Chapters 26 ,27, & 28 of “A King’s Trust,” a novel I am publishing online
“A King finds what low is.”
Dylan stood in the hallway with his back to Marcy and Lenny. He was looking in the direction of the closed elevator doors as if he could still see those who had just got on. He didn’t turn from the doors though he must have heard the clicking of Marcy’s high heels as she and Lenny approached him from the other end of the hallway.
Marcy sauntered unhurriedly along the hallway just as she had before her talk with Lenny. A few steps away from Dylan, she quickened her pace and then when she got to him she threw her arms around his waist from the rear. She rested her head on his shoulder, pressed her chest into his back and hugged him tight. He patted her hand on his waist and gently disengaged. Lenny wondered if Dylan understood completely the kind of person Marcy was.
She was certainly more than a college coed star-struck by one of her professors. That may be what everyone, and he knew that included Nadine and Regan assumed. Did Dylan also make that assumption about Marcy? Could he really accept it was just happenstance that Marcy, given who she was and what her Father’s business interests were, was merely a student of his? Did he deep down believe that their romantic involvement was an innocent infatuation that evolved into something more serous? Lenny had never believed in that sort of happenstance. But Dylan might.
Dylan put his arm around Marcy’s waist as they took a few steps ahead of Lenny toward the elevator. He could hear their conversation.
“Did you have a good talk?” he asked her.
“We did. We discussed many things.”
He held up his other hand indicating that was all he wanted to know. He changed the subject to a place for lunch. At the elevator, they both looked back at Lenny.
“Pops, care to join us? We are going to get a bite to eat.”
Lenny decided to push Dylan just a little. “Don’t you want to know what your girlfriend and I were discussing? It concerns you. There are things you should know. Things you need to know. How about if I take you both to lunch and we can discuss all of it? Right now.”
“No, Father. As I said, I don’t care about such business things. I’m just not made that way. I’m not committed enough to do anything about the things you care so much about. I don’t like to think about any of it. I just want to be at my school, teach, and, you know, love the people I love. Like you, Dad. And Marcy.” He looked at her and smiled. “That’s enough for me.”
Lenny didn’t like the response, but he didn’t feel like being mean. Not to either of them right now.
“Okay. Have it your way. For now. Marcy can tell you many things if you choose to ask. But there are some things I need to tell you too. That she can’t.” Lenny looked pointedly at her. “Just remember that. Don’t forget that part. No matter what happens.”
And with that they were gone. He declined to go down on the same elevator. He said he had forgotten his copy of the civil forms he had been given in the court and would go back to look for them. He hadn’t forgotten anything, but he didn’t want to get on the elevator with his son and his girlfriend either. It would have felt awkward. He wandered down the hall to the courtroom, but instead of going inside he sat down on the benches outside. He was alone. They were all gone. All family, all friends, all the legal people, but were they?
He thought of how everyone looked in the hearing. Everybody was wearing the right clothes. They were made up on the outside to be friends, business associates, lawyers, sons, daughter, partners, and children of partners. All decked out and arrayed in their costumes. Just as expected.
But underneath it all, what were they? If you stripped each one naked, including that judge, what would they look like then? Would they hold the same power, the same influence? And their words, all those words spoken this morning were clothes too. Clothes to hide meanings, mislead, communicate false strengths and conceal weaknesses. Not one of the people in the courtroom knew the true plans of the others, the actual motivations. Can we ever know what those are? Can we even know our own drives, can we know them for sure unless, of course, we are one step away from the hangman’s noose and it’s the last chance to make peace with the truth about ourselves?
Lenny heard the bell ding, indicating the elevator car had returned to his floor. The doors slid open and out walked Nick Easley.
“We’ve been waiting downstairs for you. Is there some difficulty with paperwork? You alright?”
“Sure, sure, Nick. Let’s go.
And Lenny stood up and walked down the hall and onto the elevator followed by his lawyer. As the doors closed, he said, “I take it the settlement discussions went nowhere.”
“Worse. We didn’t even get to first base. Not one thing could we agree on. That man, Edmund? A real asshole. And an idiot!”
Lenny was surprised. Easley was usually the most mild-mannered of lawyers. He liked to keep things formal. For him the practice of law was about being formal, methodical, competent, but never, ever showing a temper. But not this time. He was mad at something.
“So, what did he say? What’s got in your craw?”
“Not so much what he said, but how he went about it. Said there was no use talking. He said, the judge was in over her head and didn’t know shit about what was going on. Before I could even say anything, he almost yelled that nobody cared what Lenny King said anyway, you were finished and he and everyone who matters figures you will be in jail before the New Year comes around.”
