“Mr. Roger’s is here.”
“Send him in,” Ruth McKinney instructed her assistant, hand cupped over the mouthpiece of her telephone. “Tom, I’ll call you back later. You too. Bye.”
“Hey, babe,” her client greeted her, lowering his lean, six-foot-two frame into a chair.
“How have you been, Bobby Lee?”
“Up to my ass in alligators, as usual,” he answered in his smoky voice.
“How did the tour go?”
“Feel like I been rode hard and put away wet.” Bobby Lee flung one boney, arthritic knee over the other. “So, what are my chances of those bastards payin’ up?”
“I’m in communication with the head of their copyright division and I’ve asked for all the back quarterly reports up to the present. We’ll see if they’ll comply with my request. If not, we have to take the next step.” Ruth rested her chin on one hand, a stray wisp of auburn hair falling across her slender wrist.
“I need those royalties, Ruth,” Bobby Lee said, drumming his knuckles on the arm of the chair.
“I know you do and I’m going to get them for you but we’re up against Goliath here. These guys do not like to pay out and the lower you are on the food chain…” She shrugged, apologetically. “But I’m on it,” she added, radiating what confidence she could under bleak circumstances. Bobby Lee narrowed his heavily lidded eyes and smiled with one corner of his mouth. By his sly expression, Ruth could sense another Southern colloquialism coming on.
“Well, babe, if you got the slingshot, I got the stones,” he said, suggestively. Ruth laughed and rose from her desk. She stood behind his chair, draping her long arms around his shoulders and kissed him on his stubbled cheek.
“You’re one sexy dude, you know that?”
“And you’re one hell of a woman,” he replied, squeezing her forearms. She straightened.
“Now go home and write some more hit songs and leave the dirty work to me.”
“I can do that.” He groaned as he rose. “Thanks, babe.”
“Anything for you,” Ruth whispered as the two of them hugged. When he’d gone, Ruth sighed and went back to her desk. She’d known Bobby Lee Rogers since she was a nineteen-year-old groupie and he was one of the hottest singer-songwriters in the music business. They had been lovers briefly until Ruth’s pride wouldn’t allow her to share him with a never ending beauty pageant of willing young girls. In those years, Bobby Lee lived high and wide, as he would say, spending money as fast as it was made, subsidizing every down on his luck friend from the early , salad days and a scourge of sycophantic parasites. When the music of the next generation evolved into something Bobby Lee couldn’t understand, his star burnt out and the money dried up. The old friends moved on and the others found fatter hosts to feed upon. Bobby Lee was reduced to playing the same tired songs at county fairs and small town, second rate venues. Now, living alone in a warehouse at the western foot of the Bay Bridge, he surrounded himself with guitars, gold records and other mementos of his once lavish life.
Ruth was working for him pro bono, trying to retrieve writer’s royalties from a major recording label. Their biggest band had a hit with one of Bobby Lee’s songs. Unfortunately, he had let his copyright lapse and the publishing division of the recording company had snapped it up. What might have been a flood of money was now just a trickle and even that was being dammed up in delays. Bobby’s case was a difficult distraction from her other work but for old time’s sake and as the last vestige of her reckless youth, Ruth couldn’t refuse him. Her telephone rang.
“Hello, counselor,” Eric said.
“Hi,” she answered, shuffling through a stack of files.
“I can’t, Eric. I’m swamped here.”
“Ruth,” he gently admonished. “I haven’t seen you in ten days.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” she apologized, insincerely.
“Is it really work or are you trying to tell me something?”
“Of course not. I’m just over my head in cases right now.”
“Dinner, then and don’t say no.”
“Ok. Dinner. Where?”
“Tadich’s at eight.”
“Right. I’ll call you if I can’t make it.”
“Don’t bother,” he snapped, defensively.
“What are we doing here, Ruth?”
“I can’t talk about this now,” she responded, cooly.
“Right. I’ll see you at eight. Or not.” He hung up. She closed her hazel eyes and took a deep breath.
(to be continued)