Author: philcline

Privacy and Property

Privacy and Property

This week’s segment of Cline on the Constitution

 

Privacy and Property

 

One momentous decision of the Supreme Court’s last term involved cell-phone privacy.

 

In Carpenter vs. U.S., penned by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court found that data collected from a cell phone that pinpointed a suspected robber’s movements over 127 days involving 12,898 location points violated the target’s privacy rights.  It found that he had “an expectation of privacy” in the data on his cell phone.

 

While most of us assume the information on our cell phones is private, legally it has been far from clear that the protection from governmental intrusion is of constitutional dimension. The Court regularly employs an “expectation of privacy” test. Essentially, a person must have a “objectively reasonable” expectation of privacy in the area to be searched.

 

The “expectation of privacy” test was derived from the landmark case Katz vs. U.S. The court found it that case that a listening device attached to the outside of a telephone booth violated the Fourth Amendment. (Most of my students have never seen a telephone booth. I show them a picture) The court ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure was violated since the occupant of the phone booth had a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

 

In order to reach the holding in Carpenter, however, the Roberts court had to ignore two of its own precedents that held there was no “expectation of privacy” in records held by a third party.  In United States v Miller, the court held there was no expectation of privacy in financial records held by a bank and in United States vs. Smith it held there was no expectation of privacy in records of telephone numbers conveyed to the telephone company.  So, can we reasonably say we have an expectation of privacy when our cell phone data is held by a third party, i.e. the entities that operate the servers over which the data flows or is stored.

 

The Carpenter case had to stretch the rationale for the decision to fit the Expectation of Privacy doctrine. And the way it did so gives us a potential roadmap for how the law will develop in the future.  Given the interdependence of modern technology, the Expectation of Privacy test is either going to have be refined or replaced.

 

I will go into more detail on the Carpenter case in my next blog, but I thought it might be worthwhile to explore how the Court was able to arrive at the decision it did.  It gives us a hint of where the jurisprudence might go.

 

One of the cases the Roberts court cited repeatedly was a decision written by the brilliant Justice Antonin Scalia. The case was actually discussed by the nominee in the Kavanaugh hearings though it went over every senator’s head with exception of Senator Lee from Utah.

 

The case was U.S. vs, Jones. The government attached a GPS device to a car and left it on beyond the time authorized by a warrant.  Scalia, to the consternation of the justices in the minority found it was unnecessary to consider the Katz “Expectation of Privacy” test because the government’s action was a trespass against the Property rights of the car owner.

 

And here we pause. Property Rights?  Are they important anymore?  We might want to pay attention since the Far Left has unleased the dogs of socialism.

 

The Fourth Amendment protects “The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure.”  Note it says nothing about privacy rights; what it does talk about are property rights: “houses, papers and effects.” In Scalia’s historical analysis he argued that the framers plainly included this language to protect against the trespass of these property rights by the government.

 

One more example:  The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, orproperty, without Due Process of Law”. As originally written the provision was a restriction on only the Federal Government.  The Fourteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War, made it applicable to the States.  “Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without Due Process of Law.”

 

Were property rights put on a par with rights to life and liberty by the drafters of the Constitution?  In contemporary society, a premium is put on protecting individual rights and liberties.  Okay.  But did the framers, in their wise and prudent efforts to protect us from governmental oppression, know something we have lost sight of regarding the rights to property?

 

Let’s drill down just a little further.

 

John Locke and the natural rights theory, that is that our rights are given us by our maker not granted to us by a government, led to the explicit protection of unenumerated rights in the Ninth Amendment.  And one of those unenumerated rights is the Right of Privacy which we hold so dear today. Privacy encompasses a broad range of “rights” such as abortion, marriage and, now, Cell phone privacy.  Though we traditionally trace the right of privacy to decisions written by the likes of Justice Douglas in the sixties, ironically, the first time the term was used by the Supreme Court was a business/contract case circa 1938.

 

Besides John Locke there were actually two other early influencers on Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and John Adams.

 

And now for some concepts I brazenly lifted from studies on the philosophical underpinnings of the Constitution.  Go ahead and read it.  It won’t hurt.

 

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) believed Man is most actuated by self-preservation and, therefore, seeks power in all its forms.  Yet Man is not a beast in the jungle and realizes in anarchy only brute force prevails. Man, therefore, surrenders some of his rights to government, in return for protection and order. He, thereby, insures himself a society where cunning rather than strength is the essence.

 

Hobbes’s attitude toward the nature of Man coincided with the old Puritan doctrine of Man’s depravity and justified the “property consciousness of an acquisitive young society.”  Those same utterances can be traced to the Federalism constructs of Alexander Hamilton.

 

John Locke (1632-1704) differed with Hobbes on many things, though they shared the view of the perverse and predatory nature of Man and agreed that government was necessary to prevent anarchy. The form the government should take was where they differed. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that to curb man’s perversity of his own nature, man creates government and in so doing willingly surrenders some measure of his natural rights in return for security for person and property.  However, man does not sign over a blank check.  To Locke, government is a function of the governed, existing by their consent and responsible to them for its actions.  Government is not a Sovereign but rather a Fiduciary, a property concept.

 

All men, Locke said, have a natural instinct for life, liberty, and property.  The first two of those Man holds in common with beasts, but the third, property, is peculiar to man alone. It is in the view of Locke and others justified by the Bible.  “God has given the earth to the Children of men.”

 

He concludes that the rights of life and liberty can to a large degree be obtained in the state of nature, but the right to property is insured only under government.

 

“The great and chief end,” he says, “therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.”  He felt the right of property was inviolable and that government is bound by social contract to protect that right and may never abrogate it without the consent of the property owner.  He felt that in times of war and emergency, the government can conscript the life and limit the freedom of the individual, but may never arbitrarily remove his possessions.

 

Locke in exalting the three virtues of life, liberty, and property, argued the greatest of these is property.

 

The third philosophical influence, Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was a disciple of Locke, but a far more sanguine believer in the natural goodness of Man. He bemoaned Man’s acquisitive nature and discoursed on his belief that in a state of nature where the fruits of the earth are available to all, Man is “a noble savage” ignorant, satisfied, and perfectly free.  When private property is introduced, Man begins to lose his natural goodness.  Government is there, he believed, to protect private property, and therefore is corrupting. A significant concession.  He therefore, advocated for a pure democratic form of government, in which sovereignty rests in the people.

 

Our founders, however, viewed Rousseau’s views dimly and his view that the general good is more important than personal possessions had no appeal to them though his ideas about universal education and the virtues of agrarian life, were later reflected in the views of Jefferson and ultimately, Andrew Jackson.

 

Heavy stuff.

 

But, it does establish that property rights to the framers of the Constitution were extremely important. And to maintain true freedom, they felt, the government should be restricted in interference with an individual’s property rights.  Something we should keep in mind when we contemplate the schemes the government in Sacramento is contemplating.  They have many grand schemes, including universal health care for citizen and non-citizen alike.  They have to pay for many of these grand schemes, not with their money, but with ours. There is no other funding source. And for the average citizens, whose major possessions are their automobiles and homes, one might be concerned that their property rights being whittle away by a government who wants to decide how they are to live, how they are to drive, and how they are to enjoy the property they own.

 

In my next segment I will try to connect this up to how the Supreme Court is going to handle this crossroad.  And how Constitutional law is headed for a collision between Privacy and Property.

 

For more articles on the Constitution and other writings  by Phil Cline, visit philcline.com

 

Laugh like a young man

Laugh like a young man

Trigger Warning. Caution:  This poem tends to glorify being a man.

 

Laugh as a Young Man Laughs

 

Laugh as a young man laughs.

Laugh hearty, laugh out loud,

 

Laugh at facing a day’s hard work,

Laugh at the wobble in your knees

Hauling hundred pound sacks of “taters”

Balanced across your shoulders.

 

Laugh and lug the loads up the ramp,

In the back of the big Mac Truck trailer.

 

Laugh at how damn hot it is gets,

At the sweat dripping off your forehead,

Running in your eyes and stings like hell,

Laugh at the damn forecast cause it’s only going to get hotter.

 

Laugh like a man laughs

As he strips the rotten shingles,

Splashes the black tar, shoots the nails

Into the new shakes on the old roof.

 

Laugh at the beer headache from the night before,

Laugh at needing to piss real bad,

Laugh at the cussing from the young wife

For flirting with a buddy’s girlfriend.

 

Tune up the News, laugh at the stupidity

Of pundits, presidents, prime ministers

And the local councilman

Who sells used cars during the day.

 

Laugh as they scheme to steal your wages

And spend your Money

At night meetings in empty chambers.

Laugh cause you know they’re all thieves,

 

Every one of them.

 

Laugh in your soul at how good to feel

Your muscles strain and push and pull

And dig and wedge, and turn and wrench

Until some mighty thing you’ve decided to move, moves.

 

Sling a sledge, chop an ax down hard,

Split the wood, explode the bark.

Feel the cool sweat return,

Rivulets down the back, over the belly,

 

The way it does when you work hard,

Gets the poison out,

Toughens the sinews, bulges up the arms

Bulks up the shoulders.

 

Breathe in the dirt and dust swirling

From your hits, stomps, kicks, and slams.

Could get you hurt?  Yeah!  And hell, if it does, laugh,

Got to do the work, so the hell with it.

 

Grit your teeth, smile, and “gett’er done” anyway.

Brag, yell, say what you think.  Don’t whisper,

Don’t’ chant, don’t hum nonsensical crap.

Be sure of everything, exclaim your beliefs to everyone,

 

Whoop it up, Shout out, In their face,

Laugh at the soft, weak, snotty effete professors of profanity

Who’ve never thumped a shovel in the ground

Turned over the dark earth, never crumbled clods in their hands

 

And who fear the offense of being a man.

Laugh as they shrink, and if they move to fight, club them back down

Sneer at their bowing and scrapping.

Laugh at their cringe, at their sniveling.

 

Know, by God, you are not wrong.

Laugh and go ahead, go forward,

It’s a job to do and, by God, it feels good to have a strong heart

Beating in a rhythm, a cadence in time with strong legs and arms

 

And the will to build,

Then tear up, then shatter,

Then erect it back up and then

Tear it right down again.

 

Don the pads and take the field

Tackle a runner and slam him to the ground,

Laugh when he moans and utters “good hit.”

Break up a double play and spike the shortstop,

 

Go on the court and Dunk the ball.  Hard!

Make the backboard shake, your defender cower,

Humiliated, mad as hell at you.

Laugh at the fear in his eyes when you drive toward him again.

 

Jump in a muscle car, a combustion engine!

Blow blue smoke in the atmosphere. Break the speed limit.

Hit the pedal, press it all the way down, peg the tach,

Go fast. Push a “vette into a curve too fast and

Pedal down! Accelerate out.

 

Ski head long down the high hills,

Those way beyond your skill.

Walk out on the edge of the cliff

And feel the danger of falling and laugh,

 

Show off and do a funny dance

Almost fall over and down the canyon laughing,

 

Launch on the ocean when its roiling.

Turn the sail boat sideways into the wind,

Race the storm to shore

Dare it to catch you, swamp you.

 

Walk down the avenue in the storm.

Out yell the thunder. Light a smelly cigar,

Lift your face heavenward

And dare the lighting.

 

Shoot a shotgun.  Feel the boom,

The shock, the force, the power,

And laugh at the splitting target.

And fire it again while your ears still ring.

 

Howl and joke with the whores

Standing on the corner.

Laugh cause your wit can never match theirs,

Laugh cause they know how stupid men really are.

 

Jump in the middle of drunken brawl,

Sock somebody in the jaw, sucker punch some dickhead,

Then buy them a drink and grab a hunk of beefsteak or ice pack

For the black eye he gave you right back.

 

And, Man, listen, if they come for us. Go to war. Fight the bastards.

Kill the sons’a’bitches with a knife, a gun, a grenade,

Blow them up with a shell from a tank.

Laugh over their bodies, kick them in the side of the head.

 

Laugh as you ship home

Laugh as you care for the widow and orphan

Because it’s hard, sacrifice is hard,

Duty is hard.

 

But you owe it to your brother

As he owes it to you.

 

And while you’re at it, Kick the bum off your sidewalk.

Laugh at his drunken curses

As he rolls around in the gutter,

Getting his filthy blanket soaked.

 

Then buy him a steak dinner

With mashed potatoes, with all the fixings

And, yes, a beer and laugh at his sorry tale

Cause they are all sorry tales.

 

Drive a cement truck, its big belly spinning.

Keep it going and turning so the cement

Don’t cure, then pour a foundation,

And carve your initials in the wet pavement.

 

Shift the transmission

On the big Caterpillar,

Ram it into gear,

Will it up the mountain road

 

So you can dig out the old road,

Haul it away and scrape level the ground for a new road.

 

Feel the strength in your shoulders and chest

As you wrestle a bridge in place,

Span it over the gorge, build it to last a hundred years.

Laugh at the hundred years.

 

Step heavy and loud into the forest.  Leave the camera.

Fell the redwood tree, chop it down,

Strap it to the long bed truck

And drive it to the mill.

 

Strip the bark, plane it through the giant saws.

Laugh when you tell how you cut off your forefinger

Right up to the knuckle because the damn board jumped

When it bounced off a knot in the wood.

 

Roughhouse with the dog.

Get him fired up and fighting.

Snarling and growling,

See if you can make him bite.

 

And laugh at his barking at you

Because he can’t out rough you.

 

And when you get tired, lay down,

Sprawl across the clean sheets

In your dirty sweaty clothes

And take your pulse and laugh

 

At the life beating, pumping under your wrist,

Deep in your chest, echoing across the canyons and gullies

Of your town, your nation, your region

And reverberating

 

In the laugher of other young men

Of every kind, on every other side of the planet,

In every time and every place.

Laugh it up with the young guys.

 

 

Cline on the Constitution

Cline on the Constitution

Justice Kavanaugh and Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

 

Tuesday morning the Senate will open hearings on the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.   The candidate has lived an honorable life, is well liked, enjoys a reputation as a good and decent man, and is an experienced and imminently qualified jurist who has served a decade on the most important Court of Appeals in the land.

 

So, what can we expect of the hearing?

 

We can expect the hearing to be interrupted by vulgar screaming demonstrators in mass produced t-shirts, we can expect Justice Kavanaugh and his family to be subjected to sustained scurrilous attacks by self-serving, self-promoting, shameless Senators who have already made up their mind but see theatrical opportunity for personal advancement in permanently damaging the man’s good character.

 

Okay.  We live with that.

 

But hidden among the garbage, we can also expect a few nuggets of Constitutional law worthy of discussion.  Much of it will center on past case decisions of the Supreme Court.  In those discussions, we will probably hear phrases like “Case Precedent” and “Stare Decisis”.  Important concepts.  What do they actually mean? And why are they important?

 

One example relevant to the hearings:  Lines of questioning about Roe v Wade promise to be repetitive. Roe v Wade is the case which first held the Right to Privacy encompasses the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy under certain circumstances.  The inquiries will concern the nominee’s commitment to Roe v Wade as “Case Precedent” and whether he may or may not vote to overrule the decision. This is where the rules of “Stare decisis” come into play.

 

The words are, obviously, Latin. They mean “standing by the decision.” The term is actually derived the from the Latin phrase, “stare decisis et non quieta movere,”or “stand by matters that have been decided and do not disturb what is tranquil.”

 

A lot of wisdom in that. As Geoffrey Chaucer said in 1380, “it is nought good a slepying hound to wake.” Or as us country boys would say “Let sleeping dogs lie.” But of course, we lawyers have to dress it up a tinge. We say, “It is a fundamental policy of our law that, except in unusual circumstances, a court’s determination on a point of law will be followed by courts of the same or lower rank in later cases presenting the same legal issue.”

 

Makes sense when you think about it.  To the extent possible we want our law to be predictable, stable and secure. We want it to be uniform, efficient and we want courts to act with a modicum of constraint in changing what has become accepted law.

 

One Supreme Court Justice put it thus, “(u)nless we wish anarchy to prevail within the federal judicial system, a precedent of this Court must be followed by the lower federal courts no matter how misguided the judges of those courts may think it to be.”

 

And as the famous Justice Benjamin Cardozo said, “(t)he labor of judges would be increased almost to the breaking point if every past decision could be reopened in every case, and one could not lay one’s own course of bricks on the secure foundation of the courses laid by others who had gone before him.”

 

All fine sentiments, but is the worry that changing the make-up of the Supreme Court could endanger established case precedent real?  After all, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes once said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is, . . .”

 

In fact, the Court has reversed itself over two hundred times and three quarters of those were Constitutional decisions. The most famous example is the landmark decision of Brown v Board of Education which reversed previous court’s decision which had sanctioned “Separate but Equal” in the field of education.

 

I recently read an article in a legal journal about a book I knew about, but which I’ve never read and don’t intend to.  The book is an 800-page tome named “The Law of Judicial Precedent.” As Justice Neil Gorsuch stated during his confirmation hearings, “It makes an excellent doorstop.”

Interestingly enough, not only was Justice Gorsuch among many other legal scholars a contributing author, but so was Justice Kavanaugh.

 

The book (I choose to rely on the article’s summary in the legal journal than to read such a monstrosity), theorizes the doctrine of stare decisis applies less rigidly in constitutional cases than it does in statutory cases because the correction of an erroneous constitutional decision by the legislature is well-nigh impossible.  For example, the Congress can more easily pass a law correcting a Court decision about a Coal mine than one interpreting Free Speech.

 

On the other hand, the treatise states, “If at least five members of the Court are sufficiently convinced that the law has gone gravely wrong, then the Court will exercise its prerogative to overrule the earlier case and put things aright.”

 

But like legal matters, even Judges (although local ones especially have to be frequently reminded of this) are not free to willy-nilly rule one way or the other.  The values of reliable precedent must be upheld so the court uses factors in analyzing when a prior case should be overruled.  Because of space concerns I won’t go over all of the factors, but it is well to note that the Court used such an approach in its recent decision to overrule case precedents involving “union closed shops.” After weighing the value and reliability of these case precedents, they found it was unconstitutional to require all government employees to pay union dues whether they belonged to the Union or not.

 

The vote was 5-4.  Gorsuch (and Kennedy) was in the majority.

 

For more Cline on the Constitution and other writings by Phil Cline visit philcline.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cake Baking case

The Cake Baking case

This week’s segment of Cline on the Constitution.

 

“We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.”

 

When Americans think of Civil Rights, they often think of the Constitution.  That is okay.  But it is inaccurate.

 

Our most fundamental rights are enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  There is, however, a distinction between the Bill of Rights and Civil Rights legislation. The Protections contained in the Bill of Rights are directed against Government Action. Civil Rights laws, on the other hand, regulate Private Conduct.  For example, being denied access to a government building may violate the Bill of Rights.  Being denied accommodations at a privately owned inn or restaurant involves Civil Rights law not the Constitution.

 

Civil Rights laws are not part of the Constitution.  They are laws which, like other laws, are passed by the Congress and State Legislatures or, increasingly, local government entities such as city councils or school boards. And as such, unlike the Bill of Rights they can be changed by the same governmental body that passed the law in the first place.

 

When in conflict with the United States Constitution, Civil Rights laws are invalid.  The reason being because the United States Constitution has a Supremacy clause.  It is the Supreme Law of the land. No federal, state or local ordinance, even if it is in the nature of Civil Rights legislation, may violate the United States Constitution nor a citizen’s rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

 

The primary Federal Civil Rights Laws were passed by Congress in 1964.  The authority to pass the laws is based upon the Constitutional grant to Congress of the power to regulate Interstate Commerce.

 

What this means is that if it can be rationally argued that conduct by a private business “affects” Interstate Commerce then Civil Rights laws that regulate the conduct is constitutional.

 

Two examples may help clarify. We all remember that during the civil rights movement, one of the tactics used to end segregation in transportation was to have teams of Black people ride buses throughout the South.   State enforced public-accommodations laws restricting where Blacks were allowed to ride in buses were thereby challenged.  Because the private business of busing could be directly shown to “affect” interstate commerce even if the bus never crossed state lines the Civil Rights legislation prohibiting the discrimination by private bus companies was constitutional. On the other hand, attempts by States to regulate gun possession by enforcing gun free zones near schools could not be justified as “affecting” interstate commerce and were struck down by the Supreme Court as violative of the Second Amendment.

 

Besides the Federal Civil Rights laws, there is a whole other layer of Civil Rights laws which have grown up over the last several decades.  The first level is at the State level.  Though some of the States have long histories of acting to prohibit discrimination, their laws were generally limited to discrimination based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

 

Modernly, there are not only State Civil Rights laws, there are County Civil Rights laws and even City Civil Rights laws.  Almost all are directed toward outlawing discrimination by private businesses against groups of persons.

 

And the list of groups has expanded over the last several decades.

 

Among others, modern civil rights laws address discrimination as applied to race, gender, creed, ethnic origins, religious minorities, sexual orientation, marital status, ancestry, disability, illegitimacy and the newest category, gender identity.

 

The list expands or contracts depending on the jurisdiction.

 

And the frontier is being pushed even further.  California’s legislature is in the process of passing a new Civil Rights law requiring half of all corporate board of directors of private business be women. Of course, if they can require such a quota for women, how long will it be before other groups demand equal representation on corporations doing business in the State?

 

What makes for interesting juxtapositions of this tome of Civil Rights legislation at the state and local level is the Constitution of the United States. Actions to enforce civil rights laws, be it by court or commission, is Government Action and, therefore, if the enforcement action impinges on an individual’s rights under the Bill of Rights, the matter is brought full circle.  The question is joined.  Does the Civil Rights law violate the Constitution?

 

This is where a man by the name of Jack Phillips found himself.  Mr. Phillips owns and operates a bakery. He is a devout Christian.  He operates his business according to Christian principles even if it means forgoing income.  He is closed on Sundays, he pays his employees higher than minimum wage, he gives them loans of money in time of need, he refuses to bake cakes containing alcohol, he refuses to bake cakes with racist or homophobic messages or cakes criticizing God and refuses to bake cakes celebrating Halloween even though Halloween is one of the most lucrative seasons for bakeries.

 

Two men asked him to prepare a wedding cake in celebration of their marriage.  He declined.  He offered to prepare and sell them any other baked goods they desired, including birthday cakes, but to create the cake celebrating a marriage of a same sex couple violated his religious beliefs that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. To create such a cake celebrating the opposite of what he believed, he argued, violated his First Amendment rights, both as to the First Amendment guarantee of the Free Exercise of one’s religion and Freedom of Expression.

 

His argument brought to the fore, two rights that are superior to any state or local civil rights ordinance: Freedom of Religion and Free Speech.

 

The State of Colorado made short shrift of the Mr. Phillip’s religious beliefs and ruled he violated the couple’s rights by not baking the cake. One commissioner went so far as to equate Mr. Phillips refusal to bake a cake to debunked justifications for slavery and the holocaust. He said, “and to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”

 

The Colorado commission’s reprehensible treatment of Phillips gave Justice Kennedy a gift.

 

Justice Kennedy is the author of the most important gay rights cases of the era, including the Obergefell case banning restrictions on Gay Marriage.

 

And on his way off the court, he needed to find a way to uphold Phillips without endangering the progress in jurisprudence regarding gay rights he had led the way in engendering.

 

In a 7-2 decision written by Kennedy, the court found for Mr. Phillips.  However, as I said in my last blog entry, they essentially punted. They didn’t find that Mr. Phillips rights were violated by requiring he bake the cake or be fined.

 

Rather, in his majority opinion Kennedy found that the Colorado commission’s treatment of Phillips demonstrated an “unconstitutional hostility to his religious beliefs.”  He went on to fashion some new rules, which may or may not survive the test of time.  But he did not address the Free Exercise or Freedom of Speech issues.  He essentially kicked the can on those issues down the road to be decided by a future Supreme Court.

 

As to the Free Exercise clause, the court is walking a tight rope of their own making.  On the one hand, they fear that if they allow people to assert their religious beliefs in denying service to identifiable groups it would undermine all civil rights laws that seek to govern private conduct. A return to the back of the bus as it were. On the other hand, does government get to make the decisions on what is a valid religious belief and tell citizens they are not free to exercise their religion as they choose? The Constitution explicitly says No.

 

What is most interesting about the case and what has not received a lot of public discussion, but which was very much on the minds of many of the Justices as reflected in the concurring opinions penned by Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas is what I believe is a major freedom of expression issue and what the court will have to address in the near future. And that is “Compelled Speech.”  It has import in many areas.  From college campuses enforcing speech codes as if they were “re-education camps” to the large internet companies policing points of view.

 

As applied to the Baker, the court acknowledged that Mr. Phillips considered the cakes he made as works of art.  As such they were “expressive conduct” which is protected under the First Amendment.

 

Additionally, as I outlined in my last blog, requiring speech approved by the government is just as violative of the first amendment as restricting protected speech.

 

For example, the court referenced a previous case in which the Court struck down an ordinance requiring the organizers of a Saint Patrick’s Day parade to include a unit celebrating gays and bisexuals.

 

The court explained that they rejected the notion that governments can mandate thoughts and statements acceptable to some groups or indeed all people, as the “antithesis of free speech.” As one of the concurring opinions stated, “One important manifestation of the principle of free speech is that one who chooses to speak may decide what NOT to say and tailor the content of his message as he sees fit.”

 

Colorado attempted to justify requiring the creation of the cake as compelling Phillip’s speech to prevent him from “denigrating the dignity” of same sex couples, “asserting their inferiority” and subjecting them to “humiliation, frustration, and embarrassment.”

 

One justice wrote, “These justifications are completely foreign to our free-speech jurisprudence.” He went on to say, “States cannot punish protected speech because some group finds it offensive, hurtful, stigmatic, unreasonable, or undignified.” And further, “it is not the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive.”

 

The Justice hit the nail on the head when he quoted an earlier case, “If the only reason a public-accommodations law regulates speech is “to produce a society free of biases against protected groups, that purpose is decidedly fatal to the law’s constitutionality, for it amounts to nothing less than a proposal to limit speech in the service of orthodox expression.”

 

I foresee many other instances where the Bill of Rights is going to come into conflict with the increasingly aggressive use of State and local ordinances to say nothing of school rules designed to stifle unwelcome opinions by requiring a rote declaration of allegiance to principles dictated by those in authority.

 

Ultimately, such laws harm rather help the cause of gay rights as well as other civil rights by oppressing those who may disagree with what we believe.

 

Stay tuned.

 

But about those signs “reserving the right to refuse service to anyone.”?

 

Forget it.

 

For other articles on the Constitution as well as writings by Phil Cline, visit philcline.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speech Issues on Abortion

Speech Issues on Abortion

This week’s segment of Cline on the Constitution continues the review of major cases decided by the Supreme Court in the last term.

 

The court issued opinions on two cases involving Freedom of Speech and Association.

 

In one case the Court affirmed an important principle regarding Free Speech.  In the other they punted.

 

As to the first case, California’s steady drift toward becoming a complete “Nanny State” resulted in a law directly targeting, appropriately enough, anti-abortion pregnancy Centers.

 

In National Institute etc. v Becerra, operators of Pro-Life clinics challenged a State Law requiring that they post information on how to get no cost state funded abortions. The law compelled these clinics to speak against, indeed advertise, the very thing they abhor. It is rather Kafkaesque to, by force of law, require people to advertise for a state funded procedure that is anathema to their core beliefs on religion, health and morality.

 

And that is aside from the fact we were given yet another law, which assumes a free people, are inept and incompetent. In a state like California where obtaining an abortion is literally free on demand, and the State puts out endless reams of materials about to how and where to get an abortion, the “ninny nannies” in the legislature and Governor’s mansion harbor the inchoate suspicion that a woman who wants one might not be able to figure it out how to get one.

 

The second case is the infamous “Masterpiece Cakeshop” case which presented the issue whether the Court would be willing to uphold a governmental decision that someone’s religious beliefs and practices must be cast aside in service to an ever-increasing alphabet of offended persons who can’t be expected to walk across the street to another merchant to buy a damn wedding cake.  The case centers on the intersection of both Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.  I will have more to say about this case next week.

 

Now, back to the California abortion advertiser case.  In an attempt to uphold the law the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, those legendary masters of legal legerdemain, attempted to invent a new category of speech. They called it “professional speech.”  This new category would give federal courts the means to ignore the usual requirements that “content based” laws that target speech based upon content have to pass strict scrutiny tests.  It would mean government would be free to regulate such speech as they see fit, ban the speech or, like in this case, even require it.

 

The Supreme Court rightly told them there was no such thing as “Professional Speech” and ruled they couldn’t do that.

 

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, but it was Justice Kennedy who succinctly stated the trenchant issue.

 

“This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression.”

 

“For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions.”

 

“This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts . . . “

 

The minority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer worried that the majority’s opinion might lead to challenges of “informed consent” rules and regulations.  For example, by endangering laws requiring medical professionals to give enough information that the person consenting to a procedure is doing so with full knowledge of the risks and benefits.  That, however, is more of a civil liability avoidance procedure than a constitutional principle.

 

The basic Free Speech principle is that if government cannot restrict a person’s freedom of speech, can they require a people to say something they disagree with simply because the government has decided it might be necessary to protect someone it assumes lacks the intelligence or responsibility to get out and get what they want themselves.

 

The opinion rightly points out that if government determines that a message needs to get to out and they have a rational basis for doing so, then, they have a number of way of disseminating the information, including advertising, themselves.  What they can’t do, is required others to communicate that message for them.

 

Lastly, one can be supportive of the landmark Casey case that recognizes a woman’s right to choose to a terminate a pregnancy under certain circumstances without the government unfairly burdening that choice yet be concerned when the government passes laws as it did here.  When it becomes so involved in advocacy of a position that it violates constitutional principles put in place to protect one’s freedom to follow sincerely held beliefs, government has gone where they may not go.

 

For other writings and articles by Phil Cline, visit philcline.com

 

Cline on the Constitution-Danger of One Person Rule

Cline on the Constitution-Danger of One Person Rule

This Week’s segment of Cline on the Constitution.

 

The Danger of One Person Rule

 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is currently being navigated through the shark infested waters of the United States Senate populated with man eaters hungry to attack, chew up and dismember someone who, by all accounts, is a good and honorable family man with impeccable legal credentials.

 

As usual the “Chicken Little” corps on the left predict the end of civilization as we know it should he be confirmed. That isn’t true.  However, can we expect an impact an on direction of the court?  Sure.  And it is prudent to consider how it may affect the direction of the Court, but without all the folderol.

 

As I contemplate potential changes in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, I begin with of the warnings deceased Justice Antonin Scalia gave about how modernly the Supreme Court and the entire federal judiciary is moving the country away from democratic rule. Although it can be seen in rulings and orders of Federal Judges across the country, the Supreme Court’s just competed term provides the most visible example.

 

It is plain from reviewing the cases that the Supreme Court is severely split along ideological lines. It’s may be the worse it been since the Great Depression.  This isn’t the fault of either Justice Kavanaugh nor President Trump.  It has existed for some time. And though historians might disagree, most lawyers with any sense of political realities know why.  It is the result of the Federal Judiciary throwing off the bonds of traditional judicial restraint.

 

I will in future blogs analyze each of the major cases decided in the last term, but I first wanted to take an Eagle’s eye view especially in light of the unbridled rage and hate speech directed at the latest nominee to the Supreme Court.

 

In the just completed term there were 19 split decisions by the United States Supreme Court.  In each case the vote was divided 5 to 4.  These cases involved momentous blockbuster issues. Cases on Immigration, National Security, Voting Rights, Gay Rights, Religious Freedom, Compelled Speech, Abortion, Union Shops, Cell Phone Privacy, and Taxation of Internet Companies like Amazon were all decided 5 to 4. Pause here a moment and consider if the vote is 5 to 4, then the vote of one person decided each of these issues for the rest of us, all 350 million, give or take.  Not a representative Congress, not a nationally elected President. Rather, one person. And an unelected one at that.

 

Of those 19 cases, Justice Kennedy whom Justice Kavanaugh will be replacing was a deciding vote or in the majority in all 19.

 

To be fair, some of the majorities in the 5-4 decisions had surprising alliances.  Justice Gorsuch, the newest justice and one who is identified with the conservative wing of the Court joined his more liberal colleagues to strike down a deportation order because the law written by Congress was unconstitutionally overbroad.  Similarly, Chief Justice Roberts joined the liberal wing while liberal Justice Ginsberg voted with the conservative wing in rewriting the state taxation powers over internet companies like Imperial Amazon.  But those few exceptions aside, by in large, the conservative/liberal split was maintained throughout the term.

 

The number of 5-4 decisions on the important issues of the time, is an indicator that there may something wrong with our democracy.  If the vote of the most learned of our men and women of the law is so evenly split, then the law is not crystal clear.  However, because the Court has set itself up as Regal arbiter, the great issues are decided by one person’s vote.

 

The legal media like to call it a “swing vote.” And that one vote by one person decides who wins and who loses on issues which once were debated in the Congress and the state legislatures.  Instead, we wait on court decisions like an athletic event that has gone down to the wire. And upon announcement cheers or moans go across the land depending on whether your team won or lost.

