Cone of Uncertainty

Photo: Patrick Tomasso. Free use Unsplash license.

”Welcome to Klepto-Kate’s bar and cantina. What’ll you have?”

“Tom Collins.”

“It’s my pleasure to mix a sophisticated drink for a change.”

“Where am I?”

“Did you get off the cruise ship that just landed in port?”


“You’re in Ensenada, Mexico.

“About an hour’s drive south from the international border with San Diego.

“Close enough to California but far enough away to live outside the fast-lane.”

“What goes on here?”

“We’re a sleepy town known mostly for sport-fishing.”

“We jump to life when a cruise ship sets anchor and like a giant whale spits up its load of cash-laden tourists onto shore, friend.”

“Who’s that?”

“My ‘ol buddy from San Diego, Jonny.

“Here’s his card:


“Turn the card over:


“Slide down here and join us, Jonny.”

“I’ve got a special full-day Marlin fishing trip.

“Interested, friend?”

“I get seasick on small boats.

“What does ‘anything’ mean?”

“My ‘anything’ services include ‘don’t know, don’t want to know’ deliveries anywhere, anytime including to the depths of hell for the ‘right price’.

“Interested, friend?”

“Let the man finish his drink, Jonny.”

“Hit me again.”

“Mr. Tom Collins comin’ up.

“I’m the owner, Stuey.”

“Who comes in here?”

“Don’t let tonight fool you. Monday nights are always slow.

“On weekends I have a dozen strippers dancing and I’m up to my elbows pouring cervezas, Tequila shots, mixin’ Margarita’s and cocktails for the tourists, locals, expats, or ‘villains’ in town.”

“What’s with the name of this joint?”

“Kate’s my ex-wife.

“This place was formerly a high-class piano bar named ‘La Chica Bonita’ frequented by sport fisherman from all over the world. It was also a favorite of Hollywood stars back in the day.

“Kate was the piano player.

“I was in town trackin’ the whereabouts of some dudes who ‘jumped ship’ and stumbled upon this joint.

“I saw her from across the room. Kate looked like Ava Gardner and devoured me with her eyes while busting-out of a skin-tight revealing silk dress.

“Kate’s fingers skipped up and down the keyboard like Shirley Temple in a thirty’s movie musical.

“She was a big hit with the crowd and was belting “High Ball’s” like water which should have been my warning to stay the hell away from her.

“It was love at first sight and we married in Tijuana.”

“You still married?”

“Kate’s fingers may have ‘skipped’ across the keyboard but ‘jumped’ about department store display cases and clothing racks.

“Her closet was filled with the finest women’s apparel and accessories money could buy which I couldn’t afford.”

“She was a pro.

“A real pro, Stuey.

“I told you she shoulda’ focused those fingers on lifting expensive jewelry.”

“You’re correct, Jonny.

“Her fingers were like Velcro and like merchandise, wouldn’t let go of me. It took me years to divorce her.

“Kate was mentally ill. A bona-fide Kleptomaniac committed to mental hospitals.

“I heard she’s doin’ a ‘dime’ in the federal lockup for credit card fraud.”

“Any children?”

“We ‘dogged a bullet’ and never conceived. Our kid would have been the After Christ.

“I prefer not to speak any more about Kate. She’s a sick girl.

“I’m a sucker for backstabbers, pickpockets and thieves.

“Leave it at that.”

“What’s your story, Stuey?”

“Like Kate, I prefer to let ‘sleeping deranged dogs lie’.”

“Tell the horror story, Stuey.

“I’ve got a juicy role in it and I’ll brace him as we walk the death march down ‘Bad Memories Lane’.”

“If you insist on wading through feces-laden winds of a ‘Cat 5’ tornado named, ‘Misery’, allow me to lay out three shot glasses, pour my bottle of premium Tequila, and put some ‘mood’ music on. Dylan’s ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ seems appropriate.

Drink up gents and hold on tight!
It’s a whacked-out, winding road of what if’s, wrong-way’s, the wretched and worn out.
‘Cause something is happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

I met Jonny at the “Water Charm” tribal gaming joint about an hour east of San Diego. He was using the casino lounge as an office, of sorts, running limousines from the airport to the casino while I was “running” out of luck playin’ Blackjack.

“Stuey was a cop in the Navy.”

I was a Shore Patrolman trackin’ down sailors who went “AWOL”. I learned a lot about manhunting in the Navy. I was good at it. I retired as a Chief Petty Officer.

I had too much time on my hands spending night and day including my small pension on losing at Blackjack.

Jonny had a client who was president of an insurance company. He hired me as a workers compensation insurance investigator taking video of deadbeats out havin’ fun despite their insurance claims reporting they were injured. My videos put many a fraudster behind bars! I’d receive a tidy pension after ten years with the company. Hell, after doin’ twenty in the Navy, ten years was a breeze.

My supervisor resented having the president of the company order him to hire me. He was a retired Marine who ran the “Brig” at Camp Pendleton named “Sergeant Head”. He was jealous of my marriage to foxy Kate and hated sailors. He was runnin’ a surveillance on me and compiling a devious dossier to screw me. I know ’cause he always sniped about Kate being picked up on a shoplifting beef.

I was six months from the ten-year vesting on my retirement pension and was given a urine test which revealed “Adderall” in my system.

“Ain’t that the drug for kids, Stuey?”

“Ya, Jonny, but Wall Street traders take it to increase their attention and focus in high velocity trading. I took it to better my Blackjack game and stay awake.”

I was fired when Kate’s arrest record and my drug test were presented to the president by Head. I was only one month away from a second pension which would have placed me on “easy street”.

“We showed Head a thing or two, Stuey.”

Jonny met dubious dudes running “Black Star”. He asked me for Head’s military identification information which I obtained from friends in the Shore Patrol. Jonny sold Head’s data to “Dark Web” devils who hacked into Head’s credit file. Last I heard, he’s is still working to salvage his credit history.

“Turn to the chapter titled, ‘Sassy Cassy’, Stuey.”

I’ll pour each of us another shot before we take the treacherous turn onto “Badass Babe Boulevard”.

Weeknights at the Water Charm card tables included tourists but mostly degenerate gamblers looking like zombies hoping fate would flip us a winning hand instead of the “finger”. Cassy McClintock, Attorney at Law, sat beside me most nights.

