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Liberty’s Child (Part Six)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Six: The Flower Garden

 

            I’d decided to drive with the windows down and even opened the moon roof. I’d gone so far as to let the cloth cover that shaded me from the sun slide back, which would let me put my hand right through and wave to the sky. It was hot, actually it was damn hot, but sometimes I like to have the wind blowing in my face. Even on a day like this when the Mini’s thermometer said that it was over a hundred degrees out there, I needed the breeze.

 

            The Flower Garden was not your common flop house. Say whatever you will about it, it’s a high class place. It’s also the sort of place that you should only show up to with an appointment unless you’re a regular customer and have been heavily vetted. It’s a big house, set back in the hills of a place I’m not even going to mention because I wouldn’t want to give them more attention than they need.

 

            There weren’t a lot of cars parked out in front of the big white house, in contrast to what it would be if I came after five when the business men start showing up. After eleven the place really gets hopping and there’s valet service and everything. Right now though, there was the one car that Daisy drives to work in and a man in a short sleeve shirt and khaki pants standing on the steps. He took a few steps and smiled at me with the sort of smile that a man who knows he can call twenty other guys to come in five seconds can allow himself.

 

            “Afternoon sir,” he smiled and nodded at me.

 

            “Afternoon,” I said back as I closed the door behind me.

 

            “Would you be Mister Collier sir?” he asked, smiling as if he were happy to be in the humidity and heat of a July afternoon.

 

            “That’s right,” I said.

 

            “Well you can go right on in then,” he raised a finger to tap at the brim of his hat, an automatic gesture as he wasn’t wearing one.

 

            “Thank you,” I said. “It’s okay to leave the car here?”

 

            “Should be fine sir,” he said smiling affably.

 

            If I weren’t such an observant guy, I might have missed the holster on his hip and the two clips of ammunition on his other hip because he was just being that polite. I walked to the door and opened it, walking through quickly so I could keep as much of the baking hot air outside. It was almost, but not quite, like walking into a large walk-in freezer. The feeling of shock when you get hit by the cold inside was similar, but the shock wasn’t so great because the difference was going from the mouth of hell to someplace that was merely comfortable. The goose bumps still raised on my arm because of the suddenness of the change.

 

            There was a small desk with a young good looking woman at it in the front parlor. She had a computer in front of her, like most offices these days have, and she must have been doing something non-work related because it took her a long time to look away as I walked up to her. When she did look up, she blushed a little, which she could do on cue because it looks so cute. Her shrinking coy trick was a wonder to see, and was one of the many reasons they put her out front like this.

 

            “Hi Jack,” she said with a smile.

 

            “Hi Violet,” I said smiling at her. “Is Tiger ready for me?”

 

            “You mean to talk to you?” she said and blushed slightly again.

 

            “Yes,” I nodded.

 

            “Hang on,” she picked up the phone next to her and pressed a button. “He’s here Tiger-Lily.”

 

            After she put the phone down it wasn’t more than five seconds before one of the doors next to the desk opened and Carol came through. I always think of her as Carol, instead of Tiger-Lily, because of the personal connection we’d made a few years ago. She waved her hand at me without a word and I followed her into her office.

 

            When Carol started working with Rose and Daisy at the place they’d decided to call The Flower Garden, they gave her a new professional name. Because her grandfather had come from China and her Grandmother on the other side had come from Korea, she sported features that would make an ordinary honkey like myself think that she had a face that one would call Asian. So when she came here, Daisy and Rose decided that Tiger-Lily was a good name for her. She got them back for it though by being smart enough to more or less take the place over.

 

            It was her idea to replace the mattresses with those extra firm models and then put planks of plywood between the mattress and box spring. It made the bed hard, but being hard it meant that the girls never went to sleep on the job. The beds were too hard to sleep on, which also meant that the johns would move along a little more quickly. She had also put the big trees up around the place, and hid the security cameras in them to keep her girls safe.

 

            “What can I do for you today Jack?” Carol asked as she sat down on one of the couches she kept in her office. She had on a short, loose skirt, and instead of nylons she wore actual silk stockings. She put her long silk covered legs up on the arm, possibly to show me her magnificent stems, but probably because it made her more comfortable.

 

            “You know Columbia was snatched?” I asked.

 

            “Has she?” she asked, looking guilty. “It hasn’t been on the news.”

 

            “She was here last, before she vanished.”

 

            “What would she be doing here?” she tried to look bewildered, which was tough because she was so bad at masking her feelings.

 

            “Fucking guys for money I assume,” I said bluntly, because I like seeing her face turn that particular shade of bright red.

 

            “What do you mean?” she asked, turning her legs towards me and putting her feet on the ground with her knees together.

 

            “Oh come on Carol,” I said tilting my head to one side. “We all know Liberty and Freedom’s child is a whore.”

 

            “Do we all know that?” she asked, “I mean does everyone?”

            “You and I know it,” I said pointing to her and then myself.

 

            “Ah,” she tapped the coffee table that separated us. “Okay.”

 

            “Liberty told me how she’s been hanging out here with Daisy and Rose.”

 

            “Did she?” Carol asked.

 

            “She did,” I nodded.

 

            “She tell you this over silk sheets?” I know Carol doesn’t approve of adultery, which is odd when you consider her clientele, but then she probably doesn’t approve of them either. “I mean I know how people can talk about details at a time like that.”

 

            “She wants me to find her daughter,” I said calmly. “Liberty thinks Columbia just took off for a weekend and her father is making up ransom demands. She’s not hiding out here is she?”

 

            “If she were, would I tell you?” Carol said, looking a little more confident now, but still holding her cards out for everyone in the world to see.

 

            “You might,” I said. “You could send me in with a few people and make sure I didn’t try to grab her or something. She could explain her side of the story, or she could just tell me to fuck off.”

 

            “She’s not here,” Carol said, and I could tell she was telling the truth. “She went to see one of the regulars at his house.”

 

            “You make house calls?” I asked.

 

            “This guys been vetted. He’s a nut and a junkie, but he’s a safe nut.”

 

            “You going to tell me who it is?” I asked.

 

            “We are a discreet business,” she said smiling at me slightly. “I wouldn’t stay in business very long if I started handing out clients’ names and addresses.”

 

            “Aren’t you even slightly worried that she’s not been heard from since she vanished?” I asked her.

 

            “Yes,” she nodded. “Which is why I’m going to give you his address. I just want to make sure you’re not going to roust him or anything.”

 

            “I’ll ask some questions and that will be it.”

 

            “Okay,” she said and wrote down an address from memory. “Just don’t give Ed too hard a time, okay?”

 

            “I won’t,” I said standing up as I took the slip of paper. “I’ll just ask some questions.”

 

            “Okay,” she nodded and smiled at me again.

 

            I nodded to her and walked out of the office, because she has always hated it if I try and make nice after I’ve gotten what I wanted. She would have shoed me out if I’d tried to stay around for a few minutes, so I just left her sitting there. It made me feel as filthy as I would have if I’d been a client to her, which in a way I guess I just had been.

 

            I waved at Violet as I walked out to the front door and was smacked in the face with the wet heat of high summer in Michigan for the second time today. I got back into my car and drove away, looking at the address and deciding to just head for Royal Oak where the poet lived. He was something of a celebrity, which meant I would have to handle him with all the more care. I couldn’t have him saying I’d beaten him up to the press or anything, I was supposed to be discrete about this job after all.

           

 

 

This is part six of twenty-three, come back next week for part seven 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.

April 29, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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