 

The problem is that democracies are not supposed to be run like this.  One-person rule is anathema to democracy.  It matters little that the swing person may rotate among the same nine persons rather like the presidency of the local rotary club. It’s the wrong institution to attend.

 

Established Constitutional principles of Judicial Restraint compel the Supreme Court to defer certain issues to the political branches, the democratically elected Congress and President. We may soon see the results of the Court’s moving away from this basic principle.

 

First Congress is damaged. We no longer ever have reason to cheer the success of Congress, our elected representatives facing difficult issues, taking testimony from expert witnesses, respecting and considering the regional implications of a law, debating vigorously and then formulating a policy to be applied in all future instances and having processes in place to modify the policy even as its being implemented. And the Congress is damaged in other ways.  It is a basic political axiom that if you can maneuver a hot political issue over to someone else to take the heat, you do so.  And knowing the Supreme Court is all too willing to intervene, Congress has gotten use to abdicating their responsibility.  It is exceedingly easy to attack persons, even good people like Justice Kavanaugh.  It is hard work to actually propose, work with the other party, and pass legislation to address policy issues.

 

And the Presidency is undermined.  We have little time to judge and improve the Executive Branch’s actions.  Even though the expertise might be with the Administration and the framers of the Constitution intended a President to be able to take swift action, modernly every move, every change, a President makes is immediately challenged in federal courts and a lone arrogant federal judge somewhere will most likely issue injunctions and orders on how the policy is to be implemented or prevent it from being implemented at all. And again, the ultimate arbiter the body we seem to have granted the power of pre-approval, is that “One Supreme Court” of nine persons, all educated the same way at the same Eastern schools who can’t even agree among themselves.

 

The process has been further corrupted by calls for lightening quick decisions. The unwise and historically novel approach of the Court requiring pre-approval of all acts of the other two co-equal branches of government has perverted the system of appeals. Briefing schedules are expedited. We do not insist on the time to develop and explore the legal rules, precedents and implications of decisions. There is no time to review numerous amicus briefs from interested groups nor to hear well prepared, skilled oral advocacy.  Now we demand our legal decisions, like everything else happen in the blink of a news cycle. It’s not a good way to apply Constitutional Law and it’s not a good way to run a large powerful country.

 

Have we devolved to one-person rule?  Is that why there is so much animosity against someone of Justice Kavanaugh’s character and credentials?  Is it because we know we are now ruled as Justice Scalia says by a majority of nine persons?  And is it because that person, whether a Supreme Court justice or a federal judge on the lowest rung of the judicial ladder, is an unelected, unaccountable individual with little or no expertise in the subject area and who is poorly equipped to address the complexity of most issues?

 

There is a real danger here. And it is more than a gradual weakening of our democratic institutions.

 

A dangerous consequence may occur in the not too distant future.  The other branches may say No and defy the orders of the Judiciary. Then what?    The Court has no police force, no military, no control of the purse strings. The judiciary under the Constitution has only the power of persuasion. And that was done by the framers intentionally.

 

If the Court continues to fail to adhere to principles of Judicial Restraint which earlier Supreme Courts wisely and prudently followed; if they continue to undermine and supersede the other democratically elected branches of government, the Congress and the President, they may find themselves in a confrontation.  And if on that particular issue they don’t have overwhelming support from the entire public they will surely lose.

 

And if they lose just one Constitutional confrontation of that sort, we all lose for all time.

 

For other postings of Cline on the Constitution visit philcline.com

A King’s Trust, Final Five Chapters

A King’s Trust, Final Five Chapters

Chapters 41 ,42, & 43 of A King’s Trust, a novel I am publishing online

 

Dylan and Lenny have an unwelcome visitor

 

Chapter 41

 

Dylan walked toward the front of his apartment to answer the door bell absentmindedly flipping through pages in the new textbook he had adopted for the upcoming semester.  His first lecture was in two hours. His usual practice was to refresh his memory right before leaving for campus not as to specifics of the material he would cover but how the overall chapter was put together. He assumed the door bell was his father. He had been expecting him to drop by with some papers from the lawyer they needed Dylan to sign.

 

As his Father had explained over the phone, they were making the first of several planned motions to regain the presidency of the company.  Dylan was signing a proxy for his stock. They had all worked it out. While he didn’t understand it all, Teresa did.  He had happily grown to rely on her judgement in such matters.  He had noted how his Dad had also placed his trust in. her. He found it amusing that now when his father spoke of business matters in their presence he spoke directly to her. Dylan knew his father believed Teresa understood business better than his own son.  And, well, Dylan didn’t argue the point and wouldn’t if he had the chance. He was glad.  She was better at it. And she was interested.  Two things Dylan was not.  And, now his Dad for the first time in his life was okay with his attitude toward business.

 

With his eyes still on the page of his book, he opened the door and glanced up at his Father.  He didn’t notice the man behind Lenny. Dylan turned his back and walked back into the apartment still reading his textbook as his Father and the man behind him followed him into the apartment.

 

“Where’s Teresa?” his father asked.”

 

Dylan smiled.  If this was about business, his father would want her there.  “She’s gone to her their place.  Had something to see her brother about. Wont’ be back until tomorrow.”

 

“Good”

 

Dylan looked back over his shoulder.  He had heard the palpable relief in his father’s voice.  That Teresa wasn’t there.  But why would he feel like that?  Strange.  He turned to his father.  He saw there was a man with him.  He was shocked there was a second man. And he was even more shocked to see the man was holding a shotgun.

 

Dylan never in his life had been in a fight.  Even as a kid.  If someone tried to get him to fight, Nadine inevitably intervened.  To have a shotgun leveled at him was a threat far beyond any experience he had ever had.  He felt fear, mind numbing fear. He now understood the old saying about knees shaking with fear.  His breath came in short bursts.  He felt completely paralyzed. He didn’t know what to do.  He wanted to run but knew that was impossible.  Could he fight?  How do you fight a shotgun?  Anyway, he was too scared.

 

He looked at his father. His father’s eyes were focused on the man and the shotgun.  He seemed to be thinking.  Probably trying to figure out what to do.

 

And Lenny was indeed thinking.  He never really thought these moves and countermoves on regaining his business, taking back his kingdom, would come to him facing a physical confrontation. Physical violence. Not even after what happened to Willets.

 

But here it was.  The man had been waiting for him as he walked up on the sidewalk to Dylan and Teresa’s apartment building.  He came out of the shadows as Lenny passed and moved right up behind him and shoved the barrel of the gun in his back.  His voice had been rough and demanding, brooking no resistance.  And Lenny had offered none.  He was scared, but he also knew he needed to keep his wits about him.  What did the man want? His first thoughts had been, that surely, Nadine would not go this far.  But that was foolish.  He knew now without a doubt that, yes, she would.  It had happened to Willets.  That had been bad, but he guessed in the abstract he could understand the move, the tactic as brutal as it was, but would she unleash that kind of violence on her own father, her own brother?

 

Lenny knew the answer.

 

As Lenny and Dylan stood in front of the man with the shotgun, Lenny knew he had to do something.  Say something.

 

“What is it you want?  Money? What?”

 

“Just shut up.  We got some business to conduct here.”

 

“I won’t shut up.”

 

Lenny didn’t have get his courage from untapped.  He was afraid, but then, what did he have to lose?  They killed Willets.  He wasn’t going to stay mute while this thug killed him too.

 

“Who the hell are you? Who sent you?  Whatever you think you can do, you won’t get away with it, I can tell you that.  There are men looking for you and what you did to Willets and they are going to do the same thing to you.”

 

“Shut up, I said.” And the man lifted the shotgun to eye level.

 

Lenny also saw something.  In the man’s eyes when he mentioned Willets’ name.  Recognition.

 

“Nobody going to come and help you, old man.  Not this time.”

 

And Lenny suddenly knew it was about to be over.  There was a hardening around the eyes, a preparation around the set of the man’s mouth, the grip on the gun tightened.

 

“He’s going to shoot,” Lenny thought, “My God, he’s really going to shoot.” He was going to die. But his rational mind wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t give up, wouldn’t admit it was going to end this way.  It couldn’t.  Unfathomably, Lenny was thinking how does this stupid, stupid man figure to get way with this? The gun will be heard, someone will come.  But he doesn’t care, does he?  This is a job and he has the means to do job and he will to do it.  The man was going to close the deal. Lenny certainly recognized that attitude. He had felt that way many times in his business dealings as he moved in for the kill, but never with a shotgun in his hand.

 

A slight smile came over the killer’s face and his pupils seemed to dilate. He was pulling the trigger, when Lenny saw a blur in front of him.

 

The retort was loud, oh my god, loud!  He had never heard anything so loud.  And he felt something hit his shoulder.  The force spun him, and he found himself face down on the carpet.  There was pain, burning.  But he was alive.  He rolled over.  There was a moving shape that at first appeared to be a pile of clothes on the floor not five feet away from him.   A struggle of some type.  The man was on his back and a body was on top of him.  It was Dylan. The man was trying to push Dylan off of him.  The gun had been knocked loose and lay on the floor between Lenny and the two bodies that seemed to be wrestling.  Lenny crawled over, reached out and had the shotgun. He got to his knees just as the man rolled Dylan off of him.

 

Dylan was limp.  He wasn’t moving and there was a huge hole in his chest and blood was everywhere.  The man stopped from rising when he saw Lenny had the shotgun pointed at him.  Lenny glanced at Dylan.  Lenny knew his son was dead.  His eyes were open, and blood was driveling from the corner of his mouth.  Dylan dead.  Lenny was thinking jumbled thoughts,  “No, it’s too early, we are just getting to know each other really and the child that was coming, he was going to be a father and Lenny was going to be a granddad.”  But Dylan was dead.  There was nothing that could be said now, nothing to discuss.  He was gone.  It was too late, but too early too.  He shouldn’t be gone.  It had all been about to work out.  Lenny had felt he was going to win, but not now, not now.

 

Lenny looked at the Man who was studying the shotgun and Lenny.  This man was going to do something.  This man who had been involved in Willet’s torture and death, this man who had killed Dylan and this man who had three minutes ago meant to kill Lenny.  Lenny hated this man.  And he found it easy, surprisingly easy to just squeeze the trigger. The shock and kick of the shotgun knocked Lenny back flat on his back and he heard the thump of the man’s body blown back against the wall.  Lenny rolled back over and looked at him.  His head was lolled forward, and he was in a sitting position against the wall.  His chest was gone.  He was dead.

 

Lenny stared. First at the dead killer and then at Dylan and then back and forth between the two. Gradually the buzzing, loud ringing in his ears lessened.  Lenny thought it would probably never completely cease.  And then the pain in his shoulder started getting through to his brain again.  He looked down.  A good portion of his shirt and shoulder muscle was gone. And he was bleeding. Profusely.  There was a loud pounding on the door.  Lenny looked once more at Dylan’s body.  He couldn’t get a breath.  He hurt bad. Not just the shoulder, but all over. Sharp pains in his other arm.  His chest felt like it was exploding.  He fainted.

 

Chapter 42

 

Edmund answered the phone while Nadine was putting on the last touches of her makeup.  She was sitting before a mirror in her bra and panties. The new ones.  He had gone out shopping and picked up things to her specifications.  She needed everything.  Underwear, make up, shoes. Nothing she had been wearing was salvageable and they didn’t dare go to her place to replace her things out of fear that Edgar and his henchmen would be there waiting.

 

Though he picked up the head set and put the mouthpiece to his ear, Edgar said nothing.  It was his way with all phones except those at his office. He waited.  He recognized the voice on the other end of the line.  It was the client.  He said just a few words.

 

“There was a problem.”

 

Edmund didn’t reply. He never quit being a lawyer, never did anything without being constantly aware of what could be used in a court of law. The chances of his home phone being bugged, and the conversations being monitored by law enforcement authorities was remote, but some of his clients might invite such attention and he knew better than to have his voice audible on the other end when there might be someone recording what was said.  As long as he never said anything he could always argue it was not him on the other end. It could have been a guest or an interloper.  It was why he never said hello when he picked up a receiver.  Not ever.  Not until the other person said something first.

 

The voice continued.

 

“One part of the contract was completed.  The other part wasn’t closed.  And, a valuable asset was lost in the operation.  There will be consequences to that and the necessity for additional compensation.  You will be contacted.  Soon.”

 

The phone went dead. Edmund continued holding it.  He did this often to listen for what he had been told once might be the tell-tale click of a bug.  He had never heard one and he didn’t this time.  But this time he was holding the phone unconsciously because his head was spinning.  The implications of what he had just been told were huge.  Someone was dead, but someone else was alive.  Lenny or Dylan?  He had wanted to ask which one but had known he couldn’t do that.  And the man the client has sent to do the task had also been killed.  How could that have happened?  Had Edgar and maybe his buddies been there?  Who would have the ability to fight and kill a killer as vicious and focused as the person who had murdered Willets?

 

Nadine stopped what she was doing and watched Edmunc in the mirror’s reflection.  She swung around on the little stool she was seated on and looked at him.  Edmund thought she looked close to her old self.  A couple of bruises she hadn’t been successful in covering up entirely, but all in all she looked good.

 

She had stopped applying her make up when she saw Edmund standing there staring at the phone receiver in his hand.  “What’s going on?”

 

Edmund blinked at her voice realizing if anyone was listening they could hear her voice through the headpiece and his name might be on a recording somewhere.  And, of course, she could be asked the question who she directed the question to and that meant Edmund could be identified and connected to the client’s voice.  His thoughts were jumping around.  This dumb bitch couldn’t be trusted.  No way. What if she turned against him to save herself?  Prosecutors were good at making that happen.  And they would do it too.  Edmund’s scalp was one every prosecutor in the city would like to have and would offer almost any deal to get.  It gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.  He put the receiver down, cutting off the connection.

 

“Well?” she said.  He knew she probably had no idea of how she had just left him exposed.  He had spent all these years being so careful and this twit had in a split second put it all at risk.  If he thought he could get away with it, he would cheerfully wring her neck.  He still hadn’t replied to her.

 

“So.  Who was it?” she repeated.

 

“Listen,” he said.  He forced himself to remain calm and not let any panic enter his voice.  When he spoke, he was direct and business like.    “We have more troubles.  That thing we discussed.  Well, it didn’t work out.  One of them is dead.  I don’t know which one.  And somehow, they managed to kill the man who was sent to do the job.  That’s going to cost us a lot of money.  It’s something we have to make up for.  We are responsible financially, you know, and these people, well, they put prices on things and you pay.  Nothing to negotiate.  Success or not.  You just pay. You understand?”

 

His voice came across as clipped and harsh and Nadine was taken aback.  She hadn’t seen this side of him before.  Not at this level.

 

“Well, okay.  But, you know, we can handle expenses.  But what do we do now?  Can they, you know, the law, the police, connect us back to this? They can’t.  I know they can’t.”

 

Edmund was aware she was starting to ramble.  She needed to get ahold of herself.  They needed to think this through.

 

“Right now.  We can’t think that way.  We need to close this, the business part.   I’m going to the office and get ready to file for complete and final control of Kings’ Enterprises.  We have to assume at least some of the shares, you know, Lenny and Dylan’s, are going to be tied up now, and we should have majority of the remaining shares that can be voted.  I’ll get a court order pending a hearing and by the time it gets back to court we will know who and what we have to contend with.”

 

“How will we know? What can we do and how to do we find out?  We can’t just call the police.  They would wonder how we knew.”

 

“Well, it’s bound to get out there.  Listen to the radio, the T.V.  I’m going to get to court.  You stay here. And I’ll find out. I’m sure someone will have heard by the time I get to court. I’ll prepare paperwork, two sets, and I can use the one I need once we find out.  It’s very important we get there first. This is a race to the courthouse we need to win.”

 

Edmund grabbed his briefcase and without saying another word headed out the door.  He slammed it shut.  Hard.  Nadine was left standing in the middle of the room.

 

“Fuck this,” she said out loud.  She wasn’t going to wait around.  She wasn’t going to put all her trust in Edmund.  That would be stupid.  She would go to the office, she would be in charge, at the corporate headquarters when the order came through — if it came through.  And if it didn’t, well, being there in executive suite gave her an advantage. That was her best protection.  She put on her new jacket, stylish.  Edmund did have good taste.  She grabbed her new purse and without another hesitation walked through the door and down the hall to the elevator, never bothering to even lock the door behind her.

 

Across the avenue, Edgar was waiting.  He wasn’t trying to be nondescript.  He was in military mode.  He was sitting in a large Jeep Hummer.  Gigantic wheels, it sat high off the ground.  High enough that if you were standing on the sidewalk, it took an effort to see who was behind the wheel. It gave him a very advantageous height from which to watch who entered and left the apartment building where Edmund lived and where Edgar had figured Nadine fled to.

 

He watched as the lawyer Edmund pulled out of the underground garage and out into traffic. Patience.  He needed patience right now. One last chance to get this woman and then he had to get out of the country.  A light Cessna was waiting right now at the municipal airport, not ten miles from this very spot.  Down to Mexico; make a connection with an old buddy and then back to the middle east. But first he wanted one last chance to avenge his father.

 

And suddenly, here it was. A taxi pulling into the semi-circle in front of the building and there was Nadine getting in the back. Edgar pulled the big Jeep out into traffic and followed the taxi.  He was sitting so high, he could lay back four or five car lengths and keep the taxi in sight.  He congratulated himself on his choice of vehicles.  This might be easy after all.  He felt his pulse quickening and a warm satisfying feeling he was familiar with, as a soldier, focused, a hunter not to be denied his trophy, he closed in on his prey. Vengeance was going to be sweet.

 

Chapter 43

Edmund strode into court confident he was going to get what he wanted.  He had all the paperwork in his briefcase, two different sets, depending on which scenario presented itself. The judge would see him alone. He would signal to her and she would nod.  After hearing a few other short matters, she would recess, like she always did when he walked into her court and took a seat with the other attorneys waiting for their cases to be called.  And he would make his way to the side hallway and then back to her chambers. It had all been done before.  Many times. There was no reason to believe today would be any different.

 

He sat down, put his briefcase next to his chair and looked around smiling and giving non-verbal hales to his fellow lawyers.  Then came the shock.  There was old Easley sitting calmly in one of the chairs near the opposite wall along the inside of the rail reserved for attorneys waiting to be recognized by the court.  What was Easley doing here?  Was it just happenstance?  Edmund put on his lawyerly face, not showing any surprise or concern.  He could still pull this off.  It was just a coincidence.  He was sure that Easley was here on another matter.  He could still wait for the recess and then sneak back to talk to the judge.  She would go along with him.  Easley’s presence would make it more difficult to argue later there was no time to notify the other party but the Judge could always pretend she didn’t connect Easley back to the case or something of that short. And Edmund could say, he thought Easley was no longer on the case.

 

As he sat and waited, Edmund glanced from time to time at Easley who was intermittently whispering to a man next to him.  The man was dressed in a nice suit, but he didn’t look like he belonged here.  He didn’t look like another lawyer waiting for his case to be called.  And he replied to Easley by cocking his head as if he didn’t want to give anyone a clear vision, so they could read his lips.  And then he noticed that both men seemed to see him at once.  And they stared.  Not harshly, just watched him.  They showed no surprise on seeing him.  And they were unconcerned that he would know he was being watched.  It was disconcerting.

 

Edmund did catch the eye of the judge, but there was something in her look that seemed to be a warning.  Her eyes traveled to Easley and the man with him and without any overt indication she blinked a few times.  It was enough that Edmund realized this wasn’t going to go as he planned.

 

They all were waiting now. They watched as a couple of short cause matters were resolved and then promptly at three p.m. the judge called a recess and without looking or giving her usual nod at Edmund, she was out of her chair and through the door behind her bench.  It closed quickly behind her.  Edmund rose to walk to the side door, but Easley accompanied by the stranger, was already through the door by the time he could get across the courtroom. After a few moments, Edmund followed them into the hallway and looked back toward the chambers.   He saw Easley and the man talking to the judge’s clerk. The clerk who knew him well and he suspected knew all about some of the more torrid encounters between he and the judge in her chambers glanced up at him and then back at the men speaking to her. There was something in her look too he couldn’t interpret, but it seemed to be a warning. Maybe he was just being paranoid.  But clearly his plan wasn’t going to work.  Before Easley and his partner could look up to see him standing in the hallway, Edmund stepped back into the courtroom. He sat down. He would wait them out. He would check in a few moments to see if they had left yet.

 

His phone was buzzing, but before he could open the message the Judge’s bailiff was standing over him. He looked up.

 

“Uh, Judge Callahan sent me to get you.  There is a meeting taking place in chambers and she said you should be there.”

 

“ Sure.  I’m on my way.  I just have to make this call.”

 

The bailiff changed his posture slightly.  Squaring up. “Sir, I have to insist. The judge was clear. She wants you back there now. Please come with me.”

 

Edmund shrugged.  He stood, palmed his phone, and followed the bailiff.  He glanced down and tried to read the message as he walked.  It was from Nadine.  She had typed in capitals.  ‘SOMETHING IS WRONG!”

 

It buzzed again, but before he could open it, he was walking into the judge’s chambers.

 

The judge was seated behind her desk and looked very uncomfortable, very pale.  And with her blond hair and already white pasty skin it was not a good look.  Easley and the other man were there.

 

“What is this?  What’s this about? Your honor, I . . . “

 

“Sit down, Edmund,” she said sternly.  Then she directed her remarks to the Bailiff.  “Leave us and tell Shirley, no calls and no one to be allowed back here until I say.”

 

The Bailiff left without any comment.  He closed the door gently behind him.

 

Asserting control over the meeting, though Edmund thought he heard a slight tremor in her voice he had never heard before, the Judge said, “Edmund you know Mr. Easley.  And this gentleman is Spencer Carr.  Uh . . . Mr. Carr is with the state Attorney General’s office.  He, well, he is charge of the case, you know, where that Mr. Willets was killed.”

 

“Murdered,” the man calmly said.  And in that one word, and that tone, the pitch of his voice, Edmund knew he was in trouble. And if he was in trouble then the Judge was in trouble. And he figured she knew that already, had known it before he walked into the courtroom.

 

“Yes,” Edmund stuttered. “I heard. A very tragic circumstance, but I don’t know what that has to do with . . . “

 

“What it has to do with,” Easley was saying, “is why you came here today.  The case on King Enterprises.  Weren’t going to give any notice to me, were you?  Just sneak in here and get this judge to sign an order all in secret.  That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it?”

 

Edmund looked at the judge expecting her to defend him or herself. She sat silent.  An ashen look on her face.

 

“Yes, That’s right. You guessed it Counselor,” said Mr. Carr.

 

He stood waved his hand in the judge’s direction and continued talking.  “She is not going to help you.  You are on your own now.  See this judge, isn’t going back out there.  She has worn that robe for the last time.  And that, what you just saw out there, was just for appearances sake, a charade shall we say, to get you in here.  She has one duty now and one duty only before the representatives from the State Judicial Council who, by the way, just happen to be waiting outside, escort her out of the building.  And if she does it right, then she may not end up in jail.”

 

Edmund knew then. His career, his life was over.  She had given him up.  At the first sign of conflict she had turned on him.  Even set him up.  Yeah, all that show of womanly strength in the courtroom, gone at the first sign of turbulence.  She would testify against him.  He was going to lose his law license. His practice. His privileges with women, women like her, and his freedom.  He was maybe going to jail.  He would fight.  He would squirm and try to find a way out, try to make a deal too, but in the end, he knew. He was going to jail.

 

 

 

For more writings by Phil Cline and to read earlier chapters visit philcline.com

 

Final two chapters of A King’s Trust, a novel I am publishing online

 

Justice goes on

 

Chapter 44

 

Mr. Carr walked over and opened the door.  Two people entered. One man and one woman.  They were dressed immaculately.  Edmund knew nice suits.  And these were not the “off the rack” cheap raiment most of the lawyers wore who daily plied their trade in the county courts.  These were nice. Obviously tailored and hand made.  The kind Edmund himself affected when a wealthy client was expected at the office or he was off to court to squeeze out a settlement on a big case.

 

The two ignored everyone in the room, except the judge.  The woman said, “stand up.”  Her voice was harsh and brooked no opposition.  The judge stood.  “Take off that robe.”  The judge blushed a deep red but complied.  Her eyes were downcast the entire time.  She was humiliated.  Thought underneath, she had a nice blouse and skirt without the robe, she looked remarkably naked. And vulnerable.  No power. Not at all.

 

“Where’s your purse?” the woman asked.   The judge looked to a side table.  The lady walked over and picked up the purse and set it in front of the judge.  “Your keys.  Get them.”  The judge dug in her purse for moment, searching and then pulled a key chain with a number of keys on them out of the purse. Her hands were shaking.  They jangled.  The woman took the keys from her, examined them then calmly, with sure steady hands removed three of them from the key ring.

 

In the meantime, the man had been removing things from the wall including pictures and, diplomas, the usual drawings and legal themed etchings, ones often found in lawyer’s offices and judge’s chambers.  He was carelessly tossing them in a box, headless of scratches or breakage. Little knickknacks and other personal effects were similarly being dropped in another box he had placed in the middle of her desk.

 

Edmund thought to himself they are purposely humiliating her in front of us. They know the word of how she was treated will get around.  Perhaps a warning to other judges.

 

The lady left the judge standing there and went to the door. She called out.  “Come in here.”

 

The bailiff, looking very pale himself, entered, looking around wildly.  “Take her stuff, those boxes, and these keys and put it all in her car.  You will take the courthouse parking sticker off her windshield and see that she leaves the premises.  Do you understand, or do I need to call the Sheriff?  He issued orders that you and every sheriff’s deputy in the building is to cooperate fully with us.”

 

“No.  I got the call this morning.”

 

The woman turned to the Judge.  “Get out of here. Follow him.  You are not to return to this courthouse without my express permission. You may touch no file and not communicate with any court personnel unless I say.  Do you understand, Melissa?”

 

This last was the final humiliation.  After years of “Your Honor this and Judge this, now she was just another first name. Melissa.  Entitled to no respect, no deference. That was all over now.  She no doubt would also lose her law license. Who knew how she would make a living? Maybe as a law clerk for some of the same attorneys who used to bow and scrape and pay her obsequious respect.

 

She left following the bailiff.  On the three-quarter heels Edmund knew she preferred, she walked a little unsteady. The Bailiff and one of the other deputies were balancing the three boxes of belongings.  None of them looked at Edmund who sat there stunned or at Easley sitting there with a serious and satisfied look on his face, nor the man from the A.G.’s office who had been standing leaning against the door frame looking bemused.

 

“And you,” Mr. Carr said directly to Edmund. “You too have some visitors.”  He walked to the open door and nodded to someone outside.  Two men walked in dressed in suits though not as nice as the one’s worn by the Judicial Council people.

 

One of the men was very short.  Edmund wondered if he was a dwarf.  But he certainly carried himself as if he was much larger.  He handed Edmund an official looking document.

 

“This, sir, is an order from the State Bar.  You are hereby suspended from the practice of law pending disbarment proceedings. Other officials from the State Bar are at your office right now securing all files and notifying clients that your cases are now the responsibility of special attorneys appointed by the State Bar to protect their interests.”

 

Edmund took the document. He incongruously heard and felt his phone buzzing.  He didn’t have the strength or will to look at it.  Everyone heard it and didn’t say anything.  They just ignored the sound and went about their business.

 

Finally, Easley rose. “It must be about over,” thought Edmund. As the two men from the state bar walked out of the office, another man-woman team walked in. Though these two wore nice long sleeve shirts, blazers and slacks, they had badges pinned to their lapels and belt.

 

“And these two agents are from my department,” the man from the Attorney Generals’ office said without changing his posture.  The two took his arms and turned him around. One raised his arms in the air.  The other’s hands started patting him down. After he was searched, his arms were pulled down and placed behind him and he felt handcuffs being place on his wrists.

 

“What is this?” he managed to croak, though everyone in the room knew he realized what was happening.  The A.G. man gave him the answer anyway.  “You are under arrest.”

 

Edmund knew better than to act the fool, but he couldn’t help himself, he couldn’t think.

 

“For what?”

 

“For murder, Edmund.” It was Easley talking.  “The chickens have come home to roost.”

 

“What, I didn’t . . . “

 

“Don’t bother, Edmund. They not only have the Judge. And, boy, does she have a lot to say about you and some of your cases.  They have your client too.  Yes, that one.  And he has waived the attorney client privilege, which as you know a client can do on their own and he has told them everything about your, uh, arrangements. I suggest you, uh,” and here Easley actually chuckled a little, “call a lawyer.  Maybe start trying to make a deal yourself before everyone else does. Though you are very far behind some others who already have deals for themselves.”

 

Easley was enjoying this moment like a fine meal.  A succulent bite taken one at a time to be slowly chewed, savored.  The folks from the Attorney General’s office didn’t seem to mind.  They must enjoy seeing a crooked attorney go down too.

 

He pushed his bulk up out of his chair he had sat in comfortably watching the drama, remembering everything so he could pass it along to the other denizens of the legal community.  He said, “Well, enough of this.  Good luck to you Edmund.  I can’t stay around her. In a few minutes, I have a hearing to attend in the courtroom next door, uh having to do with retaking control of King’s Enterprises.”

 

Edmund’s mind was a jumble. He couldn’t help but blurt out like he was on automatic pilot, “but Nadine has an interest there and should be, uh, uh. . . .”

 

There was pause.  And everyone stopped what they were doing for just a second before resuming.

 

“Don’t worry about that, Edmund.  Nadine is dead.”

 

“What?  How? I just got a message.  . . .”

 

“We know.  The details aren’t clear yet.  A hit and run. She had just got out of a taxi in front of her apartment building when one of those huge jeeps ran over her, didn’t even slow down, and just kept going.  We only know that she didn’t survive. They are looking for the driver.”

 

They didn’t know, but Edmund did.  Edgar or one of his buddies.  Maybe, being in custody right now might not be so bad, even prudent.  If Edgar and his mercenary buddies were still out there intent on exacting their revenge he needed to be where they couldn’t get to him. Then he thought of what happened to Willets in custody, something that he had helped arrange.  And now that’s where he was going.  And if his client wasn’t in jail, surely they didn’t give him that good of deal! Well if he wasn’t there, his contacts were.  And he was still owed money.  And Edmund knew he was going to be held responsible for that too. He involuntarily shuddered.

 

“Come on,” the man said and pulled on his arms.  He was led out of chambers.

 

“Well, I do have a hearing to go to.”  Easley left the room.  Behind him, the agents from the Judicial Council kept picking up files and other court documents from the judge’s chambers and side tables.  One was already going through her desk.  They had taken Judge out, but her court like every court had an unremitting river of cases flowing into the courtroom and the channeling and unloading of the lives reflected in those cases had to continue.

 

Chapter 45

 

As Easley entered the courtroom just across the hall through the side door he saw it was empty except for Teresa, Florencio and Florencio’s son.  They looked uncomfortable.  Teresa had a stoic look on her face, maybe because of her big belly, Florencio and his son seemed out of place because of ill-fitting suits and ties.  A judge was sitting silently on the bench reading a file. The courtroom was completely quiet. They had been waiting for him.

 

The Judge looked up.

 

“Nick Easley, representing Lenny King.  Your honor, I have here orders for your signature placing control of King Enterprises in ——-.”

 

“Yes,” the judge said, “I have read the file and the accompanying affidavits.  Everything seems to be in order, but who is actually going to own this corporation, who has the controlling shares?”

 

“Well, your honor, the rightful owner, the founder of the company, Lenny King.”

 

The Judge paused.  He looked over at Florencio.  They seemed to know something Easley did not.  Easley turned to Florencio, wondering what was going on.

 

Florencio stood and walked over to Easley.  His eyes had been on the floor and then he looked up into the eyes of Easley.

 

“Signor Easley, Mr. King, he is no longer with us.”

 

“No longer . . . what happened?  I just talked to him this morning.”

 

The Judge spoke, “Heart attack.  The word came just a few minutes ago.”

 

Easley was stunned. Then he noticed Dylan wasn’t there. It hadn’t registered because he had gotten used to Teresa always being there in place of Dylan when business was to be discussed.

 

“Dylan.  Then Dylan will have to be here.  We will need to recess or continue the hearing or something to get him here.  He will have to take control of the company now.”

 

He looked at Teresa who had tears streaming down her cheek.  Her mouth was firm, but she was weeping.  She was also shaking her head.

 

“Signor Easley, Dylan, he, you see, sir, he jumped in front of the gun.  He saved Mr. King’s life, but then Mr. King, it was too much, I think. He fell.  His heart stopped.”

 

No one said anything as the seconds on the big clock on the sidewall ticked off.

 

Finally, the Judge spoke.

 

“Mr. Easley,” the Judge said, “I know this is difficult.  It’s all unexpected, but we need some sort of plan, make some order today so the corporation can keep functioning.  There is going to be publicity on all this and a lot of pressure. And the whole enterprise could be lost if we can’t fashion at least a short time legal solution.”

 

Still stunned.  Easley was shaking his head.  The judge mistook what was being communicated.

