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In the Cabinet (Part Three)

In The Cabinet

A Jack Collier Short

By Brett N. Lashuay


Last week’s entry can be found here.


Day Three: The Rest of the Cast


            When I pulled up to the mall parking lot I tried to figure out what Sam was doing here. But then what, if pressed, was I doing here? Alright, granted, I was investigating a crime. Why was he here though? And why would someone decide to blow his car up here? I decided that these were irrelevant questions. Then I decided that they weren’t so much irrelevant as unanswerable at the moment.


            It is a truism that no one wants to see a private detective at the scene of a murder. Specifically, no one in the Troy Police Department wants to see me show up to one. Their natural predilection to not want me to show up is intensified when it’s someone famous or important. Sam Hain wasn’t just famous either. He was pretty much the last of the big shows that we had left. His dying, just when they were supposed to be watching him because they thought he was a multiple murderer was bad enough. Seeing me show up must have made it a thousand times worse.


            “Fuck me,” Crammer said when a flatfoot pointed me out to him.


            I was standing at the edge of the police cordon, far away from the crowd where it would be easy to see me. I actually couldn’t see much of what was going on from where I stood, but there wasn’t much left to see. Half a dozen officers were collecting irrelevant bits of evidence, which might one day tell them exactly where the explosives came from. I could tell right away though, from the look on Crammer’s face as he came towards me that it wouldn’t matter a bit. I remember my grandfather once said that a case was doing pretty badly if they had to rely on the sort of evidence scientists gathered at crime scenes.


            “Hi Crammer,” I said smiling at him. “Something happen this afternoon?”


            “What the hell are you doing here?” Crammer asked as he approached.


            “I’m making preliminary investigations,” I told him, “You’ve no doubt seen this sort of thing on TV.”


            “Investigating what?” he asked.


            “Death of a prominent citizen, right before his big show day too. Something of a habit with you guys isn’t?” I could tell he wanted to start telling me off, but he could see that it wouldn’t do any good.


            “Who asked you to investigate?” he asked, knowing full well that any number of prominent and troublesome citizens might have asked me to look into it.


            “Family of the deceased,” I told him.


            “That’s fast,” he said raising his eyebrows. “Usually we get to look into it for a couple of days before the family decides we’re all idiots.”


            “She thinks you might be biased since you were questioning him so much.”


            “We?” he asked, slapping his hand to his chest. “What the hell makes us local guys the people who were questioning him?”

            “Weren’t you?”


            “Why should we?” he snorted. “The federalies are here to save us all. They’ve only been deciding to tell us something when it’s an order. They’ve had us pick him up five times now.”


            “Really?” I asked, deciding to see if I could milk his resentment. “Why so much, and why can’t they get him themselves?”


            “Publicity probably,” he grumbled. “They say it’s our jurisdiction, but really they don’t want to be seen picking him up over and over again.”


            “Yeah but… why so much?”


            “You seen his show?” Crammer asked, employing the sort of grammar that exists in the Midwest.


            “No,” I shook my head.


            “Every time he does a show, that Caesar guy comes out and says someone is going to die or something bad is going to happen or something like that. There’s been a killing after each show.”


            “So the answer of course is that he’s doing it? Is that what the Feds think?”


            “Yeah,” Crammer nodded, “It’s this sort of brilliance on the federal level that’s gotten this country where we are today.”


            “You really suspect him?”


            “I don’t know,” Crammer said looking straight at me. “Some of the evidence points to him, some away from him, I just don’t know yet. I do know that they aren’t telling us anything, and I have no idea what they’re getting up to around here.”


            “I can’t help but notice there aren’t any of them around right now.”


            “No,” Crammer said. “This is just where their prime suspect bought it, why would they want to come here?”


            “Why was he here?” I asked. “And why did someone blow him up here?”

            “Buying shirts apparently,” Crammer said. “He bought three shirts at Saks and came out to his car and it exploded.”


            “Can you slip me a report about the bomb when you get it?” I asked smiling. “I’d like to know how long it took them to get it into his car.”


            “Why should I do that?” he asked.


            “Because if you and I break this case open, we can make them look like fools. C’mon Crammer, we’ll show them. We’ll show them all!”


            “If you find something out, you might tell us,” he said dismissing my suggestion. “Thanks for letting me know about the daughter though. I’ll make sure to set everyone straight on who kept dragging him into the district attorney’s office.”


            He turned and left, and I suddenly realized that I’d come away from that with a serious debt of information. My idea about drawing him out with a little information was a clear loser. I could have stuck around and tried to find a few things out, but I sort of agreed with my grandfather on this one. Not only that, but the little voice far back in my head, that I had promoted to a feeling in my gut, said that there were better things I could be doing with my time. I walked back to my car, got in and drove to the theater where, on a normal day, they’d be getting ready for one of Sam Hain’s warm-up shows. I’d agreed to meet Becky and her father’s crew there, which would be less than fun at best and excruciating at worst. If Becky got stoned in the time between us talking, and I bet she did, she would turn nasty. She always got mean and catty whenever she was in a liberated state.


            Meadow Brook Theatre is an odd beast. At once a theater in its own right, it’s also connected to Oakland Community College in several ways. Of course it being on the campus is one way, but the building itself is connected to classrooms within the college. You could leave class and attend a show without having to go outside into the cold. It’s not a particularly large auditorium, although I only realized that years later after I had actually been in some large theaters.


            I wasn’t bothering with the front entrance though, I was going down to the back door where the cast and crew came in. There were only a few cars parked there, one of which was a powder blue Ford Taurus. My eye was caught by a white rectangle on the back bumper of the car. The bumper sticker on the old Ford read “Follow me to Big Bob’s BBQ’d Ribs N More,” which made me wonder about the sort of people who might follow this advice. They would have been very confused if they’d followed this powder blue Ford Taurus and found that instead of arriving at Big Bob’s rib joint they came to a theater instead.


            I got out of the Hudson and walked in the swinging door of the theater. To my left was the small rehearsal room, where I could see they were already starting work on The Buddha Day Carol which would be running instead of the other show that used to run in December. Odd how quickly people can adapt to things if they have to. I went down a short hall and came into a room with three couches, two chairs that looked like they were still here from when the theater first opened and three people. They were talking to each other in business-like tones, but any idiot could tell they weren’t really into the conversation.


            Becky was sitting on one of the couches talking to a small white-faced young man with dark circles painted around his eyes and a mountain troll. I only refer to him as that because he looked to be nearly seven feet tall and built like a brick wall. The Mountain Troll had a shaved head, bushy eyebrows and small ears that stuck out at the top. This made it look like he had pointed ears when you first looked at him. He looked something like Orlok, after a lot of visits to the weight room at the gym.


            The smaller kid, with the make-up, was dressed in a heavy long sleeve black turtleneck sweater with a gray X shape starting at his shoulders and going down to his belt. It almost looked like a chalk line and after looking at him a moment I decided that this is what it must have been. He looked nervous and worried, glancing at me and then at Becky again constantly.


            Becky hadn’t changed, except in every way beyond her clothes. The corset had been loosened slightly, her eyes were glassy and the lids were drooping. She sat in a way that invited you to notice the soft shoulders, the firm calf muscles and the enticing cleavage that was even more so thanks to the loosened corset. She was even sitting with her knees in a certain position so that she was clearly flashing the young man with the white face. I could see where the stockings ended on her thigh, which would have meant she had foregone undergarments and was showing him what so many men before him had seen. When she saw me, her legs swung around and her feet hit the floor.


            “Hi Jack,” Becky said standing up and walking towards me, a little unsteadily I noticed. “Guys, this is Jack. The hulk there is Mister Knock, the little guy is Hewie Homunculus.”


            “Hi,” Hewie replied, but Mister Knock was clearly asleep standing up.


            “So,” Knock said turning his head and looking directly as Becky as if the rest of the universe didn’t actually matter. “Are we on for tonight?”


            “It must go on,” she nodded drunkenly. “I know the act better than he did, I can take over.”


            “I’m sorry,” I said. “What’s going on?”


            “The show,” she said. “We’re going ahead with the rest of the performances.”


            “Oh,” I said and then shrugged. “Okay. I’ll need to talk to these guys about what happened today though.”


            “I need some dinner” Hewie said crossing his arms across his stomach and fidgeting with his fingers. “I don’t know if I can eat after all this, but I’ll try.”


            “Well maybe Jack can take you for some food,” Becky said looking at me with a suggestion. “Would you mind feeding emo boy? You can charge it to me.”


            “Yeah,” I said “But I’ll have to warn you I don’t have any White Stripes music or anything like that to listen to.”


            “Okay,” he nodded.


            “Yeah. I should warn you that Jack thinks jazz is something you listen to rather than something you sample.” She grabbed my arm and pressed her breasts into me.


            “I’ll go wash up then,” Hewie said and slunk away to the right where a large metal door hid the hallway to the backstage and the men’s dressing room.


            “You seem to be in a better mood,” I said to Becky.


            “Oh, I’m fucked up right now,” she announced and before the look of disapproval could cross my face she started to defend her actions. “I had to Jack. I couldn’t handle it unless I took a couple. I’ll crash later tonight, but right now I’ve gotta be flying just so I can get through the performance. You should come, you should see what they think is such a big deal.”


            “Okay,” I said, because what else was I going to say? I looked at Knock and decided to start investigating. “How long have you been with Hain?”


            “Since the beginning,” Knock said, and though he looked like a mountain troll, he spoke like an actor. “I’m his builder and technician. We design the tricks together, but I build the stuff and make sure it works.”


            “So you’re not on stage?”


            “Not the part you see,” Knock said shaking his head slightly. “I’m always there though, except during Hewie and Sam’s somnambulist bit. They don’t need me for that. That’s when I’m prepping for the water box.”


            “You know what he went to the mall for?”


            “He said he needed to buy some shirts.”


            “He do that on his own a lot?”


            “No, he has someone from the theater who does it for him,” Knock said, and then added, “I think he really just wanted to get out a bit. With all the hassles he’s been getting, he just needed to clear his head.”


            “Where were you when it happened?” I asked


            “I was out getting some lunch,” he said crossing his arms. “I’d missed my lunch because of a problem with a prop.”


            I could hear him practically daring me to ask which prop and please explain how it was broken. I didn’t though, because he would have an answer ready. Not only that, but he would start to describe exactly what was wrong with the prop even though he wouldn’t need to because I didn’t care.


            “The cops been here already?” I kept my voice flat when I asked.


            “That’s right,” he nodded his massive bald head. “We’ve been through all of this.”


            “Did Hewie go out for lunch?” I asked.


            “He had his delivered,” Knock said and then really overplayed his lie. “He usually just stays at the theater all day when we have a matinee. He gets ethnic food most days. I think he got some Arab food today.”


            “Well I’ll make sure we go somewhere else then,” I slipped my hands into my pockets. I wanted to shoot him, not so much because I thought he was evil or something, but because his babbling was going to get my client in trouble. If he kept offering details like this he’d slip and tell me who killed Sam.


            The door opened and I turned my head to look at Hewie as he came out. His make-up was gone, and his outfit had become more colorful. He now wore a pair of blue jeans and a faded red shirt with a purple jacket. He smiled a little more than he had before, although the lack of black lipstick and eye makeup probably helped.


            “Ready?” he asked.


            “Yeah.” Becky said, smiling a monumentally stoned smile at him. “You guys can go get some dinner.”


            “Come on,” I waved to Hewie and started down the hall.


            We walked out to the car, with Hewie having to take a moment to be dazzled by the Hudson. He didn’t give me a lot of wow-wee talk. He just asked what kind of car it was and looked wide-eyed at the vehicle as we got in. When I started the car the music started and he looked at the stereo.


            “I don’t have this version of ‘Sentimental Mood’” he said.


            “You listen to John Coltrane?” I asked.


            “I like Coltrane,” he nodded as we pulled out from the campus and onto the road. “I have to play the emo twerp around them. It’s hard, you know, ’cause they just…”


            “Yeah.” I said nodding. “We’ve been through that before.”


            He looked nervous and worried, which meant he was having a normal human reaction to what had happened just a couple of hours ago now. From his halting cadence to his soft tone though, I got the impression that this was an introverted kid anyway. I would have to be gentle with him if I expected to get any useful information from him.


            “You have any idea on what you’d like to eat?”


            “Whatever you like,” he said and I decided that I was right about it.


            “You listen to a lot of jazz?” I asked.


            “I’ve only got a couple of albums. I don’t usually get to do too much on my own. We’ve got to travel around so much that people in the Hain group are the only people I know a lot of the time.”


            The song ended and the opening trills of “Black Beauty” started. I smiled and tapped the stereo with my fingernail. This was both to make sure the stereo understood which of us would win in a fight, and to draw Hewie’s attention to the song title on the digital plate that destroyed the illusion that this was just a restored classic.


            “You should like this,” I told him. “It’s Duke Ellington.”


            “Sounds nice,” he said and smiled weakly at me.



This is part three of thirteen, come back next week for part four 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.

September 16, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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