Life's going great for Dr. Robert Rosen. He has a New York City medical practice, his dreams of TV fame as "Dr. Sober-Up" are coming true, and he's making big bucks selling opioid prescriptions for cash. What could go wrong? Quite a lot, as it turns out, for the not-so-good doctor soon finds himself on the wrong side of both the law and the Russian mobsters with whom he has partnered in his illlicit side business. When his house of cards collapses, he tries to reinvent himself as a self-help guru, but his path toward redemption is anything but smooth. In the spirit of John Kennedy Toole and Chuck Palahniuk, a Very Innocent Man is a darkly comic novel that, as with all good satire, may not be so absurd after all.
Dr. Rosen returned to his apartment to find a stranger sitting on the Chesterfield. Leaning back against the cushions, legs spread as he leafed through the doctor's copy of The Way of the Bulldog II: Hang on to What You've Got, the man appeared very much at home. In his early thirties, or so the doctor guessed, trim but muscular, he wore jeans, a white T-shirt, and knee-high engineer boots. He had a shaved head and a silver stud on the right side of his nose. His visible tattoos included a spider on his neck, a skull on his left forearm, the letters ОМУТ on the back of his right hand, and extending the entire length of his right forearm, a dagger with a red-tipped blade. The stranger smelled heavily of sweat and tobacco. A brown leather briefcase lay on the sofa beside him. On the coffee table stood a half-empty bottle of the doctor's Merlot and a full goblet. Making quick work of the wine, the man stubbed
out his cigarette on the table and dropped the butt into the goblet. He put the book down, stood up, and extended his gnarly right hand. Unfazed by his host's failure to reciprocate, he reached out and squeezed the doctor's hand with a vice-like force and shook it with such vigor that Dr. Rosen feared his shoulder might become dislocated.
"Dr. Robert, I am Alexey Ivanovich Golovorez, CFO of Golovorez Solutions."
"CFO of what?"
The man looked like anything but a CFO.
"Golovorez Solutions. We do consulting. We use cuttingedge performance metrics to assess and optimize clients' business processes and provide solutions for companies of all sizes throughout tri-state area. We are retained by business partner of yours, Dr. Sergei Zhukov, CEO of Zhukov Pharmaceuticals and medical director of Peninsula Pain Clinic."
"Zhukov Pharmaceuticals is parent of Peninsula Pain Center."
"So what does any of this have to do with me? What are you doing in my apartment?"
"I am coming to that. So Dr. Zhukov, CEO of Zhukov Pharmaceuticals and medical director of Peninsula Pain Clinic, calls me, and he says, 'Alexey Ivanovich, we have supply issue. We want you to do business process analysis and find solution to this issue. Every Wednesday, for last four weeks, there are prescription shits missing from Dr. Robert's delivery. Before today, just one. Today, three shits are missing.'"
"I sent him the full order. There was nothing missing."
"This is not good, Dr. Robert. Some patients do not get their prescriptions. They are unhappy. Maybe they go somewhere else for treatment of chronic pain. Then clinic loses revenue, and investors do not get return they expect. This makes them unhappy. At Zhukov Pharmaceuticals headquarters, people are unhappy. Dr. Zhukov is most unhappy of all. He weeps so because he cannot relieve patients' pain and suffering. And also, he weeps for lost revenue. "So we at Golovorez Solutions conduct business process analysis like he asks. We find solution is you pay $25,000."
His eyes full of menace, the man moved a step closer.
"So what you say, Dr. Robert?"
The wanderers who populate these dazzling stories appear in various settings — a piano bar in Rome, a train in Kenya, Yankee Stadium — but nowhere are they quite at home. Often, they struggle to navigate geographical and emotional terrain that they find unrecognizable as they search for hope, redemption, and love.