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Liberty’s Child, A Jack Collier Story

Liberty’s Child
A Jack Collier Story

I must say, I wasn’t happy to be in Marrakech. I’m not found of North Africa as a general rule actually. It’s hot, it’s dusty, and if Henry had been able to speak Hovitos I wouldn’t even need to be here. Tracking a man selling stolen treasures from South America in places like this isn’t exactly easy. I knew this was the only place he could sell it though, even though it took me a while to get here. Still, I was here and that was enough I suppose, but it didn’t help with my annoyance. I mean I’d managed to bring my piece home, why couldn’t he? No, I’ve got to go traipsing across the world looking for his damn rival.

The problem isn’t finding shady a bastard, the problem is finding the one who stole for profit the thing that you’d rightful swiped for a museum acquisition. If all I wanted to do was beat up thieves who were selling things they shouldn’t be selling, I could just start punching people in the street at random. About the only thing you’d have to do is avoid the natives, they’re probably just people going about their business, any visitor though is probably a thief, a fence or a thug who works for one of the other two.

This gave me some trouble for the first few days, but I spotted my target with a bit of luck and discovered where he was staying. All of which led me up to the spot I was in now, standing next to a door so that when he walked in I could nail him. The heat of the place was getting to me, but I had to wait until he returned from his showings for the day because this had to be done in private.

The room in the old town was small, consisting of a small wooden table and chair and a single bed. The blinds on the window had been pulled, but the job had been incomplete and single blades of light were falling on me as I leaned against the wall and waited for him to come back. An overhead fan spun listlessly over head, failing to cool the room even a degree. If anything, the fan was helping heat the room by pushing the hot air down to where I was, making sure I didn’t have a moment to cool down.

I’d been waiting here for nearly an hour when I finally heard a key hit the lock on the room’s single door. I tensed myself up, letting my muscles bunch and tighten. The door swung open and the Frenchman walked into the room. I put my right hand on the door and pushed it closed, his head turned to his right from the sound, which was a mistake because I was coming for his left. I punched him in the left kidney and as he started to shout I got around him and hit him with my right fist across his jaw. He dropped the bag he was carrying and fell to the ground. I gave him a quick kick in the stomach to keep him on the floor and then decided to give him another kick in the face, just so I could say that all four limbs were in on it.

I reached down to the floor and grabbed the bag, taking it the two steps to the small table to check it. It had been wrapped up in a bath towel that had itself been stolen from a Holiday Inn. He’d covered the statute in black enamel paint, to hide the fact that he was carrying a golden idol. I reached into my front pants pocket and grabbed the balisong I’d bought. I couldn’t go around with a gun, because I didn’t need that kind of hassle here, but I needed a weapon. Fortunately there was a kid selling these cheap balisong knives in the street for three dollars each. The movement on it was actually pretty good as I did the trick of opening it one handed that Tracey had taught me so many years ago.

My eyes flipped back to the French archeologist who was just starting to try and sit up. I turned the statue over, and found it was mostly hollow, which would explain why Henry was so bad as guessing its weight. The inside had even been covered with the black enamel, but it was a fairly simple job to scratch along an edge and show the gold underneath. I wrapped the statue back up, secure in the knowledge that I had the real thing and wouldn’t have to come back later. I turned to look at the man who was on the floor looking up at me, the blades of sunlight slashing bright strands across his face.

“You don’t come looking for this again, do you?” I asked as I flipped the balisong knife closed again.

“No.” He said shaking his head.

“Good.” I nodded and tossed the re-wrapped parcel into the bag. “Then I won’t have to cut you to ribbons.”

I turned away from him, opened the door and walked out. I was ready for him to come down the stairs and cause trouble, but evidently he wasn’t. I got out into the street, still expecting him to do something, but I melted into the crowd without a single utterance. I wasn’t in the clear of course, because it was very likely that the people he was in talks to sell the silly thing to would still want it, but I was nearly there.

