I'll come up with something in a minute.

The Return of Jack Collier (Chapter Thirteen)

The Return of Jack Collier

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay



Last week’s entry can be found here.


Chapter Thirteen: Who Runs This Place?


            When I started Collier Investigations, we had one office. There was my office and there was the waiting room where Debbie’s desk sat. That was it. Our total staff was two, and I did as much work as I needed to in order to keep body and soul together. When I left after Becky was killed, Debbie opened a new office in Chicago but kept the old office open. She then expanded our Troy operations by hiring some new guys but putting them in a different office building in another part of town. She’d started looking for office space in San Francisco when I was shot and in the winter of that year she opened that office.  She explained all of this the day before I went back to work, while sitting at my table.


            “We’ve gone from a two person operation to twenty-three people,” I said. “All because I signed the business over to my secretary.”


            “You just entrusted it to me,” she said looking at a piece of paper she was holding. “This is our healthcare plan.”


            “I trusted you by signing everything over to you,” I said tossing the page aside. “You own everything.”


            “No,” she shook her head. “We own everything.”


            “Did you sign stuff back to me?”


            “Not yet,” she said setting a folder down and looking at me.


            “So you own it,” I said.


            “We own it, together,” she said. “Your part of it is just in my name at the moment. I’ll sign it all back over to you if you want.”


            “No,” I said. “But you should admit you’re in charge.”


            “No,” she shook her head. “You’re the boss at the office.”


            “How does that work?” I asked.


            “Because I defer to you.”




            “I always have,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I now?”


            “Because you’re the boss applesauce.”


            “Not anymore,” she said. “I’ll sign the checks, and I’ll do the day-to-day stuff with our employees, unless you want to do that, but I’ll listen to you and we’ll do what you say.”


            “But you’re still in charge,” I said.


            “No, you’re the boss,” she said and then added a moment later, “Applesauce.”


            She giggled then, putting a hand over her mouth. I looked at her, and I couldn’t help but smiling. She was beautiful to me then, as always. If she had flaws, I couldn’t see them. I was going to have to go back to work, and I was going to have to play the boss while I let her hold all the cards for real. It was like some weird form of role play, only we were really going to blur the lines between what was playing and what was for real. If I told her to sign all the power back to me she would, but the company was in better hands if she held it. I would just have to deal with the question of power. I was a tough guy though. I could take her if it came to it.


            I slept alone that night, if what I did can honestly be called sleeping. I felt like I did the day I hired Debbie in the first place, and I rolled around in bed about as much as I did that night. Back then, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to afford her services very long and wondered if she’d move on before I fell on my face.


            Except I never did fall on my face, not financially anyway. She never moved on either.  We made steady money, probably due to her advertising my services behind my back. She placed ads in magazines and newspapers that she thought I’d never read. She worked hard to make sure we had a regular flow of work, while I tried my best to destroy any kind of reputation I might have built up as a solid investigator. She chased Christmas off, because she didn’t like the way Christmas was treating me, which in hindsight was a good thing. Christmas was really bad for me.  


            Now though I was tossing around in my bed because all of that was in my head. She’d done all that, and all I did was poke around a few places being tough. I had the same feeling that if I wasn’t careful that I would let her down. I didn’t want to let her down; I didn’t want to disappoint her. I kept thinking about how she described me in that story of hers. She thinks I’m some kind of hero, some sort of poor bastard that was born in the wrong era, placed in a time when honor and chivalry don’t matter anymore. Strange that during that whole time she was describing her love she never even thought of courtly love. Maybe she thought that would be too cliché, maybe she didn’t consider it. Maybe we just read different books.


            I got up when my alarm went off, and there was a patch of lost time, so I must have slept. I got up, took a shower and got into one of my better winter suits. I went to the car and drove through the slush and the snow towards the office. I pulled into the parking lot and found that most things had stayed pretty much the same. I walked up the stairs, because I could take the stairs without problem now, and pushed the door to our office open.


            Debbie had dressed for the occasion, wearing one of my favorites of her vintage dresses. While the neckline didn’t plunge to her navel or anything like that, when she sat at her desk and you stood at it, you got the distinct feeling that if you leaned forward a little you could probably see down to her shoes. It was a wonderful optical illusion, and you’d never see that far because her cleavage was in the way.


            She stopped typing and looked up at me with a smile.


            “Hi Jack.”


            “Any mail Debbie?” I asked her, which is one of those things I normally say if I’ve been away for more than a few days.


            “The Harkers send you two packages,” She said. “One for each year while you were away. I think everyone else knew you were out of the office.”


            “Okay,” I said and walked through the door, no longer surprised at how it had been kept neat and unchanging. I walked toward my desk and heard Debbie’s heels click on the floor behind me.


            When I sat down in my chair, she was already sitting down in the chair on my right, which is always odd for me. The blue and gold brocade chair is my favorite to sit in when I want to read, which is why I keep it on my right as I look out from my desk. When people come into the office they go to the chair on their right. That chair is large, very comfortable, and covered in a beautiful red leather. It’s a chair that people gravitate to, so it’s always odd to see someone take the blue brocade chair like she did.


            “Something wrong?” I asked as she crossed those magnificent legs.


            “What are you going to do now that you’re here?” she asked.


            “I was going to work,” I said.


            “Are you?” she asked, looking a lot more boss-like than I was expecting. “Are you actually going to do what you need to do?”


            I quickly decided that I was not going to play this game. I was going to have to completely ignore the question, which was good because I didn’t have an answer. I was, instead, going to lay down the law on her.


            “Debbie,” I said leaning forward and hunching my shoulders in a slightly menacing fashion. “Let us get something straight. In the outer office there, you talk to the employees however you like. In my office, I’m the boss. You start trying that tone with me and you’ll be amazed how quickly this can turn into one of those stories where the boss takes his secretary over his knee. Understood?”


            “Yes Jack,” she said, and her body language totally changed. She looked like she wanted to straighten up and melt into a puddle of warm goo at the same time. Sometimes I think she needs the myth of Jack Collier even more than I do. The color in her cheeks betrayed what she was thinking to such a degree that I felt the need to reprimand her again.


            “Don’t give me that look.”


            “No Jack,” she smiled.


            “We are not having a Heinlein moment here,” I said. “I only threatened to spank you because it was the first thing I could think of.”


            “Yes Jack,” She said, biting her lower lip in a way that was absolutely designed to make a person not want to think about work.


            “I’m not really going to hit you,” I said, lowering my head to pretend like I had some work to do.


            “No Jack,” She said, shaking her head slightly now, letting her hair bounce around.


            “Debbie?” I asked.


            “Yes Jack?”


God she looked gorgeous like this, she was fully flushed and clearly ready for whatever I was going to order her to do.


            “Go out to your desk and type or something,” I commanded. “We are not having office slap and tickle on day one.”


            “Yes Jack,” She smiled a little smile at me as she walked to the outer office.


            I thought she was enjoying this a little too much, and that maybe if I had taken her over my knee she would have enjoyed that too much too. It was part of her unchangeable nature though. She wanted someone to tell her what to do and to be the big strong dominant rock in her life. She wanted this, despite decades of feminism telling her she didn’t need it. Seeing how she’d built up the business without me, the feminists were clearly right, she didn’t need it. Maybe that’s part of that difference between need and want she keeps talking about.


            I sat in my office and looked at the two boxes that had been sent from different corners of the world. The larger one turned out to be a Brazilian dagger, perfect for maids to slip and fall on while I held it, making me look bad. The second proved to be more interesting though, and it proved which of them bought these things. At least it proved who bought this one.


            I’ve carried a Laguiole style knife for most of my adult life. A few cheep knifes breaking at critical moments taught me the importance of a good knife. I’m not a fan of the current fashion for tactical looking knives, with their plastic scales, wide blades, thumb posts and assisted opening springs. I just keep going back to my French pocket knife over and over. At least I did until I managed to break the blade off in an assassin’s skull. For whatever reason, I never actually replaced the knife. This why the second knife was more interesting to me.


            It was a smaller box, and it contained a pocket knife about the size of the one I’d buried the point of into the back of Chester Cat’s head. On every other knife they’d ever sent me, the letters ‘M.H.’ and ‘J.H.’ had been carved, inscribed or inlaid on the handle somewhere. The exception had been the first knife, the Bowie, that had an inscription on the side of the blade. This one though only had one set of initials. There are normally three bolsters on each side of a Laguiole to hold down the scales and on one side there is usually a shepherd’s cross. That is a small set of pins inserted around the central bolster. This was in evidence on the expected side of the handle, but when I turned it over I saw the letters ‘M.M.’ set in either silver or nickel around the central bolster. They were small, but bright and unmistakable. There was no sign of Willie’s husband on this knife. She’d clearly even gone back to her maiden name. I needed a new pocket knife if I was going to start over, and here she was, sending me a new one. I wondered if I should try and find Willie, and what I would find if I did.


            No, that was finished business. Char had said that I needed to go after unfinished business, of which I had plenty. I looked at the door, which was right in front of me and tried to think about what would be the new business. And then looked to my left and allowed my eyes to land on the safe. I got up and walked to it, wondering what I would find there.


            I opened the safe, and saw the big tan holster that I’d gotten after the Christmas incident to hold the Webley. There were dark stains on it that I realized, after a few seconds, was my blood. It had stained the leather a dark brown, although I noticed that someone had taken it to a shop to have the leather strap that had broken when the bullet tore through it fixed. I put the holster back and pulled the fire safe from the safe, wondering what kind of shape my guns were in.


            I opened the fire safe and found four weapons looking at me. The two silenced Rutthowers were wrapped together in a single lint free cloth with my Marley and Webley-Fosbery under them. They’d all been cleaned, oiled, and then put in the safe to wait for me. I put the automatics aside, and pulled the Marley out. My uncle, who had given me this gun, had bought a load of ivory a few years before the import ban and had someone make scales to replace the plastic ones that the Marley handgun company had sold the gun with. The Marley-Fosbery would have had its original scales, but a lunatic caused me to break one that had to be replaced. Debbie said she bought a few scales, but I’ve always sort of suspected that she had them made at an even greater expense than she should have.


            The guns were clean, free from rust, and as I checked them their movement was good. I was going to have to borrow some range time, see if I remembered how to shoot. See if I could still shoot and then see if there wasn’t some unfinished business that needed a gun fight. I know it should have seemed obvious, but I actually sat at my desk, trying to think of what was the chief piece of unfinished business I was forgetting.


            I had Debbie and Karen sort of taken care of, or at least I had it sorted that it was going to be okay to be in love with them. I hadn’t really sorted out how I felt about this whole relationship without a relationship thing, but I would get some of the books Karen mentioned to me and read up on it.


            I also had Alice at least partially taken care of, but again came the whole relationship question. I didn’t want her to move, but now I sort of didn’t want to leave Debbie and Karen behind. I wasn’t sure if I would want to stay with them, but as dedicated to me as Debbie is, I feel just as strongly towards her. I don’t think I could handle not seeing her everyday. Debbie is sort of tied to this place though, because she is tied at least partially to Karen.


            Still, I had Alice, and she wasn’t seeing anyone else. That was a new experience for me, dating someone without being the cuckolder. Even with Debbie and Karen, you have to know that I’m still just the nice bit of beef on the side for them. The novelty of being the only person Alice is thinking about might take a while to wear off, if it lasts of course. Who knows what the future is going to bring, some hot twenty-something guy with nice hair and no personal problems could get assigned to her team tomorrow. That’s just me though, always thinking positive.


            So while I couldn’t label any of those issues as closed, I could at least say they were in a simmer mode and I would only have to check on each of them a little bit until later. It was digging at me though, that there was something I wasn’t thinking of, and then of course it struck me.


            It wasn’t considering my extended hospital stay, it wasn’t thinking about getting shot, it was looking at the jar I keep my old shells in. The Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver fires a four fifty-five cartridge, which is just not a normal forty-five caliber. You can retool a WF to fire forty-five rounds, but you’re destroying the gun and if you want a forty-five there are lots of guns that do that already. However, four fifty-fives aren’t exactly common, so I learned to reload old shells. As a result of all that, I kept the shells in an old Piper Pepper jar, and the label of that jar reminded me.


            “Jill,” I said.


            I promised to keep her safe when it was all over. I had told her that I would take her wherever she wanted to go. That would be a good way to start, find out if she was safe and then find out what the hell that whole deal was about. Clearly I was going to have to hunt everyone down, and maybe hit one or two of them. It was clearly time to start working, and that meant it was time to get mean again.


September 16, 2010 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: