A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Twelve: Settling up
As a post-script I should add that I really need to learn not to insult people before I know everything about them. As I was getting ready for bed my cell phone rang, which is odd because Debbie would never call me like that. I got up and saw Alice’s number.
“Hello?” I asked, deciding to be civil if she was going to call.
“Hi,” she sounded sad and tired. “I’m sorry about Peter.”
“Are you now?” I asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Don’t know why, you’re the only person who knew where he was.”
“Can I?” she started and stopped.
“Can you what?”
“Can I explain?”
“You can try,” I said.
“Can I do it face to face with you?” she asked. “I think that’ll make it easier.”
“Okay,” I said. “Where would you like to meet?”
“I’m outside your place now,” it sounded like she was having trouble talking.
“Would you like to come in?” I asked.
“Come to my front door then,” I said and hung up.
It was raining and her coat was swept about her from the rain, which showed off her legs when she walked. She had a large red rain hat that she was holding to keep the wind from taking off with it. When she got to my door and took it off, I had a pretty fair idea of what had happened.
The left side of her face was pretty badly bruised, and her left eye was badly swollen. She’d been slapped around on her right side too, but the person who hit her had been a righty with a thing for punches.
“How badly?” I asked.
“Just my face and some in my sides,” she said, looking like it hurt to talk. “Nothing broken, my jaw isn’t dislocated or anything. I’ll be fine in a week.”
“You want to sit down?” I asked, taking the hat and helping her with the coat.
“Thanks,” she said, walking to my living room couch.
“Would you like something to drink?” I asked. “I think I have some rum or something.”
“We could go out for a drink,” she said, turning to keep the left side of her face out of view.
“I want to hear what you have to say first,” I said, poking through the cupboards and not finding anything. I went to the fridge and grabbed a couple cans of pop, opened them and put the liquid into glasses.
“Thanks,” she said taking hers as I handed it over. She took a sip and then looked at it. “You make them kind of weak huh?”
“I’m all out of booze as it turns out,” I said sitting down on the couch across from her.
“As you can see, they caught me. Flopsy was listening in on the line when you called. Cat and Heart decided to finish it. Actually, now that I think about it, it was Heart who announced Peter was more trouble than he was worth when they left,” she said pushing her hair into her face to cover the bruises. “Could you take me out if I had my hair down? No one would think you beat me up then.”
“Can I test something?” I asked setting my glass down.
“It’s just…” I leaned over and put my hand on her knee. “It’s just I was promised a dance when you took Rabbit in.”
“I don’t think I could quite manage,” she said shifting closer to me. “I could manage when I’m feeling a little better.”
“Yeah?” I said shifting closer and placing my arm around her and pressing my hand into her side.
The yelp of pain was involuntary, as far as I could judge. She reached down and grabbed my hand, which had let go by then and she tried to smile at me again. She must have seen something in my eyes, because she stood up and started to unbutton her shirt.
“I don’t resent it,” she said, “but we’ll have it out now.”
She pulled the shirt up and showed me the near black and purple bruises that were huddled around her shoulders, the one on her neck that I should have seen, and the bunch by both her kidneys. The face she might have been able to do on her own, the others would have required help. She let me look and then slipped her shirt back on, which was an injustice and a relief all at once.
“I didn’t mean…” I started.
“You knew right where the most tender spot was,” she said smiling at me. “But I understand.”
“How did you get free?”
“I suspect it was you,” she said sitting back down, as near as she’d been a moment before. “Crammer and his boys showed up while they were still at it. He said there was a tip that there was a dead body and a head there.”
“Did they still have the head?” I asked.
“Yeah, they hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet,” she nodded. “Body was behind the warehouse in a couple of garbage bags.”
“And has Rabbit offered any kind of deal?” I asked.
“He’s singing like… what sings a lot?”
“Birds?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she looked confused for a moment and then nodded. “That’ll do.”
“So you brought the case to a successful conclusion?” I asked.
“More or less,” she picked up her drink again and took a sip. “If you count seven dead people a success.”
“Yeah, well, we’re still alive aren’t we?”
“I guess,” she said.
“So no dance huh?”
“Not with this pain,” she said touching her jaw. “Unless you got me drunk, but then I’d try to take advantage of you.”
“Oh well, let me get my coat then,” I said, standing.
She was all too ready to drink and didn’t even notice that I wasn’t having a drop myself. So while I did get to see the dance, but I didn’t get anything else. While my inviolable rule about psychos can get bent on occasion, the absolute law about drunk chicks never has. We went back to my place and I spent the night making sure she didn’t drive or take my chastity. It’s sad really, because by the time she was tipsy enough to do the dance for me, she would have been putty in my hands. I’d like to think she’d have been putty anyway, but I couldn’t test it while she had been drinking.
In the morning she gave me a real and genuine kiss for not taking advantage of her. She gave me another for making breakfast for her, and by the time she had decided it was time for her to go, she’d managed quite a lot of kissing but was too sore for anything else.
“I do have to go,” she said kissing me as she put on her suit jacket and grabbed her coat. “I’ll see you?”
“I’m going to Peru on Friday,” I said.
“Call me when you get back then, by then I’ll have my strength back.”
“So should I,” I said grinning my most delicious grin.
“I hope so,” she said, opening the door.
A bright stream of white light bathed her as she walked out of the door, becoming a washed out image of a beautiful woman. She looked like an old photograph, where you can only make out slight shapes but none of the details. She pulled the door closed behind her and the light faded, leaving only the memory of her image on my retina. Her face had been photographed forever in my mind though, even if it was a washed out photo had been taken the morning after the worst day of her life, it was still beautiful.
She had walked out though, and I had said that we’d speak after I returned. I think she would have expected a week or two, but I hadn’t told her that the trip was going to be nearly four months, but I didn’t think it would really matter. She wasn’t expecting me to call anyway. Women like that never really expected guys like me to call. She was going to be called by a guy with a nice classic car and lots of money in his pocket. She’d date a guy with a real business, with lots of employees and not just some guy with a single office. Let’s face it, that girl was quality and I am a small time gumshoe with hardly enough money to rub two nickels together.
I picked up my cell phone and called the office, letting Debbie know I was going to be a few minutes late to the office. She said she had expected that and would be there when I got in, she also said that she’d booked a ticket and if I wanted we could go get some of the supplies that the professor had put on the list.
I told her that would be fine and then sat down at my table and finished my orange juice. I tried not to think of poor Peter, sitting at the café while Amy walked in and put that silenced Rutthower against the side of his head. He’d probably not even connected her with a threat, she would have come that smoothly and quickly. He probably thought he was going to live to a ripe old age.
Still, it was a filthy job and it was done now. I finished my orange juice and went to work.
This is the end of Wonderland. Next week we begin Liberty’s Child.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Eleven: Time Gentlemen
“We’ll have to leave it Red,” Knight said.
“Okay,” Red nodded, and then pointed at me. “We’re going to discuss this again though.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “We probably are.”
They left the room, walked down the stairs, got in a Ford Explorer and drove away. I sighed a breath of relief for a moment, but only a moment, because I remembered that I’d told Alice where we were and she was still on the phone. I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at it. It was still on, and I could just tell Alice we’d be here when the troops got here. However, somehow, I didn’t want to. Call it caprice, call it crankiness, call it what you will. I hit the end button and looked at the two of them.
“Let’s go Peter,” I said.
“Was that the truth?” he asked as I turned the phone off.
“Sadly, yes,” I said as I pulled the battery out and stuffed it into my pocket. “Let’s go and I’ll explain how we get you out of this.”
“What do I tell them?” Cary asked as we headed down the stairs.
“No one knows you know me,” I said to her as we started down the stairs. “A couple of guys came in and paid cash to get a room. Just tell them you don’t ask for anyone’s life story when they come in.”
“Thanks,” she said, following us down the stairs.
“I’ll call you for dinner.”
“You’d better,” she called back as I started the car and we drove away.
“So how do we get out of this?” he asked.
“I’m glad you asked that,” I announced. “You’re going to turn state’s evidence and tell them everything you know.”
“WHAT?!” he demanded. “Flopsy would fuckin’ kill me.”
“Flopsy is already trying to kill you,” I told him as calmly as I could manage. “Life in jail for six killing is just like death ,only you don’t die. You want to be railroaded?”
“So where are we going?” he asked. “The police?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I need to eat something.”
I took Peter to Orchid Café, which is around the corner from my office. It’s a nice Thai place where you can sit and have a conversation for lunch. I had the royal chicken, he had some sort of broccoli beef I think, it escapes me for the moment. When I’d eaten as much as I was going to I put my phone back together and turned the phone back on. Peter looked concerned, but I didn’t bother to assuage his fears anymore.
“You’re gonna call the cops?” he asked looking at my phone.
“Not yet,” I said and scrolled through to a number for a certain university. The number was actually a professor’s private office, I just hoped he’d be there. If not I was going to have to work something else out.
“Hello?” the man’s voice asked.
“Henry, its Jack. You still planning on finding the Lost City of Chachapoyas?”
“Yes I was,” he said, sounding interested. “Leaving next week.”
“Okay,” I said. “I know this is short notice but I’ll come with you.”
“You will?” he sounded a little surprised.
“Yeah, the price you offered,” I said. “If you e-mail me a list of the stuff I need I’ll get it this weekend and I can either meet with you by Wednesday or meet you in Peru.”
“Wednesday will be fine.”
“Okay,” I said. “See you then.”
“Are you in some kind of trouble?” he asked.
“Not if I leave by Wednesday,” I laughed, trying not to cackle insanely.
“Alright then, we’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“Fine, bye-bye Henry,” I hung up and then scrolled through to find Alice’s office number again.
“So now you call the cops?” he asked.
“No,” I said and realized that I hadn’t told Peter this part yet. “I’m going to call Mary Anne.”
“Why call her?” Peter asked, “She’d be busted with everyone else, wouldn’t she?”
“No,” I sighed, “she won’t because she’s an undercover agent.”
“Oh,” He didn’t look angry, just a confused and a little hurt. “Well that explains that.”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“So she’s going to come get us?”
“No,” I said standing. “She’s going to come get you. If you’ll just wait here, everything will be fine.”
I went to the cashier, gave her enough for the bill and a very generous tip. I looked back at Peter as I walked out the door, then turned away and walked to the car. Had I been smart, if I had a lick of intelligence, I would have taken him to the office and called Crammer to come get him. Instead I called Alice’s number, letting parts of me that weren’t up to the task do the thinking.
“Yes?” she asked.
“He’s at the Orchid Café in Troy,” I said. “You can pick him up there.”
“Pick him up?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I just left him there.”
“Why aren’t you there?” she asked.
“I’ve got some things to do,” I said. “And I don’t want to be detained if it’s all the same to you.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine, it’s a public place right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve got to go, call me when you do that dance.”
“Right, talk to you later.”
I got to my office and found Debbie pecking away at her keyboard. I took my coat off, hung it up, pushed my hat back and leaned over the desk. This was partly to look at her cleavage, but mostly because I was tired and needed propping up quite badly.
“You called Crammer?” I asked.
“From the Starbucks on the corner,” she nodded.
“Good girl,” I said taking my hat off. “We need to go on a shopping trip and then we’re going to close the office for a while.”
“Why?” she asked.
“I’m going with the professor to Peru, or wherever. He’ll send an e-mail with the details,” I opened the door to my office and looked back at her. “I think I need to get out of town for a while.”
“That check would have helped then.”
“No,” I shook my head. “That check would have put us back in the middle of the shit.”
“Tiding up the trail?” she asked.
“Muddying the waters more like,” I said and went into my office.
I think I must have sat down on the couch to take a nap, but I don’t remember. What I remember is Debbie shaking me awake and telling me there was a call on the phone for me. I stumbled to the phone and picked up the receiver, still groggy-eyed.
“Hi babe, it’s me,” Amy Heart’s voice said. “I took care of everything for you.”
“Took care?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “No one’s going to know you were ever near this, you’re completely out of it.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks?”
“Yeah,” she said. “No problem. Rabbit’s taking the blame, he’s going down.”
“Really?” I asked, knowing that ignorance was my only defense.
“Yeah,” she said. “Still, not our problem now, right?”
“I guess not,” I said.
“Well, I’ve got to go, I just wanted to say hi and that you’re clear. I’ve got to leave town again for a while.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m going away for a while too actually.
“Good,” she said. “A vacation will be nice for you. See you later.”
“Yeah,” I said, and bid farewell like I have almost every phone conversation in my life. “Bye-bye.”
I hung the phone up and sat down at my desk. I turned on the monitor and decided to check out what was going on in the real world. Sadly, the first news site I opened up was a local paper, which means where was no escaping the front page story. Someone had walked into the Orchid Café about ten minutes after I walked out, put a gun to his left temple and fired a single shot through his brain.
I sat and looked at the screen, wondering why Alice had done that to me. Why betray me like that. I picked up my phone and called her. It rang and rang and rang some more. Finally an electric voice told me I was being forwarded to an automated voicemail system. No doubt she’d just dropped the phone now that she didn’t need this identity anymore. I couldn’t quite understand what the game was supposed to be, why bring me in like this if they were just going to shoot him?
“The feds just got Rabbit,” Debbie said coming into my office.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, top story on Channel 7, they dragged him out of his warehouse this afternoon with a couple of bodies and a head still in there.”
“Huh,” I said. “When?”
“So about half an hour after they shot him?” I asked.
“Peter got shot,” I said turning the monitor around. “Clearly Alice really was Mary Anne and she told them where to go to get him. Evidently they waited to see who paid for lunch and decided to shoot the scrounger.”
“How would they all be waiting if they were about to be busted?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Probably Alice and Miss Heart were looking for us. Fucking bitch got him killed out of spite. If they’d put the bodies in there, the cops didn’t need Peter. Why?”
“Spite, I guess,” she said.
“Fucking bitch,” I said getting up. “You want a drink? It must be closing time by now.”
“Yeah,” she said nodding, so we went out for a drink as a boss and a employee.
Of course I wouldn’t really be drinking, but I could watch Debbie swallowing her drink. Maybe get her to eat some fries or even a cheese stick, anything she cylindrical she could slide into her mouth. Maybe afterward I’d take her out for an ice cream cone and watch her lick whipped cream off a Sunday. It’s the little things that keep my spirits up.
This is part eleven of twelve, come back next week for the final installment. 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.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Ten: Trail’s End
My only real hope was that I could get Peter away from all this and get someone arrested for the killings without getting my own face put into a meat grinder. How though, that was the question wasn’t it? There was someone I could call, but I didn’t like the idea of that, because I already owed too many favors to people over this stupid case.
I carefully pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and took the check from my wallet. If I were a normal private eye, this would be a considerable sum of money. However, after the event in December I had quite a few dollars floating around. Money wasn’t an issue here, and really I could just walk away and pretend like I’d never been involved. I could just tear the check up and decide to cash in my vacation days, go to Europe or possibly take that trip to South Americawith the professor looking for the Lost City of Chachapoyas or whatever it is he thinks he wants to find down there.
I had my fingers on the check, ready to tear and absolve myself from the situation when I stopped. I was going to have to actually get this taken care of, wasn’t I? I set the check down on the desk in front of me and picked up my squeezy ball. I did a few squeezes with it in my left hand and then tossed it into my right and started my exercises. My left hand kept tapping at the check, as if it wanted to get in on the rehabilitation but didn’t know what else to do.
There was a time when I would have just called up Dee and let LION beat UNICORN all around the town, but that didn’t seem to be a helpful suggestion here. Even if LION did beat UNICORN all around the town, then what? Peter would still be in trouble, Amy would still be psycho for me, Alice wouldn’t get her arrest and I wouldn’t get to see that bouncy dance she talked about. Nope, calling Dee had no foreseeable profit to it.
Sadly, this check didn’t have a lot of good to it either, being written a couple of hours before the Wonderland gang got hit. If nothing else, this check was really a tie, it was something to implicate me. I really should just get rid of it. I looked at all the zeroes, and then at the book of matches I keep for just such an occasion.
I scrunched the check up in my left hand and dropped it in the metal tray. I then lit the match and touched it to the end of the check. I’ll never understand why, but checks you really don’t want to burn always seem to take longer than other things. I watched the check slowly catch fire and then watched as it smoldered in the tray, only the sound of Debbie’s key board to entertain me.
When the check was well and truly dead, I picked up the phone and called Cary’s cell. The phone rang, and rang, and rang. Each and every ring was like a dagger of ice stabbing into my back. I got up to ten and hung the phone up, I rushed across my desk as fast as I was able and grabbed my coat off the hook.
“Call Crammer.” I told Debbie as I put my coat and hat on. “Tell him there either is or was a decapitated head in Mister Rabbit’s warehouse. If he gets there quick he might even catch them at it.”
“We’re giving up a client?” She asked.
“Burned the check.” I said and went out the door. I was nearly down stairs when I heard her scream.
“You burned the check?” Her voice carried from her throat at her desk, through the door, down the stairs and directly to the base of my spine. She hates it when I burn checks.
I got in the car and despite the fact that I was no doubt being followed, went more or less directly to the motel. I didn’t noticed anyone following me directly, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there, I was sure they were around. That’s the great thing about being paranoid, you never feel alone. Even when you are completely alone, you always think there must be a ghost in the room with you.
I got to the motel and was going to kick down the door and start shooting. What stopped me was the fact that I had to stop half way up the stairs because my right leg started to hurt. This caused me to decide to just walk to the door and bang on it with my gun. I reached for the gun though and discovered that I had taken it off at the office and didn’t put it back on my belt when I left in a rush.
So I slowly walked to the door and banged on it with my fist instead. Someone peaked through the closed curtains and a moment later the door opened. Cary was standing at the door, her hair dripping wet, and a towel wrapped around her. She smiled at me with them bleary eyes of someone still in the land of after glow.
“I said no entertaining.” I growled at her.
“Let’s see you resist.” She said turning around and letting me into the small room with her.
“I was very good at resisting.” I said as she reached down and grabbed her panties, stepping into them and drawing them up without showing anything. “I didn’t pinch his ass or anything.”
“Oh you couldn’t pinch his ass, it’s like marble.”
“Cary.” I said sternly.
“Yes Jack?” She asked, too hyped up on endorphins to mind.
“Where is he?”
“In the shower.” She said pointing a finger towards the bathroom.
“Why didn’t you answer your phone?” I asked.
“I was fuckin’.” She smiled again.
“Focus.” I snapped my fingers in her face. “This is me being angry.”
“Sorry Jack.” She laughed like she wasn’t really sorry though.
“I thought something had happened.”
“Well it had.”
“Focus!” I shouted.
“My O face happened.” She said and laughed.
“Go in there and tell him we need to go.” I told her. “I was probably followed here.”
Her demeanor changed suddenly, her face dark and worried. She shivered a little and walked to the bathroom door.
“Why’d you just stand there and act like we were just playing?” she asked.
“I didn’t want to worry you.” I sighed at her.
“Oh.” She said and opened the door to the bathroom.
I should have heard him coming up the stairs, I should have heard him walking into the room, I should have heard him breathing. What I heard was the whoosh of his hand as it brought the pistol down. I turned just in time to catch the blow on my shoulder instead of taking the crack across the side of the head. It didn’t matter much because his leg swept put mine and he pushed me down on the bed, putting the pistol barrel behind my head.
“Just sit tight Collier and this will all be over in a minute.” He said patting my sides with his hand.
“Red?” I asked craning my head around to see Red’s face.
“Don’t.” Another voice said from the door, no doubt mistaking what was going on. “We’ve got strict orders against wet works.”
“Knight?” I asked as I focused on the old man in the doorway. “When the hell did you two start working together?”
“Back when LION offered me a lot more money.” Red said straightening up and putting the silenced pistol back into its holster.
“LION’s here too?” I asked.
“Not officially.” Knight said clasping his hands over his belt buckle. “Officially this area is Church’s domain, but while he’s away Mrs. White wants to make sure things aren’t going to waste.”
“Church won’t like that.” I commented.
“I don’t think Mrs. White much cares what he likes and doesn’t like.” Knight said with the calm confidence of someone who could kill you before you knew he’d even moved.
“What’s going on out there Jack?” I heard Peter’s voice coming from the bathroom and silently cursed him. I could have probably gotten these two out of here without letting it slip that he was here.
“Red.” Knight said nodding at the door.
Red unholstered his gun and walked the two steps towards the bathroom. If Knight hadn’t been there, if I had been up to my normal physical standards, and if I’d lost all my marbles, I could have taken Red. Of course if I had done that, he would have shot me easily and with Knight here I had no chance at all. He tried the knob and then knocked on the door. I wondered if Peter was dumb enough to try and wait out his patience by hiding behind a door that would probably splinter if you hit it. Peter was dumb enough to get into this situation in the first place after all.
The door opened and I was glad to see that Red’s reputation for being a hands on kind of guy remained in tact. The door opened and he gave a good healthy jab into the door and hit someone. It looked about high enough to be Peter’s face, which had already suffered greatly, but could do so a little more for the latest gaff. He then reached into the bathroom and yanked Peter through the door, slamming him against the wall. His gun aimed quickly into the bathroom and then having made its point, swung around training on Peter’s head.
Peter was, as far as I could see, only wearing his jeans as red patted down his pockets. Peter just stood silently with his hands against the wall, looking like he had done that a few times before. Red grabbed him by the neck and led him to the floor, walked into the bathroom and came out a few seconds later.
“So, he is here.” Knight said.
“What do you want from him?” I asked as Red sat down on the single dresser the room sported, which was really so there would be a place to put the TV.
“We are supposed to bring him in.” Red said putting the gun away. “Dee would like to have him as a bargaining chip. I think Dee’s a little annoyed because Mister Walker was supposed to deliver a large shipment this morning. It would have robbed UNICORN of significant funds.”
“So you decided to watch me and follow me down here?” I asked.
“We only found out about this an hour ago.” Red said watching Cary walk through the area around where Peter was lying down.
“How did you know to follow me then?” I asked patting the side of the bed and looking at Cary. She sat down next to me and gripped my hand.
“Our man in Rabbit’s group said you were working for them on this.”
“Bill said that about me?” I asked. “I was only brought on yesterday.”
“Pat said it.” Knight smiled. “He didn’t say you were only just brought in though.”
“Well I was.” I looked down at Peter and then at the bathroom as Cary came out fully dressed. “Still, how did you manage to follow me so quickly?”
“We were just on our way to your office, you can sit up Peter, its okay.” Knight said looking down on the prostrate former porn star. Peter looked up and sat up. “We were on our way to talk to you about what happened when you came out of your office. Red just deiced to follow you on a whim. When you came here we decided to see what you were up to.”
“Fortuitous really.” Red commented.
“Not to harp on it Cary,” I said placing my hand over hers, “But its things like this that make me say no entertaining.”
“Sorry Jack.” She said.
It was interesting, and highly suspicious that my phone chose that moment to ring. Red looked at me, I looked at him and then turned my gaze to Knight. If I did this wrong, I could get a bullet in my head. If I did it right, we might all get out of this alive.
“You’d probably better see who that is.” Knight said.
I nodded and looked at the phone and recognized Alice’s number from what she’d written down for me. I decided on a tactic and looked at Knight when I spoke my first volley.
“It’s my secretary.” I told him. “She’s supposed to have called someone for me, they must have told her they want to find me.”
“Okay.” Knight nodded.
“Hi Debbie.” I said as I put the phone to my ear.
“What?” Alice asked.
“Did you call Crammer and tell him about Rabbit’s warehouse like I asked?” I hoped she picked up what I was trying to tell her.
“That would be why they showed up then.” She caught up quickly, which is nice.
“That’s good.” I said smiling. “They say anything?”
“Are you in trouble?”
“Mmm hmm?” I confirmed. “Everybody wanting to know where I am?”
“Well…” She sounded like she still hadn’t quite figured the whole game out yet. “They want to see Peter, I suppose you too by extension. They’re ready to offer him immunity of he spills.”
“Okay.” I said nodding. “Well, he can have an appointment today if he wants. I’ve got Peter with me now.”
Red shook his head slowly, I glanced at Knight and saw he was just rubbing his white mustache with his fingers. It was a warning from Red, but there was some permission to continue from Knight, so long as I was careful.
“Where are you now then?” She asked.
“No, I can’t do that.” I said as if I were excusing us from a lunch date. “I’m tied up with another matter at the moment. We’re still at the hotel and it seems he ran up a bill.”
“Which hotel?” She asked. “What can you tell me?”
“Okay.” I sighed heavily and rolled my eyes. “Where is his office? On Woodward, okay up by Mary-Anne street? That by the Liddell Motel? Yeah, I think I know where that is. Well don’t tell him to keep his hopes up, I don’t know how long we’ll have to be here.”
“I think I’ve got you.” She said. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Well no rush, I mean it’s not like they’re pulling guns on us or anything.” I offered in perhaps a more sarcastic tone than I should have.
“Leave your phone on the line with me, I can have them track you if you leave.”
“Yep, okay. Bye-bye.” I pretended to press the end button, and then pretended to press it again and dropped it in my coat pocket.
“Another client?” Red asked.
“No,” I said shaking my head. “The federal prosecutor wants to talk to Pete here.”
“Why?” Knight asked, placing his hands on either side of his big silver belt buckle.
“Because Mister Cat and Miss Heart made him get his prints all over a whole lot of evidence last night.” I said looking at Peter. “While doing that they made him get covered in a lot more evidence, which is why I brought him here to get showered. Nothing I can do about the prints, but I could get him cleaned up in secret. That way the police would at least have to work a little when they got him.”
“Why was Chester getting me covered in that stuff?” Peter asked, and I had to lie or nothing would work.
“Because when they told your brother that you led me right to them, your brother decided you were in on it.” I said, which was totally untrue as Amy said that she and cat still hadn’t discussed it with Rabbit. Having already lied, I went with it. “So your brother decided you would have to go away.”
“So that’s why they’re here?” He asked pointing at Red and Knight.
“No.” I shook my head and prepared to tell the biggest whopper I’d told since at least Thursday. “Your brother was going to get you sent to jail, these guys thought they were going to kidnap you for ransom, not knowing that Flopston wouldn’t really be that concerned as all he’d have to do is tell the police that the opposition had taken his brother away for safe keeping. There by, he would be rid of you, and fuck LION’s shit up pretty good. The resulting investigation would prove to be a shit storm for pretty much everyone but him for the next few months. With Church scheduled for release by July anyway, LION would barely be able to gain a foothold. Mrs. White might not be worried about that, but Dee knows that Church could crush his head between his nuts while rolling over in his sleep.”
“Is that right?” Knight asked.
“That is.” I lied, to a man who could kill me without a noticeable difference to his day. “Let’s face it, Church being away leaves a very tenuous chance for one group or the other to take over. You fuck around too long and when Church gets out he’ll boot both your asses and give you nothing but a plum cake for your effort.”
Knight stroked his mustache for a moment, Red stood up slowly and looked at Knight. Knight, still clearly thinking, ran his hand over his bald pate and then around the crown of white hair that had remained when his hair line receded. Red didn’t believe me, but then Red wasn’t in charge. Knight didn’t believe me either, but he knew that I might be telling the truth. A lot of the things I’d said were true after all, Church might not be able to take on both groups on a national level, but he could get them both the hell out of Michigan if they didn’t establish themselves quickly.
Knight was either agree with me, or kill me. I really hate not knowing how things are going to turn out when there is an assassin ready to shoot me in the back of the head.
This is part ten of twelve, 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.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Nine: Putting Together Pieces
“He didn’t do anything,” I said. “Someone is trying to make him the fall guy for some nasty business they pulled and I don’t want to let them.”
“That’s what you’d like?” she asked, putting her hands on her magnificent hips that no suit would ever hide.
“Believe me, that’s not how I’d like to spend my one favor from you,” I told her. “The sort of favor I would like from you involves the sort of thing that I’m not even sure I’ve got the stamina for at this point. Maybe that’s why I’m wasting my favor, because I want to wait until I’ve got full strength in both my hands and legs.”
“You want to get him immunity?” she asked, ignoring my implication.
“What about you?”
“What about me?” I asked. “So far no one has tried to frame me.”
“What do you want for all of this?”
“Oh, virtue is its own reward Miss Liddell,” I said smiling.
“If that were true, we wouldn’t need big cash rewards for information.”
“You know, it’s very sad to see a young woman like you being so cynical,” I informed her.
“Yes well, the justice system will do that to you.”
“Can you call your bosses and stuff?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said nodding. “But I’m going to keep wondering what you want out of this.”
“Okay,” I said smiling at her. “You keep wondering if it isn’t obvious.”
“I’ll see you later the,” she said and turned to walk out of the office.
I rubbed my chin with my left hand, trying to decide how much trouble we really were in. I suppose I wasn’t really in any trouble, I wasn’t going to be wanted by anyone, at least not for official reasons, and that was an interesting point. There was only one reason I could think of that would cause that situation, but it didn’t seem to fit the evidence at hand. That meant either my evidence was bad, or I was paranoid.
To be perfectly frank, calling myself paranoid was getting a little old, so I decided that some of the evidence at hand must have been flawed. Having made that decision with only a tiny bit of proof to back me up, I pulled open the second drawer on the left and shuffled through it for a few seconds. I got out a small notebook where I had a great deal of numbers written down that I didn’t care to get rid of. Why I still keep a little black book instead of leaving the numbers on my computer is a mystery to most people, including myself. It’s an odd little compulsion that being shot just hasn’t made go away. I flipped through it until I found a number and called it.
“Hello?” Amy Heart said as her line connected.
“Hello Miss Heart,” I said into the phone. “I was wondering if you were free?”
“I’m very, very expensive,” she said, and I could hear the smile warm her voice like a candle under a snifter of brandy. “However, I’m not busy. Why?”
“Well I was hoping I could see you for a little while.”
“Well, I’m across the street right now,” she said, which caused me to turn my chair around a little too suddenly. “You spin around like that and you could rip the phone out of the wall.”
“You’re watching?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m supposed to see if you know where Peter Rabbit is.”
“Well I do,” I said scanning the buildings to see if I could spot her. “Why don’t you come over? We can talk about it.”
“Really?” she asked. “I’ll have to tell Mister Cat.”
“Okay,” I said nodding. “Where are you anyways?”
“Me to know,” she said and hung up suddenly.
It occurred to me, once again, that she tended to act like people acted in movies. It was like she had never really had contact with the real world and only experienced what it should look like through television. If nothing else, it would explain her warped view of the world. I hung my phone up and turned back around so I was facing the door. I didn’t really need to get a gun, because the fact of the matter was that she’d been infatuated with me from our first meeting. Fortunately, something had always gotten in the way of us having to discuss any outcome of that infatuation, because I’d hate to be on her bad side. With my new rule about nut jobs in place though, it could get messy.
A few moments went by and the door opened with Amy coming through. The problem with my rules and with Amy as a whole is that while she’s insane, she’s also very attractive. I’m fairly certain that if she weren’t crazy as a waltzing mice dancing across a cheese stick taped to a nuclear bomb, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be the object of her desire. Of course, if I was right about her, the fact that her sense of loyalty seemed to involve killing people for me made me rethink our prospects.
She reached into her coat and pulled out a Ruger with a silencer for a barrel, set it down on the edge of my desk and sat in the left hand client chair. If she wanted to shoot me, she would have to flick her hand five inches to get that thing. She smiled at me though, and that smile told me I was still in her good graces.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she said shifting in the chair, her voice liked honeyed silk. “That thing pokes into my side when I sit down in these chairs.”
“No problem,” I said, smiling at her. “You had a busy night last night.”
“Yeah,” she nodded. “Cat works me hard.”
“You sure?” I asked.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“Well, it just seems that Mister Cat would rather blame someone who actually has a couple of kills on his record than some junkie porn star for that slaughter of yours,” I said. “I also think that Mister Cat wouldn’t subject someone who can call him Chester to what you guys did last night. He wouldn’t beat up an old friend like that and he wouldn’t frame him either.””
“Oh no?” she asked, resting her hand on the desk, the tip of her middle finger touching the gun.
“Even if he didn’t like Peter, he does like Flopsy,” I said leaning back and trying to remember why it was I tend to put guns in the safe. “So I have a hypothesis.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I think you became the boss. I think when you took out The Duchess you decided to become the queen. You’re not going to be someone’s protégé anyhow. You already know how to kill people.”
“How did you ever get to be so smart?” she asked.
“Lucky,” I smiled, ignoring the lie of calling me smart. “So why did you make Peter bury those five other heads?”
“Well it was his fault wasn’t it?” she asked. “All of that was really caused by him and his problems. I mean they told us how he helped them arrange it. So he should have to pay for it.”
“So you made him bury the other heads?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “And I had Chester write down the location of each one after having Peter get his prints all over lots of things that will incriminate him later.”
“Why slaughter all six of them though?”
“Because they beat you up,” she said. “I don’t like that.”
“Where is the sixth body then?” I asked.
“Oh, you darling,” she ran a finger along her cheek in a way that was suggestive. “I didn’t think you’d notice all that. We’ve got it on ice somewhere, in case I need it. I mean if I needed to finish Peter up I would have it.”
“But I screwed that up huh?”
“Not completely,” she said. “I could still frame him.”
“Could we not frame him?” I asked.
“What do you have in mind?” she asked.
I told her.
Amy left a little over an hour later, leaving me her calling card. This isn’t a euphemism, but rather a small card with her name on it. This was one of the things that led me to believe that Amy was the sort of person who had learned about humanity from books and movies. It was a relic from the Edwardian era, just a card with her name and where she could be found. No phone number, but the location of a hotel written in her hand. It had a device I recognized though, a small heraldic unicorn was rampant in the upper left hand corner of the card, which was the emblem of the group she was working with.
I forget what UNICORN is supposed to stand for, and I suspect that whatever it does stand for was shoehorned into the name which was undoubtedly picked first. I had heard about the group a few times, Smith had muttered about them once or twice in our dealings. He had muttered them because when the Tweedle Twins had their big breakup there was talk that the fallout between them had been because of the group.
It was nice to know that Amy had found herself in with such an interesting group of lunatics, but it worried me too. This wasn’t just a matter of getting Amy angry at me after all, it was getting an entire gang that did naughty things for a living angry. I’m not a panicky person, I’ve pointed guns at the likes of Church after all, but one doesn’t remain healthy and happy by annoying large international syndicates that the authorities like to pretend don’t exist.
This is part nine of twelve, 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.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Eight: Alice in Wonderment
I barely gave Debbie her required nod as I went into my inner office and saw Alice sitting in what is the left hand my client chair as I face them from my desk. It amazes me how some people can sit in a chair, and other people can make it seem like the chair is being graced with their presence. Alice however looked like she wasn’t even aware the chair was there, that she had just sat down expecting something would catch her.
If I didn’t have a rule against dating sworn officers of the law and psychopaths, I would have fallen in love with her on the spot. I’ve had the rule about officers ever since I’d first met Smith, deciding that anyone with a badge couldn’t be worth the hassle. I only added the second part of that rule as part of a New Year’s resolution. Still, maybe if I offered to do her on the desk, that wouldn’t be a date. No, I had to be strong. That wasn’t the good and proper way to treat a professional woman, but damned if I could help thinking it anyway.
“Do I call you Miss Liddell?” I asked as I sat down at my desk.
“Alice will do.” She said and smiled. “Do you know where Peter is?”
“Peter?” I asked, trying to look dumbfounded. “Peter who? Peter and the Wolf? Peter Pan? Peter Pumpkin eater? Possibly you mean Peter Cottontail. I can assure you that he is hopping down the bunny trail.”
“Okay.” She said, smiling sweetly, which went a good way to lowering my defenses. “I’ll assume you know but don’t want to tell me.”
“Or I was just trying to be amusing.” I said smiling back at her.
“Is he safe?” She asked, looking serious for a moment.
“Yes.” I looked at the ceiling and then nodded.
“Okay.” She smiled at me again, a little less worried than she’d been a moment before. “Can I see him?”
“I said he was safe.” I told her. “I never said I know where he is.”
“Where were you all morning?”
“Well, I had to report didn’t I?” She asked. “And then they had to go tell the police what happened and start an investigation and everything.”
“I thought you wanted to get Mister Rabbit’s business partners.”
“Are you saying you’ve come all this way and not heard about it?” She narrowed her eyes incredulously.
“Heard about what?” I asked.
“If you know Peter is safe, how can you not know about what happened last night?”
“Well,” I said, trying not to look to self amused. “The bunny trail is a very safe place to hop.”
The look of confusion on her face was worth it. Anytime I can achieve that look, the day has not been wasted. I think it’s the furled brow I enjoy so much.
“What?” she asked.
“Well I did tell you that Peter Cottontail was hopping down the bunny trail.” I said.
“If you’re going to make fun of me.” She stood up, which put a lot of parts of her body into motion. I’m not even a little ashamed to say I noticed as it proves there is still blood moving in my veins.
“Sit down.” I said standing up as well, just to show her that I wasn’t incapable of motion.
“Why?” She asked, sounding angry.
“Because I want to know what you know.”
“I know a lot of things.” She said, crossing her arms across her chest. “You’ll have to meet me half way at least. I mean I’ve got a badge, but I figured that would just make you resentful. I mean I know women aren’t supposed to have jobs and certainly shouldn’t have any authority or anything, it always makes boys angry when I flash the badge.”
Ah, so that was the problem, she’d never been taken seriously. That was good, because I’ve always had the big gun for that one. I sat back in my chair, because my leg was starting to hurt, and smiled up at her as a laced my hands behind me.
“You’ve got me all wrong.” I said grinning.
“Really?” She asked.
“Yeaup.” I said with a sharp nod. “I’ve always thought women should work. No one should have to be beholden to anyone else. Women should work as much as men. I prefer it when everyone is even and equal, that’s the only time anyone is ever honest. If everyone knows the other could just walk out at any moment, everyone behaves a little better. It’s only when both parties are independent that you get any really good sex.”
I then, having appealed to her sense of sexual fairness, went in for the kill. The kill is always good, and I pretty much had her anyway. I was only really going in for the kill because she was dressed in a good suit and if I needed a professional favor from her, the best time to ask for it would be when I’d complimented her for dressing like a professional.
“Besides, I like how women look in professional clothes. Business suits conceal and enhance in ways most people just don’t appreciate.”
“Oh.” She said blushing so deeply that I wondered if her hands were the same bright red as her entire head and neck seemed to be.
“So why don’t you and I just talk like professionals who are more or less on the same level with each other and be honest?”
“Okay.” She said sitting, and still blushing. One day I’m going to do this to a young woman in front of another man so he can ask how I do that.
“So what happened last night then?” I asked, trying to get her to tell me everything without my telling her anything if I could get away with it.
“Did you meet Chester Cat last night?”
“Yes.” I nodded.
“Before Peter and I called you on our way to the garage.” I said.
“Did you see his little assistant?”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “He was with her at the time.”
“Well.” She said with a sigh. “When we got to the warehouse, they were there waiting for us. The Heart woman was putting the head of one of those men that attacked us on a tripod. When we came in and saw what was going on, Cat came up behind us with guns in his hands and told us to keep quite. Then Heart hit Peter a couple of times and told me to go home.”
“Did you?” I asked.
“Cat took me to my car and watched me drive off.” She said. “I went to the office and told them what had happened. I made a pretty full report of what I knew. It took a little while, but they got with the Detroit police and found out where the Wonderland Gang hung out. There were five decapitated bodies. I guess they took all five heads away with them, because they didn’t find them at the scene.”
“There were six of them there when we went there.” I said opening my desk drawer and looking at the envelope. “And if it doesn’t go beyond you and me, I shot part of Jabber’s ear off.”
“We didn’t find any bullets.” She said.
“Some one took them out of the wall, placed them in an envelope, and left it at my office.” I said taking the envelope from my pocket and tossing it on the desk. “Of course my providence on this envelope is very shaky. What this means though, is that one of the six either ran in the two minutes tops that we weren’t in that house or they have a hostage somewhere.”
I said this all without voicing my privately held suggestion that they had a headless corpse lying around for an emergency. I didn’t want to upset Alice unduly if I didn’t have to.
“Why would they need a hostage?”
“I have no idea.” I said, shaking my head. “It’s totally possible that when I shot Jabber in the ear one of them ran.”
“That girl.” She suggested, “They had a nervous looking girl with them.”
“No.” I shook my head. “Can’t be her.”
“Because your bosses are already using identification marks besides her head to confirm her identity.” I said, trying not to show what a god damned idiot I was. Smart people don’t fuck up like this.
“How do you know it’s not her?” She asked coldly.
“I just know.” I said shaking my head. “It’s a lucky guess that she wouldn’t run is all.”
“Jack.” She said leaning towards me. “Don’t make me take off my belt and beat you.”
“Why not?” I asked. “Your pants would fall down and besides, you have no idea how kinky I am. I might like that sort of thing.”
Not only did she blush, her eyes bulged to their maximum size. I then leaned forward so that the two of us were very close, I decided to whisper because of the closeness.
“Look Alice.” I said, trying to sound like a conspirator. “Peter is safe, but I’m very worried that someone is trying to frame him.”
“Is this still Mister Cottontail?” She asked with a sharp snap.
“No.” I said shaking my head and smiling at her in that special way. “Mister Rabbit.”
“Mister Peter Rabbit is safe?”
“Yes.” I said letting my dark eyes drill into her.
“Do you know where he is?” She asked. “Have you spoken with him?”
“He’s safe.” I said.
“What do I need to do to get you to tell me anything?” She leaned closer and pressed the tip of her nose to mine. “What do I need to do for you Mister Collier?”
Her tone suggested that I might make several interesting proposals to that question. I would have made several extremely unprofessional suggestions to that, but I have a rule against dating people with a badge. I moved my head around hers and whispered into her ear.
“Talk to the Federal Prosecutors.” I said moving my lips to they brushed her ear lobe. “Tell them that Peter will turn state’s evidence in return for any possible wrong doings.”
“What?” She pulled back and was suddenly standing up straight.
This is part eight of twelve, 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.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Seven: The Hotel
I got Peter to put all his clothes in one of the garbage bags and gave him the soap and shampoo. I told him where and how to scrub the hardest, I didn’t want all my work to be spoiled because of his finger nails after all. While he was doing that, Cary and I put his clothes, including his shoes, into a round metal garbage can. She had gotten a can of gasoline for me and we poured it over the clothes, leaving the shoes on top. Because it was her hospitality I was abusing, I let her light the clothes on fire. The flame leapt up a good six feet when she lit it, and danced nearly three feet above the lip of the can for most the burn time.
“You realize we’ve just destroyed evidence, don’t you?” I asked.
“Do you have any idea how dull it is to work at a hotel on a Tuesday morning?” she asked.
“Are you saying risking jail for several years is better than sitting at that desk?”
“I am indeed. Can you tell me about it?”
“I think someone is trying to frame him for a slaughter.”
“Is this that thing in Detroit?” she asked.
“So they found it?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “It was on the news a little while ago, they interrupted Regis and Kelly for it.”
“Well they would, wouldn’t they?” I asked, feeling disgust rolling back in. “I mean six dead bodies, how could they resist?”
“There weren’t six,” she said. “Only five.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she nodded, “Why did you think there were six?”
“There were six people at the house when we were there,” I told her, realized I was telling too much and tried to adjust a little. “And he said they had six heads in a bag with them.”
I am truly brilliant by the way. I decided not to give her too many details by not telling her about Jabber’s head on the post, and then I went right ahead and gave her too much anyway. That’s the kind of brilliant detective I am, the sort who gives away crucial details to anyone who happens to be walking by. This is why I avoid a life of crime, because I’m too dumb to remember a decent cover story.
“Really?” She asked.
“Well, sort of,” I said trying to shrug. “I mean it’s not really the sort of thing I should be discussing with you is it?”
“I guess not.” She said and then looked at the fire for a while. “Should I wash all this stuff out or what?”
“We just need to destroy the… ah, biological material,” I said shaking my head.
“Biological material,” she said, starting to sound serious for the first time. “This isn’t just some extended joke, is it? You’re not rehearsing for a play or making some kind of movie or anything?”
“No,” I said. “You want us out?”
“Nah,” She shook her head. “I’m cool.”
“Where do you want to go to dinner?” I asked.
“Someplace nice,” she said. “Bahama Breeze or something like that.”
“Okay,” I said nodding.
My phone rang and buzzed in my pocket. I reached in and grabbed the phone, looking at it long enough to confirm that it was Debbie at the office. I pressed the talk button and walked away from Cary, holding up a finger.
“Hi,” she said. “Are you able to come to the office?”
“Should I be?” There were two ways for her to answer this specially coded question. If she said one thing I was to come like normal, and if she answered another way I was to come like gangbusters.
“Yeah, you’ve got a visitor,” she said, which wasn’t either of the coded messages.
“Okay, what does that mean?”
“It means come to the office.” She said.
“Don’t you remember the codes?” I asked.
“Are we still doing that?” she asked.
“Well…” I stammered for a moment.
“Can you just hurry up?” she said. “She’s already waiting in your office.”
“You put a person in my office?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, sounding petulant. “She’s got a badge and is better looking than me. I could take either one of those on their own, but together I couldn’t stand to look at her.”
“Is this the sort of woman who doesn’t know that she’s doing that?” I asked.
“Yes,” she growled flatly, which is quite a trick.
“Well at least I know where she is,” I commented.
“Nothing,” I said. “I’ll be there in a little while, I’m kind of far.”
“Okay,” she said. “She just got here.”
“Okay,” I said reflexively. “See you later, bye bye.”
I hung up the phone and stuck it back in my pocket. I then looked at Cary, who smiled up at me as I walked back to her. I couldn’t help but feel that I was abusing her, despite the fact that I was going to buy her dinner and never actually got around to sending her an invoice for the work I’d done for her.
“You’ve got to go back to work?” she asked.
“Someone is at my office,” I said raising my eyebrows at her. “Can you sort of watch over him?”
“Sure,” she smiled in a way that I didn’t like at all. “I can keep him entertained.”
“Don’t entertain him!” I demanded. “Just make sure he stays in there, get him food and stuff if he gets hungry and he’s here that long.”
“Why shouldn’t I entertain him?” she said sticking her lower lip out.
“Because I said so,” I told her. “I’ve got enough problems today without worrying about you getting whatever he’s no doubt got.”
“They have things to prevent that kind of cross-contamination.” she smiled that smile I didn’t like again. What bothered me was probably the fact that she never smiled at me like that. “We have a coin operated machine that’s full of them.”
I really didn’t like the way her eyebrows went up on the word full.
“I am forbidding it.” I raised a finger at her.
“I had no idea you were interesting in saving me for yourself,” she said, and there actually was a hint of that smile.
“You want to call and tell me when you’re free for dinner?” I asked.
“Monday through Friday, anytime after five,” she said putting her hands on her hips. “All next week.”
“Okay,” I said smiling at her. “I’ll call you when I’ve got all this sorted out.”
“This dinner had better be worth it,” she said to my back as I walked away. “I mean to give up someone with that kind of experience.”
“It’s all careful editing,” I said over my shoulder. “Careful editing and flattering lighting. You should put that fire out.”
“That’s why I want to be entertaining,” she called as I went around the corner.
I walked around the front of the building and up the stairs to the room where Peter should be done with his shower. When I opened the door I was glad I left Cary to put out the flaming garbage can. Peter was standing naked in the middle of the room and looked completely unphased by my walking in on him. For the record, yes it is quite large, but not frighteningly so. I picked up a towel and threw it at him.
“Put something on for crying out loud,” I said.
“Oh, right,” he said looking down at his naked body and putting the towel over himself.
“I’ve got to go to my office,” I said looking in his eyes. “I need you to stay here and not go out for anything.”
“I don’t think right now is a very good time to be you,” I said, trying to be as delicate with the matter as I could. “If the police find you, the only thing that can help you is a really good lawyer, and even then only maybe. If someone sees you, then they might tell the cops where you are.”
“Oh,” He said nodding sagely, like he understood the danger the police presented to him.
“Worse yet,” I said deciding on the big guns. “If someone tells Mister Cat and his little helper where you are, they might decide you talked.”
That worked, though I wish I didn’t have to go that far. The blood drained from his face and he sat down heavily on the bed, which probably had been used by many a couple that had met at bowling alleys. He looked really scared, which unfortunately was where I needed him to be. I don’t like scaring people on purpose, but sometimes you have to.
I left him agreeing that he needed to stay put for a while and left for the office. The entire trip left me feeling extremely paranoid. I watched every car and truck on the road, making sure that they weren’t following me. I managed to get to my office without shooting some asshole in an old Lincoln that didn’t seem to understand that tailgating is not the correct way to drive, particularly not behind someone with a gun and a bad case of paranoia. I was very proud of myself for that.
This is part seven of twelve, 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.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Six: Aiding and Abetting
Bill and Pat were standing together on the porch, away from the front door. I gave them barely a glance as I walked to the door and hammered on it with my fist. After giving it half a dozen pounds, I shouted through the door. I guessed that he would come on the hop.
“Peter!” I shouted into the door. “Open up.”
“Jack?” I heard through the door.
“Yeah. Open up,” I said.
The door opened a crack and I could see one of Peter’s watery blue eyes glinting out at me. I placed my hand on the door and gave it some pressure, hoping he would move. He gave ground and the four of us entered the house, to find that his shirt and pants had a lot of blood on them and his left eye had swollen up from a beating someone beside Jubjub had given him.
“What the fuck happened to you?” Pat asked, speaking all our minds if not our exact vocal tones.
“Nothing,” Peter said.
“Something happened,” I said, trying to sound a little more understanding than Pat.
“I fell, cut myself shaving, ran into a door,” He said sitting down on his couch, which I noticed was old, abused, and misshapen.
He grabbed a pack of cigarettes from the table and pulled one out. He put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it with a plastic lighter. He tried to move the cigarette around but found his jaw didn’t want to move. He rubbed gently at his jaw and drew on the cigarette.
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “I’ll put this another way. What did you touch at Jabber’s house?”
“What?” Rabbit asked taking a step forward.
“What do you mean?” Peter asked, taking the cigarette from his mouth.
He was shaking so bad that he dropped the cigarette and had to scramble for it to avoid burning his carpet any worse than it already was. He put the cigarette down in the ashtray and his hand was shaking so bad that he had to more or less just drop the burning ember and hope for the best.
“This isn’t going to juvie for a couple of months because you stole some produce from the farmers’ market,” I said, trying to drive home the point. “Jabber’s head is in your brother’s warehouse and who knows where the rest of the heads are. You think that they won’t get your fingerprints off the place? They’ll get them, they’ll match you up to them, and then you’re going down for killing half a dozen people in a fairly grizzly manner.”
“Oh fuck,” Peter said and pulled his knees up to his chest. “Oh, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.”
He started to rock back and forth, tears streaming down his face. I turned to Bill and Pat, pointing them towards the door. They left quickly and while I was trying to decide if I should nudge Mister Rabbit in that direction, he walked out behind them. The door closed and I watched as they passed the window on their way to the sidewalk.
“Okay,” I told him. “They’re gone, tell me.”
“They’ll fucking kill me,” Peter sobbed.
“First Jabber was going to kill you, then Flopsy was going to kill you,” I reminded him. “Who’s going to kill you this time?”
“Chester and that girl,” He sobbed.
“Ah,” was all I could manage, because they might really do it. “Tell me, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“They were there at the warehouse when we got there. The girl was setting up Jabber’s head on that thing.”
“Miss Heart was there alone?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Chester was there with this big black duffle bag. It had, you know, the others.”
“The others’ heads?”
“Yeah,” He looked like he wanted to vomit over the idea. “They made me bury them.”
“Bury the heads?”
“Yeah,” he nodded again, looking at nothing. I can’t do that, my eyes always fix on something but his clearly weren’t.
“Were they just in the duffle bag?”
“Huh?” he asked suddenly. “No, they had them each in a plastic bag, some sort of thick plastic. It was like the stuff they put over a house when it’s half built, you know?”
“Yes,” I said, nodding.
“They made me take each head out of the bag and bury it.”
“Where?” I asked.
“We must have driven around for three hours,” he said, shivering again. “The girl, she’d drive past one field and another and then pull over and make me bury another head where she told me.”
“What was Chester doing during all this?”
“Just sitting there, watching.”
“He didn’t say anything?”
“No, the girl did,” he said. “She kept telling me where to dig, and how to take the head out of the bag. That girl’s crazy, you know? She kept making me get blood on me and made me stick my fingers in the bullet holes and stuff. I mean she made me stick my middle finger into Rath’s forehead to feel where the bullet was.”
“Did Chester or Miss Heart say why they needed you along?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “The girl did.”
I wondered if I reminded him that her name was Miss Heart, would he quit calling her the girl. Probably not, and forcing the issue might break what little concentration he had. He looked scared, really scared. The problem of course was that he was so scared of her that he didn’t seem to grasp that she was literally coating him with evidence. I again took in his blood stained clothes and hands. I wondered if I shouldn’t just walk out the door, get in my car, drive back to the office and tear up Rabbit’s check. I could probably argue that while he’d been to my office I declined to take the job.
The problem with that of course was Peter. He was just a dumb junkie who used to work in porn and was in way over his head. I winced a little at the fact that I had clearly just made a pun out of the deaths of six people.
“Well?” I asked.
“She said that it was all my fault they were dead and I had to help clean up.”
“What about Mary Ann?” I asked.
“No, they told her to fuck off, you know?” he said and reached for his cigarette again. “Shit, they’re gonna kill me for talking.”
“I doubt it,” I said. “You know where Mary Ann went?”
“She fucked off,” he said, shrugging. “Hell, maybe they went after her later.”
I had a quick argument with myself, and I must say that I lost the point in a sudden death one-on-one basketball match. I looked down the hall for his bedroom and then back at him. I then pulled out my cell phone and checked the time.
“Where are your clothes?” I asked.
“In my dresser, but I can get them.”
“No,” I said pointing at him. “Put on a coat and some gloves.”
I went to his room and grabbed a full compliment of clothes for him. I put them in a plastic shopping bag and left them on the table. I walked to his linen closet and was gratified to find that he actually had a tablecloth. I grabbed that and some towels and got a garbage bag from the kitchen. I put everything, along with another three or four garbage bags on the table. I then took a moment to consider how much trouble I was causing for myself. I mean this wasn’t just bending the law a little, this was going to be full-out aiding and abetting a wanted criminal. As soon as Alice told her bosses what happened, they no doubt ran to the scene of the crime to find the bodies. Since Alice was inside Rabbit’s operation, it was just a matter of time before they got here and no doubt they were already on the way.
“Come on,” I told Peter, who was covered up pretty well in a big overcoat and gloves.
“No fucking questions,” I threw the bags at him as we walked out and I looked at Rabbit and company. “Get out of here, you don’t know what happened, you never saw Peter, get it?”
“Yes,” Mister Rabbit said nodding. “But…”
“If you’re not normally in this area, get the fuck out of it. We’ve got minutes, if not seconds to get gone.” I grabbed the tablecloth and quickly spread it over the front passenger seat of my car, putting a towel down on the floor just in case. “Come on Pete.”
It’s true that I might be paranoid, but in a situation like this it’s better to believe that they’re right behind you rather than miles off. Peter seemed to understand and got into the car. I closed it behind him and got in and started the engine. Another thought occurred to me as I drove off with Peter in the car. If Amy had gone to all this trouble to frame him, how upset would she be with me for doing everything I could to get rid of the evidence? Of course there would be all those prints she made sure he left on the plastic, but that could be explained away by a clever attorney. Of course if I was right about her reasons for doing this, she wouldn’t be too upset with me. As we drove, I pulled out my phone and called a friend of mine.
“Woodward Motel, Cary speaking,” her voice came over and I thanked whatever being made sure I had luck on hand.
“Hey beautiful,” I said smiling my best into the phone. “Can you loan me a room for a couple of hours?”
“You have a home for that sort of thing don’t you?” she asked, and I could hear the smile. “Or don’t you want her to know where you live?”
“It’s a he,” I said.
“Well, no wonder you don’t want anyone to know,” she laughed.
“You got a room free?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “A couple, what kind do you need?”
“Just something with a bathroom. I’ll need some lava soap, shampoo, all of those things. I’ll need to borrow a metal garbage can or something too.”
“Okay,” she said with a false sigh. “You can have a room for a while.”
“Thanks babe,” I said. “I owe you one.”
“You owe me several,” she corrected. “But we’ll discuss that over dinner.”
“I probably can’t tonight, but we will discuss it over dinner soon,” I agreed.
“Good enough,” she said. “How long?”
“About half an hour,” I said, “I’m just leaving Mt. Clemens now.”
“What are you doing there?”
“I’ll explain over that dinner we discussed,” I told her and we both hung up.
“Where are we going?” Peter asked.
“A hotel,” I told him. “A friend of mine runs a motor lodge, you can get cleaned up and we’ll get rid of these clothes.”
“Then I don’t know,” I said as I watched a police car turn out of a gas station and start to follow us. I felt my stomach knot up and it didn’t even think to unknot until the car went past us to pull over someone in the other lane. It’s a good thing I don’t worry too much, or I’d be in a lot of trouble.
When we pulled into the parking lot, Cary was already standing outside the office with a bag in hand. She looked good, better than she had last time I’d seen her. Of course last time I saw her was after I’d dealt with a boyfriend who had decided that he needed to hit a four foot eleven inch girl to make himself feel big. She handed it over to me and pulled a key from her back pocket. It was an actual key with a big plastic paddle that said the name of the hotel on it and the number twenty-seven.
“Thanks,” I said looking in the bag at the personal cleaning supplies she’d gotten for me.
“Well, you hardly make a regular habit of it,” she said smiling up at me. Her jaw fell open when she saw Peter get out of the car. “Holy shit, is that Peter Rabbit?”
“Yes,” I agreed.
“Wow, he’s… he’s just.”
“So I understand,” I agreed. “And while I would love you indulge your private fantasy, as you can see, he’s had a bad morning.”
“Well, yeah,” she nodded.
“Just between us please,” I said. “He’s in a lot of trouble if I don’t help him.”
“Hey,” She punched me lightly on the shoulder, “I take all my orders from you captain. We’re all in it together.”
“Thanks,” I said. “We’ll be out of your hair in a little while.”
“No problem,” she said with a smile. “I’ll get a can we can burn his clothes in. Leave the car open and I’ll get the tablecloth too.”
“Well aren’t you an efficient little accomplice?” I asked.
“Well, if I’m nice to him, he might not be having a bad day later and will remember my kindness,” she smiled at me as I walked towards Peter and we went up the stairs to the motel’s second level.
This is part six of twelve, 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.
A Jack Collier Mystery
By Brett N. Lashuay
Look here for last week’s entry!
Part Five: Awaken Dream Child
I woke up to the sound to my phone ringing, which is never a good sign. Only a limited number of people have my cell number, and only one of them would bother calling me around the time I get up in the morning. However, I don’t like just picking up the phone so I checked the caller ID window anyway. It was Debbie’s cell phone, which was a little surprising because she normally calls to ask me if I’m coming into the office. It was too early for her even to be at the office though, which meant something else must have been going on.
“Yeah?” I asked as I pressed the phone against the side of my head.
“What the hell happened last night?” she asked, in a voice filled with more indignation than I knew she had.
“Um, lots of stuff?” I asked.
“Is she still in bed with you?” she asked.
“Sadly,” I said with a heavy sigh, “two women sort of came on to me at different parts of the night and yet I still ended up alone.”
“Why do you want to know what happened last night?” I asked.
“Mister Flopston Rabbit has called me three times now,” she growled with all the anger of a woman who had been denied two hours of sleep. “It seems that his brother and secretary are missing.”
“Oh yeah?” I lifted my right hand to wipe my face. The pain made me stop and I decided to go forgo that activity for the moment. “Did he mention his merchandise?”
“Nooooo,” she said, drawing it out.
“Okay,” I said biting my limp in lieu of being able to rub my chin. “I’ll give him a call then and we’ll see what’s going on. I’m sorry they woke you up, you can probably take the morning off if you want.”
“Well, I’m up now,” she complained.
“Well then take the afternoon off,” I suggested. “I’m doing my best to offer you compensation.”
“Are you coming to the office?” she asked, sighing slightly.
“Probably, I’ll have to see what Rabbit wants first and find out if I need to go sort anything out for him.”
“Call me at the office when you know something,” she ordered.
“Alright,” I agreed, because while I’m not the sort of boss who lets his secretary organize his entire life, I see no profit in arguing for argument’s sake. “Talk to you later.”
“Bye-bye.” I said, as I have always done no matter how silly it sounds for a grown man to perform the verbal equivalent to waving at a person when you leave the room.
I got out of bed, walked to the bathroom and did the sorts of things a person does in the morning. I’m not going to describe them, because you don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to tell you. The details would be pointless anyway. Suffice it to say that I was clean, free of internal physical pressures and without facial hair when I left the bathroom.
I picked up the foam rubber ball that sat on my dresser and squeezed it a few times in my right hand. I managed to squeeze it fifty times before my hand started to ache which was progress. I’d been adding a few more squeezes each week and had gotten myself up to that. Soon I would be able to start lifting dumbbells again and my right arm might start to look less like a withered stick version of my left arm.
After my morning workout, I picked up my cell phone and gave Mister Rabbit a call. He must have been on edge because the phone only rang once before it picked up and his voice quavered in my ear. If you never heard an actual quaver in a person’s voice, I don’t suggest you try to induce it, it isn’t pleasant.
“Collier?” he quavered at me.
“That’s right Mister Rabbit,” I said, trying to sound confident and alert and not at all in need of several cups of coffee, two of which should have Irish cream in them if we’re already dreaming. “I understand you can’t find Peter and Mary Ann.”
“Well I only left them about,” I checked my bed side clock, “maybe seven hours ago? I’ve not even had five hours of sleep, so I would suggest that you check their beds.”
“I have, hours ago.” I could swear I heard him shudder through the phone. “I’m afraid something might have happened to them.”
“What?” I asked, making a decision not to expose the fact that I knew what was really in the chocolate eggs. “Did they run off with the merchandise? When they left me, Peter was driving your stuff back in the truck those mutants used to take it away in.”
“No,” he said impatiently. “The truck was outside the warehouse when I got to the warehouse. We checked it and it seems that everything is intact.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I think you should come down here, it would be better if I could talk to you face to face.” He sounded a little frantic. “It’s not something I want to discuss on the phone.”
“Oh Fuckmonkeys,” I muttered. “How bad? Should I call for support, or look out for people following me?”
“No,” he quavered, which is not a nice thing to hear. “It’s not like that, and no one should be following yet.”
I had another one of those moments that people sometimes report having, where they can see the future. I knew that all those kids in that Wonderland Hovel were dead, and I knew that Mister Cat and Amy Heart had killed them. I was sure that Rabbit knew that too, even though he’d claim otherwise, which is why he didn’t want to discuss it over the phone. Of course I will continue to tell myself that this is just deductive reasoning, because if I’m to rely on psychic powers I might as well quit now.
I called the office and told Debbie that I was going to go and see Mister Rabbit at his warehouse. I then got in the car and drove down to Mt. Clemens, which I still find slightly distressing. It’s not that the place is as dingy as Detroit can be, but it’s smaller and far more pokey. When Detroit started to go downhill, it hurt towns like this and made them freeze in place and stop almost dead. While it’s still a county seat, as a town it’s barely holding on and mostly because of the county being seated there. The small town center might have thrived once, but people abandoned the small city and went to live in the suburbs, leaving it bereft.
When I drove up to the warehouse I saw the truck parked outside, but no one was actually doing anything. It’s always a bad sign when three people are just standing together looking at something inside a warehouse. I got out and walked towards the small gathering and then saw why they were just standing there. It must have been shock for them, but I don’t shock so easy. Seeing young Jabber Walker’s head on what looked like a camera tripod didn’t stop me like it clearly stopped them. There was a lot of blood smeared on the floor, as if there had been people moving around in the blood. I looked around to see if anyone was looking and then started to shove them inside the building.
“What the hell?’ Rabbit asked as I shoved.
“You want the whole neighborhood to see?” I asked as pressed the button to close the large rolling door. “When did you discover this?”
“When I called you.” Rabbit’s voice was still quavering.
“Anyone been here since?”
“No,” he said shaking his head.
“Okay.” I realized that if I didn’t call the police soon I would be officially in trouble. I was going to have to either call them soon or not let them know I was here at all. “Have you been to Peter’s house?”
“No,” Rabbit said shaking his head. “Bill banged on his door a while ago, but I haven’t been there.”
“Okay,” I nodded and looked at the two assistants. “Bill isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Bill said.
“Could you go see if Peter’s at his house?”
“Sure,” he said, anxious to get away.
“Take Pat with you,” I said as I turned back to Jabber’s severed head. It was a ragged cut, the spine looked like it had been torn away.
“Okay,” Pat said and the two of them left in a hurry.
When they were gone I bent down and looked at the smears of blood, which weren’t very old but weren’t exactly new either. I had a feeling I knew where Peter had gone, and I had a feeling I knew who had taken him. I was a little worried about where Alice might be though, if Mister Cat and Miss Heart had discovered she wasn’t called Mary Ann, it might be going badly for her right now.
“You said gold coins,” I said to him as I turned to face him.
“Yes?” Rabbit said.
“Heroin isn’t a Krugerrand, nor is it a gold sovereign,” I told him. “And now you’ve got Mister Cat decapitating people and delivering the head to you.”
“I didn’t tell him to do that!” Rabbit nearly howled. “They were supposed to find out where they’d taken my merchandise.”
“And they just happened to decapitate one or more of them and bring the head or heads back here?”
“Heads?” Rabbit asked.
“There is a lot of blood here for just one head.” I told him while pointing. “My guess is they took all the heads away and after bringing them here, took the other heads away leaving this one.”
“Why?” Rabbit asked.
“Because that’s what a grinning lunatic like Chester Cat does,” I said frankly. “He and his little helper are very deranged and very dangerous. Why would you hire hit men to investigate for you anyway?”
“Chester is an old friend,” Rabbit said. “He’s worked for me a lot off and on. He’s never done anything like this before.”
“Never?” I asked
“His kills are really quiet,” he said, and I could see tears in his eyes. “I’d never have anyone killed anyway, I don’t do that.”
I was going to press the point some more when his phone rang. He grabbed it from his pocket and answered in a hurried voice. If anything, his voice quavering even more as he spoke.
“Yes? Yes. Okay. I understand. We’ll be there in a moment.” He closed the phone and looked at Jabber and then me. “Peter’s at home now, he’s scared though and he won’t open the door. Bill thinks if we come over, you and I might persuade him out.”
“Okay,” I said nodding slowly and glancing at Jabber’s head. “Let’s go see Peter then and find out where he’s been.”
This is part five of twelve, 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.