I'm Taking This Time To Recognize ...
God, whose son is my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. His life is the perfect story.
My wife and friend, Melissa. You've had to pray and wait while I struggled in spiritual and artistic endeavors. I truly love you.
To my son, Quincy. Never allow anyone or anything hold back your success.
My brothers, Daniel and Joseph, and my sister, Lily. My mother-in-law, Nell, my sisters-in-law, Sundae and Sandy. My nieces and nephews: Tamiko, Akima, Adrian, Janell, Jeremy, Dominique, Christian, and Marcello. Joe's friend, Sabrina. I love each of you.
A very special dedication to both of my parents and father-in-law, all who have gone on to be with the Lord, Fletcher and Arlivia Pollard, and Gene Huntspon.
My agent, Kim Matthews. Thanks for keepin' it real. Your techniques must work, because I'm published!
My editor, Joylynn Jossel. I'm already looking forward to the next novel under your direction.
My mentor, Jacquelin Thomas. Your prayers and push have added the title “Author” to my resume.
The New Vision Writer's group. Remember to plan your work, work your plan.
Four women who are my âsisters,' friends, and readers: Linda, Tara, Terrance, and Toya. Thanks for your encouragement and assistance in helping me understand the meaning of a good story.
My pastor, Daniel Sanders, and Springfield Baptist Church in Raleigh. I know that nothing in life works without true spiritual guidance.
To anyone who knows they're important to me, but I left you out: I love you. Charge it to my head and not to my heart! TP
Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.
Leviticus 19:11 KJV
ave you ever been convicted of a crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, other than speeding tickets or minor traffic violations?
Job read. He sighed, realizing that his soul had brought the truth of the question to light.
Desperation overwhelmed better judgment. He clicked his mechanical pencil a couple times and then checked the box labeled âNo.' He blinked, hoping to clear the guilt from his mind and the fatigue from his eyes.
“Joseph Bertram Wright, lunch is almost ready, so you need to start making your way downstairs now! If you don't, everything's going in the fridgeâafter I fix my plate,” Monica shouted from the kitchen.
“Be down in a minute, honey,” Job sounded back.
Monica was the only person who would call him by his full name. His wife would spill out his first, middle, and last names when she was in certain moods. It wasn't a good thing.
To Job, a shortened name was much easier to say, more succinct. He didn't want to be called Joe. That sounded thuggish, and he wasn't the type. Bertram had old English flair, and he was far removed from any semblance of British aristocracy. Monica had told him on more occasions than he could count that a Biblical character named Job was described as a good man with enough earthly possessions to take care of his family. He believed that Job was the appellation that best fit his persona.
“How long do you think you'll be?” Monica asked her husband.
Job didn't answer back. Reason one was that she had startled him. Reason two: well, he just knew there had to be another reason.
He wasn't intentionally delaying his trek to dinner. An aromatic combination of Chipotle, fresh salsa, ground chuck, paprika, and Monterey Jack teased his nostrils. He recognized Tex-Mex, his favorite cuisine: that flavorful combo whose name was derived from the second largest state in the union and the country just south of its border.
But at that moment, Job didn't need to divert his attention from the task at hand. Monica's impatience and lunch would just have to wait.
Time worked against him with every pass of the second hand. He glimpsed at the wall calendar, compliments of Kenyon's Auto Body Shop. May 17, 2000. Paradise Public Schools of suburban Phoenix had supplied the employment documents over three weeks ago. Job needed to have them postmarked for that day, because the cover letter stated there would be no exceptions. He shook his head and breathed, feeling that he was always being overwhelmed with dates. He had put off completing the forms until there was no more time to waste. He had taken pains to have, if he were ever asked, an excellent explanation for such procrastination: recent life-altering episodes.
They spawned from his dissolved realty partnership, Wright & Storm of Louisville. The firm was born in 1995 as a result of Job's lifelong dream of bearing his personal imprint on the heading of a corporate paycheck. The business struggled along until 1998, when they had more than twenty-five million dollars in residential and commercial sales. In that same year, he and his partner graced the covers of the
National Association of Realtors
magazines. He accepted invitations from all over the country for speaking engagements, radio and television appearances, establishing himself as a renowned personality in the financial world.
He'd done pretty well, he thought, for a poor kid from Country Music Town, USA. He purchased 4213 Lakespur Drive, more than 4,900 opulent square feet on the city's northwest side, as his personal residence. Against his tax consultant's advice, he made a sixty percent down payment on the million dollar property and financed the remainder. He purchased cars with cash. Every fiscal quarter for a year and a half, he spent his income amassing more than a reasonable portion of assets, believing that the “money well” ran deep and had no bottom.
Then, as his coming-into-the-new-millennium gift, or someone's idea of a bad joke, he became a tail on the spin. Life events unfurled in rapid speed. And all over, at least Job figured, some unnecessary mess.
On the morning of January 6, 2000, Job sat in his office sipping a frappuccino and sharing future ideas with Delvin Storm, his partner in the firm and a classmate from Syracuse University where they had both majored in business administration. Upon Job's insistence, Delvin, a New York native, moved to Louisville, attended real estate school and added his name to the firm in early 1996.
They were busy enjoying a joke one of their clients had emailed them, when the Kentucky Real Estate Commission knocked on their door.
“We can't let them in,” Delvin replied nervously.
“It's no telling what they want.”
“Be for real,” Job said. He had a fleeting thought that some jealous broker from a competing agency was trying to thrust the firm out of business. But it was a fleeting thought, nothing more. Believing that the company's finances were in order, Job invited the commission into their offices with confidence.
Much to his chagrin, when the investigators audited the trust bank account files, they found evidence that their books had been cooked.
Job wondered how that could've happened. He was the broker-in-charge, debiting and crediting the account in earnest, to the best of his ability. When the commission questioned if anyone other than himself had access to that particular set of funds, he responded, “No. Well, actually, my partner makes deposits on my behalf sometimes.”
Delvin Storm was behind it all? Job was aware that his partner engaged in questionable financial tactics, to which he chose not to be privy or, even to present-day, inform a soul that he knew. But he had trouble believing that his partner had robbed funds from accounts that rightfully belonged to the firm once a pending realty transaction was consummated.
The realty commission staked their reputations on relentlessness when they suspected trust funds had been mishandled. It was just a matter of nailing the culprit.
And it was Delvin who became the main specimen under their examination. They questioned, cajoled, and then accused. They locked down the business, revoking its license and both Job's and Delvin's individual broker licenses. They detained files. They halted personal, trust, and operating bank account activities until further notice. Ninety days later, the verdict was rendered.
Delvin had fraudulently misrepresented trust account monies for his personal use to the tune of $1,237,980.00. Racketeering charges were added to that, and he was sentenced to ten years in a correctional institution, with parole eligibility in three.
On the day before he was to report to prison, Delvin requested a meeting with Job.
Job was reluctant to have a one-on-one, fearing that harm may come his way. Delvin had demonstrated an uncharacteristic hostility throughout the trial, and his refusal to disclose the subject of the upcoming meeting fueled Job's suspicion that if Delvin would steal, he was also capable of killing.
Despite Monica's insistence that he should decline, Job consented to a public meeting with his defunct partner at The Oakroom, an exclusive Louisville restaurant.
Job's remembrance of that dismal meeting was as vivid as a sunny day was clear. He surveyed the room, mapping out an escape route just in caseâ
They sat among the customers who had come for fun and upscale cuisine. They didn't eat a meal. The tab for the overpriced water, of which Delvin drank bottle after bottle, was dependent upon Job's wallet.
Delvin didn't shift sitting positions by a single degree during the entire ninety minute meeting. He started the conversation with, “I get the shaft and you, you ... get away a free man, huh?”
The shadow of the room was yet an illumination compared to Delvin's haunting form. It was a struggle for Job to keep his composure. He did not, in their last face to face meeting for a long time, want to appear to Delvin as clayâmalleable against a criminal's evocative persona.
