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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

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters 29, 30, & 31

A King’s Trust, Chapters 29, 30, & 31

Chapters 29, 30, and 31 of “A King’s Trust,” a novel I am publishing online

 

 A King finds where good is.

 

Chapter 29

 

Lenny pulled out on the road and headed his car North.   Off in the distance he could see the lights of a town.  He knew it wasn’t directly ahead.  The coast road curved around a peninsula.  He would have to travel inland then back out again before he got to the town.  Though right now it seemed close, it was still a way off.  He wondered about his gas.  He drove on.

 

He didn’t have a plan. He idly thought about what would happen when he got out of the car.  If he asked anyone for help.  He doubted anyone would help him looking like he did.  They would more likely call the police. And then what would he tell the officers?

 

He was half naked.  He had no identification.  He had to look crazy.  Like some out of his mind lunatic.  They would take him into custody; they would hold him a while that was for sure.  Hell, they might even put him in a mental institution.  If he told them to call Nadine or Regan, they just might tell the police he needs to be put away.  If they ever get me in there, he thought, I’m not going to get out.  Nadine will see to that.  It’s all over for me if that happens.

 

At least it wasn’t a cold night.  If it was, wet and almost naked, he might freeze to death.   He flipped on the heater and put the fan up to high.  He resisted accelerating.  Unusual for him.   He always drove fast.  But he needed to preserve every drop of gas.

 

As he approached the town, he saw the sign.  Cayucos. He knew the name from somewhere. Who lived in Cayucos?  And then he remembered. The gardener.  That little man, Florencio was his name, had said something about Cayucos.  Was it where his kids lived?  Where he lived?

 

Lenny saw a gas station and mini market.  It was open. Lights were on.  No other cars were there. He pulled up to one of the pumps, stopped, and looked inside.  A lone clerk was behind the counter.  He appeared to be a teenager.  He was looking down reading something.

 

Lenny sat.  He let the car idle.  What was going to happen? Something bad, he knew.

 

Well, he would have to chance it.  He turned off the engine and got out of the car. The blacktop felt sticky, oily, on his bare feet.  He thought of how he must look.  He was ashamed.  He certainly was not a physical specimen. Withered.  He thought of his age and glanced down at his body.  Chest caved in slightly.  The paunch.  His pants were loose, and he had to hold them up with one hand as he limped toward the lights.

 

A bell rang as he pushed open the door. The young clerk looked up and, seeing Lenny, his eyes got wide. He eased himself off the stool he had been seated on and seemed to be in a quandary about what to do upon his encounter with this specter.

 

Lenny held up one hand, “Please don’t be alarmed.  I was, ‘ah, involved in an incident and, ‘ah, I’ve been taken, well, my clothes were taken and my wallet and everything.  I’m kind of in a bind and I need to get some help.  I need to use a telephone.  You see, my cell phone was lost and I really do need some help here.  Would you mind?”

 

Lenny fully expected that the young man would pull a gun, or a bat, maybe run for the back, anything but actually offer assistance. Such was his faith in the charity of his fellow man.

 

There was curious look on the clerk’s face and then it seemed to soften.

 

“Yeah, looks like you hit some rough waves, Mister.  Sure.  Here’s a phone.”

 

And he reached under a counter and pushed a phone over in front of Lenny.

 

While Lenny watched, the boy walked from behind the counter, over to a shelf and picked up a plastic package.  He ripped it open. “Here,” he said.  And he handed Lenny a sweatshirt.

 

Lenny had trouble trying to put it on while holding his pants up with the other hand.

 

“Just a second,” and the young man walked back behind the counter. He rummaged underneath for a moment and came up with a length of rope.  He handed it to Lenny who quickly put it through the belt loops and the tied it in front. He put on the sweatshirt and zipped it up the front. And despite how he looked, he didn’t feel naked anymore and was comparatively comfortable.

 

“Please do you have a phone book?”

 

“Phone book?  I don’t think so.  You don’t have a number of someone to call?”

 

Lenny thought fast. He didn’t want to appear any more suspicious than he already did.

 

“Well, I’m not local. And I know someone who may live nearby so I wanted to try them first, but I just don’t remember the number.”

 

“Sure, okay.  Here. Just a second.  Let me look.” After rummaging around he produced one from underneath the counter.

 

Lenny flipped it open and stated to scan the pages under Estrada.  There were three.  One had a middle initial, the same as his gardener.  For some reason, he thought that must be the one and called.

 

It was answered by a woman.  From the sound of the voice it was a young woman.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Yes, I’m sorry to be calling at this hour, but my name is Lenny King.  May I ask if Florencio is home?”

 

“Did you say, Lenny King?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“My father works for Mister Lenny King.  But my father is not here right now.  Can I help you with something? Uh, Mr. King?”

 

Lenny was crestfallen to hear Florencio was not there.  He was reluctant to ask the young woman for help.  But what choice did he have?

 

“Yes.  Well, I’m in a bit of trouble.  I’ve been involved in an accident of sorts and I am here without any money and I’ve lost my wallet and there is nowhere else to turn and . . .” Lenny’s voice actually trembled.  And he trailed off.  He didn’t know what else to say.

 

There was silence on the other end.

 

Finally, “Mr. King, where are you?”

 

Lenny turned to the clerk who had been listening to Lenny’s side of the conversation.

 

“Is there an address I can give my friend here on the phone.”

 

The clerk pointed to a small sign pasted to the back of the cash register. It had the address on it, under the words “Kenny’s Git and Go” Lenny read the entire sign over the phone.

 

“Mr. King.  I’m going to send my brother to get you.  I will call my father and tell him.  My brother drives a GMC pick-up. It is silver.  He should be there in a few minutes.  Hold on.  Just a minute.”

 

Lenny could hear her speaking Spanish in the background.  An exchange.  Then a man’s voice said something firmly and then the young woman’s voice got louder and harsh and finally after a few seconds, a ‘Si. Si” from the man. A finally in English the man said, “I’m going, I’m going.”

 

The woman’s voice came back on the phone.  Gentle again. Soft.  “He will be there in a few minutes, Senor.”

 

And she hung up.  When Lenny turned back to the clerk to hand him the phone, there was cup of hot coffee sitting on the counter.

 

Lenny didn’t think he had ever met such kind people.  Were there more like these out there?  He didn’t know.  Probably. Maybe he just never noticed.

 

 

Chapter 30

 

Twenty minutes later, Lenny was seated in front of the counter in a plastic chair.  The Clerk had come up with the chair from someplace behind the counter and had pulled it around for him.  He was looking down at his bare feet when his attention was drawn to the reflection of lights in the window.  He stood and looked outside.  He couldn’t see clearly through the dirty window, but he did see that a large pickup truck had pulled up to the front of the mini mart.  Huge tractor like tires and a visible chrome suspension emerging from the undercarriage.  It looked like it would take a ladder to climb up to the cab.

 

A large Spanish man walked through the door and right behind him was Lenny’s gardener.

 

“Mister King,” Florencio said, “What happened to you?”  He was looking at Lenny’s still wet pants and the sweatshirt and the bare feet.

 

“It’s a long story.”

 

“It must be.  Come on.  Let’s get you back to the house.  You can’t go around like that.  Is that your car by the pump?  My son will drive it.  Do you have the keys?”

 

“Yes, but there is no gas . . . and I’m afraid my wallet . . . .”

 

“Never mind about that.” Florencio turned to the clerk. “Mikey, put it on my account.” Lenny muttered to himself: “Mikey?”  Despite his kindness, Lenny hadn’t even asked for the clerk’s name.   Mikey nodded at Florencio and turned to a cash register and started hitting buttons.

 

“Fernando, you fill the car with petrol.  Follow us.” And to Lenny he said, “Give him the keys, Mister King.”

 

Lenny handed the keys over to Fernando and then followed Florencio out to the pickup.  It was indeed large.  The gigantic wheels stuck out past the edge of the vehicle.  Florencio placed his foot on the side step and swung up behind the wheel and started the big truck.  Lenny climbed up the other side, not without difficulty given his bare feet, and managed to get in the cab.  He reached over toward the dashboard, but then hesitated.  He wanted to turn on the heat, but he couldn’t figure out the controls.  Florencio reached over, turned a knob and pushed a button and the heat immediately started flowing into the cab of the truck.

 

Lenny felt like he had to explain,

 

“There are some things going on that are hard to say.”

 

Florencio held up his hand. “Yes, I know.  Some of it I know, anyway.  I’ve seen this coming on for a long time, Senor King.  And then when they gave me my walking papers, I figured something bad had happened.  To You. Then when the “For Sale” sign went up I knew.  Knew I was out, and it made me think you were out too. Somehow.  You wouldn’t have sold the house.  I asked around.  It wasn’t hard to find out. People are talking.  You got thrown out of your business, then your house, Senor King. By your own kids.  Not good.”

 

“No. Not good.”

 

They sped out onto Highway One.  He thought going south.

 

They both got quiet.  The warmth flowing into cab was making Lenny sleepy.

 

After a while, Florencio said, “Well, let’s get you home and put you right.  Then you can deal with it all later.  Or try, I guess.”

 

“I don’t know.”  Lenny said.  “I don’t know how to do it anymore.  Ever get that way?  I don’t think I have any moves left to make.  No one to help.  Thank God, for your daughter, you know. That is your daughter?  You told me about her once.  I can’t remember her name. And that clerk.  Mikey?  He’s a good guy.”

 

“Yeah, Mikey a smart boy. His parents own that market.  Teresa is my daughter’s name by the way. She’s the good one.  I told you about her.  You know, of all my kids, she is good, just good.  Good person.  I had to say I’m sorry to her.  When I got mad. When I didn’t’ think.  Said I’m sorry a lot.  ‘lo silento.’ But she is good.  I went and found her and told her I’m sorry, you know. She forgive me.  The others, well, they have their ways.  Anyway, she called me right away about you.  I was coming home from my job.  I’m doing lawns now.  And the county parks.   I got a truck and the whole set up, but when I heard, I came right away. Remember that though, about the kids, there are good ones.”

 

Lenny wondered why Florencio kept talking.  It was almost a rant.  “Bad children and good.  Bad people and good.   You got some good ones too. That Dylan of yours.  He is good.  Just natural good.  By the way, he is back.  From where he had gone, he came back.  I talked to him the day I got fired. He didn’t know and said he was sorry.  And I think he wants to help. And that other one. I like him.  Ex-Army guy, or Marine or something.  Edgar.  Seen him. Tough boy.  He got hit very hard. But I would want to have him on my side. They will help you.  I shall help.  Many will help.  You just got to get right. And fast.  No one gonna’ wait for you to get well.  People never do.  They are going to go on if you don’t do something.”

 

Florencio suddenly stopped talking.  The same way he had suddenly quit talking once before.  Like he had said everything he wanted to say.  Like he had been thinking about this for some time.  Like he was going to take the chance and tell Lenny exactly what he thought Lenny should hear. And then stop.

 

Lenny looked over at his gardener.  The man was remarkable he thought. And he has this energy and this can-do attitude. And, Lenny thought, I used to have that. But I lost it.  Or maybe I just gave it up.  He didn’t know if he would be able to find it again. Maybe he could. But right then he just wanted to be warm.  He was hungry.  He was tired. He leaned his head against the window. He listened to the fan of the heater pumping more warmth into the cab of the truck.  And he fell asleep.

 

 

 

Chapter 31

 

“Edgar, can you come right away?”

 

“I will be there.  I’m an hour away, but I’ll be there.”

 

Lenny sat in an oversized recliner in Florencio’s living room talking to Edgar on the telephone. Seated at the kitchen table just off the living room was his son, Dylan.  He watched his son smile at Teresa who had said something to him as she poured him a cup of coffee.  Dylan whispered something in reply and she laughed.  She was pretty this Teresa and had pretty ways.

 

He had thought she was an angel when he first saw her face.  He had been lying in the bed and when he woke up her face was the first one he saw.  She had a nice smile, kind and gentle as she moved from her chair over to his bed to speak to him.

 

“You decide to wake up Mr. King?” she said good naturedly. “We didn’t know when you would.  I think you were very tired, Mr. King.  It is good that you got the rest.”

 

The room was nice. Blue.  It was painted blue.  The paint was louder than he would have chosen. But it was nice.  Restful.  He pulled himself up to a sitting position.  He was a little sore, but he did feel rested.

 

“How long have I been here?”

 

“Since day before yesterday. You were sound asleep.  Fernando and my father carried you inside.  They got you out of the wet things and put you to bed.  Lenny realized he was in pajamas.  They were very large.  He wondered if they belonged to Fernando.

 

“You also have a visitor.” She called out.  “Senor Dylan!”, she called out, “Come say good morning to your papa.”

 

Dylan appeared at the door.  “How you fellin’, Pops?”

 

“I’m okay. Now.  Think I was in bad shape.  These people helped me. I wish I could thank them properly. Pay them back. Teresa, thank you. And your dad, where is your dad?”

 

“Da nada.  My father, he is away.  He says there are some things at your house he wants to go and try to get and he and my brother left for there early this morning.  He said to tell you this.  You should call,” and she pulled a piece of paper from her apron. “Edgar.  He said you should call Edgar. There is a number here.  Do you want it?”

 

Lenny looked over at Dylan. He had been following the discussion but had not said anything.   That was as usual for him.  Then to Lenny’s surprise, he actually offered a comment.

 

“Yes, Dad.  They are right.  Edgar needs to be called.  He’s all alone and, besides, anyway, you, ah, we need him right now.”

 

Teresa was nodding her head in agreement with what Dylan was saying.

 

He had the impression that the two of them had discussed everything already.

 

Didn’t matter.  Lenny felt, whatever is going on, for the first time since he could remember, Dylan was taking an interest in something outside his classrooms.  He was expressing an opinion and talking about actually acting, doing something. Lenny was very pleased.

 

Someone, maybe this family who rescued him, whomever, was having an influence on the boy and it was a good one.

 

Lenny called the number on the piece of paper, Teresa had handed him.

 

Edgar picked up.  Before anything else, Lenny asked after his father.

 

“Edgar, this is Lenny King. Willets? I’m sorry about your father. He was a special friend.  We had been together for a long time.”

 

“Yes.  He’s gone. They got him.  Can’t help him now. Never should have happened.”

 

“No.  It shouldn’t have.  He never should have been arrested.  Never put in jail.  I just want you to know, those charges were not true, Edgar. Your Father was an honest man. Honest to a fault sometimes.  He would never have done what they said he did.”

 

“Yes.  I know that.  That District Attorney.  The one that filed those charges.  Got the arrest warrant.  You know, he now says they had decided not to proceed with the case against my father. He won’t say it was a mistake. And definitely won’t say they made the whole thing up.  Said they had some reports and the case had to be brought for the “integrity of the process” or some such thing.  I want to get back at these people Mr. King.  Bad.”

 

“Well, they have got me out of the way too.  At least for now.  I guess as to your Dad, they figure there is no need to press on in support of something that would never have stood up to scrutiny.  Not in a court of law.  Maybe they got what they wanted and will just leave it alone.”

 

“Maybe. But I’m not leaving it alone. I owe some people.  I’m going to pay them back.”

 

Lenny appreciated his attitude.  Hot for sure. He had a temper.  Aggressive.  He was tough. A Marine.  But he needed to stay under control.  The way Lenny had been once.  Using his temper on people, throwing his weight around, using his power. Acting the bully.  But not now. He wasn’t going to be like that now. It wouldn’t work to try to knock down doors and beat up on people. Nadine and all of the rest of them, the gang she had put together.  They had played it smart.  Got what they wanted.  But now, if Lenny had his way, it was going to be their turn, Lenny and Edgar’s turn, to make some smart moves of their own.

 

“I understand, Edgar.  Listen, I feel the same way.”

 

“Yeah, well, you should. They are your kids.  Look, what they did to you!  And now to Dylan.”

 

Lenny didn’t understand that last part.  He would ask Dylan. Later.

 

“Anyway, wait a minute here. Listen,” Lenny said, “I want to ask you to come here.  We need to talk this through.  We can beat them. But we have to be smart or we can lose much more.  All.  Everything. You know?  You understand?”

 

“Sir.  It’s all been lost already.  What I want to do is get back at them.  That’s what I want.”

 

“Yes, you are right. Me too.  But we have to be intelligent.  Think clearly.  Come down here.  We can plan.” Edgar didn’t say anything for a moment. It was like he was taking a deep breath.

 

“Okay. I’m on my way.”

 

When he hung up, Lenny called to Dylan. He and Teresa turned in unison toward him.  Still with the smiles on the faces they had for each other just a moment earlier.

 

“Edgar is coming.  I hope you don’t mind, Teresa, I asked him to come here.”

 

“Certainly.  He is welcome.  Father would have said, yes, I’m sure.  I will call him now to tell him.  He will want to be here.  He wanted this Senor Edgar to help you.  We will help you too.  I will help you.”

 

She walked further into the kitchen and touched Dylan on the shoulder as she passed him. Dylan’s eyes followed her.  He was smiling.

 

Seeing their ease with each other comforted Lenny. The feeling surprised him.  Yes, indeed, Florencio was right.  Dylan was one of the good ones and he deserved something better than what he had before.  From Lenny. From everyone.  And Teresa was different from the other one.  From Marcy, the dealmaker.  Teresa was a good child.  Florencio had said that also. Lenny could see what he was talking about. There was something innately good about her.  Maybe that was why Dylan was smiling at her.  They were alike, kindred, and knew it right away.

 

“Dylan,” Lenny said, “Edgar mentioned there has been trouble.  It was about you.  Did something happen?”

 

The smile left Dylan’s face.  He thought a moment before he answered.

 

“Yes.  I don’t understand all of it, but it’s not good.”

 

“Tell me,” Lenny said. “I want to know everything.  It’s important that you tell me everything, Dylan. Even if it’s unpleasant.”

 

Dylan got up from the table and walked into the living room and sat on the couch across from Lenny. Teresa came to the doorway.  She had been drying dishes and was still holding a towel.  She leaned against the doorframe to listen to the Father and son talk.

 

 

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

 

 

Cline on the Constitution – Universal Injunctions

Cline on the Constitution – Universal Injunctions

Just back from a few days at the coast, but in time for a new segment of Cline on the Constitution. In reading though some of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, I came across an interesting issue which I’m sometimes asked about.

 

Universal Injunctions.

 

The situation is this. Congress passes a law or the President attempts to implement a new policy. An advocacy group such as the ACLU finds a client, picks a friendly federal district court and files suit.  The Judge then issues an injunction stopping the implementation of the law, not just as to the person before the court, but applies it to everybody nationwide.  And of late, it happens over and over virtually paralyzing the political branches of government.

 

Does the Constitution provide district courts with that kind of power?

 

Justice Clarence Thomas has seldom received the same accolades as his brothers and sisters on the bench.   But then he doesn’t seek the level of attention as some of them seem to crave and cultivate.  However, he has offered many intelligent, insightful and courageous opinions, often as concurring or dissenting opinions.

 

In a recent opinion he took up a very important issue the federal judiciary is reluctant to address because it goes to their own power and conduct.  Justice Thomas posited the question of whether local District Court Judges, who occupy the lowest rung on the Federal Judicial ladder, can constitutionally issue orders on cases before them and then apply those orders to the entire nation affecting millions of citizens and non-citizens who are not before them.   And can they restrain the entire federal government from acting everywhere.

 

The legal procedures used to exercise such great power are called “Universal Injunctions.”

 

A Universal Injunction was used by a district court in Hawaii to prevent the President from implementing orders banning certain non-citizens from traveling to the United States from foreign lands.  The Supreme Court overturned the actions of the Hawaii court and dissolved the injunction.

 

Justice Thomas in his concurring opinion in that case confronted the issue of Universal Injunctions and their constitutionality.

 

It is important to understand how the judicial power is being used when universal injunctions like the one found improper by the Supreme Court are used.

 

This is not a situation where an appellate court reviews the results of a trial in a lower court, i.e. a District Court, and rules something was done wrong in the lower court and issues an opinion.  This is not a situation where a case of national import is ruled on by the Supreme Court.

 

This is a situation where over six hundred local lower court judges have asserted the power to take a local case and rule nationally.

 

First of all, there is nothing more noble or intelligent about federal judicial officers than any other occupation or profession.  They have the same foibles and biases as the rest of us. Some have less.  Some have more.  They are largely political appointees, and too few leave their political views behind.

 

Yet, these six hundred individuals, when they issue Universal Injunctions, are in effect acting as an unelected, unaccountable super legislature.

 

Not exactly what our founders envisioned.

 

It is well to remember that all federal courts with the exception of the Supreme Court are creations of Congress and under the Constitution their jurisdiction is subject to restrictions and exceptions placed upon them by Congress.  The constitution provides only for One Supreme Court and “such other courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”  The lower federal courts were mostly established by the Judiciary Act of 1789.

 

Issuing a Universal Injunction is not a power expressly given to federal district court judges by the Constitution or act of Congress.  It is an extraordinary power the courts must carve out of the general judicial power based upon historically recognized principles.

 

In his opinion, Justice Thomas examined the history of a court’s power to use extraordinary remedies such as injunctions.

 

He traced its history to the ancient equity courts in England.  There the power was vested in the Exchequer of the Chancery to fashion remedies where the strictures of the common law could not find a way to deliver justice in unusual cases. However, the power was always severely limited, and it actually originated as an aspect of the “divine” power of the Kings.  Interestedly, it could not be used to restrain the Crown because that was the source of the power.

 

Justice Thomas went on and reviewed the debates over extraordinary equity powers at the time of our nations’ founding.  And he emphasized that In the federalist and anti-federalist papers the accepted wisdom was that there was a need for judicial restraint less the whole idea of functioning democracy be undermined.

 

Sounds familiar.

 

And finally, he noted that the use of “universal” injunctions did not debut in America until the 1960s. It first appeared in a case dealing with worker’s wages.  The constitutional basis for the power was never really considered in any depth.  Mainly because it was used rarely used.  At least until recently.

 

And it does seem that the unprecedented increase in their use was concurrent with the politicization of the federal judiciary. A politicization facilitated by the judiciary’s willingness even at their lowest level to intervene in affairs traditionally the responsibility of the other co-equal branches of government and to exercise power or millions of citizens who are not parties to the cases before them.

 

As Justice Thomas opined:

 

“American court’s tradition of providing equitable relief only to parties was consistent with their view of the nature of judicial power.  For most of our history, courts understood judicial power as “fundamentally the power to render judgements in individual cases.” Historically, Court’s only provided equitable relief to the parties to the suit.  They never ventured outside the case they were call upon to decide which is exactly what is done when a universal injunction is issued.

 

It is a fundamental rule of Standing that the Constitution limits the Courts as to who can sue to vindicate certain rights.  A person cannot bring suit to vindicate “public rights”, that is rights held by the community at large without showing of some specific injury to himself.  And a plaintiff cannot sue to vindicate the private rights of someone else, a third party.  Such claims have historically been considered beyond the authority of the courts. Otherwise the courts end up setting policy which they are not supposed to do.  The framers reserved public policy question to the legislative process.

 

The argument in the favor of the use of universal injunctions is that they give the judiciary a powerful tool to check the Executive Branch.  But the argument does not explain where the power comes from. As Justice Thomas explains,

 

“But these arguments do not explain how these injunctions are consistent with the historical limits on equity and judicial power.  They at best “boil down to a policy judgement” about how powers ought to be allocated among our three branches of government, but the people already made that choice when they ratified the constitution.”

 

Justice Thomas concludes by stating “in sum, universal injunctions are legally and historically dubious.  If federal courts continue to issue them, this Court is duty-bound to adjudicate their authority to do so.”

 

Indeed.

