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Jack Collier: Private Eye

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 Chapter Forty-Four can be found here.

 

Chapter Forty-Five: Suspension

Alice Liddell’s Diary

 

            Things happened the way I expected them to for the next two days. Reporters had questions, but I was able to do it all in a single press conference with a few of the higher ups around. Then there was the thing I’d been hoping to avoid. Someone at CNN got a look at me and I was put out front because I’m mildly attractive. That was the start of an annoying bit of celebrity I could have done without.

 

            I’m not going to go into that right now. Instead I would rather focus on what happened when I got back to Washington. I’d been in my office for half an hour when Jim called me to his office for a conference. I knew what I was going in for, I knew how much trouble I was in. I knew that a review board made up of a dozen of my most jealous co-workers was going to be the best I could hope for. There was so much that I’d screwed up and so much had been screwed up for me, I’d be lucky to maintain a desk. I was in deep trouble.

 

            When I got into Jim’s office it was clear how much trouble I was in. Krendler was there, and Richard Wragg himself had come down to Jim’s office to bawl me out. I sighed as I looked at the three of them and started to walk into the room.

 

            “Morning Jim.” I said to him as I went to the single chair that was left vacant near his desk. “Mister Krendler, Mister Wragg.”

 

            Alice.” Jim started as I sat down. “This may be uncomfortable, and it may be trouble.”

 

            “I understand.” I told him. “I’m ready.”

 

            “I’ve looked over your report.” Wragg said. “Did Collier shoot King?”

 

            “Sir?”

 

            “You have a relationship.” Krendler said. “It’s not impossible to believe you said King shot himself to protect Collier.”

 

            “No sir.” I said. “King shot himself because he didn’t want to be taken in.”

 

            “Even just among the three of us?” Jim asked.

 

            “Jim?” I asked.

 

            “I’m just asking.” He said. “Is there anything you changed? Anything you didn’t say?”

 

            “Why?” I asked.

 

            “We’re concerned that information has been passed from this office to Red King’s organization.” Krendler said.

 

            “I seriously doubt that you screwed up badly enough to expose yourself like that.” Jim said. “Someone had to have told them where you’d be and when you’d be most vulnerable.”

 

            “Frankly, you’re lucky not have been killed.” Krendler added.

 

            “Lucky.” I said. “If luck comes in the shape of a man willing to stick another man’s head in a car door and kick it as hard as he can, I guess I did have luck on my side. It’s nice to get lucky like that.”

 

            I could see that made them all uncomfortable. I’m going to admit that I liked that. It was something Debbie had suggested, throwing out phrases that could be thought of as a double entendre, but isn’t really. You could see them trying to decide if I’d meant getting lucky as a sexual thing, and then caught themselves thinking about a female colleague in sexual terms and tried to get the idea out of their head so they wouldn’t be typical men in our field.

 

            “Yes, well.” Jim said, clearing his throat.

 

            “You also broke protocol though.” Wragg said. “You shouldn’t have been vulnerable like that.”

 

            “Yes sir.” I said. “I’m aware of that.”

 

            “She was working under my order.” Jim said. “An order you approved.”

 

            “I know that Jim.” Wragg said.

 

            “We’re not trying to accuse you Alice.” Jim said. “We’re trying to find out how you were given away, and if possible we’d like to know who did it. Whatever procedural irregularities you may have needed to engage in can be dealt with later.”

 

            “Maybe we should go over your report.” Krendler said. “You can answer any question we may have.”

 

            And that lead to a four hour dissection of my report, my career, my relationship with Jack, his relationship with Debbie and Karen, and of course the invasion of my private life from the age of four. That sounds like I’m glossing, and I guess I am. I have no desire to relive that interrogation with two bad cops and one good cop. At the end everyone had made a lot of notes, and what would amount to about three type written pages worth of corrections to my report had been written out.

 

            At least I managed to remain in the closet, and with Krendler and Wragg I remained inscrutable as far as to what degree things had progressed. They don’t need to now if I’m still actively sapphic, or if I agree that Jack can stick it wherever he wants into whoever he wants. I didn’t tell them anything either way, but I hinted that something might be going on, which is a childish game to play but I did it anyway. I did have to admit where the silenced Rutthowers came from, but I think they decided to leave it out for the time being. After all, they’d been taken away and Jack didn’t feel like claiming them.

 

            “I’m afraid I’ve got no other option right now.” Krendler finally announced. “We’ll have to hold an internal investigation on this matter.”

 

            “Agreed.” Wragg said, and I could feel my career sinking right along with my heart. “We’ll have to put you on leave Agent Liddell.”

 

            “Sir.” I didn’t whine, even though I could feel it wanting to happen.

 

            “I’m sorry Liddell.” Wragg said standing. “We’re going to have to sort all of this out though. This whole King affair has turned into a shit storm and we’re going to have to make sure we make good.”

 

            “So we put the cute girl up as a blood sacrifice so the bureaucrats can keep their cushy offices?” It just… well it just came out. “You know when Red King announced a sacrifice he had the guts to actually take physical action rather than just hide behind petty official bullshit.”

 

            Alice!” Jim yelled.

 

            “Give your weapon and identification to Agent Palvier.” Wragg said, “Coming Paul?”

 

            “Give me a minute.” Krendler said. “I’ll be right there.”

 

            Wragg left as I pulled my gun off my belt and placed it on Jim’s desk. Krendler stood up and came to Jim’s desk as I set my ID wallet down next to the holstered gun. I sort of thought that I wouldn’t be coming back here again. Maybe I could get a job with the Collier Investigations company, I had an in with the boss after all.

 

            “This isn’t going to be a witch burning Liddell.” Krendler said standing next to me. “Wragg chose a bad way to express it, but we’re not looking to hang anyone out to dry.”

 

            “It’s just a little administrative leave.” Jim said. “We’ve done this before, and you know what it amounts to. Some senator gets angry, yells at us in private, we announce stronger training or some bullshit and we all get back to work.”

 

            “It’s not like Red King was some kind of saint.” Krendler told me. “This has been a difficult case and we’re still not really done with it. People are going to want to call it over because King is dead, but we all know better.”

 

            “What’s most important is that we find whoever has been handing information over to the opposition.” Jim said. “Probably any irregularities in your work could be explained through that. Work on that, we’ll get together and write up a report about how you were getting worried about leaks and things.”

 

            “Yes sir.” I said. “I’ll work on that.”

 

            “It’ll be alright Agent Liddell.” Krendler said.

 

            “Sure it will.” I sighed.

 

            “Take a few days.” Jim said. “We’ll hold down the fort here for a while. You take a little vacation or something.”

 

            “I’ll do that sir.” I said.

 

            I made it all the way to my car before I started to cry. Despite their claims I knew I was going to be the one on the cross when the time came. I’m supposed to be an independent career woman, tough as nails. I am. I think I am anyway, but I needed support then. I did what anyone else would do at a time like that, I called my boyfriend. How silly does that sound? A grown woman calling a grown man her boyfriend? Particularly since, if anything, I was really calling Debbie’s boyfriend. He hadn’t made an official statement to me yet, and I didn’t know if he was going to. I needed the support though, so I called him.

 

            People who work in normal offices with normal office politics don’t get what happens when you put law enforcement and office politics together. They always think you’re just being paranoid when you complain about them being after you, or trying to blame the current debacle on you. Of course they don’t understand screwing the Merkowski account, which hurts the company profits, is nothing compared to screwing up a criminal investigation where people die. It makes putting someone on the alter and sacrificing their career a lot easier if you can blame a death on them.

 

            I called Jack and I told him what was going on. He didn’t call me crazy though, he didn’t tell me I was over reacting, for the most part he didn’t tell me anything. What he did was quietly sat and listened as I poured out the entire situation to him combined with my fears and worries thrown in. It took the better part of an hour and I was back in my place by the time I was feeling that I was about done.

 

            “And that’s it.” I said as I came to the end.

           

            “Okay.” He said and there was a silence for a few seconds before he spoke. “Tell you what? I think we can turn this to our advantage.”

 

            “How?” I asked.

 

            “I’ve been watching the news this morning.” He said. “And I can’t help but notice that a lot of people have questions about the young and beautiful federal agent that was in the center of the latest Jack Collier bloodfest.”

 

            “Yeah.” I sighed. “I know.”

 

            “So use it.” He said.

 

            “Pardon?”

 

            “Do some interviews, tell them things.”

 

            “I can’t just talk about an on going investigation like that.” I said.

 

            “Even better.” He said. “Tell them nothing about this case, but talk about everything else.”

 

            “I’m not sure I can do that.” I said,

 

            “I think you can.” He said. “We’ll tell them all about the Wonderland case, all about the Columbia Freedom case, just let them get a look as you and those perfect blue eyes.”

 

            “The Freedom case was a debacle.” She said. “So was the Wonderland case.”

 

            “That’s not important.” He said. “What is important is letting them see you, letting them get used to looking at you, letting them see how cool you’re being under pressure.”

 

            “But I’m not being cool.”

 

            “You will be.” He said. “When it comes down to it, you’ll be cool.”

 

            “Who should I start with first then?”

 

            “Why don’t you come up here?” He asked. “We’ll talk about how best to take the interviews. I’ll get you in touch with a true crime writer I know. Get a book deal going, get famous, they won’t dare burn you then.”

 

            “They might for going public with things.” I said.

 

            “Nonsense.” He said. “You know what to tell and what not to, you’ve done this before. You just get them to fall in love with you and it’ll make getting rid of you a very dicey proposition. If you get some people who are even more powerful than the ones who are dangling swords over you to say how great you are the danger will fade back a little.”

 

            “You think so?”

 

            “Yeah.” He then laughed. “And if it doesn’t work that way, we’ll open a D.C. Office and put you in charge of it and that’ll show ‘em. They’ll quake in fear at the very thought of me coming to town to help in an investigation.”

 

            “They might at that.” I laughed.

 

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