“Like birds of prey sitting atop a sagging high-voltage wire hung from termite ravaged telephone poles strung across ‘Desolation Row’.”

“Who is this guy, Stuey?

“Some kind of writer?”

“Cool it, Jonny. No need to alienate a payin’ customer.”

“After five nights on a barge of deep-fried buffets, warm wilting salad bars, and sour booze, I’m looking for dose of alienation.”

“We’ll throw in a heavy dose of abuse, complimentary, friend.”

“Hit, me again.”

“Here’s a double. ‘Anchors aweigh’!”

“Hit him fast and hard with our story, Stuey.

“Before the nights over, he’ll beg for more booze like a junkie seeking another ‘fix’ to erase this nightmare of debauchery, degeneracy, and dead bodies found only on ‘Desolation Row’.”

“Not a bad Dylan reference, Jonny.

“Drink up fellas while I change the tune.”

…They’ve got him in a trance…
…They’re restless…
They need somewhere to go…
And I look out tonight
From Desolation Row…

Cassy was a “brand” going by the slogan,

“You’ve tried the rest, retain the best!
Don’t get mad, sue!
Sassy Cassy will slay your opponent before he slays you.”

She was a “slip and fall” shyster fighting for market share with the lawyer boy’s purchasing cut-rate advertising time on late-night television appealing to the unemployed, inebriated, insomniacs, and iconoclasts.

She ran a clever ad campaign depicting herself as a cartoon conquistador vindicating the injured in car and motorcycle accidents. She was a thirty-something voluptuous blond who used her bodacious bustline and killer-curves like a “Venus’s flytrap”.

Sassy Cassy’s caricature wore silver armor, a Tartan Kilt, and shiny black boots. She sat atop a white steed named “Justice” holding a glistening sword marked “Victory” as her blond hair blew in the wind as she trampled over fictitious insurance adjustors.

She put herself through some no-name, part-time, law school and passed the California Bar Examination while playing cards to earn a living. She was smart and scrappy earning her a reputation as a shrewd legal competitor to the ego-maniac male shysters fighting for the title, “King Ambulance-Chaser.”

I never spoke so much as “hello” or “goodbye” to Cassy but one evening, we both drew our last losing hands. Like a drug pusher, the casino manager offered us complimentary breakfasts to keep us coming back for more financial self-flagellation.

It was six in the morning when we agreed to have breakfast together. Cassy was due in court at nine and I was due for “nothing”. Cassy ordered a “bloody” T-Bone steak and two raw eggs dumped inside a double “Screwdriver”. “Pigs in a blanket” felt appropriate for me accompanied by a “Bloody Mary”.

Cassy received a call and quickly answered saying,

“Excuse, me. Could be the next big case!”

She began yelling into the phone,

“What do you mean you can’t serve the defendant? You’re a professional process server! The fence and dogs are your problem. I need that Writ of Attachment served today, understand?”

She hung up and gulped down the Screwdriver motioning to the waitress to bring another.

“I’d throw those hounds poisoned meat, climb the fence, and serve the ‘SOB’ myself if I had the time!

“You’d think a quick five-hundred-dollar fee would motivate the prick to show some balls!”

“I need a job, Cassy. I chased AWOL sailors for twenty years and I can track down anybody. I’ll get your legal papers properly and promptly served. For five-hundred bucks a clip, I travel to hell and serve your legal papers!”

“Come by my office ’round six tonight. We’ll talk. It’s above the ‘Baron of Bail Bonds’ office near the court house.”

Cassy worked out of a cramped one room office filled to the ceiling with file folders and storage boxes. The walls were adorned with her advertising campaigns and framed copies of six and seven figure settlement checks from insurance carriers.

“I don’t meet clients here. I have travelling paralegals who go to prospective clients’ homes and get ’em to sign my retainer agreement before they talk to my competitors.

“It’s been a long day and I need a stiff-drink. Let’s talk over cocktails. I’ll drive.”

Cassy was a self-promoter who’d put Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to shame. She drove a Jaguar shrink wrapped with her cartoon alter ego. She had the upholstery upgraded into tiger stripped leather. The hubcaps were painted to resemble tiger paws with claws and the license plate read, “I SUEEM”.

We pulled up to a dive bar named, “Barristers Brawl”. It was located several alleys and a galaxy away from the hallowed marble hallways of the courthouse.

We entered and Cassy was met by a chorus of greetings from inebriated attorneys; some kind, others vulgar. A waiter approached and asked,

“The usual ‘Death in the Afternoon’, Cassy?”

“Yes, Jerome. I’ll be ready for my second in about fifteen minutes.”

“And for the gentleman?”

“Bring him a ‘Zombie’ and ready a second.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Jerome was a topflight attorney who got disbarred by stealing from his clients. He owns this dive.

“I apologize for ordering your drink. It must feel emasculating but I hate to waste time.

“I had you checked out. You were a magnificent manhunter in the Navy and an insidious insurance fraud investigator.

“You seem like the kind of guy who never allows himself to get screwed.”

“How’s that, Cassy?”

“Your former boss at the insurance company was fired because he had too many creditors phoning him at work. He screwed you, you screwed him back, harder. I like your grit. That’s what it takes to win!

“The job is to pick-up legal filings from me day or night when I text. You’ll track down the ‘mark’, personally serve the papers, record the date and time of service, and get paid.”

“Five-hundred per service?”


“Most are easy service of process called ‘jelly donuts’. The others will make you earn every penny.”

“I’m all in.”

“You start tonight with a few jelly donuts. A late night and early morning door knock always get the marks to answer thinking somebody died!

“Jerome, bring us our second round and get Bob Dylan off the playlist!”

She wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness

“It looks like we’re just about to “kill” this fine bottle of Tequila, fellas.

“You guys ready for another round or want to call it a night?”

“I’m ready for that ‘Cat 5’ storm, Stuey.”

“What do you think, Jonny?”

“I think he’s ready for the ballad of ‘Stealthy Stuey’.

“No umbrella will protect you from the feces flying your way, friend.”

“I’ll wear a hazmat suit.”

I became quite proficient at process serving and earned the nickname, “Stealthy Stuey” because the mark never saw me coming until it was too late.

Cassy remained a client but I broke off and formed my own firm. I specialized in finding evasive marks hiding out in the remote mountains, deserts, and farmlands east of San Diego. I purchased a four-wheel drive pick-up with a camper bed permitting me to sleep, if necessary, and wait out a mark.

Jonny introduced me to a friend who operated a vehicle repossession company who needed help. I outfitted my truck with a license plate scanner which alerted me to any vehicle registered by the creditor as delinquent, and a retractable hoist which permitted me speedy towing away of the vehicle. Each repossession earned me five-hundred to a thousand dollars depending upon the type of vehicle and creditor.

At times, I was confronted by a single mom or a student pleading with me not to tow their “lifeline” to a job or school. I’d settle for whatever cash they could raise on the spot, pocket the money, and never notify the creditor.

I was making money “hand over fist”. Life was good. After a night of serving papers or prowling for repo’s, I’d meet up with Jonny at a beach town diner named, “The Sunshyne Shak”. It was a vintage coffee shop with red-leather clad seats at the counter and booths serving generous portions of favorite breakfast staples at reasonable prices.

It was opened with a “dime” and a “prayer” by Zondra who immigrated from some hellhole in the Balkans. She retired proudly as one of only a few women prison guards assigned to male maximum security prisons. She was a no-nonsense woman and her prison guard baton hung from the wall behind the register letting all know “the score”. She opened the joint with her life savings and considered the misspelled sign a good omen.

The regulars knew they could get a shot of booze in their coffee or juice although Zondra didn’t have a liquor license.

It was frequented by surfers, locals, and hookers “clocking off” from their evening strolls. It was a place for Jonny and me to commiserate about our “day at the office”. Jonny looked wrung out one morning.

“I picked up a cash ride from the Tijuana airport named Heidi. She was the daughter of a high-roller client and accompanied by her boyfriend from the Caribbean. I figured it was legit knowing Heidi was the daughter of a trusted client.

“We hit the international border and CBP checked our passports. We were all cuffed and I spent the night shackled to a bench while my car was opened up and inspected like a can of rotting tuna.

“I was released just a few hours ago. Heidi’s boyfriend was a known drug trafficker with an outstanding warrant thinkin’ he could sneak past CBP at the border so we all got detained.

“Heidi cost me a seven hundred dollar impound fee and the interior of my limousine was shredded by the drug inspection.”

“Sounds like you misplayed your hand, Jonny.”

“My electronic bug planted in the back seat scanned their smart phones for ‘tap and pay’ bank account information. I’ve already whacked their accounts to compensate me for the aggravation. They’re likely blaming each other for the rip-off.”

Jonny was a favorite of Zondra boasting a super-size “hour-glass” figure barely navigating around the booths and tables. She had “eyes in the back of her head” and could feel Jonny’s laser-like stare on her huge buttocks and hipline. She returned to fill his coffee cup and chastise him.

“Here’s your coffee, boys. I included a shot of your favorite ‘kick in the ass’ in each cup.

“If you insist upon staring at my big ass, Jonny, why don’t you stay on after I close and I’ll teach you a thing or two about prison matrons pulling ‘wide trailers’.”

They had a “dynamic” between them I chose never to broach.

We all have our “kinks”. Mine would become, “Sassy Cassy”; the Queen of the late-night legal litter box. She’d beat me like a “junkyard dog” and I’d lose the “game” of my life. When I felt her tap on my shoulder after placing my last losing bet, I knew I was “all in” on her deal.

“I need to talk a business proposition with you, Stuey.

“Get that handsome pirate Jonny to join us in the cocktail lounge off the casino floor near the back entrance named, ‘Played Out'”.

Cassy didn’t come to play cards and the pitcher of Margaritas she ordered told me she had another “game” to play with me and Jonny.

“I’m going to file a lawsuit which will rock this town with statewide implications. The press stemming from this case will put me on the national stage.

“We’re talkin’ legal fees placing ‘Sassy Cassy’ into a retirement fit for a queen.”

“You suing another trucking company for running over an old lady in the crosswalk?”

“I’d think you were tryin’ to be funny if I didn’t know you were just a naughty tiger needing taming, Jonny.

“Keep it up and I’ll have you growling for mercy.

“You fellas every hear of ‘patient-dumping’?

“Here’s the ‘hand’ we’ve been dealt setting us up for a ‘purrrfect’ putt placing us below Par on the eighteenth hole in the championship final-game of our lifetimes.

“Four of the largest hospitals in town are releasing indigent, homeless patients into the streets during the dead of night after collecting inflated fees from the local government Social Services Agency for their care.

“I’m going to file a ‘class action’ law suit against the four hospitals who’ll settle after being shamed by my lawsuit and the putrid ‘PR’.

“This suit is just the beginning. Hospitals up and down the state will shake in their boots when they’re served with process on forthcoming class action suits filed by me.”

“How do we figure into all this?”

“Here’s how you ‘figure’, Stuey.

“I’m representing the ‘class’ which is comprised of every indigent and homeless patient ‘dumped’ by the four hospitals. I sue each of the hospitals and obtain a ‘pot’ of money paid to the indigents who register as a member of the class.

“My legal fees will be awarded by the judge overseeing the case and will be likely around twenty-five percent of the settlement pot approved by the judge.

“We’re talking about a pot potentially in the tens of millions of dollars!

“Do the math, fellas.”

“That’s just terrific for you Cassy but what about us?”

“Your friend Jonny has a laser-like focus on the financial fleecing of the hospitals I’m putting together.

“I’ll get to your “cut” of the proceeds shortly.

“I need you two to go out and find me a plaintiff who’ll be the ‘Class Representative’ in the lawsuit against each of the four hospitals.

“Round up as many homeless indigents as you can find for me to interview as most won’t be lucid enough to participate. I just one from each hospital.”

“I’m a process server not a mental health counselor, Cassy.”

“It will be ‘easy peasy’, Stuey.

“I’ll have one of my limo driver’s parked outside each of the four hospitals when the patients are dumped and we’ll deliver them to Cassy.”

“Precisely, Jonny.

“Most of these patients are released late Friday evenings.

“I’ll have a discrete hotel ballroom near skid row booked with a buffet and a crisp, new, one-hundred-dollar bill for you to entice them into your limousine.

“Me and my paralegal team will be inside the ballroom to interview them. They get paid just for showing up and completing the interview.