“Really, the guy was being a real prick.”
Just then the doors opened on the bottom floor. Lenny first saw blood, lots of blood on the tile, then in his peripheral vision an overturned wheel chair and two crumpled bodies on the floor. One was Marcy. She was holding her side and there was blood all over the front of her skirt. Dylan was holding her and seemed to be pressing a compress on the wound. The other person lying on the tile was Edgar. There was a large gash across his forehead. His nose was smashed to one side, obviously broken. He kept swiveling his head. He was disoriented. There was a din of loud voices and running feet.
Lenny looked around the large lobby of courthouse. Armed guards were securing the doors, rushing people out of the corridors and into offices just off the hallways.
Something bad had happened. But what?
Lenny looked for Willets next to the chair. But he didn’t see him.
“Edgar,” he yelled. “What happened? Where’s your father?”
Edgar was trying to get to his feet, but he had been felled by a pretty good blow and was staggering, disoriented, off balance. He sat back down on the tiled floor and once again his hands went to his bleeding forehead.
“They took him,” he yelled. Then quieter, “They were waiting, and they hit us and ripped him out of the chair and dragged him out there before anyone could move. By his feet, my God, he was trying to grab for something. Reaching out to me. It was fast. Man, it was fast. Military, you know? Professional. They had to be professionals.”
A door was opened from the outside by a guard. He propped it open for other uniformed security men to enter. Then left it opened as they moved across the lobby. Lenny could hear a woman screaming outside. He rushed to the door and stopped. There was a body on the sidewalk and the woman was standing over him screaming.
“His eyes!” she yelled. “Oh my god, his eyes.”
Lenny walked slowly toward the body. It was Willets. He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t screaming. He was dead. And the sockets of both eyes were now empty. The bandage had been torn off the one, and blood was running from where his eyes were supposed to be down his cheeks to the sidewalk. Lenny shook his head side to side. They had taken Willet’s other eye like they said they would. Just as Marcy, minutes before, had warned they would. Right here at court.
Lenny just stood over Willet’s body and stared. He felt a presence next to him. He glanced over. It was Marcy, holding her side, grimacing. Dylan was helping her stand. She was looking at Willets. He heard a familiar sound. She was grinding her teeth together.
Lenny King was utterly defeated. Forlorn. With little hope. His business empire was gone. He knew that now. And to think he had, in effect, given it all away. He had been a fool. A damn fool. It had cost him. Dearly. And it had cost others.
Willets, his friend and partner, was gone. A month now. Murdered.
Willets’ son, Edgar, in out of the hospital with recurring symptoms from his severe concussion. Surgery was being discussed. And, Lenny had thought to himself, even accounting for the injury, something wasn’t right about him.
As for the case, it was going nowhere. Oh, Nick had tried. He had tried hard. Loudly and persistently he had accused Nadine, her lawyer, all of them of conspiracy, murder, fraud, theft, and anything else he could think of, but all to no avail. The Judge was having none of it. The case was officially in limbo. She had ordered the case proceedings suspended which maintained the status quo, left everything in place and that meant it left Nadine and her cadre in control of the corporation.
And, Nick too was in trouble. Complaints had been filed against him with the State Bar based on an anonymous tip. He believed the tipster was his former secretary. Some influential attorneys had urged him to resign, to surrender his law license, so the investigation could go a be dropped. And now Nick Easley, his attorney, his friend, at least he had always thought of him as his friend appeared a beaten man, defeated, humiliated. Giving up. Closing down his law practice. No longer believing in anything, even himself.
Could there be redemption? Could he salvage anything? One last chance perhaps.
So here Lenny was, back at his own office building. Maybe not his now, but he had built it and, in a way, felt it belonged to him. It was his.
It was a long walk down these hallways he once ruled to do what? Beg? Well, not beg, but to make a deal. Like he should have done before all this happened. When he had more leverage. Yes, here he was still thinking like the businessman, King of industry, but no longer was it his Kingdom and no longer was he a King.
He would meet with Regan. Regan, his son, his first son. Maybe his daughter had turned into a viper, maybe she always had been a snake, but Regan, well, he was a son. A father could always depend on his son. Surely, Regan would carve out a little corner, a small sinecure, a dependency perhaps, but maybe independent enough for Lenny.
He had gone to Nadine first. Maybe he had been too haughty with her. Perhaps it was his fault. It had not gone well that was for sure. Another failure. He could fell his face flush red when he thought of it.