 

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

 

 

A King’s Trust Chapters 26, 27 & 28

A King’s Trust Chapters 26, 27 & 28

Chapters 26 ,27, & 28 of “A King’s Trust,” a novel I am publishing online

 

“A King finds what low is.”

 

Chapter 26

 

Dylan stood in the hallway with his back to Marcy and Lenny. He was looking in the direction of the closed elevator doors as if he could still see those who had just got on.  He didn’t turn from the doors though he must have heard the clicking of Marcy’s high heels as she and Lenny approached him from the other end of the hallway.

 

Marcy sauntered unhurriedly along the hallway just as she had before her talk with Lenny.   A few steps away from Dylan, she quickened her pace and then when she got to him she threw her arms around his waist from the rear. She rested her head on his shoulder, pressed her chest into his back and hugged him tight.  He patted her hand on his waist and gently disengaged.  Lenny wondered if Dylan understood completely the kind of person Marcy was.

 

She was certainly more than a college coed star-struck by one of her professors.  That may be what everyone, and he knew that included Nadine and Regan assumed. Did Dylan also make that assumption about Marcy?  Could he really accept it was just happenstance that Marcy, given who she was and what her Father’s business interests were, was merely a student of his?   Did he deep down believe that their romantic involvement was an innocent infatuation that evolved into something more serous?  Lenny had never believed in that sort of happenstance.  But Dylan might.

 

Dylan put his arm around Marcy’s waist as they took a few steps ahead of Lenny toward the elevator. He could hear their conversation.

 

“Did you have a good talk?” he asked her.

 

“We did.  We discussed many things.”

 

He held up his other hand indicating that was all he wanted to know.  He changed the subject to a place for lunch.  At the elevator, they both looked back at Lenny.

 

“Pops, care to join us?  We are going to get a bite to eat.”

 

Lenny decided to push Dylan just a little.  “Don’t you want to know what your girlfriend and I were discussing? It concerns you. There are things you should know. Things you need to know.  How about if I take you both to lunch and we can discuss all of it?  Right now.”

 

“No, Father.  As I said, I don’t care about such business things. I’m just not made that way.  I’m not committed enough to do anything about the things you care so much about. I don’t like to think about any of it.  I just want to be at my school, teach, and, you know, love the people I love.  Like you, Dad.  And Marcy.”  He looked at her and smiled.  “That’s enough for me.”

 

Lenny didn’t like the response, but he didn’t feel like being mean.  Not to either of them right now.

 

“Okay.  Have it your way.  For now.  Marcy can tell you many things if you choose to ask.  But there are some things I need to tell you too.  That she can’t.”  Lenny looked pointedly at her.  “Just remember that.  Don’t forget that part.  No matter what happens.”

 

And with that they were gone.  He declined to go down on the same elevator. He said he had forgotten his copy of the civil forms he had been given in the court and would go back to look for them. He hadn’t forgotten anything, but he didn’t want to get on the elevator with his son and his girlfriend either. It would have felt awkward.  He wandered down the hall to the courtroom, but instead of going inside he sat down on the benches outside.  He was alone. They were all gone.  All family, all friends, all the legal people, but were they?

 

He thought of how everyone looked in the hearing.  Everybody was wearing the right clothes. They were made up on the outside to be friends, business associates, lawyers, sons, daughter, partners, and children of partners. All decked out and arrayed in their costumes. Just as expected.

 

But underneath it all, what were they?  If you stripped each one naked, including that judge, what would they look like then? Would they hold the same power, the same influence?  And their words, all those words spoken this morning were clothes too.  Clothes to hide meanings, mislead, communicate false strengths and conceal weaknesses.  Not one of the people in the courtroom knew the true plans of the others, the actual motivations.  Can we ever know what those are?  Can we even know our own drives, can we know them for sure unless, of course, we are one step away from the hangman’s noose and it’s the last chance to make peace with the truth about ourselves?

 

Lenny heard the bell ding, indicating the elevator car had returned to his floor.  The doors slid open and out walked Nick Easley.

 

“We’ve been waiting downstairs for you.  Is there some difficulty with paperwork?  You alright?”

 

“Sure, sure, Nick.  Let’s go.

 

And Lenny stood up and walked down the hall and onto the elevator followed by his lawyer.  As the doors closed, he said, “I take it the settlement discussions went nowhere.”

 

“Worse.  We didn’t even get to first base.  Not one thing could we agree on.  That man, Edmund?  A real asshole. And an idiot!”

 

Lenny was surprised. Easley was usually the most mild-mannered of lawyers. He liked to keep things formal.  For him the practice of law was about being formal, methodical, competent, but never, ever showing a temper.  But not this time.  He was mad at something.

 

“So, what did he say?  What’s got in your craw?”

 

“Not so much what he said, but how he went about it.  Said there was no use talking. He said, the judge was in over her head and didn’t know shit about what was going on.  Before I could even say anything, he almost yelled that nobody cared what Lenny King said anyway, you were finished and he and everyone who matters figures you will be in jail before the New Year comes around.”

 

‘Really?”

 

“Really, the guy was being a real prick.”

 

Just then the doors opened on the bottom floor.  Lenny first saw blood, lots of blood on the tile, then in his peripheral vision an overturned wheel chair and two crumpled bodies on the floor.  One was Marcy.  She was holding her side and there was blood all over the front of her skirt.  Dylan was holding her and seemed to be pressing a compress on the wound.   The other person lying on the tile was Edgar. There was a large gash across his forehead. His nose was smashed to one side, obviously broken.  He kept swiveling his head.  He was disoriented.  There was a din of loud voices and running feet.

 

Lenny looked around the large lobby of courthouse.  Armed guards were securing the doors, rushing people out of the corridors and into offices just off the hallways.

 

Something bad had happened. But what?

 

Lenny looked for Willets next to the chair.  But he didn’t see him.

 

“Edgar,” he yelled.  “What happened?  Where’s your father?”

 

Edgar was trying to get to his feet, but he had been felled by a pretty good blow and was staggering, disoriented, off balance. He sat back down on the tiled floor and once again his hands went to his bleeding forehead.

 

“They took him,” he yelled. Then quieter, “They were waiting, and they hit us and ripped him out of the chair and dragged him out there before anyone could move.  By his feet, my God, he was trying to grab for something.  Reaching out to me.  It was fast. Man, it was fast.  Military, you know?  Professional.  They had to be professionals.”

 

A door was opened from the outside by a guard. He propped it open for other uniformed security men to enter. Then left it opened as they moved across the lobby.  Lenny could hear a woman screaming outside.  He rushed to the door and stopped. There was a body on the sidewalk and the woman was standing over him screaming.

 

“His eyes!” she yelled. “Oh my god, his eyes.”

 

Lenny walked slowly toward the body. It was Willets.  He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t screaming.  He was dead. And the sockets of both eyes were now empty. The bandage had been torn off the one, and blood was running from where his eyes were supposed to be down his cheeks to the sidewalk.  Lenny shook his head side to side.  They had taken Willet’s other eye like they said they would. Just as Marcy, minutes before, had warned they would.  Right here at court.

 

Lenny just stood over Willet’s body and stared.  He felt a presence next to him.  He glanced over.  It was Marcy, holding her side, grimacing.   Dylan was helping her stand.   She was looking at Willets.  He heard a familiar sound.  She was grinding her teeth together.

 

Chapter 27

 

Lenny King was utterly defeated.  Forlorn. With little hope.  His business empire was gone. He knew that now.  And to think he had, in effect, given it all away. He had been a fool.  A damn fool.  It had cost him.  Dearly. And it had cost others.

 

Willets, his friend and partner, was gone.  A month now. Murdered.

 

Willets’ son, Edgar, in out of the hospital with recurring symptoms from his severe concussion. Surgery was being discussed. And, Lenny had thought to himself, even accounting for the injury, something wasn’t right about him.

 

As for the case, it was going nowhere.  Oh, Nick had tried. He had tried hard.  Loudly and persistently he had accused Nadine, her lawyer, all of them of conspiracy, murder, fraud, theft, and anything else he could think of, but all to no avail. The Judge was having none of it. The case was officially in limbo.  She had ordered the case proceedings suspended which maintained the status quo, left everything in place and that meant it left Nadine and her cadre in control of the corporation.

 

And, Nick too was in trouble.   Complaints had been filed against him with the State Bar based on an anonymous tip. He believed the tipster was his former secretary.  Some influential attorneys had urged him to resign, to surrender his law license, so the investigation could go a be dropped. And now Nick Easley, his attorney, his friend, at least he had always thought of him as his friend appeared a beaten man, defeated, humiliated.  Giving up. Closing down his law practice.  No longer believing in anything, even himself.

 

Could there be redemption? Could he salvage anything?  One last chance perhaps.

 

So here Lenny was, back at his own office building.  Maybe not his now, but he had built it and, in a way, felt it belonged to him.  It was his.

 

It was a long walk down these hallways he once ruled to do what? Beg?  Well, not beg, but to make a deal.  Like he should have done before all this happened.  When he had more leverage.  Yes, here he was still thinking like the businessman, King of industry, but no longer was it his Kingdom and no longer was he a King.

 

He would meet with Regan. Regan, his son, his first son. Maybe his daughter had turned into a viper, maybe she always had been a snake, but Regan, well, he was a son. A father could always depend on his son.  Surely, Regan would carve out a little corner, a small sinecure, a dependency perhaps, but maybe independent enough for Lenny.

 

He had gone to Nadine first. Maybe he had been too haughty with her. Perhaps it was his fault.  It had not gone well that was for sure. Another failure. He could fell his face flush red when he thought of it.

 

As he had entered her office, she hadn’t even deigned to rise to greet him.  No extended arms for a paternal embrace, no extended hand for a handshake for a business partner, ex-business partner, no courtesy of offering a chair to an acquaintance, an elder, no respect extended to a man of distinction, of past honors and powers, nothing but a cold stare from behind her massive desk.  New. The desk was new.  He wondered if his old desk was still in the building, maybe in storage, maybe passed down to a senior manager who would relish telling stories, sad stories of the great man who once ruled from behind this very desk, but now loiters about without much to do.  With nothing to do really.  A nothing person.

 

Lenny stood awkwardly before Nadine, like an errant recalcitrant schoolboy.  He even caught himself looking down at his feet.  She waited. This daughter of his was in no hurry to offer him any comfort.  Well, he must buck up.  Jump right in like he always did.  Take charge, take command.  Be the first out of the gate.

 

“Nadine, I think in the interest of the family, we need to settle our differences.  There is no reason we can’t both have what we want. I am certainly willing to work out a compromise.”

 

She smiled, but it wasn’t a smile of mirth.  More one of disdain.  He couldn’t tell if she expected him to continue his pitch or just shut up.

 

He waited.

 

Finally, she said, “Father, Father dear, we really must have you seen by a neurologist.  I do believe your faculties have become more, what? We won’t say confused. Shall we use your word? Compromised!  No, not confused.  Yes, more compromised each day.”

 

Lenny tensed up.  But his posture didn’t change.  Not like the old days.  He wanted to be angry, but he didn’t feel the old power.  He couldn’t summon up the old righteous indignation he had once so effectively used in negotiations.  And Nadine had read him perfectly he realized. And, belatedly he concluded she was good at this.  She knew how to inflict the sharpest wound, use a stiletto to make the prick, cut a little then withdraw and watch the blood flow gently, no splashing, no spraying, just a gentle flow of life from heart to floor.

 

“Well, I, that’s not what I meant, Nadine.  I’m trying to work with you here.”

 

“No, Dad, you are being obtuse.  There is nothing to settle here.  You are out. You have no status here.  You have no authority.  You possess nothing I remotely desire.”

 

“Now, listen . . . “

 

“No, you listen.  You had your chance. An offer was made.  You should have taken it.  But you were too proud, weren’t you?   Well, now it’s too late.  You have become a tiresome old man and need to be in a home where someone can take care of you.  I guess I am willing to let you stay on the outside, freely roam about, out in society, at least for a while, but only if you stay quiet and out of the way.  There is nothing here for you.  You need to go home.”

 

Lenny felt the brutalized by her statements.  What she said was probably true, but it was cruel, and it hurt.  Was this how Edna and his kids had felt when he had gone on his little rants?  Devised and directed his little punishments?  Well, he had always made up for it later.  Hadn’t he?  Maybe Nadine is just a chip off the old block and will soon get over it and treat with him with kindness.

 

“Okay, okay.  I hear you,” he said.  “I just thought we could talk this out.  I mean I was going to suggest, well, why don’t we do that, I mean have a family meeting, you know.  If we all got together, the plan could still work, I mean make some modifications, you know, you are the Chief Executive now. No reason not to continue right there. I’m for it.  I support it.”

 

She shook her head. He thought with a note of pity.

 

“I don’t need your support, Father dear.  Listen, I have things to do today. But I want to get a few things straight with you right away.  First, you have no role to play any longer in the operation of this company.  Second, you do still have a significant financial stake in the company.  But I want to be up front here, we are having the books audited and it’s turning up a wealth of information that concerns us.  You made some unauthorized, and I have to say, possibly illegal purchases with company funds and we have a duty here.  What word did Edmund, ah . . .. our new lawyer use?  Oh yes, it is our “fiduciary” duty to our shareholders to take action to recover those funds.  What made you think you could buy old vintage cars with company funds, anyway?”

 

“Wait, what are you saying? I got authorization for those.  They serve a business purpose, you know, with client’s good will and all, the lawyers approved it all.”

 

“Well, I’m afraid those opinions are no longer operative.  We have new lawyers.  Accountants too.  I’m trying to help you here.  I’ve already ordered the cars sold.  And the funds returned to the company treasury.  They did bring a nice profit over what was paid for them, so the due interest payments you owe should be covered.  At any rate, those old cars are gone.”

 

Lenny stared at her in astonishment.  She knew how much he loved his cars and she just sold them off, just like that, without even a heads up, a warning, or chance to discuss.  He wondered if he could find them and buy them back.  He was still well off financially.  He could do it.  Before he could respond she was on to something else.

 

“And also, that monstrosity of a house.  We found where you paid it off using bonus money you supposedly earned as so-called Chief Operating officer of King Enterprises and that wasn’t quite kosher. Can see the tax advantages, but dear Daddy, you had no real approval from the Board of Directors much less the shareholders.   I’ve put the house on the market.  We need to recover those monies too.  And quickly. Before the IRS figures out it wasn’t authorized compensation.”

 

“You can’t be serious!”

 

“Oh, very serious. You made a big mistake on that one. There are no bylaws authorizing the board to grant you a bonus.  And, as the lawyers say, you as CAO of a publicly held corporation certainly can’t do it on your own.  We’ve got to get those monies back.  Our lawyers, we retained a great new firm by the way, went to the judge and got authorization to transfer title of the house to the company, recorded it and all, and we are selling it off as an asset.  Again, I think you will be okay as far as making up any deficiencies you owe. The judge even seemed to be concerned about that for some reason.  Like she felt sorry for you.  At any rate, the market is up and that should cover any interest that would be due.  Of course, I can’t talk about your personal tax issues that may arise. You will have to own those, Father dear.  Better make sure you get a good representative to talk to the IRS.”

 

She went on, “I’m sure old Easley, could do it, wait, is he still practicing by the way?   I heard he took a real hit from the Bar Association. Something about failure to safeguard secrets.  Some files were lost?  Allegations of incompetence.  Anyway, he should be able to advise you on that or find an accountant who can.  You might have some severe penalties to deal with there, so I suggest you get on to it right away.  Those things add up, as you know, the longer they go.”

 

Lenny felt very small. “I’m being turned out of my own home, the house I built, where your mother and I brought up you kids?  You would do that to me?”

 

“Oh, it’s for your own good. We want to get all this covered, want everything very legit.  We don’t want the District Attorney coming down here and looking into this stuff.  I hear he’s not a big fan of yours.”

 

That was news to Lenny. It was true, in the just past election cycle, for the first time he hadn’t contributed to the D. A.’s campaign. He hadn’t seen the need.  He was intending to retire soon anyway. Or at least it was in his mind.  Hell, beyond being a past donor, he barely knew the man.  Why would he have a grudge?  But he might.  He was notorious for using the muscle of his office in his fundraising. And he took it personal when someone said, No.

 

Maybe that is the way they got to Willets and then got away.  They must have the District Attorney in their pocket.  Like the judge.  Lenny felt cold of a sudden.  Could that be his fate?  Arrested, put in jail and then who would care what happened to him there? Who would defend him?  His biggest defender had always been Willets and they had put him in jail and now he was dead.  Brutally murdered.  And the other one he had always depended on for defense, his lawyer, was folding up his practice and getting out while the getting was good.  The legal mavens downtown made it clear to him that if he didn’t want the Bar coming after his license to practice, he needed to wind up his practice or get invisible and do it quick, turn off the lights so there would be no focus on him.

 

Lenny had felt utterly alone.  He had walked out of her office with his head down.  She never said a word.  He had heard the door close behind him.

 

So here he was in front his other child, his son, his boy, Regan.  Maybe they could make a deal.  If he could get Regan to align with him or at least resist his sister enough she would give ground, then maybe he would have a chance.

 

‘Son,” he said.  “I need a little help.”

 

“What’s wrong, Dad?”

 

“Well, you know it’s your sister.  She is being very mean to me.  After all I’ve done for you kids. You know you guys have been my life.”

 

“Did you talk to her? What did she say?”

 

“That’s right.  It’s all just talk right now.  Listen; if you would just align your shares with mine, or at least say you would, she would have to listen to reason.  Right now, she seems intent on taking everything I have. I can’t believe it.  I’m not sure I can survive.  She even wants to sell the house.  I’ll have to move to the beach house until I can find something closer in.  It’s not right.  You now that, Regan.  It’s not right. I need you to join with me and get her to listen to reason.  You could always make her listen.  I’m depending on you, Son.”

 

Regan sat and tapped his fingers on the desktop. He wasn’t looking at Lenny.  He was watching his fingers.  His chin was tucked in under his collar.

 

“You realize what I’m saying, you understand what I’m asking?” Lenny said.

 

Lenny felt his old impatience, his old anger rising.  But what of it?  He could do nothing with it.  Where was he going to direct it?  He needed to be calm.  Let his son see the logic.

 

“Well, I’m worried a little for you, Pop?”

 

Lenny was pleased. Maybe his boy was more sensitive than he had thought.  He had feelings for the old man.

 

“Listen.  I will be okay. Just help me with this and I can get in the clear and you guys will be set up good, real good.”

 

“No, that’s not what I’m talking about.  The beach house is already sold, Dad.  Nadine did that last week. She said, they had to recover some improper costs charges or something.  Anyway, it’s gone, and you’ll have to find someplace to stay. Can’t have you camping out on the beach, I suppose.”

 

Lenny was stunned. He tried to speak, couldn’t. The words stuck.

 

“Listen up, Dad.  I know of a little apartment.  It is just off the highway.  Other side of the city, but there’s public transportation, restaurants, and everything.  Tell you what; I’ll float the first and last month’s rent.  Cleaning deposit too.  You can pay me back when you sell your stock.  I’m pretty sure you will have plenty left over.”

 

‘Sell my stock?  I’m not selling my stock.  Why, if we put our stock together, me and you, we could take back the company.  Make you president.  You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

 

“Oh, I can’t do that. Nadine and I have a deal.  She did me good.  Why don’t you just go along with this.  I’m sure when it’s all over, you will be fine. Right now, Nadine just needs to take care of business.  Go get your things, what you can take, drive over to the new place.  It will suit you.  I’ll have my secretary give you the address.”  Lenny stared at Regan.  He turned and walked out the door without saying anything.  Neither did Regan try to stop him.

 

Lenny left the building. He didn’t remember the walk or how he got to his car.  He just found himself sitting behind the wheel.  He didn’t go to the address Regan’s secretary had already written down for him before he arrived and pressed in his hand as he left.  He drove straight to the beach house.  It had a sign on it.  Sold. And people were moving in. Nothing of his he could see.  He got out of the car.  He closed the door gently, quietly, he didn’t want to disturb anyone or have anyone hear.  He left the car and wandered down to the beach. The ocean was wild today. He liked it that way.

Chapter 28

 

When he got to the water’s edge, his eyes were on his feet, not on the horizon.  He watched as the waves lapped up near the toes of his shoes. The breeze coming off the ocean was dying down.  It was warm. And he was too warm.  It wasn’t hot, but the feeling he had was stifling.  He sat down in the sand.  He thought of his suit pants and how they would be ruined, but he didn’t care.  He reached down and pulled off his shoes, then his socks.  He dropped them and left them to lie where they landed.  The waves would soon reach them and wash them away from the shore. He didn’t care.  He just didn’t care anymore.

 

He stood. The wet sand felt good on his feet.  He reached up, undid his tie, pulled it off and let it drop where his shoes were. Then he unbuttoned his shirt.  He had ceased to think about what he was doing and what anyone who may be looking this way would think.  He just wanted the clothing off.  It was too hot.  He wanted to feel the breeze. The undershirt came off next and he liked the feel of the ocean air on his upper body.

 

Why not?  He unbuckled his belt and in one fell swoop pull down and off his pants and underwear.  He didn’t bother folding the pants as had been ever his habit.  He threw them carelessly near his shoes.  He stood naked, the water now lapping over his feet.

 

At no time, as he undressed, did he look up at the horizon.  The water was icy cold in contrast to the breeze.  He stepped out into the waves, up to his calves, then his thighs then he was in waist high and he stopped, the moving waves, made him weave back and forth.  He first thought his face was wet from the water, but that wasn’t true. He was weeping. His nose was running.  He let it.  He felt embarrassed not just about crying like a child, but about everything that had happened.  All he had lost.  All those he had hurt.  He just felt ineffably sad.  The saddest he had ever felt in his life.

 

He regretted things. But there were so many regrets he couldn’t begin to focus on one or two or three.  It was more of an inchoate feeling of regret for all the bad things he had said over his life, the small brutalities, the cruelty in how he treated people, even his wife, especially his children.

 

Yes, the children thing was the worse.  He felt full of regret and sadness. He wept.  He cried out loud, for himself first, but he could also see in his mind’s eye, how he must have appeared to his kids.  How they must have reacted as innocents, hurt, feeling rejected, that they had done some wrong to cause his wrath and then gradually built up a wall, a defense, then a cruelty in reverse, except for Dylan.  Hurt as much as the others, but too much of his mother’s kindness in him. He could never go the way of his brother and sister, down the path into anger and bitterness so he forged his own way, devoid of conflict, of regret, of ambition. He avoided it all.

 

And now where was Dylan? Must be on the way back home, Lenny thought.  There had been some moves.  Regan had implied that much. And Marcy was with her father.  And Dylan?  Well, he lost out.  That’s all Regan would say.

 

Lenny stretched his arms out and floated.  The waves were drawing him ocean ward.  How long would he float? How far?  Maybe forever.  Just float until he sank down.  To nothingness.  Let it be over. The end of it. Let the sea take him. Thankless children bring parents to this. To nothingness.

 

At the thought of Nadine and Regan, he felt the old anger return.  Not at them so much as at losing.  Well, it would do no good.  No one he could hit out at.  So, he floated.  didn’t want to feel anything anymore.  Didn’t want to think about anyone any more.  But he did.  The anger was still there.  It replaced the sadness.  Fuck this. He flipped over and started swimming for shore.  Okay.  It came to this.  He could live a simple life.  But live. Let Nadine and Regan have it all.   He would find Dylan.  They would live together.  Edna would have liked that.  They could keep each other safe and cheery.  Dylan can do his teaching. Lenny would fish.  He would be okay.  Let the sharks have the world.  He would not let them have his body or his mind.

