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Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Eighteen)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

 

Day 18: Standing in the Snow

 

            I watched the agents move around the crime scene, knowing that their efforts would come to nothing. Knowing what kind of car the killer had driven wasn’t going to help solve this case.  Being able to tell at exactly what angle the shooter had fired the bullets would be useless as well. Anyone who had deliberately worn bigger boots to cover their tracks probably had covered all the others as well. Once they had gotten away, they were gone.

 

            I’d given my statement about nine times already, and although it covered all the pertinent points, it was a load of cheese water. I think that if you took apart my statement, and sifted it very finely, you might find ten words that were honest. I even told them that Noonan had eaten sweet & sour pork, just to see if they would call me on it. Our meals hadn’t been cleared up by the staff of the restaurant yet, and so they were on display for the world to see. All one had to do was look. I was standing on my own by my car when Smith broke away from a gathering of his agents and walked towards me. He stopped about ten feet away from me and crossed his arms.

 

            Because of the late hour, he wasn’t wearing his big sunglasses, which lessened the lizard-like look of his normal appearance. He slid his thin tongue out of his mouth and licked his top lip very carefully. He then walked another seven feet until he was closer to me than I would ever like him to be. I found it odd that his breath didn’t show in the cold air, but then if he was as cold-blooded as I thought, then it probably wouldn’t.

 

            “You want to tell me what really happened?” He asked as his eyes fixed on me. He knew deep in his heart that I was in trouble, and I knew I was in trouble. He must have been thinking that I couldn’t possibly be as dumb as I look and would give him the straight story if he just asked nicely.

 

            “Did you ever find her ring?” I asked back, proving that I am about as stupid as I look.

 

            “No.” He said shaking his head. “Did you find it?”

 

            “Not a trace.” I said and then started to move in on my point. “Did you fingerprint Christmas after she died?”

 

            “No.” Smith said, looking sort of shocked by the suggestion. “Why should we? She’s been identified.”

 

            “By her wallet.” I said smiling at him. “Of which there were two of them. Except now there is only one.”

 

            “So we should run a check?’ He asked.

 

            “Well if you want.” I said shrugging and then dropped my bomb. “I’ll bet you a million billion dollars that it isn’t Christmas that died in the hospital. That was never her. It was an imposter, and Noonan knew something.”

 

            “How do you know this?” Smith asked.

 

            “Noonan’s face showed it in the restaurant when I mentioned the ring and the two wallets. Tom was scared. He’d helped set this thing up to some degree and he never thought about how bad it would get. He’d clearly gotten into something bigger than he thought. He knew the jig was up, he just didn’t know how much I knew. He was going to try and work it out of me, which is why he had his gun out. I sapped him and when he got up from that, someone shot him. If his nerves hadn’t been so jangled, I would have never gotten to hit him like I did.”

 

            “So then where is Christmas?” Smith asked.

 

            “No idea.” I shrugged. “Maybe she’s been dead for months, maybe she went into hiding like Thanksgiving did and put a ringer out for safety’s sake. I have no idea, but when you find her, she’ll have that ring on.”

 

            “How sure are you about this?”

 

            “I wouldn’t bet you a million billion dollars if I thought the government couldn’t pay up.” I said with a confidence that bordered on arrogance.

 

            Smith watched me with those reptilian eyes for a very long time. I decided to look back at him. Being a warm-blooded creature, and also alive, the cold air was starting to get to me. However, I wasn’t going to be the one to break our staring contest so I kept looking at him. He took in a deep breath and let it out through his nose after what seemed like hours. I took in air and let it out, showing him the plume of steam that comes from a warm-blooded creature just to rankle him.

 

            “Do you know where Church is?” He asked, not blinking at all.

 

            “Do you?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Then neither do I.” I explained.

 

            “Would you have told me if I said I did know?”

 

            “No.” I said trying not to shake my head because it would break the stare. “It would also have told me exactly where Church was. If you knew where he was, you’d have arrested him. As it is, I don’t actually know where he is right now.”

 

            “What about the claim that his man servant shot the Fat Man?”

 

            “I doubt it. I have information that Opus was shot about five to ten minutes after the Fat Man, and that before that time he was with Church.”

