Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chaptee 20

We made our way over to Westwood for our scheduled appointment with Paul’s lawyer’s office. As we pulled into the parking garage under a huge marble edifice rising above, the dollar signs started reeling around in my head. I knew I couldn’t afford these people. I was beginning to wish I had stuck with my mother’s lawyer friend. My eyes must’ve been as big as saucers because Paul grabbed my hand to bring me back down to Earth.

“Don’t worry about the cost, babe,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Yeah, like you have the money for these fancy cats. I can’t ask you to do that for me,” I said. “If they’re as good as you say, then they’re worth all my dollars. I’ll spend the rest of my life paying them back if it’ll keep my fanny out jail.”

Paul laughed, “I’ll help you out then, OK? They are worth every penny and they’ll get the cops off of our backs. The statements from this office should keep the authorities at bay and give us some peace.”

We ascended in the lavish, silent elevator to the higher floors of the marble-clad monolith. The doors opened onto a compact, but sophisticated and tailored lobby with an equally tailored receptionist sporting a high-tech, silver Janet Jackson headset with nails to match.

Immediately, we were seated to wait complete with complimentary mimosas. Presently, we were shown into a small conference room with a round table of Brazilian walnut surrounded by modern, hand-stiched leather chairs in a complementary chocolate color. The room was small and understated, but rich with wood paneling to match the table and a million-dollar view of Westwood and Beverly Hills. I felt like Charlie in the Great Glass Elevator. In this room, my life would now move in all sorts of new directions. Was I capable of staying in control? Paul sat next to me, facing the view and we waited for his lawyer.

Soon, a young man, possibly Brian’s age, came in and greeted us. He introduced himself as Ari. Ari informed us that he and the senior counselor for our account would be taking our statements. His boss arrived shortly after and greeted Paul heartily. They embraced and Paul introduced me to Clive Blackwell, his corporate lawyer. I looked at Paul questioningly – didn’t we need a criminal lawyer?

Mr. Blackwell spoke up. “Don’t worry, ma’am. Before I succumbed to the lure of the big bucks, I was a defense attorney in Newark.”

New Jersey. East Coast. Seeing the mischievous gleam in his eye, the word Mafia floated through my brain. I smiled my best “Oh shit” smile and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

As Paul and I took turns giving our statements and the young lawyer scribed furiously and monitored the tape recorder, I began to feel more at ease. These guys were going to be worth every penny. The spin and sparkle that our statements were taking on were simply gorgeous and hypnotizing. I was relaxing and enjoying the view when the receptionist came into the room
bearing a tray of drinks in sparkling, heavy, highball glasses. Baccarat, of course. The bicep in her beautifully tanned serving arm was taut with tension, but she moved with effortless grace, balancing her charge as if it were a powder puff. I took the glass she offered and sniffed it. Whiskey and soda water. Mmm, delicious. Tasted like Ballentines. No expense spared, even for those low on the economic totem pole. I think I melted in my chair. I would’ve nodded off if I hadn’t caught Paul staring at the receptionist. I went to kick him in the shins. No, wait, he was dictating something to her and she was writing it down. My head turned to fuzz and I resumed enjoying my different view of the world.

After I didn’t know how long, my reverie was interrupted again by the receptionist, this time bearing coffee. Thank God. I think I would’ve relaxed right into the Aubusson carpet. Perking up from the first sip of the rich, silky, obviously European-roasted coffee, I sat up straighter in my chair and tuned in.

Paul reached for my hand and held it while we listened to Mr. Blackwell tell us our next steps and what we should expect. Also, what our rights were as suspects and what the police could and could not expect of us. We were to call him at any sign of harassment or if we were suddenly arrested. Well, duh.

“Thank you so much for agreeing to do this for us,” I said shaking Clive and Ari’s hands as we were leaving. “I will spend the rest of my life paying your invoice.”

Clive laughed and the young lawyer ducked out of the room. “Don’t worry ma’am. We’ll make sure that you’re taken care of. You have a good man here in Mr. Atkinson. And he is very lucky to have you.”

Shouldn’t he have meant that I was the lucky one to have Paul? Did he think I was paying Paul’s bill? I looked over at Paul, confused as usual when trying to understand this inner
sanctum of the wealthy and its accoutrements. Paul was shaking his head and smiling.

“Clive, you were always the smooth talker. Must be what kept you alive and allowed you to walk away from it all,” Paul chided him in a friendly manner. “Thank you and we’ll keep in touch.”

“I’ll see you at the memorial service,” said Clive. “How are you doing with the eulogy? I know it’s probably the hardest task for anyone to do.”

Paul shook his head. “Yes, I have to work on that. With the statements out now, I hope to have the time to do Kip justice.”

I looked at Paul, “Memorial service? When is that? When was that decided?” That had thrown me for a loop and I was embarrassed that I had not known. My eyes stung as I looked at Paul, hurt that he was hiding this horrendous task from me.

“Now, don’t look at me like that,” Paul pleaded. “I forgot about it myself. Only today did the receptionist here remind me. With all that’s been going on, keeping my mind off of Kip’s funeral is what’s been keeping me going.”

I looked at him closely. There were dark circles under his eyes and his face looked worn. He had a 2-day growth of beard and his lips looked chapped. (Although I thought that I was guilty of that last detail.)

My voice came out strained and a little scratchy. “So do you have to plan the service and notify family and friends?” That all seemed gi-normous and not within the realm of Paul’s skills.

Paul exhaled audibly. “Thankfully, no. Kip had planned his own memorial service while he was still alive and his entertainment coordinator is taking care of every detail. I was asked to do the eulogy only.”

Ah, yes. The entertainment coordinator. I should’ve guessed. Was this the posthumous continuation of the three-ring circus that was Faraday’s life or finally the grand finale? Had he scripted himself in death? Funeralpalooza?

Clive had been watching me and chuckled. “That was Kip. I wasn’t ever one of his personal lawyers, but we did hear the stories of how he planned out everything to maintain the ultimate control. Except, of course, where Charlene was concerned.”

Interesting. I waited for Clive to go on with more elusive Charlene information, but he didn’t.

“Now, stay out of trouble. Don’t call attention to yourselves,” warned Clive, “and don’t talk to the media.”

Yeah, like the media would want to talk to small fries like us. The receptionist escorted us to another bank of elevators and accompanied us down to what was the back lobby. Guess it was her coffee break. We continued down to the parking garage to get the car. Pulling it out onto a side street, we rounded up back onto Wilshire. There, we saw the receptionist outside the building fending off a throng of reporters, their camera people, and TV vans. That would make sense in the timeline. Word would’ve gotten out that these lawyers were Faraday’s lawyers. I was sure the world wanted to know what was to become of his estate and heirs. They could care less how he died.

As we continued on our way down Wilshire, past the mass of news people, one reporter looked right at me. As I turned away to say something to Paul, I heard her scream, “It’s them!”

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