Adelphi car park. 6 p.m. Bring the box. ?
The message is from Alastor. The Adelphi car park is a disused space to the west side of town. At one time, it was overflowing, but then they developed the east side. Made it plush. Anyone who could afford it relocated, leaving the west side discarded. No-one wanted to be seen there anymore, and so over time, it fell to ruin. Now, the only people who wander those streets are vagrants and troublemakers.
Anyone with half an ounce of common sense avoids the west side of town and the Adelphi car park. I certainly have no intention of going there.
For one, I returned from my holiday without the box Alastor craves so deeply, having left it with a mysterious varulven tribe on Tiverna Isle. I suspect he won’t be happy about that. For another, I want control over the location of our next meeting. I have something special in mind.
I arrive at Alastor’s block of apartments at 4:30 p.m. and scope out the place from the street. I’m wearing a baseball cap, jogging bottoms, and a loose v-necked t-shirt, just heading to the gym after work, like all the other overpaid schmucks around here. To complete the disguise, I’m sipping on a frappe latte whilst staring at my phone with my wireless Bluetooth earphones in. Always ready to do business…
Except I’m listening to Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”, and my phone is showing me a live feed from Alastor’s apartment. He’s just left after spending the last ten minutes watching a rerun of The Jerry Springer Show whilst playing absently with his knives. He’s got some skills.
To explain, I’ve been back from my holiday for over a week now. I had to find…alternative means of transport after being left stranded on Tiverna Isle (I don’t want to talk about it), and so I ended up returning before everyone else. Of course, I didn’t tell Alastor that. Instead, I stalked him. I knew where he lived after my detective work, and so I watched his apartment. I then followed him and studied his routine and his habits. Then I used tiny cameras to watch him input the key codes to his apartment. He uses the same code for everything, even his alarms: 1031. I don’t know if it means anything.
Alastor is a creature of habit. He goes to get his morning papers every day at 8 a.m. He skim reads them all, broadsheets and tabloids, then goes for a workout. Usually the gym, but sometimes a run. Then he gets back and works on his laptop. He goes through emails and makes calls. And then he disappears on a job—someone’s life to ruin somewhere.
I know all this because I snuck into his apartment one morning and fixed cameras everywhere. In hindsight, the camera in the toilet was excessive. I quickly regretted that one. Someone should tell him to eat some fruit, though. Good grief!
Alastor walks towards me, oblivious. He checks his watch and then picks up the pace. He has plenty of time before our meeting. The one I have no intention of going to, but I suspect he wants to get to the Adelphi car park early to set it up for whatever dastardly plan he has conjured up. I walk straight past him and drop a GPS tracker the size of a thumbnail into the pocket of his jacket. Now I’ll know exactly where he is and when he’s on his way back. He’s too distracted to notice. I can’t help but smile.
I watch a red dot on my phone as it moves further from my position and then make my way to Alastor’s apartment. Someone kindly opens the door to the complex for me, and I retrieve Alastor’s spare key card from his post box using code 1031. Then I go up to the penthouse, humming along to the panpipes in the lift.
There are cameras as I leave the lift. This is the point at which I am most exposed. If Alastor is watching them, he’ll see an intruder enter his property, and it’ll ruin the surprise. But I figure the odds of him watching a live-feed of his apartment are slim, and I’m willing to take my chances. He has plenty to keep him occupied right now. I use his key card to open the door and punch 1031 into the alarm system. I hold my breath. There’s a pleasant dee dum dum noise that tells me I’ve deactivated the system, and I breathe out.
I’m in…and I have work to do.
It’s 8:10 p.m. The red dot on my phone ambles towards Alastor’s apartment, where I’m ready for him. He would have been back earlier, but he stopped at McDonald’s. The thought of a Big Mac made me hungry, and I helped myself to a pot noodle I found in a cupboard whilst I waited. The man earns big money. You would think he’d have something a little more appetising. Now the gloop sits uncomfortably in my stomach, and I need the toilet. I’ll just have to hold it in.