 

The only item left on shore when he got there was his pants.  The rest, he supposed, had washed away.  He put the pants on. They were soaked.  At least the keys to the car were still in them.  He walked over the sand and up to his car.  He sat in the seat in his wet pants and started the car. The gas gage read low. Less than an eighth of a tank.  He would need gas. He felt for his wallet.  Gone.  Not there. He had no money. He was damn near naked.

 

Now what?

 

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

 

 

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters 22 though 25

A King’s Trust, Chapters 22 though 25

Chapter 22

 

“This judge is nobody’s fool.  Not as bad as some.  Not completely corrupt.”

 

Standing in the hallway outside of court, away from the others, Lenny listened to his lawyer.  He knew Easley was no courtroom litigator. And right now, he was headed into a court to do legal battle against someone who had a reputation as a top litigator.  The man he would be squaring off against was smart, aggressive, hardboiled, shrewd. And Easley was nervous.  Lenny could tell.  He talked when he was nervous.  He talked a lot.  Even for a lawyer.

 

“Well, she’s knew to the bench,” Lenny replied.  “Give her time.”

 

Easley look at him with a severe expression.

 

“I mean,” Lenny said, “I’m sure someone will eventually tell her where the bathrooms are and where she can pick up her bribes for throwing a case or two,” Lenny was attempting a little levity, but the extreme sarcasm was all that came through.  He also was nervous.  But it didn’t lead him to talk more.  It made him feel bitter.  This shouldn’t be happening to him.  And he had a premonition it was going to get worse.

 

“It won’t do. Your attitude won’t do, Lenny.” Nick said.  “She’ll pick up on that.  You need to park the attitude.  We don’t need to antagonize anyone unnecessarily right now. Especially this judge.”

 

Lenny held up his hands, in a supplicant’s gesture, palms up.   He understood what he was being told.  It wasn’t the first time he heard a caution about his attitude in court. It wasn’t even the first time on this case.  He was told the same thing the night before when he met with Easley to get ready for today’s hearing.  He had been doing better, after he left the lawyer’s office, but now a lot of the old feelings were back.  He was incensed at having to do this.  Kowtowing to some no-name rookie judge. He had bought judges a dime a dozen over the years.  He had always been the one with the edge when it came to court battles.  He had spent big money for little favors from court clerks, bailiffs and, yes, judges.

 

But not this time. While he knew in his heart pay offs had been made or at least offered, this time it hadn’t come from his side.  Not only had they been out hustled to the courthouse, He was embarrassed to admit, even to himself, that he didn’t have the ready cash at the moment.  His funds, the money he normally had access to, were tied up.

 

And this lawyer on the other side, the one Nadine had retained, probably with Lenny’s own money, had beaten him before. It had been an unexpected defeat, but it had happened. He had lost.  And though at the time Lenny laughed it off as the cost of doing business, especially if that business entailed bedding a big-breasted red head who did considerably more favors for him than just bringing him his morning coffee.

He had chuckled about it with his friends, but the truth be told he had been humiliated. He didn’t like losing.  Wasn’t used to losing.  Always spent the money to insure the chances of losing were nullified before the game began. And now, he was at risk for losing. Losing it all.  Hell, he had already lost it and was trying to get it back.

 

“You sure you are up to this, Nick.” Lenny asked.  “This guy’s beaten us before.”

 

Nick cut him off with a hard look.  His eyes had shifted to something happening behind Lenny’s back.  He felt their presence before he saw them. The other side was in the hallway.

 

Lenny King had spent a lot time in such hallways.   The hallways outside the courtrooms, the great gathering place of the hopelessly stale, the desperate, the unwashed, the criminals and the victims, the little guys tilting at windmills by suing the big boys, the corporations and their hired guns; the women dumping out of marriages to men who beat them or men whom they had cheated on, made cuckolds,  and now wanted to take their last vestige of dignity by having them ordered to pay child support for the rest of their working lives for children spawned by a good friend or an enemy or a next door neighbor who had been in the right place when the woman had had an extra glass of wine and developed a case of the afternoon itches.

 

They were all there. In the hallways. With their lawyers.  Waiting for their case to be called.  All there looking at each other, listening to each other, sizing each other up. All humanities’ litigants met there, fought and argued there, or ignored each other with studied contempt.  And now Lenny was there. Personally, not just represented there by his lawyers, or his managers, but there himself.  This time he was there to try to stay in the game, try to retain some power over his life, or he had to admit, he just might be there to see it all melt to nothingness.

 

And as he turned and watched, Nadine stepped off the elevator with Edmund.  She is being escorted by her shark, thought Lenny. And then there was Regan.  He was walking with Dylan who unlike Nadine and Regan actually looked at Lenny and smiled just slightly.  Holding his hand was a young woman. He didn’t know her.  Had never seen her before.

 

As a group Nadine and the rest, stopped and huddled together down the hallway on the other side of the big double doors that led to the interior of the courtroom where their case was to be heard.  They positioned themselves, so their backs were to Lenny and Nick.  It made Lenny fell weak; on the outside.

 

Then the elevator doors opened and there was Edgar and he was pushing a wheelchair and in the wheelchair was Willets.

 

Willets looked pitiful. Edgar, as he passed the group, looked directly at Nadine who wouldn’t meet his eyes.  She simply stared at Willets as he was being wheeled by.  She turned slightly pale.  Regan pushed back out of the way and melted against the wall. Lenny noticed Dylan looking at Willets. His mouth was open, his eyes wide. He was shocked.  Up until that moment, Lenny figured, no one had told Dylan about this part of the business.  They hadn’t shared this particularly distasteful aspect of what had been taking place. Dylan took a few steps away from the others as if to follow Willets, then Regan put out a hand and pulled back on his arm.  Dylan stopped and looked at him. Regan said something Lenny couldn’t hear and pulled on his arm some more and Dylan complied. The young woman was studying the whole scene.  Lenny couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

 

Edgar wheeled Willets over to Lenny and Nick.  As Lenny bent to touch Willets shoulder, a gesture to console him, he saw that Edgar had straightened up and faced the other group. His feet were shoulder width apart, his shoulders square.  It was a balanced fighting stance.  He was there to fight.  And he was serious.

 

Just then the doors to the courtroom opened, and a uniformed bailiff stepped into the hallway.  “King versus King!” he called out.  “Anyone having to do with the case of King versus King should enter the courtroom.  The case has been called and is to be heard.”

 

 

 

Chapter 23

 

They all filed into the courtroom and separated to different sides of the room.  Nadine’s group had pushed through the door first.  They strode down the middle aisle like they owned the place.  They spread out and took seats around the counsel table on the right side of the courtroom.  The plaintiffs or in this case the moving party traditionally moved to the left side next to the jury box, defendants to the right.  Nadine’s group would be defending their position against the motions filed on Lenny’s behalf by attorney Easley.

 

Lenny and his group entered the courtroom next, single file between the doors and down the aisle, where they found seats around the other counsel table.  Edgar took the lead by pushing Willets in his wheelchair before him. He parked the chair between the two counsel tables.  In a prominent place.  Lenny noted how Nadine’s attorney, Edmund, frowned when he glanced up and saw Willets had been parked very near him.

 

The Bailiff called out “All Rise!” And the back door leading from the judges’ chambers opened.  A small blonde woman in a judge’s robe emerged from a door behind the elevated dais.  She reached out with a delicate white hand which contrasted markedly against the sleeve of her black robe and swiveled the high back chair in her direction.  She sat down and rolled forward. She rested her arms on the bench and looked over the crowd of litigants before her.  While she was careful not to frown, the number of people at the counsel table obviously didn’t please her.

 

The Bailiff called out, “Court is called to order. Judge May Callahan, presiding.  You may be seated.”

 

Lenny thought that if she was wearing makeup it didn’t show.  Her face was plain, like she had just washed it in the basin.  No eyebrow pencil. No mascara.  Nothing.  Nor could he see any other adornment.  No earrings, no necklace, no bracelets or rings.  Nick had told Lenny that this little blond, despite the appearances she affected on the bench, had proven to be something less than a sober judge in her personal life.

 

Despite having two children and an adoring husband she had taken up with one of the lawyers who regularly appeared in front of her.  It didn’t bother her that the lawyer was also married.  They had a torrid affair, which lasted as long as he stayed healthy.  She had, seemingly with little regret, left her family, and moved into the apartment he was renting. Then had come the news that her paramour had developed Parkinson’s disease.  She told a friend she had no intention of becoming a caregiver.  The next Saturday, she met with a real estate agent she had met at the downtown Rotary Club and purchased her own condo. She moved into the Condo the following Sunday and she never saw the lawyer socially again.

 

The shunned lawyer tried to recover his lost marriage, but his wife, who he had until then thought so mousy, used language he never suspected she had mastered to inform him he was no longer welcome in the home and, by the way, she had retained an attorney they both knew was brutally uncompromising in his approach to domestic relations cases.  His wife’s new attorney would take sadistic delight in destroying what little financial stability the lawyer still had.  He started drinking heavily and spent most of his afternoons in bars waiting for his disease to take control of his physical functions.  He found he could measure the disease’s progress by how much his hand shook as he lifted his whiskey glass from the bar to his lips.

 

It wasn’t for nothing Nick said, that the little blonde Judge had been nicknamed the “Ice Queen”.

 

Lenny did notice how her eyes were drawn to Willets.  As she surveyed her courtroom and its current denizens with those cold grey eyes, she paused, stopped what she was doing and stared at Willet in his wheelchair a moment. Without changing her expression, she flipped open a file in front of her. Her clerks had evidently placed the file there before she emerged from her chambers.  She leaned over and spoke into the microphone and in a surprisingly soft voice for a Judge she said, “Calling the case of King versus King, would the parties announce their presence for the record.” With that she gave a nod to Easley, who had remained standing after the rest of the room had taken their seats.

 

“Yes, Good morning, your honor.  Nick Easley representing Lenny King and the King corporation,”

 

“Objection!”  Nadine’s lawyer was on his feet in an instant. “He does not represent the King Corporation.  I do, well, through Nadine King, current CEO and President of King Corporation.”

 

“On the Contrary,” Nick interrupted, “that man, and that woman have no legal authority over any aspect of . . . “

 

The judge held up her hand.

 

“Well, well.  Usually we can agree on who represents who,” she said with a tight little smile.  “I don’t remember a case in which that was in dispute.  This case certainly promises to be loads of fun.  Let’s back up a minute.  How about if Counsel, neither Counsel, say they represent the King Corporation.  We really haven’t determined that anyway, have we?  Why don’t you say your names for the record and say the person you represent and introduce them if they are present in the courtroom.  By the way, who represents this man in the middle?” and she pointed to Willets.

 

“I do, your honor,” Easley said.  “He is Mr. Willets, the vice president of King Corporation.”

 

“Objection!” Edmund was on his feet again.  “He no longer has that title or that role with the Company.”

 

“Okay, Okay.” The Judge was holding her hand up again.  She sighed. She said, “Let’s take it down a notch here, —– shall we?  I now understand who Mr. Willets is.  Are you okay?” She directed her question to Willets.

 

No one intervened. Willets paused for a moment.  “Not good, Judge, uh, Your Honor.  But I’m going to get through this with my Son’s help.” And he gestured to Edgar who had stood up and taken a position next to his father’s wheelchair.

 

“Well, Mr. Willets, if you need a break from these proceedings please let me know I will take a brief recess.”  Maybe, thought Lenny, it’s not all ice under those robes.

 

She returned her gaze to Nick.  “Let’s start this over again.  And, she pointedly looked at Nadine’s lawyer, “Let’s say who we are and whom we represent for the record. And let’s do so on the understanding that I will make the ultimate determination on who has what authority at the end of this hearing and I don’t need a lot of objections and attitude right now.  At least at this stage of the proceedings.  Understood?”

 

Both attorneys nodded in the affirmative.  Lenny thought to himself that this Judge, despite her evident sympathy for someone in a wheelchair, is a tough little witch.  Ice Queen, huh?  Well, he liked her anyway.

 

 

 

Chapter 24

 

The attorneys for both sides got through the rest of the usually routine announcements of their presence and the introduction of their clients without further drama.  The Judge watched it all with a stern visage. Lenny thought he recognized some heated intensity in her eyes. Maybe it was just interest.

 

For the next half hour, the attorneys managed, with frequent starts and stops and objections, to make opening statements and summarize what they intended to prove during the hearing.

 

Seated along the rail behind the other counsel table, Dylan quickly lost interest in what the lawyers were saying.  He was wondering what his father was thinking.    Twice he caught the old man watching him.  A trace of a smile crossed his Father’s lips both times.  His eyes weren’t burning with hostility anymore. Not like the last time they talked. That made him feel better.  He hated conflict.

 

Dylan also watched Willets. Willets was clearly hurting. Physically.  And he was confused and anxious.  He shifted frequently in his wheel chair.  Edgar had pulled a chair from the rail up next to his father’s wheelchair and sat watching the proceedings. Every once in a while, he stole a glance over at the group seated at the counsel table in front of Dylan. There was no mistaking the hostility. The look in Edgar’s eyes was malevolent.

 

Dylan wanted to speak to them.  To Willets and Edgar.  He wanted to talk to his father.  He wanted to express sympathy to Willets and offer to help in any way he could.  He wanted to reach his hand out to Edgar. To shake his hand and hug him and say how sorry he was this had all happened the way it did and that his father had been so grievously injured.

 

But there seemed to be a huge invisible chasm between the two sides of the courtroom.  That’s the law, Dylan thought. It’s the law between us now.  I don’t know if I have the strength to climb high enough to get over the wall.

 

Lenny for his part was thinking of Dylan.  He regretted how he had treated him. But didn’t he always regret it after he abused someone, be it his wife, one of his children, an employee?  Yes, he had mostly, when he thought of it at all, had a chance to calm down, regretted his harshness.

 

But he also couldn’t help thinking of the shares Dylan controlled.  Control of the shares would get him close, very close to regaining control of his business, get him back in his castle, in charge of his empire once again? What would Dylan do when it got down to making a choice?  Dylan loved Nadine and Regan too.  Yes. That had always been Dylan’s problem. He loved too much. Too many people.  Not the right people at the right time.  And the little gal with him?  Lenny guessed that was the one Dylan had mentioned. The one Dylan said he loved.

Nick Easley had told Lenny he had reports she was wealthy in her own right.  Examining her, looking her over from top to bottom, considering what Nick had reported, Lenny thought, she might also have a kind of intelligence, a business sense, not immediately apparent.  The girl’s father had a reputation of being a wily businessman who had an uncanny strategic sense of when to get in and when to get out of a project.  Maybe he was a behind the scenes mover here.  Did he have a business interest in Lenny’s business?  Did he want to be the new King of King Enterprises?  And, if so, what was his daughter’s role? Regardless of what Dylan might believe, in her mind was their relationship about love?  Or was it business?

 

“Call your first witness, Mr. Easley,” said Judge Callahan.

 

“Call Nadine King.”

 

There was just hint of a gasp in the courtroom.  The judge looked bemused.  Lenny was enjoying the aggressiveness Nick Easley was showing in this hearing. Maybe his lawyer had felt his previous loss to the Edmund just as much as Lenny had and maybe he intended to go after the other side in this case with no punches held.  Calling the defendant in the action without ever deposing the witness was a risky strategy and unusual for someone like Nick who always took the careful approach to litigation.

 

Nadine was just as surprised.  She looked sharply at her lawyer.  It was evident to the legal experts in the room, her super lawyer had not prepared her for the possibility of such a move.  Although it was a common enough move in civil litigation to call the other party and get them on the record, get them committed to a defense and off balance before the meat of the case was gotten to, it was clear they hadn’t expected it to happen at this early hearing.  Lenny knew last night it was going to happen.  As Nick had explained, he would be able to adjust, expand or retract his case depending on what defense he could get Nadine to commit to. Maybe, hoped Lenny, they had underestimated the corpulent but snappily dressed Mr. Easley.

 

Nadine recovered her composure quickly enough and got up from her chair that had been squeezed in next to her lawyer.  She had to step over the feet of Regan and one of her lawyer’s assistants to get around the table.  She walked across the well of the court and held her hand up to be sworn.  Lenny thought her walk saucy for the courtroom. But then Nadine would never accept she should change her attitude in a courtroom from what it was in a bar.  It wasn’t in her nature.  The judge followed her walk with interest and Lenny thought with just a hint of amusement.

 

Nick Easley took his time in his questioning, seemingly in no hurry to get to heart of the matter. Nadine although she attempted a professional disinterested pose came across as more than slightly arrogant.

 

Nick was taking his time with Nadine.  It was intentional.  Lenny and he had discussed this approach.  They were relying on Nadine’s impulsiveness.  Despite herself, Nadine was getting impatient.  Edmund was looking at her hard.  Willing her to keep it together.

 

“Do you love your Father?”

 

“What?  What is this?” Nadine said.  She had an ugly angry look on her face.

 

Nadine’s lawyer came out of his chair, objecting.  He was struggling to label the exact nature of the question to which he wished to voice objection, so he was engaged in the usual lawyer’s fallback position of throwing everything he could think of out there to see what would stick.

 

“Your honor; that question is irrelevant, argumentative, it’s harassment, extremely unethical, your honor, and Counsel should be admonished and sanctioned!”

 

“A simple question, your honor,” Nick shot back.  “To a daughter about her Father, a Father she is trying to steal a fortune from.”

 

More outrage, more objections.  More angry looks from Nadine.

 

The Ice Queen raised her hand.  When the invective failed to cease, she rapped her gavel once.  It got quiet.  Lenny thought Edmund was mumbling to himself. This was not proving to be the cakewalk the lawyer had expected.

 

“Okay,” Judge Callahan said. “I understand the objections, but the witnesses’ familial relationship and her feelings regarding her Father may prove to be relevant to these proceedings. I’m going to allow the question for now, subject to a later motion to strike if Mr. Easley fails to show the court the ultimate relevancy of this line of inquiry.  Don’t go too far afield here, Counsel.  The Court’s patience is not infinite.”

 

“Yes, your honor,” Nick said.  He turned back to Nadine, “should I repeat the question, Ms. King?  Do love your Father?”

 

Nadine was appropriately quick in her answer. “Of course, I do.”

 

“How do you show love for your Father?”

 

The question was another surprise and elicited, as intended, a spirited objection from Edmund. Nadine’s mouth smirked.

 

The Judge looked curiously at Nick as if to question how is this was to be considered relevant.

 

“Your honor, we intend to show that this witness has returned her father’s love with contempt.

 

“I’ll allow the question, “the judge said.

 

Nadine still looked confused.  Nick pressed ahead.

 

“Ms. King let me clarify. Your father was generous, he bestowed upon you life, love and wealth and for his efforts you ambushed him and cast him out of the business he built, isn’t that correct?”

 

“Objection,” interposed her lawyer, “the question is argumentative.” Before Nick could respond, the Judge said, “It is.”  She looked pointedly at Nick.  “The question is argumentative.  Re-ask or move on, Counselor.” Edmund sat down with a satisfied look on his face.

 

“You are aware your Father set up a Trust for you, are you not?”

 

Nadine had recovered. She looked Nick in the eyes and replied, “He did.  Yes, he did. That is why we are here, I suppose.”

 

“Your honor, I move to strike the last portion of the answer as speculation and a legal conclusion.” Her own lawyer had lodged the objection. He spoke up probably as a warning to her not to voluntarily elaborate on her answers to Nick’s questions.

 

“I’ll sustain the question,” the Ice Queen ruled.

 

“Just as he set up your two brothers with a Trust?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And you knew this because he shared this with you, all of you, told you what he was doing for you?”

 

Nadine was being disciplined.  She was adding nothing extra to her answeres.

 

“Yes,” she said.   The judge was watching her closely.  Showing nothing.  Lenny figured she was waiting for a crack to develop in the disciplined demeanor of the witness.

 

“He was insuring your wealth for the rest of your life.’

 

“Yes,” she said.

 

And Nick came right back raising his voice, “And you thanked him for it by stabbing him in the back, your own Father, and . . .. “

 

Edmund was up out of his chair. The Judge was holding up her hands and admonishing Nick.

 

Lenny was impressed. Nick was certainly going after them. Setting the tone.  This was much better, Lenny thought, than the other encounter with this lawyer when Nick had been on the defensive the entire time.

 

And as Nick watched, cracks appeared in Nadine’s facial expression as she watched the lawyers and the Judge.  She blushed and was holding her mouth tense.  Her lips were pursed and closed.   The Judge turned to her.  “Ms. King, do you understand the question. Do you think you can answer it?” the Judge said.

 

Nadine nodded her head as if to say your damn right I can answer it, “I don’t know what the deal is here. Yes, I got in the Trust what I needed to make this business survive.  My father was good to us, yes, and we were wealthy, we were rich, yes, that’s what we were, rich, but we were only going to be wealthy as you call it, in the future, if the business didn’t fail, fold.  My Father hasn’t done a good job of running it for years.  He was losing it, he lost it and it was time for him to step aside, you know, while there was still time.”

 

Now Nick was on his feet objecting to what Nadine was saying in response to his own questions and demanding it be stricken from the record.  Nadine just kept talking on.  And the bemused judge let her do so.

 

“My father is not the man he once was. He is tired.  And we are okay with that.  He needs to rest.  All us kids have been concerned.  Since our mother died, he hasn’t been the same.  It was time for him to move along.  Go fishing. Retire. He earned it, he said he wanted to do just that.  So, we felt he needed to go do it.”

 

The objections kept coming and finally the Judge halted Nadine’s narrative.

 

“Yes, well the witness will refrain from speaking outside of proper questions propounded her by counsel. Do you understand?”

 

She looked firmly at Nadine. Nadine tuned to look up at the judge. She heard her out and then turned back to Nick and nodded her head slightly as if begrudgingly acknowledging the Judge’s warning. And authority.

 

Lenny thought he had saw something pass between the expressions of the two, judge and witness. He immediately, not based upon anything more than instinct, wondered if they were in a conspiracy somehow.  Had Nadine and that lawyer of hers gotten to Her Honor, the Ice Queen.

 

To Lenny this judge just didn’t seem to be the type to expose herself to all the consequences if she was found out to be have been cheating, taking bribes. Not unless it was well worth the risk.  And then there was the fact that Nick had shared with Lenny the unequivocal observation that beneath her robes the judge was reputed to be one hot little number and, if she truly was, maybe they had something on her.  Something she didn’t want to reveal.  What could it be, if it didn’t seem to bother her that everyone knew she left her family to have an affair with a popular lawyer then dumped him the first time she heard he was sick?  Nick wondered.

 

But maybe it was something else entirely that had passed between them. Lenny had long known that as to Nadine’s sexuality, it was any port in a storm for her. And she loved storms. But the Ice Queen?  Hell, Lenny was just beginning to like her too.  In any other situation he would find it titillating, but his Kingdom was at risk.  He hoped what he saw was just an illusion.

 

Lenny turned and saw Dylan staring at him again.  There was the hint of a friendly smile.  Like he wanted to reach over and pat Lenny on the shoulder.

 

“And this man here. You know him, correct?”  Nick had walked in back of the counsel table and put his hand on Willet’s shoulder.  Edgar didn’t move from where he was setting at Willet’s side.  He glared at Nadine.

 

“I do,” she said.

 

“And he is your Father’s business partner and longtime friend?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And he’s been like an Uncle to you, over the years?”

 

“Well, he’s, well, yes. He’s been around our whole lives.”

 

“And you had him thrown in jail and then sent some thugs to dig out his eyes if he didn’t turn on your Father, didn’t you?”

 

The courtroom exploded.

 

Edmund was screaming his objections, calling for sanctions against Nick, Nadine was loudly denying the accusation. The Judge was banging her gavel.  Pounding it on the wood plate and, Lenny saw, she had a little smile on her face throughout it all.  It appears the Ice Queen likes a little excitement he thought.  Just don’t get boring.  Maybe her lover lawyer found himself on the street because developing a disabling disease bored her.

