My patience were wearing seriously thin by the time I got to Eddie the Bear's house. To be honest, I would have to say that they were pretty much all run out by the time I pulled up and found the hippie-pagan love fest going on in the field behind his house. It was no where near dark, but the bonfire was already raging. Of course since Eddie didn't have anything else to do, they'd gathered up quite a large pile of wood to keep feeding it all night, except Eddie wasn't going to be doing that tonight.
I walked behind the house and some big bearded biker looking guy thought he was going to get in my way. I clearly didn't belong at this gathering dressed as I was, but I wasn't going to let that slow me down. He extended his hands and held them in a defensive position, which didn't help when I leapt into the air while drawing the Webley from its holster. The butt came down on his nose while my knees knocked the wind out of his chest and I think I heard something crack when we landed on the ground together.
"Eddie!" I roared as I stepped over his big bearded biker buddy. "Get over here."
"Jeeze Jack, what's your problem?" Eddie asked as he came running over.
"You do not want to take that tone with me today Edward." I announced as I turned and started to walk back to the house with him at my heels. "It's been a long fucking day and it looks to get longer."
"What's going on?" He asked as we walked to the front porch of his house.
"You're going to do me a favor for all the little favors I've done for you over the years."
"What?" He asked. "What kind of favors?"
"Like I've never narc'd on you once." I said. "And I didn't shoot you in the leg to get your attention."
"Yeah, but you gave Bert a hell of a wallop." Eddie complained.
"But I didn't shoot him." I explained. "I need you run some hair, blood and skin samples and tell me what kind of drugs they had the owner on."
"What?" He demanded. "Do you know what a test like that needs? Dozens of hairs, you can't just use one or two ya know."
"I've got this." I said pulling the bag out. "Scalp and you can take my shirt for some blood samples, not perfect but I know you've got that chem lab."
"That's not what we use it for." Eddie said.
"Eddie?" I asked, oblivious to the two dozen or more people who were watching us play out our scene.
"You remember back in school what would happen to a guy if he was fucking with me and I informed him I didn't have time for this and he'd keep fucking?"
"Yeah, you'd fuck him up and fuck him up quick. Then later you'd fuck him up again for making you having to fuck him up the first time when you didn't have time."
"Right." I nodded. "Eddie, I really fucking don't have time today."
"Oh?" He asked, and I think the fat bastard went pale.
"Yeah." I leaned forward a little to inform him of the details. "Becky Hain got cut up last night, right after she came to hire me. Then the person who probably did it but doesn't make sense shot himself with my gun while he was holding my secretary hostage. Eddie, I'm having a bad fucking day and I'm really dying to shoot somebody."
"Oh bother." He muttered
"Fuckin' a right."
"This isn't the sort of thing that can be done while you wait you know." He complained taking the baggie from me. "Weeks, days at least."
"You can have several hours." I told him. "I need to know as much as I can about the drugs this person was on."
"What is this on the scalp?" He asked.
"Skull." I said. "The fellow who shot himself, those are his bits. Do you want the shirt for blood?"
"Probably not." He shook his head. "But if I make Owlie rush this it'll be like, late tonight."
"I've got some time, I need to know though."
"Becky got killed?" He asked and looked at the revelers who were starting to play music and dance again. "We used to go out."
"Yeah." I nodded. "Haven't you seen even the merest idea of the news?"
"Been setting up for this all day." He said waving. "Sort of cut off on a day like this. I mean even if Sam's dead, the show must go on right? We've got to get ready to see the god off to the underworld, even without Sam."
"Yeah." I nodded. "It's important. Hey, tell Bert I'm sorry. Tell him I'm usually a jerk anyway but I'm having the worst night of my life. One of the only women form my past that I didn't sleep with wound up dead today and things went down hill from there."
"You never slept with her?" He sounded surprised.
"No." I said. "She came to me when she needed things."
"She never came to me when she wanted anything but to screw." Eddie said. "That's probably why she never banged you. Didn't want to exchange it."
"Yeah." I said. "You'll call me when you've got a report?"
