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Trust–Fragile, Handle With Care
Altowiese MacMurtry suspects her wife, Jerezina Pavelitch, of adultery. The accusation is false. Luigi Bascom, Esq., to the rescue? Luigi tells the story.
I walked out of Schilo’s sausage shop with my half-pound of Bauernwurst and my quarter-pounds of häringsalat and kartoffelsalat. That would be dinner, and there should still be a couple of cold ones in the fridge. I could use them.
My landlord, who was also my client, had ambushed me as I left my 300-square foot hole in his strip mall, the office he claimed I rented at “a real bargain rent, Lu, I promise you” (yeah, right). He told me that I was to be out in sixty days, out of the unrentable space where four successive small retailers had gone bust before I got there, and where no one ever could make a go of anything.
A big bank wanted the space for three ATMs, a stand-up desk (to be covered with wastepaper and pizza crusts from the next-door Papa John’s, whose daily aromas were as much a part of my life as my fading law practice), a wastebasket (overflowing and tipped over), with three ballpoint pens chained to the wall (all out of ink, of course). And I should review the tenant’s lawyer’s fifty-page rider to my ten-page draft lease at once, so he could sign tomorrow.
Said fifty pages had been prepared by a first-year associate at a white-shoe Park Avenue New York City law firm (he went to Yale, you know), who had to bill two thousand five hundred hours per year at triple my billing rate, and who suffered from diarrhea of the word processor and delusions of grandeur. His magnum opus would have been appropriate to a Michigan Avenue or Rodeo Drive 10,000-square foot branch, glitzed and blinged to the max.
Our little strip mall couldn’t bling if Jesus Himself walked in for a slice and a Coke at Papa John’s.
I’d review it, all right, if it took all night. I’d e-mail a 20-page memo to my dear client-landlord, who would promptly ignore 49-and-a-half pages of the lease and my entire memo, and look at one short lease paragraph: the rent schedule. He’d sign everything but the check for lunch without reading a word, and if anything ever went south in the next 15 years, he’d blame me.
But don’t get me wrong. I love my work.
Home is where the heart is, they say, and it might be, but it had better be where the beer is. As I turned into Palatine Street, I could almost taste it. The first sip is always the best.
Dumped food on kitchen table, turned on my man George Forman the Next Grilleration; I introduced George the Grill to the Bauernwurst, opened the salads and the refrigerator door. And cursed. And swore. And blasted out a stream of profanity, obscenity and blasphemy equal to my best from the day when I carried an M-60 and two boxes of 7.62 in one hand, in 110-degree heat, up the ladder to a guard tower, and dropped a motherfucking cocksucking sonofabitch bastard of an ammo box. And it just missed the First Sergeant. Oh, that was another great moment.
You guessed it. No beer. Diet fucking Coke. Fucking orange juice. Milk, for Chrissakes!
I ate dinner. I drank water. It really didn’t matter. Then my cellphone rang.
I didn’t have a landline, at home or office–too expensive, and I was never there when anybody called. Omne meum porte mecum and all that good shit, right? I answered; it was nearly my worst mistake that day.
“Lu Bascom,” I said.
“Fuck you, my client says fuck you, and fuck your mother if you can find which whorehouse she’s in.”
“Ah, dear Molly, your ineffable charm brightens my otherwise drab evening.”
“Look, shithead, I don’t need your high-priced law school bullshit. You got no adjournment tomorrow. My client says no, so tell it to Bernie Bastard at nine a.m.”
“Darling, what happened to the Chief Justice’s new Civility Rules, and I quote ‘Lawyers should be courteous and civil in all professional dealings with other persons’?”
“Let The Chief MILF ask me for an adjournment and I might be civil in denying consent. For shit like you and your client, the answer is no repeat fuck you.”
“Molly, do you really think my client tore a hole in the side of a Boeing 737 and grounded 300 Southwest flights, stranding him in Lubbock Texas for three days, just to get out of appearing tomorrow?”
“I don’t give a shit what your client, that pig, tore. I know I’m going to love watching Bernie Bastard tear you a bloody new asshole tomorrow morning.” She hung up.
Molly Cohen is a delight; you can tell that just from her telephone manner. She looks like a beer keg with boobs, the kind of fat, floppy boobs with a sag that started when she was aged eleven and defeated Victoria and all her secrets ever since. She is ugly, abrasive, obnoxious, obscene and brilliant. She has booted my ass several times, most of which times she actually deserved to win (although my clients will never believe it).
