Bleakly Eight

I always loved the conveyor sidewalks. I mean, sure, they were outside and you could hardly breathe out there those days, and half the time they were under maintenance, but it really was the only way to see the city; under the skyscrapers, you looked up at the sky, and on the off chance the clouds were thin enough, it was almost like the buildings were reaching up to embrace the moon…

‘Course, most days, it was more like a grimy hand reaching up toward nothing at all.


I got off at an unassuming office building of medium size. The whole thing belonged to Nocter, and the place was a damned fortress- who knows how many levels of security, enough funding for a small weapons program –  the place was impregnable, and they’d shipped equipment to this address, equipment that was so secret the stockholders and board of directors had absolutely no idea what it was or how much it had cost.

Sounded to me like the perfect place to poke my head into.

And what better investigational method than to walk in the front door? I mean, they’d never expect that.

“Bonjour, mon cherie,” I brightly greeted the dark-eyed receptionist, “I must needs be meeting Monsieur- ah, so difficult to pronounce the name-“

“Tkachyov?” She fluttered her eyelashes.

“Oui! You are as clever as you are beautiful, Madamoiselle. ‘Tat-chee-yoof is so lucky to have such a, how do you say, talented and worthy lady in his employ. I trust the, ah, appointment is all in order?”

“Mister- I mean Monsieur,” she blushed slightly, “Bleakly?”

Their files were pretty secure- as far as such things go. I was lucky I’d made it to the appointment list in her computer. Unfortunately for Tkachyov, the appointment was not on his day-planner. (At least, not that I knew of.)

“Oui. Merci, my loveliest new acquaintance. I shall, if fortune smiles, see you in time.”

She smiled widely down at her computer screen as I whisked past the desk and into the elevator.


I whistled. I almost didn’t notice my shoulder. I almost didn’t hate the muzak.


The elevator doors opened and instinctually I reached immediately for the “Door Close” button which of course did me very little good. Four pale identical men stood almost silhouetted by the light from floor 34. So I smiled and put my hands behind my head.

“Well, I’m guessing you guys are gonna take me someplace bad now.”

They wordlessly boarded the elevator, one on either side of me, one standing directly in front of the doors, the fourth leaning in a corner and pushing a series of buttons on the elevator console. It was he who spoke.

“We are the Neithermen.”

“Nice to meet you! I’m Thomas Bleakly, Private-“

“We know.”

“And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, hey, I could totally-“

Oh hey, check it out! Stars!


Wait a minute- oh god damn it.





“And I,” spoke the voice, “am not anyone named anything even remotely close to Tkachyov.”


Well, that does put a damper on things.





“You’ve been pretty cheerful about this investigation, Bleakly. You really have. Which is stupid, considering your smarts and your record. Your reputation alone’s probably enough to make you a rich man, which says some things about you. Namely, that you’re an idiot.”


I started wheezing. My spirits started rising.


“You think you’re invulnerable. You tend to solve cases through brute force, by putting yourself in the middle and assuming your indestructible ass or impossible good luck will get you through.”


I almost chuckled. C’mon, Bleakly. This is pretty fucking funny. Right? Gimme a decent laugh.

And hey, it was almost funny. It started to get funnier by the second.


“And you’ve got me tied down right now because I’m known for talking my way out of this shit. Right?”


“You assume… many things, Thomas. This is your greatest weakness, I’ve no problem telling you.”


I started laughing in earnest. “You seem to know a lot about my weaknesses. But just maybe you’re missing a couple of my strengths.” I smiled up at the tiled ceiling and concentrated on guffawing, chuckling, giggling.


“I suppose it’s only fair I explain something to you. But first-“


And his unknowing monologue was enough to push me over the edge. I cracked up.


Hey, check it out! Stars!





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