Month: June 2018

A King’s Trust, Chapters 3 and 4

A King’s Trust, Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3

 

Regan was waiting at the bar.  Nadine would be arriving soon enough. She had said she would meet him there soon as she could get away.

 

The bartender had left a glass of whiskey in front of him and moved down to the other side of the waitress station.  He was assiduously washing glasses and ignoring Regan.  Earlier he had tried to engage in some good-natured banter about sports, then politics, then women, but Regan had uttered only monosyllabic replies. It was his usual means of indicating he had no interest in talking especially to someone like this bartender whom he considered a lower form of life and of no value to Regan whatsoever.

 

Regan had always preferred his solitude and after the departure of the bartender he had to admit an afternoon in a dark bar, mostly deserted, was a pleasant enough way to while away a few hours.  He sipped his beer and considered the meeting at the lawyer’ office.  Something had not been right about all the legal mumbo jumbo. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he felt there was a hole there, somewhere.  It didn’t add up.  Everything sounded right, but the logic behind the conclusions the others seemed to reach was flawed.  Somehow it didn’t necessarily follow.  There was nothing inevitable about the outcome the lawyer described though the people at the meeting assumed it was.

 

His sister would figure it out if anyone could.  She was relentless.  It was her special gift.  At least as to matters related to money.  As related to men, well, that was a whole other story.  She didn’t do so well in that department.

 

Nadine, he knew, liked handsome men.  Big muscles, big chests and small brains.  Imprudently she was always in love with her latest find.  Inevitably, she gave them too much of herself, got way too involved in their lives and turned possessive.  And she had a bad habit of sharing too much of her wealth.  Spent freely, impulsively conferred elaborate gifts on them.  Fortunately, the terms of the allowances the old man set up and she relied on for funds limited her foolishness in this regard. And, good thing, the objects of her affections never reciprocated the intensity of her affectations in kind and she, in turn, inevitably grew frustrated and tired of them.

 

It usually cost her a few bucks to get them to go away.  That was no great loss.  Except for this last relationship.  It had gotten very physical.  Left her with a bruised cheek and chipped tooth.  And that guy had been, by her account, her favorite of all time.  Regan thought she must deep down like a bit of the rough trade.  It was okay with him if she did. His own tastes in relationships weren’t exactly conventional.

 

There was a sudden flood of sounds from the street and just as quickly it stopped.   He knew the door to the bar had opened and closed.  Looking up in the mirror over the back of the bar, he watched as his sister walked toward him.  He had to admit she was an attractive woman.  Nice hair.  Very black, lots of curl.  She dressed well.  A little slim and a might too severe, intense, around the mouth. But she knew how to carry herself and could turn the eyes of most men.  As she approached him, she was scanning the interior of the bar. He suspected she was determining if any of the lonely patrons nursing their precious drink in an afternoon’s purloined time were acquainted with her.

 

She sat down on the bar stool next to him and spoke in a loud firm voice, “A vodka martini, Absolute, dry.”  She hadn’t deigned to look at the bartender must less say “please.”  The bartender heard her though and looked up from his task, directly at her for a minute nonplussed, then shrugged, turned to the shelves back of the bar and took down a bottle of Absolute and began his mixing.

 

“That was some bullshit today,” she said.

 

“What do you think about what he’s doing?”

 

“He’s a fool.  And all that family love tripe is getting old. Old!  Old like him and foolish.  Foolish!”

 

“Sounds like we will do okay.”

 

Her response was sharp, and he was taken aback by its intensity.

 

“And okay is enough for you?”

 

‘Well, I didn’t say that, but what choice do we have?”

 

“There’s always choices. He’s making his choice and I’m betting it will give us choices too.  The main thing is we have to stick together.  You and me. Trust each other.  We are Brother and Sister here.  Otherwise those two business partners will move in.  And I’m not letting that happen.  Crabtree is a grasping bitch.  I know what she wants. And the old phony Willits, he’s smart but not in these ways.  And he hasn’t had a new idea in decades.  He needs to be put out to pasture. I’m thinking it’s time for the company to go in a different direction.”

 

Regan heard the statement about trust and ignored it. Yes, he was her brother and that meant he knew all about Nadine.  He wasn’t that much of a fool.  He noticed she didn’t include the other brother, Dylan, in her fulminations about familial loyalty.  But he didn’t mention it.  No matter.  His sister was smart; he would stick with her.  Well, at least until she got it figured out and then he would get his part, his due.  He would make sure of that.  Sister or no sister.

 

“So, what now?”

 

“There’s somebody I want to us to see.  I heard about him when the old man got in legal trouble with that tramp the last time. He was on the other side.  This guy is real aggressive.  Strong.  Good lawyer. Wrung every last dime he could out of the old man.  No mercy at all.  I want him representing our interests.”

 

“Expensive?”

 

“Don’t be an idiot.  Of course, he’s expensive. But there’s a lot involved here. “The Kingdom,” the old man likes to call it.  It’s up for grabs. So, yeah, he’s expensive but it will be worth it.”  She paused, “Handsome looker too.”

 

“Yeah, well, if he’s going to be our lawyer, keep your bloomers on for once.”

 

She frowned at him but didn’t contradict his admonition.  He continued, “So how we going to pay him without the others, especially Father finding out about it?  All our money is restricted by the terms of our allowances.  The accountants know what we spend and mostly what we spend it on. If it’s that much they will start asking questions.”

 

“We’ll figure it out. Right now, my priority is to get a copy of those Trust papers, so he can start working on it.”

 

“How are you going to do that?  Pops and that fat lawyer Easley won’t let us know until he actually pulls the plug and he’s taking about hanging around for months, maybe longer.”

 

“Don’t worry about it.  I have my ways.”

 

The bartender set her martini in front of her.  She ignored him.  He moved back to his place at the other end of the bar.  She stared at the drink for a few moments without touching it.  Regan wondered what she was thinking about at that precise moment.  About the Trust provisions, what the old man had said at the meeting or about the handsome lawyer?  He wondered if the attorney had big arms and shoulders like she preferred.  Probably.  And he bet he lifted weights at a fitness center each morning before donning his tailored suits and strutting off to court.  He would be her type.

 

Nadine picked up the martini.  She held it delicately in one hand and with her other hand plucked out the plastic toothpick and sucked an olive off the stem.  She then sipped.  She smiled satisfied.  She glanced at the barkeep. He was watching her.  He had seen her smile.  He nodded his head and returned to washing glasses in the sink.

 

“Now, listen.” She was refocusing.  “We need some discipline here.  No one can know but us.”

 

“I thought Pops was keeping control anyway.  Partial he said, but you know he wants to be around.  “The Kingdom” he calls it for sure, but he also, most times, calls it, “His Kingdom.”  He gets a big kick out of that.  I don’t ever see him giving that up.”

 

“Yeah, well,” she said as she took another sip. “What he wants to be and where he’s going to be and what we want and where we want him to be might differ a little.” She licked her lips.  “Dam, this is a good martini.”  She spun around and looked at each of the patrons table by table.  Edmund thought she was scouting.  After she completed her survey, her mouth turned down in disappointment not seeing any likely conquests among the alcoholics and other denizens of an afternoon bar, scattered randomly among the tables and booths.

 

“Tell you what, it’s almost Five.  Let’s have another drink, or two, and see if this place gets any livelier.  What say you, Brother Dear?”

 

Regan looked at the clock behind the bar.  It was only 4 o’clock.  He said, “You know me, I’m always game.”

 

“Yes,” she said with an ironic smile, “I know you like your games alright.”

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

Lenny King drove his BMW all the way around the circle drive past the front of the family mansion.  He stopped the car and just looked.  Like he did every day, he was once again enjoying the view of the lake in the distance, just at the edge of his property.  He liked listening to the car’s finely tuned engine idle.  He put it in reverse and backed it up to the sidewalk beneath the stairway that lead to the very tall, very expensive, very ornate French doors.  Parking his car in “getaway mode”, as he called it, was an affectation of his teenage years.

 

He always thought it reflected his wealth and privilege to have his car backed up to the front rather than having to back out of the driveway later, which was decidedly “unprivileged.”  The color of the car was special too.  The sun brought out all the deep stains of purplish blue buried in the expensive paint job he had special ordered from Italy.

 

Walking into his front foyer, he thought again of how much he missed wife Edna.  She was always there to greet him with a smile and a hug even though his conduct sometimes, while he was away from home, made him less than deserving.  No matter now.  Her affection, it turned out, was all for nothing. She was gone, and he was here, and he could do as he please and not feel guilty about it.  Not in the least.  But he did miss her stepping out into the hallway or coming down the wide stairs to meet him with arms outstretched and, if he was in the mood to permit it, a kiss on the cheek and the smile.  He had liked her smile.

 

“Hey Dad.”  It was Dylan, his youngest coming out of the library situated just off the grand hallway.

 

Dylan was a good kid. A lot of Edna was in the boy. More her than Lenny for sure. There was no ruthlessness in Dylan. Not like Nadine or Regan.  His youngest was always happy and satisfied. He was consistently upbeat, optimistic, and friendly with everyone.  In every way, since he was a kid, he had shown he genuinely loved his family.

 

The loss of Edna, his mother, had hit him harder than the rest.  They had been the true soul mates in Lenny’s castle.  For some weeks, he had moped, taking long walks around the compound, not eating with his usual robust enthusiasm.  But in his usual “Dylan” fashion he rallied, he got over it, like he usually did with all misfortune.   He had put himself back together and now it was the warm greeting of his son Lenny King came home to everyday.  It didn’t make him happy.  Not like it had with Edna.

 

“Dylan, I thought you had school today.”

 

Dylan shrugged in reply. As far as his Father could tell Dylan had no identifiable ambitions.  He was content.  Where ever he was and whomever he was with, like his mother had been, he was content.

 

Lenny for years thought the youngster was either autistic or very slow.  Whatever it was, he wasn’t normal.   And it wasn’t like he was lazy. He would work very hard when the circumstances warranted it, or the project interested him, but he had no ambition to turn that hard work into personal or corporate profit.

 

When he was small, Lenny had, over Edna’s strident objections, had him tested.  Three times Lenny had insisted he be taken to different specialists and tested for autism or some other condition.   On each occasion, the doctors and the psychiatrists reported the same conclusions.  Bottom line, they said, he was of average intelligence and the rest was just his nature.

 

Siring a child with no ambition.  You couldn’t have convinced Lenny in a million years that was possible.  Lenny had always been driven.  To get ahead. To make a buck.  Then to make the next buck. And another. And if some of his schemes failed and failed miserably, and others, when his ambitions overrode his good sense, got him into trouble, well, that’s what lawyers were for.

 

He paid his lawyers handsomely to extricate him from the whatever the latest legal morass he got himself into and he was on to the next plan.  It never mattered to Lenny that he occasionally encountered failures.  Lenny had always thought that he just had to have a couple of hits, a scheme or two to work, and the wealth he needed, the power he craved would be his. And he was right.

 

He figured his other two children understood business.  The middle one, Regan, the snooty one, especially enjoyed his father’s stories of maneuvering some hapless fool out of his property or money.   And Nadine, his oldest, well, she was the smartest and probably the most like him.  He couldn’t always tell what she was thinking like he could with his other offspring, but in her actions, he often saw himself.

 

But Dylan?  Well, he didn’t just not understand, or maybe he did and just didn’t care all that much.  So, he went to school.

 

He progressed steadily in his college courses, never exactly shining academically, but not failing either. The studies he pursued, literature, history, were useless in the real world, but Lenny had a not too secret ambition to funnel him into law.  He had paid out enough lawyers’ fees over the years to conclude the law could provide a good living.  The boy could have a nice life even without the burning, driven, closed fist ambition it took to get ahead and stay ahead in the business world.  But it never happened.  Dylan became a professor instead.  A teacher for crying out loud.

 

“No.  I didn’t go to class today because we had the meeting at Mr. Easley’s office.”

 

Lenny nodded.  He should know that.  He thought he must be tired not to realize the connection.

 

“Dylan, what did you think about the meeting today?”

 

Before he could answer, Lenny stopped him. He had heard a sound in the pantry and it reminded him his new live-in cook, as well as the maid, was present in the house.  He pointed at the library and walked through the door and stepped to the side.  Dylan followed him, and Lenny closed the door behind him.

 

“Sit down.”

 

“Sure, Dad.  I guess I didn’t really understand a lot of it.”

 

Lenny felt a momentary confusion before he remembered he had just asked a question that Dylan was answering. That had happened a few times lately.

 

“Well, it’s about taking care of you kids.  You know your share of the company is going to set you up for life.  I want to suggest again that you shall we say, revise your studies.  Forget this teaching thing.  Master something that will help you protect your wealth.  Let’s get you into something like say the Law.  I can make some calls.”

 

Dylan didn’t reply at first. He appeared to be thinking.  It was as if Dylan had retreated to that dream like state that irritated Lenny when it occurred.  Just happily floating along. Edna used to do the same dam thing.

 

“I don’t really want any of it, Dad.”

 

Lenny looked at him hard.

 

“What do you mean? Don’t want what?”

 

“The money. The business. I don’t need it.”

 

What do you mean?  It’s there for you.  For all of you.  It’s what I’ve been working for all these years.”

 

Nothing could be farther from the truth, but Lenny liked the sound of that.

 

“Dad, I love you.  You know that.  I want to do what makes you happy, but I don’t need it.  It should go to someone who needs it, who wants that kind of life.  You can give it all to Nadine and Regan if you want. It’s just not for me.  I wouldn’t know what to do with all that money.  And the business part?  It would be more than I can handle.”

 

Despite himself, Lenny felt the old anger rising.  What an ungrateful little whelp!  Lenny ought to just leave him high and dry.  That would show the dummy.  But then Lenny thought of Edna and how she doted on the boy.  He owed it to her, he supposed, not to mistreat Dylan too much, like Lenny had mistreated Edna.  He attempted to quite his tone.

 

“Look, Son, I’m splitting my business kingdom into three parts.  Each of you will have authority to run your portion as you see fit and make it even bigger and better.   I tell you, go out and learn the law.  You would fit right in.  You’re good with words.  You know what else?  It would make you the best qualified and, you know, I bet you could get the whole business under your own control, just you, one day.  Like after I’m gone.”

 

Lenny knew he was coming across too intense. He was confusing his own ambition with what he thought other people wanted.  He had done it again.  He sought to inject a little humor to relieve the tension.

 

“Going to keep my hand in until then of course.  It’s still my baby, after all.” He smiled at his youngest.  Who smiled back, but then he was always smiling.  He smiled too much in Lenny’s opinion.

 

“I don’t want it Dad. Truly.  I wouldn’t be any good at it.  I would just like to stick around here.   Teach my courses at the college.  I’m up for tenure, you know. Take care of you.  Like Mom would want me too.  Watch after things here.  I can take a few classes on the side.  I might even take a law class or two if that will make you happy.  But I don’t want the rest of it.  I really don’t.”

 

The anger was back. Maybe a threat, some reality, would wake this little shit up.  He had coddled the boy for Edna’s sake too long.

 

“Well, this is what I want and if you are my son and love me then you will do what I say and drop this crap at the college and get to law school, that way you can have some idea of how to manage what I’m giving you. You don’t do this maybe you aren’t my son after all. And don’t deserve anything.”

 

That hurt Dylan. He looked down at the floor. The young man was nervous.  He looked up once at Lenny and then down, studying the back of his hands. After a few moments he shook his head side to side.

 

“No Dad.  That’s not the kind of love I want from you.  I loved you before and I love you now but the level of love I have doesn’t change with money or position.   It just is, you know.”

 

“No.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll just let you be and not give you a dam thing.  How’d that be?  How’d you like that?   You can teach night courses or hustle tables at the lunch counter to pay your god dam way.”

 

Lenny was working himself into a lather. He recognized the symptoms of being out of control.  Of his temper getting the best of him.  It had happened more of late.  And surprisingly in matters that had nothing to do with business. In the past it happened only in a business setting and was sometimes why he got into legal trouble and had to call his lawyer to get him out of the quicksand.  Always.  Always costs a lot of money.  Didn’t stop him then though and, by God, it wasn’t going to stop him now.

 

“There’s your choices,” Lenny said.  His voice was firm.  “Do this the way I told you or get out.”

 

Dylan looked at him bewildered. “Get out?”

