Monday, 28 March 2011

A Curious Tale... 15

I was surprised. Not that she'd brought me here. No, I've read enough paperbacks to know the femme fatale is always fatal. Or nearly fatal anyway. I should have expected something bad to happen to me from the start of this stupid adventure. It had been such an absurd request I should have known better. But of course without Dante by my side my decision making hadn't been that great - I was just lucky I hadn't had that many decisions to make. I'd messed this one up though. 
But I was surprised nonetheless. I was surprised that she told me so quickly. She leaned in close.
"I had to, because they'd have killed us both if I hadn't." I don't know how or why I believed her. I know I shouldn't have but I did. She was still very close to me when a trench coat walked in.
"Quarantalizé, no talking to the prisoner."
Quarantalizé. I wondered for a moment what exotic clime that name had emerged from. He didn't shout, he just said it. His voice was strangely soft, yet extremely commanding. He didn't sound threatening, just like someone accustomed to being obeyed. Alizé didn't move.
"I like him." She said.
"What you do or do not like is not important."
"I want to stay with him."
I didn't see him move, but I heard a soft puff of air, and Alizé crumpled in my arms. I gasped involuntary. I'd expected anything but that.
"You've killed her!" I screamed, rapidly reaching new heights of panic.
"That is none of your concern." Right now his voice was just infuriating. How could he expect me to just accept that? I'd formed a bond with her I couldn't explain, and I wasn't ready to let it go just yet. I watched as two other trench coats came in to carry Alizé out. I tried to stop them, but they paid me no heed, shrugging me off like an mildly irritating insect.
"How could you kill her?" I asked. "She was..."
I stopped because I realised I still had no idea who or what she was.
"She was what?" the trench coat asked. He knew exactly what I was thinking, and that unnerved me. I could swear he was smiling, though I couldn't read any expression on his face.
He was a good six feet tall, with widely spaced golden brown eyes. And he had an afro I had to be jealous of. That's all I took in anyway. I'm not a Mills & Boon writer so I can't describe him in detail, because I sure didn't like him.
"What was she?" He asked me.
"I don't know." I admitted.
"If you do as I say, you may be able to see her again."
Now he was giving me conditions. After he'd killed her. My only link with this morning. The last time I'd done anything normal. It was absolutely crazy.
"I don't need you to do much, I just have a few questions to ask you, and you will answer."
"Really," I said. I was growing irritated by his self-assurance by now.
"You will answer whether you like it or not. You like Quarantalizé, and you will do everything and anything to see her again."
I thought about it. I really didn't have a choice. I was their prisoner, and if they wanted to they could torture me or even worse - and I'd seen first hand they weren't that fussed about taking lives either. That brought another thought to my head.
"You said I may be able to see Alizé again. How?"
"She isn't dead - merely being punished."
"For talking to me? That's hardly fair."
"Fairness, you'll discover, is highly overrated." His voice was grating, infuriating me in ways I'd never thought possible. But I was powerless.
"So will you answer my questions?" he asked. 
I nodded. 
"She liked me," I said lamely.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Curious Tale... 14

I cannot say how, why or when I woke up, and at the time I didn't even know where I was. It was dark, that place, very dark. It took several minutes for my eyes to adjust to it, and even when they did I couldn't see anything. I didn't mind it much though; I was still too disoriented to care. At that moment it wasn't that a flood of questions was overwhelming me. I was just extremely blank. I didn't even have any questions to ask myself.
After sitting up staring at the dark for several minutes, the first questions popped into my head – a flood of them actually, all triggered by the recollection of just one name.
Alizé! Where was she? Who was she? Why hadn't she been disturbed when the (by now my mind was full of memories) trench coats had mobbed us? Did she know them? Now the questions were threatening to tear apart my recently resumed mental processes. Not for the last time I wished Dante was with me. She would be able to make some sort of sense of it all. I just wasn't any good at any of this.
I started to grow smarter bit by bit. I mean, I usually am a pretty smart guy (though nowhere near as smart as dear but nowhere near Dante), so it goes without saying that my smarts would want to rush to my defence when the rest of me was clueless. So I started, slowly, to reason.
I had been brought to this place after being knocked out. By who? The trench coats? I tried to believe that but couldn't help remembering that the last touch I'd felt before passing out had been Alizé's. What exactly did she have to do with all of this? And why in the world had Martin put me up to this?
Right on cue, she walked in, intruding into my thoughts. I was inexplicably glad to see her. At least hers was a face I could recognise. That she was looking absolutely fabulous made it so much easier for me to just shut down and be happy to be in her presence. After we'd spent a few moments looking at one another, I realised a light had been switched on in my cell. It was a room actually, and it looked quite comfortable, even though it was sparsely furnished.
She spoke, and I immediately forgot the room.
"I'm so sorry", she said, and my world heaved once again.
"What for"
"For not being able to warn you"
"So you did know about this", I stated.
Then why was she sorry? What did she know? Or was she just lying? 
"I didn't just know, I planned it." She said.
"Ah," I said, my mind reeling.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Curious Tale... 13

There was strange movement in Argos. Men in long, dark brown, Colombo-style trench coats prowled the aisles, apparently looking for someone or something. They moved as one, as if they were all parts of one body, working under the command of a single brain. I wondered if they were military, and wondered why they would be. War was quite unheard of these days - people with odd ideas were simply taken away and neutralised.
"I wonder what they're doing here", I asked.
Alizé looked at me and gave me a sad smile. That should have set the alarm bells clanging, but it didn't. I asked her what exactly we were waiting for.
"I like you", she said suddenly, the sadness in her voice more pronounced than it had been in her smile. I wondered what had gotten into her to make her say that to someone she met less than an hour ago. 
This train of thought made me unaware of how quiet it gradually became. I only noticed when one of the trench coats was right beside me. I looked up and was horribly discomfited by his stare. His eyes were bright pink, like lingerie on Girls of the Playboy Mansion. I was still trying to register that when I heard him say "that's him" to another.
He was referring to me of course, and I was instantly terrified. It was then I realized they'd been waiting for me, for us, and had lulled us into a false sense of security by appearing to take no interest in our movement (or lack of it) whatsoever. Alizé! I suddenly thought. I must keep her safe! The thought rushed through me in bullet time. It was an instant, but in that instant I took in every facet of her beauty I'd seen in the past hour or so that I'd spent with her, every expression I'd seen on her face. and I remembered her saying she liked me.
"Let's get out of here", I whispered, and held her hand, looking for a direction to run.
Trench coats were all around us now, not doing anything yet, but making sure there'd be no way we'd escape. Or... Yes, I saw a gap where one trench coat should have been, and saw him further off, talking to a child - or at least standing near one. The boy seemed lost, and over my fear I thought he must be a nice man to take time out from whatever it was they were going to do to me just so he could do whatever he was doing for the kid. Then I realised how ridiculous that thought was and concentrated on the gap again.
If I can get us through there then make a sharp turn towards the door and run for it, I thought, would we make it? I had no idea, but I had to try something to keep Alizé safe.
I started out through the gap. I'd only gone a couple of paces when I felt Alizé's hand leave my grasp. It came up to my shoulder, pulling me back. I turned, and saw the sad smile once more. Realization struck in the instant a million stars lit up in my head.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Curious Tale... 12

It doesn't make any sense saying she wasn't what I expected, because I can't say for sure what it is that I did expect. All the same, I'll do the unreasonable and say she wasn't what I expected. No matter what, I'm sure I hadn't expected a girl with dark blue hair. Navy. I only noticed when we were out of the store under the warm July sun. I mentioned it, probably the first coherent thing I said to her.
"Your hair is blue."
That's a measure of how struck I was with this beautiful creature.
"Yes it is", she said. "It doesn't bother you, does it?"
"No, it's just unusual"
She raised a bushy blue eyebrow and I shut up. Was it possible that her hair really grew that colour? I kept my thoughts to myself and led the way to the car. At least it was as black as it was supposed to be. Alizé didn't react to seeing it though. I'd have at least appreciated a 'nice craft' or something like that.
We got in and I drove off through the slowly gathering Saturday traffic. We wound our way through streets that looked cleaner than they should have, which I judged to be a trick of the light. The sun was that bright. Alizé didn't speak for the entire trip, so I didn't either. She didn't seem preoccupied, so I guess I just wasn't impressive enough to make her want to talk to me. I've always been used to not getting the attention of females, so I wasn't really bothered. I just plugged my iPod into the car's Bose stereo and played some Michael Jackson. Everyone likes Michael Jackson, I figured. Or at least everyone did a few centuries ago. If she did, she didn't show it.
In a few minutes we were in Lewisham. I didn't want to go to the shopping centre car park, so I drove past and looked for a street that didn't have a double yellow line. I found one that had just one and parked there. Martin would get a parking ticket but we were both used to that. We walked to the high street, crossed it, and went into the shopping centre. We went into Argos directly. Martin had said to drop her off, and since she was so uninterested in me I felt no compulsion to assist her any further, no matter how beautiful she was. All the same I felt rather uneasy. Some ancient fight or flight reflex was kicking into gear for no apparent reason. I hoped to God that dropping her off would be all I'd have to do.
It wasn't.

Monday, 7 March 2011

A Curious Tale... 11

She was beautiful. She was dark, curved in all the right places, and had a monster of a smile. She just promised a treat. I wondered what the girl would think when she was picked up in it.
Yes, the reason (or at least one of the reasons - he was also paying me a really neat packet) I’d agreed to Martin’s proposal was parked outside his ridiculously small house on Arbuthnot Road. She was a custom MG XPower SV. We’d always called her the MXT. She looked a bit like a Batmobile, especially with the aerodynamic side grills. And she drove even better. She didn't have a choice really, seeing as she'd cost Martin a quarter of a million credits. I got green just thinking about it. Damn he was rich.
I went down into Martin’s den and saw him painting. He was a really talented painter, but even Da Vinci would have thought twice before buying a C250,000 overcraft on a whim. Martin had simply thought he needed something nicer than his Saab and had somehow gotten in touch with MG, drawn a redesigned XPower, and gotten them to make it somehow.
Maybe I should tell you what Martin did for a real living. He painted incredible forgeries and sold them to less scrupulous art collectors, mostly deposed dictators who Interpol had allowed to keep their assets in return for their abdication when the entire world had gone strangely democratic. Those African and Arab bastards kept Martin well paid and in the lap of luxury. My job so far had been to move the paintings to the international carriers, and that's how I'd become reasonably wealthy in my own right. I still wasn't the tiniest scratch on Martin though.
Enough of my envy. It won't tell the story anyway. So in short, I got the keys from Martin, hopped into the MXT and started driving. New Cross to Peckham. The plan was to pick Alizé, the girl, up from Argos in Peckham and take her to Argos in Lewisham. Which to me was just the silliest idea I'd ever heard. Brilliant for a kidnap, because no one would ever think to take a hostage INTO Argos if they hadn't been there before, but silly because there's always a ton of people in Argos, anyone of whom could become a hero. Whatever. That wasn't my concern. I was going to pick her up at Argos and take her to Argos. Simple.
I was thinking all this as I was driving, and by the time I focused on the mission again I was already in Peckham. I stopped and looked for an unobtrusive place to park the eye-popping car. I decided on a side road opposite a shop selling brandless ancient Italian shoes. I walked into Argos and looked around. The normal queues, some people buzzing around catalogues wondering what on earth brought them into the store but determined not to leave until they'd bought something utterly useless.
Then I heard someone call my name and turned around and stared into the very composed stare of a girl in her late teens. She asked me if I was ready to leave because she was tired of waiting in the store. I didn't say a word and I'll tell you why.
She was beautiful. She was dark, curved in all the right places, and had a monster of a smile.