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Return of Jack Collier (Chapter Twenty-Five)

The Return of Jack Collier

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Last week’s entry can be found here.

 

Chapter Twenty-Five: California Dreaming

 

            Driving across country is not the best way to spend your days. I drove fast and hard, taking the quickest route and going for as long as I could each day. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fun, but I managed to cross this great nation of ours in record time. When I finally pulled Debbie’s car into the parking lot of the San Francisco office I still had five days to find Jill and her captors, which was excellent really.

 

            There is nothing better than to find that you’re under a time constraint, in a city you’ve never visited, working with agents you’ve never met, looking for a girl who is likely to try and shoot you in the chest again. If anyone ever tells you there are better ways to spend your week, just laugh at them because they clearly don’t know what they’re gibbering about and there is no point trying to discuss things with them. After that, you can hit yourself in the crotch with a hammer and post it on the internet.

 

            Anyway, I looked at the red brick building that housed the California office for the Collier Private Investigation Company, or whatever we call it. I always just gave my name, I’m not even sure I know what’s on the form we gave to the state when we incorporated. Truth be told, I have always let Debbie deal with those things. Except the bills for the office. I did those, but I don’t seem to get them anymore. Debbie says it’s all done electronically now, but that seems slipshod to me. How can you know the bill was paid?

 

            I looked at the building for a while before entering, trying to decide if I was looking at the right place. It was supposed to be the correct address, but they don’t do addresses anything like human style out there. I looked at the sign near the door though, which informed me that this was Collier Private Investigations and under it was written Chicago IL and Troy MI so it must be the place. I still thought about getting in the car and driving home and claiming I couldn’t find the place, but that wasn’t really an option.

 

            I had to think of Jill. Scared little Jill, who I still pictured as a fourteen-year-old girl. That image would need some updating, as would my attitude towards her, I would soon discover, but that’s for later. I took in a deep breath and walked into the building, a rush of cool air struck me as I entered the artificial cold of air conditioning. I walked up the stairs and looked at another door with my name on it.

 

            It was sort of uncomfortable, looking at the frosted glass with my name on it in that old style. It sort of added the idea that one was hiring guys from the era my grandfather worked in, when smoking was cool and girls were there to be slept with. It would be like walking through the door of a film noir if I went in that door. The thing that made me really uncomfortable though was the fact that these people worked for me. My dad wore a white shirt and tie to work, but he worked for the auto industry and had to go to quite a few factories in his time.

 

            We may have been middle class, but we spent a lot of my youth as lower middle. I don’t have a blue collar per se, but my collar isn’t all white either. It’s probably white with a lot of blue soaked into it from one rubbing against the other. Anyway you put it though we were never part of the executive class. We were never the bosses and we certainly weren’t rich. We had to work hard to get everything we had, and here I was working off a retainer that was bigger than any fee I’d ever accepted. I’m not sure I’d ever made that much in a year, or even all the years I’d been working. I could have called myself rich just off the retainer, and there were millions more to come.

 

            The worst part is how Debbie reacted. She didn’t. She just acted like it was nothing big. Oh sure, two million all in one lump was a bit of a shock, but as a yearly take it didn’t shock her at all. She just filed it and got on with her day, telling me that she’s become used to that sort of take. That worries me, I’m not sure I could take being used to that kind of money.

 

            Money has always made me uncomfortable, and having to be the boss makes my palms itch. I’ve never felt that I was the rich type, the upper class sort. I’m common, I’m down on the ground with a plebs, I’m not exactly one of the proletariat, but I have more sympathy for them than I do for the tofts at the top. I’m not one of them, I’m one of us, right? I hope so, because I don’t think I could manage being one of the upper classes if I had to become one. I don’t really like wine, can’t do sprizters, I don’t like vinaigrette, and if I found an underpaid foreigner vacuuming my living room I would throw a fit about how I can vacuum for myself and then try to get them a better paying job.

