I'll come up with something in a minute.

Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Eleven)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

Day 11: Mr. Frost

 

            I don’t regularly go to crime scenes unless they’re fresh, because the police are pretty good at picking over the area where a crime was committed. Of course the crime wasn’t committed here, just discovered here, but that only made my trip all the more pointless. It had taken more than half an hour to drive to the place on Romeo Plank, between 21 Mile and 22 Mile. It might help if I told you that we have mile roads that start somewhere in Detroit, you might as well learn something since when I got there I didn’t learn much.

 

            In a complete contrast to the day before, that day was over cast with a thick blanket of gray clouds that stretched from one end of the sky to the other in all directions. There wasn’t a single opening in that cloak that allowed the sun from assaulting the land, not a single chink in the armor of gray. The light was diffuse and had about it the feeling that if one could see the sun we’d notice that it wasn’t really trying anyways. After all, this wasn’t called the dark time of the year because of the bills that would soon be coming.

 

            There was enough light that morning to see the spot where Christmas had been found though. Enough light to make out the patch that had been blood and was now just a dull stain on the black top. Someone had already made a half-hearted effort to clean it, but no one wanted to risk spraying down the parking lot and risking a large patch of ice. There hadn’t been that much blood anyway. There was just what had leaked out in the little time she had been laying here.

 

            While the spot where she had been left was fairly visible from the road, it wasn’t overly visible from the place where the main building of the nursery was. Why leave her in the parking lot of a nursery in Macomb County anyway? I looked at one of the strings of lights on the tree and while they weren’t lit I could tell there was something wrong. The lights on this tree were indeed ordinary white string lights as Noonan had said, but he didn’t point out how they’d been put on the tree.

 

            In the last few years, the style has been to mummify a tree in lights, Wrapping the trunk with several strands and then wrapping a few of the large branches so that the looked like some sort of bio-luminescent coral that has come ashore and grown to enormous size. That is what had been done here and someone had gone to the effort of adding zip ties every foot or so to make sure no one was able to make off with the lights in the middle of the night, as can happen sometimes.

 

            They couldn’t have had the lights at hand. They couldn’t have just yanked them off the tree and decided to use them. Even without the zip ties, they were wrapped around too tightly to make them any kind of convenient tool. No, the lights wrapped around her neck had been brought, which meant they must have been some kind of sign to someone. I wondered for a moment why that hadn’t been in the report, why they’d missed that little detail.

 

            I looked around, having a sudden sense of paranoia, and saw the brown Buick. I then spotted the man in the brown corduroy suit going into the building. I wondered for a moment why he wore the same suit two days in a row. I looked down at the concrete, where a patch of her blood still stained the ground. I thought about following him into the building, but then what? I might have to bust him in the head or something to make him talk and it seemed a bit public for that. I leaned against my blue car, looking at the Buick, and then at the doors where he was no doubt pretending to shop while keeping me in sight.

 

            I thought about jumping in my car and driving north as fast as I could, just to see how long it would take him to catch up to me. That might attract unwanted attention though, and I guessed that it wouldn’t be for our mutual benefit. I looked at the car and after that, looked into the building. While I looked, I pursed my lips. It would be accurate to say I was thinking about the whole thing. I was just about to go into the nursery and ask him why he was interested in my movements when my phone rang. I pulled it from my pocket and saw that it was Debbie at the office. I hit the answer button and held it up to my ear.

 

            “Yeah?” I asked.

 

            “Mr. Frost called for an appointment.” She said. “He says he has something very important to talk to you about right now.”

 

            “What did you tell him?” I asked looking up at the over cast sky.

 

            “It doesn’t matter, he said he would come and wait.”

 

            “Ah.” I looked at the brown Buick again, “Okay, I’ll be back as soon as I can. It’ll be a little while.”

 

            I looked at the Buick, and then at the store and decided that there would have to be another time. It wouldn’t be too hard to arrange another time anyway, all I’d have to do is leave my office and not travel more than forty miles away from it. If I stopped and walked around roughly the same area I would no doubt see him. If I saw him I could ask him what exactly it was he wanted. Until that point I had to get back to my office and talk to a person who I really didn’t want to talk to.

 

            I got back to my office in a little under half an hour, and it was only my skills of observation combined with great luck that allowed me to see the police cruisers before they saw me in my rush. When I came in I barely gave Debbie a look before getting into my office and starting to try to decide if I was going to strip off my coat or not. I heard the door open and rushed to my desk, my coat still on. I saw the cashier’s check that the Fat Man had sent me for fifty thousand still sitting on my desk where any idiot might see it. I snatched it up and stuck it in a drawer before the door came fully open.

 

            The temperature of the office seemed to drop about twenty degrees in about three seconds when Mr. Frost entered. He looked thin, pale, and remarkably well preserved for a man as old as he was supposed to be. As he approached, I could swear that I could begin to see my breath and I noticed Debbie grabbing her coat as the door closed behind him. Small tendrils of ice certainly must have formed as Frost touched the client chair and it seemed to solidify completely as he sat in it.

 

            “Hello Mister Frost.” I said, trying not to shiver.

 

            There aren’t many people that I worry about having in the office. Even the Fat Man and Church don’t worry me that much, they can only do so much after all. Frost though, Frost worries me. It isn’t so much that Frost makes Church and The Fat Man look small by comparison, it’s that he makes the Federal Government look small. He also makes the Federal Government look rather even-handed and honest in its dealings.

 

            My breath wanted to come out in plumes, and I felt as embarrassed about it as ever. I know the temperature didn’t really go down, but it felt like it did. He didn’t try to smile or have any kind of expression. He simply raised his hands up and tented them in front of his face while fixing his icy eyes on me. When he spoke, his voice was the sharp crack of a January wind when you’re naked and covered with cherry soda in a field. If you have no idea what that feels like, count yourself lucky. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s no picnic.

 

            “I rarely have any interests in your kind of business.” He said in a voice that sounded like it was trying not to be a rebuke, which was as close as he ever got to warmth. “However there has been a development in the job that you have undertaken which affects me in some ways.”

 

            I didn’t ask him how he knew what job I was on, he just knew. If he announced that he knew the location of the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail, I wouldn’t even bother asking where he got his information, I would simply go and get them because that would be why he had told me. He knew most things, and he only told you things when he expected you to do something about them.

 

            “There has been a shooting this morning, at the Starbucks in Bloomfield Hills. Chanukah and Kwanzaa were having breakfast together, discussing the current situation with Christmas. Chanukah had a cappuccino while Kwanzaa had one of those lattes with more prefixes and suffixes than I care to remember or try to define. When they emerged from the establishment they were both killed by someone firing a small twenty-five caliber hand gun into the back of each of their heads. It was an automatic, unless the shooter likes leaving brass on the ground for fun.”

 

            “What did the shooter have to drink?” I asked, trying to see if it would stump him.

 

            “That information is hardly cogent, but it was a cup of hazel nut roast, with two sugars.” He smiled slightly, and I was surprised to see that his face didn’t crack from the effort. “And yet the identity of this person eludes me.”

 

            “When did this happen?”

 

            “One minute before I called you.” He said not moving his half dead eyes one tiny flicker. “It wouldn’t pay to make the call before it happened.”

 

            “No.” I decided that if he could have a joke then so could I. “You might prevent something that way.”

 

            “We have discussed that sort of comment before Mr. Collier.” He said coldly, which is the only way he ever said anything.

 

            “Yes, we have.” I replied.

 

            “So under these current circumstances, I cannot dismiss what happened to Patrick or Easter as accidents. Likewise I suspect the sudden disappearance of Thanksgiving was not based on a sudden wish to go to Israel.”

 

            “Why would he go to Israel?” I asked. “As opposed to anywhere else, I mean.”

            “The Israeli’s eat more turkey per capita than any other nation.” He said, opening his tented hands as if he wanted to look at his palms.

 

            “Oh?” I asked.

 

            “Yes.” He said. Having examined his palms he then re-tented his fingers, although he might not have been looking at his palms as his eyes never left me.

 

            “Someone is trying to take out your group of entertainers?” I asked.

 

            “It might seem that way.” He suggested and then his tone actually changed to something with feeling in it. “I do not require this show or that show, but I do require shows. Do you understand this?”

 

            “Yes.” I said nodding and wondering if my nervous sweat was going to form icicles on my forehead.

 

            “I’ve dispatched mercenaries to protect Miss Yule, as well as other notable figures in the business. I suspect that even the government agents cannot be trusted, as they were supposed to be guarding the two who were shot down today as well. You are at the center of this situation, and you have proved to be resourceful in past instances where my direct intervention would have been considered unfortunate. I trust you to understand the gravity of the situation and to find the person causing all this row.” He set his hands down on the chair arms and pushed himself up to his full height. He then reached his hand into his coat and produced a slim envelope. “I cannot have my shows interrupted. I want this situation ended as quickly as possible. I hope you understand this.”

 

            “I do.” I said nodding.

 

             “Good.” He set the envelope down on my desk and then he turned and left without another word.

 

            I sat back in my chair, rubbing my hands together to get the feeling to come back. Even if the cold was only in my mind, my mind had extended it to my hands. I reached for the envelope, opened it up and found another cashier’s check for another fifty thousand dollars. I tapped the check against the desk for a few moments before letting it fall and turning my chair around to look out the window. I never really understood why Mr. Frost decided that he needed to involve himself in the situation, just to tell me to do what I was already doing. The Fat Man had paid me, Solstice had paid me, the investigation was only a day and a half old, why jump the gun on this? Of course, it might be that he was in as close to a panic as someone who had ice water in their veins can manage. Maybe he had an account ready to have a check drawn because he knew this was coming. Being the kind of person he was, he probably knew this was going to happen some day and he wanted someone he could say was in his pay neck deep in it.

 

            I sat forward and decided that I needed to get out of the office, if for no other reason then to let the furnace run for a while and melt the frost from the windows. I got out of the chair and started across my office before stopping. I stood in my apparently freezing cold office and then walked back to my desk and gathered up the checks. I then looked at the corner, where the safe sat, and thought for a moment before moving again.

 

            I opened the big old-fashioned safe and pulled the modern fire safe out of it. I got my keys from my ring and opened the fire safe. Inside were my Marley thirty-eight and the Webley automatic revolver. I took the Marley and its shoulder holster from the fire safe and put it on. I took the gun from the holster and checked to make sure it was loaded. I know I shouldn’t store it like that, but I’d forgotten to take the bullets out and I was tired the last time I took the shoulder rig off.

 

            I slipped the gun back into its holster and looked at the Webley, trying to decide what to do with it. I took that from the safe and slid it into the second drawer on the right hand side of my desk. I wasn’t positive that I wasn’t leaving the wrong gun behind, but I didn’t have anything besides the two revolvers and I had no holster for the Webley. I put the fire safe back and closed the big safe door before twirling the knob. I got up and went into the waiting room where Debbie was still huddled in her parka, trying to type as best she could. I’m always glad to see that the feeling of cold isn’t just a product of my imagination, and other people feel it as well.

 

            “Come on.” I said. “I’ll buy you lunch.”

 

            “Where?” She asked.

 

            “Someplace warmer than this.” I said turning up the thermostat a bit.

 

            “Good enough.” She said, and we went.

 

This is part eleven of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part twelve 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.

 

Advertisements

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

more stuff

DSC02601

My exclusive Indy figure, and his horse
DSC03512

Had to buy 6 figures and collect the stickers to get this
DSC03507

And now the cutest Jack o’ Lantern in pagandom
DSC02601
DSC02563
DSC02592
The little guy was made from a VERY small pumpkin.
The bowl was meant to show scale, but it’s also a very small bowl. I should have taken an every day object
DSC02613

And here we see Fancy, sitting with Big Blue during “The Operation”
DSC03062

Then she realized I was taking pictures.
DSC03057

More later
no more now.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Cartoon Review: The Simpsons’ Christmas

While I’m eating chicken & dumplings soup with Holly and watching Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Ultimate Video Collection”why don’t you read an old review for…

The Simpsons Christmas Special (1989 Dir. David Silverman)


I have a wife with 5 foot tall blue hair and a star fish for a daughter. This is my life, pity me.

You might notice I am not calling this “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” because I believe in using the title on the screen for a review and that is the title this screen has. As much as people talk about which number this was as the show was produced, I also don’t care about that either. It’s the first real episode of The Simpsons and serves as the pilot for the series that anyone outside of the studio so, so it’s the first. This was something of a new experience for TV viewers. We’d rarely seen anything like this family before. This was an imperfect family on television, living in a world that actually had some flaws in it. No wonder Bush the first and the rest of the republicans railed against this, it wasn’t whitewashing the American people to look like something they weren’t. Republicans hate truth, and children, which is why they take away their school lunches and replace them with ketchup.


Darn it! You can’t see in this shrunken view how the flames are licking at those stockings.

The show starts with Marge and Homer getting in just in time to the school Christmas Concert. I’ve always wondered why they weren’t there on time. Wouldn’t they have to bring their kids to school for something like this? Or have the Simpson children been getting nervously drunk the whole day on orange drink? And what is orange drink anyway? Not orange juice, that’s for sure! The only highlights in this portion of the show is Lisa in a body stocking being a fire god and Bart getting yanked from the choir for singing naughty lyrics to Jingle Bells. Then we get a scene where Marge writes the traditional Christmas letter, sort of giving us the personality of all the characters for the next ten or fifteen years right there in one go. It’s a bit disappointing how little character development there is between this episode and a new one. On a side note, because of how the fire was animated in this scene, the stockings appear to be on fire.


I lived next to people like this once, and then strangely they disappeared. No one knows what happened to them or what field they’re buried in.

We then get to hear a bit about what will be one of the side plots where Bart wants a tattoo. That will be expanded upon later. We get to see the Flanders for the first time, acting in a way they’d never act today. They’re far more secular and commercial here than they would ever be again. I think the super religious Flanders family didn’t really get going until second season actually, because there is another episode in this season where they are wantonly consumerish in a way that would be totally out of place today. I think the original idea of the Flanders was just that they were just the perfect family that the Simpsons weren’t.


“Do you expect me to talk?” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

This year, Mr. Burns has canceled the Christmas bonuses, and he’s a bit worried because they were going to buy presents with that cash. The blow is softened a bit by the fact that Marge has been putting aside money in a big jar all year. However, Bart gets a tattoo, and Marge spends all her saved Christmas money on getting it removed. Now, with no bonus and no jar money, Homer cries out that Christmas is ruined! Marge begs him to relax and not to get his suicide kit out, reminding him of the Christmas bonus, which he hasn’t told her, is canceled. He goes outside and hangs his head in the snow, wondering whatever he’s going to do. Fade to commercial.


This is the face of pathos.

Homer then decides that instead of telling Marge about the money, he would like to do the shopping this year. He takes the list to Circus of Values where nothing is over five bucks. He loads up on lots of things like pads of paper for Bart and a doggie toy for Maggie. He’s trying really hard, and you can tell that it’s humiliating for him, but he’s managing to keep his chin up and that’s inspiring. He bumps into Flanders and is reminded again how much of a looser he is. Instead of going home he runs off to Moe’s to drown his sorrows. When Barney comes in and announces that he’ll buy a round of drinks for everyone (which is just him and Homer) he informs our hero that he got the money by being a Santa at the mall.


NO! Homer! It’s a toy, not a real pork chop!

Homer enters Santa training class, which gives us a few laughs. He covers up the fact and is given a “treat” by having Marge’s sisters stop by and insult him about not having a tree. He runs off and steals a tree, coming back with it to be insulted a bit more. He then has to be Santa at the mall, where he is discovered by Bart who pulls of his beard. This is actually a great moment, because when Homer explains the whole thing to Bart he agrees to keep the secret for him.


Despite the red suit, I am not a communist. Yea capitalism.

Sadly, Homer’s check only turns out to be thirteen bucks. Barney announces that there is a dog at the track that he’s going to bet on. Homer is reluctant, but Bart convinces him. Sadly, Homer bets his money on a dog called Santa’s Little Helper. This turns out to be a looser though and he looses everything. The whole time of course Patty and Selma insults Homer to Marge and Lisa’s face, which has always made me think they should be hacked up with an axe and burned in the fire place. I’ve never felt any sympathy what-so-ever with either of Marge’s sisters, they’re nothing but hateful monsters.


If only we had the rest of this brave photo journalists images.

