Black Iris: Chapter Nine

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CHAPTER NINE

A few weeks ago, my driver’s license was revoked. After several previous suspensions due to everything from unpaid parking tickets to reckless driving, a DWI was the last straw. I passed the breathalyzer test, of course, but then I got mouthy, so they made me take a blood test. When the judge handed down my sentence, I didn’t contest it. Instead, I sold my car and used the cash to buy 900 wooden rods and 20 cases of vodka.

Without a car, lugging the 150-pound air conditioner down to the police station proves to be a pain in the ass. Sure, I could take a cab or rideshare, but I haven’t worked in over a month, and need to save money for booze and food (I’ve still got plenty of rods). I try getting on the bus, but the driver doesn’t let me bring the air conditioner on during rush hour, so I end up walking 15 blocks in the 90-degree heat.

The trip turns out to be a big waste of time. The cop taking my statement doesn’t even look at the air conditioner; in fact, he seems pissed that I brought it at all. Nobody asks me any follow-up questions, and I see them put my file at the bottom of a huge stack of folders on a shelf in the back of the room. It doesn’t matter — I’ve done what the law requires. Now all I have to do is hire a lawyer.

Back at my apartment, I’m just finishing lunch when my intercom buzzes. As much as I’d like to ignore it, there’s an outside chance it could be the police coming to actually do their job.

“Hello, this is Snowball. Who’s this?”

“Hello, Snowball, my name is Davin Sharkey, and I’m an attorney for Alsephina Realty. I understand there was an accident last night, and I was hoping we could talk about it.”

How on earth do they know already? I guess they’re missing an air conditioner, but how would they know where to find it? I noticed a camera inside the foyer, but according to the police, there are none pointed outside of the building.

I buzz him in. While he’s on his way, I move the air conditioner into the bathroom/kitchen, cover it with a sheet, and close the curtain that separates the room from the rest of the apartment. The police may not think it’s evidence, but I do, and I don’t want this guy asking for it back.

Davin Sharkey is 6'4'’, lean and handsome, with irises so light they’re barely distinguishable from the scleras. He makes his way to my desk carrying a leather briefcase, navigating the clutter like a champion surfer. His handshake is firm but not overbearing.

“Have a seat, Mr. Sharkey,”

“Thank you.” A gag-inducing waft of leather conditioner blasts my sinuses as he brings his briefcase to his lap.

“What can I do for you today?”

He smiles warmly. “It’s not what you can do for me, it’s what I’m prepared to do for you.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. We understand you were seriously injured when an air conditioner fell from a window in one of our units.”

“Killed, actually.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I was killed, not injured.”

He clears his throat. “Right. Well, we feel just terrible about the whole thing and we’d like to offer you a settlement so we can put this behind us.”

It’s been less than 12 hours. They must really want to bury this.

“What do you have in mind?”

He pulls a piece of stationary from his briefcase and places it in front of me. I skim through the formal legalese until I get to the number.

Twenty-five grand. That’s all they think my life is worth.

“Um… maybe you misunderstood. When I said that I was killed, I meant that I actually died. I didn’t just get a concussion or need a few stitches. I was dead.”

“I understand that’s what you told me, yes. I also understand that you have no personal injuries and no medical expenses.”

“The psychological damage caused by actually dying is incalculable. But $33 million should do the trick.” That’s what the Browns and Goldmans got in the O.J. civil trial after the DA botched the criminal case.

Sharkey smiles calmly. “I had a feeling you might say something silly like that. We’re prepared to go as high as $35 thousand, but that’s our final offer.”

“Fine, I’m a reasonable man. Thirty-two mil, but not a penny less.”

He brings his fingertips together. “I’m going to give you one last chance to be reasonable. Once I walk out that door, the $35 thousand drops down to zero.”

“Then I guess I’ll see you in court.”

“Court? That’s adorable.” He takes his offer letter from my desk and puts it back in his briefcase. “I’ll see myself out.”

“Thanks for dropping by.”

He pauses at the door. “You know that the Goldmans and the Browns didn’t actually get $33 million, right?”

“That’s not what Wikipedia says.”

“You need to do better research next time. They may have been awarded $33 million, but that’s not what they actually received.”

“How much did they get?”

His smile fades into a sneer. “Have a pleasant afternoon, Snowball.”

Slick lawyers are the worst kind of bullies because you can’t just kick their asses. Still, if movies have taught me anything, it’s that wrongful death suits are easy to win.

***

Two hours later, my buzzer rings again, this time while I’m taking a nap.

“Hello, Snowball,” a man with a cartoonish Brooklyn accent says over my intercom. “My name is Steve McCarthystein, and I’m a personal injury attorney. I understand you had a little accident last night, and I was hoping we might chat.”

Steve McCarthystein is a big-time ambulance chaser with his picture on every billboard and bench in the city. His ads run during soaps in the middle of the day because he knows his customers — people with a lot of time on their hands who would rather sue someone than get a job. He’s a notorious slime ball, but he guarantees results.

“Sorry, I’m actually looking for a wrongful death attorney.”

There’s a pause. “I can do that, too. May I come up?”

I buzz him in. If nothing else, I’m curious to know why such a successful lawyer is going door-to-door to find clients.

“I don’t mean to be a dick,” I say as he wades gingerly through the sea of trash on his way to my desk, “but isn’t it illegal for a lawyer to solicit business like this?”

McCarthystein is short but with a confident posture. He has two salt and pepper guinea pigs for eyebrows and a nose like the beak of a newly-hatched chick. Unlike Sharkey, he seems agitated by the mess. He removes a toothpick from between his teeth and sits down. “You know what’s illegal? Dropping an air conditioner on someone.”

“How do you even know — ”

“I have a friend over at the Kibble PD who gives me a heads-up any time he comes across a police report where there’s a clear case of negligence.”

“Is that right?”

“Air conditioners aren’t supposed to fall out of windows, Snowball. And when one does, it’s almost always because the thing wasn’t installed or maintained properly. And when someone gets hit, they’re almost always entitled to a large settlement.”

“When you say ‘large,’ what exactly are you talking about? Because some asshole from the realty company came by and offered me 35 grand. I told him to get lost.”

McCarthystein raises a guinea pig. “How much are you looking to get?”

“Something with eight digits.”

He stares at me but doesn’t respond.

“Like I said, this is going to be a wrongful death suit.”

“But you’re not dead.”

“But I was. And it was very traumatic.”

He takes a breath. “Well, it won’t be easy. The legal team at Alsephina is top-notch. But if we put in the work, I think we have a decent shot at winning this thing and getting you that eight-figure settlement.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

We proceed to go over the details of what happened. He asks questions but doesn’t write anything down, which I choose to be impressed by rather than worried about. After 15 minutes, he has all the information he needs. We also discuss his fee, which is 40% if we win. That seems steep to me, but he insists it’s standard.

“I’ll have my secretary draw up the paperwork. You’ll need to swing by the office tomorrow and sign some things, then we should be good to go. We’re at 380 Sokolove St. on the corner of Sokolove and Finkelstein.”

“In the Lawyer District.”

“Exactly. I’ve got meetings all day, but come by anytime after 10:00 a.m., and Sheila will have everything ready for you.”

“Excellent. Thanks, Mr. McCarthystein.”

He pats me on the shoulder. “No problem. I look forward to working with you.”

“Oh, I almost forgot. Do you want the air conditioner?”

“You have it?”

“Yeah. I brought it to the police station when I filed my report, but they didn’t want it.”

“Technically, it’s still the property of Alsephina Realty so they might have something to say about you taking it. Their lawyer didn’t ask you for it when he was here?”

“He didn’t know I had it.”

“Better give it to me. If there’s any evidence to be gleaned from it, I’ll have to turn it over to the defense anyway.”

I fetch it from the kitchen/bathroom.

“Wow, that thing’s huge. Would you mind carrying it down to my car for me?”

I do as he asks and send him on his way.

McCarthystein’s confidence gives me hope. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s hard not to think about what I’ll do with $33 million. Will it solve all my problems? No. It can’t buy me any of my lives back, and I’ll still be a sad, lazy drunk who can’t get over my ex. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy high-class hookers and mansions and a lifetime supply of Fancy Feast cat dinners. And priceless art. Hell, all I’d need is $11 million more and I could buy Black Iris.

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Ryan Klemek

I write dinosaur erotica and mysteries featuring horny cat people. I also do the book cover illustrations. Sometimes I write reviews for movies that don’t exist