Fred sat across the table from Paolo Fenta and his lawyer, Ricardo Montes. Montes looked ridiculous in his over-sized, double-breasted suit. The shoulder pads hung over the edge of his jaunty shoulders. His skinny neck struggled to fill the collar of his shirt. He looked like a bad mob character from the 1980s with his garish mismatch of colors – dark, blue satin shirt, pale green tie, and forest green suit. He was beyond naturally tanned and had dark hair greased back like some beatnik from the 1950s. The visual dissonance made Fred queasy.
Paolo offered no relief. He wore a tight, floral-patterned, short-sleeved shirt and dress slacks that were probably a size too small. Unlike Ricardo, he threatened to burst from his clothes given his considerable bulk. His belly protested against the table as Paolo leaned on his elbows to listen to what Fred had to say. Ricardo sat back as if daring Fred to say something that he didn’t like.
“This is my client’s final offer,” Fred announced as he slid the paperwork across the table to Ricardo.
Ricardo eyed him suspiciously as he pulled the paper toward him. “Where is your client?”
“He wasn’t able to make it today. He had an important meeting at work.”
“I’m sure he’s making six figures whatever he’s doing today. Meanwhile, Paolo here had to miss another day of work thanks to your client.”
Fred exhaled exasperation. “It’s a good offer. It’s much more than you’d get if this goes to court.”
Paolo leaned over his lawyer’s shoulder to glance at the paperwork. “How much is it?” he asked. He leaned in further almost pushing Ricardo aside.
Ricardo seemed aggravated but he quickly scanned the page. His eyes darted left to right until he hit the part of the page that warranted his attention. He paused and stared for a moment before he said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“What? How much?” Paolo asked sounding like a kid whose parent wasn’t telling him something. Ricardo pointed at the amount on the page as he turned it toward Paolo. Fred could see the anger boil up in the big man. His face turned red and his eyes narrowed. “Fuck that!” he said as he looked at Fred.
“Mr. Gillian, there’s no way we’re accepting this offer. You must take us for fools.”
Paolo’s anger grew in intensity, but he seemed to struggle to find words to express it. He leaned into the table against his moaning gut and stared at Fred. His fists clenched. Fred heard his chair slide back against the carpet every so slightly.
“Mr. Montes, the accident was very minor. Paolo’s car wasn’t even totaled. He wasn’t even admitted to the hospital for his injuries. How can you possibly think you’ll get more in court.”
“I’ve missed a month and a half of work!” Paolo yelled.
Paolo threatened to bound from his chair, but Ricardo put his hand on his arm as if to calm him or restrain him in some way.
“Your client is immensely wealthy. This is chump change for him,” Ricardo said.
“My client’s wealth has nothing to do with what’s fair, Mr. Montes. That offer is more than reasonable given the circumstances.”
“Then, we’ll see you in court.” Ricardo stood up. When Paolo didn’t move, he tapped his back to get him to stand as well. Paolo kept his eyes on Fred, but Fred ignored him.
“Rachel will show you out,” Fred said to the men as he walked to the door of the conference room. Paolo maintained his angry stare and huffed as he walked past Fred into the waiting room. Rachel stood and greeted the men before she led them toward the exit. Fred shut the door and took the opposite direction toward this office.
He sighed as he returned to his desk. He hated dealing with the despicable personal injury lawyers. They gave other lawyers a bad name, especially when they sought big payouts for minor things. Fred knew Ricardo simply wanted a big payday for himself, but he also knew that his offer had been very fair. Any jury would see right through Ricardo and Paolo. He felt confident he’d win the case and that the men would receive far less than what he had just offered them. They’d regret their stance. He would make sure of it.