Chapter 39:

(Dazzle) Anastasia Nikolaevna

Cafe Eris

I have a confession. I am in fact, not a DJ. I understand it must be extremely shocking to hear this. After all, I am so incredibly skilled at the art of Disk Jockeying that I am sure everyone naturally assumes Disk Jockeying as my primary calling in life. I must admit, in my endeavours as a DJ, I came to quite enjoy the profession, however I must recall my true purpose on this earth. A path that has been predestined for me through familial connections.
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I am an agent. A foreign agent. Tasked with retrieving a very important artifact that is suspected to be hidden right here, in this odd café. Bookmark here

I apologize for this sudden revelation. Please do seek medical attention if this is too much to bear. Although, it is true that Mr. Scanta has previously called me by the name “Agent Dazzle” on multiple occasions. However, I do not blame you if you had thought it to be mere jest, as my DJ cover was quite convincing. Bookmark here

Now I must recount my story. Let me begin by saying, I am an orphan. My father had trained me well before he passed on at the tender age of 6. That is, I was 6, not my father. In any case, his death was a mistake. Despite being a great mentor, at the end of the day, he was unsuccessful as an agent. Long ago, when I was merely a child, he was tasked with eliminating a certain family who knew too much. They were a threat to the integrity of the homeland, so he had to eradicate them. However there was a survivor out of the 7 individuals who hunted him down a few years later and murdered him in cold blood, along with my entire family. I am the lone survivor. Now I must continue his legacy. I must become a model agent, and restore my family honour.Bookmark here

I cannot fail. I will not fail. I shall leave no room for mistakes. I must inspect every inch of this café, including the customers.Bookmark here

I’ve decided the best route moving forward in my work here is to interrogate the most suspicious figure that roams this café. No, not the raccoon, although he is a very close second. I am speaking of Anastasia Nikolaevna. She is an anomaly, and I cannot leave any variables. Bookmark here

However, upon further contemplation, I have realized an indirect approach would be far better…. for my personal safety. It is because I cannot put my ultimate end goal in jeopardy, that is all. Bookmark here

That is why, I decided to approach one of the children that frequent this café. The individual in question was named Mishti Roy. Bookmark here

Age 8. Bookmark here

Height 135 cm.Bookmark here

Occupation none. Bookmark here

She is a student at Absol Lutberat Elementary School. The truth is, one of the other children would have been a more appropriate source. The one who refers to himself as “Maruto'' is better acquainted with Anastasia Nikolaevna, however I am never able to decipher what he is saying. I resigned myself to questioning Mishti Roy. Bookmark here

I approached Mishti Roy cautiously. She was terrorizing one of the workers, who finally conceded and relinquished the confectionary in his grasp. Her older brother was distracted elsewhere, speaking to another customer. I produced a lollipop from my pocket. Yes, any great agent would be prepared for such an encounter. She glared at me. But eventually took the peace offering and gestured for me to sit down. Bookmark here

“Whad’ya want?” she said.Bookmark here

“Hello there. I have an important matter which I wish to inquire about.”Bookmark here

“The heck does ‘zat mean? Speak English old man,” she gripped the lollipop angrily.Bookmark here

“I must ask for your cooperation while I ask you some questions about a certain individual.”Bookmark here

“Cooperation? I got a C for that in school. Can’t help ya.”Bookmark here

I materialized another lollipop from my pocket and presented it to her. She wrestled it out of my grip, “So who is ‘sertin induhvijewal’. I dunno anyone named that. Is it their middle name?” Bookmark here

I paid her mocking no heed, “Anastasia Nikolaevna is her name.”Bookmark here

“Oh, that detective lady. Whadd’ya wanna know about her?”Bookmark here

“Please detail any sort of exchange that has occurred between the two of you.”Bookmark here

The child stared in confusion, and I believe, irritation. Bookmark here

I did not like to dull down my speech for anyone, not even a child. It was basic respect. However, it seems the situation required a more unsophisticated conversation style.Bookmark here

I tried again, “Please tell me anything she has talked to you about.” Bookmark here

The child understood me this time. “Well, she doesn't really talk t’ me but she keeps going on about how Maruto, I mean, Mark Kim-” she tilted the strawberry-flavoured orb in her hand towards me “- reminds her of her dead brother.”Bookmark here

Good. The interrogation was making progress. “Tell me more.”Bookmark here

She gestured for more compensation. I sighed and took out yet another confection from my pocket. Bookmark here

“Her whole family’s dead. Dead as my pet budgie Biscuit that my pops cooked and ate. Anywho, that lady’s definitely got some prol’ems.”Bookmark here

I stared at the child, contemplating whether or not I should press further.Bookmark here

She continued nonchalantly, “You’re kinda sus too. Should I call the cops? What’s yer name old man?” Bookmark here

“I assure you that is not of importance young lady. No need to contact the authorities.” Bookmark here

“I don’t believe in authority,” she slammed her fist on the table.Bookmark here

Then she paused, “Actually, neither does the detective lady. By the way, do you like her or something?” Bookmark here

Oh. Disgusting. That is definitely a misunderstanding I must clear up immediately , “Listen, this-”Bookmark here

“Because I like her too,” she continued, “She’s kind of cool, because did you know, she took revenge on the guy who did her folks in, and she went and killed his whole family too! Revenge is hella sick! When I grow up I wanna get revenge on the old guy bothering my family too.”Bookmark here

Hold on a minute. “Pardon?” Bookmark here

“What?” Bookmark here

“Repeat that.” I started sweating.Bookmark here

“What? The part ‘bout how I’m gonna get revenge on the old guy-”Bookmark here

“No. Prior to that.” I said, trying to still by shaking hands.Bookmark here

“She killed ‘at wimp and his whooooole family,” the child waved around the candy in her hand enthusiastically. “Although she keeps talkin’ bout someone who escaped. I’m sure she’ll find ‘em though, she’s just that cool.”Bookmark here

My heart sank further. My limbs felt numb. The child just kept going, “You know, she also said something about that guy. The mole who got away. She said he was 6, so he hid in a real dark or sum’in. But now he’s a real old guy apparently - a whole 24 years old!”Bookmark here

My tapping foot began jittering out of control and shaking the table. Bookmark here

“You know, she said that she finds that rat she gonna sick ‘em!!! Like, uh...stab him! Or something...and like, 17 times!! One for every year he escaped!! Wait, is that right?”Bookmark here

She started mumbling and counting on her fingers. Bookmark here

Meanwhile I was biting my fingers. Bookmark here

What must I do now? What was the best course of action moving forward? Should I act on this information? Should I investigate further? Should I simply convince myself that these were the nonsensical ramblings of a child? Perhaps ignorance was bliss. Perhaps now, I would never again be able to close my eyes at night. How was I expected to return to the café ever again, knowing that my father’s killer could quite possibly be mere meters away from me, and that she was set on killing me as well? What shall I do?Bookmark here

I must avenge his father, but at the same time, this woman had killed my 40 year old fully-trained agent father at age 16. Now she was 34, so what kind of a monster would she be now? Is it really in my best interest to risk my life for such a futile endeavour? It is my desire to avenge my family but I also wish to live on as the only survivor!! After all, my father’s last words were- Bookmark here

I was taken out of my thoughts by a slap to the face from a tiny, cold hand. Bookmark here

“HELLOOOOO?!”Bookmark here

I tried to remove myself from my panicked thoughts. My hands were still shaking. “Yes?”Bookmark here

“Why are you shivering old man? The AC isn’t even on. Also, were you listening to anything I jus’ said???”Bookmark here

“Yes, I was. Thank you for the information Ms. Mishti.” I regained a bit of composure and handed the child one last lollipop. Bookmark here

“By the way, why dont’ya just ask the lady herself? Ya scared or somethin’?” the child laughed in my face.Bookmark here

“No, that...that is not the reason.” I had another reason prepared for this, because I was certainly not terrified of Anastasia Nikolaevna, okay? You see, Mr. Scanta had told me not to investigate Anastasia Nikolaeva at all costs, and usually I listen to his every word. However, curiosity had gotten the better of me. But I now know that I should have listened to him after all. He was always right, and I owed him my trust.Bookmark here

There is a reason as well. Let me tell you about the first time we met. I was applying to be the café DJ Bookmark here

You see, at first, I thought this man exuded proletariat energy. He was not someone I thought I would respect. Not in my heart, at least. After all, his choices in interior design were subpar at best - a key identifier of the common people. Bookmark here

As I observed the location, Mr. Scanta, my future employer, was reading my resume. Bookmark here

“So I see that you have zero years of experience as a DJ,” Scanta inspected my face.Bookmark here

“Yes, that is correct.”Bookmark here

“But you have a lot of passion,” he nodded, looking down at my resume. I nodded with him.Bookmark here

“Alright then,” he held out his hand for me to shake, “You’re hired!”Bookmark here

I reached out my hand to shake his, but before I could, he redacted it. Bookmark here

“Hold on, what was your name again?” he scratched his bald head.Bookmark here

“It is at the top of my resume, sir, but I will tell you nonetheless. My name is Dazzle, sir.”Bookmark here

“Dazzle? Dazzle??” Bookmark here

“Yes, sir. Call me Dazzle.”Bookmark here

He started laughing. Loud, obnoxious belting that visibly inflated his stomach each time.Bookmark here

“Your parents sure have a strange naming sense, don’t they?”Bookmark here

I stared at him. Well, really, I was glaring, but it is not in my code of honour to glare at my boss, fake or not, so I will say that I stared.Bookmark here

“I will not tolerate any disrespect towards my parents, sir. Even if you are my boss.”Bookmark here

He stopped laughing. Bookmark here

“Oh no, I mean no disrespect. If anything, it was you that I was insulting. You’re the one with the funny name.” Bookmark here

“…Alright, then I suppose that is acceptable.” Bookmark here

He nodded. “I am your boss after all.”Bookmark here

I paused. Bookmark here

“Also sir, my full name is Ian Dazzle. So my parents also have that ‘funny’ name.”Bookmark here

He was silent for a bit. Bookmark here

Then he started laughing loudly again. “Well, that’s alright! It’s not like they chose that name themselves in that case, right?”Bookmark here

I did not reply. Bookmark here

His laughter trailed off. “So Dazzle, about your parents…you seem to respect them a lot?”Bookmark here

“Yes sir. I look up to them very much.” Bookmark here

“Yes, I’m sure you have to,” he chuckled, “After all, they’re up in the heavens right now, aren’t they?”Bookmark here

I froze.Bookmark here

“What?” I grit my teeth.Bookmark here

Scanta looked at me curiously. “What? Do you mean to say they’re actually down there instead?” He pointed to the floor with a smirk on his face.Bookmark here

“Sir.” Whatever expression I was making right now surely broke my code of honour, but I didn’t care.Bookmark here

“Oh,” he tried to suppress his smile, “Too soon?”Bookmark here

“Sir, how did you know that?”Bookmark here

His face dimmed. “Ah, so I was right, wasn’t I?” Bookmark here

What was going on? I suddenly felt cold. “Sir, did you do a background check on me???”Bookmark here

“I was too late…” he shook his head sadly.Bookmark here

“Sir, who are you really?”Bookmark here

He looked me in the eyes. “Let’s just say I’m a friend of your father’s.”Bookmark here

I stared at him for a long time. He looked like he was being genuine. Bookmark here

He led me to seat, and we sat in silence as I processed this. Everything was a blur. Bookmark here

He told me about his time knowing my father, and the bits of his story which I caught amidst my stupor seemed to match what I knew. Everything made sense - the creepy looks, the special attention - even the weird questions about my name.Bookmark here

“Back then, you were such a gentle, and dare I say, cowardly child. I can’t believe you’ve grown up this much, to be able to come here as an agent yourself.” he grinned.Bookmark here

So he knew that much too. I was in much distress. What would happen to my mission now? Bookmark here

Nevertheless, before I could stop myself, I found myself recounting the details of everything that had happened since Mr. Scanta had last seen my father. I told him everything, even the details of my mission. Bookmark here

“It’s alright, Dazzle- no, Ian. You can continue your mission. I’ll pretend I don’t know anything/” Bookmark here

“Are you sure, sir? This…might put you in danger. You already know too much.”Bookmark here

“Trust me Ian. I worked alongside your father didn’t I? Surely you know now how capable I am?”Bookmark here

“Yes…yes, sir.” I felt my shoulders relax. Bookmark here

He smiled sadly. “I’m glad you’re here. As long as you do what I say, we’ll all be safe, alright?”Bookmark here

I nodded slowly. Bookmark here

“You’ll always have a place here, alright?” Scanta said. Bookmark here

And that is how I formed my greatest dilemma to this day. It was always easy to decide what to do - I just needed to think about what my father would do. But this time, I’m not so sure. Would my father want me to follow his path, even at the cost of his friend? I didn’t know anymore.Bookmark here

But what I did know is that it was nice to have someone to confide in. I had underestimated him. He was definitely not a common person, and I would likely be in debt to Mr. Scanta for the rest of my life. Bookmark here

Or perhaps, the rest of HIS life. He seems pretty old so I think I will outlive him. Bookmark here

In any case, that is the reason I owe Mr. Scanta my trust. That’s right! Mr. Scanta! He was my father’s friend. Perhaps his words could give me a moment of clarity in this waking nightmare. Bookmark here

As I phased back to the present, I realized that the child I was speaking to was gone, and so was my wallet. Bookmark here

No matter. I could get it back easily with my superior skills as an agent. Oh. That’s right, I was a trained agent. Perhaps, Mr. Scanta remembered this, and this is why he did not immediately tell me to vacate the café premises for my safety. Yes, I was an agent. I would be fine as long as I avoided Anastasia Nikolaevna as Mr. Scanta has instructed. I needed to calm myself down.Bookmark here

I quickly paced over to the back room of the café. Surely Mr. Scanta would be inside the room, or one of the rooms it connected to. Perhaps he could offer a few words of comfort, despite Bookmark here

As I went inside with my copy of the key, I noticed something on Mr. Scanta’s desk.Bookmark here

It was a piece of paper that said, “I’m stepping out for a bit, DJ Dazzle. Or should I say, Agent Dazzle ;) ” He rambled on about where he was going (it sounded like he was just going on vacation) and he left me a list of “Agent Tasks” to complete before he returns.Bookmark here

Despite the level of my respect for Mr. Scanta, I usually get irritated by this type of behaviour. But today, it was fine. He ended the note with: Bookmark here

“Take care of the café while I’m gone. I know I can always count on my best agent.“Bookmark here

I smiled. Bookmark here

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