THE MONTY SHUFFLE
Let him try to avoid me now. “This is Rawlins. What do you want, John?”
I savored this but wanted to make sure I got some answers. “This isn’t John. It’s Mitch. And don’t you dare hang up. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for days. I find it hard to believe you didn’t have time talk to me in all that time.”
Rawlins growled, “I wouldn’t have picked up now but I thought it was your buddy John calling.” He wasn’t happy at being caught.
“Well if I said it was Mitch, would you have taken the call?”
Another growl, “Hell no. And I have a good mind to hang up right now.”
“Don’t you dare. I need some answers and I want them now.” I let that sink in for a second. “What are you doing about Judy’s situation? Have you gotten any further on the murder investigation? Do you have a plan to catch the bad guys?”
“That’s a lot of questions, Mitch. You get the same answer I give to the press. This is an ongoing investigation, and I can’t comment. And as far as do I have a plan, I always have a plan. But you don’t need to know what it is. I will tell you there are a couple of citizens helping me out with the investigation along with the staff. So we are working on it. I have the night patrol going past Judy’s on a regular basis. So just sit back and relax. Go to the rodeo on Saturday. It will be good for you.” With that, the phone clicked off. Damn arrogant Sheriff! I had a good notion to go over to his office and kick his butt. However, tackling to a law officer was off limits and he knew it. Ass!
It was close to noon and I cut out and went to John’s law office. I wanted his help on the issue Charlie and I discussed earlier. John was out by the reception desk as I opened the door to his business. He saw me, smiled and waved me back to his personal office. “Mitch, I’m glad to see you. I just had a phone conference with a group and your name came up.”
That sounded a little ominous coming from an attorney. “Is that good or bad. When lawyers start talking about you, it normally is not a predictor of good things to come.”
John laughed and calmed me with, “Let’s hear your reason for coming first.”
I dug my scrawled handwritten sheet out of the folio I was carrying and flipped it to John. “Read that and tell me what you think.”
He cruised through it in a few seconds and then looked at me with a shrewd gleam. “You are sneaky. If Monty signs this, it will certainly throw a wrench in his billing methods. But it needs a lot of polishing in legal terms to be effective. How about I spend some time re-writing it for you.”
I shook my head. “No. I think if it looks too polished he will get suspicious. It needs to look sophomoric so he doesn’t take it too seriously.”
John gave that some thought and nodded his head. “You may be right. It may not stand up to a full court case but it will certainly put him at a disadvantage. You might even get a bill and an estimate from him. Is that what you want?”
“I need to have some facts about the cost of construction and he is not giving it to me. I figure this is a way to bring it to a head.”
“Well let me know if you want some help with it. My guess is I will get involved one way or another before this is all said and done.” John got a mischievous look on his face as he continued. “The conference call was not all lawyers. It was a conference call to discuss the next Pow Wow here in the Black Hills. The group needs a piece of land to set up and hold the beginning ceremony that is a little more private than the college football field where we will hold the full event.”
He paused trying to build interest. It was an old lawyer trick and I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of prompting him to continue. “I told you I was going to give your mining company fits by declaring your ground as a Native American holy site. Well what better way to establish the bona fides for that argument than holding a ceremony there?”
John sat back inviting my reaction. What was my reaction? “The longer you hold up that company from mining, the longer it takes for me to start getting royalties from mineral extraction. And you want me to voluntarily hand over some more ammo for you to work with?”
“You could look at it that way. But I have a hunch you really don’t want to see that land developed and by letting us hold a ceremony there, you would help me hold the mining company off for a little longer.” John did his best court room smile that he says is used to sway hostile juries. So was I a hostile party? John could sense my lack of enthusiasm. “Why don’t you think on it for a day or two and we can talk about it again.”
My mind was whirling with thoughts. The main one being John was a good friend asking me for a favor. But it was probably a favor he shouldn’t ask. Given our recent argument from the buffalo roundup I was hesitant to tell him to drop dead without at least appearing to give it some thought. “Okay, I’ll think about it.”
“That’s all I am asking. Now, before you leave, tell me if you have had any more problems with the Kennedy clan. I was surprised you came to the office personally. I thought you were staying away from your friends until this thing with Kennedy clears up.”
“You are right John. I’m just so used to coming to you with a legal question that I forgot. I’ll do better at remembering in the future. And no new developments that I haven’t already texted you about.”
I left John’s office and went to catch lunch with a sandwich at Joe’s Sandwich Shop. Joe knows how to make a sandwich almost as well as I do. Joe and I had a small running friendly battle on which of us knew more about making a sandwich. When I walked in, Joe threw out, “Well if it isn’t the banker that thinks he knows something about food prep. What are you going to have today, Mitch?”
“Something horrible. And the reason I know it will be horrible, is because you are making it.” While I was eating, I re-wrote the agreement I wanted Monty to sign inserting a couple of ideas from John but still doing it in street language, not legal jargon. With the revised agreement in hand, i headed for Monty’s office.
After the experience of the last visit, I decided to skip Michelle and her put on airs, and headed into the garage on the first floor. As I expected, Monty was working on his MGB GT. His feet were sticking out from under the car as he laid underneath fixing on something.
“Monty. Can you slide out here a minute? It’s Mitch and I want to talk to you.”
There was a temporary silence from underneath. Then I heard Monty say, “Can’t it wait? I almost have this assembly in place.”
It was worth a short wait if I could get his signature. I leaned back against his work bench being careful of grease and dirt. I thought a little buttering up might be in order. “Wow, Monty, you sure have made progress on this one. I can’t believe this is the wreck you started on just last week.” That was not stretching things. The car had every ding hammered out and filled in. The engine bay looked brand new. The interior was completely stripped out and the dash was gleaming from new or refurbished wood trim.
Monty’s voice went from annoyance to pleasure from the compliment. “Thanks, Mitch. I’ve really been working hard on this. I have an appointment with the paint shop early next week and have to be ready by then.” There was a lapse in the conversation and then, “Would you hand me that ratchet set by my feet. I seemed to have picked the wrong socket. That surprises me. I was sure this took a 17 millimeter. I wonder if this is an original part.”
Another couple of minutes went by and I was beginning to think Monty had forgotten I was there. It was obvious to me that Monty had not spent any time on my house construction cost estimate if he had made this much progress on his restoration. My temper was starting to rise but I put a hold on it thinking I needed to be pleasant if I was going to carry off my plan.
Presently Monty slid out from under the car with a pleased smile on his face. It was the look of accomplishment. His face turned to a frown when he recognized me. I think he was so intent on his work that he had forgotten I was there. “Oh, Mitch, you’re still here. Was there something you wanted? You know, I’m really quite busy and unless it is something quick I don’t have the time.”
That is exactly how I wanted to catch him. “Unfortunately, I still want that construction cost estimate. But I can see you are pretty tied up.” Monty was already starting to ignore me as he picked up tools and replaced them in his gleaming tool cabinet. “Did you say this car has to be at the paint shop early next week?”
Monty distractedly said, “Um, er yes.”
“And once you get it to the paint shop, you might have a little bit of time to work on my estimate?”
Now I got a look of annoyance. “Yes, I should be able to make time then.”
I let him get busy with his tools again before I brought out my hand written agreement. “So, you know you have put me off for a little on getting the estimate.” Like three damn months, but who is counting? “And I can see you are busy right now.” On something that has no relevance to your business or mine. “How about you agree to give me an estimate by the end of next week?”
Monty’s eyes lighted up. All he had to do to get rid of me was give me another bad promise about a future date and I may go away and quit interrupting his restoration work. “Yeah. That sounds fine. Next week.” He was already dismissing me from his mind.
I cleared my throat to let him know I was still there. He looked at me with annoyance hoping that would drive me away. “Before I go, could I just get you to sign this paper saying you will have that estimate done a week from Friday? It’s just an assurance for me since you have put me off several times.” I was using a pleasant voice which was killing me but I needed to maintain that friendly façade.
“Is this really necessary, Mitch? I mean I said I would do it.”
I laid the agreement on top of the folio and produced a pen. “It would be nice gesture on your part and I would really appreciate it.” I gently proffered the pen to him.