“I want coherent indigents!

“Forget the psychotics, drug addicts, and alcoholics. I don’t want to my waste time on Class Rep’s who can’t participate in the litigation.”

“This class action law seems ‘out of your league’.

“You’re ‘Sassy Cassy’ not ‘Perry Mason’.”

“Point well-taken, Stuey.

“I’m teamin’ up with the lawyer using the moniker ‘Potentate of Personal Injury’.”

“Ain’t he your primary competitor in the ‘slip ‘n fall’ shyster racket advertising on late-night TV?”

“Yes, Stuey but even lethal competitors ‘team up’ when they see ‘blood in the water’.”

“That dude loves sport fishing.

“He owns one of the largest boats in the marina, Stuey.”

“He’s going to help me ‘hook’ and ‘reel in’ the hospitals, fellas.

“He won a class action suit against a city representing bicyclists butchered by cars within negligently prepared bicycle lanes.

“He’ll guide me every step of the way but it’s ‘Sassy Cassy’ riding atop my steed Justice coming to the defense of those ‘poor indigents’ dumped into the cold night air.

“I’ll have the ad campaign and press releases ready to go upon filing the lawsuit.”

“What’s in it for us, Cassy?”

“10% of my cut after I split with Potentate.

“Assume the settlement pot is ten million dollars. If the judge awards two and a half million in legal fees, and my cut after paying Potentate is two million dollars, your cut is two hundred thousand dollars!

“That’s conservative, darlings.”

“We want our cut tax free, paid in cash, Cassy.”

“You seem like a dull knife but razor-sharp when it involves money, Jonny. I’ll pay you both in cash but I want results, fast!”

“We’re all in, Cassy.”

“Jonny’s right.

“We’re ‘all in’, all right.”

“If you both ‘play your cards right’, we’ll ride the ‘gravy train’ together to ‘Serendipity Station’.”

It was a busy week for me servin’ up process and repossessing cars like a card dealer of disaster dealing out “losing hands” to everybody I met. I didn’t hear from Cassy. I presumed she was busy slaying insurance companies and preparing her big class action suit.

I was worried about Jonny. He’s the kind of guy carrying around a lotta baggage filled with revenge minded maniacs who’d love to take him “out”. Even Zondra was concerned about Jonny,

“You tell that bad boy to get his skinny ass back to Mama before she comes lookin’ for him!”

It was a late Friday afternoon when I received a text message to meet Sassy within the parking lot at the corner of “Home Run” and “No Hitter” streets; the “Stadium Village” neighborhood of downtown known for a paradoxical marriage of million-dollar high-rise condos and homeless people calling a tent “home” situated on both sides of the street in the shadow of a beautiful ballpark.

I spied Cassy’s Jaguar and to my surprise, she was with Jonny studying the neighborhood like location scouts for a motion picture. Even a tough old Shore Patrolman was concerned for his safety when I parked and exited my truck.

“The game is ‘on’ Stuey.

“I have four complaints you’ll serve tomorrow night.

“I’ll brief you before you leave.”

“Where have you been Jonny?”

“Busy getting class reps for Cassy.

“It took over a hundred deliveries of disheveled, delusional, or despondent ‘walking dead’ driven to the hotel just to find four lucid class reps.

“I’m still tryin’ to disinfect the stink out of my limo from those rides.”

“What’s Jonny doing here with you, Cassy?”

“We’re writing the script for the ad campaign we’ll rollout once the class action is filed.

“Picture Sassy Cassy riding her white steed Justice down the center of Home Run Street in full body armor, Kilt, and wavin’ my sword Victory as I chase extras wearing white lab coats with stethoscopes. I’ll include extras wearing business suits and carrying brief cases.

“My voice over to the cutaways to and from the tents and homeless staggering about reads,

‘Sassy Cassy fights for the powerless against the medical establishment releasing the misfortunate onto to the streets to suffer or die.
Call me for a free consultation if you, a loved one, or friend is the victim of Patient Dumping.
Let me slay the hospitals for you, too!
Call Sassy Cassy 24/7 for justice for YOU.’

“We’ll cut to the horse whinnying,

“‘I’m telling all my friends to call Sassy Cassy!'”

“That’s a cute touch, Jonny.

“Include it within the script.”

“I’m the writer and producer, Stuey.

“I’m talkin’ to the owners of the ballpark about a scoreboard ad buy including Sassy’s logo.”

“What do you know about shooting commercials, Jonny?”

“I’ve driven’ my share of Hollywood hotshots who told me how famous directors got their start doin’ commercials.

“It’s a learn on the job gig, Stuey.

“My production company is named, ‘Content Pipeline’.

“Cassy promised to incorporate me as compensation for my services.”

“Everybody has a reputation to defend, Jonny.

“Make certain your ‘pipeline’ doesn’t connect to the sewer!”

“Jonny’s script will save me money on the ad campaign.

“Young, local, film crews are inexpensive.

“We’ll get a permit to close down the streets while we shoot. The cops will cooperate for an additional permit fee.”

I looked about the human carnage crawling in and out of tents; stupefied, hapless, inebriated, or delusional people wondering about aimlessly, shouting, and talking to themselves.

“You’re going to include these unfortunates in your commercial?”

“We’ll cover their faces in the editing room for legal purposes but I want to appeal to the emotional triggers of the viewers.

“The sun is setting quickly and I don’t want to be here after dark.

“Here’s the four filings you’ll serve.

“Me and Jonny are leaving. I’ll call you from the car about the papers you’ll serve tomorrow night.”

As I maneuvered slowly so as not to run over any of the homeless approaching me for a handout, I caught a glimpse of several wearing only hospital gowns with their buttocks exposed.

It bothered me to see Cassy and Jonny produce a commercial exploiting the homeless for personal gain but maybe Cassy “tamed” Jonny and it was nice to see his creative spirits provoke him into an endeavor other than his next con job. Despite Cassy’s garish self-promotion, I hoped she’d find justice for these lost souls.

I entered the onramp to the freeway grateful to be leaving purgatory. I knew each homeless person had a novel length story bringing them to the streets. It was disappointing to find American’s living in squalor and conditions I encountered within Third World countries as a sailor.

