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Christmas Noir: Day 7

Solstice came back into the kitchen with a glass of sherry and a can of cola. She set the can down in front of me, but allowed me to open it for myself, proving that I had some use in the world. I might spend my days pretending to detect, just as Debbie pretended to type (maybe) but I could at least tackle a coke can.

“So, when did you meet her?” I asked after we’d both had a sip of our drinks.

“Oh right after she’s left Mithras.” She said.

“Mithras?” I asked, trying to place that name.

“Oh, you are way too young to remember him.” She said. “Even if you think you’re old, which you aren’t, you wouldn’t be old enough to remember Mithras. He was the guy who discovered her. She was just a kid when he found her and put her on stage. She learned all his tricks and got to be more popular than him. He sort of dropped out after he began to decline, I don’t think he could take it. He sort of went insane for a while, cracked form the pressure. He’s in a home now.”

“Around here?”

“Well, in Michigan.” She said. “Not around her, Armada.”

“That’s not around anywhere.” I said.

“I’ll get you the number.” She said.

“You don’t think maybe he went crazy again do you?” I asked.

“He’s too old even to walk.” She said shaking her head at my momentary hope. “Last time I saw him he had just enough strength in his arms to raise a fork.”

“No huh?”

“No.” She said. “He couldn’t even muster up the strength or the influence to get someone else to do it for him. He wouldn’t even think of it anyway. He’s not got what it takes.”

“Would he know anything?” I asked.

“Maybe.” She said. “I’m not sure he would bother telling you anything though, he’s just a bitter old bastard. She left him in a hope that he might not be too bitter at her, but the crowds had already left him when she came north and met me.”

“She left him to try and save his career?”

“No, she left him in the hopes that he wouldn’t follow her. She’s beautiful and I love her dearly, but she is a selfish creature.”

“Yeah she is.” I sighed.

“As you and I know better than most.” She sounded wistful when she said that, but it passed and she went on with her story. “She came up north mostly hoping to team up with my act. I think partly she wanted to get away from him, partly she wanted to learn all my tricks. I suppose the time we spent together was worth loosing all my best tricks to her. That was what made her famous you know. She’d taken all the best stuff from Mithras’s act and combined it with all the best stuff from my act.”

“By putting it together she found the perfect combination.” I said.

“Exactly.” She nodded vigorously. “Oh, she was so beautiful in those days. When she was young, and there seemed to be an air of innocence about everything she did. Even when it was some of those wondrously pornographic things we got up to in those days, she made it seem like it was all harmless fun. She got me to do things I was shocked to do on stage, but it seemed okay because she was there doing them with me. I did so love her in those days.”

“But then there was the fat man and Church.” I said.

“Yeah.” She sighed deeply. “Only in those days he was the child molester, not the fat man. He didn’t get fat until he started on that stuff he got her hooked on. After that he expanded to the huge monster you know today.”

“You think Church or the fat man might have done it?”

“I can’t say.” She said. “Either of them might have, but then both of them have good reason not to. I know it looks like Church flies off the handle sometimes, but he’s not as dumb as people think. The fat man can’t have his meal ticket taken away, a pimp needs something to pimp. He can’t actually work for his own money. If he’s not forcing her to suck every cock on Madison Avenue for those big fat contracts, how is he going to make his money? Of course Church might have really lost it, he never was stable where Christmas was concerned. And the fat man might have decided that she was getting too old, or maybe she burped at the wrong time. Someone diddles little kids, they might do anything.”

“No idea huh?”

“It doesn’t really matter anymore.” She said, looking dejected suddenly. “Who ever did it to her, really it doesn’t matter.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to remain calm, to hear her out.

“Christmas did it to herself.” She said turning the glass in her hand. “There were so many places where she could have walked away. There were so many times I offered to help her get out of it. She had so many opportunities to get away and safe. There were people who offered to help her constantly, but she stayed in that same position, knowing that could happen. Well it happened. As much as anyone, Christmas is the guilty party here.”

We talked a little more, but there wasn’t much more that was worth reporting here. I left a little while later with a map to the place where Mithras lived and the phone number. When I walked out of the house, I saw a funny sight. Where there had once been a man in a brown corduroy suit following me, now there were the agents. A large black SUV sat across the street from the house, with the two agents looking dead ahead as if they were still driving. The road was a one-way street, so they were parked in a way that would normally make them parked backwards. As it was a one-way street, the fact that the passenger door faced out onto the street wasn’t a big deal.

What was a big deal is that Agent Smith sat in the front seat and pretended like he didn’t even see me coming. That was how I knew he must be watching, he wouldn’t let me walk up to the car like that while he looked out the front window otherwise. I toyed for a moment with the idea of taking out my pocketknife and slashing the front tire to see if I could get his attention that way, but I dismissed it. Cutting tires takes a lot more effort than people think, and it takes time. At least it takes more time than I would be able to spare while Smith and his goons were kicking my ass.

I opted instead for something almost as much fun and probably twice as obnoxious. I took the folding knife from my pocket and rattled on the glass of the window with the metal end of the closed knife. The sound that produces is extremely annoying and produces in someone the idea that the window is about to be shattered.

To his credit, Smith didn’t move for a good ten seconds before he finally flipped the switch the caused the window to roll down. Not to be outdone by this, and since he’d turned to look at me as the window went down, I started tapping his huge stupid mirrored glasses.

He raised his hands and for a moment I thought he might try to snatch my knife away, instead though he snatched his glasses off his face, which had the desired effect. I drew the pocketknife away and slid it back into my pocket, proving that it was a knife that fit in a pocket, or a pocket knife.

“Why are you following me around Smith?” I asked.

“We just happened to come here.” He said. “We noticed your car was here and decided to wait until you’d left to speak with Ms. Yule.”

“What do you want to speak with her about?” I asked. “I might not be leaving just yet.”

“Just the basics.” He said, in a voice that sounded almost supplicant. “Where she was, does she know anything, those sort of questions.”

“Why are you being so nice all the sudden?” I asked. “You’ve not threatened to arrest me once and we’ve been talking for nearly forty seconds now.”

“I wasn’t aware I was being any nicer than usual.”

“Did Noonan happen to mention who was paying my tab?” I asked.

“I believe the conversation did meander around to that subject, yes.” He admitted.

“I see.” I nodded. “You’re even more scared of the fat man than you are of me eh?”

“I work for the government.” He said. “I only have to fear things the government has to fear.”

“Fuck.” I said. “If you have to fear everything the government fears it’s a wonder you ever come out from under the bed. I mean there might be gays thinking about holding hands and talking about getting married right in one of these houses. I’d run screaming if I were you.”

I couldn’t think of any retort to that comment that would be worth listening to, so I turned and walked away. If I couldn’t think of a good comeback for that, then it was a certainty that Smith wouldn’t be able to come up with one. I was six times cleverer than Smith in my sleep, and since I was currently awake the total number of times I was smarter would have to be higher. Not wishing to have to listen to a sub par comeback from a mentally impaired agent, I decided to get in my car and leave.

I didn’t see anyone following me as I got on the free way, or as I drove along my route, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t following. I would have been able to see them, but they might have been clever and been following with a team, which is harder to spot. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t being watched though, it’s hard to suspect a completely empty road of harboring spies.

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