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The Return of Jack Collier (Chapter Fifty)

The Return of Jack Collier

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay


Chapter Fifty: The Problem with the Check


            I flew back to California on my own and only for the day. Alice is coming up this weekend, and I sort of know what that’s going to lead to. That doesn’t matter though, I’ll deal with that later. Right now I’m going to deal with this side trip, which will possibly allow you to understand one or two things. The thing is that I’m not sure anyone really understands the problem I have with the money.


            I know Debbie doesn’t get it, I know Alice doesn’t get it, I know Jill doesn’t get it. Karen gets it, and for that I’m grateful, but Karen gets exasperated with me for complaining about it. It’s not just that everyone I’ve known who was rich was a shit, it’s that a lot of people who didn’t use to have money who got it later are the worst of them all. All the rich people I’ve wanted to shoot have all been the kind who gained fortunes. People who are born into it are annoying, but the people who gained it later are worse. They’re worse than the people who were born into it because the formerly poor have both a chip on their shoulder about having to have once been a pleb and no training in how to be a rich person. At least those born into it can actually pull off haughty, instead of trying to affect it in an attempt not to show that they’re still the scared little looser they were when they were poor.


            The always rich just sort of toss their money around indiscriminately. They’ve always had someone to take care of things, whatever it is, so they think they can just toss a wad of bills and that’ll make everything all better. Once they pay for something they stop thinking about it, and then they get back to stealing every penny they can get because that’s how rich people stay rich. The poor become utter bastards because they’ve always been aware that money can buy power, but they never understand that there’s more to it than money. As a result, the people who pretend they earned money by stealing other people’s ideas, claiming credit for other people’s work and committing outright fraud that gets people killed are the sort you should just shoot on sight.


            You see where I’m going with this? Give me money and I could become one of those fuckers. We lived in a trailer for five years after Dad got out of the army. A fucking single wide trailer! So I’ve been poor. Not really hungry, we always had food. Not ever barefoot, we always had shoes. Never on assistance, but we got close a couple of times. I heard a quite and desperate conversation one day because my sister was using one of the bathrooms and I had to use the one next to my parent’s room. When I got to the door of the bathroom, which was kitty corner to the door of my parent’s room, I heard a conversation that has haunted me my whole life.


            People in movies argue loudly about money, they shout and yell and scream at each other. Real life, at least my real life, ain’t like that. My parents were standing next to their bed, muttering to each other. They were using soft voices so that my sister and I wouldn’t know about the problem. Dad was telling mom that they’d have to get rid of one of the cars. He said his Datsun was too expensive to keep fixing, paying for the insurance and all the other little things. Mom didn’t like the idea, but the fact evidently was that something had to go. So dad sold his blue Datsun and they shared the other car. We lived in a situation that almost no one I know can even begin to understand. No, Karen understands, but there are other issues there as I said.


            When I was young and beautiful, people wanted me around. People with money think their money can buy anything. 


            Now, I’m the semi-sorta-owner of a business that this year has made something in the tune of twenty million dollars if you total up all the stock in Piper Foods along with the cash and bonds. And what was the first thing we did when we found out how rich we were? We decided to throw money at Dale’s family. I still flew out there to give Dale’s boyfriend the check myself, but I can’t help but feel like I was just trying to buy my way out of the guilt.


            I got to the San Francisco office and got Shiri to take me to what had been Dale and Adam’s place, but was now just Adam’s alone. She introduced us and then more or less faded back when I came in to talk to him. He had a decent place, Ikea couch and chairs, probably the glass coffee table that separated us was from there too. I didn’t recognize it though, glass coffee tables are a tad ubiquitous looking even if they aren’t as common as they used to be.


            “How are you holding up?” I asked him as I sat down.


            “I’m holding.” He said, running his fingers through his fawn colored hair. “I got a check from an insurance company. They said something about the agency having a policy on him.”


            “Yeah.” I said. “About that.”


            “What about it?” He asked. “Is there a mistake?”


            “Sort of.”


            “I spent the money already.” He said, looking panicked and a little angry.


            “That’s not the problem.” I said pulling the envelope out of my pocket and looking at it. “I’ve got another check that our client sort of requested we give you, but I want to talk to you about it before I give it to you.”


            “What about?”


            “I want you to understand something.” I held up the envelope. “I don’t mind giving you the check, but I don’t approve of it.”


            “Why?” He looked like he wanted to get offended, but his eyes went to Shiri and I saw her make a motion out of the corner of my eye.


            “Because it wasn’t my idea of how you do these things.” I said. “The boss lady, Debbie, her dad made a good living. They were never millionaires, but she’s always had money. The client, Jill Piper, her folks were millionaires. She’s never known a world without money. I never had two nickels of my very own to rub together until I was in my mid-twenties.”


            “We were behind on this place.” Adam said. “They were going to foreclose. The money from… I used Dale’s money to pay off the mortgage.”


            “So you not only have never had two nickels, you still don’t.” I said.


            “I used to.” He said. “My parents just didn’t want anything to do with a gay son, so I was disowned. They thought if they took away the trust fund I’d de-gay myself.”


            “Ah.” I said looking at the envelope. “So you know about people with money.”


            “I know about people with money.” He nodded.


            “I want to you know about a few things.” I said. “You know the guy who killed Dale escaped.”


            “Yes.” He nodded.


            “You know he got all the way to Michigan and was killed?”


            “Yes.” He nodded.


            “Do you know how he died?”


            “The man who killed Dale?”






            “Suffice to say I, ah, immolated the mother fucker.”


            “Immolated?” He asked. “As in burned?”


            “Yes.” I said. “That’s how someone on my level, my pay grade if you will, deals with an issue. I see something wrong and I do something about it. What he did to Dale was wrong, so I took corrective action and he understands his error now and won’t ever be doing anything like that again. That’s what you do at my level, you deal with the issue.”


            “And the boss and client?”


            “People at their pay grade just try to throw money at a problem and hope it goes away.”


            “Yes.” He nodded. “They do.”


            “Well I don’t.” I tapped the envelope in my hand with the index finger. “I’m not saying you don’t deserve this. What I’m saying is I know you can’t just go down to the pet shop and pick out a new guy like some kind of puppy.”


            I set the check down and slid it across the glass coffee table toward him. He picked it up and opened the envelope, having a look at the check. He then looked at the check again and raised his eye brows. He looked at me, holding the check up to show me the amount.


            “Is this right?”


            “Yes.” I nodded. “Which is why the whole thing bothers me. No matter how much I’m trying to tell you that I’m not trying to buy my way out of the guilt, the numbers on that check call me a liar.”


            “That’s what you think?”


            “I do.” I told him. “No matter what I do, did or even what I say, that check says that I don’t think you’ll really understand unless I try to pay you off.”


            “I could give it back.” He said.


            “No.” I shook my head at that. “No, you deserve the money. Debbie’s paying off another two family members who were killed in Chicago.”


            “You say paying off?” He asked.


            “I doubt she’s having anything like this conversation with them.” I said. “Nothing like a talk on this level.”


            “A ground level talk.” He suggested. “A talk at our paygrade.”


            “Yeah.” I agreed.


            “I know that you don’t expect that an amount of money will make it all better.” He said. “I appreciate that Dale’s killer was taken care of. And you’re right, knowing that is better than the money, but the money will help with things.”


            “Okay.” I said standing.


            “Thanks for coming.” He said.


            “No problem.” I said.


            “You did okay.” Shiri said as we drove back to the office.


            “You doing okay with this?” I asked.


            “I’m coping.” She said.


            “I’ve got a smaller check in my pocket.” I told her. “I’m supposed to tell you that it’s for meritorious service, but it’s also a payoff. Debbie’s pretty unhappy about all you went through and she thinks that giving you a chunk of change will take her guilt away.”


            “Will it?” She asked.


            “Probably.” I said. “She probably will think that she’s done all she can and that you’ll appreciate an extra hundred grand in your pocket.”


            “I will.” She said. “And you shouldn’t be so hard on her.”


            “Why not?”


            “It does help, you know.” She said. “I’ll feel a hell of a lot better with, what seventy K after taxes?”


            “She took taxes into account, you’ll take home a hundred.”


            “Pretty bitchin’ then.” She announced. “I can deal with that. Not everyone looks at things like you do. I work for her. I am in this for the money and I didn’t die, so I’ll take the bonus.”


            “Yeah.” I said. “I’m probably just paranoid.”


            “Probably.” She said. “When you go back, are you sticking with Debbie or that federal agent?”


            “I’m supposed to be announcing the answer to that very question.” I said. “And if you want the truth there is also the teenage millionaire we saved, and a shrink in the running. And just to complicate matters, I’ve been told I can choose up to five of those four women on offer.”


            “I see.” She said. “So they’re even willing to allow you an unknown late runner?”


            “Yeah.” I said.


            “So what are you going to choose Jack?” She asked. “Which one and what amount? One, two, three, all? Who?”


            “Yeah.” I said, to say something. “That’s the sort of questions they’re asking.”

February 13, 2012 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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