“Sounds like a gorilla at the door,” Roscoe said as we entered the coal bin.
“Okay, okay, give me a minute,” I yelled.
From the other side Duke called back. “You think I got all day?”
“He’s dead. He doesn’t got all day?” Roscoe wondered.
“The dead, the living, everybody’s in a rush.”
I lifted the bar on the door, threw the chains and latches. Duke stood there, bouncing on the balls of his feet, ready to go.
“What’s in the news today?” he said.
“Surprise.” Duke turned to Roscoe. “You answered the call?”
“In the neighborhood. Figured Fatman could use a friendly face. Cops. They got suspicious minds.”
“Artie was no spring chicken. Heart attack.” Duke shrugged.
“Still,” said Roscoe. “An untimely demise. From what Fatman tells me.”
“Who ever heard of a timely demise?” Duke asked. “What you say we sit down, Fatman, resume our conversation.”
“You mind if I sit in?” Roscoe said.
“Mi casa, su casa. Actually Doris’s casa. But what the hell, Roscoe, we go back. My guess is, we find a place for you.”
Duke, Roscoe and I got our ears twisted by the same nuns. We grew up with the same crazy sense of the spiritual world. Which is to say that death is a transition but hardly an end; that none of our actions is too insignificant to escape judgment; that finally we get exactly what we deserve. in short, we could just as well have been educated by voodoo priests.
Duke sighed as he settled into the rough wooden chair. “Remaining doubts, Fatman? Or you need another demo?”
“Excellent! Let’s flesh out the concept.”
“How about Brimsnod, Pimlipper, the rest of them?”
“We’re fast-tracking now. Try to get everybody in one place at one time, we’re talking about the rest of your life.”
“Wait. The rest of my life?”
“Relax. Figure of speech. You got plenty of time.”
“What about me?” Roscoe said.
“Don’t buy Christmas presents,” Duke said.
“You’re telling me…”
“Ha ha, it’s a joke, buddy.” He clapped Roscoe’s shoulder.
‘You say so.”
“Here’s where we’re at,” Duke said. “Danny’s finishing up the guts of the app. Juliette’s got the name locked in. Know the Time. Visuals to come. Still a lot of discussion about price point. Go for the consumer buy-in, or work the ad angle with big numbers but low user investment? Basically broad or deep. You start thinking advertisers and it never ends. Estate planning, investment, auction houses, realtors, probate attorneys. Also convertible sales, travel packages, plastic surgeons, joint replacement. Sweet Jesus, the possibilities! Mostly a question of how much money you want to make.”
“I’m out of the loop here,” Roscoe said.
“The big picture,” said Duke. “Enrich Fatman. The means, our Know the Time app. Clues users in on the date of their… We’re still testing the word here. Passing. Transition. Ephemeralization. Expiration. The croak date.”
“People want that?”
“Not everybody. But a lot. Enough.”
“Doris has some questions.”
“I’ll say,” Roscoe added.
“This isn’t about her, Fatman, it’s about you. You in or out? Her money or your money?”
“What about me?” Roscoe asked.
“Plenty for everybody. All you got to do is tell me, Fatman. What’s it going to be?”
“You’re not going to be killing more people off.”
“Generally speaking, they die on their own.”
I stopped. I closed my eyes.
“I’m in,” I said, not because I thought it was the right answer but because Duke was always impossible for me to resist.
“Full steam ahead then,” said Duke.
When I went back upstairs, Doris was gone.
Tomorrow: She needs time to think.