Hello Cruel World

The next morning I was tired but everything felt less like an existential crisis than the night before. At least at first. That was before Ziggy took a call where someone–Barrett, I assume–tried to convince him to fly to LA for something. He said no, but the creeping dread about everything industry-related crawled right back up my legs and took hold of me by the throat.

Good thing the first thing on the schedule that day was medical then, eh?

Carynne took me to the same hand surgeon’s office I’d been to before. For some reason I don’t know, I didn’t see my surgeon. I saw someone else. I didn’t ask. I probably should have asked? Maybe I wasn’t as different from Claire when it came to being passive with medical people as I though I was.

The new surgeon was another middle aged guy who spoke very softly and who put his hand in mine when he tested my grip strength. It felt weirdly intimate. I doubt he intended that.

“Your left is still stronger than your right,” he said.

“It probably always was,” I answered, without explaining that playing the guitar built up more left-handed grip strength than right. He didn’t answer me, though, so maybe he knew or maybe he was ignoring me. Then he had me do some finger agility drills pretty similar to some I used to do in music school, tapping on the table in a pattern. I was pretty anxious doing it, and the faster I went the more anxious I went, so of course the more mistakes I made. I couldn’t really get the pinky and ring finger to work indepedently of each other and that was both frustrating and concerning because those two fingers hadn’t really been affected by the injury–or so I had thought.

He seemed to think I did well, though, which left me feeling like there wasn’t anything more modern medicine would do for me. If I was going to get better it was going to be due to my own efforts. So I didn’t really listen to the last few things he told me. Carynne did, though, and asked him a couple of questions, while I sat there waiting for her to say it was time to go.

Yeah. Maybe I understood Claire not saying much to her doctor on her own behalf, then. Or I should have. I was mostly in a haze of mind-static wondering what I was going to do next.

It was while in that mental state that I took in our next meeting, which was with Carynne, Barrett, and a WTA lawyer named Alfontino whom everyone called “Al.” We had the meeting at the WTA offices–in Barrett’s office, in fact. I didn’t ask why Ziggy wasn’t there and I didn’t ask why Feinbaum—my actual lawyer, right?—wasn’t there. Maybe they were already up to date on everything and it was just me who’d been hiding in the boondocks who needed to come up to speed? Barrett sat at his desk, while the rest of us sat in the low chairs around a coffee table.

Barrett looked downright tired. He had bags under his eyes. I didn’t ask if he was losing sleep over client worries or if he’d had a good night of partying or what. Knowing him it could be both.

Carynne looked, like always, like she’d be willing to rip limbs off for me if that was what was necessary, but for now she’d just take notes.

I don’t know what I looked like. My hair was long and ratty because I hadn’t been conditioning it and pretty much all the cherry-red extensions were gone. It was chilly in New York so I was wearing a hoodie under my leather jacket and kept them both on while we were inside.

Al had some expensive-looking rings on his hand and a bit more gel in his hair than you might expect from a middle-aged man, but otherwise looked any of thousands of other guys in business suits in Manhattan. And when he took his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves he looked more like a high school science teacher than a high-powered attorney.

He had an honest-to-god legal pad on his lap and took his own somewhat sparse notes. To start the meeting, he said, “At five bills an hour you probably want me to jump right in.”

I assumed that meant he was billing WTA $500 per hour. Barrett just gave him a nod and they guy started speaking. “Okay. Mrs. Rogala officially filed suit in the state of California–”

“A civil case, right?” Barrett asked. “This is on top of the criminal case?”

“Yes,” Al said, giving him a look. “The criminal case is probably not as high a priority as she hopes, unless she’s sleeping with the DA.” He said this deadpan, like maybe he was not joking about that. “Although given the amount of money involved, Mr. Marks would be looking at several years of potential jail time.” He cleared his throat. “By which I mean the senior Mr. Marks. Present company excluded.”

In other words, Digger could go to jail. I thought he already had. There was a momentary pause so I jumped into it. “Didn’t he already go to jail?”

“Not for the charges,” Al said. “For skipping his arraignment.”

“I thought if you miss an embezzlement hearing the judge automatically rules in the plaintiff’s favor?” Barrett said.

Al rolled his eyes. “You’ve been watching too much Law & Order. Let’s get to it, all right?”

I took that to mean Barrett should quit interrupting and let the guy talk, but I was happy to hear someone other than me asking the questions. Let’s face it. When it came to law, I didn’t know shit, and I guess most people don’t which is why lawyers make so much money.

I was about to find out just how much I didn’t know, though. Al turned to me. “According to what we have, you’re only a party to this in that the restitution Mrs. Rogala is seeking–”

“That’s Sarah’s mother?” I asked.

“Yes.” He took a sip from the cup of coffee sitting in front of him, as if he was going to take the opportunity upon being interrupted to do so. We waited for him to go on. When he was ready, he did. “As I was saying. You, Mr Marks, are a party to the restitution she is seeking from DMA in court. You are listed in the corporate papers as one of the shareholders. In fact, you’re the only other shareholder, which means you are listed as an officer in the corporation.”

“This is all news to me,” I said.

“You’re the president,” Al deadpanned.

“Really,” I deadpanned back at him.

He gave me a skeptical look. “The minimum number of officers in a corporation in California is three, unless you only have one or two shareholders, in which case you can have one or two, respectively. Donald Marks has listed himself as both the secretary and the treasurer, and you as the president.”

“Okay.”

“You’re telling me you didn’t know of this arrangement?”

“First I’ve heard of it.” I glanced at Carynne for confirmation.

“I knew you were a shareholder because he sends us a tax form about it every year, but I had no idea you were the only one besides him,” she said. “What are the responsibilities of the president?”

Al sighed. “Well, among other things, the president typically has to sign some corporate paperwork every year, but it’s possible in Cali the secretary can be designated to do that. Although, I am fairly sure that the officers each sign a the papers of incorporation. Do you recall signing anything like that?”

I shared a glance with Carynne. “I don’t recall anything like that. But it’s possible Digger had me sign something without me knowing what it was.”

Al looked like he was trying hard not to roll his eyes again. “‘It’s possible,’” he repeated.

“What do you want me to say? Digger was having me sign things all the time. I usually looked to make sure they were what he said they were?”

“Just to be clear,” Al said, making a note on his pad, “Donald Marks, whom you refer to as Digger, is your father?”

“He is.” I refrained from making a snarky remark other than, “Unfortunately.”

“And are you claiming that he made you an officer in his corporation without your knowledge or consent?”

“Um, I’m not sure what the technical definition is, but I did tell him I wanted something if he was going to borrow band money to start a business.”

Al made another note. “So you’re saying that Mr. Marks had a history of embezzlement and you knowingly went into business with him?”

“What?” I blinked. Was he accusing me of actually being in cahoots with Digger? “He was our band manager and my career manager before Carynne took over. I’m the one who fired him.”

He sighed another lawyerly sigh, as if I were testing his patience. “Two frauds don’t make a right,” he said.

“I haven’t defrauded anybody,” I said, my temperature rising.

“I am merely referring to the fact that you claim he was embezzling money from you, and rather than seek restitution through the courts, you settled for partial ownership of his corporate entity. The second embezzlement is from client Sarah Rogue. I was using the term fraud colloquially for the sake of a quip.”

“Um, okay?”

“Now, when it comes to actual fraud, him forging your signature might well be. If he did, that is. We might be able to build a case that your total ignorance of corporate matters constitutes evidence of consiracy to commit fraud. But it’s tenuous.”

My blood pressure felt like it was about to go through the top of my head and anxiety was going to crush my windpipe any second. So you know how hard it was for me to speak up. “Can I ask a question?”

“Please,” Al said.

“Are you on my side? I’m starting to feel like I shouldn’t talk to you without a lawyer of my own.”

Al cracked a smile and waved his hand at me. “You’ve got nothing to worry about if you’re not guilty of anything.”

“Because it really sounds like you’re making me out to be an accomplice–”

“No, no, no. It’s just that’s the tactic that the Rogala legal team will be taking. So we have to know. We need to know everything. Before we get to the deposition stage. Or you could be digging your own grave. We’d much rather that ‘Digger’ be digging his.” He let out one little laugh at his joke. “Listen. There are two reasons why someone sues for embezzlement. One is to get the money back. Okay, everyone can understand that. The other is, well, revenge. Because you want them to pay for breaking your trust. Money isn’t enough then. That’s when they want jail. If all she wanted was the money back, it’d be civil suit all the way because once someone is in jail, they’ve got no way to pay you back.”

“Unless you can get the money out of someone else,” Barrett said, “which is how Daron got made party to this in the first place, right?”

Al waved his hand again. “I don’t think it’s personal. I think it’s more a case of if DMA has assets or income that they should be going toward the restitution rather than pocketed by shareholders–or in this case shareholder, singular. And since the junior Mr. Marks was unaware of any income, assets, or other corporate information, he isn’t expecting it to begin with. But I have not yet made my point.”

Carynne tapped her pen against her own notebook. “And what is your point?”

“My point, and I assure you I have one, is that the DA rarely pursues a criminal embezzlement case without a full confession. Embezzlement is just too damn hard to prove if the person accused was cooking the books.”

“But we know Digger was cooking the books,” I said. “His former assistant gave us copies of the real and the faked ledgers.”

“Did she?” Al asked, completely poker-faced.

“She did. She gave them to Ziggy. And Colin looked them over.”

Barrett shook his head suddenly. “Wait, when?”

“Over a year ago,” I said. “You didn’t know this?”

Al loosened his tie. “I’ll need to see this evidence. This assistant you mention. Is that Ms. Jackson?”

“Janessa, yes,” Barrett confirmed.

Al looked back and forth between Barrett and me. “Does the Rogala camp have all the information Ms. Jackson provided already?”

Barrett shrugged, so I answered. “I don’t know. I kind of assumed we were on the same side as them and that Ziggy shared it with Sarah?” I know, I know, when you assume… yeah, yeah. “I thought that was what gave Sarah the ammunition to go after Digger in the first place.”

“No good deed goes unpunished,” Al intoned. “Anything else I should know? Any other forms of extortion, blackmail, or fraud taking place that we should toss into the mix?”

Barrett’s turn to sigh. “We already ruled out the paternity issue.”

“Good. There’s enough on the plate here as it is. But we may need Ms. Jackson’s testimony.”

“She and Ziggy have remained on friendly terms, as I understand it,” Barrett said.

“All right, all right. I’ll need to talk to her and to Ziggy before we can figure out what’s next. Or the deposition will be a bloodbath.”

I didn’t ask what kind of a bloodbath he meant. I took it to mean it would be bad, for WTA as well as me, but I did not leave the office that day feeling like he, or WTA, was necessarily on my side. Which was not a good feeling at all.

(Sorry for the delay on this post, folks! I am just as bad at Daron on knowing what day of the week it is, but unlike him, when I am on the road I don’t have someone slipping a day sheet under my hotel room door to remind me! So we’re a day behind. Happy Friday! It is Friday, right…? -ctan)

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