The Repossession Mambo
The first time I ever held a pancreas in my hands, I got an erection. I think it was the adrenaline more than the mass of tissue and metal between my fingers, but the medical nature of what I was doing did little to deter the jolt of energy that hit me down below. Prior to that day, my main source of excitement had been sexual, just like any young man, and somewhere along the line, the wires must have gotten crossed. Arousal equals erection, so there I was, pancreas in hand, stiffy in the pants.
Surrounded as I was by four other trainees, there was little I could do but hunch over and pretend it wasn't happening. Jake, standing to my right and examining the clacking valves inside a fresh new heart unit, was positively glowing like a mother holding her newborn child. Even if I'd been able to tell him what was going on, he probably would have just laughed and told me to take care of it in the bathroom. He wouldn't have understood that I didn't want to feel attracted to this job, didn't want any kind of rush associated with what we were being trained to do. Yet at the same time, I knew, deep down, that I never wanted to do anything else.
And now I know, like it or not, that I was probably right. My future career options, as seen from my current vantage point on the fourth floor of an abandoned hotel, surrounded by scalpels, extractors, and a single shotgun, are limited at best.
But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Context, perhaps. I've never been good at context, but I recognize it's something that's valued. Peter likes it, it must be worth something. So here goes; I'll give it my best try. Bear with me if Iget distracted. If I wander. Consistency has never been my strong suit.
When I was on top, I worked in the shadows. I knew how to get in, and when to get out. I was feared, respected, villified. The story's as old as the gig: Men wanted to be or beat me, women wanted to screw or slap me, and most days it didn't much matter which—the jobs went on like they always did, one night blending into the next and into the next.
Don't get me wrong—I remember every receipt I ever wrote, every 'forg I ever hauled back into the Credit Union. Those memories weigh on me now, each of them, like small leaden balls strung around my neck, pressing against my chest. Back then, though, when I was in the thick of it, I didn't take much note. Job's a job. That's how you get through the night.
Typical gig, just for shits and giggles:
I'd swung into the Credit Union after a long weekend, eager to pick up a few extra pink sheets. I'd made a few bad bets on sure-thing college football games and wanted to cover my losses before Carol noticed the hit on our bank account. She could be awful fussy when it came to that sort of thing.
It was a good time for the Credit Union and for those of us who worked in repossessions—the economy was booming and the credit rates kept creeping up, so while folks continued to buy, there was no shortage of those who defaulted and returned their merchandise back to the lender. No worries all around. For most of us, at least.
"You see this?" I asked Frank. "Says this guy lives north of Braddock." The pink sheet gave us address, phone, credit ratings, registered firearms, the works.
"If it's on the sheet, it's on the street," Frank said. "Why do you have to question it? Just go."
"That's a pricey area," I said. "I'm just making sure we didn't miss a payment in the mail." It had happened before; it will happen again.
Frank opened the door to his office, inviting me to leave and get on with it already. "He's eight months over—that's no missed payment. Hell, maybe he's got millions stored under his mattress, I don't give a shit. He's not paying us, so that's the end of that."
Frank was right, and I didn't argue the point. I'd seen it enough times—clients with cash who didn't feel the need to meet their obligations. Their fiscal choices were not my concern. So be it. I charged up my Taser, grabbed my scalpel case, and headed out into the night.
High-rise apartment, nearly fifty stories scraping the sky, and my client, Henry Lombard Smythe, lived on the thirty-eighth. The doorman gave me a nod as I entered and was smart enough not to hassle me—the tattoo on my neck usually takes care of that. A quick high-speed elevator ride and one ridiculously easy to pick deadbolt later, I was inside. No one around, so I made myself at home. High-end furniture, abstract art, views of the city out giant plate-glass windows from damn near every side of the apartment.
The photographs told the story; they usually do. I could check it all out on the pink sheet—date of birth, marital status, kids—but I've always gotten the most complete profile of my clients from the things they choose to put in frames.
There's Smythe—middle-aged, hair receding, a good set of teeth—next to a bottle blonde with great curves, both in scuba gear down in Fiji. Another of him on a ski slope somewhere in the Alps, next to a slim brunette who's holding on to his elbow like it's the last thing keeping her from falling off the mountain. Mixed throughout, photos of Smythe and a little girl, aging randomly. In one picture, she's in pigtails and they're at the circus; in another she's dealing with her first bout of acne and the look in her eyes says hurry up and take the damn picture already. These, combined with the swinging bachelor pad, made it clear: A divorcé with disposable income, choosing to spend his newfound single lifestyle traveling the world and making a general fool of himself with women way too young for him.The Repossession Mambo
. Copyright (c) by Eric Garcia . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.