BOOK THREE – “HEARTBREAK HOTEL”
(Incident Report... draft... of Sergeant Chester Aspid regarding events that commenced Thursday, January 4, 2035 - moments past midnight)
Once the Coroner showed up with a couple more of Ray's technical people, Johnno and I arrived at what you might call a mutual understanding to break the news to the family together. Heenes had no local survivors, lucky keb, an' who gives a keb about doops? Mazzolo, though... Trouble Factory Intelligence, this late, didn't have much on the Comte beyond his name and his address. If there was more, Germany was keepin' it under his little feathered hat. Rich, though, and royalty, so to speak. Ain't supposed to be royalty in Barataria, like across the rest of the Americas, but try tellin' that to one as comes over the ocean from the EU, lordin' it over the little people, like us. Anyhow, we drive way th' keb out Northeast, to where the money rolls, almost to Blue City... thinkin' about Pearson, still, I am. It's around two hundred hours when John goes to ring on the doorbell... he's experienced at tellin' dames how a husband or son's been iced.... well, it ain't no dame answerin', but this duded-up old fellow as looks like he's been expecting us, and John and I look at each other because he's the spittin' image of those seven dead guys, except he has these white linen trousers, blue blazer and one of those kebbin' things around his neck - ascot, a scarf, something intended to make you feel like dirt. As are three other doops, slinkin' through the hallways in clothes eat up a month's salary of any honest cop.
John looks out on his feet, so I finally ask... "Mazzolo?"
"That is I. Comte Vicente Duran-Mazzolo of Ferencia, Naos and, more recently, this... this Jatesland. Is there something I can do for you?"
Swiff pronounced the name of my town like it was somethin' you pick outta the garbage. Ain't saying it's Paradise, but no kebbin foreigner's got the right to talk the way he did. Gave me attitude, what I'm saying...
"Maybe there's something you would like to tell us," I say, probably not too pleasantly - 'cause the vic, seven times over, steps back, raising a handful of long, silky fingers to his mouth. Look close enough an' you'll suss out the doop in any pack, they're filled out... sort of... a little fuzzy on the details.
"Where are my manners?" this real Comte cajoles and snaps his fingers at the shadowy substitutes. "Come in... a drink for the gentlemen from the Trouble Factory, Five!"
Mazzolo snaps his fingers again, harder this time, and another Mazzolo, this doop clad in workingman's black trousers and a shimmery tan glastic shirt enters, thrusting his blurry doop-self into John's face.
"Will Integral 55 be satisfactory?"
"You are the last person I expected to see here," said the Patrols Chief, "let alone two of you, or... just how many Mazzolos are there?"
"Your presence implies that there are perhaps fewer, now, than earlier tonight."
"Try seven fewer," I say. I'm fexed, now, really fexed... this is one of those people, those situations I can't solve, you know, with a clout on the head, or by makin' the zook dance at the end of a prancer.
Mazzolo sighs, too, as Five brings the bottled herbal drinks and we sink into the Comte's furniture. "They're all gone?" John Crum nodded, and I would've nodded too, but for bein' tired, wacked as a New Orleans refugee vampire at two in the afternoon... which thought comes into my mind lookin' at this foreign dook, his clothes an' the stinkwater all over him while he plants his backside on one of those fancy chairs. "I consider my clones extensions of myself which, of course, they are," he condescended. "I was in the final stages of delicate business negotiations and took what I thought to be a reasonable precaution. Do you know of a gentleman named Conrad Heenes? An analyst at HRI, very giglio..."
"Not anymore," John corrected him. "He's dead, too."
Mazzolo straightened in his armchair like he'd just sat on a tack. "Dead? But that's what... I do not understand..."
"Conrad Heenes bought and sold piss," I reminded him.
"Fecula!" Mazzolo spat.
"Among a certain... society... Heenes was likened to a bloodsucker who always tends to pop up in the vicinity of celebrity fex. He is... was violent, unstable," the Comte shuddered, removing the handkerchief from his blazer and daubing his forehead. "One cannot always expect to do business with gentlemen... yes, Officers, I sent my clones. A number of them, to deter what apparently has happened, irregardless..."
"Seven! Over half my household; Numbers One and Two, Four... the others... I will, of course, provide you with any documents you may require."
"Must've been hard on the family... wife, children?" I tried to draw him out, "...all them copies of yourself around this place?"
"There is no Signora Mazzolo, she preceded me in death many years ago," Mazzolo gave a theatrical sigh. "Our sons are grown and reside overseas. The specimen in question was a pure Louis Prima, exceptionally valuable; he passed away before testing became common. There are perhaps a dozen Primas in private hands, no more than twenty... you know," and he inclined his patrician profile with a cynical wink, "...there are some poor deluded souls, from my old country, or a few of the more benighted corners of EastAmerica, they believe a drop or two of Prima, or Sinatra.... Dean Martin, even... will cure a sick child. Or improve certain adult... ah... functions? This is what we are up against, attempting to sustain civilization, or a simulacra of it..."
It was almost two hundred hours. I looked at Johnno with a shrug, he nodded back.
"Mister Mazzola... Comte, is it?" I asked, mispronouncing his name deliberately because, I don't know, I was fexed, "...we are truly sorry to have to bring you this news. We are going to refrain from asking for documentation tonight... as the primal of record, you shall be required to make an identification tomorrow morning at a civilized hour; you can bring your papers then. Coroner's office, basement. Let's say nine hundred hours..." I looked to John for conformation.
"Ten..." said the Patrols Chief, who probably still had places to go, criminals to fight...
"Ten, then, will that be convenient?"
"I shall not disappoint you," said Mazzolo, apparently deep in thought, hands folded, staring down at the carpet. "Eleven," the hebe directed, and I almost objected before realizing he was summoning one of his doops, "...please show these officers to the door."
What the old man didn't know was that I seen those two clones, Five and Eleven, I think they were, whisperin' in the hallway behind Mazzolo's study like a pair of old maids. Well, I don't like doops, and I don't care who knows... there's just something not right about 'em. Maybe I'm just another bigoted cop. Maybe it's because they're usually grown off'n people with too much money, not enough sense... and not a scruple shared among host and doop.