“Jesus, Duke. It’s Pimlipper and Graydon. This is the team?”
The lawyers looked up from a stack of papers on the plywood desk and nodded at me. “Yeah, old pals,” Pimlipper said. “The doublecross. More Duke’s deal than yours, of course. No hard feelings.”
“Plus there’s Brimsnod,” said Duke. “A new addition.”
She held out a hand for me to shake. She wore a power suit, formerly scarlet, dust-dulled now. She looked like a younger version of Hillary Clinton, except for the skin tone. Chemical blonde, thick through the hips, a thin smile that made you wonder what she wasn’t telling you.
“Marcella Brimsnod,” she said. “Everyone here goes with Brimsnod.”
“We got more people,” Duke said. “This is for starters. Pimlipper and Graydon will handle the contract. Then Brimsnod takes over with the personality assessment, the skills and aptitude work-up. Did I mention, she comes out of the life-coaching industry?”
“What do you mean, the contract?”
“The usual. Whereas and wherefore, party of the first part, party of the second part, blah blah blah. All you got to do is sign.”
When I signed the deal for Doris’s ransom, the underworld’s lawyers got out a rusty knife, a syringe and a fountain pen.
“I don’t think so.”
“Don’t be a baby, Fatman. You’re in Rome, we’re Romans, we sign in blood. A minute and we’re done.”
“Let me see the contract.”
“As your attorney, I’m telling you, you got nothing to worry about.”
“You’re not my attorney.”
“Don’t be rash, Fatman. You want somebody taking your interests to heart. Pimlipper, Graydon, sure, they’re part of the team, but you need a guy who’s really in your corner.”
“What am I hearing? Cynicism? Doubt? Maybe you ought to go back topside. Take all your problems back to your bed. Work on them yourself. Assuming you know better.”
“Show me the contract at least,” I said.
“Pimlipper,” Duke said, nodding at his colleague.
Pimlipper grabbed what seemed to be a hundred dusty pages and pushed them toward me across the table. “Be my guest,” he said. “We got all day. We got all week. No rush on our end. We’re not going anywhere. Unfortunately.”
Who ever reads a contract except lawyers? I skimmed. Three missed sessions constitutes a breach of… Losses not limited to personal property… For a period of three years the contractee shall not be in the employ, in any capacity, of a firm in direct…”
“Okay, okay, okay, let’s get it over with,” I said, sliding the paper back toward Pimlipper.
I didn’t see how a bunch of dead guys were going to sue me anyway.
Pimlipper reached into the breast pocket of his suit and withdrew a leather case. He opened it on the tabletop and said, “Left or right? Just roll up your sleeve. Be done before you know it. Brimsnod, you want to get the dressing?”
She pulled a drab swath of cotton from her suit.
“What’s that behind you?” Pimlipper asked.
As soon as I turned around he jabbed me with the scalpel. Blood poured from the wound.
“What! Shit!” I said. “I just got to sign my name. I’m not writing War and Peace.”
“You don’t want me doing this twice.”
Pimlipper took the fountain pen from his case. His yellow fingers worked the pump, sucking blood into the pen.
“Good,” he said. “Brimsnod, bandage him up.”
She wrapped my arm with the dirty rag. I tried not to think about all the possible diseases.
Pimlipper passed the pen to Duke, who handed it to me. He rifled through the contract. “Here, here, here and here,” he said.
My blood flowed bright red on the paper.
“You’re going to look back and you’re going to thank me,” Duke said.
Tomorrow: I only count three bullet holes