Side Bet Bluff Ch. 12bystatsultan©
Part 12. Thursday afternoon.
"You know, Will, Belinda wants me to convince you to make amends with Karen," Steven said. "She's quite upset about it." He grabbed his water and took a sip, casting a quick glance at the departing hostess.
The ladies of our group had gone en masse to the restroom as soon as we entered the restaurant. I originally thought that behavior was exclusively for high schoolers, but had been proven wrong far too many times over the years.
"No offense to your Belinda, but my relationship with Karen is my own to determine," I replied.
"Yes, which is exactly what I told her," he said, smiling slightly and nodding his head. "She may not like it but she knows all about men with strong convictions."
"Jaycee and I had a big row about it yesterday, complete with yelling and throwing things," I admitted.
"And yet you and Karen are still on the outs, meaning that you didn't give in to your woman."
My woman? I guess that was as good a term for Jaycee as any. As much as I hated labels, they certainly were a desirable tool to help smooth understanding, including to myself. I'd love to be able to determine just what Jaycee meant to me and how she fit into my life. I've been using the term slave all week, but the more I used it the more unsatisfied I became with it.
"So you never give in to what a woman wants?" Aaron asked him. It was just the opening Steven needed to enter his lecture mode.
"Men are all barbarians at heart. Women force civilization upon us. But the more successful men are those who have learned to tap into and direct that inner barbarian. We want to conquer and control. Women, as much as they hate to admit it, are attracted to that. It's all biology. They are looking for the mate most capable of giving them the healthiest offspring. Back in caveman times, that was the strongest and biggest, and part of that deep-seated evolutionary longing is still there. But in this day and age, health has probably more to do with financial resources than physical strength. And think of the type of people who can succeed in today's modern economy. They are educated, driven, dedicated, ambitious, and innovative. Those types of people aren't the type to easily change their mind. No, they have made it their specialty to change other people's minds, or circumvent people who cannot be convinced in order to get what they want. So when it comes to our romantic alliances, there's a pull and push within every relationship which becomes more one-sided with men like us. We aren't going to bend to as many of a woman's demands. In fact, we're going to force them to bend to our will many more times than they'd like. But it has to be that way or we wouldn't be who we are, and they wouldn't be so damn attracted to us in the first place. So stay true to yourself. It's why Will here is going to be so successful. His girl may be upset with him right now, but she'll come back around before he knows it."
The first of the women returned to our lunch table at that point and the conversation fragmented into small groups and moved on to different subjects.
"Is that what you think, too, Will?" asked Aaron. "That you don't have to ever give in to a woman?"
As much as I wanted to agree with Steven, my legal training kicked in, forcing me to immediately see both sides of every issue and to find nuance and distinctions where before there were broad statements of principle.
"I know that Steven's little speech there sounds appealing," I said. "And I agree that no one, man or woman, should have to give in on their core principles. That's why I haven't just forgiven what Karen did no matter what Jaycee, or I guess Belinda now, would like. But life is filled with compromises no matter what form of relationship, whether it's romantic or professional or even a chance encounter amongst strangers."
"I don't know," Aaron said. "Mister Beck is a really impressive guy. It's hard to see him not getting his way on anything."
"If Steven really did his own thing and never did what Belinda wanted him to do, then he wouldn't have even brought up Karen in the first place. His telling me of Belinda's complaints was his half-measure compromise. He wasn't going to tell me to fix the situation, but he was letting me know that my actions were making his Belinda upset and thus causing him some headaches."
Aaron didn't look like he believed me. "Says the guy with his own sex slave," Aaron quipped. "Alex kept talking about it all morning. So that's still going on? She's really following through with the bet, huh?"
"You know, it's funny. I give Jaycee orders, and she follows them. But the more she follows them the more thought I put into the orders to make sure they are things that she's going to like."
"I don't know. I guess I'm just saying that I wouldn't like it if Jaycee didn't enjoy following my orders. It's because she gets off on it that I'm enjoying it so much."
