by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
“Weekender” began in issue 111.
Lada would have loved to torture him some with his prior mishaps, but she glanced at her watch, and saw that the repairman would be due at her home soon. She clocked out for the day and hurried to her apartment. These repairmen were known to sometimes help themselves to loose valuables, but Lada wasn’t worried about her loose valuables. No. Not only were her only valuables stored in the fridge in liquid form, but they were stored in the arms of a solid unmentionable, and on top of that, there was a surprise waiting in the shower.
Lada sped through the air and got home just in time before the repairman rang her bell. She smiled at him as she opened the door to let him in.
The air in Lada’s apartment was so thick and aromatic it could be cut with a knife and spread on butter. The smell of cheap perfume and spilt liquor was overwhelming, and the repairman came in covering his face with a handkerchief.
Lada had a mild shock when she spotted her now dead lover’s clothes on the floor. She got over it though, as she guessed, rightly, that the repairman would hardly distinguish them from all the other dirty laundry littering the floor. There was a half-eaten sandwich lying there on one of Lada’s panties. She planned on inserting it in the disposal when it got working again. Or perhaps she ought to start with the bottles?
She showed the repairman the way to the kitchen, which was redundant, as the apartment consisted of only the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedroom that doubled as a living room. It was the perfect workaholic bachelorette-pad.
Meanwhile, she went to the bathroom to have a shower.
* * *
The repairman had liked the looks of his client at first. Then she opened up her apartment. Instant turnoff. The smell was horrible. Indescribable, lest you can somehow conjure up in your mind a fetor set just between that emanating from a whorehouse and a junkyard. Something was rotting in there, that was for sure, and the stink was being covered up with cheap perfume. Looking at the piles of food and boxes of half-eaten takeout and pizza and what-have-you, it was no wonder there was scent in there.
The job was straightforward enough and simple, but slightly time-consuming. The disposal unit had to be taken out and opened up. Parts had to be replaced. Simple. The installation went well, and to test the machine, the repairman dropped in a plastic beer-bottle. The disposal ground it up easily.
The client was still having a shower, so, to kill time, he decided to help himself to a beer, if there was some. Judging from the amount and nature of the containers on the floor, he halfway expected the fridge to contain nothing but beer and bourbon. He opened the fridge.
He raised an eyebrow. “That is so bizarre,” he said to himself. But what the hey. The naked girl in the fridge was offering beer, even if she had a peculiar expression on her face. And was dead. People who offer beer are allowed to be unusual. One must respect that.
* * *
The next day Lada woke up alone. The bed felt really empty without someone by her side, she thought. It was almost better to wake up with a dead body. She had a cat once, she recalled, that used to sleep on her. She could not remember the cat dying, however, nor could she remember letting it out. It was puzzling. Probably she still had the cat. Maybe it was dead, and decomposing somewhere under mounds of clothing and Chinese take-out leftovers. Perhaps it was the cat the was stinking up her apartment?
Lada sat up in bed. A gust of foul air came to her. Air even fouler than the air already in the apartment. She bounced in the bed, and there was a new gust of putrid, rotten air. She bounced again, producing the same general result, but now it was beginning to stink up the whole environment. There was something in the mattress. Fluffy the cat?
Lada got out of bed, and lifted the mattress, expecting to see a decomposing corpse of a cat teeming with larvae. Well, she got to behold the larvae. A squirming mass of white maggots, the salmon-fisher’s wet dream, assuming salmon fishers have any other type of dream, standing around like that in streams all day.
But no cat. Lada let the mattress fall into place again. Then she quietly started to look through the piles of clothes on the floor.
She had already found two purses when Tyzuk came to get her.
* * *
Verloren Gehen was written up as a suicide, as per regulations when people could not be located using FR. Lada wrote “jumped in the river” on the report, and closed the file. That was the 40th this year. Two bodies had already been fished up whole. One had been hit by a ship, and couldn’t be confirmed. A witness on deck claimed it was a body. That was before it got sucked into the front props as the ship was maneuvering, and the fish and the birds got the evidence. Most often the pollution helped dissolving the biomass. Factories dumped a lot of weird enzymes into the sea that would do it easily. The fish, too, did their part.
“We don’t do that in Murder.”
Lada jumped. It was Officer Doria, leering over her shoulder.
“Don’t do what?” asked Lada.
“Just stop after a week.”
