"You're borrowing problems. Hey, if he gets called, you advise him of his rights. Tell him to take the Fifth."
"I thought you said he was clean."
Nick gives me one of his famous smiles. "Why would anybody need a lawyer if they were totally clean?" Then he laughs. "I'm only kidding," he says.
"Listen, I gotta go. I got a client waiting outside. I'm already late. But we'll talk," he says.
"I thought you were going to spring for lunch."
"I know, and you said yes. But you said it too easily," he says. "Next time make it a challenge." He's around the desk, his hand on my arm, ushering me toward the door. "Next week. It's on me. I promise. We'll do it at the club. You haven't seen the club. It comes with the partnership," he says. "That and a window."
Nick has what he wants: me on the hook. "Dana told him you'd give him a call to set up an appointment."
"I thought you said he was gonna call me?"
"Did I? You better call him. He might forget. I told Dana you'd understand."
I was wrong. Nick has already gotten his treat from Dana.
"Listen, I'm sure this guy's clean. I mean, my wife doesn't run around with felons." He looks at me over the top of his half-frames. "That's my job."
He's got me by the arm now, guiding me toward the side door, the one that leads to the hallway outside instead of reception where he has clients stacked up like planes at LaGuardia.
"How well does Dana know this guy?"
"Listen, I gotta tell you a story." Nick changes the subject. He's good at that.
"A couple of weeks ago, Dana takes me to this exhibit. The guy who gets the blue ribbon. Catch this. His piece of art is a cardboard wall painted dark blue with all this glitter shit on it. It's covered with condoms, all different colors, glued on like deflated elephant trunks. The artist calls the thing Living Fingers.' I ask Dana what it means. She says she doesn't have a clue."
"Maybe it's in the eye of the beholder," I tell him.
"Something's in somebody's eye," says Nick. "Because later that night this particular Picasso sells for twenty-seven hundred bucks to some old broad wearing a silk cape and a felt fedora with a feather in it. I guess she figures the fingers will come to life when she gets it home. Don't get me wrong," he says. "I like art as well as the next guy."
This from a man who in college took art history early in the morning so he could sleep through the slide presentations in the dark.
"You didn't answer my question."
"What's that?" he says.
"How well does Dana know this guy?"
"Who, the guy who did the painting?"
"Gerald Metz," I say.
"Oh, him. She doesn't know him at all. They meet once a month. Give him a call. And next week we'll do lunch," he says. He looks at me with those big brown eyes, the last thing I see as I find myself standing just across the threshold of his door, watching the walnut paneling as it swooshes closed in my face. Chalk another victory up to Nick Rush.
Reprinted from The Arraignment by Steve Martini, by permission of G. P. Putnams Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2003, Steve Martini. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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