"I guess." Eddie nodded. "You'll be at your office?"
"I don't know. Call my cell."
"I don't have your cell number." He laughed. "No body has ever had your cell number."
"Oh, right." I nodded and pulled one of my cards out. I would like to say that I just scribbled the number on the back, but in truth I don't know my own cell number. I had to look at my phone's book to see what the number was so I could write it down. I handed the card over to him. "If I suddenly find people know my number I will come for you."
"I won't do that." He said.
"I know, but it has to be said." I walked back to the car and got in. "I'll get you a chunk of change for this Eddie."
"I still owe you for the Homecoming game." He said waving.
"Doesn't everyone?" I asked myself as I drove away.
I got back to the office a few minutes before six and saw Preston's silver Mercedes as he pulled into our parking lot. He carefully parked his car next to the Hudson and opened his door amazingly carefully. He looked at the Hudson with great appreciation and then at me with a smile. I think it amused him that I actually drove a classic like this, I think it amused a lot of people.
"Good evening Mister Preston." I said smoothing my hair over.
"Good evening Mister Collier." He extended his hand for me to shake. "It has come to pass has it?"
"Not quite yet." I said.
"But you can see it coming?"
"When the wind is southerly, I can tell a hope from a hand-job." I said.
"I'm not sure you said that right." He said with one of his few and rare smiles. "Or perhaps you said it perfectly."
"Well, I'm not as smart as some." I smiled back and extended a hand towards the back door of my office building. "Shall we?"
We went into the office, where Debbie was typing as madly as usual. I pointed into the office and the three of us went to my desk. Debbie looked confused and I wondered what she would do if she knew what I was doing. If she'd been given any warning she would have found a way to scuttle it. The only way to do this was to ambush her like this.
"I'll need you to sign here Mister Collier." Preston said holding out a bunch of papers to me and when I signed I handed the papers to her.
"You need to sign right under where I did Debbie." I said.
"What is it?' She asked
"New Insurance policy." I told her.
"Oh." She said and signed, then thinking about it she looked up at me. "We renewed last month."
"This is a little different." I said taking another bunch of papers and signing again and handing them to her.
"What's different about these?" She asked, and signed again.
"Well if something should happen to me, or should I need to suddenly do a runner, I can't exactly leave you high and dry in good conscience." I said signing a third page and handing it over.
"So what are we signing then?" She asked signing without even looking at it.
"Is it good?" I asked Preston as she signed the last page.
"Yes." He said looking at it and pulling out a seal to stamp the pages.
"I've signed the business over to you." I told her.
"What?" She stood and demanded all at once.
"You now own this office and all the assets."
"But Jack." She said. "I put the check, you know THE check? I put it in the business account."
"I know." I said nodding. "Now it's yours to draw on as you see fit."
"But Jack." She sank back into her chair and I looked at Preston.
"Thank you Mister Preston." I smiled at the lawyer.
"Thank you Mister Collier. Everything will be taken care of. I'll see myself out." He got up and it could almost be said he vanished.
"What the hell is going on Jack?" She asked.
"Hewie didn't murder Becky." I told her. "But to prove it I'm going to get myself in a lot of trouble. In fact I may have to leave town again, permanently this time."
"But, this is crazy." She said.
"Possibly." I said pulling my Webley from its holster and sat on the corner of my desk next to her. "But I'm going to make sure you are taken care of and will have no worries without me."
"What the hell is that for?" She pointed at the gun.
"Well." I looked at my wrist watch. "I told Hewie I was going to take care of him, and five minutes later he was dead. A record, even for me. Usually people have hours after I've told them I'll take care of them before they're killed. If you don't mind, I'm going to just sit here and make sure that the record isn't broken. I'm getting a little sick and tired of people thinking its okay to kill people just because I've taken them under my protection. Makes a person resentful, to have it happen quite so often. It becomes particularly bad when I told Hewie I was going to take care of him."
"Was he a killer?"
"The evidence was there." I said rolling the Webley in my hands. "And he admitted to it."
"So why don't you believe it?" She asked.
"Because he was gay." I said, biting my lips. "The women who were killed were killed with a great deal of attention paid to their sexuality. That means we're looking for someone who was sexual interested in women."
"What if he wasn't really gay?" She asked.
"He wasn't a good actor." I shook my head. "When he lied, it was obvious. He wasn't lying when he told me that."
"So what do you think?" She asked.
"I took that section of his head that I pulled off him to Eddie the Bear." I told her, "I think something was wrong."
"I think the police haven't found their murderer yet."
"Why do you think Hewie didn't kill those people?" She asked.
"Oh, I believe he killed them." I said. "But he killed them like a car kills someone if you run them over, or a gun kills someone if you shoot someone with it. Guns do kill people. That's where the NRA doesn't know their assholes from their board members. A gun can kill, but a gun cannot murder. Guns don't murder people, people do. Murder requires an active thought. Malice aforethought I think they still say in England. Hewie didn't murder them, he just killed them."
"Why this distinction?" She asked.
"I think he was brain washed to do it. Hypnotized into a killer beyond his will."
"I thought you couldn't hypnotize someone to do something they normally wouldn't do."
"If you break down the will, beat at it with drugs and other things, you could. You take a young kid in love and you starve him, beat him, rape him perhaps, give him drugs and shock therapy, you could turn an ordinary kid into a killer if you know what you're doing." I scratched at my chin with the sight of the gun.
"So what was it?" She asked.
"Not sure yet." I told her. "But I'll bet the only one left in the Sam Hain Magic Show knows something. Maybe he was eliminating all the competition or something."
"You going to give this idea to the police?" She asked.
"No." I said shaking my head. "One, they think the case is closed and two, I want the fucker myself."
"So it might be this Knock guy?"
"I'm going to find out." I said looking at my watch.
"How much longer until I'm not a record?" She asked, with a nervous smile.
"Two more minutes." I told her and smiled at her. "Can you make it two more minutes?"
"I'll try." She smiled. "When do you think Eddie's going to call?"
"No idea." I said. "I gave him my cell phone number though, he can call on that. You going to quit the office?"
"Why would I?" She asked. "It's my office now, isn't it?"
"Yeah." I nodded, "But you could just take the money and retire."
"And do what?" She asked. "No, I thin k I'll keep the place open. Besides, you need somewhere you can take customers."
"Not much longer." I told her. "I'm going to get my license yanked any second here. Soon as someone decides I stole evidence, or that I'm concealing evidence or that my momma dresses me funny."
"You always think that, but you've never even come under review." She admonished me.
"This could be the time though." I said.
"I doubt it." She laughed.
It was a couple hours later that my pocket rang and I looked at the number. It was the right exchange for Eddie's area, so I answered it by pressing the talk button.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Jack?" Eddie's voice came over the wire, only there was no wire because it was a cellphone.
"That's right." I said.
"We've got your report ready, as far as what he took," He told me, "but it'll take longer to get things straitened out into any kind of time line about when he took what. I guess you better come over so we can give it to you."
"You can't give it to me over the phone?" I asked.
"Jack." He sighed. "By the time I got to the last item on this list you'd have forgotten what the first three were."
"My memory can hold more than four items." I said.
"I know, but the average person can't remember more than seven items at one time." He said.
"Yes." He said. "And if you tried to write it down you'd stop me at every word asking how to spell the last thing I said."
"That many esoteric items?" I asked.
"Some, but I also don't think you're smart enough to spell pot without help."
"Okay, I'll be there as soon as I can." I said, and then asked him, "do you have any expenses?"
"Nah." He said. "This ones on the house."
"Okay." I told him looking at my watch. "I'll leave now and be there in a little while. See you later."
"Bye, bye." I hung up the phone and stuck it back in my pocket. "I'll be on my way then."
"See you later employee." She said.
"See you boss." I said and left her in what would probably be her office now, I got a good look at the ten by ten cell I'd kept her in to do her typing and wondered if I could stay there if I had to.