Homer, depressed beyond reason and working with a crushed spirit finds Santa’s Little Helper being run off by his owner. The dog leaps into Homer’s arms and the show is brought to a heart warming climax by Homer yelling “He’s pathetic! He’s a looser! He’s (dog licks him) a Simpson.” How can you not empathize with sentiment like that? Homer comes home, admits everything to the group and tries to explain, but Bart interrupts by bringing in Santa’s Little Helper in an attempt to save some of Homer’s dignity. This is to the great joy of all but the two sisters who wanted Homer to fail, but screw them! They’re evil people who need to die in a fire.


You do know you’re only going to appear in episodes where the story needs you, right?

I have to admit that while the animation is cheep and the characters are no where near as rounded as they would later become, I really like this special. I genuinely enjoy a show that A) Doesn’t spend its entire run time decrying commercialism and B) Actually points out the fact that some people have to really struggle to have a Merry Christmas. For that, it gets full marks.


Look at all those forced smiles. People pretending to get along. It must be Christmas after all!

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Ten)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

Day 10: Cliffhanging

 

 

            My head was spinning, my ears buzzing, and all I could be sure of was that I didn’t actually pass out or anything like that. My vision started to clear after a moment and the pain in my head started to thud heavy and deeply. He had hit me above my hairline, which meant that I wouldn’t have a visible bruise. I would therefore not get any of the sympathy from beautiful women that so often comes from having a big bruise on the side of your head. I would just have the pain and irritation that comes from having a big bruise on the side of your head. All of the drawbacks and none of the benefits. That’s my life.

 

            If nothing else this was indeed shaping up like every other time I’ve had to deal with Christmas. She’s lovely, and she can make you feel grand during the good times, but she can be such a headache when times aren’t good. The headache was already here, and I hadn’t even been on the job a full twelve hours yet. Of course that wasn’t actually a record, but it did mean that things were going to be interesting.

 

            “I should probably apologize for that.” Church said as he leaned back again. “Bad phrasing, I can see that now. Never mind, no real harm, right Opus.”

 

            “No harm.” He said as he began to stand up, gasping for air. Clearly I was either a bad shot or he had been wearing protection.

 

            He looked as if someone had smacked him in the chest with a hammer, which was probably how he felt. He walked to the blue brocade chair and sat down, trying to breath. There wasn’t any blood though, which probably meant that he was indeed wearing some sort of preventative.  Debbie opened the door, her disconnected keyboard raised over her head to be used as a blunt object at any moment. The spring shaped wire bounced around behind her as she raised it up. She looked at me and then at the other two and back at me with a look of concern.

 

            “Jack?” She asked.

 

            “It’s okay Debbie.” I said holding up my hand. “Nothing to worry about.”

 

            I worried that she might come rushing into my office and strike Church about the head with her keyboard. She would then most likely finish Opus off as he stood dazzled by her savage beauty. The problem there was two-fold. One is that I’m the heroic one around here and two, if she broke the keyboard then what would she tap at like a coked up rooster looking for the last piece of grain on earth?

 

            “We’re fine.” I said. “Just a slight misunderstanding.”

 

            “Okay.” She said and closed the door behind her as she went.

 

            “You are trying to figure out who did this?” Church asked, even though he didn’t really mean it as a question.

 

            “That’s right.” I said nodding.

 

            “Then you can do it for me.” He said reaching into his inside jacket pocket with his let hand. I noticed as he did that he was gripping the handgun by the barrel.

 

            He tossed a white envelope onto the desk between us. It didn’t look to be overstuffed, or full of used bills. I picked it up and opened it to check the contents. There were some new hundreds in there. I touched the edges of the envelope and without touching the money spilled it out onto my desk. I then began to crumple up the envelope and watched carefully as Church shifted in his chair, as he always did, but never once let his grip on the barrel of the gun shift even a little. I took a pen from my pen cup and pushed the bills around the table, counting out all ten of them.

 

            “Retainer?” I asked.

 

            “Right.”

 

            “You know the Fat Man sat in that chair earlier today and made a similar offer.” I said placing the envelope onto a small metal tray I keep on my desk for my keys and wallet.

 

            “I’d heard that.” He watched me take a book of matches from my desk. “But I’m willing to bet he didn’t offer anything in the way of money. He promised you a check, and I have cash in hand.”

 

            “That’s true.” I said striking one of the matches and touching it to the crumpled envelope. “So what exactly do you want?”

 

            “I want you to find out why and how that fat bastard did this to her.”

