Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 3

Jacob followed me out to the parking lot and commented on my blue Camaro. “Nice ride!”

“I’ve always been into muscle cars, what can I say?”

“What is this, a 72?”

“Sixty-nine, before they loaded it with all those smog devices. It’s got a 396 with a four-barrel carb.” I opened the door and added, “We’ve been through a lot together.”

Jacob seemed impressed and he climbed in on the passenger side. “Comfy!” He fidgeted in the seat to get the best feel he could, then buckled up.

We headed east and soon pulled up in front of James’ parents’ house. I stepped out of the car and up the walk towards the front door; Jacob scrambled to catch up. We were both well-dressed in business suits to emphasize our occupation. I rang the bell.

Footsteps could be heard on the inside, coming closer, then the door opened. “Can I help you?” the woman asked. She was of fair complexion and was in a faded yellow sun dress and sandals.

“Are you Mrs. Lovell?” I asked in as serious a voice as I could muster.

“Yes, what is it?”

“I’m Mr. Fargo and this is Mr. Atkins from the Law Firm of Adams and Sethmore. Can we come in?”

Mrs. Lovell hesitated but stepped aside so we could enter.

We all sat in the dark formal living room, she on a white accent chair and we on a brown leather sofa. “Mrs. Lovell, we have a situation with your son, James.”

“Why? What’s wrong with James?”

“Well, I’m sorry to have to bring this to your attention, but James and another boy have been beating up kids at the schoolyard.” Jacob held out the laptop and I took it and opened the lid. “We have video …”

Mrs. Lovell stayed silent as we ran the crude video Jacob had prepared. “This,” I said as I pointed to the white boy on the screen, “is James. We already know the identity of the other two boys. One of them, their victim, is our client.” She seemed shocked as the footage ran, showing a white boy and a black kid pummeling a third kid, a Hispanic. I didn’t let the video play more than a minute, long enough to make a point but not long enough for her to scrutinize the scene. I closed the laptop and waited for her to speak.

Finally, Mrs. Lovell said, “I’m not sure what to say. James is a good kid, but his father is overseas. Maybe he’s acting out.”

“That’s unfortunate for our client, isn’t it?”

She looked down, obviously embarrassed.

“Mrs. Lovell, our client isn’t interested in money, at least for now. We did advise him to sue for medical reparation and mental anguish, but he would not agree. James isn’t 18 yet, is he?”

“No, he’s 16.”

“Then you and his father would be the on the hook for any award.”

“If he doesn’t want money, what does he want?”

“He wants it to stop. This has been happening 2 or 3 times a week for the last two months.”

“Oh, my.” She hesitated and appeared to have a difficult time speaking. “I … I will make him stop. I promise.”

Jacob spoke up. “That’s all well and good, but we have insisted on something more, to make up for the fear and stress, and extreme pain, our client has been facing.”

“What are you asking for?”

“That James and Leon turn themselves in at school and do twenty hours each of cleanup, like graffiti cleanup and trash pickup, after school.”

“That’s reasonable … Then you won’t sue?”

“If they do that,” Jacob answered, “and they stop picking on school kids, especially our client, you have our word. You’ll need to talk to Leon’s parent and get them to agree.”

“I will, believe me.”

I added, “If we hear from our client that nothing changed, the next time you see us it will be in court.”

“I understand.”

“One more thing. The boys do pretty well on the basketball team, don’t they?” Mrs. Lovell nodded. “A lawsuit like this would probably prevent them from getting a scholarship anywhere.” She silently nodded again.

I felt a little bad for the lady; she was almost in tears. But better this than some of the alternatives.

Back in the car, I decided to let Jacob know I was pleased. “That was nice work. Getting the after-school work really accentuated our point …”

“… And maybe,” he interjected, “will do some good with these kids.”

“We can hope.”

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