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Liberty’s Child (Part Twenty)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Twenty: Columbia and Heart

 

 

            Columbia sobbed into my chest most the way to my office. She didn’t say anything, she just poured out as we drove. When we got there she more or less stopped for a while, but Debbie noticed the moment we walked in. I sat her down in a client chair and let her rest for a while. I walked out to the outer office where Debbie was getting a box of Kleenex from under her desk.

 

            “How is she?” Debbie asked.

 

            “Pretty bad,” I said and looked at the clock. “Damn, is it almost two already?”

 

            “Yes,” she nodded.

 

            “We need to get some food,” I muttered and took the tissues away from her.

 

            I sat down next to Columbia in the office and listened as she told me a long story about her and the man we’d left on the floor.  I managed to gather between sobs that she and Piggy had actually been pretty serious. She was ready to leave everything behind for him, and he had said several times that they didn’t need her father’s money. I didn’t mention her infidelity to her, because it didn’t seem the moment. I’m not sure it would have meant anything anyway.

 

            Debbie brought in a few bags after a whole, loaded with food from the Orchid Café around the corner. We ate in silence, and I noticed that Columbia ate a lot more than I would have normally suspected for a girl her size. Alice watched us carefully as we discussed how he brought her into the group and how the idea had been to derail her father’s Mideast deal by mucking up the works with bad publicity and hurting his personal image. The idea of getting LION to take the blame was just a bit of insurance in case anyone got wise to what was happening.

 

            There was a lot more, but really I can barely remember the conversation as it is. I was so tired and wiped out that I only noticed how late it had gotten when I got up for a drink and noticed it was dark outside. All four of us were still in the office, Debbie included, which must have thrown me off my stride.

 

            “Okay,” I announced. “Let’s get you home then. Debbie, call the Freedoms and tell them we’re on our way.”

 

            “Right Jack,” she said and started towards the outer office.

 

            We drove without incident to the house, checking in through the gate and taking her into the house. I must admit that I didn’t even feel like a real person anymore. I felt like I was floating over my body, but still observing through my eyes. I had become an observer inside my own head, even though I still had some control. We walked up the steps, my eyes nearly transfixed on the lights where the moths and other bugs were congregating so thickly they nearly blotted out the light and made having it on useless.

 

            “I’ll need to see my father first,” she said and took my hand. “Will you come with me?”

 

            “Sure,” I said nodding.

 

            She leaned over and kissed me once on the cheek and then let go of my hand. I followed her as we walked to the office. Jenicia saw us as we walked through the hall and her look of astonishment was something. She followed us to the office as Columbia opened the door.

 

            “I think I can go in by myself,” she said touching my chest. “Will you wait here?”

 

            “Sure,” I said nodding and watching as she went into the office and closed the door.

 

            “You brought her back,” Jenicia said with amazement.

 

            “Of course I did,” I said leaning against the wall and folding my arms. “Isn’t that what I was hired for?”

 

            “I didn’t know you just brought people back like that.”

 

            There was then some shouting from the office and Freedom yelled something indecipherable. Then there was the shot, followed by another and a third. I threw the office door open and Columbia turned and fired a shot at the door and then another. One of the bullets zipped between Jenicia and me, the second tore a hole in my jacket. I pushed Jenicia back with my foot and knocked her over as I flattened against the floor. The patio doors in the office were flung open and Columbia ran outside. I ran after her, glancing at the body of Major Freedom with the three holes in his chest.

 

            In the moonlight I saw Columbia running around the small orchid of apple trees. She always ran around the trees, even when she was trying to get away. I never could figure out if she didn’t know there was a narrow path between the trees or if she was just afraid of them or something. It didn’t matter, I ran after her, heading through the trees.

 

            When she came around the corner of the grove I had caught up with her and I must admit I hit her. It was a flat palmed strike in the chest, but it flattened her on the floor. I grabbed her by the shirt and yanked her up to her feet, pushing her against one of the trees. I didn’t dare take my hand off her, so I reached behind me for the Marley thirty eight and held it in my left hand.

 

            “What the fuck is going on?” I asked.

 

            “I had to,” she sobbed. “I’m sorry.”

 

            “Sorry?” I asked. “You almost killed your sister.”

 

            “Why do you care about her more than me?” she screamed into my face. “Just because she’s your daughter you love her more than me! I fucked you, you’re supposed to do whatever I want!”

 

            “That’s not how real life works,” I said.

 

            “Help me,” she sobbed and raised her hands to her face, which showed me she was still holding the gun Piggy had aimed just a little while ago.

 

            “Calm down,” I said taking the gun from her. “Just calm down kiddo.” I tossed the gun behind me and put my right hand around her head.

 

            “Why doesn’t anyone just love me?” she sobbed into my shoulder.

 

            “We’ll work on it,” I said, because you have to say something at a time like that. “What do you mean daughter?”

 

            “Jen’s your kid,” Columbia said looking up at me. “Like you didn’t know.”

 

            “Your mother said that there were four or five men who might have been the father.”

 

            “No,” she said shaking her head. “I knew everyone she was doing, you were the only one that summer.”

 

            “I see,” I said.

 

            “Did you talk to him?” Amy’s voice came from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw her walking towards us.

 

            “I talked to him,” Columbia said pushing away from me. “And then I shot him.”

 

            “You what?” Amy asked.

 

            “His deal will go through now. No doubt. They’ll be totally dedicated to it because it was his last wish. You’re fucked.”

 

            “You shot him?” Amy asked as if she believed she hadn’t heard properly.

 

            “You won’t be here to see it though, you should have never shot Piggy.”

 

            Columbia bent down, picked up the gun and Amy found the same gun pointed at her for the second time that day. For the second time, she also had the same reaction. Columbia’s reaction to the near silent working of the pistol was like that of an empty paper bag that’s shot with pellets from a BB gun. She popped back a foot with the first, and spun with the second, finally falling with the third.

 

            “You stupid little bitch,” Amy said looking at me. “Why do I always have to get the dumb ones Jack?”

 

            I would like to say that I was tired, that it had been a very hard day, that shock had an effect on me. None of that was true of course. The truth was I just really wanted to commit a murder. The anger was a cold lump in my belly and my hand didn’t even shake when I twisted my wrist in her direction and fired. She was caught off guard and for the second time that day my right hand had drawn independent of thought. Finding two guns in my hand, I used them both. The forty five knocked her off her feet, even though it was the thirty-eight round that killed her. The first shot went right into her head, but the big slug from the Webley tore through her with enough force to knock her down.

 

            I bent down to look at Columbia, but it was pretty clear she was dead. I slung the guns back into place and stood up. Alice came running from the house, her gun drawn and a small flashlight in her hand. I saw her coming from a long way off and if I’d decided to just go on a bender I could have killed her long before she saw me.

 

            “Jack?” she called.

 

            “Over here,” I said leaning against a tree.

 

            “Oh god,” she said as she shined the light down on the body of the young heiress. “You?”

 

            “Amy,” I said nodding in the direction where the other corpse for the night lay. “We’re going to have to call the police.”

 

            “They’re coming,” she said. “Everyone’s coming.”

 

            “Well then, let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

            “What?” she demanded.

 

            “I want to go home,” I said.

 

            “If we flee the scene,” she started and didn’t really need to finish.

 

            “Yeah,” I said. “Besides I’ve got to go apologize to someone.”

 

            “Who?” she asked.

 

            “Well, I guess I’d better call her my daughter,” I said.

 

            “I didn’t know you had a kid.” She said.

 

            “Yeah, neither did I,” I said walking back towards the house. “I guess I’m going to have to work on that. Some goddamn great detective I am.”

 

This is part twenty of twenty-three, come back next week for part twenty-one 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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August 7, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment