Cash call a stan turner.., p.1
Cash Call, A Stan Turner Mystery Vol 5, p.1
A Stan Turner Mystery
Top Publications, Ltd.
A Stan Turner Mystery
Top Publications, Ltd.
12221 Merit Drive, Suite 950
Dallas, Texas 75251
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2002, 2011
LOC Control Number 2001127211
No part of this book may be published or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or information storage and retrieval systems without the express written permission of the publisher.
The characters and events in this novel are fictional and created out of the imagination of the author. Certain real locations and institutions are mentioned, but the characters and events depicted are entirely fictional.
Everyone needs an escape from the relentless pressure that we all face in today's feverish world. Whenever I felt overburdened with my client's problems, or with my own, I would get my three boys together and we'd all go fishing. I don't know why it worked so well, but it did wonders for my sanity. As soon as the kids were in the car, and I got behind the wheel of our big Chevy custom van, all thoughts of my law practice and the harsh realities of my life evaporated like the morning dew on a hot August day.
It was on a Friday in August 1983 when the need for one of these therapy trips became abundantly clear. Cash flow had dried to a trickle, receivables were climbing and aging to the point that the Turner Law Firm's demise appeared imminent. It wasn't that I didn't have business--business was booming to the extent I could hardly keep up. Apparently the word had leaked out that I worked for free or was a sucker for a sad story. Usually I didn't let this bother me, but with the recent death of my CPA and the suicide of his wife, I was generally depressed and was tempted to curl up with a bottle of Jack Daniels. But when you have a wife and four kids depending on you, that's not a viable option.
As the day slowly waned, I stared out my office window at the cars traveling up and down LBJ Freeway. This exercise helped me wind down when I got too stressed out. Sometimes the tranquility of the moment would even lead to inspiration--something I usually needed desperately. My daydreaming was suddenly interrupted by my secretary Jodie's deliberate voice over the intercom. "Paul Jones on line two."
The name caused my stomach to tighten. I knew what he wanted--money. He was a bill collector and all they ever wanted was money. It should have been obvious to him that I didn't have any or American Express would have already been paid. He knew that, so why the phone call? Should I take it? Or, should I have Jodie tell him I was out. Better yet. I'll take it and tell him to take a hike. That would feel good . . . but it would only piss him off and he'd just start calling more often. I walked over to the phone and picked it up warily. We exchanged frigid greetings.
"Your payment's late again--forty-five days," he informed me curtly.
"I know. . . . I'll get something out to you soon."
"What seems to be the trouble? Our records show you pay this account consistently late."
"I know, cash flow's a little tight."
"Well if you know you can't pay the bill, then why do you use the card?"
I bit my tongue as anger welled within me. It really ticked me off when a bill collector was insolent. He was right. I shouldn't have used the damn card. Every month it was a chore scraping up enough money to pay it. But did he really expect me to discuss responsible household budgeting with him? No, he was trying to embarrass and humiliate me.
"You're right. Just as soon I get the bill paid, I'm going to cut it up and throw it into the garbage. Then you'll never have to call me again."
There was a moment of silence. He didn't want me to cut up the card. The credit card business was lucrative and I was sure his bosses didn't want him to drive customers away. It was all a matter of priorities--when I was staring at a stack of bills they wanted me to pay the American Express bill first.
"Well, that's not really necessary. Just send us a payment."
"Listen, I've had this card for three years, and everything's been paid, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, but it's always late."
"It may be late, but you always get the payment, plus your ten percent late fee. You should be happy I always pay late. You get all that extra money."
"Ah, well. I'll mark our records that you're going to have a check in the mail by--"
"By the weekend . . . hopefully," I promised.
"Okay, and try next month to pay this bill on time."
I let out a silent scream. He just had to throw in one more insulting remark. If we had been face to face I would have punched him out. "I'll do my best," I said and slammed down the phone.
I pulled out my checkbook and frowned at the negative balance. No matter how hard I worked, there was never enough money to pay everything in a timely fashion. As I was putting the checkbook away, Jodie walked in and said, "Maybe one of your deadbeat clients will pay their bill today, and you can send AMEX something."
Jodie, up to then, had always seemed oblivious to my financial woes, but it didn't lessen my embarrassment. She probably regretted the day she came to work for me. Her check had even bounced once, but she just redeposited it without mentioning it to me. When I got the notice from the bank I nearly died. It was kind of surprising to me she still showed up every morning with a cheerful smile. She was a wonderful secretary, and I feared one day she'd get tired of my financial instability and quit.
I forced a smile. "Oh yeah, somebody's bound to pay sooner or later," I assured her.
Jodie frowned, put her hands on her hips, and said, "Why don't you get tough with them, cut them off if they don't pay--sue them if you have to?"
I looked up at her somewhat surprised. It was the first time she'd ever been so outspoken. She was a beautiful young girl and particularly sexy when angered. My pulse quickened. "Law practice isn't just about money, Jodie. Most of my clients want to pay me, but they can't always do it."
"I think a lot of them could pay you if they really wanted to."
"You think so?"
She nodded. "Yeah, it's just not a high priority to them. They know you won't do anything if they don't pay."
"You don't have much faith in human nature, I guess."
"No, I don't. Robert Taylor is a perfect example."
"Robert Taylor?" I said. "How's that?"
"Did you know he just got back from a cruise to the Cayman Islands?"
That bit of information blew my mind. Robert Taylor had come to me with hat in hand. He had been sued and wanted me to defend him. When I asked him for a retainer he moaned and whimpered about how broke he was. He promised he'd pay my bills promptly every month as soon as he received them. Gullible me agreed. "But he owes me three grand."
"I rest my case."
"How do you know he went to the Caymans?"
"When I called him about his bill, his secretary told me."
"That dirty bastard," I said shaking my head in disbelief. "Okay, I guess you're right. Get him on the line."
"Really?" Jodie said gleefully.
I nodded. Jodie eagerly left the room. The son of a bitch had been lying through his teeth. After a moment Jodie's voice came out over the intercom, "Robert Taylor on two."
I hesitated a moment thinking about what I should say, then picked up the phone. "Robert?"
"Yes, Stan. What's up? Don't tell me they filed another motion for summary judgment."
"No, I was just curious about your trip to the Cayman Islands. You didn't tell me you were going on vacation."
"Oh, yeah. Didn't I mention that to you?"
"No. Did you have a good time?"
"Sure, it's always beautiful there."
"Really, I've never been there myself."
"You haven't? You ought to go some time."
"I'd like to, but I have this problem with clients who don't pay their damn bills."
"Listen, Stan. I know what you're thinking, but we had planned this vacation long before I got sued. Gloria would have killed me if I canceled it."
"Uh huh. You begged me to take the case without a retainer. You swore to me you would pay all your bills on time. You said I had nothing to worry about."
"And then instead of paying my bill, you take a lavish vacation. I should have let them take a damn default judgment against you!"
"Come on, Stan. It's not like that. I'm serious. Gloria would have divorced me if I canceled the trip. You know what a pain in the ass she can be."
"Well, you better start sending me some serious money or I'm going to withdraw from the case."
"Don't do that, Stan. I'll pay you. Don't worry."
"It's not a matter of worrying, Robert. I've got bills to pay--lots of them."
"I'll send you something Monday, all right? Just give me a little time."
"Okay . . . but don't let me down or you'll be looking for a new attorney."
I sat back in my chair and took a deep breath. It felt good to let off a little steam once in awhile, particularly during periods of depression. I couldn't help feeling a little guilty though, coming down on him the way I had. Jodie walked in, smiled, and asked, "So, is he bringing over a check?"
"Monday! Why not today?"
"He doesn't have it today."
"He would have had it if he had not gone on vacation."
"True, but his marriage is in trouble. He would have been in deep shit had he canceled his vacation."
"You're not buying that story are you?"
"Hey. . . . I've met his wife, she is a pain in the ass."
"He's just using you. Can't you see that?"
"No, I believe him."
Jodie shook her head. "You're so good to your clients. I just hate to see them take advantage of you. I wish they would just pay their damn bills when we send them out. We shouldn't have to beg them to pay us."