 

            “You’re suddenly a fountainhead of all kinds of useful information aren’t you?” he asked.

 

            “I’ve always been. I just never gave much to you.”

 

            “I see.” He said, biting his lip momentarily. It was quite a feat really, I was amazed that his teeth could sink into something so narrow. “Do you know where Thanksgiving is?”

 

            “You’d have to ask in another way.” I said.

 

            “What sort of way is that?” Smith asked, although I sort or felt there was a bit of resignation in his voice, which made him almost mammalian. “The sort where I get a judge to threaten to put you away if you don’t tell us? That sort of way?”

 

            “I can be a pain in the ass, can’t I?” I skirted the border of arrogance again, but barely avoided invading. “You’d also have to show why you really need to know, and then I tell you somewhere while signaling to outsiders that he needs to move and by the time you work out where he was, he won’t be there anymore.”

 

            “Do you really not trust us?” He hissed. “Or do you think you’re being clever or careful or what?”

 

            “Why Smith, I trust you as much as I trust any man.” I said, not finishing the statement to point out that the only people I’ve ever found I could really put my trust in are all women.

 

            “I’ll have the prints checked.” He said after what seemed like another hour.

 

            “That’s quite charitable of you.” I said, trying to sound as close to friendly as I could get with Smith.

 

            “You can probably go.” He said turning on his heel, which meant I won the staring contest. “If we need you, we’ll come find you.”

 

            “Don’t forget.” I said too his narrow shouldered back. “A million billion dollars.”

 

            “You know.” Smith said turning. “I almost hope you’re wrong, we could use the budget influx.”

 

            “Almost?”

 

            “While I would enjoy trying to collect the money, it would explain too many things if you’re right.”

 

            “Nice to know it would be appreciated.” I crossed my arms against the cold. “Besides, it might mean that all will be well and she’ll show up at the last moment.”

 

            “Yes.” He nodded just once. “But until then, perhaps we should keep this between yourself and myself.”

 

            “No sense raising false hopes.” I agreed with a yawn. “And now I’m going home, so I can go to bed.”

 

            “Good night then.” He turned and walked back to the gaggle of young agents.

 

            I got into my car, thinking about how Smith had actually wished me a good night and noticed a black car at the edge of the parking lot. It was a small European model, and it was just sitting with its motor running. I could see the plume of the exhaust coming from the back of the car. I began to drive away and after I’d gotten out onto the road, the other car began to follow.

 

            I wondered briefly if they had any doughnuts, and then started to make my way through the streets. After a little while of driving, I lost my tail and went home. I wondered about that small black car as I finally crawled into bed. Sleep came within a few moments and the world was replaced by a dream world.

 

            In my dream, there was a banging at the door. I got out of bed and opened the door to find a familiar face. It was Christmas, and she was beautiful. It was a dream, so this Christmas was young, and thinner than her current incarnation. She smiled at me and I could feel my heart starting to give way suddenly. My body is supposed to be under control of my brain, but my brain let go of the handle bars and my body reacted all by itself.

 

            “Hi.” She said. “I heard you’ve been working for me.”

 

            My dream then got very weird, for the part about being at the door just ended right there. It’s not like I fainted, stress can’t effect you in a dream and even with the fatigue I was facing, seeing the dead wouldn’t do that because it was a dream. The next part of my dream involved many small hands carrying me, and then someone was putting me into my bed, and then there was a bit about Rita Hayworth giving a giraffe a hand job, which made about as much sense as anything else.

 

            I must say though it was odd to wake up in the morning and find that there was a woman in my living room. When I stumbled out of bed to use the bathroom I noticed her and when I came back from that chore she’d stood up and was smiling at me. She was young, beautiful, and much thinner than she had been the last time I’d seen her, besides in the dream. The early sun glinting off the ring on her finger and its ruby flanked by two emeralds.

 

            “Hi Jack.” She said smiling at me.

 

            “Christmas.” I said her name aloud and then followed it with… “Son of a bitch.”

 

            Had I been thinking, I would have looked out the window to check if I could see either Rita Hayworth, or the giraffe.

 

This is part eighteen of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part ninteen 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 18, 2008 - Posted by | Fiction |

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