It's Going to Happen Eventually
Sometimes a lawyer takes a case because he really wants some publicity. You see those cases in the headlines all the time, they’re a dime a dozen. Usually some psychopath butchers thirty people and cooks them in a pizza oven at 350 degrees. After this nutjob gets arrested, sure enough there’s his fancy lawyer on the courthouse steps with a grim expression on his face shouting to the cameras.
Other times, a lawyer takes a case because he thinks it's a quick payday. A guy gets smacked by a city bus and needs sixteen stitches, that’s the legal equivalent of a lay-up. A lawyer sends a letter to the city’s attorney and then somebody somewhere cuts a check so fat it has diabetes. The check covers medical bills, a ride in an ambulance, and a modest sum is set aside for the poor struggling law school graduate who will surely use that money to pay off his crippling student loans.
There wasn’t anything wrong with those kinds of cases because every lawyer from Clarence Darrow to Cicero has at one time stood on the courthouse steps or sent letters to bus companies. Lawyers liked money and prestige so they would work hard for both.
But Jimmy Bionel was not a typical lawyer and when he agreed to meet with Jennifer Johnston and her manager, the main thought that passed through his brain was “Maybe she’ll have sex with me.”
That wasn’t the only reason he took the case but it was a big reason.
Jennifer Johnston was one of the most physically attractive women in the world. She was Hollywood’s current “It Girl”, the newest blonde bombshell to step into the shoes of Marilyn Monroe. She looked like Aphrodite’s hotter sister and talked like she stepped out of a Rockwell painting.
Tony wanted her, just like nearly every other heterosexual on the planet, and so on that particular Thursday morning Jimmy was running around his Beverly Hills office and shoving piles of unread legal documents back into his handmade mahogany desk. He wanted everything to be perfect.
So when Amy, his assistant, broke the news of Ms. Johnston’s arrival over the intercom, Jimmy felt himself hesitate. What if she didn't like him? What if he hadn't done enough cardio this week? This internal crisis lasted thirty whole seconds and he could hear Amy getting anxious on the other end of the line.
“Should I send her up?” Jimmy could hear the indecision in the girl’s voice through the phone system; Amy had no idea what to do with important people.
He immediately scrambled for his phone and lifted the receiver to his ear. “God no!” Jimmy whispered into the mouthpiece, “Give me ten seconds and then send her up.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line and Jimmy could practically hear the dusty wheels in Amy’s small brain turning slowly. “Like ten seconds starting now?”
Jimmy took a deep breath, resisting the urge to growl his next instructions. “No. Hang up the phone and then count to ten, like they do on Sesame Street, and then send her up.”
There was a familiar crack on the line as Amy slammed the phone back into it’s cradle. Jimmy imagined his assistant was now pouting and fuming at her desk in the outer office. She was going to act like a kicked dog for the next seventy-two hours and Jimmy knew he deserved every second of the silent treatment.
His hard on was now making him act like an actual hard on.
But Jimmy did what everyone in LA does and pushed his shame aside. He counted to ten in his head while adjusting his sixty dollar Calvin Klein tie. He used the tips of his fingers to gently straighten out the sports coat on his twelve hundred dollar Brooks Brothers suit. It was his power suit, his super hero costume, a gray three piece that kind of looked like the one James Bond had in Goldfinger.
With the rest of his ten seconds he examined his angular, pointed face in a small hand mirror and dragged a comb across his thick black hair. Then he slipped a pair of lifts into his nine hundred dollar loafers to turn his lumpy Italian 5'11 into a godlike Anglo-Saxon 6'1.
As the countdown neared ten, Jimmy leaned his skinny-after-some-lipo body against his expensive desk and grabbed an expensive looking law book from his book shelf at random. The spine creaked because no one had ever opened it before.
Moments later the gloomy clouds parted at the offices of Howard, Fine, Besser and Associates as Ishtar descended from the heavens and graced the mere mortals with her divinity: Jennifer Johnston walked through Jimmy's office door.
There was no point in describing her since because literary descriptions of angels were exclusively a matter for religious texts and bibles. But it would be accurate to say that in person Jennifer Johnston lived up to the hype. Every part of her body had the adjective "perfect" connected to it. Perfect breasts, perfect legs, perfect face, and perfect hair that was the color of freshly harvested honey and seemed to waft in the imaginary summer breeze that magically followed her around.
Jimmy deliberately added a little base to his voice when he said "How are you ma'am, I'm James Bionel. How may I be of assistance?"
