Douglas Coker took a sip of red wine and watched his new client over the remains of his eggplant parmigiana. They were in Coker's favorite restaurant-- small, expensive and Italian-- and they had agreed upon a price for his services. Now only the fine points remained.
"It'll be an accident," Coker said, his voice low. "A completely unavoidable, relatively painless accident. I guarantee you won't be suspected."
Adam Pearce eyed the tomato-y mess on Coker's plate and held up his hand. "No details, man. I don't wanna know."
Coker smiled slightly. "Of course not. I wouldn't dream of boring you. But it will be done by the end of next week."
Pearce nodded and a lock of long hair fell in his eye. He brushed it back with tanned fingers and leaned forward. "You gotta understand," he said, "the marriage just didn't work out. But since Lila inherited her dad's company, she controls all the money..." His jaw tightened and he gritted his perfect teeth. "She treats me like a little kid. A hundred dollars here, a hundred there. I'm on an allowance, for crying out loud!" Pearce was younger than most of Coker's clients-- Coker figured him to be about 30-- and with his rugged good looks and physique, he could easily be a male model. But his self-absorbed, petulant sulk ruined his features, and his voice had a whining quality that set Coker's nerves on edge.
It was Coker's turn to hold up his hand. "I don't care why, Mr. Pearce. Just rest assured that you've spent your money well."
Pearce nodded. "I'll have the money to you by tomorrow. In the meantime..." His blue eyes were icy as he withdrew a picture from his wallet and slid it across the table to Coker. Coker pocketed the picture without looking at it and then handed the restaurant bill to Pearce.
Coker strode onto the sidewalk. He had just enough time to meet his next client, at a cafe across town. Coker frequently went months without taking on a new client, but this time it had been almost a year. He had never met with two in one day before, but they had both seemed promising on the phone. And, as much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, he needed the money.