Richie exits a classroom with his head down. Despite coming from a family of attorneys he’s never really be interested in law. Being sued has thrust him into a position where he gets to witness things firsthand. He’s spent the past few weeks basically standing by while Rob and Martin strategized about how they’re going to handle the case. With final exams coming up the stress has been weighing on his brain. He’s rubbing his forehead and isn’t paying much attention to his surroundings.
“Are you okay, Richie?” A voice calls out to him. Richie looks back to see Kim approaching him as he drones along down the hallway.
“I’m just a little stressed out.” Richie replies finally looking up and turning toward Kim. "I can’t get this stupid lawsuit off of my mind. And with finals right around the corner that’s not even what I’m supposed to be focusing on. ” It’s not just the fact that he’s currently under litigation that’s bothering him, but why he’s currently under litigation. All he did was defend himself. And now his assailant is suing out of spite. He thinks about how he wishes the circumstances that resulted in the trial never came to pass, because things are getting real. “And today we’re meeting with Al and his lawyers to talk about a settlement.”
“There shouldn’t be a settlement.” Kim says in calm but noticeably angry tone. “You were just defending yourself.”
“That’s what our argument is going to be.” Richie says. “The problem is that we’re going against a pair of attorneys that have no shame and will do anything to make a suit seem legit. So yeah, there’s that, finals, and worst of all I lost one of my Batman trades earlier.”
“Losing your comic is worse than finals and a lawsuit?”
“I got my priorities in order.” Richie says with a smile giving Kim a thumbs up.
“I can see that.” Kim says rolling his eyes. “It doesn’t sound like you’re taking this as seriously as you should.”
“I’m kind of out of me element here, Kim.” Richie says. “I’ve got one of my dad’s favorite young lawyers working the case… and my brother. I’m sure we’re going to get this taken care of. Martin specializes in making sure cases don’t go to trial.”
“And what about your brother?”
“My brother is kind of a stubborn jackass.” Richie chuckles. “They might drop the suit just so they don’t have to deal with him.” Kim chuckles along with him.
“I don’t think he’d appreciate you saying that about him.” Kim chuckles.
"I'm kind of a stubborn jackass." Richie's older brother, Rob says after taking a sip of coffee and looking over at his associate, Martin Akande. The two young attorneys are at a diner finishing up lunch and discussing their case.
"I hadn't noticed." Martin says sarcastically before taking a sip of his sweet tea. Up until recently these two former classmates hadn't got along. Despite numerous attempts to extend an olive branch, Rob was dismissive of Martin, seeing him as a threat.
"I'm not just stating the obvious." Rob replies. "Maybe we can use that to our advantage."
"You want to annoy them to the point that they don't want to deal with us?"
"That doesn't sound like a good plan to you?"
"If that's a serious question then I'm beginning to see why your pops doubted you." Martin says in a joking manner.
"I probably deserved that." Rob chuckles before taking another sip of coffee.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure?” Rob replies quickly but nervously.
“What happened to you?” Martin asks. “You were the man back in college. I know we didn’t have that many classes together, but you always seemed to be on point. Everybody thought you were going to be the second coming of your pops. But when I see you now, you didn’t start taking thing seriously until your brother was in trouble.”
“It was the pressure, man.” Rob says shaking his head. “Robert Harold Matthews is one of the most successful attorneys in the state and one of the most requested in Atlanta. Somebody joked that he doesn’t chase ambulances, ambulances chase him.”
“And then her worked it into one of his commercials.” Martin laughs. “That used to crack me up.”
“But at one point he was chasing ambulances and a lot of people forget that.” Rob “He had a starting point and had to work he way up to where he is now. But when I came along people were expecting me just as good straight out of the gate. I didn’t get the same opportunity to be a newbie. And I kept trying to do things I wasn’t ready for and kept crashing and burning. After a while I gave up.”
“Damn.” Martin says as he rubs his chin. “I don’t know what it’s like living in someone’s shadow. But I do know what it's like having a name that you may not be able to live up to.” Martin pauses for a second. “My parents are from Nigeria. They gave me the name Martin because they knew that it would be easier for me to fit in. But they still gave me a Yoruba middle name to reflect my heritage. My middle name, Olakunkle means “riches and honor have filled this home.”
“I don’t think that they were saying that they were expecting you to make them rich, dude.” Rob says. “Maybe they were saying that you were riches and honor that came to their home.”
“They made it a hundred percent clear that wasn’t the case.” Martin says with a laugh. “Any time I slipped up they’d always bring up how they want me to live up to my middle name.” Rob and Martin both begin laughing.
