Choke Hold: An Eli Wolff Thriller

By Gerald Everett Jones

Crime & mystery, True crime, General fiction

Paperback, eBook

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91
3 mins

 

Chapter One
Putting a law firm above a funeral home might seem an unwise marketing decision. But the price was right on the rent. Luther “Bones” Jackson Jr. gave Lazer “Eli” Wolff a break. Originally, it was because they both liked progressive jazz. Or maybe it was because they both followed basketball, made friendly bets on games, and Bones often lost. But Eli reasoned that he only needed the place for meeting new clients, which so far wasn’t all that often. He was a litigator. He belonged in court. Win a few cases and he could afford more impressive digs.
That was the plan, anyway. Until all the rest of it happened.
As for Bones, maintaining a mortuary as a storefront also had its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, having a picture window on the street was a great way to show off caskets, like so many shiny new cars. On the negative side, the clientele might think of the establishment as a kind of revolving door. If you thought about it, life was like that. But no one wanted to be reminded. Also, because Bones offered informal counseling services above and beyond those of an undertaker, locating his business on a busy street emphasized his role as an unofficial public servant.
Indeed, Bones was the godfather of the local community of color.
But the only control he had over the criminal element was what you would call moral persuasion. Eli could offer his own advice on occasion, and as with too many of his other clients, those services ended up being rendered pro bono.
Bones did it to keep up what you might call commercial goodwill. He was a standup guy not only for stiffs but also for their living, breathing survivors. Which, in numerous cases, included a warm widow who suddenly had control of the family checkbook. Not that he would hit on that right away. He knew how to court a lady. And Bones was a patient man.
As for Eli, his practice of law needed practice. He had no delusions about that. Collecting from a personal-injury case also required patience. It took one or two years, typically, and he did have a couple of big scores on the horizon. But meanwhile, an upstanding member of the bar had to stay out of the bars, as they say. So, Eli took on some pathetic cases. Which often came to him from Bones.
But today, Eli was expecting a paying customer in the hot seat. Divorce. Not his strong suit, but, if not too complicated, it would be mostly a paperwork hand he could play.
From the weight of her day jewelry, the silk of her too-tight top, and the prominent bulges of what surely must be silicone implants, Eli judged this babe must have some powerful reason to come to this side of the tracks to find counsel.
Eli was poised to take notes on a yellow pad, but so far all he’d jotted down was a phone number with an area code from the tonier part of town and the first name Chrissy. He guessed she had met Mr. Cadillac at a gentleman’s club or perhaps a sporting event. Maybe she’d been a basketball cheerleader and he had one of those expensive courtside seats. She’d been looking for a sugar daddy, he for a trophy wife, and they’d both had sticky hands. Hers were groping in his pants for his credit cards, his inside her blouse for those artificial but perfectly shaped boobs.
Which in her aristo neighborhood was not always a recipe for true love but could be a mutually beneficial marital arrangement.
Chrissy was sobbing.
Uh oh. Here’s the first danger signal, Eli thought.
Whenever they turned on the waterworks, he could feel the size of his retainer shrinking. There was bound to be a temporary problem with her cash flow. That was probably the reason she’d come over to his side of the tracks – to find a cheap lawyer. If the guy’s wealth was into the millions, there were all kinds of high-toned attorneys on the right side of the tracks who would take her case on contingency. Even if her legal position was iffy, they’d at least take her on retainer, and what Amex account couldn’t withstand a ten-grand hit? Answer – a card that has already been maxed out, or one that hubby was quick enough to cancel already.
So, here she was – no cash, no credit – and probably (and this was the real challenge) with no idea whatever where chubby hubby had his assets hid.
Here comes the sob story.
And Eli could decide either to walk away from the case or accept what she could scrape together now and hope he could find the loot on discovery and get enough of the settlement to not only make it all worthwhile but also top off his fee. Just now, considering his own problems with cash flow, he was inclined toward the more expedient course.
A more prudent man might have been concerned that his law practice did not focus on family law. Eli was a competent personal injury man. He knew enough about fractures, soft tissue damage, rehabilitation time, painkiller addictions, chiropractic and acupuncture alternatives, and all the gut-wrenching, subjective issues surrounding pain and suffering.
And what is divorce but an acute personal injury?



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