Sneak Peek of The Fixer - The Naked Man!
March 19, 2015CHAPTER 1
“Katrina, I need help.”
As Katerina stumbled to get out of bed, the cell phone slipped from her hand.
“Dammit,” she muttered, followed by a silent chaser of obscenities. She found the lamp switch and snapped it on. She blinked several times to adjust to the light. She heard the low tone of the man’s voice, now coming from under the bed. Even from a distance he sounded frightened and hysterical.
She bent down over the side of the bed, her long chestnut hair cascading onto the floor as she spied the phone. She grabbed it and brought it to her ear.
“Hello? This is Katerina. Who’s calling please?” she asked.
“Katr—, it’s Joe Lessing. I’m a friend of Phil’s. You remember me, right?”
Kat worked to match his words to a face. After a moment, the film of sleep wore away from her brain. Medium height. Build like a boxer. Strong jaw. Black hair with a widow’s peak.
“Yes, Mr. Lessing. How can I help you?”
She listened to Joe Lessing's labored breathing at the other end of the phone; he sounded like he had just come in from a brisk jog. The clock radio read twelve-thirty. It was a little late for a run around the reservoir.
“I can’t find Phil. Do you know where he is?”
“No, Mr. Lessing. I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“He’s not answering his cell phone.”
“Mr. Lessing, I don’t work for Mr. Castle anymore. Maybe his current assistant can help you—"
“Shit, shit, shit!” Joe Lessing responded, a perfect mix of anger and desperation.
“Listen, Katri—Katerina—uh, I need some help here. Be a good girl and come over here and I’ll make it worth your while. Okay?”
Kat answered with silence. She had met Joe Lessing maybe three times when she worked for Phil. He never struck her as a crazed rapist murderer. Not a good idea, she thought. Whatever this is, I don't need it.
“Look, this is on the level. I’m in some shit here and I need a little help. It’s worth a thousand dollars.”
That I do need, she thought. Desperately. “Okay, Mr. Lessing. Twenty minutes.”
“Make it ten. It’s a matter of life or death.”
“Which is it?”
“I’m not sure.” He recited his address and hung up.
Kat considered his comment and then hopped out of bed to get dressed and get uptown.
Kat threw on a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, and laced up a pair of ankle boots. She gathered her hair in both hands and tied it into a sloppy braid. The she grabbed her purse and was gone, out into the brisk New York night. Against her better judgment, she took the subway. However, if there should be a police investigation, a New York cabbie, overeager to cooperate, would be a liability. In one of his many moments of ego and hubris, Phil had bragged of his golden rule of “fixing” people’s problems: get in, get out, and get gone. Don’t linger and don’t ever be identifiable.
She kept her eyes peeled for drunkards, creepers, and other assorted predators lying in wait to stalk their evening’s prey. She had one hand in her pocket, her finger on the button of the palm sized can of pepper spray.
She found the building. She glanced up, her body giving a quick shiver from the bite of the chilly October night air. She pushed the call box button.
“Who is it?” Lessing’s voice barked.
Who do you think it is? “It’s Katerina,”
The buzzer rang. Kat pulled on the door handle and slipped inside.
She found the apartment door ajar. She stepped inside, catching sight of the colorful Persian rug in the foyer. She glanced over the bright pattern of red, blue, and black with one eye half shut. Seeing no sign of blood, she relaxed. She took tentative steps further inside, scanning the living room. Everything was neat and in order.
“Mr. Lessing?” she said.
“In here,” he called.
Kat hesitated. Move ahead or turn back? She crept down the hallway lined with modern art pictures of paint splatters. The bedroom door was at the end of the hallway. It was open.
Kat peered in from the doorway.
In the middle of the room stood Joe Lessing, naked. He bore the telltale signs of an overdeveloped muscular build now turning fleshy and soft. He was moving side to side, his chest heaving in and out from the exertion of his breathing. His gyrations caused his flaccid penis to dangle like an oversized rotini, bobbing and swaying from side to side.
He turned to Kat as if he were surprised to see her.
“Oh, hey, hey, thanks for coming,” he said, returning to the object of his attention: the bed. It was a massive four poster affair, boasting a distressed chest seated at the foot, a Chippendale night table on each side accented with a Tiffany lamp and an unconscious, naked blonde woman lying among the rumpled covers.
“I tried another, uh, service, but, uh, I've never used them before. They said they were trying to get somebody but, uh, nobody got back to me.” He pointed towards the bed. “Can you help me, please.”
Kat thought about what she should say to Mr. Lessing. When he had come by Philip's office he was always calm and relaxed. He liked perching on the edge of her desk to talk about his motorcycle, his house in the Hamptons, and his wife.
“What happened?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know but I have to do something. We have to do something.”
He returned to bobbing back and forth in helpless confusion and the penis was dancing again. Kat moved to the bed. She guessed the woman was about her age, early twentysomething. She had bottle blond hair, her nose was too perfect, but her breasts were real. By her waist Kat judged her to be a size zero. Kat leaned over the woman and against her better judgment, touched her cheek. Warm.
"I'm fucked, aren't I?" he said. "Am I fucked?"
“She has a pulse,” Kat said.
“Thank Christ,” Joe Lessing said, setting off another round of bobbing and swaying.
“Have you tried waking her?”
“Of course I did! Nothing works!”
Kat scooched off the bed. “And?”
Joe scratched his head like he was trying to work out a difficult math problem. “We were going at it and it was good—shit, it was great—and then she collapsed. Look, we have to get her out of here.”
“When is your wife due, Mr. Lessing?”
Joe gave a short, guilty laugh. “She’s taking a night flight from LAX. She’ll be here soon.”
“Your —friend needs medical care.”
“I can’t take her to the hospital. No one can know about this. Her husband would very upset.”
“I understand,” Kat said. What else could she say?
“Please, you work for Phil—or you worked for him—whatever. You know people. You can work this out for me, right? You have to make this—" he said, pointing in the general direction of the bed, "go away.”
Kat mentally tried to construct what Phil, the attorney who considered his oath a suggestion rather than a requirement, would do.
“Just a minute,” she said, and pulled out her cell phone. She listened to the ringing on the other end of the line. Finally, there was a click.
“Yeah,” the voice said, followed by a chorus of coughing and hacking noises.
Kat waited for him to finish or collapse. “Doc, it’s Kat," she said when it was quiet. "I need a favor.”
“I don’t get out of bed for less than a thousand,” the raspy voice said and then made a deep drawing sound for a breath.
Kat pulled the phone away from her ear. “It’s going to cost a thousand.”
“For both of you.”
“Will he take Travelers Checques?”
“Will you take Travelers Checques?”
“They’re American Express.”
“I don’t care.”
He resumed shuffling. Kat averted her eyes so the penis was dancing in her peripheral vision. It was like an undersized Slinky, in its own way.
“Please put your pants on.”
Joe looked down at himself and then swiped his pants up off the floor.
Kat got back on the phone. “You need to get out of bed.”
“If this needs a cleaner, it’s your problem.”
Kat glanced over at the unconscious woman. “I don’t think so.” She recited the address and hung up. Good God, I hope not, she thought.