 

“Yeah. Get the hell out, you ungrateful shit.  Go rent a room in town.  I will pay the first two months.  I will have you stuff shipped over to you, but I want you out of my house right now.”

 

And Lenny was up and strolling to his car. He didn’t even remember storming out of the library, where his son sat stunned and forlorn.  Lenny wouldn’t let himself think about the hurt on his son’s face.

 

He was glad the big powerful car was backed in.  He started it and hit the gas and with spinning tires he was around the fountain and down the driveway and out on the tree lined road in seconds.

 

His youngest son, who had just been disinherited and ordered out of the house where he grew up, sat in the library looking at his father’s now empty chair.

 

Would his Father relent? Probably.  But it would take Dylan submitting to his demands.  He didn’t want to do that.  He didn’t think he could, but maybe he would try.

 

He thought of his brother and sister and hoped this hadn’t happened to them.  He was concerned so he reached for the phone.  He would call Nadine.  She would know what to do.  She could be trusted.

 

 

A Tide Barely Felt

A Tide Barely Felt

The Tide Barely Felt

 

Time, the tide barely felt,

Sweeps us

Away.

 

Its low waves rush across the shore

And withdraw,

The clicking sounds of tiny rocks colliding,

Raking over their fellows,

And

With each arrival, each delivery, each departure

Less force, less vigor, less wash.

 

Random faces float top shallow pools,

Then gone.

Lesser men, never friends, never mattered.

Women too with their skeptical eyes,

A smile, a hope, a moment’s attention,

Then forlorn, resigned,

Sad

 

To know I do not care

And

Have already forgotten.

 

 

A King’s Trust, Chapter Two

A King’s Trust

 

Chapter 2

 

The crowd was gone. The lawyer still sat at his desk. Mr. King had got up from his chair after the others had left and wandered over to the window that looked out on the street and the passing traffic.  The paralegal still sat in her chair making notes.  She was thorough.  The lawyer knew she was jotting down everything from the meeting before moving, before leaving his office.  She was doing it now to insure none of it was forgotten or overlooked. It was an important exercise.  The lawyer gave her the time she needed.

 

As he watched Mr. King, he thought of the affection he felt for the old man.  Their long years had engendered a familiar loyalty. They had in a way started together.  The lawyer opened his practice around same time Mr. King had opened his first store. They had met at a Chamber of Commerce function, both were networking like all the books on starting a business advised.  The lawyer was surprised when the next week he got a call and Lenny King asked for a meeting to discuss incorporating his new business.

 

All through those later discussions, the lawyer had been impressed with the ambition of his new client and his dreams of franchising what he considered to be a unique business. Alarms, smoke alarms at first, then the continuing expansion of product offerings, complete security systems. All that had happened and more and the lawyer had been there for the ride.

 

They had become close and trusted friends.  They didn’t exactly think alike but each of their families had deep roots in the same areas of the South, a large swath of territory spanning parts of Arkansas and the badlands of Oklahoma.   They shared similar views like most of that first generation born in California, but bred on the old culture, the truisms and traditions of the South.  Their interpretations of those views, especially as concerns matters of race and fortune, and especially the rich, were different, but not how the world was currently viewed.  So, they were close, as least as close as two men could be who had their own interests and divergent views, especially on topics that could generate a heated argument in an instant, in a flash.

 

The client, lean, healthy, usually dressed in conservative business suits tended toward the flamboyant and the risky in his business dealings.  The lawyer affecting a more flamboyant style of dress, restrained and presided over by his wife, and indulging his baser desires, possessing an unalloyed happiness with physical delights, passions for food, and in his younger days for slightly wayward women, tended toward the conservative in matters of business. They matched up, complimented each other nicely.

 

His advice to Mr. king over the years reflected his conservative tendencies.  Mr. King would listen, agree, and then foolishly ignore the advice and get into unnecessary legal scrapes and the lawyer would get him out of it.  Mostly, it fell to the lawyer to attach a bottom line price for buying his client out of trouble and then to carry out the details and execute a plan for extraction from the legal jungle and his latest morass.   Of late, the lawyer had arrived at the point in his career he could simply have his staff do it while he billed double, and it the trouble was especially bothersome sometimes, triple the usual rate.

 

The paralegal finished with her notes.  She got up and crossed in front of the lawyer and exited the office without saying anything or looking at anyone.  Taciturn she was, but good at her job. She earned the lawyer a lot of significant fees. And he was smart enough to pay her well. It kept her around.  It made her feel like a true professional. And with her, it didn’t take a lot of talking, neither praise or criticism, to get things done.  He especially liked that about her.

 

After she closed the door, Mr. King turned away from the view.

 

“You still think this is all wrong I know.”

 

“And, Lenny, I’m going to tell you again,” the lawyer said, “You do this and there is nothing that will prevent someone from taking advantage.  You could lose everything. Not now, not tomorrow, but sooner than you think if someone makes a move. There are some real vulnerabilities here for you.”

 

“I know. I know.  I’ve heard you.  I understand.  But these are my family, my friends.  Lord knows I must learn to trust them.  You can’t earn trust of those you love unless you love them and trust them in turn yourself, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I’ve heard ditch bank preachers say that my whole life.  But that doesn’t mean opening yourself up to risk. We’ve been down this road before.  You are creative sure. You have a, what, a keen sense of business for sure, but Lenny you’ve always wanted to give too much. You are too, weak sometimes, too full of the milk of human kindness and not cautious enough that the milk can sour, and you better make sure it doesn’t get a chance to go bad on you.  And we both know how that usually works out for you.”

 

The client didn’t respond. As usual, when reminded of his past peccadillos and their costs, he changed the subject.  “What did you think of Nadine’s attitude?” he asked.

