Written 12/29/03 in the wee hours of the morning, this piece was something that I have long wanted to do - develop Johnson and Mack more and bring Lucas and Uncle Albert into the mix. Lucas is dead you say? Yes, but consider this an alternate universe. Maybe it's Lucas' great-great-great grandchild. Maybe it is Lucas himself in some incarnation. I don't know. But damnit, I'm not going to worry about it. This is a continuation of part 2. A lack of editing much editing has taken place for the record. (Oh and I'm a chess nerd and have dated one, so the jab at chess nerds was irony - don't yell at me.)

I walked into the large firm building at 7 o'clock sharp like usual. Well, that's not exactly true. Johnson was rather lenient about when I turned up, but I guess I've always been traditional about things like that. While Old Man Johnson has always treated me like a son, he's been known to have nasty mood swings and fire long-time employees because of minor infractions. Got to keep everyone in line I suppose. So, to cover my own hide and to actually get things done, I come on time.
The receptionist's desk was neatly arranged and newly cleaned from the looks of it. It had the same look as the rest of the building - dark oak and rich colors reminiscent of an elite boarding school. Instead of a boarding school's antiquated charm, though, Johnson and Associates was clearly state of the art from the high tech computer monitor on the receptionist's desk to the specially made windows that worked the same way those ridiculous light sensitive glasses work. Personally, I thought it was unnecessary, but then Johnson is rather old and sensitive to bright light. I suppose I'm not explaining the feel of the firm quite right but everywhere you could look there was something that was upgraded beyond the ordinary. Hell, we were on the first places in country to get those motion activated toilets and sinks. Johnson has always had ties all over the world, and he got someone to come over from Japan and install them. A lavish maneuver? Yes. I've tried to talk Johnson out of squandering our money, but to no avail. Considering we're one of the best firms in the country, it's not much of a problem really. Sometimes I wonder how we pull it off. Maybe I'm being arrogant, but if I wasn't there, I highly doubt that Johnson would get any work done. Of course, that might not be entirely true. I'd never admit it to that odd little man's face, but Johnson really is a genius. But crazy. Perhaps there is no line between genius and insanity.
Anyways, back on topic. The receptionist's shining oak desk.
"Tell Johnson I'm in," I said to Marla as I walked by. It was hardly needed as I was almost always on time, but I had a lot to discuss with Old Man Johnson and it was pertinent that we talk asap.
"Mmmkay, Neal," she muttered distractedly. She managed to tear her eyes away from the flatscreen monitor in from of her long enough to connect to line one leading into Johnson's office.
I knew she was working on something other than work, but I decided not to call her on it. Marla studies to be a lawyer in her spare time, god knows why, and although I have advised her not to follow it many times, when it comes down to it, I think she'd make an excellent lawyer and I won't stop her from that. And hell, if she's not a good lawyer, I know she can be really stunning when she puts some effort into her looks--she could probably get all the male jurors (and some of the women too) to agree with her just because of her looks.
Down the hallway into my office. It was messy. Very messy. I mean, I'm sure you might have thought you've seen messy, but this is pretty damn bad. I'm afraid that if Old Man Johnson ever brings one of his animals in here, it'll get lost in the paperwork and I won't find it unless by sniffing it out some weeks later. But my system works for me - I know where everything is for the most part. Actually my office was one of the nicest ones, but you wouldn't be able to tell that now. No matter, no one but Old Man Johnson ever comes in. Everyone else knows to not bother me when I'm working.
I stepped over piles of paper, folders, and half eaten food and got to my big swiveling leather chair. Papers moved off it. And I'm finally sitting down. This is a big accomplishment considering that I only got two hours of sleep last night and I really, really don't want to handle this new case.
I put on my reading glasses and started reading some documents concerning laws surrounding beer. I had hardly started when Old Man Johnson burst in.
