Jared quickly dialed his lawyer’s personal cell phone. It was late but he has no concept of time today. Everyone who knows them, understands and expects late night calls from the Letos, given the magnitude of this week. His lawyer, an expert in contractual law not crime, introduced the family to the best criminal defense attorneys money could buy with a track record to back up their insane hourly rate and Jared was quite satisfied with the team. They were in touch with the girls and working the case from that angle. This wasn’t a call about them. This was a personal call. This was a call about a contract.
“How ya holding up buddy?” Lester Thomas asked as he spoke to Jared from the toilet stall in the men’s bathroom at the back of Poke Bar. His pants were down around his ankles and his date was probably getting antsy out in the dinning area but this was a call Lester would not miss.
“As expected. Listen, I have to ask you something personal and it has to be extremely confidential …Are you somewhere you can talk? Are you in your office?”
“Of course, of course, what’s up?” Lester hit mute on the phone when he heard someone else enter the restroom.
Jared continued after a cough “I need to know what my obligations are here.”
“What’d you say Jared?”
“I want to know if I can walk away from this, legally!” Jared nearly shouted.
“Walk away?” Lester pulled his pants up with one hand and walked out of the bathroom thru a back exit to a parking lot behind Poke Bar before zipping up completely. “Walk away from what?”
“I need to know what my legal obligations are here.”
“Jared. These are your kids. Your two kids.”
“I never married their mother.”
“But I wasn’t even in the country that night …”
“You’re not going to be on the hook for restitution. If that’s what you’re worried about. It’s too much fucking money. Besides, they have insurance and …”Lester was stumbling over his words, half caused by the shock of Jared’s question and half out of an obligation to say the right thing to a man he thought was just panicking under the pressure. “They can’t take your house.”
“I don’t care about the house!”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“I didn’t set the goddamn fire and I don’t want to take the goddamn fall for what those two shits did when I wasn’t even around. Can I get sued? Can they sue me, personally?”
“Yes. The families of the injured could go after you civilly I suppose. If that’s what you mean.” Lester said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Jared started to sob. “It’s all over Lester. Everything we built. It’s gone. Everything!”
“People will come around.”
“If they sue you, you settle for some insignificant number. Or you fight it. You can fight it. The girls are minors, that’d be the angle but they are old enough to be unsupervised. They were unsupervised a lot with the modeling. How could you be responsible, you weren’t even in the country!”
“As we talk it out, I’m thinking you’re not entirely obligated …I mean, uh…you have a few loop holes to jump through. In fact, they might not even think of going after you since Universal will pay the families. Workers comp… The girls will get some kind of…some kind of help. Very public community service. I don’t know what all that would entail but this doesn’t have to be the end of your career. They’ll come around. People move on quickly. You’re just feeling the heat because its new. It’ll die down. I promise.”
“But Jared” Lester’s tone got heavy. Took on a serious timbre “…If you leave them…If you abandon your kids and your wife, Felicity, now…you wont come back from this. Your only salvation is to go through this shit publicly with your heads bowed and forgiveness as your fucking mantra. Go on every talk show and talk about teen angst and fucking forgiveness. Don’t run dude. Don’t.”
“Ok. Ok. Ok.”
“You did the right thing by calling me. Next time you’re feeling like this, pick up the goddamn phone before you do something stupid.”
“Where are you now? Are you home?”
“Good. Stay there. We’ll draft a statement. A statement for the press. To ease up the mess in front of your house. That’ll buy you a day or two. Maybe.”
“Buckle up Jared. This isn’t going to be easy but you will get through it. You will.”
Lester walked back in to Poke Bar and began drafting statements in his head. There was absolutely nothing he could think of that could properly extend the right level of grief for the victims while maintaining a very safe distance from accepting any type of culpability for their loss or hospitalization. Lester found himself, a lawyer with a career spanning 26 years, at a total and complete loss for words.