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Liberty’s Child (Part Fourteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Fourteen: Five Long Minutes

 

            I was getting to be a little pissed to be honest. I’d had about four hours of sleep before getting to the office, and that was just in order to surprise Debbie. I’d been in pretty constant motion all day, I couldn’t even remember if I’d eaten that day. Now this simple little trip to take Columbia home had turned into another total and complete cluster fuck where I was reduced to crouching down behind what remained of my car, which was less than a year old I’d just like to point out. I can’t say I was scared because at some point fear had been totally overtaken with resentment.

 

            I looked around the front of the car and noticed that both headlights had managed to stay on, which meant that they couldn’t really see me if I stayed more or less behind them. One of them started towards the car, looking like he wasn’t going to wait for the police to show up before committing his kidnapping. I stepped around the car and fired a round at his chest and ran back behind the car. He fell to the ground and they blindly shot at the space where I had been, the bullets zipping through empty space and cutting into the trees and weeds. When they stopped the sound echoed for a while.

 

            One of them then carefully snapped two shots off and with each of them they took out each of the headlights, which returned us to something like darkness. That didn’t really bother me though, because I still had three rounds left and if I was lucky they wouldn’t expect me to come out from the same side of the car again. I stepped forward and something smacked against the back of my head.

 

            I didn’t pass out, but my knees did buckle, which was bad enough. I fell to the ground and the Marley left my hand for a moment. There was then a silenced pistol shot which caused the dirt at the back of my head to explode. I guessed I must have just been killed but was somehow still trapped in my body. The shell landed on my arm and rolled off to the ground. A second working of the gun’s mechanism and the ground popped again and again the shell landed on my arm and rolled into the crook of my elbow.

 

            It occurred to me I wasn’t dead when a soft and feminine hand reached down with painted nails and took the shells from the ground. I could smell her perfume as she crouched and while I was pretty much frozen to the spot my brain was still making a record of things. I noticed a braid of gold hair drift into view and something that felt like breast in my back as the person who had taken their vengeance out against the earth next to my head spoke in my ear.

 

            There was a sound of people walking up to the car, which was a pretty strong indicator that I was going to have to go and snatch the person I’d just snatched back again. That was annoying, but I didn’t really want to show it at the moment.

 

            I will admit that I had a pretty good idea who it was long before she spoke. The speaking that just confirmed what I had suspected. Her voice was soft, warm and alluring. It was the sort of voice you wanted to have whispering things into your ear. I’m not sure if the things she actually said were quite what I wanted, but it was nice to get to hear them anyway.

 

            “Now you just lay there quietly beautiful.” She said with lips that would look like a sport’s car’s paint job. That is they would look slick, red, and ready for action. “If you get up and do anymore shooting, I really will have to let Mister Cat kill you.”

 

            “Who the hell are you?” I heard Columbia ask and then a scuffle began in the tipped car. “No! Let go!”

 

            “No moving hero.” The voice said and something that felt very much like a pistol barrel pressed into the back of my head.

 

            “No god damn it!” Columbia shouted and someone hit her.

 

            The person holding the gun to the back of my head got up and left. I looked behind me, found that I was alone and grabbed the Marley. I stood up as silently as I could and steadied the gun with both hands. I pulled the trigger and put a single round through the head of the person who was dragging Columbia towards the SUV. I was amazed to see there were five of them, which meant that SUV must have felt like a clown car. Columbia shot away towards the car, but the owner of the voice and gun ran out into the street and struck her across the jaw with the butt of her pistol, which she then leveled at me. The paint job of the car suffered some more damage, just to the left of me. It was enough to make me shrink for a moment but I stood back up and shot once more with the gun, sadly hitting nothing but the side of the SUV.

 

            “I thought you got him.” Someone said in an accusing tone.

 

            “Well if you’re so smart you can stay with Mister Cat and kill him.” Amy Heart’s voice said angrily.

 

            The door slammed and the SUV drove away quickly. I knew that there must be two of them, and Mister Chester Cat was going to be one of them. I patted my pockets down again, looking for anything that might be useful. I had my pocket knife, the punch dagger and my Marley with one shot left.

 

            “Come on Professor.” Mister Cat’s voice said walking towards the car. “You can bore him to death with your lecture on William the Bastard.”

 

            I came around the back of the car and banged into the man who must have been the professor. I put the gun under his chin and shot him through the head. He collapsed to the ground and the tire next to me popped suddenly. I ran around to the front of the car and heard Cat laughing to himself. I’d dropped the Marley and was opening my pocket knife with my right hand when another round hit the side of the car.

 

            “That would be your last round Mister Collier.” Cat said and the black top near me popped from the shots he clearly fired from over the top of the car.

 

            I slid close to the car and a thought occurred to me. I pushed on top of the car and it was about a precariously balanced as I thought it was. The car rolled towards where I hoped Cat was standing at that moment. He shouted as the car began to roll and I heard cracking and snapping as it went into the ditch. The problem was that those were tree limbs and not human. That is, if Mister Cat is indeed human, an idea I’m still holding some reservations about.

 

            “Now that was just naughty.” He said, his smile not drifting for a moment. He always looked like Conrad Veidt in that one movie to me.

 

            “I’m sure it was.” I nodded to him.

 

            “Going to have to kill you know.” He said, and in an unexpected piece of theatrics, he raised the gun and placed both hands on it in order to bring it down with perfect aim.

 

            I might not be the brightest thing, but I’m certainly not dumb enough to just stand there and get shot. I ran to the car again and felt my shirt sleeve tug as I jumped behind the car. I checked my arm and when I was sort of safely behind the car and found that I hadn’t actually been shot. He was just toying with me, so I decided to come out and fight him. I jumped out from behind the car as he came close enough and slashed at him, missing him by miles of course.

 

            He kicked me in the chest, which knocked me back hard enough that I fell against the side of the car and slumped to the ground. I’d hit the passenger side door and had slid down to my butt, sitting in the wet grass. He walked up to me, holding his gun at an odd angle so that he was looking directly down the barrel, but keeping it only about six inches from his face. It made him look like a badly drawn comic book villain, gracing the cover of something where the hero wore a cape and solved crime with a catamite by his side.

 

            “Put your little jack knife down for me.” He said and I tossed it gently to one side, but carefully enough that I’d be able to grab it again quickly. “I’m going to enjoy this.”

 

            “Are you?” I asked as he stood over me, the barrel of his gun about two inches from my head.

 

            “Yes.” He said nodding. “I never will understand her fixation with you, but now that you’re gone she’ll act like a proper lady again.”

 

            “Oh.” I said.

 

            “She really doesn’t think right when you’re around.” He leaned closer in order to confide in me.

 

            “Women, huh?” I asked, and he laughed a rotten meat flavored laugh right in my face.

 

            I ducked my head to one side and pushed my left hand forward while grabbing his right hand with mine. I stabbed him in the side with the punch dagger, well below the ribs and was satisfied to hear him give a yelp. I then yanked it out of his side and stabbed his wrist, just below the hand bones, right between the upper arm bones. He shouted, and tried to pull away from me, but I pulled harder and smacked his face into the side of the car. I yanked the knife out of his arm and moved as quickly as I could for my pocket knife again. I then gave Cat a good hard kick in the face, which sent him rolling away from the car. I got up, holding the pocket knife down behind my arm so that I could just up and stab him without his knowing I had it. The tip had broken off my punch dagger, but most of it was still there.

 

            Cat stood up slowly, as if there was something that had caused him great pain. Humans can feel pain, but so can a slug. He was wet from the dew covered grass and his own blood and shook his hands a bit. He looked at me with disgust, the permanent smile finally gone from his head along with one of his front teeth. He looked now as if he were just disappointed in me for not being able to understand the joke.

 

            “You dumb son of a bitch.” He muttered and pulled the right side of his coat open, which exposed another pistol.

 

            His left hand reached for the gun and I leapt towards him with all the strength and speed I had left. I stabbed his upper arm with the punch dagger again, pinning his left arm to his chest and more or less body checked him. We both went down and I brought the pocket knife around, half forgetting it was there. I was thinking of just punching him in the back of the head, just below the skull, which is where the knife ended up. I must have gone into his brain stem with the dagger and it was forced further when his head banged the ground with it in it. He made some noises as we landed on the ground and I twisted the knife so savagely that I heard a snap and my right hand came free. I looked at the beaten up knife and found that the impact had broken the blade away from the body of the knife. It had broken free and all I had left was the handle. At least the blade didn’t actually break though. I could continue to have faith in these knives.

 

            I threw the end of the knife away, opened his coat and grabbed the gun from his holster. I shot him twice in the chest, and then deciding to be a completist I gave him a round in the head as well. The gun was silent, the only noises coming from the working gears of the weapon. I then was surprised to find that I was talking to the corpse, which is an odd thing for anyone to do.

 

            “That’s right bitch.” I said pointing the gun at my fallen foe again. “That’s what you get, you fuck with me. I fuck your day up motherfucker. C’mon, let’s see you start some shit now bitch.”

 

            I managed to stop before I started giggling, which would have led to full blown laughing which would become screaming in no time. I almost had to slap my hand over my mouth, but I stopped the torrent of nonsense before it got too far. I didn’t want to be found kneeling over a dead body and screaming up into the heavens, it wouldn’t have reflected well on my profession.

 

            I was about to just drop the gun and leave it at that, but I walked to the smashed up Mercedes and looked in to see if anyone was alive in there. It didn’t look like there was, so I just dropped the gun into the lap of the fellow I’d shot in the head about a hundred years ago. I looked around at the carnage of both men and cars and for a moment wished I smoked. I could have asked Liberty for one of her packs of French cigarettes which she to this day has flown over twice a week.

 

            She could have given me a lighter or some matches to go with the tin of fifteen hand rolled beauties if I had just asked. I could have asked her, right after she’d taken me to the very edge of heaven, which she had done that afternoon about a thousand years ago or so. This afternoon’s love making seemed to have happened so long ago that it might have been some family legend that happened to some long ago Collier in which ever village in Wales he left to come here.

 

            I pulled my cell phone out, looking around for police lights as I did so. I called Alice, listening to the phone ring over and over again before she finally picked it up. She must have let it ring about three hundred times, or at least four before answering. When she did, it occurred to me how late at night it was and that some people actually go to bed at night.

 

            “Hello?” She said, sounding groggy, as if she’d been asleep. It must have been heaven, to actually have been asleep. I was so tired, but I couldn’t sleep yet.

 

            “Hi Alice.” I said trying not to sound like a panicky idiot. “LION pretended to kidnap Columbia, now UNICORN really has.”

 

            “What?” She probably didn’t know she was shouting, but she did.

 

            “They are still fighting for the crown, and I think Columbia is somehow playing the part of the brown bread.” I managed, and finally saw something that looked like the flashing lights of the police coming towards me. “Listen, I’m surrounded by dead bodies, and I think I’m about to be arrested. Do you think you could triangulate my position or something and come really fast and get me? I don’t really want to leave her in that spot.”

 

            “Don’t hang up your phone.” She said. “I can probably manage the rest from there.”

 

            “Thanks beautiful.” I said. “When all this is over, if you want, I will take you on a date where ever you want to go.”

 

            “Will you really?” She asked.

 

            “You’ll just have to remind me I said that because I think I’m currently suffering from a concussion and I haven’t slept… um, ever.” The lights came close enough that I could just about hear the engines, since they were driving without sirens at the moment. It was a single red bubble on in the center of the roof, which meant it was a state trooper. “I’ve got to go, the police are here.”

