7. You In or You Out?

“What we need is a base of operations,” said Duke. “Nothing fancy. Not completely under the radar, not up in your face.”

“What’s that got to do with me?”

“Your Frogtown joint. You still own it?”

“Doris keeps saying we got to dump it, get rid of the headaches. The snow, the grass, the upkeep.”

“The tenants?”

“Deadbeats. ‘What you want money from us, Mister Fatman? You got all the money in the world.’”

“True enough.”

“Still.”

“Evict them. We’ll take care of the rest.”

“I thought you were trapped down there.”

“It depends.”

“On what?”

“We’ve always had… friends. Friends of the dead.”

“What’s that mean, friends?”

“People who see the advantage. They help us. We help them. Win-win.”

“Who does such a thing?”

“Guys with moxie. Guys who aren’t afraid to seize the moment. Guys who got a commitment to living large.”

“The old deal with the devil.”

“I’m not the devil. Or a zombie. Show some respect, okay? It’s an arrangement. Mutually beneficial. What you think the door in your coal bin is about?”

“A portal?”

“Sure.”

“You were dealing with the dead all along?”

“Let’s say that for many years I had help.”

“You put in the portal?”

“No need. Already there. You think the robber barons made it on their own? These steel doors? Standard equipment in your Summit Avenue mansion. You just got to know where to look.”

“I always thought…”

“Your average person has no idea. Hard work rewarded. If at first you don’t succeed. Etcetera. People lap up the malarkey. Truth is, Fatman, you want to make it, you need friends. Friends who can make things happen.”

Duke pushed the wine back toward me. The house made it’s usual noises, clicking and chattering, settling. “So,” Duke said. “You in or you out?”

Tomorrow: Where’s the trust?

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