 

“Okay. Okay.  Calm down.  And sit down.  And I mean everyone.  Ms. King, you are excused from testifying anymore today.”

 

Nick jumped up proclaiming he wasn’t done with his examination.

 

“Oh, yes, you are, at least for now.  I warned you and you failed to heed my warnings.  I am finding you in contempt of court and you are fined the sum of one thousand dollars.  You will immediately pay the clerk by check or cash, at least before you leave the courthouse today or you will serve the night in jail.”

 

Nick nodded.  He had his checkbook in his inside coast pocket. Lenny had seen him put it in there before they left the office and wondered why. Maybe he fully expected this to happen and he was going to be prepared. Impressive, thought Lenny.

 

Back up on the bench, Judge Ice Queen was announcing an early morning recess.

 

“All parties are to be back here at 1:30 sharp.  I will see the attorneys for both parties alone in my chambers at that time.  I recommend to all parties, discuss settlement. You people need to take control of this situation yourselves. Or I’m going to.  I guarantee I will find a way to settle this and none of you are necessarily going to like the results.  I’m having my clerk prepare a list of court trustees. To act as a Special Master. I considering putting one in charge of the King business, and I have the power to appoint one to do just that, until this gets sorted out.  Be prudent people, while you can.  Court is in recess.”

 

And she was up and moving through the back door to her chambers, her robe bottom flaring out. Nice calves, thought Lenny.  Judge Ice Queen was hot in many ways.

 

There was an awkward silence after she left.  No one knew which party should move first.  Finally, Edgar wheeled Willets around and headed for the door.

 

The others in Lenny’s party followed.  As Lenny expected, Nick hung back.  Lenny also, after they got through the courtroom doors peeled off to the side to watch as the team from the other side filed out, including Nadine and Regan and finally Dylan and his girlfriend.  The doors closed and confirmed to Lenny that Edmund was still in the courtroom, probably talking to Nick.  Everyone on their side headed down to the end of the hallway except Dylan and his girlfriend.

 

Dylan walked over to Willets first. He nodded to Edgar.  Edgar looked away. Dylan leaned over and hugged Willet’s shoulders.  He whispered something to him and then stood back up and walked toward Lenny.

 

“Hi Dad.”

 

“Hi Dylan.  Uh Dylan, listen, the other day, I didn’t mean . . . “

 

“No. No. It’s okay. Maybe it’s better I move out.  Time to be on my own.”

 

“Well, whatever you want, Son, but I am sorry for that, for all that I said, I didn’t really mean it, and, well, you know, you can stay as long as you want.  This all had been stressful, you know, since your mom died and now you kids, and all this business, maybe got to me a little, you know. “

 

“Sure, Pops, I understand. Listen, I want you to meet someone very special to me.  This is Marcy.”

 

Lenny turned to her. She looked directly into his eyes.  Very self-possessed, Lenny thought.

 

“Mr. King. I have a message for you from my father.  You know him?”

 

“I know of him.”

 

“Yes.  Well, may we speak privately? The message is only for you.”

 

“And Dylan,” Lenny said.

 

Dylan said, “No, Dad. All this,” and his arms cast wide in a gesture that took in the entire courthouse, “isn’t for me.  I don’t want to be part of any of it.”  He put his hand lightly on the small of Marcy’s back. “Let her tell you what she wants, talk business all you want.  But do it with her.  I’m okay with that.  I’m going to go talk to Willets.  Marcy knows how I feel.  I don’t want to be involved in this. In any of this.”

 

For a moment the old anger, the disappointment in Dylan, started edging up.  Lenny swallowed it down.  He started to reply.  The big doors to the courtroom banged open and Edmund stomped out and headed toward the other tribe.

 

A few seconds later, Nick emerged and walked slowly toward them.   His face was ashen.  Things didn’t look good for a settlement.

 

 

 

Chapter 25

 

Dylan’s girlfriend, Marcy, led the way as she and Lenny walked to the far end of the long hallway, down past the last courtroom.  There were no postings on the board next to the double doors.  This courtroom was dark, locked up and not being used.  At the end of the corridor there were benches and Marcy seemed headed in that direction.  There was no hurry in her walk.  Her movements relaxed, confident.  Lenny, in spite of himself or, more accurately, because of himself and his habitual examination of every woman’s physical attributes watched her hips sway. Natural, nothing exotic, or exaggerated like most women in heels, just an easy movement in an unhurried walk.

 

Marcy stopped before the benches.  She looked back down the hallway.  Lenny looked too.  It was mostly empty. The others were moving onto the elevators.  All would soon be gone except Dylan.  He was seated on a bench talking to Willets who sat in his wheelchair facing him with Edgar behind him.  Edgar was looking in the direction where Lenny and Marcy were standing.

 

“Let’s sit here,” Marcy said.  She sat first and crossed her legs, patting the bench next to her.

 

Lenny didn’t sit.  He resisted her instructions because they sounded like instructions from a grade school teacher and he didn’t deign to take such orders.  Who was she after all?

 

“Thanks, I prefer to stand. I’ve been sitting all morning inside that stuffy courtroom,” he said.

 

She immediately got up. She smiled, but there was a hint of irritation in the rapid way she blinked her eyes.  She evidently knew better than to have a conversation of this type with someone who was standing over her looking down. The dynamics of dominance would not be advantageous to her position.  And, Lenny saw, she understood the situation.

 

While she made her adjustments, Lenny got out in front in the conversation.  “So, what is this you want to tell me?  Something about a message from your father?  How is he by the way?”

 

Marcy ignored the attempt to get her off balance with the inquiry about her father’s well-being.

 

“First,” she said, “I must pass on a warning.  There is going to be further action taken against your partner, Mr. Willets.  The persons who arranged for the first assault aren’t done with him.  They wanted him to do some things for them and he has failed.  They will have to follow through.  At least their mind-set is that they have to go ahead and do what they said they would.”

 

Lenny glanced back down the hall where Dylan was still talking to Willets.  Edgar seemed to be paying Lenny and Marcy no further attention and was focused on something Dylan seemed to be saying to his father.

 

Lenny looked back at Marcy. He felt tired.  Talking about what had happened to

Willets sucked the energy right out of him.  He didn’t feel like contesting wills with her anymore.  He said, “I think I will sit down.”

 

He looked up at her after he was seated and thought the look in her eyes betrayed a genuine look of sympathy.  She sat down next to him and actually reached over and took his hand in hers.  It was soft, nice.  He pulled his hand back and patted the inside pocket of his suit jacket as if confirming something was there.

 

“How do you know this?” he asked.  “Who are these people?  What are they going to do?  My God, what more do they want with poor Willets?”

 

“There are reasons my Father never shared that information with me. Legal reasons.  Business reasons.  Reasons I’m sure you understand.  I’m not even sure how much he knows about the details.  We certainly had nothing to do with what happened, but in his business information like this has a way of coming to him.  I’m just here to warn you about what he heard. And to make an offer to you.”

 

“An offer?”

 

“Yes.  My father has long admired you and what you have done with your company.  It’s the kind of “build out” he likes to see.  It’s much the same how he built his own business.  Well, different in ways and means, but close to the same result. Though we both know his empire is considerably larger.  And more powerful.”

 

Lenny nodded his head. Though surprisingly little information was available to the general public it was known that her father’s enterprise was large and diverse and stretched to overseas ports.  And his influence extended even further.  Lenny’s business kingdom was considerably less in size and reach.  Once he had ambitions to go that far.  Once. But not now.

 

Lenny didn’t ask any other questions.  He knew he didn’t have to.  She would go on and outline the contours of the deal being proffered.  It was what she was there for.  Lenny just had to wait.

 

After a pause and realizing Lenny wasn’t going to ask the usual questions, she went on.

 

“As I said, my Father’s interests are broad and wide.  He has the means to provide protection for your friend.”  She looked down the hallway to where Willets and Dylan were talking.  “The young man, Edgar.  He is impressive. And he is strong.  We know that.”

 

That was a slip Lenny thought. The second use of the word “we.”

 

No, Marcy wasn’t just a messenger. She was part, an integral part, of whatever moves were being made here.

 

Lenny felt strangely separated from all this.  Disconnected and dispassionate. Negotiations, business negotiations were his territory, what he was good at, what he had done his entire professional life, but here, now, when it was most critical, he found he was disinterested, removed.  He felt like he was standing to the side of the action, an observer.  He knew how this stuff worked, all the moves and counter-moves.  But it was with idle curiosity that he watched it play out.

 

Still saying nothing, he waited for her to continue.  Her eyebrows narrowed and there was just a hint of confusion.  The confidence she had evinced from the moment they walked away from the others wavered slightly when he still didn’t say anything.  She continued.  He knew she had to.

 

“And my Father believes you might be interested in having someone else besides your daughter taking over your business.”

 

“And son.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“And son. I have another son.  Regan.  He is Nadine’s partner in this.”

 

“Oh, yes.  Of course. What I’m meaning to say is, there is another way.  You can have what you originally wanted.  Your wealth, all of it, can remain intact.  And an extended transition period.  My Father thinks you would be gratified to go back in as head of the organization for a short time before other interests; competent interests, come in to lead and manage your kingdom, the way you would want them to.  Nadine and Regan aren’t up to it.  You know that.  They don’t have what you had. Uh, . . .. what you did, what you had, when you built your empire.”

 

Now she was silent. She could be quiet now.  Her message in full had been delivered. Now, if anything happened, it would be a process of negotiation and her approach would be dictated by what Lenny said next.  She looked like she was fully prepared for him to reject the offer out of hand.  If he did, so be it.  She had done her job and, Lenny assumed she knew of alternative plans, plans she wasn’t discussing, to take over the company.  They would be used if necessary. But this would be easier.  She waited.

 

Lenny understood what she was thinking. In past business dealings he had positioned himself just as she had and knew the next move was up to him. Should he walk away and take his chances?  A year ago, he would have.  But that was before.  Before Willets.  Before he had been turned out of his own business, shown the door.

 

He looked down the hall to where Dylan was now standing watching Edgar wheel Willets toward the elevator.  Lenny stood up and walked over to the window and looked down on the parking lot.  He saw the Judge.  She was walking next to a tall police officer in uniform.  Though they weren’t touching, but there was something intimate in the way they moved together.  The Ice Queen, indeed.  The judge, back there in the courtroom, Lenny had been convinced, knew something, something secret, was a part of something not being discussed out loud and maybe it was this, what Marcy and her father had contrived.  Or maybe Nadine and her lawyer had gotten to her.  He didn’t know what the judge’s part was now, but, he knew he would know before it was over.

 

No, he wouldn’t walk away from the deal.  Not yet anyway.  He would play the game out with Marcy and her father for a while.  Get the lay of the land.  And then make some moves of his own.  But did he have the strength?  He didn’t feel the old quickening of the blood like he always felt when a battle was looming. He wondered why he didn’t just say “Yes” to Marcy and her father, stand aside and let it all go. Hadn’t that what he planned to do before?  Was it? Sure. But could he? Was he being a fool? For not just giving up; surrendering to a superior force?   Well, no more the fool than he had been so far.

 

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters, 19,20,21

A King’s Trust, Chapters, 19,20,21

Chapter 19

 

“He’s gone.”

 

Nadine was listening to her brother, Regan.  She was seated behind a large, polished desk angled in the corner of an executive suite on the top floor of the King building.

 

Her office had floor to ceiling windows and a panoramic view of the entire city.  It was newly refurbished too.  She had known when she first saw the space it would one day be her executive office.  Her father had been giving another one of his frequent tours to a group of investors and walked them into the empty shell on this side of the building and held forth on his plans for the future expansion of the company headquarters.  Holding his arms wide to encompass the empty space, he had described how the company had plenty of room for a planned expansion.  He told them the empty space would house a new unit for a whole new product line they were developing and where they were standing was to be a conference room where clients could meet with company personnel on new projects and the new product line. And he pointed out that with the clients looking out at the city during the presentations they would be suitably impressed.  They would know this was a company that would be around well into the future.

 

Nadine saw the space differently that day and it did not involve impressing new clients and their team members or routine clients for that matter, but only those deemed important enough to meet with her.  She already knew she was going to maneuver Lenny out of the business before he was ready, even if she didn’t know exactly how that would take place.

 

She unconsciously ran her hands over the surface of the great desk.  Caressing it.  Her brother was saying something about Dylan when her mind had drifted.  She asked him to go back and reiterate.

 

“I said he’s gone. I’m not sure where, but I think it may be San Diego.  With that girl you thought he was sweet on.  You remember, what’s her name, from the college. The day we went to see him there.”

 

Nadine remembered.  “Her name was Marcy.” Nadine said. “I didn’t like her.”

 

“You never even spoke to her.  Good looking little thing.”

 

“Yeah, and he was fawning all over her.  What makes you think he’s gone?”

 

“Got it direct from the old man.  Dylan threw it all over.  All of this. Doesn’t want anything to do with the business.  Just getting out.  And, Nadine, what is this shit with Willets?  He gets thrown in jail and someone digs his eye out?  Jesus, who would do such a thing?”

 

Nadine didn’t want to talk about Willets.   She never meant for that to happen.  Somebody got carried away.  Edmund.

 

She wasn’t sure how she was going to handle Edmund.  When she learned what had happened to Willets, she had called him.  She had been angry and screaming.  He had told her to just calm down and not go all dramatic on him.  He said there had been a misunderstanding.  He acted like what had happen to Willets was nothing but a business action and nothing to be concerned about.

 

But she was concerned. She knew that if Edmund would do this, and do it knowing she didn’t want it to happen, do it despite of her objections, in effect do it over her head like that, well, she didn’t know what leverage she retained over him?  And if she had no authority over him, then how could she exercise control over what was happening with the business? Not with how she had positioned him.

 

Edmund was at the center of everything she was doing.  All the legal strategy and the not so legal strategy behind the scenes at the courthouse was being lead and directed by him.  Investing so much in one man might have been a mistake.  But he was a handsome devil.  Just to her taste.  At least he had been.  She was getting a little of tired of him.  It wasn’t as much fun as it had been.  Too much law, too much business on his mind to play the fun little games she wanted to play.

 

She returned the conversation to Dylan.  “Well, I guess that is all right for Dylan, but I don’t trust that little twat he was with. They could make trouble with his block of shares.  They could have a real impact on what we are trying to do.”

 

“Yeah, but what about Willets?”  He wasn’t letting go of the subject.

 

“It was tragic, just awful what happened to him.  But we need to stay focused on what’s important here,” Nadine said.

 

“You don’t think what happened to him is important?” Regan said.

 

“Come on,” Nadine said. “I’ve seen you torture cats and I’ve seen your little games with your hired women. You’re not squeamish.”

 

“But nothing like what they did to Willets!  Hell, man that must have been terrible.  And what does it have to do with our plans?”

 

Nadine didn’t like the use of the word “our”.  To her the moves, the plans, were all her.  But for now she needed Regan.  She would let it pass.  This time. After the takeover she would straighten Regan out. Once their father was gone and it was for sure, he wasn’t coming back to the business she would be in charge.  She had no plans for anything to be “ours”.  She didn’t intend to share the power with anyone.  She intended it to be all “mine.”

 

“Look.  One thing at a time,” she said. “Who is, what do we know about this Marcy?”

 

“She’s got money. We know that.  Her father is some big deal in the shipping industry.  Has his headquarters in San Diego.  The man has a lot of political friends in State Government.  Federals too I heard.”

 

“Where you getting all this?”

 

“One of the professors at the college.  Actually, he teaches in the same department as Dylan.  He, uh, sometimes attends, shall we say, “Club” meetings with me.”

 

Nadine smiled sardonically nodded her head knowingly.  “Club meetings, huh? I know about those meetings.  A college professor?  Does he dress up pretty?”

 

“Never mind about that.” Regan continued, “We are close, uh, friends.  He told me about her.  Said everyone in the department knew Dylan and her had a thing going. Not exactly kosher, a professor and student, but happens a lot, even with all the new rules on fraternization and sexual harassment.”

 

“This isn’t good.  Willets is sidelined.  But we definitely need Dylan’s shares.  He has to vote his shares with us. We need to talk to him.”

 

“Why don’t I do it?” Regan said.

 

“Why you?”

 

“He’s a little frightened of you, I think.”

 

Nadine furrowed her brow in a skeptical way.

 

Regan said, “Look, Nadine, we all find what you are doing a little scary. This is big time stuff. You seem to take to it, take it in stride, but for us, it’s scary.  And for Dylan, he’s scared of you period.  Hell, you used to fight bullies off him.  He thinks you are the toughest person there is.  He loves you, sure, you know how goofy good he is, but he is scared of you too.  Too scared maybe to tell you the truth.  Let me talk to him.  See what he will tell us.  We can use his fear of you when we need it most.  We don’t need it full bore right now.”

 

Nadine was impressed. Regan was thinking matters through. Immediately on the heels of the pleasant surprise came another thought, that now she would need to pay more attention to him.  Watch him closer.  If he was this clever, it was just a few small steps for him to arrive at the conclusion that he might be as clever as Nadine.  Maybe smarter.  And maybe then he starts to have the illusion he should be the one to run the business. And that wasn’t going to happen.

 

As Nadine sat there listening to her brother, she thought how she didn’t trust anyone anymore.  No brother, no father, not her business partner, not her lawyer, no, especially not him.  Had she ever trusted anyone, really trusted them?  She couldn’t remember.

 

No matter.  As things stood there was no need for her to trust anyone. And trust was overrated anyway.

 

Chapter 20

 

He was tall.  A lot taller than the last time Lenny saw him. Still, he would have recognized him anywhere.  The same set of the jaw as Willets.  The same hair color. The eyes that seemed to be seeing a higher purpose, a monk like willingness to sacrifice, to submit to the stake for the good of the one true religion.  He was Willets son okay.

 

And Lenny felt comforted that Edgar had arrived.  He was here. And he was a tough marine.  Dependable. Brave.  Courageous. He was someone who could hold his own against a bunch of thugs.  And he would take them on regardless of their superior position, regardless of the likelihood of losing, of the sacrifices that may be demanded.  He would charge the machine gun nest.  He was just the kind of guy Lenny needed.

 

Edgar smiled when he saw Lenny and waved his free hand.  In the other hand was briefcase of some kind.  The briefcase looked out of place, incongruous. Edgar wasn’t dressed for business. He had on blue jeans and tee shirt made of some kind of stretch material that hugged and emphasized his musculature. Which was substantial. He put down the briefcase and walked toward Lenny.

 

When he got to Lenny there was a momentary awkwardness.  He first reached out for a handshake, then evidently decided that was ludicrous and reached out with both arms and gave Lenny a big hug.  Lenny was never much of a hugger.  He never hugged members of his own family.  Hell, he didn’t hug his mistresses.  He didn’t like the feel of hugs, the physical intimacy, the odor, the breath of another person.  Better to just shake hands or fuck them, but not embrace.   Nevertheless, he let Edgar have his way, let him envelop him in a hearty hug and then he immediately stepped back a half step from him.  He looked up at the taller man and nodded.

 

“Edgar, I’m so glad you are here.”

 

“My Dad?  How is my Dad?”

 

“We are going to see him right now.  I figured you wouldn’t want to wait.”

 

“You got that right.”

 

“You need to prepare yourself.  He looks pretty bad, Edgar.  Those thugs did a number on him. But the Doc says he’s recovering and he will pull through. Just be prepared.  He doesn’t look good right now. No one would.”

 

Edgar didn’t say anything else.  His look, however, changed from friendly to hard. He set his mouth firmly and started walking toward the baggage area.  He was a big impressive guy and people parted or moved to the side as he moved through the terminal.  Lenny followed in his wake.  The bags were already coming around on the carousel.  Edgar grabbed a big olive-green duffel bag off the moving circular panels.  He must have not had time to purchase any proper luggage.  He hoisted the strap over one shoulder and looked to Lenny. Lenny pointed toward the front of the terminal.

 

They walked in silence until they got to Lenny’s car in the parking lot.  Edgar, once seated in the car ran his hand over the leather seats.

 

“Nice.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Mr. King.  Who did this to my father?”

 

“I’m not sure.”

 

“But you have an idea?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Well, lets’ have it.”

 

“Let’s see your dad first and then we will talk.’

 

“No.  I want to know now.”

 

“Listen, Edgar.  It won’t do anybody any good to go off halfcocked.”

 

Edgar raised his hand to halt Lenny from talking.

 

“I know all that.  It there is one thing three tours in the Middle East fighting a bunch of murdering bastards taught me, is you better have a plan and a good one before you launch an attack.  But there is going to be an attack.  I’m going to get them.  The ones who did this and the ones who put them up to it.  It may take a while, but they are going to suffer.   Just like my dad suffers. Now, who did it?”

 

Lenny pushed a button under the steering wheel and the BMW came to life.  He sat there holding the wheel and thinking.

 

“Okay, Edgar.  I’m going to tell you what I know, but we have to keep it together.  Figure out first what we should do.”

 

“And that’s what we will do.  Now who was it?”

 

Lenny turned in the seat to face him. As Edgar stared out over the hood of the idling car, Lenny told him what he knew.  He started by telling him his suspicions about Nadine.

 

Chapter 21

 

When they entered the hospital room, Willets was just coming out of an opioid induced sleep.  Lenny stayed near the door as Edgar walked to the side of the bed.  Edgar reached out and put his hand on his father’s chest.  Lenny saw that both of Willet’s eyes were bandaged.  The attending physician had said it was necessary because Willets had suffered a concussion.  And the disorientation when he regained consciousness would be severe. And it would not just be from the concussion.   All the injuries together had affected his balance.  The Doctors preferred minimalizing the confusion and wanted time for the uninjured eye to accommodate, acclimate to taking over the burden of his entire vision.

 

Willets stirred when Edgar touched his chest.

 

“Who is that?”  Lenny noticed he had not withdrawn from the strange touch.  Lenny would have.  But Willets did not.

 

“Dad, It’s me.  It’s Edgar.  I’m here now.  I’m here to take care of you.”  Edgar opened his mouth to say, more, he tried to say more, but he choked up.  The words wouldn’t come.  He had to swallow the words.  Faintly pink tears ran in rivulets from under the bandages down his cheek.

 

“Edgar?” Willets turned his head as if to look for his son.  But he was blind.  “What are you doing here?  I thought you were still overseas.  You shouldn’t be here.  Edgar, you need to get away from this.  There are some very mean people who . . . “

 

As he turned his head further, Willets suddenly winched with pain and Edgar winced right along with him. Lenny knew Edgar was feeling the bolts of his father’s pain.

 

Lenny watched silently until Willets tried to raise his hands to his eyes, and the bandages.

 

“You can’t do that Willets,” Lenny declared.  “The doctors told you.  Man, you have got to leave your eyes alone.  I know it hurts, but we can’t have you get an infection.  That would be worse.   That would be much worse.”

 

Edgar gently held his Dad’s hands from rising.  Willets unfolded his hands and placed them on top of Edgars.  Gently patting, feeling them there.  Being comforted by their presence.

 

“I’m glad you’re here, Son. I am glad you’re here.  I’m scared.  I’m scared now for you too, but I think I’m going to need help.  Lenny, is that you? Lenny, when can I get out of here? What do the Docs say?  What’s going on with the case?  Lenny, I need to know what is going on.”

 

Lenny shook his head at Edgar.  “Listen, Willets,” he said, ‘you don’t worry about that right now.  We got to get you well.”

 

“Are they going to be send me back in there, back to jail?”  He grasped Edgar’s hands.  “Son, don’t let them do that.  Get me out of here first. Take me away.  Let me hide. Will you?  Will you do that for me?”

