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Liberty’s Child (Part Eight)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Eight: Between Action

 

            I sat in my car and wondered for a moment how long I would have to sit in here with the motor off before I would die of heat stroke. I decided not to chance it and started the car up, letting the air conditioning do it’s important work. Cool air shot out at me in a moment and I was struck with a thought. There was a person I said I would call when I got back into town, and seeing as I’d been back nearly twelve hours now I figured that I should call her or be harangued for not getting in touch.

 

            I pulled my cell phone out and searched through the phonebook until I found Alice’s number. I looked at the number for a good long time before hitting the send button. I did hit it eventually though, and then pressed the phone against my head. The phone rang and rang, but she didn’t answer. I was eventually shunted to a voicemail system and left a non-comitial comment about being back in town. I checked the time of day and thought that probably she was in the middle of something at the moment. It was either that or she didn’t want to talk to me; either was possible I suppose. I looked at the phone, feeling slightly rejected by the fact that she didn’t leap to the phone hoping it would be me. I put the phone back in my pocket and put the car into gear to drive back to the office.

 

While I drove I tried to think of anyone called Piggy, which wasn’t easy. You would think that with a name like that, I would be instantly on a face and location. I couldn’t think of a single person though, which probably proved how out of touch I was with the local criminal element. As I drove, my phone started to buzz in my pocket, and I pulled it out expecting it was Alice getting back to me. When I looked at the number though, it turned out not to be her but Liberty’s cell phone instead. The phone recognized her number, since I’d never expunged it from the phonebook. I pressed the answer button and held it up to my ear.

 

            “Hello?” I asked.

 

            “Jack?” her voice sounded scared and worried.

 

            “Yes,” I said trying to sound like the sort of tough guy a beautiful woman like her could depend on.

 

            “Did you see the news?” she asked.

 

            “Not recently, I’ve been trying to talk to people.”

 

            “They’ve posted a video,” her voice choked slightly. “She’s… oh god, he was right. They’ve posted this video.”

 

            “Okay, slow down,” I said. “Who posted?”

 

            “The people who took my baby,” a sob broke through and she nearly screamed the words. “They put it on the internet and then e-mailed it to Tom.”

 

            “Okay,” I said looking at my watch. “I can get there in a little over an hour, do you want me to come over there? I can come there right now.”

 

            “Yes please,” she said sounding a little strengthened by the news.

 

            “Okay, you just hang on a little while, I’ll be right there.”

 

            “Thank you Jack,” she breathed into the phone. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

 

            “Okay, I’ve got to drive really fast now so I’ve got to stop talking on the phone.”

 

            “Okay,” she said, sounding a little more together now. “I’ll see you in a little while.”

 

            “Yeah, don’t worry about it,” I said, and then ended the conversation like I always do by saying, “Bye, bye.”

 

            I got on the freeway and started to drive towards Port Huron, which would take me close to where the Freedom household was. I should have called Debbie, but if I had done that I would have been diverted back to the office and I wouldn’t have learned a great many things. As it stood, going to the Freedom house first was probably one of the only remotely smart things I did that summer, which is nice to remember. It’s always good to point out the time you didn’t do something that caused a disastrous screw up. I drove to the house and was let in by a federal agent this time. I supposed the situation had become too important for the frog faced guy to cope with. They must have been told I was coming because they didn’t even grill me too much beyond my name and a photo I.D.

 

            When I drove up to the house, Liberty was standing on the steps waiting for me with a cigarette in hand. She ran down the steps, her skirt fluttering out behind her as she dashed to my car, her long dancers legs taking strides that most humans would find impossible. She tossed the cigarette aside, letting it land among the stones and embraced me as soon as I got out of the car. She pressed her head into my shoulder and squeezed herself into me. Instinctively I put my arms around her and squeezed her back, I saw an agent on the porch watching me and stared at him until he got self conscious enough to look away.

 

            She pulled away from my shoulder and kissed me, just a gentle kiss on the lips, as if this were just some French greeting and no one should even bother looking at us.

 

            “I’m so glad you came,” she said as she pulled away from me.

 

            “Okay sweetheart,” I said putting a hand on her shoulder. “But let’s remember that they’re watching our every move shall we? Kissing right in front of all the agents might not be the best thing.”

 

            She looked around for a moment and then blushed a little at her cheeks.

 

            “Sorry,” she said, expanding her accent a little. “I wasn’t thinking.”

 

            “It’s okay,” I said brushing some golden strands of hair from her face. “Just tell me what happened.”

 

            “They made of movie of her, tied up on a bed and told us if we didn’t pay up soon they’d kill her.”

 

            “You saved the movie?” I asked. “We can go watch it again?”

 

            “Yes,” she nodded. “The police have it. Or are they feds? Whoever it is.”

