I can get it for you who.., p.31

I Can Get It for You Wholesale, page 31

 

I Can Get It for You Wholesale
 



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  I told him. I didn’t like his snotty voice right from the start. But I remembered what Golig had said. I answered respectfully.

  “You are an officer of Apex Modes, Inc.?”

  “Yes.”

  “What office do you hold?”

  “President.”

  “You were in constant touch with all the affairs of the business, were you not?”

  “I don’t quite understand what—”

  “I mean, Mr. Bogen, you knew just what was going on all the time, didn’t you?”

  “I suppose so,” I said with a shrug.

  “What do you mean, you suppose so? Don’t you know?”

  “Well, to such a general question, it’s a little hard to give a positive—”

  “Well, all right,” he said, waving his hand. “Let’s put it this way, Mr. Bogen. What particular functions, I mean, what were your special duties, Mr. Bogen, in the business?”

  “I was the salesman.”

  “You were the salesman. Were you a salesman exclusively? Did you have any other duties?”

  “Oh, I sort of watched over things generally, you know.”

  “You mean, Mr. Bogen, do you not, that you were sort of the financial man, you—”

  Golig jumped up.

  “I object, Your Honor. The witness has made no such statement. I object to Mr. Siegel’s—”

  “Sustained,” the Referee said in a bored voice. I looked at him quickly, but he seemed to have his eyes closed.

  “All right,” Siegel said, rubbing his mustache. “I’ll with-draw that. Mr. Bogen, who took care of the finances of the business?”

  “Why, what do you mean?”

  “Don’t you know what the word finances means?”

  I opened my mouth to say something, but I caught Golig’s eye, so I shut up.

  “Sure,” I said, “but if you’ll be more specific, I’ll—”

  “Well, who arranged for loans from the bank? Who arranged for lines of credit with the various silk houses? Who—?”

  “Oh, I did all that.”

  “You did.” He turned to his papers and looked at them for a moment. “What was Mr. Babushkin’s status in the firm? I mean, what were his duties—?”

  “I object, Your Honor,” Golig said, getting up. “It is not for this witness to say what Mr. Babushkin—”

  “Mr. Referee,” Siegel said, interrupting him, “this man was the president of the firm. He ought to know what his partner—”

  “Overruled,” the Referee said in his slow voice. “The witness will answer the question.”

  Siegel looked at me and I said, “Will you repeat the question, please?”

  He waved at the stenographer.

  “Read the question to the witness.”

  “What was Mr. Babushkin’s status in the firm?” the stenographer read. “I mean, what were his duties?”

  “Answer the question, Mr. Bogen,” Siegel said.

  “He was the factory man,” I said.

  “What does that mean?”

  “He was the factory man. He took care of the factory. He did the designing, the styling, he supervised the cutters, the contractors, all that stuff.”

  “Did he have anything at all to do with the finances of the Company?”

  “Not to my knowledge.”

  “What do you mean, not to your knowledge? Don’t you know?”

  “Well, I—”

  “I object, Your Honor,” Golig said.

  “All right, all right,” Siegel said before the Referee could speak. “I’ll withdraw that.” He turned back to me. “Then I take it that so far as you know, Mr. Babushkin had nothing whatsoever to do with the finances of the Company?”

  “That’s right.”

  He questioned me for an hour, about the business and how it was run. Plenty of times I was taking careful aim to see if I could spit right into his eye from where I was sitting, but I remembered Golig’s advice and answered respectfully. In a way, I was even enjoying it a little, the way I could control the whole room by what I said. If I answered in a certain way, I could keep the room quiet, but if I wanted to play a little dumb, or answer in another way, I could get them all excited. I began to understand why lawyers have such big cans. They get flattened out from jumping up and down on them to make objections.

  Finally, at about eleven-thirty, Siegel picked up a batch of checks from among his papers on the table, and turned to me.