Back at campus Richie is heading out to his car. He’s changed into a suit and placed his more casual clothing into a gym bag. He places his bag into his trunk and Mike sees him and approaching him. Mike already knows how nervous Richie is.
“You look pretty sharp, Rich.” Mike says.
“Thanks.” Richie says with a smile.
“I can tell you’re pretty nervous.” Mike says. “This is a pretty crazy situation. If anybody should be facing repercussions for what happened on that day it should be Al.”
“He did face repercussions.” Richie says. “He got a concussion. And I feel awful about it.”
“You shouldn’t feel awful about it though.” Mike says. “I’m not saying you should be proud about it, but you do need to own it. If you go in there acting all remorseful about the situation you’re just giving Al’s lawyers more to work with.”
“Wouldn’t I be doing that by “owning” it?” Richie asks.
“Not necessarily.” Mike replies. “You just have to be firm about the fact that what you did was necessary. Al’s bigger than you and he’s very athletic. You could’ve easily have been the one that ended up with that concussion. But if you go in there thinking that you’re guilty you might as well slather yourself in barbeque sauce because they’re going to have you for lunch.”
“What kind of barbeque sauce?” Richie asks. “I’m allergic to certain kinds.”
“Damn it, Richie! You’re focusing on the wrong thing.”
“Maybe you’re right.” Richie replies. “Are they going to be serving me with sides?” Richie says this in earnest, Mike pauses for a second to recollect his thoughts.
“Ignore my metaphor.” Mike says. “The point is, if you go in there feeling sorry for defending yourself it helps their case. You got play it cool, man.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Richie says fist bumping Mike before getting into his car and driving off. Mike watches and nods before walking back inside.
Martin and Rob are outside of the Law Offices of Tyrell and Logue. This is the firm that Silverman and Hall-Simmons work for. The two are waiting for Richie to arrive. Rob ends a phone call with Richie and places his phone back into his pocket.
"He'll be here soon." Rob says.
"You feel nervous?" Martin asks.
"Of course I am." Rob replies. "On a personal and professional level this is a big deal for me. You think I should be playing it cool?"
"You're going to have to try your best, man." Martin replies. "We know how these two get down. I've seen how they get down up close when I was a public defender."
"I've seen them up close a few times myself.” Rob says. “My old man arranged to have me work along with some of his buddies working in criminal defense. I got to see them do their thing. They're charismatic, astute, and manipulative. These two don't fuck around. They've had judges and juries eating out of the palms of their hands."
"No surprises there." Martin says. "But what is surprising is that they're representing a plaintiff in a civil trial."
"Yeah, they don't really do that often." Rob says. "Last time they did that they were representing someone in civil suit it was because they defended him before in a criminal case."
"Was that the asshole who sued the people he burglarized because he got injured?" Martin asks.
"Yep." Rob says "Same asshole. They were making it up to him for not beating the charges. That's the kind of people they are. But this is the first time that I've seen them take a civil suit from someone that they didn't represent in a criminal case. They're up to something."
"Your bachelor's was in psychology, right?"
"Yeah." Rob replies. "Those defense attorneys my old man paired me up with usually did all the talking while I would build up a profile on the opposing counsel."
"Cool." Martin says with a smile. "When we go in there that's what I need you to do. Silverman and Hall are almost always representing defendants. I want to know what they're up to."
Richie arrives. He's extremely nervous and feels guilty about the situation. He's trying to keep in mind what Mike said earlier, but he can't help it. Rob sees his little brother's facial expression and immediately hugs him when he approaches him. All of the nerves that he experienced earlier appear to have vanished as he tries to be strong in front of his brother.
"It's going to be alright, Richie." Rob says in a comforting manner. "We have your back." Rob releases Richie who then looks over to him with a nervous smile. Rob smiles back at him
"Alright, let’s get to it, gentleman." Martin says.
Inside Silverman and Hall-Simmons sit in a conference room with their client, Alphonso Graves. Walter Silverman is a white man in his early thirties with brown eyes. His hair is dark brown and curly but he has it somewhat slicked back. He's adorned in an expensive suit without a tie. Bernice Hall-Simmons is a black woman around the same age as Silverman. Her hair is cut short and has light brown highlights. She's in a grey pantsuit. Their secretary opens the door and pokes her head in.
"Martin Akande and Rob Matthews are here with their client." She says.
"You hear that, Bernice?" Silverman says with a devilish grin. "We have something to prey on." Hall-Simmons just looks up at the door unimpressed as Martin, Rob, and Richie enter.
"Welcome." Hall-Simmons says in a cold manner.
