A man with wild eyes burst into the office.
"Well fuck me," I muttered and reached for my gun. It wasn't there because of a prior incident. Stupid progressives left me defenseless, I thought.
"How can I help you?" I ventured.
"They're after me," he said. He clanged on my desk, leaning toward me. His eyes were pink like he was on drugs or hadn't slept for days.
His disheveled shirt, messed up hair, and scraped knuckles gave me an idea of what he wanted. "I don't do criminal law anymore," I said. But upon noticing his Rolex and the fashionable bag hanging over his shoulder I added, "I can read up on it, though." This won't be pro bono, I promised myself.
"I don't need a lawyer," the man raved. "I need help."
"Uh, you know this isn't a psychologist's office, right?"
"Rose recommended you," he took something out of his pocket and waved it in my face. "She said you helped her with the government."
I saw my card. One of my freeloading clients decided to ease her conscience with a referral. I remembered the old lady. They'd been sending her three social security checks under different names for years and finally grew wise to the fact. Of course she couldn't pay them back. Not with all those cruises she took.
"Oh, well in that case," I said, opening a new browser tab and going to Google.com, "what seems to be the problem?"
As the man stammered about hearing voices and being followed, I typed how to get rid of crazy people without a confrontation in the search box.
"You're taking notes?" the man said.
"Uh, yeah." I scanned the search results. The sooner I get rid of him, the sooner I can get back to enjoying one star reviews on Amazon, I thought.
"Is that safe?"
Google returned nothing helpful. I changed my search to making crazy people leave.
The man cocked his head, as if listening. "They know I'm here. Take this." He whirled the bag over his shoulder and dropped it on the table. It threw my pile filing system into chaos. Before I could object he took out several crumpled sheets of paper and wads of cash. He gave me a piercing stare, grabbed his bag, and disappeared out the door.
"Wait. What?" I said to the empty room.
The phone rang and I reflexively answered. "Clancy."
There was a man's voice, but I had trouble hearing him over my beating heart.
"Sorry, can you repeat that?"
"Mr. Clancy, my name is Chuck and I'm calling from Consolidated Energy. Collections Department."
"Sir, your account with us is in arrears. I'm calling to give you one last chance to pay your bill before we're forced to cut your power."
That didn't help the pounding in my chest.
"How much do I owe you again, Jeff?"
"It's Chuck, sir. That's $4,982.26."
"What?" My wits slowly returned. "I don't use that much electricity. Do you think this is a marijuana growing operation? What do you charge per watt? Are you using some kind of 'green' technology?"
"Sir, a lot of your bill is interest and penalties. The final notice included a breakdown. Would you like to make your payment now? Since your last check bounced, I am authorized to take your credit card only."
I glanced at the unpaid bills the lunatic made a mess of. One of the threatening envelopes with a bank logo reminded me the credit card wouldn't work.
I got an idea.
"Did you file form SRV 379-J with the Department for the Aging?"
"Are you aware this is a law office? One of my clients is on special assistance and would suffer great hardship if you cut my power. That's Administrative Code section 3896 paragraph A subsection 29(g). Did you also—"
"You will have copies of those forms within a week," the man said with a sigh and hung up.
I dropped the phone and wiped my brow. Where are my meds? They rattled in their container as I struggled with the child safety lock. It came loose with an unpleasant grating sound. I downed two blood pressure pills with vodka and slumped in my seat. My heart slowed enough not to warrant beta blockers.
My attention turned to the money, tight rolls of Benjamin Franklins. Hundreds of them in each roll. At least ten rolls. I swallowed and decided to take a beta blocker after all.
With a comforting heat traveling down my throat and into my gut, my head moved back and forth between my unpaid bills and the wads of cash like I was saying no to one of the slower locals. After a long time my stupid middle class morality prevailed. Or maybe it was just motion sickness. Whatever the case, I decided to return the money. A decision I regret to this day.
My chair creaked as I got up to gather the money. I paused to glance at the crumpled papers—drawings of brains with a bunch of writing. The fuzzy text reminded me of the old xeroxes they used to hand out at school when I was a kid. Resisting a sudden urge to sniff the papers, I threw everything in the safe.
My secretary was busy at her computer, a phone between her ear and shoulder. "I know, right?" she said, typing.
"Hey Tracy," I said. It took me ages to remember her name. I have this condition where I forget names of regular people and things. I don't recall what it's called.
She paid me no mind.
"Tracy," I knocked on her desk.
"Hold on a sec, he wants something," she said into the phone, grabbing it and looking up. "What do you want?"
"The man who was here, did he leave any information?"
Tracy furrowed her brow. "What man?"
"The tall guy with the white hair, kind of homeless looking..."
She shrugged and turned back to Facebook. "So anyway..." she resumed her phone conversation.
"Okay, then," I returned to my office. I've never been a boss before, but I don't think it's supposed to be this hard to get people you're paying to do their job.
I almost fired her at the start, but she got all weepy eyed and begged for another chance. I gave in. Then, one day I saw her drinking diet soda. I pointed out it wasn't working. I suggested she might as well drink the real thing.
"I'm pregnant, you asshole," Tracy had said.
That was ten months ago. She's obviously grifting me, but I know if I get rid of her she really will be pregnant and there's all kinds of liability there. Plus, how's she going to support the kid without a job? Send it to public school? No one deserves that.
"Now what was that old hag's name?" I muttered as I searched my computer for the Social Security scammer's contact info.
I dialed Rose's home phone number, clearing my throat. I hoped I wasn't getting a cold. Summer colds are the worst.
Rose wasn't picking up. It appeared she didn't have an answering machine. I cradled the phone after the dozenth ring. Maybe she has caller ID, I thought. Her house wasn't far. I refilled my flask and decided I could use the walk.
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