  “Mr. Bogen,” he said, “I show you now a series of—” Then he stopped. “Never mind that,” he said to the stenographer. “I withdraw the question.” He turned back to me. “That’s all, Mr. Bogen.”

  “Any questions?” the Referee said, turning to Golig.

  “No questions,” Golig said.

  I got up and walked back to my seat against the wall.

  “Mr. Meyer Babushkin,” Siegel called.

  Babushkin got up and walked to the witness chair like a guy who has lost a bet and is on his way to kiss somebody’s behind in Macy’s front window on a busy Saturday at noon.

  Siegel put him through the paces, the same as he had done to me. The only difference was that from Babushkin he got more respectful answers. Because Babushkin probably didn’t even know how to be disrespectful if he wanted to. And even if he did know, right then he was so scared that he never could have remembered how.

  Suddenly Siegel turned back to the table, picked up the same batch of checks he had started to show me, and waved them under Babushkin’s nose.

  “Did you have a personal bank account, Mr. Babushkin? I mean an account other than the firm bank account?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “What bank was that account in?”

  “The Manufacturers.”

  “Have you still got that account there?”

  “I think so. I don’t know.”

  “What do you mean, you don’t know?”

  Golig jumped up.

  “I object, Your Honor, to Mr. Siegel’s browbeating the witness. He has answered the question. He said he didn’t know. He’s never gone through bankruptcy before, and for all he knows, he thinks his personal bank account was seized along with the other assets of the firm. How should he—?”

  “Mr. Referee!” Siegel shouted. “I object to my learned adversary leading the witness and putting words in his mouth. If he has any objections, let him state them in the approved lawyer-like way. I ask Your Honor to instruct Mr. Golig to refrain from cleverly putting answers into the mouth of the witness by means of long-winded objections. Let him—”

  “That’s enough, gentlemen,” the Referee said quietly. “We’ll have no colloquy between attorneys. If there are any objections to be made, make them in the customary manner. Proceed.”

  “Read the last question,” Siegel said to the stenographer.

  “Question: Have you still got that account there? Answer: I think so. I don’t know. Question: What do you mean, you don’t know?”

  “Well, Mr. Babushkin,” Siegel said, “what do you mean, you don’t know?”

  “I thought maybe, I thought maybe they, they took it away from me, like they took, you know, like they took everything else.”

  Siegel gave Golig a dirty look. Golig smiled at him.

  “When did you start this personal account of yours, Mr. Babushkin?”

  “About two, three months ago. I don’t know.”

  “Would it refresh your recollection if I were to show you a transcript of your account with the bank?”

  “I—I don’t know.”

  “I am reading, if it please the court, from a transcript of the account of Meyer Babushkin with the Manufacturers Banking Company, furnished by the said Manufacturers Banking Company, and indicating that—”

  “I object, Your Honor,” Golig cried. “I object to Mr. Siegel’s reading from any papers that have not been introduced into evidence.”

  “All right,” Siegel said. “I offer the transcript in evidence.”

  “And I object on the ground t
hat it is incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial, and not binding on the parties.”

  “Let me see it,” the Referee said. Siegel handed it to him. He looked at it for a moment, then handed it back. “Objection overruled,” he said. “Mark it in evidence.”

  “Exception,” Golig said and sat down.

  The stenographer marked it and handed it back to Siegel.

  “I am reading, Mr. Babushkin, from Trustee’s Exhibit One of this date. The first entry on this transcript is a deposit of one thousand dollars and it is dated May fourteenth of this year. Is that the date on which this account was started, Mr. Babushkin?”

  “I guess so.”

  “Don’t you know?”

  “If it says so, it’s so.”

  Siegel put down the transcript and picked up the batch of checks.