 

“I know Counselor. Why don’t you take a few minutes to compose yourself and maybe we can come back to this matter later.”

 

“No.  That’s not it.  It’s all been provided for.  It was worked out by Mr. King.  All the documents have been signed and recorded.  If Lenny, uh, excuse me, Mr. King is not alive, and his son is not alive then it all, all the shares pass through, skip a generation, pass through to his granddaughter.”

 

“His granddaughter? He has a granddaughter?”

 

Teresa pulled herself up out of her chair.  “Yes, your honor.” And she placed her hand gently on her stomach.

 

“I see,” said the Judge. “But how is this provided for. How is this huge company, the fortune it represents going to be held until the child is born and comes of age?”

“It is to be operated by this man, his son and daughter, as representatives of Lenny King’s granddaughter.”

 

“But it’s such a vast business kingdom, how is it to be held?”

 

“In Trust.”

 

THE END

 

For more writings by Phil Cline or to read earlier chapters visit philcline.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A King’s Trust

A King’s Trust

Chapters 38, 39, & 40 of “A King’s Trust” a novel I am publishing online

 

Easley pulls something new out of his legal toolbox and Nadine gets away — or does she?

 

Chapter 38

 

They were seated around the kitchen table in Florencio’s house.  Four men.  The lawyer, Easley, Lenny King, Florencio, and Florencio’s son, a man so big he occupied one entire end of the table.  When Easley arrived, he had pulled a file out of his briefcase and lay it on the counter next to the sink.  He opened the file and pulled out a sheaf of papers, took them with him to the table, sat down and was now shuffling through the papers while the others waited.  He looked at Lenny and there was a question in his eyes.  “Are you sure you want to do this?”  Lenny’s reply was unspoken.  He indicated by a slight nod for the lawyer to proceed, to get on with it.

 

He looked again at Lenny then took a sip of the truly excellent coffee that Florencio’s son had put in front of him.   He had watched as the son prepared the coffee.  The young person had surprisingly deft and subtle hands for such a large man. He had set out cups, not mugs, which was what Easley had expected. The cups were delicate with bright colorful flower designs and they had matching saucers.  No doubt they had been selected by Teresa, but, it all still felt appropriate to the occasion.  There was something of a respect and formality in how the son addressed each of them as Senor King and Senor Easley as he placed the nice cups and saucers in front of them and poured coffee from a matching carafe.

 

“As I explained before this is called a Revocable Trust,” said Easley.

 

Florencio was watching the lawyer carefully and listening intently to his words.

 

“That means that we are transferring all of Mr. King’s assets as well as those of his son, Dylan, into a second Trust. I know it might sound confusing, but what I’m talking about is creating a legal entity, excuse me, a legal procedure if you will, in which Mr. King and Dylan are no longer the owners of the property. The new Trust is the owner.  They can still make decisions on the property as they see fit, but the Trust owns the property and all the rights.  They will be, Mr. King and Dylan, in the eyes of the law, merely the Trust’s administrators. Are you with me so far?”

 

The other men nodded in the affirmative.  Easley doubted they understood what he was saying.

 

“I’m sure Mr. King has explained to you why he wishes to do this.”  Again, he glanced in Lenny’s direction.  “and I will say that he has consulted me on this and sought my advice before he made this decision.  And I have discussed it thoroughly with Dylan.  Alone.”  And he emphasized the word, “alone.” To them it was obvious he was referring to the fact that Teresa had not been present.

 

“I have had Dylan and Mr. King, sign this addendum, uh, side document verifying they received independent advice from their lawyer and I have signed it and, as their family attorney, of many decades I might add, my signature verifies that they were not subjected to undue influence of any kind.”  He put emphasis on the words, “undue influence” and looked at each man in turn.

 

“As Mr. King said,” Easley continued, “the next part is what is important.”

He paused before going on.

 

“In the event something happens to either of them, like if they pass away or become incapacitated, the other becomes sole administrator of the Trust.”

 

Here he paused once again.

 

“But in the event, something happens to both, then you, Florencio,” and he pointed at Gardener, “and after you, your son” he turned to one at the end of the table, “become Administrators of the trust.  Again, as I’ve explained, you won’t own the property, but you can make decisions on how the property is disposed of, ah . . . for the good of the Trust.  You will have complete control.  You can sell the shares of the company, vote them how you want. As Administrators of the Trust you are in charge off all its assets, everything that is in the nature of property and has value.”

 

For the first time Florencio spoke up, “And what exactly does that mean?  Mr. King use to own a large business. And had many things. He had houses.  He had cars. And it is gone, taken over.  I thought he has lost it all.  It was been taken away from him.” Florencio talked directly and bluntly without regard to any sensitivity Lenny might have.  The lawyer liked that.  It made things easier to explain.

 

“Well, yes, but the rights to the stock, the shares of stock in the business still exists. It was also put in a Trust for his kids and when the Trust went into effect, he lost, well relinquished, I mean, gave up control. But he still had ownership interests, rights to property in and outside that Trust.  As does his son, Dylan. In the same way he does. That interest is being transferred from the old Trust to this Trust.  The Revocable Trust.  All that Revocable Trust means is that they can revoke it, end it.  At any time. And it, therefore, gives them the option of taking back ownership of that property, those rights, and they no doubt will after we regain control of the company from Nadine. But in the meantime, it protects the assets, like the stock, from being taken by Nadine and the other brother or anyone else for that matter.”

 

He paused only a second and then added, “especially if something happens to Mr. King and his son.”

 

Florencio turned to Lenny. He looked at him a long moment before speaking. “I asked you before, but I want to hear you say it here in front of the lawyer.  And I want my son to hear it from your lips.  Why are you putting us in this?”

 

Easley also turned to Lenny and crossed his arms as if to say, “Yeah I want to hear this nonsense one more time too.”

 

“It’s simple really. I considered everyone else I know. I trust no one else.  You came to my aid when I needed it. You and I have spoken many times of our children and our wishes. We understand each other. Your daughter is special, and she is special to my son.  This is all for them and their future and, you know, those, the little ones, who will come after.”

 

Both fathers smiled at that as they had when Teresa, a week earlier, had announced she was pregnant.

 

Florencio looked at his son. Crouched at the end of the table with both hands flat on its surface as if he was ready to push his great bulk to a standing position and get to work, as if sitting there was idleness and he abhorred idleness.  The son nodded at his father and in that moment Easley the lawyer recognized a commitment was being made, a contract had been agreed to, stronger than any paper contract Easley had ever drafted.  Father and son were taking an obligation on, the son especially, that this would be done for Teresa and her baby and future babies and, Easley thought to himself, in this family, they would keep their word.

 

Easley started passing documents to his right where Lenny was seated.  Lenny signed them one after the other and slid them along the table to Florencio and pointed where to sign. Florencio did the same thing to his son who signed them and completed the circle by returning the documents to Easley.

 

It was done. They sat silent a while.  Then Easley rose, shook hands with each person and left.

 

“So, what do you think?” Lenny asked.

 

“About what? All this legal stuff?”

 

“The hell with that”, Lenny replied.  “What do you really think.  What do you really think it will be?  Boy or girl?” Florencio laughed out loud.  Lenny had not heard him do that before. It was a pleasant sound.

 

Chapter 39

 

Edmund stepped outside the restaurant, breathed deeply and studied the sunset.  It was beautiful.  Long time City residents were well aware of the irony that gaseous emissions from a million vehicles clogging the highways in the L. A. basin made for gorgeous sunsets. The smog, gray during the day, at sunset enhanced all the colors of the sky, from puce to green to reds and oranges and yellows of infinite shades.  But, though Edmund noticed beauty, in scenery, art, culture, and he was well aware beauty did have a way of intruding at the most unexpected time; he was not one to stay for long buried in the poetry of a moment.

 

The meeting in the restaurant had gone as he had expected.  And now his business was done.  Plans were being made and would be expeditiously executed.  His client had sat in the booth across from him and had listened quietly as Edmund outlined the difficulties being presented by certain persons, never named, though easily identified by certain descriptive words the client would recognize from previous discussions.  The client never directly responded, but he made clear with certain nods and guttural responses the he had understood what he was being asked to do or, more accurately, arrange.  Just as he had understood what to do about Willets the last time the lawyer had met with him at this very same restaurant.

 

The understanding reached, they quickly parted, leaving most of their food to be cleaned up by the wait staff.  And now Edmund knew it would get done. Old Lenny King and his retard son would be dealt with.  This client never failed in this sort of enterprise.  And when that unpleasant business was done Edmund was going to be a lot wealthier for sure.  And the client, as expected, would be handsomely rewarded.  But besides the new wealth Edmund would also be getting more of what he increasingly craved:  Power. Influence.  He would soon have his own stake in a large successful company. And if this brief lunch meeting meant that neither Lenny, nor that idiot Dylan, were around to interfere then so much the better.  There would soon be no ceiling to where Edmund might climb.

 

Nadine he could handle. She thought she was clever, she thought she had the leadership skills and strategic and tactical sense to take over a large business concern like King Enterprises. She would soon find she was mistaken, sadly mistaken.  Edmund knew just how he would do that.  But first things first.  Plans were now in motion to eliminate the first impediment.  Once that was done, once the dust had settled a bit, once all the legal niceties has been validated, well, he had other clients that needed favors, that had contacts that could neutralize the likes of Nadine and her idiot brother Regan.

 

“Your keys, Sir.” Without looking directly at or acknowledging the parking attendant, Edmund took the keys to his Porsche, and pressed a twenty in the palm of the boy.  He strode around the car, passed another twenty to the boy holding the car door open and eased his long, tall frame down into the sports car. He nodded when the kid closed the door.  He started the engine and revved it up a couple of times.  Sweet!  Holding in the clutch, he smiled with satisfaction at the muscular sound of the powerful engine.  He was about to ease the clutch off when in his peripheral vision he picked up what he instinctively knew was Nadine’s form.

 

He looked and there she was. My god, he thought, what happened to her?  She was as bedraggled as a homeless woman.  He knew his mouth had fallen opened.  She grabbed the handle of the passenger door, jerked it open and sat down, her skirt riding up over dirty and bruised thighs. The other people waiting for their cars as well as the parking attendants were all staring and now a security guard was edging toward them.

 

“Go!”

 

“My God, Nadine, what hap . . .”

 

“Just go!  Go now.”

 

Edmund saw the guard was almost at the car.  He popped the clutch and hit the gas and the Porsche jumped forward. He accelerated, and a few seconds later, they were pulling out in traffic.

 

“Nadine?”

 

“Yeah, I know how I look. I barely got away and I need your help. I have to get cleaned up.  I can’t go anywhere, much less the police, looking like this. They will never believe me.”

 

“The police? What the hell are you talking about?”

 

“The police, yeah.  We got to do something. They have Regan. And they have Crabtree. Edmund, she may be dead!”

 

Edmund jerked the car to the right and entered a strip mall parking lot.  He maneuvered around grocery carts and delivery trucks until he got the car into an empty section far away from the entry to the store.  He pulled to a stop and turned his body to face her.  She appeared even worse now that he had a chance to look her over.  And there were tears in her eyes and streaks down through the dirt on her cheeks.  Her eyes were red and wild. On the edge of panic and hysteria.  She had clearly been in this condition for a while, maybe hours.

 

He opened up her arms and pulled her over toward him. She was blocked by the gear box but tried to crawl into his arms.

 

“Listen, Edmund.  We don’t have much time.  They don’t have much time.  We have to go get help.”

 

He took her by the shoulders and held her away from him so he could look in her eyes.

 

“And you listen. Whatever the trouble, whatever you’ve gone through, we will figure out what to do, but calling the police is not an option, Nadine.  It can’t happen.  It would complicate things, events, plans. You know this, Nadine.  And it could all very well lead right back to us. And that would not be good.  That would be bad. Very bad for us.”

 

Nadine was shaking her head. “Look, I know what we did with Willets, but that is over.  We have to try to save Regan and Crabtree at least. We are completely open, vulnerable, without them.  We can’t hold on to anything without those votes, without at least a chance at them and what if they get out without us and we didn’t help. They are not going to be with us then.  They are going to hate us.”

 

Somehow Edmund felt relieved.  This was the Nadine he knew.  Not someone in a complete panic and wildly trying to ride to the rescue but rather the calculating, manipulative woman he had partnered with.  She continued speaking.

 

“The police are the only ones who can move fast enough to help.  I saw the road sign. I know where the place is.  I know where they are.  If we move fast, we can get the cops there before they have a chance to completely move out.”

 

“It can’t be the police. What we discussed the last time we talked is going to preclude that.  Maybe we can do it ourselves.”

 

“We can’t. These are soldiers. Real ones.  These guys are tough.  We can put off the other thing with my father and Dylan.  Leave it for later.  We get this done and settle down then think it all through again.”

 

“Nadine,” he said firmly. He squeezed her shoulders and shook her slightly again to get her to be quiet.

 

“That’s what I’m trying to say.  What I’m telling you.  That part is already happening.”

 

“What? No.  We just talked.  It can’t be happening already.”

 

“It’s happening. And we want to stay as far as possible away from the police.”

 

Nadine sat there thinking.

 

“We need to stop them.  It’s not the right time now.”

 

“It can’t be stopped.  Not after this morning.”

 

Nadine sat and stared for a long time.  She was tired.  Exhausted. She couldn’t argue anymore. She didn’t want to think anymore.  But she had to think.  But not like this, not like she was.

 

“Okay, take me to my apartment.  I need to clean up anyway.  No. wait. I can’t go there.  They will come for me there. We need to go somewhere else. You need to buy me some things. Go to your place. We can do it there.”

 

Edmund nodded.  He started the car, backed up, and after maneuvering around a produce truck with pallets of melons being unloaded by a forklift pulled back on the street and headed for his apartment.

 

Just a short while ago, only minutes, he had felt on top of it all.  In control and powerful. Professionally, financially, admired or feared, but possessed of real status.  And about to attain a position where he would be even more powerful, at the peak, the apex, limitless potential.  And now?  Now he was avoiding thoughts and images that were flooding his mind.  Of being disbarred, of imprisonment or worse.

 

He needed to clear such negative thoughts from his mind and make plans, think clearly.  He needed to take action.  He needed to figure out what to do.  He needed to talk to the Judge.  The Ice Queen.  Never any panic, never any stress.  Not her. Just taking in information from every source, every direction and planning, always planning.  But he would talk to her alone.  No court hearings and no other attorneys or parties to lawsuits. Just he and she.  Certainly, he would not mention Nadine being at his apartment.  He didn’t trust how she would react. He didn’t yet know how far this Ice Queen bit could be pushed.

 

Chapter 40

 

It was a good move going to Edmund’s place.  Nadine’s apartment was the first place they looked.  Edgar and his friends, all his old Iraq buddies, had just arrived at the building and rushed into the lobby. They were stopped by a security guard.

 

Unlike most of his profession, this guard was neither a sluggard or a dummy.  When he saw the three of them, he not only suspected they were up to no good, he knew he was overmatched and immediately pushed the button on the speaker phone attached to his uniform blouse right below his collar and radioed for his backup security men.  They were in a patrol car in the back of the building but would be there in less than three minutes.

 

To delay and in a bid for time the security man engaged the three in some casual inane conversation. He didn’t want them to think anything was amiss though he noticed how they spread out, positioned themselves in a triangle so he had to keep turning his head to watch all three.  He was on alert and wary of their moves and watched where their hands were at all times. He too had spent time in the middle east. He knew military tactics when he saw them.

 

Edgar recognized how the guard was assessing the situation and guessed he had called for back-up. It meant they were too late.  Even if Nadine was here they were never going to get by the guards without the police being called. And if they did, they would get penned down.  And they couldn’t let that happen.  They needed to get away now.   They were facing some serious consequences otherwise.  His buddies had gotten carried away with the Crabtree woman. Not the first time they had done something like that, but it had always been in a war zone before.  The only law there had been who had the most guns, the most firepower. They didn’t have that advantage here.

 

Edgar felt ashamed. All the aggression his guys carried around inside had erupted in a manner he hadn’t been ready for.  The Crabtree woman had experienced what some women overseas had experienced. Unfortunate.  But over there he and his guys had justified their rapes and murders to each other as righteous vengeance for being attacked from all quarters, even by the few locals they had grown to trust.  And sometimes they had even done worse to those they thought had betrayed them. But did this have to do with vengeance? Had this woman, this Crabtree lady, had she anything to do with his Father’s death?

 

And he knew the answer was No. From what Edgar knew, she did a lot of things, mainly directed her ire, her manipulations, at others to advance herself in the corporation, but she had done nothing to Willets.  She had even been an ally of his it turned out.  But she had made the mistake of being with Regan when his fellow mercenaries arrived.  And she had nothing of value to tell them about Nadine’s plans and whereabouts.