Me and Jonny could be one of them but for my home in the Navy for twenty years and Jonny’s “Man Candy” good looks. As a young man, Jonny enjoyed the “spoils” of young women with trust funds, and, as he aged, wealthy senior women willing to pay for his company while employing him as a companion or driver until they discovered their purses empty, credit cards tapped out, and returning him like a wardrobe to the department store because it “didn’t fit”.

Me, Cassy, and Jonny were mariners chartering a course away from our stormy ports of the past. I bounced about the bumpers like a ball within a pinball machine from port to port. Jonny’s past was littered with one golden handbag leading to another while age was bearing down on his handsome good looks “meal ticket” like a rogue wave. Cassy was a chick runnin’ from the past necessitating the creation of a superhero alter-ego whose costume masked the scars of her past she never revealed. One thing was certain for us. Our future was leading us into the eye of a hurricane.

Cassy phoned.

“You’ll be serving the founding partner of the most prestigious law firm in town with a reputation of defending corporate clients including the four hospitals.

“His address is on the papers. His mansion sits on a hilltop with a commanding three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the ocean and looking east to the desert. It’s gated with an intercom.”

“Don’t the hospitals have the money and legal muscle to fight your lawsuit?”

“Sure, like a huge Marlin, their gonna’ fight and squirm to get free of the ‘hook’.

“I know their lawyer but Sassy Cassy will slay him.

“Let me do the lawyering, Stuey.”

“I’ll drive out there now and do my customary surveillance so I’m prepared for anything tomorrow.

“If I have to scale fences, camp out, or fight off dogs, you’ll pay the ‘Premium Service’ fee, right?”

“It’s a big fat gooey jelly donut.

“Show up at six pm, sharp. It will still be light out.

“As you enter the compound, walk around the side of the mansion. You’ll see an enclosed patio with the screen door ajar. Walk inside and enter the sliding glass door which will be unlocked. That’s the master bedroom where you’ll find the lawyer to serve.”

I drove out and found a gated mansion with a formidable gardener finishing work for the day. I presumed he lived on the premises because I saw no work truck. There was a pit bull following him about. It didn’t look so “gooey”.

On the day of service, I arrived about five forty-five to allow myself time to get inside the property. I did a drive by and the gardener was working in the yard with the dog. The gate was closed. I parked just out of sight but close enough to make a quick getaway.

For this service, I dawned a brown package delivery uniform and had a tablet I purchased off a retired driver from the same company. I placed the paperwork in the brown delivery package. A can of police officer-strength pepper spray and a retractable baton were discretely attached to my belt. I approached the gate and waived to get the attention of the gardener pushing a loud lawnmower. He wore a machete hanging from his belt.

“Package delivery, Sir.”

I didn’t get his attention but the pit bull took notice and charged the fence snarling which got the attention of the gardener who turned off the lawnmower and motioning me to place the parcel through the locked gate.

“This package requires a signature, Sir.”

He motioned for me to hand him the tablet through the gate to sign. I refused,

“Special papers from his law firm.

“I need his personal signature or the sender will be furious!”

He opened the gate door as the dog snarled viciously,

“Go to front door and ring bell.”

“Leash the dog, man!”

“He no harm you, dude.

“Sientete Asesina.”

He told the dog named “Assassin” to sit and it fortunately complied.

I hastily made it to the front door, waited for the gardener to push the lawnmower out of sight, and scurried around the side of the mansion where Cassy’s Jaguar was parked to my surprise. Cassy may have teed up a big, gooey jelly donut service of process for me. I made it to the covered patio seeing a host of kid’s toys including a grandiose pool. I always detested service of process with kids around.

The screen door was ajar and I approached the sliding glass door also unlocked as Cassy explained. I entered. It was dark inside the master bedroom revealed only by the pulsating strobe light. The entire scene disorientated me. I heard a familiar voice and the lights came on.

I thought I’d seen the encyclopedia of sexual deviation as a sailor visiting foreign ports but this scene was a freaky, kinky, den of inequity loaded with bondage gear. This was a graduate level seminar in sexual depravity.

Cassy was dressed in her full outfit including armor, Kilt, boots, and holding her sword Victory in one hand, and a leash attached to a collar around an old man wearing a tiger suit. His face and fingers with smeared with something resembling cat food from a bowl. The expansive master bedroom was strewn with floggers and sex toys.

“Look at him, Stuey.

“The most influential attorney in San Diego collared and leashed like my cat!

“Serve him!”

“You’re hereby served with court documents filed against four of your clients, Sir.”

“Take that old bastard!

“You want to be humiliated, now you got it!

“Service of process duly witnessed by your secret tiger tamer.

“You’ve screwed me like your whore for years, now I screw you back, big shot corporate lawyer!

“Photo him, Stuey!”

“Sorry, Sir.

“I’m just doin’ my job as told by the attorney.


I beat a hasty retreat off that estate before the poor bastard could alert his gardener and dog. As I drove down the winding road off the hilltop revealing the pristine Pacific Ocean below, I knew Cassy would use the compromising photo of the attorney in a blackmail scheme, extorting him to negotiate a big settlement from his hospital clients.

She was ruthless and had big “balls” for a “slip and fall” lady lawyer. Cassy wanted to play with the “big boys” and would have to play by their “rules” which was win at any cost, or lose and take your enemies down with you. I couldn’t get the nagging thought out of my mind, however, that I made a powerful enemy with this gig.

I couldn’t put a quarter in a gumball machine and get a prize at the casino. I was blowing all of my money playing Blackjack and was tapped out. The GM of the casino let me park my truck and camper at the back of the parking lot and live rent free.

He gave me privileges at the gym to shower, shave, and use the bathroom. I served as an unpaid night watchman of the parking lot.

I was addicted to Blackjack and realized the only way to get the “monkey” off my back was to leave town or die broke. I preferred to head south of the border where my small Navy pension would have greater purchasing power.

I overslept and my cellphone remained off all night and into the late morning when I heard a frantic pounding and shaking of my camper. I looked out the window to find Cassy and opened the door.

“Get inside!

“I can’t afford to have a woman outside my camper making a scene.”

“It smells inside this tin can.

“With all the process serving and repo’s you’re doin’, I’d think you have the self-respect to get an apartment.”

“It reminds me of my bunk on board ship in the Navy.

“I’ll let Jonny sleep off a ‘Bender’ inside from time to time.”

“Save me the sordid imagery, Stuey.”

