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Liberty's Child, Day Two



International flights are like spending time in Purgatory, or possibly Limbo. You don’t actually exist anymore, you’re just another traveler on Charon’s ferry, waiting to reach one side or the other. You can’t exist on an international flight because there is nothing to exist with. To live, you need new things to replenish you, and there is nothing new on a modern airliner. The food was old when they loaded it on, the air is recycled and the filters might be a month old, and the movies have been in the video stores for at least a month before they get to the jet. You don’t even technically exist under the laws of any one country. Flights over international waters have all sorts of laws that exist only on airplanes. The only thing you can do on a flight like that is try to wait out your frozen state of existence until you land and your heart can start beating again.

I have no idea how long it took to get through customs, or how long it took to get home. It was dark when the plane landed, and it was dark when I got to the car, and I was dark when I got home. Seeing as it was late June, that only gave me about an eight to ten hour window maximum. Since there were few clouds, it gave me only about six hours to work with. I still didn’t start to exist though, I was too exhausted. I took off my coat and shirt and fell into my bed, sleeping almost on the moment.

My alarm woke me though, and as much as I didn’t want to I got up. I wanted to show up at my normal time and see if anyone would even notice that I hadn’t been there in a while.

It was good to get back to my office, having showered and shaved. I didn’t take my keys out to unlock the door. I think somehow I knew that she’d be in the office. I opened the door and saw Debbie sitting at her desk, typing away like mad. If this where a movie, I think you’d put a soft focus filter on her to give that fuzz effect like the girls always had in Star Trek.

“Hi Jack.” She said smiling up at me.

“There is no way you could have known I was going to be here today.” I said leaning against the door jam. “Have you been coming here everyday?”

“Well, I’ve got to earn those checks you let me write.” She said going back to her typing.

“Yeah.” I said nodding, “Okay. I’m going to go sit in my office and make obscene phone calls.”

“You’ll have to open all your mail first.” She said.

“I have a lot of mail?” I asked.

“Fair amount.” She said. “I’ve been getting the bills, but you’ve got a few things.”

I opened my office door and looked at the small mountain of mail that had piled up on my desk over the couple of months. I supposed most of it would be catalogues and circulars, filled with coupons and sale items that were no longer valid. I sat down and started flipping through the many parcels, and I began to notice that some of them came from my place and some of them came from Debbie’s apartment. She had deliberately brought more crap for me to sort through.

After the sorting, it came down to three bits of mail that actually needed to look at. The first was a card from my grandmother, the second was a letter from an unrelated matter, and the third was a box. The box was just an ordinary shipping box from Fed Ex, sealed with tape and having a label from some shipping company. I opened the tape with my pocket knife and opened it up. Inside, along with a lot of packing peanuts, was another smaller box.

The smaller box was still made of cardboard, but of a much higher quality. It was layers of card stock that had been melded together to form a cheap but sturdy box. The box had been covered in a reddish paper that had blue threads running through it, giving it an odd look. I sort of knew who it was from before I slipped the cord off the button that was keeping the box closed. Only the Harkers would send such a thing I thought to myself and when I opened the box I was proved right.

Inside the box was an ornate and quite expensive kukri in a sheath. I pulled the knife out of the box and drew it from its sheath. It was a sharp piece of thick, heavy metal, formed into a downward arch designed to hack through whatever it needed to. The handle was probably buffalo horn, or at least it was horn of some kind. There was a small MH and JH carved on each side or the handle, just like always.

I put the blade back in its sheath and walked over to the long cabinet on the right side of my office. There sat the other four knives the Harkers had sent me over the preceding for years. I looked at the order and then gently pushed the Japanese Tanto aside so as to put the Indian blade between the Japanese knife and the Middle Eastern jambiya, running my hand down towards the left side of the table to touch the French poniard and the American bowie knife. The kukri was the first knife I’d placed out of order, deciding on the idea of geographic location rather than chronology.

They’d gotten me the bowie knife on their first wedding anniversary, to replace the one I’d lost in the Balkans when I was helping them with their problem. They’d sent me a replacement for that knife, despite my protests, and then they’d sent me a new knife each year ever since.

