The door marked Arthur P. Goldburger, Attorney at Law, clattered open. After a muffled cough, the door crashed shut again.
“Come in, come in,” cried Arthur nervously behind endless rows of paper stacked on his desk. He swung his legs up like a child on a swing, then swiftly down to catapult his behind off the chair.
He scurried to the front door. His large eyebrows, furry as caterpillars, appeared to pull the rest of his body along with them.
“Please do come in and have a seat,” Arthur said to his visitor. “I’m glad you were able to come on such short notice.”
Arthur ushered the visitor into his office and cleared a knoll of papers from a chair. “Please sit, sit. Can I get you something to drink? A coca-cola, coffee, maybe some tea? I think I have a little Evan Williams under my desk if you’d care?”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Weather sure took a turn for the worse, I was worried you might not be able to make it.”
“It’s that time of year.”
“Did you find the place OK? I’m a bit off the beaten path here, not all my clients have found me on the first try.”
“I know the area.”
“Well…shall we get straight to business?”
“OK. First-things-first. What do you charge?”
“My standard package is ten grand. But I offer various upgrades.”
“The standard should be fine. And might I inquire about your methods?”
“That depends. For every motive there is a method.”
“I’m not following.”
“My method of execution depends on your motive for killing. For instance, if it’s business-related, a single bullet to the head will do the trick. To terminate the lover of a cheating spouse, I suggest a more prolonged sequence. But torture is an upgrade.”
“No, no, torture won’t be necessary. Whatever is quickest will suffice. I’m afraid that I’m to blame. He shouldn’t be made to suffer now on my account.”
“Not to point fingers, but he’s going to die on your account.”
“Well, yes, but you see, if it wasn’t for me he’d safely be in prison right now.
“I defended him. Convinced the judge to suppress evidence of bodies he had entombed in his backyard.”
“How many bodies?”
“That’s a good piece of lawyering.”
“A little too good. I can’t sleep at night knowing that nut is free. I have no doubt that he will slay again. Which is why it’s so urgent that you finish the job tonight.”
“When will you do it?”
“I’ll give you a call at 8:05. I will be finished by then.”
“Well I should let you go, ah, prepare,” said Arthur, catapulting himself off his chair. “Do let me know if you run into any trouble.”
“Not a thing to worry about Mr. Goldburger. You’re in good hands.”
After his visitor departed, Arthur looked at his clock. 5:52. Time enough for a drink, he thought, and he reached under his desk and pulled out the Evan Williams. He poured himself a generous drink and sat back in his chair, closing his eyes as if deep in thought. He promptly fell asleep.
At exactly 8:05, the phone screamed.
“Arthur Goldburger speaking,” he recited drowsily.
“Mr. Goldburger, it’s me.”
“Is the deed accomplished?”
“There’s been a problem.”
“What sort of a problem?”
“Oh my. Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of there. I just need a $50,000 retainer.”
“I’ll have it wired tomorrow.”
Arthur P. Goldburger leaned back in his chair, and when he closed his eyes to return to sleep his eyebrows cast a pall over his face like grave-markers during a full moon.