CLEAN SLATE: A Novelette: EIGHT

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Michael and Maureen continue their meetings and plans for reversing Michael's disappointments.

Chapter 8 (v.1) - DELIGHTFUL PLANNING

Submitted: July 30, 2017

Reads: 189

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Submitted: July 30, 2017

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 CLEAN SLATE

A Novelette

Nicholas Cochran

PART TWO

Chapter Eight

 

“Before we go, Larry, tell me: Who is the toughest baddest-assed lawyer in town; I’ll need him or her on our side.”

Larry’s eyes immediately widened with the thought of his perfect choices.

“Well, BethFudge is a holy terror and Ronnie Hamilton, a Toronto transplant, is—”

I broke in,” Did you say Hamilton; Hammy Hamilton?”

“Sure did, Mikey. He’s got to be the nastiest nice guy I know. What a drinking pal, too. Hey, man, but in the Courthouse,Jesus.

“I went to watch him a couple of times, and is he mean. I mean just plain nasty. Yeah He’s your man . . . do you know him, then?”

Christ, know him; we’re old pals from college. Toronto. We played football together. What a guy.

"You know, thanks to football, that’s why he has that scar across his nose, that same nose that has obviously been broken a dozen times. Then there’s that indentation in his forehead. He’s a pretty beat-up guy.

“Well, so many of the snobbiest pricks at our college—I hate to say it, but we had pricks surplus to requirements—chalked Hammy up to be nothing but a public school bum who must be at Trinity on a bursary or some other hinky college device, and would probably flunk out.

“Well, not only does he not flunk out, he stands first in his class, goes to Osgoode Hall and stands first in his class there, too. Still the doubters and the jealous pricks badmouthed him.

"Well, after graduating with Honors, winning a few prizes, and generally killing his Bar Exams, Hammy gave the Bay Street establishment the finger and opened a storefront Criminal Defense practice onEast Queen Street. And man, was he good. And now he’s here?”

My three dinner mates were openmouthed—and I think delighted—to hear the back-story of one of Ontario’s great barristers and one of my dearest friends from the university years.

Margot spoke first. “Well, that should take care of that problem then, Michael.”

Larry added. “Mikey, with Hammy, you got the best man. But I strongly suggest you talk with Beth; you know, Gail’s sister. She is a real Iron Maiden of the first water. I mean cold . . .but only in the courtroom.

"We’ve had her here for dinner with her fiancé, Peter Jennings, and she’s the exact opposite from her courthouse face; her game face. Yeah. I really recommend her.”

Margot added, “Yes, Michael. She would be a tremendous asset for you. She’s local, born and bred, and her sister is on just about every Board I’m on and most of those I’m not.

"And her mother has the athletic gang wrapped up. She’s the golf champ as well as the reigning queen of the tennis courts. I don’t think she ever takes off her sneakers.” We all laughed. 

“Yeah, Mikey, Margot has a great point there. The Fudges are woven throughout the entire town and have tons of influence in the surrounding areas as well.

"Some of the Siftons and all of the Fulfords—even the ones from Toronto—especially Dick Fulford—are constant guests at the Fudge table—and vice versa. Yeah. Margot’s rung the bell with the Fudges.”

“Great, guys. Thank you so much. Maybe I’ll call Gail—or maybe Hammy would be the way to approach Beth. Do they get along?”

“Christ; like a house on fire, “gushed Larry, “they have hooked up on a couple of civil cases and laid waste to the other local talent to an embarrassing degree.

"They are always going out drinking together and trying to talk the other into joining their firm. But they just booze and laugh and then go back and stick to their own fields until the next opportunity to hook up on a juicy civil case comes along.

"Beth won’t do Criminal Defense and Hammy won’t do Domestic Relations, so the civil cases, usually the big Wrongful Death ones and the real bad brain injury cases is what brings them together. It’s the best show in town when their trial’s on; better than cable, right darling?”

Margot laughed while she nodded and punched her husband’s elbow as she sipped the last of her coffee.

“He’s right,” addressing Maureen, “they put on a tremendous show and some real good comes out of it all for everyone—except, of course, for the defense team.”

She allowed her head to fall while she laughed and her long dark hair dropped around her head like an indigo wheat field.

I yawned, either from relief or too much brandy. Then, maybe I was beginning to feel all the stress of all the barriers to my objective.

“You’re right,” nodded Larry to Margot, “Beth and Hammy. We need a plow to shove all this through some sticky red tape. They’re the guys. And you were saying that Shiela is on board as well, eh?”

“Sure is. In fact . . . is she husband hunting, do you know?”

Larry gave me a blank look, but Margot smiled and then laughed.

“Ah; did she come on to you, too?”

I was semi-crushed at the thought that I was not the anointed one in the eyes of Mrs. Hanna, but I couldn’t prevent a smile. ”Oh, so she is.”

Maureen looked more amused than jealous. In fact, she didn’t look jealous at all. One of the millions of things I loved about Maureen was her sang froid in the face of a crisis—or as in this case, a perceived crisis. I guess she learned to deal with triumph and disaster both the same, while she was riding—or being hammered by—a gnarly wave off the SoCal coast.

