Monkey Of Con City

Monkey Of Con City

A scientist tries to train a monkey to write Hamlet 2, exactly the way Shakespeare would have done. Will he succeed, or will his project be ruined by film producers, gun toting maniacs, and birds?

Professor van der Bishop, the most successful scientist at the University of Con City, has a theory that a monkey can be trained to write sequels to the plays of Shakespeare, exactly the way Shakespeare himself would have done, had he lived long enough. The Professor travels to England, where he teams up with a young English couple to acquire funding for his research from film producer Terrence Blunt, creator of the commercially successful but critically reviled Round Table movie franchise. When the Professor comes face to face with the cutthroat nature of the film industry, he must use every trick up his sleeve to secure his research funding. Even if that involves working for a film critic who may or may not be a psychopathic professional hitman.

Monkey Of Con City chronicles the absurd misadventures of a misunderstood genius from Con City, the most dangerous city in the Republic of North America, during his visit to the picturesque town of Hawthorneford, Con City's English sister town, where he tries to scientifically produce the manuscripts of Hamlet 2, Macbeth 2, and even Romeo and Juliet 2. His quest is hindered at every turn by the likes of a cinema cult and their megalomaniacal leader, local hooligans, one hundred and sixty-eight cats, an unhinged method actor, gun toting madmen, a chronic lack of monkeys, a very angry post office manager, and the most dangerous animals in the world: birds! Recommended for fans of the Con City series, readers who enjoy their crime fiction as absurd and filled with as much mayhem as possible, and anyone who believes that the Earth is not a giant watermelon.

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The Lord's Lion hotel stood directly opposite The Pesky Peasant. Unlike the tiny cafe, it was a massive and luxurious establishment. White walls decorated with golden ornaments rose to a height of four stories. Thick red carpet led up the stairs to the lobby. An elegant receptionist stood behind the desk, and behind her a large marble sign advertised the opening hours of the sauna, the gym, the snooker hall, the golf course behind the hotel, and three separate bars.

John felt like he didn't belong in the building. For all the years he'd lived in Hawthorneford, he had never set foot inside The Lord's Lion, or any other establishment aimed at serving the upper class. The tie around his neck started to feel like a noose, and his palms were sweating.

He'd been standing just inside the entrance, checking the time on his phone a couple of times a minute. He'd hoped the Professor would get there and save him from having to go any further into the lion's den all by himself. Now that there were only a few minutes left before the meeting, the realization that he had to save the day dawned on him. He felt like an ant under the sunlight coming through a magnifying glass. He took a deep breath and exhaled, then walked up to the reception desk. He just about managed to avoid tripping up on the way. The receptionist gave him a warm smile, and he immediately blushed.

`Good morning and welcome to The Lord's Lion,' she said. `How may I help you?'

`Hi, I'm here for a meeting with one of your guests,' John said.

`With Mister Terrence Blunt?' the receptionist asked.

John slowly nodded. `Yes. How did you know?'

`I'm sorry, but in the interest of our guests' privacy I cannot divulge that information.'

`Okay. That's fine. Sure,' John said, and tried real hard to keep the clattering of his teeth in check.

`Mister Blunt is having breakfast in the restaurant. I will summon the concierge to escort you inside.'

`No, no! Not yet,' John objected. `My mentor had to pop into the restroom in the cafe across the street and he's not finished yet. We can't have the meeting without him.'

`As you wish, sir. What time is your appointment?'

`It's at 9 AM.'

The receptionist looked at the grandfather clock by the door to her left. The arms said it was two minutes to nine. John found his gaze stuck on the clock. It looked like it was worth more than his house.

`I can let Mister Blunt know that you will be late,' the receptionist said.

`No, no, that won't be necessary,' the Professor's voice said from the entrance. John felt like a rock had fallen off his chest. He turned around. Professor van der Bishop stood at the entrance, and smiled at him.