 

It was Regan who gave all that up.  He confirmed Nadine had, through that lawyer, arranged for what had happened in the jail to Willets and how he had been murdered afterward not on direct orders but an automatic execution when he hadn’t delivered the goods on Lenny King.

 

Regan was another one, Edgar had taken no satisfaction from the beating and torture his buddies had inflicted. And he took no pleasure in finally strangling him.  But they couldn’t let him go.  That would have been suicide, but it was clear he was never a prime mover on the murder of his father.  Nadine was far ahead of him in directing the attacks.  He had not intervened to stop it.  But he had been nothing, done nothing; was nothing without her.

 

Now Edgar was having second thoughts about it all.  He had broken his promise to Mr. King not to act on his own. He had agreed to wait and work with them to set up Nadine first and win back the company and then take her down to nothing and then he could do what he wanted.  Instead he had acted.  Had broken his promise and now two people were dead, neither of which had any direct link to the murder of his Father and, worse, the ones who did were still free and now dangerous, very dangerous.  And to think they had Nadine.  He and his guys had her.  And that would have been sweet.  That would have satisfied him until he could get to the lawyer and after him the ones who had been paid one way or the other.  But they had gotten sloppy.  They should have known better.  One of his friends was in the hospital with the knife wound in the back.  Very fittingly Nadine had stabbed him in the back, and now his buddy was fending off questions of who had stabbed him and why.

 

Edgar realized he should have waited.  Now it was too late.  They had to leave.  He would be an outcast, a soldier without country, without family.  He knew there was plenty of work for mercenary’s around the globe.  Maybe even for Blackwater again.  There were companies who had their ways of helping men they hired who didn’t want to be found disappear.  He always knew that’s where he would have to go anyway after getting his vengeance.  Out of the country, soldiering for private armies. It was a price he was willing to pay to have revenge for what they had done to his Father.  But now he had to pay the price of leaving and Nadine and that Edmund, the lawyer, still lived.  And the unnamed ones, the ones who did the actual murder, who took the old man’s eyes, they were still out there somewhere and alive.  He had failed.  He should have waited.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

His friends had realized the same thing about their chances of getting by this one in a million security guards.  Just their luck.  They turned and walked toward the door.  Edgar followed.

 

“Thanks for your help.” He called over to the Guard who had retreated behind his high wooden desk and probably at that very moment had his hand on the Glock that had been on his hip. “We will catch her another time.” He waved his hand at the guard and without waiting for anything in reply turned and walked quickly after his mates.

 

For more writing by Phil Cline or to read earlier chapters visit philcline.com

 

 

 

A Kings Trust continued

A Kings Trust continued

Chapters 35, 36, & 37 of “A King’s Trust”, a novel I am publishing online.

 

Please note some material in these chapters is adult in nature and describes violent encounters.

 

 Nadine Navigates some Difficulties.

 

Chapter 35

 

When Nadine arrived at the office complex, she got off the elevator and strode right by the firm’s receptionist and through the door leading to the suite of offices where Edmund practiced his craft.  She studiously snubbed the secretary.  The smile on the secretary’s face was plastic.  She had learned to tolerate Nadine’s arrogance.  And Nadine, for her part, had taken full advantage of her status as a very important, well-paying client to communicate in every way possible that the buxom little secretary was of no moment to her. None at all.

 

Nevertheless, Edmund had been alerted about Nadine’s arrival and was waiting at his office door to greet her.  He reached for her and she pressed into him, her breasts fully mashed against his chest as his hands went familiarly to her waist.  And instead of accepting the buzz like “kiss-kiss” greeting he was offering, she gave him a full kiss on the mouth.  She was leaving no room for mistake to those she was sure were peeking that theirs was a special relationship.  She was a privileged client.

 

She broke off the embrace and walked ahead of him into his office like she was the one in charge and he was her plaything for the day.  Which, she supposed, was true. Without being invited she sat in the new luxurious leather client chair in front of Edmund’s desk and crossed her legs, giving an extra upward tug on her skirt.  She heard him close the door behind her and watched his eyes roam over her body and her legs as he moved behind his desk. It made her feel like she was in control again. the kind of control she liked to have. Her body had always afforded her that control.  There was gratification in knowing it still did.

 

She jumped right in. “Now what is so urgent you want to talk about? I have things to do.”

 

“As I said, we are at a stalemate legally and I think we need to do something to move this all along.”

 

“Well, you’re the lawyer. Do you actually have some ideas or are you waiting for me to tell you how to do your job?  A job, by the way, I am paying you a lot of money to do.”

 

His eyes on her legs justified a little bitchiness, she thought to herself.

 

He held up his hand, palm outward.  “Just hold on.  What’s got you so riled up today?  Maybe we need to retire to the couch, so I can take the edge off.”

 

She glanced at the couch. They certainly had had a few adventures there.  The image of her leaned back in the cushions and him kneeling before her in his suit and suspenders, was a welcome memory.  Now that was real control over a man.  But, no, not right now.  She wasn’t going to be distracted.

 

“Let’s stay focused here.  What’s your plan, Counselor?”

 

He looked at her. With some longing, she thought. As if his suggestion had taken hold in his own imagination.  She wondered if he had the same memory. Or one in which the positions had been changed.

 

She noted a small almost imperceptible shake of his head as if he was banishing the images from his mind and returning to the business at hand.

 

“We can’t keep going like this.  We have to do something to secure enough company shares to neutralize the other side. Right now, it’s a stalemate.  Like I said.  But shares are out there. In fact, if they can agree, that Edgar guy, you know, if he gets control of his father’s, Willets shares, then your father’s shares, those which he retained, and now Dylan, they can keep us from getting full control of the company for a long time, maybe forever.  And the longer this goes on the more vulnerable we are. The Board of Directors is getting antsy and if they decide to support someone else, maybe even someone from the outside, we are in for one royal battle.”

 

“Tell me something I don’t know, Lawyer Man.”  She twisted slightly in her chair knowing it would result in her skirt edging even higher. She watched his eyes follow the upward journey of her skirt and smiled.  She really shouldn’t be doing this. It was distracting him, and this was important business.  But she couldn’t help herself. It was too much fun.

 

He swallowed, did that slight shake of his head again, and looked down at the open file in front of him.

 

There was long pause then he looked back up into her eyes.  There was a frown of concentration on his forehead.  No more games.  All business. For good reason.  To his way of thinking, what he was about to suggest was the equivalent of radical surgery. And while she had, up until now, shown her willingness to take drastic action, it hadn’t been directed explicitly at a family member.  This would be different.

 

He spoke slowly.

 

“I noticed something in the documents, the legal documents, I’m not sure anyone else has noticed or thought through, at least enough to account for what I want to talk to you about. Probably because we’ve certainly kept them distracted.  Going after Lenny’s possessions, the approach of Marcy and her father to Dylan, the, ah, action we took regarding Willets.”

 

Nadine noticed his careful phrasing about Willets.

 

Typical lawyer, she thought. Action indeed! We used one of his clients who needed a favor and   we got a warrant from a judge who gloried in his country club privileges, but, because of a nasty gambling habit and the debts he had run up was about to find himself teeing off on a run-down local municipal course with a bunch of locals in tennis shoes and tank tops.  By mixing it all together, spreading a little cash around, sneaking in the back doors of some other powerful people and manipulating, stirring the mix we had Willet’s eyes dug out and him as a competitor eliminated.

 

Well, the lawyer could talk around it all he wanted, but Nadine had no illusions about what they had done.  Or its effect.  They had managed to neutralize Willet’s shares for now. And they would continue spending the money necessary to tie up the probate of Willet’s estate in court and preventing Edgar from gaining control over that block of shares.

 

“Go on.”

 

“What I noticed was that, well, Dylan’s shares, your brother’s, you know, if something happened to him.”  He paused before continuing,  “Well, it’s a standard provision, I’m sure old Easley’s clerks got it off a boilerplate, see, in the event of his demise, his shares, Dylan’s, first revert to your father, but, and this is the important part, if your father is not there, if he was to be incapacitated or, you know, dead, his shares and the others are split evenly between the two remaining trustees.  That means between you and Regan.”

 

There was silence for a moment.  She was no longer thinking about flashing him and he was no longer peering up her skirt. The implications were obvious and just as portentously not to be uttered out loud.  Not even here in the cozy and confidential confines of a lawyer’s office. Was he really suggesting what she thought he was suggesting?  It was one thing to get rid of that troublesome old man, Willets, but her own brother?  Her Father?

 

She didn’t say anything.  She looked in his eyes.  He continued.

 

“See, there is one other thing:  Your father’s will have the same provisions.  Neither your father nor your brother has, as far as we can find out, uh, made arrangements for changing those provisions.  Not yet.  We’ve even distracted old Easley with the ethics complaint to the Bar, but listen, Nadine, someone else is going to notice.  Someone, sooner or later, is going to see this, remember it, or something, and change it.  If that happens this, ah, opportunity will be lost, maybe forever.”

 

She waited.  Just as he now waited for her to say someting. He had said enough.  Certain things could not be explicitly set out, even in a lawyer’s office, especially in a lawyer’s office.

 

Finally, after a few moments, Nadine broke the silence.

 

“Well, if anything really happened to my brother or my father, or God forbid to both of them. Like what happened to poor old Willets, it would be tragic, so tragic I don’t know if I could bear it.  Just the new burdens to make sure the estates were taken care of, to make sure the business kept running right would be almost too much for me.  I would be so, ah, distraught I’m sure I would need help, lots of help.  I pray nothing like that ever happens, but if it did I hope I could depend on you to, ah, do all the legal work.  And you know the work would be worth a premium, uh, and price would be no object.  And we are so close, you and I, I think I would even want to make sure you had an ownership interest, maybe even a block of those shares that would come to Regan and me.”

 

She stopped.  Edmund’s eyes were wide.  This was a bonus he wasn’t expecting.  An opportunity he had not anticipated.  And, further, he felt he had the permission, the instructions he needed to press ahead.  It should be simple.  The client he used before still needed him, still had his money tied up in a forfeiture action with the government and the fees Edmund would be trading him for his “arrangements” were paltry compared to what would be coming in from King Enterprises. If this worked out.

 

He smiled at Nadine.  “Yes, it would be tragic.”

 

She stood, walked to the door and locked it.  She then walked to the couch, paused to pull off her panties, then sat down, pulled her dress up to her waist and waited.  Edmund closed his file and loosening his tie walked from behind his desk and stood before her.

 

Edmund was thinking, so many women in power now. And they must like this as much as men do.  It certainly seemed that way since the last time he was on his knees was not forty-eight hours ago, in front of Judge Ice Queen in her chambers.  A pleasant enough pay off.  Much of what he had proposed to Nadine had been her idea after all.  She had been the one who told him about the other judge’s gambling problem.  She had taken a real interest in the case since the first day they appeared in her courtroom.  And, after Edmund and her, at her invitation, started secretly carrying their affair, they had discussed the shifting fortunes of King Enterprises a few times. It was always at her instigation. He had wondered about her motivation. Whatever it might be didn’t concern him. He knew better than to ask.  There was plenty there for everyone.  It had been she who started asking him if he had thought or determined what would happen if someone else, another shareholder, died.  Given what he was doing, he hadn’t been able to give a verbal response.  He remembered, Ice Queen or not, she had a funny little giggle when he was busy complying with her “special orders”.

 

Chapter 36

 

As Nadine left Edmund’s office complex, she was all smiles.  Even grinned at the snotty receptionist. Especially as she replayed the memory of the little trollop’s boss and what he had being doing not ten minutes ago. She smiled too at her own lewdness. She had stuffed her panties down the side of Edmund’s couch.  She left them for someone, who knew who, to discover at some later date. Maybe even today, maybe even by the little snot of a receptionist.  It was all so delicious.  Made her feel strong.  It put an extra bounce in her step.

 

This promised to be a good day after all.  If Edmund is true to form, if his client comes through, then the shares from Dylan, maybe even her father would soon be under her control and any remaining corporate battles would be cakewalks.

 

As she emerged onto the sidewalk she swung her hips a little more than usual enjoying the eroticism of her situation though she wouldn’t be able to say if it was because she wasn’t wearing panties or whether it was the prospect of finally nailing down control of the company.

 

She stood at the curb and handed her valet ticket to the handsome young attendant.  He gave her his best wide tooth grin and hustled off at a trot to retrieve her Mercedes.

 

She had pulled out her cell phone to check for messages when a shadow fell across the face of the device. She looked up into the eyes of Edgar.  The malevolence in his stare was frightening.  Before she could recover and demand to know what he was doing there, he grasped her by the arm, and pressed a handgun to her belly.  He pulled her close and whispered.

 

“You do want to stay still, bitch.  It wouldn’t bother me at all to shoot you down like a dog. Right here.  I would shoot you in the gut and laugh.  You can die lying on the sidewalk.  Like my Dad did.  You worthless piece of crap, you had him murdered.  And it’s payday.”

 

Beyond her fear, Nadine’s first thought was that this man was big, and he was strong.  At the hearings, Nadine had noticed how large Edgar was, but beyond that she hadn’t taken much notice.  She did remember someone had said he had been in the military. Her first rational thought was he would know how to use the weapon pressed in her stomach right then.

 

She was scared, but she determined to summon whatever courage she could muster.  She needed to somehow communicate a modicum of defiance.  If she had learned nothing else from her father it was to face down your opponents, look your enemies in the eye especially when they had the upper hand.  If you were losing anyway, why not chance a bluff.  More often than not, you would get something, whatever it was, you would end up in a better place than doing nothing at all.

 

She actually pushed against the gun with her stomach and raised her face right up into his.

 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?  Who do you think you are?  Let go of my arm or I will scream.”

 

His response was a cold professional smile.  That frightened her even more.

 

“Go ahead, Nadine.  Go ahead.  It will be the last thing you hear. I’m beyond caring what happens to me. But you’re not, are you, Nadine?”

 

She pulled back a little. Most of the bluster she had dredged up just a moment ago fled before the harsh reality of his barely restrained violence.

 

“Okay, okay. What do you want?”

 

“I want you to get in the car when it comes up and drive.  I will get in the passenger seat.  And you are going to act calm and natural and you are going to drive out of here.”

 

“Where?”

 

“I will tell you that once we are on the street.  But don’t get cute. It won’t bother me one bit to gut shoot you right here.  No one is going to be in a position to stop me from killing you.  I’ve been in battles, Nadine.  Lots of them. I have the advantage and I’m willing to do it.  Gut shots hurt.  And the hurt lasts a long time while you bleed out.  It would give me so much pleasure to see you writhe around on the ground, getting those fancy clothes all wrinkled, dirty and bloody, very bloody. I would love for you to suffer as much pain as my father did.”

 

She didn’t say anything. She saw her car being pulled up to the curb by the handsome young lad who had retrieved it.  Edgar moved so he was behind her and nudged her to walk toward the other side of the car.  With one hand he opened the passenger door and waited for her to walk around the rear of the car to get in the driver’s side.  The young man walked with her and looked curious and mystified when she got in without saying anything.   Edgar thought he must be waiting for a tip.  Well, not today, Sonny boy.  Edgar got in the passenger side and held the gun inside his jacket and with a nod of his head signaled to Nadine to drive away from the curb.  She did so. The handsome young man stood in the middle of the driveway looking after her, apparently still trying to fathom his lack of a tip.

 

At the light leading from the large circular driveway onto the passing avenue, Edgar told her to turn to right.  She did.

 

“Now when you get to it, take the 405 on ramp, south bound.”

 

They were silent as they inched forward in the traffic.  They hit two red lights.  Other cars maneuvered over into their lane to position themselves for emerging on the highway.  She held back and let them cut her off and Edgar said nothing, seemingly patient and unhurried.  Once she got passed the last stop light and entered the onramp she accelerated onto the highway.   She kept well under the speed limit and stayed in the right lane.  She was desperately trying to think of a way out of her predicament.  He told her to move over to the middle lane and keep up with traffic.  He said they had a way to go.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

“We are going for a visit. A family reunion of sorts.  It’s time you and your brother, your brother Regan, and me got together. Our families were always close.  We used to play together, as kids, remember?”

 

Nadine had no memory of ever playing with Edgar.  Maybe they had.  Maybe just Regan did.  If she had been part of it, she must not have found it very remarkable.

 

“How do you know where he is?  He was supposed to be at company headquarters.”

 

“He’s not.  He had a little party last night.  You know the kind of parties he likes don’t you, Nadine? Well, this party was with a friend of mine.  They will be waiting our arrival.  But we have plenty of time.  So just relax and drive.”

 

She glanced over and saw he had the gun resting in his lap.  A short time ago, she felt so in control.  That had all evaporated in smoke.  She searched her mind for options.  Could she use money, sex, to get Edgar on her side?  Anything.  He had a gun on her and said he would use it.  She was willing to do anything to stop him from hurting her.  Was there any promise she could make?  Was there anyway she could make him trust her?

 

She glanced at the gun again.  Somehow, she didn’t believe any inducements she could offer would turn Edgar away from whatever he had planned for her.  And Regan.

 

Chapter 37

 

Twenty minutes later Edgar directed her to take the Hollywood Boulevard turnoff.  Once she got off the freeway, she drove through the surface streets, frequently stopping at traffic lights. None stayed green long enough to allow more than four cars to pass through the intersection.

 

Finally, he said “take the next right.” She caught a green light and turned.  She looked up at the road sign.  Laval Street, 2300 block. She repeated the number to herself.  She needed to remember that.

 

He told her to slow down. He pointed and said “there, turn in there.” She drove into an underground garage at an apartment building. The driveway descended steeply.  There was a gate at the bottom of the ramp. When she came to a stop, she looked over at him as if to say “okay, now what.”  His free hand disappeared inside his coat and seemed to press a button on a device in his breast pocket.  The gate started rolling upward.  Once it locked in place she edged the Mercedes into the tight garage.  The gate rolled slowly down behind them.

 

There were a few other cars parked in random slots.  At the very end there was an open space beside an elevator.  He waved at it with his gun hand and she pulled in the slot.  She turned off the car.  He told her to give him the keys which she did.  He then told her to stay put and got out of the passenger’s side.  He walked quickly around the car and pulled open her door.  Without being told to, she swung her legs around to get out. Unthinking she spread her legs for leverage to stand in the cramped space.  She saw him looking.  He had seen. And she actually felt herself blushing. She had always got a kick out of flashing some man unexpectedly.  But not this time.  It made her feel vulnerable. Ashamed.  She felt like a little girl being caught at being not just naughty, but worse.  There was nothing erotic about it this time. She saw that he actually sneered. Shame.  And unusual feeling for her.

 

At the elevator, he produced a card key and slid it in the slot to the side of the elevator and the doors opened.  She turned to him and he roughly slapped her face. She hadn’t expected to be hit, and it shocked her.  It stung like hell.  And then he back handed her.  Knocking her off her feet.   He grabbed the front of her jacket and literally drug her on the elevator. The suddenness of the violence, the hard slaps, stunned her.  She had never been hit like that.  Her eyes were watering, and her cheeks stung.  Despite everything that had happened since he accosted her outside Edmund’s office building she had not expected to get beat up.  It never occurred to her that she would actually have physical force used on her.   Suddenly, violence was no longer an abstract concept; something that happen to other people. The pain in her jaw was real and it was happening to her.

 

She stayed on the floor of the elevator. She scooted back in the corner. Afraid to move even though her legs were askew, and her body twisted at an awkward painful angle. Edgar punched the buttons on the wall hard.  He was angry, and all his movements were tense, harsh and forceful.  She didn’t want to be hit again like that. Ever. She again searched her mind for any inducement she might offer that would prevent it from reoccurring.

 

The look in his eyes convinced her there was nothing she could do to persuade him.  She would have to find another way out of this.  She pulled her legs underneath her and pushing against the wall for leverage, rose to her feet.  Her knees were shaky. She felt weak like she might fall any moment. And she could still feel the hot stinging on her cheeks where he had hit her and then back handed her.  She pressed back in the corner as far from him as she could physically get.

 

The bell on the elevator pinged and the doors opened.  He looked at her and without being told and not wanting to be hit, she moved quickly through the doors into the hallway.  She wondered why they had not encountered anyone else since entering the building. The parking garage had at least a dozen cars and there were a lot of apartments in the building, yet Edgar was seemingly unconcerned about meeting anyone else coming on the elevator or encountering them in the hallway when the doors opened.

 

He pushed her forward. When they turned the corner at the end of the hallway she saw standing in front of the last door on the left a man in a uniform.  It wasn’t military. It was more like a security guard.  Incongruously she thought his hat with its visor made him look like a taxi driver.

 

The uniformed man watched them approach. And when Edgar shoved her from behind to hurry her along, she saw him smile.  She knew then he was working with Edgar. Maybe the whole security of the building was in Edgar’s control. It might be controlled by his military buddies.  That would explain a lot.

 

At the door Edgar grabbed her by the neck of her blouse and pulled her backward. The guard moved right up to her and pressed his face almost against hers.

 

“Is this one that had your Pop killed?”

 

“None other.  This is she.”

 

“Looks like a bitch. Nice rack though. And laughing he reached up and grabbed the top of her blouse and ripped downward sending buttons flying.  He then reached up and grabbed her left breast and twisted hard.  She yelled out in pain which caused both men to laugh. It made her think of being a woman in a war zone, a place where there was no law.  She thought these men must have done this before.  It was just too easy for them, too familiar.  Had there been other women this had happened? Women, maybe young girls, who had been unprotected and over whom these soldiers had complete physical control.  Had the women been the enemy, or had they been friendly, at first trusting the soldiers, believing they had been sent there to protect them?

 

“Check out the other part,” she heard Edgar behind her say and he shoved her face against the wall. She felt a hand run up her skirt from behind and force itself between her legs and heard them both whoop and laugh again.  The guard said, “Well, my ‘o my, we got us one here to play with. Another one.”  He buried his fingers roughly in her. It hurt, and she bit her mouth to keep from crying out again.  Her cries just seemed to encourage them.  Again, she felt actual shame.    She heard the door lock being disengaged in the apartment.  The door opened.  Standing there was a slightly built young man, holding a knife.

 

“What the hell you guys doing out here.  You’ll wake up the whole dam building.”

 

“No worries, partner,” said the one in uniform.  “You can’t hear nothing on the other floors from here and we the only ones on this level.”

 

The slight blonde young man waved toward the interior of the apartment and stepped back for them to enter. The guard had taken over the manhandling from Edgar and pushed Nadine through the door.  She felt one of her breasts moving freely having come loose from her bra. The garment must have been torn apart during her mashing.

 

Two other people were in the apartment.  One laying on the couch and another tied to a kitchen chair.

 

“Nadine, Nadine, please,” the plea was coming from the figure in the chair.

 

She heard the voice of her brother, but his face was unrecognizable.  He had been beat severely and he was having difficulty breathing, even pronouncing her name.

 

“Nadine, help me, please,” he said.

 

Even as scared as she was, she was incensed.  “What did you assholes do to him?”  she turned to her captors. Fully expecting someone to back hand her.  No one did.  The guard laughed again.

 

“Oh, we are just having us a party.   You like parties, don’t you Nadine.  We have one of your best party mates here too.  See?”  and he pointed to the figure on the couch.

 

There was no binding on the person.  The body wasn’t moving.  She looked a second time at the face and stifled a scream.  It was Crabtree.  She had been stripped and beaten.  She might be dead, she might just be unconscious.  She couldn’t tell.  Nadine wondered what had been done to her.

 

The young blonde man pulled a chair next to Regan.  He nodded to Nadine and said, “have a seat,” and pulled her over.

 

Nadine sat down, holding her blouse together with her two hands and pressing her knees together. The man with the knife walked over to the couch.  He looked curiously at the prostrate body of Crabtree.  The other two men followed him.  They were talking in low tones.  Nadine realized no one had tied her to the chair.  This was the moment.  The one her Father talked about.  Who she strangely wished was here, perhaps even to protect her like a father is supposed to.  This was the chance he said was usually there if you looked for it.  The moment passes quickly he had said and you have to act. She looked around for something anything to help her.

 

There it was on a counter five steps away, another knife, smaller, slender, but sharp, like a stiletto. And in their fun in messing with her no one had paid attention to locking the door.  It had even not been pushed all the way shut.

 

There was no thought for Regan or anyone else right them.  Nadine wanted to survive.  She let go of her blouse.  To hell with her tits.  She sprang out of the chair, leaped across the distance to the counter and grabbed the knife. She swung it wildly and planted the blade in the middle of the back of the closest one, the young blond guy.  It sunk in and she felt bone, probably his spine.  She left the handle in and pushed him against the other two and as luck would have it they were right next to a coffee table and both fell over it. She a turned and sprinted the ten steps to the door, flung it open and ran as fast as she could down around the corner.  She could hear the yelling as they struggled to get up and chase her.  The guy she had stabbed was screaming his head off in pain.  She made it to the elevator and hit the down button. Thankfully, it immediately opened. She jumped on.

 

Her mind worked fast, fast. She must think.  She knew the garage was a trap. She hit the button for the second floor.  The elevator descended with a swoosh.  It opened, and she ran down the hall looking for the stair way entrance.  She found the door and slung it opened.  She ran down the flight of stairs through the door and, as she had hoped, found herself in the lobby of the apartment building.

 

She saw the big windows and the two front doors. And sprinted toward them. For the first time, she realized her shoes were gone.  Of course, how else could she have run so fast. But she had no memory of where they were.  A startled older man was just about to enter from the courtyard.  Nadine sprinted by him.  She felt her breasts flopping, both now loose from the useless bra.

 

In her peripheral vision she saw the boulevard to her right and headed there.  She stopped running when she got to the street.  She pulled her blouse together and moved toward a hedge next to one of the adjacent buildings.   She squeezed behind it, feeling her skin being scratched. Behind the bush, she was well hidden. She gulped for breath and waited.  She had to figure a way out of this.  For the first time she thought of Regan, still back in the apartment. And Crabtree.  She still didn’t know if Crabtree was alive.  For that matter, she realized, she didn’t really know if Regan was alive at this point.  Would they have left him alive after she had managed to get away? Police. She should find a policeman. But what would that bring?  Maybe rescue Regan and Crabtree but the rest of it might get out then, including Willets. And what they had done to him.  What she had arranged.

 

No.  she needed to call Edmund.  She needed a phone.  Get back on the street she told herself. Find a phone.  Somewhere.  She found the buttons on her jacket were still intact.  She pulled the front together.  And buttoned it.  She pushed herself out the other side of the hedge. Unconsciously she tried to smooth her hair a little. She must look a fright.  But probably no worse than some of the other denizens, the ever-growing “homeless” population, that plied these streets. She started walking.  Very aware of her bare feet, she kept close to the buildings and ignored the stares of the other pedestrians.  Then at the corner. She saw it.  A small store. She needed a phone.  How?  Well, there are plenty of men around here.  Walking by on the street.  She had escaped.  She was starting to feel strong again.  And she knew, even in this condition, beat up, looking like hell, she could get what she needed off one of these men.

 

 

For more writing by Phil Cline, or to read earlier chapters, visit philcline.com

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters 32 ,33 ,& 34

A King’s Trust, Chapters 32 ,33 ,& 34

Chapters 32, 33, & 34 of “A King’s Trust”, a novel I am publishing online

 

The King in a Foreign Land Considers his Return

 

Chapter 32

 

“I went to San Diego with Marcy.  You knew about that.”  Dylan glanced up at Teresa.  Lenny did too.  Her expression never changed.

 

“Everything was alright for a few days.  She had that wound to her side. She got it when they she tried to pull them off Willets. At least that’s what she said.  I got knocked down.  I couldn’t see what was happening.  Anyway, everything was pretty calm.  I didn’t try to call any of you.  I guess I just didn’t want to deal with any of it.  Then one afternoon when I got home to the apartment, her father was there.  And someone else.  Lenora Crabtree.  From your office.”

 

Lenny was stunned.  He certainly hadn’t expected to hear that Crabtree was keeping company with Marcy’s father.  Something major had to have happened.  Lenny’s mind turned over the possibilities. Automatically.  Like the old days.  Crabtree might have been sent to the meeting by Nadine. Possible.  That would mean Marcy’s father and Nadine were now aligned.  Possible.  But there was another possibility.  Maybe Nadine had been betrayed.  Could Marcy’s father have given Crabtree enough motivation to turn on Nadine? Sure, he could.  With Crabtree it had always been about the money.  Lenny had always counted on that.  Marcy’s father, if what everyone said was true, had few limits on providing that kind of motivation.

 

“What was she doing there?”

 

“I’m not sure.  Dad, you know I didn’t want to be involved with all that.  Especially right then.  But yeah, even so, I was surprised to see her there.   I couldn’t guess why she was there with Marcy’s father.  All of them at our little apartment.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“Well, her father told me we needed to talk.  I told him, you know, like I always do, always say to everybody, to just not involve me.  I want no enemies.  Business isn’t my thing.  That was for Marcy.  I just want to teach, you know, have my friends, my family.  And be left alone.”

 

“What did her father say to that?”

 

“I remembered he just stared at me.  Didn’t smile, didn’t frown, didn’t say anything. That’s’ when Marcy said that wasn’t going to be possible anymore.”

 

He glanced back up at Teresa.  Her expression never changed.  He then looked back at Lenny and continued.

 

“She said I was going to have to make some choices.  I couldn’t be a coward forever.  She actually called me a coward.”

 

Dylan took a deep breath. Relating what happened was clearly painful for him.  Teresa looked on.  She shifted her weight and then leaned back against the doorframe.  She moved again like she was uncomfortable.

 

“You know until then I thought she was okay with me staying out of things.  Sure, I knew she wasn’t just a student; she was more than that. But I thought we, the two of us, had something different, at school and not at school, you know, off campus.  I definitely realized she had interests in her father’s affairs, the business side, but she never really bothered me with that stuff. I figured because I had said so many times I just didn’t like it.”

 

For the first time Teresa spoke up.

 

“And now you see what it gets you, Nene. I hate that stuff too, but we have to keep our eyes open; we got to see.  Your Marcy was right about that part.”

 

She walked over and sat down next to Dylan on the couch.  Lenny wondered at the meaning of the name she called him.  Whatever it was, it sounded like a term of endearment. Lenny found he was comfortable with her presence and taking part in the conversation.  She had rescued him.  When she didn’t have to.  He felt intensely loyal to her, her whole family, feelings he usually didn’t have at all, much less someone he had known such a short time.  But it felt natural.  This all felt natural.

 

She still had the towel in her lap. She sat close to Dylan and angled her body toward him but without touching.  He looked at her and then at Lenny and continued.

 

“I remember Marcy pulled a chair out from the kitchen table for me and I sat down.  She remained standing.  I was waiting but she didn’t sit down.  Then her father and the Crabtree woman sat down at the table.  He was across, and she was next to me.”

 

Lenny nodded.  “And you felt surrounded.”

 

“Yes.  And that Crabtree, she had some papers there.  She put them in front of me.  When I asked her what they were, Marcy’s father jumped in and said, that’s what we want to talk to you about.”

 

“Did you read them?”

 

“Not really, I asked, again, what they were.”

 

“What did they say?”

 

“They told me they were the ownership papers for my stock, all what they called my “assets and interests” in your business.  The also used the term “waivers.”  I kind of guessed at what that meant.  They said I might need them on file if I ended up in what they named a Probate court should you, my father, unexpectedly pass away.”

 

That got Lenny’s attention.

 

Before he could say anything, Dylan pressed on, “I know, I know.  I said, well, actually I got really upset and I may have yelled, what do you mean by that? And I stood up and started to leave.”

 

Dylan paused in what he was saying and looked down at the carpet.  He sat there for a few moments shaking his head.  His next attempt to speak got stuck in a kind of choke.  Neither Lenny nor Teresa said anything.

 

Dylan found his voice and began again.  “When I tried to leave, Marcy stood in my way.  Between me and the door.  She said, and you know she said it real sarcastic, I never saw her do that before. She said, I remember her exact words, look, Dylan, Love. This is what you always wanted.  You want out, well, here it is, a way out.  Dad is going to cut a check for you for a cool million dollars and all you have to do is sign those fucking papers right there on the table.”

 

Lenny knew what came next and he couldn’t wait for Dylan to finish.  He had to ask.  “Well, did you?  Did you sign?”

 

Dylan paused and looked at his father.

 

“I told them I didn’t know what you would say, what Nadine and you, would both say.  They said you don’t matter anymore anyway and as to Nadine, they didn’t get specific, but said she might not like it, but she would have to be okay with it eventually, and that I shouldn’t worry.  I could go back to teaching.  And be out of all this and I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore. Ever.”

 

Dylan paused again and gathered himself.  “You know I thought going down there, well, Marcy and I would be together on everything, but when I looked at her she wasn’t with me, it was like she had never been with me.  She was part of them, teamed with them.  She seemed very ugly to me right then.”

 

Teresa reached over and patted Dylan’s hand then returned it to her lap.  Lenny realized she had heard this before.  Dylan had told her everything already.

 

Dylan, said, “when I told them I wanted to wait and talk it over with someone they said there was no time, and this was a one-shot deal.  Sign it, they said.  Loud. Marcy was really loud.  I asked what happens if I don’t and they said, they said, you, Dad, might end up like Willets. And did I want that?”

 

It was quiet for a few moments.

 

“What did you do, Dylan?”

 

“I was afraid for you, Dad. At first, before they said that, I thought I should just sign and get out of it, and you would not be hurt that way. I guess I was weak.  But right then I didn’t know if I could trust them. Marcy was different.  Mrs. Crabtree, she was different.  You know from what they were like before.  And Marcy’s father.  The way he was looking at me.  It scared me. A lot.  I just didn’t know that if I signed like they wanted, I didn’t know if I could believe them, believe they wouldn’t hurt you even if I did sign. Once I signed, what could I do if they did?”

 

Dylan paused for a moment and then added.  “And I guess a part of me was afraid of what you would think of me if I did that to you, signed away my, our, interests in the corporation.”

 

Lenny smiled at that and waited.

 

“Well, I didn’t sign. I told them No.  Then Marcy got mad.  I never saw her like that before either.  She called me a fool, tore up the check in front of my face and then she said, pushed, here is something else for you and she dropped a bus ticket on the floor.  She told me I might as well have it.  They were going to give it to me anyway if I didn’t sign.  And she just walked out.  Like that.  All three left.”

 

“So, you came home?”

 

“Not at first.  I guess I just moped around the apartment for a couple of days.  A couple moving guys came for her things.  I called to talk to you, ask what I should do, but no one could find you. I actually used the bus ticket and I came home.  Then Teresa called me at the college.  Said you were here.”

 

Chapter 33

 

Lenny pushed the mower up the slanted driveway and through the open iron gates, across the patio that ran along the side of the mansion and to the edge of the lawn behind the house. He pushed the button on the side of the mower the way Florencio had shown him.  The starter on the mower engaged and it sputtered to life.  He released the lever at the handle and the self-propelled mower pulled him forward.   The surprising power of the engine pulled him along almost at a trot. This certainly wasn’t pushing a mower. On the contrary, his main concern was being careful he didn’t lose control of the mower, overshoot the edge of the lawn, and muck up the flowerbeds.

 

Back and forth across the vast lawn he went, getting used to the level of acceleration depending on how much he released the lever. He fell into a nice brisk rhythm.  After each turn he passed Florencio and his son in among the flowers, gardens, hedges and small ornamental trees, using power trimmers to prune and shape all along the side of the property. The hedge had to be fifteen feet tall. The owners must treasure their privacy.  Well, hadn’t Lenny felt the same when he lived in a mansion no less elaborate than this one?

 

Lenny liked this part of the work.  His mind was free to go where it wanted.  He had forgotten that benefit of physical labor.  It was a good time to think.  Once you set about doing the task, got the tools working, it was then a simple job. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. It couldn’t be hurried and be done right, it couldn’t be shortened and be complete.   It was a specific job to do and if you had the skills and tools, concentration on the task at hand didn’t have to be total.  You could look forward in your life, keep your eye on the horizon, even check behind you and still do the job and do it well.  It must have been a sense developed when humans had to till the crops or skin the latest kill, but still pay attention to the mountain ridge or the forest where threats might reside and be waiting to spring forward to destroy and kill any moment.

 

Lenny’s mind went to the last four weeks he had stayed with Florencio.  Once he started feeling well, he asked to join his crew as they ventured forward each morning to do lawns and grounds keeping for his new list of clients. Florencio raised an eyebrow when Lenny said he wanted to go with them but didn’t try to argue him out of it. Lenny speculated Florencio felt he wouldn’t last through the first day what with the heat and hard work.  But Lenny had wanted to do something, anything rather than sit around the house thinking of what had happened and trying to figure out a solution to all the problems his foolishness had caused.

 

Teresa had followed Dylan back to the campus.  Dylan had called and said he was already back in the classroom, taking the place of an adjunct professor who had fallen ill.  Teresa was staying on at the college.  She, much to his delight, had two degrees, one in Spanish and one is Spanish literature and had been granted an interim junior college teaching credential.  She got hired on assisting a language professor in putting together class lectures. She had even substituted for him.

 

After they left, Lenny had found himself all alone during the day and wanted something to do. Once he got used to it, he found the work therapeutic.

 

Bone tired at the end of the day he slept well.  Had a good appetite.  And it was getting easier.  He also found that the labor was not that strenuous.  Not with the modern equipment Florencio had in his truck.

 

Florencio seemed to treasure every tool that made his labor easier.  He treated the equipment lovingly and carefully.  Cleaning the mowers, edgers, trimmers often, changing the oil and gas every day and sometimes between jobs before he carefully put each tool away in his truck and the enclosed trailer he pulled behind. Lenny liked the mowing.  He didn’t believe he had the skills necessary to trim and prune without ruining the plant or tree he was working on, but the mowing he could do.  And it freed his mind to consider his situation.  And see it as a whole.  Not just one piece, but all the moves by all the players that had gone before, what was going on right now and what he needed to do in the future.

 

Edgar was hard at work setting up a few of those moves.  In secret. They had decided on a plan and he was laying the foundation.  No one would be watching Edgar.  But they might be watching Lenny.  Even though Lenny would appear to have been completely neutralized, mowing lawns with his former gardener, they couldn’t be completely sure, and Lenny suspected he was being watched, checked on.

 

Edgar had agreed.  And Edgar wasn’t having to do everything himself. Dylan with the assistance of the able Teresa was also at work.  They didn’t think anyone on either side, neither Nadine nor Marcy would consider Dylan enough of a threat to monitor. His history of assiduously avoiding becoming involved in anything remotely having to do with the business maneuvers and power plays had them convinced he would stay on the sidelines. They were mistaken.

 

Lenny had received calls from all the players.  First Regan. Then Marcy’s father.  Next, Nadine and when he didn’t respond, the calls became more frequent.  Every day the phone would ring a number of times.  He looked at the caller ID and ignored them.  And now even the lawyers including the predatory Edmund were calling and leaving messages.  They all knew where he was and obviously what he was doing, but not why.  And they seemed to be nonplussed when he steadfastly refused to speak to them and returned not a single call, even though some of the messages they left were implied and increasingly express threats of dire legal consequences.

 

Lenny walking behind his mower smiled at the thought.  What could they do to him, they had not already done?  They had done so much, taken so much from Lenny, the legal threats meant little to him.  He knew he still had a sizable stake in the company and Dylan’s refusal to join his shares to theirs had left it intact for now.  They had no means to penetrate to the core of what was left.  Nick Easley had seen to that on their behalf.

 

Having grown increasingly angry at being forced to the sidelines of his profession, Easley was starting to make small moves of his own to regain his former footing among in the local legal community.  He had met with Lenny and Dylan secretly, and explored different ways of protecting them and fighting a legal holding action to prevent Nadine’s group from gaining absolute control of King Enterprises.  The strategy he offered was to create a living trust for Lenny and Dylan. It would require that they transfer title of the all their assets into the trust.  And as Trustee Easley selected a longtime friend from his law school days, who was now a retired Federal Judge.

 

Not having control over a clear majority of shares, left Nadine and Regan having to constantly defend their legal position.  They had to keep filing emergency affidavits to get the court orders they needed to operate the company.  Fortunately, according to Easley, the court was issuing only temporary orders with specific time limits and they had to keep going back to court for more orders. The Judge with Lenny’s and Dylan’s shares being held back and with Willets tied up in probate, was powerless to issue the final orders for Nadine to permanently take control.

 

Lenny smiled at that. The Ice Queen was still a mystery to him.  Just who’s side was she on anyway?

 

Lenny had been able to follow the legal maneuverings with daily updates from his lawyer.  While Easley was keeping a low profile, purdently making himself a small target, he still had his contacts in the court clerk’s offices and with their help was able to access the court files electronically and analyze the motions and orders from afar and all without leaving a digital fingerprint.  Plus, he had a few buddies in the legal profession who owed him a favor or two and who on a rotating basis stopped by the courtroom when there was hearing regarding the operation of King Enterprises. Ostensibly there on their own business they watched the proceedings and then reported back to the lawyer who then gave a daily briefing to Lenny.

 

The time was approaching when Lenny, Edgar and Dylan would need to make a few legal maneuvers themselves and then, no doubt, all hell would break loose.  But in the meantime, Lenny followed the self-propelled mower back and forth across the lawns.

 

Feeling the mower get heavy and begin to lug a bit, he stopped and put the gear in neutral.  He then moved to empty the grass clippings in a black plastic yard waste can he had left on the edge of the patio. As Lenny bent to re-attach the catcher to the back of the mower, he looked over and saw Florencio watching him, an enigmatic smile on his face.  Florencio nodded at Lenny and then turned back to the small Japanese maple tree.

 

The pruning job on those trees, they had told Lenny, was delicate because if overdone the heat would burn the interior branches and damage the tree.  Florencio often described the intricacies of special jobs as they sat at a burger place having lunch or leaned against the counter in his kitchen having a beer at the end of the day.   Lenny had the feeling Florencio was not just talking about the shrubbery when he described how to do the work, how to prune and shape, without harming the living thing under the shears.

 

Back behind the mower, Lenny thought that Yes, this has to end soon, and I need to get back to where I was.  I was a fool to act the way I did and give it all over in trust.  Trust was a word he hadn’t known the real meaning of before his sojourn with Florencio’s family, but he knew it now and he suspected it would be the other side’s inability to trust each other that would lose them this battle.

 

That was all in the future, but soon enough.  Still, Lenny felt he would actually miss this, the work, the actual physical labor. It wasn’t so bad, and he did sleep well.

 

Chapter 34

 

Unlike Lenny King, Nadine was not sleeping well at all.  She longed for the days when she could drink herself into a nice happy warm place with a handsome companion; the times she was free to engage in some sexual adventure with someone new, see them to the door and then drift off to sleep for hours with nothing to roust her until late in the afternoon, late enough for the hangover to have worn off.

 

But now she found she didn’t have the time, and worse, didn’t have the urge, to just walk off from her responsibilities, get drunk and get fucked.

 

She had worries.  She had to worry that if she was away from the business, her brother would muck up something.   Or that bitch Crabtree would maneuver around manipulating the staff and subtly working to undermine her authority.

 

And she worried Marcy’s father would finally make the big move Edmund had warned her they would make.   How would she handle the defense of a full-scale hostile takeover of the company?

 

Two of the directors on the board had made Nadine aware that they had picked up on the fact a conglomerate had been buying up small chunks of King Company stock.  He was moving slowly, being cautious, doing nothing to signal his intent to the broader investment community. He was following the usual strategy when there was an actual plan to gain control rather than just drive up the price of stock on the speculation a hostile takeover was looming. But Nadine knew the attack was coming.  Edmund said it was.  He had his contacts and they too were reporting on the positioning.

 

Another worry.  Even her Edmund seemed a little too friendly, too accommodating to Marcy and her father.   And that bitch Judge.  When they appeared at a hearing last week and for the fourth time have her put off making a final decision eliminating Lenny and Dylan from any form of control in the company, it appeared Her Honor was also quite taken with the handsome Edmund, smiling and bantering back and forth, impressed with their own wit, while the rest of the courtroom waited.

 

And more worries.  The Board of Directors, at first compliant and wanting to go along with virtually anything that wouldn’t negatively affect the stock price was becoming restive.   The murder investigation going on for that old man Willets, had resulted in a team of detectives descending on the company headquarters and they were interviewing the management staff and asking questions.

 

And her Father.  That was one she couldn’t figure out.  She was getting weekly reports from the private investigation firm she had hired. She thought her Father must have lost the last of his mind.  The former president of a company now mowing lawns for a living.  Sure, she had boxed him in financially, but nothing that should lead to him work on a gardening crew!  He could make a sizable chunk of change if he agreed to sell his stock to her. She had had Edmund send out feelers. Or, she also knew, he could sell to Marcy’s father who she also knew had sent out inquiries.  She had even had the lawyers deliver threats to sue.  But her Father hadn’t replied.  No response at all.  Nadine sometimes wished she had made the deal her father had proposed. Too late now.   All that was passed.  It happened before she had discovered the Crabtree woman was a traitor and Marcy’s father had started positioning his firm for a takeover of Nadine’s company.  Yes, she had come to feel it was her company now.  Not her Father’s.

 

All these worries made her tired.   She sat on the side of her bed, attempting to marshal the energy it would take to get up and to walk in for her morning shower.   Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing phone.

 

She picked it up.  It was Edmund.

 

“I have some more information on what your Father is up to.  We need to talk.  I want to move this all back to court.  We need to get this resolved.  Everything is at a standstill and we need to blast it loose.”

 

“I thought we tried that and that little blonde bitch of a judge you are so cozy with just keeps giving us temporary orders and telling us to come back.  Can’t we get rid of her first?”

 

“She has the case by special assignment from the presiding judge.  We have no grounds for having the case removed from her court. And trying to do it without a clear victory strategy is very risky.  I don’t want to anger her right now.  She might take it as an insult.  Besides she will do right by us in the end. I’m sure of it.  In fact, I guarantee it. Trust me on this.”

 

I don’t trust you, thought Nadine.  I don’t trust anyone.  Not ever. Never did and not going to start now especially some shyster who’s in it for the money, the fees, even if you do have big arms and big chest and pretty good size in other departments. No reason to trust anyone.   Not one reason to expect any person to look out for her, to help her out of a jam. The only thing to really trust is that everyone will act in their own self-interest.  Do what is best for them. That’s how you control them.  Know what they want, what they need and work all your assumptions off that one truth.

 

No wonder I can’t sleep, she thought.  I don’t have tight enough reins on all this to make sure I can trust people to do what I want them to do, because I have no control over what they are going to get out of it.  Not with these damn court proceedings dragging on.

 

“Okay, then,” she said, “What happens now?”

 

“Lets’ meet, I can explain it then.”

 

“At the office, in two hours.”

 

Nadine put the phone down and thought about going back to sleep. Just lie back on the pillow and maybe get twenty minutes.  It would be so welcome right now.

 

But she knew it wouldn’t work.  She was already wondering what Edmund was wanting to talk about.  What was he up to? And she wanted to get to the office and see if Regan had screwed up something or Crabtree had co-opted another department head.  That woman needed to go.  Nadine toyed with idea of walking in the door and firing her today, but she knew to offend her, make her an enemy could backfire. It would virtually guarantee that she would end up on the witness stand testifying to all she knew about Nadine’s moves to take over the company and raid her father’s assets.  Something Nadine certainly didn’t want.  No, she would have to wait, she would need patience in dealing with the Crabtree woman.

 

She knew from Edmund’s contacts Crabtree was talking to Marcy’s father.  Had even joined him in trying to force Dylan’s hand and pay him off for signing over his shares to Marcy and her Father.   As Edmund had explained, the woman’s double dealing, double agent stuff was understandable, but ultimately usable against her.  They had time.  She was positioning herself to go either way depending on which way the chips fell.  If Nadine won, she had her position with the company and her new contract.  If Marcy won, she had a good chance to become president of King Enterprises, a new subsidiary to Marcy’s father’s Corporation. But it was too early for her to pick either way.  Still too many variables.  Crabtree was a smart lady, but Nadine wasn’t through with her yet. There was time and there were ways to deal with women like her.  Hadn’t they dealt with that fool Willets?  Maybe some of that kind of direct action would be good for the arrogant Ms. Crabtree.

 

Going back to court, infused Nadine with a sense of dread.  She had to rely on Edmund being right about the necessity of doing so, but she hated the lawyer stuff.  She had at first thought she would be able to control the court proceedings like she had maintained control of every aspect of the removal of her Father from the company. But the Ice Queen, that’s what Edmund said everyone called this judge, kept throwing monkey wrenches into the mix.  Edmund had said she was in the bag.  Well, she obviously wasn’t. And what did that mean about him?  How reliable was his judgement?  He was paid for being right.  And he hadn’t been right about her.  So far.

 

He wasn’t to be trusted. She knew that, but what was he up to?  She thought the money she had paid him, the sexual favors she had willingly given him would be enough.  She had been wrong about that too.  She had to admit she had lost control there too.

 

She couldn’t trust any of them.  She felt like she would like to take them all and have them ground up beneath one of those mowers the investigator had reported her Father was showing such alacrity in operating.

 

She stood up. She dropped her robe and headed for the shower.  Being the Queen of the kingdom hadn’t turned out to be that much fun after all.  Not after the crown was won. Now she had to defend it.  Harder than she thought. She wondered if the war to maintain power is ever won.   Or is it never ending?

 

For more writings by Phil Cline or to read earlier chapters, visit philcline.com