Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chapter 8- Jake's Take

To mitigate the risk of being followed, I left Grand Central by the same door that I had come in through, but I made a left on Van Buren, instead of a right, and proceeded to walk in the opposite direction of the one way traffic on that street, just in case they had someone positioned in a car outside the building with the job of tailing me after the meeting.

I walked east on 42nd street, away from my office, and entered a building with a walk thru that would bring me to Lexington Avenue, with the plan to double back to my office, and to otherwise confuse anyone that might have tried to trail me. It felt as if everything that had just taken place were a scene from a real-life suspense movie.

When I got back out onto Lex, I lit up another Marlboro Light, and walked casually down the street, peering into the glass window fronts as I walked by, doing a final check to see if I was being followed. It’s fair to say that I was pretty unnerved, but the advice that Heckle extended about not calling Jake was exactly not the advice I was inclined to take.

I walked over to a news stand that sits on the corner of Lexington and 41st on the south side of Grand Central Station and bought a $5 prepaid phone card from the Pakistani news vendor. I figured that because pre-paid calling cards were routed through multiple telephone systems, it would be that much harder to trace where the call actually emanated from. I then walked down towards 40th, and found another pay phone bank on the street, and after scratching off the special code on the phone card, I dialed Jake’s cell phone.

He answered on the second ring.

“Hi”, he said in his gravelly, but always relaxed voice. Unlike the way some people use the word “Hi”, Jake always extended the “i”, so that the greeting lasted a second longer. When I first met Jake over the phone, I had thought he was actually much older than me. During that first call, I envisioned a 70 year old guy from Chicago that had spent a lifetime smoking cigars. As it turns out, we were actually only one year apart, and the gravely voice was due to a childhood sinus tract problem, which contributed to a weakened vocal chord. The same sinus problem had also led to a hearing loss in his right (per Ch. 4) ear, and over the years, he had become an adept lip reader to help him overcome the handicap.

“I got your message, but when I tried calling back your cell, you didn’t pick up, so I figured you must have had your “meeting.” He finished with an ever-relaxed, “So, what’s going on?.”

The way he asked the question was totally casual, as if it were just another of our almost daily “just touching base” and “shooting the breeze” chats that had become a regular routine for both of us. If I didn’t call him at some part of the day, he’d be calling me, even on weekends. His calm manner gave me no reason to believe that he had any idea of what was unfolding.

“What’s going on?” I said, incredulously. “Let’s see, first, my wife and daughter were rousted out of bed this morning by two FBI agents that were looking for me. Then they tracked me down on the phone and came to New York City to meet me. And yes, when you called me, I was in the middle of having a wonderful chat with them, after which they shoved a subpoena into my hands.” I barely skipped a beat.

“Apparently, this all has to do with that wonderful letter from two years ago. Remember? The one involving your “best pal” Danny Glassman? You know, the episode with the “Devil”? These guys just told me that the movie was never made, and that the letter I drafted triggered a bank loan, where all of the money went to an offshore bank account in South America, and they wanted to know what my relationship was with a guy named Jake Bronson.”

Jake paused for more than a second and said. “Its obvious that you’re upset, Josh, and I heard everything that you just said, but, I don’t understand what’s happened. The movie is in post production, and last I spoke to Danny, which was two days ago, everything was fine. In fact, its looking so good, that Harvey Weinberg is already offering to buy the US rights from HLO and Lou Morowitz, so that Weinberg’s company can distribute it.”

Harvey Weinberg was another famous Hollywood player; he had made hundreds of millions for himself and for investors producing and distributing indie films.

Jake was a name dropper, and most people that name drop do it to because they’re insecure, and need to impress people. But, over the years, Jake had appreciated that I was a cynic, and not easily impressed, one of the reasons why we got along so well. So when he’d drop a name with me, he did it to as a means to underscore a fact, and otherwise provide context to a particular circumstance.

However, his update about the movie’s purported progress meant nothing to me at this particular moment, and I explained that to him.

“Let’s see if I can make this perfectly clear. I’m calling from a phone both using a prepaid phone card, and I’m only speculating that your phone isn’t being tapped, given that I was told that if I spoke with you, I’d be facing obstruction charges, on top of the bank fraud charges that claim I’m responsible for a $25 million fraud relating to your friend Glassman’s movie.” I didn’t skip a beat. “I do know that I need to get myself a lawyer immediately, but I don’t know exactly where to start, or how I’m going to pay for one. And if this thing escalates the way it appears it will, I’m otherwise finished as far as a job or a career.”

In his inevitable cool, collected manner, Jake responded with “OK. First, I can tell that you’re upset and I want you to calm down, for your own sake. Second, I have no idea what’s happened, but I’m going to find out, and most important, you need to know that I’ve got your back. If you’re in trouble, I’m going to get you out of it. And if you’re in trouble because of something I did, you can be certain that I won’t just cover your back, I’ll stand in front of you. I’m going to make some calls and I’ll get back to you within an hour. Since you think the phone might be a problem, I’ll send you an instant message.” Then he hung up.

Barely consoled, I lit up another cigarette, wishing it had something more than tobacco in it, and headed the three blocks back to my office.

No comments:

Post a Comment