"Damn," said Aaron. "It sounds like you've got the perfect girl then. Susan always had to get her way or she'd turn into this incredibly whiny brat. I'd just give in to shut her up."
"Let me tell you something, Aaron. Susan wasn't the only person in your relationship who spent a lot of time whining."
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"Oh Will, she still hasn't slept with me. Oh Will, doesn't she know how much I care for her? Oh Will, why can't she give me this one little thing when I give her so much of what she wants already?" I mimicked.
"Shit," Aaron grumbled. "Was I really that bad?"
"Yeah," I sadly told him. "Maybe even worse."
"That's pretty pathetic," said an eavesdropping Paula. Ouch. It's one thing for a bro to say that to another bro, but Paula just figuratively mashed Aaron's testicles. I quickly tried to put the best possible spin on the situation I could come up with.
"Everybody should have a relationship like that," I told her, "so long as it ends soon enough. That way you have a strong memory to motivate you not to get in such a one-sided relationship again."
"Unless you get off on one-sided relationships," Paula said.
"Sure," I agreed. "There's an exception to every rule. But really that isn't so one-sided. Both sides are getting something they want, else they wouldn't be in the relationship."
After lunch, the group agreed to go back to Aaron's office and look into luxury condominiums. Too bad the Ajax Building wasn't completed. That had promised to be the nicest residential high rise in the South before the financial crisis came and the project lost its funding. The building had been sitting half-constructed and open to the elements for three months now, a rusting eye sore on the city skyline.
Billy and Siri agreed to make a detour and drop me off downtown for my meeting with Glenda. I'd get there a few minutes early. I took the opportunity to make some calls to arrange a special night for Jaycee the next night since I didn't want to make them while Jaycee was around. Once that was done I looked over the offer from my old firm.
I was less than impressed. Sure it was possible to get a seven figure bonus, but barely. I'd make exactly one million dollars if I quintupled the business I got from Beck and succeeded in stealing every single one of Glenda's clients, including the ones I didn't even work with. But the way the bonus was structured I'd only get the bulk of that money if I came close to meeting those goals. If I moved up to New York and worked harder than I ever had in my life, became wildly successful but still realistic in getting the office's former clients to stick with me I'd probably only get a quarter mil bonus. A much more realistic expectation was half that. That was still good money, on top of my base salary. But nowhere near what I would likely make working directly for Beck.
Glenda still hadn't shown up. I decided to check in at home.
"Allison, how's it going?" I said into my phone.
"Fine, sir. You've got a couple of workers here installing a new glass door."
"Excellent. There's some cash in an envelope on the kitchen counter. Give that to them once you're satisfied they've done a good job, will you?"
"Of course. Ok, I see it. I'm glad you called. I'm having trouble with the list of lawsuits in which Atlantic Financial is currently a party."
"Oh? What's the problem?" I asked.
"There are so many, and I have to dive into the details to find out the dollar amounts, if they even list a dollar amount," she explained.
"Then start with litigation where the opposing party is a large corporation, particularly financial institutions, or the government. I especially want to know what Uncle Sam thinks Atlantic is doing wrong."
"Ok, that sounds manageable," Allison said sounding relieved.
"Have you heard from Jaycee?" I asked.
"Jaycee? She called me around mid-morning. Why?"
"She ran off with an emergency. I was just wondering." I saw Glenda walk in to the coffee shop. "Ok, I've got to begin my meeting. I'll be back home straight after."
"Ok, sir. Good luck!" Allison said.
Glenda got herself a large drink that sounded overly complicated to order. I waited patiently at a table in a secluded corner where we could talk. Finally she came over. I was still pissed over Reynolds phone call to Allison earlier. Let's see if I could use it to throw Glenda on the defensive.
"So apparently I've already agreed to your offer." I opened.
"Pardon me?" Glenda replied.
"Do you remember Allison Grimsley? She worked as a paralegal in our office? Reynolds told her this morning that I was on board with whatever the two of you are doing. That's awfully presumptuous of you, don't you think?"
That knocked Glenda off her game a bit, but I could only tell because I'd worked with her closely for years. The slight widening of her eyes and the sudden stillness of her body were her tells. Anyone else would probably have described her as unfazed.
"Yes. Presumptuous is the appropriate descriptor. I apologize, and I will speak to Michael about it promptly," she said.
"Thank you. Now why don't you tell me what the two of you are up to?"
"We're joining with three partners from Plimpton and Covey and a former partner from Bocksington to start a new firm. All of us have a significant book of business that is complementary to each other that we are confident will be able to expand upon during the foreseeable economic turmoil."
"You put that together in three days?" I asked, surprised.
Glenda shook her head in the negative. "Michael has been working on this for some time. Since I had been working so diligently to save our office he decided not to approach me with it until last week, but it's the scenario I would have created for myself as the next best solution to saving the office."
"Any conflicts of interest among clients?"
"We're still working that out, but it looks easily resolvable," she answered.
"And how soon do you expect to be up and running?" I asked.
"Of course we all have an ongoing responsibility to our clients, so the work never really stops. But as to putting an office together, we're trying to minimize the timeframe. I'm hopeful to have everything up and running in three weeks."
Knowing Glenda, she didn't mean opening the doors to the office in three weeks. She meant being open and having all the kinks ironed out, everyone operating as if the office had been up for years.
"That timetable is ambitious but, knowing you, unsurprising," I told her. She actually gave her version of a smirk, an upturn of the corner of her lip so slight and short that it could be mistaken for a tic.
"Then let me get straight to the point," she said. "You know a good number of my clients almost as much as I do. You're already familiar with their needs and I have always been satisfied with your efforts and work product. You are my first choice for my senior associate. After our brief conversation yesterday I discussed the situation with the other partners and convinced them to allow me a special dispensation to exceed our preliminary budget for you. It is still lower than you are probably hoping for, but I hope to convince you that our growth opportunities are unparalleled in this economy and that working with us is really your best option."
"Just how disappointed am I going to be?" I asked.
"We are offering you a base salary of one-eighty ..."
"One eighty!" I blurted out, interrupting her.
Glenda waited for me to regain control of myself.
"I realize that's a drop in your last salary, but it's almost double what we'll be offering the other associates," she said.
"One eighty," I said again in disbelief.
"Supply and demand, William. I had to get special permission to get you this deal, swearing to the others you were worth it. Not even Reynolds backed me up at first. I even made it a condition for my joining them," Glenda admitted.
"There's no way I can accept that offer," I insisted.
"William ... Will, are you sure you want to push on this? You know what kind of market is out there," Glenda said.
"I'm well aware. But I already have multiple other offers on the table, and all of them pay more than one-eighty," I explained.
"Multiple offers?" Glenda asked. "This isn't a naked power play, is it Will?"
"You mean a bluff? No. Most definitely not. In fact, one of my options is to stay with the firm in a lateral transfer up to the New York office. Of course, they had certain conditions to their offer," I hinted.
"Certain conditions ...," Glenda thought, then became more irate than I've ever seen her, that stoic calmness shielding her emotions shattering in an instant. "Those sons of bitches! My clients. They want you to steal my clients! And you told them you could, didn't you? That's why their offer is on the table."
"Yes," I admitted, as planned. "Though they have one very specific client in mind."
"Beck," Glenda realized. "Yeah, well that's perhaps the only client of mine you could actually walk away with." The only? Maybe I've been underestimating her.
"I've got Beck in the bag," I said. "As to the others, well, let's say that I'm just as unwilling to see how the cards land on that matter as you are. I'd much prefer that we continue to work together. But the only way that's going to happen is if I get a much better deal than what you just offered."
The carrot and the stick is the key to any successful negotiation. Show them the nice, juicy carrot that they want and lead them to it, but also let them see the stick you can whack them with if they don't take it.
Glenda and I stared at each other unblinkingly. I had a sudden flashback to the poker game last Saturday night when Jaycee and I were going head to head and staring each other down. I needed a lot of luck to win that showdown. Let's hope I didn't need as much right now.
"I assume you have something in mind?" she queried.
"I want to buy in as an equity partner," I announced.
"Impossible!" she announced.
"Why not? Give me one reason."
"I'll give you two. You don't have enough money to put up a stake and you don't have the clients," she stated.
"How much money would it take?" I asked. "And think creatively. I don't have to be a full partner. I'm willing to accept some kind of junior partner status in light of my relative inexperience."
I was rather curious about this insistence of putting cash up. From what I knew of the business workings of our old firm, all operational expenses were paid through a line of credit which was paid off at the end of the year when a full accounting was done. Sure you need some cash down to start a new firm from scratch, getting an office together, decorations, letterhead, computers, and the like. But how much would that cost, really?
"The only way to let the others know you're serious is if you can put up a million dollars," Glenda said in an empathetic voice. She was trying to explain to me why my idea was a pipe dream.
"No problem," I countered.
"You've got a million dollars lying around?" she asked. "Oh. Beck!"
I shook my head. "If you're thinking I invested with him, no, I didn't. But I did some of the same kinds of trades on my own."
"You? How? I tried for a month to find a broker who'd let me," Glenda said astonished.
"You should have tried harder. I kept at it for three months before finally getting a trade in," I replied.
"And you cleared over a million?" she asked. "Maybe Beck should make you an employee instead of his counsel."
"That's one of the offers I'm considering," I said.
"Then you should probably take it," Glenda replied. "There's no way Beck, all by himself, can provide the amount of work that supports your being brought in as a partner, and you won't have the additional clients to make up the difference."
She was throwing down the gauntlet, daring me to compete with her and the old firm in a three-way battle for her clients. And not all of her clients, just the ones of hers I worked with which was maybe a little over half her total book.
"Maybe," I conceded, "but then again maybe not. I've gotten some hints that Beck is going to require a much greater level of legal services, and he's relocating down here."
Glenda became very still, and her eyes widened ever so slightly. Good. Though I now had the feeling that Glenda's first call after this meeting would be to Beck to convince him that she was the better option. I needed her to do that. Beck rejecting her would be the fastest way for her to take my counter-offer seriously.
"I'm more familiar with hedge funds than you are, William. They don't normally have a high demand for legal services." She left unsaid the final part of that sentence ... "unless they are being sued."
"We'll see," I told her.
"Regardless," she continued, "we can hardly extend to you such a high offer based on the mere potential for greater work. You'd have to present to us strong and solid numbers, and even then your youth and inexperience works against you."
"How old were you when you first became partner?" I asked already knowing the answer.
"Old enough to have several major clients, not just one client who wants to think he's a major player," she retorted. "I'll give you a week to think it over and get back to me. Alright?"
"Sure, Glenda. One week."
"That could have gone better," I thought as I walked back to my place. Did she really think she could get her pick of any associate attorneys out there for only a five figure base salary? I doubted it. Maybe if the associate had been laid off several months ago and had been unable to find any work, but my former fellow associates would hold out for something close to what they had been making. Their egos would have to be battered and bruised a great deal before they took a sixty or seventy percent cut in salary.
Even though it seemed I was being channeled towards taking Beck up on his offer, I suddenly felt very lucky to have these options when so many others had none. The thought of how desperate someone must feel to willingly take a sixty percent cut in salary was quite scary. But I thought of my former co-worker Woody, who was an all-too-young widower at the age of thirty-two, with three kids at home, one of them with special needs. Yeah, he'd jump at the chance to have any kind of income and just hope to find something better later on.
Scott, the security guard, waved me over as I walked into my building's lobby.
"Mister Jennings, the door installers left just a few minutes ago."
"Good news. I'm sure Allison will be happy to finally get out of that winter coat. Oh, and I promised you a tip if you could get it done so soon."
"Oh, right. Yes, thank you sir," Scott said while pocketing my bill. "About ... you said her name was Allison?"
"Yes, sorry, I should have cleared it with you guys before now. I'm going to be working out of my apartment for the next couple weeks and Allison is my assistant. So she'll be over just about every day."