Authors: Pamela Samuels Young
“What up, bruh?” Quincy said.
“Nothing much.” Waverly hoped his brother could sense that he wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries. “I’m on my way to court so we have to make this quick.”
Quincy responded with a long, practiced sigh that Waverly had heard hundreds of times before. “I’m in a jam, bruh.”
“I need a small loan.”
This was usually when Waverly complained and asked how much. This time he didn’t.
“Just five hundred. I swear I’ll pay you back. I need it to—”
“I don’t have it,” Waverly said, cutting off his brother’s pitch.
And if I did, you’d only use it to gamble away or score some crack.
“C’mon, bruh, I—”
“I said I don’t have it.”
Waverly thought about telling Quincy that he was about to be disbarred, but couldn’t face letting him down. Quincy didn’t have the same concern. “I’m having my own financial problems at the moment.”
He could almost see his brother’s stunned expression.
“It’s Deidra, ain’t it?” Quincy charged. “C’mon, bruh. Don’t let your wife get between us. We’re blood.”
“I love you, man, but I’m broke.” Waverly abruptly turned off his BlackBerry.
He stepped onto a waiting elevator and exited on the fifth floor. As he proceeded through the security checkpoint, he examined the forlorn-looking faces all around him. A thin woman in a pastel suit walked by and Waverly detected the faint scent of alcohol. At least he’d been smart enough not to show up to court buzzed.
Waverly spotted Kitty Mancuso prancing toward him. She was a short, feisty dishwater blonde who favored pink. Pink lipstick, pink nail polish, even pink pearls around her neck.
“Well,” he said, as she walked up, “what’s the verdict?” Although anxiety threatened to explode from his chest, he tried to sound upbeat.
Mancuso’s solemn demeanor told Waverly everything he needed to know. “Let’s go in here.” She pointed in the direction of a small conference room.
As they both took seats, Mancuso pulled a document from her satchel and handed it to him. “The court ruled as we expected.”
Although Waverly had anticipated as much, the news still hit him like a jolt from a stun gun. He scanned the judge’s ruling.
The evidence shows that Mr. Sloan improperly retained thirty thousand dollars in settlement payments from two clients and converted the funds to his own personal use. His conduct breached the oath he took to act ethically toward his clients at all times.
Waverly briefly glanced up at Mancuso, who gave him a look that said she wished there was something she could do. His eyes went back to the ruling.
Mr. Sloan has been disciplined in the past for failing to comply with his obligations as a member of the Bar. In the first instance, he failed to timely pay a fine after the court sanctioned him in a discovery dispute. Six months later, he neglected to file a complaint after accepting a nine-thousand-dollar retainer from a client. He also failed to timely notify a client of the receipt of a settlement check and subsequently did so only after the client complained to the Bar. Mr. Sloan’s long record of misconduct cannot be excused.
Maybe the result would have been different had he begged for the mercy of the court.
I only borrowed the money, Your Honor. To pay my mortgage, the note on my wife’s Lexus and a few other household bills. I always intended to pay it back.
He turned the document face down on the table. There was no need to read more. “So what’s next?”
“That’s only the court’s tentative ruling. It has to be formally approved by the state Supreme Court before you’re actually disbarred. But that could take several weeks. So you’ll have some time to transfer your existing cases to other counsel.”
Waverly needed minutes, not weeks to wrap up his personal injury practice. He only had two active cases: a man injured in a bad motorcycle accident and a slip-and-fall in a grocery store that was about to be dismissed because his client lied during her deposition.
Waverly stood up.
“I’m sorry,” Mancuso said, sounding as if she really meant it.
Waverly thought about thanking her for her help, but changed his mind since he hadn’t really gotten any.
After leaving court, Waverly spent the next hour sulking at Nick’s, a dive with decent food and strong drinks not far from the courthouse.
It was over. After all the effort he had expended getting into Hastings Law School and staying there, he was no longer a lawyer.
Waverly pulled a note pad from his inside breast pocket and looked at the figures. He had tried to calculate how long he could pay the bills with his dwindling savings. He was already facing eviction from his office space. He could pay the mortgage on the townhouse, two maybe three months if they drastically cut back. Every drop of equity had already been squeezed out of it. Short of pawning Deidra’s jewelry, he knew of no other quick fixes.
Deidra would be leaving for Paris at the end of the week. Having her out of the way would be a big help. He’d been down before and had managed to climb out of whatever hellhole he had dug himself into. He would just climb out again.
Waverly glanced at his watch. Vincent Rivera, the guy who’d been trying to sell him on the viatical business, had called earlier to say he was running late. Seconds after Waverly asked the waitress to bring him his third brandy, Vincent slid into the booth across from him.
“Get rid of that long face,” Vincent ordered, “because I’m about to change your life. Your days of chasing ambulances are over.” Vincent’s dark suit was practically molded to his muscular frame. He had a hint of an accent, but Waverly wasn’t sure whether he was Italian or Hispanic.
Waverly made a loud slurping noise as he sucked on a piece of ice. “Okay, let’s hear it. What’s the scam?”
“No scam at all.” Vincent popped open his briefcase. “A company called Live Now is going to make you very, very rich, very, very fast. Did you get a chance to read that brochure I sent you?”
Waverly had only perused it minutes ago while waiting for the buzz from his first drink to kick in. “Yep. You want me to go out and find a bunch of dying people with hefty life insurance policies and convince them to name somebody else as their sole beneficiary in exchange for some upfront cash.”
Vincent looked as if he was offended. “Don’t make it sound so cold. Live Now is running a humanitarian business. Viatical brokers are like real estate brokers. Except they don’t sell homes, they sell hope.”
Waverly chuckled. “Now hope is something I could definitely use.” He was anxious to hear the get rich part. “Exactly how does the broker make money?”
“The policies are purchased through a trust. As soon as the parties sign on the dotted line, the broker gets ten percent of the face value of the policy, paid by the investor,” Victor explained. “The investor has to wait until the insured dies to get paid, but not the broker.”
Waverly took a sip of his drink. “And this is actually legit?”
“One hundred percent. Viatical settlements are actually similar to securities like stocks. I’m telling you, man, this is a goldmine. If you come up with just five clients with two-hundred-thousand-dollar insurance policies, your ten percent cut is a clean one hundred grand. Most of our brokers are pulling in seven figures a year in commissions.” Vincent slid a book and a folder to Waverly’s side of the table.
Waverly picked up the book,
Viatical Settlements, An Investor’s Guide,
and thumbed through it. He opened the folder to find articles from the
Wall Street Journal
Newsweek, The American Cancer Society,
plus a copy of
“Wait a minute.” Waverly glanced up. “To make any money, I’d have to find a boatload of dying folks
a bunch of rich investors. That doesn’t sound all that easy.”
“Wrong again. Live Now has investors who are itching to part with their cash and lots of leads to help you find terminally ill people.” Vincent handed him a sheet of paper.
The left side listed churches, AIDS organizations, cancer support groups, hospice facilities and senior citizen groups. Waverly pointed to a column on the right. “Who’re these people?”
“Doctors, ministers, financial planners, hospice operators and human resources managers. People who might know someone who’s terminally ill. The ten doctors listed there are cancer specialists. They’ll be your best source for referrals.”
“And why would they be willing to do that?”
Vincent winked. “A small under-the-table finder’s fee. A thousand bucks a head. We can’t solicit people directly, but there’s no problem with someone referring a client to us.”
Waverly sat more erect in his seat. This stuff was actually beginning to make sense to him. The feeling of despair that he hadn’t been able to shake for weeks suddenly started to dissipate.
“What are the requirements for becoming a broker?”
“You have to be licensed by the California Department of Insurance. They’re looking for ethical people. You won’t have a problem. You’ve already passed the State Bar’s ethics requirements.”
Waverly stared down into his drink, then briefly looked up. “There’s something you should know.” He paused and took a quick sip. “I was disbarred today.”
Vincent slumped back in the booth. “Aw, man, that’s a real problem. They don’t even want to see a blemish in your background. What happened?”
“A little misunderstanding with a client over some funds.” Waverly could tell that Vincent didn’t buy his simple explanation.
After brooding for a minute, Vincent leaned in over the table and lowered his voice. “I’m going to share something with you. As a recruiter for Live Now, I get three percent of every deal, so I’m looking for guys who’re hungry. It’s been my experience that the hungriest people have the toughest past. A guy I recruited with a fraud conviction in the Las Vegas area is my top broker in the state.”
“How did he get licensed?” Waverly asked.
“In Vegas, if you know people who know people, you can get practically anything done.”
“If it helps, it could be weeks before my disbarment shows up in the system. Couldn’t we just rush my application through?”
Vincent stroked his chin. “We do have an inside contact at the Department of Insurance who might be able to help you out.” He seemed far less enthusiastic than he’d been just a few minutes ago. “It’s worth a try, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
Waverly opened the
magazine to a page flagged with a Post-it Note. The Live Now ad showed a brawny, bare-chested generation Xer walking along the beach, a grave look on his face. Bright yellow text read:
HIV doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Get thousands for your life insurance policy. Quick and strictly confidential.
Waverly wished he hadn’t drank so much. The wheels of possibility were turning so fast he felt woozy.
“You know what investors call viatical settlements?” Vincent asked.
Waverly waited without responding.
Waverly cringed as a surge of excitement shot through him. If he could get past the licensing process, he could easily transition into this business.
“I want to make a toast.” Waverly smiled and raised his empty glass in the air. “To you. Thanks for giving me hope.”
ngela studied Cornell’s face as he slept. Her husband-to-be snored lightly, his mouth agape, a sliver of the whites of his eyes fully visible.
In the beginning, it bothered her that Cornell slept with his eyes open. But later on, it made complete sense. Cornell thrived on order and control. Closing his eyes, even in sleep, might cause him to miss out on something.
The orange glow from the clock radio on the nightstand read 6:29. In less than a minute, Cornell would climb from bed, exercise, shower, shave, peruse the
online, then watch a snippet of CNN. Only then would he acknowledge her presence in his world. Cornell demanded total silence for the first forty minutes of the day. Every day.
The alarm jangled and Cornell’s hand reached out like a claw to quiet it. On autopilot now, he hurled his legs over the side of the bed and lowered himself to the floor. His fifty push-ups would be followed by three hundred sit-ups.
She watched as Cornell lowered and raised his body in perfect push-up formation, grunting with each repetition. If he could grunt, she should at least be able to say
Angela repositioned her head on the pillow and glanced down at her ring. She wished she could quiet the persistent voice in her head.
Stop procrastinating. Call off the wedding.
Each time she was finally ready to back out, indecision resurfaced. An African-American woman of thirty-four didn’t have a multitude of marital options, particularly in L.A. To be honest, she liked the idea of being married to a judge. Especially one who was smart, handsome, and wanted children. For Angela, motherhood was a must. She had watched too many of her friends wait and hope until it was too late, then run off to adoption agencies or sperm banks and struggle as a single parent. Angela wanted nothing less than the traditional family unit. Two parents, two kids, a minivan and a vacation home.
She ambled out of bed and made her way to her private bathroom as Cornell plodded into his on the opposite side of the room. For Cornell, the twin master baths had been the top selling point of his loft condo in Playa Vista. Angela hated the forced separation the two rooms created.
Staring at her reflection in the mirror, Angela ran her fingers through her unruly curls. Cornell’s suggestion that she straighten it was a concession she had refused to make. With her schedule, she needed a no-fuss do.
Her relationship with Cornell had begun three years earlier, following a painful breakup with an ambitious MBA. After Angela made it clear that her career would not take a backseat to his, he dumped her for a younger, thinner woman who couldn’t do long division without a calculator. Months later, Cornell—her first older man—had stormed into her life and taken charge. In the beginning, Cornell had been fun, charming and attentive, causing Angela’s concerns about their ten-year age difference to eventually disappear. Over time, however, he’d become inflexible and condescending. Before she’d realized it, his subtle, but stinging critiques had slowly chipped away at her self-esteem.