But, like any good warden knows, you can only restrict the inmates so much. You can lock them in a cage ten hours a day, ban yard time—but try and take away their cigarettes? You’ve got a major revolt on your hands.
Xbox is Steven’s one permissible vice. As long as his playtime doesn’t disturb their daughter, Mackenzie, after she’s down for the night. One time, Steven got a little too loud during an ambush and woke Mackenzie up. He was on lockdown for a week. Lesson learned.
“Yeah, dude, count me in.”
I hand him the game back and he says, “Cool. See you at twenty-one hundred.” Then he salutes me and heads out the door.
I pick up my briefcase and gym bag and walk out a few minutes later. On the way to the elevator, I swing by Drew’s office.
He’s bent over his paper-covered desk, making notes with a red pen on a document.
He glances up, “Hey.”
“Xbox tonight, nine o’clock. Steven’s got the new Call of Duty.”
With his attention back on the paper, Drew says, “Can’t. I’m gonna be here until ten, at least.”
The people I mentioned who live for the job? Drew Evans is that kind of people.
But it works for him. He’s not a bedraggled, stressed-out clock puncher—he’s the exact opposite. Drew genuinely enjoys the grind; he gets a rush out of negotiating a deal, even if it’s a hard sell. Because he knows he can close it, that he’s probably the only one who can.
Well . . . at least until a certain dark-haired woman joined our ranks.
I look across the hall to Kate’s office. She’s at her desk, the mirror image of Drew—but way hotter.
Leaning against the chair, I say, “Did you hear Kate’s close to signing the Pharamatab account?”
Still not looking up, he mutters grumpily, “Yeah, I heard.”
I smirk. “You better step it up, man. If she makes that deal, your old man’s gonna be so psyched I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants to adopt her. And incest—even between adopted siblings—is illegal in New York.”
Busting balls is what friends do. It’s the equivalent of women giving those half-cheek half-air kisses to each other. A sign of affection.
“But I guess incest wouldn’t be an option anyway, with the way she keeps shooting you down.”
I chuckle. “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.” Then I walk toward the door. “Have a good one.”
After leaving the office I hop on the subway, like I do every day after work, to go to the gym. It’s in Brooklyn, a real bare bones kind of place. Some would call it a dump, but to me it’s a diamond in the rough. The floor is hard and dirty and worn red punching bags line the back wall. There are weights stacked in front of a cracked mirror, a milk crate filled with jump ropes beside the lone rowing machine. There aren’t any spandex-wearing, bored housewives looking to hook up or show off their latest cosmetic enhancement. There are no elliptical machines or high-tech treadmills like the ones that can be found in the workout room of my building. I come here to sweat and strain my muscles to their limit with time-tested calisthenics. And most of all, I come for the boxing ring in the center of the gym.
I was twelve the first time I watched Rocky. It takes place in Philly, but it could’ve been in New York. I’ve been a fan of boxing ever since. I’m not going to quit the day job to train for the heavyweight title or anything, but there’s no better workout than a few rounds in the ring against a decent opponent.
Ronny Butler—the fiftyish, stubbly chinned guy in the gray sweatshirt with the thick gold crucifix around his neck who’s in the ring’s corner, yelling out critiques to the two sparring partners dancing around each other—he’s the owner. Ronny’s no Mickey, but he’s a good man, and an even better trainer.
Through the years, I’ve pieced together bits of information he’s let slip when I’ve been the last one here at closing. In the late eighties, Ronny was a Wall Street big shot, living the dream. Then, on a Friday night, he and his family were driving out to the Hamptons for the weekend. Because he’d gotten jammed up at work, they’d had a late start, and a drowsy truck driver nodded off at the wheel, flew across the median into oncoming traffic—and smacked headfirst into Ronny’s BMW. He made it out of the accident with a concussion and a shattered femur. His wife and daughter didn’t make it out at all.
He spent a few years drowning in a bottle, a few more sobering up. Then he used the settlement money to buy this place. He doesn’t come off as bitter or sad, but I wouldn’t say he’s happy either. I think the gym keeps him going, gives him a reason to get up in the morning.
“Back up, Shawnasee!” Ronny yells at the fighter who’s got his sparring partner pinned against the ropes, pummeling his ribs. “This isn’t Vegas, for f**k’s sake, let the guy breathe.”
That Shawnasee kid’s an ass**le. You know the type—young, hot-headed, the kind of prick who would get out of his car to beat down some poor schmuck for cutting him off on the freeway. Which is another reason I like boxing—it’s the perfect opportunity to put idiots in their places without being charged with assault. Shawnasee’s been trying to goad me into the ring for a few months now, but it’s no fun fighting someone with piss-poor technique. No matter how hard they hit, they’ve got no shot at winning. I’m waiting until he gets better—then I’ll kick his ass.