Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Friday, April 09, 2004

I read Greyghost's note three times. It was clear and unambiguous, but I felt the need to make sure of it anyway:

Fill a garbage can with strawberry Kool-Aid. Take it to the back door of 344 Markwardt between 2:45 and 3:10 pm. Ask for Cole.

It's like a damn scavenger hunt around here. I got the note around noon, collected a dolly and a yardstick from one of the back rooms and went shopping. I bought a new garbage can and some waterproof tape and chucked it in the back of the company car. The capacity of the can was listed on the label, so I noted that down on a piece of paper and went into a bulk grocery store. Checked the directions on the Kool-Aid box and figured out how much powder had to go with how much water to top up the garbage can. Bought an armful of Kool-Aid.

Now what?

I had to show up at wherever this place was with a full garbage can, so I couldn't have it lying down in the trunk. Fine. I propped it up in the passenger seat, with the seat belt on, and poured the powder in. Then I stopped at a do-it-yourself car wash and used the hose to fill the can, stopping at two-thirds to stir it with the yardstick.

The carwash guy came over. "What are you doing?"

I looked at the hose, the Kool-Aid, the yardstick, then back at him. "Washing my car. Why?"

"Bullshit. What the hell is in that garbage can?"

"Water." Apparently, I'll lie about anything.

"Get your water somewheres else. There's people lined up to get their cars washed."

I handed him a twenty. "I'm almost done here."

He popped his gum at me, and walked off, saying, "Next time get your water somewheres else."

This guy would never stay in business in Keysbury. It's only in the big city you can get away with lousy service like that.

I finished filling the garbage can, put the lid on and taped it up good. It was two o'clock. I got some lunch and was driving down Markwardt at five to three. Number 344 turned out to be a Korean restaurant.

There was a conveniently wide alley behind the restaurant. I drove up to the back door and knocked on it. A guy in an apron opened up.

"I'm here to see Cole," I told him.

He nodded and closed the door on me. Well, this is great. Now what?

A moment later an upstairs window opened and a skinny bearded guy poked his head out. "You Relser?"


"Thank God! I'll be down in a moment."

And he was. "Hi," I said. "You Cole?"

"Yeah. That the stuff in the passenger seat? We'll never get it in through the kitchen, but that's okay. We can take it around front."

We wrestled the garbage can onto the dolly and wheeled it out to the sidewalk "What do you want this for?" I asked.

"Shhh. Come on."

There was a little step at the front door of the restaurant, but not too bad. I was hauling the dolly behind me and Cole was guiding it. We were easing it between a couple of tables--everyone in the place staring at us, of course--when I heard a voice from over my shoulder.

"Dennis?" It was Ron.

I jerked upright with surprise, letting the dolly tip up. The garbage can landed heavily. It didn't fall over, but the lid splashed open, spattering Cole and some poor restaurant patron with red liquid. The guy stood up and shouted at us in, I guess, Korean.

While Cole was calming him down, I said, "Hey, Ron. What's going on?"

"Having lunch with Tracy." Tracy was Ron's tablemate; I can never keep track of Ron's women. "What are you doing here?"

Everybody in the restaurant seemed to want to hear my answer. Could I explain? No. Is there a lie that would cover this? No. "Just dropping off some stuff. Listen, I'll talk to you later, okay?" Couldn't wait for that conversation.

Cole interrupted. "Relser, how much money you got on you?"

"I don't know, why?"

"You can charge expenses?"


Cole raised his voice. "Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for this disruption. To make up for it, my friend here will pay for all your meals!" Waiters converged on me.

I sorted out credit cards and bills and things, and Cole continued wheeling the garbage can into the back. I gave Ron a final wave and chased Cole.

He had gone through a few doors and was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. "Help me get this damn thing upstairs," he said. I looked up. Pretty steep.

We eventually managed it, but we were both exhausted and covered with Kool-Aid by the time we got the garbage can to the top. What with all the splashing, it was probably only three-quarters full. We put it back on the dolly and rolled it down the hall to a little apartment, and into the bathroom.

Cole immediately ladled some of the Kool-Aid into the bathtub. There was a little blue guy with a beak, gills, and about ten arms lying in the tub, wheezing and bubbling, and he relaxed visibly as the red liquid trickled over him. "Good," Cole said. "This ought to hold us for a while." He took a cassette out of his back pocket and handed it to me. "This is all I've got out of him so far," he went on. I noticed a tape recorder, running, sitting on the back of the toilet tank. "He ought to be a bit stronger tomorrow and I'll try to get him to say more then. Did Greyghost tell you anything about when the truck'd be ready to take him home?"

"No, sorry."

"All right. What is it, five after three? You'd better get out of here; Santos is going to be by any minute." Right. Wouldn't want to be here for Santos. Whoever the hell he is. I cleared out.

There's a tape deck in the car, but you couldn't have paid me enough to listen to the cassette Cole gave me.
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