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Hunt More Precious than a Green Stone
I watched Belinda getting onto the cable car that was headed up the hill. Quickly, I ran and jumped onto the back as the cable car began to pull away.
I would have had trouble with the ticket agent if it wasn’t for the gun in my hand and the badge on my belt. He backed off with a quiet stare. Following my gaze, he was bewitched by Belinda’s beauty. He darted after me. She had this effect on men of weak mind. I would have fallen off if it wasn’t for the bar slamming up against my back. Tossing the man off the trolley, his body cracked and thudded as he rolled down the hill. A blood-soaked street ...
I turned my attention back to Belinda. Fuck! She’d vanished. That fucking prick! I’d been hunting down this woman for weeks with no luck. I’d have no clue as to where to scour next if it wasn’t for the letter I found at my feet addressed to me.
It was 3 a.m. when I arrived back to my flea-infested motel. A new record for me as the days without sleep turned into
weeks of nightmares. Insomnia is a bitch.
The Captain at the precinct had kept me longer than expected. He was viscerally upset when my employer had spoken to him over the phone. ”What do you mean ‘set him free?’” the captain protested. ”This man of yours just killed a man, for no apparent reason, with a slew of witnesses around,” his voice rose a little louder, becoming squeaker, ”and I’m to let him go?” His eyes darted in my direction. I saw him about to crack. ”What am I supposed to tell the press?” My employer ensured him that he’d take care of the press if the precinct did its job and labelled the body bag with the tag ”DNI” (Do not investigate).
Reluctantly, the Captain released me. My employer had ties to power most would never dare touch. Those who dared to challenge him were usually found with a couple missing body parts in the middle of town or possibly at the bottom of a flight of stairs. ”Unsolved” murder/suicides were abound. This place was beyond crooked.
I sat down on the bed. I finally had time to get to the letter I’d hidden in my trench coat pocket that was hidden beneath a pocket. This pocket had saved a few useful items in the past when I’d gotten into trouble for the blatant disregard for life.
Other than the obvious clue ”Addressed to you, Detective,” she had left a kiss mark, formed from the blue lipstick she wore.
I slapped my neck. ”Fucking fleas!”
Opening the letter, I read:
I know why you don't sleep at night. I've watched you in your half-hazy sleep toss and turn. Yes, I've done my research. You thought I didn't know about you? No matter.
Your awakening is coming. You first have to chase this mouse a few more times around the block before your mind will be free enough to see that the shadow and the light cannot be without the other.
You have been to the Garden. Follow the smell. Seek the maid who is more precious than a green stone.
Your employer is banking on the life you've lead up until this very moment.
A sweet kiss, Detective.
There was a knock at my door.
“Arnold?” a voice asked behind the door to the apartment. “It’s Fik. We need to chat.”
I reached for the forty-five on the table.
“Our mutual benefactor has a concern,” the man continued, knocking again. “He’s thinks your mark is going to best you. That the hunter will become the prey.”
By now, pistol in hand, I was making my way to the rear window.
“Going to be like that?” Fik asked. “Fair enough.”
I took one last glance as a purple fog embraced the door, undoing the three different locks. I heard the door slam open as I raced down the fire escape. Holding the letter close, my mind repeated the words over and over.
You’ve been to the garden. Follow the smell.
“Not a good sight, Arnold!” Fik called out above me. “Seeing you run like that. S’alright, though! I like the chase.”
I hung from the bottom of the fire escape ladder then landing on the cold alleyway. Snow padded under my shoes as I ran towards the Bellast Avenue. There was a rumble as the ground shook behind me.
My mouth dropped. Fik had simply leapt from my four story apartment and landed in the alley. Fik, a name hardly human.
As was the man before me.
A purple fog hovered around him. He dressed entirely in black leather. Where his eyes should be were sockets, from which the fog seeped.
He smiled. I fired my pistol at the creature. The fat forty-five rounds stopped dead at the fog. Like landing in jello, they sunk for a brief moment before landing on the snowy concrete.
Fik laughed. I sprinted for the Gardens. It was an obvious reference in the letter. Baltimore Gardens, an indoor arboretum kept warm year round. Just blocks from my apartment.
I heard the crunch of snow behind me. Fik was close, and gaining. It was all my energy not to turn around and check. My only hope was that Belinda, the fire haired witch that I’d tracked across the country, could somehow now save me from my Benfactor’s hired gun.
I darted through traffic, horns blaring. “Come on Arny!” Fik shouted. “Why you running?”
The snow was melted around the heated building. Baltimore Arboretum arced across the glass in blue letters. I pushed my way through the ticket line and through the bronze-handled doors, ignoring the protests of security guards. Their shouts lasted only a moment before screams took over and I knew Fik was right behind me.
The air was moist, heated and full of pine. I sprinted down a path at random, off to the exhibit for exotic trees. Enclosed in a grove of dragon trees, Belinda stood, arms outstretched. Her acolytes, bewitched men and women, knelt in prayer. She smiled at my arrival. I wanted nothing more than to kiss her full, blue lips.
“Are you the shadow, or the light?” I asked, gasping. I turned to see Fik stride into the room, a skeletal grin.
“Today,” her acolytes spoke in unison, “we’re fire.”