To paraphrase Winston Churchill, to me
lawyers and what they do have always been a riddle, wrapped inside a
mystery inside of an enigma. Luckily, until my divorce I never did
anything stupid enough to require their services. I'm not knocking
lawyers, it's just that their profession is more abstract and nuanced
than my glorified bruised-knuckle mechanic mind can comprehend. Then
again, no one would ever confuse me with an insightful and forward
thinking person. The prime example of my inability to metaphorically
see beyond the tip of my own nose being my years working at Tightlock
So, despite my admiration of the man
who helped me navigate the numerous vagaries of getting dumped and
uncoupled from my now ex-wife, I still felt a pretty large level of
trepidation upon arriving at the offices of the Lund Law Firm. That
was party because my lawyer's office was on the second floor of an
obscure building in a bad part of town with the first level housing
“Raunchy Red's Tattoo Parlor.” A fine Quincy, South Carolina
business, even after the county sheriff made the drug bust twelve
years earlier that resulted in them carrying off three large bails of
high grade Colombian marijuana, a kilo of cocaine, and enough weapons
and ammo to supply an infantry platoon.
Despite the incriminating evidence, the
original Raunchy Red protested his innocence even though he was found passed out of top of the three marijuana bails and using the
cocaine as a pillow. Red was adamant that the National Football
League, the CIA, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had framed him
because he had found the lost city of Atlantis and discovered that
Elvis was not only still alive but that he had converted to Islam.
The judge overseeing his case, a devout Christian and Elvis fan whose
favorite vacation destination was Graceland, was highly offended at
the suggestion that the King would convert to another faith. This
resulted in Red's psychological examinations, which stated in no
uncertain terms he was completely detached from reality, being
Raunchy Red was convicted on every
count and sentenced to four life terms in one of the supermax
federal prisons. After a few years' rumors started floating through
Quincy saying Red did eventually get psychological help. Where things
get weird though the story goes on to say that once he returned to
sanity Red enrolled in one of the online colleges where it was
discovered he had a talent for theoretical physics. Pure bullshit if
you ask me, but somehow the local newspaper received a photograph
from an antonymous source showing Red's mother, the longtime Quincy
queen of quilting, giving the frail but brilliant physicist, Stephen
Hawking one of her blankets.
Back in Quincy, the tattoo parlor
didn't stay shuttered long, another guy quickly bought the business
and in the spirit of cost saving measures started calling himself
“Red” to avoid changing the signs. The new Red, went about
business differently than the old, he cultivated a close relationship
with the county sheriff and his department. The new Red had a
standing fifty-percent discount for tattoos for all the deputies,
which they took full advantage of because their patrol cars were
often seen at the location. A now standard joke about the new Red and
his tattoo parlor suggests he must have also started making donuts
since no one had ever seen one of the deputies sporting a tattoo.
The second reason for my nervousness
came from Jim Lund himself. The day my marriage officially ended
Emily came home early from her job at the local hospital to tell me
that I had a week to move out of the house. Emily was a nurse in the
Air Force and after her discharge from the service she transitioned
quite successfully to civilian life. As opposed to me who had served
in the Army infantry and had to attend the local community college to
gain a real skill beyond my talent for proper camouflage techniques,
knowing how to dig a latrine, and field stripping a fifty caliber
After calling in several favors, I
found a really cheap but crappy trailer to move into and once that
was done my next task was finding a lawyer to represent me. Lawyers
get an undeserved bad rap, at the core of the profession they
literally hold society together. Television audiences have been
trained like salivating dogs to hate the sleazy and amoral defense
attorney protecting a dastardly criminal and deny justice to some
innocent victim. But if any of the wide eyed, largely overweight
couch potatoes feel they have been wronged in any manner, the first
thing they do is begin looking for an attorney.
That being said, the stereotype of some
lawyers as cheesy ambulance chasers out to screw over their clients
and insurance companies is unfortunately true. My problem back then,
besides living in a twenty-year-old trailer with dubious electrical
wiring and a leaky roof, was that I couldn't afford any of those of
the high profile shysters.
A couple of weeks went by with my
soon-to-be ex-wife, Emily, wanting to be rid of my ass so she could
move on with her life. Which in hindsight I took that to mean that she
and her future second husband, and my dentist, were tired of their
illicit rendezvouses at the Hide Away Motel. Luckily, I was at the Quincy
coin operated laundromat late one Saturday night with the other dregs
of local society when I came upon a business card pin to an ancient
community bulletin board.