 

            “Alright.” She said, “I’ll talk to you in a bit, don’t hang up.”

 

            “I won’t.” and stuffed the phone into my pocket.

 

            “Are you alright sir?” One of the officers asked as the car came to a halt and turned to block traffic.

 

            “No.” I said shaking my head. “Not even a little bit alright. My name is Jack Collier, I’m a private investigator. My client and I were driving back to her home when we were attacked, she’s been kidnapped. There are a few bodies in that Mercedes over there, and there is the body of a dead hitman over there near my car which… was beautiful before the whole hitman kidnapping my client thing came up. I have a private investigator’s license in my back pocket, but at the moment I would really like to be taken to a hospital because I think I might be suffering a head injury.”

 

            “Okay sir.” The officer said getting out of his car with his hand on his side arm. “I’m officer Jim Jefferies of the State Police. I’ll need to check you for weapons. Would you step over to the car and put your hands on the hood please?”

 

            “Oh, yeah, sure. That’s fine.” I said walked to the car putting my hands on the hood. “I don’t have anything now, but if you find a Marley thirty-eight or a Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver around here, those are mine and both valuable antiques. There’s also at least one silenced pistol that has my prints on it, maybe two. I think they’re Ruger twenty twos, but I could be wrong.”

 

            He went over me quickly, running over me with his flashlight and checking the two holsters with his hands. Having decided I was clean he walked to the car and opened the door to the back. I looked at him and decided that this guy was trying to be just a nice guy.

 

            “Listen, I’ve hurt my head and I’ve had a long day. If I sit in the back I might lie down and if I lie down, I might go to sleep. Would it be okay if I sat in the front?”

 

            He looked at me for a long moment and then at the situation around him. I tried to look pathetic and tired, which was not a stretch for me. He then decided that he probably shouldn’t take too long to decided anything.

 

            “Yeah.” He nodded, “That’ll be fine.”

 

            He helped me get into his front seat and drove me to a hospital, keeping me awake by asking me all about the case. I told him as much as I would like to have the police know, which was pretty much everything beyond the very personal details. For example he didn’t need to know who I’d had sex with, either today or any other day, so I left details like that out. Still I’d nearly fallen asleep by the time he got me to the hospital, where there were lots of people who could keep me up.

 

 

This is part fourteen of twenty-three, come back next week for part fifteen 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

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June 24, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Thirteen)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Thirteen: Or Not

 

            I had all the windows down and open, I’d even pulled the fabric sun blocker from the over head so that Columbia could stick her hands out through the open sun roof. It was actually kind of nice, sitting besides her and just diving like we were. You could forget your problems at a time like that, with a beautiful young girl sitting next to you on a warm night, driving on a lonely stretch of highway, just yourselves and the music to distract you. Only one thing could really damage a moment like that and we were on I-94, about ten minuets after going past New Baltimore when it happened.

 

            I was watching the rear view mirror, just to make sure of who was or wasn’t following us, and about half a mile after the last on ramp, I noticed a pair of headlights. This was no big deal, but kept my eye on them. Columbia was explaining something about international economic law, and how her father’s company was breaking it, when the headlights behind me went out.

 

            I may be paranoid, and I might have issues, but I know a problem when I see it. Those headlights had just gotten on the free way, and then their head lights went right out when they thought no one was looking. They did everything too early though, came on too early, turned their lights off too early, everything. They were giving me time to think of something to do.

 

            “Fuck.” I said noticing that they didn’t come back on any time soon.

 

            “What?” She asked.

 

            “There is a bar over head and another one on the door.” I said, trying to sound calm as I pressed down on the gas. “Please grab them.”

 

            “What’s going on?” She asked looking worried, but doing what I’d told her. I hit the top window’s button and grabbed the end of the fabric sun blocker for that window and zipped it shut on an automatic impulse. I was about to close the windows but decided that having them to open would preferable to shooting through the glass.

 

            “Someone has decided to take you back.” I said, and as the moon broke through some clouds I could see that the large truck was much closer than I wanted.

 

            I pushed the gas down to the floor and the large needle on the Mini’s over sized speedometer swept down towards the stereo. The problem was that I could see the big SUV was closing in. At this speed, all they’d need to do would be to bump one of my corners to send me into a spin. The Mini couldn’t keep up with whatever company had made that truck. We flew past one of those small bridges that traffic cops use to cross from one side of the free way to the other and a thought occurred to me, if I couldn’t out run them I might be able to out think them. While I composed my thoughts, Lucas With the Lid Off started to play on the ipod. The SUV came dangerously close to ramming range and I decided to go with my idea.

 

            “You know what the funny thing is?” I asked as I put my hand on the gear knob.

 

            “What’s that?” She asked as the wind blew her hair back dramatically.

 

            “I do all this for two hundred and fifty dollars a day, plus expenses. Hardly seems worth it some days.” I put my foot down on the clutch, took the car out of gear, and slammed down on the break with one easy motion, yanking up on the parking break in hope that it might help slow me down.

 

            The tires screamed as if were subjecting them to some kind of arcane torture that had been outlawed centuries ago for being even too nasty for the Spanish Inquisition to perform. The SUV sailed past, and it would be miles before they even had a reaction to what I was doing. I gave the wheel a slight adjustment, let the parking break up and the car spun gently around. I put the car back into gear and tore up the freeway, going the wrong way. A police officer must have seen what was going on because he was coming across the same small path I intended to use with his light blaring. I passed him too close and the driver’s side mirror from both our cars smashed in a crunch of glass and plastic.

 

            The officer’s siren went on as he passed me by and I could see another car nearly hit the cop when they both tried to cross at once. That was bad news, because the SUV was just coming across which meant we were now outnumbered something awful. I could have taken the SUV with the cop’s help, but now we were in real trouble. The SUV had turned its lights back on, and was coming up on the rest of this little pack of cars that were going down the road as fast as we all could.

 

            “There’s a cop!” She shouted over the wind. “Why don’t we stop?”

 

            “One officer.” I said. “This late at night, he’s got his side arm, maybe a shot gun if we’re lucky. They’ve got two cars, no doubt with three guys each, all armed. I’m not stopping until a fucking swat team shows up with lots and lots of guns, and then maybe not then.”

 

            I looked in the back window at the SUV, which had pulled up next to the highway patrol car. There was another flash besides the ones from the cop car and it suddenly swooped off the road and into the field next to the road, where it stopped. I knew then that we were pretty much fucked. The car, which was some variety of Mercedes, pulled up next to us. There were four of them in the car, and the one in the front passenger seat was rolling down his window.

 

            “Pull over.” He shouted.

 

            “What?” I screamed out the window, using the motion to cover the fact that with my right hand I was grabbing the Webley from its holster.

 

            “Pull over.” He shouted again, trying to sound louder. “We just want the girl.”

 

            “What?” Columbia screamed.

 

            “They say they just want you.” I said, seeing the SUV was coming up from behind to box us in.

 

            “Stop now.” The man said pulling out his gun and aiming it at me.

 

            “Okay.” I said nodding.

 

            “What?” She screamed and I took my foot off the gas and we started to slow down a little.

 

            I then raised the gun over the window’s edge and pulled the trigger twice, then put my foot back down on the gas. The driver of the car wasn’t fooled though and kept up even though his passenger was dead. I saw the other two fooling around in the back seat and let up on the gas just long enough to see them. I pointed the gun into the back seat and fired three times, then deciding I was through with this car fired at the front tire.

 

            The tire exploded, and it was then that I realized what a dumb idea that was. The Mercedes banked right very hard and the front of the Mini struck it. The SUV behind us didn’t have time to react and plowed into the back end of the car. The car swung in a hared arc to the right and then began to roll over.

 

            The car made crunching noises as we tumbled over and the world began to turn in actually a pretty slow motion. There wasn’t as much sound as I would have expected after the first roll, and those first noises were primarily glass breaking. The car didn’t seem to bounce, just roll a couple of times and then come to a stop. The windshield and back window had managed to go through all of that without even cracking, but when I looked behind I noticed the windows in the back seat hadn’t been so lucky. I figured that there were probably two window shaped sections of shattered glass, holding their basic shapes in defiance of being destroyed.

 

            I was surprised that none of the air bags decided to burst open. I wondered for a moment, as we slowly rolled over again, if there wasn’t something wrong with their sensors or something. Maybe the whole thing happened too slowly for it to kick in or something, I don’t know.

 

            What’s amazing is that we landed upright with all four wheels on the ground. The car had stalled in its roll, but beyond that we were alive. I put my foot down on the clutch and turned the key, and thanked the gods of automotive quality as the car started right up with its customary call of joy. I put the car I gear and heard something whine as we started. One of the tires had slipped off its rim and went flat, but I would deal with that later, right now we were going to get away.

 

            Or at least we were going to.

 

            The problem with the plan was that the SUV struck my door and the air bags exploded around me. They popped open from the side of the seat, the steering wheel, and I would have sworn that the gear knob popped open and a small air bag deployed from that. We slid maybe ten feet side ways before hitting something and rolling again. This time we stopped rolling on my side of the car. We were just on the shoulder of the road, another push and we’d go down into the ditch next to the freeway. I noticed the glass was gone from the top window, but the fabric cover remained. That would at least give me a few seconds where they couldn’t see what I was doing.

 

            “Are you alright?” I asked as I opened the arm rest compartment and pulled out my black plastic punch dagger.

 

            “I think so.” She said.

 

            “Okay.” I said unbuckling my seat belt. “When I get out, you unbuckle and get into the back seat as fast as you can. Okay?”

 

            “Okay.” She said.

 

I reached back with my right hand and pulled the Marley thirty-eight out. I had no idea where the Webley was and at that moment I didn’t feel inclined to go looking. I held the black punch dagger, a present from a friend a year or two ago, against my arm so that no one would see that I had it until the last moment.

 

            “Are you still alive in there?” Someone from the black SUV asked us.

 

            They opened their doors and started to walk toward us with intent. Their boots making crunching noises as they walked across the shattered glass littering the streets. I drew back the hammer of the Marley and waited until one of them was almost close enough to touch the car. I aimed as carefully as I could in the cramped conditions and when I was sure of my self, fired a single shot that went right up his nose and through his brain. There was a considerable amount of scurrying back as he hit the ground and I used that opportunity to burst through the window, or wiggle through the best that I could. I saw something move as I started to come out and fired at it. I heard a shout as the bullet hit someone in some part of their body. I ran around the back of the car and used it to cover from the shots that hit the hood.

 

            “Don’t!” Someone yelled. “She’s in there, we can’t risk it!”

 

            “That’s right mother fucker.” I muttered as I thumbed back the hammer. “You’re going to have to come out and get her, and then get shot by me.”

 

            I patted my sides to find the speed loader for the Marley, and then realized that it was in my jacket pocket, which was in the back seat of the car, which was only a few feet away in actual distance but was a million miles from here in reality. I had four rounds left, and an unknown number of assailants to kill, which was just great really. I looked down at the stones on the shoulder, it all else failed I could declare my enemies dumb and throw rocks at them. I held the punch dagger tight between my fingers, just glad to have something in my hand.

 

            My only solace was that there had to be about a dozen cars on their way by now, you couldn’t have what happened here happen and not get a full alarm going off. If I could wait them out for just five minutes, I’d be fine. As it turned out, I was actually right about the time it took them to show up. Of course the down side was that these would prove to be five of the longest minutes of my life.

 

 

This is part thirteen of twenty-three, come back next week for part fourteen 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.

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Twelve)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Twelve: Well, That Was Easy

 

            Debbie had long since gone home by the time we got back to my office, which meant the two of us had the place to ourselves. The sun had mostly gone down, but you couldn’t really see it from my office window because it faces north. I’ve always thought I should get an office that faces another direction, just so I could get some blinds and then I could get that neat slashing effect when the light hits them just right.

 

            I sat down at my desk, and it only just occurred to me how long I’d been going for. Not that going all day was that big a strain after the time I’d just spent, but it was good to get off my feet all the same. I could feel the wish to sling my legs up and rest my shoes on the desk, but looking across the desk at Columbia’s face stopped me. I still had business to do before the night was over.

 

            “So, why this kidnapping lark?” I asked her, trying to start the conversation.

 

            “Why did you come for me?” She asked. “I could have gotten the money from Daddy in a day or two.”

 

            “I still haven’t exactly found you, if I decide that you don’t really need finding.” I told her looking to my fridge, where there would be a can of coke or some water or something.

 

            “Would you really do that?” She asked.

 

            “I don’t know yet.” I said standing up and looking at my fridge. “I’ll need to hear why you decided to do this first.”

 

            I walked around my desk towards the fridge, which Columbia clearly thought was me coming towards her. She reached out for me and I took her hand to avoid looking rude. My throat was dry, but I sat down in the other client’s chair. She leaned over and kissed me, which I couldn’t help but think was an impulsive movement. It was also clearly an impulse to slide her tongue into my mouth, and to grab the back of my head as well as leaving her chair and pressing her body into mine.

 

            “I’ve always wanted you.” She said putting her fingers around my tie and taking it off. “I’ve had a crush on you since like, forever.”

 

            “Okay, hold on.” I said gently pushing her off me and putting her back into her chair. “I really need a drink of water.”

 

            I got up, and hoped that the loose cut of my pants still protected my visual signals. I got out of the chair, crossed two steps and opened the fridge. There were only three bottles of water, so I took one out and opened it. I took nearly half the ice cold water down in a single go, finally letting it stop when I absolutely had to breath. I took in a gasp of air, and felt like my skin had gone electric. I looked back at her, and found that I was staggered by the beauty that was sitting in the chair looking at me.

 

            “Would you like a drink of water?” Was about the only thing I could manage. “All I seem to have is water.”

 

            “That’d be nice.” She agreed.

 

            I bent over and took another bottle of water from my little fridge and sat down in the second client chair again, finding it more dignified than climbing into her lap. As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about what was or wasn’t dignified, since as I sat down she moved across again and made a fresh attack.

 

            Her skin was warm, soft, and had a firmness under the smooth curves that made me respond instantly. I put my arms around her and squeezed her body close to mine. I know what you, with your detachment, are saying right now. You are asking exactly what the hell I’m thinking or if in fact I am actually thinking at all. This sort of thing always comes to a bad end you are saying to yourself, and if I were smart I wouldn’t allow this sort of thing to happen.

 

            Well your armchair quarterbacking is all well and good, but you weren’t there were you? I don’t know how often it happens to you that a beautiful young woman leaps towards you ask almost begs you to take her right there on the desk, but it doesn’t happen to me. I’ve already had my thirtieth birthday and here was a gorgeous young thing eight years younger than me in the sort of shape that I could only have wished to have been allowed to touch when I was her age. Of course I had to prove to her that the waiting for her to even get old enough to be considered wasn’t in vain.

 

            While I do not discuss the finer details about my love life here, there are some things you should know. Desks are not really conducive to lovemaking, at least not like they are in the movies. You can manage, but really you should go find a bed or something. Overstuffed leather client chairs provide a better environment than desks do, but they still present problems. Floors should really be right out and should only be used in the direst of circumstances, at least if you have hardwood flooring like my office does. She didn’t seem to mind, but I couldn’t help but notice my knees and elbows weren’t what they used to be.

 

            “So, what the hell is this kidnapping thing?” I asked as we lay on the floor, letting the sweat slowly evaporate in the air.

 

            “We’re trying to stop daddy’s expansion thing.” She said. “He’s hurting so many people out there, he’s going to destroy entire countries if he expands out.”

 

            “How is a hundred million going to stop him?” I asked. “Isn’t that pocket change?”

 

            “That’s just going to help fund the group.” She said running her hand around my chest. “What’s going to do it is pointing out that he can’t expand because his home is in such a mess. If the tree seems to have rotten roots, no one will think it’s a good idea to let it stretch out further.”

 

            “So you decided to try and get a hundred million dollars to an international crime syndicate like LION?” I asked, and her reaction was very close to being priceless.

 

            “What?” She shot up and looked down at me, her eyes filled with shock. “How do you know about them?”

 

            “I’ve had a run in with one or two of their people.” I said remaining calm.

 

            “They’re not criminals!” She said. “They’re freedom fighters. They’re trying to take down the greater evils in our world. If they’re breaking laws it’s only because the people who make the laws have them stacked against us in their favor.”

 

            I decided not to argue her about the finer points of criminality, since it wouldn’t have done any good. I raised my hand and stroked her cheek gently with the backs of my fingers. I was pleased, and slightly disturbed, to note that she reacted exactly like her mother always did. She closed her eyes, smiled and turned her head to kiss the knuckles as they passed. It simultaneously excited me and turned my stomach to consider that I had now bedded two generations of women from the same family. The biggest problem was that in considering her mother, I had to consider that I knew Columbia when she was as young as her sister was at that moment.

 

            “So why?” I asked. “I mean his business got you everything you have. Besides, I thought Freedom Corp. was supposed to be a real stand up organization.”

 

            “You know how they bought out Fascism Inc. right?” She asked.

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded, I’d sort of glanced at the story when it happened.

 

            “Well he was supposed to get rid of their board and stuff, but he kept them on as consultants or something.” She said, looking disgusted. “Now they run the company, they’re turning Freedom Corp. into a bigger, more powerful version of Fascism Inc.”

 

            “So how will this stop him?”

 

            “If his deal is ruined, maybe he’ll wake up to all the damage his company is doing.” She sounded a bit desperate, like she didn’t really believe it.

 

            “You know what I think?” I said, considering an idea that probably wasn’t a terrible idea at the time, but later would turn out to be.

 

            “What?” She asked.

 

            “I think you should go confront the Major, tell him what you’re doing.”

 

            “Why would I want to do that?” She asked sitting back from me.

 

            “Because then he knows what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and that this can all be over when he stops being a cock bite. You want to wake him up, go tell him to wake up.” I explained, trying not to talk rapidly which is always a hint that I’m pulling something. “Then your mother will stop worrying, your father will really start worrying and so long as no one else knows what’s going on you can keep it up. You could even make it worse if you wanted.”

 

            “Yeah.” She said, nodding with agreement. “Okay, let’s go.”

 

            She stood up and started gathering her clothes. I declined to point out that Crammer and Alice were probably still at the house, even at this hour. We would be nabbed, photographed and she would be in a police station being debriefed by a squad of talkers within an hour of our arrival. However, none of that would be my fault, because how was I to know they’d be there? She couldn’t get too mad at me and I would get paid because the job would get done. Then she’d run off again, but this time she’d tell her father what was going on and he’d have to deal with that, without me. Really, Major Freedom had it coming, I’ve never really liked him much.

 

This is part twelve of twenty-three, come back next week for part thirteen 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.

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Eleven)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Eleven: Piggy, Mok and Griff

 

            It was a crappy little condo so near the road you could see the intersection from where I was standing as I walked up to the door. You could also see Macomb Community College on the other side of the intersection, which wasn’t too bad. It was cross corners so it was kind of nice. However if you looked the other way you could see a Big Boy, which kind of sucked. There was nothing across the street the other way, and long may it be that way. This township looked like it was staging  war against trees and grass for a while there, but now that the economy has ground to a halt they seem to have stopped their campaign of destruction.

 

            I could smell the exhaust, coming across the parking lot and bumping up against the building like it did. Garfield is a busy street, and even as late as it was getting enough traffic that the fumes wafted over to where I was standing. I didn’t reach into my coat and pat the revolver, feeling the extra weight of it was enough for me to know it was there. I rang the bell and waited until the door opened.

 

            For some reason, I was expecting a great big guy with lots of bristling hairs that stuck out in every direction. I didn’t expect to see a rather neatly trimmed guy about my height but no where near my size. He was wearing a tank top and jeans so low that they showed about five inches of his boxer shorts. He blinked at me, and then the tough guy that lurked within him tried to come out.

 

            “What the fuck you want?” He demanded.

 

            “You would be Piggy.” I said smiling slightly.

 

            “Who’s asking?” Piggy demanded lifting his head to try and look tough.

 

            “Piggy.” I sighed softly. “Where do they have her?”

 

            “What the fuck you talkin’ about pal?” he asked.

 

            I didn’t really want to rough him up too bad, so I merely tapped him in the stomach. I barely put my hand in a fist before hitting him, but the strike was enough. He looked trim and fit, but he was pretty soft. He doubled over as the air blasted out of him. I pushed him into the condo and pushed the door closed behind me.

 

            He was already getting up, and looking like he would start to get resentful at any moment about my giving him a tap. I decided that the best thing to do here was to establish my dominance over him as a bigger dog than he was. I whacked him one quick jab across the cheek, which put him down on the ground. I stood over him and took two steps to look into his living room. There was nothing, so I stepped over him and went up stairs. The rooms upstairs were empty of people, so I came down stairs to talk to him. He had gotten up and was clearly getting ready to make a phone call as I was coming down. I slapped the phone out of his hands and sent it flying into the kitchen, I then slapped him upside the head like an older brother might.

 

            “What’s your damage man?” He nearly shrieked as I grabbed him by his short hair and pushed him down into his big leather couch.

 

            “Where is Columbia?” I asked pulling the Webley out from under my coat. It’s the bigger of the two guns and never fails to impress. “I should warn you that if you say something stupid like ‘Columbia who’ or something I will shoot you.”

 

            “Aw fuck.” He managed.

 

            “That would be an accurate appraisal of the situation.” I commented.

 

            “She’s okay, she ain’t been hurt or nothing.” He said quickly, his eyes watching the revolver like a bird watching the biggest snake it’s ever seen.

 

            “Don’t you think I should be the one to establish how alright she is?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah, whatever man.” He was shaking pretty badly at this point and I decided that he understood the fact that I had a big gun. I put the gun back in its holster and sat down on a chair near the couch. He looked really scared, which was good, I wanted him scared.

            “Shall I tell you what we are going to do now?” I asked, “We’re going to go and get her so I can take her home.”

 

            “B-b-b-but Dee would kill me!” He whimpered.

 

            “You should have thought of that before embarking on this kidnapping lark.” I said and his desperate look was enough to tell me more was needed.  “Look kiddo, I know right now I’m being a big bad heffalump to you, but I need you to be brave for a few minutes and help me do what’s right.”

 

            It didn’t make any sense to me, I thought I was just babbling words out, but it seemed to make some kind of sense to him because he nodded with renewed determination. He stood up, grabbed his jacket and started to put it on. I happened to look at a picture frame and noticed a picture in it. I wondered for a moment why a kid like Piggy would have a picture of The Duchess framed in his place. Now I could have gone the rest of the day wondering what the connection is, but I decided instead to just ask him.

 

            “Who’s this?” I asked tapping the glass.

 

            “My mom.” Piggy said as he grabbed his keys.

 

            “I worked with her once.” I said as we left the condo and went back into the pervasive heat of summer.

 

            “Really?” Piggy asked as he locked the door.

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded, “Years ago though.”

 

            “It would have to be.” He said. “She was killed six years ago.”

 

            “I know.” I said. “I heard about it.”

 

            “Left me a lot of money though.” He said. “I did alright with it too.”

 

            “Yeah.” I said. “I’ll bet, so where are we going?”

 

            “You really serious about this? We really have to go get her?”

 

            “I’m really serious.” I said. “We really have to go get her. C’mon, her father’s worried sick about the whole thing.”

 

            “Yeah, like he even knows who she is.” He grumbled as we walked to my car.

 

            I let the comment pass, but I realize now that I should have given it more time to slosh around. At the moment though, I was guessing that I was about twenty minutes away from calling Debbie and taking Columbia home so that her parents could explain the great dangers involved in going with guys whose nicknames described their faces.

 

            We drove to, a location that wasn’t too far away from his house, only a few blocks really. It was just one of the sub-divisions that littered the landscape in that part of Michigan, sitting like little island of deadly banality. We pulled up to a house he specified and I drew out the Webley from its holster.

 

            “What are you doing?” Piggy asked, his eyes growing large.

 

            “You and I are going in there to get her.” I said looking at him calmly while thumbing back the hammer. “You think I was going to get them to give her up by asking nicely?”

 

            “It’s not like that.” He said walking towards me, “You got it all wrong. C’mon, I’ll show you.”

 

            He walked to the door and twisted the handle, pushing the unlocked door open with ease. I slipped the Webley into my front pocket and let my suit coat drape over it. I followed him into the house and I saw something I must say I didn’t expect but I probably should have.

 

            Columbia was sitting on an orange leather couch with her feet propped on a glass topped coffee table, a channel flicker in her hand, watching VH1’s I Love the 80s on a big screen TV. There wasn’t anyone else in the room at the moment, but I sort of knew that would change soon. She looked up at Piggy and a smile crossed her lips before she looked at me and then her face crashed.

 

            “Shit.” She said turning the TV off and tossing the remote down on the coffee table in front of her. “Hi Jack.”

 

            “Stockholm syndrome kicks in this quickly now does it?” I asked, pulling the gun from my pocket, easing the hammer down and putting it into its holster.

 

            “So you’re the ground control he called?” She asked grabbing a bottle of water and taking a sip of it.

 

            “You are no doubt aware that right now your mother is a bit worried.” I announced, just to be saying something. “I mean if I shot Piggy here and dragged you back home they would call it case closed and give me a big fee.”

 

            “It’s not like that.” Piggy said while cringing. Columbia stayed cool though, her eyes just flicked from him to me.

 

            “Hey, what’s going on?” A fairly thin guy with tortoise shell glasses and a mullet that made his head look like a calf’s body came in.

 

            “My mother called her paramour.” Columbia said with irritation.

 

            “I prefer the term fuck bunny myself.” I said looking back at her, but keeping the tortoise shelled calf boy in my sights.

 

            “Whatever.” Columbia said. “Don’t worry about it Mok, just get Griff.”

 

            “Griff?” Mok shouted down a hall way and a pair of heavy boots came stomping down the hall.

 

            “What’s up?” A spiky haired kid who was built like a small continent asked.

 

            “They’ve sent someone.” Columbia said pointing at me.

 

            “We could kick his ass.” Griff said, smiling at me with a set of grills that must have been intended to blind me because they didn’t scare or impress me.

 

            “I could kill you before you got three steps.” I announced.

 

            “Wanna bet?” Griff asked cracking his knuckles.

 

            I don’t claim any great speed, I’ve got no aspirations to be a gun fighter, but I am no slouch. The Webley was out pretty fast, the hammer tugged back and ready for action in a little less than a second. The way Griff reacted I might have actually shot him. He jumped back and tripped over his own feet to tumble to the ground. Piggy actually ran around the corner and hid down the hallway, leaving Mok to face me on his own. Mok just stood and shivered, I assume because no one had ever pointed a gun at him before.

 

            “Now Columbia,” I said looking at her, but keeping my gun aimed at Griff. “Not to repeat myself too much but do you want to explain what the hell is going on, or should I just shoot everyone and claim that I got your kidnappers?”

 

            “Oh crap.” Mok whimpered and collapsed onto the floor.

 

            “God damnit.” She muttered and stood up. “Can I get my purse or will you shoot me too?”

 

            “Get her purse for her Mok.” I told him and then looked at Griff who was lying on the floor with his hands up by his face as if terrified of the world. “Piggy, help Griff up.”

 

            “Right.” Piggy said and bent over to help get Griff to his feet.

 

            “You don’t need to pull this tough guy shit.” Columbia said as Mok came back with her purse.

 

            She snatched the purse from him and started towards the door. I followed her, swept up in her jet stream. We walked to the car and she got in, near to tears I thought. As I got in and started the engine, I noticed that in fact a few tears had started to escape. I put the car in reverse and started out of the drive way, when we got on the road she started to speak. It was a cracked voice though and she had to start over.

 

            “So now you just take me home?” She asked, through her sobs. “Take me back so they can treat me like I’m ten? I’m twenty-two you know! If I want to go hang out with friends for a few days I should be able to.”

 

            “That would be fine.” I agreed. “It was the video where they were demanding money that got to the old man.”

 

            “Of course it was.” She said, and it looked like some sort of damn was breaking. “All he fucking cares about. So now you’ll take me back there?”

 

            “No.” I said shaking my head. “We’re going to my office. You’ll tell me everything, and then together we’ll decide if you want to go home or back to hang out with Piggy or what.”

 

            “Really?” She asked, light seeming to break through for the first time. “You won’t just take me back?”

 

            “You’re a grown up.” I told her. “You’re old enough to know what you want to do, but we are going to discuss what you and your friends think you’re doing.”

 

            “Well we…” She started but I held my hand up.

 

            “When we get to my office.” I said pulling out my cell phone. “Right now I’m driving and I have to consider the fact that I nearly shot some damn kid who has probably never even seen a real gun before.”

 

            I scrolled through until I found Debbie’s cell phone number and called. She didn’t answer, but I decided to let the voice mail system go through its long list of options before it finally let me record a message.

 

            “I’m a full hour ahead of schedule and on my way back to the office, just letting you know.” I said and then hung up. “When we get to my office, we can talk about everything.”

 

            “Okay Jack.” She said and touched my hand. She then ran her fingers up my arm and rubbed my bicep for a moment before retreating to her side of the car.

 

            It wasn’t an entirely unwelcome feeling, but it did make my skin crawl a little. It was nice, because she was a beautiful young woman who looked a lot like her mother. The problem was that I’d known her since she was ten and that made me feel a little creepy enjoying that sort of contact. She was just a kid in part of my mind, even if another part was informing me that she certainly wasn’t a kid anymore. I put the thoughts out of my mind, which meant they migrated lower and caused more problems, but my suit isn’t so tight that you can tell while I’m driving.

 

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

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Ten)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Ten: Eddie the Bear

 

            As I was driving back to my office, I couldn’t get the image from the video out of my head. There was one single clue in the entire stupid thing, but you had to know exactly what you were looking for and even then it might pass you by. It wasn’t much of a clue, or even a hint, if you had never seen that belt buckle before. It might be that even if you had seen the belt buckle before you wouldn’t recognize it, but I did. It was a custom made piece, and the last time I’d seen it was in early spring of this year. It was possibly also because the wearer had a habit of sticking his thumbs into his belt and holding his hands in such a way as to frame the buckle.

 

            The problem was, beyond the very basic and simple fact that I’d completely solved the case this fact was utterly useless to me. It didn’t help me any to know that Knight was where Columbia was, which meant LION was holding her, because it didn’t tell me where LION was holding her. However, it gave me a place to start looking.

 

            I would have to start with finding this Piggy guy, and from there I guessed he would be able to lead me to them. I then, for no other reason than vague association, thought of Eddie. Eddie the Bear used to hang out with a kid with kind of a piggy sort of face. It could be that Eddie would know about this kid named Piggy, be able to tell me where I could find him. I phoned Debbie and told her that I would be back to the office later than expected and she could just close up the office if I didn’t get back on time. Then, I started towards Eddie’s place, assuming he was still in residence of course.

 

            It didn’t take me too long to get to Eddie’s place since his house is actually somewhat close to my office, while being far enough away that I don’t have to worry about running into him on accident. I stopped on the street in front of his house and looked at the crap that littered the yard. This side of town, no one much cared what you did with your yard since the houses were far enough apart. He lived in an old farm house on a fairly large parcel of land that had mostly grown into woods. He had three big barns though, and it was in there that he grew his product for distribution. I have no interest in his product though; I just wanted to talk to him for a bit. The door was open with the screen door closed to prevent too many flies. I knocked on the door and waited nearly a minute before banging on it again.

 

            “Yeah?” a tremulous voice asked.

 

            “Where’s Eddie?” I shouted through the door.

 

            “Wait a sec,” The voice asked and after a little while a young man came to the door and looked through the screen as if trying to divine a lighthouse through a thick and heavy fog. Eventually he decided to talk to me. “You a cop?”

 

            “My name’s Jack Collier,” I said through the door, trying not to sound angry. I could smell the wide variety of smokeable substances as the odor drifted through the door. “Is Eddie here?”

 

            “Jack?” a voice I recognized asked and a shape came jumping and leaping through the collected riff raff inside the house. He bounced his way across the floor and opened the door to get a look at me. The speed freaks eyes were wide and wild as always. He laughed his stupid laugh as he bounced in place. “Nice to see you man, how you been?”

 

            “I need to talk to Eddie, can you go get him?” I asked.

 

            “Sure thing!” He smiled his rotten toothed smile at me, and his breath could have killed a small village. “C’mon Roo, we’ll have to drag him down.”

 

            They went up the stairs and a few other faces came up from the floor to examine the newcomer. They were the usual kind of rodental people who hung around Eddie’s place, sucking off his kindness and stupidity. He always had a great deal of people, one might call friends if one was feeling uncommonly generous, about the house.

 

            After a bit of waiting, down came Eddie the Bear down the stairs. Bump, bump bump on his head as Roo and Tig dragged him. As far as I know, this is the only way Eddie’s ever taken the stairs, and I wonder if he knows there are better ways to do it besides being dragged down by his friends. I felt the fact that they’d brought him as he was sleeping, naked but for a red t-shirt, was a little uncalled for but I let it pass at the moment. Tig seemed to notice and threw a blanket over his nudity as Eddie came to.

 

            “Get me some bread and honey huh?” Eddie said as he sat up.

 

            “Right,” Roo said and hopped into the house to get it.

 

            “Hi Eddie,” I said to him from the other side of the screen.

 

            “Oh bother,” Eddie muttered to himself and stood up on the second try. He wasn’t a trim man, and having been dragged down the stairs was something you needed a few moments to recover from. “Gimme a second.”

 

            He managed to get the blanket tied around his waist to make a sort of kilt, which he deemed enough to talk to me on the porch in. He came outside with me into the strong July heat and looked at the sun, which was already low in the sky and would be setting in another hour or two.

 

            “What do you need?” he asked as he closed the screen door behind him.

 

            “You hear about what happened to Columbia Freedom?” I asked.

 

            “Why the hell would I care what happens to her?” he asked, leaning against the door.

 

            “She was kidnapped, you knew about that?”

 

            “No,” he shook his head, still confused as to why I was mentioning someone he’d barely even heard of. “When’d that happen?”

 

            “Weekend.”

 

            “I was here man,” he said waving a hand around. “We ain’t left here in like a week.”

 

            “No,” I said shaking my head. “I don’t think this has anything to do with you.”

 

            “What are you bugging me for then?” he asked. “I don’t need the hassle man.”

 

            “You know that kid you used to hang out with all the time, the one with the sort of piggy face?”

 

            “Piggy?” Eddie asked.

 

            “Yeah, the piggy face.”

 

            “Yeah, his name’s Piggy,” Eddie said nodding. “What about him?”

 

            “I need to find him. Some people are saying that he’s the last person seen with Columbia.”

 

            “Oh bother,” which was the most explosive profanity he ever used.

 

            “Exactly,” I agreed. “So I need to find him and get that sorted out before the police decide to find him and he goes saying he was here all weekend or something and then the police might come and really bother you.”

 

            “He’s got a place out by Hall and Garfield.”

 

            “Where?” I asked and then smiled. “Because if I find him first no one has to even know he might have ever stopped here at all.”

 

            “Hang on,” Eddie said and stumped his way into the house. A few minutes later he came back with a slip of paper with an address written on it. “It’d be nice if no one ever finds out about this.”

 

            “Keep your kids quiet,” I said pointing into his living room.

 

            “I’ll do my best. You need anything else?” he asked, a twinkle of an idea in his eye. “I could give you a bag, or maybe one of the girls would like to blow you or something? I mean to seal the deal.”

 

            “This will do,” I said holding up the address and smiling at him. “You just keep your nose clean.”

 

            “Sure,” He said and let the door swing closed as I turned and walked back to my car.

 

            I got to the office just as Debbie was shutting down for the night, and started to explain what had happened today. She looked disapprovingly at me when I mentioned talking to Liberty in her room but she let it go for the moment. I kept telling her as I walked into my inner office and went to the safe. She followed me into the office but I could hear her breath catch when I knelt down to open the safe.

 

            “Jack?” she asked as I started to work the combination.

 

            “Yes?” I asked looking at her.

 

            “You’re…” she stopped for a moment I could see worry in her eyes. “You’re getting them?”

 

            “I know what’s going on now,” I said pulling the fire safe from the big floor safe. “I can’t take a chance.”

 

            “Yeah, but can’t you get some back up or something?”

 

            “It’s just a kid,” I said smiling at her as I slipped my shoulder holster on and slung the Webley into it. I checked the Marley thirty-eight and slipped it into the belt holster Debbie had bought me as a present after my trip to the hospital. I put the belt holster just above my left butt cheek, so that I could grab it with either hand when I needed it. I then grabbed a full moon clip for each gun and slipped them into my pocket.

 

            “Okay, you’re gonna tell me you need all those for some kid?” she asked.

 

            “Debbie, I’ll be fine, I’m just making sure,” I said, trying to make sure I didn’t talk with a quavering voice.

 

            “Can’t you call someone?” she asked. “What about this Liddell woman?”

 

            “Can’t risk it,” I said slipping everything away and standing up. “Official presence could cause trouble; they might get in the way.”

 

            “Does her mother really fuck that good?” she asked. “You need to go charging off like a knight on a quest?”

 

            “That’s quite enough of that talk thank you,” I said slamming the safe closed a little harder than I meant to. “If we do this right, it can all be done quietly.”

 

            “What do we care about quiet?” she asked. “You care about Major Freedom’s deals?”

 

            “Not really,” I said.

 

            “I mean the major is so out there he needs to call ground control.”

 

            “If I’m right I can just go get her.”

 

            “You think LION is behind this, and you can just go get her?” she asked.

 

            “Yeah,” I nodded and smiled the smile that makes girls go weak at the knees. “You watch, in two hours I’ll be calling you to say I’m on the way home.”

 

            “How can you be so sure?”

 

            “It’s a feeling I’ve got about the whole thing,” I said, walking towards the door.

 

            “How can you just walk into it like that?” she asked as I touched the door.

 

            “If I’m right, I’ll be sliding along the edge and grab something they’re not even looking at.”

 

            “How can you?” she started but I raised a finger.

 

            “No more questions,” I announced and walked out the door, letting it close behind me.

 

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

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Nine)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Nine: The Video

 

            The video was amateurishly shot, or at least it was meant to look that way. It was shot on some kind of camcorder, a small handheld model I guessed. It started with a close up of Columbia’s face, which was wet with sweat and her mascara had run but she looked alright. The person with the camera then moved it up to show the handcuffs that they’d secured her to the small metal bed with and then went down her body to show the rope they’d used to tie her legs to the other end of the bed.

 

            There was something wrong about it though, the jerks and shakes looked like someone trying to look like they didn’t know what they were doing. Someone started talking in the back ground, but it was indistinct and I couldn’t make it out. The camera moved quickly and swiped across the room, stopping at someone’s waist and then moving around again. I didn’t stop the video, and I really hoped that no one noticed my face when the camera stopped for that moment on the waist. The camera then swung around and alighted on a ski masked face.

 

            “As you can see, we really do have Major Freedom’s daughter, since you decided to ignore our earlier demands, the price has now gone up. One hundred million or we will ship the remains of her to the four corners of the earth.”

 

            “You’ve been warned,” a voice said from off camera and then the video abruptly ended.

 

            “You need a copy?” Alice asked me after a second of looking at the blank screen.

 

            “No,” I said. “I think I’ve seen everything you have. I mean I could go over it frame by frame, but I think it’s just a room somewhere. I mean there are a hundred thousand rooms like that, maybe a million in Michigan alone.”

 

             “You didn’t see anything?” she asked, and I wondered for a moment if she’d been watching me instead of the video.

 

            “No,” I shook my head and bit my lower lip which is usually a sign that I’m trying to process things in my head.

 

            “You talked to anyone yet?” Cramer asked.

 

            “A couple of people, didn’t get anything.”

 

            “Who did you talk to?”

 

            “Someone mentioned that she’s been hanging out at the Flower Bed a lot recently, so I went and asked them about it.”

 

            “What’d that net?” Cramer asked.

 

            “Nothing,” I said turning and looking at him. I always like to face someone and look them in the eye when I lie to them. “She liked hanging out with the girls, she thought it was exciting.”

 

            “Wonderful,” he growled, chewing his cigar into a pulp. “You didn’t think to press them any further?”

 

            “I’m just a private little gumshoe,” I said smiling at him. “I just don’t have that kind of authority.”

 

            “No, I guess not,” he conceded.

 

            “You find anything yet?” Alice asked.

 

            “I’ve been on this case four whole hours,” I reminded her. “Without anything like a support staff.”

 

            “Who told you where she’d been hanging out?” Cramer asked taking out his notebook and opening it to a page.

 

            “Client,” I said and was gratified to see him close the notebook and put it back in his pocket.

 

            “So what did you think you’ll do now?” he asked.

 

            “If you give me your reports I’ll go back to my office and read them over,” I was gratified to see Cramer’s jaw actually dropped open, and impressed to see that without looking his hand caught his cigar in mid-air.

 

            “Give you our reports?” he asked.

 

            “I’ll send them over,” Alice said, and Cramer’s face turned a gorgeous shade of red.

 

            “Thanks,” I said and stood up. “I’d better go now, or I’ll be in deep trouble.”

 

            “Look Collier,” Cramer started, and then glanced at Alice and stopped. He probably had some old fashioned thing against swearing around women, or he knew she could overrule him no matter what he said. He let his finger drop and glared at the carpet, possibly hoping it would explode into flames.

 

            I left the room, because I didn’t want to be between the looks that were undoubtedly firing between the two of them at that moment. I was pretty sure that lightning would start spitting in the air when their gazes met. It wouldn’t be safe to stay there too long, that much frustration could turn radioactive pretty soon.

 

            I made it out of the room and halfway to the front door when she came to me again. Liberty swept from the door of one room and touched my arm, though it felt more like being a fast moving fish that’d unexpectedly been hooked. It’s not that I specifically wanted to avoid her, but I knew something hot and I wanted to act on it.

 

            “Jack?” she asked, her sparkling blue eyes staring right through me. “Can I talk to you?”

 

            “Of course,” I said, trying not to let my voice become husky. It would be embarrassing to show the effect she had on me like this.

 

            She led me from the hallway, up the stairs and towards her room. She and the Major have had separate rooms ever since I could remember, and that fact was often something that was taken great advantage of. It seemed a little early in the day for this sort of thing though. She closed the door behind us when we got into the room and immediately threw herself on me. I do not mean that she made a sexual advance, but rather that she physically pushed herself into me. I think I knew what she was doing, because I caught her in my arms when she slumped in my direction. I’m a big strong guy, but the force of her blow nearly knocked me over.

 

            The shuddering of her body was immediate, and the sobs bubbled up after a few seconds, growing in volume as she shook. I looked around for someplace for us to sit down, so I could take her slight weight off me. The nearest thing was the bed, and I would have to move around it to get to the window where a small bench sat. I decided that while I was up to the walk she clearly wasn’t. I moved us over to the bed and sat down on it. I tried to get her to sit on her own, but she only slid onto the bed to better lean against me. Having nothing else to do, I smoothed her hair and made soothing noises to her.

 

            “Don’t worry,” I said brushing back the golden threads with my hand. “I’ll take care of this.”

 

            “He doesn’t even care,” she sobbed into my chest. “All he cares about is how this effects his stupid expansion deal.”

 

            “I care,” I assured her squeezing her shoulders in my arms. “And I will get her back for you.”

 

            “You will?” she looked up at me, her eyes glistened and her lips trembling.

 

            “I will,” I said, and kissed her forehead, which I will admit was a stupid thing to do.

 

            Once you kiss the forehead, how hard is it to dip down a little further and kiss the lips? I mean if nothing else, that stops them from trembling right? And if you’re going to kiss the lips, you might as well put some feeling into it, because you don’t want people to think you give half hearted kisses. From there of course, one thing leads to another and before you know it, I’m using the excuse of personal privacy to expunge the record of the next hour and a half.

 

            Lying in bed next to her, having finished what I was justifying to myself as being comforting a dear friend, I knew that guilt should start riding in as a wave. I didn’t feel terribly guilty though, I felt elated that after so long I was still a worthy prospect for her. This makes me feel like a jerk, sitting here and writing it down now, but at the time I felt nothing more than joy at still being able to do the things I’d done with her a decade ago. If anything, I think I was congratulating myself a bit because I had clearly improved over time. I looked at her back, which she had turned to me like she always did. I touched her spine down at the base and ran my fingers up that line of bones to her neck.

 

            “You need to go to work,” she said turning over.

 

            “Do I?” I asked.

 

            “If you’re going to find Columbia.”

 

            “Yeah,” I agreed and then a thought struck me. “Do you know a guy named Piggy?”

 

            “No,” she shook her head. “Is he a friend of Columbia’s?”

 

            “Possibly,” I said. “Someone mentioned his name to me.”

 

            “The poet?” she asked.

 

            “You know about him?” I asked, my voice changing slightly.

 

            “Yes,” she said blushing. “I knew what she was doing, but how could I stop her? I mean… really.”

 

            “Yeah, I guess,” I nodded at her, and there was the guilt.

 

            The total and complete wrongness suddenly struck me all at once. I was screwing a married woman, with her husband and a dozen police officers in the house, while her eldest daughter was somewhere being held by bad people. I had to be the stupidest man on the planet, so damn dumb I couldn’t even see how clearly wrong this situation was long before I got into it.

 

            I sat up and looked for where my clothes had been tossed. I looked back at her, then leaned over and kissed her. Strangely, that made everything all right again. For whatever reason, kissing her made all the guilt and self-recrimination slide away. I was just happy to be allowed to play in her garden again. I got out of the bed, and put my suit back on, noticing that it would need a good cleaning and press before I wore it again. That would be alright though; it had gotten dirty and wrinkled for a good cause.

 

            I got dressed, pulled the blanket up to cover Liberty gave her one last kiss, and left the room to once again get back to my office. I went down the stairs and Bendis was just touching the door handle for me when Alice came around a corner and noticed me about to leave.

 

            “I thought you left like two hours ago,” she said, slipping her hands into her pockets and looking at me in that special way women have when they know what you’ve been up to.

 

            “I thought you worked for the DEA,” I commented back. “How come you’re on a kidnapping?”

 

            “I work for The Agency,” she said.

 

            “Central Intelligence?” I asked, raising my eye brows.

 

            “No,” she shook her head and smiled delightfully. “Just The Agency.”

 

            “Which agency?” I asked.

 

            “You could call it Department B or Section 7 or some string of letters like MFD or something, but really it’s just the Agency.” She said.

 

            “Oh,” I nodded. “That agency.”

 

            “Right” She said. “So now that we’ve established I have a pretty high security rating, what were you doing up there?”

 

            “I had to have a talk with Mrs. Freedom,” I said, trying not to say anything that would be considered a double entendre. “She and her daughter were very close, she suggested a few names I might try.”

 

            “Anything she didn’t give us?” Alice asked, knowing full well I was full of shit. “Not all of us can pump her for information like you can.”

 

            “Have you tried?” I asked, and would have stomped on my own foot if that wouldn’t have given the whole game away.

 

            “Should I go try now?” she asked.

 

            “I don’t think so,” I said. “She’s resting now, she said she’s tried.”

 

            “I see,” she smiled at me, and I felt like a book being read. “You care to share the list?”

 

            “I’m sure it’s the same one you have,” I said, “But if it comes that you don’t have these names, we can talk.”

 

            “We can’t talk now?” she asked.

 

            “I’ve got to get back to my office,” I said looking at my watch. “It’s going to be late by the time I get there as it is.”

 

            “Well, I’ll call you later about that list then.”

 

            “Yeah,” I nodded. “Later.”

 

            Bendis opened the door for me, and the heat from the devil’s own oven struck me dead in the face. I walked out into the heat and started down to my car, pulling out my cell phone to tell Debbie I was on my way back.

 

           

 

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

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

Liberty’s Child (Part Eight)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

Day Eight: Between Action

 

            I sat in my car and wondered for a moment how long I would have to sit in here with the motor off before I would die of heat stroke. I decided not to chance it and started the car up, letting the air conditioning do it’s important work. Cool air shot out at me in a moment and I was struck with a thought. There was a person I said I would call when I got back into town, and seeing as I’d been back nearly twelve hours now I figured that I should call her or be harangued for not getting in touch.

 

            I pulled my cell phone out and searched through the phonebook until I found Alice’s number. I looked at the number for a good long time before hitting the send button. I did hit it eventually though, and then pressed the phone against my head. The phone rang and rang, but she didn’t answer. I was eventually shunted to a voicemail system and left a non-comitial comment about being back in town. I checked the time of day and thought that probably she was in the middle of something at the moment. It was either that or she didn’t want to talk to me; either was possible I suppose. I looked at the phone, feeling slightly rejected by the fact that she didn’t leap to the phone hoping it would be me. I put the phone back in my pocket and put the car into gear to drive back to the office.

 

While I drove I tried to think of anyone called Piggy, which wasn’t easy. You would think that with a name like that, I would be instantly on a face and location. I couldn’t think of a single person though, which probably proved how out of touch I was with the local criminal element. As I drove, my phone started to buzz in my pocket, and I pulled it out expecting it was Alice getting back to me. When I looked at the number though, it turned out not to be her but Liberty’s cell phone instead. The phone recognized her number, since I’d never expunged it from the phonebook. I pressed the answer button and held it up to my ear.

 

            “Hello?” I asked.

 

            “Jack?” her voice sounded scared and worried.

 

            “Yes,” I said trying to sound like the sort of tough guy a beautiful woman like her could depend on.

 

            “Did you see the news?” she asked.

 

            “Not recently, I’ve been trying to talk to people.”

 

            “They’ve posted a video,” her voice choked slightly. “She’s… oh god, he was right. They’ve posted this video.”

 

            “Okay, slow down,” I said. “Who posted?”

 

            “The people who took my baby,” a sob broke through and she nearly screamed the words. “They put it on the internet and then e-mailed it to Tom.”

 

            “Okay,” I said looking at my watch. “I can get there in a little over an hour, do you want me to come over there? I can come there right now.”

 

            “Yes please,” she said sounding a little strengthened by the news.

 

            “Okay, you just hang on a little while, I’ll be right there.”

 

            “Thank you Jack,” she breathed into the phone. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

 

            “Okay, I’ve got to drive really fast now so I’ve got to stop talking on the phone.”

 

            “Okay,” she said, sounding a little more together now. “I’ll see you in a little while.”

 

            “Yeah, don’t worry about it,” I said, and then ended the conversation like I always do by saying, “Bye, bye.”

 

            I got on the freeway and started to drive towards Port Huron, which would take me close to where the Freedom household was. I should have called Debbie, but if I had done that I would have been diverted back to the office and I wouldn’t have learned a great many things. As it stood, going to the Freedom house first was probably one of the only remotely smart things I did that summer, which is nice to remember. It’s always good to point out the time you didn’t do something that caused a disastrous screw up. I drove to the house and was let in by a federal agent this time. I supposed the situation had become too important for the frog faced guy to cope with. They must have been told I was coming because they didn’t even grill me too much beyond my name and a photo I.D.

 

            When I drove up to the house, Liberty was standing on the steps waiting for me with a cigarette in hand. She ran down the steps, her skirt fluttering out behind her as she dashed to my car, her long dancers legs taking strides that most humans would find impossible. She tossed the cigarette aside, letting it land among the stones and embraced me as soon as I got out of the car. She pressed her head into my shoulder and squeezed herself into me. Instinctively I put my arms around her and squeezed her back, I saw an agent on the porch watching me and stared at him until he got self conscious enough to look away.

 

            She pulled away from my shoulder and kissed me, just a gentle kiss on the lips, as if this were just some French greeting and no one should even bother looking at us.

 

            “I’m so glad you came,” she said as she pulled away from me.

 

            “Okay sweetheart,” I said putting a hand on her shoulder. “But let’s remember that they’re watching our every move shall we? Kissing right in front of all the agents might not be the best thing.”

 

            She looked around for a moment and then blushed a little at her cheeks.

 

            “Sorry,” she said, expanding her accent a little. “I wasn’t thinking.”

 

            “It’s okay,” I said brushing some golden strands of hair from her face. “Just tell me what happened.”

 

            “They made of movie of her, tied up on a bed and told us if we didn’t pay up soon they’d kill her.”

 

            “You saved the movie?” I asked. “We can go watch it again?”

 

            “Yes,” she nodded. “The police have it. Or are they feds? Whoever it is.”

 

            “Okay,” I said taking her right hand and kissing the knuckle of her middle finger gently. “Let’s go in and talk to them.”

 

            She led me into the house, past what looked like two dozen uniformed cops and another two dozen agents and officers in suits. I let go of her hand when we entered the house, but she didn’t really seem to notice, holding her hand out behind her until we reached the Major’s study.

 

            The study was now a bustling operation center, with lights on and people moving around. As soon as I stepped into the room, the entire gaggle of officials all turned towards me to look. The Major stood up from behind his desk, his face red with rage all the way up to his strawberry blonde hair line. He marched towards me and I once again wondered about the wisdom of never carrying a gun unless I thought I’d really need it. Instead of hitting me for being his cuckolder, he grabbed my shoulder like an old comrade in arms.

 

            “New plan Collier,” he said in his gruff voice, his watery blue eyes fixing on me “No more worried about stepping on toes, now I want you to stomp on heads.”

 

            “Soon as I find a head worth stomping sir,” I said, taken up in the momentum.

 

            “That’s right my boy,” he said and leaned in, looking angry again. “Those sons of bitches videotaped my little girl. Then they sent it to the news. Imagine that, they told the damn jackals that they could steal my daughter. What do you think this is going to do to my expansion deal? They’re already fighting me, now I’ve got to be distracted by this.”

 

            “Fucking bastards,” I said, and because I know he can’t identify sarcasm when he hears it I pressed forward, “Let’s shoot them for fucking up your deal and then get your daughter back.”

 

            “Damn right!” he said, then turned around and addressed a man I knew fairly well. “Cramer, you know Collier right?”

 

            “I know him sir,” Cramer said taking a step towards me and nodding to me. In his teeth was clasped his ubiquitous cigar, as usual it was unlit but not unsymbolic in my mind. “How was your trip?”

 

            “Mostly profitable,” I said nodding to him.

 

            “Good,” he said nodding again, which caused the cigar to make an arc in the air as his head moved. “You want to see the video?”

 

            “I suppose I’ve got to at some point,” I said walking towards the desk.

 

            “I need to call my lawyers,” The Major said. “This expansion project is very important, I can’t have it derailed. The whole future of Freedom Corp. depends on it.”

 

            He left the room leaving just us cops, private and public, watching the doorway for a few seconds. Cramer looked back at me and rubbed his chin. He knew he couldn’t chase me off this one, he couldn’t even suggest it with the Major giving me such a recommendation. It wasn’t that held any particular animosity for me or even my profession, that sort of thing is greatly exaggerated by the dime novels. He just hated having anyone that wasn’t him or his team investigating anything on his turf. He’d try to chase off the feds if he thought he could get away with it.

 

            “Okay, has that gumshoe Freedom hired gotten here yet?” a familiar voice said.

 

            Then a familiar face and figure entered the room. She was looking at some paper as she came in, but I recognized the head bandholding back her long blonde hair the moment I saw it. She looked up and around at the assembled cast, and then her eye fell on me. It was then that Alice Liddell’s blue eyes expanded to nearly twice their size and her jaw opened.

 

            “Jack,” she said with surprise. “I didn’t know you were back.”

 

            “You never answer your phone,” I complained. “I called you like an hour ago.”

 

            “What?” she touched the side of her pants and then her expression changed to annoyance. “Carter, I think I dropped my phone in the car, could you go check?”

 

            “Sure,” the one called Carter got up and left the room.

 

            “We were about to watch the footage again,” Cramer said in a tone that suggested that he could get this done a lot faster if the feds would just shove off. “Care to join us?”

 

            “Thanks,” Alice said as I sat down in The Major’s big chair and she sidled up next to me.

 

            “This was sent to the Major, as well as most the major media outlets,” Crammer said as he pointed at a file on the desktop.

 

            “Did they bother vetting you before broadcasting?”

 

            “Hell no,” Crammer said. “We learned about it when it was on the news.”


            “Great,” I said clicking on the icon.

 

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

 

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

Liberty’s Child (Part Seven)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Seven: Beethoven and the Bird

 

            I parked my car in the parking lot off of Main Street, mostly so I could see the statue of the creepy naked people. I looked it up, just for this writing and that statue of the two naked people flying into the sky is called The Star Dream, but you’d never get that passed me. To me, it’s the naked people statue. I parked the car and started walking to where the famous poet lived. Again, I wish him no ill will so I’m not going to publish his full address. Let us just say he lives in a house in Royal Oak and leave it at that.

 

            I used to like coming to Royal Oak when I was in high school, it was one of the few places where you could go, hang out and meet people. As we got older though, the demographic wasn’t a group I wanted to be around anymore. Somewhere around the mid-twenties the rockers and Goths get replaced by yuppies and faux bikers. There just came a time when I realized that Royal Oak had very little to offer me anymore and I stopped hanging out there. Still, there was something like a vibrant life around there, and you could see if when you visited. This being the middle of the day though, most people where indoors waiting for the sun to go down and the heat to dissipate a little.

 

            I walked to the house and knocked on the door and then banged on it a few seconds later. When the door opened a tired and pale looking man, only a few years older than me actually, opened the door. He had large circles under his eyes and his mustache looked like it needed a good combing. He licked his lips and glanced around when he opened the door, finally resting on me.

 

            “Yes?” he asked, trying to sound calm.

 

            “Eddie?” I asked, trying to sound like a tough guy. “I want to talk to you about your visitor.”

 

            “The bird?” he asked.

 

            He didn’t sound English, but maybe he’d picked up that sort of talk from watching BBC America or even watching old BBC shows on PBS. Who knows where he’d pick up the idea of calling a young woman a bird? I wasn’t thrilled with his terminology, but he was also the kind of person who had hookers delivered to his door.

 

            “Yeah,” I growled, “the bird.”

 

            “In here,” he said pointing over his shoulder and I could feel a knot tie up in my stomach. If she was still here, what was going on?

 

            I followed him into what I can only assume was his bedroom because I saw a bed. It was on the first floor, but that didn’t prove anything. It just meant he wanted things on the first floor. I couldn’t help but notice though that there wasn’t anything in the bed, just the large red quilt and red sheets. I looked around the room and then at his sweating face.

 

            “Well?” I asked.

 

            “There!” he said pointing a shaking finger at a marble statue in the corner. “There on the bust of Athena.”

 

            “That’s Beethoven,” I said looking. “And there is nothing on it.”

 

            “The bird is still there!” he cried and ran from the room. “Nevermore shall we eat French fries? Nevermore will I watch basic cable? Nevermore what?”

 

            I followed him out and noticed that his living room had some paraphernalia that I should have recognized on the instant. Opium is an odd habit these days, and the pipe is fairly easy to pick out of a crowd if you know what to look for. I looked at him, noting the signs that should have been obvious to a trained sleuth like me.

 

            “Where is Columbia?” I asked.

 

            “The bird is still in there,” he said pointing at the door to his bed chamber.

 

            It was hot in that place. He had been burning a fire in the fireplace to add to the intense heat. True, now it was just glowing embers working their last glowing ghosts, but it had clearly been a roaring fire earlier if the heat inside was any indication. He looked like he wasn’t feeling the heat, but he look like he might not feel it if I stabbed him in the foot.

            “Forget the bird that isn’t there,” I said. “What about Columbia?”

 

            “The bird on Athena!” he shouted.

 

            I walked into the room and grabbed the bust of Beethoven and walked back. He shrieked when he saw me holding it and jumped behind a chair. I looked down at him and for a moment couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. However, if I wanted him to be helpful at all I’d have to do this.

 

            “Look!” I shouted. “Beethoven!”

 

            “The bird! It’s on the bust!”

 

            “Oh fucking hell,” I muttered and grabbed the fire poker.

 

            I then started to perform what can only be called an assault on a long dead composer with intent to powder. I brought the poker down as hard as I could on the top of the bust’s head and smashed it. I then smashed it again and again until the tip of the poker broke off, hit the floor and slid until it hit the wall. I then grabbed the remaining pieces of the plaster bust and threw it into the fireplace. I hurled the broken end of the poker in after it and turned back to the stoned lunatic on the floor behind the chair.

 

            “Bird still around?” I asked.

 

            “Can you hear it?” he asked.

 

            “No,” I panted in the heat. “Can you?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Wonderful, maybe now you can get up off the floor and we can talk.”

 

            “Am I on the floor?”

 

            “Unless you’ve drilled a hole and are floating above empty space. Are you floating over empty space?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Must be the floor then.”

 

            “Possibly,” he stood up and looked at me, still sweating and nervous looking. “I could use a drink.”

 

            He walked to the kitchen, with me behind him to make sure he didn’t suddenly make a break for it. He went to a cupboard and pulled out two glasses and then grabbed a bottle of whiskey and poured two glasses, handing me one. I took it without comment because I didn’t want him to get derailed in what seemed to be a momentary lull in his madness. I took a sip of the drink and set the glass down, as I expected he gulped his down in three quick shots.

 

            “Not thirsty?” he asked as he poured himself another.

 

            “I’ve got to go slow, got some driving still to do today.”

 

            “Right,” he nodded as if he understood. “You were asking about someone a second ago, I didn’t get the name though.”

 

            “Columbia?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah, don’t know her.”

 

            “Did you have a girl over this weekend?”

 

            “There was a girl from the flower patch on Friday,” he said. “Hecita or something, some flower name I think, can’t remember. She was fun though, she comes around on occasion.”

 

            “Okay,” I nodded. “That’s the girl I’m looking for, what happened Friday?”

 

            “Well, what do you think?” he asked as he gulped down another glassful and poured himself some more. “I fucked her and she had her boyfriend come get her.”

 

            “That regular?” I asked.

 

            “Sometimes they stay all night, but she said she had another appointment so when I was done with her she called this pig faced guy to come get her. He did, they left.”

 

            “Pig faced guy?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah,” he nodded looking at the glass, anticipating taking another drink. His eye fell on my glass and I sipped a little to be sociable, then he gulped his glass again.

 

            “You catch his name or anything?”

 

            “Actually, yeah, she called him Piggy.”

 

            “A pig faced guy with the nickname Piggy?” I asked.

 

            “You didn’t see him, the guy practically had a snout, I was looking for tusks on this guy. He was kind of fat too, not sure how much he liked being called Piggy, but he let her get away with it.”

 

            “Was he a bodyguard or something?”

 

            “If he is, he’s been sampling at the trough.”

 

            “Meaning?” I asked.

 

            “I think they were about to go do what she and I had just done, by the way she acted anyway.”

 

            “So, a boyfriend?” I asked.

 

            “I’d say so.”

 

            “And then they left?”

 

            “Yeah,” he nodded and then checked his watch. “And then I went back to what I was doing, which I probably should get back to.”

 

            “Okay,” I said nodding. “Thanks for the drink.”

 

            “No problem,” he said with a half smile.

 

            I got up and walked from his kitchen and heard his feet behind me. We looked at the broken pieces of the bust and he tossed them into the fireplace. He wiped some of the dust off and then brushed his hands.

 

            “Sorry about that,” I said.

 

            “Not a problem,” he said and walked to a closet where I could see three shelves lined with Beethoven busts. He took one off the shelf and then walked back to his bedroom, placing the bust on the spot where I’d taken the last one. I heard him mutter to himself as he went to the room, “I’ll probably never get married.”

 

            I didn’t want to be around for the next appearance of his bird, which would no doubt come soon, so I let myself out.

 

 

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

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

Liberty’s Child (Part Six)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

 

 

Day Six: The Flower Garden

 

            I’d decided to drive with the windows down and even opened the moon roof. I’d gone so far as to let the cloth cover that shaded me from the sun slide back, which would let me put my hand right through and wave to the sky. It was hot, actually it was damn hot, but sometimes I like to have the wind blowing in my face. Even on a day like this when the Mini’s thermometer said that it was over a hundred degrees out there, I needed the breeze.

 

            The Flower Garden was not your common flop house. Say whatever you will about it, it’s a high class place. It’s also the sort of place that you should only show up to with an appointment unless you’re a regular customer and have been heavily vetted. It’s a big house, set back in the hills of a place I’m not even going to mention because I wouldn’t want to give them more attention than they need.

 

            There weren’t a lot of cars parked out in front of the big white house, in contrast to what it would be if I came after five when the business men start showing up. After eleven the place really gets hopping and there’s valet service and everything. Right now though, there was the one car that Daisy drives to work in and a man in a short sleeve shirt and khaki pants standing on the steps. He took a few steps and smiled at me with the sort of smile that a man who knows he can call twenty other guys to come in five seconds can allow himself.

 

            “Afternoon sir,” he smiled and nodded at me.

 

            “Afternoon,” I said back as I closed the door behind me.

 

            “Would you be Mister Collier sir?” he asked, smiling as if he were happy to be in the humidity and heat of a July afternoon.

 

            “That’s right,” I said.

 

            “Well you can go right on in then,” he raised a finger to tap at the brim of his hat, an automatic gesture as he wasn’t wearing one.

 

            “Thank you,” I said. “It’s okay to leave the car here?”

 

            “Should be fine sir,” he said smiling affably.

 

            If I weren’t such an observant guy, I might have missed the holster on his hip and the two clips of ammunition on his other hip because he was just being that polite. I walked to the door and opened it, walking through quickly so I could keep as much of the baking hot air outside. It was almost, but not quite, like walking into a large walk-in freezer. The feeling of shock when you get hit by the cold inside was similar, but the shock wasn’t so great because the difference was going from the mouth of hell to someplace that was merely comfortable. The goose bumps still raised on my arm because of the suddenness of the change.

 

            There was a small desk with a young good looking woman at it in the front parlor. She had a computer in front of her, like most offices these days have, and she must have been doing something non-work related because it took her a long time to look away as I walked up to her. When she did look up, she blushed a little, which she could do on cue because it looks so cute. Her shrinking coy trick was a wonder to see, and was one of the many reasons they put her out front like this.

 

            “Hi Jack,” she said with a smile.

 

            “Hi Violet,” I said smiling at her. “Is Tiger ready for me?”

 

            “You mean to talk to you?” she said and blushed slightly again.

 

            “Yes,” I nodded.

 

            “Hang on,” she picked up the phone next to her and pressed a button. “He’s here Tiger-Lily.”

 

            After she put the phone down it wasn’t more than five seconds before one of the doors next to the desk opened and Carol came through. I always think of her as Carol, instead of Tiger-Lily, because of the personal connection we’d made a few years ago. She waved her hand at me without a word and I followed her into her office.

 

            When Carol started working with Rose and Daisy at the place they’d decided to call The Flower Garden, they gave her a new professional name. Because her grandfather had come from China and her Grandmother on the other side had come from Korea, she sported features that would make an ordinary honkey like myself think that she had a face that one would call Asian. So when she came here, Daisy and Rose decided that Tiger-Lily was a good name for her. She got them back for it though by being smart enough to more or less take the place over.

 

            It was her idea to replace the mattresses with those extra firm models and then put planks of plywood between the mattress and box spring. It made the bed hard, but being hard it meant that the girls never went to sleep on the job. The beds were too hard to sleep on, which also meant that the johns would move along a little more quickly. She had also put the big trees up around the place, and hid the security cameras in them to keep her girls safe.

 

            “What can I do for you today Jack?” Carol asked as she sat down on one of the couches she kept in her office. She had on a short, loose skirt, and instead of nylons she wore actual silk stockings. She put her long silk covered legs up on the arm, possibly to show me her magnificent stems, but probably because it made her more comfortable.

 

            “You know Columbia was snatched?” I asked.

 

            “Has she?” she asked, looking guilty. “It hasn’t been on the news.”

 

            “She was here last, before she vanished.”

 

            “What would she be doing here?” she tried to look bewildered, which was tough because she was so bad at masking her feelings.

 

            “Fucking guys for money I assume,” I said bluntly, because I like seeing her face turn that particular shade of bright red.

 

            “What do you mean?” she asked, turning her legs towards me and putting her feet on the ground with her knees together.

 

            “Oh come on Carol,” I said tilting my head to one side. “We all know Liberty and Freedom’s child is a whore.”

 

            “Do we all know that?” she asked, “I mean does everyone?”

            “You and I know it,” I said pointing to her and then myself.

 

            “Ah,” she tapped the coffee table that separated us. “Okay.”

 

            “Liberty told me how she’s been hanging out here with Daisy and Rose.”

 

            “Did she?” Carol asked.

 

            “She did,” I nodded.

 

            “She tell you this over silk sheets?” I know Carol doesn’t approve of adultery, which is odd when you consider her clientele, but then she probably doesn’t approve of them either. “I mean I know how people can talk about details at a time like that.”

 

            “She wants me to find her daughter,” I said calmly. “Liberty thinks Columbia just took off for a weekend and her father is making up ransom demands. She’s not hiding out here is she?”

 

            “If she were, would I tell you?” Carol said, looking a little more confident now, but still holding her cards out for everyone in the world to see.

 

            “You might,” I said. “You could send me in with a few people and make sure I didn’t try to grab her or something. She could explain her side of the story, or she could just tell me to fuck off.”

 

            “She’s not here,” Carol said, and I could tell she was telling the truth. “She went to see one of the regulars at his house.”

 

            “You make house calls?” I asked.

 

            “This guys been vetted. He’s a nut and a junkie, but he’s a safe nut.”

 

            “You going to tell me who it is?” I asked.

 

            “We are a discreet business,” she said smiling at me slightly. “I wouldn’t stay in business very long if I started handing out clients’ names and addresses.”

 

            “Aren’t you even slightly worried that she’s not been heard from since she vanished?” I asked her.

 

            “Yes,” she nodded. “Which is why I’m going to give you his address. I just want to make sure you’re not going to roust him or anything.”

 

            “I’ll ask some questions and that will be it.”

 

            “Okay,” she said and wrote down an address from memory. “Just don’t give Ed too hard a time, okay?”

 

            “I won’t,” I said standing up as I took the slip of paper. “I’ll just ask some questions.”

 

            “Okay,” she nodded and smiled at me again.

 

            I nodded to her and walked out of the office, because she has always hated it if I try and make nice after I’ve gotten what I wanted. She would have shoed me out if I’d tried to stay around for a few minutes, so I just left her sitting there. It made me feel as filthy as I would have if I’d been a client to her, which in a way I guess I just had been.

 

            I waved at Violet as I walked out to the front door and was smacked in the face with the wet heat of high summer in Michigan for the second time today. I got back into my car and drove away, looking at the address and deciding to just head for Royal Oak where the poet lived. He was something of a celebrity, which meant I would have to handle him with all the more care. I couldn’t have him saying I’d beaten him up to the press or anything, I was supposed to be discrete about this job after all.

           

 

 

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

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment

Liberty’s Child (Part Five)

Liberty’s Child

A Jack Collier Mystery

By Brett N. Lashuay

Look here for last week’s entry!

Day Five: Liberty and Me

 

 

            I walked into the plant room and turned to the corner on my left where she liked to stand. There was a round window that stood overhead, and the light from it fell onto her as she sat on the small stool she liked. The stool meant she had to sit up straight, or maybe she just liked sitting up, with her breasts pushing out like that. The skirt she was wearing had a long slit up the side that showed me her legs, which were strong and shapely things. She turned her golden blond coifed head towards me and smiled the smile that was insured by Lloyd’s for twenty million dollars. The sharp blue of her eyes sparkled like snow on a sunny January morning.

 

            “Hello Jack,” she said simply, and I could feel my legs wanting to go limp.

 

            Her accent was so slight you would have to know that Liberty came from France to recognize what the accent was. She exaggerated her accent when she was doing a show, but at home she might as well have just been a normal midwestern girl who had the looks of a goddess on earth. Her slightest movements were enough to make me want to go crawl up in her lap, which is what had caused me so much trouble before.

 

            “Hi Liberty,” I said looking down at her nearly bare leg, which didn’t need anything so prosaic as a pair of stockings to look alluring. She noticed me looking at her legs, and twitched the edge of the skirt to expose both knees instead of just one. “You wore that skirt again.”

 

            “I forgot you were coming,” she said, pulling the skirt back to where it had been a moment ago.

 

            “No you didn’t,” I said, shaking my head.

 

            “No, I didn’t,” she looked down at my shoes and then pushed the golden blonde hair back. “I haven’t seen you in a while and I know it’s your favorite.”

 

            “You’re not that worried about Columbia are you?”

 

            “You wore the black suit you know I like,” she said. “So let’s not pretend shall we?”

 

            “What’s going on then?” I asked.

 

            “Did you see those notes?” she asked, and I held up the envelope, which caused her to roll her eyes. “He’s been cutting those stupid things out of magazines himself.”

 

            “The major’s been making these notes?”

 

            “They look like the cover of a mystery novel,” she said and shook her head dismissively. “Who would really make something that stupid? Of course he did it, why do you think we’ve been able to keep it out of the newspapers?”

 

            “Where is she then?”

 

            “I don’t know exactly,” she said shaking her head. “But she’s spent weekends away before; she’s just spending another one away. She is an adult you know, whatever her father says.”

 

            “So, there’s nothing to worry about?”

 

            “Oh, there’s a lot to worry about,” she said leaning back and fixing her eyes on me. “My husband is insane, my eldest daughter is behaving like a little firecracker, and I haven’t had any fun in over a year.”

 

            “No?” I asked, taking a few steps towards her.

 

            “No,” she said turning her knees to me.

 

            “What a terribly sad story,” my fingers reached out and touched her left knee with the tip of my finger. “What do you want me to do about this?”

 

            “Oh, lots of things,” she said smiling at me. “Mostly though, I’d like you to find her and bring her home for me.”

 

            “But you think she’s okay?”

 

            “I need her brought home so we can explain to that stupid old man that she’s not being kidnapped every ten minutes.” She nearly spat the words out.

 

            “Okay,” I nodded while my fingers walked up her leg a little. “I can probably do that, where has she been hanging out lately?”

 

            “She was supposed to be with some friends that night, but she never really showed up.”

 

            “Not what I asked,” I said drawing my hand away for the moment.

 

            “She’s been spending a lot of time at The Flower Bed, hanging out with Tiger,” Liberty said, shifting those beautiful blue eyes to the floor. “She just goes there to hang out, she likes spending time with them. Rose and Daisy wouldn’t let her do anything, you know that.”

 

            “Sure,” I nodded sagely and then lied to a woman I’d once really loved. “I know that they wouldn’t let her do anything.”

 

            “She’s not a bad girl,” the woman I had once loved so deeply it kept me up at night said. “She’s just going through a stage of adjustment. She wants to do what her mother did at her age.”

 

            “I’ll get her back,” I said tapping the envelope against my leg. “You think the Fed and locals are really working on this?”

 

            “Not really,” she said shaking that beautiful blonde coifed head. “I explained it to them, but Tom is so very important and they all have to look like their making an effort. It’s really not a big deal you know?”

 

            She was lying to me, like she always did. If I counted up all the times I knew she was lying to me, I’d probably have to double or triple that number to get the number of times she’d actually lied to me. A woman like that can make a man paranoid, and I didn’t really need the extra help.

 

            “I understand I think,” I said to her. If she was going to lie I could do it too. “I’ll get her back for you, all intact and stuff.”

 

            “Thank you,” she started to stand up.

 

            From where I was standing I would have had to take a step back for her not to bump into me, so I didn’t step back. I wanted her to press her breasts against my chest and to feel her heat in this already hot room. She did that and I felt like a cad for making her, even though she pressed in more than she needed to. She put her arms around me and pressed her lips against mine.

 

            I sort of wanted to pull away from her, to not take advantage of her. She was a married woman whose child was missing. The problem was that her breasts felt firm against my chest and her body was strong and supple, just like I remembered. While her tongue slipped into my mouth, I couldn’t help but think of Columbia naked and handcuffed to a pipe in the basement. I tried to pull away from the kiss a little, but she pushed herself back onto me pressing her body tight against mine.

 

            “Oh, I’ve missed you,” she whispered after she finally broke away for breath. Her fingers ruffled the short black hair at the back of my head.

 

            “I’ve got to go and find your daughter,” I said, trying not to let my voice catch in my throat.

 

            “I just wanted to kiss you again,” she said hugging me. “I just wanted you to respond again.”

 

            “Well, I’ve responded now, haven’t I?” I asked as she pressed herself into my response.

 

            “Yes,” she smiled up at me.

 

            “I’ve got to go now.”

 

            “Alright,” she nodded slowly as I pulled away from her.

 

            I didn’t turn my back on her, I walked away from her and stopped just before I hit the door. I had to take my eyes off her to reach for the handle, but I figured I was far enough away that if I looked away I wouldn’t get immediately jumped. It was only a moment, but she took six steps before I got my eyes back on her. She smiled at me taking another delicate step towards me; I twisted the doorknob and yanked the door open, leaning towards her as I did. She leaned towards me and I couldn’t help myself but to kiss her again. It probably wasn’t a good idea, to keep starting this affair up every time I saw her, but I just couldn’t help it.

 

            I walked out of the room and was relieved to see that the hallway was empty. I walked down the long hall alone, and eventually came to the front hall and saw Bendis standing alone by the grandfather clock reading the newspaper. His eyes glanced over the paper, saw me, and then folded it under his arm in one motion.

 

            “Mister Collier,” Bendis said with a nod.

 

            “Bendis,” I said passing him by.

 

            “Will you need anything?” Bendis asked. “A check or other symbol of retainment?”

 

            “Not yet,” I said, not wanting to explain that Mrs. Freedom had more than retained me. “I’ll call when I need something.”

 

            He walked out ahead of me and opened the door for me, which let the heat of summer slap me in the face. I walked out into the humidity, which was like stepping into an oven. It was too damn hot, too damn humid, and just too much bull. I walked down the stairs and pulled my suit jacket off as I opened the door to my little car. I tossed it into the backseat and sat down in the driver’s seat, closing the door behind me. I turned the car on to get the air conditioning going as quickly as possible. I would have to call ahead if I was going to go to The Flower Bed, they didn’t like it if you showed up without an appointment.

 

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

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Fiction, Jack | | Leave a comment