I once asked Mrs. Harker why they bothered with a new knife each year since my fee had long since been paid. She said that the cost to me had been more than just the price of a knife or my time, which was true enough I suppose. We all paid a heavy price for that Balkan adventure and not all of us came back from it. The problem was that I’d long considered my fee paid before we ever got to the point of finishing that job. I think we all did, since we all loved Mrs. Harker so much. I’m not sure if we all loved her in the same way, but it was certainly possible. It was clear that we all felt very deeply for her, and she for us, but I’d like to think she didn’t cuckold her husband with the old doctor.

I’ve always sort of thought that the idea was that they wanted to try and keep me on their good side, since we never did really make it clear that it was completely done. It was possible that one day someone would come trying to trouble them again, and they would want to know they had a friend they could count on if it did. Still, the point for me was that I had yet another knife to sit in my office, should I ever need it.

I sat down in my chair, leaned back and was about to put my feet up when the office phone rang. I can always hear the phone ringing at Debbie’s desk, even though my phone doesn’t ring until she puts the call through. A moment later, my phone rang and I reached out and took it.

“Jack Collier.” I said into the receiver.

“Good morning Mister Collier.” A decidedly chilly voice said into my ear.

“Good morning Mister Frost.” I responded.

“I trust you had a pleasant trip.” He said, as if he were trying to work himself up to something.

“It was alright.” I said.

“Good.” Frost said and then sighed.

“What do you need me to do?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed.

“Columbia Freedom’s been kidnapped.” He said flatly. “I know you probably didn’t hear about it because you’ve been on your flights.”

“When?” I asked.

“She was snatched Friday night.” Frost said, “I’d like you to go talk to Tom and Liberty, see if you can’t help them out.”

“Not exactly your scope of influence, is it?” I asked.

“They’re personal friends.” He said, his voice cooling a bit more if that was possible. “I understand you’ve got some history with them too.”

“Yeah.” I said. “I did some work for them when I was starting out with Bascom.”

“That would be why they asked then.” He commented.

“Did he ask, or did she?” I asked, knowing what to expect.

“She did.” He stated, sounding as surprised as a man with ice water in his veins can. “Why?”

“No reason.” I said and looked at my watch. “I’ll have Debbie call them and set up and appointment.”

“Thank you Mister Collier.” He said and hung up without ceremony.

I decided to get up and go talk to Debbie about it, since I’d have to go back to my place anyway. It wouldn’t be any easier to explain how long I needed, but at least I could put a glare on top of my tone of voice when I told her to shut up.

I walked into the outer office where Debbie was attacking her keyboard with the sort of vigor most people save for masturbation. I don’t know what she’s typing, and I don’t want to, just so long as it keeps her busy. I’ll admit that the idea of knowing what Debbie’s been typing scares me a little, because that would be the last bit of mystery between us gone, and then where would we be?

“I need you to call Tom and Liberty Freedom.” I said leaning against the desk.

“Oh?” She asked looking up at me, her fingers pausing but still poised to attack the keyboard.

“Yeah.” I nodded “Frost said they wanted to hire me.”

“Really?” She asked, her face brightening with the prospect of a paying client.

“Yeah.” I said smiling back at her. “At least I think that’s what he said. Really he said I needed to go over there, but it was clearly a job.”

“Good.” She smiled. “So I’ll tell them you’ll be there in a bout an hour?”

“Better make it two.” I said, and I must have blushed slightly because of the look she gave me.

“Why two?”

“I need to change.” I said.

“But you’re fine…” She stopped and horrible, delighted recognition crossed her face. “You’re going to put on a suit for her aren’t you?”

“Shut up.” I said, glaring into her face.

“Wear you’re black suit for her then.” She was really enjoying this, I could tell. “You look best in your black suit. It brings out the little boy wearing his big brother’s clothes look in you.”

“I do not look like I’m wearing my brother’s clothes.” I said.

“No.” She said. “But you blush when you think of that image and that is adorable.”

“I’m going now.” I said putting my hands on her desk and leaning over, nearly to where I almost would catch a glimpse of her monitor. “Do make the call and be professional about it.”

I leaned back again and stood up strait, and Debbie actually ripped off a salute that any WAC would have been proud of. The way she had her hair done today, she actually looked sort of like a WAC too. Her outfit didn’t exactly say Army, but then it rarely did. Had it not been for the advanced date, she might have come back to work from the base only a week ago though, as he shirt was very much of those times.

“I’ll make the call, sir.” She said as she lowered her hand.

“Thanks.” I said and left the office, letting the door swing behind me.