"Maybe they need the money worse than we do," I suggested.
"Yeah, you can tell AMEX that the next time they call."
"I couldn't sue a client anyway. Most of them are my friends. It wouldn't be right."
"Why not? You sue people all the time for your clients."
"That's different. That's them suing, not me. I'm just doing my job. . . . Besides there are too many of them. I wouldn't have time to practice law. I'd be spending half my time in court suing my own clients."
"Okay. . . I give up. So what are you going to do about your dire financial situation?" Jodie asked.
I looked at her and smiled. Her anger had turned to worry and depression. I sighed. Why was I such a terrible businessman? I didn't know what I was going to do. The telephone rang interrupting my thinking. Jodie turned and left to answer the phone. She yelled back to me, "It's Robert Taylor again."
I frowned. What did he want now? Had he been holding out on me? Did he suddenly find some money to pay me with? I prayed that was the case but somehow I knew it wasn't. I lifted the receiver.
"Listen, Stan. I was just thinking. Do you ever get paid in kind?"
My heart sunk. When clients started talking about paying me in kind that usually meant I wasn't going to get paid at all. I looked over at the six pieces of ancient Peruvian pottery that sat prominently on the top of one of my bookcases. It was payment in kind from a client, Marvin Schwartz, who'd been down in Central America doing missionary work several years earlier. I'd defended him here in a civil suit stemming from a car wreck he'd gotten into while he was home visiting family. He swore on a stack of Bibles that it was worth fifteen thousand easy and promised he'd buy it back from me or find a buyer for it when he got back at the end of his two year commitment in Peru. That time had come and gone and I had resigned myself to the fact that the pottery was worthless and I'd been stiffed.
"What did you have in mind?" I asked tentatively.
"I've got this great boat that I never have time to use. It's just sitting out in the back yard and I know your boys love to fish. . . . How about we swap the boat for my bill?"
"What kind of boat?" I heard my self saying.
When I hung up the phone, I felt exhilarated. In the past, whenever we went fishing we were forced to fish off the bank, on a dirty old fishing barge, or, if we were lucky, a small John boat. This was not real fishing and I longed for the day I could get a Bass Tracker. Robert's boat wasn't a bass boat per se, but it was a nice combo ski and fishing boat that would be quite satisfactory. Jodie walked in and was shocked to see me smiling from ear to ear.
"He's bringing in money?" She asked.
"No," I replied stifling a laugh.
"Then what are you so happy about?"
"He's bringing me a boat."
"A boat?. . . Oh, my God. Tell me you didn't--"
"I'm going fishing. I hear the striper are hitting top waters at Texoma."
Jodie looked at me incredulously. "But what about our cash flow problem?"
I shrugged. "Why don't you try to find me an expert on Peruvian civilizations. Maybe I can figure out how to unload that ancient pottery I've got in my office. It's probably not worth anything, but unless we get an expert to look at it we'll never know for sure."
She shook her head in utter desperation. Then glanced up at the dust laden collection of pottery on top of my bookcase, "Right. Sure. That's the solution."
I smiled. "Just a thought."
Jodie sighed. "Okay, I'll look into it."
"Do I have any more appointments today?"
She shook her head. "No."
"Good. Rebekah has a nursing seminar she's got to go to tomorrow, so it's a perfect time to go fishing."
"Okay then, since you obviously won't have the money to pay me on the fifteenth, I think I'll take off too."
That comment stung a bit, but not enough to dampen my excitement which was waxing by the second as I thought of gliding across Lake Texoma in my new boat. Well, it wasn't new exactly. Robert had said it was a 1975 model, but eight years for a boat wasn't that old.
"Good idea. You've been looking a little stressed out here lately. You could use the afternoon off."
"Fine. I'm out of here then."
Jodie started to leave. I looked at her and said, "Don't worry about getting paid. You're my number one priority. I couldn't practice law without you. You know that, don't you?"
Jodie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She nodded, then turned and walked out the door.
"Have a nice weekend," I said to her back. "I'll see you on Monday."
I cut the lights, locked the door, and headed to Robert's place to get my new boat. On the way there all I could think about was where we'd start looking for those stripers.
Rebekah's mouth dropped when I walked in the door at three in the afternoon. She glanced at the clock and then back at me. It suddenly dawned on me that Rebekah wasn't going to be pleased with my new acquisition. She looked at me warily. I wondered if there was anything I could do or say to lessen her inevitable displeasure over what I had done. Nothing coming to mind, I decided just to plunge onward and hope for the best.
"Stan, what are you doing here?"
"You won't believe what I brought home."
"Really? What is it?"
Marcia came running in yelling, "Daddy. Daddy. You're home early." She jumped into my arms as she loved to do when I came home. I flung her around a couple times and gave her a bear hug.
"Yes, amazing, isn't it?"
I smiled and looked into her bright brown eyes. She looked just like her mother did when she was a girl. In fact, if you put pictures of them at eight years old side by side, it was hard to tell them apart.
After putting Marcia down, I said, "Go find your brothers. I've got a surprise for everyone."
"Oh. A surprise. Daddy's got a surprise!" she yelled as she ran off. Rebekah's look of apprehension was intensifying by the minute as she waited to find out what was going on. I smiled at her, but she didn't respond. A minute later Reggie, Mark, and Peter ran into the room with Marcia hot on their heels.
"Okay, come on outside," I said. "It's in the driveway."
They all rushed out the front door and stopped in their tracks when they saw it. I looked at Rebekah and held my breath. Reggie broke everyone's stunned silence, "Whoa! What a cool boat."
"Stan, you bought a boat?" Rebekah groaned.
The boys climbed eagerly into the boat. Marcia tried to follow them but wasn't tall enough to make it over the side. I grabbed her under the arms and lifted her inside.
"No, I didn't buy it exactly. A client gave it to me."
"Why would he do that?" Rebekah questioned.
Mark pushed a button on the dash and there was a loud, "Hoooonk! Hoooonk!" The kids laughed in delight. I couldn't help but laugh too, but Rebekah wasn't smiling.
"It's an inboard/outboard. It cruises at thirty-five miles per hour. We can use it for skiing or fishing."
"Okay, what's going on? Clients just don't give you expensive boats."
"It was a trade."
"Oh, God! You took this boat instead of money?"
"Well, you know Robert Taylor. He has owed me three grand for over six months. I've been pressing him for the cash but he just doesn't have it. So, I figured at least with the trade we'd have something the family could use."
Rebekah shook her head. "I can't believe you. We are destitute and you're letting your client unload a worthless piece of junk on you."
"What are you talking about? It's a beautiful boat and we're going to have some great fun with it."
"Can we take it out, Dad?" Reggie asked.
"Yes, that's the plan. We can take it to Texoma tomorrow while your mother is busy with her seminar."
"What about Marcia?" Rebekah said. "I don't want her out in the boat."
"She'll be okay. Don't worry."
"Four kids are too many for you to watch. Marcia can stay with my mother. I'm sure she won't mind watching her."
"No. Mommy! I want to go fishing," Marcia moaned.
"No argument. You are not going fishing. Little girls don't fish. Maybe Grandma will take you to a movie."
Marcia started bawling. "I don't want to go to a movie."
Rebekah glared at her then turned to me. "See the trouble you caused with your foolishness."
"Listen. I don't need a bunch of crap from you. I'm taking my boys fishing. It's no big deal, so calm down."
"Who's Christine?" Rebekah said pointing to the Christine painted on the side of the boat.
"What?" I said. "Oh that. I think Christine was Robert's ex-wife."
"Wonderful. My husband is running around with a boat named after his deadbeat client's ex-wife."
I laughed. "Okay. We'll change the name if it bothers you. How about Rebekah?"
"Sure, if you want it named after another ex-wife," Rebekah said, as she shook her head, turned and stormed back into the house.
The kids watched her go wide-eyed. Finally Mark said, "Why don't we call it Deadbeat.
We all laughed. "That's sounds good," I agreed. "Deadbeat it is."
Cash Call, A Stan Turner Mystery Vol 5 by William Manchee / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.4 out of 5 / Based on40 votes