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Wonderland (Part Twelve)

Wonderland

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Part Twelve: Settling up

 

            As a post-script I should add that I really need to learn not to insult people before I know everything about them. As I was getting ready for bed my cell phone rang, which is odd because Debbie would never call me like that. I got up and saw Alice’s number.

 

            “Hello?” I asked, deciding to be civil if she was going to call.

 

            “Hi,” she sounded sad and tired. “I’m sorry about Peter.”

 

            “Are you now?” I asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Don’t know why, you’re the only person who knew where he was.”

 

            “Can I?” she started and stopped.

 

            “Can you what?”

 

            “Can I explain?”

 

            “You can try,” I said.

 

            “Can I do it face to face with you?” she asked. “I think that’ll make it easier.”

 

            “Okay,” I said. “Where would you like to meet?”

            “I’m outside your place now,” it sounded like she was having trouble talking.

 

            “Would you like to come in?” I asked.

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “Come to my front door then,” I said and hung up.

 

            It was raining and her coat was swept about her from the rain, which showed off her legs when she walked. She had a large red rain hat that she was holding to keep the wind from taking off with it. When she got to my door and took it off, I had a pretty fair idea of what had happened.

 

            The left side of her face was pretty badly bruised, and her left eye was badly swollen. She’d been slapped around on her right side too, but the person who hit her had been a righty with a thing for punches.

 

            “How badly?” I asked.

 

            “Just my face and some in my sides,” she said, looking like it hurt to talk. “Nothing broken, my jaw isn’t dislocated or anything. I’ll be fine in a week.”

 

            “You want to sit down?” I asked, taking the hat and helping her with the coat.

 

            “Thanks,” she said, walking to my living room couch.

 

            “Would you like something to drink?” I asked. “I think I have some rum or something.”

 

            “We could go out for a drink,” she said, turning to keep the left side of her face out of view.

 

            “I want to hear what you have to say first,” I said, poking through the cupboards and not finding anything. I went to the fridge and grabbed a couple cans of pop, opened them and put the liquid into glasses.

 

            “Thanks,” she said taking hers as I handed it over. She took a sip and then looked at it. “You make them kind of weak huh?”

 

            “I’m all out of booze as it turns out,” I said sitting down on the couch across from her.

 

            “As you can see, they caught me. Flopsy was listening in on the line when you called. Cat and Heart decided to finish it. Actually, now that I think about it, it was Heart who announced Peter was more trouble than he was worth when they left,” she said pushing her hair into her face to cover the bruises. “Could you take me out if I had my hair down? No one would think you beat me up then.”

 

            “Can I test something?” I asked setting my glass down.

 

            “What?”

 

            “It’s just…” I leaned over and put my hand on her knee. “It’s just I was promised a dance when you took Rabbit in.”

 

            “I don’t think I could quite manage,” she said shifting closer to me. “I could manage when I’m feeling a little better.”

 

            “Yeah?” I said shifting closer and placing my arm around her and pressing my hand into her side.

 

            The yelp of pain was involuntary, as far as I could judge. She reached down and grabbed my hand, which had let go by then and she tried to smile at me again. She must have seen something in my eyes, because she stood up and started to unbutton her shirt.

 

            “I don’t resent it,” she said, “but we’ll have it out now.”

 

            She pulled the shirt up and showed me the near black and purple bruises that were huddled around her shoulders, the one on her neck that I should have seen, and the bunch by both her kidneys. The face she might have been able to do on her own, the others would have required help. She let me look and then slipped her shirt back on, which was an injustice and a relief all at once.

 

            “I didn’t mean…” I started.

 

            “You knew right where the most tender spot was,” she said smiling at me. “But I understand.”

 

            “How did you get free?”

 

            “I suspect it was you,” she said sitting back down, as near as she’d been a moment before. “Crammer and his boys showed up while they were still at it. He said there was a tip that there was a dead body and a head there.”

 

            “Did they still have the head?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah, they hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet,” she nodded. “Body was behind the warehouse in a couple of garbage bags.”

 

            “And has Rabbit offered any kind of deal?” I asked.

 

            “He’s singing like… what sings a lot?”

 

            “Birds?” I asked.

           

            “Yeah,” she looked confused for a moment and then nodded. “That’ll do.”

 

            “So you brought the case to a successful conclusion?” I asked.

 

            “More or less,” she picked up her drink again and took a sip. “If you count seven dead people a success.”

 

            “Yeah, well, we’re still alive aren’t we?”

 

            “I guess,” she said.

 

            “So no dance huh?”

 

            “Not with this pain,” she said touching her jaw. “Unless you got me drunk, but then I’d try to take advantage of you.”

 

            “Oh well, let me get my coat then,” I said, standing.

 

            She was all too ready to drink and didn’t even notice that I wasn’t having a drop myself. So while I did get to see the dance, but I didn’t get anything else. While my inviolable rule about psychos can get bent on occasion, the absolute law about drunk chicks never has. We went back to my place and I spent the night making sure she didn’t drive or take my chastity. It’s sad really, because by the time she was tipsy enough to do the dance for me, she would have been putty in my hands. I’d like to think she’d have been putty anyway, but I couldn’t test it while she had been drinking.

 

            In the morning she gave me a real and genuine kiss for not taking advantage of her. She gave me another for making breakfast for her, and by the time she had decided it was time for her to go, she’d managed quite a lot of kissing but was too sore for anything else.

 

            “I do have to go,” she said kissing me as she put on her suit jacket and grabbed her coat. “I’ll see you?”

 

            “I’m going to Peru on Friday,” I said.

 

            “Call me when you get back then, by then I’ll have my strength back.”

 

            “So should I,” I said grinning my most delicious grin.

 

            “I hope so,” she said, opening the door.

 

            A bright stream of white light bathed her as she walked out of the door, becoming a washed out image of a beautiful woman. She looked like an old photograph, where you can only make out slight shapes but none of the details. She pulled the door closed behind her and the light faded, leaving only the memory of her image on my retina. Her face had been photographed forever in my mind though, even if it was a washed out photo had been taken the morning after the worst day of her life, it was still beautiful.

 

            She had walked out though, and I had said that we’d speak after I returned. I think she would have expected a week or two, but I hadn’t told her that the trip was going to be nearly four months, but I didn’t think it would really matter. She wasn’t expecting me to call anyway. Women like that never really expected guys like me to call. She was going to be called by a guy with a nice classic car and lots of money in his pocket. She’d date a guy with a real business, with lots of employees and not just some guy with a single office. Let’s face it, that girl was quality and I am a small time gumshoe with hardly enough money to rub two nickels together.

 

            I picked up my cell phone and called the office, letting Debbie know I was going to be a few minutes late to the office. She said she had expected that and would be there when I got in, she also said that she’d booked a ticket and if I wanted we could go get some of the supplies that the professor had put on the list.

 

            I told her that would be fine and then sat down at my table and finished my orange juice. I tried not to think of poor Peter, sitting at the café while Amy walked in and put that silenced Rutthower against the side of his head. He’d probably not even connected her with a threat, she would have come that smoothly and quickly. He probably thought he was going to live to a ripe old age.

 

            Still, it was a filthy job and it was done now. I finished my orange juice and went to work.

 

 

This is the end of Wonderland. Next week we begin Liberty’s Child.

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March 19, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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