I felt like I was being watched the whole time, but I resisted the urge to glance around me every ten seconds or to sweat more profusely than I was already doing. The heat was bothering me, even though it would actually be worse at home because without the humidity you barely got a chance to notice the sweat before it was gone.

It took my half an hour to get to the new city, another twenty minutes to get to the courier’s office. Sal never had a store front in any of the cities where he kept offices, which sometimes seemed like every city in the world that could cope with having air conditioning and modern offices. He always had a small office in some modern building that had sprung up in the last five years or so. I have no idea how many offices he has, beyond the ones I’ve been in, but there are a lot of things I don’t know about Sal. Still, the firm of Sal Melina, Private Shipments has never let me down yet. When it comes down to it, Sal could have his office in a horse stable, dress like the a clown or scream state names along with their capitals every two minutes and I’d still leave my packages with him. The simple fact was that if you left something with Sal, it got to the address.

Walking into the office building was heavenly, the initial blast of cold air was enough to raise goose bumps on my skin, but after that it was cool and clean air. Suddenly, I wasn’t in North Africa anymore, I was simply in the business world. There were men and women in suits, discussing business affairs, worrying about how much money they were making. I went to the building’s registration, found the floor and walked to the elevator.

There was a good looking young woman sitting at the single desk, her dark hair twisted into an attractive braid, as it always had been. That was the nice thing about coming to Sal, everything about his office was reliable, right down to Anja. She stood and smiled at me as I came in and set the duffle bag down on her desk.

“Hi Jack.” She said, with a smile.

“Hello Anja.” I said putting my hand on her left hip and sliding it round the small of her back to give her a hug.

“Is it going to Troy?” She asked as we parted.

“No.” I said shaking my head. “The University.”

“Can’t Henry manage to get anything home on his own?” She asked.

“I don’t think so.” I said, “Maybe he’ll start reclaiming things on his own. Also, if the French secret service comes around, which they won’t, we know nothing about this right?”

“Of course not.” She smiled.

I smiled back, and there was a lot that could have been said in those smiles. Of course if either of us was going to say those things, we would have said them by now. We would have said them in Paris or Bangladesh, or any of the other places where she’s been when I needed a courier. It might seem odd that the same woman, desk and chair is always here when I give Sal enough time, but then Sal is an odd guy. It suddenly occurred to me that he could be right there in the second office.

“Is the boss here?” I asked Anja.

“Do you need him?” She asked, skillfully not answering my question in anyway.

“No.” I shook my head, “Not really.”

I reached into my pockets and my finger touched the closed knife. I took it out and held it out to Anja, who took it and looked at it. She raised her dark eyes up to me and her left eyebrow raised, which is a trick I just can’t do. She held it up to show it to me and then spoke the question in her eyes.

“Should I send this with it?” She asked.

“Sure.” I said nodding. “It’s going to be on his expenses anyway.”

“Okay then.” She said and smiled. “See you next time Jack.”

“See you next time.” I agreed as I walked through the office door and headed out into the North African heat.

Another two days and I’d be in Casablanca, and from there I’d get a flight to Detroit Metro. Sunday night, I would be sleeping in my own bed and Monday morning I would walk into the office. I wondered if Debbie would be there, or if I should call ahead. Part of me was sure she was in the office waiting for me to arrive, and part thought that she was just hanging out with friends or going to the beach or something. I decided to surprise her, see if she was going to the office without having to. I left the modern office building, back into the dusty and hot streets of Marrakech. Soon I would be back at home, and then I could start to finally work out what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Comments screened for the Jack Collier Decoding Contest



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2007 04:08 am (UTC)
Indiana Jones (Hovitos, golden idol)

Some postal service's ad campaign (getting to the right address)
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)
Re: Guesses
Indiana Jones (Hovitos, golden idol)
One Point!
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:41 am (UTC)
Re: Guesses
Does this mean I'm going to wake up in the morning to a bunch of emailed comment responses?

Jun. 21st, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
I must say, you are a damned fine writer. I have not been paying close enough attention, and for this I apologize.

