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Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Three)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Day 3: History


            I don’t like leaving my office, and I don’t like leaving my office for work, and I certainly don’t like doing it in December. I have to leave my office of course, because I have to detect, which is how I earn my living. I don’t like leaving in December though. Above all the others, it’s the month when I try to avoid letting my spirit walk abroad among my fellow men, mainly because my fellow men are idiots. They bustle around like mad during the entire month telling me how Christmas is coming, as if any being in the Western Hemisphere wouldn’t be aware of this fact. In fact it would probably be fairly hard to avoid being told this in the Eastern Hemisphere as well, and yet the people who feel it’s important to tell everyone do it constantly for two solid months.


            There are other reasons that I’ve decided not to go forth in life, but that’s a big one in December. The other being that I dislike the bite of winter’s chill. Of course that wasn’t much of an excuse today as the sun was shining brightly on the ground, which still didn’t have any snow. It wouldn’t be warm out though, it would be icy and cold. It might be warm when the sun shone in the car, or through the windows of some of the buildings, but as my window faced north, the sun never shined in it.


            I stood up, thought about the Marley and the Webley-Fosbery in my safe and decided against them. I had no idea what I was doing yet, and therefore it would be tough for me to even be noticed by anyone, much less start to get shot at. Until I had some idea about where I was going and what I was doing, I wouldn’t need guns that I might pull out and increase my troubles with. I tapped the desktop, and tried to think of where the best place to start was. Of course things being as they were I thought about starting by talking with Solstice Yule. That was more because the old girl always cheered me up and had a wealth of great stories. The value of good stories can’t be understated, and in that light, she might have some information about Christmas in those stories.


            I tapped my desk a few more times, just to make sure it was going to be properly supplicant to my will and not move around. Sometimes you’ve got to beat a desk by tapping it in order to make sure it won’t roam around the office. I didn’t think that going to see old Solstice was my best first choice though. It was just possible there was a better first move. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Noonan’s desk number. After a moment he picked up and barked into the phone.


            “Noonan.” He said.


            “Hi Tom.” I said.


            “Oh, hi Jack.” He said, his voice becoming more friendly as he spoke. “What do you need? The place is a madhouse this morning. Feds started showing up about four a.m. As you can imagine this Christmas thing has everyone in a tizzy.”


            “Well that’s why I called.” I said. “If you could manage to gather up a copy of everything you can get your mitts on and meet me in the Somerset food court that would be helpful.”


            “I’ll need about an hour, at the very least.” He said.


            “Okay.” I said. “I’ll be somewhere in the middle.”


            “As always.” He said and hung up.


            I understood he was rushed, but it wasn’t fair to say that I was always in the middle. Usually I sat on the side near the window, it was just this time I wanted him to be able to find me more easily. Even as a metaphor it was unfair. I hadn’t been in the middle of anything in years, not since the last time I had anything to do with Christmas and her group as a matter of fact. There had been jobs here and there had been jobs there, but I was not always in the middle. Usually I was at my client’s side, helping them through their dilemma. Sometimes I was right in the bed with them, but those were extreme circumstances and exceptional clients. I did not end up in bed with the insurance companies, not the whole company at least.  


            I stepped out of my office and into the waiting room, where Debbie was madly typing away at the keyboard, doing whatever it was she did. She stopped after a little while and looked up at me, setting her hands flat right in front of the key board in an odd position that always made me think she was about to bow. It must have been my years in judo, the position looked like the position you put your hands in to bow to the sensei at the beginning of the lesson. Her eyes flashed with boredom as she waited for me to get my nerve together and tell her that for the first time in three weeks I was going to go out and do something to earn a fee. It was a big moment for both of us.


            “I assume you noticed that the Fat Man came to visit.” I said, as if she hadn’t been the one who announced his arrival to me.


            “Yes.” She said with a single nod of her auburn locks.


            “Well he came with an offer.” I informed her as if she were the boss. “He wants me to find out what happened to Christmas.”


