolish. It would be very unpleasant for you.”
“What did you want with Big Suze?” Moses spat.
If Oliver heard him, he paid no attention, beginning to circle Moses steadily. The scent of Suze’s body was beginning to grow unbearable. Moses tried to prevent himself from gagging as the stench overtook him.
“You Americans are so peculiar about your guns, aren’t you? It’s a very holy relationship you’ve got there.”
Moses made no reply.
Oliver continued, “It’s all very odd to me. There’s something incredibly phallocentric about it. I mean it’s undeniably…” He wrapped his fingers around the barrel of the revolver tenderly and raised an eyebrow. “Well, you get the idea. I thought this might turn you on.”
“You freak,” Moses spat.
“Come now, Mr. Goodreau, let’s be a little open minded. In your cultural lexicon, the gun is so much more than a tool of death, it is The Gun! Instant masculinity, just add water. It’s a sacrosanct right here, isn’t it? The right to procreate, the right to bear arms. It’s all very… difficult to separate to a foreigner like myself. Over there we’ve got a lot more clarity.”
“What are you talking about?” Moses said, reeling. His head had begun to ache fiercely and there was a dull pounding that seemed to emanate from somewhere deep inside him, not his head but a lower place, a mysterious well beyond the flesh and soul that couldn’t be pinned down.
“Oh no, I rather like it here. It’s much more fun to dance in this liminal space you’ve carved out for yourself. Shades of grey and all that.”
“What do you want?!” Moses weakly shouted.
“You don’t know?” Oliver smirked. “I want you to save the day, Mr. Goodreau. I want you to find this Idol and play us all against each other. I want a clever solution to this mystery and I damn sure want to be surprised. Satisfy me, won’t you?”
The smell of the body was growing stronger and the pounding in Moses’ head was unrelenting. He was going to be sick.
“I suppose it’s only sporting that I give you a fair chance though. Don’t disappoint.”
Moses’ vision began to flicker, the room around him warped and swayed, bending just out of existence in his peripherals. Suddenly, he heard a soft thump and felt something land in front of him. Moses’ hands fumbled about, his soul burned, and his limbs went numb. He was drowning in the air. As his fingers sunk into the carpet, feeling for the object that had landed in front of him, Moses knew that these next few breaths would be his last. Then, he found it. His hands wrapped around the butt of Oliver’s gun.
And he breathed. And he breathed again.
Moses could feel something new surge through him, his blood began to course evenly through his veins, the valves of his heart began to open and close, and the machine- apparatus that was his body was once more functional. He examined the gun. It was a .45 caliber revolver. Moses knew these packed quite a kick and was surprised at how heavy it felt in his hand. He let the weight of the gun carry him out the door, stopping briefly to look at the face-down body of Big Suze.
“What an ugly, useless corpse,” Moses thought
As he walked down the dimly lit hallway he wondered what he was supposed to be doing there and thought about how odd it was that he had thought the corpse useless, and how it was even stranger that he was striding ahead so confidently with no idea of where he was going.
It was hard to remember. He was sure there was something, something he needed to get. And someone. He was sure of that. There was someone he needed to help, someone who needed rescuing, who needed a hero. Who needed a man with a gun and a will and the capacity for terrible, monstrous action. He was capable of this. Moses knew he could be that man, the kind of stranger stepping out of the shadows to dispense justice. Yes, that was his purpose.
Yes. That was it.
As he stepped out of the bar, a battered old red car with a flickering neon sign on top that read “Best Taxi” pulled up. The driver leaned out the window and flashed Moses a toothy, knowing grin.
“Where to Mac?” he asked.
To be continued in Moses Goodreau and The Matter of the False Idol: Part V