 

The lawyer shook his head. King spoke for him.  “I know you are worried.  You worry too much about nothing.  The world is nothing.  All is nothing.  So, forget it, let’s go all in, huh?”

 

“I don’t know what the hell that means.  You asked. She’s not being completely forthcoming. She will try to move some of the others out.”

 

The father smiled.  “She will that.”

 

“You want that to happen?”

 

“Well, I’ve always thought she’s got the drive for sure.  I like that about her.  Maybe she should be in charge of the company someday.”

“You’re not worried about the other kids, about your partners?” the lawyer asked.

 

“Oh.  She will be okay with them.  You know, before she left here today, she kissed my cheek.  She said “I love you Pops no matter what. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of it.”  That’s the real her.  Nothing better than the love of kids for their Daddy.”

 

The lawyer thought maybe it was he who was being the fool here.  Maybe the client was right.  But no. That thought passed quickly.  He had experience with these things.  As a lawyer.  With what people said, what people promised and then what they actually did.  If he was honest, he didn’t think “trust” really existed.  You better not trust anyone on anything.  When you drilled down far enough into people’s love, loyalty, all that, there was nothing there.  Well, nothing you wanted to look at too long.

 

“What say we go fishing?” Lenny said.  The suggestion from his client came out of the blue. “You too should retire,” he continued, “We started together. It would be great.  I’m going to keep a small office, some staff.  You could too, same building even.  We can keep an eye on things.  Then have coffee, lunch.  Play a round of golf; get out the fishing gear when we feel like it.  Take some buddies, head up to Montana and hunt. Hell, it will be great.”

 

The lawyer thought about all that his friend was saying.  It was tempting for sure.  But he was not ready yet.  He had a few more things to put in place in his own life.  “Trust but verify” didn’t someone say?  Some President?  Security first.  Have the insurance paid up and current.  Then be generous.  Then go fishing.  Not before.

 

 

A King’s Trust, a novel by Phil Cline

A King’s Trust, a novel by Phil Cline

This novel will be published in serial form, a chapter or two per week.  any comments, criticisms etc. are welcome.  Enjoy

A King’s Trust

 

Trust—“A right of property, real or personal, held by one party for the benefit of the other.”

            Black’s Law Dictionary

 

Trust—“an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something, one in which confidence is placed.”

            Webster’s Dictionary

 

 

Chapter One

 

The lawyer sat behind the steering wheel of his bright yellow Cadillac inspecting his hands. He liked how his nails looked.   He felt more elegant after his manicure.

 

And the feeling was enhanced when he was dressed in a new suit, a nice shirt, with cufflinks of course, and a tie his wife selected each morning.  The selection was inevitably accompanied with her lecture on acceptable taste.  The ensemble of a lawyer’s apparel must be well thought out she told him. His raiment must ever be a subtle combination of style and color to match his, as she delicately put it, “burgeoning physicality.”  The one she picked for today she might say was subdued but distinctive in color and pattern.  Pink and paisley would not have been his first choice, but with the light grey suit, he had to admit, it worked.

 

He flexed his fingers and checked his cuticles once again.  It was time.

 

Swinging out of the car, he checked the handle to make sure it was locked and walked across the parking lot.  He entered through the back door of his single-story office building.  It had once been a house. Back when there was a lot less traffic on main street.

 

As he walked down the hallway, he carried himself with a bit of grace.  Despite the tiny tinny voice on his scale announcing each morning that his weight continued to advance toward the three fifty mark, he knew in his soul he was an athlete.  Hadn’t Babe Ruth been big like him?  Hadn’t Charles Barkley?  Hefty men can still perform on the athletic field.  Or basketball court.  Or in courts of law for that matter.  And he could do both.

 

On the rare occasion he was called upon to actually litigate a case, he moved easily around the courtroom. He was a good sport and took the frequent fat shaming from his legal colleagues with humor and managed to return a few good-natured digs of his own.  He knew he was popular with the denizens of the legal community at the courthouse and, when he showed up, he usually got what he wanted.

 

Most of his court appearances were at the downtown courthouse where they calendared the civil cases.  He avoided criminal law.  Trusts and wills were his specialty.   He knew from experience, it was always better to avoid court.  Time in court cost money.  The billings, double billings especially, were much simpler when there was no record of his actual physical location. Still, all in all, he enjoyed the few times he ventured downtown and made an actual appearance on behalf of a client.

 

What he wanted this morning was for it to be noon.  Come noon the people in his waiting room would be gone. The provisions of this particular will and trust would be set.  And he could turn the entire matter over to his paralegal to draft the actual legal documents.  He could bill his time right over the top of hers though by then he would have gone on to other matters. Other billings.  Or better yet be at lunch.

 

The important thing was to just keep the meter running.  Time was money.  His time was expensive and the meter on his time clock never quit ticking.  Plus, he would leave the administrative matters to his secretary who would bill for three times what he paid her on top of the time he billed for the paralegal.  And most importantly he could go to lunch and the clock would keep ticking and the billable hours would continue to accumulate.

 

But noon was still two hours away, the entire King family was in the lobby and it was time to get to work.  He sat down at his desk and punched the red button on his phone.  It lit up simultaneously at the receptionist station and his personal secretaries’ desk as well as in the library where his paralegal did most of her work. The receptionist would wait for the secretary to approach the door to the inner waiting area and then she would push the button releasing the security lock and announce to those gathered that “Mr. Easley will see you now.”

