Clayton had just been released from prison for committing securities fraud. The guards took his orange jump suit and returned his civilian clothing, a fancy Wall Street suit, shirt, tie and Italian shoes. Having lost his license, he had to find a new job, one where his past transgressions wouldn't matter.
He was walking down the street where he once took expensive lunches with clients. He saw the men and women in their refined clothing, frittering away the afternoon with gourmet food and fine wines. He envied the men for their position in life, one he once had and the women he had once had the pleasure of. Beautiful and intelligent women, with means and discretionary funds, money that he had stolen over the years. If only he hadn't run into Ari, the undercover SEC agent, the one who sent him to prison in the first place.
Then he saw her, Ari, eating lunch at one of the window tables. Ari was wearing her power blue business suit and she was dining with two women dressed in jogging outfits. They must be famous athletes, to be dressed that way in a fancy French restaurant. Clayton ducked so that Ari couldn't see him and moved quickly down the street.
* * *
Within a month, Clayton had landed a job with a small broker who didn't bother to check up on his license. He knew he couldn't defraud anyone now or he would find himself back in jail. After work, he headed to the local watering hole.
"Hi, I'm Clayton" he said to the pretty brunette at the bar. "Do you mind if I sit here?" For all his faults, Clayton was still an attractive man in his early 40s and he hadn't lost his charming way with others.
"Sure. I'm Janet." She moved over to make room for Clayton. The bartender came over and Clayton held up a finger.
"What would you like Janet?"
"White wine, please."
"Make that two, something top shelf."
Janet smiled and thanked Clayton for the gesture. "So what do you do, Clayton?"
"I'm in brokerage. Mostly bonds. It's not as exciting as stocks, but a lot more stable." Prison had stifled some of his personality; he was more reserved than he used to be. This new persona was more attractive to women also.
"Oh, that doesn't sound boring," said Janet. "I'm in retail at Macy's. But I love clothing." She crossed her ankles and relaxed her body language, facing Clayton.
"Well yes, you're surrounded by color and fashion and get to meet lots of people. Most of my work is on the phone."
Small talk turned into dinner as they continued to get to know each other. By the end of the night, Clayton walked Janet back to her apartment. She gave him her number. "Call me if you'd like to get together again. Thanks for a nice night." She kissed him on the cheek.
The old Clayton would have pushed to get into the apartment, but he just smiled and reciprocated. "I'd like that, Janet. I will call you later." And he did, the next day.
Over the next month, the two became exclusive, meeting after work and on weekends with occasional overnights at her apartment. Clayton loved his new life, the chance to start over. If only he could keep his past transgressions from ruining this new relationship. But it never came up; perhaps Janet had something in her past too.
They met at a sports bar for drinks and dinner. "I made a big sale today Janet; one of the professional basketball players from the WNBA. We're supposed to meet here to sign some papers. Do you mind?"
Janet hugged him. "That's wonderful. Can I meet her?"
"I don't see why not. Just give us a minute to do the paperwork and I'll introduce you."
"OK, I'll wait at the bar. Just wave when I can come over."
The patrons turned to notice the 6'5" athlete coming in, some clapping from the guys who recognized this forward. Clayton turned to meet her.
"Hi Ms. Robbins. I'm Mr. Rook. Seems like you have a lot of fans here."
"It's a blessing and a curse, believe me. But I have to get to the arena in an hour. Do you have the papers to sign?"
"Yes, right here." He opened his portfolio and made an "X" where her signature should go.
"You don't mind if my friend reads this over first. I'm not a contract person."
"No, not at all."
Clayton's whole body shook when he saw Ari walking over to the table. She quickly took out her phone and made a call. Janet could tell that Clayton was upset about something, but waited at the bar.
"Julie. You're not signing any contracts with this man. He was convicted of securities fraud. Do you have his card?"
"Why yes, here" and she handed Clayton's card to Ari.
"You'll be hearing from us, Mr. Rook." The two left as Ari reassured her friend what she almost got involved with.
Janet came over to Clayton. "What's wrong, honey? I couldn't hear what they were saying. Did you lose the sale?"
"Yes dear. I'm afraid so."
* * *
Within weeks, Clayton was arrested and convicted again. As he was processed into prison, they took his clothes and issued him an orange jump suit with his name on the back:
Article © Jerry Guarino. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-06-24