“What’s best for you?” Duke asked Jen after the ancients agreed to put Leo down.
“What are my options?”
“Whatever. He passes in his sleep. He jumps off a bridge. Heart attack.”
“When. That’s mostly what I was thinking.”
“Couple weeks? Some time to pull things into shape.”
“How about sooner?”
“I don’t want to use the word unseemly…”
“Why twiddle our thumbs?”
“Let’s say three days. Call your lawyer today, make sure Leo’s affairs are in order. He needs to sign anything, get it signed.”
“He could just go in his sleep. Simple.”
“My advice, put an exclamation mark on it. Car accident. Settles a lot of questions. You know who’s to blame. Insurance settlement, so you got some dough to cover the funeral.”
“Not really a problem.”
“We can arrange an accident?”
“A clause in the deal with the ancients. Car wreck, cancer, the ancients don’t care. A little tweaking, they’re not opposed. Leo still drive?”
“He shouldn’t. But try to take away the keys.”
“Perfect,” Duke said. “Get him in a ride you don’t want to see again. Three days.”
Duke had given us the day (Friday), the hour (seven fifteen pm) and place (intersection of Thomas and Hamline), so we could get a window seat at the coffee shop there and watch the catastrophe.
Jen put her watch on the tabletop, between her coffee cup and a plate with slice of cake.
“The cake,” she said. “I wouldn’t normally. But this seems special.”
“You sure you want to be here?” I asked.
“Duke’s advice. Pain and suffering. Emotional distress. Makes a better claim.”
I checked my watch. A minute left. I turned my chair to get a better view.
A silver Jaguar pulled up to the stop light. Leo, with his wild hair and wild eyes, was behind the wheel. His walker was stuffed into the passenger seat.
“Too bad about the Jag,” I said.
“That or the Mercedes,” Jen said.
“I didn’t take you for a car buff.”
“Anyway, the electric is junk. You want a car, the Germans.”
The light changed. Leo pulled out slowly. He looked both ways, those crazy eyes passing over us.
A cement truck. Forty-five miles per hour. Maybe faster. Who knows what it was doing out at that hour of the evening. Weaving in the road. The ancients were apparently having some laughs with this. The excess. Like taking a sledgehammer to a mouse. The solution way out of proportion to the problem.
The Jag flipped, rolled, burst into flames when the truck smashed into it. A fireball rose through the bare branches above, setting them on fire. The cement truck went sideways, tipped, oozed gray cement onto the Jag’s undercarriage, then ignited as well. The driver staggered across the pavement, living, drunk, guilty, unaware.
Jen pushed back her chair. It crashed on the floor. Before she hit the door the tears had already reached her chin. “Leo! Leo!” she cried. If you didn’t know better you’d think her heart had been torn out.
I followed her out the door. Even on a winter night the heat from the fire pushed us back. Blacktop bubbled around the wreck. The Jag’s paint blistered. The tires sent up a dense tower of black smoke.
I was not so surprised when Roscoe appeared, the first cop on the scene.
Monday: Jesus, what a mess