  “If Your Honor please,” he said, “I have here in my hand, and wish to offer in evidence, a series of thirty-one checks, all drawn by Meyer Babushkin on his account in the Manufacturers Banking Company, to the order of Cash, all endorsed by Mr. Babushkin on the back, all running in consecutive numerical order from number one to number thirty-one, indicating that they were taken from the same checkbook, each check drawn in the round sums of five hundred, one thousand, or fifteen hundred dollars, and the entire group of thirty-one checks aggregating a total of thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars. I offer this group of checks in evidence as one exhibit.”

  “Same objection,” Golig repeated.

  “I offer them subject to connection, if Your Honor please,” Siegel said.

  “Same objection,” Golig repeated.

  “Same ruling,” the Referee said.

  “Exception,” Golig said.

  Besides Siegel there were two other people in that room who knew what his next move was going to be. They were Golig and myself. And I had told Golig.

  Siegel picked up a second batch of checks and said, “I now offer in evidence, if Your Honor please, a second group of thirty-one checks, drawn on the corporation bank account of Apex Modes, Inc. to the order of Meyer Babushkin, each one endorsed by Meyer Babushkin, and deposited by him in his personal bank account in the Manufacturers Banking Company. These checks are drawn in identical amounts with those in Trustee’s Exhibit Two of this date, and total, similarly, an aggregate of thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars. I offer this second group of checks in evidence as one exhibit.”

  “Same objection,” Golig said.

  “Same ruling,” the Referee said. “I’ll take it subject to connection.”

  “Exception,” Golig said.

  After the stenographer finished marking the checks in evidence, the Referee stood up.

  “We will adjourn until two o’clock,” he said, and walked out.

  Golig and I grabbed Babushkin and hustled him out to a restaurant. He said he wasn’t hungry, but I didn’t allow myself to be influenced by that. When I’m hungry, I eat.

  “Remember, Meyer,” we told him before we went back, “he hasn’t got a thing on us. He thinks he has, but he hasn’t. He’s gonna ask you a lot of questions about what you did with the cash you got after you deposited the corporation checks in your personal account, but you just remember what we told you. You used it to pay bills, to pay labor, and things like that. Understand?”

  He nodded.

  We were right. We? Well, I was right.

  As soon as Babushkin was back in the witness chair, Siegel picked up the checks.

  “Mr. Babushkin,” he said. “Trustee’s Exhibit Three of this date represents a series of checks issued by Apex Modes, Inc. to you and deposited by you in your personal account. These checks were not your salary from the corporation, were they?”

  “No.”

  “What were they for?” Siegel said; then quickly, to the stenographer, “No, strike that out. I withdraw the question.” He picked up the second batch of checks. “And Trustee’s Exhibit Two of this date, Mr. Babushkin, represents an almost identical series of checks drawn by you on your personal account, to the order of cash, endorsed by you, and obviously cashed. In other words, Mr. Babushkin,” he said, choosing his words and wrapping his lips around each one so carefully that his mustache began to do double loops, “to put it more clearly, Mr. Babushkin, in the ten weeks preceding the bankruptcy, between the date you opened your personal account and the date of the bankruptcy, some thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars of corporate funds were withdrawn by you, deposited in your personal account, and almost immediately withdrawn from that personal account practically in the form of cash. Isn’t that right?”

  “Yes.”

  Siegel turned away from him for a moment, then, suddenly, he spun around, shot his hand out at him, and barked, “What did you do with that money?”

  Babushkin just stared at him, blinking his eyes a little. He was so dumb that he was smart. His mind moved so slowly that tricks like these had no effect on him.

  “What did you do with that money, Mr. Babushkin?”

  “I—I used it in the business.”

  “You what?”

  “I used it in the business.”

  “How?”

  “I used it to pay for labor.”

  “To pay for labor?”

  “Yes.”

  “Why couldn’t you pay your labor with corporate checks? Why did it have to be by cash, in this peculiar way?”

  “We had trouble with our contractors. The union wanted us to use only union contractors. So we used scab contractors and we had to pay them in cash.”

  Siegel looked at him with his mouth open. Take my word for it, he wasn’t a lovely sight.

  “Why couldn’t the corporation pay them with cash? Why did it have to go through your personal bank account?”

  “We didn’t want it to show on the books.”

  Siegel’s mouth dropped another few inches, until I could see what he’d had for lunch. I didn’t blame him for looking surprised. The explanation was so cockeyed, that even I, who had invented it, couldn’t follow it.

  “Do you mean to say, Mr. Babushkin, that you spent thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars on labor in ten weeks?”

  “No. We bought goods and things like that, too.”

  “You bought goods?”

  “Yes.”

  “Why didn’t you buy your goods through the regular channels, from your regular creditors, on terms?”

  “We made some very high-priced stuff. The ordinary houses, they didn’t carry the kind of goods we needed. We needed exclusive imports. We had to go shopping around for them, and pay cash.”

  Say, he wasn’t bad! Or else I was a peach of a coach. Probably the latter.

  “Who bought this goods?”

  “I did.”

  Well, that was in the record.

  Siegel rubbed his mustache, and turned back to the table. He scowled as he shoved his papers around, and for a few moments it was quiet. Then he turned back to Babushkin and asked quietly, with a little smile:

  “Would you mind giving us the names of these contractors to whom you say you paid this money?”

  “I don’t remember.”

  “You don’t remember?”

  “No.”

  “Didn’t you keep any kind of a record?”

  “We didn’t want it should show in the books.”

  “You mean to say you don’t remember the name of a single one?”

  “No.”

  “How did you remember who they were when it came to paying them?”

  “I had it written down in a little book.”

  “Oh, so you did have a record.”

  “Yes.”

  “Where is that little book now?”

  “I lost it.”

  “You lost it?”

  “Yes.”

  “When?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “When did you see this so-called little book last?”

  “I don’t remember.”

  Siegel changed the tone of his voice and said, “All ri
ght, Mr. Babushkin, now about this goods you say you bought. Give us the names and addresses of some of the people you bought from.”

  “I don’t remember.”

  “You don’t remember a single one?”

  “No.”

  Siegel twisted up his face and said, “It wouldn’t be, Mr. Babushkin, that you had their names in this little book of yours, too, would it?”

  “That’s right.”

  Siegel smacked his papers down on the table and turned excitedly to the Referee.

  “Mr. Referee,” he said angrily, “I respectfully submit that this witness is deliberately withholding information. It seems ridiculous that a week or two after the expenditure of such large sums of money the witness should be unable to recall a single name among the many he claims he dealt with. I ask that Your Honor direct the witness to tell the truth or suffer the consequences in a contempt proceeding.”

  “Just a moment, please,” Golig said, hopping up. “Mr. Siegel seems to forget that my client is under oath. I resent Mr. Siegel’s innuendo that my client is perjuring himself, and demand an apology on his part. I have refrained from objecting to the unorthodox manner in which Mr. Siegel has been conducting this 21-A examination, Your Honor, but I simply must draw the line when he says in so many words that my client is lying.”

  Siegel yelled, “I wouldn’t apologize to him if—”

  “Quiet!” the Referee said suddenly. He didn’t say it loud, but they all shut up. “I will thank you gentlemen to remember that you are in a court of law.” He turned to Babushkin. “You understand, Mr. Babushkin,” he said, “that you are under oath, do you not?”

  Meyer nodded.

  “And that if you do not tell the truth while you are under oath, you may be punished by the court?”

  Meyer nodded again. It was his only talent.

  “You may proceed with the examination,” the Referee said to Siegel.

  Siegel bit his lip, stared at Babushkin, glared at Golig, rubbed his mustache, and said, “No more questions.”

  “No questions,” Golig said.

  “That’s all,” the Referee said to Babushkin, and he got out of the chair.

  There was a stir in the room and both lawyers began to put their papers together and a few people began to get up and walk out.

  “May it please the court.”

  It was Siegel’s voice. The room quieted down again.

 

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