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I was all over Lobo, I had him bent back over the balcony railing, if I shoved him one more inch he would become a splotch on the parking lot fourteen floors below. On the other hand, his terrified, rigid grip on my arms might be enough to pull me over with him so it was time to get rational about all this and also somebody was harassing my back with a rainstorm of tiny fists. It was Cindy. I thought I’d got rid of her.
“My plant,” she screamed. “You murdered my cactus!”
I had knocked her goddam pet cactus off the ledge, so what? To me that was ancient history.
I eased up. Lobo wriggled out of my hold and bolted back into the apartment. “That guy’s crazy,” he said, pointing at me. He grabbed Cindy by the hand and together they escaped out the door.
I went to the fridge, cracked open a beer, sat down. So here was the situation: Lobo refused to blackmail his filthy rich brother over the issue of horse doping even though that would be enough income for him to pay his pledge to the alumni association and have something left over to support his habits. Therefore maybe Lobo was unconcerned about the pledge because he was secretly contracted by alumni fund president Carter Bacon to assassinate me on account of I know enough about Bacon's night life to torpedo his political ambitions. On the other hand, it was hard to guess what if anything was in Lobo’s mind because his brain was so overnourished on substance abuse.
I called Sally for an update. She said her research showed there are six lawyers in town that have Carter as a first or middle or last name. “So maybe Lobo isn’t dealing with Carter Bacon at all,” she said. I hate confusing pictures like that.
What I knew for sure was that I had an active assignment — to bring that pledge money in, all $89,923.50 of it. My reputation depended on it.
I marched down the hallway and summoned the building's single working elevator. It took its time arriving because someone had hit the buttons for it to visit every floor. But it didn't matter because by the time I reached the street Lobo and Cindy hadn’t even made their getaway yet. They were yapping with their buddies in front of the Hercules Grill. Cindy was kissing everybody goodbye like she was leaving for the Moon. Lobo was waving a chocolate milk carton around like he wanted everyone to know how much he loves chocolate milk. What a couple of idiots. When they spotted me they grabbed a cab, still waving and blowing kisses as they sped away.
My car was parked in the strip mall on the corner. I hopped in and gunned it out of there, tires squealing. The morning rush hour was building up, but bit by bit, nosing thru traffic, out-daring everybody, laying on the horn, I finally came up behind their cab at around Dundas Square.
The light changed. They took off. I tromped on the pedal. My car lurched, sputtered, stalled. A buzzer sounded and a red warning light flickered on the dash. Now the traffic was honking at me, the bastards. People have no understanding. I got out and lifted the hood. Everything looked normal except I heard a sizzling noise. I looked underneath. Something was dripping down from the vicinity of the rad, forming a hot gooey puddle on the road. It looked like — chocolate milk.