`Professor, at last!' John said. Behind him, the receptionist rang the bell three times, while the Professor walked into the lobby. Once more John concluded how much more confident the Professor looked in a suit than he himself. The man pretty much looked like he belonged in the hotel, and John supposed that would help make a good impression. The transparent folder in the Professor's hand contained the slides he had prepared for the meeting. John swallowed at the thought of what he would have to do with them in a few minutes.

`Everything okay, John?' the Professor asked.

`No, not really,' John said. `Should I really be here? I mean, you know how I feel about this arsehole.'

`Everything will be fine, John. Don't worry. Just stick to the plan, leave all the talking to me.'

John felt a shiver run down his spine. `Okay. But...'

`Gentlemen,' a voice said behind John. He turned around and found a tall man in a dark blue suit standing beside the receptionist. `This way, please. Mister Blunt is waiting.'

`And please take this brochure,' the receptionist added, holding a colorful leaflet up for John. `While we currently have no vacancy and are fully booked for the next three months, if you book in advance we can give you a luxury suite at a generous ten percent discount. And if you leave a contact number, we can call you as soon as a room becomes available due to cancellation. Perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Or even later today.'

John reached for the leaflet, but Professor van der Bishop took his wrist and gently led him away.

`Perhaps later,' the Professor said. `We're late for our meeting.'

John still saw the receptionist's face redden as he turned to follow the waiter, albeit the smile remained in place as if carved onto the woman's face. `Please do pick up a leaflet on your way out. Take as many as you want, for all your friends and distant relatives who might want to visit Hawthorneford. Enjoy your meeting!' she said, and John wondered why she sounded so friendly in spite of the rejection.

The concierge led him and the Professor around the corner along walls decorated by oil paintings of flowers, each looking like it belonged in a museum or a billionaire's private collection. John's feeling that he was in a place where he shouldn't be intensified with each step he took. Then at last the concierge stopped beside an open door and gestured them to step through.

Professor van der Bishop walked into the restaurant with steady strides, and John did his best not to trip over his own foot as he followed. The bright space of the restaurant in which he found himself looked like something out of a period piece in the Victorian era. Every window, every mirror, ever candle holder shone like a hundred servants had worked tirelessly on keeping the room clean every day. Massive candelabra hung from the ceiling and further illuminated the bright room. Each table was set with white porcelain plates and flawless silverware. Every one of them looked untouched.

`Where is everybody?' John asked. `She said the hotel was fully booked.'

`It's early, John,' the Professor said. `I'm sure they're still fast asleep. That's why our kind host chose this time for our meeting, so we'd have piece and quiet.'

John spotted the only guest in the restaurant right around the time when the Professor spoke the words `kind host.' Terrence Blunt sat by himself near one of the windows. The first thing about him that struck John was how huge the man was. Not quite fat, but definitely wide. John wondered if the producer had changed his surname to Blunt as he grew up, or if he had been born with it and simply chose to grow into it. Neither would have surprised John.

As he and the Professor approached, he couldn't help but notice the three large empty plates on the table, used cutlery and crumpled napkins in all of them. Blunt wore a loosely buttoned white shirt over his sizable frame, held a cup of steaming coffee in one hand, and stared out the window. He couldn't help but notice how much Blunt resembled the funny caricatures someone had put up on billboards all over town a week or so past. Except of course for the donkey ears. The thought almost made John laugh.

When they were within perhaps three yards of the man, he spoke without turning to them.

`You're one minute late, Professor.'

`My apologies, Mister Blunt,' the Professor said. `I was held up in a queue.'

`Traffic? In this godforsaken rathole in the middle of nowhere?'

John's fingers curled into fists and he felt his face redden.

`How d...' John began, but the Professor took over the moment he heard John's tone.

`How about we get straight to business, Mister Blunt? I'm sure your time is quite valuable.'

Blunt finally looked away from the window and gave all his attention to the Professor. `I guess they do teach you smartasses something about real life,' he said. `You had ten minutes for this meeting. Now you have nine.'

