Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shades of Jack exerpt: Fixer- Chapter One

"Just get comfortable, I'll put the kettle on." He made his way through his smallish apartment, his large frame heavily leaning on his cane. He hazarded a glance at his guest, slowly regaining his objectivity, but duly noting her beauty. Short, about five-foot even, a little over a hundred pounds. Her hair was
dyed in a "suicide girl-style" look that he actually took a liking to; one solid base color, and stark contrasting colors for highlights. Her arms were tattooed with ink, mostly roses and thorns wrapping from shoulder to wrist- on the walk up the stairs he noticed that it connected across her back as well. Both ears and one nostril were pierced, and she had both cheeks pierced in a fashion that looked like jewel-encrusted dimples. Though noted, this collection of adornments were not going to make this easy. Jack disliked putting people on the couch when he felt attracted to them. It ruined his objectivity, and if he becomes biased, his advice loses it's weight.

"Cassie, right?" He tried to modulate his voice to find a timbre that would put her at ease, but not entice her, or imply a sexual tone.

"Yeah, and you're Jack, right? I was told that you were a 'guy who fixes people'"

"I wouldn't say that I fix people. That implies that something is wrong with them. I merely help people see what is already there."

"Whoa, that's kinda Zen."

"I would hope so," He found an octave that was in a nice baritone, yet still maintained a friendly pitch."Otherwise, all of those books are going to waste."

For the first time since she sat down, Cassie looked around Jack's apartment. There were very few possessions, zero photographs of people, but stacks of books everywhere, on every subject that she could imagine, and a few that she was unfamiliar with. He poked his head from around the corner, taking a last look while she was distracted. He cleared his head- now, he can get to work.

"How do you like to take it?" He let the ambiguous question hang in the air like a lobbed basketball, and almost on queue, came the confused response.

"Excuse me?"

Jack stepped out with a cup of tea in his hand, "Sugar, milk, black...?"

"Oh," she started to blush, Jack was hoping for this reaction, he normally would create a minor embarrassing scenario. It broke the tension, and it would let him know how far he could push his clients. "Just two sugars, please."

He left his cane in the kitchen, motioning for her to join him at his dinner table, the only other surface in his apartment not covered in books, where he had already laid out some scones as well. As they sat, he took note of her body language, and after assessing her level of comfort, he decided to get to business.

"We haven't been properly introduced. My name is Jack Stuyvesant. I am told by a mutual friend that you are looking for some help. I want to go over a few particulars-"

"Oh, your fee, right. I can pay." Cassie reached into her purse to retrieve an envelope of cash.
Jack smiled softly as he placed a giant paw of a hand on her waifish arm. There was a common misconception about him that he had to stifle at least once

"No, there is no fee. I do not charge people to do what I do."

"I don't get it. Everyone says that you charge two hundred for two hours."

He flinched. Geez, they are getting generous.
"No. Though I take it as a very generous endorsement of my effectiveness, I do not charge for my time. Those who gave you my name were telling you to pay me because I don't accept money in return for what I do.

An all-too familiar look flashed across her face. "Oh, I think that I should-" She started to get up "I-I didn't know it was like that."

Jack grabbed his cane and held it to block her path. "No. I don't accept that either. Sit. Drink your tea before it gets cold. I wasn't finished." Cassie stood for a long moment, but after looking into his eyes, then at the rest of his ursine frame, she realized that he could physically force her to do what he wished, but his intentions seemed noble. Still wary, Cassie sat down. "Where was I? Oh, yes. Your name is Cassie Steadman, age 24, you live with your boyfriend. I don't know much more than that, because I don't take information second-hand. I will need for you to tell me everything. The embarrassing parts. The shameful parts. If I am to help, you must be honest. You can be assured that what you tell me does not get repeated. I do not ask anyone else for assistance, and no one else will hear of what you share with me." His face softened, and he took a slow breath, when he opened his mouth, his timber changed slightly, to a more soothing baritone "As I said earlier, I don't 'fix' anyone. I merely use perspective, logic, and common sense in order to help others make their own decisions." He stood up. "As for the compensation, I don't accept money for three reasons; first, I am not a professional. It wouldn't be ethical for me to take your money, when I am not a trained pro. Second. I can't guarantee my work. I have about a hundred percent success rate with those who take my advice, but I cannot risk it. If you are finished with your tea, we can start whenever you are ready." Jack picked up his cane, and started to walk to his living room.

"What is the third reason?"

"Oh, that. That I keep to myself." He sat down heavily in his overstuffed armchair.

"If you weren't going to tell me, why would you bring it up?" Cassie made her way over to the sofa, and sat down, hands on her knees.

"Because I believe in total disclosure. Even about the details. That way, there isn't something to lie about or omit later." He paused, and turned to Cassie, locking his gaze as if to accentuate the point. "If I demand it of you, I cannot do otherwise." That seemed to do the trick as it appeared as if a weight started to lift off of Cassie, and she laid back on the couch, arranging a pillow under her head. Jack dimmed the lights, and turned on some John Coltrane on a low volume to assist the mellow mood. "Get comfortable. You are going to be here a while. Let's start with taking some deep breaths.”
End One

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