The card declared that the Lund Law
Firm could provide reliable but cut rate legal services for those in
need. The services it listed included wills, powers of attorney, and
no fault divorces. With that level of advertisement, I figured this
Jim Lund, Esquire would be just the guy to help me. The business card
did have a website address for the Jim Lund Law Firm which said he
was a graduate of the New Carolina Law and Accounting School down in
Charleston. While not an expert in law schools by any means, I had
never heard of the place but at that moment I only cared that he was
an attorney licensed to practice law in South Carolina.
When I arrived at his Jim's office
there were already several preconceived notions running around my
head. The first being that he was probably a bit of a loser, like
myself, meaning poor social skills along with being overweight and
balding. Since I also assumed his law school was at best a
fly-by-night organization, I also expected him to be barely
I opened the door and entered his
office after knocking. “Hey Mr. Lund,” I said rather loudly since
I didn't see anyone.
“Jason Lance, I presume,” was the
immediate and cheerful response coming from the connecting room.
“Take a seat please sir, I'm making some coffee and will bring you
At first Lund's office reinforced every
lackluster notion I had about the man. The room itself was run down
and needed a cleaning, several coats of new paint on the walls, and
new furniture since the desk and chairs looked like castoffs from the
1960's. The only thing that looked new and given special attention
was the large framed diploma saying Jim Lund had graduated from the
New Carolina Law and Accounting School.
When Jim Lund walked into the office
about a minute later to say I was surprised was an understatement.
Instead of the social awkward, overweight and balding guy, Jim walked
in looking like a male model and Olympic athlete wearing a suit that
sure as hell didn't come from a department store. After I told him my
story, cool and utterly confident he proceeded to spell out the legal
avenues I could take if I wanted to challenge Emily for custody of
the boys. I course, I told him this was going to be an uncontested
divorce since I didn't want to hurt anyone, least of all my sons.
After all the legal wizardry was
complete we talked for about an hour and I came away wondering just
who in the hell this guy was really. Jim Lund was the type of lawyer
that should be arguing cases before the United States Supreme Court, not
handling glorified white trash divorces in the middle of Nowhere,
South Carolina. That his office was above a tattoo parlor that once
sidelined as a drug warehouse and was probably still doing something
illegal made the situation even more surreal.
What truly sent shivers down my spine
was that a few months after the dust from the divorce had settled I
looked up the New Carolina Law and Accounting School on the internet.
Websites are ridiculously simple affairs these days and nothing about
the one for New Carolina Law and Accounting School suggested anything
other than the most basic of creations. I was about to close the
laptop when I noticed the supposed physical address for the school.
One summer during high school I worked for a company that did basic
maintenance on the now closed Navy base, so I was well acquainted
with the layout of the property. That's why I was dumbfounded upon
realizing the address for Jim Lund's law school was an abandoned
Now with forty-two million dollars of
lottery winnings in the bank, part of my brain screamed at me to find
another lawyer that at best wasn't part of the U.S. Marshal witness
protection program. Then again, remembering the conversation I had
with my reflection in the bathroom mirror yesterday evening Jim
Lund's strange situation wasn't that weird.
Hey, Mr. Lund,” I called out the same
way I did on my first visit years after finding him not at his desk.
“It's Jason Lance, I left a message on your answering machine about
needing to see you again.”
“Sure thing Jason, have a seat, I'll
be out in a minute.” He finally called out from the other room.
Quincy, South Carolina isn't a big
place but since the divorce seven years before, I could count the
times I had seen Jim Lund driving around town on one hand. When he
walked back into his office I was frankly shocked at how much he
exactly looked the same age. He had the same athletic body along with
the movie star face that would have probably cause my ex-wife to go
weak in the knees and begin scouting out locations to push her
current husband off a cliff. The only difference this time being he
was wearing casual clothes that still probably cost more than my 1997
Ford truck was worth.
“What can I do for you today Jason?”
He asked in a genuinely friendly manner taking his ancient seat
behind the worn and stained desk.
Even though I was considering the
possibility that he was either an alien or time traveler, I figured
it was much too late to go running out the door. “Here's the deal
Jim, you know the lottery winner from last week who didn't go public,
it's me. I'm leaving town and need help organizing my affairs and I
figure you're the best person to help me.”
Given the curiosities about Jim Lund's
existence, there was a double meaning in my words I hope he didn't
Jim just leaned back in his chair and
smiled. “Yes, Jason,” he said “believe it or not I'm probably
the best person in South Carolina that can setup your affairs and
keep them protected.”
I didn't even dare ask him if his own
words had a double meaning. I just listened as he laid out a plan
that both secured and invested my money.
