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Authors: Ralph Zeta

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( 2011) Cry For Justice

BOOK: ( 2011) Cry For Justice
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CRY FOR JUSTICE
Ralph Zeta

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Zeta

Smashwords Edition

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Publisher Note

This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Dedication

For Alex and Carly,
always

 

 

If an injury must be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

Niccoló Machiavelli

 

 

Introduction

His mirthless grin revealed a row of yellowish teeth. “I’m under court order to stay away from Baumann. I get anywhere near him, I’m back in the slammer. It’s taken me a long time to get back on my feet. I don’t intend to mess that up, you get me?”

“I can appreciate that, Mr. Gage,” I replied. “Maybe you can point me to someone who might help me find him.”

“What’s your interest?”

“He did something similar to my client’s mother.”

He shook his head and then asked, “How much did he take her for?”

“Everything.”

“She rich?”

“She was.”

He looked surprised. “How much we talking about?”

“Let’s just say it’s in the tens of millions.”

“So good ol’ Stefan struck it big in Palm Beach, did he?” He shook his head and smiled, mostly to himself. He didn’t seem too surprised. “That son of a bitch.”

“Help me find him. Put an end to this predation.”

His smile vanished, and he looked to his left. The two clients were examining some sort of auto part in a large white box. Mike the parts guy was laying a sales pitch on them in a drab monotone.

Gage returned his attention to me and simply said, “I can’t help you.”

 

 

One

In divorce settlements, unlike most of life’s other substantive dealings, the first offer is often the best offer. Peter Lord’s lawyers would have served him well to remind him of this.

Flannigan, Rubinstein, and Fountain, Peter Lord’s law firm, was headquartered in one of those gray stone high-rises on the eastern side of the narrow sand-spit barrier island known as Palm Beach. It’s one of those stately buildings that tourists feel compelled to photograph, though they wouldn’t want to wait out a hurricane there. Arriving fifteen minutes early for the meeting, I entered the heavily air-conditioned marbled lobby and was promptly rushed by Pamela Lord. She kissed the air around my cheeks twice and expressed her delight at seeing me. She seemed more anxious than I had ever seen her.

Even now, in her mid-forties, Pamela tended to get noticed by any straight male in the same room. Like most top models, she was tall, maybe five ten, but with a fuller topography of lovely curves and entrancing valleys. She had a pile of soft black curls, big, expressive blue eyes at least two shades lighter than mine, and a slender face and a defiant jawline worthy of an angel. She was dressed in a navy blue two-piece outfit, probably Chanel, that fit her like skin, a single strand of pearls, black heels, and matching purse. In that outfit, she looked worth every dollar I planned to extract from her soon-to-be ex-husband.

Pamela and I conferred for a moment in a quiet corner of the spacious lobby. I had asked her to meet me here before proceeding upstairs, so I could prepare her for what was to come. I fished a file from my leather briefcase, opened it, and gave her a few moments to examine its contents.

She uttered a soft gasp, brought a perfectly manicured hand to her lips, and gave me a glare of horrified indignation. “Oh... my...
God
!” she whispered, closing the file and thrusting it back at me while glancing about as if to make sure no one else had seen its contents.

I said nothing. The file contained no more and no less than what I deemed necessary to prevail today. Some may consider my approach a bit heavy handed, shameless, even unfair. So be it. Clients don’t retain my services because they can count on me to play nice. They pay me for results. Peter Lord was playing hardball. His lawyers had done their homework or rather, their investigators had. And I had done mine.

As soon as Peter Lord learned that Pamela was planning to file for divorce he had set the juggernaut of Flannigan, Rubinstein, and Fountain in motion. Before that, he could not have cared less that his wife sought comfort in the arms of other men while he spent most of his time in New York, London, and Milan.

In order to marry then supermodel Pamela Knight, Peter Lord had agreed to a prenuptial agreement with a generous settlement allowance should the inevitable occur and they divorce. And like most properly structured prenups, the agreement was signed well before the betrothal was announced or the wedding planned, and it included every imaginable clause including, of course, a fidelity clause, which was, unsurprisingly, at the very root of the now raging War of the Lords. This potent little clause stated that in the event of infidelity by Mrs. Lord, the substantial divorce settlement specified in the agreement would be rescinded, and she would have to settle for a much-reduced sum and perhaps even lose custody of their children.

Within the innocuous-looking folder in my hands was a game changer. It took away our opponents’ advantage. It trumped their claims and leveled the playing field and, most importantly, presented them with a stark choice: play along or face an ugly divorce proceeding with all the media scrutiny it was sure to attract.

As a rule, high-profile divorces are anything but simple, especially in these lofty circles. Seldom is it a case of just one lonely spouse seeking carnal pleasures outside the bounds of marriage. No one is above reproach. Everyone lies. We all have our secrets. As far as I knew my client never claimed to be the perfect wife, and as I was about to demonstrate, Mr. Lord was not only a self-righteous hypocrite but also a far cry from the perfect husband he styled himself to be.

“Are you
sure
?” she whispered in a tone that hoped I wasn’t.

“I am. We have sworn affidavits from three eyewitnesses, all of them, by the way, more than willing to testify in open court, and we can get more if we need to. So, yes, I am more than certain.”

“I don’t want to hurt him, Jason.”

“I understand,” I said as I replaced the folder in my briefcase. “It doesn’t have to get ugly. But that’ll be up to him. Are we ready?”

We rode up to the top floor, where the elegant elevator doors opened onto an expansive reception area. Long black leather couches flanked the round cherrywood reception station. The lobby spoke of success, of serious business, of a law firm that had earned its lofty place in paradise. Three receptionists, all similarly dressed in black, sat behind the large desk. I wondered if their attire was meant as an omen. The youngest of the women stood up as soon as we entered. She had a delicate, tanned face, trim build, perfect strawberry-blond hair, and an upper-class British accent to match. I watched her practiced smile, the way she held my gaze an extra beat, and found myself wondering what she would do next. Clearly accustomed to being watched, she glided around the curved desk, announced that we were expected, and guided us to the main conference room.

The three named partners, already seated, grew quiet when we entered. The solemn-faced men were flanked by two middle-aged women, obviously assistants and, like the reception staff, dressed in black. I was well acquainted with founding partner Vance Flannigan, the skipper. He had been a good friend of my father. Anyone who mattered in this town was on a first-name basis with this man. The men in this room were all heavyweights, each an extremely capable lawyer. Butting heads against all three at once was like facing a Panzer tank division with a slingshot. Since my return to West Palm, these men had instilled in me a sense of trepidation. Perhaps it was because of their hundred-plus lawyers, well over two hundred assistants and interns, and political connections right on up to the governor’s mansion.

My name is Jason James Justice. I grew up on this island of privilege. I left its gilded shores one day in July long ago to attend college by the Hudson River. After graduating from West Point Military Academy and serving my commission in the U.S. Army, I followed in my father’s footsteps and attended law school. The events of Nine-eleven changed everything. I rejoined the service and was serving my second tour in Afghanistan when injuries suffered there brought me back stateside. After the service, I went back to New York and worked in a large Wall Street law firm, and now I run a one-man show in West Palm Beach. I’ve built something of a reputation in this town by arguing and prevailing in several high-profile cases involving what some had thought were unassailable prenuptial agreements. Some see it as my life’s mission to change one of life’s most famous truisms: that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. I respectfully add a third: divorce. Still, this is a just a job. It’s what I do, not who I am.

The three impeccably dressed and coiffed partners sat together on one side of the long conference table. The two middle-aged women came to attention as we entered. They had the same sour, alert demeanor you might see on an aging prize fighter. Efficient in-house notaries, eager to record our conceding signatures.

With the grace of a ballerina the receptionist turned and gave me a subtly inviting smile. She was indeed a sight: tall and everywhere firm, with big green eyes that gleamed with sinful awareness. All in all, a fearsome weapon. She brought me back from my reverie by asking if I would like a cold beverage or perhaps coffee. My mind had automatically wandered to a faraway place with tropical breezes, where that black dress lay rumpled on the floor next to a bed where we both lay naked, sweaty, exhausted. Pamela and I politely declined her offer. She smiled at me and left, closing the door quietly behind her.

“Jason. Mrs. Lord. Good afternoon.” It was the booming voice of Vance Flannigan, the senior partner. “Have a seat,” he said, motioning toward a pair of black Aeron chairs directly across from where they were seated. Pamela remained quiet. I had instructed her not to say a word, not so much as “hello,” unless I asked her to. When deep inside the enemy’s lair, I do all the talking. I thanked him and we took a seat.

Vance was seated between his two partners a clear indication that he, the king himself, was in charge and would be doing Peter Lord’s bidding. That fact alone spoke volumes. As one of the founders and managing partner, Vance rarely became personally involved in negotiations, and almost never in a confrontation as emotionally charged as this one. And yet, here he was.

“Let’s get started, shall we?” Vance said cordially. He nodded to one of the two women, who adjusted her horn-rimmed glasses, plucked some files from the stack in front of her, and slid one in front of each of the three partners. Vance was the first to open the file.

Vance is an impressive-looking man. He had been an all-American tight end at Notre Dame, and three decades later, he still had the same broad chest and a strong, shrewd face that reminded me of a Viking warrior. He also had the look of someone who never passed on a chance to mix it up in life. Vance had represented my father several times. My father respected his skills and always considered him a straight shooter, and I have to agree. As far as I am concerned, Vance Flannigan is, without a doubt, the damned best lawyer I’ve ever known.

The other two partners, Samuel Rubinstein and Walter Fountain, quietly studied me, surveying me, then my client, with thinly cloaked disdain. In the center of the dark wide conference table separating us sat a large electronic device resembling a black, three-legged starfish, and beside this a tray of dainty pastries and fresh fruit. Vance invited us to share in the food. I passed. Pamela helped herself to one of the small bottles of overpriced Polynesian water. I poured myself a cup of coffee instead; reminding myself that with these guys I needed to be cautious, that everything had a price.

“Jason,” Vance said, “have you and Mrs. Lord had sufficient time to consider the settlement proposal submitted by this office in Mr. Lord’s behalf?”

BOOK: ( 2011) Cry For Justice
3.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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