"In between your cold demeanor and your partner comparing you to predators I feel very welcome." Martin says sarcastically as he and the Matthews brothers each take a seat.
"I'm just going to go ahead and say that this suit is bullshit!" Rob says in a nonchalant manner. "Your client assaulted our client who was then forced to defend himself. It’s clear that this his own fault and that he’s doing this out of spite."
“You shouldn’t be so dismissive as to claim that our client is doing anything out of spite.” Hall-Simmons says quickly. "Your client inflicted our client with a long term injury."
"You mean the concussion?" Martin asks. "Your client appears to have recovered pretty well."
"This type of injury increases always has a high probability or recurring" Hall-Simmons says “As someone who is attending school on an athletic scholarship this injury could be putting his education at risk.”
"Yes, but your client sustained this injury from someone who was defending himself" Martin says angrily. "You’re trying to make it sound like there was malicious intent on our client's part."
"We haven't done that yet." Silverman says with a devilish grin. "But we'll have no problems with doing so in the courtroom. And in the past we have succeeded in presenting similar arguments under similar circumstances."
"You must be pretty proud of yourselves." Martin says sarcastically.
"Damn right." Silverman replies full of pride.
Back at Peach State University’s campus Richie's friends, Eddie, Kim, Mike, Amber, and Carlton are all outside of their classroom talking about the lawsuit that Richie is fighting. The conversation has been going on for a while and his friends are all pretty annoyed. No surprised, but Carlton is the most annoyed and displays this fact with the subtly of an explosion.
"This shit is kind fucked up on another level." Carlton snarls angrily. "Finals are coming up and the homie, Rich is dealing with a bullshit ass lawsuit. I know we supposed to play it cool, but I seriously want put my hands to that fuck boy, Al."
“Calm down, brother.” Mike says while playfully massaging Carlton’s shoulders.
"He does have a point though." Eddie says angrily. “He should be here with us in classroom and not in a courtroom."
“I know that this lawsuit is kind of a big deal.” Kim grumbles as she rubs her head. “But can we please talk about something else. Talking about this is really giving me a headache.”
“I’m with you on that, Kim.” Amber says. “This has got to be the dumbest lawsuit I’ve heard about in recent memory.”
“Are you forgetting that someone is suing Starbucks for five million dollars for putting too much ice in their iced coffee?” Mike asks.
“Okay, this has got to be the second dumbest lawsuit I’ve heard about in recent memory.” Amber says quickly correcting herself. "Was he nervous when you talked to him?"
"You know damn well that he was." Mike replies. "Rich is one of the nicest guys we know. The fact that he had to raise his hand to someone is eating at him."
"Technically he raised his foot to him." Eddie says. "It was pretty badass if you ask me."
"Problem is that facts like that can be used against him if it goes to trial." Tamara says. “It just depends on how low the lawyers are willing to stoop and how charismatic they are.”
“I know who’s defending them.” Carlton says quickly. “I’ve studied one of their cases. These two don’t have a fuck to give. And they’ve gotten people off on some bullshit.”
“I don’t even want to hear about that.” Tamara says shaking her head. She begins to head into the classroom but turns back towards the others. "Is anybody taking notes for, Richie?"
"I got him covered." Kim says as they begin to enter the classroom. "I’m just trying to stay positive about this whole thing."
"I wouldn’t get my hopes up, Kim." Carlton says. "I can’t help but worry about our boy. That case I studied was for an essay on the flaws with our legal system. Those motherfuckers gave me too much to work with. I’m telling you, girl, those two are fucking vicious. They go in the courtroom like their opponents are something to eat. "
"Dial it back some, Carlton." Amber says looking back at Carlton. “You’re going a little bit overboard. You’re making them sound like monsters."
Despite the hyperbolic nature of his statement, back at the hearing Carlton is proving to be not so far off the mark. For the past few hours Martin Akande and Rob Matthews have been going back and forth with Walter Silverman and Bernice Hall-Simmons on the lawsuit. Little progress has been made and without facts on their side Silverman has been trying to intimidate Martin and Rob making statements similar to his earlier one about them being their preys.
"Your old man made a mistake by sending you two." Silverman says. "Once we get in the court room we are going to rip out your bones and feast on your flesh."
"I'm sure a judge will enjoy your cannibalistic behavior." Martin says crossing his arms. "Whatever resting place you've chosen for our remains is going to remain vacant for a while. Your case is pretty flimsy. Taking it to trial would be a waste of time. Even if this does go to trial we have witnesses in the double digits willing to testify on our clients behalf."