It's been a long damned day, I am kinda tired and stupid and dealing with teenaged angst. I will have to come back and reread when I am sharper!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
My guesses
The inside had even been covered with the black enamel, but it was a fairly simple job to scratch along an edge and show the gold underneath - Maltese Falcon?

“No.” I said shaking my head. “The University.”
“Can’t Henry manage to get anything home on his own?” She asked. - Indiana Jones?
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)
Re: My guesses
Two Points!
Jun. 24th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
LC Day One -- Holly's Guesses
- Jack's in Marrakech to recover a Hotvito idol stolen from Henry. This is a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Henry is the professor, aka Indiana Jones. When the idol was taken, the speculation was that Marrakech was the only place the thief would have been able to sell it; so that's probably where he went. As Jack says, "Tracking a man selling stolen treasures from South America in places like this isn’t exactly easy. I knew this was the only place he could sell it though..."

- The line "...stole for profit the thing that you’d rightful swiped for a museum acquisition..." is not a direct quote, but it's reminiscent of the line from Princess Bride: "You're trying to kidnap what I've rightfully stolen!"

- The idol is hollow, which is why "Henry was so bad as guessing its weight". This refers to the opening of Raiders, in which Indy has to get the idol without tripping the weight-triggered alarm.

- "He’d covered the statute in black enamel paint" refers to The Maltese Falcon, in which the characters go to Herculean lengths to get their mitts on a black enamel-painted statuette that turns out to be made of lead.

- I thought the one-handed knife-opening bit referred to Dick Tracy glow-in-the-dark pocket knives (see http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/news_images/6504_17522_23.jpg), but it's a balisong and probably not what you were going for. However, there's a Spencer Tracy movie called Bad Day at Black Rock, in which Spencer plays a one-armed man.
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:35 am (UTC)
Re: LC Day One -- Holly's Guesses
This is a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark
One Point!

Henry is the professor, aka Indiana Jones.

the speculation was that Marrakech was the only place the thief would have been able to sell it;

Then there is 3 more points which comes to 6 total.

Nothing in the last bit is correct.
Jul. 6th, 2007 08:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, fine, dammit. Here's some guesses for you.

Jack Collier as a namesake could derives from two breeds of dog, the Jack Russel Terrier and the Collie. Yeah, that's stretching it, but I've wondered about it myself.

Henry, of course, is named after a Midwestern state, and happens to be an archaeologist to boot. Now, if he'd only get rid of the damn fedora and bullwhip, maybe Dr. Jones could get back to teaching classes, rather than chasing down priceless artifacts.

A one-handed knife-flick from a guy named Tracey? Dick would probably beat Jack over the head with his two-way radio for claiming he learned it from him.

Sal Melina - all together now, salmonella!

There, happy? I'll keep doing this all the way through and we'll see if any points get accumulated.
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:37 am (UTC)
You're right on the identity of Henry, and where that name comes from, so we'll say 2 points for that.

Sal's name is sort of a joke about salmonella, and partly something else. But as you got the lousy pun, one point.

That gives you three points total so far.
Aug. 13th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
Marrakech (add to list of Indiana Jones references)
"I wasn't in North Africa anymore" - Wizard of Oz/Dorthy (We're not in Kanas anymore!)

paragraph 1- I'm not fond of North Africa (instead of found)
paragraph 2- The problem isn't finding a shady bastard
paragraph 8-"You won't come looking for this again (instead of don't?)
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
Two more points!
Sep. 7th, 2007 10:08 am (UTC)
paragraph 8-"You won't come looking for this again (instead of don't?)

Actually, that one should be don't.
Sep. 7th, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Hence the question mark.

I forget grammar rules go out the window in dialogue, and it just sounded wrong to me when all I was reading for was typos.
Sep. 7th, 2007 11:34 am (UTC)
It's also something that might be sort of regional. I was trying to have some of the dialogue to be how people in Michigan tend to talk.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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