“You’ve been avoiding me!”
The man on the other end of the phone was ripping into him like a gale. Liam could feel the bite of his sharp voice as he insisted to know why he hadn’t returned his calls.
Liam now placed the other man’s voice as that of George Garlic – Dr. George Garlic, Ph.D. – probably the most arrogant asshole on the face of the planet. Liam’s previous plans for the day included anything but dealing with George. He’d rather take a trip to the dentist. George was one of those people who think their shit doesn’t stink and that they’re so much better than you they can treat you like dirt. He even dressed the part. George wore the most expensive suits Liam had ever seen – Brunello Cucinelli’s: $250 for just the pocket square, $800 for the belt. He was detailed right down to his socks. What he must have paid for one suit would be a couple of house payments for the rest of us. He wanted you to know, upfront, how superior he was and how inferior you were.
So, what was George on his high horse about now?
George had come to Liam for a loan to build a “smart park”. Liam did not even know what a “smart park” was, and still didn't, but he did know what the value of the fifty acres of prime commercial land with its own railroad spur was worth and which George owned free and clear to build it on. He made the loan, no questions asked, taking both the land and the finished smart park as collateral.
“Don’t you ever check your messages?” demanded George, his voice stinging so sharply that Liam winced and had to hold the phone further away from his ear.
Liam Vinson owned a successful chain of pawnshops and was in the moneylending business. George, who was the founder and CEO of a company that did underwater optical holography, basically got himself a pawn ticket for the land. Pawnbroker loans were normally ninety days at 48% interest, but Liam knew a good deal when he saw one. He took a 25% ownership in the property and gave George his construction loan secured by the balance of the land. George had one year to repay the loan or lose it.
“I’ve been out of the country,” Liam replied, pacing now and glancing at his wristwatch. He didn't have time for this. “You have to change SIM cards on your phone when you do that and change carriers, which changed my phone number. I just got back yesterday. So, what’s on your mind?”
“Well, while you were doing... whatever you do," George informed him. “I’ve been dealing with something of your creation. That renter for my house? He hasn’t made his December rent payment.”
“What’s that got to do with me?”
“You rented it to him!”
Oh, yeah. That’s right.
As part of the loan deal, to help George make the monthly interest payments, Liam had gotten an important client as a renter for George’s impressive hillside estate overlooking Puget Sound, for twice what George could have gotten for it and with two months’ rent paid in advance. George wasn’t living in the house, anyway. He was 500 miles away building his smart park, so it was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. George got his payments covered, and Liam did an associate a favor. He hadn’t expected to hear from George again until his loan came due as, once the papers were signed, he became immediate trailer trash to George.
“That’s only a few days late.” Liam tried to placate him. “He’s an MIT professor with perfect references and no other financial obligations. Unless he lost his job, he can afford it. Have you called him?”
“The phone number you gave me for him is disconnected.”
“Maybe he moved out?”
“Or maybe he never moved in,” George countered. “When his number came up disconnected, I looked him up on the internet, which lists an entirely different address and phone number for him.”
“Did you call it?”
“Yes! Sure, I called it! And I reached Professor Michael Verou and spoke with him personally, and he denied ever renting the house!”
“I made certain he put the utilities in his name, and he did,” Liam said. “He rented it, alright.”
“Then I’m going to call the police on him.”
“You can try,” Liam explained. “But the police don’t take those kinds of calls. If you call the police and include them, you can expect them to write you a citation for a false alarm. This is a non-emergency. You’ll just have to go out there yourself.”
George did not like that at all. The volume of his voice further increased. He was now at DEFCON 3. “I want you to come with me. You rented it to him!”
“Go out there with you?” asked Liam, startled to hear this. “What do you mean? Are you here in town?”
“I am. I can be at the house gate in an hour.”
For him to be in town caught Liam off guard. He wasn’t expecting this. He tried to get out of going. “I’m not in the business of collecting your rents, George.”
“You’re not a licensed realtor either, but you just rented out a house. That’s illegal!”
Liam rolled his eyes and shook his head. So that’s why he was calling. George wanted him to solve his rent collection problem. Otherwise, to a prick like George Garlic, who had thoroughly earned his last name, Liam wasn’t worth the time of day. Unless some poor bastard missed his house rent. Then watch out.
“It’s not illegal when you do it for free,” he replied.
George’s voice grew even sharper. He now reached DEF-CON 4. Next was DEF-CON 5 with nuclear fallout. “You either come out there with me, or I’m turning this over to my attorney, and I’ll be including you in any lawsuit!”
George thought he was God, and you were his lowest creation. George dressed not only for success but for social domination. He expected respect from someone like Liam who wore blue jeans, tennis shoes, and polo shirts. In this case, though, George had probably bitten off more than he could chew. Some little bird told him this was not going to be George’s day. He could only pretend sympathy for George. He had no real sympathy for him for the simple reason that George had no sympathy for him or anyone else either. Why, if Liam had rented out his own house and someone missed the rent, George would hardly be offering to go out there along with him now. What was George so afraid of, anyway? They wouldn’t hurt him. They’d just pay him and get rid of him. It was simply an oversight somewhere. Still, George was serious about naming him in a lawsuit. Where George naturally confronted, Liam naturally avoided. He tried to placate him to get out of going.
“You don’t need me, George. You can handle it yourself if you’re here—”
“I'm not handling it myself," George interrupted.
“—and, besides, I have a date,” Liam finished.
Liam checked outside his view window room of his custom home. Beyond his own reflection of smooth, dark hair and a white swimsuit, he saw the striking figure of blonde-haired Daniella Stevens, just outside in his hot tub, warming up for him with a hot toddy. She was certainly more inviting than the 45-minute drive out to George's house which would just end up being a waste of his time. The only thing he’d accomplish by humoring “King George” would be making himself another one of George’s lowly servants to be ordered about. For some reason, people did things for George. It must be the suit, he decided—a expensive suit stuffed with a stuffed shirt.
Yet, for being such an arrogant jackass, he never bragged. George never bragged about anything. Not even how smart he was or what his suits cost. Yet he was still a snooty, arrogant SOB. It was the way his eyes looked at you – like you were a McDonald’s employee asking him if he’d like an order of fries to go with that multi-million dollar construction loan.
Liam doubted he’d even recognize George in passing on the streets, but for his suits. A tall figure, silhouetted against his office backdrop, George’s demeanor exuded an air of perpetual discontent. His long, thin black hair seemed to reflect the ceiling lights, framing a face marked by pale blue eyes that held a constant flicker of dissatisfaction. A pointy nose, ever so slightly upturned, completed the portrait of a man who always looked unhappy, like there was some other place he’d rather be. And with Liam, that “someplace else” was probably anywhere else but with him, including sharing a sidewalk. It was rather a surprise, then, for George to call now. Liam had no idea what George did in his own time and no desire to find out.
"If I don't get my house rent," George went on, his voice full of demanding warning, "you don't get your interest payment!"
Liam was unconcerned. If George thought he wa screaming now about his interest payment, wait until his development loan comes due. With no tenants committed to purchase or lease, he’d get no bank loan to pay it off, and Liam would foreclose and own it all. But that wasn’t his problem. That was George’s.
Liam had about as much use for George as a wad of chewing gum found stuck to the bottom of a chair. If not for the threat of having to go to the waste of hiring a lawyer and appearing in court, he saw no reason to put up with George for even one more minute, let alone an hour or two of his time, just to pacify him. He’d even wish George luck, asshole that he was, just so long as he didn’t have to go out to the house with him.
“If anything is going on up there, I want you with me,” George went on, still insisting. “I’m serious about including you in any lawsuit. You know who my lawyer is, don't you?"
"Yes! And he's the best there is! So which is more important? Your date or spending a day in court with my attorney? So what’s it going to be? Are you coming with me or not?”
Liam balanced on succumbing to George’s demands or not. The prospect of spending a day in court with an attorney, especially George’s formidable lawyer, Wade Tuckerson, would hardly be fun. The image of legal battles and unnecessary complications of just trying to find a parking space at the courthouse clouded his mind.
He glanced at the hot tub by his swimming pool outside, where Daniella Stevens awaited their fun. A sigh escaped his lips. The simplicity of a sexual match versus the looming legal entanglements presented a stark contrast. He could step into a potentially undesirable situation or stand his ground, hang up, go have fun, and face the consequences of a brewing storm with Wade Tuckerson
Liam made his choice. He chose simplicity.