            She then looked at me, and I knew the look well. She was about to ask, neigh demand that we just close up the office and run away to Barbados together. She was going to say it would be better than sticking around here. She was about to argue that the trouble was too deep, it was too wide and we would both die horribly. She was going to tell me to not even bother going back to my place for my things, that we needed to leave in the next five minutes or it would be too late. She was going to look up tickets and I was going to grab my passport and that was going to be it. I knew it, it was the look on her face and just a sense I got from our long association.


            “Okay, so where would you start investigating?” She asked, proving once again that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.


            “Well I guess I start by getting some information from Noonan.” I said sitting down on one of the waiting room chairs. “Then I suppose I look around a bit, and try to figure out who would do this.”


            “What about the police though?” She asked. “Can’t they do it?”

            “Oh sure they can.” I tilted my head and looked at the tiles in the ceiling. “But I’m going to guess that it’s not that simple. I’m going to guess that we’ll have to dig deep to find the one who did this. I mean just think of the list of suspects we can name off the top of our head.”


            “Okay.” She nodded at me with determination. “Name them.”


            Shit. She would make me actually make a list off the top of my head. I took in a deep breathe and let it out, to try and mask the fact that I was stalling for a name. One came to me though, and once I got the list started I found I could let it wind out.


            “Church for a start.” I counted him off on my fingers. “He’s the ex-husband. He didn’t take the divorce well, as you well know. He hasn’t bothered her lately that we know about, but he’s still a violent thug. I don’t rule out the Fat Man, he might be trying to cover his tracks.”


            “Why him though?”


            “She got out of line and he wanted to teach her a lesson. Someone got over excited as people so often do around Christmas. He didn’t mean it to come out like that, it just did. So he wants to throw people off the scent by letting it be known he’s hired a specialist to look into it.” I waved him away and started on my other hand, “Of course that just starts the list. One of those dipsticks that’s been trying to make it look like people are attacking Christmas for years, why not do it themselves and blame whoever they wanted. Or it could have been any other number of nut bags, lunatics and fruit loops, the world is full of people who love her so much they’d have to kill her to prove it. Then you’ve got the fact that Pat was struck by a car this year and Easter had that accident of hers. Thanksgiving went missing too if you remember. Any number of delightful folk could be at the bottom of this, we’ve just got to dig deeper into the shit than anyone else will.”


            “That’s why I love working for you.” She said in a tone so dead it might have come from a crypt. “You have such a warm and sunny view of humanity.”


            “It goes with the territory.” I reminded her.


            “No.” She said shaking her head. “You think that everyone in the world is trying to kill the rest of the world, or at least do horrible things to them.”


            “You exaggerate.” I admonished her as I got up and put my coat on. “Why some of them are merely trying to rip everyone else off. Some of them just want to exploit, they aren’t all sadists and murderers.”


            “That’s what I mean.” She smiled nastily at me. “You have such an optimistic view of humanity.”


            “Humanity is doomed and we both know it.” I told her. “It’s just a question of how long it takes for them to get there and how many other kinds of life they’ll take out on their way down.”


            “You really have to go.” She pointed with her left hand at the door. “I don’t think I can take much more of your warm sunny optimism. I’m going to be infected by your unwavering belief that everyone is good and true. After that I might just start handing out my number to any fellow I see and believe him when he says he loves me and of course he’ll call.”


            “Well.” I got up out of the chair. “We don’t want that.”


            I opened the door, put my hat on, and let it close behind me. The pneumatic tube hissed softly as the door slowly closed after me and finally clicked shut as I got to the stairs. I began to descend down to the ground floor, where it would only be a short walk before getting to my car, and then the mall.


            I wondered as I got into my car if anyone would be following me yet. Usually, there were people following me if I went to pay the gas bill. Some people say its paranoia, but I say the gas company wants to make sure I mail the damn thing. I tried to look for any cars that didn’t belong, for anyone that looked comfortable and settled. Were there any cars that had donuts and coffee in them? I hoped that the bastards didn’t have donuts, since I didn’t have any donuts. Of course it could just be that I’m paranoid, it’s been mentioned before, but then I got used to people following me from past jobs. I didn’t see anyone who might be a follower, no one with donuts. The bastards always had donuts, and I never have any.

This is part three of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part four 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 3, 2008 - Posted by | Fiction |

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