A small sparrow landed on the roof of a square low turret protruding from a dark gray smooth stone building. It swallowed the gnat it had caught in its beak and hopped lightly to the edge of the roof. Had the bird understood even the slightest concept of beautiful landscapes, it probably would have marveled at the Swiss landscape opening in front of it. Its seat of a house was built into the side of high hill. The rest of the green, rolling hill-range descended into a bright blue mountain lake, framed by small forests and pastures. On the other side of the lake, a small town bathed in morning sunlight, slowly waking to a new day. Behind the house, the tops of the Alps mingled with small, light clouds.
The sparrow might also have admired the miracle of modern architecture it was standing on, with its sharp angles and gently inward-sloping roof. Perhaps it would have wondered how much effort it took to keep the house’s large windows and stone-tiled walls as clean as they were. It may have noticed the new gray Mercedes in front of a garage too big for one car, or the meticulously well-cared lawn. Being just a sparrow, though, the bird did none of this. Instead it fluttered down to sit on the railing framing a small terrace on the building’s roof, leaving a white trail on the sliding glass doors leading out from the turret.
“It is nine-thirty on a Saturday morning and- Oh dear lord!”
K burst loudly into Lydia’s room and almost dropped the breakfast tray he was carrying in horror as he noticed the mess on the terrace door. Lydia pulled her blanket up to cover her head and muttered something about “thirty more minutes,” while K set his tray down in panic on the narrow piano black desk opposite Lydia’s bed and stormed to the terrace, scaring a small sparrow off the railing.
“Close the blinds!” Lydia whined as K ran his hand through his hair and cursed every bird that ever lived. Noticing no reaction, Lydia repeated her demand, this time only louder. K ignored her, opting instead to mutter to himself about how he had just cleaned the door yesterday and how the poop was at least fresh.
“K!” Lydia screamed, sitting upright and throwing off her blanket. “WHAT?!” K screamed back, leaning half-way in through the open doorway.
The two stared at each other, Lydia messy-haired in her light blue nightgown and K with his glasses crooked and hair equally messed up. Finally, K broke their staring contest by breaking into barely contained snickers.
“What is it?” Lydia barked, still annoyed from being woken up. “Nothing. Your hair,” K said, turning around and smiling to himself as Lydia burst into a tirade about how K dared to make fun of her after so rudely waking her when anyone in their senses would still be sleeping. K pushed his glasses back to his nose and stretched out his back. He leaned on the terrace’s railing, breathing in the fresh morning air. He loved this house more every day, he thought. Good investment.
“Are you even listening to me?” Lydia asked when K came back inside, picked up the tray of food from the desk, and set it down in front of her on the bed. “Yes, yes, your highness. I apologize,” K said, giving her the most grandiose bow as he scuttled out from the room backwards. Lydia crossed her arms and put on her best pouting face, pushing the breakfast tray away from her.
“You’re just making fun of me!” she yelled at K, who – judging from the clattering – was digging through the broom closet downstairs. “I assure you I’m not, milady,” he called back in singsong.
Lydia looked at the tray in front of her, on which a croissant, a bowl of corn flakes with a small pitcher of milk next to it, and a glass of orange juice and water awaited her. Despite her hardest efforts, the sight of food made hunger overcome her scorn. She grabbed the croissant and begun munching on it as K came back to the room with his shirt sleeves rolled up and tie removed, carrying a bucketful of water and a spray bottle of cleaning solution.
“Tasty?” he asked while smiling at Lydia as he walked past her out to the terrace. Lydia stuck her tongue out as a response. “Come now,” K said, shaking his finger at Lydia form the door, “Is that any way to behave when your parents are coming just in a couple of hours?”
Pure undiluted glee spread to Lydia’s face. “Oh yeah, that’s today!” she screamed, almost knocking over her breakfast tray in her excitement.
K’s expression changed from sheer terror to relieved one as he saw that the tray wouldn’t tip over. “Yes, it’s today. How did you forget, you’ve been talking about it all- Do you hear that?” Lydia nodded. A flapping sound was emanating from somewhere, growing louder every second. “Yeah, it sounds kind of like a…”
A yellow helicopter appeared from behind K’s house, slowly descending on the large yard in front of it. On its side was painted a dark green stylized angular dog’s head. K put down his water bucket and pulled off the rubber gloves. “Lydia.” “Yes, K.”
K was already out of the house and walking towards the helicopter as it touched the ground. A door in its side slid open and out stepped a man in a navy blue suit. His long hair in a ponytail fluttered around his face in the air currents from the chopper’s blades, framing his angular face and eyes hidden by dark glasses in a black blur. He had a black briefcase in his hand. K stopped around five meters away from the man, letting him walk the rest of the way.
“You’re from Pirello?” K asked, his hands in his trouser pockets. “Indeed, sir,” the man replied. He walked towards K with his hand extended in a greeting. Once he realized his gesture would not be reciprocated, he pulled his hand back and scratched his head, smiling awkwardly. “I am sorry, did I perhaps interrupt something? I am here about the Chicago hotel assignment.“ “I figured. Is there an issue? I have submitted my report on casualties and called Mr. Klingman in person, he assured me everything was-“ The man cut K short. “Indeed, Mr. Klingman is more than pleased with your performance,” the man said while smiling the coldest smile K had ever witnessed. “I am here simply to deliver the payment.”
K glanced at the briefcase the man was carrying. “In cash, in person?” He lifted his white eyes back up to the man’s face. “That’s not what was agreed.” “Quite the contrary,” the man said, still smiling. He pulled a sheet of paper out from his breast pocket, unfolding it. He began to read: “I quote, ‘upon successful performance, payment is to be delivered by-“ “I know the text,” K returned the man’s earlier cut-off. “I gave you a bank account.”
The man took off his sunglasses, revealing a pair of green eyes. “There is no mention on the method of delivery, sir.” K grit his teeth. He was losing the confrontation fast. “How did you find me?” The long-haired man extended his left arm, offering the briefcase to K. “Next time you call Mr. Klingman,” he said, the smile still on his face, “don’t call from home.” Of course, K thought, taking the brief case. What an amateurish mistake.
“Would you want to count the money?” the man asked. “No thank you,” K replied. He swallowed loudly, thankful that the sound of the helicopter drowned the sound of it. “Pirello has always been precise with its payments.” The man’s smile grew even wider. “Indeed, sir.” He straightened his tie and eyed over K’s house. “This is a wonderful location, sir, I am jealous.”
K nodded in reply. He bid the man farewell as he climbed back onto the helicopter. K watched as the craft rose off the ground and headed back in the direction it had come from. Sighing, K turned around and started walking slowly back to the house. A shame, he thought. He had loved the house. “Lydia!” “Yes, K?” A reply came from the terrace on the roof. Lydia crawled out from underneath a green plastic plant cover and stood up. She was holding a scoped rifle in her hands.
K smiled. There was someone he could always trust. “Please blacklist Pirello in my client list,” he shouted to her while adjusting his glasses. “I’m done with them.” “Right away!” she shouted back at K. She turned around to return inside, the rifle slung over her shoulder, when she suddenly twirled around, leaning over the railing and shouting excitedly: “Dad! Mom!”
K glanced over his shoulder as well. He could indeed hear a car now, and soon he could see a black Audi pulling up the hill. While K could not see inside the car through the dark-tinted windows, he recognized the license plate. He sighed in relief and pulled his hand through his hair. Finally, some invited guests.
The car pulled up to the front of the house and came to a stop. Two people stepped out, a gigantic man and a woman. The man, balding, was older than the woman, who looked like she was in her late thirties. The man was wearing a light brown sports jacket and a white and blue striped shirt with gray chinos, while the woman had on a dark red blazer and pencil skirt with a white blouse.
Lydia ran out of house, still in her nightgown, as her father said something to the driver, who immediately took off. Lydia’s mother got down on one knee and caught Lydia in an embrace. “Hi, honey!” she squealed just as excitedly as Lydia as she hugged her. Lydia planted a kiss on her cheek and ran to jump into her father’s arms. “I missed you so much!” she shouted as he spun her around. “How’s my favorite little mass murderer?” her father asked, grinning as he tussled Lydia’s already messy hair. His wife coughed out loud, throwing a glance at him. “Harold, we’ve talked about this.” “Lighten up, Cynthia, she doesn’t mind it. Do you, sweetie?” his father said and rubbed his nose on Lydia’s. Lydia shook her head and hugged her father tighter. Lydia’s mother rubbed her eyes in exasperation, but her face did lighten up considerably as she saw K approaching them.
“K, dear, it’s been too long,” she said as she pulled him into a hug. “It has, Mrs. Bohr, it has,” K replied, gasping for breath in Mrs. Bohr’s embrace. Mr. Bohr was there to shake K’s hand as soon as his wife released him. Lydia still beamed in her father’s arms. “It is good to see you,” Mr. Bohr said. “Indeed, Mr. Bohr. I trust the flight was enjoyable?” K replied, smiling widely at Lydia’s father. Mr. Bohr laughed loudly. “As enjoyable as flying can be. Say, what was with that chopper?”
K cursed in his mind, but kept his composure. “Just a…” He paused, looking for a word to use. “An acquaintance.” “An ex-client!” Lydia added. K shot an angry glance at her, making her twitch slightly. Mr. Bohr laughed again. “Work trouble, eh?” he asked, shaking K’s shoulder. K tried to smile as Mr. Bohr’s pincer-like grip dug into his flesh. “Ah well, I’m not going to peek into your business. Say, talking about that-“
Now it was Mr. Bohr who suddenly winced in pain. Mrs. Bohr pulled her foot away from the back of her husband’s knee and coughed loudly again. “Dear, I thought we agreed,” she said slowly as his husband put on his best apologetic expression. “No business before dinner.