42. Money Equals Misery

I looked out the window. A pair of EMTs rolled a gurney toward Artie’s body.

“Everybody’s going to die,” I muttered, mostly to myself.

“But on their own schedule,” said Doris. “Not when the dead want to make a point.”

“Artie, he was…”

‘What?”

“An exception.”

“Next thing you know, the exception’s the rule.” Doris said. “From now on, let Duke and his pals bang on the basement door. You don’t have to answer. We can live our lives.”

“Except that I signed a contract.”

“Jesus, Fatman,” said Roscoe. “You don’t learn.”

“So you don’t perform,” Doris said. “What’s Duke going to do? Sue you?” 

“It was a promise.”

“To dead guys.”

“It’s my shot at bringing something to this party,” I said. “I keep saying that but you don’t hear.”

“You always brought plenty to the party,” Doris said.

“I’m talking about dignity. Pride.”

“You want me to leave?” Roscoe said. “This is starting to sound, I don’t know… personal.”

“Maybe you can contribute some common sense,” Doris said. “Remind Charles that it’s only money.”

“It’s a lot of money,” Roscoe offered.

“We could give it away. I don’t care.”

“You care,” I said. “Look around. You’re living like a queen.”

“The idea is, money makes you happy. But this money is making us miserable.”

“Give me a chance. Let me see what Duke cooks up.”

“It’s not about money. Why don’t you listen to what I’m saying?”

“Why don’t you listen to what I’m saying? It’s not about money for you because you’ve got all the money!”

She made a noise that was somewhere between a growl and a moan.

“I really got to go,” Roscoe said.

“What would you do?” Doris asked him.

Roscoe stopped. He glanced at the ceiling. As if he’d find a sensible answer up there. He was still thinking when I heard a banging from the basement.

“What the hell is that?” Roscoe asked.

“Duke, most likely.”

“You want me to go with you?” Roscoe slipped off the stool. He hitched up his service belt.

I looked from him to Doris.

“Go!” she said. “Go! Try not to kill anybody this time.”

Her gown flapped behind her as she stalked out of the kitchen.

Roscoe and I watched her. We stood there dumbly for a while.

Outside,  the paramedics covered covered Artie with a sheet. They rolled him toward the street.

“Not much happening out there,” Roscoe said. “Why don’t I go with you?”

Tomorrow: We’re fast-tracking now.

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