The rain had been coming down hard since noon and from the looks of it, the young couple seated in the waiting room outside of Steve Trapper’s office had been caught unprepared by the sudden downpour. The dark work shirt that the husband wore clung to his skinny chest in dampness while the wife’s powder blue maids uniform kept hitching, soggy and wrinkled in alluring ways against her slick chest and thighs. Trapper watched her through the window on the far wall across from his desk and admired the way that she self consciously fidgeted about trying repeatedly to straighten the hem.
They had come to him this evening in need of some auto insurance. The husband had just purchased a tow truck that they’d considered necessary to start their own business repairing cars from a garage they’d rented out in the Bronx. Obtaining the insurance was the last impediment to their dreams and they’d sought out Trapper to help them with it. Each of them was an uneducated, Latino working at a minimum wage job with no prior credit history. The insurance agent specialized in assisting people in their predicament. It was widely known around the city that he would insure almost anyone for a price.
Ruddy faced and carrying his extra weight with confidence, Trapper’s smile beamed down from no less than 20 billboards in and around the New York area. His slogan “We’ll get you rollin’!” was a fixture overlooking many of the five boroughs lower income districts. The agent had even gone so far as to buy airtime on most of the local television and radio stations where his bombastic ads played to young, working class audiences using a mixture corny hip-hop slang and electronic drum beats.
Right now as the couple waited nervously outside, Trapper was on the phone with one of his other clients trying to resolve a billing issue. Normally, this would have been a matter for his secretary to handle but she’d called in sick that morning leaving it up to him. The man he was speaking to had totaled out a cab with a moving van midway through last month. As a result the insurance agent had decided to readjust his risk bracket and alter his contract.
“I understand your predicament Mr. Dancer,” Trapper said calmly. “But you need to try to see things from my point of view-”
“See things from your point of view?” The man interrupted cutting him off angrily. “You’ve hit me with an $800 bill on top of the $2,000 deductable that I just finished paying you!”
“Mr. Dancer.” Trapper began again, a condescending tone now creeping into his voice. “You were considered a high risk client when I decided to insure you. No one else would give you a policy that you could afford and yet I decided to take pity on your situation and give you the coverage that you needed to run your business.”
“Your coverage was too expensive before.” The man seethed. “How the hell am I supposed to pay $800 a month now?”
Trapper didn’t imagine that Thomas Dancer would have been able to pay for the adjustment and he said as much in his reply. “Well naturally I’d expect you to shop around for another insurance agent.” He answered knowing that he was leaving the man with no other choice.
Trapper ran a private business which allowed him the opportunity to live in a five bedroom house out in the woods of Connecticut as well as afford private memberships to several of the area’s best golf clubs. Only last week the insurance agent had bought a brand new Cadillac which had come fully loaded and at considerable expense. He was able to maintain this lifestyle through cut throat business practices such as charging premium rates to all his clients as well as retaining the authority to change their contracts at a moments notice. Keeping a zero tolerance accident rule was one of the advantages that being an agent of last resort had afforded him.
“I want to come by and discuss this bullshit with you face to face you cocksucker.” Dancer said menacingly through the phone.
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” The insurance agent replied. “Please save yourself the trip.”
“I’m four blocks away.” Dancer shot back.
Trapper felt his stomach tighten.
On paper the man on the phone had appeared to be a risk but he wasn’t like many of the other blue collar workers and foreigners that Trapper kept as regular clients. Thomas Dancer had been educated at Annapolis and after graduating at the top of his class as a military officer, he had worked at the Pentagon for over fifteen years holding several top secret positions. In 2002 his credit report showed that he’d been divorced. Following that, at age 38 his employment history indicated three consecutive tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. At the beginning of his second deployment he’d suddenly received a dishonorable discharge for reasons that weren’t entirely clear.
If Trapper were to speculate on what the reasons might have been that led to Dancer being forced from the military after so long a service he would have assumed them to be alcoholism and temper. In the years that followed his return to civilian life, Dancer’s public record showed a series of arrest and bookings on charges ranging from public drunkenness to disorderly conduct. The man had yet to serve hard time but his unremitting history of violent behavior spurred on by drink had led to him being both on probation and under psychiatric counseling when the agent had first met him.
“I really don’t think you should come by.” Trapper spoke getting up from his desk to walk over to the front window looking out across the parking lot. It was dark outside, a combination of the thick rainclouds and looming evening. Beyond the silver lines of his new Cadillac which was parked right beyond the window the agent could see cars passing by with their headlights on. None of them seemed to slow down or turn in.
“No.” Dancer replied steadily. “I’m coming by. I’m three blocks away now. Don’t you need to inspect my vehicle?”
Dancer’s coverage had been on a small moving van that he was using to make ends meet. Like the young couple outside, he’d needed the truck to be in business for himself however unlike them, his self-employment had been out of necessity rather than ambition. Despite his education and his esteemed history with the military, his arrest record and subsequent probation had made him unemployable. When he’d hit the taxi two weeks ago, Trapper hadn’t seen the need to inspect his vehicle. This had partly been due to the fact that Dancer’s policy was for liability only but mainly because he’d intended to drop the man as a client anyway.
“You’re policy didn’t cover damages to your own property.” The insurance agent answered semi-pacing the floor. “You don’t need to come by Mr. Dancer.”
“Shouldn’t I drop off the accident report?” The man asked. Trapper could hear the whine of the vehicles engine through the phone as Dancer accelerated.
“I don’t need it.” Trapper said. “I already got one from the city.”
“I’m two blocks away.” Dancer said. Trapper couldn’t help but notice that the time between blocks had decreased substantially.
“I’ve got people in my office waiting for me Mr. Dancer. I don’t have time to meet with you to discuss anything.”
“I’m one block away.” Dancer replied.
“Look.” Trapper said going back over to his desk to check his calendar. The date was June 7th. “Your policy is still effective through the end of the month. That gives you three weeks to make other arrangements.”
“I’m here.” Dancer said, “You’d better get out of the way.”
Then all hell broke loose.
From where he stood Trapper heard the low thud of an undercarriage striking the curb outside. He had a moment to turn and see the muted flash of headlights striking against the office blinds before the room was filled with the banshee like wail of metal crushing against metal. In an explosion of splintered wood, shattered glass and papers fluttering through the air the front of his brand new Cadillac came crashing through his office wall. The insurance agent had just enough time to dive out of the way as the car bounced over buildings the foundation shoving aside an end table, a lamp and two chairs before coming to a rest directly before the mahogany surface of his desk.
Trapper sat there for a moment trying to catch his breath as the chaos died down around him. In the flickering light of a fluorescent lamp which hung down from the ceiling of his destroyed office he could see the young couple still seated in the waiting room staring back at him with ashen faces. Outside the hole that was once his wall Dancer’s moving van sat its windshield cracked and hood smoking.
Slowly he became aware that he was still clutching the phone. Struggling to his feet Trapper lifted the receiver to his ear.
“I guess it’s a good thing I’m still covered.” Dancer said, sounding weak and muffled from the other end. “You’ll never believe this but I just totaled your Cadillac you motherfucker.”