Jake hung up the phone and smiled. “Another party for me,” he thought to himself. He brought himself back to the business he was conducting before making the call to Corporate – another issue of loopholes. It was always so funny – this world, the way he knew it, was full of so many rules. Everyone had to be so damn correct and proper and fair all the time. Why was it only him (okay, well, there were a few exceptions) that had to find the loopholes? If that was what it came down to, that’s what it came down to, and he would find them. He always did.
All of the windows on his screen had been shut down and he logged off. Jake stood and removed the jacket from the back of his leather chair, where it had hung all morning. The Eddie Bauer Expedition that he had managed to swing about eight months prior still had that new-car look about it; the doors automatically unlocked with the press of a button as Jake stepped out of the office and into the parking lot. The engine of the oversized dark green vehicle started up and turned with a purr; he revved it twice to feel the power and know that he controlled the power. Next stop was the attorney.
Half an hour later, Jake sat meekly in front of a broad black clean desk, his hands softly resting on his lap, his fingers interlocked. He sat in the clients’ chair in his full suit. His face was solemn and his eyes stayed low for the most part, only shifting shortly to one side or the other when he took a deep breath. The current situation called for his to be a posture of moroseness and deference. The man on the other side of the desk looked from one sheet of a certain stack of papers to the next with a certain briskness mandated by his vocation. At times he would break the process by staring at one sheet longer than usual, making sure that he had assessed its entirety before resuming his pace with the succeeding pages. This was the third time he had made his way through this particular stack. Jake didn’t need a visual count. He could hear well enough, no matter where his eyes were. When the shuffling stopped, his eyebrows peaked and his gaze followed.
“Well, Mr. Sterling, everything appears to be in order; all I require now is your signature on a select assortment of documents for us to, shall we say, tie up all the loose ends.” The attorney’s voice was business – all business. There may have been a slight breath of emotion there, but none of it would ever be noticed, not here. Here business is business, money is money and service is service, for a price.
“Of course,” Jake responded in a low voice, still feigning mournfulness.
The man behind the desk collected four documents, this time Jake counted with his eyes, and tapped them neatly together after standing them on end. He passed them over without looking up. Two gold rings flashed in unison at the end of a Grade-A charcoal suit as Jake slowly reached for the papers. The smile his lips concealed almost touched his ears. He cleared his throat and pulled himself up to the desk. The first document lay in front of him with a dark open line on the bottom at the left. He was finally there.
“Oh, here you go.” The attorney reached behind his notched lapel and, with a soft click, produced a black pen. In one smooth motion the man removed the cap with a crisp snap and passed both parts to his client. After which, the man leaned back in his chair to a reclining position and rested his elbows on the armrests. His finger tips came together as though they were pressing against mirror images of themselves. There he rested, looking away from his client.
Jake took the pen and slid its weighty cap on the opposite end and looking at the paper, took a deep breath. The pen came to the first line and the lawyer began to speak.
“I’m sorry again for the loss of your mother, “ he started. “It’s too bad really.” The ink flowed fluidly across the line, leaving a trail of letters of an unhindered state of mind. His capitals and lower cases blended smoothly as his name took a firm and attractive shape on the lines of the pages. The first page danced out of the way and the second did the same. The lawyer’s word’s were a soft soothing melody somewhere far away.
“…signature didn’t really look like that of her hand..” The pen tip stalled at first contact with the third page, bleeding a dull piddle of ill-used ink. Jake blinked himself back into a jagged cacophonous reality – no more relaxation, no more happiness, no more quiet smooth letters and rolling perfect ink. He was back where he started. Before he had been handed the documents and the pen. He looked at the ink spill from his pen and blinked again, this time with a small quickened shake of his head. He set the pen down and rubbed his eyes. Another deep breath seemed to be in order.
“I’m sorry?” Jake said, thinking the man would repeat himself.
“Hmm?” The man responded, clearly a sign that his train of thought had been broken.
“I’m sorry, what were you saying?” Jake repeated.
“Oh, yes, well, I was just mentioning that your mother must have been quite busy with the will and all before she passed. Visually, it seemed that some of signatures on the documents she signed weren’t really hers anymore. Not that they were bad or wrong… I mean, I know how tired she must have been toward the end.”
“Ah,” Jake said, not sure how to continue. “Well, yes, she was under a lot of stress what with the demands of the corporation coming down on us and all,” he finished. That should be enough to take him back to the state of tranquility that he had been enjoying prior to the interruption. He put the pen back down on document No. 3 and began anew. Within seconds of the first swirls of his signature, the lawyer turned back to his outward musings and began again.
“Yes. The deed to the property that she bestowed to you in legacy was among them, you know?” The swirls turned to sharp forced lines. “The deed to the office headquarters? Not that it’s any of my business, but there must have been a certain degree of contention between your other siblings on this issue. Poor woman; that’s a lot to handle for the average person, let alone an octogenarian.”
Jake had worked on that signature for two weeks straight, making sure every curve of every S and every peak of every crest of every M were as perfect as the original – as perfect as ever. Those signatures were every bit as authentic as if it were from her own hand. Impossible for it to look anything outside of that. He made a quick clearing of his thoughts and brought himself back to his chair and his pen and the documents he was signing. Where was he? Oh yes, page three.
He looked at the bottom line of document No.3 and it was a mess. The first quarter started off nicely, but then it turned into an apparent fight between the vertical lines and the horizontal lines of a tic-tac-toe board. The lines had straightened out and had drug the signature from on the line to below the line entirely. It didn’t even look like he had signed it. Jake looked up from the papers and saw the lawyer’s eyes fixed in the same place on the page where his eyes just were. “Curious,” he said, and leaned back in his chair behind the desk, his fingers meeting their counterparts in a steeple.
Jake quickly turned to the fourth and final page and matched the pen’s smooth brass fountain head to the bottom line. He made a stalling sound as he signed, so as not to allow any more of the lawyer’s words into his head.
“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh (signing), so, this all that is needed, then?” “I believe so, Mr. Sterling. I hope I wasn’t disturbing you with what I was saying; my mind tends to ramble on and, before I know it, I’ve spoken a chapter’s worth and haven’t even paid conscious effort to any of it.” The man took the papers that Jake handed him and set them neatly in the center of his desk.
“It’s quite all right. You’ll excuse me if I seem more reserved than usual. It’s just that I’m still in a bit of a shock by it all. Also, my signature on the third page looks a little shaky. I lost my train of thought there for a minute and that was the result in my train’s absence.”
Jake stood up and the lawyer came around his desk. “I’ll see you out, Mr. Sterling. It’s time for me to close up shop for the day.” The two walked outside and the lawyer bid Jake a good day without looking up from his watch. The click of the Jaguar door as he closed it was soft but solid. He drove off with his windows up. Jake walked back to the Expedition, unlocked the doors from the remote control in his pocket and smiled broadly as he slid onto the leather driver’s seat. Again, without fail, he was in control. One more stop.
Vincent was mid-way through his Eighth Grade Algebra class when the classroom door opened. All heads either rose from their books or turned from the blackboard. He saw his uncle, Jake, standing there and beckoning him to approach. “C’mon Vinny, we have an appointment.” Vincent packed his things, trying his best not to add to the disruption of the class, and walked out.
“I told your dad I’d pick you up today, buddy,” Jake said as though he were talking with his best friend. “How was school?”
“Well, I kinda didn’t finish. But, it’s going well.”
“Good good. Do you have homework at all?”
“A little,” he answered tacitly.
“Okay well, you can get that done at your dad’s office, can’t you?”
“Yeah,” said Vincent.
“Good, because we’re all going out to dinner tonight, and your dad wants to make sure you finish that before we go out, okay?” Jake took care of his nephew just as he was told. This was his brother’s kid; and he had plans for him to grow up with a great style, good teachings and a keen sense of self.
The walked off campus, Jake patted his nephew on the back in the familiar avuncular fashion Vincent was used to. They slid into the soft leather seats of the Expedition and Jake started the engine. He revved it twice.
“You got your seatbelt on?” He asked.
“Just making sure,” said Jake. They headed toward the office. Dinner was going to be great.