The afternoon sun was unfortunately
beaming through my windshield as I sat in the Quincy Credit Union
parking lot making me reconsider the idea of buying a new car or
truck before I left town. While the end of summer was a month away,
hot weather was sure to stay around for a considerable period no
matter where I went. My truck's air conditioning was weak at best and
maybe it was the money talking but as I sat waiting for Mikey, I
pondered what the open road would feel like in a fine luxury sedan.
Mikey's older brother, Derrick was my
best friend in high school. As graduation approached with no real
prospects when we entered the adult world Derrick and I talked each other into
joining the army. The original idea was that we would hinge our
joining on going through basic training together as well as serving
at the same permanent post, something we heard the army would allow
back then. Well, five weeks into basic and Derrick decides to break
his leg on the obstacle course. He had the option of being medically discharged but instead
was just recycled back to the beginning of basic training once he was
healed. However, his injury voided the original enlistment contract
meaning the army reassigned him to a new MOS—Mission Occupational
Specialty, or job once he finished basic. Whereas once we were both
supposed to be infantry soldiers, Derrick wound up in a
transportation unit driving what amounted to semi-trucks hauling
Then came Persian Gulf War with Saddam
Hussein showing his ass by invading a smaller Arab country that in
truth was led by a collection of individuals that were certified
douchebags in their own right. The difference being that Saddam was a
brutal tyrant that would use chemical weapons on his own people while
the Kuwaiti ruling class just acted like everyone under them were
slaves. I really didn't see any combat beyond a few semi-crazed and
starved Iraqi soldiers firing off their AK's in an effort get the
attention of the convoy I was riding in so they could
surrender. The high point of my wartime experience was being a part
of a detail guarding around four-hundred prisoners who truthfully were happy to have American MREs, clean water, and real toilet paper.
Derrick wasn't so lucky, he was killed
one morning when the wadi embankment he was driving near collapsed overturning
When I finally returned home to Quincy
after my enlistment, Mikey and I started hanging out together.
Something that wouldn't last long since he had become a local high
school football star and was getting a full scholarship ride to the
University of South Carolina. Something that was going great until
Mikey received a massive concussion during a game, which several
months later because of both medical and other complications caused
him to be kicked out of college.
Mikey came home but his life spiraled downhill
until he met the woman who became his wife, a saint of a woman named Diane. She literally
saved his life and sanity but because the birds and the bees still
hold sway over people in their early twenties they were parents
before they could develop a plan for a real future.
One of the worst thing I ever done was
get Mikey hired on as a production worker at the Tightlock factory.
But with a baby on the way the man needed a job, even if that meant a
place where the age of the average worker was around forty. As the
years passed, I watched Mikey die a little each day but at least I
could now offer him a way out.
Just when I figured he wasn't going to
show, Mikey's car finally pulled into the parking lot and I signaled
him to hop into my truck.
“What's so important that I had to
get up early, Jason? You know how floor supervisors act if they think
someone isn't fully awake.” He said more than a little irritated.
I have never been a person who could
deal with the warm fuzzy aspect of friendship, so I just laid out the
fact. “Shut up for a minute and just listen. You heard about the
winner for last week's lottery, well it was me.”
The look on Mikey's face after
revealing that fact was actually kind of funny. Sort of like how some
get when they accidentally bump into a famous person at the grocery
“You're a smart guy Mikey, you can
probably guess why I skipped work Monday night and walked into the
plant Tuesday morning looking like someone going on a cruise. But
here's the thing, I've known you since the day your brother and I
became friends in elementary school.. Hell, right now you're my best
friend and I can't let you waste your life working in a plant that in
truth probably has less than five years before it is closed.
“So here's the deal, I've setup an
account at the credit union for a million dollars in both your name
and Diane's. My advice is that you two figure out a plan that gets
you both back into school so you guys can have a future. You're both
young enough to still have one.”
Mikey was stunned to say the least.
“Where will you be during this time, Jason?” He asked.
“I'm leaving town, probably forever.
I'll keep in touch, of course but unless the boys take sick I can't
imagine a reason why I would ever come back.”
After I gave him the paperwork
concerning the account we shook hands and he left. At that moment
everything I had to do was done. All that was left was to point my
old truck in some direction and just drive. I felt bad about not
seeing my boys, but they were out of town with Mark and I sure as hell
wasn't going to stay around long enough for word about my windfall to
So, with all my worldly possessions
stuffed into one duffel bag and one medium-sized storage box in the
back of my truck, I pulled out of the parking lot and just drove.