"I'm Jennifer," She said, "That book is upside down."
He looked at his hands. Sure enough he was holding his copy of Forensic Accounting for American Defense Attorneys upside down. He felt a fountain of blood rush into his face.
"Enough small talk!" Jimmy shouted as he tossed the heavy tome across the room, “Let's get down to business because, I, like all great men, prefer action."
Jennifer giggled, creating a sound that danced through Jimmy's ear drums like refreshing spring rain falling through evergreen trees. "Oh, my sister handles all that business stuff."
"Sister?" Jimmy shouted, "What sister?"
"Over here!" The voice was sharp and had a nasal quality to it. Jimmy's eyes reluctantly cut short their vacation at Jennifer's face and located the other person in the room. She was standing at Jennifer's left side, totally invisible unless you looked directly at her.
There was no point in describing Laurel Johnston because literary descriptions of trolls were reserved for fairy tales and fables. But it would be accurate to say that if you woke up next to something as short, fat and as unpleasant looking as Laurel you'd probably quit drinking. The only part of Laurel that Jimmy actually liked looking at was her suit: it was a men's pinstripe navy, probably bespoke and definitely from Savile Row. But the fresh mustard stain on the suit's lapel made it clear she did not appreciate her suit as much as he did.
Laurel reached into her jacket and pulled out a bedazzled iPhone with a pink case and handed it to her sister. "Jen, do me a favor and go play your candy game in the waiting room." The actress accepted the phone and happily glided out of the room with a pleased smile.
And then Jimmy was left alone with the other, significantly more butch Johnston, who plopped her round body into the red leather chair used by all of his clients. "She's a good kid, I am so glad my folks adopted her."
Jimmy nodded, adoption. Suddenly this family made more sense.
"Listen, I hate to complain but I was sort of hoping to speak to one of the senior partners." Laurel said
A small frown spread across Jimmy's face and he struggled to keep it from becoming a full scowl. "I am a senior partner."
"Your name isn't on the building."
That statement earned Laurel an eye roll, he was sick of explaining this to people. "It's Howard, Fine, Besser, and Associates." Jimmy pointed a single finger towards his own chest, "Associates is me. Only assholes put their names on things." That sounded a little harsher than he'd intended and Jimmy winced when the friendly smile faded away from Laurel's face. This was now a business meeting. He strolled around the side of his desk and settled down in his Italian leather chair. "Now, how can this senior partner help you?"
Laurel stared at him for a moment and Jimmy could tell she was weighing her options. All of his clients did this at some point and it was perfectly understandable. Weird guy, fancy office, expensive suits, he could be a hard pill to swallow. But in the end she caved. They always caved.
"Have you heard of Max Shoenfelt?" She asked reluctantly.
Jimmy gave a rude shrug in response, this was the ugly sister after all and he could give a shit about her opinion of him, "I met him a few times."
She scoffed, "You make a habit of hanging out with pornographers?"
He shrugged again, really emphasizing how little he gave a shit this time, "I'm a lawyer in Los Angeles, ma'am, meeting unpleasant people is an occupational hazard."
Another moment passed as Laurel swallowed the rest of the bitter medicine that was James Bionel. She rubbed a hand through her light brown buzz cut and released a heavy sigh. She reached inside her sport coat again and removed a folded up piece of computer paper. Taking the paper in between two chubby fingers, she tossed it across his desk with a flick of her wrist and it landed in the perfect center of Jimmy's work place. The placement was so perfect that he wondered if she had practiced tossing it the night before.
Without a word in response, Jimmy opened the paper and examined it's contents. It was a printed copy of a story from an online magazine called Forward. At the top was a large picture of Jennifer Johnston attending some kind of movie premiere and next to it was a photo of Max Shoenfelt's creepy old face hamming it up for the camera with a dozen scantily clad women standing next to him. Underneath the photos there was a headline:
Porn King Buys Lock of JenJo's Hair, Says He Wants To Clone Her
And underneath it: "Expect Porn Star Duplicate in Just Twenty Years." Says Max Shoenfelt
Two hours later, Jimmy walked out of the elevator onto the second floor of Shoenfelt Productions. He didn't even break his stride as he moved quickly through the outer office towards the conference room.
Shoenfelt Productions was a large operation, it took in around a quarter of a billion in revenue every year and it's office space was roughly twice the size of it's crosstown rivals at Hustler or Vivid. Still it wasn't exactly a pretty place to work, company offices themselves were exactly as strange and gauche as the man who founded them.
Max Shoenfelt started from humble beginnings, his father was a welder and his mother was a maid. He grew up in Northridge and attended Woodland Hills High school. In 1979 and when he was twenty, he bought a strip club and a camera and recorded his high school buddies having sex with some of the dancers. He sold those stag films in the back room of his club and then thirty years later he had a porn empire.
Jimmy kinda of liked the guy.
When they met last year, Max had that dirty old man charm that only Hollywood Jews could still pull off in the dark ages of coolness that was the 21st century. More importantly, Jimmy kind of understood Max. He could predict what Max was thinking at any given moment. Max Shoenfelt was born to make a quick buck, had a huge ego, and loved to shock people.
But as Jimmy stepped into the conference room of Shoenfelt Productions in North Hollywood, he learned three things about Max Shoenfelt that made chills run up his spine. First, Max had no taste for interior design because the conference room was decorated with gaudy postmodern furniture. Second, it was obvious Max was rich enough not to give a damn about interior design because in the corner of the room was a handmade leather couch that retailed for something like fourteen grand. And finally Jimmy learned that Max was currently in Florida overseeing the new Shoenfelt East Production Studio. That last part was really important because it meant that Jimmy was going to meet with Max's youngest daughter Gabby.
Gabby Shoenfelt lived in Southern California, the land of the blond Pilates instructor, so most people didn't realize that Gabby was stunning. In fact when Jimmy broke Gabby down into individual parts, even he admitted she was a looker. She was well dressed in a stylish gray pant suit that accentuated her short, curvy body. Across her cute round face and cream colored skin were small constellations of freckles that looked a little like tiny polka dots. On top of her head was an explosion of naturally curly strawberry blond hair that cascaded down to her shoulders. Each of the pieces were delicious and on any other woman in the world he would've used the words beautiful.
But those separate pieces somehow assembled themselves into the most awful human being Jimmy had ever met, which was also kind of impressive considering how many sleaze bags he knew.
Gabby was sitting at the head of the conference table when Jimmy walked in, gleefully tapping her smart phone and smiling about something. She didn't bother looking up from her phone when he walked in and barely acknowledged his presence when he settled into the nearest chair.
Even when he loudly cleared his throat, Gabby waited a whole three seconds before finishing her text message and smiling. "Good morning, Mr. Bionel," Her voice was sweet and polite and it immediately set Jimmy's teeth on edge, "How can I help you?"
"I am here on behalf of Ms. Jennifer Johnston." He kept his tone firm, flat and to the point. No emotion and he deliberately slowed his voice by a meter when he said his client's name to really let it sink in.
"Oh, then what can we do for Ms. Johnston?" More politeness and Gabby seemed even sweeter this time. It was scary and Jimmy found himself looking around the room to see if someone was going to sneak up behind him and cut his throat or something.
Seeing no Ninjas Assassins or Thugee Cult Members standing behind him, Jimmy returned to business and slid his cease and desist letter across the table towards Gabby.
"On behalf of Jennifer Johnston and her family, you are to dispose of Ms. Johnston's genetic material and cease all attempts to impregnate an embryo using said material." Jimmy said, "If you fail to comply, we will have no choice but to seek compensation through the court."
Gabby smiled and without a word, she crumpled the C&D letter into a ball and effortlessly tossed the letter into the trash can. Three points, he thought, she could play for the Lakers.
"No." That was her only verbal response. She even made that sound polite.
That obviously wasn’t the response he'd been expecting and Jimmy rose from the tables, still keeping his voice in the Joe Friday range, "Very well, Ms. Shoenfelt, my office will be in contact with your office, I'll try to get the suit filed by Friday of this week-"
Jimmy knew he should've left the room, should've walked out then and there, but something about the way she said those two words made him stop talking and sit back down in his chair. "The suit where we prevent you from cloning Jennifer Johnston."
Jimmy started to fume, he was boiling but not quite cooking with rage and this wasn't the first time Gabby had been responsible. "Because it's illegal!" He shouted, "You can't clone people!"
"According to who?" Jimmy didn't quite know what to say, he'd rushed over after his meeting with the Johnstons and just assumed he knew what he was doing. The walls suddenly felt like they were closing in, his collar felt just a little too tit. Maybe he had been wrong, maybe his throat really was going to get cut.
When his awkward silence approached twenty whole seconds, Gabby laughed and shook her head, "Oh Jim," He hated being called Jim and she knew it, "Did a pretty girl bat her eyes at you and you rode in here..." She laughed again, if it had been any other lawyer, Jimmy might've laughed too.
