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Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Two)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay



Day 2: The Fat Man


            In the morning I came to my office a little later than normal, but not by much. Debbie was already at her desk typing away on the computer like a maddened grain counter who had to keep moving the abacus beads or someone would know they weren’t really counting. I’ve never known what it is that she types on that computer. I’ve certainly never asked her to type anything for me since I have a computer in my inner office. She might be doing e-mail, or writing the great English language novel, or having arguments about whether the PS3 is better than the Wii on some internet forum. I’ve never had the courage to actually look because of my suspicion of what she’s doing. If you knew Debbie like I know Debbie, you’d get yourself down to the clinic and have a full check-up done. You would also think that probably she’s just blindly hitting keys because she thinks she has to be seen to do something, just like me. Both of us were desperate to look busy in the eyes of the other while avoiding eye contact.


            It’s fortunate that she has known me as long as she has, because it means that she didn’t ask me how my night was, or whether I saw the news, and wasn’t it terrible and all that. She knew how we celebrated the arrival of the shows around here, we don’t. She also knows that it’s not because I’m an old scrooge, but because of the memories. Memories can hurt a person more than bullets sometimes, mainly because a bullet has the common decency to actually kill you if it gets a good hit. A memory can bleed you out for decades.


            I nodded to her and she nodded back, letting out a little burp and putting her hand to her mouth. I noticed the crumpled bag that had held her breakfast in the waste can and walked across the wood floor to my office. The door opened and I blessed Debbie’s little heart silently as my eyes fell upon the bag on my own desk. There were a couple of asiago bagels and fluffed cream cheese in the bag, and they were still warm. How she always manages to know when I’ll be in will always be a wonderful mystery to me, much like what she’s typing on the computer.


            I looked out the window behind my chair and it might have been late November. There was no snow, only the white dusting that the road had from the salt that had been put down the last time it had snowed, and I could only see a few decorations from this vantage point. If I turned my head I would be able to see the town square, and thus could see the place where the town had vomited up all its decorations in a heap with no sense of consistency for style or fashion. That is why I was looking in this direction, so I could see just a few decorations. There was a limo driving along the street, but I didn’t think anything of it, though I probably should have. I sat at my desk, which put my back to the window, and began to spread the fluffed cheese on my breakfast.


            I’d gotten half of one of my bagels down when my door opened and Debbie squeezed through a crack that was far too small for her. It wasn’t that Debbie was all that expansive, but she clearly had wanted to keep the door opening to a minimum lest the miasma that had entered the outer office enter my inner sanctum. She closed the door and pushed herself against it, looking afraid.


            I think I already knew what it was when she came in. It was trouble, and we were in it. We were in deep trouble in fact. I think I should say that I knew who it was. It was a person who represented trouble so wide and so deep it would be able to swallow up even his enormous ass. You’d have to have a considerable sized crevice of trouble if his huge ass couldn’t block it up. I recognized the fear in her eyes and leaned back, trying to think what I could grab quickly.


            “What it is?” I asked, deciding that I needed more things on my desk that could be improvised as weapons. I looked at the small row of knives that sat on the table to my right, the ones the Harkers had sent. They were too far though and the layer of fat was probably thick enough to protect his vitals.


            “The Fat Man is here.” She told me.


            “Casper Gutman?” I asked.


            “Not that Fat Man.” She shook her head. “The Fat Man.”


            “Oh.” I said, trying to be cool about it. “The Fat Man.”


            “Yes.” She said nodding.


            “Sometime I would like to be wrong.” I sighed and put my hands flat on the desk and banging my forehead against the blotter gently. “Just once, to see what it feels like.”


            “What do you want me to do?” When I looked up I could see the look in her eyes that said she wanted me to break the window and fly away, taking her with me.


            “Let him in.” I said, leaning back in my chair.


            “You sure?” She asked.


            “I’ve only got a plastic knife with cream cheese on it at hand to fight him off with.” I said, brandishing my insufficient weapon. “We might as well let him in. If he tries to get heavy, I’ll fight him off.”


            “Right Jack.” She nodded. There was courage in her heart and Egg McMuffin in her belly.