 

Lenny spoke up.  “You aren’t going back Willets.  Don’t worry about it.  We got you bailed.  I put up the house as collateral.  And glad to do it.  Everything is going to be okay.  Easley says he is asking for an emergency order.  Maybe we can get back on the inside of our corporation.  But you just rest. There is nothing we can’t handle. For now, just take care of yourself.”

 

Willets didn’t reply. He just lay there and kept gently patting Edgar’s hands.  Edgar was having trouble catching his breath.  He was hurting. His heart was bursting with what had been done to his Dad. His body was tight, flexed, full of rage.  He wanted to hurt someone, he wanted to fight, he was a soldier and he wanted to charge.  Lenny knew, regardless of what he had been said, he was going to have to restrain Edgar from embarking on some precipitous course to exact revenge.

 

Lenny’s cell phone rang.  He answered.  It was his lawyer, Easley.   The message was simple.  There was to be a hearing at ten a.m. the next morning.  Easley needed to talk to him. Lawyer stuff.  Lenny would have to testify, and Easley needed him to come to the office.  He needed to prepare him for the hearing.  It would be important.  His testimony was critical, but there were traps to be avoided.  They needed to get ready.

 

Edgar looked up. Lenny nodded toward the door. Edgar leaned over and kissed his dad. He whispered something in his ear. He straightened up.  He left his father’s bed and walked over to Lenny. He towered over him. He looked down at Lenny.  There was still the film of tears in his eyes.  They held.  If he blinked they would run down his cheek.  But he wasn’t blinking.  He was staring.

 

“I want to get these guys.”

 

“You’ll get your chance.  We start tomorrow.”

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters 16,17&18

A King’s Trust, Chapters 16,17&18

Chapter 16

 

The man who had been staring at Willets had been indirectly hired by Edmund Oswald, Nadine’s new attorney and now senior partner of Oswald and Associates, a Legal Corporation and the firm the Board of Directors had just approved as the new Corporate Counsel for King Enterprises.

 

Nadine had, at first, objected.  She said, they could ease Willets out.  With Crabtree on the inside of the Corporation, she said, Willets did not present a problem.  But Edmund disagreed.  Willets controlled a block of stock and if one of the other kids caved in or became turncoat they might join their stock to Willets and then there could be real trouble.  He intended to make sure Willets was no threat to Nadine’s control of the Corporation.

 

And besides he had plans for turning Willets into a weapon against Lenny King.

 

Edmund smiled indulgently at Nadine.  She was in her nightgown, the one she thought he found so sexy, but which he considered silly.  She was seated on the couch in her Condo, sipping the martini he had just handed her.  Edmund had quickly learned how to push Nadine’s special buttons and he enjoyed doing so.

 

She was ambitious Edmund knew, but to his mind, she had no idea what real ambition was.

 

There was a fortune here and a fortune to be made.  Edmund had imagined the money that could be made simply by loading the whole business down with debt and then defaulting.  Who had time to wait for something to grow when who could leverage it to the hilt, wash the cash through a couple of dummy offshore corporations and then let the whole thing including the dummy corporations go to Bankruptcy? And Edmund was a man in a hurry.  A hurry to make money and live the life he desired, the life he deserved.  And he wasn’t going to wait until he was Lenny King’s age to reap the benefits of life.  The man had been a fool to wait.

 

All Nadine had wanted him to do was to go head to head with the old man’s attorney, Nick Easley.  She thought that would be the easiest way. But Edmund figured it would be a giant waste of time to fight all the legal battles to maintain control of the corporation, and go after a fellow attorney and, unnecessarily make enemies of ninety per cent of the legal profession.  Instead, Edmund knew, those same lawyers would be happy to help him with stripping out the assets of the King Corporation, conceal the distribution and eventual routing of those assets into certain select offshore accounts and into lining some local pockets of useful friends in the court system and all the while hiding what was being done behind the Attorney-Client Privilege.  All for handsome fees of course.   They would all share.  Money well spent.

 

And, in Edmund’s thinking, why go through all that effort only to leave the control of the business to a slatternly twit like to Nadine?  Instead he would control her.  He knew how.  Those other siblings presented no real challenge.  The dummy Dylan; that asshole brother, Regan, Edmund would handle them in short order.  None of this was going to be easy and it was not for the faint of heart.  It took courage to get ahead in this world. It took audacity.  It took ruthlessness.  All were in good supply in Edmund.

 

The night Edmund put his plan to work, he and Nadine were sitting in booth in a dark corner of his favorite lounge.  She had her hand on his thigh. He didn’t mind. He would put up with it for a while longer.  He could put up with a lot of things now he found revolting for the rewards later would be great.

 

They were waiting for a man Edmund had successfully kept out of prison.  And who could afford to continue to pay handsomely for Edmund’s services directed at keeping him free and on the outside.

 

Keeping this client from a prison sentence had been remarkably easy.  A few well-placed bribes had helped, and a series of donations directed to a special campaign fund of the local democratic central committee and which would then be washed through the committee’s accounts and eventually directed by multiple friendly committee chairmen to the District Attorney’s campaign fund.

 

Once all the funds had made their way to the right hands, it had resulted in a large premium fraud case against Edmund’s client being dismissed.  Ostensibly the case was dismissed for lack of proof. But the proof had been clear enough. Had there been a real will to prosecute the case.

 

Edmunds client was a general contractor. At any one time he sub-contracted the work of eleven different construction crews.  They were deployed to various public work projects for building low-income housing. Edmund’s client had prudently populated the crews with illegal aliens.  He employed upward of two hundred employees hammering boards, painting houses in a cheap housing track south of the main highway that cut through town.

 

The law required that the client maintain worker’s compensation insurance on each employee. He had to report the number of employees to a state agency and pay the premium rate established by state regulations. His client had thought that paying all that money for premiums a waste.  Instead the reports he had filed listed only ten employees and represented their work was seasonal.  The premiums he was required to pay were very low.  As a result, not only were the workers uninsured, the higher premiums owed the state insurance commissioner were never paid.

 

The client had theorized the illegals even if hurt wouldn’t report their accidents out of fear of deportation. He made sure his foremen spread this fear by periodically warning the crews to hide from rumored round ups by Border Patrol agents.

 

Unfortunately, and unknown to the client, a grant had been secured by some staffers at the D.A.’s office and they had sent out some undercover operatives to ferret out Premium fraud cases. That in return uncovered the client’s scheme.  The staffers were excited and diligently worked up an excellent case.  They had Edmund’s client dead to rights.

 

Needless to say, they were surprised when the case was transferred to a different unit, the White-Collar Crime Unit for prosecution.

 

The team of prosecutors in the White-Collar section was a veteran unit. They had been around a while. They knew the worth of a case and seldom filed one unless they could be sure of a conviction.  They were also used to accommodations being made for certain well-heeled individuals who found themselves entangled in the justice system.

 

After the case had been transferred, the original unit had a difficult time getting over their shock. But they accepted the explanation that the size of the case required the expertise of the White-Collar unit.  They were angry and chagrined to hear, months later, the case had gone nowhere.  But by then they were on to other cases and the word was put out it was best no questions be asked about this particular case.

 

Edmund knew his client was a first-class crook. And he knew the apple never falls far from the tree. The Client’s son was currently incarcerated for robbery. And he was a Three Striker.  Going down on this latest charge would be a permanent good bye.  Twenty-five years to life mandatory.  When the client had come to Edmund to see if he could work his magic with his son as he had with the premium fraud case, Edmund saw a way to kill two birds with one stone.

 

The client’s name was Charles Chester.  He was a flamboyant dresser.  For a crook. Most criminals Edmund knew of the white-collar variety preferred more of a nondescript profile.  They dressed conservatively, supported the Republican ticket and attended every PTA meeting. Chester was different.  He was just as likely to show up in a silk green suit as in navy blue pinstripes.  His fat neck generally precluded wearing a tie and his shirts gaped at the waist. His pants were inevitably too tight. His shoes were always too shiny, patent leather of various shades, and his jewelry too showy.

 

At that moment, Charles Chester pranced into the bar where Edmund and Nadine were waiting and took his seat.

 

“What’s new with my favorite attorney and counselor at law? And who’s this pretty lady?” he said as he slid his bulk into the booth, unconsciously pushing at the table which, because it was anchored to the floor, didn’t move.

 

“I’m fine.  Charles, this is Nadine King.  She is the current Chairwoman of the King Corporation.”

 

Charles nodded knowingly indicating he found that impressive.

 

“I heard there had been some changes over there.  Had no idea you were involved though I can’t say I’m surprised, Counselor. Any opportunities there for an honest businessman?”

 

When Charles smiled a good tooth to the side and back of his mouth was visible.  Nadine found the tooth and the man revolting.  She was wondering how she got talked into this.

 

“Well, there may be.” Edmund said, “There may be indeed.”

 

Charles looked at Nadine. He smiled broadly and, she thought, lewdly.  She looked away from his smile over at the customers seated at the bar and wished she were somewhere else.  She even thought of joining the patrons at the bar. Wouldn’t be the first time she had swung her sweet booty up on a stool at a bar lined with “gentlemen.”  It always gave her a little thrill to do so.

 

“So, tell me about this opportunity.”

 

“Listen, Charles, your boy Kenny’s back in jail and this time he is facing some serious time.”

 

“Well, he’s in good hands. You’re the best, Counselor.   I tell everybody that.  I say if you got legal troubles, call Edmund Oswald. Can’t do any better.”

 

He would have kept going like any salesman buttering up a mark, but Edmund cut him off.

 

“Well, there may not be a lot I can do for him.  You know they have a video tape, don’t you?”

 

Edmund turned to Nadine to include her in the conversation, “You ever see a jury watch a video of a crime? It’s devastating.  Like they are sitting at home watching T.V. It’s not like audiotapes. They frown trying to hear audiotapes.  They lose their concentrations. Their minds wander.  But not with Video.  With video they smile.  Relaxed. It’s truth to them.  They’ll convict your client before the commercial.”

 

Nadine wasn’t paying any attention.  She looked longingly at an empty bar stool not fifteen feet away.  She knew her skirt would ride up when she swung one hip up on the stool.  The way she liked it to do.  Edmund turned back to Charles.

 

“Listen, there may be something Kenny can do to help himself.”

 

He paused to wait for Charles to inquire.  Edmund was an old hand at negotiating these types of deals.

 

Charles said, “Okay. Kenny’s a good boy.  Just got too wrapped up with that Meth.  Bad friends.  Some real bad hombres, you know?  I know he wants to go straight now.”

 

“Yeah, well, think you can get him a message?” Edmund asked.

 

Charles Chester nodded.

 

Edmund continued, “See, we have to keep our hands off this, but the D.A. , our friend,  and your friend, Charles, you remember?”   Charles nodded.  Edmund went on, “Well, he has a big, high profile case he needs some help with. There’s a guy in custody down at the county jail. He has some valuable information our D.A. could use.  He just needs to be persuaded to help out you know. It would be good for him too.”

 

He turned back to Nadine who had despite herself started listening to Edmund.  Something about his voice always seemed to mesmerize her.

 

Edmund said, “This guy needs some persuasion.  He needs to be convinced it is in his interest to come clean and work with the District Attorney’s people.  If he would tell what he knew and agreed to testify, well, he could walk free of the mess and the D.A. would be very thankful to your son, Kenny.  Why, I bet he might get the charges amended making him available for Drug rehab.  I know Kenny knows what that means.  Six months, in house facility, takes the cure, promises to stay on the straight and narrow and he’s out.”

 

“And all he has to do is talk this guy into turning state’s evidence?”

 

“Well, like I said, he might need to persuade him, know what I mean?  This guy will be standing on loyalty to his friend.  Misplaced Loyalty, I might add.”

 

He turned to Nadine when he said that.  “Yes, he will probably be needed to be convinced.”

 

Charles sat there for a few moments. He sipped his drink.  He was considering the import of Edmund’s words.

 

“And what, would be the benefit to me?  I mean, you know, those rehab programs.  The after-care programs Kenny is going to need are expensive.  I might need some help with paying for them.”

 

“Well, Charles, you have some very good friends now.  Your generous donations to good causes and good local candidates have made you some good friends.  Among our public servants.  Even more friends if this is sucessful.  I’m sure the extra cost you incur can be offset.  Your friends have friends of their own who can cover any out of pocket expenses.”

 

“And this is okay with you?” Charles directed his question at Nadine. She looked at him for a moment, and then said, “Excuse me, won’t you.”  She got up and walked toward the women’s bathroom.

 

“Nice caboose,” Charles said after she left. “Does she ever say anything?”

 

Edmund smiled at his friend. “The less she says the better. When it comes to her oral skills, well, she’s good at other things.”

 

Charles smiled back. “I hear ‘ya.  You got a deal, Counselor.  You know sometimes persuasion can be kind of rough.  Limits?”

 

“Just do what is required.  Make him see reason.  Understand?”

 

“I sure do.  Take care, Lawyer man.  It’s always good doing business with you.”

 

The fat crook eased out of the booth and walked toward the door with the panache of many big men who don’t realize how repulsive they look.

 

Nadine returned from the bathroom and slid in the booth.  He said, “you weren’t very talkative.’

 

“That man was disgusting. I don’t know why you wanted me here.  And I hope you were clear that Willets is not to be harmed. I don’t think this will work anyway.  He’s loyal to my father.  Too much history there.”

 

“Well, let’s see.  Let’s see if it works.”

 

Nadine shrugged.  Edmund reached his arm over behind her and pulled her close.

 

“What do you want to do the rest of the evening?”

 

She smiled really for the first time that night.  “Well, lets’ have just one more drink and then we’ll decide.”

 

 

 

Chapter 17

 

Willets was hungry. It was meal-time at the jail.  He could hear the cell doors on his block sliding open one by one.  A screeching drag of metal on metal, then a clang as they locked in place.  It would be too tedious to tell himself he was ambivalent about dinner.

 

The food was bad, not appetizing in any way, but he had eaten nothing since the previous day. Willets enjoyed good food.  He fancied himself something of an epicure, a gourmand taking delight in serving up his specialties to friends and relatives who cared to dine with him. But he was hungry now, a different kind of hunger, so hungry, he wasn’t particular about the faire he might be presented with much less how it was presented.  He just wanted something to eat.

 

Since the day of his arrest, and after the first meal in the dining hall, he had chosen to stay in his cell at meal times under the mistaken belief that he would soon be released and once at home he could eat whatever he chose.  He could have a meal, a good meal without these bad feelings, the nauseating fear that he was going to be hurt.  He was hungry, but he also very afraid.

 

The man he had told Lenny about was going to do something to him.  He knew it.  He didn’t know what.  He didn’t know why.  He just knew he was going to do something.  He had figured if he stayed in his cell, he would he was relatively safe.  Chances are he wouldn’t have to find out what this person had in mind as long as he didn’t venture out into the general population, didn’t go to the T.V. room, the shower, the cafeteria, anywhere other inmates congregated.  If he remained in his cell, no one could hurt him and soon he would be out and could deal with his problems.   Plus he could eat. He could eat all he wanted.  But God, he was hungry now.

 

Willets hadn’t missed many meals before. In fact, he didn’t remember missing any.  Not even as a kid. He might have delayed his lunch a few hours when he was fishing or working on some project.  And he had breakfast late or dinner late on occasion, but that just made the food more delicious.  The courses more appreciated.  The sauces more savored.

 

But right now, the empty feeling in his stomach, it felt like a canyon, a yawning one, opened up and reaching.  It hurt he was so hungry.

 

And now, in addition to the hunger, he was depressed.  And he was discouraged.  After this morning’s visit, he didn’t really know when he would be released.  Lenny said by Friday, but what guarantees were there?   And oh Lord, what if he was convicted.  What if they sent him off to Prison?  What if this was to be his life forever?  He would have to eat. His plan to hold out until he was out of jail, had not worked out. But to eat he would have to leave his cell. He would have to line up with the other inmates and shuffle through the line with his tray and take the food being served by other inmates.  It was the only way.

 

He was starving.

 

Willets looked down at the cement floor, he let his eyes wander over to the commode, the unwashed, dirty dingy walls.  He ran his hand over the bunk he sat on, the rough blanket on top of the mattress. There was no sheet.  Just a mattress and a blanket.  It was hot in the jail.  There was a constant far away rumbling sound of industrial air conditioners laboring to cool the huge facility.  It would never be enough.  The sweating sweltering bodies just made it more humid. He couldn’t imagine in the winter how cold it would get. The blanket he nightly kicked off, he would be huddled up in the winter.  Oh god, would he still be here when winter rolled around?

 

A hunger pang made him winch.  It hurt. He had never had one before, now he knew what it felt like.  It hurt.  It was an actual pain.  He was amazed that the word was so accurate.  The books, the lines in plays, someone writing it in a letter.  “Hunger pangs.”  Such an innocuous phrase, but for Willets, it was real now.  And intense.  He stood up. He took a few steps toward the cell door.   He needed to eat.  The only thing to do that was to walk through the open cell door and follow the other prisoners to the cafeteria.

 

Though he had been disgusted by the first meal he had had here, now he wanted nothing better than to sit down with the plastic tray, loaded with dishes of strange greenish meat and red Jello.  He would eat every bite, he knew.  He wondered if you could have seconds.  It wasn’t a question that occurred to him when he had his first prison meal, but now, well, maybe, they wouldn’t mind if he asked for extra food.  Real quiet like, obsequious, respectfully.  He could do that.

 

Willets walked, putting one foot consciously in front of the other through the door.  At the end of the cellblock, he lined up and shuffled behind some other guys.  The noise was increasing, the din echoing as he approached the dining room.

 

He followed the crowd inside.  He didn’t know if he was imagining it, but he felt like someone’s eyes were on him.  He didn’t want to look, but as the line paused, he took a quick glance and he saw him.  He immediately looked away, but he knew the man was watching him.

 

After he got his food he went to the furthest table away from the side of the hall where the man was seated.  He did look once more.  Quickly. He couldn’t help himself.  The man was sitting with two other prisoners.  All three were looking at him.  The man who had been staring at him mumbled something to the other two.  Their looks changed from neutral to hostile.

 

Had he been experienced about such things, Willets would not have sat down with his back to them. But he was afraid and somehow, he thought, hoped that maybe if he wasn’t facing them they wouldn’t pay attention to them or they would disappear. Besides, there were two guards in the dinning hall.  They were standing leaning on the wall in front of him.  They, too, seemed to be watching him.  He thought he had to be imagining this.  He thought it must just be rampant paranoia.  He felt rising anxiety when the guards seemed to take one last look at him and move away. They appeared to be crossing to the other end of the hall.  You would have thought one of them would have stayed on his side.

 

As hungry as he had been, he was now sick at his stomach.  He didn’t want to eat. But his belly told him he had to get something down or he would get weaker and faint.

 

He picked up a slice of ham with his plastic fork. He put it in his mouth. The bite was good.  It may not have been the freshest meat, but it did have juice in it and his taste buds savored the taste for no other reason than his extreme hunger.

 

He took another bite before completely swallowing the first.  Then there was a shadow; someone standing between him and the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. He looked up into the face of one of the men who had been sitting with the one he feared.  He felt someone brush by him on other side.  The other man had sat down next to him.

 

Willets’ just sat there holding his fork in midair.  The man reached over and removed it from his hand.  Someone else grabbed him and he felt his arms being pinned behind him. One of the men grabbed the hair on the back of his head and pulled his head back.  He was looking straight into the face of the man he had so feared and then something was grinding into his eye.   The pain was like nothing he had ever felt, and he opened his mouth to scream, but someone pushed a rag in.

 

He could not move, he could not scream and the grinding kept going on.  His eye was gone and in its place was pure red pain.  Blood was running down his face and into his mouth. He couldn’t spit it out.  He swallowed.  He still couldn’t move. Then there were lips next to his ear.

 

“Listen up, Turd. Your eye is gone.  It’s history. No gettin’ it back.  But they gonna’ patch you up and you still got one good eye.  Going to look like shit.  You are going to be one ugly som’ va’ bitch.  Better get a patch.  Pretend you’re Pirate, fucker, but know this.  Some people going to ask you about that asshole, King, you know so well. The big boss man.  You better give them good answers. King’s guilty as shit and you better say so.  We want him in here and, by the way, when he’s here, you will be let out.  We’ll have a little prisoner exchange, like in the Movies, you know?  And you may bump into some things.  Not going to be seeing too good. Too fucking, bad.  But, you’ll be out of here.”  He actually heard laughter. The eye was pain, pure pain, but he was hearing every word.

 

“Now there is another choice for you.  You can stay mum and you get to stay in here with us.  And we going to, just to keep things in balance like, take that other eye and then you can sit and wait for our little visits.  You can listen for us.  Every once in a while we will come and take something else from you.  Maybe a finger.  Maybe something else.”  More laughter.  “But we will be coming.  You gonna’ be in permanent dark, but we can see you, bro and we going to come.  And we going to take little parts of you.”

 

Somebody then hit him hard on the back of the head and his face went into his plate.  He was in hell and he couldn’t orient himself to find his way out.  He wanted to die, to burn, to spontaneously combust, to run, to jump, to scream, anything to stop the hurt.  Dazed, bleeding he pushed up from the table. The strong arms that had moments before had him pinned were gone.  He pushed himself all the way up.  He blinked open one eye and saw some hard stares from other prisoners as they moved instinctively away from him.  Then he fell. He was unconscious by the time his head hit the floor.   The blackness was welcome.

 

 

 

Chapter 18

 

The bank at least had come through. The bond was posted.  Willets had been released with the bond as bail.  His appearances at future court dates was now secured by Lenny’s home, what he always had considered his castle.  But it had all come too late.  Willets had been attacked.  They said at the jail, they didn’t know who did it.  No one was talking.

 

As Lenny sat in the hospital room and looked at Willets and his physical misery, he felt sorry.  He felt sorry for what Willet’s had gone through, and was now going through. He felt sorry he had not been able to get him out of custody sooner.  Had he taken him seriously enough when Willets express his fear, his inchoate feeling of danger?  Not serious enough, he guessed.

 

But he was at least out of that jail.  They said, a guard had got to Willets before some other prisoners could do away with him completely.  Other prisoners, not necessarily the ones who had attacked him, might have killed him. They said at the jail, some other prisoner would have murdered Willets, simply because Willets had been lying there without protection.  And bleeding. One of them might have taken offense at having to look at the mess and simply cut his throat.  Someone would take it as a kill badge.  Enhanced his status with the lords of the gangs who ran most things inside the jail.

 

All this trouble. Instead of Lenny being on the top of the world, enjoying the immense wealth he accumulated, the power he had accreted, here he was looking at the shell of his former best friend and partner, Willets, the mask over half his face, the wires and IVs hooked up to his arms. The set of his mouth, the small flinches of pain that jerked his jaw upward toward the empty eye socket.

 

There was noise in the hall. Footsteps and then attorney Easley came through the door. The heavyset lawyer seemed to have gained even more weight. He was, as always, decked out in the finest of suits, matching tie, his patent leather shoes shined to a high gloss. But it seemed to Lenny the lawyer had a few some dark circles under his eyes.  He wondered how the Easley was sleeping.  How could anyone sleep through all this?

 

“Oh God,” the lawyer said on looking at Willets.  “Who did this?  Why?”

 

“He was talking when he first came in,” Lenny said.  “The attendants thought it was nonsense at first, babbling and crying.  Then an intern started listening closely.  He got his cellphone out and recorded it.  I have it.  I’ve listened to it a half dozen times.  It’s about me!  What someone wanted him to do to me!  You need to listen to it.  Here, I’ll play it for you.”

 

The lawyer held up his hand. “Not here, Lenny.  I’ve been told, you may be facing criminal charges.  And soon.  Let’s do the listening somewhere else.  Never can tell who’s hearing what it being said.  Who’s recording it and how.  Soon as we leave.  We will listen.  We want to be where it is private, where the Attorney-Client privilege applies.  Not here. They would say we waived it even though there is just the two of us.”

