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Monkey Of Con City - Excerpt One

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?'


For more, please proceed to the novel Monkey Of Con City.