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Wonderland Part 1

This was going to be a story for Easter, but I was inspired to a much better idea than the one I first had thought of. This story is a semi-sequel to Christmas Noir, in that these events take place a few months after those events. This is a much shorter case and will only take up between five and seven days worth of your time. I'm not quite done, but the notes are complete and I have a few days stored up already.

So... without further ado, here is the next chapter in the life of Jack Collier...

I was sitting in my office, trying to see how many times I could squeeze a small foam rubber ball that a very perky woman named Suzy had given me for this purpose. My right hand still wasn’t actually strong enough to hold a gun, but I could just about hold a pen long enough to sign my name on checks now. The most frustrating part about physical therapy is how long is takes. You get shot in the arm in late December, and come March you still have to wait for things to heal. That is of course, if they ever do heal completely.

They’d said the bullets that tore through me probably wouldn’t cause permanent damage, unless I tried to rush things or didn’t do them right. I would have to be patient, and I would have to keep working at it. So I squeezed my right hand into the tightest fist I could manage and was just barely able to compress the ball by a few centimeters, which was improvement. At least I wasn’t dropping the ball when I tried to squeeze anymore.

The door opened and Debbie came into the office. She was doing that now, instead of calling me. I probably could use the exercise that reaching sixteen inches to get the phone would provide, and the phone was positioned so I reached with my left hand, but she walked in anyway. This at least provided me with two opportunities to watch her walk, which was always a pleasant distraction. It was a distraction that I know I’m not supposed to indulge myself in, not in these days, but I do anyway.

“Client.” She said with a bright and chipper smile.

“Really?” I asked. “How do they manage to find us?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s he got here from word of mouth.” She said.

“All our former clients are dead or in jail.” I said, even though I knew it wasn’t true.

“Not all of them.” She corrected.

“Okay,” I said with a small nod. “Show him in.”

He was very pale, almost wholly white in fact. The hair on his head was actually white, not silver or gray, but white. He was immaculately dressed in a three piece suit and a gold watch chain was strung across his waist coat between the pockets. He sat down and eyed me somewhat nervously and fingered the gold chain as if he really wanted to check the time but didn’t dare. He carried a cane that looked like ebony and when he sat it placed it directly between his feet, placing his left hand on the cap and his right hand on his left.

“My name is Mister Rabbit.” He said with the most proper British accent I had ever heard. I nodded at him to show some comprehension.

“Would you be Jack or Roger then?” I asked, because it sounded like something he’d probably only heard about forty thousand times. The look on his face told me I’d low balled the figure.

“My given name is Flopston.” He said, and I could hear the accent become just that much stiffer and more proper. “I was told what to expect from you. Church was quite clear in informing me of how much you are amused by yourself.”

“Ahhhh.” I said nodding. “I was wondering who in the world was left to recommend my services to you.”

“Church and I once had dealings.” He said shifting in his chair and glairing in my direction. “We haven’t had dealings since Easter was killed though. I had to adjust my operations after that. It is a small problem with those operations that I require your services.”

“Okay.” I said nodding, which I hoped would allow me to jog my brain into decoding that last sentence of his. It occurred to me that he was trying to sound British, but that the accent sounded like he’d just watched a lot of Master Piece Theater.

“Parts of shipments are going missing. I think I know where they’re going, I need to find out who is making them vanish. You find out, and tell me.”

“Just that?” I asked.

“Yes.” Rabbit said nodding. “I’ll have my own people deal with it, but I’ll need some proof of the theft.”

“I only ask because I can’t really do the beating people up and shooting them thing anymore. You might have heard about the fact that I got shot to pieces in December.”

“I’d heard you’d been shot.” Mister Rabbit said. “I suppose I didn’t notice how bad it was.”

“Well, be assured, I can’t do the tough guy detective thing right now.” I said leaning back in my chair and grabbing the foam rubber ball. “See this sponge ball thing? I can just about squeeze it if I try really hard. I can’t draw a gun and probably won’t be able to for some time.”

“All I really need is for someone outside my organization to catch the thief, so that it won’t look like I’m framing anyone.” Rabbit said shifting his hands on his cane.

He let the hands slip of the cap, which I noticed was egg shaped. He slid his left hand down the shaft of the cane while his right hand touched the watch chain. He looked up at me and moved his hand away from the watch. It was such a self conscious gesture that it made me glance at the clock on my desk. Having caught myself doing this I decided to make him slightly uncomfortable while pretending to be helpful while doing it.

“Two thirty-five.” I said.

“Oh.” He said, looking relieved. “Thank you.”

“So, how do I prove who’s stealing from you? Do I take a camera or something?”

“I can depend on your word I think.” Rabbit said.

A little alarm bell went off far in the back of my mind. There was some minor clerk deep in the pit of my belly who was taking in the information and was ringing this alarm bell. However, so lowly was his position in the company of my belly and so weak was his alarm that I failed to properly notice. Had I given that clerk a better slot, I would have a much better early warning system than I do. However, as I have been told by people posing as doctors that I suffer from acute paranoia, I often ignore those sorts of warnings. I suspect that knowing you are prone to paranoia is actually worse than being paranoid, it means you ignore things when maybe you shouldn’t.

