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July 08, 2024

After Life 26

By Sand Pilarski

Chapter Twenty-six: The Perils of Waywardness

She didn't have long to wait. When he returned from the toilet, Hennessey scraped the stuff on his desk into his drawers with an arm, not sorting or ordering anything. Again he picked up his phone and dialed Garrison's secretary. "Kelley, I just got real sick. No, I don't think it's the flu, maybe something I ate for breakfast. Just let Tom know that I had to go home, see if it passes -- maybe I'm headed to Urgent Care, not sure. Thanks."

He was very pale, and his hands shook as he pressed on his belly. He turned off his computer and left.

Roj waved to his parting back, and carefully floated Garrison's wallet to the same dirty spot in which she had first abandoned it. Garrison's money was still taped to the bottom of the desk, too. That could be helpful.

Now back to Mr. Tom's Cabin, she chortled. What can I do for him today?

Upstairs again, the file drawer of his executive desk was completely empty, Roj noted with disappointment. Garrison hadn't replaced the pictures on his walls since the first time she broke them; what office supplies he'd requisitioned after her destruction were minimal. "Come on, Tom, it's pretty hard to make my presence known in an empty office. You need to step up to the challenge and get me some material to work with." She settled for putting his phone in the file drawer and pulling the jack off the end of the cord.

At least he had pen, paper, scissors, a tape dispenser, and a stapler. And new booze in the sideboard. I can work with that.

Artistically she used the pair of scissors in the top drawer of Garrison's desk to cut out a cleverly-snipped sentence from his new green desk blotter. "You're an idiot" said the large interconnected letters. The scrap she put carefully into the toilet, ensuring another mess. The leather backing of the blotter she swept onto the floor, and in place of it, spilled the new bottle of Chivas Regal carefully across the top of the desk, ruining the rich, hand-rubbed, walnut wood finish. As a still life creation, she left the partial bottle on its side, some of the liquor still inside. The desk blotter material reading "You're an idiot" she put to soak in the puddle of Chivas Regal, ensuring the damage to the wood.

The entire roll of tape she wrapped around and around the end of the light fixture on the ceiling, until all that was left was the plastic dispenser dangling four feet off the floor, reminding her of the flypaper swinging in the summer breeze on her parents' front porch.

On a sheet of paper, she wrote, "Do be sure to check for evidence under Hennessey's desk, Dumbass," and then stapled it to the back of his cushy office chair with the entire load of staples. The empty stapler she placed directly beneath the tape dispenser, wishing she could think of some clever Damocles joke. But still, if I could, he wouldn't get it, even though his misuse of his position has put him in a position to be offed by his buddy Max.

There was a clicking at the lock, and the office door opened; Garrison breezed in, wafting smells of Long Island iced teas and reuben sandwich with him. He stopped short at the sight of his desk, then turned back. "Kelley, who the hell was in here?"

"No one, sir. I didn't leave my desk at all since you went to lunch." Her eyes were wide and fearful. "Not for a minute!"

"Then what the fuck is going on?" Garrison scowled. "I sure as hell didn't do this before I left!" He stomped forward and snatched at the paper on his chair. Seeing the staples, he cursed, "God damn it, how is this happening?" He read the paper, jammed it into his suit pocket, and left the room.

Roj followed him in glee as he took the elevator downstairs and raged towards Hennessey's desk.

"Get Osbourne and Harvey in here," he shouted at Miller, who was trying to write up a report. "Not later, right now, and tell them to bring a kit."

Not willing to get down on his hands and knees on the filthy floor, he crossed his arms impatiently and shifted his weight from foot to foot until the Forensics boys arrived.

Osbourne and Harvey appeared, each carrying a tote over a shoulder. "What's up, Captain?"

"Can you see anything under this desk?" Garrison grated.

"Huh," said Harvey, kneeling down. "Mouse shit, dust, and a wallet."

"Pick it up, the desk, not the mouse shit, the front of it! Wait, give me a glove."

"Here, Oz, take the drawers out first, or we'll end up retiring with hernias. Stack them right here, that's good. Jeeze, looks kind of disorderly, dun't it?" Harvey commented.

Osbourne laughed. "Yeah, office puke. Hope his case files aren't that bad."

"Oh, look there, you can see the wallet now. Just lift -- with your legs, Harvey, not your precious hipster back."

Garrison snatched the wallet from the floor with his gloved hand. "This is my wallet!" He hissed. Then he caught sight of the money taped to the bottom of the desk. "What the fucking hell?" he whispered.

Pulling the taped money off the wood, he waited until the desk was returned to the floor, and held wallet and cash out to the Forensics duo. "Okay, get me some prints on this stuff, ASAP. I want to know who's responsible for this crap. Wait! Let me see if anything's missing."

Of course -- your little piece of paper with its list of phone numbers. Oops, it's gone! Now who do you think has that tiny gem, Tom? And would it incriminate you for something nasty?

The expression on Garrison's face was eloquent -- he was both relieved to find the list gone and concerned as to why it was gone. "Here. Do some honest to God work, will you? Who had hands on that wallet? And then get up to my office and dust it -- I was vandalized again up there, and I want to know who's getting in and how." He picked up Miller's phone. "Kelley, don't let anyone in that door except me, Harvey, and Osbourne. Got it? No one. Thanks, kid." He pressed the receiver button down, then punched in a number.

Roj could hear the buzz of a phone ringing, but no one answered. After fifteen buzzes, Garrison hung up the receiver. "Goddamn Hennessey ... where the hell is he?"

Enough of you, Roj snickered to herself. What of your buddy Max?

Roj leaped into the sky, and thought about Max Duchamps, and spotted him in a luxurious office in downtown Sacramento. She joined him as he conversed with a thin pale man with a fashionable beard, dressed in a flannel shirt and quilted vest. The man seemed both bored and irritated, unintimidated by Duchamps.

"Well, I don't know what else to say," the man droned. "Some old broad knocked her wine glass off her table, and the next instant, there's fire and sprinklers and your boy and girl are shouting and running around like chickens with firecrackers up their assholes. I didn't see anything happen before that. Sure, something must have, because before the wine incident, the bag was right beside Canada's leg. She could have put her hand on it. But then all of a sudden, it wasn't, and it was on fire. Maybe you need to upgrade to body cams." He shrugged, leaned back in his chair, his hands in his lap. "You pay me to watch Garrison, not to babysit your money-runner."

"Already I have come to know that Modesto's police were not complicit. That means that someone in our organization has fingers in this dish. Ms. Canada has no stake in burning money -- sitting around in an orange jumpsuit gains her no advantage. Everyone else in our tribe has a clear alibi -- a funny word, isn't it? -- except you, who were on the scene, whose job was to watch."

"Max -- that is, Mr. Duchamps --" he said with a hint of sarcasm, "I hope you're not suggesting something that it sounds like you're suggesting."

Wow, this guy's not afraid of Max at all. He's either crazy ... or what? He acts like he holds the winning hand in the poker game, only he's not gloating. Just ... doesn't care what Max thinks?

Duchamps gripped the edges of his desk and leaned forward. "I do not suggest anything, Mr. Baines. But if you cannot explain what has happened on your 'watch,' perhaps I need to pay someone else."

Baines met Duchamps' gaze with no intensity at all. "Be my guest, padrino. But remember, we all know how this works."

"You overstep your boundaries, Mr. Baines."

"Not really, Mr. Duchamps. I'm just telling you what it is. You hired me to do a specific job, which I have done. I'm a paid investigator, you might say, but I'm not part of your 'tribe.' So don't try to pull that paternistic crap on me. If I need a Godfather, I can go back to working for my wife's family."

"You might be wise to watch your mouth as well as your step, Mr. Baines."

Baines laughed lightly. "Good advice for you, too, buddy." He stood, straightened his vest, gave a nod to Max, and left, without permission or good wishes.

Holy cats, he's bold, Roj thought as she followed him. Outside the door, she watched Baines interact with the doorkeeper.

"I swear I'm gonna kill that motherfucker one of these days if he pushes me too far," Baines muttered as he retrieved his shoulder holster and sidearm from the door guard.

The guard said, "Don't let him hear you saying that, or you dead."

Baines faced him. "Don't let me hear of you telling him I said that, either, or guess what? You be dead first." He took three steps away, then turned back. "And you better remember that I was hired because I know surveillance ... from any direction." He left the suite with a slam of the door.

Roj poked her head through the wall of Max's inner office to survey the extent of Max's anger. And he was indeed burning with rage. His brow was furrowed, and his breathing elevated. His right hand was a clenched fist on the top of his desk. She drifted to the front of it, staring at Duchamps with curiosity and loathing.

Imagining herself, legs crossed, leaning on the middle of the polished wood surface on one hand, she would have been wearing the beige suit with the red piping, what she wore when he killed her, the red leather pumps with the rounded toes, just for spite, just to remind him. He was staring at his fist, his jaws clenched, when he suddenly elevated his gaze, and saw her.

His eyes narrowed and his mouth made a kind of snarl.

"Oh, you recognize me, do you?" Roj sneered at him. "Guess I'm not as dead as you wanted me to be."

Max's eyes seemed to glow with hatred and anger, but he made no move. Yet something else did. A shape with a sword began to rise above him, undulating with eagerness and venom, and swathed in the putrid scent of evil she'd come to associate with Max.

Roj backpedaled frantically. The shape also had focused on her and she didn't know what it was, but it knew where she was, and was plainly coming after her. She shot out the window of the apartment into the air, but the thing was following, intent upon her as a leaping lion is upon a straggling fawn.

I'm a ghost, I can't be hurt, Roj reminded herself in the foggy air outside the window. But as the shape approached her with obvious desire to cleave her spectral self in two, she reconsidered. Can I?

As the shape lunged at her, swinging the sword, she ducked in the nick of time to avoid contact. What would happen if that sword touched her? If it chopped her in two? Terror was overwhelming her, fragmenting her thoughts. This was no lackluster Voice -- this thing said nothing at all, no threats, no lies, no name-calling. She fled towards Modesto with all the speed she knew, but the thing was gaining on her, then suddenly was in front of her, and she dodged the swing of the glittering dark sword again. I can't escape it!

She screamed, "God help me! Please, God, send Desai to help me!"

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-04-30
Image(s) are public domain.
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