BLOOD & SWINE: A Comedy of Terrors
(2009, unpublished) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters
- - -
CHAPTER 5: His Master's Voice
In the early afternoon, Carl had located the UGG office in the city docklands. The only sign on its door was a piece of cardboard with the letters "UGG," next to a much larger BEWARE OF THE DOG sign. The door belonged to a rusty, badly maintained warehouse.
He spotted a security camera by the door, and decided not to knock or try the handle. A lot about the UGG just smelled rotten – though that activist, Martina, had seemed sincere and decent. If he dug deeper into this, it might hurt her. But then again, thought Carl, would it be better to let the UGG corrupt her good intentions even more?
He made a wide circling movement around the warehouse and found another entrance: a rusty hole in the corrugated sheet wall, half concealed behind a barrel. It was just wide enough for him to crawl through. Sharp edges in the hole tore at his new suit, but he ignored it.
Carl got in, and got up on his feet. The interior was unlit, but slivers of daylight shone feebly through dirty windowpanes up high. And he saw that the warehouse was stacked with what must be loot: expensive-looking cars wrapped in plastic sheets, crates of consumer goods... and an enormous pile of cigarette cartons that reached almost up to the ceiling. Some environmentalists!
He heard conversation in Russian, and carefully moved closer toward it. Only a few words of Russian made sense to him, but he recognized the voices of the two UGG leaders. They sounded tense. One of them mentioned his name, "Carl Olson" – they had read his badge.
Then he heard one of them speak English, as if trying to sound like a movie gangster: "We move in and bust a cap in Carl Olson's ass, bada-bing!"
Carl trembled and his bowels tightened. Those guys were going to find him and hurt him bad. He dug in his pocket for the phone, so he might make a video recording, perhaps catch them saying something incriminating. Then he could alert the police.
His fingers passed through the pocket. It had been torn when he crawled through the hole, and the phone had dropped out.
Suddenly the voices stopped, and he heard one of them gasp. Their steps moved in his direction, urgently. Carl rushed for the exit hole, tripped, and stumbled into the pile of cigarette cartons. The giant pile collapsed all over the floor. He waded through heaps of cartons reaching up to his chest, and heard the cold click of a gun safety behind him. Someone shouted at him to stop. He climbed out of the cigarette heap, ran for the hole, wiggled through, darted to his feet and kept running.
The two gangsters ran after. One of them fired a shot and it whizzed past Carl's head. He couldn't stop now even if he wanted; the intense fear made his feet move of their own will.
Only five minutes later, when he was safely out of the docklands and in a street crowd, did he stop and catch his breath.
Damn, he thought as he struggled to slow the frantic pace of his sore lungs, I left my phone at the warehouse. They'll find it and all my numbers! My relatives will be in danger! I've got to act fast!
He took a bus and then a taxi back to the Hogoration office, went into the lobby and asked for Max Freyt. The receptionist told Carl that Freyt was in a meeting with Mr. Drasco's assistant and must not be disturbed unless it was extremely important.
"It is important," Carl said to her and headed for Freyt's office.
Carl found that Freyt wasn't in his office, but the door to a meeting room next to it stood ajar and he could hear voices from inside.
He knocked on the open door twice and walked in. Max Freyt was sitting by a conference table, facing another man. The man had bushy black hair covering exactly half his scalp, pale features and a thin, owlish nose. The thick, large glasses he wore made his eyes seem huge and round.
Both men stared at Carl and his shoddy appearance.
"We're in a meeting. Who let you in here? What happened to your clothes?" Freyt sounded as if he were pretending not to recognize Carl.
"Mr. Freyt, the protesters... they are being led by Russian gangsters. I heard them threaten to attack me. And I think they might have my phone."
"What?" Freyt stood up. He blinked rapidly a few times, and made a jerky gesture like swatting at flies. "Don't come here with your outrageous stories. And you look like a bum! You're fired!"
The owlish man modestly cleared his throat – and Freyt froze where he stood. The man asked Carl, wagging one finger as he spoke: "You mean the protesters at HPU Eighty-Four?"
Carl nodded vigorously.
"And you know the whereabouts of their... leaders?"
Carl told him the street address, and added: "The protesters are stooges. The mafia must be paying them as part of an elaborate extortion scheme."
The owlish man nodded and turned to Max Freyt, who still had not moved. Calmly he asked: "Why haven't you informed Mr. Drasco about this extortion problem?"
Carl had never seen a man break into a sweat so fast before. It literally poured down from Freyt's wrinkled forehead. "It... I... it happened so fast. I haven't had time to look into it."