As he had entered her office, she hadn’t even deigned to rise to greet him. No extended arms for a paternal embrace, no extended hand for a handshake for a business partner, ex-business partner, no courtesy of offering a chair to an acquaintance, an elder, no respect extended to a man of distinction, of past honors and powers, nothing but a cold stare from behind her massive desk. New. The desk was new. He wondered if his old desk was still in the building, maybe in storage, maybe passed down to a senior manager who would relish telling stories, sad stories of the great man who once ruled from behind this very desk, but now loiters about without much to do. With nothing to do really. A nothing person.
Lenny stood awkwardly before Nadine, like an errant recalcitrant schoolboy. He even caught himself looking down at his feet. She waited. This daughter of his was in no hurry to offer him any comfort. Well, he must buck up. Jump right in like he always did. Take charge, take command. Be the first out of the gate.
“Nadine, I think in the interest of the family, we need to settle our differences. There is no reason we can’t both have what we want. I am certainly willing to work out a compromise.”
She smiled, but it wasn’t a smile of mirth. More one of disdain. He couldn’t tell if she expected him to continue his pitch or just shut up.
Finally, she said, “Father, Father dear, we really must have you seen by a neurologist. I do believe your faculties have become more, what? We won’t say confused. Shall we use your word? Compromised! No, not confused. Yes, more compromised each day.”
Lenny tensed up. But his posture didn’t change. Not like the old days. He wanted to be angry, but he didn’t feel the old power. He couldn’t summon up the old righteous indignation he had once so effectively used in negotiations. And Nadine had read him perfectly he realized. And, belatedly he concluded she was good at this. She knew how to inflict the sharpest wound, use a stiletto to make the prick, cut a little then withdraw and watch the blood flow gently, no splashing, no spraying, just a gentle flow of life from heart to floor.
“Well, I, that’s not what I meant, Nadine. I’m trying to work with you here.”
“No, Dad, you are being obtuse. There is nothing to settle here. You are out. You have no status here. You have no authority. You possess nothing I remotely desire.”
“Now, listen . . . “
“No, you listen. You had your chance. An offer was made. You should have taken it. But you were too proud, weren’t you? Well, now it’s too late. You have become a tiresome old man and need to be in a home where someone can take care of you. I guess I am willing to let you stay on the outside, freely roam about, out in society, at least for a while, but only if you stay quiet and out of the way. There is nothing here for you. You need to go home.”
Lenny felt the brutalized by her statements. What she said was probably true, but it was cruel, and it hurt. Was this how Edna and his kids had felt when he had gone on his little rants? Devised and directed his little punishments? Well, he had always made up for it later. Hadn’t he? Maybe Nadine is just a chip off the old block and will soon get over it and treat with him with kindness.
“Okay, okay. I hear you,” he said. “I just thought we could talk this out. I mean I was going to suggest, well, why don’t we do that, I mean have a family meeting, you know. If we all got together, the plan could still work, I mean make some modifications, you know, you are the Chief Executive now. No reason not to continue right there. I’m for it. I support it.”
She shook her head. He thought with a note of pity.
“I don’t need your support, Father dear. Listen, I have things to do today. But I want to get a few things straight with you right away. First, you have no role to play any longer in the operation of this company. Second, you do still have a significant financial stake in the company. But I want to be up front here, we are having the books audited and it’s turning up a wealth of information that concerns us. You made some unauthorized, and I have to say, possibly illegal purchases with company funds and we have a duty here. What word did Edmund, ah . . .. our new lawyer use? Oh yes, it is our “fiduciary” duty to our shareholders to take action to recover those funds. What made you think you could buy old vintage cars with company funds, anyway?”
“Wait, what are you saying? I got authorization for those. They serve a business purpose, you know, with client’s good will and all, the lawyers approved it all.”
“Well, I’m afraid those opinions are no longer operative. We have new lawyers. Accountants too. I’m trying to help you here. I’ve already ordered the cars sold. And the funds returned to the company treasury. They did bring a nice profit over what was paid for them, so the due interest payments you owe should be covered. At any rate, those old cars are gone.”
Lenny stared at her in astonishment. She knew how much he loved his cars and she just sold them off, just like that, without even a heads up, a warning, or chance to discuss. He wondered if he could find them and buy them back. He was still well off financially. He could do it. Before he could respond she was on to something else.