 

“But that’s the whole thing. He’ saying this is about him testifying. Against me for Christ’s sake!  But he won’t do it.  He refuses to do it.”

 

“Look.  Don’t say another word while we are here.  How is he anyway? What’s the Doc say?”

 

“One eye is gone. They dug it out, Nick.  Can you imagine?  The Brutality.  And they are threatening him.  Going to get him again.  Maybe now’s we got him out, they can’t.  But he’s afraid, Nick.  He thinks he might get put back and they’ll get him or somehow, they’ll get to him out here.  And I’m afraid.  I’m afraid he might be right.  Can’t you do something?”

 

“Okay.  Come on.  We have to go somewhere else.  You can’t keep talking about this where people can hear you.  Come on, Lenny.  He can’t hear us anyway.  They got him doped up for the pain.  Thank God. Let’s go down to my car.”

 

They took one last look at Willets.  It was ugly. At least he was out of jail.  Thank God, for the pain medication.  Even the doctors were sympathetic.  Wanted him asleep.  Let him get through this they said, put him out and let his body heal the wounds a little.  And then they can start the repair.  Trying to mediate the damage.  Make it seem something that can be overcome.  Lenny was thinking he was glad Willets was out and for a lot of reasons. His fear of returning to custody. Always a chance of that happening. And what they had promised him for next time.  How would Willets react?  What would he do?  What was he willing to do?

 

Lenny and Easley said nothing as they rode the elevator to the bottom floor, walked through reception and out across the parking lot to Easley’s car.  Easley started the car and put the air conditioning on full blast.  He plugged some ear buds into the phone and inserted them in his ears and hit play.  He listened with his eyes closed.

 

Lenny replayed the recording in his head.  But it wasn’t so much what Willets had said.  That was bad enough and had shocked Lenny when he first heard it, but it was the tone. The tears, the groans and pain and something else. Willets was embarrassed. Humiliated. And Lenny felt that same humiliation.  They had done this to his friend, his partner, his own fishing buddy.  Taken his eye.  Made him look like a freak.  To get to Lenny.

 

And Lenny couldn’t avoid the thought that came quickly on the heels of it all.  His own daughter had done this.  His flesh and blood had been behind the attack.  He had sired a monster.  And how?  Edna was too sweet.  Nadine didn’t inherit such brutal ruthlessness from her.  It had to have been Lenny.  He had to have passed on to his daughter the spleen, the make-up that would give her the merciless will to do this, to have it done.  To someone she knew her whole life.  Who had been like an uncle.  But then Lenny had to admit it.  He might hate what she did, but he understood it, he understood it all right.

 

The lawyer had finished listening to the recording.  He hit a button on the phone and removed the ear buds.  He sat still staring out over the hood of his car, thinking.  He shook his head a few times. Everything was still and quiet. Then he repeated the same sequence again. The shake of his head, then quiet, unmoving.

 

Finally, he looked at Lenny. He half turned in the seat to face him. His bulk made it difficult and awkward. His belly pushed out the buttons on his expensive tailored shirt.

 

“This is real hard ball, Lenny.”

 

“Really?   You think?  Jesus, Nick, they took his eye and are going to do the other one if he doesn’t turn on me?

 

“I know.  What we have to figure out is how they got this done. Exactly who ordered this and how’s it being paid for.  This isn’t done for any reason except money.  Well, unless its personal between prisoners, but Willets had nothing personal with these people.  It had to be money.  Well, maybe not cash, but some payment, something of value to someone. And, my friend, they are after you.”

 

“I know.  Do you really think Nadine could have done this?”

 

Easley thought for a few minutes, ruminated on the question.

 

“You don’t think, Regan could be involved?  He seems the cruel one,” Easley said.

 

“Gratuitous,” Lenny said. “He does it from opportunity. Never plans ahead.  Never connects it to anything, a benefit you know. He just does mean stuff because he likes it.  Almost like sex, you know?”

 

The lawyer said, “I know. And as to Nadine being capable. Yes, but she wouldn’t have thought of this. It’s too elaborate.  Would take knowledge and connections in the criminal justice system.   I don’t think she has any of that.  She might know business.  More than we thought she did, but this attack and the other moves have a real legal foundation.  I’m putting my money on that Edmund.  The lawyer. He’s been ahead of us on every move. They set this up.  Boy, they really set this up.”

 

“Yeah, okay, but how do we get by this?  What do we do now?”

 

“For now,” the lawyer said, “we keep our mouths shut.  They will know at some point we have figured this out.   But it’s better if we don’t get them there too soon.  Gives us some time to maneuver a little.  Man, they’ve got the most corrupt elements in the whole justice system lined up. Formidable.  But I’ve got a few connections of my own.  I do have a few favors to call in.  And it looks like now is the time to pull out all the stops. And Lenny, this is going to cost. It’s going to be expensive.  Very expensive.  You understand?  Real expensive.  They are putting a lot of money into this.  They know a lot is at stake.  You are going to have to match them dime for dime and then some.”

 

“Whatever, it takes.  Poor Willets. He didn’t deserve this.”

 

“No.  He didn’t, but Willets is a problem now.  What if he turns?  He certainly has the motivation to do so now.”

 

“I just don’t think he will,” Lenny said.  “You know, I called his son. He is due to arrive at the airport in a couple of hours. Edgar.  Good guy.  Stand up. Ex-Marine.  Saw a lot of action in the Mideast.  He will help his dad.  I’ve known him since he was a boy.  He gets real quiet and then boom, he takes care of business.  And he won’t be letting this type of thing happen again. Not to his Dad.”

 

“And not to you.”

 

“Don’t you worry about Willets.  He’s stand up too.  Where his son gets it from.  Loyal. Both of them.  They can do a lot to him. He won’t break.  He will cry.  He will hurt but he won’t break.”

 

“And you, Lenny?  What about you?”

 

“I’ve been a fool.  Sure. But maybe I can figure out how to make things right.”

 

Lenny paused and thought again of how Willets looked in the hospital bed. He felt his stomach turn. He shook his head to get the nausea out of his system.  He didn’t deserve to be sick. He couldn’t purge this by throwing up on the sidewalk. This was his fault.  What happened to Willets was his fault.  And he needed to make things right.  And maybe that starts with Willet’s son.

 

“I’m going to pick Edgar up at the airport and bring him here,” Lenny said.  “He will need to see what they did to his father.”

 

“He is going to be angry,” the lawyer said.  “He will want to take it out on someone.  It may be you.”

 

“And he would be right, wouldn’t he?  Maybe it would be best.  End it all. End me.  Get it over.”

 

The lawyer paused.  He didn’t reply for a few moments. Lenny would have preferred for the lawyer to say something.  To tell him not to blame himself, perhaps.  Say, maybe, that too many people needed him; everyone depended on him.  Lenny would have liked it if there was some effort to encourage him.  Tell him to be of good cheer.  That it will all work out.  But, instead, his lawyer, his good friend, his best bud, remained silent.

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters 13, 14. & 15

A King’s Trust, Chapters 13, 14. & 15

Chapter 13

 

Lenny felt tired. Extremely tired.  But it was the middle of the day.  He didn’t take naps.   He had never taken naps.  He was too busy. He was too important.  But today he felt like curling up somewhere quiet and dark.  He needed to refresh, re-energize, recharge, get strong again. He needed to rest to do that, but, no, he refused to lie down and close his eyes. He wouldn’t.  Wouldn’t though he sorely wanted to.

 

He spied the gardener outside his window, still spraying.  The wet substance dripped from the leaves on the flower bushes.  It was slick and shiny.  Lenny walked over to the French Doors and opened them.  He stepped through to the covered walkway.  The man looked up and nodded.  Lenny watched him move from plant to plant.

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”

 

“It’s Florencio.  My name is Florencio Estrada.  Your children?  Are they well?  I hope nothing is wrong.”

 

“No.  All is fine.”

 

“Well, it don’t look so fine, Senor.   Them two last are angry.  And the other one, that Dylan, he’s the good one, he was crying when he left.”

 

Shocked by the rude presumption of his Gardner after being stunned by the audacity of his children; Lenny was staggered.  He felt his knees weaken.  He wanted to let the fall take him.  But he righted himself.  He was too tired to fight anymore.

 

Lenny was nonplused that this gardener, someone he hadn’t even noticed before, much less know, would brazenly make such insensitive observations about his own children.  But though he felt he should, Lenny couldn’t summon up the old righteous anger, the fight that was always just below the surface and which he had learned to direct so effectively in building his business empire. He was spent.  All out.  Couldn’t get it going.  He felt vulnerable.  He needed to talk. To someone.  Maybe it was okay to talk to this Florencio. Who would know?  Who would care? So what if he was direct, blunt. Maybe that was what he needed.

 

“A little trouble.  That is all. Do you have children, Florencio? Estrada is it?”

 

“Yes.  My name is Estrada.  I do have children. But they are not here.  They work.  They are far away.  In Mexico. They have careers there.  They do very well.”

 

“Are they respectful?  Do they honor you, Mr. Estrada?”

 

“Oh, I guess. In a way. In their way, but I am old now. I’m set in my ways.  They want me to go back there.  Mexico.  To live off them.  They say they will take care of me.  But I don’t want that. Their mother though she went.  She is there, now.  She left me here.  Said if I don’t want to go it was up to me, but she was going home.  She wanted her friends, her family back.  I said, “Well go then.”  I have a job to do here.  Wages. My own wages.  I work hard, I get paid for taking care of this and more.   Your place and others besides.  I don’t want to be so old my children take care of me. I don’t want to count on them.  I know what they are.  I seen them growing up.  In diapers and with other kids, and as teenagers, clutching around at each other. I don’t grow so old I will depend on such as them.  When you do that, then they got you.  You don’t get choices.”

 

“Mine say I earned it. They want to take over. They promise they will take care of me.”

 

“Yeah, well, Senor King.  You maybe a big man, but you make same mistake as me.”

 

“What?  By keeping working?”

 

“No.  You got old.” Florencio chuckled and went on spraying the begonias.

 

Lenny was quiet for a moment.  But he smiled.  He like talking to this man.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You got old.  You think you still useful?   Well, maybe a little you are.  Like me and these gardens.  Mostly I can do it, but not it all. Not like I used to do.  We got old, Mr. King.  We got old before we got smart.  It was a big sin.  We got old before we were ready to give up.”

 

“I think you are a fool,” Lenny said to the old man.    If they were going to be truthful, well it would be a two-way street.  But Lenny smiled to take some of the sting away from the statement. Florencio smiled back. And nodded.  They were both enjoying their talk.

 

Florencio had stopped his spraying.  He moved over to examine some roses.

 

“Yes. No doubt.  I am foolish in many ways.  I should be with my wife in Mexico instead of trying to keep all this alive when it just dies, every day, dies away.  Things you keep alive for a while are always dying.  From the beginning they die a little every day. I planted much of this.  I pruned it.  Sprayed it for the little aphids.  But it dies anyway.  Like we are dying anyway. Like you are dying anyway, Mr. King.  Like I’m dying anyway.”

 

“I guess there’s not much to be done then.”

 

“No, not much to be done. But I will tell you one thing about those kids. Si, Senor, I know they are your kids, perhaps none of my business, but I’m too old to not say it.  That young one is a good person.  You best remember that.  I had a good one like that.  My Teresa. I treated her just like the others. But, you know, I should have treated her better.  It’s not true that you should treat your kids all the same.  They aren’t the same.  I should have treated her better than the others.  I can’t now.  She is gone from me, lives down the coast.  I got mad at her and said some bad things and she got mad and went away and I don’t get to say now what I should have said.”

 

Lenny watched Florencio closely.  He wasn’t angry.  He wasn’t worked up.  More like he was just resigned.  He grew quiet, obviously thinking of his daughter, lost to him now.  There wasn’t anything left to say.

 

“Well, I must go now,” Lenny said.  “Take it easy, Florencio.  The gardens do look very nice.”

 

Florencio nodded.  He moved the corners of his mouth like he had more to say.  Maybe he had been saving all this up, maybe for years.  But he also knew he had stepped over a line, was actually way over the line and best he get back on his side of the divide that separated him from his employer.  While it was still safe.  He glanced at Lenny, nodded once, and moved away further into the garden.

 

Lenny thought to himself. Maybe I can hazard a short nap.  Wouldn’t hurt.  Might do me good and then I will figure all this out.

 

 

 

Chapter 14

 

The phone beside the bed was ringing.  It stopped for a few moments then started up again.  Lenny heard it, but his mind was in a fog.  He tried to ignore it, but the ringing was insistent.  He eased his eyes open. It was dark.  He must have slept for hours.  He didn’t feel refreshed. He didn’t fell strong.  He felt like rolling over and going back to sleep. He tried reaching for the phone.  He hated the ringing.  But his arms were pinned to his side.  He had rolled up in the blankets somehow and he was sealed inside like a papoose. He had nightmares sometimes about not being able to use his arms.  For a moment he wondered if this was all a nightmare. No.  It wasn’t a nightmare.  The damn phone kept ringing.

 

He finally got one arm out and grabbed at the receiver.  He brought it to his ear.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Lenny, you okay?” It was Easley.  “I let the phone ring, must have been two dozen times.  We need to meet.  And I mean fast. They, Nadine, Crabtree too, they are way out front and if you want to fight this we are going to have to make some moves.”

 

Lenny’s mind was lethargic. He needed more sleep.  He rolled to the side of the bed disentangling from the bedclothes. He swung his legs over the side and sat with his head down, his ear pinned to the receiver.  He had not undressed before his nap.  He still had the same clothes on from this morning.  He felt wrinkled, rumpled, dirty.

 

“Okay.  Okay, Nick. What is going on.? Did you find out anything?”

 

“Plenty.  Listen, Lenny, you need to get down to your office. And stay there.  Don’t let them move you out.  It’s very important.  I’m going to court in an hour for an emergency order, I want to get it served today, but I need you to be in your office, in charge at headquarters, so I can represent to the judge that you are the status quo and we need to maintain the status quo until we can have a full hearing in court.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“You don’t have to.  I will explain it all later.  Just get your ass down there.”

 

“But, wait, how did they? You know, get the Trust?  That wasn’t supposed to be released.”

 

“Look, Lenny, just get to the office.  I’ll explain it all later.”

 

Attorney Easley hung up the phone. He certainly didn’t want to try to explain that it was his own staff that had betrayed them all.  That his own secretary had purloined the documents and given them over to Nadine. She had done it for money he was sure. She hadn’t got back at him.  How long had she waited for just such a chance? The bitch belonged in jail.  But that would involve the police.  And that meant he would have to explain everything to them.  And to Lenny.  Nick didn’t want to have to explain anything at all.  Not about the stolen trust papers.  He knew he would have to at some point, but not right now.  There were other things that might come out.  The secretary knew all about his billing practices.  And he worried about his own liability to Lenny and the corporation.  That was the first thing that occurred to him.  Naturally.  He was a lawyer after all.

 

But if he could get to court and get this move to replace Lenny squashed and everything returned to the original position, the status quo, well, then maybe he could fight it off. He would be a winning position and his own staff’s transgressions would become a minor issue in the overall scheme of things. And likely forgiven.

 

Lenny dropped his cell phone on the bed and walked across the room and looked in the mirror over the dresser.  He needed a shave. He needed to shower. He needed to change clothes.  But Nick had said he needed to hurry.  Lenny would have to settle for running a comb through his thin grey hair.

 

He went through the front door.  He was vaguely aware that the door to the library was ajar and beyond it the French doors still stood open.  No matter. He jumped in his Beamer and circled the driveway and headed downtown to his headquarters.

 

When he pulled in the parking lot, he tuned left up the ramp and noted the turnstile was up.  When he got to the top of the ramp, the electronic gate was sitting open.  He eased the Beamer through and saw his vintage cars were gone.  His three precious and priceless cars.  Gone.  Where? He was stunned.  And angry and sad.  He wheeled his Beamer in crosswise to the parking stalls and got out. He went to the door. There was no automatic click.  He looked up at the camera.  There was no telltale red light.  Someone had turned the camera off.

 

He fished in his pockets for his keys.  He studied the ring and picked the key he seemed to remember was the right one.  He inserted it and turned the handle.  It worked.  At least they hadn’t changed the locks yet. The elevator rose to the top floor and the doors opened.

 

Lenny moved through the inner sanctum. The bed was still there, but it had been stripped bare. None his pictures were on the dressers. No prints on the wall.  He had especially liked the erotic ones, but not there were only bare spots and holes in the stucco.  They hadn’t even bothered to repair the holes.   He opened a drawer.  Empty. He moved into the seating room.  Looking over at his bar, he noted all the liquor and all the crystal decanters, the crystal tumblers, all gone.  He then went to the office door and tuned the handle.  He stepped into an empty space.  No desk, no furniture.  A phone was sitting on the floor.  Two lights were blinking.  Someone was talking on his private line and messages had been left but no one had evidently attempted to retrieve them.

 

He went to the door leading to his Secretary’s desk and opened it.  No secretary.  No secretary’s desk.  He walked over and bent down to pick up the phone.  It buzzed. The line wasn’t dead. He dialed in his attorney’s cell phone number. No one picked it up.  He assumed Easley was in some judge’s chambers right now trying to get this all reversed.  He wondered where his cars where.

 

Just then the outer door opened and there was the empty-headed Kelley and two very large security guards. Lenny didn’t recognize them, but then he seldom paid any attention to the guards, cooks, janitors and others who performed the supporting roles around the building.

 

“Mr. King,” Kelly said, “I’m sorry, but you are not supposed to be here.”

 

“What do you mean?  Where is my furniture. And where are my damn cars!”

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. King, but you will have to leave.  These gentlemen . . . “

 

“Who the hell you think you are talking to?”

 

“She’s talking to the former head of the company.”  It was Regan.   He had stepped into the room behind Kelley and the guards.  This was a first.  Lenny never remembered seeing Regan at the office headquarters before.

 

“Regan.  I’m glad you’re here. Listen, we need to talk.  Your sister is making a mistake.”

 

“I don’t think so. Right now, Father, you need to leave. Nadine is arranging a meeting for us all to sit down, you too, and get this straightened out, but right now we need to make sure everything stays stable, on an even keel.  Your presence here is not a good thing right now.  You have to go.  These men will escort you out to your car.  By the way, don’t come that away again, the parking area is being changed as are the locks.”

 

“You can’t do that.”

 

“It’s already been done.”

 

Regan was wearing his trademark sneer.  He said, “Sorry, Dad” and walked out the door.  The two guards approached Lenny.

 

“Mr. King.  Sir, we need you to come with us.  We will escort you to your car.”

 

‘I will not!”

 

“Sir, you will.  Please don’t make this difficult.  Someone could get hurt.”

 

Lenny saw they were serious. He felt tired again.  Weak.  In more ways than one.  He couldn’t win this.  Best to retreat and wait for the order that Easley was seeking from the court, and then he would take care of these ingrates. Every last one of them.

 

“It won’t be necessary, I’m going.  But I’m going to remember this and I’m going to remember you.”  He made a point of looking at their nametags.

 

Lenny spun and walked back through his former office, the formerly well-appointed penthouse apartment, to the elevator and down to his car.  Incongruently he thought about how the Beamer was last year’s model.   He would need to buy a new one.  Must keep up appearances.  But he knew he would never be able to replace his missing beauties. The Corvette, especially.  He needed to find what they did with them. “I’ll get Easley and we’ll sue the bastards,” he muttered to himself.

 

He started the Beamer and sat for a moment appreciating the feel and sound of the well-tuned engine. He hit a button on his car phone. On the first ring, Easley picked up.

 

“Where are you?” Easley asked.

 

“I’m just leaving the office. They threw me out.  My own son! Regan, had me, ME! for God’s sake, removed.”

 

“Well, no matter.”

 

“No matter?  What do you mean, no matter? Did you get the order?”

 

“No order, but right now that doesn’t matter either.”

 

“Doesn’t matter?  The hell it doesn’t matter!”

 

“Look, Lenny.  Some things have happened.  First, Dylan. Your son.  He’s left.”

 

“Gone?  Oh, he will be back.”

 

“No, you don’t understand, Lenny.  He called.  He and one of his students, she’s an heir to some fortune or another; her father’s a big tycoon in digital security.  Back east.  Dylan gave up his professorship at the University.  They left for Southern California this morning.”

 

“Well, that does it for him. Lenny, I want you to cut him completely out, the ungrateful little shit.”

 

“Well, that’s one reason he called, he said.  He doesn’t want the money.  He said all he ever wanted was to be close to you, to help you, like his mom used to do and that’s how she wanted it.  She wanted him to be there for you like she was.  He says, he can’t do that now.  You finally made it clear that you never loved him as a son.  So, he’s leaving.  He has someone to love now, he says, and her family think a lot of him and want him to go ahead and teach if that’s what he wants.”

 

Lenny felt like he had a huge hole in his chest.  He always knew he was too harsh on his youngest.  He just couldn’t ever seem to stop himself.  He guessed the boy did love him.  Like Edna did.  He wished he had treated her better too.  She was always so good to him.  No way would she have stayed had she not loved him.  She could have ripped him off.  She could have left and taken half, hell, more than half of the business.  But she didn’t.  Well, she was gone now.  And Dylan, he guessed was gone too. So be it.  Time to move on and get his kingdom back.

 

“Okay.  Well, never mind then.  Just tell me what’s with the order. I’m getting my business back, aren’t I? How soon can I get back in?”

 

“There’s a bigger problem than that right now.  I gotta’ tell you, Lenny, I’ve been around. And there’s some serious stuff going on down at that courthouse.  Some people have been gotten to.  Has to be. I couldn’t even get into to see the Judge.  Never happened before.”

 

“What else?  It sounds like there’s something else.”

 

“Yeah, well, it’s Willets.”

 

“What about Willets?”

 

“He’s under arrest.”

 

“Arrest?  Willets? What the hell for?”

 

“Fraud.”

 

 

Chapter 15

 

Willets looked bad. Unshaven, a fine sheen of dried sweat coated his face, his arms, his hands.  His right hand kept going to a red scabbed sore was on his neck pushing at it from the sides, pressing at it from the top, like it could be moved to a different place on his neck or pushed back into his body.

 

Lenny had never been inside a county jail before. The stink, the noise, the shadows and bad lighting was overwhelming.  The guards were short tempered and uncompromising.  They knew Willets as only one of the hundreds of other prisoners in their charge.  And they certainly knew nothing of his partner, Lenny King, President of King Enterprises.  Nor, it appeared, did they much care who he was.  They were busy with controlling and shifting inmates from place to place and dealing with dozens of other visitors, all of whom they obviously resented.

 

When Lenny arrived at the jail to see Willets, he had stood in line and watched the process.  It soon became apparent to even the most intellectually dense of the visitors that you had one chance to comply with the guard’s instructions.  If you didn’t do what they said, immediately, or you questioned the rules, you went to the back of the room to line up and wait the interminable forward shuffle all over again. If you messed up a second time, the implied threat was that you would get thrown off the premises.

 

Lenny had made the mistake of complaining about not being told how to fill out a form and immediately found himself at the back of the line queued up right behind a black woman with purple hair and a derriere the size and shape of the Goodyear blimp.

 

She was loud, rude, profane and obnoxious, but Lenny surmised she knew the ropes since the closer to the front of the line she moved the quieter, the more polite she became. She was downright obsequious by the time she got to the front and addressed the Sergeant in charge.  All of sudden, her defiance, her complaining was gone and she was saying “Yessir” this and “Nosir” that.   “Yessir, ‘eye’s here to see Lamont Jones.“ and “Nosir, I got no drugs or contraybands in me’s Possessions.”