"Most of our opponents do." Silverman replies. "But that hasn't stopped us in the past."
"As you know we aren't above fighting dirty." Hall-Simmons says. "And we certainly know how to work a courtroom. It’s the reason why Frank Macklin and Roger Stagg are both walking the streets right now."
“Both of those guys were arrested for violent crimes.” Rob says angrily. “And the evidence was clearly against them.”
“That’s our point, Mr. Matthews.” Hall-Simmons replies with a smirk. “Truth is relative. All it takes is the ability to cast a little doubt.”
"You guys are nuts." Rob says.
"The only one who could be considered nuts is you, Mr. Matthews." she replies with a smirk. "It didn't take long for us to build up our reputations, which is substantially better than either of yours. Well, especially yours. How long do you think you'll be able to coast through your career on your daddy's name?"
"Can we focus on the case?" Martin asks angrily. "Your client attacked our client and his friend in front of a hallway full of witnesses. How are you planning to argue against our client in court?”
"We have reason to believe the severity of our client's injury was intentional." Hall-Simmons says.
"Say what?" Rob asks erupts. Hall-Simmons holds up her iPad which features Richie in a martial arts class breaking boards with his kicks. The instructor brings forth a concrete block which requires several attempts but he manages to break the block as well.
“Your client is a well-trained practitioner of martial arts.” Hall-Simmons says. “He is capable of breaking bones under certain circumstances. One would think that someone with his level of skill is capable of taking someone down without causing such a serious injury.”
“Our client was defending himself against a much larger person who is known for having a great deal of strength and durability.” Martin says. “He had no reason to believe that he was not the more vulnerable between himself and your client.”
“By the logic if a person were to go after someone with a shotgun and ends up getting shot themselves that person shouldn’t get any time.” Rob adds.
“We have gotten someone off under those exact circumstances.” Hall-Simmons says in a nonchalant manner. “Yes, technically that means a violent shotgun wielding heathen is back on the streets doing God knows what, but it’s also another notch on the belt for the two of this.”
“How do y’all sleep at night?” Rob asks. He’s clearly disturbed by what he’s hearing.
“Ambien.” Hall-Simmons replies quickly and calmly.
“I usually just get drunk off my ass.” Silverman says in a nonchalant manner. This prompts Martin and Rob to both palm their faces in frustration.
“What the hell, man?” Richie asks angrily as he looks over at Al. Al quickly turns away trying to avoid making eye contact. “Is this really the level that you’re going to stoop to, bro? Hiring lawyers who are open about how low they’re willing to go to win? I mean come on, this crazy!” Al doesn’t respond. “I didn’t start this, you did! If you would’ve just listened to me none of this would’ve happened.”
“To be fair, if you hadn’t interjected yourself into a situation that initially didn’t involve you this would’ve never happened.” Hall-Simmons says. “We can easily use a detail like that that as a catalyst to turn the argument over to our favor.”
“That’s bullshit!” Rob shouts angrily. “He didn’t physically engage your client, he didn’t even threaten him. All he did was make a suggestion. Your client is the one who made physical contact and his actions throughout the afternoon suggested that he was dangerous.”
“Details like that haven’t mattered in previous cases, and they won’t matter in this one either.” Hall-Simmons says. “You know what we’re capable of in a courtroom. I wouldn’t suggest taking us on there. It’s in your best interest to settle. If you come into the courtroom with us we will dismantle you piece by piece and leave you without a leg to stand on.”
“That’ll leave us with less to feast, Bernice.” Silverman says as he stands and begins to walk around the room.
“Stop comparing yourself to a fucking cannibal.” Rob says standing “It’s gross, man."
"I have to say, Walter. You seem to be enjoying this a little too much." Martin says.
"I disagree." Silverman responds "While I take pride in my work, I’d say that I've been very professional."
"You only need to look down for evidence suggesting otherwise." Martin says as he stands up. Silverman looks down at his crotch and realizes that he has a full erection.
"I want to end this on positive note, so let me just say something." Rob says as he and Richie stand up. "Bernice, I’d like to congratulate you on your recent wedding. I offer my condolences to your in-laws.”
“I thought you said you were ending this on a positive note.” Hall-Simmons says.
“I’m positive that you’re going to go full-blown black widow on his ass.” Rob says as he walks out with Martin and Richie. The three of them head outside and begin to speak before heading to their vehicles.
“We just survived an encounter with Walter Silverman and Bernice Hall-Simmons.” Rob says taking a glance at his limbs. “Make sure all of your appendages are still attached.”
"Dude, it's not that serious." Richie says.