“And also, that monstrosity of a house. We found where you paid it off using bonus money you supposedly earned as so-called Chief Operating officer of King Enterprises and that wasn’t quite kosher. Can see the tax advantages, but dear Daddy, you had no real approval from the Board of Directors much less the shareholders. I’ve put the house on the market. We need to recover those monies too. And quickly. Before the IRS figures out it wasn’t authorized compensation.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“Oh, very serious. You made a big mistake on that one. There are no bylaws authorizing the board to grant you a bonus. And, as the lawyers say, you as CAO of a publicly held corporation certainly can’t do it on your own. We’ve got to get those monies back. Our lawyers, we retained a great new firm by the way, went to the judge and got authorization to transfer title of the house to the company, recorded it and all, and we are selling it off as an asset. Again, I think you will be okay as far as making up any deficiencies you owe. The judge even seemed to be concerned about that for some reason. Like she felt sorry for you. At any rate, the market is up and that should cover any interest that would be due. Of course, I can’t talk about your personal tax issues that may arise. You will have to own those, Father dear. Better make sure you get a good representative to talk to the IRS.”
She went on, “I’m sure old Easley, could do it, wait, is he still practicing by the way? I heard he took a real hit from the Bar Association. Something about failure to safeguard secrets. Some files were lost? Allegations of incompetence. Anyway, he should be able to advise you on that or find an accountant who can. You might have some severe penalties to deal with there, so I suggest you get on to it right away. Those things add up, as you know, the longer they go.”
Lenny felt very small. “I’m being turned out of my own home, the house I built, where your mother and I brought up you kids? You would do that to me?”
“Oh, it’s for your own good. We want to get all this covered, want everything very legit. We don’t want the District Attorney coming down here and looking into this stuff. I hear he’s not a big fan of yours.”
That was news to Lenny. It was true, in the just past election cycle, for the first time he hadn’t contributed to the D. A.’s campaign. He hadn’t seen the need. He was intending to retire soon anyway. Or at least it was in his mind. Hell, beyond being a past donor, he barely knew the man. Why would he have a grudge? But he might. He was notorious for using the muscle of his office in his fundraising. And he took it personal when someone said, No.
Maybe that is the way they got to Willets and then got away. They must have the District Attorney in their pocket. Like the judge. Lenny felt cold of a sudden. Could that be his fate? Arrested, put in jail and then who would care what happened to him there? Who would defend him? His biggest defender had always been Willets and they had put him in jail and now he was dead. Brutally murdered. And the other one he had always depended on for defense, his lawyer, was folding up his practice and getting out while the getting was good. The legal mavens downtown made it clear to him that if he didn’t want the Bar coming after his license to practice, he needed to wind up his practice or get invisible and do it quick, turn off the lights so there would be no focus on him.
Lenny had felt utterly alone. He had walked out of her office with his head down. She never said a word. He had heard the door close behind him.
So here he was in front his other child, his son, his boy, Regan. Maybe they could make a deal. If he could get Regan to align with him or at least resist his sister enough she would give ground, then maybe he would have a chance.
‘Son,” he said. “I need a little help.”
“What’s wrong, Dad?”
“Well, you know it’s your sister. She is being very mean to me. After all I’ve done for you kids. You know you guys have been my life.”
“Did you talk to her? What did she say?”
“That’s right. It’s all just talk right now. Listen; if you would just align your shares with mine, or at least say you would, she would have to listen to reason. Right now, she seems intent on taking everything I have. I can’t believe it. I’m not sure I can survive. She even wants to sell the house. I’ll have to move to the beach house until I can find something closer in. It’s not right. You now that, Regan. It’s not right. I need you to join with me and get her to listen to reason. You could always make her listen. I’m depending on you, Son.”
Regan sat and tapped his fingers on the desktop. He wasn’t looking at Lenny. He was watching his fingers. His chin was tucked in under his collar.
“You realize what I’m saying, you understand what I’m asking?” Lenny said.
Lenny felt his old impatience, his old anger rising. But what of it? He could do nothing with it. Where was he going to direct it? He needed to be calm. Let his son see the logic.
“Well, I’m worried a little for you, Pop?”
Lenny was pleased. Maybe his boy was more sensitive than he had thought. He had feelings for the old man.
“Listen. I will be okay. Just help me with this and I can get in the clear and you guys will be set up good, real good.”
“No, that’s not what I’m talking about. The beach house is already sold, Dad. Nadine did that last week. She said, they had to recover some improper costs charges or something. Anyway, it’s gone, and you’ll have to find someplace to stay. Can’t have you camping out on the beach, I suppose.”
Lenny was stunned. He tried to speak, couldn’t. The words stuck.
“Listen up, Dad. I know of a little apartment. It is just off the highway. Other side of the city, but there’s public transportation, restaurants, and everything. Tell you what; I’ll float the first and last month’s rent. Cleaning deposit too. You can pay me back when you sell your stock. I’m pretty sure you will have plenty left over.”
‘Sell my stock? I’m not selling my stock. Why, if we put our stock together, me and you, we could take back the company. Make you president. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Oh, I can’t do that. Nadine and I have a deal. She did me good. Why don’t you just go along with this. I’m sure when it’s all over, you will be fine. Right now, Nadine just needs to take care of business. Go get your things, what you can take, drive over to the new place. It will suit you. I’ll have my secretary give you the address.” Lenny stared at Regan. He turned and walked out the door without saying anything. Neither did Regan try to stop him.
Lenny left the building. He didn’t remember the walk or how he got to his car. He just found himself sitting behind the wheel. He didn’t go to the address Regan’s secretary had already written down for him before he arrived and pressed in his hand as he left. He drove straight to the beach house. It had a sign on it. Sold. And people were moving in. Nothing of his he could see. He got out of the car. He closed the door gently, quietly, he didn’t want to disturb anyone or have anyone hear. He left the car and wandered down to the beach. The ocean was wild today. He liked it that way.
When he got to the water’s edge, his eyes were on his feet, not on the horizon. He watched as the waves lapped up near the toes of his shoes. The breeze coming off the ocean was dying down. It was warm. And he was too warm. It wasn’t hot, but the feeling he had was stifling. He sat down in the sand. He thought of his suit pants and how they would be ruined, but he didn’t care. He reached down and pulled off his shoes, then his socks. He dropped them and left them to lie where they landed. The waves would soon reach them and wash them away from the shore. He didn’t care. He just didn’t care anymore.
He stood. The wet sand felt good on his feet. He reached up, undid his tie, pulled it off and let it drop where his shoes were. Then he unbuttoned his shirt. He had ceased to think about what he was doing and what anyone who may be looking this way would think. He just wanted the clothing off. It was too hot. He wanted to feel the breeze. The undershirt came off next and he liked the feel of the ocean air on his upper body.
Why not? He unbuckled his belt and in one fell swoop pull down and off his pants and underwear. He didn’t bother folding the pants as had been ever his habit. He threw them carelessly near his shoes. He stood naked, the water now lapping over his feet.
At no time, as he undressed, did he look up at the horizon. The water was icy cold in contrast to the breeze. He stepped out into the waves, up to his calves, then his thighs then he was in waist high and he stopped, the moving waves, made him weave back and forth. He first thought his face was wet from the water, but that wasn’t true. He was weeping. His nose was running. He let it. He felt embarrassed not just about crying like a child, but about everything that had happened. All he had lost. All those he had hurt. He just felt ineffably sad. The saddest he had ever felt in his life.
He regretted things. But there were so many regrets he couldn’t begin to focus on one or two or three. It was more of an inchoate feeling of regret for all the bad things he had said over his life, the small brutalities, the cruelty in how he treated people, even his wife, especially his children.
Yes, the children thing was the worse. He felt full of regret and sadness. He wept. He cried out loud, for himself first, but he could also see in his mind’s eye, how he must have appeared to his kids. How they must have reacted as innocents, hurt, feeling rejected, that they had done some wrong to cause his wrath and then gradually built up a wall, a defense, then a cruelty in reverse, except for Dylan. Hurt as much as the others, but too much of his mother’s kindness in him. He could never go the way of his brother and sister, down the path into anger and bitterness so he forged his own way, devoid of conflict, of regret, of ambition. He avoided it all.
And now where was Dylan? Must be on the way back home, Lenny thought. There had been some moves. Regan had implied that much. And Marcy was with her father. And Dylan? Well, he lost out. That’s all Regan would say.
Lenny stretched his arms out and floated. The waves were drawing him ocean ward. How long would he float? How far? Maybe forever. Just float until he sank down. To nothingness. Let it be over. The end of it. Let the sea take him. Thankless children bring parents to this. To nothingness.
At the thought of Nadine and Regan, he felt the old anger return. Not at them so much as at losing. Well, it would do no good. No one he could hit out at. So, he floated. didn’t want to feel anything anymore. Didn’t want to think about anyone any more. But he did. The anger was still there. It replaced the sadness. Fuck this. He flipped over and started swimming for shore. Okay. It came to this. He could live a simple life. But live. Let Nadine and Regan have it all. He would find Dylan. They would live together. Edna would have liked that. They could keep each other safe and cheery. Dylan can do his teaching. Lenny would fish. He would be okay. Let the sharks have the world. He would not let them have his body or his mind.
The only item left on shore when he got there was his pants. The rest, he supposed, had washed away. He put the pants on. They were soaked. At least the keys to the car were still in them. He walked over the sand and up to his car. He sat in the seat in his wet pants and started the car. The gas gage read low. Less than an eighth of a tank. He would need gas. He felt for his wallet. Gone. Not there. He had no money. He was damn near naked.
For more writings by Phil Cline or to read earlier chapters, visit philcline.com