The producer glanced at the ostentatious gold watch on his wrist, and corrected himself. `Eight.'

`That will do,' Professor van der Bishop said, and handed the folder to John. He fumbled with his fingers until he managed to open it and removed the set of papers. He quickly looked through them to check that they were in the correct order. He gave a nervous nod to his mentor, and the Professor began to talk.

`Mister Blunt, I am here to discuss probability theory,' he said. `Probability theory tells us how likely it is to win the lottery. Take this man for instance.'

John held up the first sheet, which showed a hand drawn image of a stick man holding a lottery ticket.

`A man buys a lottery ticket. His chances of winning can be calculated from the possible combinations of numbers that may come up in the lottery. As any gambler will tell you, his chances are between slim and nonexistent. But, if he were to buy more than one lottery ticket...'

The Professor paused, and John held up the next sheet of paper. This one showed a stick man holding an entire wad of lottery tickets.

`His chances multiply with each ticket he buys, and all he has to do is keep buying tickets to eventually win the lottery. Probability theory says, in layman's terms, that patience leads to great rewards.'

John started to feel better. Hearing the Professor explain the science of the lottery reminded him of how fortunate he considered himself for being the famous scientist's friend, and for the honor of finally being a part of the Professor's research.

`Now, probability theory tells us, that if we put a monkey,' the Professor said, and he turned to John and waited. John held up the next paper, showing a drawing of a monkey and a typewriter. `A monkey in front of a typewriter, and wait long enough, then that monkey will write down all the plays of Shakespeare.'

As planned, John held up the next drawing, which showed a hardcover book with the words `Hamlet, written by a monkey,' scribbled on the cover in large capital letters.

`This follows from the idea that all you need is patience to make low probabilities work for you. Yes, a monkey doesn't know how to write anything but random letters, but if, like the man who keeps buying lots and lots of lottery tickets, we exercise patience, in this case by waiting for a very long time, sooner or later we will find not just legible words, but all of the works of Shakespeare, written in chronological order, complete with the original spelling mistakes of Shakespeare's first manuscripts, within the jumbled mess of random letters written by the monkey.'

Professor van der Bishop paused to offer Terrence Blunt the opportunity to ask a question. The producer sat motionless and stared at him with the most rigid face John had ever seen; it was more rigid than the face of Jamie Ace in the entirety of the Bombs, Bullets & Babes movie franchise. The Professor went on.

`Now, I have a theory that if we wait even longer, then, Mister Blunt, the monkey will write down the sequels to the plays of Shakespeare.'

John couldn't help himself. He had to smile at the brilliance of arguably the greatest scientist of the 21st century. He held up the last sheet of paper, which displayed a large, hand drawn number two, made up of dozens of tiny dollar signs.

`Furthermore, Mister Blunt, the monkey will write those sequels exactly the way that Shakespeare himself would have done, had he lived long enough. As long as we wait for a long enough time, the monkey will write Hamlet 2, Macbeth 2, and even Romeo and Juliet 2. And, Mister Blunt, I don't think I need to tell you how well the adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays do at the box office. Or sequels to established franchises, for that matter.'

Terrence Blunt leaned forward, and the stoic expression on his face gave way to a look of profound interest. `Shakespeare sequels, you say?'

Hawthorne Manor stood on the north edge of Hawthorneford. Being four times the size of The Lord's Lion, it dwarfed the impressive hotel. The manor building itself rose to only three stories in height, but it spanned the equivalent of a medium sized Hawthorneford neighborhood, and that did not even include the grounds around it. A tall metal fence surrounded the area, sharp spikes atop each bar, stretching as far as the eye could see.

Just outside the gate, Professor van der Bishop stood in silent admiration of the architecture. He tried to think back to the last time he tried to sell his research in a mansion. He couldn't quite recall. It might have been in South Side Con City, a few years back, when he tried to convince the Mayor to fund his research into self-emptying garbage cans. The Mayor's manor had seemed gigantic to him at the time. Now, looking at Hawthorne Manor, he thought the Mayor's humble abode had indeed been humble.

