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Even the Weapons are festive



December 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Sixteen)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay


Day 16: Where Do We Go Now?


            It was almost completely dark by five thirty, and the lights didn’t come on, but the snow had started to fall. It was heavy snow, and it looked like it really meant to keep it up as long as necessary. Of course this being the weather in Michigan, it could be over in half an hour and the cloud would be gone so fast you’d wonder where the hell all this snow suddenly came from. Sure, right now it looked like it was determined to cover the world in a blanket of white, but weather in Michigan either has attention deficit or is a common, garden variety, everyday, ordinary liar.  Either way though, there were flakes falling right now.


            Big fist-sized clumps of snow were sailing past my window, and I remembered reading somewhere that light travels in big clumps like that too. The snow wasn’t energy though, it was collections of ice crystals half-formed and clinging to each other in the moist air. I wished I was the sort of detective who kept a bottle in the bottom drawer and a glass on the desk. I could have used a drink of something, sipped through a highball glass as I watched the snow drift by in the gloom of a December night that looked like it might never end. I don’t though, because I made a deal with someone that if he didn’t drink ever again then I wouldn’t drink either to keep it even.


            Christmas was dead and the job was now to find a murderer instead of just an assailant. I looked to my left, where I’d be able to see the place with a hellish display of celebration had the lights been on. A bunch of lights and colorful banners to chase away the shadows in celebration of a vague early winter possibly religious festival that most people seemed to get into. Except now there were no lights. It hurt somehow, not having the display in view. It made me feel like I had won some kind of Pyrrhic victory over the obnoxious light pollution that the displays represented.


            She must really be dead, and the displays were off in order to respect that fact. I wasn’t as pleased as people might think I should be at this development. I hadn’t wanted anyone else to cancel their celebrations. I just wanted to be left alone for the month. Knowing the amount of pain that was out there made me feel angry again.


            I sat down in my chair and picked up one of the small red resin Buddha figures on my desk and began toss it from one hand to the other. There were things wrong with the case. There were many things that didn’t fit. There were too many wallets, not enough rings and a bunch of contradictory statements. What’s worse, the only person who would have been able to give me Christmas’s schedule for the last week or so was now in a morgue with a bunch of bullet holes in him.


            I had to get facts arranged in my mind, had to think things through, and then conduct a few experiments. What’s more, I had to do it fast, there wasn’t going to be time to try out this idea or that idea. If I didn’t come up with something soon there would be agents crawling all over this town and no amount of tough talk would be enough to scare all of them.


            The problem was, that I think I knew the answer before I started, but I wanted to delay the issue. So I kept tossing my little red Buddha from one hand to the other, watching him spin in midair as I did so. Someone was lying about something, someone was keeping something secret, and that damn ring was missing. If old Joe didn’t know anything about it, then it must have been on her finger when she got to the hospital, and someone got in and took off with it.


            Why someone would want a ring that only had value to the person who wore it everywhere was beyond me. Or rather it wasn’t beyond me, because she had a lot of obsessive fans, but how someone could get in and steal it without anyone else noticing was beyond me. She’d had two armed guards outside the doors and another two in the room with her at all times. Taking that ring would be a long and difficult process, not something you could just do while someone was looking the other way.


            Of course the obvious answer hadn’t occurred to me, though it probably has to you. As it hadn’t occurred to me at this point in the story, or perhaps you also hadn’t thought of it, I won’t mention it just yet. Besides, it might be that it only seems obvious to me now that I have the benefit of hindsight. It could be that without that benefit, you cannot see the obvious answer screaming and shouting and waving its arms.


            I looked at the little red Buddha in my hand and wondered if there was anyone watching my office right now. With Christmas and the Fat Man dead it might be supposed that I was off the case. Of course since I was still in my office, I was clearly still on the case. I looked at the rooftops, wondering if there were snipers watching for me, and if they had doughnuts.


            I had hardly started to investigate, and already most my clientele was either dead or wanted in connection with several murders. It was hard to hold one’s head up high with that sort of thing going on. You can’t put cases like this in the advertisements. No one would buy your services if you did. I wondered about the two wallets and then the ring. Two wallets, no ring.


