Next day, Michael returns to that same table at that same café, where Strickler is already sitting and waiting. Strickler pushes a newspaper across the table to Michael, calling it his "share of the Ukrainian deal." By which he means not the newspaper, but the thick envelope of cash hidden under it. It's probably enough to buy the actual newspaper, as in the institution. If nothing else, the eventual death of print media would make it a lot more difficult to conduct illicit cash transactions in public. Strickler explains that he negotiated some payment for eliminating Chechik from some Baltic separatists, and this, apparently, is Michael's 90-percent share of that pie. Michael pushes it back, saying he didn't do it for the money. Strickler already knows that, because Michael never does anything for money, but he's trying to get Michael to see it as gravy. Michael cuts him off: "I'm never going to work with you. Not for the money, not for the yogurt, the curtains...I'm not a mercenary." Finally, Strickler has stopped smiling. He concedes the point, but suggests that Michael think about what he wants and deserves. More yogurt? "A man with your skills, your background. Burned, out in the cold with nothing. Don't answer right now. Just think about it." Picking up the newspaper and the cash envelope, Strickler shrugs, "I'll be around," and leaves. Michael watches him go, not entirely convinced. On either side, apparently.
Next week: Fi gets shot! Thanks, USA Network, for giving me a preview so that I know to establish an alibi.
M. Giant is a Minneapolis-based writer with a wife, a son, and a number of cats that seems to have settled at around two. Learn waaaay too much about him at Velcrometer, follow him on Twitter, or just e-mail him at M.Giant[at]gmail.com.