December 18, 2022

Double Bubble Chapter 3: The Fixer

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Double Bubble

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Rated: R

Unknown number. I answer on the second ring.

“Wordy Willy T,” says the distinctive voice of Eddie Finn.

If Eddie wasn’t Eddie, I would have killed him already. But he is, so I haven’t.

Eddie has a nickname for everyone. Mine is wordy. At first, I assumed it was because I’m a lawyer. Wordy, get it? Hah. Turns out he meant it as something of an insult. I only realized this last week when I overheard him telling a client to be glad I wasn’t charging him by the letter because I’m in the habit of using five-dollar words when a fifty-cent word would do. The client laughed and said Eddie was a real wit. Apparently, he had never heard of Mark Twain. Inwardly I rolled my eyes, smiled politely, and the meeting went on.

Insult or not, I’d rather be called wordy than limp, tiny, or quick.

Of course, I don’t know what it says about my life that everyone I associate with now has a fucking nickname or a label that marks their existence. It’s like Danny Quick and high school all over again. Only now, the label is like corporate branding. It’s the poor man’s trademark. His business card. His bona fides. That the label so often marks the bearer as the antithesis of virtue, or that it so often brands him a pirate, is apparently the whole fucking point.

And not having a label in this zoo is worse than a death sentence. A man in this zoo without a label is called a cop. And nobody in this zoo does business with a cop. Not that everyone here is a criminal, only that no one here is a cop. That’s just how it is.

So a guy’s nickname is a stand-in for his reputation; his flag, something he plants in the mud and muck, something he’s supposed to defend against all the other denizens in the zoo. And at the tippy top of the shit hill in the center of this zoo, the man with the largest flag, the guy all the others talk about in whispered words, that guy is Eddie.

Eddie the Fixer. And let me assure you, Eddie loves that label like the Hells Angels love their Harley Davidsons. For Eddie, being labelled a fixer is like calling him a titan of his times. A captain of industry. And while Eddie’s industry might be less than legal, you’d never know it if you met him on the street or in his office. But you’d know he is a fixer five minutes after meeting him.

And ya, I know, wordy, right?

“Eddie,” I say. “Long time.”

“I need you to do me a favour.”

Eddie is a cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. Unlike me, he’s a man of few words.

“Ya,” I say.

“A friend of mine was hurt in a car accident over the weekend and he could use a good lawyer to help cut through all the bullshit with the insurance company.”

A lot of Eddie’s friends seem to get hurt in car accidents. Every few weeks, there’s another one, and every few weeks Eddie wants me to help them cut through the bullshit with the insurance company. He calls me so much and says it so often I should have the phrase copyrighted for him.

But I can hardly complain since Eddie’s injured friends are also the perfect clients. They are always in perfect pre-accident health with a perfect family doctor who’s always happy to refer them to a perfect pharmacy with a pain prescription or to a perfect physiotherapist who can treat their phantom back pain.

Yes, indeed. The clients are perfect. The cases are perfect. The settlements are perfect.

And I know what you’re thinking, right? You’re thinking it’s all a little too perfect. You’re thinking, what kind of lawyer am I? What kind of lawyer thinks a guy calling himself Eddie the Fixer has honest friends who’ve been in honest to god car accidents? Wake up, I hear you saying. Wake up, and stop pretending it’s on the level. Stop pretending it’s all above board. I hear ya. And maybe I don’t entirely disagree.

Early on, at the start, I wondered whether I should say no to Eddie, like in those 80s drug commercials. The ones about peer pressure and all that bullshit. I wondered whether working with Eddie or his friends would be like selling my soul to the devil for a thirty percent commission.

When he called that first time, I told myself that even guys like Eddie the Fixer can know an honest person with honest injuries who needs honest help. Even guys like Eddie can be honest, at least some of the time. When the next call came about the next client about a week later, I told myself it was a little unusual, a little odd, but not impossible that a guy like Eddie could know two people injured in two car accidents two weeks apart. But when the next call came, the third in three weeks, well, I may be blind, but I’m no dummy. When that next call came, it was clear to me that it was less honest but no less perfect.

So ya, maybe I should have said no. And maybe taking referrals from Eddie won’t get me nominated for lawyer of the year at the fall convention. But maybe I don’t give a fuck. Maybe I’m tired of playing it on the level. Maybe I’m tired of pretending that the law’s anything but a racket. A dirty, grubby racket where an honest client is about as rare as a leprechaun riding a unicorn across a rainbow made of love.

And spare me your judgment and your holier-than-thou attitude. Spare me your eye rolls and your guffaws and your sermons about truth and honesty and morals. When you are sitting in the fucking peanut gallery, eating popcorn and watching the floor show, feelings of moral superiority are included for free with your ticket. There are no sinners in the peanut gallery. Only those like you, who always know right from wrong, and who never get splashed with mud while crossing the street in the rain. I get it. Believe me. You may not recognize me, but I had a seat next to you once. Not that long ago, actually.