“You’re smelling desperation and the dead skin cells floating about my cabin from an old snake shedding his skin, Cassy.”

“I’m crawling out of my skin, too.

“That ‘rat’ Potentate cut a better deal with the old man and is going to screw me out of the class action suit.

“They’re demanding a meeting with me at noon on his boat at the marina and want you there as well.

“Hurry and get dressed. I’ll drive.”

“Jonny lives on his boat at the marina.

“I’ll ask him to remain nearby and keep his eyes and ears open. He can bring me back here.”

It was a long silent drive from the casino on the Rez to the marina. I could hear the “wheels” turning inside Cassy’s mind just as I heard them spin when she sat playing cards next to me. The question remained; what type of “hand” would fate deal Cassy?

“Welcome aboard my boat, ‘Settlement Fee’.

“May I pour you a champagne cocktail, Cassy?”

“I wouldn’t accept a winning lottery ticket from you, Potentate.

“Let’s get down to business!”

“Potentate agreed to dump you and come ‘onboard’ with me because I’m offering him fifty percent of a forty percent contingency fee my firm will earn when we sue the Social Service Agency on behalf of the four hospitals for inadequate funding for the care of indigent patients.

“Forty percent of a settlement worth tens of millions of dollars is considerably more money than a split with you of twenty-five percent if the judge is generous.”

“That’s dirty pool.

“The hospitals will be paid a handsome settlement and few if any of those dollars will make it onto the streets to help the homeless.”

“Since when did you grow a conscious, you vindictive vixen?”

“It’s the right play, and only play, Cassy.

“The homeless problem is too big for us to fix. Maybe the PR regarding the settlement will embarrass the government to take meaningful action to solve the problem.

“You can feel good about that, and feel good about the ‘bone’ we’ll throw you for staying out of the way.”

“The only bone thrown will be upside the old man’s head when I release the compromising photo of him Stuey photographed.

“He has grandchildren and a wife in a long-term care facility dying from Alzheimer’s, not to mention legions of lawyers within his firm and political associates who’ll run for cover!”

“I’ve had the pleasure of your company these many years, and yes, I enjoyed playing out my sexual peccadilloes with you, but I’ve always found you to be a terribly naïve girl.

“As we speak, my ‘legion’ of lawyers is readying the lawsuit on behalf of my clients against the SSA. It will be electronically filed with the court by day’s end. Once filed, no judge will permit your class action to move forward pending resolution of my lawsuit which in fact, renders your ‘case in chief’, moot, darling.

“As far as you destroying my stellar reputation, I’ll simply be another wealthy old man setting off into the sunset driving his Bentley.

“They’ll say the old man developed Dementia and give me a grand retirement party. My law firm will continue to prosecute my cases, chiefly, my lawsuit against you and your process server.”

“Wait a minute, Sir.

“Why are you dragging me into this mess?

“I was hired to serve you with process.

“It happens every day, sir. You know that.”

“Neither of you have the financial or legal resources to mount a defense against my law firm bringing charges of ‘Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Trespass’, ‘Trespass’, ‘Unlawful Entry’, ‘Defamation’, and ”Libel’ against you two swindlers.

“The District Attorney is a member of my country club who will look disapprovingly of your deceiving my groundskeeper with your appropriated parcel delivery uniform and tablet.

“He’ll likely elevate the trespassing charges to a felony which carries with it up to three years and a ten thousand dollar fine.”

“Cassy, get me out of this mess!”

“Cassy can’t help you. She has her own worries.

“My firm will prosecute her civilly for defamation and libel when she publishes or speaks about our ‘playtime’ together.

“I’ll seek general, specific, and punitive damages. It will take years to make its way through the court. I may even be dead by the time the case is heard.

“I’ll imprison and bankrupt you both!”

“You’re a sad old man.

“Bring your lawsuit.

“I won’t spend a dime defending it. I’ll simply not respond and you’ll get a ‘Default Judgement’ when I don’t file my ‘Answer’ to your complaint.

“When you get a judgement against me, I’ll file bankruptcy and you’ll never see a dime.

“I’m a tough chick, you old bastard, and I’ll start all over again in ‘Rectum’, California, if I’m forced to.”

“Don’t be so certain of your ability to practice law in California, darling.

“My complaint filed with the California Bar will charge you with ethics code violations, misrepresentation, and ‘Moral Turpitude’.

“Extorting a fellow member of the Bar in a defamatory manner will have you disbarred, and, the unscrupulous herding up and bribing potential plaintiffs as class representatives, alone, is grounds for disbarment.

“The disbarment will follow you like an ‘STD’ and no state will license you to practice law.

“I was a former member of the Committee of Bar Examiners and maintain many friendships with current members.

“How do you think they’ll come down on your case for disbarment?”

“You’ve been dealt a losing hand, Cassy.

“It’s time to ‘fold’.”

“Potentate is correct, darling.

“I’ll invite you out to the bash we’ll throw when we settle against the SSA. I’ll give you the ‘bone’ on board Potentate’s fishing boat while we fish for Marlin off the coast of Baja, Mexico.

“One last detail.

“Cassie will sign my non-disclosure agreement relating to my perverse playtime with her. It will have ‘tiger’s teeth’ my dear so, if you violate it, I’ll send you back to that rock you crawled out from under inside the white trash zoo you escaped from.

“As for your ‘swabbie’ process server, he’ll sign my NDA and if violated, my Washington political connections will foul up the payment of his Navy pension for years!”

“Send me your NDA’s before you drop dead from old age, you prick!”

Cassy was fuming and I could feel the heat rising off her as I escorted her back to the Jaguar. I knew it was just a matter of time before she devised a rotten revenge and I recalled the saying, “Hell, hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

“I’ll screw that old bastard and Potentate to death.

“You screw Cassy, I screw you back, harder!”

Jonny drove me back to the casino. I was wiped out by facing my destiny resembling the devil directly in the eyes. His stare back was pitch-dark and bleak like a shark. I couldn’t work today and would drown my worry in booze and losing hands.

“I was hiding on a friend’s boat berthed next to the meeting, Stuey.

“I heard everything.

“The old man has Cassy on a leash.”

“I have a story for your production company, ‘Content Pipeline’, Jonny.

“It’s about an attorney and sports fisherman who invite another lawyer aboard for a celebratory fishing trip off Baja.

