75. Blood Money

What happened next? No need for all the details, being that they are of the money-hand-over-fist variety, which no one really wants to contemplate unless you’re talking about their hand and their fist. 

First, Jen. Delirious, like a teenager with dad’s money, dad’s car, dad’s house. She called me over to her castle, saying, “Charles, I’ve got something for you.”

I figured I’d find out once I got there.

Boom boom boom. That brass knocker on the oak door again. Jen, radiant, apparently full of life. Though as I knew via Duke, that was only temporarily the case. Her clock was winding down.

The sunroom, the sofa, the champagne.

“Second thoughts?” I asked, having so many myself.

“I don’t believe in them.”

“It’s a choice?”

“A habit.”

She reached for a small porcelain trinket box on the coffee table. “I know you said this was market research. I thought you deserved something.”

The check she handed me was made out for ten thousand dollars.

“I can’t possibly…”

“Of course you can.”

“”It feels like…”

“What?”

“Not be be insulting.”

“I’m past that.”

“Okay. Blood money.”

“Or the price of deliverance. For everyone. Poor Leo, dangling on for years. Raving, probably. Prisoner of a wheelchair if he was lucky. Nursing home bed more likely. A dead man strapped to a horse. El Cid. The horse being modern medicine. A different form of intervention than yours. A worse one at that.”

“Your clarity. I’m envious.”

I looked at the check, the trail of zeroes.

“Believe me, it’s a token. Considering.”

She moved closer to me on the sofa.

“You understand, Jen. We can’t be broadcasting this.”

“I doubt it’s illegal. What’s the charge? The prosecutor would sound like a nut case. Anyway, I know him.”

“Nonetheless.”

“Have it your way.”

Next her thigh pressed against mine. Her hand here, then there. A quick push and she had me flat. This, which led to that. The flesh, as always, weak.

A champagne flute, shattered. Clothing stretched, torn, scattered.

Later she said with a sly smile, “Don’t worry, Charles. Your secret is safe with me.”

Of course I worried.

A few days passed. My phone started to ring. A trickle of email, then a stream.

“Word of mouth,” Duke said. “Everybody wants it. You can’t buy it.”

“I told Jen to be discreet.”

“Information wants to be free,” Duke said. He laughed.

Policies and procedures? We made them up on the fly. Consults, gratis, conducted in the home, depending. Further services provided using a seat-of-the-pants algorithm. Meaning, my judgment. Wavering, imprecise, easily influenced.

The ten thousand dollars Jen so easily handed over became the base price for the day and hour. Nobody squawked, the clientele being oligarchs within Jen’s web of gossip.

Interventions in the Leo style? At first I denied it could be done. Then I allowed that under certain circumstances there existed a possibility. Neither willy nor nilly, of course. The suffering old. The demented. As an escape from the clutches of dead-end treatments, the expectation that one would conduct a courageous battle with this or that disease to suit the needs of clinging relations or hubris-ridden MDs.

The intervention fee being give-or-take fifty thousand, or half the price of year’s worth of chemotherapy. On one hand, nausea, retching, weakness, impoverishment, the cold hand of death resting on your shoulder. On the other a merciful end at comparatively low, low everyday prices.

Or so Duke explained to me.

Money poured in. Duke’s underworld team turned it into bitcoins.

“That’s legal?” I wondered.

He shrugged. “You want to try putting it on a Schedule C and explaining it to the IRS?”

When Duke showed me the numbers it was like a fireworks show inside my skull.

“You deserve it,” Duke said. “We’re doing God’s work here. If God hadn’t been kicked to the curb by the damn doctors.”

“I don’t think we should presume…”

“Trust me.”

I wanted to.

Until Doris found out.

Monday: They broke my heart

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