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Jack Collier: Private Eye (Chapter Three)

Jack Collier: Private Eye

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

Part Two can be found here if you need a refresher.

Chapter Three: The Second Lover
 

            Pain killers are not your friend. You may think they’re your friend, when you need them, but they aren’t. They get inside, they like the look of the place and they decide to stay. Then they make you need them, they suck your soul, they make you depend on them and then they take control. Start down the road of dependence and you may never get off it again. You can’t depend on something that comes from a bottle, because that will kill you.

 

            You have to keep repeating that sort of thing to yourself over and over again when you’re denying yourself any pain medication. The initial pain from the lack of drugs is bad, and you have to scream into your pillow a lot, but then the pain changes. After a while, it becomes the pain you’ve always known. Slow pain, the kind that comes in through the door and smiles at you before attacking. You can see it coming, feel the gradual build-up, only you never can really tell when it’s so bad you should scream. Sure it hurts, but as long as you can bite back the shouts, you feel you should. If I ever did scream, someone would want to know why you waited for the pain to build to this level before asking for help, so you never scream. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was hurting, because I didn’t want them to ask why I didn’t ask for help when it wasn’t so bad only to suddenly make a ruckus when I couldn’t take it anymore.

 

            Days passed, maybe weeks passed. I got stronger, but it seemed like a constant uphill struggle and any slight rest meant I slid back down the hill. There were some interesting things though. I got a nice fruit basket from Church, and there was a rather stilted visit from Liberty and Jen. Someday, we’re going to have to have a talk about her. Someday, we’re going to have to come to some kind of conclusion about that young lady.

 

            I even got a visit and a box of chocolates from Alice, which is another issue I was going to have to resolve soon. I don’t actually remember the visit, but I found the box of chocolates and card and Debbie told me about her coming. When I cracked open the first chocolate and the white cream spilled out, I thought about her. I had to wonder if she sent this particular kind on purpose, or if she was just being unconsciously attractive again.

 

            Debbie came in every day or so. Maybe she came everyday, maybe once a week. It’s hard to judge the time when no one else is around to help you mark it. They might tell you that they were here yesterday, but how can you trust that when everything is a blur? Maybe they were here yesterday and every other day while you were fuzzed out and the last visit you can remember was one from two weeks ago. I probably saw her everyday though, and I probably remember all the visits, my stay in the hospital probably just seems like forever.

 

            Then there was Debbie’s story. The one she wrote, you’ve seen it I presume. She worked her way up to that, hinting that she had something she’d like for me to see, mentioning she had written a story and wanted my opinion. I tried to get her to talk about it a little, but she remained tight-lipped, which is a sure sign of trouble.

 

            The day she brought it in for me to read, I knew it was coming. She’d worn her leather jacket that Karen had bought her all those years ago that day, which is a sign. It’s always a sign that she either needs a boost in her courage, or that she’s going to see Karen later. Since she usually mentions that she’s going to see her a day or so in advance so I can have time to decide not to go with her this time, and she didn’t mention it, I can only think she needed the extra courage.

 

            She would need the courage, since we were going to have to discuss what we’d gone so long not discussing. It was in the story, and she’d done what she did with it, so we couldn’t ignore it anymore. When I finished the pages she’d brought from the office I set them down and look at her. She’d written this one story about a year and a half before, back when I’d only been under for a few months. Now, she wanted approval, even though she was discussing something they’d both asked me not to discuss.

 

            “What do you think?” she asked as I put the last page down.

 

            “You left out the apocalyptic screaming match after your birthday,” I told her, “Some important things happened after that.”

 

            “I didn’t to talk about that,” she said, “It would have seemed like I was giving an end, and it wasn’t the end.”

 

            “I would have told that part.” I said.

 

            “Yes,” she nodded, “You would.”

 

            “What does that mean?”

 

            “That means that you always give your tales some kind of end,” she said. “You always look for the end. Sometimes you make your own ending.”

 

            I didn’t like hearing that, not from her. I didn’t like hearing it because it was the truest thing about me that anyone had ever said, and it hit a little close to home for me. Particularly after reading a story in which I was clearly the chief villain, even if I was painted in glowing golden streaks. She must think the world of me, but you can’t make me not the monster in that tale without flat out lying. I thought maybe she wanted to say that I was the one that broke up the group, but she couldn’t quite manage to say that. Then again, maybe she wanted me to admit that it was outside forces that drove us apart. I could maybe say something about it, but I didn’t want to just then. It was a little more than I had strength for.

 

            So instead, I decided to do what I’ve always done to distract Debbie. I relied on crudeness to get me through. Fortunately, a part of the story she left out was on my mind because she’d worn jeans that rode low enough on her hips that I could see her underwear when she bent over to get something. Seeing the white and gray lace poke just over the edge of her waistband excited the memory in me.

 

            “I notice you also left out that afternoon at Stony in the woods when you two suggested experimenting with baby oil and hand cream,” I said tapping the paper on my lap. “That was an interesting afternoon and one might argue that it should be recorded for posterity.”

 

            “It wasn’t that kind of story.” She blushed to the roots of her luscious hair and looked down at her shoes. “I didn’t want to be too explicit. I was trying to tell a love story.”

 

            “You know why I would have talked about the end?” I asked.

           

            “Why?” she asked meeting my eye again.

 

            “Because I would have wanted to try and explain it a little. How I thought things were going and how they were going to go. How I saw things, and how I think some of the things I saw might have been wrong.”

 

            “You see things differently now?” she asked, crossing her legs.

 

            I couldn’t see her crossing them, but I could hear the material of her jeans as she moved. I could perfectly picture the legs moving with the sound, and just that was enough. She also leaned forward a little, which wafted a handful of air that contained her perfume to my face. If I hadn’t been so weak, I would have made a lewd comment.

 

            “Are we going to talk about this now?” I asked, “Are we going to really discuss it?”

 

            “I’m not sure. Not yet.” She shook her head. “I think maybe you should talk to Karen first.”

 

            “Why can’t you talk to me now?”

 

            “Not when you’re weak.” She shook her head and I could see emotion trying to leak out. “When we can talk on even terms, then we’ll talk.”

 

            “When I’m weak?”

 

            “I don’t like you lying in that bed,” she said, and her face crumpled suddenly. “I can’t really talk to you like this.”

 

            “You could turn away.”

 

            “I’d know,” she said as the tears started to trickle. “I think when we’re a little more equally matched, we can talk then.”

 

            “But you’re not afraid of me talking to Karen?”

 

            “No,” she smiled weakly. “You and Karen are different than you and I.”

 

            “I suppose that’s a given.” I smiled back at her. “But I think we should talk now Debs.”

 

            “Why?” she tried not to whine or pout, but it didn’t work as well as she’d like.

 

            “I need to at least know where we stand. I mean if nothing else, we’ve spent a very long time pretending and now you’ve brought it out and we can’t go on pretending,” I told her. “So is this a true story or just something you made up in your spare time?”

 

            “It happened,” she said. “I don’t want to act like it never happened anymore. I don’t want to keep pretending like these feelings don’t exist.”

 

            “Did you really tell Christmas to leave me?”

 

            “Yes.” She closed her eyes again, trying to stop the tears which were spilling out. “I couldn’t stand to see what she was doing to you.”

 

            “Why?” I asked, and while she didn’t realize it, I had decided she was either going to say it before she left or admit that she wouldn’t be saying it again.

 

            “I told you,” she said, and her voice cracked a little. “I hated seeing her string you along and tear you up like that.”

 

            “But why did it bother you so much?” I asked, “You haven’t made a single move towards me in all these years, and I’ve not made a move towards you per your post-birthday instructions.”

 

            “I hated seeing her do that.”

 

            “No,” I said, and shook my head, “What was your interest?”

 

            “I’ve got to protect you,” she said, and her shoulders started shuddering a little. “Have to take care of you when you won’t do it yourself.”

 

            “But why?” I asked, and that stupid AC unit dropped some water on my eye, allowing it to trickle down my face.

 

            “Because...” she said and stopped.

 

            “Because why?” I asked again. “C’mon, this is simple. What need did that action satisfy? What was behind that need? What was your main motivating factor, what was the base reason?”

 

            “You know what it is,” she said.

 

            “Do I?” I asked.

 

            “Yes,” she said looking at the pages in my lap. “I will talk to you about it when you and I can talk as equals though. I won’t have this conversation when one of us can put power over the other.”

 

            “Can’t even say it?” I asked, “Not for the poor sicky who could use the encouragement?”

 

            “Not right now.” She shook her head and wiped tears from her face. “I mean it, you know I feel it, but I can’t say it. Not until I can work out the best way to say it, work out exactly how I feel about the whole thing.”

 

            “What about my encouragement?” I asked, trying to look petulant, which wasn’t terribly hard.

 

            “Jack, you don’t need encouragement,” she said.

 

            “I might, you don’t know how bad it can be some days.”

 

            “Maybe I do,” she said. “Maybe I know exactly how bad it can be.”

 

            I’d spent years, too many to count, with her on the other side of that door. I’m going to tell you something, and it’s going to make you scratch your head and look at me funny, but I’ll do it anyway. I’d never stopped loving her, not for one second. I never told her how I felt because we had agreed to be nothing more than friends, but I still loved her. It was torture, but a delightful torture, having her there every day. There was a constant longing to reach out and grab her, to hold her, kiss her, do the sort of things that detectives always do with their secretaries in the books I read as a kid. I couldn’t though, because I promised that we’d act like it never happened and that those feelings didn’t exist. And now, after this event, she more or less tells me that I’m not the only one who was looking longingly at the door. Stupid, but I never claimed to be very smart.

 

            “Debbie,” I said reaching my hand out feebly toward her, “What would you like me to say?”

 

            “Nothing,” she took my hand in hers and gripped it for a moment. Then she looked at my face and either the tears started a new or they continued. “I just want you to know that, sometimes I think that.”

 

            She had to stop and bite her lip for a moment and I noticed that the stupid AC unit was dripping again. More this time, but I know Debbie would know it was the AC unit, and not me crying because she knows me and knows I’m not a little bitch who cries just because the crushing stupidity of the last ten years as come in all at once. She reached over and brushed the water away with her thumb. The scent of her perfume came to me again and it was terribly unfair. If I could have moved my head more than a few inches, I would have leaned forward and kissed her. Maybe that’s what she meant about waiting until we were equal.

 

            “Debs?” I whispered to her.

 

            “Yes Jack?” she asked, taking in a deep breath that almost choked back a sob.

 

            “I need you to do three very important things for me.”

 

            “Okay,” she said, trying to look brave.

 

            “First,” I said, “I need you to call Karen for me and see if she’ll come and see me.”

 

            “Okay,” she nodded.

 

            “Second,” I said, “I need you to put my hand on your chest because I think groping you would give me strength.”

 

            “Oh come on,” she said and let my hand drop on my chest.

 

            “And third…”

 

            “You have more offensive things to say?” she smiled, and she’d stopped crying too.

 

            “Third,” I repeated, “I need you to come down here and kiss me, because at the moment I can’t leap up and kiss you, which is what I really want to do.”

 

            I’m pleased to report that after taking my third request seriously, she actually decided to take my second request seriously as well. It was just a cheap, over the shirt feel that I was allowed to cop, but it was something. One should never look a copped feel in the... well you just shouldn’t.

 

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