`Shall we go in, Professor?' John asked. The nervousness from the previous meeting was missing from the young engineer's voice, much to the Professor's satisfaction.

`Indeed,' he said, and he reached for the gate. When he pushed, the gate opened with a loud creak that reminded the Professor of the sound of nails clawing on a blackboard. He shook the memories of his education aside and strode forward.

Paved road led from the gates to the entrance of the manor. To the left of the manor building an elaborate hedge maze awaited those brave enough to risk getting lost inside, while to the right a small pond stood with some benches for the weary visitor. According to John, there was also an eighteen-hole golf course somewhere on the grounds, but that the Professor could not see.

Barely a third of the way to the door, he heard John's excited voice.

`Look, Professor! Ducks!'

The Professor quickened his pace and made every effort not to look towards the pond. John quickly caught up with him. `Did you see them, Professor? I think those are the biggest ducks I've ever seen!'

Professor van der Bishop felt his pulse quicken. He quickened his pace even more. `Yes, I saw them,' he said when he passed the half way point to the door. `Don't look at them, and don't make any sudden moves.'

`But...' John began, then he fell silent. He continued in a low voice. `I'm sorry, Professor. I totally forgot.'

The Professor nodded. `Sometimes I wish I could forget.'

They went on in silence. An eternity, or at least a close approximation of one later, Professor van der Bishop finally stood before the door leading to safe haven. He reached for the doorbell only to realize there wasn't one. He hesitantly lifted the elaborate brass ring in the center of the door and struck it against the metal plate underneath. He felt it in his bones as the sound of the knock reverberated along the thick wood of the door and started to propagate through the bricks of the walls. He also heard the loud thud; he closed his eyes and counted the seconds, hoping that someone would open the door before the birds could descend upon him and John. He did not want to end his life as a pile of unrecognizable blood and gore on the doorstep of success.

Finally, the door began to open with a creaking sound that once again flooded the Professor's mind with memories of his childhood. He found himself being thankful for the recollection; it was the only thing that kept him from initiating a most humiliating sprint through the narrow gap into safety.

When the door fully opened, the Professor saw an elderly man dressed like a butler in old classic movies.

`Can I help you, sirs?' the butler said.

The Professor cleared his throat. `Yes, we are here to see the Lords and Ladies of Hawthorne Manor.'

`Do you have an appointment?'

`No,' John said.

`In that case, sirs, you must book an appointment and return at an appropriate time. The Lords and Ladies are quite busy.'

`They'll want to see me, I'm sure,' the Professor said. `I am here to offer them a most lucrative business proposal.'

`I'm sure you are, sirs, but you still have to book an appointment. Call Mister Hughes. He will arrange...'

`My name is Professor van der Bishop,' the Professor said, and pulled Terrence Blunt's check out of his pocket. `This is my business card.'

The butler removed a pair of round glasses from his waistcoat pocket, donned it, and reached for the check.

`Hmmm,' he said. `Very nice business card, sirs.'

`Yes, it is, and you can't keep it,' John said.

`But we can obtain a copy for you,' the Professor added quickly. `One which has your name on the recipient line.'

`This says, Blunt Films,' the butler said. `Are you with those hooligans?'

`Our research is funded by Terrence Blunt,' the Professor said. He meant to say more, something along the lines of how lucrative it would be for the Lords and Ladies to work with one of the richest film producers in the world, but the butler never gave him the chance.

`Sirs, the Lords and Ladies have no patience for the lapdogs of the man who continues to disrespect the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.'

`We don't work for that arsehole!' John said. The Professor raised a hand to try and hold back the oncoming tirade, but when he saw John's reddened face he hesitated just long enough for John to go on.

`I would rather eat my own shite than ever work for that twat! Blunt is the Devil himself and I hope to one day piss on his grave!'

`My sentiments exactly, sir,' the butler said in a matter-of-fact tone, `but you must excuse me if I find myself a bit confused by your words. If you do not work for Terrence Blunt, why did he pay you?'

`We made him see the error of his ways,' the Professor quickly said. `We made him understand that he is harming the good people of England and he has decided to make amends by funding scientific research. The kind of research that will benefit the common man, and of course, the Lords and Ladies of Hawthorne Manor.'

`Really?' the butler said.

`Indeed,' the Professor replied. `And if this research succeeds, Terrence Blunt will never make another Round Table movie again.'

The butler smiled. `Well why didn't you say so right at the start, old chap? Come right in! Head down the hall to your right and take a seat in the lobby. I shall fetch Mister Hughes.'

The old woman gave Lizzy a warm smile as she lifted the envelope to the counter. Her hand trembled like a leaf and she moved her hand with incredible slowness. Lizzy smiled back at her and waited.

`Can I get a first class stamp on this, please?' the question came as soon as the letter came to rest on the counter.

`Of course, Mrs. Selby,' Lizzy said, and took the envelope. The old woman pulled her hand back. It shook worse, as if the weight of the letter had kept it steady somehow.

Lizzy reached for the top sheet of stamps to her left and removed one at random.

`Is it a pretty stamp?' the old lady asked. Lizzy showed it to her.

`It's a Hawthorne Manor stamp, Mrs. Selby.'

`Oh, do you have one with the Lords and Ladies? It's for my granddaughter. She loves kitties.'

Lizzy put the stamp down and looked through the press sheets. The fourth one was the Lords and Ladies collection. She showed it to Mrs. Selby.

`Any one in particular?'

The old woman squinted behind her thick glasses and looked through the stamps. At least a half minute went by while she swept her eyes back and forth among them. At last, she pointed a trembling finger at the black and white cat in the top left corner.

`Lord Alfie, please,' she said. `He's so friendly.'

Lizzy nodded. She wet the stamp in question with the sponge and placed it on the envelope. She weighed it on the scales, then placed it into the tray of letters to be sent. `That will be fifteen pounds, Mrs. Selby.'

The old woman shook her head, and reached into her purse. `So pricey.'

`I'm sorry, Mrs. Selby. Premium stamps, you know.'

`I know, I know.' The old woman fished a twenty pound note out of her purse and deposited it on the counter. Lizzy took it, held it under the UV lamp, then put it into the register. She waited for the receipt to print, then handed it to the old lady along with a fiver.

`Here you are, Mrs. Selby.'

`Thank you so much. Bye!'

The old woman took the change, left the receipt on the counter, turned around, and started her walk to the exit, which was maybe four yards away. Two minutes later the door closed shut behind her.

Sarah turned to Lizzy, and asked the question. `Is it fake?'

`Of course it is,' Lizzy said, still staring at the door. `It's always fake.'

`Where does she get them?'

`Don't know. Don't care. Don't get paid enough to.'

Lizzy put the sheet of cat stamps back in the pile and rubbed the back of her neck. It had been a long and trying day. Having slept on the sofa on account of John having ruined their bed had left a mark on her mood. The Professor had offered to take the sofa so she could have the guest room, but she didn't want to be a bad host, so she settled for waking up with a sore neck. By now she wished she hadn't.

`Are you okay?' Sarah asked.

Lizzy lowered her hand and glanced at her. `I'll live. Why? Do I look like shite?'

`No, just pale. Is your blood pressure good?'

`How should I know? I've not seen a doctor in years.'

`Maybe you should.'

Lizzy snorted. `Why bother? It's just a bloody hangover, Sarah, I'll get over it,' she said. It had come out so convincing she almost believed it herself.

Sarah opened her lips to say more, but the door prompted her to hold her tongue. It swung open at least a hundred times as fast as Mrs. Selby had opened it on her way out, all but announcing the new arrival. Sure enough, a tall blond woman in a gray business dress stepped into the post office.

Her hair was held in a tight bun and by Lizzy's estimation at least fifteen layers of make-up shrouded her face. She stepped in and walked up to the counter with rapid strides, her heels knocking loud on the stone floor, like the legs of a mechanical spider. She fixed her eyes on Sarah.

`Where is he?!' Claire Andrews demanded.

Sarah pointed to the sorting room. `In there, ma'am.'

Andrews turned and moved with a quickness that shouldn't be possible in the shoes she wore. She raised the flap and walked behind the counter, then rushed up to the door. She pushed it open, and pointed inside.

`You! In my office! Now!'

As rapidly as she had arrived, Andrews turned and walked down the aisle to the door at the far end, which said `Manager' on a gold plaque. She pulled it open and stepped through. The sound of her heels died away as her feet made their way into the carpeted office.

In the silence, Lizzy and Sarah both turned their heads to the wide open door of the sorting room. It wasn't long before a timid figure emerged. He shook about as hard as Mrs. Selby had, except he didn't have the age to blame. Lizzy couldn't quite recall the new guy's name. She knew it wasn't Mark, but something along those lines. Maybe Marcus, or Marcel, or maybe even Maurice. For a guy who had been wearing the postman uniform for three weeks, he barely spoke to her, or to Sarah. Each day he would come in, pick up the mail, then leave and make the deliveries, then he'd come back with letters collected from post boxes around town, prepare them for next day's delivery in the sorting room, and then sit there until 5 PM. Lizzy couldn't recall ever having a half decent conversation with him. She wondered, after hearing the boss's tone, whether she ever would.

The young postman walked down the aisle towards Andrews's office without ever glancing at her or Sarah. To his credit, he never stumbled. When he made it into the dreaded office, he slowly shut the door behind him. Within seconds, Lizzy started to hear the words of Andrews from across the thick wood, as clearly as if the woman were standing beside her.

`Do you see this pile of forms, you useless excuse for dog food?! Each of these is a complaint. A complaint filed against you! Do you know why? I'd tell you to read the forms, but you clearly didn't pay attention in school when they were teaching the alphabet, so I'll just tell you. These are complaints from citizens about their mail being delayed because they were delivered to the wrong address!'

`Oh dear,' Sarah said. `She's going to fire the poor lad.'

`Yeah. Sounds about right,' Lizzy said.

Andrews went on with the angry tirade beyond the door. `My father, may he rest in piece, built this post office with his bare hands! He built for it a reputation. And you, you poster child for birth control, you are ruining, destroying that reputation by failing the simple task of reading the address on the envelope in your hand. Reading! What's so hard about that?! A lobotomized monkey could do that, so why can't you?!'

Silence followed for a long moment. Lizzy wondered if the kid was trying to compose an answer and she simply couldn't hear it because he didn't scream while he spoke, or if Andrews was just taking a deep enough breath to be able to continue.

`I'm not going to let this post office degenerate into a cesspool filled with inept employees,' Andrews said. `This is your last warning. If I get one more, just one more complaint about you, I'll fire you there and then! And don't even think about getting a recommendation letter for your next job. You won't have a next job! I will tell everyone that you're more useless than an umbrella at the bottom of the sea. Now go to the nearest bookstore, buy a children's book, and read it!'

Lizzy stared at the door, not willing to believe what she had heard.

`Wow, I thought for sure she'd fire him,' Sarah said, voicing Lizzy's very thoughts.

`Yeah. Bitch must be having a good day,' Lizzy said.

The door finally opened and the young postman scurried out of Andrews's office. He kept his eyes down and all but ran to the exit. Andrews emerged from the office and looked around. Her eyes stopped on Lizzy.

Andrews pointed at her. `You. In my office. Now.' Then she went back inside, leaving the door open.

`Oh dear,' Sarah said. `She must have heard us.'

Lizzy stood up. `I don't care. She can do her worst. At least I'll get to punch her in the face on my way out.'


`Yeah, yeah, I'll try to be civil.' She walked up to the boss's office and stepped inside.