"Couldn't you at least knock, you little rat?" I asked. I ask it on an almost daily basis. I don't know why I do it as it's obvious he won't stop coming in without knocking - I don't know what I expected to accomplish. He looked like he was about to cry. Well, that wasn't what I was expecting at any rate. Shit. The rat. "Oh fuck. I'm sorry," I hastily got up and tried to wade through the debris to comfort the elderly man. "It's okay, Mack... I just miss him. It'll pass," he said with a sniff. He looked so small. I screwed up my brow in concern - partially genuine and partially feigned. Honestly, I didn't get what the big fucking deal was over this rat dying, but as much as Old Man Johnson annoys the hell out of me, I do care about him, and I would hate to see him in real pain over this. "Well... come sit down," I said, motioning to a mostly empty chair in front of my desk. I didn't want to get to close if I could help it, because of Old Man Johnson's peculiar smell. He nodded quietly and sat down, not bothering to move my papers and red empty take-out box of mushu pork. He scratched his white stubble and then ran his hand through his disgusting comb-over. I mean, really, when you've got thin, greasy white hair with strands of faded yellow still intact, it doesn't take a fashion consultant to tell you not to comb it over. Granted, the clothes that he was now smoothing out aren't much better. A red and green plaid shirt and black sweat pants. I swear he looks like a homeless man. You wouldn't know that he's one of the richer men of this country from the looks of it. Hell, most men with his money wouldn't work or be more than figureheads in their companies. You had to admire him for that at least. Anyways, back to what Johnson was doing. It was obvious he had something important to say. "Well, spit it out, Old Man," I said impatiently, although this was more a game I played with him than anything else. He likes that I don't take shit from him because he's rich, and in turn I act like a complete jack off to him so that he remembers why he likes me so much. It doesn't make too much sense to me really, I'm no psychologist although I know enough to manipulate a jury, but this system works and always has with us. I'd like to think I know the line I walk though. There are some things you just don't say to Archibald Johnson. He coughed and then looked at me with his brown penetrating eyes, "Well, I've been thinking it over ever since it happened. I think we have a good chance." "I think you're crazy, but you already know that," I retorted, dodging telling him outright that I thought it was a waste of time that wouldn't come of anything. I turned my gaze to the documents I had already found. "You gave the beer to the rat, the restaurant didn't. They're not responsible." Old Man Johnson shook his ancient head, "Listen, we'll discuss strategy later, but I've got a plan." Oh great, a wacky plan of his. They usually work out okay, but man, they take a lot of work and I didn't think this was worth it at all. "We need to contact Lucas though." "Lucas?" I asked. I hadn't heard of him before. "Yes, Lucas Stravinsky. He's a friend of mine over in Russia. Listen, we need some heavy funds to pull this off and he's the one to contact." Uh oh. "Heavy funds? Don't we have enough?" "No, no. This plan is going to require a lot of money, but trust me, it'll be worth it," he said, a dangerous flash in his blue eyes. "Damn it, I told you that Segways for the senior staff wasn't needed! We'd have more money if you didn't spend it on trivial things like that. Hell, you don't even use yours and I certainly don't use mine. I mean, I'm perfectly capable of walking places on my own in the building. And nothing will ever replace my Jaguar. Nothing," I said. I really wanted to yell at him that he was wasting our money on a dead rat, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not a good topic. He just smiled and turned away towards the door, "Lucas will be here at 5 o'clock. I need him here so that I can sign papers asap, and he was coming to the States anyway for some business, so he agreed to come by... You might want to change into something more presentable before he comes." He nodded towards my casual slacks and button down shirt and closed the door.
"Change into something more presentable... Who does he think he is? Goddamnit, I want my causal Monday," I muttered to myself, not caring if he was still in hearing distance. Well, I knew who he thought he was, but that was our little secret. Crazy reincarnation theories.
And speak of the devil, in walked his partner in madness, Albert Ronstad. I hadn't even had time to finish the paragraph I was on in "History of Laws Concerning Beer."
"Doesn't anyone knock anymore?" I grumbled, this time truly angry. Albert was Johnson's best friend and had taken the honorary title of my "uncle" as he had a strong, almost brotherly connection to Johnson - and Johnson was like a father to me, albeit a really dysfunctional one.
"Oh, sorry," he wheezed. He had gotten the majority of his vocal chords ripped out in an unhappy golfing experience many years ago and has been wheezing ever since I've known him, "I was just hoping that Archibald was in here."