            I hoped she didn’t really expect me to fight him, because we’d both die very quickly if I did. One does not just up and decide to fistfight the Fat Man. He’s got too much power, too much influence, and little trolls that can leave you in a ditch. One would have to have a plan, and an army, and weapons and it wouldn’t hurt if he’d been dead for a week before hand. Even then, it would be a dicey proposition.


            The door opened, and while I would have sworn the door was far too narrow for his huge bulk to get through, he managed. He’s always had a knack for getting through narrow passages though. He came through, and two of his little helpers came in with him, meaning there was one more somewhere. The Fat Man wasn’t wearing his costume when he came in, but a rather subdued charcoal gray suit. He looked far more like the businessman and part time pimp that he was, rather than the jolly old fat fuck that the world thought of him as.


            He walked across my floor, which actually creaked as he moved, and sat down in the oversized red leather chair I keep for customers. There are actually two chairs, one of red leather that sits to my left and a chair covered in blue and bronze brocade that I keep to the right. Most people walk to the chair on their right, so they tend to take the red leather chair, which means I can sit in the blue chair to read knowing that less people have sat in it. The red leather chair is also significantly larger and possibly more comfortable to most people.


            Despite the red chair’s large size though, he still barely fit in it and had to cross one leg over the other because there wasn’t enough room for both of them next to each other. Fortunately, the red leather chair was built back in the days when they knew how to make a damn chair, so it could hold up. He sat back and looked at me for a long time before speaking, which was one of his many tricks. He would wait for you to start the talking and then he’d use whatever you said to pass judgment. I knew his tricks though, and so I sat back and ate my bagel.


            After a little while he made a motion with his mouth. It was hard to tell if he thought he was smiling or just showing me his teeth for a moment in a motion that was base and animal. Seeing how we felt about each other though, I guessed he was showing me his teeth. He would be showing me his teeth because it was like him to be more aggressive in private. He had to pretend to be so kind and loving in public that he felt he had to make up for it by being a ruthless and judgmental son of a bitch in private.


            Still, this was my office and if he didn’t start talking soon I was going to get up and leave for the bathroom. That would be dangerous, as if would mean turning my back to him, but it was dangerous to face him too. When the Fat Man comes near you, you are surrounded by danger. He’s like a mix between Wal-Mart and the Godfather, only more ruthless and dangerous. I’m not saying I was quaking with fear, but there is something to be said for being careful.


            “I suppose you’ve heard about what happened?” he finally asked after showing me his teeth again.


            “Yes I have.” I looked around. “Where is Joe?”


            “He’s out front.” The Fat Man waved hand. “He doesn’t like empty hallways.”

            “So there isn’t anyone aiming a high powered rifle at the back of my head?”


            “Not this time.” The Fat Man said, and showed me his teeth again. “I want to talk to you about what happened.”


            “If you want to confess you’ve got to go to the police, we’ve talked about this in the past.” I said, trying my luck. Caution has its place, but I’ve got my reputation as a tough guy to think of.


            “I didn’t do this.” He said, barely registering my crack. “I want to know who did.”


            “So why not have the lollipop league here do it?” I said pointing at his enforcers, who are short even for short people.


            “Hardrock and Coco are a little too anxious to please.” He said placing his hand on Coco’s head, a condescending gesture I could see Coco supremely disliked. “They have a good reputation, but they might get an innocent party to confess under duress and then the real culprit would still be out there and would be able to do it again.”


            “So you’re serious about wanting to protect your meal ticket?” I asked with disgust.


            It was probably a low blow, but I hated the man. He was a disgusting creature of fat and excuses. He’d destroyed more lives than even Church had managed over the years. At least with Church you could tell yourself that he was looking out for the overall good of the people, this fat fuck was just out for himself, like all businessmen. Of course then there was the question about the kids, there had always been the question about the kids. If I had a gun in my front drawer I’d have pulled it out and tried to see if I was faster than Hardrock and Coco. Of course they would have been faster, and I would have ended up splattered from their weapons. They would have shot up the whole office, spreading me across it and out into the street. After an event like that, I probably wouldn’t be getting my security deposit back. It is for that reason that the Webley automatic revolver and the Marley thirty-eight are in a fire safe that is locked up in the big old safe in the corner of my office far away from where I can easily get it. If I don’t pull a gun, I won’t get perforated.


            “Yes.” He growled like a great bear that had been prodded. “She’s been hurt and I don’t want any thing else to happen to her.”


            “Because you’re going to have a hard enough time whoring her out to every jackass who can pay as it is.” I said baiting him a little more.


            It’s a good thing that my desk is quite a heavy thing, even if it’s not as big as some. It means that the Fat Man will have to get up and take three steps to get to me the day he decides to bitch slap me back into the Stone Age. He looked like today might be the day, but I think he realized how exhausted he would be by the time he got to me and decided against it. Counting on his laziness might just be the better part of my valor. He then looked a little more disgusted than angry. He then just looked sad, either for himself or her I couldn’t tell.


            “You haven’t seen her.” He said, in a much softer tone than I’d ever heard him use. “Her face is smashed and cut up, you can’t even recognize her. They nearly choked her to death with those lights. They don’t even know how long she’ll be alive at the moment.”


            I took in a great deal of air through my nose, which was a mistake. With all the food and the talk I had only just noticed the smell of his cigars, which now filled my lungs. The reek was terrible, but I had to pretend like it wasn’t a problem. I looked at him and let the air out through my mouth, trying to blow my bagel breath up my nose.


            “You know.” I informed him. “I’ve never liked you.”


            “You did once.” The Fat Man said showing me his teeth again, maybe that was as much of a smile as he could manage when he wasn’t on the show.


            “Not for a very long time.” I said shaking my head. “I don’t believe like I used to.”


            “Are you saying you won’t work for me?”

            “I’d work for her,” I said trying to keep the disgust off my face, “But only if she asked nicely and paid nicely. I wouldn’t work for any of you sons of bitches if my life depended on it.”


            “Your life could.” The Fat Man said.


            “You might remember Church tried that road once.” I growled, showing my own teeth, “Smith tried it once too, and while they are still around, so am I.”


            The Fat Man seemed to be taken aback a bit by that statement. It was good to remind him of the fact that Church and I had gone head to head before and unlike most people who challenged Church, I was still around to talk about it. Still being around after tussling with Church made me an object of fascination and wonder. It also meant that I couldn’t just be strong armed into things.


            “I don’t even want this for myself.” He said putting his chubby hand to his chest in a sign of apology for asking. “I want it for her, I want it for Christmas.”


            “So what do you want for Christmas?” I liked getting to ask him what he normally asked everyone else.


            “I want who ever did this found and brought to the police.” He said looking at the floor. “I want her to be safe. I want people to know that whoever did this has been caught, but I want her safe.”


            “Okay.” I nodded to him and if I’d been alone I would have slapped myself. If I were alone I wouldn’t be agreeing to take jobs though. “I’ll find out who did this. You are just paying me though. I’m not actually working for you. You don’t get in my way, you don’t dictate anything.”


            “I’ll have a retainer to you by tomorrow.” He said brightening up, now that he could throw money at the problem he was sure it would go away.


            He stood up and didn’t extend his hand to me, which was fine because I didn’t want to shake his pudgy hand anyway. It was rude, but it was sort of expected because we did hate each other to a degree. I’m not sure if I still fully blame him for breaking me and Christmas up, but he certainly had a hand in it. I watched his immense bulk leave my office and listened for the outer office door to close.


            Christmas. God damn it. Even laid up in a hospital, unconscious and near death, she can still come into my life and cause me hassle. This was going to be a hassle too, no doubt about that. Just the idea of having to work on another of Christmas’s problems brought the last time to my mind, Church, the Fat Man, all of it. There wasn’t a part of that job that I thought was worth remembering, besides the time Christmas and I had together.


            Damn it.


            I pulled the bag towards me and got out another bagel and the cup of cream cheese. If I was going to have to work, I wanted to be able to do it on something like a full stomach. Not that I was going to taste any of it now, I was too distracted to taste anything. I could have been eating fruitcake with candy cane icing for all that I was enjoying my bagel.


This is part two of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part three and every day this month until we’re done to see what happens next. If you get lost, one of the tags here should help you. The HBC tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.


December 2, 2008 - Posted by | Fiction |

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