 

As the inner door opened the secretary would be standing there smiling and turn to lead them down the corridor with its framed pictures featuring the “Nick Easley,

Attorney at Law” posing with friends, family and a judge or two.  In their robes, of course. As the secretary strolled down the hallway, her hips would slightly sway.  She knew perfectly well the effect it would have on those following behind her. There was nothing slatternly about her walk, but it exhibited just enough confident eroticism to be interesting in an age when sex in the workplace was scandalous behavior from a previous era.

 

The paralegal meanwhile would be making her way to the lawyer’s office.  Her chair had been pre-positioned to the left side and slightly behind the lawyer’s expansive shined and completely clean desk.  She would take notes and figure out what needed to be done.  The lawyer would never put pen to legal pad.  To do so, he felt, was inelegant.  And it just might communicate a lack of intellectual control.

 

The lawyer rested his folded hands on his considerable stomach as his paralegal walked in front of his desk and went to stand by her chair. He watched her as she passed and smiled not about her looks or her body, (not much to notice there anyway) but in satisfaction about how efficiently his office ran and how his staff knew their roles and what to do without being told.

 

He heard the footsteps and the bustle of the group following his secretary to his office.  A middle age woman, his secretary was “old school.” She got and kept her job in the early years the old fashion way.  By spending quality time on the couch in his office with the door locked.  Now, after all this time, she knew more about some aspects of his business than he did.  And he didn’t bother her for favors anymore.  He didn’t dare.   One day she told him in no uncertain terms, she didn’t like it, had never liked it and let him know that if he ever brought it up again, she would use her knowledge of how he ran his business, including his billing practices, to ruin him.  But that aside, she said they could continue in business together and both would profit.  From that day forward, she became more a business associate than a secretary. And he paid her well.  She was, he came to realize, worth every penny.

 

She walked in and he registered the look in her eyes.  “Watch out”, the look said.  She then stood aside as each person in single file entered the office.  Once all seven were there and looking for a place to sit down, she left and closed the door behind her.  The lawyer made no effort to find chairs for everyone. He knew at least one, maybe two, would have to stand.  That was okay with him. It would speed the meeting.

 

His main client, Lenny King, was a business executive, an assertive man, and entitled man and he automatically took one of the two luxurious leather client chairs right in front of the attorney’s desk.  The lawyer watched with interest to see if one of the three children or perhaps one of the business partners would take the other chair.  There was a third client chair back along the wall. And, of course, there was the couch.

 

The couch could accommodate three people if they didn’t mind sinking into its super soft confines and having their knees touching. It was especially challenging for women in dresses. It was so low it elevated their knees above their stomachs.  It was a position in which the lawyer liked to place women.  Awkward and vulnerable, trying to keep their dress down, feeling trapped.  Though with the regrettable prevalence of pants suits nowadays some of the more interesting views he had been privy to in the past were now rare.  Neither of the two women was wearing a skirt.  A disappointment to the lawyer, which passed quickly. He hadn’t expected anything different.  This was business after all.

 

It was his client’s daughter, Nadine, who took the other chair in front of the lawyer. He was surprised. She pulled the heavy chair over even closer to his client.  He felt a momentary twinge of protectionism.  Lenny King was a good client, in fact had been his client for the last twenty-five years.  He knew the billings from just this one client had help pay for his two oldest children to attend the very expensive private colleges they had chosen.

 

That said, his client could be an ass.  He was frequently too demanding.  He could also be too enamored of his own judgment on all things, political, or otherwise.  He thought he knew best on many things that were beyond his field of expertise, even the law, but no matter.  It meant he was frequently in legal straits, needed the assistance of the lawyer and, best of all, he paid his bills religiously on time.  And the sums on the billings oftentimes were ridiculously high.

 

He was a good client even if didn’t always follow his lawyer’s good advice.  He was usually a good sport about it when the lawyer quietly mentioned that the latest legal difficulty could have been avoided had he listened to the lawyer’s counsel.  But no matter, here he was today to surrender his business concerns, move into retirement and enjoy the fruits of his labors. The lawyer had advised against this too, at least as to how he proposed to dispose of his responsibilities but was overruled by the client.  Not an unusual occurrence in their relationship.

 

The lawyer waited a moment for the group to settle into their places.  One was left standing. The youngest of King’s three children. Dylan.  He was the slow one.  There had been some mention of autism, but the lawyer admittedly knew little about the condition and couldn’t render an opinion one way or the other.  The boy was truly a nice kid.  Well, not kid.  He was twenty-eight now.  But he was still shy and awkward.  He always seemed to be studying his surroundings rather than the people with him or what they were saying.  And his answers to questions could be disarmingly honest. He could say something that from others would be considered an insult, but there never seemed to be any malice in what he said.  Consequently, his responses though frequently inappropriate were usually overlooked.

 

The two business partners, Crabtree and Willets, sat on the couch together, but at opposite ends. Crabtree was a female in her late fifties. She was sharply dressed.  Her hair was immaculately styled if too stiff. Every hair was in place.  It wasn’t natural.  Her partner’s appearance didn’t match her standards.  The contrast made Willets look sloppy.  The lawyer had known him for years too.  He was smart and loyal and now wealthy, but he would never change.  It didn’t matter how expensive or finely tailored his suits were they always looked like he had slept in them. His lap invariably had crumbs; his tie stains from his last meal.

 

The second son, Regan, sat in the chair along the wall.  He had a perpetual sneer on his face.  It had been there since he was five years old.  It perfectly reflected his personality.  He was bright for sure, but he had inherited the qualities from his father that could make him an ass without the good-natured self-abnegation that made the Father’s transgressions forgivable.  The son didn’t possess the grace to admit he could overdo it once in a while, that he did indeed make mistakes and those mistakes were sometimes real doozies.

