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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

I don't know why this is, but "The Maltese Falcon" haunts my practice. For the past few months we've been negotiating the final terms on a settlement agreement in a fairly substantial matter. Most of the fine points have been picky issues between the plaintiff and the other party to the matter, but when they'd worked out what they wanted to do I offered to draft the settlement agreement. I floated a draft to co-defendant's counsel to be sure that it reflected what they needed, and after some editing I emailed a copy to the plaintiff's attorney. A week or so later I received a certified letter and an executed settlement agreement, which I was supposed to sign and forward to counsel for the co-defendant. Thing is, the version I sent had 15 paragraphs, but the one I received had only eleven.

"Gutman stopped rocking. "Just a minute, my dear." He held up a thick hand. Hadn't you better leave the envelope in here? You don't want to get grease spots on it."

The girl's eyes questioned Spade. He said in an indifferent tone: "It's still his."

She put her hand inside her coat, took out the envelope, and gave it to Spade. Spade tossed it into Gutman's lap, saying: "Sit on it if you are afraid of losing it."

"You misunderstand me," Gutman replied suavely. "It's not that at all, but business should be transacted in a business-like manner." He opened the flap of the envelope, took out the thousand dollar bills, counted them, and chuckled so that his belly bounced. "For instance there are only nine bills here now." He spread them out on his fat knees and thighs. "There were ten when I handed it to you, as you very well know." His smile was jovial and triumphant."

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