But let me tell you, the law’s a religion and what’s right or wrong depends on what church you attend on Sunday morning. Fact is, nothing I do for Eddie’s friends is any more dubious than what I had done for the insurance companies for years. It’s the same sermon, just told from a different pulpit. So when Eddie kept calling, I kept answering because his friends were no more dishonest than the most honest insurance company I had ever worked for.

Mind you, I never ask Eddie what’s in it for him. I know better. And I also know better than to spend too much time worrying about how injured his friends happen to be. They’re injured enough to promote modest settlements from the insurers but not injured enough to provoke serious scrutiny or resistance.

“Always happy to help, Eddie,” I say. “I should be back at my office by noon, have them drop by.”

“Will do.”

I’m about to hang up when a thought occurs to me.

“Say Eddie, ever hear of a small time hustler named Danny Piggott goes by the name Dirty Danny Quick?”

There’s a pause just long enough to make me think the line has gone dead. After a minute, I hear what sounds like Eddie scratching his chin.

“Maybe,” he says cautiously. “Calls himself the Quick Spigot?”

“That’s him.”

“Ya,” he says. “I may have. What of it?”

Eddie never volunteers any more information than is strictly needed to answer the question. It is something of an occupational hazard with him, born out of the whole right to remain silent thing.

“Ya, well, he’s dead.”

“So I heard,” says Eddie noncommittally.

“Cops say it was suicide, I’m not so sure. What do you think?”

Another pause, longer this time.

“That sounds like curiosity talking.”

“Ya, maybe. A little I guess.”

“You never heard the story of the cat, Willy.”

I smile. It’s like he’s reading my mind.

“Ya, well, a woman drops by my office today claiming to be his mother, tells me her son was murdered by his girlfriend on account of his girlfriend wanting some insurance money.”

“Ya,” he says. His tone gives nothing away, and I don’t know whether he’s just listening or agreeing with me.

“Ya, but the funny thing is the cops tell her it ain’t no lover’s quarrel but a suicide. They tell her Danny went screwy and killed himself.”

“Is that right,” he says.

“She says she wants me to go over and see the girlfriend. Wants me to talk to her and see what it’s all about. I figure I will. But then I figure I won’t. So I stopped for a coffee to get my head on straight. Then you call. And since you know everything about everything, I wonder if you think it might be a waste of my fucking time.”

I don’t mention the policy or the fact that I may have an angle to play. Eddie’s a guy who likes to play all the angles, and if I mention the policy, he might take a more active interest.

After a minute, he clears his throat and says, “I don’t know Willy. Sounds like a pretty crazy story. The part about suicide is an especially nice flourish of fiction, almost like a Hollywood movie.”

“Ya,” I say.

“For sure,” he says. “Only in the movies does a guy calling himself Danny Quick dress up in panties, swallow some pills, and die.” He laughs without mirth.

The fact that he knows about the panties confirms he knows more than he is telling me. I’m not exactly surprised he knows about Danny. Eddie is a hustler, and it’s his business to know all the other hustlers in the city, from the C-suite to the street. Most of the time, he plays the part of a corporate and government lobbyist fixing things for his well-heeled international clients. The first time I met him, he was working the room at a charity ball thrown by the Austrian Embassy. At the time, I hadn’t paid much attention. I hadn’t needed to. Only later did I realize the full extent of Eddie’s financial interests. He had a finger in everything. I don’t know what his interest was in Danny, but I know better than to ask.

“So not suicide?” I say.

“Not likely.”

“Huh. So any guess as to why the cops say suicide?”

“I make a point of never guessing, Willy. It’s not good for business.”

There’s an edge in his voice now. Could be I’ve asked too many questions, or it could be nothing.

“Waste of my time, you figure?”

“What do I know about how you should be spending your time? I only called to see if you can take care of my friend. You make time for that, seems to me the rest of the day is yours to make of it what you will.”

He laughs again. Deep and loud and full this time. I’m not sure I get the joke.

“No worries, Eddie. I always make time for your friends.”

“I know you do, Willy. I know you do.”

The line goes dead.

I put my phone away and take a sip of coffee, but it’s gone cold. I look around and see the place is surprisingly full. All the regulars have finally strolled in, and judging by the dirty looks I’m getting, none are happy to find me occupying valuable real estate. The pudgy parrot has come to life too, strolling around with a pot in his hand, filling up people’s cups, and chirping to them about nothing. He looks over at me with the same annoyance as his patrons. I’ve overstayed my welcome.

Out on the street, the sun is sparkling off shop windows, but I hardly notice. The call with Eddie has left me unsettled. I shake it off and trudge up the street. Time to meet the girlfriend and see what’s what.

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