"But your assistant acted fast. And risked his health to get the crucial information, it appears." He peered at Carl's name badge. "Was it you who wrote that impressive paper on reforming industrial hog farming? The one Lucia Surunova showed me?"
The man got up from his chair, stooping slightly as he stood up, and shook hands with Carl. "Tom Mackott. Pleased to meet you." Mackott's lips did not smile; he had a clammy handshake. And he rarely blinked. When he pulled back his hand, its skin stuck to Carl's fingers like a Post-It note. Carl felt a cold shiver down his back. "Excuse me," said Mackott, "I must report to Mr. Drasco about this new information."
After Mackott had left the room, Max Freyt finally moved. Carl heard snapping noises from Freyt's back and limbs – the man was unbelievably tense.
"Did you know that Mackott always arrives ahead of Mr. Drasco, to scout the terrain for him?"
Carl shook his head. He was learning very quickly how this corporation worked.
Max let out a hiss of air. "Well, you're either a genius or blessed with a huge frickin' amount of luck. If Mackott hadn't been told about the mafia problem just now, he would have let me fire you. He hates shabby employees."
"Sorry. I had to run for my life." Carl started to move for the door, and did a double take. "I'm not fired?"
Carl came over and leaned on the table. "So what do we do? I think we should warn the protesters first. They can't know they're being set up."
Max waved his hand and frowned. "Screw those lazy hippies! Now go home and do absolutely nothing. Let the management handle this. Mr. Drasco has an exceptional ability to weather storms. Honestly, I don't know how he does it but he never fails."
The more Carl heard about the CEO, the more curious he got to see him. Oddly enough, he had never seen the CEO in the media. Drasco kept a low public profile... and yet people talked a lot about him.
"The boss... Jack Drasco... what's he like?"
For a moment Max showed a weary, weary smile. "Pray you'll never find out. Now go home."
"I can't! The gangsters might have my address. They said they were going to 'bust a cap in my ass!'"
Right then, Lucia Surunova entered the room, carrying a bundle of papers and CDs. "Here are the files you wanted, Mr. Mackott... oh. It's you."
"Lucy," said Max with a smile, "could you be an angel and please find Carl a room to stay in for the night? He thinks the Russian Mafia is looking for him. We don't have time to arrange police protection."
"I'm a business professional, not a concierge!" she snapped.
"Of course. Think of it as a marketing-related measure. We don't need the bad PR."
Max left the room in a hurry. Lucia glared after him, muttering curses under her breath.
"Look," Carl said, "don't listen to him. I can find somewhere to hide out until it's safe..."
Frowning, Lucia cut him off: "No. If Jack Drasco was impressed by your work, then I'll impress him by safekeeping you until this blows over. Come. You can sleep on my couch."
As they went into the elevator, she added: "And nothing else."
Right now, Carl worried that the protesters might get in trouble with the police. He thought: I hope that Mr. Drasco won't make a big fuss over them.
In a dark room, Mackott went down on his knees.
"Master," said he into a corner of the dank, unlit space which was his temporary apartment in the city. "Master, I have serious news! You must come here quickly!"
"Why do you bother me?" said a distant voice in the corner – or perhaps it was only in Mackott's mind. "I am on my way already."
Mackott told him about the Russian mobsters, and where Carl had found their headquarters.
"They are dead men," said the voice in the corner. "As soon as I arrive, I shall deal with them. No one in the corporation is allowed to say a word to the media or the police about this matter."
"Yes, Master." Mackott nodded as he prostrated himself, and then he made a polite cough. "What about..."
"The new recruit, Carl Olson. He was eager to investigate the matter. He could become a nuisance. Should I get rid of him?"
"No... no. He will be useful. And we don't want the bad publicity at this moment. Divert his attention."
"How do I... divert his attention?"
The voice made an exasperated sigh. "Corrupt him. Gifts, privileges. Leave the rest to me. All you short-lived people are so easily bought and sold. Now don't disturb me again until I call for you. I shall be at the Polish HQ tomorrow evening to meet the Minister. You will be there and ready to serve me."
"Yes, Master. Thank you Master."
Mackott groaned as he raised himself and straightened his stiff joints. He scoffed. "Corrupt him! Well isn't the Master in a generous mood..."
From the corner – or in Mackott's mind – the voice retorted: "I heard that."
Mackott started, dropped to the floor and prostrated himself so that his forehead bumped into the floor. "Yes Master, I obey Master..."
A large black bug crawled across the floor, past Mackott's head. He slammed one hand down over the insect and caught it unharmed. With a delighted smile, Mackott examined the struggling bug.
"Life," he said. "Your life becomes mine."
He shoved the insect into his mouth and chewed it down with a crunching noise.
- - -