Silence. It was so quiet you realized how quiet it was. Jim just stared at the floor. He knew one word or look would earn another open handed slap from the fixer. Whose large hands were coming down, grabbing Jim by the arm and shoulder. The fixer lifted Jim with ease and let him fall back on the bed, while the manager worked hard to get off the floor. Jim kept his eyes lowered, he had to get it together quickly. The fixer moved back to the wall and leaned into the cracked plaster. Time to grimace and try to stay awake. A day of work now meant two days of recovery. He knew the manager a long time, they’ve had some fun and made some money. He’s never seen his friend so messed up. As far as he was concerned the manager had a bit of an unhealthy relationship with that cat. Cuddles belonged to the manager’s girlfriend. Well, as you know, in all of these stories it’s always an ex girlfriend, not like Jim’s fake Chinese girlfriend ( We’ll talk about that later).
The blonde was one of the three from high school. The manager, the fixer and the blonde. They were pretty notorious as the tough kids in town. They weren’t necessarily dishonest, they just didn’t suffer fools very well. However they had one idea and it worked. After high school they pooled their money and bought a rundown duplex south of 94. After a couple of years they sold it and bought another. Welcome to the world of low rent housing. Now 30 years later he was tired of collecting rent or removing free loaders from the property. The blonde never liked the work, but it provided a comfortable living. Property Alliance, named by the manager, was losing money fast. Pretty soon they’d be broke. Neither the manager nor the fixer saw it that way. She wanted out and got out. She went to Port Clinton, Ohio on Lake Erie. She bought a boat and knew better than to fish. The manager was taking it hard. He loved her but never felt good enough. The fixer didn’t really pay much attention to either of them. He’d stay but like the blonde he was only along for the cash. Plus the class of bums seem to have hit a new low. He’s only on this job today for the manager. His retirement consisted of being a volunteer book shelver at the public library. Everyone was so polite. He took great pride in reading the titles of the books he shelved. In someway he felt that he read them. He made sure he was there on time and smiled. It was a quiet job. He could lose himself in his childhood fantasies, for some reason he never really stopped seeing himself as a twelve year old kid. Once again he’d quit after this job. The manager was ready to buy him out. Some venture caps wanted to buy the business, the fixer would be happy in his low rent apartment working at the library and the occasional trip to Port Clinton. Yeah a couple of times a year he’d head down and spend a week. The three of them fell in love with Port Clinton when the Pinto broke down and they spent the weekend. They made monthly runs to Lakewood during the seventies: Nothing special just drinking, a lot of drinking.
The manager was just about done spilling his guts to the punk, who claimed to be a private investigator and was late on his rent. He could do the job or be evicted today. The manager was sweating and finishing his story.
“Look kid, you find my cat, you don’t have to pay rent for a month if you make it fast two months.”
Jim looked from the manager to the fixer who looked like he was sleeping with his eyes open. Back to the manager he said.
“When did you last see Cuddles?”
Next week Page 4