"You can't clone people!" He said again, but his voice cracked and he sounded like a little kid.
Gabby was beside herself with laughter now and Jimmy felt his stomach twist in to knots. "There are zero federal laws preventing human cloning, it's technically banned in California but we're going to move the cloning facility to Nevada to work around that. If you're going to sue us, you have to prove that we've harmed Ms. Johnston, mind saying how?"
"This is insane." Jimmy's jaw hung open as his brain whirled with the ugly possibilities, "This is utterly insane!"
Gabby shrugged, "Personally, I think so too but Daddy wants what Daddy wants. And he really thinks we might be able to make a lot of money on this." She fidgeted in her seat and Jimmy could tell she was thinking about the money, "First we could create a stable of celebrity look alike talent, porn parodies that look like the real thing, then as the technology improves we could go further: maybe Shoenfelt brothels where everybody can have sex with the stars. Hell, why not sell them to private buyers?"
"You can't sell..." Jimmy's voice felt weak and small and he didn't even bother finishing his sentence.
"We can't sell people? Who says they're people? Chimps share 96 percent of their genes with human beings, are they people? We make two little tweaks here and there and they'll be a genetically modified organism, not people. We can sell a million of them to China for a dime."
As Gabby spoke, Jimmy got a sad glimpse of the future. A future where perverts were watching a thousand Jennifer Johnston's debase themselves or, if they were rich perverts, owning a private Jennifer Johnston. Or a Scar Jo, or Johnny Depp, or a pair of Brangelinas. And dear god, it didn't end at celebrity sex toys. Imagine an army of mute, soulless abominations working on endless assembly lines in sweatshop conditions. One dies and the factory owners clone another one to take it's place.
Jimmy stared at Gabby, realizing suddenly that he was looking at the devil in a Vera Wang dress.
"...You see, Jimbo, the porn industry has always been an early adopter of technology. We were using video when the rest of the entertainment industry had film, we chose VHS over Beta, we saw DVDs coming over the horizon, and we were on the internet back when most people didn't know what that was." She chuckled and Jimmy had to quell the urge to smack her in the face and get a little revenge for those thousands of faceless drones in the future. "Hell, Sorority Sex Kitten 3 was on blu-ray way before Citizen Kane."
She finally dropped the sweet, politeness in her voice and Jimmy felt oddly relieved that the real Gabby was finally in the room, "Somebody is gonna make money off genetic engineering, Jim." Gabby snarled, "We just want to be on the ground floor."
Long ago, Jimmy's father sat down and gave his son an important life lesson: if you know you're going to lose the argument, get up and leave the room because you should never let an enemy see you bleed.
So that's what Jimmy did. He stood up from his chair, grabbed his briefcase and started walking out of the room. Gabby continued talking but Jimmy didn't hear the words, his ears simply failed to capture the legal trash talk spewing from her side of the conference room.
When he got to the door, Jimmy turned and looked his arch-nemesis dead in the eye, "Be certain of two things, Gabby," He said as he counted off his points on his fingers, "First, you need to know that Sorority Sex Kittens 3 was not as good as Sorority Sex Kittens 2, and second, I am gonna put a stop to this. I don't know how but...I am."
Then he turned on his heels and left. Gabby said something in response but again, Jimmy just wasn't listening.
The next two days were awful, pretty much the lowest point in Jimmy's professional career. First, at 10 in the morning, Jimmy called in an army of the firm's junior lawyers who sheepishly looked at the floor and shrugged their shoulders.
Two hours later, some unknown schmuck leaked the lawsuit to Gawkr and it went viral in hours. The rest of Jimmy's week was spent getting blasted with questions by everyone from TMZ to ABC News. Suddenly he was the butt of some pretty awful jokes. Jimmy Kimmel spent Saturday morning coming up with as many unemployed lawyer jokes as he could think of and posting them online, for twelve hours #unemployedlawyer was the most searched hashtag on twitter.
Finally on Saturday night, the ordeal came to an end and Jimmy arrived at his four bedroom Malibu beach house determined to be dead drunk for the rest of the weekend. He was totally alone in the world and also in his house because his permanent houseguest Eric had decided to spend the weekend with his wife and even Jimmy's cat avoided him when he walked in.
"Belly rubs are for closers." The female Egyptian Mau seemed to whisper from it's hiding place under the couch and it proceeded to ignore Jimmy completely for the rest of the night. So without companionship of any kind, he poured out a generous triple of George Dickle Whiskey over ice and turned on the TV.
By sheer coincidence one of Jennifer’s movies was playing on HBO that night. It was called Star Chase, a scifi space opera that made a mountain of cash for Parnassus Pictures last summer.
The movie was about this group of pirates who flew around outer space and were trying to rescue some sort of queen or princess from a group of evil empire types. Jennifer played the Princess/Queen who had stowed away on the good guy ship to escape the bad guy robot/soldiers.
It was a pretty good movie but Jimmy's mind was still reeling from two days of utter defeat and the mere idea of Jennifer Johnston now seemed painful and cruel. So he scowled at the TV screen and made little fart noises with his mouth every time Jennifer's character had a line.
"No, don't fly into that asteroid field! We'll be killed!"
"Oh Captain, I think I'm falling in love with you."
Fart noise, a wet one this time.
"Thank you, Captain, how can I ever repay you?"
Huge Four Alarm Bean Burrito fart noise.
Jimmy sat motionless in his empty house, making fart noises and getting drunk for 90 minutes of PG-13 fantasy violence until the closing credits rolled. Then, midway through making fart noises for every member of the Grip team, he saw something wonderful that made his heart sing:
Star Chase is a registered trademark of Parnassus Pictures
"Trademark infringement?" Gabby Shoenfelt's voice rolled like thunder through the hallways of Shoenfelt Productions, "What the hell do you mean Trademark Infringement?"
Jimmy took another bite of his hoagie and washed it down with a sip of ice cold lemonade. It had been a rough couple of days and as the sun rose on Monday morning, he decided to just kill his diet. He ordered a triple cheese steak sandwich at his favorite surf shack and arrived at Gabby's office still wearing his flip flops and surf shorts. He did put on a clean t-shirt, however, because he wasn't an animal.
"Well it's simple, Gabrielle," She hated being called by her full name and Jimmy was fully aware of that, "See, your goal of cloning Ms. Johnston is a clear attempt to violate her trademark."
"You can't trademark a person!"
Jimmy almost felt sorry for her, "Oh, Gabs, you're hilarious." He took a long, obnoxious sip from his hand squeeze lemonade and then kicked his feet onto Gabby's desk, "Of course you can trademark someone! Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, those aren't just people, they're brands that are marketed and sold and the Law recognizes those brands." Jimmy said, pausing to take another large bite of hoagie. Between mouthfuls of delicious steak and melted cheese, he continued his lecture, deliberately spraying bits of food in all directions as he talked.
"A guy named Elvis Presley is not considered THE Elvis Presley, even if he dresses and sounds like THE Elvis Presley because he lacks that undefined uniqueness recognized under the Law. There is only one, genuine Elvis. But if some idiot tries to clone him-"
Gabby screamed in fury and hurled a stapler at his forehead. The pitch went wide and Jimmy didn't even have to duck as it collided with the glass wall separating Gabby's office with the cubicle zoo of pornographers sitting just across the hallway. Everyone in the outer office stopped and stared as their boss received the rest of her medicine.
Her voice was like a low, evil growl from some kind of pissed off jungle cat, "There is no way that will hold up in court!"
Jimmy swallowed his food, brushed the crumbs off his t-shirt and stood up. He immediately regretted not wearing a suit because his next words would have sounded totally awesome coming from a man in a slim fit black two button. "Are you sure you want to test me? Cause if you lose, it'll cost a billion dollars."
"Jennifer Johnston starred in ten movies over seven years, the grand total of these films roughly adds up to around one billion dollars worldwide. If Jennifer earns a billion, her clone is worth a billion."
And that was more or less the end of the conversation because Gabby's next words were little more than a string of furious curses and angry yelling. When he politely mentioned that she should get the broken glass cleaned up, she threw her office chair at him in response. Jimmy decided to take his leave of Gabby Shoenfelt.
Some lawyers take cases for publicity, Jimmy didn't but he still managed to wind up looking like a super hero in legal circles when Shoenfelt productions dropped a press release declaring that they were abandoning their cloning project.
Some lawyers take cases for money, Jimmy didn't but he still squeezed four whole days of billable hours out of the Johnston case including a pretty fat retainer.
No, Jimmy took that case for one reason and one reason only: to take a pretty girl to bed. Sadly his dinner invitation was returned and he never saw Jennifer Johnston again. Six months later he read in the papers that she married some rock star who cheated on her with a super model.
Some guys have no class.
Oh well, he thought as he swallowed the last of his hoagie and boarded the elevator, you can't win them all.
Jimmy Bionel Will Return...
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