Hair of the Dog.
2nd book in "Fish" Fishbein's Adventures in La-La Land series
“Mr. Lipshitz will see you now,” the receptionist smiled broadly at Charlie, the way she smiled broadly at every client of the firm.
Waddling his way down the hall, Charlie was impressed by the striking architecture, the original art on the walls and the furnishings. The place oozed power and class, the way a sky-high chopped liver on rye oozed chicken schmaltz when you bit into it.
But what really took his breath away was the thirty eighth-floor view from Herschel Lipshitz’s office.
For such a short little guy, he had a corner office larger than Charlie’s entire showroom, with floor to ceiling glass walls that met in a corner behind his desk.
All the man had to do was swivel his chair around, and he had a view that took in everything from the Staples Center south to the beach cities, and across twenty-six miles of ocean to Catalina Island.
On a clear day, Hesh Lipshitz could see forever. Literally.
The joke at other downtown law firms was that the place had been originally named Uptight, Rigid, Repressed & Larcenous. But then Mr. Larcenous managed to get himself permanently disbarred over some legal peccadillo or other, and was forced to give up his partnership.
And Hesh, who was already a senior partner in the firm, became a named partner.
Within a short time, the new source of snickers, chortles and guffaws among Angelenos who practiced before the bar was the bastardization of the new name of Hesh’s firm: Uptight, Rigid, Repressed & Lipshitz.
“C’mon, so they found you guys guilty. So what?” Hesh said toward the speakerphone on his desk, covering his lips with an extended index finger as he motioned for Charlie to have a seat. “It’s no big deal. Trust me.”
Every large law firm has attorneys who specialize in different areas of the law. Hesh’s specialty was defending clients who had been hauled into court for allegedly committing the indefensible.
Among them was an automobile manufacturer that, after conducting a cost/benefit analysis, opted to take their chances in court rather than spend the money to recall a hundred thousand of their economy sedans, which had all been equipped with a brake system whose failures had led to the deaths so far, of at least five dozen people.
He also represented the entire tobacco industry, which was collectively smarting over a recent, highly publicized class action suit that ended with a ruling in favor of the emphysema and cancer stricken.
“Will you relax? Look, we just stall this thing with appeals until every last one of the plaintiffs dies from either cancer or old age. Then we file a motion to vacate the verdict.”
In an era of mega mergers, bottom line mentality and the end justifying the means, Hesh was a highly sought after specialist, helping our least moral corporate and private citizens avoid the consequences of their actions.
In other words, Herschel Lipshitz was a scumbag.
A highly respected and well-paid scumbag.
But a scumbag, just the same.
“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, Hesh.” Charlie clearly looked agitated as his attorney ended the conference call.
“Hey, what’re friends for?”
Along with being Charlie’s good friend, he was also his next-door neighbor, which was how Hesh’s uncle in the diamond business could afford his services.
And why the man completely understood the nature of Charlie’s relationship with Bryana.
Because Hesh was also sharing a roof with, and supporting – in a much more lavish style -- a twenty four-year old former lingerie sales associate from Bloomingdale’s in Century City, who had changed her name from Donna Markowitz to Beth She-Buhh. And with Hesh’s backing, she formed an all-girl Hebrao-Hip Hop group, named it Puh Na-Knee and was trying to get their expensively produced demo and video played on any cable TV network that would take a group with a name like that seriously.
And Charlie and Hesh weren’t the only kids on the block to be so actively supporting the arts.
Along their stretch of Canon Drive, footing the bill for a live-in girlfriend half one’s age, who was attempting to launch a creative or show biz career with the help of a nonsensically spelled new name and her boyfriend or benefactor’s black American Express card was just one of the routine expenses that came with home ownership in this neck of the zip code, like having a gardening crew on a monthly retainer or a pool man with an unlisted phone number.
“So, what can I do you for, Charlie?” Hesh smiled.
“Sounded pretty urgent when you called.” Damn right it was urgent. After having a few more days to think about his predicament, Charlie was now getting regular visits from the Ghost of Jewel Thefts Future, recurring nightmares about a Beverly Hills PD SWAT unit surrounding Casa de Kipniss in the middle of the night and hauling him off.
And to make matters that much worse, his embezzled baubles were still in the wind, hopefully still securely fastened around Mr. Foo.
And God only knew where that vicious little purebred could be.
“Hesh, I – I need some advice.”
Charlie started to explain his situation, but Hesh stopped him about ten seconds into his spiel.
“Hang on.” He held up his hand. “You getting ready to confess something here?”
Charlie shrugged, his gesture a lot closer to, “well since you asked…” than “I dunno”.
“This something serious? We talkin’ about a felony here?”
Charlie’s jowls were driven all the way down to his collarbones as he shrugged a second time.
“Well buddy, as your friend, naturally I want to hear about your problem and I want to help. You know that, right?”
To which Charlie silently nodded.
“But as your attorney, I don’t want any direct knowledge of anything felonious, got it?”
To which Charlie nodded a second time.
“Just keep it hypothetical, Charlie. For both our sakes,” he smiled. “You’ve got this friend who’s got this problem. Understand?”
Charlie silently indicated his comprehension.
“OK, so tell me about this friend of yours.”
“Well,” Charlie struggled to articulate his thoughts the way his pal and attorney had instructed him. “I know this guy, this friend. And Bryana was driving him just about broke.”
“Careful, Charlie,” Hesh cautioned him. “Remember…hypothetical?”
“Right. Sorry.” He answered with a sheepish smile. “Who knows, it’s probably a different Bryana. Anyway, my friend was getting desperate, y’know? If he ran out of money he was going to lose Brya—“ he stopped himself. “I mean, his girlfriend.”
“So, what did your friend do?”
“He…well, jeez, I hate to admit this. But he stole, Hesh. From his customers.” Charlie looked down at his shoes. “This friend of mine stole a lot.”
Charlie went on to explain how his friend quietly lifted a couple of hundred carats from some of the pricier pieces of jewelry that had come into his shop for cleaning, replacing them with almost perfect, almost worthless cubic zirconia. And how his buddy hid the stones by embedding them in the collar of his girlfriend’s dog. And how the dog and the diamonds jumped out of her convertible and took off into the bushes at a red light a week ago, and hadn’t been seen since.
“So, what was the value of the diamonds this guy you know stole?”
“I figure two and a half, maybe three million. Give or take.”
“Give or take.” Hesh was impressed, both with the sum and the creativity of it all.
“Hesh, my friend is scared. Scared he’s gonna go to jail. And scared he’s gonna lose his —“
Charlie’s voice trailed off for a second. When it returned, Hesh could hear the desperation.
“So, what do I tell this guy? I mean, my friend.”
“Tell him I don’t think he’s got that much to worry about, so long as he keeps his mouth shut and denies everything.”
“But what if they accuse him of stealing those diamonds?”
“What diamonds?” Lipshitz laughed. “As long as the dog is gone, so is the evidence.”
“But my friend needs those stones, Hesh.” Somehow, his attorney’s assurances weren’t all that reassuring to Charlie. “Without them, he just knows he’s gonna lose his girlfriend.”
“C’mon, in this town? Big deal. So, he’ll find another one. Trust me on that.”
“But not like Bry —“ Charlie caught himself. “Not like this guy I know’s girlfriend.” He paused again. “I tell you, Hesh. He really needs to find the dog and the stones.”
Hesh spent a long moment studying his friend and neighbor, then gave out a resigned sigh.
“OK, you’re the client.”
He turned to his computer and typed in a few keystrokes. Then he reached over to his printer and removed the sheet of paper coming out, staring at it for a second before handing it over to Charlie.
“If anybody can locate your friend’s dog, it’s this guy.”
Charlie scanned the name and information on the paper, noticing the Malibu address.
“He’s a real renaissance man, Charlie,” Hesh went on. “Repo man, skip tracer, bounty hunter and part-time attorney. The guy specializes in recovering things. Cars, boats, people…you name it.”
“Is he any good?”
Lipshitz nodded. “Would have made partner here, but the son of a bitch chucked it all to live at the beach.”