His Honor the Honorable Bernardo Barcelona, known to those condemned to appear before him as Bernie Bastard, loves rus escort to eat lawyers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even during Lent, which he otherwise rigorously observes. He is also ugly, abrasive, obnoxious and brilliant; he cannot, for religious and political reasons, be obscene, although I’m sure such abstinence galls him. He has the lowest reversal rate of any judge in our part of the State; the Supremes, especially Her Honor Chief Justice Ludmilla Hedwig Kovacs (she of the Civility Rules, also known as The Chief MILF), think the sun shines out his ass. Tomorrow morning will be a real treat, ya sure, ya betcha (can’t get that beer out of my mind).
I washed dishes and George, sat down with rider and laptop. Three hours later, my memo was done and e-mailed.
It was really easy; “The lease provides that Tenant (hereinafter referred to as “Master”) may forcibly sodomize Landlord (hereinafter sometimes alternately referred to as “My bitch” or “My slut”, at Master’s whim) whenever, from time to time and at any time, by what means soever, whether physiologically or by use or employment of any instrumentality or device, as brutally, and with as little, or no, lubricant, as Master, in Master’s sole, complete, absolute, unrestrained and unfettered discretion, may choose.”
I noted my time on my billing software, although I knew the client wouldn’t pay. That was fine by me, as I wouldn’t be paying him any more rent, and we both knew it.
Do I move my office back here, as I’d done when Rosabella died? Or do I find another hole? Or do I not give a damn, as I’d done when Rosabella died? Or do I go out and see if I can buy enough whiskey to stop the pain, as I’d tried to do ever since Rosabella died, except there wasn’t enough whiskey then and there never would be.
My cellphone rang again. It wouldn’t be Molly; she’d be in bed with a porn flick on her Blu-Ray and a vibrator up her ass–at least I hoped so. And, if God listened to a lawyer’s prayer, the battery would die at the perfect moment. Hell, that would be better than how I’d spend the rest of my night. Maybe the fucking vibrator would short-circuit and fry her ass. Well shit, a man can dream, can’t he?
“Lu, it’s Jere Pavelitch. I’m outside. I’ve got to see you right now.”
“Okay, Jere, I’m coming to the door.”
Her hair was disheveled, her face was red as if someone had slapped her. She had obviously been crying, and the self-contained, assured athletic trainer was a wreck.
“Come in, sit down. What happened?”
“She hit me and threw me out. She said I was cheating. She called me a whore’s bitch….”
“Huh? Ali did what?”
“What I just said,” and she started sobbing.
“If it wasn’t you saying it, I wouldn’t believe it.”
I was stunned. I knew Altowiese MacMurtry and her wife, Jerezina Pavelitch. We went to the same Church, Beloved Disciple Episcopal. I’d seen them almost every Sunday for years. I knew few straight couples as committed as they.
I also knew that I never knew. The second thing forty four years of practicing law taught me is that you never know. The first, of course, is to make sure you get paid.
“Jere, I can get involved if you want, and I can talk to Ali. Or I can get you an order of protection if Ali hit you. What do you want?”
“No orders! They’ll arrest her! I love her! She’s my life! No orders, no courts! No goddam cops or lawyers or law! I just want her back!” Hysteria wasn’t that far away.
I also knew it was better not to ask if the accusation was true. Ask ’em how they want to plead, and tell them to be prepared to make a deal with the DA. If they really mean it, you’ll find out then.
“What do I tell Ali?”
“It’s a fucking lie! From the day I met her I never looked at anybody else. She’s my life!” I poured her a triple from the bottom of my last bottle of Jameson’s 12.
“Stay here,” I said, and went off to violate every rule in the book. Here’s an adversarial situation. I’m going to talk to an unrepresented person. There might be criminal penalties involved (and our State takes domestic violence seriously; let me tell you, I’ve been down to the jail enough midnights to interview a client who was looking at hard time). And Heaven help the clown who blunders in, pure of heart but dumb of brain.
Well, what the fuck, it’s only my license and my livelihood–and as First Sergeant Yount used to say, “Who the fuck wants to live forever?!”
I walked to Menno Street and knocked on the door. Altowiese’s face would have been white if she was. Her face was contorted, still stunned.
“Ali, what happened? Jere came to my place and she was hysterical–“
“That fucking whore! She should be hysterical, what the Hell have I been, I gave her everything, supported her, married her, gave up my Church and my family for her, and that worthless cunt goes and fucks around behind my back, I should have blown her miserable ass the fuck away–“
“How do sincan escort you know?” I asked.
“Here, read it,” and she threw the letter at me.
These thoughts raced through my mind in the minute or two it took me to read the bullshit.
A Nony Mouse, also known as Honest Iago. All it needed was Shakespeare’s words. And Verdi’s music.
And the handkerchief? The handkerchief, Desdemona’s handkerchief, what Iago gave Othello, driving him crazy enough with jealousy to murder his innocent wife.
A Nony Mouse’s handkerchief was that Jere was working as personal trainer with Chrissaundra Carothers. And everyone knew about Chrissaundra Carothers, didn’t they?
Everyone knew that there were rumors that Chrissaundra Carothers was a lesbian. Everyone also knew that (a) she had never come out, (b) that it was no one’s damn business anyway, except for the people, if any, with whom she had sex, and (c) that as Speaker of our fair town’s Select Board and a big political noise in our little burg, she had beaucoup enemies and (d) there were a lot of aspiring politicos, and others, who’d love to see her go down big time.
I knew that Chrissaundra Carothers was a loyal, lifetime member of Home in the Rock Baptist Church. I also knew that one of her biggest political supporters, the man who had discovered her talents for consensus building and thief-catching; the man who propelled her from the Girls’ Choir at Home in the Rock; from the public housing project down in the depths of The Flats, to graduating high school unpregnant and to Princeton on a full scholarship, and to the Speaker’s Chair in the Selects’ Chamber, was the Reverend Jedidiah MacMurtry, long-time pastor of Home in the Rock Baptist Church, the cornerstone church of the district she represented. And that the aforesaid Rev. Jedidiah MacMurtry was the formerly loving father of Altowiese MacMurtry, but had denounced his daughter as a sodomite and whore of Babylon when she married Jere Pavelitch.
Somebody wanted to hurt either Ali or Jere or both of them. Someone wanted to start a bitch-fight between Ali and Jere, to get Ali to divorce her wife.
Ali’s jealousy was her weak point. But who would know how jealous she could be? And who would have seen Chrissaundra Carothers working out in the posh gym with Jere? I wasn’t that close to Ali. I mean I knew them from Church, represented both of them when they bought their house, and did some minor tax and estate planning for them, but I wasn’t great friends with them. Until tonight, Jere had only been in my house once with Ali, at a political fundraiser–which I threw (under extreme compulsion) to benefit Chrissaundra Carothers, even though she didn’t represent Germantown, where they and I live.
“Did Jere tell you she was Chrissaundra’s personal trainer?”
“Are you drunk?! Why would she tell me she was gonna go cheat me with that bitch? I found out from Kay Battersby, she also trains with that cheating cunt….”Ali started crying. I hugged her for a moment.
Kay Battersby? Oh yeah, social-climbing, name-dropping Kay Battersby. She worked with Ali at Community Bank, survived the mergers and downsizings. She buzzed around the rich and famous of our fair town like a midnight mosquito, the kind it wasn’t worth getting out of bed to swat.
But what else was there about Kay Battersby? I had no time to think; the situation could get out of control right now. I decided to go “all-in” with no cards. Why? Because Jere and Ali were the daughters Rosabella and I never had. I didn’t know them, but I love them.
I made up a story that got me a really good beating.
“Ali,” I said, “this, my dear friend, is a fucking set-up.”
“What do you mean?!” She came toward me with her fists clenched.
“I mean, Altowiese MacMurtry, you have been set up,” and I explained why.
I told Ali that if she could be incited to beat up Jere (or vice versa), so there were restraining orders and court battles and a nasty gay divorce, and newspaper and TV coverage featuring Her Speakership the Lesbian Home Wrecker, there could be a lovely scandal, incidentally depriving the Rev. Jedidiah and his numerous congregation (and they all vote as he tells them) of their political ace, and incidentally smearing the aforesaid Rev. with his daughter’s libidinous behavior. It could materially adversely affect Her Speakership’s chances for re-election, to say nothing of Home in the Rock’s role in our fair town’s political galaxy….
I made it nice, very nice. I cooked up, without the slightest basis in fact, a dish best savored cold, but with plenty of hot sauce, and a nice cold draft or two of Shiner Bock, or Brooklyn India Pale Ale, or Redhook Ballard (“ya sure, ya betcha”), or maybe even Moretti, especially Moretti….
“Who was the motherfucking sonofabitch who did this?”
“I can’t be certain, and I might be slandering an honest and upright merchant, and moreover a compatriot of mine and fellow-member of sıhhiye escort the Sons of Italy, but it might just be Vincero Reitano.”
“Who the fuck is he?”
