82. Love and Business

Brimsnod stopped abruptly for no reason I could see. Doris banged into her.

“Give me some space, girl,” Brimsnod snapped.

Doris said nothing in return, which was just as well.

“My two favorite Lives,” Duke said. He was barely visible in the gloom. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere. How Brimsnod navigated to him I don’t understand.

“Lives?” Doris asked.

“As opposed to Deads. Of which I got plenty in my life.”

“We’re living when we’re in the underworld?” Doris wondered.

“Technically speaking, I don’t know. But you’re not dead,” Duke said. “Not yet.”

“You know why we’re here?” Doris said.

“I’m hurt,” Duke replied. “That tone.”

“The tone of somebody whose house is surrounded by reporters. Camera trucks. Of somebody who’s been lied to. Betrayed.”

“Misled? Betrayed?” Duke replied. “Maybe not fully informed.”

“Charles and I had an agreement.”

“I had an agreement with Fatman. Signed in blood. That’s what I call an agreement. You want to show me yours?”

“We didn’t need it in writing. The difference between love and business.”

“People like to think that,” said Brimsnod.

“Baby, she…” I started to say.

I wasn’t sure where I was going with this but it seemed important to get some words in the air.

“Stop, Fatman,” Duke said, holding up a hand. “As your counsel, let me handle this.”

“Charles,” Doris said. “We’re talking to each other through a lawyer now?”

“Of course not. What I…”

Duke stopped me again. “Let’s forget about the legalisms,” he said. “You already lost on that. Let’s just talk about who’s doing what for who.”

“Whom,” said Brimsnod.

Duke gave her a sharp glance. “Please,” he said.

“Let’s calm down,” I said.

“I’m not feeling calm right now, Charles. I want the truth about what’s been going on. Behind my back.”

“A lot,” said Brimsnod. Her expression stuck between sneer and leer. “A lot’s been going on behind your back.”

“That means what?”

Loving gaze: that does not describe the look Doris shot from me to Brimsnod and back again.

“You didn’t mention?” Brimsnod said to me.

“Brimsnod!” said Duke. “We’re here to help.”

“Sometimes, sure. Other times, just to make trouble. To quote.”

“There’s more?” Doris asked. Sharply, to my dismay.

Duke put a hand to his head, rubbed his temples. “Let’s start with the business. One thing at a time. Brimsnod, why don’t you give us some space?”

“That’s okay. I’m fine,” she said.

Duke sighed.

Tomorrow: I hope this isn’t sexist malarky

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