Chapter 10 – ‘Ant-Man’
This was a place that never changed, it was exactly the same as it’s always been, even when Pa died, this place never changed. It looked the same, even the sounds this place makes never changes. It was almost like time was passing by and leaving this place alone. As a kid, I would come here and tell all my secrets because this place remembered Pa, even when everyone else moved on. It remembered me and my brother running along the stream even when they were only hazy memories to me. All those times when I could no longer stand up because I was so drunk and couldn’t go home, it would seem okay to be here. This place was always waiting for me, even when I had long gone. It accepts me for who I am without asking questions, when I come here I can forget about the shitty world, don’t have to think about any of that. So let them think what they want, calling it an ‘escape’, maybe that’s what it is but we all need it, right? I can dream here, that’s what I do, I dream. I dream about a chaotic world, where man has abandoned all rule and order, unleashing the fury from inside on all those who inflict him with pain and suffering. Let man kill each other and let anarchy rule until the beasts are wiped out, annihilating the very system that created them. Dragons devour good men in a world that mercilessly strips you of your strength and character so let man become the venomous predator for once, let him hunt down the enemy until nothing remains.
The bushes moved slightly as Mike looked up, raising his head as he lay next to the stream. ‘Is someone there’? Mike got up as he moved towards the bushes, ‘who is it’? There was no answer, as always someone was moving around behind the bushes but never came out.
Mike waited outside the hospital and watched his Ma’ come out slowly. She walked like an old lady, slowly towards the wagon, for the first time she seemed so fragile. It’s not the years that causes a person to age but it’s grief. ‘Michael, you should have come inside’, ‘it’s okay Ma, I will tomorrow’. ‘Amy came today, she spent hours with Becky it made her smile. First time after so long I saw Becky happy’. Mike carried on driving towards the house, listening to his Ma’ talking in the background. ‘Ma, I have to go somewhere, will be home later tonight’. Ethel looked at Mike, sensing something was not right, ‘where you going’? I hope it’s not to meet that lady from the paper. I know she came round to the hospital. I don’t want you talking to her, okay’. Mike said nothing as he thought about Saturday when he was going on a date with Kay, she was nice and beautiful too. Ma’ always blames people for stuff happening, like avoiding them will make everything okay.
Mike drove across the bridge, heading towards the ‘Strip’. It was a job he didn’t want to do but Uncle J was on his case. The more he thought about Uncle J, the less he trusted him, who is this ‘Ant-Man’? He sounds dodgy at best, the kind of stuff he would rather stay away from. The Strip was another place that never changed except a few of the faces that you would see around the creep joints. It was a breeding ground for unsavory characters and illegal rackets ranging from delinquency to major criminal activity. ‘Live by Nite’, was the same club which Jen had visited that night, the last time he saw her. He and Hugh had also been here, but strangely enough he never looked at the name before, well maybe he did but forgot.
‘It’s invite only, who you with’?
Mike stood at the door, ‘I’m with Ant-Man, Antoine’.
The man at the door looked at Mike up and down, like he was looking at Mike’s clothes for something specific to prove he knew the ‘Ant-Man’.
‘I know Big J, okay’. The man stepped out the way gesturing him to go inside. Mike stepped in thinking it would probably be easier to get into a government office than get entry to this whore house. Mike walked inside and was surprised at what he saw. This was not like many other places he had visited, there was no cloud of smoke or booming music, the kind which leaves you temporarily deaf. It was quiet and the atmosphere was high class, men were sitting on sofas wearing bling probably worth millions of dollars and ‘Armani’ suits. The women, ohhh man they were classy, they were like part of the fancy decor of this place. They looked like show pieces as they were draped on the arms of these men. He definitely looked out of place in his casuals, in fact he wondered how he was allowed in. He walked over to the bar where a young lady was serving, she was wearing black and looked alot like Penelope Cruz.
’I’ve come to see the ‘Ant-Man’? Can I see him’?
She looked at Mike like he was begging for money or something,
‘What do you want from him’? She had an accent, a strong Latino accent as she spoke.
‘I have a message for him from Big J’.
She walked behind a curtain, Mike looked around and noticed people were giving him a look. She came back out, ‘what message’?
‘I would rather tell him, myself. It’s important’.
‘Look, just tell me or go’.
’Tell him, ‘J’ is fishing’. Mike wasn’t sure whether that was the exact message but it was something like that, it was close enough. The pretty lady went back behind the curtain, a man appeared from behind and gestured for Mike to come inside. The lady opened the small door on the side and Mike went in. There was a hallway behind with an open room at the end of the hallway. The man stood facing Mike, ’how you know ‘J’?
‘I’m his nephew, are you Antoine’?
‘I’m not but I will give him your message, okay’.
Mike looked at the man closely, he had seen him before. This man had a thick moustache, dark complexion but his hair was familiar. It was long, in a ponytail. Mike kept looking at him and the man became uneasy, ‘Are you ok, Chico’? He was uptight as Mike stared at him, desperate to know where he had seen him. This guy was definitely a gamer, this is why he was uptight, they get like that if someone stares at them too long. Men who are involved in rackets, numbers, whatever become paranoid about people watching them. ‘Fuck’, Mike remembered that this guy was with Jen that night. It was him, yes it was dark that night but it was him. Mike remembered seeing him in the parking lot with Jen and some other woman. ‘Ok, man you better go now’.
‘Do you know Jen……..Jennifer’?
The man looked at him closely, ‘who Jennifer’?
‘I saw you with her, some weeks ago, since then she’s missing’.
The man looked at him closely, and Mike looked deep into his eyes, this was all about being streetwise. It was a game, where the players sell whatever they want through perception. This Hispanic motherfucker was gonna deny that he even heard of Jen so Mike had to convince him that he knows!
’I know you, yes … you were round the apartments with your friend. Came here too, right?
Mike nodded slowly, he had this guy cracked, ‘Where is she’? The man looked around, ‘How should I know’? So he was admitting that he knew her. ‘Just tell me where she is, I’m a good friend of hers. Is she okay’?
The man was quiet, he said nothing for a moment. Mike had made up his mind if something had happened to Jen, he would tear this fucker apart, right now. Fuck Ant-Man and Uncle J. ‘So Chico, if you are a good friend, why don’t you know where she is’?
Mike looked away as he felt himself becoming agitated, fuck it was that same feeling of something being released into his body, this adrenalin.
‘Just tell me where she is’.
‘Look man, I can’t tell you where she is. I gave her my word and you better not come asking any questions, you or your friend’.
Mike felt a relief, she was alive, she was alive. Just that realization was enough even if he didn’t know where she was. Mike turned around and drew the curtain back to walk out. ’Hey man, you are J’s nephew. We owe him alot, so you are with us. If you want to have a good breakfast then come to this place on ‘crimson street’, called ‘Mister Munch’, about 11.00, okay’. Mike smiled and nodded, he had his answer.
Michael waited up the street from ‘Mister Munch’, he checked his watch it was ’11.03 am’. He was watching the cafeteria like a hawk, seeing every person go in and come out. He was like a cop without the doughnuts. He felt like a spy, like he was cheating Jen once more, just as he was the night he followed her. It was ‘11.10’, still no sign of Jen. Mike shook his head thinking that maybe the greased Chico had led him on a wild goose chase. He then saw a woman approaching ‘Mister Munch’ from down the street. She was wearing denim jeans and a brown leather jacket, she looked like Jen. Yes definitely it was her. She looked so pretty, she was okay. Michael felt ecstatic just seeing Jen alive and well, but suddenly he began to feel angry as he thought of Kim, the sadness in her little eyes. Why did Jen leave? Abandoned her kids, why did she do that? Mike got out of his wagon as he walked slowly up to the diner, he peered inside trying to be as less discrete as possible. She was inside wearing an apron, which meant she worked here. Mike watched her for a few moments then began to walk back to his wagon. Mike sat back inside, wondering whether he should just go up and confront her. Maybe he should just follow her and find out where she lives and then come back later. How about if she disappears from here in a couple of days’ time and he can’t find her again, shit! Mike thought about Hugh, he was a wreck close to destruction. He was in self-destruct mode and when a man locks himself into that condition, only a miracle can bring him back. He should go and tell Hugh where she is, repay him for all the times he stood by him, but Hugh will think that he knew where she was all along. Mike sighed as he wrestled with himself. He was turning many corners in his mind, then he thought about what Hugh may do, he would kill her for sure. Mike sat in his wagon, knowing that if he moved even for five minutes, he may lose Jen.
It was ‘14.00 pm’, Mike had been waiting in his wagon for over three hours, then he saw Jen leaving. Mike waited for a minute before starting his wagon and began to follow Jen. She walked a few streets down and turned towards a block of apartments, Mike quickly parked up and jogged across the street. These apartments had an intercom system, damn! Mike waited by the gate and saw an old lady open the gate by putting in a code, he tailed her and was in the apartments. ‘Excuse me Ma’am, I’ve come to see a friend, she recently moved in, Jennifer. Do you know which apartment she’s in’? The lady looked at Mike, he knew that he was fucked if she called security. ’Oh yes, she’s that lovely lady in apartment 56, 3rd floor’. Mike walked up the flight of stairs, his heart was beating fast not knowing what to expect. How about if there is some guy with her, what then? Mike knocked on the door, there was no reply, he knocked again… harder. Someone opened the lock and the door opened …….. ‘Michael’?