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Jack Collier: Private Eye (Chapter Eight)

Jack Collier: Private Eye

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Chapter Seven can be found here.

 

Chapter Eight: Alice and the Looking Glass

 

            Alice Liddell,” She said in a professional sounding tone.

 

            “Is this a bad time?” I asked, stopping the conversation for a full two seconds. I was about to check and see if the call was dropped when she spoke.

 

            “Jack?” She asked.

 

            “Yeah,” I said. “Have I caught you while you’re on the job?”

           

            “No,” She said, “I was just getting home.”

 

            “Well, that’s a coincidence of sorts,” I told her. “I’ve been home for a couple of days, but I think I could say I just got home too.”

 

            “You’re out of the hospital?” she asked.

 

            “Yeah,” I told her.

 

            “Are you able to get around again?”

 

            “Yeah,” I said trying to think of something besides that to say. “I’m not up to my full strength or anything, but I’ve got some workout machines and I’m starting slow on the treadmill.”

 

            “How long until you think you’ll be back to full strength?”

 

            “No idea,” I said. “Months at least.”

 

            “You know,” I could see a grin form on her face, “I haven’t taken my vacation time this year. I could put in for some, be down there in maybe two weeks.”

 

            “I’m not sure that would be a good idea,” I said.

 

            “Oh,” she sounded crushed, and I could almost hear an intake of breath that was steadying herself to be blown out of the water. “How come?”

 

            “Because I look skeletal,” I said. “That might be a slight exaggeration, but I weigh one hundred and five pounds today. I look like something from a horror movie.”

 

            “I weigh more than you right now?” she asked.

 

            “And I look scary as a result,” I said. “Why don’t you come over in a couple of months. How about the end of November or something like that?”

 

            “You want me to come visit?” she asked.

 

            “Yeah,” I said, “I’d like that.”

 

            “So would I.”

 

            “Are you seeing anyone?” I asked.

 

            “Noooooo,” she said. “Don’t you remember what I said, and what you said?”

 

            “When you visited me?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah.”

 

            “No,” I said. “I was stoned and I don’t remember.”

 

            “Are you being serious?” she asked.

 

            “Yes,” I said, “and I’m beginning to think that I would really rather remember.”

 

            “You don’t remember what you said?”

 

            “Oh god, what did I say?” I asked, wondering what crudity passed over my tongue that time.

 

            “You said I was the most beautiful woman you’d ever seen,” she told me. “You said that if I’d wait for you, you’d like to spend the rest of your life with me. Then you started talking about your secretary and another girl and how they could come too and we’d build a palace of love to rival heaven.”

 

            “Ah,” realizing that when stoned, I speak my mind. Note to self, avoid sodium pentathol.

 

            “It was a beautiful speech,” she sounded sort of disappointed. “If I hadn’t been so choked up over it, I would have recorded it on my phone or something. And now I find out you were stoned.”

 

            “Well,” I decided to see if I couldn’t rally. “I meant it. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. I mean, it’s hard not to fall in love with you at just a glance. You have no idea how frustrated I am at the constant cockblocking that life has thrown up between us.”

 

            “What about when you asked me to get Cole King out of jail?” she asked.

 

            “Did I ask you to do that?” I asked.

 

            “When you were done telling me about how beautiful I am and the palace of love,” she giggled. “You said he didn’t shoot you and he should get out because you had plans for him.”

 

            “And you listened to me?”

 

            “You seemed lucid at the time,” she said.

 

            “I hope I had a good plan,” I said. “Hope it comes back to me.”

 

            “I’m sure it will,” she said. “If it was a plan and not just the drugs talking.”

 

            “I’ve had a lot of plans in my life.”

           

            “Like the palace of love?” she asked.

 

            “How much talking did I do?” I asked.

 

            “You were very poetic,” she assured me. “Mostly anyway, you said a few things that were sort of... earthy.”

 

            “Earthy?” I repeated.

 

            “It’s sort of disappointing that you don’t want me to come visit,” she said with a sort of hurt tone that I should have detected. “You were saying you were going to do things to me just as soon as you could get out of that bed.”

 

            “Did I get into details?” I asked.

 

            “I’m not sure I want to tell you now,” she said, and the hurt tone was getting a little angry. “I mean I told you things about myself, because you got me really hot and bothered. Now I find out you’re not even remembering it, which is a little convenient if I may say.”

 

            Fuck.

 

            “I mean if you don’t want to see me, you could say so,” her voice choked on the words.

 

            There it was. She thought I was stringing her along. She thought I was screwing with her. I looked across the room at the mirror across from me and suppressed a sigh because that would have sent the wrong message.

 

            “It’s not that,” I said. “I don’t play with people. I’m not trying to play with you.”

 

            “Then why do you keep doing this?” she asked, and I knew she was going to start crying if I didn’t defuse her quickly. “What am I to you?”

 

            “What room are you in?” I asked.

 

            “What?”

 

            “What room are you in?” I asked again.

 

            “My living room,” she said, sounding more confused than angry, but that wouldn’t last if I wasn’t quick. “What the hell does that have to...”

 

            “Is there a mirror in the room?” I interrupted.

 

            “What?” she asked.

 

            “Mirror,” I said. “Is there one?”

 

            “Yes,” she said. “A big old mirror over the fireplace.”

 

            “I promise I’m not trying to trick you, but I need you to get up and go to the mirror.”

 

            Okay,” she sighed, trying to sound exasperated, but I thought I could hear a shred of interest. If nothing else she could get angry and hang up after she’d listened to this gibberish for a while. “So what do I do here now?”

 

            “Look in the mirror,” I said. “And tell me what you see?”

 

            “I see a thirty-one year old federal agent,” she said. “You want me to describe her?”

           

            “Please.”

 

            “She’s got blond hair, blue eyes, pretty good complexion.” She told me, spreading her words out to see if she could guess the game before she was done. “People keep telling her she’s pretty, but most guys aren’t smart enough to keep up with her or are too scared to try. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from college, Magna from high school, top honors from the academy. She still feels stupid all the time though, like she’ll never do things right, or good enough. And she’s alone because she’s hung up on a guy that doesn’t want her and no one else even interests her.”

 

            By the time she was done, I could tell she was crying. The only way to go now was to charge ahead forward. It was dangerous, because I was going to have to do the thing I hate doing most. I was going to have to stop being paranoid and open up to someone.

 

            “Blue eyes?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah.”

 

            “That’s all you see?”

 

            “What the hell else am I supposed to see?” she asked, her voice cracking a little.

 

            “Look again,” I said. “You just see blue? You don’t see eyes a shade of blue that I’ve only ever seen in the sky on an early winter morning in Romania? You don’t see hair that’s like the rays of the run on that same morning, streaming like threads of silk? You don’t see a woman of such supreme beauty that the gods themselves would demand to have their likenesses carved like hers? You don’t see a clever and quick-minded agent, who has been able to reach a position of power in an industry still dominated by the sort of men that can often be found dragging their knuckles on the side walk? You really don’t see a woman of such beauty, intelligence, and strength that a man would falter and stammer and make a fool of himself for her? I mean look at me, here I am trying to convince you not to come look at me until I look like something you might be interested in taking to bed because I’m so worried about pleasing you. I know we’ve not been able to have the time together we wanted, but that’s because of circumstances I couldn’t control and I wanted to try and have control so that for once I wouldn’t have to disappoint you.”

 

            “A winter morning in Romania?” she asked, and I could hear her smiling now. “When were you in Romania?”

 

            “Well, I’ll tell you,” I said and took in a breath to explain the story.

 

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