Monday, September 22, 2014

Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland...population 605, 523, if I didn't know better I'd say that crime and punishment here is non-existent. But yesterday, the fine weather wasn't punishable by death or any other crazy punishment, like getting food poisoning from bad fish, rotten meat or tired feet from hitting the pavement in search for the sidewalk café where I was to meet with a contact to sell the crazy-wild, beautifully-designed and crafted Michelangelo necklace.

The spectacular diamonds and emeralds the painter had cut and used are to die for, and to think that Michelangelo fashioned and produced the fabulous, sparkling necklace privately for his widowed girlfriend, Italian noblewoman Vittoria Colonna,  sends chills up and down spine. I can only imagine what the little artisan was thinking at 61 years old and Vittoria at 46 years old during the year 1536, but from what I'd read about the loving couple, all their inside friends knew about the scintillating affair between them.

When I arrived in Helsinki I had food poisoning from bad fish and yesterday my feet were tired from walking to the Norra Esplanaden sidewalk café in Helsinki. Michelangelo's necklace was inside the felt bag in my inner jacket pocket and I'd make sure it would stay there, even through any roughneck skirmish. Since the buyer is willing to pay a huge amount for the bling that doesn't mean he or she can touch or own it. Nobody can really own Michelangelo's necklace, much less dismantle it for the jewelry value. As it is the necklace is priceless and that makes it worth more than piecing it out.

The sidewalk was full and the woman who was sitting alone at the next table with her back to me turned around and glued onto my eyes. She stood, pulled out the chair on the other side of my small table and sat. Not pretty and not a wise thing to do sit at my table without an invitation.

Her black hijab covering her black hair and face didn't do her justice. Not good for a near-easterner like a woman from Afghanistan or Pakistan or even Iran to sit and stare at me, where her native country men brutalize their women and treat them secondary to the household dog. Yeah, that's what she was, an Iranian.

به خوبی خواهد بود .بیش از دست گردنبند و همه
"I'm sorry but I don't speak Persian," I said. But, I just won't hand over the necklace to you so all will be well."
"So you do speak Persian?" She asked in English.
"Sorry, I'd rather not speak it while I'm in Helsinki," I said.

Her black eyes were abysses, her skin a brown mixture of mud, her flared nose and bulbous lips were underneath the hijab. Her bare, well-manicured fingernails rested on top of my table, tapping as if I had all the time in the world.

"You're Irena Stanktar's second I presume," I said
"That's Ms. Irena Stanktar to you." Her tipped Russian accent had me believing she'd had a Russian education.

I sat not on the verge of a fresh kill but on the edge of determination not to sell the necklace to my enemy. She continued to tap her fingernails, which I assumed was a signal.

"To me," I said, "Irena Stanktar as of now is nothing."
Her head raised higher then her shoulders slumped. "She thought you'd be more accommodating with me since you killed her father and threatened to kill her."
"Her father had been trying to kill me for a few years, and I have you know that Iktar Stanktar killed his mother, Irena's mother. Your boos also threatened to kill me."
"He killed his wife," she said, "as you know because she had an affair with you. Iranian women shouldn't stray, and when they do their husbands punish them."
"Punish them or kill them?" I asked.
"Either way," she said. "My point here is not to argue over ethical issues but to make you an offer for the necklace."
"Look," I said, irritated by now. "The necklace is priceless and Iktar Stanktar tried to steal it from me. He sent his henchmen to kill me. He tried to kill me many times, with or without the necklace. Why would I want to sell the necklace to his daughter who also threatened to kill me?"

She didn't answer but continued to tap her fingernails on the metal table. She looked to her right then back again at me. Instinct told me on to take my eyes off her.

"The necklace belongs to us," she said.
"Michelangelo designed and crafted the jewelry," I said, and prepared to exit. "If the necklace belongs to any one entity, that would be his estate or the Italian Historical Society, not the Stanktar family."
"You've missed a piece of important history," she calmly said. "The necklace was sold to the Stanktar family in the late-eighteen hundreds, and then the Borghini family stole it from them a few years ago."
"Not according to Isabella Borghini," I said. "Her great grandmother was in possession of the necklace since the mid-eighteen hundreds."

Her eyes blinked haphazardly, her fingers stopped tapping. My back was against the restaurant wall and I needed an exit. She stood, turned and sat at her table with her back to me. The window behind me shattered. People screamed and jumped from their tables. Tight breezes zipped by my face. Bullets. My buyer stood and looked at me.

"Next time we meet you will bring the necklace and I will give you ten thousand U.S. currency."

I jumped up, grabbed the Iranian woman around the waist and neck, pulled her against me as a shield and started dragging her down the street. Her resistance was feudal. "There will not be a next time," I said. "Because you will be dead and your sharpshooters across the street will be dead. I will come after all of you and kill all of you, but before I do that, I'll kill your spouses and children and your parents. Nobody is safe."

Of course I was kidding but she didn't know my sense of humor.

"You are making pledges like Iktar Stanktar did," she yelled. "You cannot kill all of us."
"I can and I will."

I let her go when we were around the corner, shoved her against the brick wall, wrapped my right hand around her neck and pressed my left fist on her heart, the pressure daunting, making her exhale. If I were less moral I'd strip the hijab from around her face, but I didn't. There was desperation in her eyes and this was a desperate time.

"Never underestimate your enemy," I said. "I'm not your enemy and you don't want me as your enemy. Tell Irena Stanktar she'll never get the necklace even if she kills me."

She stayed silent and shook her head. I pushed her back around the corner toward the restaurant, and then hightailed it up the block. Good thing I wore my running Nike running shoes, and good thing one of those bullets didn't take off my right ear.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

London

On a mission last week in London the weather was overcast, drizzly, slightly wet like Isabella my contact in Zagreb. Only Isabella offered up more than drizzly weather. Two months ago I was entangled in her arms and between her legs for fifteen minutes in the lift to her apartment. This morning I had ten minutes until my contact meeting at this sidewalk café in London.

My morning coffee hot and black slithered down my throat like mud. If the horde of customers didn't camouflage me as one of them I'd stand out like a sore thumb. However much I tried to look like a tourist or even a local, at 6'2", shoulder length hair, big hands, loose jeans, intense brown eyes, and then there's my 220 pound muscularity not much could stop, always pinpointed me as a ruffian wherever I was.

He arrived. I caught his presence with peripheral vision. He stood at the edge of the sidewalk trying to tag me. Average height, average weight, average looking, the man was supposed to be German but he was a Brit. Wet black hair, nervous eye twitch, head cocked to the left. He was also an assassin, but first we had to exchange goods. I possessed a midnight supply diamond necklace worth one million. He had fifty thousand US currency in a large black leather fanny pack. If luck is on my side I'll leave with the money and head to my orphanage in Cape Town and splurge buying laptops for the children.

He sat at my table. I stood. He pulled up his fanny pack, unzipped it, opened the top and fingered the cash. Nobody watched us so I pulled the necklace from my jacket pocket and dangled it in front of his eyes. He panicked and pulled a handgun from nowhere. I threw the necklace overhead. He reached for it. I snapped the gun from his hand just as he caught the necklace.

Customers scattered. I popped him one on top of his wet head. He plopped off the chair and hit the cement. I snatched the necklace from his hand and the fanny pack off the ground just as a brunette in spiked heels tried to knee me in the groin. I kicked her legs and she toppled on her ass. She pulled a gun from nowhere and I kicked it from her hand. Sirens shrieked far off. I put the necklace back in my jacket pocket. Three waiters came at me, and as I stood and stretched out, holding two handguns they back away with arms up in submission. I stepped forward and kicked the brunette in the ribs. She doubled up and I kicked her again. How could I not because she not only tried to shoot me, she's the Spanish woman in Madrid who tried to kill me.

"Qué deseas?" What do you want I asked her.
"Para matar a usted, porque usted mató a mi padre."
"I didn't kill your father," I said in English. "I haven't killed anyone for over two years."
"You killed my father three years ago."
"What's his name?"
"Iktar Stanktar."
"You're fucking kidding me," I yelled, the sirens were getting closer.
"You're just a piece of shit. I'm Irena Stanktar and I'm going to kill you."
Her voice was a buzz of subtext in my brain.
"Your father tried to cut my heart out, see." I pulled open my shirt and showed her the large X scar across my heart. "Your father slaughtered innocent people, killing women and children and men of substance for money and power."
"You still killed my father and I'm going to kill you, asshole."
"Your father was Iranian."
"My mother was Spanish."
"Your father killed your mother."
"Because she had an affair with you."
I stalled, unable to recall having an affair with a Spanish woman. Many women have crossed my bed but not a Spanish woman.
"It takes two to have an affair and that's not a good reason to kill your spouse."
"You're a dream stealer, Mr. Crown and soon to be a dead mercenary because I'm the one who is going to kill you."
"I'm not a mercenary."
"Whatever."
"Call off your assassins, Ms. Stanktar. If you don't I'll come after you and kill your entire family."
"I'm all that's left of my family."
"Then I'll kill you."

I backed away carrying the two handguns with the necklace safely in my pocket, the fanny pack over my shoulder and an attitude that the children in my orphanage were worth more than all the assassins in the world, and one brunette woman, Ms. Stanktar seeking revenge. Best of all I was fifty thousand dollars wealthier.

If you can't walk away with respect then you can't respect anything.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Copenhagen

A forever chill was in the air. Bundled up and heated for action in Copenhagen this August, I hoped I had enough krone to pay for the pastry and coffee at the outdoor File Café in Tivoli Gardens. The second oldest amusement park in the world can't be too bad, but considering the noise and screams coming from the wooden roller coaster (Rutschebanen) and the Demon,  that features a loop and a zero-G roll during the ride time of just one-minute and forty-six seconds, but it's one-minute and forty-three seconds slower than me running away to save my life in violent situations. What I got thrilled over here is the world's second tallest carousel,  The Star Flyer that offers panoramic views of Copenhagen. I have to add that every other young woman in Copenhagen resembles Scarlett Johansson, something of which I would easily get used to.

The File Café was empty except for one Johansson clone who briskly whipped by solo in a long white overcoat, blonde hair puffed underneath a black knit cap, and who maintained tunnel vision for the other side of the park.

My phone conversation with Mr. Yen late last night didn't offer me tips as to who or what  I'm meeting this morning, and he didn't have an answer for my questions about the Athenian woman I was supposed to meet in Kiev, who turned out to be a Russian transgender. But what the hell, it doesn't matter what the sexual appetite is of an evil person when their only purpose in life is to be evil, and consequently get killed because of that evilness.

My main purpose in life is to gather enough cash to carry my orphanage in Cape Town, which houses thirty orphans, six educators and my operating partners, Sherwin Mubutu and his wife Clovis. Michelangelo's necklace has provided me with enough cash to sustain the orphanage over the past two years but the future is what worries me.

My contact arrived. She tried to sneak up behind me and wrap her arms around my neck. I stood and greeted her with a nod and she nodded back. She was Special CIA Agent Wild Winters from the U.S., one agent I didn't expect to greet me ever again after she'd last confronted me, not about the necklace but in another dimension when I was destroying my DNA sequencing discovery.

She's so sexually stimulating in a black leather mini, sky blue blouse and matching jacket, and those stilettos I imagined wrapped around my waist with her skirt wrapped up around her waist. But her brown eyes and movie star face wasn't here for a sexual encounter.

"Have a seat I suppose?" I questioned.
"No thank you, Mr. Crown. I was sent here to retrieve the necklace."
"Who sent you?"
"Before I answer I have one question for you."
I nodded and my smile broadened.
"Do you love me?"
"You'll have to answer that question yourself."
Her smile disappeared. She sat on my chair. I had her get up and take the chair opposite me.
"I suppose you love Agent Ambrosia Skye instead of me?"
I nodded affirmatively but remained silent.
"I was ordered to persuade you to give me the necklace," she said.
"If you recall the last time you tried to persuade me for something you got shot."
"You don't have a gun."
"I didn't say I would shoot you. Power hungry business people want the necklace and they'll kill anyone who stands in their way. You might be in their way."
She nodded and stood and gazed around, presumably looking for someone specific. "I believe you're the one in their way."

My meeting was compromised with the presence of Agent Winters so I stood, turned and started to walk away. Wild Winters caught up with me, grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face her. On her tiptoes she wrapped both hands behind my neck and pulled my lips into her soft puckered sponges.

Closing my eyes during the kiss would be disastrous, and I wasn't in the mood for kissing so I pushed her at arms length, and made sure no assassins were behind me. She wasn't startled with me stopping her. She turned and tried to walk in the opposite direction when I grabbed her arms, turned her around, pulled her full body onto mine and planted a wet triangulating kiss over her mouth. She squired and shivered and pushed her palms against my shoulders. She pulled back but I forcefully stopped her and snapped a quick air kiss.

"You can't do that to me, Alexander," she squeaked
"You know you love me, Agent Winters," I declared. "My actions mean everything."

She backed away hoping I'd whirl her away to my hotel bedroom, something I'd never do, something I couldn't do that with Agent Winters. But on neutral ground we'd both be head-over-heels literally in some tiny hotel room not just stripping each other down but sexually riding each other like broncobusters.
 
My cellphone rang and I pulled it from my inner pocket. "What Mr. Yen?"
"Your new meeting place is in Helsinki. I've sent you your flight and hotel arrangements. Be there on time, and by the way, give Agent Winters a kiss for me. She deserves more than a kiss from you."
"You knew about her appearance here?"
"I arranged it. She loves you Mr. Crown even if she was ordered to get the necklace from you."
"Well, thank god my life wasn't in danger today."
"I wouldn't say that yet. Get on the flight and I'll call you tomorrow with your next heist."
I stuffed my cellphone in pocket and made sure the necklace was still there.

I watched Agent Winters walk from my life through Tivoli Gardens, hoping I'd see her in Helsinki and drag her to some small neutral hotel where we could whet and satisfy our appetites.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Berlin

This European Union thingy is depressing. I listened to my a colleague in Zagreb fret about many uneasy EU situations regarding Spain, Italy and Greece. She revealed the severe money depression in Croatia that wasn't even helping the Croats.

The exchange from U.S. dollars to the English Pound to the Euro is easy yet  there's an underlying confusion. What makes a cup of coffee costing $1.80 in the U.S. worth much less than as opposed as a cup of coffee costing €2.27 Euros or even a cup costing £1.50 Pound Sterling? A bakery can charge what they deem reasonable for Gebäck pastry and I'm willing to pay the price, but a cup of coffee is a standard cup of coffee.

Yesterday I was sitting at a sidewalk café in Berlin near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and trying to enjoy my expensive cup of coffee and eating and expensive Gebäck, even though the weather was cooperating, my taste palate wasn't, as wasn't the weather. This morning I'm supposed to meet some type of human being to exchange my priceless Michelangelo necklace for, once again one hundred thousand U.S. currency.

The chill in the air had every patron at the café fully dressed as if going to birthday parties, a museum or even visit the remains of the Wall. My jeans and Nike's and blue t-shirt and black leather jacket tagged me as a tourist, if not American than a European on holiday

A smart Golden Retriever dog came to my lag and lay its jaw on my thighs. Around it neck was tied a satchel not large enough to carry the large amount of money, but I untied the satchel and put it on my table beside my half eaten Gebäck . I didn't peek inside it. The name tag on the dog's neck read, Reggie Rocketship. How could I not like a dog named Reggie Rocketship? I petted his head, his tail wagged, and then he turned and trotted down the block.

A tall, dark well-dressed man in a brown business suit that matched his skin, about forty years old with a shock of black hair without a part, sat on the chair opposite mine at the small round table. His puffy face, reddish eye whites, rutty skin and puffy lips revealed his unhealthy diet.

His voice singed with his native language. "إذا نظرت داخل حقيبة فسوف يفاجأ بليسينتلي."

He said, If you look inside the bag you will be pleasantly surprised.

Fucking Arabic, I never could grasp that splendid language. يرجى التحدث الألمانية، الروسية ، الفرنسية أو الإنجليزية." I said, please speak German, Russian, French or English. "You see, if you can't at least speak English than you and your three buddies down the street aren't worth the shoes you walk in."

His left eyes twitch was a serious give-a-way that he and his buddies were going to kill me even though his light laughter was a comic relief. He shifted in the chair and tapped the brown leather satchel like it was filled with 99.9% pure gold.

His Queen's English accent stalled my impression of him. "I'm here by myself, Mr. Crown. Those three hoodlums in the background are Ms. Stanktar's killers. I figured I'd meet with you anyway and perhaps together we could take them out, if you know what I mean."

"Why should I trust you?"

"I'm with the new German Secret Service." He tapped the satchel again and darted his eyes from mine to the satchel. I looked only at his eyes.

"What's in the bag?"

"In collaboration with the Italian Government, since the necklace was made by their most esteemed artisan, we will gladly pay you twenty thousand Euros for the jewelry."

"I don't have a gun. How will be take out the three hoodlums. By the way, don't look but they're approaching us now." I lied.

He jerked sideways. I jumped up, angled around behind the Arab and stabbed him in the left side of his neck, all the while looking as those I was hugging him from behind. He went limp and I held the 76.2 millimeter blade inside his neck making sure he was dead and his body wouldn't tip over.

I was thrilled that nobody panicked, that nobody noticed my confrontation except for the three killers who weren't really approaching my table. Actually, they back away, turned and hustled out of sight down the street.

Slowly pulling the blade out of the stranger's neck, whom I assumed wasn't part of the New German Secret Service, but a thief, usurper and murderer, I settled him on the chair and greeted him goodbye. The satchel was light in my hand. Perhaps it contained a chemical that would poison me or contained a plastic bomb that would blow off my head when I opened it.

Six meters away from the scene at the sidewalk café , where foot and auto traffic was light I threw the satchel overhead, ducked into a doorway and waited for it to land on the sidewalk. If it exploded then I was safe. If it didn't explode, well then, I'd try to open it. It didn't explode. I ran to it believing in the future, picked it up and opened it.

Twenty thousand Euros. What did I know? Perhaps the man who was just like any ordinary person, who may have liked to dance, sing, drink, party and have sex was a part of the New German Secret Service, and I cut his life short. What I did know is that I wasn't going to touch the Euros until I crossed the German border and had the money examined for poison.

The next telephone contact to meet with the next buyer better be legitimate because I'm getting tired of stealing money and not exchanging the necklace for it. Perhaps the Michelangelo piece is jinxed?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kiev

Two days ago at a sidewalk café in Kiev, the weather wasn't cooperating. Sunny then cloudy, drizzle then rain, sunny again and everything was wet including my sugary baklava I so adored eating with a hot, black cup of espresso. But what the hell, I'm here to meet a new contact, hopefully not one who wants to kill me, hopefully not some meat-head, brain-dead hoodlum from Russia trying to make a name for himself.

That million dollar necklace I'd stolen from a jeweler in Cannes was in my jacket pocket, this time protected in a small felt bag. My luck in London was running hot like my temperament, but I was able to retrieve the necklace and the fifty thousand US currency as well as two handguns from my contact who turned out to be my enemy.

My contact this morning is an Athenian woman. My man Mr. Yen in Venice said she's new in the open market business and is destined to make millions from the Chinese jewelry industry. I wasn't one to argue so I agreed to meet the Athenian and exchange the necklace for one hundred thousand US currency, a bump up of 100% from my last so-called exchange.

To my surprise she was already here. Sitting three tables away toward the street corner with her back turned toward me. Blonde wig, tailored black jacket, tight short skirt and pumps the size of the titanic approached me and sat opposite me at my table. Striking yet familiar, something was wrong about her. Perhaps it was her height, the stiff makeup, the drawn on black brows, red lipstick or even the large teeth, something had to give. Maybe it was the extra long red fingernails that was wrong, her fingers holding onto a soft leather case under her left hand and a cellphone in her right palm.

Her voice was a Russian masculine buzz in my brain. "One hundred thousand for the necklace."
"Do you know who made the necklace?" I asked the transgender.
"Michelangelo Buonarroti of course."
"Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni," I corrected. "Over five hundred years ago he designed and crafted this for his girlfriend."
"And now it's worth one hundred thousand?"
"Это бесценно," It's priceless I said in Russian.
"Тогда почему ее продать?" Then why sell it she responded in Russian.
I stalled for time to triangulate my exit. "I have dozens of children to care for."
He painted eyebrows rose. "You're quite the fornicator then?
"Not quite," I said, and pulled the small necklace package from my jacket. I laid it in front of her. She opened the soft leather case which revealed the cash inside.
She shoved the case toward me, opened the felt pouch and looked inside.
"I see you brought your entourage with you," I said, and pointed at two other, what I assumed to be, transgender sitting at her table facing us.
"У меня тоже есть ртов . Так я возьму ожерелье Michelangelo и мою сто тысяч и раскол."
"I sorry," I responded. "What have I missed? I get the money and you get Michelangelo's necklace. You can't have both."
"I can have whatever I want," she said. "You see, I'm Russian not Athenian. If I want something I take it unlike you Americans who always want to bargain."
"First of all I'm not American, and second I never bargain."
"If you're not American what are you?"
"At this moment, none of your business."

In all her femininity and makeup her moves were much slower than mine, but her cohorts speed had we worried. I snatched the soft leather case and my necklace from underneath her nose, jumped up and across the small table I round-house kicked her face. Her buddies pulled their guns but the transgender body was the target. Four shots and she had fallen face down on the cement between two tables. Customers fell off their chairs and many bolted, making me the next target. I snatched up the metal folding chair and held it in front of me and grabbed my handgun from the back of my pants belt. Six shots whizzed by my head.

Two shots from me and both assassins were down.

All hell broke loose considering what has happened to Ukraine over the past three months. Screams lifted my ears, cries stitched the air, foot beats on cement cracked, emotions of hatred, fear, regret, anxiety and disgust felt like a wet blanket, and worst of all the smell of death permeated this spot. Waiting to be arrested for shooting and injuring two young transgender wasn't in my agenda.  I didn't wait for any outcome and reversed my entrance to the sidewalk café, down the street and hightailed it toward Pinchuk Art Centre.

My buddy Mr. Yen in Venice will have to answer a few of my nasty questions. But first, How lucky can a guy get? I didn't get to finish eating my gummy baklava or drink my espresso.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Celebrity in Hollywood

video
Prettyboy: Fabulous Fifties Hollywood coming soon to amazon.com as an eBook and Paperback. Stay tuned for the publication date.