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Volume 3, Number 6
June, 1998

The Green Book

David Lind
Harold Smith
Fiona Jane
Dean Shutt

Chapter Two

Jake took a long drag on his cigarette and squinted through the haze in his unkempt office. His head hurt and he needed a shave, but that was the least of his problems. No, the big dilemma was the incessant ringing of the phone. He touched his ears to make sure they weren't bleeding and let the damn thing ring. He knew it wasn't a job, it was never a job. It was probably those thugs from the collection agency after the money he owed them. They were in for a disappointment on that score though, since he hadn't had a case in over two months, money and was pretty scarce, to put it mildly.

"It wasn't supposed to be this way," thought Jake as he rummaged around his desk drawer for the pint of scotch that he knew was there somewhere. He had saved for years so that he could quit his job and start his own detective agency. "Just like in the movies," he laughed at his own naivete under his breath. "The hardboiled private eye with a heart of gold and a .38 special," he found the scotch and took a long draw, "Yeah, me and Bogie."

He chuckled at that thought in spite of himself. He remembered spending all his free time as a kid watching old movies and reading Chandler books. That was where he had learned what it meant to be a man. He didn't learn it from his parents or school, but from the late late show on Saturday nights and a parade of hardcase cinema detectives. That was when he knew what he was going to do with his life, certainly not in school when he excelled in computers. No, he had always known that someday he would be a private dick.

He had done everything by the book, going to school and getting his license as the state required. Then he apprenticed with a crazy old coot who taught him the things that school didn't cover. It took a guy that had been in the game a few years to show you which finger caused the most intense pain upon being broken, or how to throw a punch without busting every bone in your hand (a roll of quarters was the key). Then he had hung out his shingle and waited for the beautiful, breathless damsels in distress to come for his help. Just like Bogie.

Unfortunately for Jake, the silicon valley had precious few damsels in distress. Those that were around tended to go for the big computerized outfits, not to a novice private eye laughingly named Jake Morrison. All Jake could get were overweight dowagers who wanted evidence of their husbands' philandering for divorce court. He had spent more time in the bushes with his special lowlight camera than he cared to admit even to himself. Certainly more than any sane man with a Ph.D. in Computer Science ever had. Finally he quit taking those "bedroom jobs" altogether, choosing what little dignity he had left over regular rent payments. That left the problem of paying the rent and the utilities and his ever expanding tab at the Towne Club. Which was why he was sitting in his darkened, unheated office at 8:30 in the morning getting seriously drunk before he closed up shop for good. "Well at least I'll have a nice big cubicle," Jake thought, and he laughed out loud at such a frightening concept.

Just then a woman burst through the door, disheveled and in tears, a cheap briefcase hanging from her shoulder in lieu of a purse. Jake started at the interruption and spilled the last of the scotch down his chest. The woman looked him up and down as though he were a science project with just the hint of a crinkle of her nose. Jake rose and introduced himself and watched the woman continue to study him in some detail. "Great," Jake muttered to himself, "The first decent looking woman I've seen in months and she's mentally disturbed." As if reading his mind, the woman dropped her gaze and gathered herself. "My name is Megan Connally and I just saw a man murdered on the Lightrail." She said with amazing composure.

"Oh yeah, she's crazy," thought Jake, "This is just what I need this morning, a crazy woman who just saw her invisible friend die." He looked up and noticed the woman was staring at him again. He finally realized that she was waiting for a reply. He decided that he might as well play along with her fantasy. In another week he would be a computer drone anyway, he might as well get something for his trouble.

"Miss Connally, it is Miss, isn't it?" Jake said in his best private eye voice, "If you just saw a man murdered shouldn't you be talking to the police?"

"I have talked to the police," she replied evenly, "But there was something about this man that makes me want to know more than they would be willing to tell me."

"Such as?" Jake asked.

"Such as why the briefcase he was carrying was stolen, and why the police became so agitated when I mentioned it to them."

Jake found himself becoming far more interested than he cared to in her story. This was crazy, a beautiful woman, a man murdered on a train for a mysterious briefcase and a drunken private eye named Jake Morrison? This was beyond the pale, Jake was ready to throw her out and call up his old boss when she said something that made all the craziness fall away. Upon hearing those words, Jake knew that he was in this one till the end.

To be continued...
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