Tags:

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
sparkfrost
Jun. 21st, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
Milton- Dante's Inferno

Jack Frost- YOU! Christmas Noir.

Ok, I'm really not trying that hard today, but i wanted to let you know that I am reading it and enjoying it so far.
greyweirdo
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:40 am (UTC)
two points!
ciarrainic
Jun. 22nd, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
They’d gotten me the bowie knife on their first wedding anniversary, to replace the one I’d lost in the Balkans when I was helping them with their problem. - Dracula (Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Harker)


Not a guess:
“I’ll make the call sir." Needs a comma between call and sir (I’ll make the call, sir). That line is near the end of the story.
greyweirdo
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
Two Points

One for guessing the source book, one for guessing the characters.
sdaisyk
Jun. 23rd, 2007 04:28 am (UTC)
Guessing just to be guessing...

Limbo and purgatory = Dante's Inferno (and catholicism in general)

I'm pretty sure there is something to the characters' names (Columbia, Tom, Liberty, Freedom) but all I can think of is District of Columbia, Thomas Jefferson, Liberty, Freedom as related ideas. Don't know if there is a more specific reference hidden there.
greyweirdo
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
Limbo and purgatory = Dante's Inferno (and catholicism in general)
More for religion in general, but you get a point for that.

Tom Freedom's name doesn't come from Jefferson. However I will give a point for Columbia and a point for getting that the whole family is kind of symbolic.

so this set of guesses nets 3 points in total.
hollygrahm
Jun. 24th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
LC Day Two -- Holly's Guesses
- M&J Harker are Mina and Jonathan Harker of the Dracula story.

- Jack used to work for Bascom, who is a detective sometimes mentioned in the Nero Wolfe books.
greyweirdo
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:45 am (UTC)
Re: LC Day Two -- Holly's Guesses
- M&J Harker are Mina and Jonathan Harker of the Dracula story.
One for the characters, one for the book.


- Jack used to work for Bascom, who is a detective sometimes mentioned in the Nero Wolfe books.

One

total 3
silveradept
Jul. 6th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, so Jack's making reference to the Divine Comedy with his Purgatory-Limbo schtick, like it's the first circle of Hell or something.

Ms. Harker? Sounds like Mina Harker, either of Dracula or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame. Which makes "the old doctor" Van Helsing, and her husband Vlad the Impaler. JH could be Jekyll/Hyde if we're still on that kick.

Mr. Frost, as has been noted before in a previous adventure, is Jack Frost, and the first anthropomorphization directly in this story. I think.

Columbia is the first poetic name of the United States, which is rather fitting, considering she's the daughter of the Statue of Liberty/The Goddess Liberty (Liberty Freedom), who was a French gift to the United States, and Tom Freedom, an homage to Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence. The family's all nice and patriotic.

Bascom may or may not be a reference to Earl Bascom, the painter, but if it is, I don't know the connection.
greyweirdo
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
Divine Comedy with his Purgatory-Limbo schtick
One point

Ms. Harker? Sounds like Mina Harker, either of Dracula or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame. Which makes "the old doctor" Van Helsing, and her husband Vlad the Impaler. JH could be Jekyll/Hyde if we're still on that kick.
Mina Harker is from Dracula (a point for the book, half a point for the character since JH is Johnathan Harker. I gave everyone a sinlge point for guessing both the harkers) The old Doctor is Van Helsing.
2.5 points

Columbia is the first poetic name of the United States,
One Point!

statue of Liberty/The Goddess Liberty (Liberty Freedom)
One point


5.5 for the day
sdaisyk
Aug. 13th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
Decoding:
Charon's Ferry- Greco-Roman underworld mythology,

JH/MH= Jonathan and "Mina" Harker of Dracula; kukri and bowie knives used to kill Dracula; old doctor=Van Helsing

Typos:
"There was a small MH and JH carved on each side of the handle"
"she might have come back to work from the base only a eek ago though, as her shirt was very much of those times"
greyweirdo
Sep. 2nd, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
Charon's Ferry- Greco-Roman underworld mythology,
One

JH/MH= Jonathan and "Mina" Harker of Dracula;
One for the book, one for the characters.

kukri and bowie knives used to kill Dracula;
The bowie knife was what did in the vampire
One point

old doctor=Van Helsing
One

5 for this set of guesses
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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