I tried to contact Dr. Blanchard via the phone number listed on the SMU website, but only got his voice mail. He hasn’t called me back, but that may due to the fact that part way through leaving the voice mail message I remembered that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to openly talk about why I was calling or give any of my information, due to The Collector’s warnings, so the message ended up going something like this:
“Hi Dr. Blanchard, this is Niiiii..uhhh..kita. This is Nikita. La Femme Nikita. You..I…we met recently at one of your lectures. We have a mutual friend. If you get what I mean. Wait, that doesn’t sound exactly right. What I mean is that I want to ask you questions about your “special friend.” God that sounds like I am asking about your penis. Sorry. Look, I..I want to ask about The Collector. Fuck. Welp, just call me back. My numberrrr…should not be said in this message. Okay bye.”
Hopefully he has some sort of caller ID on his office phone.
It’s exhausting being hyper aware all the time, waiting for a note or message to come from anywhere at any time. Yet that is how I’ve been for the past couple of weeks. Every time I open my dishwasher or my food is handed to me in a drive thru, I expect it to contain some sort of message from The Collector.
I read Noa’s journal entry where she bitches about me getting to meet someone who knows The Collector, meanwhile completely overlooking the fact that she met someone with either some sort of awesome burning super power, or at the very least someone who owns a cool hand-burning gadget. I guess she was too focused on the pain or whatever.
Eventually I did get my message from The Collector, and from a source I completely did not expect it to come from. I’m really putting myself out there by admitting this, so I ask that everyone be cool about it, but my message came from, well, Tinder.
Yes, Tinder, the dating app on smartphones where you swipe left or right depending on whether or not you think someone is attractive. Yeah, it’s shallow. And populated mostly by the worst people on Earth. But, I’m a single guy that has, at best, poor social skills. I gotta do what I can.
Thursday night I received a notification from a girl named Alexis. Her profile featured mostly pictures an incredibly attractive blonde girl showing a good amount of skin, dancing while holding a drink in one hand, glow-in-the-dark bands on her wrists.
This might be forward, my friend is DJ-ing at a club called Deluxe tonight. You should come by! I’ll put you on the list. ;P
The wink and the tongue were a bit overkill in my opinion, and most people would dismiss this immediately as a bot, but what else did have going on female-wise? I let her know I would be there.
I drove to Lower Greenville, and it didn’t take me long to find the club. I parked (a process that only took 35 minutes!) and walked up to the entrance, bypassing the line. I mostly expected it not to be, but my name was on the list and I went inside.
The club was filled with bleach-blonde-haired girls carrying tiny purses and dancing while a bunch of the douchiest guys imagine stood around holding drinks, trying to look cool. Axe body spray coated my lungs every time I breathed in. The DJ was on a stage on the far end of the room, across the sea of people, blaring something that sounded like it was a Backstreet Boys song at one point, before demonically-possessed boom box ate it and shit it out. A huge banner that looked like a dollar bill hung above the DJ, proclaiming him “DJ SKULLZMONEY.”
I was only at the bar for a moment before Alexis appeared, almost out of nowhere.
“Hey! You came!” Yelling was required to be heard over the music. She gave me a hug that lingered. “What do you think of the DJ? Pretty great, right?”
“I would say the music is somewhere between terrible and a weaponized sonic frequency designed to rupture all of our brains.” I said this with a smile, though, because I did still want to sleep with her at some point.
She laughed. Her hand was on my leg, she leaned in right up next to my ear hand rising further and further up my thigh as she did so. “Hey why don’t you order a drink and I’ll be back in a sec?” She said this as sexy as those words could possibly be said.
“Did you want anything?” I asked.
“I’ll get something when I get back.” She reached in her purse and pulled out a CD case. No one had given me a CD in a long time. “It has the DJ’s best mixes on it!” She smiled, kissed me on the cheek and disappeared into the crowd.
The CD cover had the same dollar bill imagery on it as the banner. I shoved it into my back pocket. And motioned to the bartender. He made some acknowledgement of me, letting me know that he knew I was there, but had many attractive women to serve first.
I spotted Alexis at the other end of the bar leaning into some other guy. She pulled out a CD out of her purse and handed it to him, pointing out something on the cover. The guy feigned interest but mostly just looked at her boobs. I had been had. It might as well have been a bot. I had been fooled by the DJ’s super hot marketing department.
The bartender finally made it to me. “What can I get you?”
I figured I might as well have a drink to wash away my idiocy. “I’ll take a Strongbow.”
“That’ll be sixteen dollars.”
I left the bar.
I walked to my car, threw the CD case in the passenger seat, and drove home.
The next day I was reading over some Collector-related materials and checking for any communication from Noa when I came across my last journal entry. Specifically when I mentioned, as a joke, a club called Deluxe and a DJ named SkullzMoney. I thought I had made them up. I must have seen or heard the names somewhere and they just came out subconsciously, I thought. I quickly Googled “Deluxe” and “DJ SkullzMoney.” Nothing came up. I rushed out of my apartment and down to my car. I threw open the passenger door, grabbed the CD case, and opened it. There was no CD inside, just a Post-It note that said “PAGE 67.”
I jumped in my car and drove back to the club. Accept it wasn’t a club. The fancy décor from the night before were gone, replaced with a dilapidated building with boarded up windows, and it looked like it had been that way for a while.
I was in that club the night before, I know it. And I have the CD case, so I’m not crazy. I’m still not sure who exactly The Collector is, what he wants, or what he’s trying to tell us with these stories (particularly not this week’s), but I am sure of one thing: we have to find out. No more waiting around for the next message.