“He, Ms. MacMurtry, is the managing member of Avelline Hills Construction Co., LLC. Avelline Hills Construction Co., LLC, happens to own that certain piece, plot or parcel of land, lying, being and situate in our fair town, our fair county and our beloved sovereign State, known as Section 24, District 13, Blocks 118 to 122, both inclusive.”
“Now would you talk English, or do I really have to hit you?”
“Remember when Wal-Mart wanted to come in here and wipe out every local merchant, a couple of years back? Remember where they wanted to put the big-box mall?”
“You mean where you just said all that legal bullshit?”
“You get an ‘A” in the course, lieutenant!”
“And Chrissaundra Carothers dumped it, and this is revenge?”
“Revenge, and clearing the path for their next try. No Chrissaundra means no meaningful opposition for the next time.”
“Those motherfucking pieces of shit, those Wop bastards!”
“Take it easy, lambchop, them’s my peeps! And we ain’t all like that! And you all are the last damn people to talk like that!”
“Damn, Luigi, I’m sorry, it was the rage talking, and the pain. I want my Mommy and Daddy back! And I want my wife back!”
“I’ll get her here in a minute. Your Mommy and Daddy I can’t help you with.”
I brought Jere over. I turned at the threshold of their front door, and left them alone. I think I heard two little girls crying, but I didn’t want to hear any more.
I went over to O’Refferty’s. I could now have my beer. I needed it, because tomorrow was going to be Hell Day.
“Hey Maeve, how ya doin’,” I greeted the owner. It was only a few minutes till closing, and I saw the Police Sector Sergeant’s car outside.
“Let me have two draft Guinesses,” I said, sliding a ten across the bar.
“That’s it, Lu,” she said, “I’m closing.” But, sweet angel that she is, she carefully built me two of the best. That first sip was almost as good as the Guinness at the Galway Hooker pub in Heuston Station, one block from the St James Brewery, in Dublin.
“What, is Police Sector Sergeant Dolan going to arrest you? Put the cuffs on you?”
“That comes later.” Maeve O’Refferty in private life is Mrs. Police Sector Sergeant Dolan. She smiled.
“I’ll bet it does. Some guys have all the luck.”
“He’s a good man.”
“No doubt. One of the very best. Here’s to you and him and Meg.” Meg’s their daughter, the freshman.
Sector Sergeant Dolan walked in. “Closing time.”
“Just now shutting the bar, honey.”
“Good, or I might have to arrest you.”
“You did that twenty three years ago, remember, at the altar at Our Lady of Good Counsel.”
“I know I had something important to do that day–“
A wet dish towel arrived at his face. “Get your car back to the station, sign out and get back here! ‘Something important’, is it? I’ll give you something important!”
“I can’t wait. Your ‘something important’ is really something important.”
I finished my second Guinness and wished them good night. It looked like it would be–for them.
The dark night of the soul, said St John of the Cross. Three o’clock in the morning, said F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Bloody motherfucking Hell!” I shouted as I jumped out of bed, catching my foot in the sheet and blanket and barely avoiding falling on my face.
Kay Battersby belonged to The Garden Club. She got her membership by her unending attendance on Mrs. Catriona Martin, proud possessor of the bluest O-positive in our fair town and President of that esteemed institution. And who else belonged to The Garden Club? Its first African-American member, Mrs. Althea Beauregard MacMurtry, alleged descendant of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, one-time Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, later commandant of the forces that captured Fort Sumter in 1861, who it is alleged raped Mrs. MacMurtry’s great-great-grandmother, causing the birth of Mrs. MacMurtry’s great-grandfather. A picture of the General and Mrs. MacMurtry’s great-grandfather Gustave adorned the walls of Mrs. MacMurtry’s parlor in the 14-room manse next Home in the Rock Baptist Church. Incidentally, Mrs. MacMurtry was wife to Rev. Jedidiah MacMurtry, and mother to Ms. Altowiese MacMurtry.
Kay Battersby has a motor mouth. She would have gushed about having the same personal trainer as Chrissaundra Carothers in the presence of as many members of The Garden Club as couldn’t escape.
Could the villain be Ali’s Mom? Did she want her daughter back that badly? Did she think slandering Jere would get Ali back? Why not?
Not only did I have to face Bernie Bastard and Molly Cohen today, I had to get proof that it was Mrs. MacMurtry who tried to set up Ali, or anyone beside Don Vincero Reitano. Today, or tomorrow at the latest, the news was going to break that would prove conclusively that Don Vincero had no reason to attack Chrissaundra Carothers. Film at eleven would show the two of them doing everything but holding hands and singing “Kumbayah”. Incidentally, for those among you who have read too much Mario Puzo, “Don” in this case is a mark of respect, not criminality.
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