By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Mack wanted me to meet with the lawyers, to discuss the book, and had made them send a stretch limo to drive us to Greenville. It was fully stocked, with booze and fresh fruit, and a TV that showed an ad for 1-800-HURTLINE, as Mack told me that the lawyers had found an attorney who was “a specialist in brain death.” He gave me the man’s card; his office was on Long Island. I looked at Mack, who was crowing about “going for 100 million,” and realized he was an unsophisticated man. He started in for the hundredth time about how Jesica was jealous of everyone, including his grown daughters.
“But my older daughter was jealous of her, too,” he said, and added how his daughters didn’t trust him around other women, owing to a past indiscretion on his part. “Like right now, they wouldn’t be happy that I was alone with you in this limo.”
“Then your daughters are imbeciles,” I said.
Mack’s smile froze. I didn’t know or care whether he was trying to bait or come on to me; I did not feel like playing.
The lawyers’ offices are in a three-story home with gleaming wood banisters and fake floral arrangements. Mack and I were shown into a formal conference room, and joined by a compact man in a good suit. Frank Cassiano, the lead lawyer, sat at the head of the table.
“We spoke to the Santillans last night to ask whether they knew their name was not on this contract,” he said, referring to the book agreement my agent had sent through.
Mack sprung out of his seat as though he’d been shocked.
“You have no right to go behind my back and speak with those people,” he shouted, standing over Frank with his fist tensed.
“Whoa, whoa,” said Frank, shielding himself. “Are you saying I am not allowed to speak with my own clients?” Then he turned on me. “Show me in this contract how the Santillans are taken care of financially.”
He cited a point where Mack warranted he had the rights to sell Jesica’s story.
“Oh, I didn’t even really read that part,” scoffed Mack, and sat back down, which is when I realized that, just as he’d assumed everything else having to do with the Santillan family, he’d assumed the rights to Jesica’s life, and I’d been too eager to write about her to consider who owned what. I felt myself retract into in my chair.
“These people aren’t going to understand contracts,” said Mack. “They barely have a sixth-grade education!”
“I don’t think that’s an assumption you can make, Mack,” said Frank.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” said Mack, screwing up his face. “We’re just gonna sign the damn papers.”
“No, we’re not, Mack,” said Frank.
Mack stood again, went to the window, ‰ and smacked the sill so hard I flinched. “Come on, Nancy,” he said, “let’s go.”
I didn’t move. The curtain that had been parting regarding Mack — that he would subsume whatever was around him; that his relationship with Jesica’s family had gone from protector to dictator—came fully open.
“I said, come on!” he barked. I sat still. He gave me an odd, sad look, and left. I calmly told Frank I now found the agreement, more a letter of intent that stated Mack and I agreed to work together, unacceptable and wouldn’t sign.
“You’ve betrayed me!” yelled Mack as he marched back in. He and Frank went head-to-head. Frank said Mack was trying to control the Santillans, Mack countered that he’d been the one supporting the family, and what did we think, “that there’s some sort of pay fairy?”
Kurt Dixon, the lawyer I’d seen on TV representing the Santillan family, arrived and tried to placate Mack as Frank surreptitiously wrote me notes on a legal pad: I sometimes trust [Mack’s] judgment 100% and other times, not at all,and, Is this a book you would want to do with Magdalena? to which I softly said, “Yes, sir.”
“I’ll get them to sign over the rights to me,” said Mack, marginally cooler. When I told him this was unacceptable to me, that it was the Santillans’ story, he waved me off.
“You don’t worry about it,” he said.
When I told him I had to worry about it, his arm shot across the table.
“Nobody cares what you think!” he said, his finger practically up my nose. “You’ll just write the damn book!”
“Whoa, whoa!” said Frank. “Do you hear what you just said to her, Mack? How you are trying to control her?”
Three hours after we’d entered the conference room, we left it. Before I got in the limo for the drive back to Louisburg, Frank told me to keep in touch and handed me his card. He was a truck-injury attorney.
On the drive back to Louisburg, Mack tried to get me to agree the lawyers had been deceitful; I would not.