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0 Comments | Mar 18, 2018


handshake.87122244_stdTrevor Halprin sat alone and silent in his car in front of the building. A light mist coated the windshield and the only sound was the faint ticking of the cooling engine. He’d lived in Brooklyn his entire life, but he had never before been in this area of the city. It was a complex of unremarkable single story buildings near the Fort Hamilton Promenade, just east of the Verrazano Bridge. There were a few other cars parked up and down the long street, but no one walking around, a mildly unsettling thing anyplace in New York City. Trevor had been given an appointment time of 4:00 p.m. and instructed not to be too early or too late. But he was nearly half an hour early, since he’d been uncertain of directions. So he sat and he considered, for the hundredth time, why he had come.

Trevor and Serena Halprin had been happily married for almost three years. Or at least it had been happy until four weeks ago when the pair had sat in the office of Serena’s cardiologist processing the news that she would require significant surgery to repair a faulty heart valve. While the surgeon tried to be reassuring by describing the procedure as routine, it promised to be profoundly expensive, particularly given the couple’s complete lack of health insurance. Following his graduation from engineering grad school, Trevor had taken a position with a start-up firm in the growing high-tech corridor near the East River, and the cash position of the company had not yet reached a point where they could offer benefits to their twenty or so employees. It was a risk the couple had judged acceptable, as both were only in their mid twenties—a bet that was now proving to have been a terribly bad one.

In the ensuing weeks, Trevor had turned over every rock he could find, talked with every friend who might be in a position to help. And while there was an outpouring of empathy and moral support, there was precious little support of the financial sort. The families contributed what they could, but it was far below the ballpark sum they had been provided by the hospital’s financial office. Throughout the search, Serena had done her best to remain upbeat and confident, even as her strength began to diminish, at first slowly, then noticeably. Until one day—two days previous—one of Trevor’s friends at the office, Brad Hickok, had finally acquiesced and offered up the name of a man who might be able to help. Brad had sounded more than a little dubious, but had offered the information anyway, knowing that Trevor was by now well past the state of desperation. He had said nothing to Serena that night, but had slept fitfully, wondering what he might be getting himself into. Seeing the pallor of Serena’s face the next morning, he had reached for his cell phone the moment he’d stepped out of the apartment. And now, here he was. At five minutes before the agreed time, he opened the door and stepped out of the car. The massive east tower of the bridge loomed up into the mist, its upper reaches vanishing into the gray.


“Mister Halprin, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Gerald Platt.” The extended hand a surprisingly small one and attached to an equally unexpectedly frail body. Every movie or television show Trevor had ever seen portrayed these sorts of people as big and frightening Mafioso types with great intimidating bulges beneath their sport jackets. The man before Trevor was at least two inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter. And the man was alone in a small professional-looking office that could as easily have been that of a dentist or an attorney. A twenty-by-twenty room with motel-quality oil paintings on the walls and furniture so nondescript it was as if it had been intentionally selected so as not to be noticed. Nothing in the room or in the man worth being frightened of at all. Trevor accepted the hand, firm and warm, but did his best to avoid making eye contact.

“Our mutual friend informs me that you’re in a bit of a bind,” Platt said. He leaned insouciantly against one corner of the desk, arms crossed, a face that might have been smiling, almost.

Trevor wasn’t certain whether to take one of the office’s three chairs or not, so he remained standing. “Yes, Mister Platt. It’s my wife, you see. She’s—”

“Uh, uh, Mister Halprin,” Platt interrupted, raising a hand. “Mine is not to reason why, as they say. I am simply here to lend a hand to those in need. Your problems are your own and my knowing about them does neither of us any good whatsoever.”

“Fair enough,” Trevor responded. “It’s just that what I’m looking for … what I need … is a very substantial sum and very quickly.”

“Well then, Trevor—may I call you Trevor? You’ve come to the right man. As it happens, I am in the business of lending very substantial sums to people just like you who find themselves in difficult circumstances.”

“I certainly appreciate that, Mister Platt. You’ve no idea.”

