Monday, September 26, 2016

Home Invasion/Conversation (plot holes) from "Locombia"

Jesse S. Mitchell

When I made it back to my apartment, I quickly noticed something wasn’t right.  The air of the place was wrong, the door slightly ajar, and there were a few yellow-gold lights shining inside, a distinct amber glow.  I know I left all my lights off.  I went slowly in, pushing the door open with my foot, shoving the letters and memos deeper into my pockets, easing my way into the kitchen, grabbing an almost-sharp bread knife off the counter, palming it.  My eyes were straining, completely alive, nervous.  I could smell a sweet tobacco scent, and cheap perfume.  I went around the corner and gazed into my living room, and I saw a woman, a tall woman sitting on my couch, her back to me.  She didn’t get up or turn around, just kept smoking her cigarette, blowing giant clouds around in the open space.
“Who are you?” I asked loudly.
“You Emilien Ross?”
“I might be.  I asked you first?”
I walked into the room and faced her, black dress, long, well over her knees, long black hair, perfectly straight except for a slight flip at the ends, long face, dark skin, dark eyes, like some Peruvian Veronica Lake.  It wasn’t until later I found out her name was actually Veronica.
“You the one that works undercover then, for some group of radicals or whatever?”  She swooshed her cigarette hand around dismissively making huge halos and tiny interconnected circlets of smoke.
“Again, I might be, but probably not.  Who are you?  How do you know my name?”
“So, that is your name then, Ross?  Emilien Ross?”
“Yeah.  It’s my name.”
“Why don’t you have a vitalite in here?  You are going to get sick without the vitamins.”
“They creep me out, don’t like the weird blue sheen…makes me feel sick already.  So what’s the point.”
“And it is you then, the hair-splitter, whatever that means?”
“Yeah. How did you find me?”
“Johnnie seemed to think you were the only person trustworthy in this town, talked about you some, told me to come here if anything…”
“If anything happened, yeah, but as far as trustworthy, Johnnie might have overestimated me a bit.”
I sat down in the big overstuffed armchair in front of the coffee table between the couch and the other furniture, stared at this tall Incan and wondered about the kind of couple she was with little Mayan Johnnie, both of them trying to out aloof the other one, lying back and forth with those big ol’ eyes, like Boris and Natasha.  Then she put her cigarette out on my coffee table, right on the corner, and folded the butt up and placed it in the middle of the table.
She shrugged.  
“And you were Johnnie’s girlfriend?” prying at it a bit.
“Girlfriend may be a bit much.”
“But you were the person staying with him at his apartment, intermittingly at least?”
She nodded.  The smallest, most subtle nod ever perceived, I believe. 
“What is it exactly that you do, Mr. Roth?”
“Oh, nothing really, I just collect facts.”
“Like the police?”
“Oh!” guffawing, couldn’t help it. “Oh ho ho, no, no, not like the police.”
“Not like a detective?”
“Maybe a bit like a detective.”
“You don’t work with the police?”
“Oh no, never. Why on earth would Johnnie think I was even remotely trustworthy if I did?”
She nodded again, a bigger nod this time.
“I watch what is happening.  I watch what is coming through at the ports.  I listen to what the folks, normal folks, street folks, are saying.  I observe how they are feeling, acting, spending their time and money.  I collect all that up and I make something out of it, a summary, that’s all.”
    “So, you take all the facts you collect and you come up with the story then, huh?”
“Yeah, basically, that’s how I do it.  Take all the information I can get and deduce, figure it out, turn it into a digestible narrative for someone to read and then they decide what to do about it.”
“Based on your story?”
“Your words?  That must feel nice, like power.”
“Kind of.”
“So, you must be pretty good with words, huh?  With telling stories?”
“I do okay.”
“It isn’t an easy thing, you know, plotting those things out, got to get everything right, no holes.”
“Oh, no, plot holes are great, you have to have those.  Plot holes are the life blood of any good story, everyone gets that wrong.  What a plot hole is, is life being lived, a bad decision, a wrong turn.  Like if you read a story or watch some flick and you catch yourself thinking, if this character so and so, had done this or acted this way, they would be better off, the story would have went easier, quicker.  Well, no shit, that’s how it is for everyone.  Lots of times, folks could have done something better in their life or treated someone with more respect or appreciated things differently but man, that’s really hard to see for a character immersed in a chain of events.  Even me, things I could have done differently and I wouldn’t have had to come the long way around to some things, maybe my days now would be better, maybe worse but definitely different, but how could I have seen any of that in midst of living a life?  I couldn’t.  Plot holes and mistakes are sometimes the only things make a story real.  If I ever hear a anecdote or account of anything without any holes or discrepancies, I know I’m hearing a lie, and a rather artless one at that.”
“I guess we all make mistakes.”
“Yeah, at least a few.”
“Several, usually.”
“So, Johnnie then, did he make some mistakes?”
“A few.”
“Big ones…lately?”
“It is beginning to look that way, yeah.”
I nodded my head.   Adjusted my weight in my armchair.  I tossed the ridiculous bread knife on the table, tired of keeping it hidden in my palm, starting to chafe.
She looked down at it and back up at me.
“What were you planning to do with that?”
“I don’t know, come around a corner, give somebody a quick jab, get the jump on them kind of, maybe a slash or a punch thrown then.  Who knows?”
“You don’t carry a gun?”
“No, why would I?”
“Basically in the business of espionage, might come in hardy.”
“But, I’m undercover, right, so I go out drinking with some regular guys or gals down at the ports, I have too many, they got to get me home and they see some fancy piece on me…cover blown.  What am I, a cop?  A criminal?  Military?  Just some weirdo who needs a gun to make himself feel like a big tough guy?  None of that any good.  I rely on my wits, thank you.” 
“You don’t think this apartment would be a cover blower?  It is far too nice for a dockhand.”
“Ah ha, but this isn’t my official address, it isn’t listed on any of my employment forms, got another place waaay down town, very low rent, kept just for the job.”
She got up off the couch and walked around the room, looking over everything, lightly touching some pictures or statuary along the way.  Made her way to the south wall of the apartment, a solid piece of crystal clear glass, the one and only window on this level of the apartment, but a very fine one.  It looked out over the intersection below.  Two or three blocks could be seen, partially at least.  
“You ever been out to the barrens?” she asked.
“No, never had any desire to.  Imagine they’re just like any other patch of wasteland.  Saw enough wasteland when I was in the army.”
She laughed, loud, “You should let me take you out there sometime.”
“Why? What they got out there?”
“A Bao A Qu.”
“A Bao what?”  I shook my head.  She chuckled but it died away pretty quickly. 
“This is a nice place, Ross.  Nice neighborhood too for this part of town.  You must get paid pretty well for what you do.”
“I’m comfortable, doing fine, but it looked like Johnnie was too, huh?”
“So, how many holes, the ones for the sake of life and honesty, do you leave in those stories you give your superiors?”
“Hey, now, what are you getting at?  You trying to imply I’m crooked?”
“No, no, not at all, just to make everything more believable.  Imagine being able make such decisions.”
“I don’t make any decisions, my bosses do.”
“But your influence.  Why, I would think a person would find a way to make certain the story got read they way they wanted it read.  Am I right?”
“We all have our own little agendas, I suppose, small as they are.  I just like getting the overtime pay.”
She laughed again and walked closer to the door, put her hand on the handle and slowly pulled, walked out the door without even looking over her shoulder, out onto the landing and into the lift and disappeared.  Completely.  I stood up and hurried over and waited by the window to try and see if I could see her on the street or get into an el-cab or whatever but nothing, vanished.  Vanished and gone.  

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