I can hear fumbling at the door, and the hairs on my arms stand up. I suddenly panic that I’ve missed something, but I’ve run through the plan in my head a hundred times. It will work. The nerves aren’t good for my bowels, though. Should have gone when I had the chance.
Alastor walks in and slams the door. He picks up a chair and smashes it against the wall. Then he squats down, punches the floor and screams. I got the impression he was in a foul mood when I didn’t turn up for the meeting. He sent me 12 (that’s right, 12) messages describing the pain and torment he intends to inflict on me for my insolence. I watch as he scrambles for his phone and furiously types something. My phone buzzes. Make that 13 messages.
“Hi Alastor,” I say casually.
He looks up. Usually, he wears sunglasses to hide his eyes in public, but alone in his apartment, he has taken them off, and I can see hatred emanating from them. They are crimson laser beams that burn hatred into your sole. You would never beat him in a staring competition.
Alastor gasps and jumps in the air. “You!” he froths and then screws his fists into balls. There’s a look of complete confusion on his face. He opens and closes his mouth like a fish grasping for food on the surface of the water.
“Nice apartment,” I say, and I mean it.
“You!” he says again. He’s facing me, but his eyes are darting around the room.
Alastor’s apartment is mostly open plan. As you walk in, there is a bathroom on the right (should have gone), and a kitchen on the left. Directly in front is a huge living area with a massive television mounted on the wall, an eating area, and a glass window that looks out onto the city. The bedroom is on the next floor, which you access via a fancy winding staircase positioned close to the eating area. At the bottom of the stairs is Alastor’s office, which comprises a desk, two laptops, a printer, and a comfy office chair. The office sits beneath the staircase. He sees me as I lounge back in the office chair with my feet on the desk, my features hidden by the shadows.
Alastor is standing near the television. He weighs up his options and then slowly moves towards a mahogany cabinet.
“I took the liberty of removing your Beretta from your cabinet,” I tell him.
He checks his stride and takes a seat at the table.
“I also took the liberty of removing your Glock from under the table,” I tell him as his fingers search for the gun.
He grunts. “You made a mistake coming here,” he informs me, having regained some of his confidence.
He doesn’t know I have recovered my powers. Yet.
He stands up. His feet are shoulder-width apart, and his arms are loose by his side. His body is slightly tense, like a tennis player waiting to return a serve. He gives me a brief smile, and then he launches his knives at me. Two seconds. Four knives. Perfect precision. Left shoulder, right shoulder, left foot, right foot.
Except it’s not me, and Alastor has just disarmed himself.
As the creator of mankind, I have some special skills. I think you mortals would call me a Golem Maker. Basically, I can shape clay and animate it, bringing it to life. That’s right, follow your family tree back far enough, and you’ll find that you’re related to a lump of clay. Most of humanity has evolved since then, thanks to fire. What can I say except, you’re welcome. I say most because there are still a few humans out there with the IQ of a plant pot. I’m sure you could name some…
The problem with the golems I create is that they have a limited life span and are…let’s say simple. Hence why I placed this one in the corner of the room, with its feet up, hidden by a shadow.
The knives plunge into the golem, and it disintegrates. Alastor leans forward and stares. His brow furrows, and he scratches his chin.
I emerge from behind the coat stand, cock the Glock I retrieved earlier from under the table, and gently place its muzzle against the back of Alastor’s head.
His neck muscles tense, and he places his arms in the air. Then he laughs. He wants to sound aggressive, but it comes out as a nervous whimper.
“You fire that, and everyone in the building will hear it,” he tells me. “Police will be here in minutes.”
“I have no intention of firing it,” I say. And then I pistol whip him on the back of his head. He falls forward and places one hand on the floor to steady himself. I do it again, and his body crumples in a heap on the floor.
It’s time for a chat, except this time, he’ll be the one in chains.