Well, Boss, as you know, my appointment with Mr. Jacobs was set way in advance, only he ain't supposed to know it. But I think he got wind of it somehow. You know how the word gets out on the street.
Anyway, I took it into my head to get there a little early, see, to case the joint. Traffic was heavy crossing the river, and it was already dusk by the time I got to the Pennywell building. I made sure the guard was looking the other way and popped upstairs.
Mr. Jacobs' office on the top floor looked deserted. He'd already sent his two secretaries home. Everybody knows he's making time with them both, but no-one seems to mind, least of all the two broads. I slip into his office and at first he doesn't even notice me. He's over by the file cabinet, with a couple of files in his hand. There's a lot of paper in the basket under the shredder, too.
"Hey, Jake," I says, quiet-like. "What's up?" He looks annoyed, but not particularly surprised to see me.
"The office is closed," he says. "Didn't you see the sign on the door? How'd you get past security, anyway?"
"Don't worry about that," I says. "You and me, we got an appointment. Didn't anybody tell you?"
"Appointment?" He raises his eyebrows, trying to act all innocent. "Didn't nobody tell me about no appointment."
Sure, I think to myself. Like you didn't bother to tell your Uncle up North when you siphoned off half his stock portfolio before blowing town. But I kept mum about that. We had other matters to discuss.
"Who do you think sent me, Jake?"
"I don't know and I don't care. All's I know is, you're in my office after hours, you're trespassing, see?"
I laughed. He's a clever one, that Mr. Jacobs. Always looking for an out. "C'mon, Jake. Let's put our cards on the table. I've got something you want. But it's gonna cost you. Big time."
Little beads of sweat pop out on his forehead. I can see I've caught his interest. He walks over to his desk, a big mahogany number, but he don't sit down. Just stands there, looking at me. I let him look.
"Mind if I sit down?"
"Suit yourself," he says. "But, listen, make it snappy would you? I got a big meeting in the morning, I don't wanna be here all night."
"Yeah, yeah. I know all about your big meeting. That's what this is all about, capiche?"
"Ah. So, did he send you? Big Red himself? Is that the game?"
"Come on, Jake. You know who sent me. Let's talk turkey."
"You wanna talk, talk already. I'm all ears."
So, we talk. I won't bore you with the details. we talk for hours, back and forth. I give a little, then he gives a little, then he takes it all back, then I turn it back on him again. Round and round -- a real wrestling match. But he's a slippery devil, Mr. Jacobs, a real heel. I can't pin him down. Every point I make, he's got a comeback ready. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it.
We kept at it all night. When the sky outside the office windows starts to get pale, I've just about had it. I'm no slouch, but this guy, Jake, he was a ringer. He had my head spinning where I didn't know who was winning or losing. So I decide to pull out the big guns.
No, no, Boss, not literally. You want the heavy stuff, like I always say, get Micky or Gabe or one of the other boys. I don't go around packing heat, I'm strictly a shadow-boxer. But I had Jake's number, and I had to let him know it somehow. So, I leveled with him. I cold-cocked him, you wanna know the truth. Had him by the balls and he knew it.
But somehow, even then, he manages to turn the tables on me. Like I told you, he's a slick one, that Mr. Jacobs. "Alright, already! The sun's coming up -- Gimme a break."
"No way. Not 'til you give me what I want."
"I should give this away? Let me go!"
"Not unless you give the project your blessing."
"Okay, okay." I was schpritzing, lemme tell you! "Listen, Mister Bigshot, who do you think you are?"
"I'm Mister Jacobs."
"The hell with that. From here on out, you've got yourself a new moniker. When word of this hits the street, my name is gonna be zip, but yours will be 'The Contender'. Because no matter who you go up against, you always win out. You're not a chump anymore, you're the Champ, see."
He nods, Mister Jacobs does. Like he planned it this way all along. And then, you know what, Boss? This guy has the chutzpah to ask me my name! Can you imagine?
As if he didn't know.
© 2010 W. Luther Jett. All rights reserved.