END OF A SMOKING MONKEY
Charles, alias the smoking monkey, not-so-alias an actual monkey-clone, had planned it all. This bothered Joe. He didn’t like the feel of being a pawn in some deep simian game. He’d still been paid, and paid well, but it didn’t sit right. It had been over a month, and he was still really annoyed about it. It was true that he had found the monkey in the end, but that had only come about through the combined machinations of said monkey-clone and bad luck. Charles had left the intercom-clue that could have led to the discovery of his whereabouts, a clue that might still have taken Joe to the mountaintop where the monkey lived. This presented a most irksome question: if he hadn’t seen the ill-fated Lily’s list of potential locations, would Joe have made the connection between the the brand-name for the intercom on his desk and the address of monkey-mansion anyway? As it stood, Joe would never get the chance to find out. Maybe he would have made the connection, but then, maybe he wouldn’t have, either. There was now no way he could ever know for sure. For Joe, this had produced a crisis of confidence.
Of course, it had worked out really well for Harold and his team, they’d gotten some particularly juicy and lucrative operations out of it. Charles, having been impressed by the team’s rescue of Joe, hired them to perform several ‘extractions’. Trinket had been especially happy, because every one of those operations had allowed her to blow things up. In fact, that’s why Joe was here now, drinking as much as someone else could pay for, and writing his own epilogue. The team had just finished the last mission, and they were all gathered at the bar to celebrate several jobs well done. Joe was not petty, he would drink to the success of his friends. In a way, he’d been the conduit through which they’d managed to get that work: the rescue of a seriously large monkey-clone army.
It was this army that Charles had been looking for the whole time. Made sense, clearly Charles already knew where he was, and nobody ever hires a Private Investigator to find themselves. Self-discovery is normally done through soul-searching, the purchase of myriad self-help books, or visits to exotic destinations. Joe preferred to look in the mirror whenever he needed to find himself, it was just more cost effective. There had been a ‘decoy smoking monkey’ that had vanished from Jimson’s purpose built habitat; a staged disappearance was necessary to set the whole thing in motion. But that had been a normal monkey, trained to smoke and act as much like Charles as was possible, but not so much so that it would be taken by the people looking for the real one. Charles had called it the ‘monkey-of-reasonable-doubt’, and that monkey was now in rehab in some sunny tropical resort. There was no doubt as far as Joe was concerned: he had not been hired for his investigative skill, but to force the hand of those that held the ‘other’ monkeys.
Why hadn’t Charles just used his own people for this elaborate deception? Why had it been necessary to turn Joe’s life into an enormous shit-sandwich? The answer was as simple as it was unsatisfying: much of Charles’ wealth came through his corporations – fronted by Orson Jimson – and corporations always have spies nestling at their teats. As much of these corporations were ‘legitimate’, at any given time rival companies had infiltrated one or more of them. Many of these spies were just your average, boring, industrial espionage types, although others were of the kind Joe had come across. Either way you sliced it, using his own people for the job meant playing the ‘loyalty-lottery’ as regarded his personnel. This was not a risk much to Charles’ liking. Joe, therefore, had been hired because he was from outside the corporate structure. However, this was not the only reason Joe had been tapped for the job. He had also been hired because he had a reputation of ‘rubbing people the wrong way’. In fact, his salty personality was the main reason that Joe had won the commission. Joe was still undecided as to whether winning a Job because he had a less-than-winning personality counted as victory.
Personal victory or not, Charles had accurately predicted that, once Joe was involved, he would piss off enough people to get noticed by the spy whose overlords held the other monkeys. Joe was also bound to aggravate the spy enough that, whomever it was, would act rashly and take Joe captive. Then, all Charles had to do was wait for Joe to get free, report who the spy was, and where he had been taken. That would be enough to reveal which organization held the rest of the clones, and effect the rescues. Joe thought all of that was pretty fucked up.
And the organization, who were they? Why would they go to such lengths to get a bead on Charles’ location?
The name of the organization was as unlikely as it was Orwellian: Double-Meta-G. As Charles explained it, they were the Government behind the Government that was behind the Government. They even had their own corporate sponsors, just like the other two layers of non-democratic governance. They had inherited, rather than produced the clones, and they wanted Charles because he had been the first clone, the prime-primate, the one that would rule them all: the clone-army’s General.
Whomever had originally drawn up the plans for the creation of the clones, had made sure that Charles would be the first vat-grown example. Charles had been the perennially dateless Dr. Inklestaz’s first Job after graduation, and Inklestatz had made him smarter than the clones that were to follow. Charles had been made first – decades before the first soldier batch would become a glint in a petri dish’s eye – to allow enough time for him to get life experience and a proper education. Nobody wanted a General freshly from the vat and wet behind the ears. They wanted a seasoned warrior, and getting one of those took time. The problem had been that Inklestatz had made Charles too smart and provided him with a liberal arts education. The result was that Charles was perfectly capable of having ideas of his own. The key idea he formed, was that he did not want to be the government’s bitch, and he escaped after completion of an operation so black it had stars sparkling in it.
At the time of the escape, Charles met the recently Orphaned Orson Jimson and took him under his wing. Since he’d been responsible for the young Jimson’s orphan status, Charles had felt that it was his moral duty to raise the boy. And so that’s what he did, and between them they’d managed to produce the fortune that saw them living so comfortably in the present. Yet Charles never forgot about the plans for a clone army; his younger brothers that would be slaves. He hatched a the plan to locate and effect their rescue, and it was this that Joe had been caught up in.
That, as far as Joe could tell, was all there was to the story. At least, it was all there was to the story that he was ever going to get out of the old Monkey-General. Joe didn’t care, he was going to do his best to forget all of the story – especially the parts he had been involved with. He was already well on his way, too. But he could get further along. It was time for another drink someone else was paying for.
“Are you Mr. Smote?”
Joe looked up from his empty glass to see a man in a poorly held together suit. “I am. Are you the waiter? When did they start providing table service?”
Poorly-made-suit-man looked puzzled. “Ummm, no I’m not the waiter. I’m here to engage your services.”
“I’m busy drinking my life away at the moment, come see me at the office.”
“I’ve been to your office, several times, you haven’t been in for over a month. Your assistant said I should come and see you here.”
“Did he, though?” Gerard was watching Joe nervously from the bar. Joe shot him a look that suggested sharp-bladed implements. “Alright, but I’m gonna keep drinking while you talk. What’s the Job?”
“It’s about a film.”
“A film? Like a movie film?”
“Yes, the theatrical release version in fact.”
“What about it?”
“It’s gone missing, I’d like to engage your services to find it.”
“Tell me, this film, does it have any monkeys or other assorted primates in it?”
The suit looked puzzled again. “Well, it has people in it I expect, or actors at least. No actual monkeys as far as I know.”
“I should warn you, my services are expensive.”
“Money’s no object, I’ll pay whatever you ask. It was a very important film.”
Clearly the suit knew that my favorite kind of money is the kind that had no object. Objects are overrated. But would I take the case? Could I? That fucking monkey had really done a number on my head. But then, there was the object-less money. I needed more details, the kind of details that ensure there will be no involvement with tree-dwelling creatures. Except maybe birds. I like birds.