            Perhaps it was that the ring, sensing danger, turned itself into a wallet while her hand was in her pocket which is why it was found in there. That was a silly idea though, and it proved how totally out of ideas I was. It might be supposed that I was a very bad detective, or that I was trying to string this tale out a few more days, but I think I was still in shock really.


            When Christmas had left Church, once and for all and forever, she had stayed with me for a while. Possibly it might be more accurate to say that I stayed with her, but it makes no difference because we never seemed to part in that time. She was always with me and I was always with her. She was so beautiful, so personal, so much a part of my life. We listened to music, drank wine, ate the best foods, made love in ways that could never be described in things so base as words. To even try to describe those days would take the skills of a thousand poets, working for a thousand years, and possibly with a thousand monkeys.


            Of course it all went wrong, when she started hanging around with that extreme right wing crowd of hypocrites, and began hitting the really hard stuff. It ended just before she and the Fat Man started that PR stunt about people trying to stop her from performing, which was never true. No one had tried to stop her, but she had claimed that there was a group trying to destroy her and her work. No one quite believed it, but then Patrick was killed just before his show last year. There were the attempts on Thanksgiving, and Easter had that accident this year as well. I could never quite help but point out to people that everyone but Christmas was being attacked.


            But then, this year, she was.


            I can’t help but think that I was affected by this more than I wanted to admit at the time. I wanted to pretend like it was over between her and I and that I cared no more for her than I did for Arbor or any other performer. The truth was of course that I still loved her, even if I had left her with anger in my heart. I leaned against the glass of the window and looked down at the dark town square, or as much of it as I could see through the snow.


            If I smoked, I would have lit up a Lucky. If I drank, I would have poured myself a few fingers of some amber fluid. If I had a bad habit I could indulge in, I would have indulged in it. I don’t have any bad habits though, or at least none that would have made the feeling in the pit of my stomach go away or even lessen for a moment. So instead I looked out the window at the street below.


            I turned around and picked up my phone, dialing a number by memory. When Noonan answered he sounded like he was just on his way out of the office.


            “It’s me.” I said. “I think we need to talk about some of the evidence I’ve found.”


            “Okay Jack.” He said. “You want me to come to your office?”


            “No.” I said. “Let’s meet someplace were we can have something to eat. How about that Chinese place up on Rochester and Long Lake? Next to the Boston Market?”


            “Yeah.” He said. “That’s fine.”


            “I’ll see you in a little bit.” I said, and hung up the phone.


            I can’t say why exactly I slipped the leather sap out of the desk drawer and into my back pocket, but I did. I suppose that was my subconscious mind looking out for the conscious mind, which is stupid and can’t see facts right in front of it. I did take it though, and I checked that the Marley was still in my holster, like always.


            Debbie poked her head into the office a moment after that, while I was sitting at my desk. I froze when she came in, and watched as she deviated around the small patch of blood I still hadn’t cleaned up. She looked at it and then at me as she came towards me, her heels clicking slightly as she walked.


            “I’m going home then.” She announced. “Will you be okay until tomorrow?”


            “I should be.” I told her. “You?”


            “I’ll probably need a drink when I get home.” She laughed a nervous laugh that I could have spotted as nerves even if I wasn’t a great detective.


            “You’ll be alright.” I told her. “You did just fine, nothing for you to be ashamed of.”


            “Thanks.” She smiled and blushed a little, more nerves. “Is that what it’s like everyday?”


            “Not everyday.” I told her. “Not every single day.”


            “But that’s what it’s like?” She asked.


            “Yes.” I nodded to her.


            “It was terrifying.”


            “Yeah.” I said.


            “I suppose you get used to it.” She said.


            “Sort of.” I told her. “If you’re a tough guy, it doesn’t affect you so much.”


            “Well, you are a tough guy.” She turned around and started towards the door. “You should probably get that blood cleaned up.”


            “I will.” I said.


            “I’ll see you tomorrow.”


            “Yeah, tomorrow.” I told her.


            I waited for her to go, and then waited another three minutes to make sure that she was really on the way home. Then I got up and started my way out of the office, locking things behind me as I went along. I didn’t want Debbie to know what I was up to. I didn’t want her to know I was going to work some more, it would only make her worry.


This is part sixteen of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part seventeen 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 16, 2008 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment