56. Topside, You’re Our Man

“What now?” I asked Duke.

“For starters, you’re living in my place,” Duke said. “The contract. The signature in blood. Maybe you recall. This is our office. Was. Before you moved back in.”

“You want to talk to Doris about that?”

Duke sighed. “I’m prepared to amend the contract.”

“Thanks.”

Making a life with Doris is tough to fully comprehend. Loving? No problem there. The peck on the cheek. The full-court-press sexual wallop. She gets in a mood and well, better hope your ticker is in good shape. Mention that you’re having a problem and she can’t hear enough. Her heart bleeds until she finds a way to make it better. 

But cross her? Better to go mano a mano with Genghis Khan. Deep down there’s a steeliness, and if you are fool enough to bump up against it, then God help you, because divine intervention is your only hope.

It’s like trying to understand that black is also white.

“Don’t think I’m letting you off the hook, Fatman. We still got the app. The power of the concept. Too much potential there to stand down now.”

“Doris isn’t along for that ride.”

“Doesn’t matter. For R and D purposes, we keep it close to the vest. But topside, you’re our man.”

“If I’m not?”

“Please, Fatman. Don’t make me go there. Artie, what happened to him. A tragedy. He had good years left.”

“You’d kill me?”

“Everyone is dying. Some more quickly than others. Kill — that seems strong. Everybody is with us in the end. You’d be among friends.”

Duke nodded toward the hole in the floor.

“What do I do?”

“We get you out there. You do the work. Jen Litely. As discussed. Get out your phone. Dial her up.”

I did as I was told.

Jen answered on the third ring with that hard-to-place accent of hers, like she learned to speak halfway between New York and London. My guess is it’s phony, but then these aren’t my people.

“Oh, Charles,” she said. “Of course I remember. Duke always said so much about you.”

Duke gave me a thumbs up. Jen and I made an appointment.

Monday: Leo’s glass is not half full.

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