 

            “What if it wasn’t him?”

 

            “It was.” Church said as the envelope caught fully and burned on the desk between us. “He tried to frame me.”

 

            “But what if it wasn’t?” I asked. “Can you be sure that’s even her blood on the baseball bat?”

 

            “I’m finding out now.” He assured me. “I’ll know by morning.”

 

            “But you don’t know.” I told him. “And it might have been someone else, that guy could have been moonlighting. Or the Fat Man might have had a supply of her blood on hand and smeared it all over to see that you got caught because he can’t have the culprit running the streets this close to the show. Even if they can’t have the show, they can have the candlelight vigil. But they can’t even really have that if the attacker is still out there.”

 

            Church nodded slowly, his fist pressed against his cheek to help support his head. Clearly some of my words were hitting the mark, if not all of them. He seemed to understand that the investigation would take longer than he had thought. He looked like he was considering something for a moment and then finally nodded again.

 

            “Very well.” He said starting to get up. “Investigate until you find whoever did it.”

 

            “Hang on.” I pointed at the chair. “Sit back down.”

 

            “What?” Church asked, sitting back in the chair.

 

            “First things first.” I held out my hand. “The gun.”

 

            “What?” He asked.

 

            “How far do you think you’ll get with that ruse?” I asked still holding my hand out. “Opus shoots someone, you make sure I get the gun from him, then I shoot him and then you have not only the powder burns on my hands, but my prints on the gun that shot the person Opus shot. You then put a whole bunch of money in front of me, but I’ve caught on to that situation already.”

 

            “To what end?’ Church asked.

 

            “I don’t care.” I said, leaning forward with my hand out. “Give me that gun.”

 

            For a long moment, I think we were both wondering if I could make him give it to me. Could I take the gun away from him? Church is not a punk, and while Opus is, he had Church with him. I could have possibly taken the gun, but it would have cost both of us.

 

            Church looked at me and then slid the magazine from the gun and ejected the round from the chamber before handing it over. I took a handkerchief from my drawer and wiped the gun clean of prints. I made sure to rub it all over, breathing on it to get a nice shine and then set it down in front of Church on the cloth. He looked at the pistol and then at me.

 

            “It was an insurance anyway.” He shrugged and picked the gun back up, handing it over to Opus and then giving him the expelled round and clip. “Just to make sure.”

 

            “Yeah, great.” I sassed. “Now we talk about this.”

 

            “I promise the gun was just to make sure.” He began.

 

            “Not that.” I shook my head. “When did you first meet Christmas?”

 

            “You start with me?”

 

            “No.” I said shaking my head. “I started this morning, and I haven’t taken your money yet.”

 

            “So who are you working for?”

 

            “Christmas.” I once again told someone. “The Fat Man might be paying the bills, and he might be splitting with you, but I’m working towards her interests as I understand them.”

 

            “As always.” He said darkly.

 

            “When did you meet her?”

 

            “When I was just getting started.” He said rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “I ran some of the joints where she first got started. In fact, much as that silly old fart would like to think otherwise, I got her started. I’m the one who got her the money to buy the costumes, told her which groups to steal her act from, I helped her every step of the way.”

 

            “When you were small time?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah.” He said nodding, almost proud of the fact. “I had nothing, she had nothing, but we had each other and we built each other up strong.”

 

            “So why did she leave?” I needled him. “If you were building each other up?”

 

            “Because I was in those days and sometimes am still a violent individual who cannot control his impulses.” He admitted as if he were reading it off a card a therapist had given him. “I never hit her, I was never mean to her, but she didn’t like the way I ran things in those days.”

 

            “Lots of broken bodies in the streets do tend to put a lady off.” I agreed.

 

            “I was fine with it though.” He shrugged. “I gave her the money to go north, let her do her wandering thing with her little friend, and then she came back and we got married. We were quite happy for sometime after that. She tempered me to a great degree I think.”

 

            “And then later things went wrong again.” I said, also not a question.

 

            “Well, you know all about that.” He said.

 

            “Yes.” I agreed. “I do.”

 

            “But I would never hurt her.” He said. “You understand that don’t you?”

 

            “You weren’t quite giving me that impression last time.” I said.

 

            “But you also know that I haven’t even tried to see her since then.”

 

            “That’s true,” I admitted, even if I only sort of knew this.

 

            “We have been talking though.” He said. “After the divorce, we started talking.

 

            “I didn’t know that.” I said.

 

            “We’ve been sort of friendly.” He said swallowing. “Just a bit.”

 

             “So who would want to smack her like that?” I asked, trying to see what he’d think.

 

            “Fat Man.” He said. “If she was talking about coming back to me, and telling him she was done with his garbage, he might have.”

 

            “Done?” I asked, shaking my head.

 

            “Oh, he didn’t mention that, did he?”

 

            “Mention what?”

 

            “She was tired of it.” He said shifting in his chair again. “She wanted to quit. She wanted to slow things down, go back to doing a smaller show. You know, the same thing she’d been talking about for years?”

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded, “I knew about that part.”

 

            “She sounded like she was really ready to do it though.” He held his hands out as if supporting a silver platter. “If she told him that she was done with his child molesting ways and that she wasn’t going to let him treat her like a whore any more, who knows what that fat pimp might do?”

 

            “Well that’s a point.” I said.

 

            “She’s wanted out for years.” He said. “She was starting to sound desperate about it lately. I told her that she had nothing to worry about. I thought that having me around would keep the Fat Man in check. I guess I was wrong.”

 

            “So why not just go shoot up the Fat Man?” I asked. “His distribution system is powerful enough that it can do without him, and the next guy might not have a thing for kids.”

 

            “Can’t kill a man unless you know you should.” He said standing up. “You find out who it was, and we’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”

 

            “And my fee?” I asked as he walked to the door.

 

            “You tell me what it cost and I’ll make sure you get it.” He said over his shoulder as Opus opened the door for him.

 

            I watched the door close and looked at the money on my desk, still untouched by my hands. I looked at the ten bills on my desk and then at the door as Debbie came in. She looked over her shoulder as she sat down in the blue chair next to the one Church had occupied. It was as if she was afraid even to sit in the same chair his warmth still resided in.

 

            “Are we in trouble?” She looked beautiful and sultry and scared. However, she also looked like she was prepared to keep going if I would but say the word.

 

            “Are we ever in anything but?” I asked leaning back in my chair and looking at the patterns of light on the ceiling.  “Just keep the place open. Just keep accepting the odd job if it comes.”

 

            “Pardon?’ She asked.

 

            “Nothing.” I said still looking at the ceiling. “There’s a thousand dollars on the desk, it’s your bonus.”

 

            “I thought my bonus was going to come with my next check.” She sounded a bit puzzled.

 

            “It will.” I said, twitching my feet as they dangled. “This is extra special money for you to spend on presents for your parents and your sister’s kids or something. Maybe you could buy yourself a new vintage dress, or a pair of old shoes, or something else like that.”

 

            “This is what Church paid you, isn’t it?”

 

            “Yes.” I looked at her, I wished for a moment I could just kiss her and tell her it would all be all right.

 

            “And you don’t want to touch it and you don’t want it found anywhere near you.” She was not asking now.

 

            “That’s right.” I confirmed, “So now it’s something for you. Extra special bonus money for you to get outfits that I like looking at you in.”

 

            There was a sound of her hand whooshing through the air. When I didn’t get the slap I was expecting I heard her feet in her old shoes walking towards the door. Interesting fact, shoes from the forties sound different than shoes made later do. These are the sorts of things you find out when your secretary has a thing for vintage clothing.

 

            “See you in the morning.” She said as she closed my office door behind her.

 

            I sat up, and was glad to find that the money was indeed gone. I shook the burned envelope out into the garbage can and wiped the ashes away with a tissue. When I set it back down, then nothing might have ever happened. Besides my nerves, the tiny powder burns on my hands, the pain on the side of my head, and the feeling that I was in deeper trouble than ever, I might have just come back to the office and found it empty.

 

            But as I said, I would have to account for the pain at the side of my head, and the jangled nerves, and the high rate of my heart beat. With those items needing to be explained, I had to admit that Church had indeed been here, and I had indeed been hired by him to some extent. Or at least I’d taken his money, and that was the same thing in many important respects and I wasn’t sure he knew that there was a difference.

 

This is part one of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part two 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 10, 2008 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment