The light turned green and the idiot in front of him managed to get rolling in time for everyone to get across. Martin hung on the guys bumper as he continued his train of thought.
“What’s wrong with University house?” Bill asked.
Martin was incredulous. Was Bill really that stupid?
“I have to buy her out if I want to live in it! Perhaps you would be so kind as to tell me where I am going to get the money to pay this… this, blackmail; or have you forgotten that you gave her everything that had any value or equity that I could have sold or cashed in?”
The problem with Martin was that too often his histrionics clouded his usual good judgment.
“C’mon Martin, this is me remember?” Bill chided him. “You’ve got the money and you know it. I have been handling your business affairs for years. I know more about what you have got than you do.”
“Well, unless you have been socking away a tidy little retirement for me that I don’t know about, I would just like to make it clear to you that I do not have the money, because you gave everything away with that damn divorce settlement. Jesus…” Martin yelled, ” what were you thinking about in there?”
Counselor Matthews leaned toward his client and spoke calmly as he took Martin by the arm.
“I suggest you lower your voice.” He whispered.
“Lower my voice?” Martin shrieked. “Lower my voice? Have you lost your fucking mind?”
Bill took a deep settling breath before responding.
“No.” He said flatly. “But let me remind you that we are still inside the county court house and those guys,” he motioned over his shoulder to several policemen standing in the corridor, “don’t look like they have a whole lot to do at this particular moment, which means, that if you don’t button that gaping hole under your nose or lower your voice to a reasonable level, they are going to arrest you on a small but extremely effective ordinance known as ‘Disturbing the Peace’. Trust me on this,” he smiled benignly, “you won’t like jail any more than you are enjoying your divorce proceedings, so I suggest that you relax a little until we get somewhere more private.”
Martin, suddenly aware of his surroundings, took a deep breath of his own, shoved his hands deep into his pockets and stalked out the side doors of the building straight across the parking lot and came to an abrupt stop at the passenger’s door of his attorney’s car. Bill was just two steps behind. He walked around to the driver’s side of his Citroen, unlocked the door, slid in and unlocked the other side for Martin. Once inside the snug confines of the Citroen, Martin continued his tirade.
“You gave them everything, Godammit! Everything!” He yelled as he waved his hands.
Bill composed himself before responding to his distraught client. He had seen it before. Hell, he had experienced it himself, not five years prior. He knew how it felt but he also knew that it was being blown out of proportion. Divorce does that. When it comes to ripping a life apart, especially one that includes property, suddenly everything is life and death. He had seen clients blow an entire settlement over insignificant household furnishings. One man had gone nonlinear over a blender. A blender for Christ’s sake! The guy got so worked up over it that he took a chain saw to the rest of the house. He was, at this precise moment, still in jail. Bill was going to have to cool his client down some. Inject some reality. Be the voice of reason in a desert of confusion. His client was going to lose some possessions. He had warned him of that. He was going to have to fork over some money on a monthly basis and he had warned him of that too. They all nod that they understand in the office but somehow, when the shit starts hitting the fan and that big imaginary white line gets drawn through the middle of their lives, inanimate objects like blenders take on a whole new significance.
“Martin,” he began calmly, slowly and deliberately, “I gave Elizabeth and her attorney exactly what we agreed I would give them in order to save your most valuable asset. You still have the majority of your life… intact.” He emphasized.
“You want me to tell you what I have left? Would you like me to tell you what is ‘intact’?” Martin mimicked. “My underwear, tee-shirts, miscellaneous and unmatched socks, three pairs of wingtips and about twelve double breasted suits. And do you know why I have this ‘intact’ piece of my life, still in my closets? Because Elizabeth wears panties, heels, nylons and dresses and she despises my suits! Where in the hell did you get your degree? At ‘Roll Over and Play Dead Institute’?”
Bill Matthews, Attorney at Law, had tried to be understanding. He had tried to keep in mind how emotionally devastating divorce could be. He had tried to be patient, to weather the storm that he knew would come and he had tried to reason with his client. He didn’t think that Martin had a blender or a chain saw, at least it wasn’t on the list they had gone over with Elizabeth and her lawyer but it was definitely time to put the brakes on. Bill reached up and adjusted his tie, straightened his blazer and then took Martin by the lapels on his jacket and pulled his face to his.
“I never heard of ‘Roll over and Play Dead Institute’,” he spat through clenched teeth. “I got my degree at Santa Clara University. But since you seem to think that I sold you out, let me tell you exactly what you have left! You have a multi million-dollar business left, my friend. Untouched, unscathed, pristine and one hundred percent ‘intact.’ That’s what you have left. That’s what you wanted. That’s what you stressed, begged and pleaded for me to save at all costs and that’s what I did!” With each stressed word, he shook Martin as he gripped harder.
Martin’s eyes were wide. He had over stepped himself and he knew it. Of the things that he liked about his attorney, one was the fact that he played a vicious racquet-ball game, another was that he was a black belt in karate and lastly, his lawyer was a consummate professional and a twenty-year friend.
Martin held up both hands in mock surrender.
“Okay, alright.” He admitted.
Bill re-adjusted his tie, re-straightened his jacket and his voice regained it’s good-natured calm.
“I’m sorry Martin. You had that coming. Look, I know that you are losing a big chunk of your personal life and I know that can be painful, believe me.” He stressed.
“I know, I know… Ruthie.” Martin sighed
“Ruthie.” Bill repeated as he turned and stared out the window. It had been five long years since he had seen his ex-wife and his little girl, the light of his life, his precious little Ruthie. It wasn’t fair but then who said life was fair?
“The point is,” Bill continued, turning back to his client, “that you still have one hundred percent of Crystal Springs Incorporated that, at last count, was worth how much? Fifteen million? Let’s skip the boring details and just hit the highlights, okay?”
“Bill, really,” Martin fidgeted nervously in his seat.
“No,” came the response, “I want you to hear this. You need to get some perspective as to what is happening here. NORCAL Water offered you thirty million; fifteen for the physical property and another fifteen for the routes and goodwill, plus stock options over the next five years…”
“You’re right Bill. You’re right.”
“You bet I’m right! I can quote you chapter and verse if you want and do you know why? Because I have spent the better part of the last fourteen months putting this deal together for you, that’s why. Do you think, in your wildest hallucinations, that the cabin, the house in Saratoga, the alimony, your car and your other paltry household furnishings, right down to the coffee maker on
your side of your half of the kitchen in University House is worth thirty million plus stock options?”
Martin was feeling more than simply sheepish.
“I said it… you’re right. You’re absolutely right.”
“You got off light Martin. Beth’s Attorney didn’t do his homework or he would have hit us right between the eyes on your water business. After this is all over, you are still going to have the ability to make a damn comfortable life, which is more than most guys have left after divorce. And one last thing…”
“When the Lion Smiles” © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson
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