"I want you to kill me."
Rick leaned his forehead against the window. They were on the thirty-third floor, and this high up, the snow flurries seemed a blizzard. He watched the snow blow one way, then in a flash change direction, battering the window before being sucked away. He pulled his head back and rubbed the spot the cold window had left on his forehead. His head ached, and the cold felt good. He turned and looked at the man seated in front of his desk.
"What?" the man at the desk asked.
"You heard me. I want you to kill me then be there for my resurrection a few days later."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Rick walked around the desk and sat in the soft leather chair. He leaned back and explained.
"Remember when we were kids? I had nowhere to go when my mom and dad died. Your parents took me in with no questions asked. We've been friends for a long time, Tubs."
"Of course I remember. What's that have to do with anything?"
"I've worked my ass off to make this company everything it is today, and now I'm at that point in my life when I need to think about what's going to happen when I'm gone."
Tubs leaned forward in his chair. "Gone? You're forty-five for God sakes. What got you to thinking about all this now? And why would I kill you?"
Rick picked up his ornamental cigarette lighter and flicked the wheel on top. A small yellow flame appeared, and he watched it flicker. When the flame died, he looked up at Tubs.
"You wouldn't really kill me. It would be an act. Kind of like a play. I need to know who I can trust. I trust you--you and Hank. That's it. I want to trust the others, but I'm not sure if I can. I have a plan, though. You go to the others and tell them you overheard me talking to my lawyer about a will and who was going to be in it. Name them all. Which I already did. All five of you are getting everything I have when I die." Rick flicked the lighter again. The flame danced. "I want you to plot against me, tell them they would inherit everything I have. If they do decide to do it, I want you to call me as soon as possible. My lawyer will be here in minutes to rewrite the will."
"Are you sure all of this is necessary? We're brothers, man. No one would hurt you."
He turned to look at his friend. "Tubs, we have been friends forever. I trust you and Hank. It's the others I worry about. Really worry."
"You know, you're the only one who still calls me that. I haven't been Tubs since that winter you moved in."
Rick smiled. "You'll always be Tubs to me. Now, let's get the details straight. I want this to be as realistic as possible if they agree. I want a funeral planned and executed. I want them to think it really happened. I worked my whole life to get where I am, and I'll be damned if I'm going to leave it to someone who pretends to be my friend."
"No one is pretending anything. These guys have been your friends from the company's get-go. I swear, Rick. Are you going to the counselor like I asked you too?"
He had to laugh. "As a matter of fact, I am. My first appointment is in" -- he looked at his watch -- "exactly one hour and thirteen minutes."
Tubs rose from his chair. "That's good, my friend. I hope it helps with whatever is going on in you. I'm worried about you." He walked over to Rick and threw an arm around his shoulder. "If you still want to go through with this plan after seeing the counselor, I'll do it. I don't think it's a good idea, but I'll do it for you. When I tell them an amount, how much should I say?"
He heard the sharp intake of air from behind him. Then footsteps receded, and the door clicked softly shut.
* * *
"What brings you here today, Rick?"
He stared at the ceiling. The cracks reminded him of a spider's web, crisscrossing along the ceiling, tangled.
"I guess the bad feelings I've been having." He shifted his position on the couch. It wasn't uncomfortable, he was. It made him uneasy to talk to anyone about what he felt. He imagined this stemmed from the fact he never had anyone to talk to about how he was feeling most of his life.
"What feelings have you been having?"
"I probably should start from the beginning so you can understand why I feel the way I do."
Silence from behind him. He cleared his throat. "I had a rough childhood. My parents were biological only. They were into drugs, and my dad beat the shit out of my mom most nights when his beer ran out quicker than he thought it should. She didn't mind. The heroin she used kept her numb most of the time. I was an object in that house. No one asked what I felt or if I ever needed anything. I learned quick how to set an alarm clock and catch the bus, just to be away from them."
He reached over to the coffee table beside him and took a drink of water. "They were gone three days before I realized they were really gone. Oh, they had both been gone for a couple days before. They never told me when they were going or where they were going. When my father got his disability check in the mail, they would go on a binge in the city."
"How old were you when they did this?"
"Well, I don't really know. They did it as far back as I can remember."
"Okay, well anyway, I remember coming home from school and realizing they were gone. They had never left during the week before, always a weekend. My father always got his check on a Friday. This was during the week, so I knew something was wrong. They had been gone all weekend, and now this was the middle of the week. I didn't know what to do, so I kept doing as I always did."
A cough behind him.
"I got scared when I began to run out of food. I had a jar of peanut butter, and I made it last for the rest of the week. I had a couple teaspoons a day. When it ran out, so did my hope of my parents' coming back. It was winter, cold out, and the heat stopped coming on. I guess the tank out back ran dry. I remember spending that last night listening to ice hit the side of the house. I was so cold. I went to Tubs's house the next morning. He was and still is my best friend. His parents took me in. They found my parents a week later. Their car had overturned into a drainage ditch. The car had broken through a layer of ice, came to a rest on the bottom of the ditch, then refroze. No one could see them from the road. Both were dead."
"How did that make you feel?"
He sighed. "I don't know. Happy, sad, lost."
"Yeah, happy. No more smelling heroin as it cooks. Have you ever smelled that? The thought makes me want to vomit."
"No, I haven't smelled it. Did you stay with Tubs's family?"
"Yes, his parents became my parents, and I loved them. Well loved them from afar. I never showed them how much they meant to me. I couldn't. I was too frightened."
"I didn't want them to go away, too. And they didn't. Saw me through high school. I went to my first semester in college on grants and scholarships. It was sitting in my first class of the day that I realized something."
"What did you realize?"
He sat up on the couch and faced the woman sitting behind him.
"I realized computers were going to be a hell of a lot bigger than most people thought. I started a business that made software for computers. I won't go into all the details. Hell it still confuses me. But I made money. A lot of money. Most of it came from game software. I would think up a game, make up the software, and sell it like cold lemonade on a hot day."
He had turned to study her at the mention of the money, but she showed no emotion.
"I gave the idea to Tubs's dad. He fronted me the money, and the rest is history. I made money hand over fist, and I remember the smile on his face as I handed him the check paying back the money he had so generously gave me plus interest. Lots of interest."
He leaned back on the couch. "I'm forty-five years old and have more money than I can ever spend and no one to leave it to. I have never had a girlfriend. I'm not gay, I just can't make myself become attached to one person. I have my friends, and I want to leave the money to them. But herein lies the problem. Do I trust them? Tubs and Hank I do, one hundred percent. We're blood brothers. Forever. It's the other three I'm not sure about."
Lying back on the couch he said, "Do they care about me for me or my money. How do I know?"
"I'm not sure how to answer that, Rick. People are people. Sometimes you just have to go with instinct."
"That's exactly what I'm going to do."
"Let's talk a bit more about the others," she said.
So he did, spending the rest of the hour laying out his concerns and his doubts. He was about to tell her about his plan, maybe even laugh about how stupid it sounded now that he sat in an honest-to-goodness shrink's office, but she spoke instead.
"Our time is up, Rick. I'd like you to make another appointment if you would."
Rick rose from the couch and stretched. "Yes, I think I'd like that. Thank for your time, and I'll see you after the holidays. May yours be filled with peace and the nearness of family."
"You too, Rick, you too."
He left the office building and walked through the garage to his car. He could see it snowing in the light thrown from the streetlights. He watched it for a moment, feeling like one of the flakes, lost and wandering through the night.
* * *
The call came from Hank about two minutes after Rick had begun to wonder whether there would be any call at all.
"Rick? It's Hank."
Rick could hear the sadness in his voice and knew why he was calling.
"They agreed to it, Rick. Jesus, the dirty bastards said yes. I don't know what to say."
Rick lowered his head and made his way to the bar in his penthouse. He poured a shot of vodka and downed it before answering.
"Get Tubs and get over here, would you?"
"Tubs is on his way. We'll be there shortly. I'm sorry, man. Goddamn it, I am so sorry."
Rick hung up the phone without responding.
When they had arrived, he let them in, and they followed him to the bar, eyes downcast.
Once again it was the three.
They sat in the library. It was here he felt most comfortable. They talked of why he wanted to do it.
"Because I want the satisfaction of rubbing their faces in it. I want to see them grovel and tell me they're sorry, and I want to kick their asses for making me think they cared about more than my money." He was crying now, but he didn't care.
They planned late into the night. The hit was going to come in the form of a carjacking late at night on his way home from the office. Tubs would be the one to hit him. The others would be there yet not touch him. The funeral would be held the following week. Hank was in the business and knew people who knew people who could get them what they needed. Rick announced his appointment with his lawyer would have to wait until after the new year. The lawyer was out of town until then. They all agreed on Christmas night.
* * *
He went to the office around eight. No one asked him why he was going to work on a holiday since there was no one to ask. He felt lost and hopeless, and the only thing he looked forward to was the satisfaction of telling his so-called friends how wrongly they had judged him. He disliked violence and disliked the thought of its being done to him even more. He wasn't a fighter. Never had been. It had always been Tubs who had stuck up for him in time of need.
The phone rang at eleven.
"Rick? It's me. They're on their way, so plan on leaving the office in about thirty minutes." It was Tubs.
"Okay. Remember, I hate being hit. Be easy."
A laugh chuffed in his ear. "No worries, my man. It will be easy as they get."
He sighed and hung up.
He left the office five minutes later than he said he would. He had been looking out the window watching the snow blow and thinking of his childhood, how he had lain in the bed that last cold dark night wishing for someone to save him. The parking garage was dim. He saw his car among a few scattered others. He wasn't the only one working on the holiday. He walked casually to his car, ignoring the sweat twisting its way down his back. He had no reason to be nervous. Tubs was his brother, his blood brother, and he loved him.
It happened when he was reaching to unlock the door of his Lexus. A voice whispered in his ear to stay still and no one would get hurt. He never heard them coming. He turned and met a gun in his face. He recognized the eyes hidden in the mask, and he fought a smile. He raised his hands as he imagined a real victim would and placed a look of fear on his face. "Take the car. Just please don't hurt me" sounded right, so he said it. He never had a chance to say anything else before he was hit on the head and went down. He tried to get words out of his mouth about Tubs taking it easy, but no words would come. He felt like crying then decided that would take too much work, so he closed his eyes.
He woke up in his bed. His head no longer ached, but he raised his hand to his head to inspect the damage. The skin was broken, damn Tubs, but there appeared to be no bleeding. There was nothing easy about the previous night, and he began to rethink his reasoning. Too late now. In fact, the more he thought about it, the less he could remember. Tubs had hit him, he remembered, but beyond that, all was blank. He got up and went to the bar. As he drank, he wondered how he would get through the next few days until the funeral, followed by the reading of the will and his grand reappearance. He couldn't wait to see the look on their faces. He passed the time in the library.
The funeral was a big event. He attended, hidden in the back of the church, dressed as an elderly man. At first, he had wondered whether it was a good idea to attend, but curiosity had given way to prudence. As it turned out, he had no need to worry. Nobody seemed to recognize or even notice him. He watched over a hundred people come and mourn him. "Where were all these people when I was alive?" he thought. He smiled at the thought of the publicity when he uncovered the ruse. He watched Tubs and Hank in the front row and was shocked to see the three assholes sitting beside them. The casket was closed, and he wondered if the deal for the body double had fallen through.
It was two more days before his resurrection. He stayed in his penthouse organizing his thoughts. He wanted to put on paper all the things he wanted to say to Tubs's dad and mom and how much they really meant to him, but he didn't seem to have the energy to put pen to paper. Love for these people filled him, and he was happy for the first time since he could remember. The phone rang a few times, and he even got up to answer it once before remembering that he was supposed to be dead.
The day arrived. He made it to his lawyer's office fifteen minutes before the scheduled reading he'd asked the lawyer to arrange. At first, the lawyer had protested, saying readings of wills happened only in movies and TV shows. But the lawyer's concerns disappeared when Rick reminded him about the fees he was paying. Rick eased his way down the hall and stood outside the cracked door. He could see all five of them sitting around the table. They looked forlorn as he would expect them to. Hank was sitting with his elbows on the table, head in hands. He looked up at Tubs and said, "I can't believe you really did it. Jesus, I'm still sick. What were you thinking?"
Tubs looked at Hank with a smile. "Fifty-seven million things were going through my mind. Only one bullet went through his."
"I still can't believe it. What if I tell?"
"One-fifth of $57 million says you won't. Besides, you'd be in it as deep as me."
The air left him. What was Tubs talking about?
He heard the lawyer come up behind him. He opened his mouth to say something as the lawyer went right through him. As coldness surrounded him, he let out a scream, yet no one heard.