Jack Collier: Private Eye
A Jack Collier Story
By Brett N. Lashuay
Chapter Thirty-Four: Mister Temple
It turned out that I needed Alice to drive Jill and I back to the regional office since Debbie’s car was left at the hotel. I sat in the front seat, with Jill sitting directly behind me as we drove to the San Francisco office. The drive was fairly quiet, because there was something between the two women. I’m not sure it was spoken, but neither of them seemed to be ready to be buddies with the other. I didn’t much care, all I cared about at that moment was having a safe place to rest my head for a few hours.
I felt like I’d spent the last day or so, well doing the things that I’d done in the last say or so. I felt like I wanted to have a shower and then sleep for a day or two, but I wasn’t going to have the chance. For a while. My phone started to ring and I pulled it out. Alice started to speed up as I pulled the phone out. I didn’t recognize the number.
“Some one is following us.” She said as she put her foot down a little harder, causing the engine to growl louder.
“Jack Collier.” I said, feeling as tired as I probably was.
“Mister Collier.” A voice like a purring puma said to me. “Would you mind asking Miss Liddell not to drive so fast? That speed isn’t safe on these streets.”
“Alice.” I said to her. “The strange man on the other line wants to know if we could slow down a bit?”
“Who is it?” She asked,
“Good question.” I said. “Who wants us to slow down?”
“My name is Temple.” The voice said. “Mister Church asked if I would look after you.”
“Temple?” I asked. “Slow down Alice, we might actually be among friends.”
“Temple?” She asked. “Simon Temple?”
“Simon Temple?” I asked.
“That’s right.” The purring puma on the other line said. “If you wouldn’t mind, I think we should have a face to face talk.”
“Where?” I asked.
“You have an office here in town?”
“We’ll escort you then.” He purred. “No one’s going to bother you with us behind.”
“You sure?” I asked.
“You’ve got Temple behind you.” He said. “Even those crazy comet humpers aren’t going to bother you with me behind.”
“Well, that sounds reassuring.” I said. “So you’ll follow us to the office?”
“And then we’ll talk.” He said.
We drove to the office, with four black SUVs behind us. I think I must have actually fallen asleep because the trip sort of zipped past and I realized the engine had stopped. I started to sit up when I realized the car had stopped and started to look around.
“Are we in trouble?” I asked.
“No.” Alice said. “We’re here.”
“Oh, that went fast.” I said.
“You snored for like an hour.” Jill laughed as she opened the door and got out.
“I don’t snore.” I told Alice.
“Yes you do.” She said. “You know you do. Every woman who has ever had to sleep next to has noticed it. I almost think the reason you’re so good in bed is to exhaust us so we don’t wake up too many times.”
“At least I’ve got being good in bed going for me.” I said as we climbed out of the car.
“Mister Collier.” The purring puma voice said behind me. “I’m Simon Temple.”
I turned and saw a good looking black man with a shaved head smiling at me. While his voice was about eight feet tall, he’d have to wear three inch lifts to get to six foot. He was good looking though, dressed well in a suit that cost about the same as my car costs. There wasn’t anything ostentatious about him though, he looked like he’d been born knowing what style and sophistication looked like.
“Mister Temple.” I said taking his extended hand. It was firm and strong, but not exactly hard. It was sort of like shaking Church’s hand actually.
“Jack!” Shiri said as she ran out into the parking lot, but she stopped when she got a look at Temple. “Oh fuck.”
“It’s cool.” I said waving at her. “Mister Temple is, well, let’s call him the friend of an old adversary.”
“And that’s good?” She asked.
“We should probably go inside.” I said. “I’ve got to talk to you about company policy towards dealing with the Federales as it is young lady.”
“We don’t cooperate with the authorities.” I said and glanced at Alice. “We just sleep with them.”
We entered the building, three guys in baggy pants and t-shirts standing at the office door watching out for us. They were a mixed group, two guys who looked like they were in it for looking tough and one guy who I thought could do some serious damage if given a really good reason. They were also a mixed group racially. One black, one white, one Asian. Interestingly, that was the make up of the executive staff that went up the office as well. Technically though, if I remember right, Shiri is Chinese, Thai, Irish and Latino. Still though, we were more or less a matching set of executive and working staff.
“Were can we talk?” I asked.
“Well we can use my office.” Shiri said.
“I was thinking of discussing something with Mister Temple alone.” I said.
“Well, you could.” She stopped and sighed as she opened the door to the main office where Kari was sitting. She then spoke quickly, “You could use Dale’s office, it’s the one across from mine.”
Shiri then more or less ran to her office and slammed the door behind her. It wasn’t much of a slam, probably she was being annoyed with herself for closing it so quickly. I looked at Kari, who was greatly deflated from her attitude of the last few days. She’d been bubbly and warm, but now she looked like she’d been medicated.
“Hi Jack.” She barely said.
“Hey Kari.” I said walking toward her and taking her left hand in both of mine. “You holding up?”
“I’m okay.” She nodded quickly and bit her lip.
“Okay.” I said. “Mister Temple and I are going to go discuss a few matters.”
“Okay.” She nodded in the same quick way and bit her lip again.
“Something happen?” Temple asked as we passed the desks were four operatives sat, looking dejected.
“One of ours was killed yesterday.” I said as I opened the door to Dale’s office. “This was his office.”
I sat down behind Dale’s desk and Temple sat in one of the client chairs. If nothing else, Dale’s office should have been kept in a museum in an attempt to shatter the stereotype that gay men and neat and tidy. I couldn’t actually see the surface for all the assorted papers, photos, cameras and other paraphernalia of our craft. His chair was good and comfortable though, so who cares if the desk was a sight?
“So what can I do for you Mister Temple?”
“It’s more what I can do for you.” He said steepling his fingers before his mouth. “You’ve annoyed one powerful little group of criminals.”
“I think a lot of them are going to be arrested though.” I said. “I mean the feds are not going to let the Thinkonomics crowd slip through their fingers.”
“Not them.” He shook his head. “I mean the people behind The So-called Church of Thinkonomics.”
“Behind them?” I asked.
“Mister Church told me that you had dealings with them over the event that made you famous.” He smiled then, as if savoring a joke. “The Seven with One Blow event.”
“You’re talking about Unicorn.” I said, wondering if I’d get a flash of lightning and some thunder for saying the name.
“I speak of them.” He agreed. “After that last altercation left them injured, they came out here and regrouped. They’ve been running the Thinkonomics people pretty much ever since they started, so they came here to consider their tactics.”
“Which you don’t much like.” I said.
“I am the sole criminal element in this part of the world.” He stated. “Even the spaghetti eaters, pardon, Italians defer to me.”
“Yeah, but Unicorn isn’t into deferment.”
“No.” He shook his head. “They are not. They haven’t wanted a direct fight with me though, so they haven’t given me an excuse to start one.”
“Are you looking for an excuse?” I asked.
“I’m not looking for anything.” He smiled again and I wondered if he would let me in on the joke. “However, Mister Church did tell me that you were like a magnet for them. He said that if I were looking for trouble I should look for you since it always seems to converge around you.”
“Yeah.” I said. “I do that.”
“I’ve wanted to hurt them, for sometime.” He told me. “And you have created a situation that hurts them without my having to do anything. I am enjoying the event from afar, but I would like to get a closer seat. To that end, if you need something, just ask. If it doesn’t bother you, I’ll have someone watch over you until you leave the general area. I’d like to know where you are.”
“That probably won’t be a problem.” I said.
“Good. I like a man who is reasonable.” And there was something like Church there. A slight hint of menace mixed with the self assurity that comes from knowing you’re the baddest in the room. He didn’t actually know he wasn’t the baddest, but he hadn’t known me for five minutes yet, so how could he know how bad I was?
He reminded me of Church in another way. He spoke like he had to think about what he was going to say and be careful about how he said it, lest he revert to the voice of his youth. I could tell that there was a ghetto talking thug under the smooth exterior, but it was far down and covered with a lot of learned class. He was a man who had come up from the ground level to make himself into something greater than his beginnings would suggest. Just like me, only I wasn’t a crime boss.
“I’ll be going home in another day or two.” I said. “I’ve given my evidence and it’s been agreed that I can give video testimony from Michigan so I won’t even need to come back.”
“That sounds very nice.” He nodded.
“I just want you to know where I stand.” I said. “Because after this I think I’m going to vanish for a while and no one is going to know where I went for a while. I appreciate your offer of help though and I’ll take it kindly.”
“That’s very respectful of you.” He said. “I’m glad we can be reasonable.”
“Well sure.” I smiled my charming smile, which hurt like hell but I did it anyway. “Just don’t have the guys try and be sly, let them just hang out and be obvious. I get paranoid sometimes and I’d rather know my bodyguard is actually with me.”
“Sure.” He laughed as he stood up. “I’ll see to that. You need anything, you let me know.”
And with that he was gone leaving me in the office alone, wondering how deep I’d stuck my foot in it this time and could I pull it out without loosing a shoe.