“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.”
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.
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?”
“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?”
“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 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.
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.”
“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. 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.