After making it out of the warehouse district in relatively one piece, I wandered a few blocks and managed to flag down a hack. Slowing down, he took one look at my bedraggled condition and sped off again. It took two more tries before I found one who took pity on me. When we reached my place, I gave him an extra sawbuck to wait until I got inside my building. Fool me once, I thought.
I collapsed onto my mattress as soon as I walked inside and woke up after only a few hours of fitful sleep. I was in such a hurry to get started that I got out of bed and came straight to work. Long story short, I wasn’t looking or smelling my best when I moseyed in that morning. From behind his desk, Kyle looked up with shock and horror.
“Boss! What happened?” he asked.
I appreciated his concern, but there’d be time later for twenty questions.
“Coffee,” I said, walking into my office. “Black.”
I hung my still damp coat and hat on the coat stand, then undressed down to my skivvies. I hung my clothes on the radiator to dry before sitting down behind my desk.
“Here you go, boss,” Kyle said, placing a steaming mug of Java down in front of me.
I picked it up and took a long slug, swirling it around in my mouth a while before swallowing it down. I felt better already.
“Let’s get those cuts taken care of,” Kyle said, running off for the first aid kit.
“Never mind that,” I shouted after him. “Did you find anything?”
But there’s no changing Kyle’s mind once he sets it to something. Kind of like me in a way, I thought. I stopped myself from puffing up too much. Pride is deadly in my business.
He came back with the first aid kit and a bowl of hot water. Getting down on his knees in front of me, he began gently ministering to my wounds. After washing my face with hot water, he started in with the styptic pencil and antibiotic gel. I admit I flinched a few times, but only because it hurt.
“Did you find anything?” I asked again.
I watched him rinse the facecloth in hot water, which I couldn’t help but notice was now tinged pink. I made a mental note to avoid mirrors for a while.
“I might have,” he said. “It’s on the desk in front of you. But relax for now. There’s plenty of time for that.”
But there wasn’t, and I think he knew it too. So while he was between my legs playing Florence Nightingale, I picked up the stack of paperwork and started going through it.
I was pleased to see the resumes starting to come in. I had placed an ad for a new partner a few days ago, and some already looked promising. I set two aside for further consideration, the first from a man who had majored in medieval studies and claimed to have built his own trebuchet. You never know in my business when a trebuchet would come in handy.
I couldn’t help but notice Kyle got a little rougher when he saw me studying resumes.
“What’s a trebuchet?” he asked sulkily while using the pencil beneath my lip.
“It’s like a catapult,” I answered absently. “Throws big rocks.”
He jabbed me with the pencil. I took the hint and set the resumes aside. His ministrations got suddenly gentler.
Funny, but sometimes I get the idea that Kyle would like to be my partner. But he wasn’t ready for that, not to mention it’s a job that so far has a hundred percent mortality rate. Anyway, I was in no hurry to promote him. I needed Kyle right where he was. Today, that was on his knees between my legs.
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