Delvin told Job, “Nobody gets rich by being honest.”
“And getting rich is something you wanted as badly as I did. You can't deny it.”
Job ran the fine hem of the tablecloth between his fingers. “I still want wealth, but I'm not willing to do something illegal to get it.”
Delvin was annoyed by Job's comment. “You are a real piece of work, a very real piece of work,” Delvin said. He cut his eyes toward a corner of the room, and then he brought them back around to Job. “Who's guiltier? The man who dips in the cookie jar or the man that the cookie is shared with?”
Job wasn't answering the trick question. Delvin said, “When that automated truck wash facility sold with that big shot Oklahoma realtor as the exclusive, we took a fifty percent share of the nearly quarter million in commission.”
Job didn't know where the explanation was leading. “So?”
“Humph.” Delvin paused and lit a cigarette. “So, Oklahoma and Kentucky have no reciprocity agreement among their realtors. After the sale, to keep from complicating things, I requested our cut of the commission in cash. That money never passed through our trust account, only into the operating funds. And you knew how it was going to go down the whole time.”
“Not from the beginning, I didn't.” Job fumed in embarrassment. His probe into the lawfulness of that transaction had been sloppy. He had taken Delvin's word and work at face value. But even that money had been confiscated, along with countless dollars from countless transactions.
“I can go on with another story. If you want me to, if you really need to hear some more examples ...” Delvin's vile soliloquy seemed to fade on Job's ears, but not in his mind.
Delvin was right. Every occurrence happened right under Job's watch. Although he didn't receive prison time for any criminal act, he had turned a blind eye and benefited financially. His punishment, in addition to the liquidation of his personal and business assets, was a permanent loss of his Kentucky brokerage license, a suspended three year sentence for negligence, and a twenty-five thousand dollar fine.
It had now been one month since Job's most dreaded day. Three weeks, four days, and nine hours ago, the final gavel had dropped. Though the realty commission's and criminal court's pronouncement didn't put him behind bars, Job had a feeling he had not yet realized the fullness of what had actually occurred.
Job decided that another career, another location, and new people were needed to regain order in his and Monica's lives.
He picked up a pen and placed it between his teeth as he examined the last document. Depending on the question, Job marked
, scrawled his signature on the documents and shoved them into the SASE provided.
“What's taking so long? I hope you're packing that office,” Monica shouted.
He looked around and said nothing.
Two rooms needed major attention: the kitchen and his office. When they first put the house on the market, Monica told him that she would take care of the kitchen. It was one of the last areas that needed to be packed. They did, after all, have to eat.
The office, though, was her worry and his responsibility.
Would the packing ever get done? His eyes danced across the rows and columns of books still sitting on the shelves. Self-help and how-to, novels, African American diaspora, Bible commentaries. A stack of U-haul boxes were over in a remote corner, yet to be put together. Packing tape was lying dormant on the desk. “Oh my God,” Job said when he spotted the paperwork for the yet-unfiled ' 99 taxes. Thank goodness he had been granted an extension. There was too much work to do.
He jumped up, bumping his knee against the edge of the Riverside desk. “Mercy,” he scolded himself. The resulting twinge reminded him of a previous high school football injury. “I'm coming down right now,” Job called out to Monica as he hobbled down the stairs with the Paradise School's employment package in hand. He ambled into the kitchen doorway, his bones and muscles protesting against the sudden movement.
“It's about time. Are you ready for dinner?” Monica asked.
“Hurt my leg. Not watching what I was doin.'”
“Um hm.” Monica curled her mouth, which reflected an abnormality in her thoughts.
Now Monica was âThe Package,' but the reverse of how Job thought most packages he'd met were wrapped. Most men, even the Christian ones, began their love pursuits based on an outside-in processâwhat they saw, how she looked. To Job, Monica's attractiveness was inside-out; she was most powerful by what she thought and how she spoke. Her words could chain him, break him at the knees. Then, when she finally allowed his mouth to pucker, his glands to drench, and his loins to strengthen, he wasted no time getting her to the altar for a ring presentation.