“When would you want me to start?”

“Tonight if you could.” Rabbit said reaching for the watch chain again, and again stopping half way. “I’ve already told my brother Peter that you’ll be there. You know about him I suppose?”

“Am I supposed to?” I asked.

“Well he worked in adult entertainment for a while.” Rabbit said with dismay. “However his drug habit inhibited his performance I understand.”

“I was never a big fan of porno.” I said.

“Well, after his rehab I gave him a job.” Rabbit ran his finger around the egg shaped cane topper, seemingly fixated on it. “He wouldn’t have the courage to actually steal from me, but he could be scared enough to let someone else do it.”

That warning bell went off again, but I decided that it was just another note of my legendary paranoia. I was going to have to either investigate that warning, or disconnect that bell soon.

“So you think it’s you’re brother but you want to be sure?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

“Okay.” I said nodding, and then flat out lied by saying, “That sounds reasonable enough.”

“Excellent.” Rabbit said standing up and grabbing at the watch chain. He drew out a fairly large pocket watch and flipped open the cover. He nodded at the time and closed the watch again, slipping it in his pocket. “My warehouse in Mount Clemens, I’ll see you there at ten tonight. Do you need the address?”

“You might as well give it to me.” I said, and he did.

I didn’t actually see him to the door, because after rattling off the address, he turned and scurried to the door. I’ve never seen a grown man scurry before, and it’s not a pleasant sight. I was left with a feeling that things were about to go badly for me. I am, however, paranoid.

I clutched my right hand a few times and the squeezy ball compressed to about half its normal size. I could crush the thing in my left hand, turning it into a small compact mass. In my right hand, I could only manage this small amount of force. I wasn’t supposed to get frustrated, that was what Suzy had told me when I started working with the ball. I was supposed to just keep working at it, and it would come eventually. The muscle damage had been bad, but they said there was no nerve damage so it would all come back eventually, or almost all at any rate. I just had to keep working this stupid ball.

I looked at the address, which I had to type out on the computer because I wasn’t going to be able to write with a pen for some time yet. I put the foam ball down and opened firefox so I could check the address. I got a map from a web site that I won’t name because that would look like product placement, and found the location. It was one of the buildings on Mary off Cass, near the railroad tracks. Just another building in Mt Clemens no one was using for anything else.

Lest you think I am completely idiotic, it did occur to me what Mister Rabbit’s missing merchandise might be, after all he had a long association with Church. I wasn’t clear whether Church and Rabbit were still associated, but that didn’t really matter much. So long as Mister Rabbit wasn’t trafficking in humans or illegal puppies or anything, I could probably handle it. If his merchandise turned out to be drugs, I could always call Cramer and have him come down with a squad for a good bust.

I picked up the hard leather holster that Debbie had given to me as a present after I’d gotten shot in December. It was a belt holster for a Marley 38 with the clip on the left side. If I was going to have to be a south paw, she reasoned, I should at least be able to draw my gun even if I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it left handed. I checked the cylinders on the Marley and slipped it the whole thing into place.

Getting up is a tricky endeavor for me these days. I have to be careful how I put weight on my right leg because while I can walk on it fairly normally, I have been warned I could tear something if I’m not carefully. The injury wasn’t as bad as my arm turned out to be, but there is some pain and I’ve got to be careful with it.

I got up though and with a minimum of limping made it to the waiting room where Debbie was typing away madly. She looked up at me with the bright and cheery smile she’d been giving me ever since it looked like the firm was going to be dissolved a few months back. She’d never been a sourpuss, but her demeanor had become like that of a cheerleader since then. I think she was trying to encourage me to get stronger, and it was working. When I had my strength up, I was planning to wipe that stupid smile off her face one way or another.

“The firm has been engaged.” I announced as I let the door swing closed behind me.

“Oh yes?” She asked. “How much are we to earn by this engagement?”

That hadn’t occurred to me, the question of money had never actually been brought up. I couldn’t help but feel that this would not be right answer to give her, as she looked at me with those big eyes of hers. However, I was used to giving the wrong answer.

“No idea.” I announced as cheerfully as I could.

“No idea?” she asked,
“Nope.” I said. “I’m trying out a new idea where I charge what I feel is a fair price for the work I’ve actually done instead of basing my price on work I intend to do.”

“That’ll bite you in the butt later.” She said rolling her eyes. “But it’s nice to see you working again.”

“Thanks.” Said with a smile, “I’ll be out late so lock when you’re done.”

With that, I went out into the early spring air, prepared for anything from the low thirties to the high seventies. The two decided to settle in the middle at fifty two degrees according to the digital readout on the clock at the bank across the street. I decided to get some lunch and then go over to Rabbit’s warehouse to have a look around.

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