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Element Of Time


Chapter 3:
Death takes a cruise

Schipol 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  Japan.

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.

Read Chapter 4: A little underwater music



Copyright © 2001 Daniel Will-Harris,

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[1: A plain brown bloodstained wrapper]
[Cunning Plans]
[Death takes a cruise]
[A little underwater music]
[International house of toast]
[Just loafing around]
[Just hanging around]
[Seeing things]
[Fish stories]
[Merman to Mermen]
[The scenic route]
[The value of nothing]
[Garbage out]
[All rights reserved]