“That’s just because it takes eight days to process the evidence.” said Lada in return.
Officer Doria smiled. Lada was right. In actuality it only took a couple of days for the lab to process the evidence, but the paperwork needed to get it to them and then to get it from them again was somewhat more time-consuming. There were only two more departments that kept going beyond a week: kidnapping and tax fraud.
“I’m Andrea Doria, nice to meet you...”
“Lada Samara.” They shook hands. Lada saw that Andrea was giving her a look over as they did, measuring her up. Lada waited till she turned to go to measure her up. She was thin and delicate, but managed to be attractively shaped. It is not necessary to be big and powerful when one has a gun. She had long hair trailing down to her back, and a serene, tired expression on her face. Lada guessed Missing Persons would be better for her than Murder. She heard it in her voice. The relief. Missing persons were often found alive.
Lada tried not to think too much about her own steadily increasing stash of corpses as she turned to leave the filing department. She was still getting over the sight of the three new ones under the mattress. She made a mental note to burn the mattress.
When she came home, she continued her search in the piles of clothes. She knew she was messy, but she was quite sure she was not that messy. And her hunch turned out right. There were at least ten purses in the pile. She discovered the identity of her latest one-night stand in one of them: Marie Celeste. A waitress. No children. Of course not. Four days, and she’d be declared missing, and Tyzuk would check FR, and...
Lada found Marie’s phone. She called her mother.
“Marie? Is it you? Where have you been?”
“At a friend’s house.”
“You sound different, is something wrong?”
“I got a cold.”
“Aww. Take care. I don’t want you suffering.”
“I will, I will. Hey, Mom?”
“What is it dear?”
“I love you...”
Lada turned off the phone. That would take care of that problem indefinitely. She dropped the phone in the disposal. She found more phones when she looked around. They had all been destroyed. There were markings on the wall where they had hit. She put what was left of them in the disposal too.
* * *
All free time during business days went into dismembering the evidence under the mattress and putting it in the disposal. The disposal happily ground it all up, and sent it to the fishes.
Come Friday, Marie Celeste slept with the fishes. On Monday, maybe Thursday, Lada would write she jumped into the river. The thought made her smile.
Officer Doria looked better each day that passed. When she had lived a day without seeing an autopsy, her face lit up. She smiled at Lada every time they met in the halls, and she smiled back. Later they had coffee together, and exchanged stories.
They hit it off well together, and Lada thought she had finally found the love of her life. She asked Andrea to meet her at the bar next Saturday night, for a few drinks. She was happy to, and told Lada she would look forward to meeting her there.
* * *
At some point, the piles of clothes on the floor had to go, and with them the fast-food containers and alcohol bottles. On Monday, Lada decided. First, she had to let off some steam. Get drunk and party. Forget her troubles.
She found a nice red dress in the pile. It fit her snugly, so she was tempted to think it was one of her own. Why did she not remember?
She had the dress cleaned, and on Saturday night, she put it on, combed her hair, put on her makeup and got on her high heels.
Time to party. But first, she seemed to remember at least five beers in the fridge. It’s good to have a beer to start up a buzz before going to the bar. It’s cheaper.
A familiar face looked blankly at nothing as she opened the fridge to grab the beverage. She was getting stale in there, but her face was still recognizable:
“Hey, I know you!” Lada Samara said to the corpse.
“You are Verloren Gehen, aren’t you? Yes you are! Don’t go away now.” Lada thought she would dispose of her later.
The smell had not receded, still there was this hint of rotting flesh in the air. Lada was not in the mood for cleaning. But the smell was less than sexy, she thought, and imagined it would be a turnoff to even heavily intoxicated bedfellows. So, just before she left, she got a bottle of perfume from her bathroom, and splashed it over the piles of clothes on the floor, and on her bed for good measure.
The apartment quickly became like a brothel gas chamber, and Lada hurried out before she passed out from the fumes.
* * *
Lada found Andrea at the bar, as she had promised. They had several drinks together, and laughed and enjoyed themselves.
“I know,” said Lada, “come to my place. I have a couple of beers left over since last weekend.”
“You got beer left? The way you drink?”
“You know... I have this condition... If I drink too much I suffer from memory loss, and can’t remember the whole week before till the next time I get drunk. It’s very strange.”
“Weird. I have this condition, when I drink I go home with strange women and sleep with them.”
Copyright © 2004 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson