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Christmas Noir: Day 5



I followed Noonan’s car out to Pontiac, taking the I-75 to M59 and then that down into town. Along the way I noticed a brown Buick, the color of milk chocolate, driving behind me. A face which was going to become very familiar was in the driver’s seat, following at an even pace.

Pontiac is like a smaller version of Detroit in many ways, in that it was once more bustling than it is today. While there is still business to be done there, and some work to be found, it’s not the nicest area of Michigan to be in. There was certain grayness to the entire place, like its color had been sapped out of it along with its vitality. The decorations were up, but they were mostly cheep and long lasting things that were ragged around the edges. Plastic fringe on metal frames, the plastic snapping in the cold air, and never quite with a powerful enough amount of color to survive having it’s color sucked away by the area.

The section of Pontiac we drove into is certainly not the sort of place where someone like Christmas would leave her car, or even enter. She had a huge house, servants, private security, millions of adoring fans. Of course there had been a time when she would have come here, particularly a place like this, before she got too big for all that. Now she would only give them a cursory glance before moving on to someplace with cleaner streets and more money.

I knew that something was up as soon as the small party store came into view. There was a small German car parked in the small black topped parking lot, with four huge black SUVs surrounding it like line backers looking to gang rape the last cheerleader on earth. There were also the agents skulking around the parking lot, crouched down like birds looking for crumbs of bread, only to find that what they thought was a piece of hamburger bun was actually a cigarette butt.

We couldn’t actually get into the parking, because of the state trooper that had parked across the entrance, so we parked on the street. We walked to where said state trooper was talking with some other detectives and police officers. There was a mixture of uniforms and plains clothes standing around, watching the agents with mistrust. No one trusts the Government agents, because the government agents don’t trust anyone else. The Agents always wore their uniforms too, they were never out of uniform ever. The lower ranks had white shirts and black ties with the navy blue coats that had the name of their agency in yellow letter on the back.

“Hello Noonan.” Lieutenant Rowcliff said as the two of us approached.

“What do we know?” Noonan asked.

“Well, the store owner said the car wasn’t here when he got here, but that it was about an hour ago. The driver’s door was open and the keys were in the ignition. He says the purse was on the passenger seat and when he checked the wallet he found Christmas’s driver’s license and called it into the locals. I heard it on the radio and came by as well. We confirmed it and then the feds got here and shooed everyone away.”

“And then we all came along too.” Rowcliff said.

“Just dumped then?” Noonan asked.

“I would say so.” The trooper said. “Of course I could be wrong, but I think that car has been cleaned of everything it would have ever offered in the way of clues.”

“Probably right.” I said. “But what say we go over and look at it.”

“Feds won’t let you.” Rowcliff said.

“Let’s go try anyway.” I said walking towards the small German car.

“Stop right there.” An agent that looked to be about fifteen said.

He stood from his bird like crouch, ran ten paces and then held out his hand like he was a traffic warden. Since it takes a little more than a vat grown agent who hasn’t started to shave to intimidate me, I kept walking. Noonan, noticing that I kept going, kept up the pace behind me.

“Hey!” The young agent yelled as I passed him.

It’s interesting how quick those little agents can move when threatened. They formed up a sort of wall of prepubescent flesh before us, their huge mirrored sunglasses nearly blinding us as they shifted their heads to reflect the sun. I wondered again when these agents started being younger than me. It was like the teenagers, at some point they all started being so many years younger than me. It didn’t used to be that way.

“What’s going on?” A voice I recognized half squeaked.

I recognized the voice immediately and it made me want to just start punching. I always thought teasing Agent Smith about his name was funny, because all the gents look the same and Smith is such a common cliché name. There was something about being such a bland character to the extent of the name that made me laugh. Of course then the Matrix came out and everyone started in on that and after that the joke sort of stopped being funny. Now I’ve got to find other ways to tease Smith.

His narrow face, with the huge mirrored sunglasses poked out from between the young scrawny agents and looked right at me. His face became a deep scowl, and I could see that when he got older he would be one of those old men who always seemed to be scowling, weather he was or not. He wasn’t happy to see me, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see him either.

“Collier.” His voice hissed like something that slithered on the ground and bit the ankles of those that stood on two feet. This would probably be the most accurate description of Agent Smith I could make if only there was a way to add those stupid mirrored sunglasses he and all agents insist on wearing.

“Hello Smith.” I said.

“This is a federal investigation.” Smith snapped. “Just because you’ve been around before doesn’t mean you can stick your nose in. Stay out of our way or I’ll have you busted so fast your head will spin.”

I took in a deep breath, which caused my chest to swell. I tucked my head down while doing it, so as too look more menacing. I then took a step forward and as I had expected, the government’s courage held up like it always did. All the agents took a step back as I stepped forward, which is impressive when you consider ten of them were standing in formation.

“Smith.” I growled in a way that let him know that if he was a snake I was a mongoose. “This might be your investigation, but it’s my town. I’ve kicked your ass out of here before and if needs be, I can do it again.”

“You’re not going to get to that car.” Agent Smith hissed again, and if he had neck flaps, he would have flashed them. “You come another step and my men will arrest you.”

I took another step, and instead of arrest there was another demonstration of close rank retreat. I really wanted to shoot it out with the Agents, but I didn’t actually have a gun on me. If you’re going to suggest a gun fight, it’s pretty bad form to then ask if someone can loan you a pistol because you forgot yours at home. I might not be the best subject for study when it comes to etiquette, but I know that much.

So, instead of shooting it out with the agents, I decided that I’d made my point about the extra step and turned around. I looked at Noonan as I began to walk away, and he turned and walked next to me. I looked at him and he looked back at me and smiled.

“It was dumped.” Noonan said. “They only protect things like that when they don’t want anyone to know how much time their wasting with a useless prospect.

“Yeah.” I said.

“What do you think you’ll do to start then?”

“I think I’ll go see Solstice.” I said. “Like I said, the start of the story.”

“I’ll see you later then.” He said.

“Yeah.” I said and turned back to see that the agents still hadn’t moved to gain back the ground they’d lost. They were going to wait until I was gone, which was fine with me.

I got into my car and drove back onto M59, pulling out my cellphone when I got on the highway. I noticed the chocolate brown Buick a few cars back as I started to drive and dialed Solstice’s number. After a few rings, her voice came over.

“Hello?”

“Hi Solstice.” I said. “It’s Jack, how are you doing?”

“Have you heard?” She asked.

“I heard.” I said.

“Terrible, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” I agreed. “Are you busy today? I’d like to stop by and talk about it.”

“I’m not busy.” She said. “When would you get here?”

“In about an hour.” I said. “Maybe an hour and a half.”

“Well in that case I’ll have lunch ready for you when you get here.” She said, and I could help but smile.

“I’ll be there in a little while then.” I said watching the brown car in the rear view mirror.

I wondered for a moment how long he was willing to trail me. What kind of mileage did that Buick get? Would he have enough gas? Did he have any donuts? I decided that I would see how long he could try and follow me as we went down I-96. How long would his patience hold up? For that matter how long before he’d have to pull over and get more donuts?

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
ciarrainic
Dec. 5th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
I like the bit with the doughnuts (in both this section and the other one), highly amusing.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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