 

The lawyer cleared his throat.

 

“Well, welcome, everyone. Mr. Lenny King, your family and partners.  Once again please accept my condolences on the loss of Mrs. King.  She was a truly great lady.”

 

Mr. King, his two sons and business partners nodded their heads in unison, but not the daughter, Nadine. She stared straight ahead at the lawyer, obviously waiting for him to get past the preliminaries.

 

“Mr. King, as I’m sure you have been informed, has decided to retire.  He and I have discussed the matter extensively and he has made his wishes known to me.  I have drawn up some preliminary paperwork to insure the legalities are addressed and this meeting today is to discuss those matters.  It is Mr. King’s desire to be transparent and address your questions and concerns at this time. You are the interested parties and have the most to be concerned about. Once this meeting has concluded and it is clear what Mr. King’s desires are in these matters, then a final set of documents will be drawn up for his signature.  And his intent will be memorialized.”

 

Mr. King spoke up for the first time.  “Yes.” He turned slightly so all those behind him would feel they were part of the conversation.  Interestingly to the lawyer, this meant his back was half turned to the daughter.

 

“You are my family, my partners, and my best friends.  I know each of you have concerns, but I want you to know how all this is slated to happen. And I want you to know it all right here and right now.  You are my loved ones and my dear friends and my business partners.  Yes, especially my partners.  We have built a very successful business together, hell, an empire really, and while I will be gradually withdrawing from further worries and stress, I wanted to insure everyone, including you, are well taken care of.  You are all family or like family to me anyway.”

 

There was a silent moment. The lawyer felt all of this was coming across as being contrived.  It made the silence awkward.

 

“Would you like me to explain the provisions of the Trust and Will now?”  He directed his question at Mr. King.

 

Without turning back to face the lawyer, the client replied, “Well, yes, that would be fine, but let me say this.  I know it’s not something I often say.  I think you know its not easy for me to say.  But, well, here it is: I love you all.  And if I could I would continue as President of the company and, well, all of us, in our present roles, forever, but with the loss of my Edna, I have lost that old drive and want to rest a bit, enjoy the days left which God allows me to have.  Each of you will be taken care of for sure.  I will reserve some small share of control over my wealth and business interests for security sake.  This lawyer here, the good Mr. Easley, by the way, insisted upon these provisions, but they are nothing really.   My trust in each of you is absolute.  You will all equally share in the wealth and power of my former position.  Powers of attorney over various aspects of my business as well as my wealth, will be delivered concurrently with the implementation and execution of these documents, uh, plans and I think you will see reflected my generosity of spirit and how much I hold you all in such high regard.”

 

The lawyer unfolded his hands and rolled his chair forward to begin his dissertation when the daughter spoke up.

 

“That’s all well and good, Father, but how do we know these documents drafted by this lawyer will protect all you have built.  Or us. We need significant authority here if we are to be effective in keeping the business going and I know how you value effectiveness.  Lord knows we’ve heard enough lectures about it,” she added with a sardonic smile.

 

She looked back at the two partners as if for support. They were obviously surprised by her assertions and her aggressiveness.

 

She continued, “I recommend we have an independent law firm look over these documents.  And accountants too, preferably C.P.A.s.  No offense to Mr. Easley, but, you know, like you would say, just for security sake.”

 

The lawyer was starting to feel like the noon hour was getting farther away and would not be bringing him the usual welcome relief of a sumptuous mid-day meal after all.

 

The father had turned toward his daughter as she spoke.  The lawyer was the only one who could see how he smiled indulgently as the lawyer was sure he had been smiling at his children his entire life.  But, the lawyer thought, his children are no longer babes in the woods, especially this one.

 

The Father said, “That is why we are having this meeting.    No.  We won’t be having any other lawyers at the table.  And no C.P.A.s either.  I don’t have to do any of this, you know.  As Mr. Easley, I’m sure, will tell you.  It is in the spirit of my love for you and, frankly, my generosity that you are here at all.”

 

The daughter’s posture closed up.  She crossed her legs away from her father.  She set her mouth.  She wasn’t satisfied.  But she recognized she was powerless to change her father’s course. And it would be imprudent to push the matter.  The father reached over and put his hand on her arm.

 

“Nadine, you know I have always favored you.  Why would you think this,” and his arms gestured wide around the law office, “would be any different?”

 

The lawyer watched the other two kids as Mr. King counseled with his daughter.

 

The one boy, Dylan, the innocent one, smiled.  But, of course, he was always smiling.  The other boy, Regan, sneered, but that was also no change.

 

The lawyer looked at the partners. The man was nodding his head.  Willits.  He had been a childhood friend of Mr. King.  He had been with him since the beginning.  Made a lot of money.  But the relationships, the business, was more than that to him.  He often joined the lawyer and Mr. King on the hunting and fishing trips they shared.  The woman, Crabtee, was staring straight ahead. She had been with the business for a little over two decades.  A relatively short time in the life of King’s business empire.  She wasn’t happy.  She was a disciplined one, however, and was keeping quiet.  For now.

 

“So, shall we begin?” the lawyer asked.  There was no answer.

 

He continued on anyway.  “Ms. Bright here, my paralegal, will now go over the provisions I have drafted.”

 

He hadn’t drafted a word. In fact, as of that moment, he didn’t really know what the provisions actually said.  He had simply passed on to his paralegal the general instructions he had gleaned from his discussions with Mr. King.

 

He smiled in satisfaction again. He was confident in his operation and in his staff.  The billing on this was going to be extra good.  His secretary would make sure it was.  She knew this might be one of his last unaudited billing related to this family and this business.  Thinking of that gave the lawyer an idea about a rider he would discuss with his paralegal.  She would write it and he would show her where to place it for the minimum exposure and maximum effect.  With a little luck it would never even be noticed unless he needed to invoke it someday. He worried the daughter might spot it and ask its meaning or, worse, have another lawyer secretly answer her questions.  He would need to be extra cautious with this Nadine.

 

His mind drifted to lunch. Something at the Prestige would be good, the best restaurant in town.  Something rich and tasty.  Something expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Discretion

Executive Discretion

I took a little hiatus from Cline on the Constitution to recharge the old batteries.  Lots happening at Supreme Court and elsewhere. Will try to catch my readers up over the next few weeks.

 

Executive Power

 

Out of the overheated debates on the situation at the border, lost among the shrieking and gnashing of teeth, is the question of the President’s responsibility for enforcing the laws of the United States.

 

There is little question that adults with children in tow have traveled from Central America across Mexico either with assistance of the Mexican government and the human trafficking cartels the leaders of Mexico allow to operate in their country. Arriving at the border, these people intentionally violated federal statues by illegally entering the United States.

 

Some claim they require asylum, some of the claims are legitimate, some fraudulent.  In order to properly evaluate asylum claims, federal law requires the persons making the claim to appear at designated Ports of Entry and not illegally sneak across the border attempting to avoid apprehension.

 

This administration recently announced a “Zero Tolerance” policy.  That is, they will arrest, detain, and prosecute the adults for violating the criminal statues of the United States without exception.  Because of federal laws, federal court decisions and consent decrees administered by the federal courts with the arrest of the lawbreakers, the separation of the adults from the children occurs. Some of the children belong to the adults.  Some don’t.

 

The President has demanded corrective legislation from Congress.  Members of Congress respond that he should simply order federal officers not to enforce the law.  The latter is consistent with past practice.  In the past the adults were released after solemnly, under oath promising to return for court proceedings. They of course lied.  After breaking the law and swearing to return, the vast majority absconded.

 

That sets the Constitutional issue.  May the President refuse to enforce the law?

 

Article 2, section 1, clause 1 of the Constitution vests all Executive Power in the President of the United States.  And Article 1, section 3, provides that the President shall, “take Care that the Laws be Faithfully executed.”  He is explicitly charged with the responsibility to “Faithfully Execute the Law.”

 

On the face of it there would be no choice.  The law is the law and the President is required to carry it out.  Right?  That would appear to be the meaning of “faithfully executed.”  However, it’s just not that simple.  The Supreme Court has long recognized that there is an element of discretion that is granted the Chief Executive.  It is the same discretion that is granted locally elected District Attorneys across the nation.  In fact, as applied to the Presidency the Court even used the term “Prosecutorial Discretion” interchangeably with “Executive Discretion.”

 

Having served over three decades as a prosecutor, two of those decades as the elected District Attorney, it’s a subject I know something about. When I teach about the subject I use the phrase “The Power of No.”

 

To appreciate the phrase a little history is useful.  The evolution of the “independent” prosecutor developed during the flowering of Jacksoninan Democracy. Andrew Jackson lead the movement of having local office holders freely elected instead of being appointed by Governors or legislatures. District Attorneys across the nation during his term started breaking away from being an arm of the judiciary until by the time of the Civil War, most were being independently elected. As that evolution occurred, one of most hotly debated issues was prosecutorial discretion, “The power to say No.”  That is, it didn’t matter who wanted a case filed, or prosecuted, the discretion of the local prosecutor meant they could refuse to proceed with the case and no one could make them do so.  The thoughtful legal scholars of the time thought that too much power.

 

Over the decades, the discretion to not proceed with a prosecution has been justified in numerous ways. As a means for saving resources, for being able to tailor justice in exceptional cases and other reasons.  And it continues to this day.  President Obama’s administration decided not to enforce the federal marijuana laws and refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as being between one woman and one man for purposes of federal law. The present administration, like past administrations has indicated they may not spend the money allocated by Congress in the budget just passed, in effect impounding the funds.

 

On the other-hand some legal scholars have also argued that a President refusing to enforce the law is unconstitutional.  They point out that it constitutes an interference with Article 1’s delegation of all legislative power to the Congress.  If the President refuses to enforce the laws passed by Congress, does that not transfer the legislative power to the President, in effect giving him a super veto power over legislation that can’t be overridden by Congress?

 

In those situations where holder of the executive power refuses to enforce the law, what is the remedy? What can be done about it legally?

 

It’s not a “Congressional Oversight” question.  Congressmen like that term, but in reality, though they share some powers, they don’t have constitutional oversight of a co-equal branch of government.

 

The remedy usually recognized is a democratic one.   The elected executive/prosecutor can be replaced through the process of an election. If the voters don’t like that the laws are not being enforced, they can replace the official.  One could argue, I suppose, that that occurred when President Trump was elected ostensibly in part to enforce the immigration laws that had been benignly neglected by past Presidents.

 

What is clear, however, is that the Court would most probably recognize the President does have discretion not to enforce the laws requiring the arrest of individuals illegally entering our country.  He does have the power to say No.

 

Whether this would be heartwarming in the short term by reuniting the child with the adult or heartbreaking in the long term by encouraging endless lawlessness on our border, is a difficult question.  “Executive Discretion”, the power to decide when to go forward or when to say “No” is real power.  Knowing when and how to apply it is not that easy.

 

For more article and writing by Phil Cline, you are invited to visit philcline.com