“They meet with unexpected consequences.

“Who do you know in Baja?”

“Heidi felt bad about the arrest at the border and promised me a favor.

“She’s ‘dialed into’ some Cartel cat’s who’ll descend upon a fishing boat filled with ‘wealthy Americans’ with ‘suitcases of cash’ or a ‘rival drug dealer’.

“We’ll let ‘nature take its course’ as far as the fate of the old man and Potentate.”

“Heidi is ‘dialed into’ dangerous dudes, Jonny.”

“She’s kinky for bad boys.

“I’ve known plenty of Heidi’s.”

“We can’t afford any ‘blowback’ on this scheme, Jonny.”

“The only ‘blowback’ will be the hurricane season winds off Baja which will flush a crime scene down the toilet leaving no evidence.

“It’s worth the risk because Cassy took out an insurance policy on the old man for a million dollars knowing one day he’d die.

“She hoped it would happen during his playtime with her so she could humiliate or blackmail his family.”

“What type of game are you playin’ with Cassy?”

“I’m letting her play ‘tiger tamer’.

“The chick enjoys playin’ her superhero character.

“I enjoy wearing that tiger suit with the collar and leash.”

“What’s your ‘angle’, Jonny?”

“I’ve learned she’s the sole beneficiary of the insurance policy.

“She showed me the policy.

“She had the opportunity to name a ‘Substitute Beneficiary’ and I convinced her to name me.”

“Why would she agree to that?”

“She’s all alone in the world, Stuey.

“She has nobody. It’s sad.

“She told me,

‘I climbed out of the gutter without a lending hand and made myself into a superhero. When I leave this world, I leave without anybody or anything so why worry about an estate plan?'”

“You have a copy of the insurance policy stashed away, Jonny?”

“You bet. Sign, sealed, and notarized.”

“You have a way with women.

“First Zondra, now Cassy.”

“Zondra named me in her trust to receive the Sunshyne Shak upon her death.”

“You’re a real ‘hustler’, Jonny.”

“I just give ’em what they want but these babes with big balls believe they’ll live forever.”

“Women are the stronger gender, Jonny.

“Survival is ‘baked into’ their DNA.”

“I’ve got a ‘survival mentality’ in my DNA, too.

“Here’s the caper, Stuey.

“We can arrange for Cassy to arrive late to Potentate’s boat when it reaches Baja.

“I’ll take her down in my boat and she can watch the evil events unfold with binoculars. Her revenge will include a beating, theft, destruction of the boat, and reaping the proceeds from the insurance policy payout if the old man croaks for any reason.”

“Will she go along with it, Jonny?”

“Hell, yes.

“She’s bloodthirsty for revenge. She’ll agree to pay me a fee from the life insurance proceeds if it pays out which I’ll split with you.”

“Why share the insurance proceeds with me, Jonny?

“You set up the ‘Pidgeon’ and plucked the ‘bird’.

“It’s rightfully all yours.”

“We’re a team Stuey.

“Always have been, always will be.

“Just like your favorite ‘pigs in a blanket’.”

“Better call our team ‘penicillin and gonorrhea’.

“What should we do with the split from Cassy if the policy pays out, Jonny?”

“I always hoped to go into business with you, Stuey.

“Head south of the border and run a sportfishing tour boat, bar, whorehouse, anything.”

“We’re salty ‘ol shipmates sailing the seas of slime, Jonny.

“It’s time to change our compass point to somewhere south of the border named “Margaritaville”.

…You raise up your head and you ask, “Is this where it is?”…
…And you say, “Oh my God, am I here all alone?”
…But something is happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

“We’re on the final chapter of this dog-eared beaten-up pornographic paperback.

“Pour you another?”

“Pour a double and turn the page, Stuey.”

“It’s your caper, Jonny.

“Tell him the story.”

“Better wear a life vest, friend!”

The hurricane season off Baja is May through November giving us seven months for them to settle the case and head down to Baja and celebrate. I wanted to make certain my boat was operating within “The Cone of Uncertainty” representing the probable track of the center of a hurricane.

They settled the case during prime-time hurricane season and Cassy received the invitation to join them. They would be fishing about thirty miles off the Baja Coast in Mexico. I provided Heidi their whereabouts who assured me the Cartel would be crawling about the boat like ants on a “floating sugar bowl”. Just before they sailed, Cassy phoned and said she’d be late but would join them at sea after chartering a boat.

I was aware of a storm approaching with hazardous ocean swells. We’d both wear life vests but vest or not, falling off the boat would mean drowning to death. I heard the explosion and Cassy watched through binoculars as Settlement Fee burned and sank.

The Cartel did Cassy’s bidding but she got more than she bargained for. I was certain all were dead. I expected her to be happy, instead, she retreated to the cabin and looked like she had just been notified her steed, Justice, who had been declared the winner of the race, lost by a “nose” in a “photo finish”. She was remorseful saying,

“I thought they’d be beaten, robbed, and the old bastard would suffer a fatal heart attack but I didn’t expect absolute annihilation.”

On the way back home, the boat was traversing high waves and forceful winds. We were up and down like a rollercoaster ride. I feared Cassy might fold under pressure if an investigation ensued. She was a street-smart shyster who could bend the facts of this caper and wiggle out of the jam while layin’ it all on me. I could see it comin’ like the eye of this storm. At sea, there’s no insurance policy vending machine like you find inside an airport terminal. I decided to write my own policy.

Cassy didn’t eat before sailing despite my warnings to thwart off seasickness with a light meal. She was belting Tequila shots all the way down and back. I warned her to stay inside the cabin or face getting blown overboard by the fierce windstorm.

I told Cassy if she needed to vomit, to lean over and “heave” from the “stern”. She ran from the cabin and to the back of the boat to vomit. My “policy” was delivered by a massive wave heading right for my boat. I knew instinctively to turn the boat beam directly into the wave to avoid capsizing. I turned the boat sharply throwing Cassy into the waves. Sassy Cassy rode the crest of a twelve-foot wave with the same smile on her alter ego’s cartoon character’s face while riding Justice. The wave came crashing down like the ferocious flush of a bus terminal toilet, and Cassy disappeared.

