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Return of Jack Collier (Chapter Twenty)

The Return of Jack Collier

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay



Last week’s entry can be found here. 


Chapter Twenty: Who’s in Charge Here?


            Upon my return Debbie had about three dozen questions on each and every subject. That wasn’t a problem though, I could answer them with ease since they were mostly a variation of “What the hell?” and she’s been asking me that one for years. She’s learned not to expect real answers from me.


            I didn’t really have to worry about anything until I got home, by which time they’d found Cole and started to count back to when he died. Not that it mattered, the only connection was that someone noticed that the girl he was living with had vanished on the same day. The fact that he had been so badly beaten had lead the Texas cops to assume that he’d gotten on the wrong side of some gang or other. The fact that the gun wasn’t found was puzzling them though, since he had powder burns on the one hand that worked and the shot looked self-inflicted.


            The popular opinion was that someone came across his body, found the gun and didn’t bother to report things. I had been right though, no one spent too much time wondering or worrying about why Cole King ended up with an oddly mangled thirty-two round rattling around inside his skull. That wasn’t really accurate though, a few people did wonder. Like Debbie, who followed me into my office when I got back.


            “What the hell, Jack?” she asked as I sat down behind my desk. “What happened out there?”


            “What do you mean?” I asked.


            “Cole King was found Jack,” she said, putting her hands on her scrumdiliumptious hips.


            “Oh,” I said.


            “Did you shoot him?”


            “No.” I told her. “He shot himself.”


            “What do you mean?” she asked.


            “He put a gun in his mouth and fired a round into his skull,” I said.


            “You beat him up and forced a gun in his mouth?” she asked, looking disgusted.


            “No,” I said shaking my head. “Sit down, I don’t want to strain my neck.”


            “I don’t want to sit down,” she said. “Why did you kill him?”


            “Sit down Deborah!” I shouted, and she sat suddenly. Feet flat, knees together, hands on knees, a perfect pose. “I did not kill him. I tossed the gun to him, he picked it up and shot himself. I was eight feet away when he did it.”


            “You stood there and watched?” she asked.


            “Yes,” I said. “I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to get cute and shoot me.”


            “Jesus Jack,” her face twisted into a grimace of disgust.


            “Shall I tell you some of the delightful things he said he’d done to his cousin?” I asked and then put emphasis into my voice. “His cousin? Would you like to know all the abuses that poor girl went through just so she wouldn’t be abused by her father, who is a great example if you ever want to argue against the concept of divine grace, let me tell you.”


            “You didn’t actually kill him though?” she asked,


            “No,” I said. “Except in that I got him to kill himself.”


            “Why kill him?” she asked. “Why not take him in?”


            “He wouldn’t have let her go,” I said. “He would have found a way to make her life even more miserable than it already was. He would have gotten in one last abuse. This way, she can tell herself that he shot himself after she left.”


            “You just wanted him dead,” she said, and her face twisted again. “You wanted him to die.”


            “Did you imagine this was some fellow of the chamber of commerce?” I asked. “A Presbyterian pastor, perhaps? A kindly fellow whose only thoughts were how he could help other people? He was a selfish piece of shit who consistently referred to his cousin as ‘that bitch’ and referred to the last girl he victimized as ‘that cunt.’ Also consistently.”


            “I just don’t know if I can handle that,” she said.


            “Didn’t bother you when it was Amy Heart, or Knock,” I said, just picking out two examples.


            “Knock was trying to kill you,” she said.


            “And Amy?” I asked.


            “She’d just killed someone right in front of you,” she said.


            “He hurt that little girl in ways that make trying to kill me a kindly act,” I said darkly. “Cole would have killed me if I’d turned my back.”


            “But you never turned your back,” she said.


            “I didn’t make him pull the trigger, he could have gone back to jail,” I said. “I mean he was wanted for a whole handful of things.”


            “Still…” she said.


            “Do you imagine we’re playing for marbles here?” I asked. “Did you and Gretchen talk about what that girl had been through?”


            “Greta,” she corrected me. “We don’t have a Gretchen.”


            “Well we should get one,” I waved a hand and smiled. “It’s a nice name.”


            She smiled at that, and let out a small laugh. Then she started shaking her head at me. The look of disbelief was pretty strong on her face and for once I thought I was right in thinking I knew what she was going to say.


            “How do you do that?” she asked. “Most people go their whole lives without ever killing anyone.”


            “But we’re not most people.” I told her. “We’re in a dirty business, and the way I perform in that business means I have to get dirty. I can’t just take pictures of cheating husbands and hand them over to cheating wives and let that be the end of it. I have a nasty habit of getting involved. I try to fix the problem instead of just performing the requested task. That gets complicated and messy sometimes.”


            “And it means you watch a guy shoot himself in the face,” she said. “All the blood.”


            “In the mouth,” I said. “There wasn’t as much blood as you’d think.”


            “How can you be so dispassionate?” she demanded.


            “I save all my passion for you,” I told her.


            “Oh, you are smooth,” she smiled. “It’s not just all for me though, is it?”


            “Maybe,” I said fixing my attention on a pen and fiddling with it.


            “Did you take advantage of the girl?” she demanded, sounding indignant again.


            “No,” I replied. “I never touched her.”


            “You sure?”


            “Debbie,” I asked leaning my head down. “She’s only seventeen. I don’t go after the illegal and I think we’d have to really be talking about someone extraordinary to go after someone who has just gone across the jail-bait divide.”


            If I had glasses I would have glared over them.


            “Okay,” she said holding her hands up. “I apologize.”


            “As you should,” I told her.


            “I’m not sorry that this thing with you and Cole King freaks me out though,” she said as she got up from the blue brocade chair. “I think I can deal with it, but it just freaks me out.”


            “But you can handle it,” I said. “Right?”


            “I think so,” she nodded.


            “Good,” I said.


            “So are you going to go save Jill now, or talk to her father?”


            “What makes you think Jill is next?” I asked.


            “You wanted to save her. That was why you went down there,” she told me.


            “I thought I went to kill Cole,” I prodded her.


            “You went to find out about her,” she said. “She’d be just about legal now.”


            I’m quite sorry to say that the only thing heavy enough to fly across the room, but light enough not to damage the furniture if I missed, was a catalog that had come in the mail while I was away. This meant that after it spun once, the air caught the pages and it fanned out like a bird spreading its wings. That meant it tumbled to the floor long before smacking Debbie, which it should have done before she managed to rush out of my office.


            I looked at the phone numbers in my cell phone and considered Peter Piper’s entry. Should I call him? I sort of guessed I was going to have to, if for no other reason than because I was going to have to find Jill’s address so I could check up on her. While I was sitting there though, the issue was taken out of my hands. The phone rang in Debbie’s office and a moment later the phone started to ring on my desk.


            “Jack Collier,” I said.


            “Collier, thank god for you,” Peter Piper’s voice said to me. “You have to help! Jill has been kidnapped again. Please, come to the house, please. I must speak with you. Please come to the house.”


            “Calm down,” I said. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”


            “Thank you,” he said, “Thank god for you.”




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