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In the Cabinet (Part Two)

In The Cabinet

A Jack Collier Short

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

Last week’s entry can be found here.

 
 

Day Two: Sam Hain, Magician

 

            The check annoyed me as it sat between us. It made things too easy, too simple. It was another appearance from the Deus ex Machina Brigade and I resented it. I had been looking forward to the destruction of my career and possibly even getting some jail time if I did things properly. With the money though, I could easily fight most of the attacks that could come my way.  It also meant that if I just wanted to walk away, I could without any problems.

 

            “So you see,” I explained to Debbie, “it’s all taken out of my hands now. I can’t decide for myself what happens next. I was looking forward to hitting rock bottom and starting over somewhere else. Now I won’t be able to.”

 

            “I’m sorry.” she said, still looking befuddled. “I’m just having trouble seeing how not being thrown out on the street is a bad thing.”

 

            “It’s okay,” I waved my left hand in a gesture of dismissal, “not for you to understand.”

 

            “I want to though.”

 

            “It’s just not that important,” I told her and signed the back of the check. “Go deposit it.”

 

            She picked up the check, looked at it, and then at me. I could tell that it wasn’t over yet and I never could order her out of my office. She put her hands on her generous hips and stared down at me.

 

            “Why?” she asked.

 

            “You promise not to laugh?” I requested.

 

            “Yeah.” she nodded.

 

            “This place is dying. I can feel it. Michigan is either dying or dead and we’ve got to either escape or die with it. If we’re strong, we can do it ourselves. If we’re weak, we require help. I would like to try and be strong, but I’ve got to hit bottom and claw my way out to prove it.”

 

            “You’re the strongest person I’ve ever known,” she looked like she had just been told that Zeus had to sleep with the nightlight on to keep the monsters away.

 

            “Maybe I’m not the strongest person I know,” I countered. “Maybe I’ve never felt good or strong enough. Maybe I want to prove it to myself.”

 

            “I think you’re paranoid and have no self esteem.”

 

            “That may be it too,” I agreed.

 

            “You want me to deposit it now?” she asked.

 

            “Yeah, they’ll need a while to process it. We might as well get it started now.”

 

            I turned around and looked at the clouds, dark and heavy as they were. They threatened something, but it was something that was far off. I heard the outer office door close and Debbie’s steps go down the hall. The rain wouldn’t come this afternoon; it might not even rain today. However, when the rain did come it was going to be a storm that might wash away the world. One day I sort of hoped a real rain would come and wash this entire area away into the lakes. Wash the whole thing away. Not just the scum of the cities, but the cities themselves. I leaned back in my chair, and decided to watch the October sky. I would dare it to rain, I would wait here until it rained or the clouds departed.

 

            That had at least been my plan, Unfortunately, it was interrupted by a knock at my office door. The knock didn’t come at the front office door, but at the inner door which separated my office from the waiting room where Debbie did her madness-induced typing. I sat up in my chair and looked over my shoulder at the door. The knock came again and I got up from my chair and walked to the door. I had a sort of feeling that I would hesitate to call a premonition at any other time of the year. This was the season for that sort of thing though. We were reaching the part of the year when the boundaries between the worlds were supposed to be at their thinnest if my ancestors were to be believed.

 

            With all that understood I decided that my premonition was not only allowed, but to be believed. If I opened the door, instead of going to hide under my desk and pretend to be out, it would spell the end of my professional attachment with Troy. I could keep going on as I had been if I just pretended like I wasn’t here, but what fun would that have been? After all, if I never took jobs how would I destroy my car?

 

            I opened the door and looked at the young woman who was standing in the doorway, looking forlorn and lost. She was dressed like some sort of Goth/Punk Princess in a dark purple bodice, a skirt that was made up of ten layers of dark colored lace and black and purple stripped stockings. The black army boots were of course standard and I only mention them for the sake of completion. Her blue eyes, nearly obscured by the raven black hair, where fixed on mine from a frame of black, made up of running mascara and eye shadow.

 

            “Hi Becky.” I said as I opened the door for Rebecca Hain. “I thought you wanted to see me tomorrow.”

 

            “Daddy’s dead,” her voice barely managed.

 

            “Pardon?” For a moment I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly.

 

            I spent the nineties listening to jazz music at the volumes that most people were listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana and have suffered the same hearing loss as the rest of my fellows. This is coupled with a slight problem I’ve always had where I often just can’t understand what people say at a certain register. As a result of these two problems, I sometimes miss what someone says and need them to repeat things. Unfortunately, this will often get me tagged as either not listening or stuck in shock.

 

            “He’s dead.” she repeated. “Daddy’s dead.”

 

            “You’d better come in.” I said touching her bare shoulder, which was cold to my fingers. She must have not been wearing her coat again. She never took care of herself.

 

            She sat down in one of my client chairs and started to sob. I grabbed the box of tissues on my desk and crouched down next to her to offer them. She took hold my sleeve with her hand and pressed her head into my arm as she cried. The dark purple polish of her nails glistened even in the gloom of my office. I put an arm around her, pulling her close to me as she cried, and expected that I would be losing this shirt to the vagaries of her tears and mascara. It was alright, I have lots of shirts.

 

            After a few minutes of that, she calmed down and I put the box of tissues down on her lap. I got up and went around the desk to my chair and started to sit down. She blew her nose and wiped at her face. After looking at the tissue her blue eyes expanded to twice their normal size. She then looked at the large smudge of black on my shirt.

 

            “I got your shirt dirty,” she announced.

 

            “It’s okay,” I nodded. “It’ll wash off I’m sure. How do you feel?”

 

            “Is there a bathroom, where I can wash up or something?”

 

            I pointed her to the bathroom and she got up to go. I had expected her to redo her make up, like she always would when we were in high school and something like this would happen. I mean that she would come sobbing to me, not that her father had died, but for some other thing that had gone horribly wrong. She would always redo some of the make-up after messing it up with her tears. Instead though she came out a few moments later with her face clean of most of the eye make-up and her hair pulled out of its elaborate design and replaced with a simple pony tail.

 

            It was odd that when she’d done that, she looked like the shy freshman I met my junior year of high school. The hair had been a sort of auburn then, but she had always kept it in a simple pony tail and wore almost no make-up. Of course by the time she was a senior in high school, she had often looked like the wreck that had greeted me at the door a few moments ago, but mostly she was more composed than that.

 

            “Feel better now?” I asked and she just nodded. “You wanna tell me what’s going on?”

 

            I waited, looking at her as she wrung her hands around each other. I could have waited a long time for her to start, as long as she needed to finally tell me what she was about to drag me into. It could take a few seconds, or it could take a few minutes, the longer the wait the deeper the trouble. She had always been like this and I suspected she always would. I started to get a little worried when the second minute of her looking down at her hands went by. Around the forth minute she looked at me and began to speak, her voice calm and controlled.

 

            “I want to engage you professionally. I want you to find out who murdered my father,” she said in her serious voice. “His car was blown up, with him inside it.”

 

            “When?” I asked.

 

            “I only found out before coming here.” she looked back down at her hands and I wondered if I had another few minutes of wringing in front of me.

 

            “Yeah, but when did it happen?” I asked, unwilling to endure another five minutes of her almost crying at me. I was okay when she was crying and I was okay when she was talking, but the silence of her almost crying was on the verge of unbearable.

 

            “About an hour ago.” her voice wanted to crack as she spoke. “They haven’t gotten him out of the car yet. They think it’ll take all night, maybe even longer.”

 

            “Yeah,” I muttered, “If he was in the car and it exploded.”

 

            “I want you to find out who did it,” she told me.

 

            “But the police…” I started.

 

            “They think he was this new Ripper killer. What are they calling him? Son of Jack?”

 

            “I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “I haven’t been following it to be perfectly honest.”

 

            “We have,” she said, her eyes growing darker as she spoke. “They’ve been harassing him for two weeks about it. Last week they were so busy interrogating him again that they missed that man who got killed. The one with all the blood drained from him. They just kept pestering my father while someone drained a person of all their blood in the Lakeside parking lot.”

 

            “Cripes” I announced. “Is that where that happened?”

 

            “Yeah,” she nearly spat. “While they were telling dad that they had everything they needed on him and he might as well confess, someone was letting that guy just drain out onto the parking lot. Nobody came and interrupted, they found him in the morning.”

 

            “So they won’t be looking into his death?”

 

            “They think it’s just fine and dandy that he’s dead.” She slumped back in her chair and crossed her arms. She looked to her left at a corner of the room where there was nothing but the corner. Her eyes had different tears in them now, she wiped with the back of one hand. “Fuckers.”

 

            “You want me to find out who killed your dad?” I asked, and then put my foot in it so deep that it went up to my knee and I knew I’d never see that shoe again, “Or do you want me to see if I can’t make the cops eat shit over harassing him?”

 

            If I had less control over my face, I probably would have let my expression show how dumb I thought that suggestion was as soon as I said it. However, I kept my face a placid and concerned place for her to look. I could tell my second comment had really hit home with her and I wasn’t going to be able to wiggle out of it. Besides, did I really want to? If I could avoid going to jail or getting killed I could pretty much do anything.

 

            “Yeah,” she nodded. “All of it. Find out who killed him and make the fucking cops eat shit. Tell the fuckin’ world how they let my dad get killed.”

 

            “Okay.” I said tapping my desk for a moment to show it who was boss. I do this because I honestly fear that it might rebel one day. “You’ve got to do the second part though. When the papers call, you’ve got to remind them how the police were too busy harassing your dad to catch the real killer.”

 

            “Okay,” she nodded again and bit her lower lip as she did so. Her eyes met mine and I could see a cold and angry light in them. “I’ll get some people together. Maybe Dad’s publicity people could help.”

 

            “Yeah,” I nodded back. “After all, I just do the investigations, I don’t do PR work.”

 

            “Right,” she pointed at me. “Well you investigate and I’ll get on their asses.”

 

            “Okay,” I said and looked down at my desk blotter. On my blotter was a drawing of Ziggy and the phone number for a client I worked for in August. Nowhere was there a hint on how I should start this investigation. I decided to fall back on routine. “I’ll need to talk to the people he worked with and things like that. It would help if you gave me a note or something saying that you’ve engaged my professional services so people know I’m not just being nosey.”

 

            “Okay, I can do that,” she said. “Do you need, like, a retainer or something?”

 

            “Nah, don’t worry about it,” I shook my head.  “When it comes time to submit a bill I know where to send it.”

 

            “Thanks,” she smiled a little. It wasn’t a big smile, it was her reassured smile. It was the smile that she reserved for me when I’d finally agreed to get her out of whatever trouble she was in. I’d seen that smile a lot during the nineties. “What will you do first?”

 

            “Go ask the cops how your dad got killed,” I said.

 

            “They’ll tell you?” she asked.

 

            “No,” I said shaking my head. “But I’ll ask. That’ll let them know that I’m on the job and they should worry. Then I’ll want to talk to who ever saw him last, things like that.”

 

            “Hewie.” she said. “His stage assistant, Hewie Homunculus. They were working on preparation for tonight’s show.”

 

            “I’ll need to talk to him then, him and everyone else,” I looked at my watch. “If I start now I can probably get them to threaten to arrest me by three and then I can leave.”

 

            “Is it going to be that bad?”

 

            “Oh yeah,” I nodded. “They’ve been pissed at me since the Christmas Affair.”

 

            “I don’t want to cause trouble,” she said while conveying that if I pulled out she would cry and cry until we both drowned in her tears. I was not prepared to run a foot race in order to dry off or listen to a lecture.

 

            “Don’t worry about it,” I said waving a hand. “I sort of want some trouble. It will give me an excuse to start some.”

 

            “Okay,” she smiled that smile again.

 

            I got her to write the note on a piece of my stationary and we agreed that I would call her when I needed to get some introductions. I escorted her out of the office and as the door closed I turned to Debbie and leaned across the desk at her.

 

            “Did you deposit the check?”

 

            “Not yet,” she said looking up from the computer screen.

 

            “But you will?”

 

            “Yes,” she said, her eyes fixing on the splotch on my shirt.

 

            “Good,” I nodded. “I might need a million dollars in cash soon.”

 

            “Why?” she asked, her face darkening.

 

            “Oh, I’m going to be in for a whole bunch of things,” I waved a hand breezily. “Interfering with police, interfering with federal officers, being a damned pain in the ass, probably end up shooting someone at the very least. It’s going to be one of those cases, you know?”

 

            “What’s it going to be?” she asked.

 

            “I get to find out who killed Sam Hain, who this serial killer I’ve been avoiding learning anything about is, and what I can do to humiliate the local constabulary will be greatly appreciated as well.” I smiled at her. “I’ll probably have to decide who shot JFK too and I can almost guarantee that I’ll end up having shoot somebody myself.”

 

            “Bet ya a million dollars you don’t,” she said. “Now that you have a million dollars to loose.”

 

            “But you don’t,” I said. “You want three to one odds or something with the extra risk?”

 

            “I’ll make it up on a double or nothing bet that I know you’ll lose later,” she said smiling. “Like being able to say the alphabet backwards or who can hold their breath longer or who can talk about shoes the longest or something like that.”

 

            “Ah,” I nodded. “I see how it works.”

 

            “Exactly,” she said. “You should know by now anyway that when it comes to you and the women in your life you’re always in a no-win situation.”

 

            “Thanks,” I said opening the door. “Always nice to know I’ve got you looking out for me.”

 

            “Anytime Jack,” She said and I walked out and I could swear I heard her mutter as I went. “Anytime.”

 

This is part two of thirteen, come back next week for part three 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 Cabinet 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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September 9, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Repost: Pics worth a second look.

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September 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment