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April 12, 2015 Posted by | Photo, Photography, Poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Twenty-Three)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Twenty-Three: The Hudson Super Six

 

            It was two days after the double funeral that I was sitting in my office, waiting for the world to end when he came. I was ready for it, but still I must say my heart sped up when he came into my office. Still I had slept enough, I was back on a normal schedule, and was therefore ready to do battle.

 

            “District Attorney Talbert,” I said as he strode toward my desk. “What brings you here?”

 

            “Who the hell do you think you are dodging my calls like this?”

 

            “I wasn’t dodging,” I said calmly. “I just wasn’t returning them. I’ve had to have some recovery time. You may have heard about the week I’ve had.”

 

            “I heard!” he snapped and pointed a finger at me. “I heard you killed seven people, withheld evidence, drove recklessly, and let one of our best citizens get killed. I should have your license pulled for the way you’ve acted. You’re lucky you’re not in jail.”

 

            “Don’t start threatening me you little prick,” I snapped back, which isn’t the best of forms, but fuck it he was irritating me.

 

            “What did you call me?” he demanded.

 

            “Listen here you little suckpump,” I growled back and stood up. “You want to put me in jail, bring a brigade with you. You couldn’t make a charge stick and you know it because otherwise you’d have tried it by now. As for pulling my license, you know that’s got no teeth either.”

 

            “You concealed evidence!” he shouted at me.

 

            “Of what?” I asked.

 

            “You killed seven people!”

 

            “In self defense!” I shouted. “I’ll remind you that one of the people I killed had just shot a State Police officer minutes before I put a round through him. As a result, the staties love my ass right now.”

 

            “You had the kidnap victim in your car, you didn’t call us!”

 

            “Why should I call you?” I demanded. “I was taking her back to her mother, which is what I promised to do.”

 

            “You’ve broken the law, you can’t act like you did and keep being a private detective!” I think he was just ranting at this point, but I decided to go to that dark place, because I relished the idea of kicking his ass on his own turf.

 

            “I wasn’t a private detective when I did that,” I snapped. “I’m a personal friend of Liberty Freedom, and I was doing her a favor.”

 

            “Tom Freedom was your client!” Hh shouted. “He told us that!”

 

            “He also told you that the people who kidnapped his daughter only did it to derail his Middle East deal and that the republicans were putting spiders in his sandwiches.” I leaned on my desk with my fists. “I don’t know if you noticed but The Major needed a call from ground control.”

 

            I’ll grant, the joke was old, but I still liked it. Talbert stood there and turned an unhealthy color of red as I sat back in my chair. He ground his teeth and then leaned across the desk at me. I had to tilt my chair back to avoid having to strain my neck in looking at him. He tried to make his words calm at he tried to stand over me, which was stupid of him really.

 

            “Don’t you start insulting a great member of our community.”

 

            “Shut the fuck up asshole. I knew him personally. You just hit him up for money when re-election time came.” I said looking right into his eyes. “I have taken no money in this case. I’m down a car, a pocket knife, several bullets and lots of money in fact. I took no retainer, I’ve not submitted a bill and I won’t submit a bill because I was doing a favor for Mrs. Freedom. Mrs. Freedom is my friend, and even though she now has billions of dollars to spare for whatever she wants to do, I won’t be charging her. She’s a friend, and it was a favor. You saying you’re going to pull my professional license for something I did outside of my profession is like claiming you’re going to yank my drivers license because you don’t like how I ride my bicycle.”

 

            “You listen here,” he pointed a finger at me and I stood up and slapped him.

 

            I know, it was assault, but I’d had enough. I went toe to toe with Church and I survived against Chester Cat, I was feeling a little justified in my title of official Bad Ass Tough Guy Mother Fucker for the City of Troy. It was just an open handed slap, not particularly hard, but shocking. His eyes opened wide and I put my hand on his chest and shoved.

 

            “Sit the fuck down!” I yelled and he obeyed. “Don’t you even start with me bitchcakes. I will fuck your whole career up. Everything I’ve done is fully justifiable, it crosses county lines, and it’s damn near a federal issue. Your only connection is that I live in Oakland County which is where your office is. You couldn’t touch me, not even if you wanted to, and you don’t want to because you’d like to get elected for office again someday.”

 

            “How dare you insinuate…”

 

            “Shut up!” I shouted. “I’m a friend of Mrs. Freedom. A close, personal friend and she and her billions of dollars wouldn’t be pleased with you if you attacked me.”

 

            “You think she’d protect you?” he asked.

 

            “Jenicia Freedom, her remaining child, the heir to Freedom Corp’s billions, is actually my daughter,” I whispered to him. “You wanna fuck with Liberty’s baby daddy? You want to make the person who will inherit the Freedom billions mad at you for going after her father?”

 

            “You’re lying,” he laughed, but only for a moment when he saw my face.

 

            “You tell me I’m lying again and I’ll slap you like a bitch again,” I said leaning towards him. “Now get the fuck out of my office, you’re creating an unpleasant odor.”

 

            He looked like he wanted to argue some more, but instead he got up and left. I was pretty sure that I had made a friend for life, and that he would be watching over me from now on. I could well imagine him being so careful, and watching my every move from this day foreword. To coin a phrase, he would be watching my career with great interest from now on.

           

            It was the next day, while I was looking at some bills that she came into my office. Her hips moved as she walked, her breasts bounced ever so slightly, and her hair tumbled around her shoulders. I tired not to watch with too much enthusiasm, but it was hard. Liberty sat down in the client chair across for me and watched me with her blue eyes.

 

            “You didn’t come to the funeral,” she commented, her accent stronger than it would have been if we weren’t such good friends.

 

            “I know,” I said with a nod. “I was here watching me not be at the funeral.”

 

            “I thought you might come.”

 

            “Why?” I asked.

 

            “I suppose…” she paused, considering her words. “I thought you would come and claim Jenicia.”

 

            “Why would I do that?” I asked. “I haven’t done it yet have I?”

 

            “Well, there is no one left to argue with,” she said. “You could prove your parentage and not have to worry about anyone arguing with you.”

 

            “If I was going to make that kind of claim, I would have done it a long time ago.”

 

            “You didn’t know until now.”

 

            “I’m not going to make that kind of claim,” I sighed. “I mean unless this is your attempt to tell me you want her to know.”

 

            “You sent back the check,” she said, changing the subject suddenly.

 

            “I said I wasn’t taking any fee for this.”

 

            “Your car though,” she said.

 

            I shrugged, trying to play it off lightly that I had to have Debbie come get me so I could get to work that morning.

 

            “I can get another car,” I told her.

 

            “No,” she said setting something down on my desk, covering it with her hand. “It was my daughter that caused the loss of your car. If we are friends, and if this whole thing was a favor, I need to do a favor for you.”

 

            She removed her hand to expose a key ring to the world. It was an old pair of car keys and a brass plate on the ring. The keys were familiar to me, but the plate wasn’t. I looked at the brass plate, which had raised lettering and wondered if in fact the world was working against me. The plate, which must have been made specially because of the raised letter, was new and shiny. It was easy enough to make out what it said though.

 

            Seven with one blow.

 

            “It’s downstairs,” she said standing up.

           

            I signaled for Debbie to follow as we walked out of the office and down the stairs. I sort of knew what it was going to be, but I wasn’t sure. When we exited the office building and I saw the deep blue automobile sitting in the lot I knew what the idea was. They were old keys, and I knew the car they came from. It would have to be confirmed, but that was why we were going downstairs wasn’t it? When I came out to the parking lot, I saw the blue Hudson Super Six.

 

            I walked towards the car and touched the hood. A rush of memories came to me and I had to close my eyes and wait while the emotions ran over me. The memories carried by Hudson had sort of overwhelmed me for the moment, and I had trouble breathing. I looked at the beautiful woman who had driven this car to me and gripped the keys tightly in my hand.

 

            “What kind of car is it?” Debbie asked.

 

            “A nineteen forty six Hudson Super Six,” I said and looked into Liberty’s eyes with as much of a cold stare as I could. “I said I wouldn’t take any payment for this job.”

 

            “And I said it was my daughter’s game that cost you your car,” she said touching my shirt. “I feel obligated to at least replace your car. I have to pick up after her and the trouble she caused.”

 

            “You’re not trying to buy me off are you?” I asked, telling her with my tone that we both knew the answer full well.

 

            “No,” she shook her head. “We’re going to have to decide whether or not to tell her, and when the best time would be, but I’m not trying to get you away from her.”          

 

            I looked at the sky, heavy with dark clouds and then looked at the black Mercedes with Bendis standing by the passenger door. A ripple of thunder rolled across the sky, distant and soft. I then looked at Debbie and finally Liberty. The clouds were moving in quickly, darkening the sky and muting the golden color of her hair.

           

            “I’ve got to go,” she said leaning over and kissing me softly on the lips. She walked to the car, which Bendis opened for her and after a moment was gone. I watched the car drive away and looked at Debbie.

 

            “You should give it a drive,” she said trying to smile like everything was fine. “You could probably use some time away from the office.”

 

            She walked back to the building as a louder pound of thunder struck the air.

 

            I got into the Hudson, started the engine and started to drive. The car had a lot of memories, and despite the tragic reasons I got it, I decided I would probably keep it. The backseat after all would be a constant reminder of better days. It occurred to me as I drove the car through town, that it was in the back seat that the whole question of Jenicia probably began. It was a question that was going to need to be answered some day, but not today.

 

            Big drops of rain smacked into the windshield, which reminded me to turn on the wipers. I noticed that they were new, modern wipers. In a few seconds the world vanished as the rain began to fall like mad. I kept driving, turning on the stereo, which was also a new variety. Liberty had gotten my iPod from the Mini and had someone put an adapter in this car. I was able to listen to my own idea of what music should be as the rain thundered on the roof. If nothing else, the rain would probably relieve the humidity, releasing us for a few days from the weight and tyranny of that problem.

 

            The world more of less vanished around me as the rain came down as hard as any rain in years had dared. It separated me from the world, and separated the world from me. Here, in this car, I didn’t need to think about the world out there. The only reminder of what had happened was the brass keychain, which was something of a receipt, reminding me of the price that had been paid for the car.

 

            There was nothing like a success here, but at least I didn’t end up having to leave the country or go through months of physical therapy this time. That wasn’t much, but it was something. I suppose that even in my epic failure I can manage a bright spot here or there.

 

 

 

This ends Liberty’s Child. The Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

 

In the Cabinet will begin next week.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Twenty-Two)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Twenty-Two: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

 

            It was light by the time they let me go, I had no idea what time it was. My phone had some numbers on it, but they could have been anything. I was so tired that I couldn’t actually remember where I was a few times. Lord only knows what I ended up telling them. I can’t really recall anything that happened, but I must have said everything okay because they let me go and let me keep both my guns. Eventually sweet darling Alice said that it was enough and announced she was taking me home. She put me in the car and drove away with me in the passenger seat.

 

            I know that I kept falling asleep, because I would wake up a moment later and realize that I had dropped off. It was incredibly unpleasant, because the constant little shocks made me feel like I’d been shot over and over again. How ever long it took to get to my place, it seemed to take forever. I was so tired and sleepy, but I knew that I couldn’t sleep just yet.

 

            We finally got to my place and went in together. The move was entirely towards the bed room, although it took a while to get there because the trip was done like dancing. We would kiss, move, kiss and move, as a couple. She removed my holsters and threw them on the couch. I took off her jacket and dropped it on the floor.            Everything was going to go ahead as we would have liked, I suddenly thought about interrupting phone calls.

 

            “Hang on.” I said and pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. I suddenly couldn’t remember how to turn it off so I pulled the battery out and set the whole mess down on the counter.

 

            We did finally make it to the bed room, but I think it took a little while to get to the bed. We flopped down together, kissing like a couple of kids having their first try at this sort of thing. Unfortunately, when my head hit the pillow, I just couldn’t take it anymore. With my eyes closed, while kissing her, I faded from all existence.

 

 

            I have no idea how long it was that I slept, because I don’t know what time it was when we got to my place. The clock said nine, and it was getting dark outside, so it must have been night. I found myself alone in the place, my suit from the night before was folded neatly on a chair, my holsters on the table. There was a note in the kitchen from Alice, explaining that she’d made me something to eat and that it was in the fridge.

 

            I opened the door and found a plate with a chicken dish, complete with vegetables, rice and a small bottle of wine with it. I was clearly going to have to spend the next week or so making this up to her. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why she’d put up with me this far.

 

            I put my phone back together in order to call her, but my phone claimed I had voice mail, when I called the voice mail system it informed me that there were thirty new messages. I hung up the phone without listening to them and called Debbie at home.

 

            “Hi Jack.” She said as she picked up. “You just wake up?”

 

            “How bad is it?”

 

            “Well, not to complain but things have been very interesting.” She said. “I’ve had a lot of phone calls.”

 

            “You want to get something to eat?” I asked, looking at the plate and promising myself I’d eat it later. “We can discuss everything.”

 

            “Sure.” She said. “I guess I’ll have to come get you.”

 

            “You guess right.” I said.

 

            “Okay.” She said. “You should listen to your voice messages, there are a couple you’ll want to listen to.”

 

            “Okay.” I said, “I’ll go through them while I wait for you.”

 

            “Alright.” She said. “I’ll be there in a little bit.”

 

            I went back to the voice mail and listened to the list of calls. Debbie called mentioning that Crammer was getting my number to harangue me. Crammer called to yell at me about some shoot out in Detroit, half a dozen men from Freedom Corp called asking for me to call them back, and then I got the call I think Debbie wanted me to hear.

 

            “Jack, its Alice. We’re all being called back to Washington. They’re pissed that the Freedom thing turned out like it did and we’re all going to be called to account. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get a make up date with you for a while. Sorry.”

 

            The next few messages were the same as the opening batch, totally useless.

 

            Debbie arrived a few minutes later, she was on the phone as she walked up to my door, shouting into the phone.

 

            “I have no idea where he is asshole!” She held the phone away from her face and shouted directly into it. “If you want to know where Jack Collier is, why don’t you look for him yourself instead of calling me over and over. If you don’t quit calling I’ll have him come to your paper and shoot you in the knees!”

 

            She then hung the phone up and smiled as she tucked it into her purse again. She then took the phone out again and switched it off, redepositing it in her purse. She looked happy and cheerful, like she’d been enjoying herself.

 

            “What the hell has been going on?” I asked as I stepped out of my door and towards her.

 

            “Our office number and my cell phone are the only two numbers the papers can find.” She said grinning. “So they’ve been calling me, constantly.”

 

            “I’m sorry.” I said, and I could feel the weight of the world returning to my shoulders.”

 

             “It’s okay.” She said with a smile. “I’ve basically taken to answering the phone ‘Jack Collier investigations, we have no comment this is Debbie speaking how can I help you?’ the last two days. It’s been kind of fun really. It’s almost like being the secretary to a famous private detective.”

 

            “We’re going to have to deal with that for a little while aren’t we?” I asked as we got into her car.

 

            “I’m afraid so.” She said starting her car. “Did you hear the world ended?”

 

            “No.” I shook my head, “I went to bed and called you.”

 

            “You missed it then.” She told me as we drove away from my place. “Church and the Cardinals and a few other groups he has ties with basically shot the hell out of Detroit yesterday. They started with UNICORN and worked their way around to LION. You’re little corner of this situation is pretty much going to be completely forgotten by tomorrow morning. They said it was like watching an action movie down there or something. Cars and guns and people running and stuff.”

 

            “Good lord.” I muttered.

 

            “Yeah.” She said. “And you slept through it all.”

 

            “Any reason they decided to let me sleep?”

 

            “Well, they didn’t want to.” She said. “Everyone called me, and some of them tried to call you, but I think no one wanted to go to your place and try to wake you.”

 

            “That’s wise.” I nodded. “I’m pretty sure I would have killed the first six people who tried to wake me.”

 

            “I think Crammer warned them off you too.” She said.

 

            “That’s nice of him.”

 

            “He wants you to call him.” She said.

 

            “Okay.” I told her. “You think I should now?”

 

            “Yeah.” She nodded.

 

            I called Crammer’s number and after a few rings heard his gruff voice over the line.

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “It’s Jack Collier.” I said. “You called me.”

 

            “Right Collier.” He said. “Well, I think we probably don’t really need to see you just now. I thought maybe we did, but now I’m not sure. I think we got the full statement.”

 

            “Oh.” I said. “How are things on your side?”

 

            “Detroit isn’t my beat, and thank God.” He said. “Church and his gang shot a lot of people down there. No one can prove it was him, but it was.”

 

            “You figure out what was going on?”

 

            “The case is closed.” He said. “I’ve got enough things to worry about than the whys and hows of the murder.”

 

            “So you don’t need any further statements?”

 

            “Not right now.” He said. “But I should warn you that the district attorney is going to want to talk to you. He’s raising nine kinds of hell.”

 

            “Well let him.” I said. “This isn’t even a professional deal for me, it was personal and I lost a lot. With my car, gas, time, pocket knife, I’ve lost about twenty-one thousand dollars in just the last two days, I wouldn’t charge Liberty that even if I thought I could get away with it.”

 

            “Well, the longer you keep it that way, the less ammo Mandelbaum will have with you.”

 

            “Good to know.” I said. “Talk to you later.”

 

            “Yeah, later.” He said and hung up.

 

            “What the hell are we going to do Debbie?” I asked as we pulled up to the restaurant she’d picked.

 

            “Get some dinner.” She said.

 

            “I meant tomorrow.” I said.

 

            “Go to work like we always do.”

 

            “I’m not sure I can keep doing this.” I muttered. “I’m not really suited to any other kind of work, but I don’t want to keep having our lives put through the wringer like this every couple of months. I would be nice to do a job once in a while where someone lived. Just once I’d like to have a job where we actually perform the task we attempt.”

 

            “We’ve got the money from Church.” She said. “You could always call Char, she would cut you a million to start a taxi service or something. Or she would jus keep you around as a toy and you could sip champagne all day.”

 

            “If it were just myself I’d be gone today.” I said ignoring her crack about Char and I. “But I’ve got you to think of.”

 

            “I could get another job.” She said.

 

            “Wouldn’t be fair.” I said. “No, I’ll just have to keep doing this for a while. I just wish that just once I didn’t end up with everyone I’m trying to protect dead. It’s like having me try to protect someone is as good as them getting a death sentence.”

 

            “Try not to worry about it.” She said, and I think even she knew how dumb that sounded by the look on her face.

 

            “I’ll try.”

 

This is part twenty-two of twenty-three, come back next week for the final part. If you get lost, one of the tags here should help you. The Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Twenty-One)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

 

Day Twenty-One: Aftermath

 

            It was bad, but not as bad as I feared. Liberty was sobbing at the door to the office when I got there. She looked at me and ran towards me, putting her arms around me without checking to see if I’d been shot or anything. Jenicia was sobbing on the floor of the office, her knees up against her chest, looking at the place where her dead father lay. Only if Columbia was right, it wasn’t her father, jut a man she lived with for a long time.

 

            “First things first,” I said placing my hand on the back of Liberty’s head. “We’ve got to get to your room and you and Jenicia need to be locked in.”

 

            “Huh?” she asked. “Why?”

 

            “The police are going to be here in five minutes and we don’t want them harassing you. You two are all that’s left of my clientele.”

 

            “What about Columbia?” Liberty demanded. “What happened?”

 

            “She was killed,” I said, and then realizing I left that a little vague I added to it. “I shot the bitch that killed her though.”

 

            Liberty shrieked and tried to push past me, clawing at my shirt. She was hard to hold onto and I thought I needed some backup. I couldn’t have her running out there though, she’d seen enough for one night. Besides, letting her at Amy’s body would be hard to explain to the police.

 

            “Bendis!” I shouted as I held her as tightly as I dared.

 

            The butler appeared at the door, his face a mask of shock. He seemed to understand though and scooped up Jenicia after a moment. I picked Liberty up bodily and threw her over my shoulder. It was a bit caveman, but I was going to have to deal with that later.

 

            “We’ve got to get them upstairs before the police get her.” I said over Liberty’s sobs.

 

            “I can walk,” she screamed at me.

 

            I set her down and let her go the rest of the way on her own. Thankfully she didn’t try to run past me and get to one or the other of her dearly departed. The four of us went upstairs to her private apartment and Bendis locked us in, bless his heart. Liberty flung herself onto the bed and screamed into it, Jenicia just collapsed onto the floor and drew her knees up to her chin again and cried. I sat down next to the child and put my arm around her.

 

            “Are you okay?” I asked.

 

            “I’m okay,” she said, barely above a whisper.

 

            “I’m sorry I kicked you,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get shot.”

 

            “It’s okay,” she said with a sniffle.

 

            “You should go blow your nose,” I suggested, and she nodded and walked towards the bathroom. “Wash your face too.”

 

            I got up and walked to the bed, sitting down next to Liberty. I touched her shoulder, expecting her to pull away. This proves how little I know about women, because she grabbed my hand and then shifted her body so that she more or less wrapped herself around me. Her thighs pressed against my right thigh while her breasts pressed into my left hip. She reached up and took my left hand in both of her hands and kissed it gently. The water started to run in the bathroom.

 

            “You own Freedom Corp now, right?” I asked.

 

            “I guess,” she said and wiped her nose on a pillow case.

 

            “Columbia had an odd idea about her father’s deal,” I said.     “She thought she would guarantee his deal going through by killing him.”

 

            “What?” she asked, a confused looked screwing across her face.

 

            “If he were killed over it, the board might decide that they need to make sure that everyone knows that no one can threaten Freedom Corp,” I said with a sigh. “They might also see it as his legacy, his dying wish. Columbia thought she was going to make the deal a forgone conclusion by killing him. Or, you know, she hated him and decided that to kill him and that was just an excuse. I doubt that though, because she explained to Amy that was why she killed him which is why Amy shot her.”

 

            “You’re not making any sense,” Liberty said sitting up and looking into my face.

 

            “Aren’t I? Wonderful!” I muttered. “That means that I really am as tired as I feel.”

 

            There was a banging at the door and I could hear Crammer’s voice booming at me. I touched Liberty’s hand and stood up as Crammer called to me. The door to the bathroom opened and Jenicia poked her head out as I started to walk to the door.

 

            “Come on out Collier!” he said. “I know you’re tired but I need you out here.”

 

            “Coming,” I said so softly it was almost a whisper, and then found myself annoyed that he didn’t hear me and started knocking again.

 

            “Come on,” he said banging again.

 

            I opened the door and nodded to the three officers standing in the door way. They looked tired, not as tired as me of course, but tired none the less. I stepped through the door and only resented it a little when Crammer laid his big hand on my shoulder. I looked behind me at the two women and shook Crammer’s hand off.

 

            “Give me a minute,” I said to him. “I’ve got to talk to these two for a second and then you can get all our statements.”

 

            “Look Collier,” he started.

 

            “Crammer!” I shouted, and I must have looked a sight because the two guys with him both stepped back. “Give me a god damn second. I’m not going to run away and there is no one left to catch. Columbia killed Major Freedom, Amy Heart killed Columbia, and I killed Amy. The package is nice and neat! I’m not going to run off, and these two weren’t witnesses to any of the shootings so I can’t be said to be influencing them. Give me a fucking minute or I swear to god I’ll put a forty five round through your brain and the way I’m feeling right now I won’t even need a gun to do it.”

 

            There must have really been something in my face, because Crammer just stuck his cigar back into his mouth and bit down on it. The other two officers didn’t bother trying to regain the ground they’d backed away from.

 

            “Five minutes,” Crammer said, as if I had just politely asked for some more time. “Come down in five minutes if you don’t mind.”

 

            “I’ll be down directly,” I said and stepped back into the room. “They’ve decided to give me a few more minutes.”

 

            “I heard,” Liberty said.

 

            “This group your daughter got mixed up with was trying to stop The Major’s deal. They pretty much faked everything for reasons I’m clearly too dumb to work out. They thought they’d ruin the deal or maybe it was money, or maybe it was something else. They killed the guy Columbia was in love with, or thought she was in love with anyway. She thought if she shot Tom, then his Middle East deal would have to go through as part of his legacy. That was her stated reason for doing it. She got kind of hysterical and started screaming that no one had ever loved her when I caught up with her. She then told me some things about the year Jen was born. Then Amy came along and shot Columbia, and then I shot Amy. That’s pretty much everything.”

 

            “What did she tell you about the year I was born?’ Jenicia asked.

 

            “It doesn’t matter,” Liberty said, and I let it go at that. “I think I know what he means.”

 

            “Okay,” I said nodding. “I’ll go down first. I’ll get Bendis to call whatever family lawyer you have.”

 

            “I can call Paul myself,” she said.

 

            “Okay,” I nodded and opened the door.

 

            The hall was empty, so I was being trusted to go down the stairs and talk to Crammer on my own. I could have turned left and climbed out a window, but that would have looked bad. Instead I adjusted my tie and started down the stairs, feeling like the world might just fall down on my shoulders at any moment now. My eyes wanted to close, and my legs ached something awful, but I had to keep going. It wasn’t going to get any better by stalling.

 

 

This is part twenty-one of twenty-three, come back next week for part twenty-two 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Twenty)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Twenty: Columbia and Heart

 

 

            Columbia sobbed into my chest most the way to my office. She didn’t say anything, she just poured out as we drove. When we got there she more or less stopped for a while, but Debbie noticed the moment we walked in. I sat her down in a client chair and let her rest for a while. I walked out to the outer office where Debbie was getting a box of Kleenex from under her desk.

 

            “How is she?” Debbie asked.

 

            “Pretty bad,” I said and looked at the clock. “Damn, is it almost two already?”

 

            “Yes,” she nodded.

 

            “We need to get some food,” I muttered and took the tissues away from her.

 

            I sat down next to Columbia in the office and listened as she told me a long story about her and the man we’d left on the floor.  I managed to gather between sobs that she and Piggy had actually been pretty serious. She was ready to leave everything behind for him, and he had said several times that they didn’t need her father’s money. I didn’t mention her infidelity to her, because it didn’t seem the moment. I’m not sure it would have meant anything anyway.

 

            Debbie brought in a few bags after a whole, loaded with food from the Orchid Café around the corner. We ate in silence, and I noticed that Columbia ate a lot more than I would have normally suspected for a girl her size. Alice watched us carefully as we discussed how he brought her into the group and how the idea had been to derail her father’s Mideast deal by mucking up the works with bad publicity and hurting his personal image. The idea of getting LION to take the blame was just a bit of insurance in case anyone got wise to what was happening.

 

            There was a lot more, but really I can barely remember the conversation as it is. I was so tired and wiped out that I only noticed how late it had gotten when I got up for a drink and noticed it was dark outside. All four of us were still in the office, Debbie included, which must have thrown me off my stride.

 

            “Okay,” I announced. “Let’s get you home then. Debbie, call the Freedoms and tell them we’re on our way.”

 

            “Right Jack,” she said and started towards the outer office.

 

            We drove without incident to the house, checking in through the gate and taking her into the house. I must admit that I didn’t even feel like a real person anymore. I felt like I was floating over my body, but still observing through my eyes. I had become an observer inside my own head, even though I still had some control. We walked up the steps, my eyes nearly transfixed on the lights where the moths and other bugs were congregating so thickly they nearly blotted out the light and made having it on useless.

 

            “I’ll need to see my father first,” she said and took my hand. “Will you come with me?”

 

            “Sure,” I said nodding.

 

            She leaned over and kissed me once on the cheek and then let go of my hand. I followed her as we walked to the office. Jenicia saw us as we walked through the hall and her look of astonishment was something. She followed us to the office as Columbia opened the door.

 

            “I think I can go in by myself,” she said touching my chest. “Will you wait here?”

 

            “Sure,” I said nodding and watching as she went into the office and closed the door.

 

            “You brought her back,” Jenicia said with amazement.

 

            “Of course I did,” I said leaning against the wall and folding my arms. “Isn’t that what I was hired for?”

 

            “I didn’t know you just brought people back like that.”

 

            There was then some shouting from the office and Freedom yelled something indecipherable. Then there was the shot, followed by another and a third. I threw the office door open and Columbia turned and fired a shot at the door and then another. One of the bullets zipped between Jenicia and me, the second tore a hole in my jacket. I pushed Jenicia back with my foot and knocked her over as I flattened against the floor. The patio doors in the office were flung open and Columbia ran outside. I ran after her, glancing at the body of Major Freedom with the three holes in his chest.

 

            In the moonlight I saw Columbia running around the small orchid of apple trees. She always ran around the trees, even when she was trying to get away. I never could figure out if she didn’t know there was a narrow path between the trees or if she was just afraid of them or something. It didn’t matter, I ran after her, heading through the trees.

 

            When she came around the corner of the grove I had caught up with her and I must admit I hit her. It was a flat palmed strike in the chest, but it flattened her on the floor. I grabbed her by the shirt and yanked her up to her feet, pushing her against one of the trees. I didn’t dare take my hand off her, so I reached behind me for the Marley thirty eight and held it in my left hand.

 

            “What the fuck is going on?” I asked.

 

            “I had to,” she sobbed. “I’m sorry.”

 

            “Sorry?” I asked. “You almost killed your sister.”

 

            “Why do you care about her more than me?” she screamed into my face. “Just because she’s your daughter you love her more than me! I fucked you, you’re supposed to do whatever I want!”

 

            “That’s not how real life works,” I said.

 

            “Help me,” she sobbed and raised her hands to her face, which showed me she was still holding the gun Piggy had aimed just a little while ago.

 

            “Calm down,” I said taking the gun from her. “Just calm down kiddo.” I tossed the gun behind me and put my right hand around her head.

 

            “Why doesn’t anyone just love me?” she sobbed into my shoulder.

 

            “We’ll work on it,” I said, because you have to say something at a time like that. “What do you mean daughter?”

 

            “Jen’s your kid,” Columbia said looking up at me. “Like you didn’t know.”

 

            “Your mother said that there were four or five men who might have been the father.”

 

            “No,” she said shaking her head. “I knew everyone she was doing, you were the only one that summer.”

 

            “I see,” I said.

 

            “Did you talk to him?” Amy’s voice came from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw her walking towards us.

 

            “I talked to him,” Columbia said pushing away from me. “And then I shot him.”

 

            “You what?” Amy asked.

 

            “His deal will go through now. No doubt. They’ll be totally dedicated to it because it was his last wish. You’re fucked.”

 

            “You shot him?” Amy asked as if she believed she hadn’t heard properly.

 

            “You won’t be here to see it though, you should have never shot Piggy.”

 

            Columbia bent down, picked up the gun and Amy found the same gun pointed at her for the second time that day. For the second time, she also had the same reaction. Columbia’s reaction to the near silent working of the pistol was like that of an empty paper bag that’s shot with pellets from a BB gun. She popped back a foot with the first, and spun with the second, finally falling with the third.

 

            “You stupid little bitch,” Amy said looking at me. “Why do I always have to get the dumb ones Jack?”

 

            I would like to say that I was tired, that it had been a very hard day, that shock had an effect on me. None of that was true of course. The truth was I just really wanted to commit a murder. The anger was a cold lump in my belly and my hand didn’t even shake when I twisted my wrist in her direction and fired. She was caught off guard and for the second time that day my right hand had drawn independent of thought. Finding two guns in my hand, I used them both. The forty five knocked her off her feet, even though it was the thirty-eight round that killed her. The first shot went right into her head, but the big slug from the Webley tore through her with enough force to knock her down.

 

            I bent down to look at Columbia, but it was pretty clear she was dead. I slung the guns back into place and stood up. Alice came running from the house, her gun drawn and a small flashlight in her hand. I saw her coming from a long way off and if I’d decided to just go on a bender I could have killed her long before she saw me.

 

            “Jack?” she called.

 

            “Over here,” I said leaning against a tree.

 

            “Oh god,” she said as she shined the light down on the body of the young heiress. “You?”

 

            “Amy,” I said nodding in the direction where the other corpse for the night lay. “We’re going to have to call the police.”

 

            “They’re coming,” she said. “Everyone’s coming.”

 

            “Well then, let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

            “What?” she demanded.

 

            “I want to go home,” I said.

 

            “If we flee the scene,” she started and didn’t really need to finish.

 

            “Yeah,” I said. “Besides I’ve got to go apologize to someone.”

 

            “Who?” she asked.

 

            “Well, I guess I’d better call her my daughter,” I said.

 

            “I didn’t know you had a kid.” She said.

 

            “Yeah, neither did I,” I said walking back towards the house. “I guess I’m going to have to work on that. Some goddamn great detective I am.”

 

This is part twenty of twenty-three, come back next week for part twenty-one 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Nineteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Nineteen: Piggy’s End

 

            The entry to Piggy’s place was much different this time. I knocked on the door gently and waited for Piggy to come. He opened the door and looked at me nervously, fear leaping across his face. Had he not been the timid type deep down, I think he would have slammed the door and run for it.

 

            “Calm down Piggy,” I said holding out a hand. “I’m not gonna hit you this time.”

 

            “Promise?” he asked.

 

            “Yeah,” I nodded and tried to smile a reassuring smile, “I promise.”

 

            “Okay,” he stepped back and opened the door wide enough for us to enter.

 

            Alice and I walked in, and let him close the door behind us. I went into the living room, which was less than ten steps from the door, and looked around for anything I might be able to sit on. I didn’t see anything that I really wanted to try and deposit my end on so I let Alice and Piggy enter behind me and just stood. I looked at the photo he had said was of his mother and reached for it. I took it from the shelf and walked up to him tapping the glass.

 

            “This is your mother right?”

 

            “That’s right,” he nodded and took the picture from me.

 

            “She was called The Duchess in her professional circles, did you know that?”

 

            “I know who my mother was and what she did,” he bristled slightly at the way I was talking.

 

            “And do you know it was her assistant Amy Cooke that killed her?” I asked.

 

            His tongue worked around his mouth, pushing his cheeks and then the area around his lips out at odd angles. He then set the picture frame down and rubbed his chin for a second, I think because he could cover his mouth when he did. His head made a motion that could be construed as a nod. It might have been him agreeing with me, or just agreeing with something inside his own head.

 

            “Okay,” he eventually said.

 

            “And are you further aware that after doing that Amy Cooke went under ground for a while, later re-emerging as Amy Heart?” I asked and then held my hand out to Alice, as if I were presenting my partner in a magic act.

 

            “I’ve got her full dossier here,” she said handing over her phone.

 

            He went through it fairly quickly, which I decided meant he was just skimming the thing. He didn’t really need to have a full read anyway, just enough to tell him that we were telling the truth. He rubbed his eyes free of what might have been tears and handed the phone back to Alice who stuffed it into her pocket. He looked at me, and I could see that he was really having trouble controlling himself.

 

            “What do you want?” he asked after nearly an hour of looking at me.

 

            “I want to get Columbia home to her parents,” I said. “Her mother and sister and worried about her. I’m sure if his head wasn’t so far up his ass that he can see out of his own nostrils her father would be concerned as well. Do you know where she is?”

 

            There were tears running down his cheeks, he bit his lip so hard that there was blood dripping down his chin. He nodded when he looked at me and a sound escaped him. It was half sigh, half sob         as it came out. He touched his chin and when he brought away his hand, he noticed the blood. He sort of jumped a little when he noticed the red stain on his thumb and wiped at his lip.

 

            “I’ve gotta go wash my face,” he said looking at his hand. “I’ll take you to where she is. I mean it’s not like she’s being held or nothing. She’s just hanging out. I gotta take a wiz.”

 

            He stood up and walked up the stairs, going into the bathroom. I heard the water run and looked over at Alice, but there was no warmth there. She looked like she didn’t approve of all my methods. She didn’t look angry, just slightly perturbed.

 

            “What?” I asked.

 

            “Are you more subtle when you’ve slept?” she asked.

 

            “Sometimes, but when I’m tired I just cut to the chase and speak my mind,” I said and then winked at her, “by the way, nice tits.”

 

            “Thanks for noticing,” she smiled slightly.

 

            The toilet flushed and the door to the bathroom opened upstairs. Piggy walked around the upper level of his condo for a moment, I heard something rustle up there and folded my arms, letting my right hand slip into my jacket and unclasp the strap over the Webley. He came down the stairs a few moments later with a jacket on.

 

            “Ready to go,” he said.

 

            “You won’t need that,” I said was we walked towards the door. “Already getting hot out there.”

 

            “You’ve got a jacket on,” he said.

 

            “I’m so cool I get chills in an oven.” I said which shows how tired I was. To make such a lousy joke at that sort of hour.

 

            “Me too,” he said and I just shrugged it off as we went out into the already too hot air.

 

            We walked to the car and got in with only seconds to spare before our skin melted off. Alice turned air conditioning down to its lowest setting and blasted the fans so that we were almost frozen solid by the sudden rush of air. Piggy told us how to get to the place where Columbia was. It wasn’t a house but an old office building in Detroit, and probably had been abandoned for several years. I only barely noticed the desolation of Detroit as we drove, feeling more the rumblings of my belly. I looked at my cell phone and noticed that it was well past noon by the time we pulled up.

 

            We walked into the building behind Piggy and just kept walking behind him to a conference room. When we got there, I found just about everyone I didn’t want to see. Columbia sat next to Amy, who was sitting next to Dee’s stupid twin. There was an empty space next to the fat smiling man, and I sort of figured that was the location that had been vacated by Mister Cat. There were a lot of other people sitting at the table, but to describe them, they might as well have just been a pack of cards for all the distinction one had from another.

 

            “Hi Jack,” Amy said, smiling warmly at me.

 

            “You killed my best man,” the fat man next to her said.

 

            “Shut up stupid, we all know that Heart is the Queen around here,” I said and walked towards the table. “Columbia, let’s get you home.”

 

            “Jack,” Columbia whined.

 

            “No,” I snapped. “Get out of that chair and go get your purse. If you want to hurt your father, have the stones to go do it face to face.”

 

            “It’s okay Columbia,” Amy said placing a hand on hers. “Go home and explain to your father exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing. I think Jack’s right, he needs to hear that it’s coming from inside his own home”

 

            Columbia got up without another word and walked out of the room. I looked at Amy, who was looking at me warmly. She smiled and kissed her finger, then pointing it at me and blowing.

 

            “Why the charade then?” I asked. “If you’re going to let me take her…”

 

            “What the hell are you doing?” Amy asked looking at Piggy.

 

            I turned to see a gun in his hand, which he had been carrying under his jacket, which explained why he had it. Had I been thinking, I would have checked him to make sure he wouldn’t do anything like this. The tears were back, which was going to cause him problems if he tried to shoot.

 

            “You killed my mom, you fucking bitch,” Piggy said through his tears.

 

            “This isn’t the time or place,” I said, because I’d heard it in a movie somewhere. “Piggy!”

 

            His head turned towards me and he looked like he was about to say something. There was a sound like someone working the slide on an automatic pistol and then another sound of an empty shell hitting a wall. Piggy’s face became one of shock and I turned to see a silenced Ruger in Amy’s hand. She pulled the trigger twice more and the pained look on Piggy’s face grew more desperate. He dropped the gun and fell forward.

 

            “Piggy!” Columbia shouted and fell towards him.

 

            “Stop it you stupid girl,” Amy said standing up and pointing the gun.

 

            My hand must have been moving on it’s own without tell me because when I raised it to point at Amy the Webley was already in it. I aimed it at the center of her head, which would have exploded like a melon if I fired at this range. She looked at me and convulsively pointed her gun at me. She then smiled and tried to play it light.

 

            “Come on Jack,” she said smiling at me and licking her lips. “How is this going to work?”

 

            I didn’t say anything, just watched for the slightest sign that she was about to shoot. Alice went to one knee and tried to pull Columbia away.

 

            “I can skin the wings off a fly in mid air with this thing,” she said tilting the gun but still aiming it at me. “I could easily have killed you last night, but I never wanted to hurt you.”

 

            I just stood, silently aiming.

 

            “You’re not even going to banter with me?” she sounded a little sad. “That’s kind of disappointing. We really should have banter at a time like this.”

 

            “I’m really fucking tired Amy,” I said simply. “Been a long fucking day.”

 

            “Oh Christ! You still haven’t been to bed have you?” she slumped her shoulders and bent her knees to try and look cute, while keeping the gun trained on me. “Jesus Jack, you should just dump this case and get some sleep. I would offer to put you to bed, but you wouldn’t get sleep that way.”

 

            I thumbed back the hammer, as it was the only witty thing I could think of. I heard Alice and Columbia leave the room and head out the door.

 

            “Okay, fine,” She laughed and set the gun down on the table. “Does that make you happy?”

 

            “I’m not going to be happy for some time,” I said as I walked out of the office backward.

 

            “I’m not going to chase you this time,” she said as I backed out of the office. I suppose I probably believed her, but I still didn’t turn around until there was a door between us.

 

            When I got out into the street, I saw a red SUV sitting at the corner, and another drove up behind it as Alice pulled out into the street. I had a feeling we only just missed being part of a much bigger outlay of blood by leaving when we did.

 

This is part nineteen of twenty-three, come back next week for part twenty 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Eighteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Eighteen: Another Chapter

 

            “So what the hell was all that about Knight?” Church asked as we started to drive.

 

            “Knight would never let himself be put on video like that,” I said tapping my knee with my fingers. “For reasons I don’t quite understand, UNICORN wanted someone to think that LION had kidnapped Columbia when really it was a scam all along. Now, we know that it was UNICORN all the time.”

 

            “So how do we find her?” Church asked.

 

            “Why are you interested?”

 

            “She’s probably being watched by UNICORN’s people, and now I want to show them what happens when you fuck around with Church. I’ve had problems finding them thus far.”

 

            “Can I get her out first?” I asked.

 

            “Sure,” Church nodded. “So how do we find her?”

 

            “It’ll take me some time,” I said, thinking that I didn’t really need a heavy squad with me for something like this. “Can you take me back to my place?”

 

            “Not going to bed are you?” Church asked.

 

            “No,” I shook my head. “I need a shower after being in that office. I’ll need to make another call too.”

 

            “You gonna tell me when you find out where they are?” Church asked.

 

            “I’ll see,” I said. “If she doesn’t end up being some place where only a few people knows where she is, I’ll probably let you know.”

 

            “Thanks.” he said, giving me a nod of understanding.

 

            We drove to my place and he left me at my door, letting me get out and walk to the door by myself. I opened the door and started to strip my suit off almost immediately as I walked to the bathroom. At least I think that’s what happened, because I found the suit on the floor when I came home later. When I’d finally slept though, the suit was neatly folded and placed on a chair by my table. The memory of those less important moments has slipped through my fingers, since I’ve had to try hard just to retain the important things. I had to let some things go, and what happened to my suit that morning was one of them. There were other circumstances though, so it might have been some of that.

 

            I got in the shower, letting the water pour over me. bringing me back to some kind of humanity. The tough guy who threatened a gangster with an empty gun melted away and the private eye who was just trying to correct a mistake he made years ago came back. I could feel my humanity return, the parts that hung out with the likes of Church went back into those dark places that we all keep locked off.

 

            I got out of the shower and stood in the hallway, dripping naked as I walked to my jacket. I pulled my cell phone from my pants pocket and scrolled through until I found Alice’s number. I pressed the send button and listened to a couple of rings before she picked up and answered.

 

            “Hi Jack,” she said, her voice sounding serious. “How did it go?”

 

            “I think I know how we can find her,” I said calmly, “Do you want to help out?”

 

            “Sure,” she said.

 

            “There is a park right next to my place,” I offered up. “Can you meet me there?”

 

            “Yeah, I know where that is,” she said. “I’ll meet you there.”

 

            “Thanks,” I said.

 

            I dried myself off and with a compulsion that could only have come from sleep deprivation, I walked to my closet and got my charcoal suit. It was a dark gray that was slightly warmer than my black suit. I felt the need to wear a suit though, and this was my other suit. I only had the two suits in those days, unlike the days when I had a dozen suits ready to go at any moment.

 

            I walked to the park, which was just a small piece of grass and a pond. It was a place for yuppies who bought property in the area to run before they go to work. All the yuppies had gone to work though, soon it would be lunch time, in a few hours or a few minutes perhaps. I was making my way around the pond and watching the swallows as I went. I remember when I first came to this place, I’d never actually seen swallows before. I was surprised at how small they were and how quickly they could move as they flew down by the surface of the water eating bugs. They flew over the pond, spiraling in ways that you’d almost think had to be faked. They’d zip around the grass, through the air, spiraling back and forth around the air like some kind of miniature fighter jets.

 

            I sat on a metal bench, waiting for the agent and watching the birds. They were so incredibly false looking, like something out of a dream, something terribly unreal. I heard a car pull up and then a door close, while still just watching the birds. She sat down next to me and I could feel the weight of her on the seat and smell her perfume.

 

            It was a different perfume than what Amy Heart wore. It was a sweeter scent, with a hint of spice behind it. There was something there that made me feel like I could trust her. I wanted to turn and hold her, to kiss her and to make love on the grass. We didn’t really have the time for that though, and I’m not sure I really had the energy.

 

            “You lost your car,” she said, and I could hear her turning towards me. “Is that why you called me?”

 

            “No,” I said watching the birds. “I could have gotten Debbie’s car or something if I really needed it.”

 

            “Your secretary?” she asked.

 

            “That’s right,” I nodded.

 

            “Where do we go then?” she asked, and I suddenly realized that I hadn’t looked at her yet.

 

            “Piggy,” I said looking at her, noticing the swell of her breasts under her shirt as I turned. How her pants were given such terrific shape by her legs. I then realized where I was looking and locked in on her eyes.

 

            “Piggy?” she asked, noticing that I was looking in her eyes.

 

            “Yeah,” I nodded again. “Piggy knew where she was before, he’ll know where we can find them.”

 

            “They won’t tell Piggy a second time will they?” she asked. “I mean, no matter how much you strong arm him, he won’t know.”

 

            “We don’t need him to know where she is, we need him to know where they are.” I leaned back into the chair, and stole another look at her legs and breasts. “I think I can get him to tell us where they are.”

 

            “You planning on selling them to Church?” she asked.

 

            “I don’t much care,” I said. “So long as we get there first.”

 

            “What are you thinking?” she asked.

 

            “I’m thinking about getting Piggy on our side, making him work for us.”

 

            “How?”

 

            “It’s a surprise,” I smiled at her. “You’ll like it though.”

 

            “Will I?”

 

            “I hope so,” I said. “If I work it out right, you, me, Columbia and even Piggy will all get away nice and clean. We’ll all go home and have sex and get promotions and lots of money and stuff.”

 

            “What, all four of us?” she asked. “I’m not sure I’m up to that.”

 

            “No,” I shook my head. “You and I will go home for sex, and those two kids will go home and get punished for causing so much trouble.”

 

            “You think I’m going to want to go home with you and have sex?” she asked.

 

            “I certainly hope so,” I said smiling at her, “The idea of getting to see you naked is the only thing keeping me going.”

 

            “Well it would be wrong of me to take that hope from you,” she said standing up. “Come on, let’s get this done before you fall over.”

 

            “I’m not going to fall over until this is all done,” I muttered as the birds flew past us. Then something occurred to me “Can you get a file on Amy Heart slash Cooke online?”

 

            “Yeah,” she nodded.

 

            “Okay. Let’s go to my office, get a copy of her file, put it on a disc and we can take it to Piggy to show him that even The Agency knows she killed his mother.”

 

            “You want to show him that?” she asked.

 

            “Well you guys do know it right?”

 

            “Why do you want to get stuff on disc?” she asked.

 

            “To show him, but not leave any sort of passwords on his computer or anything.”

 

            “I can show him on my cell phone,” she said pulling her phone out and showing me. “You do know about smart phones don’t you?”

 

            When I was about fifteen, my father got his first cell phone for work. It’s interesting to note how phones have come full circle as this phone was almost exactly the size of that phone that he’d gotten from work. It seemed to be made mostly of screen and had a key board, but it was the same size as the one Dad had.

 

            “That thing actually make calls?” I asked.

 

            “Yes,” she said. “It just also surfs the web, has some memory and can be used as a flotation device.”

 

            “Flotation device?”

 

            “You should see what happens when these get wet, they expand three hundred percent,” she quipped as she put the phone back into her pocket. Seeing her do that, I noticed for the first time that I’d never seen her carry a purse of any kind. I should have noticed that before, but I never had.

 

            “Nice,” I nodded. “And you can get enough information when we get there?”

 

            “Yeah, no problem,” she confirmed.

 

            “Good,” I said. “Let’s go see Piggy then.”

           

 

This is part twelve of eighteen, come back next week for part nineteen 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

July 23, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Seventeen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Seventeen: Dee’s Office

 

            It’s amazing how after a meal and some coffee, you can feel alive again no matter how tired you are. I wasn’t even feeling the fatigue anymore, beyond some stiffness in my muscles and a nagging feeling at the back of my head. I was feeling much better by the time Church offered to pay the check and I let him. We hadn’t discussed much as we sat at the table alone, but a thought kept bugging me. I looked over at the five Cardinals who had sat separately from us and seemed to ignore our very existence and then looked back at Church.

 

            “You put Christmas’s ashes in a tomb or something?” I asked as we both began pouring cream and sugar into our fifth cups of coffee.

 

            “No,” He shook his head as he stirred the cup with his spoon. “After the cremation I just took her home and as crazy as it might sound I put the urn on the mantle.”

 

            “Isn’t that what a lot of people do?” I asked him, pressing the heel of my palm against my forehead to prop that heavy weight up while I put my elbows on the table.

 

            “I didn’t intend to leave her like that,” he said drinking from the mug. “I’d sort of thought of shipping her home, having her scattered, something.”

 

            “And instead she’s been sitting on the mantle for six months?”

            “They wanted me to do time so badly,” he said and took another drink. “I’ll get to it after this.”

 

            I raised the mug of coffee to my lips and drank nearly half of it in one big gulp. I’ve never been much of a coffee fan, but sometimes one has to drink foul things in order to stay up way past one’s bedtime. I put the mug down in order to gird myself for the fact that coffee was about to hit my stomach.

 

            “What is going on anyway?” I asked, even though I was pretty sure I knew.

 

            “These two upstarts think that just because they can scare a few small time guys in their towns that they can come hassle me.” He sipped at his mug again and set it down. “Really it’s just the twins having another one of their stupid fights, but they’ve managed to get big syndicates behind them this time.”

 

            “And now they think they really can take you on?”

 

            “They have not proven to be the wisest of creatures in the past.”

 

            “No,” I said shaking my head. “They haven’t.”

 

            “So what is your plan?” he asked and then finished his coffee.

 

            “We go in, rattle Dee a little, make him tell us where his brother is and maybe even find out how he thought something as stupid as this kidnapping might work out. I mean even if he got the money, how was it going to help if you got out the next day and shot him in the head?”

 

            “Do you even care?” Church asked.

 

            “It just doesn’t make any damn sense,” I complained, “Nothing about this entire damn day has made any sense. I mean beyond one or two things.”

 

            “This whole thing seems a little odd really. I mean why are you even coming along for this?”

 

            “We’ve got to cover all the bases and resolve all the threads soon or this story’s going to be longer than the Christmas story was. I’ve got a bunch of threads to finish up and as this is first person we’ve got to take care of it all with me there.”

 

            “Your fourth wall has something of a pet door there doesn’t it?” Church asked as we got into the car.

 

            “I prefer to think that it just has a large clock on it,” I said as we got in.

 

            We drove into Mt Clemens, coming to stop at a space in front of an office building that was new when Regan was president. I followed Church into the lobby and watched as he walked directly towards the stairs. I followed him as he went up to the third floor and noticed that the five Cardinals were right behind us, but they were defiantly letting us go first. We walked to one of the offices and Church pushed the door open.

 

            “Can I help you?” the receptionist asked as we started right past her desk.

 

            “Tell Dee that Church is here,” Church said walking past the rows of cubicles with me in tow.

 

            We walked through the rows and came to an office door, which Church and I  walked through. I pushed the door closed behind us and looked around the office. The room was actually a lot smaller than I had expected, or maybe it looked that way because of the three large men inside of it. The man behind the desk wasn’t so much fat as he was simply round. It was as if someone had put three balls, one on top of another and then just threw a shirt over it. The head was nearly perfectly round, the torso also looked round as well as his lower section. He had a large mouth, the corners of which turned down. He sat down in his desk as we came in, and his two guards began to move.

 

            Church moved to my left and approached the first guard, who was dressed in overalls and a leather jacket of all things. I noticed the second guard to my right as Church moved, this one was fat, had a large drooping mustache, and had left the house in dirty jeans, a t-shirt, and a leather biker’s jacket. Church hit the one in the overalls twice in the stomach, once in the face and then yanked the man’s sidearm from under his jacket. He threw the gun over his shoulder and hit the guard again. The second guard drew an automatic from under his vest and started to point it at Church, but found that the barrel of my Webley was already under his chin by the time he got the gun aimed.

 

            “Let’s not do anything like that,” I said taking the automatic in my left hand and tossing it over my shoulder.

 

            I then looked over his shoulder and saw the second automatic stuffed into the back of his jeans. I switched the Webley to my left hand and gingerly reached behind him. I noticed, with some disgust, that he’d actually shoved the gun down into the crack of his ass. I pulled the gun out, holding the handle with my thumb and forefinger and threw it away without touching it any more than necessary. 

 

            “My name’s Wally Egman,” he said, and I noticed his mustache dropped below his jaw line.

 

            “How ya doing?” I asked. “I’m a thirty-year-old mulberry field.”

 

            “You don’t take that gun out from under my chin then I’ll make you use it, then one of us will be on the floor mister strawberry field, forever. “

 

            “It’ll hurt,” I said thumbing back the hammer. “And it’s mulberry field.”

 

            Now that our playlet was over, Dee started to talk to Church. His voice was like that of the sort of person who spent most his youth getting drunk and doing things to cheerleaders that would have gotten him arrested if his family didn’t have money. His cheeks moved in such a way when he spoke that I couldn’t help thinking that this guy was the adult version of The Big Boy.

 

            “What are you going to do with that Corvid?” Dee asked. I turned to Dee as his mouth started moving, but it wasn’t until I saw what was in Church’s hand than I started to worry. The anti-aircraft gun that he’d drawn out was so big that it even looked big in Church’s mitt.

 

            “Sweet Monkey Jesus Church!” I exclaimed with surprise. “Were you going to shoot down airplanes? On Venus?”

 

            “Just making a point,” Church said. “The five hundred is good for that.”

 

            “That thing won’t make a point,” I said. “It’s too big, you’ll just get a splat.”

 

            “Which will make my point nicely,” he said nodding. “The main point I wish to make is that you and your brother need to stop having this stupid fight in my state. Just because I go under for a couple of months, that is not an invitation for you to start fucking around and trying to take over the place.”

 

            “And if we don’t leave?” Dee asked, trying not to sweat.

 

            “Dee,” Church sighed, “I can wipe you and your brother off the map. When it comes down to it, you two are just a thing in my dream. I’m the big bad monstrous son of a bitch here to scare the two of you out of town.”

 

            “You know we can’t just leave,” Dee said, trying to sound like he didn’t have the biggest gun in history pointed at his head. “Mrs. White wouldn’t approve.”

 

            “I don’t much care what your queen thinks,” Church said. “You should also consider that she’s not here right now and I am.”

 

            “There is something to that,” Wally mentioned.

 

            “I know you can’t go direct to The White Queen, but you’re going to have to go to Colonel Frenchy or something and tell him that you’ve got to pull out,” Church smiled unpleasantly at the fat man in the chair. “Your only other choice is for big bad monstrous Corvid to sweep down and scatter your asses.”

 

            “I see,” Dee said and he made a sort of gulping motion.

 

            “I’m glad we understand each other,” Church said and like a conjuring trick the gun vanished under his jacket. He then turned to me. “Do you have anything you’d like to ask?”

 

            “Yes,” I said and let the hammer on my gun down slowly.

 

            “I’ll remember this,” Wally Egman said.

 

            “If you hurry, you can be number seven for today,” I said, trying to sound less tired and jaded than I felt.

 

            “What?” he asked.

 

            “Six, in five minutes, including Chester Cat,” I said and was gratified to see him turn pale. “Now Dee, I’ve got one or two things to ask.”

 

            “What?” he asked, daring to sound annoyed.

 

            My head was starting to spin again, and the damn floor just wouldn’t stop shifting around under me. I tightened my legs and they felt okay, the world wasn’t going to fall in. I was ready to start asking my questions.

 

            Suddenly though, something about my intended line of questioning suddenly struck me as wrong. That little bell in my head started ringing and the lights went off. There was something about the video that struck me as being totally wrong, a big bright crimson alewife staring up at me from the ocean.

 

            “Where’s Knight?” I asked.

 

            “What?” Dee asked, looking annoyed that he was being subjected to Church’s little buddy.

 

            I was annoyed too though, and if I was right Dee would be dead before much longer, so I hit him. I didn’t just hit him though, I gave him a good hard punch across the face which split his lip and very possibly loosened a tooth or two. I looked at Wally Egman over my shoulder and was gratified that he took a step back and hit the wall. I then hit Dee on the other side and watched as his rocked the other way. I then pulled the Webley from its holster and pressed the barrel into his chest. Finally I grabbed him by his tie and yanked Dee towards me.

 

            “Where is Knight?” I growled at him.

 

            “He’s dead!” Dee spluttered. “He’s been dead for a month?”

 

            “A month?’ I asked.

 

            “A month, solid,” Dee managed.

 

            “How’d he die?”

 

            “Someone shot him and Red and left them in the Maumee River,” Dee said as he grabbed at some tissues and pressed them against his face. “Fuck if I know what for.”

 

            “I’m sure there was something,” I said. “How about your brother, where’s he?’

 

            “No idea,” Dee said and then flinched back when I started to lean forward. “Look, things have changed! I swear to god I don’t know where he is!”

 

            “Then I guess we’re done here,” I said stepping back and looking at Wally. “You should take your buddy out for oysters, he looks like he could use the protein.”

 

            “Get fucked,” Wally said to me.

 

            “I could have sworn that’s what I suggested for you,” I said as we left.

 

            We walked out of the building, which was still just opening. Business hours hadn’t even really started, and the workers were only just starting to show up. I always like watching groups arrive for work, since you get to see so many women in their professional clothes. Some people might like the relaxed look, but I’ve always had a fondness for business wear.

 

            I looked at the people moving at their best to get to their jobs, and wondered briefly if they knew how good they had it. Oh sure, they might see us and think it would be great to have our jobs, but they have no idea how tough this work is. I might have some freedoms, but I also have a lot of pain to go with it. I wondered if any of them would exchange lives with me for the last twenty-four hours or so, given a complete and total accounting of those hours.

 

            We got into the large red trucks and I patted my jacket pockets and realized something. I pulled the Webley from its holster and opened it up, letting the spent shells spill out into my hand. I then reloaded it with the rounds from my jacket pocket, closed it up and put it back. I then repeated the process with the Marley and when I was done I noticed Church’s face. He had a look somewhere between amazement and horror. I must say that above all else I’m glad I lived to see that look, that’s the one that keeps me warm at night.

 

            “You went in there with two empty guns?” Church asked.

 

            “Yeah,” I nodded. “They didn’t know they were empty.”

 

            “God damn,” he muttered and put the car in gear. “Remind me never to play cards with you.”

 

           

This is part seventeen of twenty-three, come back next week for part eighteen 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

L

July 16, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Sixteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Sixteen: Church’s Return

 

            My office was hot because the air conditioning is turned off at night. The heat wasn’t to the level that it was outside, but it certainly was warmer than I would have liked. I could feel the sweat leaving each and every pore on my body. He didn’t look warm though; he was too damn cool to be warm. I was dying, and he didn’t even need the fan on.

 

            “Hello Jack,” Church said, turning around to face me and I noticed that he wasn’t in fact wearing a tie.

 

            “Hello Church,” I said walking to my desk, switching the fan on my way, and then slumping in my chair. “Did you get out today?”

 

            “Yes,” he said sitting in my client chair and smiling at me.

 

            “How long have you been here?”

 

            “Not long,” he said shaking his head. “I was told when you left the hospital.”

 

            He looked tired, which is not something I associated with Church. I thought his face looked like it had lines on it, and if my eyes didn’t deceive me, there were gray hairs where there previously had just been his dark crew cut. He ran his hand across his hair, which wasn’t as short as it could have been and looked across at me silently. I glanced at Alice, who had sat down in the other client chair. He looked at her and then at me, perhaps wondering if we’d would like some privacy.

 

            “You know, I understand it’s greatly because of you that I’m here today,” he started, “instead of sitting in a cell still.”

 

            “I just told them the truth,” I said. “How did you manage six months for weapons anyway?”

 

            “Pled down,” he said. “I was happy not to be charged with murder, they were happy not to have to charge me with it.”

 

            “Wasn’t murder though,” I said. “She shot me and would have shot you.”

 

            “But you didn’t have to put it that way,” he said looking at his hands for a moment and then glancing at me.

 

            “So what’s with the Cardinals?” I asked pointing to the door.

 

            “They’ve been watching things for me,” he said shifting in the chair. “We’ve been keeping track of the two little groups trying to move in.”

 

            “LION and UNICORN?” I asked.

 

            “You know about them too?”

 

            “Long story.”

 

            “Well, we’re now going to drum them out of town. The White Queen might pretend like she’s not afraid of anything, but Dee certainly is and UNICORN doesn’t have the strength to win the fight against LION.”

 

            “So you’re not worried?” I asked.

 

            “Fuck no,” he said shaking his head. “There is nobody in this state who can go toe to toe with me and live.”

 

            “Ah?” I said pointing a finger at him.

            “Okay, except you,” he nodded. “Credit where it’s due.”

 

            “Thank you,” I nodded. “Nice to be appreciated, so why stop by to see me? You must be busy.”

 

            “I’ve got something in your fridge.”

 

            He stood up and walked to my little refrigerator, pulling out a small bag of gummie bears from the freezer section. They were the Habrio Gold bears, which made me glad because those are the kind I like. He sat back down and opened the bag with a simple tear and then tossed them towards me so they landed on my desk.

 

            “The day I went into custody, I put these in the freezer. I decided when I got out, you and I could split them.”

 

            I reached out and took the bag, pulling it towards me. The plastic was cold, but it was rapidly warming up in the hot office. The actual gummie bears were cold, and slightly wet from the condensation that came as a natural result of all the humidity. They were like touching a part of winter that had hidden away in a vault and only now came out to see me when I needed it most. I took one from the group and popped it into my mouth. It seemed to sooth and enliven me all in one go, bringing me to a place where I was awake enough to enjoy the relaxing feeling they gave.

 

            “I don’t think anyone can have any idea how good these are right now.” I said as I rolled a couple more of them into my mouth.

 

            “Oh?” Church asked, and I looked at his face. I had to recognize a certain fact about him then.

 

            “Except maybe you,” I told him, closing my eyes to enjoy the feeling. “You probably know, but no one else, not anyone.”

 

            “You’re right,” he said pulling the bag back to him. “It is nice to be recognized.”

 

            “Told you,” I said and then opened my eyes again in time to see him offer the bag to Alice.

 

            “Thanks,” she took a few and put them in her mouth, which made me resent the bears. They were going to the place where I wanted to go at that moment.

 

            “You know what’s going down with Columbia Freedom?” I asked, feeling like I could actually do something again.

 

            “I’ve heard about it,” he nodded. “I only got out today you know.”

 

            “Are you trying to tell me you haven’t been briefed on everything that’s happened in the last six months?” I asked him. “I thought you were a big time boss.”

 

            “Yes,” he nodded. “I was kept abreast on the inside.”

 

            “Well I suppose it’s time to lay things out for everyone. LION pretended to kidnap her, but really she was just in a house provided by them.”

 

            “How do you know it was LION?” Alice asked. “You didn’t mention LION before.”

 

            “It was my little hold card,” I told her as I grabbed the bag and threw a few frozen bears into my mouth. “But if I’m going to get my friend Church here to help me, I’ll need to tell him who we’re up against.”

 

            “So LION has her?” Church asked.

 

            “Nope,” I said shaking my head. “UNICORN has her.”

 

            “Now how do you know that?” she asked.

 

            “The same way you do,” I told her. “We both know that Chester Cat works for The Queen of Hearts.”

 

            “Worked,” Church said as he pulled the bag to him to extract a few.

 

            “Thank you, I’d almost forgotten the horror of what I’ve done tonight.”

 

            “You’re in shock,” Church said biting down on a red bear and holding it in his teeth. “I’ll bet that right now, you’re so tired that later you won’t even remember if tonight really happened or not.”

 

            “No?” Alice asked.

 

            “I’ve been up as long as him before.” Church said and then looked directly at me. “You didn’t sleep on the plane did you?”

 

            “No,” I admitted. “Besides those four hours at home, I have no idea how long I’ve really been awake.”

 

            “So you should go to bed,” I think Church glanced at Alice, but I can’t be sure if that was just my paranoia.

 

            “No,” I said. “We’ve got to go get Piggy.”

 

            “Piggy?” Church asked.

 

            “Kid who works for LION,” I told him. “In fact, he’s the Duchess’s kid. If he figured out who killed his mother, then he’s giving LION information about UNICORN’s inner workings. That would be one reason LION is beating UNICORN here.”

 

            “It won’t matter in two days, because neither of them are going to have a foothold.” Church said. “That’s why I called the Cardinals home.”

 

            “It would be a help if one of them got the money from Major Freedom though,” Alice suggested. “He was getting the money together.”

 

            “How do you know it was LION that kidnapped her the first time?” Church asked.

 

            “Knight’s big belt buckle was in the ransom video,” I said, and they both looked at me incredulously.

 

            “And you held that back from us?” Alice asked.

 

            “Yeah, I nodded. “Could have been anyone’s ugly-ass belt on that thing, but I was pretty sure I knew what it was. Beyond that, there were just a few deductions and lucky guesses.”

 

            “So this Piggy kid works for LION?” Church asked.

 

            “It would seem so,” I said, even though something about that sounded really stupid to me.

 

            That warning bell, the one I never seem to listen to, was going off again. It wasn’t just one guy either, there was a full alarm going off in my head with calls for all hands on deck. I couldn’t manage to pinpoint what the problem was, I was still fighting my way through a fog of fatigue.

 

            “I think if we go get Piggy, he can take us to Dee,” I suggested, at the same time wondering why the hell I came up with that idea.

 

            “I know where Dee is,” Church said. “If I want to go talk to him I just need to go get him, it’s his dumb brother we can’t find.”

 

            “Why Dee?” Alice asked. “I thought he was working with LION.”

 

            “Yes,” I nodded, “But he knows where his brother is. Even if they’re fighting, each of them knows where the other one is.”

 

            “And he’ll tell us why?” Alice asked.

 

            “He wants to win,” I suggested and then looked at Church. “And because you can scare the shit out of entire zip codes.”

 

            “And I should come because?”

 

            “You could save yourself a lot of bloodshed by explaining to Dee exactly what you’ll do to him if he stays in Michigan.”

 

            “This doesn’t sound legal at all,” Alice said.

 

            “So stay here,” Church said standing up. “We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

 

            “He’s exhausted,” she complained to him.

 

            “No,” I said shaking my head. “We’ll get something to eat, have a few cups of coffee, I’ll be fine. Finding Columbia is too important. What you can really do is play ground control and call the Major. Make sure he doesn’t give up any time too soon.”

 

            “You think anyone can talk sense into Tom Freedom?” Church asked.

 

            “It’s worth a shot,” I shrugged, wondering if in fact I had anything like a plan, or if I was just running on some kind of autopilot.

 

            If indeed it was an autopilot, then it was a masochistic one with a penchant for paranoia and self-doubt mixed with a desire to fuck anything female. I touched Alice’s hand and impulsively pulled her up to her feet, pressing my lips to hers as soon as they came into range. I held her very close, probably squeezing too tight, though she didn’t seem to mind. I let her go and Church and I walked out into the outer office, leaving her behind.

 

            “We’ll have to take yours,” I told him as we started to walk down the stairs. “If mine isn’t in a ditch on the freeway, then it’s on its way to a recycling center or something.”

 

            “No problem,” Church said. “You want to actually stop for some food, or were you just talking?”

 

            “Food would be good.” I said as we approached one of the red SUVs and got in.

 

 

This is part sixteen of twenty-three, come back next week for part seventeen 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Fifteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Fifteen: Six With One Blow

 

            I have totally forgotten the name of the hospital I was taken to, or what county or town it was in. Despite Trooper Jim having me talk the whole way there, I think I was more than three quarters asleep by the time we got to the hospital. I fear I bled on his window, I hope someone else cleaned it up for him because he’d been through enough to be perfectly frank. I didn’t see Trooper Jim again, but it wasn’t the last I would hear about him.

 

            I was in one hell of a state when I was pulled from the dark blue state cruiser and carried into the hospital, with only the most perfunctory efforts on my part to pretend like I was capable of walking. The world wasn’t spinning per say, but it wasn’t on the most stable of moorings. The fluorescent lights hurt my eyes, which had that stinging sour feeling from being up too late. I felt like what I really wanted to do was go to sleep but every time my head drifted down someone would start tapping my cheek and shaking me.

 

            I got an X-Ray, which was a lot duller than it was when I broke my leg as a kid. On that day, I was so wound up on shock and the shot of Wild Turkey my father slipped me that I was more fascinated by the process than anything else. Now, I was just sore and tired and I wanted to go crawl into my bed and never come out again, and as a result the whole thing was deathly dull.

 

            The problem with things being dull, particularly when you’ve been up a long time, is that every little thing that doesn’t keep you up is a burden. Just sitting still was a feat of Herculean strength, because all I wanted to do was fidget if I couldn’t go to sleep. I was already told that I couldn’t go to sleep by the doctors, so every one was being very helpful in trying to keep me awake. The problem there was that none of them were really very good at keeping a person awake, because you need to really pay attention to keep them up and going, and you can’t do that and do your job too.

 

            Fortunately, after I got out of radiology something came along to keep me awake. That something was about six foot tall, red faced, and angrier than a bull with a bee sting. I could tell by the look on his face that Crammer was in bed when they called, and he wasn’t sleeping at the time. He had that sort of frustrated look that says he was in the middle of sex when the call came and he felt duty bound to answer which ruined the moment and now the wife will be asleep by the time he gets back.

 

            “I suppose you would like to tell me exactly what the hell happened?”  Crammer asked as he stood in the hall way with his fists on his hips to prevent him from using them.

 

            “Sure.” I nodded, seeing Alice coming up behind him. She was no doubt going to defend my honor.

 

            Have you ever noticed that if you tell a story twenty or thirty times it always starts to sound like bullshit? No matter how you tell it, or how truthful you are, after a while you start to think you’re making things up. I have no idea how long exactly we were in that windowless room, but it was a long time. I had gotten to the point where the phrase ‘and then my knife just snapped off and stayed in his head’ had lost all meaning.

 

            “Good lord.” Crammer finally said. “You killed six men in five minutes?”

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded, realizing we were going to hash over that again. “You know, if I’d gotten just one more of them I could get myself a big belt buckle that says ‘Seven with one blow’ on it and people would think I was talking about flies on a piece of jam bread.”

 

            “God damnit!” Crammer yelled. “Why don’t you tell me the rest of it?”

 

            “Inspector Crammer,” The Doctor said as she checked the four stitches on my forehead and put a band aid over them. “This is still a hospital. I’m bending the rules by letting you interview my patient as it is.”

 

            “I’m sorry doctor.” He said.

 

            “Hey, can I go home soon?” I asked the doctor, a thin and somewhat nervous looking woman.

 

            “I’d like to keep you here for observation if we could.” She said.

 

            “Aw c’mon doc.” I whined like a four year old child. “I’ve been up all damn day, and I only slept about four hours last night. I’d really like to go home and go to bed.”

 

            “Well, you don’t seem to have a concussion.” She said glancing at the x-rays again and then at my sad and pathetic face. I was pulling the sad eyes thing that puppies in store windows always do in order to make people come in and cuddle them. “You need to go home.”

 

            “I will.” I nodded, which didn’t hurt because of the pain killers I’d been given.

 

            “Take it easy for the next few days.” She said.

 

            “No problem.” I smiled my weary and tired smile.

 

            “Okay.” She said nodding. “We can probably let you go home. Can someone drive you?”

 

            “I can.” Alice spoke up.

 

            “Thanks.” I said smiling up at her. “My car is out of commission anyway.”

 

            Another ten minutes and we were getting into her car, which she said was actually from a motorpool the agency kept. It was a silvery gray Ford, and it had all the hall marks of a rented or borrowed car. There was nothing besides her brief case in the back as we climbed in to let anyone know a human had even been in this car recently.

 

            “Jack.” Crammer called to me as we started to get into the car.

 

            “What?” I asked, pausing with one foot in the car and one on the black top.

 

             The air was still hot, even at this late hour. The moist air made it feel like we were walking around in a steamer or something that had been turned off but still carried enough heat to burn you. It wasn’t as hot at the middle of the day, but it was hot and terribly uncomfortable. It was just getting to were the humidity made everything feel sticky, and that could make you feel like you were starting to get cold even though you weren’t.

 

            “That statey that brought you here.” He said, stopping a foot or two from me.

 

            “Jeffries.” I said nodding.

 

            “He went back and found your guns.” Crammer held my Webley and Marley revolvers out to me, and I noticed my coat over his left arm. “Got your suit jacket too.”

 

            “Thanks.” I said slipping the guns back into their holsters and then taking my jacket from him. “The hell is this?”

 

            “Nothing.” He said as I unrolled the jacket and found Cat’s two silenced Rugers with five clips wrapped up with them. “They’re nothing. I’ve never seen them, neither has Jeffries.”

 

            “Why?” I asked, handing Alice the pistols and slipping my jacket on.

 

            “You might need a little extra maybe.” He shrugged. “Put them away until you really need them or something.”

 

            “Okay.” I said. “Do you know where UNICORN is supposed to be hiding out?”

 

            “Even if I did I wouldn’t tell you.” He announced. “The doctor said you needed to get to bed and rest. I’m not going to tell you to stay off this case or anything, because I know what the result of that would be. I am going to tell you though that you need to rest.”

 

            “I know.” I said nodding.

 

            “But you’re not going to.” He said.

 

            “I don’t know.” I said shrugging. “I think I’ll drop these guns off in the safe in my office, and then go to bed and think about things when I wake up.”

 

            “You should probably do that.” Crammer said. “I’m going to go home, see how much sleep I can manage to get before I have to start this whole thing over again.”

 

            “I can’t help but notice you haven’t harangued me for not calling you when I had her.” I said.

 

            “What good would it have done?” He asked. “They shot a cop in the face because he would have gotten in their way. If everything you said is true, we wouldn’t have been on guard to bring an adult to who faked a kidnapping home. Seems like they were going to hit who ever had her. I only hope the one that shot that trooper is one of those six you killed.”

 

            “Me too.” I agreed.

 

            “I’ll see you when you’ve rested up.”

 

            “Thanks.” I said, and got into the car. I turned to Alice and asked, “Can you take me to my office?”

 

            “I thought I needed to take you home.” She said.

 

            “I always stop at the office.” I told her, hoping that I wouldn’t have to explain further. “I need to drop these guns off anyway, I don’t keep guns at home.”

 

            “Okay.” She nodded and started to drive. “How much of what you told Crammer is true anyway?”

 

            “Oh, all of it. I just left out some personal details.”

 

            “Really?” She asked. “What, he doesn’t need to know some things?”

 

            “Damn right.” I said and leaned back on her chair.

 

            “You know,” I could hear a smile creeping across her lips as she spoke, “You should give up this game and come work for The Agency.”

 

            “Should I?” I asked, trying not to lean back so far that I would fall asleep.

 

            “There is a long and proud tradition of having female agents seduce men and get them to join the agency.” She looked at me and I could just make out the quirky smile. “That wouldn’t be a bad night, would it?”

 

            “If I wanted anyone to seduce me,” I managed through the haze of exhaustion, “You would be top of the list. If I need to join up, I’ll give you a call first.”

 

            “You don’t have to wait that long.” She said.

 

            “No.” I agreed. “That’s true. In fact, I owe you dinner or something when we’re done with this case.”

 

            “Yeah.” She nodded, “You do.”

 

            I have no idea how it happened so fast, but we were suddenly pulling up into the parking lot of my building. I suppose it’s possible that I dropped off for a moment, but I don’t remember it. I sat up, and found that I’d put my hand on her smooth and bare knee. I slid it up a little, just to hear the change in her breathing. I moved it away, and twitched the hem of her skirt down to cover the knee.

 

            The big red trucks should have given me a moment’s pause as we pulled into the parking lot. We don’t have a particularly big lot, so the four big red trucks really stood out parked side by side like that. Four Ford Explorers aren’t that odd a sight in Michigan, and since it was dark as we got out of her car and started towards my building, I couldn’t make out the color.

 

            The heat had an instant effect on me, making me feel aroused and tired and given me a false sense of having energy. I completely ignored the cars, even though a tiny part of my brain was ringing that alarm bell again. I think I was distracted by some decidedly unprofessional behavior, sadly I honestly can’t remember if she pushed me up against a wall and kissed me or if I did it to her, or if it ever even happened. I think we must have kissed some, but I was so tired that I was nearly in a dream state while walking.

 

            I pushed her skirt up, I must have done that because I found her silk panties in my coat pocket later. She opened a few buttons on her shirt and I remember kissing the lace of her bra. I think maybe one of us said something about the back seat of the car and the other mentioned the floor of my office.

 

            I think I had an idea about performing some delightful act on her, and I’m not sure I would have waited to get back to my place to perform them. Of course the fact that I couldn’t have performed at that moment if my life depended on it wouldn’t have mattered much. I was so close to sleep, and so very turned on, I almost think I could have managed it while sleeping. We didn’t get the chance to find out though, because my office door was open when we got there.

 

            I was so tired, so far into a dream state that I yanked the empty Webley from its holster and shoved the door open. Three men in long leather coats turned to face me. The coats were a bright red, as were the leather pork pie hats each of them wore. I may have been exhausted beyond reason, but my mind managed to make the connection of men dressed in red leather and the trucks outside. Their total lack of reaction to my gun might have helped though. They weren’t going to be afraid of a single hand gun held by a terminally exhausted detective.

 

            “Cardinals?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah.” One of them said and then pointed over his shoulder. “He’s waiting for you.”

 

            “Just fucking great.” I muttered. “What would you have done if I didn’t come back to my office?”

 

            “You always come back.” The other one said.

 

            “Well that’s true.” I said and put the Webley back. “Well, if he can come to me, I suppose I can go in and see him.”

 

            “Should I go?” Alice asked, grabbing my hand and giving it a squeeze.

 

            “It’s not like that.” I said and winked and smiled. “It’s okay. It’s just a meeting, come on. You can tell him what a cock-blocking asshole he is.”

 

            I turned the knob of my inner office and walked in, seeing him standing at the window, just like he did in December. I don’t know if he just buys suits in bulk or if that was the same suit, but he was wearing the same one that he had when he stood there in December and had come to visit me. The same gray suit, with his shirt cuffs not fastened and he wouldn’t be wearing a tie either.

 

This is part fifteen of twenty-three, come back next week for part sixteen 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 Liberty tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment