LP: Nigeria Special Part Two by Various Artists
2008 Soundway SNDWLP009B
Favorite Track: I Want a Break Thru by the Hykkers
Vargas stomped his boot down on the cat’s head, crushing its orange fur into the sewer grating. The damn thing was dying anyways. Just another stray cat choking on the atmosphere, mewing pitifully for a bleeding heart sap to take it home and risk infection. The Kano Station Street Sweepers did their efficient work in the commerce and affluent sections, but here in the slums, one could barely walk down the corridors without stepping on some stray cat part. Vargas just made sure to make each step count.
After checking his CleanAir mask, he looked at the folded piece of paper in his hands. He scanned the tenement buildings until he located the proper address. No body looked home. Vargas unbuttoned his trench coat despite the icy cold. The tenement had a buzz entrance, however, somebody had broken it and the door popped open with a slight hiss of released pressure. The cubbyhole was a clutter of unopened mail and untouched phone books. In the distance, a violin played a melancholy partita. Vargas paused when the central stairwell creaked under his heavy foot. He had forgotten to clean off the blood of the cat. An amateur mistake.
Was he growing soft? He pictured her eyes, the way she looked at him with unflinching determination. He had laughed in her face and insulted her and still she had insisted in borrowing money from him. If she had been a killer, he would have made her his queen (briefly he pondered her as the dominating one and how that scenario would play out in the bedroom), but he recognized that humbleness that marked lovers. They could kill for passion, but they could never outlive regret, shame, and pain.
Vargas climbed four sets of steps without seeing another person. Normally, this would unnerve him a bit; ambushes were always just around the bend in his line of business. But, by some sheer, eerie coincidence, many years ago, he had another mission in the exact same apartment number–his first mission, which he recalled with a sort of grim professional shame, was a literal bloody mess. He did not expect any trouble this time.
The door was as he remembered it. The bullet hole he made still above the brass door handle. Even the unpleasant grey paint remained the same. Vargas slipped his hand inside his coat then kicked the door open with a loud crash. With deja vu running through his head, he stepped onto the kitchen tiles noting no body to his right and continued on into the bedroom. A springy, unmade bed sat in the corner where phosphorus spiral paintings hung in the corner like trippy nightlights. Dressers and cupboards had drawers open, colorful fabrics of cloth dangling free of confinement. Two crates of records leaned against a wooden chest engraved with a pirate ship.
The only sound was the violin working itself up into a frenzy. Vargas sniffed the air detecting a faint trace of perfume. Tangerine and whale. Cautiously, he opened the bathroom door then shut it. The apartment was too small for a closet. Maybe they were in the community bathroom halfway down the corridor. Vargas frowned, his heart hammering the way it did years ago. He shot two people then.
He only wanted to shoot one today.
Kids never understood how the mob worked. It was a business. There were rules, schedules, logistics, and consequences for not pulling your weight. Kids thought they could join the mob or borrow its money so they could build up some street cred. To look tough. To impress a girl or guy. Vargas didn’t like this. He wasn’t a member because he wanted to be. He had to be. He had no family, no education, no opportunity. He wanted enough Plutos to purchase a flight out of Kano Station to another one, perhaps Portland or Taipei.
Frost ran lined patterns across the glass, a hard bit of ice like the minotaur in the center of his infuriating maze. And was he Theseus gradually spiraling toward the beast? Or was he Daedalus the architect who had built the maze large enough to include himself in its walls? He was growing soft if he was thinking while on the job.
From under the bed, the girl bolted. She was admiringly quick. He had left the door partially open as well, another err. The violin stopped on a sour note as Vargas drew a bead. He added another hole in the door. He noticed the framed photograph at the last second. The girl with the bright eyes, the jutting jawline, her need for his money, her pleas that she would pay him back the next day. The girl like so many other kids who then flaked on her word to the wrong person, a dangerous person. Written on the photo in large loopy handwriting: TO SORREL MY CLOSEST FRIEND, I NEED YOU IN MY LIFE FOREVER.
Vargas had to leave. The police would be here any minute and, more importantly, people would be beginning to peek into the hallways to be able to give the cops information. But he had to take a second to look. He lifted the frail body with ease, rigor mortis not yet setting into the muscles. One eye was missing, just a large hole filled with skull fragments and a variety of juices, but the other was oval with green irises flecked with gold.
She lied to me, thought Vargas as he rushed down the stairs and out into the frigid temperature of Kano Station. What was it about this building that cursed him? She wasn’t just going to die now. Vargas was developing a new plan.
To be continued…