“It feels like I got bit in the ass at some point.” Martin says briefly reaching behind him. Rob and Richie both pause for a second and stare in his direction. Martin then readjusts himself. “But I’m pretty sure they just had some uncomfortable seats. It’s probably a way to try to keep people off their game.”
“Seriously, what the hell was that?” Richie asks angrily. “Do these folks have any decency?”
“Of course they don’t, Richie.” Martin says. “Some people are under the impression that they have to sacrifice things like decency in order to be a successful attorney.”
“That’s because some of them actually do have to.” Rob says. “Some people only win because they’re willing to play dirty. And some of them still play dirty and end up losing. Don’t worry, bro. We’re going to handle this. And if we have any trouble Dad is dying to jump in."
“Alright, bro.” Richie says hugging him. “I’ll catch up with you later.” Richie hops into his car and drives off.
Rob and Martin return to the offices of Matthews and Associates. They make their way over to Martin’s desk. Rob pulls up a chair and sits down beside him.
“So what’s your assessment on Silverman and Hall?” Martin asks as he checks his e-mail on his computer.
“Silverman is a bloodthirsty sociopath and Hall is a cutthroat bitch!” Rob says calmly before pausing briefly before adding “And both of them are arrogant assholes.”
“That was very thorough.” Martin grumbles sarcastically.
“They’re over exaggerating their own personalities.” Rob says. “They’re trying to get in our heads and intimidate us, trying to psych us out. They spent the whole time talking about their reputation and how they’ll take us apart in the courtroom which last time I checked was more of a defensive strategy.”
“True, we’re the ones that should be using that tactic.” Martin says. “They’re the ones handling the burden of proof. So what’s up?”
“They’re trying to scare us into settling.” Rob says. “And we both know that pushing for a settlement isn’t how they usually get down.”
“Neither is representing the plaintiff.” Martin says. “These two specialize on the defensive end of things and nothing I heard sounds like they’re representing a plaintiff except that bullshit about your brother “intentionally” injuring Al.”
“I think that they’re hiding something. That’s why they’re trying to avoid a trial.” Rob says.
“Oh yeah, PSU doesn’t play around with the wellbeing of their athletes.” Martin says. “If he’s hiding something from them it might come up in the trial.” Martin smirks.
“I’m guessing you know what angle you want to attack from.” Rob says with a smile.
“Damn right I do.” Martin says. “Grab your shovel, Rob. We’re about to do some digging.”
“Um, that sounds like a questionable tactic.” Rob says nervously stepping away from Martin.
“That was a metaphor, Rob.” Martin says almost faceplaming himself.
“Right… Right…” Rob replies.
Richie arrives home and is greeted but his brother and sister, Will and Lauren. Will has been keeping up with the suit while working at their parents’ firm. Lauren on the other hand has been a bit out of the loop and is eager to find out how things have been going. Richie who has been nervous and reluctant throughout the whole process, something that Lauren immediately picked up on. She approaches him and he looks over to her.
“You okay, Richie?” Lauren asks.
“I feel like Superman living under a red sun.” Richie says taking a seat on a couch.
“Confused about how the sun changed colors.” Richie says, prompting a look of bewilderment from Lauren and Will.
“Is that a metaphor for something?” Lauren asks. “Look, I know you’ve had a rough day…”
“Technically I haven’t.” Richie says shaking his head as an awkward smile. “All I’ve been doing is sitting around watching Rob and Martin fight my battle for me. I felt completely lost in that hearing. This just isn’t my thing. I feel like I’ve never really had a chance to get into the lawyer thing.”
“Yeah, it’s not like our parents and older brother are currently in that field?” Will says sarcastically.
“Dude, don’t be a dick.” Lauren says nudging Will. “Joining the family business has never really been one of your interests, so it’s only natural that you feel a little out of place.”
“It just sucked sitting there when I should’ve been more involved.” Richie says. “Just sitting in there and watching, I felt like I was really missing out on something. I don’t want to be in the same position at the next hearing.”
“It sounds like you’re feeling motivated.” Will says.
“Are you going to go through some of mom and dad’s legal books and read up on what you should do next? Or maybe ask Rob what you can do from your end?” Lauren asks quickly.
“I was considering skipping the next hearing altogether.” Richie says rubbing the back of the head prompting a look of disappointment from Lauren and Will. “But that sounds like a much better plan.” Richie says quickly rebounding. He leaves and enters his dad’s home office and grabs a few books and heads upstairs.
“It’s nice to see that you’re motivated, bro.” Will says as Richie heads upstairs.
To Be Continued…