Excerpt Two

Excerpt Two: Conversation between Gary’s Uncle Fred and Fred’s lawyer, Lucille from Chapter 15, pages 133-135

“How are you getting along with our project concerning my nephew?”

“We had lunch last Sunday at the Santa Barbara Biltmore.”

“Did you dissuade him from becoming a trustee?” Fred demanded.

Lucille retained her composure. “I understood your plan. I did not understand that the trust documents specifically provide that Gary should be a trustee, as a representative of his side of the family. He expressed his knowledge of the trust provisions and his desire to serve. I don’t know why you didn’t provide me with a copy of the relevant provisions—I got them from Danby on Monday—but at the time it put me at a decided disadvantage as your advocate.”

Fred was glowering down at her. His lips were compressing; fingers tightening around the arms of his baroque, baronial chair. The whole scene expressed what a fool she had been, but at the same time stoked her determination to provoke him into self-incrimination.

“We discussed the critical issues,” Lucille calmly continued. “I expressed your desire to provide for his comfort and education until he has more maturity. I suggested that you might agree to an age earlier than thirty, and might eliminate the repayment feature.”

Fred thrust himself forward with a sinister leer. “So you’ve already negotiated away the critical elements. What kind of a lawyer are you? What about money? Did you offer him more of my money?”

Lucille ignored the slur. “I think he understands that his family is already entitled to half of the trust. As I said, he has read the documents. He enjoyed that process. He has a sincere interest in taking part. He wants to be a trustee and knows he is entitled to that position.”

“I won’t have it,” Fred bellowed, slamming his fist against the desk. “I’ll make his mother a trustee if I have to. I can control her—she’s . . .”

“Careful, Fred,” Lucille interrupted.

“You’re the one who had better be careful. Do you represent me or him?”

“Of course I represent you, but certainly you must understand that as an officer of the court I am committed to ethical standards.” She was confident that her legalese was just the sort of piety that would set him off—and it did.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your fucking ‘officer of the court’ bullshit. He’s not going to be a trustee. As a matter of fact, he and his mother are already well represented. I am still his guardian, and Danby and I have appointed Edna to represent their interests. Edna has been with the company for years. She is an appropriate link to Mr. Westmoreland.”

“She’s also your secretary,” Lucille countered. “And, by the way, Gary and his mother can go to court to rescind that guardianship.”

“I won’t make it easy—the drinking mother, the moral turpitude of the son. I’ll make their lives miserable,” Fred growled, then rumbled on. “You make that clear to him—his life will be miserable. Better to accept my generosity and get out of the way. Better for you to find a way to accomplish that mission. I’ve seen you break people down with your ambitious and cunning strategy of subtle sex and tough persuasion. I’ve seen the grand courtesan at work. Now go do it,” he demanded. “Do you understand your job is on the line?”

With that outburst, Lucille realized she was dealing with more than she had anticipated. Fred was not just an egotistical, selfish, and venal bastard—he was a cruel megalomaniac. She considered throwing an ashtray at him and walking out, running back to her old life—wherever that was. She was restrained by her concern for Gary and by Danby’s entreaties for help—even though she had no responsibility to either one of them. She wanted to be free from the mess she had created for herself, but her growing loyalty to them was in the way. She could easily find a way around them, but abandoning them to deal with Fred would be unthinkable. She felt confident that what she had recorded was beneficial to her. It would also be explosive against Fred’s plan to persecute Gary.

“I understand, Fred,” was all she could muster. “I’m having lunch with Gary again on Sunday.”

With that she stood up, turned her back on him and walked to the door as Fred repeated his threat, “Do you understand?”

Lucille closed the door behind her with a queasy feeling for having participated in such a sordid encounter—Fred’s malevolence, matched by her clandestine recording. She stopped by her office to turn off the recorder and collect her umbrella; then proceeded down the corridor, into an empty elevator.

When the doors had closed, she imagined she was in a shower, and that the button she pushed for “down” would cause water to pour over her, washing away the filth she felt exuding from every pore. That thought followed her outside. She walked two blocks down Sixth Street, through the rain, without opening her umbrella.