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Hard Boiled Christmas (Day Twenty-Two)

Hard Boiled Christmas

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay



Day 22: Mr. Smith Goes to Hell


            As I stood around waiting for Church, I started to go over the whole business in my head. It formed an unfortunate picture in there, which I tried to change around to no avail. The problem was that I had sort of been told who had done it and pretty much how from the beginning.


            No one could get close to her, so it had to be someone on the inside. Of course it hadn’t been her, and when the chips came down no one was around to save the fake her. However, it could easily have been someone who was inside for her, but then they would have known about the fake. It could have been someone who had gotten a little carried away, or it could have been someone had been told to destroy the face. They might have wanted her dead, but messed it up. Maybe Sandy Cloose was a stronger fighter than they knew. The lights were just to try and look like they were making a point.


            Why then, if the lights were just for show? Well, she had wanted to get away, out from under as she always put it to me. If everyone thought she was dead, and if someone got Church and the Fat Man to kill each other, then they would be dead and she would still be alive. And wouldn’t it be oh so nice when she appeared and announced that it had never been her? Church and the Fat Man would be dead and she would be alive and…


            No, it didn’t work. Why would Opus and be with Hardrock and Cocoa and Joe then? Why would either Opus fake his death or would Church perform that fairly elaborate charade for my benefit? Why would Hardrock and Cocoa and Joe have let anyone just shoot their boss and walk away?


            I remembered the Fat Man putting his hand on Hardrock’s head, and the fact that Hardrock didn’t like it. In fact, he seemed to dislike it intensely. I would bet that if the right person told them that they were going to kill the Fat Man and take over, those three would be delighted to follow them. Someone beautiful, someone that everyone loved, someone like her.


            I couldn’t tell if I was worried, or thought I’d given Church enough time, but I got back into my car and started to go home. I think I was being paranoid and that he got me to go somewhere else while he kicked my door down and shot Christmas. I got behind the wheel and started for home.


            Mithras has said she would had to have done it to herself, though that might not be what he meant at the time. Everyone I’d talked to in fact had said that the only person who could have done it was her, but there was a problem there. She didn’t have the arm strength, in my experience, to smash someone’s face in. I then thought of what the Fat Man had said about sending Hardrock and Cocoa and Joe to beat someone. They would get carried away, they would kill someone instead of just scaring them. Christmas wouldn’t have been able to do it, but they would have.


            It would of course take a cop to fake paper work, and check her double in as Christmas of course. Noonan wouldn’t bend for money, nor power, but he might for Christmas. He had fallen in love with her too, in a more unrequited way than I had, and he would have sacrificed everything for her if she asked him to. And then someone had shot him in the back, to cover him up along with the rest of this case.


            I didn’t like where my mind was going with this, it seemed like there was no other alternative though. She had wanted to get away, out from under, and this would get her out from under. The only problem for her would be getting away, making sure that no one knew that she’d done this. I pulled around to my street and saw something that was worse than the last sight I saw in a parking lot. A big black SUV was parked in my driveway, the doors hanging open. For that matter, my front door was hanging open too. I pulled out the Webley as I walked up the drive, intending to shoot Smith through the head. I got to the front door and found that I was too late.


            He was face down on the ground, blocking the door with his body. He had been walking out of my place when someone decided that he had lived on the earth long enough. I bent down and looked at the small black hole behind his right ear, where a river of blood was pooling and permanently staining my welcome mat. The bullet had gone out through his left eye and broken his big stupid mirrored sunglasses, which now hung limply from his right ear. I couldn’t help but notice the spent shell sitting about three feet away on the carpet. I stood up and noticed another body in my living room.


            I walked in and looked at another agent, with three shots in his chest. He must have been about fifteen and had he lived, shaving would come soon. His gun hadn’t been out so he hadn’t been expecting it. She probably pushed that little Drexel into Smith’s ear, pulled the trigger and then turned to shoot the young agent before he knew what was going on. My shoulders slumped as I looked at the two of them, looking so damn pathetic.


            I heard the sound of a car engine pulling up in my driveway and walked out to greet whoever it was that had come to visit me. Church emerged from his big black Mercedes and looked at me with annoyance. The large white bandage that had been applied to his nose helped him look even more annoyed. He had his gun in hand, and I noticed that he was alone, which probably meant that Opus really wasn’t working with him. I put the Webley back behind my back and he slid his automatic under his coat. He looked at the SUV and then at me.

            “Agent Smith?” He asked, sounding odd because of the packing in his broken nose.


            “Is no more.” I said. “He has departed this world of tears and has gone to the big dress shop in the sky, where all the federal agents look good in chiffon and none of them have to tuck.”


            “She killed them, didn’t she?” He asked.


            “That’s a pretty sudden conclusion to come to.” I said wanting to pull the gun back out. “Considering you just got here and I’ve been investigating for three days.”


            “Tell me I’m wrong.” He said looking at me with a hard pair of eyes, reminding me again that he had been underestimated before. “Tell me that she didn’t decide to get rid of everyone around her in the mistaken idea that killing us all would make her free.”


            “Maybe.” I said, and I felt my shoulders slump again. “But I think there’s more than that.”


            “What else?” He asked.


            “I don’t know.” I countered, which was a brilliant verbal parry in my opinion. I then followed with a thrust. “I intend to find out though.”


            “How?” He asked, which I must admit was a question I hadn’t thought to pose to myself.


            “Never you mind.” I said, translating the age old ‘I have no idea’ into something more palatable. “I’ve got a plan, I just need a little room to maneuver.”


            “You’re only going to get a little, tiny bit of room.” He said looking at my front door.


            “I know that.” I said, wondering if I sounded as full of shit as I felt. “But you’ll have to give me as much as you can.”


            “I’ll see what I can do.” He said looking at me over the white bandages and then at my door again. “You know we’re going to have to either take her in or take her down right?”


            “Yes.” I said, trying to decide if I could just shoot Church and blame everything on him. “I guess we won’t have much choice in the matter.”


            “I’ll be going then. I don’t want to be around if Smith’s friends decide to show up.” And with that he turned on his heel and walked to his car and left. It occurred to me later that I could have shot him right there and then made up any kind of story I liked.


            I looked over my shoulder and decided I didn’t want to be here when Smith’s friends came to get him either. I got into my car and decided to drive back to the office, and then nixed that idea because Smith’s other friends were busy bleeding out onto the pavement. This certainly wasn’t going to look good for me when it was all written down and everyone decided not to believe my side of the story. My phone rang and I pulled it out and pressed it to my ear without looking at the number.


            “Yeah?” I asked.


            “Oh darling.” Christmas said in her most plaintive voice. “I’ve just driven by your office, are you okay?”


            “Yeah.” I said, nodding “What happened at my place though?”


            “They came and said they were going to take me away.” She said in a panicky voice. “I got scared. They said they were going to lock me up for my own good and I had the gun in my purse and that Smith man was being so mean. It just sort of happened. I didn’t mean to kill him, but he broke down the door and he was threatening me and I shot him.”


            “It’s okay.” I said cursing myself for not checking the door like a professional should. “If he broke down the door then it was an illegal entry and you acted in self defense. We just have to work up a decent story is all.”


            “I’m just so scared.” She said. “I thought I saw Opus following me a little while ago. Church knows I’m alive and he’s sent Opus to kill me.”


            “Calm down.” I said, trying to sound soothing. “Church only knows what I’ve told him and I haven’t told him anything. Church is in the dark vis you.”


            “He knows I’m alive.” She pleaded, and then her tone changed slightly, “You have to help me kill him. We have to kill him and then we can be free of all this. We’ll go away somewhere, just you and I.”


            “We can probably find a way to make sure he goes away or something.” I said, trying not to whine. “I don’t want there to be anymore killing.”


            “Well, I don’t know of anyone we can trust who could arrest Church.” She was on the verge of panicking again.


            “Just calm down.” I said, trying to sooth again. “Where are you? I’ll come get you and we can just sit down and talk it out, okay?”


            “Okay.” She said. “I’m at the mall, near the food court.”


            “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” I said, and headed to the most secret public meeting place in the world.


This is part twenty-two of twenty-five, come back tomorrow for part twenty-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 22, 2008 - Posted by | Fiction |

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