 

            The bottom line was, I was not happy about all this money, maybe I could give it away in bonuses at the end of the year or something.

 

            I walked into the California office of Collier Private Investigations and looked at the adorable creature behind the desk. She had bright pink hair with metallic blue stripes that had been cut into a little pixie style cut, there was a hoop of metal encircling her lip and the small pin prick of a steel stud barely showing on her right nostril. Both her arms were covered from shoulder to wrist in tattoos and looking at her I sort of guessed that there was more ink in store for the person who could get her naked.

 

            I’m guessing that half the architecture in the office was original. There was the receptionist’s desk next to the door, and then a long but low wooden railing and balustrade that separated the working area from the reception area. A small swinging gate could be shoved out of the way if one needed to get into the office area, at least it could be if it weren’t attached to one of the old wooden desks with a wire to hold it open. It really did look like something out of a movie with the four desks, the wall lined with filing cabinets and windows that started just about the cabinets letting light flood into the office in controlled streams. There were two private offices, one to the right and one to the left, both doors being at the back of the office to allow whoever had the offices to walk out into the work area and stride across it toward whoever was in the front.

 

            “Can I help you?” the girl smiled at me in a friendly but slightly worried look. Here she was, face of the new generation and someone who looked like a throwback to two generations past had walked in the door. In my suit, with the fedora, I looked like the sort of person who would disapprove of her adornments.

 

            “Is Shiri Cove in?” I asked, smiling to show her it was possible.

 

            “Yes sir, who shall I say is here?”

 

            “Jack Collier,” I told her. “You’re supposed to be expecting me.”

 

            “Oh shit,” the words were out of her lips before her hand could snap over it. She looked like she was trying to cover a burp in a very lady like fashion and then her eyes met mine and became so huge I was worried they would spring from their sockets. “I’m sorry,” she said.

 

            “What for? Swearing?” She nodded vigorously at that. “Well I swear all the time, don’t worry about it.”

 

            “I thought you were coming tomorrow,” she said. “Shiri said we should try to look more professional when you came. I was supposed to wear long sleeves.”

 

            “Shiri bothered by the tats and the steel?” I asked.

 

            “Not normally, but you know, you’re the boss.”

 

            “Hmm,” I said raising my head a little at that. “I was a teen during the nineties though. I mean it is sort of normal, right?”

 

            “I don’t know,” she said, and then proceeded to make me feel like an ancient old codger. “I was born in nineteen ninety.”

 

            “Stop talking,” I told her. “Please, just stop.”

 

            “Am I in trouble?” she asked.

 

            “Only for being so damn young,” I told her. “You shouldn’t be so cute and so much younger than me. It’s not fair.”

 

            I’m glad to say she grinned and blushed at that, even shrugged her shoulders up and tucked her head down to try and hide the fact that she was blushing. She then reached for her phone and I saw that on the back of her right hand was a female symbol locked inside another female symbol. A day a straight guy can make a lesbian blush and go all girly is a pretty good day in my book.

 

            “Shiri?” she asked into the receiver. “Mister Collier is here. Okay.” She set the phone down and looked at me. “She’ll be right out.”

 

            A door opened and I saw a short dark haired woman come out. As she started towards us I could make out some Asian features, even though her cheeks and nose might have come right off a Polish immigrant’s face. She smiled and extended a hand in my direction which I took.

 

            “Nice to meet you Mister Collier. I’m Shiri Cove,” she said. “You’ve met Kari.”

 

            “Yes,” I smiled. “And it’s Jack. Calling me Mister Collier just makes it worse.”

 

            “Makes what worse?” Shiri asked and shot a glance to Kari who smiled back at her local boss.

 

            “Just something Kari and I were discussing before she called you,” I tipped a wink to Kari and she blushed again. “I approve of your idea of a dress code, much better than having everyone dress up just because some stiff from head office is coming.”

 

            I’m not sure if Kari smiled at that, because my back was turned to her by then, but a look of relief did pass across Shiri’s testament to the positive aspects of racial mixing. She smiled and waved a hand in the direction of the office she had emerged from.

 

            “Shall we go to my office?” she asked.

 

            “Yes, let’s do that,” I said.

           

            The office had a nice look out onto the bay, which was expected but unusual. If this were a TV show it would be expected that she’d have an office that looked out onto the bay. Even the office that was directly across from hers would have a view of the bay, because that’s how things work on TV. I have mentioned before though that TV is a lying harlot, so we shouldn’t be surprised by that.

 

            “You’re looking for the kidnapped rich girl,” Shiri said as she sat down behind her desk.

 

            “I am,” I told her. “Have you been informed of our situation?”

 

            “I’ve been told what to look for,” she nodded. “We’ve been doing some looking.”

 

            “Is that I file I see before me?” I asked looking at the folder on the desk between us.

 

            “Yeah, but I’m not sure I want to give it to you just yet,” she said leaning back in her chair a little. “It would cause a lot of trouble if we started invading the wrong people’s personal space. You know?”

 

            “The whole idea is to invade people’s space,” I told her. “We’re supposed to look into places where we aren’t supposed to look. The whole idea of an investigating firm is sort of set on performing investigations when other people don’t want you to.”

 

            “Yes, I know that,” she smiled at me and almost rolled her eyes. “It’s just back east if you annoy the wrong people they kill you, around here they take an interest in you and get personal.”

 

            “Scared?” I asked, looking at the folder.

 

            “Of the Church of Thinkonomics?” she asked. “Yeah, a little.”

 

            “Why?” I asked. “They’re not that tough.”

 

            “They are,” she demanded.

 

            “Okay,” I shrugged and started to reach for the folder. “I can do it myself. Don’t worry. I’ve been a tough guy on my own before.”

 

            “I didn’t say I was going to make you do it yourself,” she said, slapping her hand down on the file. “I was just saying that it’s not as easy to grab something they have decided is theirs.”

 

            “This is a person, and they’ve kidnapped her,” I told her. “We’re just rushing into a dragon’s den to save a princess.”

 

            “What if they say we can’t see her?” she asked.

 

            “Oh, we’re not going that way,” I told her. “That would take too long.”

 

            “Oh?”

 

            “No,” I shook my head. “We’re just going to kidnap what they’ve rightfully stolen and bring her home before anyone knows what we’re up to. It’s a simple matter of kicking down a door, grabbing the girl, shooting of a few guns and running away.”

 

            “That could cause a lot of trouble,” she said. “For a lot of people.”

 

            “It’s a simple smash and grab,” I said. “We don’t admit we were there, we just take what we want and go. We’re not playing legal on this one, there isn’t time.”

 

            “I just worry about getting everyone into trouble,” she said.

 

            “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”

 

            “Do you do that all the time?” she asked.

 

            “What?”

 

            “Reasonable amount of trouble, kidnapping what they’ve rightfully stolen. Is this a habit of yours or are you trying to be cute?”

           

            “I don’t need to try to be cute,” I said.

 

            “Maybe,” she said. “But am I to expect you to talk like this all the time?”

 

            “Pretty much,” I agreed. “It’s how I talk.”

           

            “So you won’t suddenly stop when I agree?”

 

            “I won’t do it deliberately,” I assured her.

 

            “Good enough I suppose,” she said, taking her hand off the file. “I just want to be able to keep working and living around here.”

 

            “If we’re careful about this, they’ll never know it was you anyway,” I said, taking the file. “If we’re not careful, I’ll make such a big stink that they’ll have to hide in a very deep hole just to be safe from the pitchfork wielding mobs.”

 

            “How would you manage that?” she asked.

 

            “Ah, that’s for me to know,” I smiled, since I had no idea how I’d go about it.

 

December 11, 2010 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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