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Jack Collier: Private Eye (Chapter Six)

Jack Collier: Private Eye

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Chapter Five can be found here.

 

 

Chapter Six: Coming Home

 

            I was able to go home, about four months after I woke up. Which means I spent two years and two months in the hospital and I weighed a grand total of one hundred and one pounds. I was a bit under two hundred when I went in, if the records I had at the time were accurate. My heart stopped beating three times on the operating table, and three times it started again. Then I spent two years almost coming around and kept not doing it. Then I did wake up, and I got up one day and walked. A little while after that they said I could go home.

 

            I have no idea how much the whole thing cost, because Debbie won’t let me see any of our records. It can’t have been cheap though, hospital stays never are. She wouldn’t tell me anything except that with three offices all doing the business they were we could afford it.

 

            It was raining the day we came home. Debbie came to pick me up on her own, taking me home in relative silence. She seemed sort of nervous, edgy somehow. At the time I guessed that it was because she didn’t know if I was going to make it or not.

 

            When we left the hospital, I found that I was far from home. I was up near the Piper place where I’d been shot. That meant the expense in gas was for Debbie, not for Karen. Piper’s place is closer to Ypsi than home. As we drove home I saw a piece of interesting graffiti. It was painted over a patch of gray paint, which signaled that the war between taggers and state beautification committees was still going on. Along with the glyph and gang signs, it was a long set for someone who was spray painting.

 

            ‘Beware the goat with a thousand young,’ it read, black on gray.

 

            If I could have found the warning painter, I could have told them that there was no need to keep painting that for the time being. Even though I’m not going to go into it, I was part of the group that went to the South Pacific to do something about that after Becky was killed. Not that Becky was the reason, besides being the reason I was willing to race across the globe for months in an extended investigation.

 

            Of course, I found out that the rest of the group had similar events happen to them like what happened to me. When I looked it up, I found that only two of us actually survived the year. If I were more paranoid, I might wonder more about that. It maybe we didn’t put a stop to things like we thought and I would have to deal with it again someday. But not today, today I was going home.

 

            Coming home was a bit of a shock, not because of how things had changed but the degree to which they hadn’t. The big change was the treadmill, the exercise machine and the large plasma screen TV that had replaced the TV I’d had before. I looked at the machines and then at the TV which they faced.

 

            “What happened to the old Trinitron?” I asked, mourning the loss of the first HDTV I’d ever bought.

 

            “Behind the plasma screen,” Debbie said as she toyed with the belt on her long red raincoat. “Those things are thin these days”

 

            “Oh.” I said looking behind the large screen.

 

            It seemed sort of sad that the old Trinitron technology should pass into memory. The idea that there weren’t going to be ion guns firing lines at the glass screen anymore seemed sort of depressing for a reason I couldn’t completely define. Something else from the past was gone and that was another sign that someday it would be my turn perhaps. Either that, or I just liked the idea of a Trinitron.

 

            “So what’s the idea here?” I asked. “I walk the treadmill while watching movies?”

 

            “That’s right,” she said pulling on the belt, tightening the knot around her waist.

 

            I sort of had a flash, that sort of idea I get sometimes. You might try to call it psychic power or something, but really it’s a someone quietly working the deductive reasoning engine in the background of my head. If I had to pinpoint I suppose I could mention the way she tugged at the belt or the way she kept glancing around at things instead of looking at me. I hadn’t seen her open the coat and she had it buttoned to her neck, so I knew what was going on. The truth is though that everything about her gave her away. Her eyes moved differently, her cheeks were more flushed, her fingers moved more than usual, her left eyebrow slightly raised, her breathing was just a little bit different and a hundred other things all told me that something was up. There never is one thing, it’s a group of things you put together to form a picture.

 

            The problem is, if you just tip your hand, you could ruin the whole thing. So instead you’ve got play it smart, draw your opponent out carefully. If she was going to be naked under that rain coat, I would have to be careful about it.

