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Liberty’s Child (Part Sixteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Sixteen: Church’s Return

 

            My office was hot because the air conditioning is turned off at night. The heat wasn’t to the level that it was outside, but it certainly was warmer than I would have liked. I could feel the sweat leaving each and every pore on my body. He didn’t look warm though; he was too damn cool to be warm. I was dying, and he didn’t even need the fan on.

 

            “Hello Jack,” Church said, turning around to face me and I noticed that he wasn’t in fact wearing a tie.

 

            “Hello Church,” I said walking to my desk, switching the fan on my way, and then slumping in my chair. “Did you get out today?”

 

            “Yes,” he said sitting in my client chair and smiling at me.

 

            “How long have you been here?”

 

            “Not long,” he said shaking his head. “I was told when you left the hospital.”

 

            He looked tired, which is not something I associated with Church. I thought his face looked like it had lines on it, and if my eyes didn’t deceive me, there were gray hairs where there previously had just been his dark crew cut. He ran his hand across his hair, which wasn’t as short as it could have been and looked across at me silently. I glanced at Alice, who had sat down in the other client chair. He looked at her and then at me, perhaps wondering if we’d would like some privacy.

 

            “You know, I understand it’s greatly because of you that I’m here today,” he started, “instead of sitting in a cell still.”

 

            “I just told them the truth,” I said. “How did you manage six months for weapons anyway?”

 

            “Pled down,” he said. “I was happy not to be charged with murder, they were happy not to have to charge me with it.”

 

            “Wasn’t murder though,” I said. “She shot me and would have shot you.”

 

            “But you didn’t have to put it that way,” he said looking at his hands for a moment and then glancing at me.

 

            “So what’s with the Cardinals?” I asked pointing to the door.

 

            “They’ve been watching things for me,” he said shifting in the chair. “We’ve been keeping track of the two little groups trying to move in.”

 

            “LION and UNICORN?” I asked.

 

            “You know about them too?”

 

            “Long story.”

 

            “Well, we’re now going to drum them out of town. The White Queen might pretend like she’s not afraid of anything, but Dee certainly is and UNICORN doesn’t have the strength to win the fight against LION.”

 

            “So you’re not worried?” I asked.

 

            “Fuck no,” he said shaking his head. “There is nobody in this state who can go toe to toe with me and live.”

 

            “Ah?” I said pointing a finger at him.

            “Okay, except you,” he nodded. “Credit where it’s due.”

 

            “Thank you,” I nodded. “Nice to be appreciated, so why stop by to see me? You must be busy.”

 

            “I’ve got something in your fridge.”

 

            He stood up and walked to my little refrigerator, pulling out a small bag of gummie bears from the freezer section. They were the Habrio Gold bears, which made me glad because those are the kind I like. He sat back down and opened the bag with a simple tear and then tossed them towards me so they landed on my desk.

 

            “The day I went into custody, I put these in the freezer. I decided when I got out, you and I could split them.”

 

            I reached out and took the bag, pulling it towards me. The plastic was cold, but it was rapidly warming up in the hot office. The actual gummie bears were cold, and slightly wet from the condensation that came as a natural result of all the humidity. They were like touching a part of winter that had hidden away in a vault and only now came out to see me when I needed it most. I took one from the group and popped it into my mouth. It seemed to sooth and enliven me all in one go, bringing me to a place where I was awake enough to enjoy the relaxing feeling they gave.

 

            “I don’t think anyone can have any idea how good these are right now.” I said as I rolled a couple more of them into my mouth.

 

            “Oh?” Church asked, and I looked at his face. I had to recognize a certain fact about him then.

 

            “Except maybe you,” I told him, closing my eyes to enjoy the feeling. “You probably know, but no one else, not anyone.”

 

            “You’re right,” he said pulling the bag back to him. “It is nice to be recognized.”

 

            “Told you,” I said and then opened my eyes again in time to see him offer the bag to Alice.

 

            “Thanks,” she took a few and put them in her mouth, which made me resent the bears. They were going to the place where I wanted to go at that moment.

 

            “You know what’s going down with Columbia Freedom?” I asked, feeling like I could actually do something again.

 

            “I’ve heard about it,” he nodded. “I only got out today you know.”

 

            “Are you trying to tell me you haven’t been briefed on everything that’s happened in the last six months?” I asked him. “I thought you were a big time boss.”

 

            “Yes,” he nodded. “I was kept abreast on the inside.”

 

            “Well I suppose it’s time to lay things out for everyone. LION pretended to kidnap her, but really she was just in a house provided by them.”

 

            “How do you know it was LION?” Alice asked. “You didn’t mention LION before.”

 

            “It was my little hold card,” I told her as I grabbed the bag and threw a few frozen bears into my mouth. “But if I’m going to get my friend Church here to help me, I’ll need to tell him who we’re up against.”

 

            “So LION has her?” Church asked.

 

            “Nope,” I said shaking my head. “UNICORN has her.”

 

            “Now how do you know that?” she asked.

 

            “The same way you do,” I told her. “We both know that Chester Cat works for The Queen of Hearts.”

 

            “Worked,” Church said as he pulled the bag to him to extract a few.

 

            “Thank you, I’d almost forgotten the horror of what I’ve done tonight.”

 

            “You’re in shock,” Church said biting down on a red bear and holding it in his teeth. “I’ll bet that right now, you’re so tired that later you won’t even remember if tonight really happened or not.”

 

            “No?” Alice asked.

 

            “I’ve been up as long as him before.” Church said and then looked directly at me. “You didn’t sleep on the plane did you?”

 

            “No,” I admitted. “Besides those four hours at home, I have no idea how long I’ve really been awake.”

 

            “So you should go to bed,” I think Church glanced at Alice, but I can’t be sure if that was just my paranoia.

 

            “No,” I said. “We’ve got to go get Piggy.”

 

            “Piggy?” Church asked.

 

            “Kid who works for LION,” I told him. “In fact, he’s the Duchess’s kid. If he figured out who killed his mother, then he’s giving LION information about UNICORN’s inner workings. That would be one reason LION is beating UNICORN here.”

 

            “It won’t matter in two days, because neither of them are going to have a foothold.” Church said. “That’s why I called the Cardinals home.”

 

            “It would be a help if one of them got the money from Major Freedom though,” Alice suggested. “He was getting the money together.”

 

            “How do you know it was LION that kidnapped her the first time?” Church asked.

 

            “Knight’s big belt buckle was in the ransom video,” I said, and they both looked at me incredulously.

 

            “And you held that back from us?” Alice asked.

 

            “Yeah, I nodded. “Could have been anyone’s ugly-ass belt on that thing, but I was pretty sure I knew what it was. Beyond that, there were just a few deductions and lucky guesses.”

 

            “So this Piggy kid works for LION?” Church asked.

 

            “It would seem so,” I said, even though something about that sounded really stupid to me.

 

            That warning bell, the one I never seem to listen to, was going off again. It wasn’t just one guy either, there was a full alarm going off in my head with calls for all hands on deck. I couldn’t manage to pinpoint what the problem was, I was still fighting my way through a fog of fatigue.

 

            “I think if we go get Piggy, he can take us to Dee,” I suggested, at the same time wondering why the hell I came up with that idea.

 

            “I know where Dee is,” Church said. “If I want to go talk to him I just need to go get him, it’s his dumb brother we can’t find.”

 

            “Why Dee?” Alice asked. “I thought he was working with LION.”

 

            “Yes,” I nodded, “But he knows where his brother is. Even if they’re fighting, each of them knows where the other one is.”

 

            “And he’ll tell us why?” Alice asked.

 

            “He wants to win,” I suggested and then looked at Church. “And because you can scare the shit out of entire zip codes.”

 

            “And I should come because?”

 

            “You could save yourself a lot of bloodshed by explaining to Dee exactly what you’ll do to him if he stays in Michigan.”

 

            “This doesn’t sound legal at all,” Alice said.

 

            “So stay here,” Church said standing up. “We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

 

            “He’s exhausted,” she complained to him.

 

            “No,” I said shaking my head. “We’ll get something to eat, have a few cups of coffee, I’ll be fine. Finding Columbia is too important. What you can really do is play ground control and call the Major. Make sure he doesn’t give up any time too soon.”

 

            “You think anyone can talk sense into Tom Freedom?” Church asked.

 

            “It’s worth a shot,” I shrugged, wondering if in fact I had anything like a plan, or if I was just running on some kind of autopilot.

 

            If indeed it was an autopilot, then it was a masochistic one with a penchant for paranoia and self-doubt mixed with a desire to fuck anything female. I touched Alice’s hand and impulsively pulled her up to her feet, pressing my lips to hers as soon as they came into range. I held her very close, probably squeezing too tight, though she didn’t seem to mind. I let her go and Church and I walked out into the outer office, leaving her behind.

 

            “We’ll have to take yours,” I told him as we started to walk down the stairs. “If mine isn’t in a ditch on the freeway, then it’s on its way to a recycling center or something.”

 

            “No problem,” Church said. “You want to actually stop for some food, or were you just talking?”

 

            “Food would be good.” I said as we approached one of the red SUVs and got in.

 

 

This is part sixteen of twenty-three, come back next week for part seventeen 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 Liberty 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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July 9, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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