3: Death Takes a Cruise
|S||chipol Airport, just outside
Amsterdam. Dak awakens, already on Amsterdam time, eight
hours ahead of LA. THE PLAN set firmly in his brain, he
feels refreshed and ready for anything-if he can only
find where they hide the rental cars. He keeps asking
people, but they act like he's speaking Japanese... Oh,
he is speaking Japanese, perfect
Japanese... Dak always had a tendency to think in
Japanese when he was in Europe, and Spanish when in
Holland, that's right. Dak loves Holland. So flat and green. Such a 180 degree change from LA being so hilly and brown. LA's full of intolerant people. Holland's full of tolerant people and talented cows. Or is that talented people and tolerate cows?
Dak changes his American dollars into Dutch guilders, some of the world's most colorful and beautiful money. In the US there are presidents on the dark green money. In Holland there are sunflowers on the bright pink and yellow currency. Every denomination a different color, with the big bucks depicting a big red and white striped lighthouse.
Dak had always wanted to redesign American money, but he knew when the time came the commission would go to someone safe. He'd never convince them that people shouldn't take money so seriously. They're never approve of his whimsical design of George Washington in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, no matter how amusing that might be.
Dak's design day-dream is cut short when he realizes that someone is trying to steal his suitcase. He folds the bills and stuffs them in his pocket in denominational order with one hand, while the other arm snaps out and grabs the perpetrator by the back of the ruffled collar using the Tai Kow move "Dormouse catches aphid for lunch." One quick tug and Dak is nose to nose with the suitcase snatcher, an especially pale blue-haired elderly woman.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he says in perfect Dutch (which you probably wouldn't understand-that's why it's here in English), "I believe you have my bag."
In quick succession, 1) the grandmotherly woman drops the bag; 2) Dak drops her collar, 3) Dak lifts her bag off the floor and places the handle into her slightly hairy hand; 4) turns her around; 5) and guides her towards the taxi stand. As she totters away, Dak sees a swash character tattooed on her upper arm, peeking through her slightly torn blouse. Dak recognizes "her" as Rot Weil, the famous albino neo-Nutzi female impersonator. They were on to him already, were they?
Dak uses the mirrored edges of his eyeglasses to look behind him to make sure he's not being followed and sees a familiar sign: "rac-a-tner nobaS," actually "Sabon rent-a-car" but backwards because he's looking at a reflection.
A blonde Dutch Interpol operative is working behind the counter. They converse, nonchalantly, in Dutch.
"What do you have in Rubine Red?" Dak asks casually.
"That's a very popular color, Sir, so we're all out at the moment. Might I suggest Peach?" the operative responds, in a studied offhand way.
"No. Actually, do have any CitroŽn's in Pantone 877C?"
They both look left. They look right. They look at each other. They nod, almost imperceptibly. The coded greeting was completed correctly. Their casual air becomes less formal.
"I will take you to Professor Goudy's house, Mr. Dohney." the impeccably groomed operative says quietly. Dak follows the operative to the parking lot, where rows and rows of cars glisten with raindrops. They get into a new CitroŽn TM, a streamlined wonder that looks not unlike a Pacer which had been flattened. Of course that didn't sound good in promotional literature, so the motor press said it looked like a water droplet formed at high-speed, and praised it as being the latest thing is car design.
Naturally, the car is bullet-proof, crush-proof, water-proof, and has dual air-bags. And best of all, the seats adjust their contour to fit the curvature of your spine and have three different massage settings - Swedish, Shiatsu, and Rolfing (which only operates when the transmission is in either Park, or Scream).
As they speed towards Amsterdam (a very short trip) the operative explains the car's sophisticated controls-all placed around the inside edge of the small steering wheel.
"The layout is designed so that you can access anything without removing your hands from the wheel." The operative says, pointing to buttons marked with cryptic international symbols, "The black triangle inside the square controls the power windows. This circle with a lightning bolt changes the radio station. The pointing hand raises and lowers the hydraulic suspension to the correct point. The little sun turns on the driver side tanning rays. The thing that looks like an exploding canon ball turns on the heater, while the throne turns on the air conditioner. The thing that looks like a banana polishes your shoes-press right for brown, left for black, press it twice fast to initiate the self-destruct sequence. The snowflake fires the laser canon, and the blue/red circle fires the ejector seat..."
The hydraulic suspension work so well that Dak can't even feel the cobblestones of Prinsengracht, the narrow street adjacent to the third canal-like all Amsterdam's canals, engineered and dug in the 1600's to allow Dutch trading ships to unload right at the warehouses.
Dak loves canals, his own house is on a canal in Venice, California. He also loves the quaint architecture, but today is more interested in the unusual assortment of boats gliding through in the canal. An open air tourist boat filled with smiling Japanese tourists listening to Willie Nelson's greatest hits, a red barge carrying half assembled mannequins, and gaining on both, a super-fast but surprisingly silent speed boat bearing a gun turret. Such a nice gun turret, too, with a smooth non-reflective matte black finish that almost made it invisible. "You'd never see it coming," Dak thinks, seeing it coming.
Bullets spray from the canal as pedestrians dive to the ground. The bullets splat against the bullet-proof windows like rain and the titanium windshield wipers push them out of the way like so much water. Then the inevitable happens, a bullet hit the tires. "Next time I've got to reserve a rental with bullet proof tires," Dak thinks.
The hydraulic suspension lifts the flat tired off the ground, allowing them to speed down the narrow street on three tires. One flat tire is one thing, two are another, and when the next tire blows they lose control, plunging head first into the canal, the car's aerodynamic nose slicing into the water like a high diver-hardly making a splash.
The gun boat speeds away, silently, but creates a huge wake that drenches the unsuspecting Japanese tourists.
As the airbags receded, Dak see the last vestige of the quaint buildings obscured as the murky water surrounds the car. He tries to open the door, but the pressure of the water makes it impossible. He tries to lower the electric windows, but they don't work. He calculates that there is approximately four minutes worth of air inside the car, if they both take turns breathing.
The soaking wet Japanese tourists take snapshots and videos of the bubbles in the canal, the only reminder of the Pantone 877C CitroŽn.
Chapter 4: A little underwater music
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