Other People’s Problems
The phone rang, shrilly, in the still of the room. The hands of the portable radio on the night stand said 2:13, and he believed it. The throbbing in his head believed it. The cloud surrounding his eyes certainly swallowed the idea; now if he could just talk his hand into picking up the receiver, he’d be in business. Unfortunately.
Buck’s business was taking care of problems. Other people’s problems. He was good at it, and he was well paid. He got paid by the pint. The more of the mess, the more the dinero. Cause and effect: the oldest lesson in the book. Another old lesson is, don’t get trashed in bars, when you’re on the clock. And Buck was on the clock 24/7. He just needed to hone that acute sense of timing that had been so readily at his demand, for so long. The middle of the afternoon, was a hell of a time to wake a body up.
Enough of the whining, he told himself fiercely. Got no time for it--got no use. The time to whine is when the job is done, and then you can whine into the phone, as you talk to room service and order up something to eat, and a little something to sip on. If the job was done. Right now, the screeching coming from the old-fashioned black telephone, with the receiver settled across the cradle of the Ma Bell Special, told him the job still awaited him, whether he answered the phone, or not.
Fine. “Buck.” He spat it into the mouthpiece.
“Yeah, well Buck you too, Sonny Boy. I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“Wake ME? That will be the day. Talk to me, or get off the phone. I’m busy and she doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“Buck, if you were rich enough to talk a dame into your bed, we both know you wouldn’t be talking on the phone. Got a problem on 45th, up in the penthouse. I’ll give you the particulars, when you’re climbing the steps to the joint. No sense in giving you the info now; nobody needs this crap. And Buck? Bring your full complement of cleaning tools. You’re going to get rich on this one."
In addition to being paid by the pint, Buck was paid by the square inch, magnified by the power of ten, with an assortment of zeroes. You know something else? He don’t need no calculator to come up with a total. Cause whatever he says, it’s what gets paid. And he gets paid before he leaves the site.
Time was tight. Time was always tight, because the sound of sirens wailing in the distance, has a tendency to quicken not only the pulse, but the pace. Whatever the mess, whatever the fuss, there was a clock ticking, and when the alarm goes off, it was time to rock.
Well, Buck was a surgeon, when it came to doctoring the scene of an incident. He had a closet full of detergents, solvents, bleaches, brushes, vacuums, blow-dryers, scrapers, plungers, removers, buffers, and gloves. He kept a full contingent of gloves. They come in handy for avoiding unwanted messes, especially for keeping stuff off of your hands.
The thing is, Buck loved his job. He loved the sense of power it gave him to sweep in like the pro from Dover, like the futher-mucking President of the US ofA, with everyone kowtowing to him, as though they could sense his power, and were drawn to it. He was accustomed to working for some heavy-hitting individuals. There was always a henchman or two, lurking on the fringes, ready to do his bidding, should he so much as blink in their direction. Buck was a steely-eyed stud, though, and he did not like to waste time blinking.
Now he rolled in, authoritatively, having accessed the penthouse via its own elevator, and went directly to the scene. He knew his way around this dump. He’d been here before. He looked around for the head honcho, who in this case was a little old white-haired lady, seventy years old, if she were a day, who had come to the entrance of the salon, and was poised as if unsure whether or not she should actually enter the room. Her butler, lurked lingered in the hallway, unwilling to even venture into the room where the problem lay.
“Mrs Gianacci? Has there been another-” he paused, delicately, “difficulty?” He knew the drill. No specifics.
“Yes, I am afraid so. After the last time, I had a long, and very serious conversation with Muffy. But, apparently it didn’t take. Good luck with this, Buck. She went out earlier, and came back with half of it, which she left with Mortimer,” indicating the butler. “Whatever it was, it came with anchovies.”
Buck put on his gloves, fished a clothes pin out of his pocket, and used it to plug his nostrils, and entered the problem area. Muffy was looking at him arrogantly, as if to say, “You again. I sure keep you busy.”
“Yeah, Yeah. Whatever you didn’t just say. Now give me room to work.” Muffy left, but not before hanging around, long enough to make it seem as though it were her idea to exit the building. A cat has to keep up appearances, you know.
Buck went to work.
And about those sirens wailing in the distance? Damn car alarms. Ought to be a law against them.