I reached for the ship-to-shore radio

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday…
This is fishing vessel ‘JonnyBGood’, ‘JonnyBGood’, ‘JonnyBGood’
Lawyer, I mean person, overboard.
32°19’01.7″N 117°18’35.8″W

I installed an onboard video and audio system to record the floating orgies my charter’s paid handsomely to remember. It paid for itself many times over when I used it for extortion opportunities.

The Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy conducted a search and investigation. They wanted to nail me for Cassy’s death but my hidden onboard cameras taped the entire trip showing us wearing vests and my audible warnings to Cassy to stay inside the cabin. I presented them with the video and Cassy’s written charter excursion contract including warning disclosures she signed. They concluded it was an accidental overboard drowning during a storm.

It was an “open and shut” case. Cassy was never found. I was questioned whether I had seen a missing vessel named “Settlement Fee” which was presumed destroyed with all aboard in the storm. My cameras couldn’t pick up the carnage several miles away but the sound of the explosion was recorded. I told them we heard an explosion somewhere in the distance but saw nothing. The Cone of Uncertainty erased all evidence of the Cartel’s piracy.

“Why would Cassy blow the scheme and rat Jonny out, Stuey?

“Afterall, she got her money and revenge.”

“We’ll never know but Jonny correctly played his hand. I’ll take this story to the ‘finish line’ with no ‘photo finish’ required.”

I believe that despite her flaws and zealous self-promotion, Cassy wanted to win fair and square in court and regretted the outcome at sea. She was a good lawyer at heart. In the end, the legal system wasn’t built for lawyers like Cassy struggling to earn a living scraping by earning justice for their ordinary clients. It was created for wealthy clients and corporations who could hire powerful law firms. She was and always would be, an “outsider”, a small-time shyster.

With Cassy missing at sea and presumed dead, I consulted the only attorney I knew, a customer from the Sunshyne Shak who operated “Tom’s Traffic Ticket Fixit & DUI Defender Law Office”. He said Jonny had full rights as beneficiary to the one-million-dollar insurance policy payout. Like all life insurance companies, they didn’t want to pay, but Tommy convinced them to pay with a threatened lawsuit.

The old man’s law firm settled with the SSA. It was reported each hospital received about twenty million dollars earmarked for the release of homeless patients into convalescent homes and group homes who, in turn, dumped them onto the streets after the payments dried up from the hospitals. In the end, only the hospitals and the attorneys were the victors. The homeless problem around town got so bad, me and Jonny decided to get the hell of town and settle here.

Since Jonny was the beneficiary of Cassy’s policy, we agreed to keep less than what Cassy promised to pay us for our help in her class action suit. We bought this dive with the money and we’re partners.

“What about the remainder of the million?”

After receiving the one-million-dollar payout, I expected Jonny to set sail and skip town without me. I went to the marina and sure enough “JonnyBGood” was nowhere to be found. I headed over to the Sunshyne Shak where I found Zondra nursing Jonny’s swollen split lip with an ice bag. I asked him,

“Where’s your boat?”

“Getting overhauled in drydock before our move to Baja, Stuey.”

“Who beat you up?”

Zondra patted Jonny’s head,

“Jonny and I had a minor disagreement on how he’d spend his insurance money.

“He saw it my way.”

Sy was an old hippie I’d see around the Sunshyne Shak wearin’ tye-dyed shirts, sandals, and what was left of his long grey hair in a ponytail.

Zondra made an introduction to the former Watergate prosecutor and civil liberties lawyer who made a career getting death row and life sentences commuted. After retiring, he decided to teach law. The opportunity to channel his hatred for the managed-care medical monolith he blamed for killing his beloved wife by denying cutting-edge chemo which might have prolonged her life culminated in a proposal.

Sy proposed Jonny donate the insurance money to fund a new homeless legal advocacy program he would spearhead. Jonny agreed and donated the money in the name of The Cassy McClintock, Esq. Legal Advocacy Project.

Sy found a cause which energized him prosecuting the hospitals like a dog after a bone. He assembled the best and brightest law students and idealistic lawyers up and down the state into a formidable legal commando squad. They brought a lawsuit against the four hospitals forcing an audit of their spending of the SSA settlement proceeds with embarrassing implications for the hospitals and their boards.

The lawsuit resulted in a “claw back” of the money from the hospitals paid by the SSA to a “Special Administrator” who ensured the settlement money was paid out to grassroots homeless outreach providers. The old man’s law firm was shamed and “donated” their legal fees to the Special Administrator.

The success of Sy’s lawsuits spread like a wildfire up and down California creating legal precedents benefiting the homeless the courts couldn’t deny and the powerful couldn’t prevent. Sy found peace with his wife’s death knowing he was fighting the “good fight” although he admitted the homeless problem would persist. He often mentioned the valuable donation made by Cassy to the media and, in the process, “slaying” her ridiculous cartoon alter-ego and creating a principled legal philanthropist.

I hope Cassy would be proud.

Sometimes when I’m polishing glasses or pouring a drink, the hairs on the back of my neck will stand up. I’ll look towards the door expecting to see Sassy Cassy walk in.

“What happened to Heidi?”

“She got too cozy with the Cartel and fell off the ‘radar screen’, friend.”

“We’re all ‘judged by the company we keep’, I suppose.”

“Ain’t nobody judging us, friend.

“Me and Stuey are ‘two peas in a pod.'”

“We’re more like a couple of dice comin’ up ‘snake eyes’, Jonny.

“That’s it, ‘The End’.

“I hope we entertained you with a lurid tale you didn’t bargain for when you walked into this dive.”

“I’m drunk and my heads spinning from your picture-perfect, punctuated, pornographic tale.

“I’ll wake up tomorrow onboard the cruise ship and remember only a nightmare.”

“If you have to vomit, remember to do it from the stern, friend.”

“Here’s your tab.

“Credit card or cash?”


“Definitely, cash!”

“Want a complimentary limo ride back to the ship, friend?”

“I’ll get a cab.

“God help me!”

“What’s your name, friend?”

“Mr. Jones!”

“Look at him run for the exit, Jonny.”

“He reminds me of the dude dashing for the door after you added the ‘secret sauce’ to his ‘Polynesian Pearl Diver’ cocktail as punishment for groping the stripper, Stuey.”

“You were tough on ‘Mr. Jones’, Jonny.”

“I’m just given’ ’em what they want, Stuey.”

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