I sat in my car and wondered for a moment how long I would have to sit in here with the motor off to die of heat stroke. I decided not to chance it and started the car up, letting the air conditioning do it’s important work. Cool air shot out at me in a moment and I was struck with a thought. There was a person I said I would call when I got back into town, and seeing as I’d been back nearly twelve hours now I figured that I should call her or be harangued for not getting in touch.
I pulled my cellphone out and searched through the phone book until I found Alice’s number. I looked at the number for a good long time before hitting the send button. I did hit it eventually though, and then pressed the phone against my head. The number rang and rang, but she didn’t answer. I eventually was shunted to a voice mail system and left a noncomitial comment about being back in town. I checked the time of day and thought that probably she was in the middle of something at the moment. It was either that or she didn’t want to talk to me, either was possible I suppose. I looked at the phone, feeling slightly rejected by the fact that she didn’t leap to the phone hoping it would be me. I put the phone back in my pocket and put the car into gear to drive back to the office.
While I drove I tried to think of anyone called Piggy, which wasn’t easy. You would think that with a name like that, I would be instantly on a face and location. I couldn’t think of a single person though, which probably proved how out of touch I was with the local criminal element. As I drove my phone started to buzz in my pocket, and I pulled it out expecting it was Alice getting back to me. When I looked at the number though, it turned out not to be her but Liberty’s cell phone instead. The phone recognized her number, since I’d never expunged it from the phonebook. I pressed the answer button and held it up to my ear.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Jack?” Her voice sounded scared and worried.
“Yes.” I said trying to sound like the sort of tough guy a beautiful woman like her could depend on.
“Did you see the news?” She asked.
“Not recently, I’ve been trying to talk to people.”
“They’ve posted a video.” Her voice choked slightly. “She’s… oh god, he was right. They’ve posted this video.”
“Okay, slow down.” I said. “Who posted?”
“The people who took my baby.” A sob broke through and she nearly screamed the words. “They put it on the internet and then e-mailed it to Tom.”
“Okay.” I said looking at my watch. “I can get there in a little over an hour, do you want me to come over there? I can come there right now.”
“Yes please.” She said sounding a little strengthened by the news.
“Okay, you just hang on a little while, I’ll be right there.”
“Thank you Jack.” She breathed into the phone. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
“Okay, I’ve got to drive really fast now so I’ve got to stop talking on the phone.”
“Okay.” She said, sounding a little more together now. “I’ll see you in a little while.”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it.” I said, and then ended the conversation like I always do by saying, “Bye, bye.”
I got on the freeway and started to drive towards Port Huron, which would take me close to where the Freedom household was. I should have called Debbie, but if I had done that I would have been diverted back to the office and I wouldn’t have learned a great many things. As it stood, going to the Freedom house first was probably one of the only remotely smart things I did that summer, which is nice to remember. It’s always good to point out the time you didn’t do something that caused a disastrous screw up. I drove to the house and was let in by a federal agent this time. I supposed the situation had not become too important for the frog faced guy to cope with. They must have been told I was coming because they didn’t even grill me too much beyond my name and a photo I.D.
When I drove up to the house, Liberty was standing on the steps waiting for me with a cigarette in hand. She ran down the steps, he skirt fluttering out behind her as she dashed to my car, her long dancers legs taking strides that most humans would find impossible. She tossed the cigarette aside, letting it land among the stones and embraced me as soon as I got out of the car. She pressed her head into my shoulder and squeezed herself into me. Instinctively I put my arms around her and squeezed her back, I saw an agent on the porch watching me and stared at him until he got self conscious enough to look away.
She pulled away from my shoulder and kissed me, just a gentle kiss on the lips, as if this were just some French greeting and no one should even bother looking at us.
“I’m so glad you came.” She said as she pulled away from me.
“Okay sweetheart.” I said putting a hand on her shoulder. “But let’s remember that they’re watching our every move shall we? Kissing right in front of all the agents might not be the best thing.”
She looked around for a moment and then blushed a little at her cheeks.
“Sorry.” She said, expanding her accent a little. “I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s okay.” I said brushing some golden strands of hair from her face. “Just tell me what happened.”
“They made of movie of her, tied up on a bed and told us if we didn’t pay up soon they’d kill her.”
“You saved the movie?” I asked. “We can go watch it again?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “The police have it. Or are they feds? Who ever it is.”
“Okay.” I said taking her right hand and kissing the knuckle of her middle finger gently. “Let’s go in and talk to them.”
She led me into the house, past what looked like two dozen uniformed cops and another two dozen agents and officers in suits. I let go of her hand when we entered the house, but she didn’t really seem to notice, holding her hand out behind her until we reached the Major’s study.
The study was now a bustling operation center, with lights on and people moving around. As soon as I stepped into the room, the entire gaggle of officials all turned towards me to look. The Major stood up from behind his desk, his face red with rage all the way up to his strawberry blonde hair line. He marched towards me and I once again wondered about the wisdom of never carrying a gun unless I thought I’d really need it. Instead of hitting me for being his cuckolder though he grabbed my shoulder like an old comrade in arms.
“New plan Collier.” He said in his gruff voice, his watery blue eyes fixing on me “No more worried about stepping on toes, now I want you to stomp on heads.”
“Soon as I find a head worth stomping sir.” I said, taken up in the momentum.
“That’s right my boy.” He said and leaned in, looking angry again. “Those sons of bitches video taped my little girl. Then they sent it to the news. Imagine that, they told the damn jackals that they could steal my daughter. What do you think this is going to do to my expansion deal? They’re already fighting me, now I’ve got to be distracted by this.”
“Fucking bastards.” I said, and because I know he can’t identify sarcasm when he hears it I pressed forward, “Let’s shoot them for fucking up your deal and then get your daughter back.”
“Damn right!” He said, then turned around and addressed a man I knew fairly well. “Cramer, you know Collier right?”
“I know him sir.” Cramer said taking a step towards me and nodding to me. In his teeth was clasped his ubiquitous cigar, as usual it was unlit but not unsymbolic in my mind. “How was your trip?”
“Mostly profitable.” I said nodding to him.
“Good.” He said nodding again, which caused the cigar to make an arc in the air as his head moved. “You want to see the video?”
“I suppose I’ve got to at some point.” I said walking towards the desk.
“I need to call my lawyers.” The Major said. “This expansion project is very important, I can’t have it derailed. The whole future of Freedom Corp. depends on it.”
He left the room leaving just us cops, private and public, watching the door way for a few seconds. Cramer looked back at me and rubbed his chin. He knew he couldn’t chase me off this one, he couldn’t even suggest it with the Major giving me such a recommendation. It wasn’t that held any particular animosity for me or even my profession, that sort of thing is greatly exaggerated by the dime novels. He just hated having anyone that wasn’t him or his team investigating anything on his turf. He’d try to chase off the feds if he thought he could get away with it.
“Okay, has that gumshoe Freedom hired gotten here yet?” A familiar voice said.
Then a familiar face and figure entered the room. She was looking at some paper as she came in, but I recognized the head band holding back her long blonde hair the moment I saw her head. She looked up and around at the assembled cast, and then her eye fell on me. It was then that Alice Liddell’s blue eyes expanded to nearly twice their size and her jaw opened.
“Jack.” She said with surprise. “I didn’t know you were back.”
“You never answer your phone.” I complained. “I called you like an hour ago.”
“What?” She touched the side of her pants and then her expression changed to annoyance. “Carter, I think I dropped my phone in the car, could you go check?”
“Sure.” The one called Carter got up and left the room.
“We were about to watch the footage again.” Cramer said in a tone that suggested that he could get this done a lot faster if the feds would just shove off. “Care to join us?”
“Thanks.” Alice said as I sat down in The Major’s big chair and she sidled up next to me.
“This was sent to the Major, as well as most the major media outlets.” Crammer said as he pointed at a file on the desktop.
“Did they bother vetting you before broadcasting?”
“Hell no.” Crammer said. “We learned about it when it was on the news.”
“Great.” I said clicking on the icon.