“Actually, Trevor, I have a very good idea. You see, I’ve been in precisely your situation in the past, and been forced to rely on the help of strangers to see my way through. In fact, it’s what motivated me to start this little business myself, helping good folks like yourself. I do, though, need to share a few of the particulars with you,” he said, waving dismissively at a stack of papers on the desk. “Regulations, you understand.”

Trevor strongly doubted that there were any regulations that applied to the sort of transaction he was about to embark upon, but he saw no point in contradicting Platt.

“As this is a short-term unsecured loan, you will not be surprised to hear that the effective finance charges will be … somewhat higher than what you would encounter with a more traditional institution. I’ll assume, by the way, that you’ve already visited more than one such institution and been turned away, else we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Trevor nodded as subtly as he could manage, but continued not speaking.

“Under normal circumstances, Trevor, my clients are expected to pay back their obligations within a month’s time. However, I fancy myself an accommodating man, and I can tell you’re in a difficult state, so I’m prepared to extend that payback period to a full three months, so long as you understand that we’re talking about full repayment of the principal plus all finance charges.”

“How exactly does it work, Mister Platt,” Trevor finally responded. “Are we talking about a check? Cash? It’s a great deal of money and I’m not too crazy about the prospect of driving around Brooklyn with so much on me. I’m sure you understand.”

“No, Trevor, not to worry. We’re a bit more advanced than that here. You simply jot down your checking account number and RTN for me,” he reached behind him, picked up a blank sheet of paper and pen, and handed it to Trevor, “and the money will be in your account before you make it back to your car.”

The rest of the conversation was surprisingly brief and once Trevor had given Platt the banking information he’d requested, the transaction was completed.

“That’s it?” Trevor said, somewhat taken aback by the seeming ease of the whole process.

“That’s it,” replied Platt. “I’ll see you on June twenty-seventh with a cashier’s check for the full amount plus the agreed-upon finance charges. Hell, you can even Paypal it to me if that’s more convenient!”

Platt extended a hand in Trevor’s direction, and as Trevor reached out his own, Platt unexpectedly swung his free arm around Trevor’s shoulder in what seemed a spontaneous gesture of good will, designed to set the obviously nervous younger man at least somewhat at ease. But in the second that it took for Platt’s arm to make it onto his shoulder, Trevor felt a brief, barely discernible pinch at the base of his neck. He instinctively flinched, and Platt withdrew his arm.

“Apologies, Trevor. Didn’t mean to get overly familial. Guess I’m just a naturally congenial guy and I genuinely wish you well in whatever endeavor my funds are going to be put toward. I appreciate that you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have a good reason.”

Platt turned his face briefly toward the office’s lone window. “You’d better get going, son. Looks like it’s going to pour in earnest before long. Oh, and here,” he said, holding out a thin unmarked envelope. “Just a bit of paperwork to formalize our arrangement. Some people like to have records of their financial activities. You know.”

Trevor accepted the envelope and turned for the door. “You have a great evening, Trevor,” Platt offered in parting. “And thanks for coming by.”

Trevor departed and walked quickly back to his car. He sat inside for a long silent moment, before taking out his phone and entering his checking account login credentials. The full amount was there, just as Platt had said, all cleared and ready for use. He’d never before in his life seen a bank balance with that number of zeroes. As he pondered Serena’s reaction to the news of their new financial situation, he started the car while unconsciously rubbing with his free hand at the tingle on the back of his neck. Driving home, the envelope from Platt lay unopened on the passenger seat.


“A hundred thousand dollars, Trevor?! Jesus … what … how?” Serena’s reaction hadn’t been quite what Trevor had expected.

“Don’t sweat the money,” he said. “The only thing that matters is getting your surgery scheduled and pronto.” She had grown markedly weaker in recent days and was needing to rest after just a few minutes of activity. “I made a few calls … friends from college. Not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal? Since when is a hundred grand not a big freakin’ deal?”

“Serena, this isn’t exactly a discretionary thing we’re talking about here. It isn’t a face-lift. It’s your life. Which, by the way, matters an enormous amount to me, in case that wasn’t apparent.” In the end, she didn’t push him. They contacted the cardiologist and the procedure was scheduled for three days later.

Seventy-three hours later, Serena was in the final stages of sedation and being wheeled into a surgery theater on a gurney.

“Sweet dreams, beautiful,” Trevor said, bending down for a parting kiss on the forehead. Her lower face was covered with an oxygen mask. “See you in a few. I love you.” And she was gone through the surgery room doors. The surgeon had said three, maybe four hours tops. Trevor made his way to the hospital’s waiting room, removed his jacket, and took a seat. To kill the time he had a book and a cell phone. In his jacket pocket, he also had Platt’s envelope, which he had not yet opened. He already knew too well the details of the transaction he’d entered into. One hundred thousand plus another fifteen grand in interest, due back to Platt in not quite eleven weeks. He didn’t need to see it written down on a page. He made it twenty minutes with the book before giving up and tearing open the envelope.


Mr. Halprin,

Allow me first to express my sincere thanks for you having allowed me to provide the services you recently requested. You will, of course, understand that I am operating a business, one that demands financial returns as with any other business. Therefore, I find myself obliged to take certain steps to ensure the repayment of your obligation, according to the terms which we discussed during your recent visit. My considerable experience in this business strongly suggests that because you were not in possession of one hundred thousand dollars at the outset of our relationship, there is an extremely low likelihood you will somehow possess it three months from now when your obligation comes due. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of providing you with a bit of additional incentive to make good on your scheduled repayment.

You will by now have noticed a minor tingling sensation at the base of your neck. This is the minor side effect of a remarkable piece of technology that I have taken the liberty of implanting just beneath your skin as insurance against your failure to repay your debt. The device is smaller than a grain of rice and contains a tiny fragment of an extremely potent explosive material. The device also contains a timer that has been preset to activate this explosive at midnight on the day your loan comes due. Upon successful repayment, I will simply enter a deactivation code into an app on my cell phone and the device will be immediately rendered inert, after which it can be easily extracted. If, however, you should fail to make good on our arrangement, then the code will not be entered and the result will be unfortunate for both of us. I should add, as well, that this is a quite new technology and of somewhat dubious stability. Therefore, I strongly recommend against any attempts to remove it, as I am assured by its designer that doing so will almost certainly cause premature activation.

I trust you will forgive any impertinence on my part in resorting to this step, but I’m sure you can understand the importance of protecting my investments in what is otherwise a very high-risk business. Sincere thanks once again for your business, and I look forward to seeing you on or before the due date of your loan.

All Best Regards,

Gerald Platt


Trevor sat holding the letter for a moment longer, then instinctively his hand rose to the back of his neck where the tiny protrusion suddenly seemed much larger than it had during his prior three days of occasional probing. His breathing rate had increased significantly since he’d first opened Platt’s letter, and he felt a sudden sweat develop on his forehead.

Four and one half hours remained before the doctor would emerge from the surgical theater to deliver the happy but not unexpected news that Serena’s procedure had gone routinely and that she would be totally fine after just a few days of recuperation time in the hospital. Four and one half more hours to sit and ponder the words in Platt’s letter. He tried reading his book—utterly pointless. He tried playing games and perusing web sites on his cell phone—same result. And so he sat. For nearly four hours he sat, worried about the outcome of the surgery, frightened at the prospect of needing to lay his hands on one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars in eleven weeks, terrified at the tiny bump on the back of his neck, a bump that now felt like Everest.

Four days later, Serena was back home and Trevor’s life became a whirlwind of caring for her (which largely consisted of trying in vain to keep her in bed and relaxed), keeping up with more than his share of office work (despite his having taken a week off to supervise her convalescence), and also ramping up his beating of various bushes in hope of laying hands on the money that was now coming due in barely over ten weeks time, the repayment of which had taken on renewed urgency with the reading and rereading of Platt’s terse letter. He did not raise the subject of the loan with her in these days, and she did not either, though in certain quiet moments she seemed very much to want to. Sensing, though, that Trevor had done something unwise in the cause of wanting very much to take care of her, it seemed indelicate to risk the possibility of making him feel bad about it. And yet, she couldn’t help but notice his inexorably growing stress levels. But Serena was a naturally curious woman, and not knowing gnawed at her a little more each day. She tolerated four days of it before finally giving in and picking up the phone. Trevor’s circle of friends wasn’t all that large, and she had a pretty good idea who he would have gone to for advice in this sort of unprecedented situation. Within ten minutes, she reached Brad Hickok’s cell phone. Another ten minutes and she knew the name and location of Gerald Platt.

With six weeks remaining until the repayment deadline, and with Serena now home and pretty much back to normal, if only in her own opinion, Trevor began furtively inquiring after medical advice concerning the implant and the veracity of Platt’s claim. This, naturally, was not a simple matter of strolling into a doctor’s office or emergency room and asking about the removal of a potentially high explosive device.


“So you’re telling me you believe you have a remotely controlled explosive device in your neck…”

“Yes indeed, that appears to be the case.”

“And you’ve brought this device … this explosive device … in your neck … into my office.”

A nod.

“A device that you have been specifically advised not to tamper with lest it activate without warning.”

A somewhat smaller nod.

“Trevor, it will doubtless not surprise you to learn that at no point in my medical school training was the subject of removing explosives from a patient ever brought up.”

Pierce Weissman was a second-year surgical intern at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center on Manhattan’s upper west side. He had spent two years of his undergraduate education in the same frat house as Trevor, Sigma Alpha Mu. They had stayed in touch off and on since graduating, and, despite their friendly terms, Trevor had ruminated for a good long time before contacting Pierce in desperation.

“Not to get too much into clinical terminology on you, Trev, but I gotta tell you, this is a very special kind of fucked up.”

Trevor pursed his lips, but did not respond. He had shown Platt’s letter to Pierce.

“And it was inserted with nothing more than a quick slap to the neck? That’s pretty innovative, if you don’t mind my saying so.” He tried a smile but got none in return. “And you’ve been running around with this thing in you for about six weeks now?”

“Yeah, but I’ve kept the physical activity to a minimum, as you might imagine.”

Pierce turned Trevor’s head gently around and peered intently at the raised mark on the back of his friend’s neck. It resembled an ordinary pimple.

“It would be useful if we could see it—inside, I mean. Of course, without any understanding of the technology involved, there’s no way to know if an x-ray would have an effect or not.”

“I imagine,” Trevor responded, “that this is the part where you say that incurring that risk is entirely up to me.”

“Yeah,” Pierce said, managing another wan smile, “this would be that part.”

Two hours, three x-rays, and zero explosions later, the two sat peering at images of the implant on Pierce’s wall-mounted viewing panel. All showed a tiny black object, shaped, as Platt had suggested in his letter, like a grain of rice.

“So,” Pierce said, “should I infer from your request that you do not anticipate paying this Platt fellow back his money on time? Because if you do, and you believe him when he talks about deactivating the thing, then this would all seem to be a big non-issue.”

“That remains to be seen,” Trevor said. “I’m turning over every rock I can, but if it gets close to the deadline and there’s still no luck, I just want to know what my options are.”

“Well, the removal option is dicey at best.” Pierce pointed at a spot on one of the x-rays. “The implant is resting directly against a vertebra, the C3 to be specific, which makes surgery … complicated. Certainly nothing a second-year intern would undertake, which means involving several other people here at the hospital and spending a lot more money…”

“Which I don’t have to begin with, else we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Which you don’t have … right.”

“For what it’s worth, Trevor, I will give you my as yet only partially educated opinion and say that this could probably be removed, though with extraordinarily great care and more than a little risk to you and anyone else in the vicinity.

“Damn,” Trevor said, leaning closer to the image. “It’s so tiny. How much explosive could possibly be in there?”

“I’m no explosives expert, but from what I understand, a little Semtex goes a long way, if you’ll … uh … pardon the expression. On the plus side … possibly … it might be the case that there isn’t sufficient explosive in the implant to kill you outright.” Trevor’s eyes widened slightly at this assertion. “It might just damage that particular vertebra, in which case you’d end up a quadriplegic.”

“Wow, that is good news,” Trevor replied, managing a thin smile.


“Oh, Trevor, why would you do such a thing?”

It was their first dinner date since the surgery, now seven weeks past. Serena looked as beautiful as she ever had prior to the original diagnosis, though she still had a few pounds to gain back. He had avoided discussing the subject of the money until now, but it had grown unavoidable, for with Serena’s improving health had returned her natural inquisitiveness. And so he had told her everything—nearly everything anyway. He chose to omit Platt’s name, the details about the implant, and the terms of his repayment arrangement. Serena, for her part, listened patiently and at no point revealed that she had already known some of this—including the lender’s name and number—for several weeks from having spoken with Brad Hickok. But rather than confront her husband with the information immediately after speaking with Brad, she had opted to allow Trevor the time to offer the information on his own terms.

“Why?” he responded. “Are you serious? Why do you think? A wife who I love very much knocking on death’s door. Is that so hard to understand?”

She pursed her lips and shook her head slowly side to side. “And so what is the plan now? How long before you have to repay the money? Where on earth can we come up with something like that?”

“Believe me, Serena, I am searching high and low. I have a few leads. I’ll figure it out soon.”

“Trevor, how much do you even know about this guy? Will he try to hurt you if you can’t pay him back on time?”

“Oh c’mon,” Trevor replied. He raised a hand dismissively, but had waited just long enough before his response for Serena to notice. “They’re reasonable people and they’ll be flexible as they need to be.”

“Really,” she said, sighing, “flexible on a six-figure short-term uncollateralized loan. Trevor, I’m no banking expert, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

Trevor took a bite from his plate and just looked back at Serena without responding.


For all his rock turning, Trevor really had only one possibility for obtaining the money, and it was a long shot. He had been with his company for just shy of three years. There were twenty-one employees and, as a software engineer, he was in the middle of the pack from a seniority, and hence compensation, standpoint. The company was still in the process of developing its first commercial product, and there was far more money going out than there was coming in. And most of what was coming in was from investors or from the two senior founders. Asking for a loan in an amount well in excess of his annual salary had required a great deal of what his grandfather had used to call chutzpa, and what his father would have called simply balls. In the end it took him a lot longer to muster the verve to ask than it took his CEO to laugh and ask if Trevor was out of his mind.

“What in the hell possessed you to borrow a hundred fifteen grand from some … some what? … loan shark? Do people even say ‘loan shark’ anymore? Jesus,” he’d said, “sounds like something out of a Humphrey Bogart movie. For Christ’s sake, Trevor, if we had that kind of money laying around, we’d be spending it on product marketing, or a better web site, something.”

“I understand,” Trevor had said. “I just, you know, had to ask. She was sick…really sick…we needed it fast. I did what I had to do is all.”

“Look, Trevor, it’s an extraordinary situation. I get that. We’re all a family here and I want to help, but … Jesus. Let me have a talk with the board members. No promises, can’t even say it’s likely, but I’ll ask. I can at least do that much.


In the days that followed, he talked with more banks than he could count. He called a couple of distant family members. He watched the stock market every day, imagining that perhaps the recent upswing would magically transform his meager two years of savings into something helpful. And then, on a cool Thursday evening, with twelve days remaining until the deadline, he got a call from Pierce Weissman in Manhattan. He’d listened to his friend’s terse summary, and then replied with a simple “Yeah…no, I totally understand. Hey, man, thanks for trying. Really, thanks.”

No one at Columbia was going to touch the situation. Yes, it was expensive, but that wasn’t it. The risk of operating on something so delicate, so close to the spinal column, presented more risk than most surgeons were willing to tackle. Throw into the mix the inconvenient fact that a misstep might cause the implant to actually explode, and the conversations had all come to a jarring halt. Trevor’s only hope lay in the virtually zero likelihood of his company spotting him the money or that it would turn out Platt had been bluffing all along about the implant. The idea of lying in his bed at 11:55 on the night of the repayment deadline, waiting to see if it was all a bluff, made a bead of cold sweat swell in the middle of his back.

Meanwhile, as Trevor kept approaching banks and experiencing increasing difficulty concentrating at work, Serena knew only that there was a man in an office near the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano who quite possibly meant to do her husband harm as a direct consequence of his having laid it all on the line for her. She had a name. She had an address. And she had twelve days.


“Oh goodness, I am SO sorry,” Gerald Platt said. He had just exited his office door and was removing his key from the front door lock when a woman with a grocery bag had appeared as though from nowhere and bumped against him, dropping several items to the sidewalk.

“Oh, no worries, sir—totally my fault. I am so clumsy sometimes.” She knelt to retrieve the dropped items and Platt knelt to help as well. The woman made a point of placing her hand on his as though reaching for the same item at the same time. She drew back her hand and smiled an embarrassed smile. As Platt picked up the final couple of errant grocery items, the woman deftly ensured that the top of the paper bag was torn so that it could no longer contain all the original items. She struggled with the bag and the items to the point where Platt offered to assist her in carrying some of them.

“My car is just a couple blocks this way,” she said, gesturing encouragingly with her chin. And so the two of them walked, the woman with a torn grocery bag in both arms, Platt with two loaves of bread under one arm and a bag of potatoes in his other hand. Along the way, they chatted about this and that. At the car, he helped her load the items into her trunk and then turned and offered an outstretched hand.

“How rude of me,” he said, “I’m Gerald, Gerald Platt.”

“Well it’s wonderful to meet you Gerald. I’m Sylvia Weston,” she replied, using her middle and maiden names. Her car was parked directly in front of a local bar. “Are you in a hurry to get home, Gerald Platt, or would you care to join me for a drink?”

“Well, Sylvia, it’s not every day that I get asked out for a drink by a beautiful lady, so I’d be a fool to turn down your invitation.”

Inside they got a table and Platt sat opposite the woman. He ordered a gin and tonic and she a glass of chardonnay. They chatted amiably and had ordered a second round within fifteen minutes. As the waitress departed with the order, Platt excused himself to use the men’s room. During the few minutes of his absence, the waitress returned with the fresh drinks. Following a furtive glance around the bar, Sylvia reached into her purse, extracted a small glass vial that contained a fine white powder. She carefully removed the vial’s cap and poured the entire contents into Platt’s drink, giving it a lengthy stir. She returned the vial to her purse and waited silently for his return. Once back at the table, the two rejoined their conversation, which continued for another half hour or so, during which Platt nursed his drink. At last, tossing back the final contents of his glass, he motioned toward the waitress once more, but Sylvia touched his hand and drew it down.

“I’m so sorry, Gerald, it’s been wonderful meeting you—really it has—and I do appreciate your help with the groceries back at your office, but it’s getting late and I need to get home. Dinner, the family, you understand, I’m sure.”

“I do indeed,” he replied, for the first time loosening his tie and undoing his shirt’s neck button. He looked suddenly warm and a sheen had begun to appear on his forehead, but he paid it no mind as he rose to bid his new friend goodbye. “It’s been a genuine pleasure and I hope you’ll manage to bump into me again sometime soon.”

“I’ll make a point of it,” Sylvia replied with a smile. “I shop in this neighborhood all the time, so perhaps we’ll meet again soon, now that I know where you work.” She rose, gathered her coat around her, and offered a hand to Platt in parting. “Have a wonderful evening, Gerald.”

She turned and left the bar, but Platt retook his seat and raised his hand for one final round. It had grown terribly warm in the bar and he concluded that one more nightcap would help to cool him down. By the time he had consumed his third drink, he was warmer than ever and he felt a constriction in his throat that he’d never felt before. He wondered if a sudden cold was coming on and cursed at the thought of a week of sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. But Gerald Platt would never need to worry about catching a cold, for by the time the first severe convulsion caught him unawares, he was in his car driving on the Belt Parkway toward Queens. The first wave passed after a few seconds, and he opted to continue driving, as traffic was heavy and there was no convenient turn-off or breakdown lane in this area of the freeway. Thirty seconds later, another spasm racked him, far stronger than the first. His body pitched forward against the steering wheel and his vision turned to nothing but bright lights. Before he could regain his sight, the car had swerved across three lanes of traffic, clipped two other vehicles, and impacted a bridge abutment at nearly fifty miles per hour. The collision was serious but not fatal, and it backed up the parkway for hours afterward. By the time emergency services and the police could make it to the scene, Gerald Platt was long deceased, with the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth attributed to the impact, though in truth it was the cause of the accident rather than a consequence of it. Given the severity of the accident, it occurred to no one that there was any reason to perform an autopsy on Platt’s body.


Around the time that Platt and his new friend were having their second round of drinks, Trevor received a tap on the shoulder as he sat at his desk considering a vexing software problem on his computer.

“Got a minute, Trevor?”

Vincent LaSalle was the company CEO, and the expression that accompanied his request was enigmatic in the extreme. More than four weeks had gone by since his initial loan request, and he had assumed from the dearth of response that the question had proven to be a nonstarter with the company board. Which meant that LaSalle’s request was work related.

“Sure … sure thing,” Trevor replied, rising from his desk and following Vincent into his office.

“What’s up, boss,” he asked once inside. Neither man sat.

“Trevor, what you asked of us is a big fucking deal. I’m not gonna lie to you.”

Trevor shifted his weight from one foot to the other but said nothing. Vincent reached behind him to his desk and lifted a small envelope, which he handed toward Trevor.

“I don’t think I risk hyperbole when I say that from this moment and for the foreseeable future, your ass is ours, my friend.”

Trevor looked at the envelope in disbelief, then up at LaSalle, and back down to the envelope.

“It’s all there—one fifteen, cashier’s check. Don’t fuck this up, man. We need you here. We’ll talk about repayment terms once you’re in the clear.”

Trevor was stunned and it showed, so much so that LaSalle couldn’t help but smile.

“Vincent, I … I don’t …”

“No worries, Trev. Don’t go getting all weepy on me. And don’t plan on quitting anytime soon. Take tomorrow off. Do what you need to do. Then get your ass back here pronto. We’ve got a Friday deadline to meet.”

Trevor offered a slightly trembling hand in LaSalle’s direction. “Thank you. You have no…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Vincent replied. “Look, collect your thoughts, find some words, but pay your fucking debts, all right? Remember—your ass, mine.”

“Got it, right. My ass…” Trevor was a blur of emotion as he backed out of LaSalle’s office and returned to his desk. He sat for nearly fifteen minutes just staring at the envelope in his hand.


An hour and a half later, Trevor walked in the front door of his apartment to find Serena on the sofa. The TV was on but muted and she had a book in her lap. They both bore expressions that were not at all normal for the end of a workday.

“I’ve got news,” he said, smiling broadly.

“Judging by your face, I’m guessing it’s good news.”

“As a matter of fact it is good news,” he said. He reached into his jacket pocket and extracted the thin envelope containing the cashier’s check. He laid it on the coffee table.

She smiled in response. “Is that what I think it is?”

“It is indeed what you think it is,” Trevor said. “I’ll pay off the loan tomorrow morning, and then we’ll have a new huge debt to pay back to my company. But better them than … well, you know.”

“Yeah,” she said, leaning in to give him a congratulatory hug. “We’ll work it out.”

With a sigh he leaned back on the sofa, placed an arm around Serena, and turned his attention for the first time to the TV.

“News?” he said. “You never watch the news.”

“Oh, I just switched it on to see what all the drama was on the Belt. Some humungous car wreck or something. Traffic’s been backed up for hours.” She reached for the remote and unmuted the volume.


“…single-car accident with one fatality just after six this evening on the Queens-bound side of the Belt Parkway near Fifty-Seventh Street. The victim was Brooklyn businessman Gerald Platt, and no cause for the accident has yet been reported.”


“Good thing you didn’t get stuck in that chaos, or you’d’ve been out there all night…” Serena said, though it could have been anything since Trevor was not listening. He only sat, silently staring at the envelope lying on the coffee table, fixated on the news announcer’s voice as he continued relaying details of the accident. Possible heart attack. Longstanding small businessman with office in west Brooklyn neighborhood near the Verrazano. No known family in the immediate area. And as the words of the announcer blurred with those of Serena, Trevor lifted his hand from around her shoulder to wipe a rapidly growing sheen of perspiration from the back of his neck, in the process running gentle fingertips over the tiny bump that protruded from just below his hairline.



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