I found Edward Dollery, age forty-seven, defrocked accountant, big spender and dishonest person, living in a house rented in the name of Carol Pick. It was in a new brick-veneer suburb built on cow pasture east of the city, one of those strangely silent developments where the average age is twelve and you can feel the pressure of the mortgages on your skin.
Eddie Dollery’s skin wasn’t looking good. He’d cut himself several times shaving and each nick was wearing a little red-centred rosette of toilet paper. The rest of Eddie, short, bloated, was wearing yesterday’s superfine cotton business shirt, striped, and scarlet pyjama pants, silk. The overall effect was not fetching.
‘Yes?’ he said in the clipped tone of a man interrupted while on the line to Tokyo or Zurich or Milan. He had both hands behind his back, apparently holding up his pants.
‘Marinara, right?’ I said, pointing to a small piece of hardened food attached to the pocket of his shirt.
Eddie Dollery looked at my finger, and he looked in my eyes, and he knew. A small greyish probe of tongue came out to inspect his upper lip, disapproved and withdrew.
‘Come in,’ he said in a less commanding tone. He took a step backwards. His right hand came around from behind his back and pointed a small pistol at my fly. ‘Come in or I’ll shoot your balls off.’
I looked at the pistol with concern. It had a distinctly Albanian cast to it. These things go off for motives of their own.
‘Mr Sabbatini,’ I said. ‘You’re Mr Michael Sabbatini? I’m only here about your credit card payment.’
‘Inside,’ he said, wagging the firearm.
He backed in, I followed. We went through a barren hallway into a sitting room containing pastel-coloured leather furniture of the kind that appears to have been squashed.
Eddie stopped in the middle of the room. I stopped. We looked at each other.
I said, ‘Mr Sabbatini, it’s only money. You’re pointing a gun at a debt collector. From an agency. You can go to jail for that. If it’s not convenient to discuss new arrangements for repayments now, I’m happy to tell my agency that.’
Eddie shook his head slowly. ‘How’d you find me?’ he said.
I blinked at him. ‘Find you? We’ve got your address, Mr Sabbatini. We send your accounts here. The company sends your accounts here.’
Eddie moved aside a big piece of hair to scratch his scalp, revealing a small plantation of transplanted hairs. ‘I’ve got to lock you up,’ he said. ‘Put your hands on your head.’
I complied. Eddie got around behind me and said, ‘Straight ahead. March.’
He kept his distance. He was a good metre and a half behind me when I went through the doorway into the kitchen. There were about a dozen empty champagne bottles on various surfaces around the room—Perrier Jouet, Moet et Chandon, Pol Roger, Krug. No brand loyalty here, no concern for the country’s balance of payments. The one on the counter to my right was Piper.
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