Posted by John on Sunday, 26 March

of his neck. Item Number Two, he said. This shit with the doctors widow, is that cleared up yet Here Chelsea faltered, for Joe Winder had stymied him with the Koocher gambit. The publicity man was at a loss for remedies. There was no clever or graceful way to recant a $2.8 million settlement offer for a wrongful death. Anxiety manifested itself in a clammy deluge from Chelseas armpits. Sir, this ones a stumper, he said. I dont want to hear it! Kingsbury clasped his hands in a manner suggesting that he was trying to control a homicidal rage. What was it, two-point-eight Theres no fucking way what, do I look like Onassis Chelseas jaws ached from nervous clenching. He pushed onward: To rescind the offer could have very grave consequences, publicity-wise. The fallout could be ugly. Grave consequences Ill give you grave, Charlie. Two million simoleons outta my goddamn pocket, hows that for grave Perhaps you should talk to the insurance company. Ha! Kingsbury tossed back his head and snorted insanely. They just jack the rates, those assholes, every time some putz from Boise stubs his little toe. No way, Charlie, am I talking to those damn insurance people. In recent years the insurance company had tripled its liability premium for the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills. This was due to the unusually high incidence of accidents and injuries on the main attractions; the Wet Willy water slide alone had generated seventeen lawsuits, and out-of-court settlements totaling nearly three-quarters of a million dollars. Even more costly was the freakish malfunction of a mechanical bull at the Wild Bill Hiccup Corral an elderly British tourist had been hospitalized with a 90-degree crimp in his plastic penile implant. The jurys seven-figure verdict had surprised no one. There was no point rehashing these sad episodes with Francis Kingsbury, for it would only appear that Charles Chelsea was trying to defend the insurance company. I think you should be aware, he said, Mrs. Koocher has retained an attorney. Good for her, Kingsbury rumbled. Let her explain to a judge what the hell her old man was doing, swimming with a damn killer whale in the middle of the night. Chelsea was now on the precipice of anger himself. If we drag this out, the Herald and the TV will be all over us. Do we really want a pack of reporters investigating the doctors death Kingsbury squinted suspiciously. What are you getting at Im simply advising you to take time and think about this. Let me stall the media. The swiveling started again, back and forth, Kingsbury fidgeting like a hyperactive child. Two-point-eight-million dollars! Where the hell did that crazy number come from I guess he couldnt of made it a hundred grand, something do-able. Winder No, sir, he tends to think big. Hes trying to put me out of business, isnt he Francis Kingsbury stopped spinning the chair. He planted his elbows on the desk and dug his polished fingernails into his jowls. The fucker, this is my theory, the fuckers trying to put me under. You might be right, Chelsea admitted. Whats his you hired him, Charlie whats his angle I couldnt begin to tell you. For now, my advice is to get the insurance company in touch with Mrs. Koochers lawyer. Before it blows up even worse. Kingsbury gave an anguished moan. Worse How is that possible Anythings possible. Chelsea was alarmed by the weariness in his own voice. He wondered if the tempest of bad news would ever abate. The phone buzzed and Kingsbury plucked it off the hook. He listened, grunted affirmatively and hung up. Pedros on his way in, he said. And it better be good news or Im gonna can his fat ass. Pedro Luz did not look like a cheery bundle of good tidings. The wheelchair was one clue. The missing foot was another. Kingsbury sighed. Christ, now what He saw a whopper of a workers comp claim coming down the pike. An accident, Pedro Luz said, wheeling to a stop in front of Kingsburys desk. Hey, its not so bad. Chelsea noticed that t