"Didn't you ask Marla to call him? He should be in his office by now," I told the corpulent man before me.
"Ah. I was hoping that we could go golfing together later," he said, although by the clubs with him, it was rather obvious. Why he insisted on going golfing still I don't know. And frankly if the incident with the crocodile whose mouth he reached into to fetch a stray ball and ripped out his vocal chords mostly as payback wasn't enough, the fact that he absolutely sucked at golfing should have been enough.
"I see. Well, Johnson is mourning Cruncher, so I doubt this is a good time," I said, and turned back to my work, trying to dismiss the man.
"Cruncher... dead?" Uncle Albert asked incredulously, as though he thought the rat would always be alive. He looked thoughtful for a moment and then shrugged, "I still going golfing even if a wife has died. I don't see why Johnson should be any different with his rat." Johnson and Uncle Albert met in the days when we handled murders. Uncle Albert's wives had a curious habit of dying, and that had finally caught up to him. We've gotten him out of charge after charge, but it's obvious the man takes some sort of sick pleasure out of killing these women. Oh well. He's pretty harmless besides that and I have no intention of marrying him so I really don't care.
"Yes, yes," I said impatiently, "Now, if you'll excuse me..." I am very uncomfortable with other people in my office, well, other than Johnson that is.
"Of course," he said. His voice sounded like nails on a chalkboard and I just wanted him out. But of course he had to linger around a little longer. He was studying the room carefully. Why, I don't know, as it's pretty damn messy and unattractive looking.
"Who is your decorator? I love the style of this room," he said, a smile lighting his normally bland face.
"Out!" I shouted. He was an ex-corporal, now internal decorator, and god did he have bad taste. I heard that he decorated Old Man Johnson's house, and if that's true, then it looks like he took a sledgehammer to half the house. The last thing I needed was him complimenting my room.
He frowned at me for a second and exited.

The rest of the morning and the afternoon passed rather uneventfully. I found little evidence to support Old Man Johnson's claims that we would win. Later in the day, I used a selection from the closet of clothing I keep at work for occasions like this to change into something "more presentable." A black double-breasted suit and a blue and black diagonally striped tie to be exact. The hours passed slowly and not much progress was made, but I assure you I was busy, and not in a busy checking out the office girls sort of way as I had been a few weeks ago when we didn't have any cases. It was getting ridiculous. No dates in a month and a half. Granted, it didn't probably help that most people only saw me in the company of Old Man Johnson. You'd think I'd look so good in comparison I'd get some dates, but most girls were scared off by him. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if I had picked up some of the Johnson stench by now. 10 years at the firm. How could I not smell a little like him? I had to remind myself to take many showers when I got home. Things were getting ridiculous if I was even fantasizing about Marla. Don't get me wrong, she can be a real looker, but with her oversized glasses and bushy hair - right now she looked like your typical chess nerd's girlfriend, if they even have girlfriends. But right now, taking her on this very desk didn't seem like such a bad idea.
I was interrupted from my sexually frustrated thoughts with a ring from the stylish phone somewhere on the desk before me. I fumbled around looking for it. Second ring. Okay, so maybe I don't know where everything is in my office. Third ring. I thought I found it, but it turned out to be a chord going to my scanner. Fourth ring. There. Found it.
"Yes?... Oh, Marla. Yes. Of course. I'll be right there." Apparently this Stravinsky character had arrived and Mack wanted to see me in the meeting room.
I sighed as I headed towards the door; I was too old for this teenage boy sexually frustrated angst. It was really rather disgusting. But no dates in a month and half. No sex for two months. I was beginning to think that at this rate, I'd be as likely to end up Uncle Albert's bride as be banging Marla or anyone else for that matter on my desk.
But I'll spare you the details. I walked up the ten flights of stairs to the meeting room. Sure, it took longer and this Stravinsky person might be a bit annoyed with my delay, but I like to stay in shape. First door on the right. I opened up the door and found to my surprise that the room was hardly full - only Johnson; a few financial consultants for the firm; Carr, one of the firm's associates; and a bored looking man who I could only presume was Lucas Stravinsky. That filled up about a fourth of the large table.
"Meowface is in my office," explained Johnson, seeing my puzzled expression, "He wanted it to himself for the moment." Meowface was his cat, but even if I hadn't known, I wouldn't have asked. I've learned not to ask questions about things like that.
Lucas looked slightly bemused when Johnson said that; it looked like it was an emotion he was quite unaccustomed to.
"So, Johnson, now that we're all here let's get down to business. You want to borrow four hundred million dollars. What scheme is this for now?" he said, his grey eyes turning once more to a serious glance. His accent was thick, but intelligible.
"No scheme, Lucas. We can win this. Please take a look at the plan I've composed," Johnson said, a sort of calm respect in his voice I had not heard before. He passed a stack of papers to Lucas who proceeded to read them with great care, the bemused look returning to his face although he clearly tried to suppress it this time. I was a bit pissed that Johnson was showing this man the plan before he showed it to me, but this was not the time to complain.
"Hmm... I see. Don't think because we're friends that you can get out of interest, Johnson," he said, his lips curled into a nasty little smile. He clearly had calculated the interest on this, and he was pleased with the outcome. Everyone knew that Johnson always paid you back, even if it took him years. It struck me odd as Lucas was obvious a very, very wealthy man. You could tell by the way he composed himself and the way he treated his expensive objects with a nonchalant ease. The pen he was writing with must have cost some thousands of dollars and his suit was made of the finest materials. Why did he need more money?
Old Man Johnson's eyes lit up, "So you're on then. Good. And don't worry about interest. After this case, I should have more than enough money to pay you back and then some," he said. It was obvious that Lucas wasn't "worrying," but I decided not to point it out.
Carr was not so astute. "Johnson! He'll rob us of all our money! I know there's something up his sleeve!" he roared, unable to contain himself. Veins popped out at his neck slightly as he stared at Lucas with great dislike.
"Oh? That's rather presumptuous of you..." Lucas trailed off, hoping to be supplied with a name. None came. His grey eyes hardened, if that was possible, as he stared at the older man. "I don't need to prove that I am trustworthy to you," he added, clearly implying that Carr was unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
The associate's normally dumb looking face turned a shade of red. He may not be the brightest bulb on the tree--in fact he comes off like a spoiled rich kid most of the time - but he caught Lucas' subtly and he was pissed. "Don't need to prove? Don't need to prove? Do you know who you're speaking to?"
"Gentlemen, this is not the time for argument. I will decide what is best for the firm. And Lucas' offer will be taken, trickery or not. That is final. His is the only bank I could trust to give me such a great amount of money and not go bankrupt. The whole of Russia is invested in that bank I think. And while you may still live in the Cold War days, Jonathan, I chose to live in the present and trust in the might of Russia."
Carr looked confounded for a moment. Crazy Johnson, as I've heard him call Johnson behind his back, had pulled rank on him. Furthermore, he had accused of him of taking offense to Lucas on account of ethnicity. It evidently struck a blow because Carr stammered like a little boy, "I... I didn't mean that because he's Russian, you know. It's just... I mean... well... I suppose you're right."
While this exchange might not have seemed like much, there's something about the way that Johnson works that when he's not being entirely loopy, he can convince anyone of anything. He has complete control over the minds of lesser men. When his eyes flash dangerously and he uses words like "gentlemen," you know you're in deep shit and you don't argue with him.
He smiled slightly, apparently glad that he had "won." "Well, Lucas, I signed the papers while you and Jonathan talked. It's all set. If you could place the money into my work account, I would appreciate it."
Lucas carefully took the paper and nodded, "Yes. Well, I won't do it of course, but I'll see that it's done." There was obvious distain in his voice. To even suggest that he, Lucas Stravinsky, would do a low level job like that seemed to wound his pride a little although he didn't outwardly show it.
He headed out towards the door, but stopped before exiting entirely. Without turning around he said softly, "You won't win, Archibald." And then he was gone.
He had stated what we were all thinking but too afraid to admit to Johnson.