 

            “Okay,” I said taking her right hand and kissing the knuckle of her middle finger gently. “Let’s go in and talk to them.”

 

            She led me into the house, past what looked like two dozen uniformed cops and another two dozen agents and officers in suits. I let go of her hand when we entered the house, but she didn’t really seem to notice, holding her hand out behind her until we reached the Major’s study.

 

            The study was now a bustling operation center, with lights on and people moving around. As soon as I stepped into the room, the entire gaggle of officials all turned towards me to look. The Major stood up from behind his desk, his face red with rage all the way up to his strawberry blonde hair line. He marched towards me and I once again wondered about the wisdom of never carrying a gun unless I thought I’d really need it. Instead of hitting me for being his cuckolder, he grabbed my shoulder like an old comrade in arms.

 

            “New plan Collier,” he said in his gruff voice, his watery blue eyes fixing on me “No more worried about stepping on toes, now I want you to stomp on heads.”

 

            “Soon as I find a head worth stomping sir,” I said, taken up in the momentum.

 

            “That’s right my boy,” he said and leaned in, looking angry again. “Those sons of bitches videotaped my little girl. Then they sent it to the news. Imagine that, they told the damn jackals that they could steal my daughter. What do you think this is going to do to my expansion deal? They’re already fighting me, now I’ve got to be distracted by this.”

 

            “Fucking bastards,” I said, and because I know he can’t identify sarcasm when he hears it I pressed forward, “Let’s shoot them for fucking up your deal and then get your daughter back.”

 

            “Damn right!” he said, then turned around and addressed a man I knew fairly well. “Cramer, you know Collier right?”

 

            “I know him sir,” Cramer said taking a step towards me and nodding to me. In his teeth was clasped his ubiquitous cigar, as usual it was unlit but not unsymbolic in my mind. “How was your trip?”

 

            “Mostly profitable,” I said nodding to him.

 

            “Good,” he said nodding again, which caused the cigar to make an arc in the air as his head moved. “You want to see the video?”

 

            “I suppose I’ve got to at some point,” I said walking towards the desk.

 

            “I need to call my lawyers,” The Major said. “This expansion project is very important, I can’t have it derailed. The whole future of Freedom Corp. depends on it.”

 

            He left the room leaving just us cops, private and public, watching the doorway for a few seconds. Cramer looked back at me and rubbed his chin. He knew he couldn’t chase me off this one, he couldn’t even suggest it with the Major giving me such a recommendation. It wasn’t that held any particular animosity for me or even my profession, that sort of thing is greatly exaggerated by the dime novels. He just hated having anyone that wasn’t him or his team investigating anything on his turf. He’d try to chase off the feds if he thought he could get away with it.

 

            “Okay, has that gumshoe Freedom hired gotten here yet?” a familiar voice said.

 

            Then a familiar face and figure entered the room. She was looking at some paper as she came in, but I recognized the head bandholding back her long blonde hair the moment I saw it. She looked up and around at the assembled cast, and then her eye fell on me. It was then that Alice Liddell’s blue eyes expanded to nearly twice their size and her jaw opened.

 

            “Jack,” she said with surprise. “I didn’t know you were back.”

 

            “You never answer your phone,” I complained. “I called you like an hour ago.”

 

            “What?” she touched the side of her pants and then her expression changed to annoyance. “Carter, I think I dropped my phone in the car, could you go check?”

 

            “Sure,” the one called Carter got up and left the room.

 

            “We were about to watch the footage again,” Cramer said in a tone that suggested that he could get this done a lot faster if the feds would just shove off. “Care to join us?”

 

            “Thanks,” Alice said as I sat down in The Major’s big chair and she sidled up next to me.

 

            “This was sent to the Major, as well as most the major media outlets,” Crammer said as he pointed at a file on the desktop.

 

            “Did they bother vetting you before broadcasting?”

 

            “Hell no,” Crammer said. “We learned about it when it was on the news.”


            “Great,” I said clicking on the icon.

 

This is part eight of twenty-three, come back next week for part nine 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.

 

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Best and Favorites

One of the things I’ve always been interested in is the distinction that movie people will make between someone’s best work and their personal favorite. An example that seems to crop up a lot is that everyone seems to agree that Stanley Kubrick’s best movie is 2001: A Space Odyssey, but at the same time, almost everyone I know counts The Shining as their favorite of his movies. Everyone seems to agree on this, everyone but me, because Barry Lyndon is my personal favorite. Don’t look at me like that. I don’t have to justify myself to you.

I don’t know why it is that we don’t call our favorite the best. It’s like we know that we’re supposed to call say for example Citizen Kane the best movie ever, even though most people who know would claim The Magnificent Ambersons as their favorite Wells movie. Why not claim Ambersons then? Why does Kane win out? This confuses me because I’m not all that wild about Kane anyway.

Why do we do that? Why not just claim that our favorite movie is the best?

I think partly there is the reasoning that we hold artistic quality in a different light than we do enjoyment. It’s as if we know that while we really like Raiders of the Lost Ark, for the very valid reason that it’s a piece of cinematic perfection, we should really go for things that inform us about the human condition or something. Raiders isn’t a terribly improving film, but it’s a lot of fun, and really worthy things aren’t supposed to be fun. Artistically worthy things are supposed to be dull, drawn out, and tell you things that are blindingly obvious if you take half a second to think about them. So why not just stand up and admit that Raiders is actually Spielberg’s best work? Yes, he did other good things over the years, but not as good. Some of his later movies carried more weight emotionally, but I’m not sure any of them carried the really great satisfaction of watch a Nazi’s face melt. That isn’t to say that Schindler’s List isn’t very good, it is. I’m just suggesting it could have been better if the Nazi’s faces had melted in that movie. Think about it.

There is something about the weight of art, the craft of importance, or possibly the power of pretension that keeps favorite from equaling best. I always suspect that educated people, people who should know better, always get a little shame faced at enjoying something that’s just plain fun. Like we all enjoy Versus, because it’s got zombies and gangsters and sword fights and guns and people getting their faces punched out. It could only be more awesome with tap dancing dinosaurs. But we feel like we really shouldn’t be enjoying this and reminding us that we still haven’t see that 4 hour version of Hamlet yet. Something about the eyes sticking to the guy’s hand maybe tells us that we really should be watching something with a little more class, like Hercules vs. the Moon Men. It’s a nasty, fattening bacon cheeseburger that begs us to eat it, even though we know we should be sticking to the salad and symbolism of The Seventh Seal. Not that there’s anything wrong with The Seventh Seal, I like it… but there’s not really any sword fights or car chases in it, are there?

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Seven)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Seven: Beethoven and the Bird

 

            I parked my car in the parking lot off of Main Street, mostly so I could see the statue of the creepy naked people. I looked it up, just for this writing and that statue of the two naked people flying into the sky is called The Star Dream, but you’d never get that passed me. To me, it’s the naked people statue. I parked the car and started walking to where the famous poet lived. Again, I wish him no ill will so I’m not going to publish his full address. Let us just say he lives in a house in Royal Oak and leave it at that.

 

            I used to like coming to Royal Oak when I was in high school, it was one of the few places where you could go, hang out and meet people. As we got older though, the demographic wasn’t a group I wanted to be around anymore. Somewhere around the mid-twenties the rockers and Goths get replaced by yuppies and faux bikers. There just came a time when I realized that Royal Oak had very little to offer me anymore and I stopped hanging out there. Still, there was something like a vibrant life around there, and you could see if when you visited. This being the middle of the day though, most people where indoors waiting for the sun to go down and the heat to dissipate a little.

 

            I walked to the house and knocked on the door and then banged on it a few seconds later. When the door opened a tired and pale looking man, only a few years older than me actually, opened the door. He had large circles under his eyes and his mustache looked like it needed a good combing. He licked his lips and glanced around when he opened the door, finally resting on me.

 

            “Yes?” he asked, trying to sound calm.

 

            “Eddie?” I asked, trying to sound like a tough guy. “I want to talk to you about your visitor.”

 

            “The bird?” he asked.

 

            He didn’t sound English, but maybe he’d picked up that sort of talk from watching BBC America or even watching old BBC shows on PBS. Who knows where he’d pick up the idea of calling a young woman a bird? I wasn’t thrilled with his terminology, but he was also the kind of person who had hookers delivered to his door.

 

            “Yeah,” I growled, “the bird.”

 

            “In here,” he said pointing over his shoulder and I could feel a knot tie up in my stomach. If she was still here, what was going on?

 

            I followed him into what I can only assume was his bedroom because I saw a bed. It was on the first floor, but that didn’t prove anything. It just meant he wanted things on the first floor. I couldn’t help but notice though that there wasn’t anything in the bed, just the large red quilt and red sheets. I looked around the room and then at his sweating face.

 

            “Well?” I asked.

 

            “There!” he said pointing a shaking finger at a marble statue in the corner. “There on the bust of Athena.”

 

            “That’s Beethoven,” I said looking. “And there is nothing on it.”

 

            “The bird is still there!” he cried and ran from the room. “Nevermore shall we eat French fries? Nevermore will I watch basic cable? Nevermore what?”

 

            I followed him out and noticed that his living room had some paraphernalia that I should have recognized on the instant. Opium is an odd habit these days, and the pipe is fairly easy to pick out of a crowd if you know what to look for. I looked at him, noting the signs that should have been obvious to a trained sleuth like me.

 

            “Where is Columbia?” I asked.

 

            “The bird is still in there,” he said pointing at the door to his bed chamber.

 

            It was hot in that place. He had been burning a fire in the fireplace to add to the intense heat. True, now it was just glowing embers working their last glowing ghosts, but it had clearly been a roaring fire earlier if the heat inside was any indication. He looked like he wasn’t feeling the heat, but he look like he might not feel it if I stabbed him in the foot.

            “Forget the bird that isn’t there,” I said. “What about Columbia?”

 

            “The bird on Athena!” he shouted.

 

            I walked into the room and grabbed the bust of Beethoven and walked back. He shrieked when he saw me holding it and jumped behind a chair. I looked down at him and for a moment couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. However, if I wanted him to be helpful at all I’d have to do this.

 

            “Look!” I shouted. “Beethoven!”

 

            “The bird! It’s on the bust!”

 

            “Oh fucking hell,” I muttered and grabbed the fire poker.

 

            I then started to perform what can only be called an assault on a long dead composer with intent to powder. I brought the poker down as hard as I could on the top of the bust’s head and smashed it. I then smashed it again and again until the tip of the poker broke off, hit the floor and slid until it hit the wall. I then grabbed the remaining pieces of the plaster bust and threw it into the fireplace. I hurled the broken end of the poker in after it and turned back to the stoned lunatic on the floor behind the chair.

 

            “Bird still around?” I asked.

 

            “Can you hear it?” he asked.

 

            “No,” I panted in the heat. “Can you?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Wonderful, maybe now you can get up off the floor and we can talk.”

 

            “Am I on the floor?”

 

            “Unless you’ve drilled a hole and are floating above empty space. Are you floating over empty space?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Must be the floor then.”

 

            “Possibly,” he stood up and looked at me, still sweating and nervous looking. “I could use a drink.”

 

            He walked to the kitchen, with me behind him to make sure he didn’t suddenly make a break for it. He went to a cupboard and pulled out two glasses and then grabbed a bottle of whiskey and poured two glasses, handing me one. I took it without comment because I didn’t want him to get derailed in what seemed to be a momentary lull in his madness. I took a sip of the drink and set the glass down, as I expected he gulped his down in three quick shots.

 

            “Not thirsty?” he asked as he poured himself another.

 

            “I’ve got to go slow, got some driving still to do today.”

 

            “Right,” he nodded as if he understood. “You were asking about someone a second ago, I didn’t get the name though.”

 

            “Columbia?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah, don’t know her.”

 

            “Did you have a girl over this weekend?”

 

            “There was a girl from the flower patch on Friday,” he said. “Hecita or something, some flower name I think, can’t remember. She was fun though, she comes around on occasion.”

 

            “Okay,” I nodded. “That’s the girl I’m looking for, what happened Friday?”

 

            “Well, what do you think?” he asked as he gulped down another glassful and poured himself some more. “I fucked her and she had her boyfriend come get her.”

 

            “That regular?” I asked.

 

            “Sometimes they stay all night, but she said she had another appointment so when I was done with her she called this pig faced guy to come get her. He did, they left.”

 

            “Pig faced guy?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah,” he nodded looking at the glass, anticipating taking another drink. His eye fell on my glass and I sipped a little to be sociable, then he gulped his glass again.

 

            “You catch his name or anything?”

 

            “Actually, yeah, she called him Piggy.”

 

            “A pig faced guy with the nickname Piggy?” I asked.

 

            “You didn’t see him, the guy practically had a snout, I was looking for tusks on this guy. He was kind of fat too, not sure how much he liked being called Piggy, but he let her get away with it.”

 

            “Was he a bodyguard or something?”

 

            “If he is, he’s been sampling at the trough.”

 

            “Meaning?” I asked.

 

            “I think they were about to go do what she and I had just done, by the way she acted anyway.”

 

            “So, a boyfriend?” I asked.

 

            “I’d say so.”

 

            “And then they left?”

 

            “Yeah,” he nodded and then checked his watch. “And then I went back to what I was doing, which I probably should get back to.”

 

            “Okay,” I said nodding. “Thanks for the drink.”

 

            “No problem,” he said with a half smile.

 

            I got up and walked from his kitchen and heard his feet behind me. We looked at the broken pieces of the bust and he tossed them into the fireplace. He wiped some of the dust off and then brushed his hands.

 

            “Sorry about that,” I said.

 

            “Not a problem,” he said and walked to a closet where I could see three shelves lined with Beethoven busts. He took one off the shelf and then walked back to his bedroom, placing the bust on the spot where I’d taken the last one. I heard him mutter to himself as he went to the room, “I’ll probably never get married.”

 

            I didn’t want to be around for the next appearance of his bird, which would no doubt come soon, so I let myself out.

 

 

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

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment