Schrödinger’s Gat

Ronald Uno leans on the desk, casual, smiling. “The uncertainty’s the problem here, Mr. S. Will they or won’t they—how and when will we find out? You can appreciate The Boss’s concern, right?”

Arvy Schrödinger tilts his chair onto its back legs, tries to match Uno’s breeziness. “As I’ve been saying, Ron, the feds’ll never crack the code. I can’t imagine they’ll even find it.” Was that breezy? ”The Boss’s fears are completely unwarranted.” It all echoes smarmily in Schrödinger’s mind.

Ronnie Deuce shifts his bulk in the client chair; the leather seat squeals in protest. “Boss ain’t the one what got warranted, Schro. You did.” He sips his flask of whiskey as if he’s said something clever. “Lost the ledger, too.”

“The ledgers won’t give the prosecutor any traction against The Boss,” Schrödinger says for what must be the third time in fifteen minutes. “He’s a hundred percent in the clear.”

“The whatchama-Shakespeare, I’m talking about.”

The feds cleared Schrödinger’s bookshelves along with his filing cabinets. NCMA GAAP guide. Internal Revenue code. College accounting textbooks. A bust of Adam Smith. The Stratford “350th Anniversary” Collection of Shakespeare , the book with the cryptic symbols in its margins.

“You think the code’s noncrackable,” Deuce says, inventing words on the fly, “but you don’t know for sure. Hell, we could all be dead and just no one’s got round to telling us yet.”

Deuce’s logic is hard to follow, harder to find fault with, but Schrödinger hates to agree with him. Deuce being Deuce and all. He starts to protest, but Uno cuts him off with a short whistle and a shake of the head.

When they first arrived in Schrödinger’s office, the onesy-twosy bagmen scanned the room for bugs. Still, Uno turns the volume dial on the desktop radio up another notch. “Why don’t we go for a ride and talk this over someplace quiet?”

Benny Goodman’s clarinet stabs at Schrödinger’s eardrums. Get out of here, why not? He pushes his chair back from the kneehole. “I’d be glad to give The Boss my assurances personally.”

The hesitation screws the job, and Uno’s wince proves he knows it. “Sorry, Mr. S. Nothing personal.”

Schrödinger sags in his chair, forearms blocked against his knees. He looks down at his feet, inches from an odd lump in the rug beneath the desk. Then moans in resignation as he leans forward to stand and steps on the bump in the floor.

A compartment above the desk’s now-empty file drawer whispers open.

As he rises out of his chair, Schrödinger pulls a machine pistol from the hidey-hole. He stands and empties the clip.

Deuce shifts in his chair but doesn’t get up. Never will.

Uno holds his stomach as he drops to the floor. Something about the motion suggests that if he comes out of this alive and the rumors are true, he won’t be wearing halter-tops on his Asbury Park weekends anymore.

Schrödinger removes a fresh clip from the gun stash. He steps around the desk and looks at Uno, can’t tell if he’s breathing or not. A rat-a-tat later the matter is settled.

Some things are best not left to chance.

© 2006, 2024; first appeared in print in Flashing the Gutters, June 2006

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