Eddie Pax climaxed with a gasp about thirty seconds after Kathleen, the woman he’d met in the hotel bar. When both of them were spent, he fished a pair of cigarettes out of the pack on the nightstand and lit them together before placing one between her lips.
“You staying here?” he asked after catching his breath.
She propped her head on her hand and French inhaled. “Room 231,” she said. “I’m here for the CPA conference.”
Eddie vaguely remembered a placard about it in the lobby.
“You don’t look like a bookkeeper,” he said.
“I’m not,” she replied. “I’m office manager for an independent service in the capital. The only time I use a calculator is when I balance my checkbook.”
She’d been a good catch – a professional woman, blond, blue-eyed, late 30s. She was drinking something pink in a frosty Martini glass when he sat down two stools away from her and bought the first of several rounds.
He’d have taken a chance on a woman a lot less put together than Kathleen: he was horny as a herd of Texas cattle when he finished work. Funny how that worked: he never wanted anything to eat afterward but he almost always was in the mood for a piece of tail.
“So what are you here for?” Kathleen asked, taking a drag off her Marlboro and blowing smoke toward the ceiling.
He shrugged. “Had to collect some money a guy owed,” he said.
The guy in question was Pete Codorolli, the owner of a pair of auto body shops. Codorolli was a degenerate gambler. That’s how he got hooked up with Andrei Bondarchuk, the man who’d hired Eddie’s firm. Bondarchuk had loaned the body-and-fender man more than a quarter million to cover his markers. Afterward, Codorolli had ignored the Russian’s demands for repayment.
Higgins, Pax’s boss, sent Eddie to smooth things out.
Codorolli had met him at his main shop after his crew had left for the day. Eddie tied him to a chair, broke seven of his fingers and removed three of his front teeth with a pair of diagonal pliers. By the third extraction, Cordorolli was ready to sign over ownership of his body shops to the Russian.
Hell, he would have signed over his soul to stop the pain.
With the legal papers tucked inside his suit coat, Eddie had put Codorolli under one of the shop’s hydraulic lifts then dropped it and the car it held onto his body.
The Cadillac Escalade had crushed Codorolli like a cockroach. When the shop owner stopped twitching, Eddie untied him, walked out the back door and dropped the rope and nitrile gloves he’d been wearing into a nearby dumpster.
Naturally, Pax didn’t mention any of this to his female companion.
Kathleen let smoke trickle gently from her nostrils like a gun moll in one of those old gangster movies from the forties. “So you’re a kind of like a repo man, right?” she asked.
Eddie nodded. “More like a recovery agent. My boss, Mr. Higgins, sends me out to help other people collect money they’re owed. If the debtor doesn’t have the bread, we arrange for another manner of repayment.”
“A recovery agent,” she said as she stubbed out her cigarette and pulled him closer.
“Yeah,” Eddie said. “You got a problem with that?”
She shook her head. “No. I was just thinking taking money from people who are in debt must be kind of depressing.”
Eddie thought of Codorolli, flattened under nearly three tons of Caddy.
“Kathleen,” he said as he began to get hard again, “you don’t begin to know how depressing my job can be.”