 

            “So what’s going to keep me honest?” I asked. “Is this where you open your coat to show me you’re not wearing anything under it and make some sort of interesting offer if I get in shape?”

 

            “What?” she asked.

 

            “Your coat has stayed closed this whole trip, you want to encourage me to work out, you’re not even wearing stockings.” I told her. “You keep tugging at that belt like a coy girl, you’re blushing, stammering, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.”

 

            “Really?” she asked untying the belt and unbuttoning the jacket, to revel a red silk shirt and a beige skirt that ended two inches above her knees. “I didn’t want to get my shirt or skirt wet.”

 

            “Well shit,” I said. “I’ve been in a coma for two years.”

 

            “You were hoping I’d flash you?” she asked. “Thought you’d get to see something?”

 

            “Well,” I winced under the painful weight of her justifiable scorn.

 

            “You’ve been living in a fantasy world, haven’t you?” she asked.

 

            “Maybe,” I said, looking down at her shoes.

 

            “I’m not going to drive around with nothing on but a top coat.” She laughed as I stood looking at her taking her coat off and putting it on the rack next to her.

 

            She sat down on my couch, and I sat down with her. She smiled at me as I did, I think because I didn’t wince or complain about how much it hurt to do so. She kicked her shoes off and tucked them back under her legs as she leaned one arm against the couch cushion to look at me with those all seeing eyes of hers.

 

            “I suppose we can’t have that talk yet, can we?” I asked.

 

            “Not yet,” she whispered. Her voice was so soft that I had to lean in to hear her. “I can’t have that talk with you yet. We’re not equals yet.”

 

            “What’s it going to take for us to be equals then?” I asked.

 

            “You have to get yourself into shape,” she said.

 

            “Are you avoiding talking to me?” I asked. “Is it because now that I’m not on the edge of death you feel differently than you did when you wrote that story and now don’t feel the same?”

 

            “That’s mean Jack,” she said, and her face suddenly crashed.

 

            “I’m sorry,” I said. “It just seems that you haven’t wanted to talk about the stuff in the story, even though you wanted me to read it right away. I mean you shoved it at me as soon as I was able to read.”

 

            “It’s not that.” Big, fist sized tears started to roll down her face. “I love you. I just don’t love you like normal people love. I can’t just tell you I love you, because then we’ll have to go to bed together and it won’t be how things have been.”

 

            “Yeah,” I said. “But have you been satisfied with how things have been?” I asked.

 

            “I sort of like it,” she said as she grabbed at the box of tissues. “I mean I hate it too, because you always look at me like you want to touch me but you never do. I wanted you to come across, but I also liked the friendly feeling. I just... don’t want the nice parts to end.”

 

            “You said…” I started to remind her, but had to stop because of the feeling I had of my chest closing up. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to find that the stupid leaky AC unit had followed me home. “You said we would just treat it as if we’d been friends but nothing else had happened. Now you tell me you’ve been waiting for me to make serious moves on you for eight years. What the fuck? Was I supposed to treat you like an employee, a friend or a lover?”

 

            “Can’t you do all three?” she asked, wiping at her eyes with her tissues. “Sort of jumbled up or something?”

 

            “Well, I’m not your boss,” I said. “So that one’s out.”

 

            “That’s why you’ve got to get back in shape,” she said. “You’ve got to come back to the office and be the boss.”

 

            “Aren’t we a three-office company now?”

 

            “Offices in Chicago, San Francisco and a working office in Troy besides our office.” She said, sounding like a spokesperson, which wasn’t far off I guess. “Three locations but four offices technically. I like keeping the old office as an administration center. It means I don’t interfere in the running of any of the offices, but I keep track of everyone.”

 

            “So, you’re the boss,” I told her.

 

            “Only until you come back and get back to work,” she said. “Then you’ll be the boss again. I’m just looking after things, like I did when you went away that time after the whole Hain business, when you first signed the business over to me. I’m just watching it in trust, just like you watch over me in trust.”

 

            “That affianced thing again?” I asked.

 

            “Yes,” she nodded. “I trust you, I am entrusted to you.”

 

            “But you won’t say it,” I told her.

 

            “I do love you,” she said leaning forward and giving me half a glimpse down her front. “But it’s a love that’s more than love. It’s not anything normal, not anything people who aren’t you and I can understand. In fact, I’m not even sure you understand, which is why I’m afraid to tell you about it.”

 

            “You didn’t put me in a tomb by the sea,” I told her. “And angels didn’t exactly take me away from you out of jealousy.”

 

            “But the part I mentioned is right,” She said. “You understand, right?”

 

            “I think so,” I told her. “You think we have a pure love that has rigid boundaries of behavior.”

 

            “Well,” she sighed and looked like I had just trapped her up against a wall. I think the problem was that I had.

 

            “What do you want to do?” I asked her.

 

            “I want you to get better and come back to work.”

 

            “But what do you want to do?” I asked. “Not what do you want me to do.”

 

            “I want…” She started to cry again and I felt like a king sized heel.

 

            “What?” I asked.

 

            “I want things to be like they were.”

 

            “When?” I asked. “It would be hard to go back, now that you’ve brought all of this back to the surface.”

 

            “That’s not...” she said and stopped. “God damn it. Can’t we wait until you and I can...”

 

            “You want me to be fit to talk about this?” I asked, and suddenly it clicked into place.

 

            “Yes,” she said, and then her eyes flicked to the left, a clear sign she was about to lie. “I want us to be equal when we discuss it.”

 

            “Okay,” I said, knowing what she really wanted. “I will use the machines and I will get in shape, and when I do, we’re going to talk about this.”

 

            “Thanks Jack,” she then leaned forward like she wanted to kiss me, but stopped a few inches from making contact.

 

            I knew what she wanted. She wanted me to make some effort. That was why she wanted me to work out, to get strong. Debbie has only been the one to kiss first once, and that day she was overtaken by emotion. If one had read a lot of book about these sorts of subjects, one might say she were passive aggressive. However I think that’s wrong. If I read those books, I would probably say she was another publicly dominant person who was privately a submissive personality looking for a dominant person to dominate her and tell her what to do at home because she can only be the boss so many hours of the day. However, since I’ve never read those books, or had any involvement with those people, I’d say she’s just Debbie.

 

            However, since I was just Jack dealing with just Debbie, rather than the primary dominant male reclaiming his role with a submissive after sometime away, I just leaned over and kissed her. My fingers reached up and sank into the deep ocean of her hair and took a fistful, pulling on her scalp and as we pulled away from each other I bit down on her lower lip ever so gently.

 

            “Now you say it,” I said. “You tell me what you want.”

 

            “I want you to take me,” she whispered in a sort of out of breath way. “I want you to get better and take me. I don’t want you to take me halfway though. I want you to be at full power. I want you to take me over.”

 

            “And what else?” I asked.

 

            “I love you,” she said. “I love you so much it hurts.”

 

            “Okay,” I nodded and let go of her hair. “I’ll do that for you.”

 

            I had to lean back into the couch because that effort left me a bit winded. It wasn’t excitement or anything, just effort. I felt lightheaded from having to display that kind of strength all at once. She leaned toward me, putting her weight on me and kissed me again, deeper this time. She smelled so sweet, her body felt so perfect against me, and I felt too weak to do anything about it.

 

            “I want to do something for you,” she said as she pulled away.

 

            “Not yet,” I said. “Not now.”

 

            “Why?” she asked, having her sudden enthusiasm thrown back.

 

            “Because you said when I’m at full power.”

 

            “Yeah,” she said sliding down to the floor in front of me, smiling a wicked little grin. “You’ll take me then, right now I’ll take you.”

 

            I leaned back my head and let her just get on with it. I was too weak to fight her off anyway. I mean I would have told her not to do this now, that it was wrong somehow, but I was just too tired to fight. It wasn’t because I selfishly enjoyed the fact that she was doing what I had wanted her to do every day for the last eight years or so. Nope, just too weak to fight her off.

 

 

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