Holding Out For A Hero, Part Seven: Working Man

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(February 28th)


“Good afternoon, Carl.” Jack Beauregard smiled brightly, nodding to the man across the counter from him. “What a pleasant surprise. How’s the wife?”

“Hello again, Jack,” Carl nodded back. “She’s doing well, thanks for asking.”
“My possessions?” Jack asked.
Carl placed a small box on the countertop, listing off items as he pulled them out. “One silver watch, Rolex. One ring, also silver, monogrammed M. You never told me what that stands for, by the way.”

“An old story.” Jack slipped the ring on his finger, shaking his head. “Not worth retelling.”

Carl frowned thoughtfully, but didn’t press the issue. “One silver pendent, shape of a cross. You wear a lot of silver.”

“It suits me.” Jack said, taking the cross.

“One overnight bag, containing a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. One wallet, containing twenty-three dollars and thirteen cents. And one box of breath mints.” Carl passed the box to Jack, who took a mint and offered one to the other man. Carl accepted, then passed a piece of paper across for Jack to sign. “Congratulations, Mr. Beauregard, you are a free man. Let’s not see each other again anytime soon, huh?”

With a nod and a wave, Jack turned for the door. “I’ll see what I can do. Best regards, Carl.” He pushed open the door, walking down the hall to freedom.

It was a dull, dreary day outside, and he sighed heavily as he scanned the sky for the sun. “Not the best omen,” he said to himself, then paused, tilting his head slightly and turning to face the grey minivan sitting across the road from him. He studied the man leaning against the hood, a walking stick leaning next to him, busy turning a quarter over his fingers. The man was watching him frankly, and Jack frowned.

“Hello, Mr. Beauregard,” the stranger said with a smile.

“You have the advantage of me,” Jack answered easily. Glancing both directions, he crossed the street.

“Director Oliver Henry.” Oliver smiled, passing the quarter to his left hand and holding out his right. “I’m with the S.E.A.”

Jack sighed, not taking Oliver’s hand. “Whatever you think I’ve done, you’re wrong. I only just got out.” He turned his back on Oliver, looking both ways again. The bus was just cresting the hill in the distance.

“Nothing like that, Jack.” Oliver’s smile didn’t falter. “I just thought you’d prefer to speak outside. Need a ride back into town?”

“I’m fine. But thank you.” Jack watched the bus for a moment, and then looked back to Oliver. “I’d say you have a couple minutes. What were you wanting?”

“To the point, then. I’m building a new team. I want you on it.”

Jack couldn’t help himself – he laughed sharply. “Somehow,” he said with a significant glance over his shoulder at the prison behind him, “I don’t think I’d pass the police check.”

“Oh, you’ve already been approved,” Oliver said.

“What sort of team?” Jack asked suspiciously.

“The successor to Section 13. Magical Affairs.” Oliver’s smile didn’t waver. “They’re a good bunch, but they’re a bit lacking in experience. I’d like the team to have someone with expertise in magical relics, infiltration, the like. With your particular skills, you’re perfectly suited. Think of it as a fresh start.”

Jack nodded slowly, a hint of a smile showing. “Magical Affairs does have something of a history of hiring people from the darker side of the equation, doesn’t it?” He said. “I suppose a professional burglar would not be the worst thing on the team from the S.E.A.’s perspective.”

Oliver nodded reassuringly. “Quite true. You’re not the most questionable person on the team. You just might make it into the top three, I suppose, but it would be a close thing.” His smile grew, and he pulled out a business card. “You don’t have to decide immediately, of course. Let me give you a ride to your hotel, and call me in the next few days.”

“That’s not necessary, Mr. Henry.” Jack glanced over at the approaching bus, and back to the director. “I’m not interested.”

For the first time in the conversation, Oliver looked nonplussed. “I’m sorry?” He said.

Jack stepped away. “In my line of work, it pays to trust your instincts. I don’t like this setup, Mr. Henry, I don’t believe in fresh starts, and frankly I don’t like you. You’ve got everything prepared, you’re so certain that you’re dangling an interesting little piece of bait, and I don’t like the way you’re trying to hide your power.”

Oliver’s eyebrows rose. “Your senses are good, if you can tell that.”

“You’re rather missing the point,” Jack said bluntly. “I’m been tangled up in this magic business for over twenty-five years, now. I’ve been in and out of jail since I was a teenager, and I’m really, very uninterested in signing up for the other side of the fence. So good day to you, Mr. Henry, and I trust that we will not meet again.”

He was halfway across the street to the bus stop when Oliver called after him. “We will, though.”

Jack glanced over his shoulder. “And why is that, Mr. Henry?”

“Where else are you going to go?” Oliver said bluntly. His hand twitched, and his business card flipped across the street, landing neatly in Jack’s hand. “Think about it. Give me a call.”

“I would have to be insane.” Deliberately, Jack took the card and tore it in half, then stepped over to the stop as the bus pulled up. “You can count me out of your little team.”

Oliver watched the bus pull away, thoughtfully, then opened the passenger side door of his car and slid in, tossing his walking stick down beside him. In the driver’s seat, a young woman with red hair stuck looked over at him. “That went badly.” She suggested.

“Not so badly as that, Alice.” Oliver said with a smile, sliding his quarter out again and turning it over his palm.

“How do you figure that?”

Oliver smiled enigmatically. “He dropped both halves of my card into his pocket.”

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