 

She even got a smile and a modicum of return courtesy the way authorities in the justice system do when they are being conned by black people and know they are being conned by black people.   The smile was an acknowledgement and appreciation for the art of pretended obedience.  They both knew it was a ruse, but a clever ruse and one that artfully and reliably disarmed what could be a tense racial confrontation.  The black woman’s scraping and shuffling, dancing really, before the raised dais of power removed all fear from the situation.  On both sides.

 

Her little stage play gained her immediate access to the visitor’s lounge.

 

“Go right through that door on your right, Mrs. Jones,” the Sergeant said, smiling at the black woman’s compliance with what they both knew were the rules.  She got passed through easy as could be by a Sergeant who usually never smiled, and whose eyes never stopped scanning the line of visitors and whose eyes noticed everything, missed nothing.

 

When Lenny got to the front of the line, the Sergeant looked ready to push a buzzer to summon two of the giant jailers drinking coffee behind him and who appeared eager to escort him or anyone the Sergeant pointed to off the premises. He saw that happen too, twice to visitors who didn’t modify their behavior before they got to the front of the line.

 

Lenny handed the Sergeant the form he had complained about earlier, all filled out and complete and signed like it was supposed to be when he had foolishly questioned its necessity the first time he went through the line.  The Sergeant took his time reading every word as if looking for a reason to reject Lenny’s request to see Willets.  He finally pushed a button, silently and sullenly nodded his head to the right and the door to visitor’s lounge clicked open.

 

It was crowded and hot in the room.  A guard directed Lenny to an open place in the middle of a row of chairs before a Plexiglass barrier.  The other chairs were occupied with visitors speaking into headsets.  After sitting behind the Plexiglas window for ten minutes a guard appeared on the other side escorting Willets.  His friend had a chain around his waist to which a pair of handcuffs was attached by a second short chain.  Without bothering to unlock the handcuffs, the guard put his big meaty hand on Willet’s shoulder and pushed down, seating Willets in the chair across from Lenny.

 

Lenny took the phone off the hook.  Willets, struggled to get both hands across the front of his body far enough to get his own phone. There was just enough slack to get it. No more.

 

“What the Hell, Willets?”

 

“Lenny, you got to get me out of here.  I don’t know what’s going on?  Why’d they arrest me, for God’s sake? I’ve done nothing.  Nobody will tell me anything.”

 

“It’s Nadine.  She hired some people to come in and go over the books.  Some auditing firm.  She is using their report to accuse you of signing some fraudulent contracts, embezzling the money.  And then she relied on that to get a Judge to sign an order putting her in charge of the whole company until this is all resolved.  I don’t know if she thought of this on her own or if she had help. Anyway, she’s got me out of my offices. An injunction.  And she’s got you in here. And she’s got the bitch Crabtree inside the business, my business, your business, bringing the staff, our staff, in line!  I’ve gotten calls.  If they don’t do just what she says, when she says it, they are fired and escorted out the door.”

 

“Good God. I’ve never done anything like that, Lenny.  I just did whatever you wanted me to.  You know that.”

 

“Sure.  I know that.  And you can bet she does too.  But Easley thinks she has spread some money around down at the courthouse.  Some cash slipped to the right clerks who take a cut and pass the rest up to the ones that matter.  The judges must be with her. They’ve always got their palms out. I told you that.  And the D.A., he’s always trolling for campaign funds and he and Nadine’s new lawyer are good buddies and Easley thinks that’s how the charges got filed against you without even a cursory investigation.”

 

Lenny thought Willets was going to cry. He had to admit he felt like he might weep right along with him. He could see Willets was beginning to panic over the fear he might not be getting out of custody anytime soon. He could see his fingernails digging into the back of his hands. And then he was back pushing at the sore on his neck.  His anxiety had to be off the scale and he was scared and humiliated.

 

“Lenny, please . . . “

 

“I know.  I know.  I’m working on it.  Easley is too.  He thinks we can get bond. It’s going to be expensive, and Nadine has frozen most of the business accounts, but I have a guy working on posting a bond.  I’m putting the house up for security.”

 

“Oh, thank you, thank you.  But your house, Lenny?”

 

“No problem.  We will get this taken care of and the house will be fine.  I’m still living there and when we will get the accounts released we can use those funds. You just have to lay low in here and wait a little while.  It will work out.”

 

“When?”

 

“Should be by the end of the week.”

 

The look of panic was back.

 

“Lenny, I’m scared. There is someone in here. He keeps staring at me.  He looks dangerous. I’ve never said anything to him. I don’t talk to anyone.  I’m too scared. I don’t know why he keeps staring at me.  I think he wants to hurt me.  Lenny, can you talk to someone?  I think I need to be kept away from him until I can get out.”

 

“Sure.  I’ll talk to someone.  Just hang in there.  Friday.  Saturday at the latest, we will get you out. In the meantime, take care of yourself. Wanted you to know, you still got friends.  We’re still partners.  Understand? Partners.”

 

Lenny hung up the phone, gave Willets half a smile and left.  At the door, Lenny turned to wave goodbye.  Willets was still sitting in front of the Plexiglas.  He clearly didn’t want to leave, didn’t want to return to the main part of the jail.  Probably had not buzzed the guard.  He really must be scared.

 

It turned out he was right to be.

 

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapters 10,11,&12

A King’s Trust, Chapters 10,11,&12

Chapter 10

 

Nick Easley, Attorney at Law, wiped his hands on his napkin.  The napkin was well made, elegant, stiff, white.  He placed it next to his plate.  He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out his vibrating cell phone. Examining the face, he saw it was Lenny King calling.  He looked with longing at his calamari.  It needed to be consumed right now.  It had just been brought to table. If he took the call, by the time he was off the phone, the calamari would be cold, rubbery, spoiled.  He sighed.

 

“This is Easley.  How are you, Lenny?”

 

“Nick, Nick did you know Nadine filed the trust papers?  She’s got herself appointed interim President and is trying to take over the company.  My company! What the hell is going on?”

 

The attorney was stunned. And he was skeptical. “What are you talking about?  I haven’t filed anything.  We aren’t going to file it in the Clerk’s office until you are ready.  We can always change the effective date.”

 

Then it hit him.  Was it a mistake to sign and date the document as a hedge in case anything happened to Lenny?  Just as a precaution.  Perfectly legal and prudent.  Unless. Unless.  As long as the trust papers were locked away in his office safe, but what if they did fall into the hands of someone else and were filed. They were legal then. The provisions would be operative. But no this couldn’t be.  The paperwork was still in his office.  In the safe.  Wasn’t it?

 

“Look, Lenny, there has to be a mistake here.  Let me check it out.  You say it was filed in court.  How do you know?”

 

“Crabtree.  That traitor, Crabtree.  Lenora Crabtree.  She’s down here taking over.  Moving me out, goddammit!  She says it’s all been done.  I’m out. I want this stopped right now, Nick. This is bullshit!”

 

“Okay.  Okay.  Let me find out.  I’ll call you back.”

 

“I can’t just sit here.  They are going to wheel me out on a hand truck pretty soon.”

 

Nick’s mind was racing. he could see problems developing even if he got the Trust set aside or a temporary injunction restraining its implementation.  His client could turn out to be a real problem.  Could hold him and his firm responsible.  Could sue him for malpractice.  He needed Lenny to slow down and get out of the line of fire, well actually away from the firing line.

 

“Listen, Lenny.  I want you to get out of that building right now. You have two other children. They are part of the Trust.  They have significant numbers of shares.  You need to talk to them.  Right now. Make sure they are with you.  You might need them while we get this investigated. Until we can get it stopped.  Sorted out.  Call them.  Go see them. But don’t, I repeat don’t start throwing stuff around down there.  Throwing your weight around. Firing people and yelling and cussing at everybody.  We are going to be in court and you don’t want to mess that up with some other lawsuits if we can avoid it.”

 

“Okay, okay. I’ll talk to my kids.  At least then I will be doing something.”

 

“Right. There you go. Do it now.  Where is Willets?”

 

“He’s here with me.  He’s pissed too.”

 

“So, he’s with you?  He’s still with you?  I mean on your side?”

 

“Well, of course.”

 

Easley thought, thank God. With his shares, it would be all over if he didn’t back Lenny.  He ended the call.  He looked down forlornly at the ruined Calamari. And hit the speed dial for his office.

 

Marta answered.  He was surprised. He had called on his direct line to his personal secretary.  No one else was supposed to use it or be on the line.  As he often explained, the private line was his life line. He wanted to be able to get through when he called the number.

 

“Where’s Maria?”

 

“Uh.  Mr. Easley.  She came in right at eight.  You were calendared for court this morning.  We all know that. anyway, she gathered up her things from her office. A lot of it was already in boxes.  We hadn’t noticed.  They were in a closet.  Anyway. She had a big man with her and they moved the boxes out.  And she left a letter.  An envelope anyway on your desk. It’s still there.”

 

“I see,” the lawyer said. In fact, he didn’t see at all.  He was confused, but danger signals were sounding off in the back of his mind. His legal antenna had been up already, now it was positively pinging.

 

“Well, okay.  I will be in the office in a few minutes.”

 

And then he thought of something.

 

“Uh, Marta.  Can you see in my office from where you are at?”

 

“No.”

 

“Well, put me on hold and go in there and put me on the speaker phone.”

 

“Okay. I’m in your office.”  The voice had more echo coming through the speaker phone.

 

“You know where my safe is?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Check it.”

 

“Sir?”

 

“Check it. The door.”

 

He heard a click.

 

“Mr. Easley.  I turned the handle. The safe was open.  The door was open, not locked.”

 

“Are there things in it?’

 

“Yes.  Some documents and things.”  Nick now knew, however, some things, some very important things, were missing.

 

“Okay, just close it and spin the dial.  That will lock it.  I’m on my way.”

 

“One other thing, Mr. Easley.  There is another letter.  It came registered mail this morning.”

 

“Yes.  Well?”

 

“Sir, see, with Maria leaving the way she did, and the letter being registered, we thought it important to, well, go ahead and open it.  It might be something you needed to hear about.”

 

“We?”

 

“The paralegal and I.” She never called her by name.

 

“And?”

 

“It’s a notification, Mr. Easley.  A formal notification. You have been relieved as General Counsel for King Corporation. There’s also a substitution of counsel form.  A Mr. Oswald.”

 

“Who signed the sub form?”

 

“Nadine King.”

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

When Lenny arrived home, he didn’t see any cars in the circular driveway.  It was a momentary relief.  Blessedly, the traffic had been light after he left his business headquarters. His thoughts were in turmoil and his emotions swinging wildly from being fighting mad to sadness at the prospect of fighting with his daughter over control of the company, his company.

 

As he got out of the car, he stood a moment and looked at the flowers along the driveway and the shrubbery leading up to the house.  He felt tired.  His energy level was low.  He felt beat up.  He almost never noticed how nice the landscaping was at his home, but right now all he wanted to do was stand there and admire the arrangement of the flowers, how the shrubs were trimmed, the strategic placement of the small juniper trees, how the Japanese maples were trimmed almost as if they were Bonsai.  He idly wondered who exactly did all this work, who kept this looking so nice.  He thought of how he had acknowledged guests who complimented him on the well-kept grounds, but he had never really bothered to closely inspect his surroundings and the gardens in the back of the house himself.  No time. Not important.

 

Right that moment he longed for the leisure time he had planned to have in retirement and didn’t want to think about more important matters.  But he needed to do so.

 

As if on cue, a small man with a large straw hat walked around the corner carrying a tray of flowers in small square individual cardboard containers.  Lenny didn’t recall ever seeing the man.  The man looked up and Lenny could see he was probably in his late fifties.  He hadn’t shaved.  He peered out from under the stained hat brim and saw Lenny.  He stopped in his tracks as if he didn’t know what to do.

 

Lenny had vague memories of staff being around the house, inside and out, but he had largely ignored them as he had the furniture.  He wondered if the man was startled because Lenny was actually looking at him, watching him, seeing him.  The man broke the ice.

 

“Good morning, Mr. King.”

 

“Uh, Good morning.” Lenny was afraid to ask the man’s name. He had the feeling the man had worked for him a long time and it would be an insult not to know his name.  Lenny had never really cared about the feelings of staff people before.

 

“Everything looks very nice. Lot of work to make it look this way, I’m sure.”

 

“Yes, Senor.  Mrs. King. She liked this all to be beautiful.”

 

Lenny now remembered being slightly irritated when he would come home and catch Edna in her dirty work clothes out in the gardens digging and planting and Lord knows what else. He didn’t know why it irritated him, but it did.

 

“Yes, Edna liked her gardening.”

 

The man nodded and then left the sidewalk and made his way up the side of the hill among the shrubs and small trees stepping lightly through the thick groundcover.  He looked back over his shoulder once at Lenny then bent down and got on his knees. He pulled out a trowel and began planting the small flowers in a bare area.  As Lenny watched he put them in a triangular pattern, a water can was set near his knees and as he removed each flower plant from the little containers, he poured a small amount of water in the holes he had dug with the trowel.  He then placed the flower in the ground and pushed the dirt up around the roots.

 

Lenny slowly walked up the staircase to the front door.  Twice he stopped and checked on the progress of the gardener.  At the door he paused.  He called out to the Gardner.   Impulsively, not really thinking about it.  He repeated himself.

 

“Everything looks very nice.  The flowers are nice.”

 

The man looked up. His eyes narrowed as if he was suspicious.  But he gave a courteous reply.

 

“Yes.  Thank you.  It’s the right season.  Good weather for planting these begonias.  Mrs. King.  She liked her begonias.”

 

“Those the pink ones?”

 

“Yes.  She liked the pink.  And the white too.”

 

“Well.  Thank you. It looks nice.”

 

For some unfathomable reason Lenny was having trouble breaking off the conversation.  He didn’t know how to end such a mundane encounter. He finally turned, opened the door, went inside the house and closed the door behind him.

 

He heard voices from the library just off the main foyer.  He walked in that direction.  When he entered, Regan and Dylan were seated, one on the couch and one in an easy chair. They were talking animatedly.  He didn’t remember seeing them do that before. Not since they were kids anyway.  They were smiling.  The usual sneer on his eldest son’s face was gone.  He looked rather pleasant.  That was a change.

 

Lenny did what he usually did.  He never greeted either boy.  He walked across the room and behind his desk and sat down. The boys had quieted when he entered.  They looked at him.  Dylan was still smiling.  Regan was not.

 

“Are you aware that your sister has lost her mind?”

 

The smile left Dylan’s face to be replaced by a frown of concentration.

 

Regan just stared.  The sneer was back.

 

“You don’t know?”

 

Dylan shook his head. Regan didn’t reply at all.  Lenny looked out the French doors to the garden where the little Mexican man had moved away from his fresh plantings and was now watering with a hose. He was directing a gentle spray around the roots of a small ornamental tree.

 

Dylan said, “Nadine?  I just talked to her.   She’s fine.”

 

“The hell she is.  She’s trying to steal my business.  After all I’ve done for you three, she’s stealing it. Did you know it? Are you two in on this?”

 

Dylan shook his head. Lenny thought he looked clueless as usual.  Regan stared out the window.   The gardener was still there. When Lenny had raised his voice, the gardener had looked in their direction.  Lenny wondered if he could hear the conversation.  Lenny looked at Regan.  He could tell Regan was very aware of what had been going on with the business.  It sent a chill down his spine.

 

“Well?”  Lenny was looking directly at Regan.

 

“She’s only doing what you said to do.  Didn’t you write the Trust? Or that lawyer of yours?”

 

“I don’t understand,” said Dylan.

 

“Oh, you will.”

 

They all turned their heads.  It was Nadine standing in the doorway to the library.

 

As Lenny was rising from his chair and he was preparing to yell at Nadine, he saw behind her through the floor to ceiling windows the little Mexican man.  Was he Mexican?  Lenny realized he didn’t really know.  He called him Senor.  He just assumed.  The man was kneeling down in the garden, working now on a broken irrigation pipe.  He had paused and was watching the scene in the library.  The water from the broken pipe was running in a rivulet down the hill.

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

“Sit down.”

 

“I will stand, thank you.”

 

Had he lost all authority over everything? Lenny wondered. He couldn’t even order his own daughter to sit down.  She was being defiant. This conversation was not going to be pleasant.

 

Regan was still staring out the window.  The little man had his head down and was working on the pipe connection.

 

Dylan was looking from Nadine to his father and back again.  He appeared confused.

 

Lenny raised his voice, “Nadine, sit down in that chair right there!”

 

“I will not!”

 

Her reply was just as loud. The little man kept his head down and continued working.  Dylan, however, rose out of his chair.  He moved first right then left as if he wanted to physically do something, appeal to his sister or his father not to speak to each other that way, but didn’t know what to do exactly and, even if he thought he knew, he was too afraid to try. The risk of interfering was too great.

 

“Why are you doing this?” Lenny asked.  His voice was firm.  Uncompromising.

 

Dylan spoke, “Doing what?”

 

“Doing what?  Throwing your Father out on the street.  God save a man from ungrateful children!  What makes you think you can get away with this?”

 

Before she could answer, he turned his ire on his other children.

 

“And you two,” his gaze shifted from Regan to Dylan and back again.   You are with her on this, aren’t you?  You are all conspiring against me.  Admit it!”

 

Dylan sputtered he didn’t know what his father was talking about.  Regan just continued looking out the French doors.  Lenny noticed the little man had picked up his tools and was making his way out of the garden, down the side of the hill and away from the window.

 

“Well, whatever, it is, it’s not going to happen.  And you know what, none of you, none of you are going to get a red cent.  I’m giving it all away.  To charity or something, one of those causes your mother was always running on about.  I’ll give it all away before I see you any of you get a dime.”

 

Lenny was worked up now. He recognized he was in one of those red blind rages he got when he lost his temper.  He had smacked Edna a couple of times when he felt like this and the kids got hit too, though he always referred to them as spankings or swats the hits were hard, too hard.  But they had needed it by God.

 

Dylan again, “Dad. What are you saying?  What have we done?  I haven’t done anything to you.  I love you, Dad.  We all do.”

 

There was no confirmation from the other two siblings.

 

“Like a den of vipers, you love me.  Well, by God, you’ll learn, by God.” Lenny was sputtering.

 

“Calm down, Father,” Nadine said.  “You’ll have a heart attack.  And then we will have to deal with an even bigger mess.”

 

“What I want to know is who cooked this up?  How long you been planning to stab your Father in the back?”

 

“Don’t’ be so dramatic. This is for the best.  Everyone thinks so.  Especially the Board.”

 

That set Lenny back a little.  He hadn’t see that coming.  The Board of Directors?  Nadine had got to the Board?

 

He was silent.  His mind was racing.  The implications were hitting him fast and furious and solutions, he needed solutions and answers, were not coming, not coming at all. Nadine knew from his stunned silence she had the upper hand.  Regan even turned his attention to their father when the silence grew.  He looked curious.  For once his Father didn’t seem to be in control of the situation.

 

“Yes.”  Nadine continued, “The Board is fully supportive of new management especially since you surrendered day to day operational control.”

 

Lenny started to interrupt. “I did no such thing,” he said.  But when Nadine raised her hand.  He obediently stopped talking.   Regan smiled.  It was clear now who was in control of this “meeting”.

 

“Yes.  They certainly don’t want some big conflict.  That would be bad for the share price point.  You did this anyway, Poppa dear.  It’s just happening a little earlier than you imagined. Besides those plans you talked about were just imaginary.  You would never have given up control.  You just wanted everybody else to do the work, and you get to keep taking the credit for what others do.  And then they could also take the blame if everything wasn’t as good as the past. But you never wanted to give up control did you, just the responsibility?   The Board knows that now.  After they saw the provisions of the Trust.  You should have consulted them.  They didn’t like finding out the way they did.”

 

“I was going to inform them. Formally and officially. The way it supposed to done. When the time was right.  When I ordered it when I decided it would go into effect.”

Lenny was getting more and more defensive.  “How the hell did this get out there?  How’d you get the documents?  What did you do?”

 

“Well.  The Board knows it all now anyway. And they’ve taken action.”

 

Lenny suddenly got mad again. He needed to assert control again.

 

“The hell they will. Once I talk to them.  They owe me.  They all owe me.  I picked every dam one of them.  And I’ll sue if I have too.  But I won’t have to.  Easley will straighten this out. My lawyer will put this to short work. He’ll tell the Board they can’t do this.”

 

“Well, that’s been addressed already.  We now have new corporate counsel and his firm is fully behind this move.  It is all legal and on the up and up.”

 

Lenny was stunned for the second time in ten minutes.  His man, Easley, no longer the legal man in charge?  This was bad.  How had they done that?  And all so fast.  And he hadn’t seen it coming.  That was worrisome.  How could he have missed this?  All of it?

 

Dylan was watching. He was still standing between them. He looked over at Regan who shrugged his shoulders.

 

In the vacuum, Dylan’s words seemed nonsensical.  “I don’t understand.”

 

“Oh, there’s not much to understand really,” Nadine said.  “Your Pop is simply going to retire like he said at the meeting at the Lawyer’s office. Only a little earlier than he thought.”

 

Dylan smiled. He took what she said at face value.

 

“Well, Dad.  This can be great.  You know.  You love fishing, your trips. Now you get to do all that.  Let us take care of you a while.  Let me help with that.  We’ll take care of you like you cared for all of us.  This will be great!”

 

Lenny felt cold.  He couldn’t strike at Nadine.  She had proven too tough.  Regan’s attitude inoculated him from being hurt.  But he could hit at Dylan.  The way he mentally and emotionally beat up on Edna all those times because she was near, she was the target he could hit.

 

“You have always been the dumbest ass kid, I’ve ever known.  You couldn’t be mine. Your Mother must have hooked up with some idiot I don’t know about.  You are soft and slow and touched in the head.”

 

Dylan took a step back as if he had been struck.  He actually staggered.  He looked at Lenny then at the others.  He then turned and walked out the door.  Lenny felt regret immediately.  He had seen the tears start filming in Dylan’s eyes.  He wanted to call out he was sorry, but Lenny felt vulnerable too and didn’t want to, couldn’t show weakness to these two. He would have to talk to Dylan later.

 

He turned to his other two children.  But there really wasn’t much left to say.  Regan had stood up and was waiting.  Nadine, still standing exactly where she was, smiled, turned and walked out. Regan didn’t look at him. He just turned his back to Lenny and followed her out the door.  Lenny was left alone.   He heard a noise and looked out to the garden. The little man was back and spraying something from a spray bottle on the petals of some of the begonias. Maybe an insecticide, thought Lenny.

 

 

Chapters 7,8, & 9 of A King’s Trust

Chapters 7,8, & 9 of A King’s Trust

Chapter Seven

 

The other partner, Lenora Crabtree, was already at the meeting when Lenny walked into the conference room.  She was secretly pleased with the irritated look on his face when he saw his usual chair was occupied.

 

At meetings of his Executive Committee, Lenny always sat to the right side of the Chief Operating Officer, Willard Kent.  Kent, in turn, was expected to sit at the head of the long conference table. Kent usually chaired the meetings. It was set up that way. Since Lenny didn’t deign to attend every confab he left management of the meeting’s agenda to others.  But when he did show up, he always sat in a critical position to the right and next to the CAO, so he could make his announcements, propound his vision, and share his witticisms, which, Crabtree from overheard comments he alone appreciated.   Lenny’s chair was the furthest from the door and faced in that direction.  It insured no one could sneak in late without being seen.  The chair was also left unoccupied when he was not in attendance out of respect.  Respect for his power in the company not for the man, though Lenny would never think of it that way.

 

But today the chair was occupied.  That was part of the plan.  Lenora had arranged the breach in protocol at Nadine King’s suggestion. It was to be the first of a planned series of moves to bring the great Lenny King’s expectations down a few pegs.

 

The two had met three days earlier at a small out of the way eatery a few miles south of the city limits.

 

After she had found the place and been seated in a booth toward the back, Lenora in looking around the simple, cheap little diner, surmised Nadine had selected the place because there would little chance could their meeting would be noted by anyone of any significance.

 

When Nadine walked in she was accompanied by a big, rather rugged looking and handsome man in a very nice suit who was vaguely familiar.  After he was introduced she recognized him as the attorney who had bested Lenny’s legal team and won a huge settlement for the little slut who had wormed her way into Lenny’s bed and then made him pay dearly for each and every, favor the tired old satyr had enjoyed.

 

After seeing that they were all seated, the waiter came out from behind the cash register and took their order.  After he left, the conversation stayed general for a few minutes and then the Attorney asked Lenora how much she knew about the Trust that Nadine’s father had set up.

 

Lenora looked at Nadine. At a nod of Nadine’s head, Lenora went ahead and repeated what she had learned at the meeting.  The lawyer smiled indulgently then asked her if she would like to hear more.  She looked at Nadine again and Nadine said, “You need to hear this.”

 

“Well, first let’s talk effective date,” the lawyer said.  “I understand Mr. King had stated there was to be transition period, something like six months, during which he would transfer power to others, including you. Supposedly.”

 

She raised her chin slightly at the use of the qualification “supposedly”.  She didn’t like the lawyer’s tone.

 

“Yes,” she said.  “He will remain in charge, but the provisions are to be put in place to take care of all of us and he will work to make sure a sustainable management team was in place.”

 

“Well, that may be all well and good, but the Trust actually was effective the date it was signed.”

 

“How do you know this?”

 

The lawyer didn’t say anything in response.

 

Lenora continued, “He said he would share the actual provisions only after the six-month period had passed.  I don’t see how you would know any different.”

 

Nadine spoke up.

 

“Yeah, that’s what he said all right, but I managed to get a copy of the Trust documents and I know for a fact that he is going to test everyone and pull the whole thing back and revise it if he isn’t satisfied with how things are going.”

 

“Yes,” said the Lawyer. “Until it is filed with the Court and recorded in the county offices, the Trust can be pulled back and the effective date changed as many times as King wants.”

 

The lawyer paused for a moment before continuing.

 

“But once it’s filed, then the time limits start for making all the SEC filings, giving notice to shareholders, amending articles of incorporation with the Department of Corporations.  All that has to be done in a very short time frame.  Ninety days.  Once the Trust is filed, the time is running.  It’s like a big freight train that has left the station and built up a big head of steam.  It can’t be pulled back.”

 

Lenora sat silent. She looked at Nadine.  Nadine said, “I know what you’re thinking. We know my Father’s moods. There is no way of knowing what will set him off and, if nothing has been filed, he could throw the whole thing out and just remain in charge of the company or he could throw anyone of us out of the company and the Trust on a whim.  He’s done it before.”

 

Lenora raised her eyebrows. She agreed with what Lenora was saying, but she was too savvy to express herself out loud when she didn’t really understand the lay of the land, what was being proposed and could the person making the proposal deliver?

 

Nadine continued. “You know that’s true.  And you know that if he goes off halfcocked now how it affects you.  He might keep old Willets around as a fishing buddy, but you are nothing to him but a reliable V.P. of finance who he made a partner rather than pay you what you’re worth.”

 

Lenora’s reply was politic. “My compensation package is adequate. I selected an option from a menu I was offered.  My partnership shares are more, much more valuable, in the long run.”

 

The lawyer now intervened again.  “Well, that’s where you may be missing some understanding here.  See we,” and seeing Nadine’s expression he held up his hand to silence her and said, “just hold on.” He turned back to Lenora.  “I’ve studied the documents.  The company has corporate bylaws and the partnership agreements expressly incorporate those bylaws. Actually, pretty standard stuff. They are okay as far as they go, but you are relying on a lot of good faith here.   You need to understand that for all that, this is a closely held corporation, and, he, King, at least up until this Trust was executed controlled two thirds of the stock.  With that voting bloc, he can replace the board of directors at any time he wants.  And in your employment contract, like all the rest King uses for his upper level staff, well, someone, I imagine that Easley character, inserted a special provision in the bylaws that gives the board the option of canceling your contract for the good of the company. And at an entirely other place in the contract, in return for shares instead of compensation, you have actually waived any legal challenges to such a decision by the Board.  You get the shares; three months’ severance pay and that’s it.”

 

Lenora felt cold, a chill at how insecure she had suddenly felt.  She had read the contract over before she signed.  She had been careful.  But she had not thought it necessary to have it reviewed by independent counsel.  That had obviously been a mistake.  She had fought all her life, a lot of times against men of inferior ability, to get the security and authority she thought she deserved and until that moment thought she had achieved.  She thought she had made it.  She was rich. She was a partner.  She was in charge.  It was a shock to be told it was all ephemeral, especially if subject to one of Lenny’s moods which had lately become arrogant in the extreme.

 

And she also felt the awakening of something she had long suppressed.  The feeling was not exactly hatred of Lenny, but resentment at his always treating her as something less than a full partner, never giving her the respect and deference he appeared to give Willets, his stupid old fishing buddy.

 

She pushed her chair back from the table a little way, crossed her legs, adjusted her skirt and told the lawyer to tell her more.  As he began again she reached over picked up her glass and took a sip of the martini that Nadine had ordered for all of them.  The order was made without asking her or the lawyer what they wanted.  She never drank at lunch, but this martini was welcome, and it tasted good.

 

After that meeting, they all left the restaurant together and she had walked a short way down the sidewalk with the two. When they got to a Porsche parked on the street, the big man leaned over and buzzed Nadine on the cheek.  Lenora noticed how Nadine’s fingertips lingered on his chest when he did so.  And then the lawyer hopped in the Porsche and was gone.

 

Nadine turned to her and said, “Let me walk you to your car.”

 

When they got to her car, Nadine told her, “Lenora.  I know this is a lot to digest, but changes are coming and everyone’s putting off dealing with them.  Everyone believes they are at least six months away.  Well, the changes are here.  They are here and that can be to our advantage if we act.”

 

Lenora never responded. She just leaned against her sedan and listened.

 

Nadine said, “Here’s what my lawyer never told you, but which he immediately understood when he studied the paperwork.”

 

“How did you get all these documents?” Lenora asked.  “He keeps those instruments close to his vest.  I’m a partner and even I couldn’t access them.”

 

Nadine just smiled. “I have my ways.  But listen, this is the important part for you.  The Trust has many interesting little provisions that fat-ass Easley must have snuck in, but the big thing is the control of the shares. That’s where the power is.  First, when the Trust is filed, there is a big pay out to my Father stretched over a five-year period.  Don’t worry about that right now.  That can be whittled down later. But the shares, see, the controlling shares, I know you and a couple of others have some from their compensation packages, but the ones my father owns, are divided, thirty per cent to me, and thirty per cent to Willets.  And the remaining forty per cent are divided between my brothers, each getting twenty per cent.”

 

Lenora was quiet.  She felt hurt and discomforted knowing she had been cut out completely while the other partner; the one without any real management chops was given major powers of control.  She didn’t want to outwardly appear hurt.  A woman didn’t dare show emotion or weakness in a business setting. She also noticed Nadine was studying her to gage her reaction, probably looking for the signs of feminine distress. Well, there would be no tears at this latest betrayal by a man in her life.

 

“Look,” Nadine said, “I know that’s not right.  Things are not going to turn out the way he thought though. And that means you are going to have to make a decision.  I’m going to run this company.  Me. Just me before it’s over.  But I need a strong financial person.  You’re it.  But I mean it when I say I need a strong one; one who can fight and pick the right side to fight for.  The one who is going to win.”

 

“This is all very dangerous for me,” Lenora said. “I never realized just how dangerous the changes, the changes coming, were until today.”

 

“Well, that’s the thing. There is risk in everything, but if I promise you something, whatever I promise you, will be in writing, iron clad, guaranteed.  You can hire your own lawyer to look it over and I’ll pay for the lawyer.  Anyone you choose.  You join with me; you will have a real slice of the company profits, more compensation and benefits than you ever dreamed.  And some real authority.  Or, your other choice, you can choose to stand by the old man and get thrown out with the trash.  By me. When I take over, I’ll do it.  But at least I’m telling you what I would do. Or you can wait and get thrown out by him.  And not a word beforehand.  You heard what the lawyer said and you better than most know how foolish and volatile the old fool has become.”

 

“In writing?”

 

“In writing.  Guaranteed.”

 

“Give me twenty-four hours.”

 

“No more.”

 

Lenora had not gone to the office.  She called her secretary and told her to cancel her appointments because she had an important matter come up which she had to deal with.  Not a lie by any means.

 

She had gone home, changed out of her work clothes and spent the day by the pool at her condo.  She drank iced coffee and thought.  The lounges around the pool were empty.  It was the middle of a work-day and she could lie about in her bikini without the usual rude horny stares of men.

 

She thought through all the implications of the offer Nadine had made.  The decision was surprisingly easy to come to.  She picked up her cell phone and called Nadine.  In an hour she was dressed and in her car.  She met Nadine back at the same place, this time in the bar on the other side of the restaurant and this time it was Lenora who ordered the round of martinis.  That seemed to please Nadine very much.

 

“Okay”.  She said, “I’m in. Now what.”

 

“This is what.  We are going to put a plan to work.  Seesaw the old bastard.  He’s going to find himself taken down a peg at a time.  That big lawyer I introduced you too.  He filed a copy of the Trust yesterday.  There is a demand by me and one of my brothers to have an immediate shareholders meeting.  We can do that with our combined shares.  My guy will serve the legal papers on the old fool’s attorney tomorrow.  In the meantime, I want you to prepare the staff at the office to make a few changes to how things are done.  Get them ready for a transition.  Time to get his attention.”

 

Lenora had nodded her head, impressed by Nadine’s thought process.  “You are going to ease him out, aren’t you?” she said.  “Make him leave of his own accord.  To preserve the stock value.  You can’t just suddenly throw him out on the street.  Not yet.  We have to show stability in the transition.  For the Public.  Keep everyone’s confidence up.  But how are you going to handle the Board?  It will be the first place he runs.”

 

“Let him.  We will have control over the shares and, remember the bylaws, we can replace the board if we want.  But I’m counting on that not being necessary.  They get a handsome stipend for serving.  My father saw to that.  And they are all businessmen first.  They don’t want a public proxy fight that will drive down the value of the company and scare off our trading partners.  They’ll avoid that.  A couple of them are being approached by, shall we say, third parties right now. Those parties will make is clear that there are definite rewards in store for those who stick with us.”

 

Nadine had raised her glass then and they had clinked the edges and smiled at each other over the rims of their martini glasses.

 

That was three days ago, and Lenora was still feeling good about all this.

 

Lenora watched from the other end of the conference table as Lenny walked over behind Jones, the HR director, the one whom Lenora had specifically picked for this role.  He expected Jones to vacate the seat.  Jones ignored him.  Lenora noted how a red flush started at Lenny’s shirt collar and rose upward.  She also noted how Willets still stood at the door and stared, looking confused.

 

This was going to be fun.

 

Chapter 8

 

As Dylan emerged from the classroom he was accompanied by a few of his favored students. They were enthusiastically continuing their discussion of Wallace Stevens. That day’s lecture had been about the businessman (and the lawyer) who wrote poems. Maybe that’s why the poet was a particular favorite of Dylan’s.

 

This was the best part of his day.  All the other unpleasantness in his life inevitably receded before the smiles, inquisitiveness and energy of his young students. Academia was a completely other world from the one he shared with his father and siblings.

 

But not today.  Today, he was surprised to see his sister, Nadine, and his brother, Regan, seated on a bench in the Quad watching him. Neither had ever appeared on campus before.  His good humor was dampened by a feeling of undefined trepidation.

 

He excused himself from the group of students.  One, Marcy, lingered a moment longer than the others.  He caught her eye and slightly shook his head once.  It was, he hoped, imperceptible to the other students.  She picked up on his signal.  She knew it meant this wasn’t the right time to be alone together, even in the middle of a campus.  She left in the direction of her classmates.  Her look promised they would meet later in private.  Off campus.  Like before.

 

He watched them walk away, especially Marcy.  She may take a lot of feminism classes in her Women’s studies department, but it didn’t keep her from wearing the latest form fitting “yoga pants.”  They made it seem she was naked from the waist down. And the way she moved left little doubt she enjoyed the attention, even if surreptitious, of the men on campus, both students and faculty, and that included Dylan.

 

He turned and walked toward Nadine and Regan.  Nadine was staring after Marcy too.  Her radar had picked up on something between her brother and the girl with the pants. Nadine frowned.  She didn’t like what her instincts were telling her.

 

“Hi guys.  What are doing here?   What brings you to this institution of higher learning?  Auditing a class or two?”

 

They all laughed out loud at that.

 

“No, Brother,” Nadine said, “We thought you might like to have a little lunch, you know, just the three of us.  We have a lot to talk about.”

 

And, thought Dylan, you don’t want father to know.  He had to admit, Nadine was being smart.   Meeting him here.  There was no way his Father would ever set foot on the campus.  He hated everything about the college.  And Dylan teaching there.

 

To test his thesis Dylan said, “Sure, that would be fun, but you wouldn’t prefer to go downtown to the club?”

 

“No, no,” Nadine smiled, cementing his assessment, “we thought we could catch a bite at the Student U. You can get us in there, can’t you? Would be fun to see all the youngsters around here, you know, at play in their natural habitat.”

 

“Yeah,” Regan said, with a vulgar little chuckle, “there’s some real animals here, by the looks of their hair and clothes, and some fillies with fine lines too.”  He said it with a smile in an obvious, if forced, attempt at good humor.  Since it was without his usual sneer, Dylan let it go, though he wondered if his joke included Marcy in referencing the other females on the Quad.

 

“Okay.  Pretty basic stuff at the Student Union.  Hamburgers about the best thing they offer.”  He looked at Nadine.  “No martinis, I’m afraid.”

 

“I will survive.” Nadine laughed.

 

She jauntily hooked her arm through his and started guiding him in the direction of the Student Union. He had no idea how she knew the way. Regan lolled behind them.  Dylan had no doubt he was continuing his examination of the passing coeds.  His brother best watch out and not be too obvious, thought Dylan, some of these young women would have no compunction about lashing into him if his stares are perceived as a disrespectful leer.

 

At the U, they got in line with a few students and a couple of professors.  Dylan introduced the other faculty members to his brother and sister.  Nadine and, even Regan, were friendly and graceful.  It wasn’t the way they usually acted around his friends.

 

The three of them ordered their burgers, walked over to the fountain and filled up their cups with soda. It was crowded, but they found a table in the corner.  There was a steady, happy din in the cafeteria, which ironically, created a sort of semi-privacy.

 

Both Nadine and Regan were peppering him with questions about the classes he was teaching, asking about the students and professors, subjects about which they had never, to his memory, indicated the slightest interest.

 

Dylan was happy.  He couldn’t remember the last time the three siblings had set down and talked about stuff he liked. There always seemed to be an undercurrent of rage or hurt or anger.  Some of that he knew was generated by their reaction to whatever their father’s latest project happened to be.  Nevertheless, Dylan wasn’t going to analyze this day to death.  He was just going to try to enjoy it for what it was. Though in the back of his mind, he just couldn’t suppress the thoughts that kept intruding, he knew it wasn’t as simple as it seemed.

 

Their burgers came. The coed delivering the plates to the table, actually smiled at Regan.  He was in a really good mood after that.  The three of them laughed and joked half way through the meal. Nadine, around a mouthful of French Fries, said, “Dylan, I don’t know why we haven’t done this more.  This is fun.”  She smeared a huge amount catsup on three more fries and crammed them in her mouth.  He laughed at her.

 

“Yes, it is.  I’ve missed you guys.  Everybody always seems so busy.”

 

Regan added, “Well, we need to change that.  Never too late to change.”

 

Nadine chimed in, “No, it’s not.  And we all know changes are coming.  With Father. And the company.  And you know, I think it will be good for all of us. Give us a chance to change too. We are family.  We need to be together more.  On lots of things.”

 

“I would like nothing better,” Dylan said.

 

‘Well, remember that,” Nadine said.  “No matter what you hear others say about us.  Just remember today.  Us together.  We are going to have a lot more of todays.  About us. We need to think about each other more and we will.”

 

He didn’t know what to say. He laughed again when Nadine reached over and swiped a handful of fries off his plate.  Then from the other direction Regan did the same thing and Dylan turned to laugh as his brother hurried to stuff a handful in his mouth. In all the merriment he missed Nadine’s intense stare at Marcy who had just entered the other door to the Student union and was waiting in line to place her order.

 

Chapter 9

 

Willets could tell Lenny was shook up as they left the conference room and made their way back to his office.  He hadn’t seen him like this for years, maybe decades.  This was a look from long ago, from before they had built their business empire and Lenny had worked himself into absolute control.  In the years since, he learned to exercise power and found he was good at it and he got even better as he gained confidence until at some point he left all self-doubt behind, and his confidence came to resemble arrogance.

 

It was obvious to Willets that Lenny was angry, but there was something else. Right now, in his look, in his posture, there was an absence of that old confidence.  It was like a mask had been pulled off.  It was like he had that feeling you sometimes get when you suddenly wonder if all you had been doing was just fooling everyone, and now you had been found out.

 

Willets watched as Lenny crossed the office and poured himself a drink. He didn’t just sip this one. He didn’t exactly throw it back, but he took a healthy quaff, set the glass down, stared at it, then lifted it to his lips again and finished it off.

 

Lenny tuned around and looked toward the office door like he expected someone to be there.  Willets realized he had the same expectation. Where was Denise?  She always appeared, iPad in hand, when Lenny returned to the office.  She wasn’t there now.

 

Lenny walked to the door. Willets heard him say, “Who are you?” Willets went to the doorway to see whom Lenny was talking to.  There was a diminutive and very young woman seated at Denise’s desk.  She replied to the Lenny’s question.

 

“I’m Kelly.

 

“Where the hell is Denise?”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. King. She was told to report to the clerical pool supervisor. I’m taking her place until someone else is assigned.”

 

Willets could tell Lenny wanted to explode at the little secretary.  He held back.  He must realize the futility of doing so.  Denise being ordered elsewhere was outrage, an insult like he had just undergone in the conference room.  But the insult originated with someone else and this little know nothing wouldn’t have the slightest idea what was behind it nor its significance.

 

Willets stepped over to the secretary’s desk while Lenny struggled to compose himself.

 

“Miss, uh, Kelly is it? Yes, Kelly.  Denise is Mr. King’s personal secretary.  Do you know who told her to leave her station and report to the pool supervisor?”

 

“Oh no.  I don’t know that Mr. Willets.  I was just told to report here to take her place.  I think someone called her.”

 

“Kelly, who exactly told you to report here?”

 

“My supervisor. He said it was on orders of one of the Partners.”

 

“And was she the one that called Denise?”

 

“I don’t know, Mr. Willets.  I think so.”

 

Willets decided not to waste any more time trying to figure out what led this ignorant young woman to her conclusions.  He heard Lenny pick up his phone.  He pushed one of the buttons at the bottom of the phone.

 

“Yes, that’s who I said. Crabtree. What do you mean, she’s unavailable? This is Lenny King, God Dammit!  You tell her to get her ass up her this minute! Do you hear me?  Or you are fired!  Do you understand?”  Lenny slammed the phone down before any response could be given.

 

They looked at each other and shook their heads in wonder.

 

Lenny said, “What was that all about in the conference room?  I want you to fire that bastard, Jones, he knows better than to sit in my chair for God’s sake. I practically had to throw him out of it.  I want him fired, you understand?”

 

“Sure, sure but, Lenny, something else is going on here.  This is too much.  It’s not just one rogue and rude HR guy.  There’s no coincidence here.  Let’s see what is going on first.”

 

As if on signal, the door opened. There had been no knock, no announcement.  In strolled Lenora Crabtree.  She smiled good-naturedly at Willets, crossed over to the bar, reached in the fridge under the ledge and brought herself out a diet coke.  She popped the top.  Listened to it fizz.  Took a loud sip and then walked over to the couch and took a seat.  She held the coke in one hand, her cell phone in the other and as she examined the face of the phone, she said, “What’s this all about Lenny?  You yelled at my secretary. That’s not good form.  We can get sued for that kind of behavior. You of all people should know all about that.”

 

Willets watched as Lenny started to speak but had to swallow angry words down a closed throat.

 

Willets walked over and sat down with Lenora.  He thought his best role would be to try to calm the waters.

 

“Lenora, what’s going on? Did you order Mr. King’s secretary to return to the secretarial pool?”

 

“Well, she was being wasted in her current post.  She is paid a very pretty salary and does little actual productive work so, yes, she was reassigned.”

 

“You reassigned my secretary?”  Lenny was angry.  Almost spitting out the words.

 

Willets tried to intervene once more.  “Lenora, you can’t do that.  You know that.  What could you have been thinking?  You don’t have authority over Mr. King’s personal staff.”

 

“Well, I actually do.”

 

Lenny lost what little patience he had.  “The hell you do!  I’m still the boss around here.”

 

“Well, actually not.”

 

Lenny lost his voice again. He was choking on his words.  Nothing was coming out.

 

Willets said, “Lenora, please tell me what is going on.  This doesn’t make any sense.”

 

“Maybe, I’m the not the one you should ask.  These are all direct orders by the new interim chief, Nadine King.”

 

Lenny asked incredulously, “Nadine? What? How?”

 

“You should know, Lenny.  You did it all with your fancy legal Trust.”

 

“The Trust? The Trust isn’t in effect yet.  I haven’t really decided when it will be and even then, Nadine isn’t given control of the company.”

 

‘Well, it seems your daughter has accelerated things a bit.  Her lawyers filed the Trust in court.  They say you signed it and it has an effective date that’s already passed so it’s in effect. Lenny, your daughter moves fast.  Like I’ve heard you did.  At least when you were young.  I never saw such fast moves.  She went out and lined up just enough share votes needed to get the board to appoint her interim head of the organization until things get re-organized. One thing you did do in that Trust is give up enough shares for ceding voting control. Maybe you didn’t want it to happen so soon, but, well, it’s in effect now.  So, see, you aren’t actually in charge anymore.”

 

“Well, you Bitch!”  This time it was Willets who had lost his temper.

 

Lenora raised up her hand. “Just wait a minute.  The Trust terms are his.”  And she pointed at Lenny.  “I’m just doing what the boss, the new boss, is saying to do.”

 

There was a pause. “That’s all.”

 

Then Lenora decided to apply the coup de grace.  “And by the way, this office is being, uh, well, it won’t be your office anymore after next week.  Nadine said to give you an office in case you wanted to visit the headquarters, from your retirement stuff whatever that is, but something this massive needs to be put to better business use.  Your new secretary, Kelly, will let you know where your office is to be.”

 

And with that she got up and power walked out of the room with her happy “business as usual” smile.

 

Lenny sat down heavily in his chair.  Willets grabbed the phone.  “Yes, uh, Kelly can you put a call into Mr. King’s daughter. No, I don’t have the extension. It must be on the computer there in front of you.  Yes, her name is Nadine.  King.  Her last name is King, for God’s sake!  No, I’m sorry, I didn’t’ mean to yell.  Yes, thank you, please buzz us when you get through to her.”

 

They remained silent for five full minutes.  Lenny’s breathing was audible.  Then the phone buzzed.  Lenny picked it up.  He said, “Yes, put her through.”  He pushed the button for the loudspeaker.  Nadine’s voice came on.

 

“Hi Dad.”  There was a slight giggle.  “What’s new with you, Pops?”