“Katerina—I need some help. Be a good girl and come over here and I’ll make it worth your while.”
It’s an offer NYC college student Katerina Mills should refuse. But how can she?
After ditching her cheating lover (and boss), she’s stuck in dead end temp jobs. Her dad just ditched her mom and his promise to pay Kat’s college tuition bill.
She has two weeks to come up with $14,000 or she’s out of her apartment, out of school, and out of luck.
Katerina falls into a job as a “fixer” for New York City’s wealthy and privileged men. They have problems they need “fixed,” quick and on the QT, and they’re willing to pay.
The rules are simple: collect the money, use your contacts, fix the problem.
Kat’s first job is easy: tail a shopaholic socialite wife. But who’s tailing Kat?
Kat’s second job is not so easy: steal a VHS tape hidden in an antique chest. She can’t do it alone. To be a thief, she needs a thief: handsome, reclusive Alexander Winter to be exact.
Kat soon learns the real rules for a fixer: there are no rules, there are no refunds. Get in. Get results. Get gone.
As every step brings her closer to her goal and closer to danger, there’s one rule left for Katerina Mills to learn: once you’re in, there’s no getting out.
“Katrina, I need help.”
Katerina stumbled out of bed, her cell phone slipping from her hand.
“Damn it,” she muttered. Fumbling for the lamp, she snapped it on, blinking several times against the harsh light. She heard the low tone of the man’s voice, now coming from under the bed. Even from a distance he sounded frightened and hysterical.
Bending over the side of the bed, her long chestnut hair cascading onto the floor, she groped for her phone. She grabbed it, bringing it to her ear.
“This is Katerina. Who is this?”
“Katr—, it’s Joe Lessing. I’m a friend of Phil’s. You remember me, right?”
Kat worked to match the voice to a face. After a moment, the film of sleep dropped away. Medium height. Built like a boxer. Strong jaw. Black hair with a widow’s peak.
“Yes, Mr. Lessing. How can I help you?”
She listened to Joe Lessing’s labored breathing at the other end of the phone; he sounded like he had just come in from a brisk jog. The clock radio read twelve-thirty. It was a little late for a run around the reservoir.
“I can’t find Phil. Do you know where he is?”
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“He’s not answering his cell phone.”
“Mr. Lessing, I don’t work for Mr. Castle anymore. Maybe his current assistant can help you—”
“Shit! Shit!” Lessing’s voice rose. “SHIT!”
“Listen, Katri—Katerina—I need some help. Be a good girl and come over here and I’ll make it worth your while. Okay?”
Katerina answered with silence. She had met Joe Lessing maybe three times when she worked for Philip. He never struck her as a crazed, rapist murderer…until now. Not a good idea, she thought. Whatever this is, I don’t need it.
“Look, this is on the level. I’m in some shit here and I need a little help. It’s worth a thousand dollars.”
That I do need. Desperately. “Okay…twenty minutes.”
“Make it ten. It’s a matter of life or death.”
“Which is it?”
“I’m not sure.” He gave his address and hung up.
Kat considered his comment and then threw on a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, and laced into a pair of ankle boots. She twisted her mass of hair into a sloppy braid. Stuffing some cash, ID, cellphone, and her trusty pepper spray in her pockets, she rushed out into the brisk New York City night. Against her better judgment, she took the subway. But, if there should be a police investigation, a cabbie, overeager to cooperate, would be a liability. In one of his many moments of ego and hubris, Philip had bragged about his golden rule of “fixing” people’s problems: get in, get out, get gone. Don’t linger. See everything but never be seen.
Keeping alert for drunkards, creepers, and other assorted predators lying in wait, she kept one hand in her pocket, her finger on the button of the palm-sized can of pepper spray.
She found Lessing’s building. She glanced up, the bite of the chilly October night air making her give a quick, involuntary shiver. She pushed the call box button.
“Who is it?” Lessing sounded apprehensive.
Who do you think it is? “Katerina.”
The buzzer rang. Kat slipped inside.
She found the apartment door ajar. She inched inside. A colorful Persian rug covered most of the foyer. Examining the bright pattern of red, blue, and black and finding no sign of blood, she relaxed. She took tentative steps inside, scanning the living room. Everything was neat and in order.
“Mr. Lessing?” she said.
“In here,” he called from the end of the hallway.
Kat hesitated. Move ahead or turn back? She crept down the narrow space lined with modern art consisting of colorful paint splatters. The door was open.
Kat peered inside and saw Joe Lessing, a man in his forties, his overdeveloped muscular build now turning fleshy and soft. He was naked, pacing, and breathing hard. His flaccid penis, dangling like an oversized rotini, bobbed and swayed with every step.
Katerina froze. Oh shit.
He turned to look at Kat; she saw the panic in his dark eyes.
“Thank God you’re here,” he said, turning to the bed. It was a massive four poster with a distressed wooden chest squatting at its foot. A Queen Anne style night stand on each side held a Tiffany lamp. But it was the unconscious, naked blonde woman lying on top of the rumpled covers that grabbed Kat’s attention.
“I called someone. She said she would try to get here but I can’t wait anymore.” He pointed at the bed. “Can you help me, please.”
Kat didn’t know what to say to him. When he had come to Philip’s office he was always calm and relaxed… and fully dressed. He liked perching on the edge of her desk and talking about his motorcycle, his house in the Hamptons, and his wife.
“What happened?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said in a shaky voice. “I don’t know but I have to do something. We have to do something.”
He returned to mindless pacing and the penis began dancing again. Kat moved to the bed. The woman had bottle blond hair, a too perfect nose, but her breasts were real, her waist a size zero. Kat leaned over and touched her cheek. Warm.
“I’m fucked, aren’t I?” he asked, wiping sweat off his brow. “Am I fucked?”
“She has a pulse,” Kat said.
“Thank Christ,” Lessing said.
“Have you tried waking her?”
“Of course I did! Nothing works!”
Joe scratched his head like he was trying to work out a difficult math problem. “We were going at it and it was good—shit, it was great—and then she collapsed. Look, we have to get her the hell out of here.”
“When is your wife due, Mr. Lessing?”
Joe gave a short, guilty laugh. “She’s taking a night flight from LAX. She’ll be here soon.”
Lessing’s eyes met hers. “Less than two hours.”
“Your —friend needs medical care.”
“I can’t take her to the hospital. No one can know about this. Her husband would be very upset.”
And your wife. “I understand.”
“Please, you work for Phil—or you worked for him—whatever. You know people. You can work this out for me, right? You have to make this—” he said, pointing in the general direction of the bed, “go away.”
Kat mentally tried to construct what Philip, the attorney who considered his oath a suggestion rather than a requirement, would do.
“Just a minute,” she said, and pulled out her cell phone. She listened to the ringing on the other end of the line. Finally, there was a click.
“Yeah,” the voice said. A chorus of coughing and gurgling noises followed.
Kat waited for him to finish. “Doc, it’s Kat,” she said when it was quiet. “I need a favor.”
“I don’t get out of bed for less than a thousand,” the raspy voice said, followed by a deep drawing sound for air.
She held the phone away from her ear. “It’s going to cost a thousand.”
“For both of you?”
“Will he take Travelers Checques?”
“Will you take Travelers Checques?”
“They’re American Express,” Lessing said.
“I don’t care.”
Lessing resumed shuffling. Kat averted her eyes so that the penis was dancing in her peripheral vision. A miniature Slinky. She was tired of looking at it.
“Put your pants on…please.”
He looked down at himself and then swiped his pants up off the floor.
Kat got back on the phone. “You need to get out of bed.”
“If this needs a cleaner, it’s your problem.”
Kat glanced over at the unconscious woman. “I don’t think so.” She recited the address and hung up. Good God, I hope not.
“The Fixer” mystery/suspense series is Jill’s first adventure in self-publishing. The Fixer: The Naked Man (Katerina Mills, Book 1) is available in e-book and paperback formats. The second book in the series, The Fixer: The Killing Kind, released on November 28, 2016. She is currently at work on the third book of the series, The Fixer: The Last Romanov (when she’s not watching NY Rangers hockey).
She lives on Long Island.