The anticipated meeting between Lou Sturgis and Jonesy is in this installment. They are two sides of the same coin with both of them interested in helping underdog clients, but Jonesy takes the high road while Sturgis pushes the envelope in his legal dealings.
I liked writing the dialog between the two and I hope you enjoy it. I think we’re coming to the ultimate ending of this story, but I’m not sure how long it will take to develop.
On a side note, I’ve updated my Author Directory and Serial pages. You can now find all the authors I’ve interviewed over the past 3 years and the serials that I’ve written, two of which have become books this year.
Please enjoy this latest installment of First Impressions.
OutOfDate62 was on edge. The outcome of the confrontation between Sturgis and Jones was an unknown. Sturgis had proven himself capable of talking nearly 100 plaintiffs into joining the class action lawsuit. He had also pulled out victories in many civil cases where the odds of coming away with a win were slim. Yet, Jones had a reputation that seemed to grow with every search that OutOfDate62 did. He appeared to be some kind of savant with a triple threat in the legal, financial and technology fields. Also, Sturgis was a wheeler-dealer. Could he be trusted to deliver the message to Jones without thinking of himself first? If he didn’t, of course, the consequences would be severe for his future and that of his career in law.
Jones was squeaky clean without so much as a parking ticket. He took on down and out clients pro bono, rescued lost children, saved the world and probably retrieved lost kittens from trees. He had no discernible vices or proclivities. As a technology guru, he somehow lived completely off the grid without a social media profile or even an email address other than the general ‘Contact Us’ one for his investigative agency.
Reluctantly, because of Jones’s seemingly spotless life, OutOfDate62 had to bring Sturgis into the picture to confront Jones and make sure that he had backed down. It had been too easy and Johnston had agreed much too quickly. Of course, the doctored video had been sent to his wife and daughter. Johnston
needed to pay regardless of his response. He was in this too deeply and needed to face the consequences. OutOfDate62 would unleash the rest of the ammunition stored against the Kongo Match customers and leadership, along with the leadership of the parent company in due time. One might think the customers were just innocent victims, but OutOfDate62 knew better. They had found love, or at least human companionship, this was something that would forever be out of reach and revenge had to be exacted.
Sturgis couldn’t believe who answered the door. Neither could Jack Horowitz, lawyer to the elitist art community of Santa Fe. Sturgis had never met him, but he felt that Horowitz was a kindred spirit in that he found business where other lawyers failed to tread and was successful.
“Lou Sturgis,” Horowitz said. “I thought there was a reason the birds stopped chirping in the neighborhood. Now I know what it is.”
Sturgis laughed uncomfortably.
“Jack Horowitz. Is that anyway to treat a fellow steward of the law?”
“Steward of the law? Is that what you consider yourself. I think you’re more of a steward of your wallet.”
“Well, as much as this repartee is stimulating, that’s not why I drove up to your little hippie town,” Sturgis said as the anger rose from his shoulders and through his neck.
“My apologies for my lack of hospitality, but I couldn’t help myself. Why are you here, anyway?”
“I came to visit your house guest. Mr. Jones is here, isn’t he?”
Horowitz didn’t miss a beat.
“Sure, he is in town. We are friends from college. What do you want with him and, more importantly, how do you know he’s here.”
Sturgis thought about lying, but he didn’t know how aware Horowitz was and didn’t feel like testing him. He just went with a version of the truth.
“I think he’ll want to talk with me. It’s about a business engagement he’s been involved in. I’m representing clients involved in the same case. We need to confer.”
“The way I heard it, you’re on the other side of that situation. Isn’t it a bit sketchy for you to be here?”
“Not really. Look, Jones is really going to want to hear what I have to say. Please, just tell him I’m here.”
As Horrowitz swung the door open, he could see Jones standing within earshot. He had likely heard most of the conversation.
“Well this should be good,” Jonesy said.
“I don’t know who to be more disgusted with,” Johnston’s daughter Cecilia said as she sobbed. “Julia is a little flighty and a bit wild, but you, Dad, how could you.”
“Now, just calm down, honey,” Johnston’s wife said. “It’s not what you think.”
“What? You saw the video too, Mom? How can you say it’s not what I think. It’s right there recorded for all to see.”
“The video is edited,” Johnston said. “I just shared the raw video with your mom.”
“How can it be different? Does it still show Julia taking off her top and you grabbling her?”
“Cecilia, your dad played the video with the audio track. You can hear him turning down Juila’s advances and it cuts off before he tries to cover her with a blanket.”
There was silence on the line as Cecilia tried to process what her parents had told her.
“So, you’re telling me my brest friend came on to Dad, he turned her down and you didn’t tell me.”
“I see now that keeping it from you and Mom was a mistake. I was trying to protect everyone. I thought it was just one of those bizarre one-time things.”
There was another 30 seconds of silence from Cecilia.
“That explains it,” she finally said. “Julia left abruptly that day and said she had some homework to do that she had forgotten about. It didn’t seem right. She never cared about homework before that.”
“I’m sorry you found out this way,” Johnston said.
“That’s okay Dad. I should have known better. I should have never doubted you.”
“It’s only natural,” Johnston said. “I’m going to let you talk to your mom. I need to call the person I have investigating this whole hacking case and tell him what happened. I love you sweetheart.”
“I love you too, Daddy. I’m sorry.”
“No problem. I understand.”
Johnston retreated to his office and took the encrypted cell phone that Jones had given him out of his bag. He dialed the number Jones had given him and heard it ring several times.
“Mr. Jones, I presume?” Lou Sturgis said as he could suddenly not think of anything more clever to say.
Jack Horowitz stepped aside and let Sturgis into the entryway. The two guests faced each other.
“Well, I’d respond with ‘who is asking’ but I’ve seen you plastered all over billboards from Albuquerque to Santa Fe,” Jonesy said. “That slogan sure is catchy. ‘Don’t cry boo hoo, call Lou and Sue. That really gets you clients?”
“It’s my reputation that gets me client.”
“If I had your reputation, I’d need penicillin,” Jonesy quipped.
“Are we just going to stand here and insult each other?” Sturgis asked.
“I don’t know,” Jonesy answered. “I’m kind of enjoying it. What do you think, Jack.”
“I’m not getting in the middle of this,” Jack Horowitz responded. “If you want this scumbag to leave you alone, I can call the local PD and have him run out of town.”
“Maybe later,” Jonesy said. “For now, I want to hear him out and find out why he’s here.”
“That’s very civil of you Mr. Jones,” Sturgis said. “May I call you Clifford or Cliff?”
“I don’t go by those names. My friends call me Jonesy. You can call me Mr. Jones.”
“Fine,” Sturgis said. “Trust me, I don’t want to here. My hand is being forced.”
“By whom?” Jonesy asked.
“That’s just it, I don’t really know,” Sturgis answered sounding sincere for the first time in the conversation.
“So, that hacker, OutOfMind62 go to you too?”
“Oh, I like that name better,” Sturgis said. “Yes, I was called on my special client phone and instructed to drive up to hippie town and remind you to back away from the case.”
“Well, Mr. Jones, that’s the thing. The only information I was given to convince you was this.”
Sturgis pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to Jonesy. Jonesy looked at it briefly and smiled.
“Hmmm, this hacker is pretty good. No one has ever gotten this far before.”
“Are you going to share what that means?”
“Sure. This is the balance that I have in a very secret account. It appears our hacker has somehow tied it to me and has gained access to it.”
“You don’t seem to upset about it. He also told me that if you didn’t back off, he would turn that number to zero. I know that attorneys can make good money, but that is seven figures. Can you afford to lose that.”
“Oh, I’m not worried at all.”
“And why is that.”
“I’m not sure I want to share that information with you, Mr. Sturgis. Technically, you and I are on opposite sides of this case. Like the hacker, you want to hurt Kongo Match and Kongo.com. The hacker, however, is being much more elegant about it.”
“That’s not fair, Mr. Jones. Those people are victims. They deserve representation and fair compensation.”
“And you deserve 40% of that compensation, I suppose?”
“I’m only taking 35% and, yes, otherwise Kongo’s legal team will screw them over.”
“And your not?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Look, Johnston told the hacker I was off the case. I just came up here to visit my good friend, Jack. Nothing more.”
“You expect me to believe that, Mr. Jones?”
“I don’t care what you believe.”
“So, you’re going to make me tell this scumbag that you wouldn’t cooperate and then let him steal your life savings?”
“I’m not making you do anything. What kind of leverage does this person have over you, anyway?”
Sturgis turned a few shades paler.
“I’d rather not talk about that. Let’s just say, there is motivation for me to cooperate.”
“That’s one way to go, but what if you took the high road and helped me catch the scumbag?”
Sturgis went uncharacteristically silent.
“I’m not sure that would be fair to my clients. If we catch the hacker, he or she takes the fall for pranking my clients and the settlement from Kongo suddenly becomes smaller.”
“Look, you’re going to have to decide if your greed is worth hurting innocent people at Kongo. I’m sure there will still be a sizable settlement to keep this as quiet as possible and you’ll still get your chunk of that. How much money to you need to make?”
“As someone with a seven-figure bank balance, aren’t you being a bit hypocritical?”
“Let’s not turn things around. My money is clean. Can you say the same?”
Sturgis, once again, went silent.
“What exactly do you want me to do? I don’t trust this hacker. We could both end up getting screwed over in this deal.”
“Let’s go back to the guest house and talk it through,” Jonesy said. “I think you will be interested in what I’m proposing.”
Jonesy nodded to Jack Horowitz and led Sturgis through the house and to the guest house. Just as he opened the door, he heard his encrypted phone ringing. It was Johnston. As he answered it and stepped into the bedroom shutting the door behind him, he wondered what had happened now.