Now Larry joined the levity at my expense and I rode it out with all the bluster I could muster.

“Whatever it takes,” I laughed, “with a limit, of course, but for now, we need everyone on this thing committed at least a hundred percent.”

*  *  *

Next morning, Maureen decided to go for a run and a swim while I sought out Ronald George Hamilton.

I called Hammy’s firm and got Pat Parker, his receptionist. Pat and I had gone on a few platonic dates somewhere in the foggy memories of my fourteenth and fifteenth years. 

She expressed neither surprise nor delight when I announced myself but simply asked  me how I was and would I wait a moment because Mr. Hamilton was on the phone.

I decided to let all those bygones rest on that particular ashcan of historical puberty and drew in a breath while I reviewed my pitch to my old buddy.

Jesus Christ,” roared Hammy, “Is it really the great one here?Marlowe the Magnificent? Man with the fingers of glue and legs of lightning?” 

I was quickly becoming nauseated at the parody of my football skills; which, truth be told, registered  barely above modest, but there is always a game to play, even in a conversation.

Napoleon said that in every conversation, there is a winner and a loser. I inhaled that concept with abundant belief but could never remember to do an assessment after breaking off any particular communication.

Still, it was there; the instinct to play your best hand, flat out, in all verbal communications with your desired results firmly in mind. 

I briefly wondered how all that would apply to a solicitation for prostitution.

“Hammy. It is indeed your humble servant bearding you in your lair. And how the hell did you end up down here?”

Hammy gave another patented Hamilton roar of unbridled joy, “I turned left and took the 401 until I saw the Brookvale City Limits sign.” He followed up with another burst of his boundless merriment.

“Well, we need to meet, man, so I can catch up on your exodus from the Egypt of the West. From Sodom and Gomorrah; from Bay Street sycophants and from snobbish barristers.”

“Mike; I have three clients sitting in my waiting room and I’m about two hours behind already with a mandatory court appearance in an hour. And my afternoon’s got an all-afternoon Juvenile Hearing on a triple murder case, Can we meet after work?”

“Absolutely, mom ami. Where and when?”

“Come by the office around five and we’ll get to a bar as quickly as we can from there. Then you’re at my house for dinner, okay?”

“Perfect. See you at your office at five.”

“Great, Mike. Is it really you? And what the hell are you doing here, by the way?”

“I used to live here, Hammy, grew up here, remember? I’m a product of the Thousand Islands. I’ll tell you all about it”

“No; I mean ,yes, I know that. From Trinity days, I know all about your golden youth. You kept making the rest of us feel like we were raised by Fagin. I mean why are you here on this particular occasion. Just walking though the past? Old memories? Old girl friends? Must be something else as well as a visit to the river and the islands, man.”

“Well Hammy, there wasn’t when I first arrived. Only pure nostalgia. But now I have a mission. That’s what I really wanted to talk to you about. About business. About you and your practice and if you are available to help me with my new project.”

Whoa. Mr. Mysterious here. Can’t wait. And sure, I’m for hire. Speeding tickets or murder?" He laughed.

“Neither at the moment, but the day is still young and I have revenge bloodying up my eyes.”

Whoa, again. This is going to be good. But  I have to run. See you here at five, man. Can’t wait.”

“I’ll be there, Hammy.” I disconnected.

 

I met Mo for lunch at the Thousand Islands Cafe, a Chinese restaurant run by the family Lor.

When we were ten, Beverly, their daughter and I, won the male and female prizes for answering questions about wanting to be a radio announcer for the local radio station. 

A tour through the Thousand Islands, a watch, and a fun afternoon cookout were our prizes. Beverly and I saw each other on occasion in Toronto but we never got together for more than a coffee or a Coke.

I greeted Mrs. Lor with relish born of nostalgic reminiscences. She was, as always, crisp and overly businesslike.

“I hear your mother’s dead” 

This was said while ringing up a customer and sampling one of her million toothpicks. 

She was short with tight black hair, a barely visible nose, and two wary black eyes, well-hidden behind thick glasses.

“Well, no, actually, Mrs. Lor, I just talked with her a few days ago.”

“Well, she’s dead now, isn’t she.” This was not a question but her statement.

For a moment, I wondered if my mother really had died. 

Then I remembered that Mrs. Lor had taken against my mother. 

Despite the fact that the three of us had spent several happy hours at the Thousand Islands Cafe, Mrs. Lor was quite capable of overlooking the income from a good customer and forming her opinions based on outside influences. 

The fact that my mother was rumored to be fooling around with the married owner of the local newspaper, The Recorder and Times, made the rounds of all the eateries and bars and Mrs. Lor was one to believe everything she heard.

“I’ll tell mother you send your best wishes when I talk with her tomorrow.”

I stepped away, expecting a retort. However, the Captain of the good ship Thousand Islands Cafe was unmoved, both in emotion and belief.

I was tempted to ask her if she was sending flowers and to give her mother’s address, but I had been warned against such behavior by that same mother who was a dead letter in the Chinese envelope of the Lor leader.

I was greatly amused.

End of Chapter Eight


© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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