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Liberty’s Child (Day One)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

Look here to read Wonderland

 

Day One: June 20th

 

            I must say, I wasn’t happy to be in Marrakech. I’m not fond of North Africa as a general rule actually. It’s hot, it’s dusty, and if Henry had been able to speak Hovitos I wouldn’t even need to be here. Tracking a man selling stolen treasures from South America in places like this isn’t exactly easy. I knew this was the only place he could sell it though, even though it took me a while to get here. Still, I was here and that was enough I suppose, but it didn’t help with my annoyance. I mean, I’d managed to bring my piece home, why couldn’t he? No, I’ve got to go traipsing across the world looking for his damn rival.

 

            The problem isn’t finding a shady bastard, the problem is finding the one who stole for profit the thing that you’d rightful swiped for a museum acquisition. If all I wanted to do was beat up thieves who were selling things they shouldn’t be selling, I could just start punching people in the street at random.  About the only thing you’d have to do is avoid the natives, they’re probably just people going about their business. Any visitor is probably a thief, a fence or a thug who works for one of the other two.

 

            This gave me some trouble for the first few days, but I spotted my target with a bit of luck and discovered where he was staying. All of which led me up to the spot I was in now, standing next to a door so that when he walked in I could nail him. The heat of the place was getting to me, but I had to wait until he returned from his showings for the day because this had to be done in private.

 

            The room in the old town was small, consisting of a small wooden table and chair and a single bed. The blinds on the window had been pulled, but the job had been incomplete and blades of light were falling on me as I leaned against the wall and waited for him to come back. An overhead fan spun listlessly over head, failing to cool the room by even a degree. If anything, the fan was helping heat the room by pushing the hot air down to where I was, making sure I didn’t have a moment to cool down.

 

            I’d been waiting here for nearly an hour when I finally heard a key hit the lock on the room’s single door. I tensed myself up, letting my muscles bunch and tighten. The door swung open and the Frenchman walked into the room. I put my right hand on the door and pushed it closed. His head turned to his right from the sound, which was a mistake because I was coming for his left. I punched him in the left kidney and as he started to shout I got around him and hit him with my right fist across his jaw. He dropped the bag he was carrying and fell to the ground. I gave him a quick kick in the stomach to keep him on the floor and then decided to give him another kick in the face, just so I could say that all four limbs were in on it.

 

            I reached down to the floor and grabbed the bag, taking it the two steps to the small table to check it. It had been wrapped up in a bath towel that had itself been stolen from a Holiday Inn. He’d covered the statute in black enamel paint, to hide the fact that he was carrying a golden idol. I reached into my front pants pocket and grabbed the balisong I’d bought. I couldn’t go around with a gun, because I didn’t need that kind of hassle here, but I needed a weapon. Fortunately there was a kid selling these cheap knives in the street for three dollars each. If I buried the knife in the sand for a thousand years it might become priceless, but I doubt it. The movement on it was actually pretty good as I did the trick of opening it one handed that Tracey had taught me so many years ago.

 

            My eyes flipped back to the French archeologist who was just starting to try and sit up. I turned the statue over, and found it was mostly hollow, which would explain why Henry was so bad as guessing its weight. The inside had even been covered with the black enamel, but it was a fairly simple job to scratch along an edge and show the gold underneath. I wrapped the statue back up, secure in the knowledge that I had the real thing and wouldn’t have to come back later. I turned to look at the man who was on the floor looking up at me, the blades of sunlight slashing bright strands across his face.

 

            “You don’t come looking for this again, do you?” I flipped the knife closed again.

 

            “No,” he said shaking his head.

 

            “Good,” I nodded and tossed the re-wrapped parcel into the bag. “Then I won’t have to cut you to ribbons.”

 

            I turned away from him, opened the door and walked out. I was ready for him to come down the stairs and cause trouble, but evidently he wasn’t. I got out into the street, still expecting him to do something, but I melted into the crowd without a single utterance. I wasn’t in the clear of course, because it was very likely that the people he was in talks with to sell the silly thing to would still want it, but I was nearly there.

 

            I felt like I was being watched the whole time, but I resisted the urge to glance around me every ten seconds or to sweat more profusely than I already was. The heat was bothering me, even though it would actually be worse at home because without the humidity you barely got a chance to notice the sweat before it was gone.

 

            It took me half an hour to get to the new city, another twenty minutes to get to the courier’s office. Sal never had a store front in any of the cities where he kept offices, which sometimes seemed like every city in the world that could cope with having air conditioning and modern offices. He always had a small office in some modern building that had sprung up in the last five years or so. I have no idea how many offices he has, beyond the ones I’ve been in, but there are a lot of things I don’t know about Sal. Still, the firm of Sal Melina, Private Shipments has never let me down yet. When it comes down to it, Sal could have his office in a horse stable, dress like the a clown or scream state names along with their capitals every two minutes and I’d still leave my packages with him. The simple fact was that if you left something with Sal, it got where it was going.

 

            Walking into the office building was heavenly, the initial blast of cold air was enough to raise goose bumps on my skin, but after that it was cool, clean air. Suddenly, I wasn’t in North Africa anymore, I was simply in the business world. There were men and women in suits, discussing business affairs, worrying about how much money they were making. I went to the building’s registration, found the floor and walked to the elevator.

 

            There was a good looking young woman sitting at the single desk, her dark hair twisted into an attractive braid, as it always had been. That was the nice thing about coming to Sal, everything about his office was reliable, right down to Anja. She stood and smiled at me as I came in and set the duffle bag down on her desk.

 

            “Hi Jack,” she said with a smile.

 

            “Hello Anja,” I said putting my hand on her left hip and sliding it round the small of her back to give her a hug.

 

            “Is it going to Troy?” she asked as we parted.

 

            “No,” I said shaking my head. “The University.”

 

            “Can’t Henry manage to get anything home on his own?” she asked.

 

            “I don’t think so,” I said, “Maybe he’ll start reclaiming things on his own. Also, if the French Secret Service comes around, which they won’t, we know nothing about this right?”

 

            “Of course not,” she smiled.

 

            I smiled back, and there was a lot that could have been said in those smiles. Of course if either of us was going to say those things, we would have said them by now. We would have said them in Paris or Bangladesh, or any of the other places where she’s been when I needed a courier. It might seem odd that the same woman, desk and chair is always here when I give Sal enough time, but then Sal is an odd guy. It suddenly occurred to me that he could be right there in the second office.

 

            “Is the boss here?” I asked Anja.

 

            “Do you need him?” she asked, skillfully not answering my question in any way.

 

            “No,” I shook my head, “Not really.”

 

            I reached into my pockets and my finger touched the closed knife. I took it out and held it out to Anja, who took it and looked at it. She raised her dark eyes up to me and raised her left eyebrow, which is a trick I just can’t do. She held it up to show it to me and then spoke the question in her eyes.

 

            “Should I send this with it?” she asked.

 

            “Sure,” I said nodding. “It’s going to be on his expenses anyway.”

 

            “Okay then,” she said and smiled. “See you next time Jack.”

 

            “See you next time,” I agreed as I walked through the office door and headed out into the North African heat.

 

            Another two days and I’d be in Casablanca, and from there I’d get a flight to Detroit Metro. Sunday night, I would be sleeping in my own bed and Monday morning I would walk into the office. I wondered if Debbie would be there, or if I should call ahead. Part of me was sure she was in the office waiting for me to arrive and part of me thought that she was just hanging out with friends or going to the beach or something. I decided to surprise her, see if she was going to the office without having to. I left the modern office building, back into the dusty and hot streets of Marrakech. Soon I would be back at home, and then I could start to finally work out what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.

 

 

 

 

This is part one of twenty-three, come back next week for part two and every Thursday until we’re done to see what happens next. If you get lost, one of the tags here should help you. The Wonderland tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

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March 25, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | , | Leave a comment

Some kinda Robot

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March 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment