Chapter 3

April 30, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Oliver Sands  |  Mumba Petition



When Brooke Jones’ plane arrived in Miami from New York City, it was already past 7:00 p.m.  As the president of Planetal Corporation, one of the largest environmental companies in the world, she had seen it all – war, famine, diseases. Even in the face of such an uphill battle, for years her goal of making the world a better place never waned.

That passion started more than thirty years ago when, as a freshman at the University of California, she met Rachel Mattis, her best friend, herself a senior, who introduced her to the study of greenhouse gases and their effect on global warming.

After graduation, Brooke and Rachel started Planetal with the financial backing of Brooke’s late father.  What started out as a small non-profit company designed to help plant trees to reforest places in the Caribbean, had grown into a giant international organization. Planetal had expanded its services across the globe, providing clean water treatment and health clinics in Africa, medical equipment in Asia, and training in organic food cultivation in many parts of the world.

After meeting and talking to Mumba at an environmental conference in Switzerland more than twelve years ago, Brooke knew that it was only a matter of time before Mumba’s idea could become a reality, if he found financing.  This potential discovery would make the world a better place. 

However, she also knew there were many powerful interests who would not let that happen if they learned that Planetal’s board had financed such a project. Nevertheless, knowing that Planetal would reap the rewards and help save thousands of lives if Mumba’s experiments succeeded, she agreed to secretly arrange outside financing by a private entity for Mumba’s new lab in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including purchasing the equipment that he needed, and paying his employees. In return, Planetal and the private entity would share rights in Mumba’s discovery.

Saying that she had since been disillusioned with Planetal since her first meeting with Mumba was an understatement. An organization that was started as an altruistic venture had become more like a business, making agreements with some country leaders who were simply warlords who deserved to be in prison. Along the way, she had lost control of her own organization and had to report to an overactive board of directors whose members were more bean counters than environmentalists.

 The day before, when she received the urgent call from Mumba in Miami, telling her that he was being detained in Florida by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for attempting to enter the country illegally, she was shocked but elated at the same time. She had given up all hope that he was alive after hearing the news that his lab and his car had exploded and that all of the people inside were killed. The news had unsettled her because the explosion occurred only a few days after he called her to tell her that he had prevailed in his experiments and that the tests were successful. 

“Are you Ok?” she had asked him when she picked up the phone.  She could tell he was still frazzled by the incident and his detention at the immigration facility.

“I can’t talk right now. Just get me out.  I don’t want to stay here. They are after me.”

“Who’s after you?” she had asked.  In reality, she did not have to ask.  She knew that the list of governments and organizations that would be interested in such a discovery and even kill for it was a mile long. What surprised Brooke was how they found out so soon.

A few years ago, when Mumba told her about unexpected results in his early experiments, they made a decision to expand Mumba’s lab to pursue Mumba’s new theory. It was during that time that she changed her views about Planetal and made the decision not turn over the discovery to the organization. She then bided her time, waiting for the perfect moment to quit. All she needed now was to sell Mumba’s formula as she and Mumba had agreed, and the huge payday would come.

Now that she was in Miami, the reality hit her that she also had to watch her back. She was worried. After her rushed phone conversation with Mumba, she had called and talked to Troy on the phone, and Troy had agreed to represent Mumba in his immigration case and go with her to see him at the immigration detention facility the next morning, after an initial meeting in Troy’s office. 

Brooke was still thinking about her next move as she picked up her rental car. When she exited the airport, a hard rain started to slap against the vehicle. It was already dark and the traffic on Highway 836 East had started to ease.  She turned on the radio, hoping to find a station playing a nice slow country music song. Country music always soothed her nerves. However, she could not find one.  Half of the radio stations were playing music in either Spanish or Haitian Creole, while the other half played music that she did not recognize.

She settled for a Spanish ballad and reached over to her open purse on the front passenger seat.  Her hand rummaged through it until she could feel her cell phone.

She grabbed it, pressed a small button on the right and the screen’s blue glow illuminated the dark interior of the car.

“Damn,” she exclaimed, realizing that she had grabbed the wrong phone. She reached into her purse again but there was no other phone.

“Damn,” she exclaimed for a second time.  “How am I going to reach him now?”  She knew that using her regular cell phone was out of the question.  That had been made clear to her by her American business partner who had arranged the sale of Mumba’s formula. “All I have to do now is to give it to him and retire,” she thought to herself as she stepped on the gas, the tires screeching on the wet asphalt.

By the time Brooke reached her eighth floor luxury hotel suite in Miami Beach after a quick dinner stop, it was already late. She was about to undress and take a shower when there was a knock on the door.

When Brooke opened the door, surprise registered on her face. “You? I didn’t know you were in town,” she said, while letting her visitor in.

“When I received your message that you were coming, I wanted to surprise you.”

A few minutes later, they were on the balcony watching the city lights when there was a second knock on the door.

“It must be the bottle of wine that I ordered,” her visitor said before heading to the next room to open the front door. 

However, the visitor never came back.

Brooke was about to turn around to go look, when she felt strong arms grab her and throw her in the air. By the time Brooke realized what was happening, she was already over the balcony and the only thing that separated her from the asphalt far below was open space.

Chapter 2

April 30, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Oliver Sands  |  Mumba Petition

Chapter 2

Troy Douglas did not fit the mold of the typical southern lawyer. Born and raised in the small town of Starke in northern Florida, only hours away from the Georgia border, you would expect to hear him speak with a southern drawl, but definitely not with a Hispanic accent.

In reality, Troy suffered from a rare illness called Foreign Accent Syndrome brought on by a head trauma he suffered when he was ten years old, while playing tag football.

Troy could still remember the following morning when he woke up in the hospital and noticed the shock on his parents’ faces when he started talking to them.  It was later that the doctors explained to them that the cause of his new accent was his head injury, and that his medical condition was rare but real.

Later in high school, when his male classmates realized that the girls went gaga for his accent, they resented him and started spreading rumors that his accent was fake. That was the end of his gigolo teen years.  He could not come out and tell people that his accent was caused by a head injury. They would definitely call him retarded.  Back then, less offensive terms like “mentally challenged” were not used.

After high school, college and a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, Troy was offered a job at the Goode and Sharpe Law Firm, a firm started by two buddies, Richard Goode and Stephen Sharpe, who used to be part-time used car salesmen.  How they both managed to end up being accepted the same year at the same third-rate law school was a mystery. However, they brought the innovative skills of their past profession into their law practice and ended up creating one of the largest foreclosure firms in Illinois.

When Troy was hired at a six-figure salary, he was ecstatic.  He made more money per year than his mother, father, and even his late aunt Sophie who, at that time, was the richest person in his family.

Granted, at the Goode and Sharpe Law Firm, all lawyers started with six figure salaries.  The firm was proud of that.  That was the selling point to many prospective hires.

At the Goode and Sharpe Law Firm, a six-figure starting salary meant you got paid one hundred thousand dollars and one cent.  The truth was that most of the money the firm made went into the pockets of Richard Goode and Stephen Sharpe. To maximize profits, most of their paralegals and clerks were unpaid interns from different law schools. As second and third year law students anticipating large student loan payments, they worked for free, hoping to be hired by the firm after they graduated.

When Troy was hired, he was assigned to the condominium section. That was the section where they handled foreclosures for condominium associations.  If you were a widowed grandmother and failed to pay your condominium fee, even as little as ten dollars, the Goode and Sharpe Law Firm would start foreclosure.  By the time you realized what was happening, you already owed them thousands of dollars. It was not hard work but it necessitated long hours to bring that many foreclosure lawsuits.  The routine was the same. The unpaid paralegals typed the legal papers and the lawyers signed them. Except for the names of the parties, the papers were the same and were churned out in assembly line fashion.

Troy burned out quickly and left the firm nearly ten months later, the day after a company picnic, when the partners gave them a lecture about revenue maximization and made everyone chip in to cover the cost of the food.

“You have to do whatever it takes, especially if it’s legal,” Richard Goode told them that day. He explained that marketing research showed that a catchy firm name would attract more clients, and then he continued, “That’s why I changed my name to ‘Goode’ to go with ‘Sharpe’ to enhance the name of the firm. I’ll expect you to do the same if we make you a partner.”

That was how Troy landed in Miami.


After he left the firm, he moved to South Florida, opened his legal practice and paid some Hispanic and Haitian radio hosts to appear on their shows and answer their listeners’ questions about the law.

After his first shows, he was inundated with clients. They were mostly immigrants who were taken in by his accent.  They never asked him where he was from. The few who knew that he was born in Starke assumed that his parents were from Puerto Rico, Mexico or South America.

To the immigrants who came to his office, he was one of them, the son of immigrants who did well in the United States but who never managed to learn his parents’ native language.

This morning was no different for Troy.  He was having a meeting with his client Mario Finolo, a wealthy native of Venezuela.

“Do you know what discovery is?” a concerned Troy asked him. Troy and Mario were seated across from each other around the rectangular mahogany table in the conference room of Troy’s law office in Coral Gables, an upscale area west of Miami. Seated next to Troy was Marsha Gibbons, Troy’s trusted paralegal, who was writing on a yellow pad, taking notes of the conversation. Her hands had turned completely white due to the excessively low temperature in the room generated by the overactive overhead AC vent.

Troy’s question caused Mario’s brown eyes to become narrower, and he shouted, “Discovery? A space shuttle or TV channel? Who cares? I’m not Webster’s Dictionary.  What’s that got to do with my divorce case?”

Troy ignored Mario’s frustration. “Discovery is the process that we lawyers go through to find out about the evidence the other side will bring against our clients at trial. Your wife said that she has proof that you were not faithful during the marriage.”

Mario flinched but quickly recovered. “She’s lying.  She’s just a gold digger, trying to get my money. My prenuptial agreement was supposed to be fool proof.” He paused and asked, “What proof does she have anyway?”

“Your wife said that while she was out of town, she has witnesses who saw a female friend of yours walking your dog very early in the morning outside her house.”

“That’s all my wife’s got?”  Mario asked, frowning, as he avoided eye contact with Troy and rested his eyes longer than necessary on Marsha’s chest. “It must have been my dog sitter.”

“The woman, who was walking the dog is one of your company’s vice presidents, and your car was parked in her driveway the whole night,” Troy replied, causing Mario to briefly give up his admiration of Marsha’s curvature to lock eyes with him.

“You called me to meet with you to tell me that I fooled around?”

“No. Your wife’s attorney filed a motion in court and they are asking the court to revoke the prenup. Besides arguing that your cheating is in violation of the prenup, your wife is saying that the prenup is a document that discriminates against her as a woman.”

Mario’s eyebrows were now slightly raised. “How so?”

“Your prenup limits the amount of money your wife can get from the divorce if she gains more than ten pounds during her marriage.”

“So? If she was not comfortable with it, she should not have signed the agreement.”

Instead of commenting on the remark, Troy surveyed Mario’s clothes and wondered whether it was possible to make him look humble in court.  Mario was wearing an expensive white linen suit, with a dark blue shirt. He had a square jaw and kept his hair in a ponytail. His smooth complexion masked his forty-three years of age and he was wearing a gold Rolex watch and an oversized diamond ring. His whole appearance screamed, “I’m handsome and rich.”

After a short contemplative silence, Troy said, “In her sex discrimination claims, your wife said that the fourteen pounds she gained was due to her pregnancy and only women can get pregnant.”

Mario waved his hand dismissively. “She never lost the weight after the pregnancy.”

“She also said that your cheating has caused her stress which caused her to be unable to lose the weight.”

Troy’s last remark caused Mario to emit a sarcastic laugh. “You don’t really think the judge will believe that, do you?”

Not seeing the levity in the case, Troy said, “Your wife is an usher at her church and spends her weekends volunteering at a homeless shelter, while you play golf at a country club with your buddies.”

“I don’t see your point. Being rich is not a sin, is it?”

“You’re right, Mr. Finolo,” Troy replied, “all I’m saying is that being credible in court wins cases. By the way, do you know why your wife is insisting that you keep the chihuahua and that she keep the pit bull?”

Mario’s face turned deep red. When he spoke, his voice rose with displeasure, “No way!  First, she blamed me for our daughter’s death, saying that her fatal genetic disorder came from my side of the family.  Now, she is just trying to insult me by taking my dog. I am 6 foot 3 and I’m not going to walk a chihuahua. I want a masculine dog.”

“The pit bull is a female,” Troy reminded him.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Mario replied, his annoyance regarding his wife’s request not receding. “A chihuahua is not a big man’s dog.”

“OK, we will fight for the pit bull and see what we can do about the prenup,” Troy finally said in an effort to calm him.

Troy’s promise appeared to have the intended effect. The conversation lasted another five minutes before Mario left the office, leaving Troy to wonder whether it would be ethical to charge his client an additional fee for lying to him about his cheating.

However, had Troy known what would transpire in the next couple of days, handling a client like Mario Finolo would be the least of his problems.


Chapter 1

April 30, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Oliver Sands  |  Mumba Petition


It was not supposed to turn out this way.  The last time Pierre Mumba was in the United Sates was almost thirty years ago, when he was a graduate student finishing his Ph.D.’s in both chemistry and physics. Now, decades later, he was returning as a fugitive.

As the large airplane taxied toward its regular gate at the Miami International Airport, he breathed a sigh of relief. He would soon be free and the world would never be the same.

It seemed that this trip had lasted forever.  First, he had to be smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his native country, across the border to Tanzania. Unlike in his country, however, he did not fear being recognized when he took the second leg of his trip from the Kilimanjaro International Airport. After subsequent stops in both Kenya and Ethiopia without incident, his fear lessened only a little when he reached Frankfurt, Germany.  Germany was too close to Africa for Mumba’s comfort. Good thing the stopover had been short.

He did not want to take any chances. He could still see in his mind his assistant Joanne Asongo rushing out of the building and yelling at him, “Pepe, you have a phone call.  A representative from the group ‘Physicists International’ wants to talk to you about an award you’re being given.”

Those words saved his life.

Moments before she came out and uttered those words, Mumba was sitting with Jean Marceau, his business partner, in his SUV, which was parked about twenty feet away from his research lab in a deserted section of Goma, in Eastern Congo. The city was located on the edge of the Kivu River, near the Rwandan border.  He had built his lab on top of a hill with breathtaking views of the Virunga Mountain range and its chain of volcanoes. Occasionally, he would go on excursions in the mountains just to spot one of his country’s famous but endangered mountain gorillas. It was a perfect place to work until that day.

They were minutes away from driving off to a business meeting, when Joanne told him about the phone call. The sad irony was that he must have taken too long to reach the phone, because by the time that he got out of the SUV and reentered the building to take the call in his office, the representative had already hung up. It was as if providence had intervened and led him away from the two explosions that would take place minutes later.

Now, back in the aircraft, he stiffened in his chair at the thought of his assistant’s demise.  Joanne was a very devoted assistant that he had hired merely months before, and who had been an exemplary employee. His mind kept reverting to that day. Who’s responsible for Joanne’s death? What if they find out that I am alive and have fled?

When the plane finally reached the Miami gate, on cue, the passengers quickly got up to begin their competitive race to clear customs.

Mumba grabbed the top of the seat in front of him and quickly raised his tall slender frame until he could stand erect in the aisle.  He nervously ran the fingers of his right hand through his silver-flecked hair before reaching for his small backpack from the overhead compartment and taking his first steps toward freedom.

“Have a good day sir,” the young pretty flight attendant wished him as he exited the plane.

Mumba did not respond.  Instead, he gave her a hollow smile and walked out of the plane, his heart heavy with the loss of Joanne and his business partner. He was hoping that it was going to be a good day for him as the flight attendant had said.

As he approached the immigration inspector, he held his traveling documents tightly in his hands.

“Passport, please,” the male immigration inspector said without looking up.  He was typing on the keyboard in front of him while gazing at the computer screen.

The passport was wet from sweat from Mumba’s hands. Mumba was hoping that the inspector did not notice his nervousness as he handed over the document.

The inspector looked up, grabbed the passport and slid the interior cover into the electronic scanner in front of him. “How long was your stay in Kinshasa, Mr. Roberts?”

“Thirty days,” he replied with a heavy French accent.

The inspector looked at the computer screen, frowned and raised his head to look at him. “I think we have a problem, Mr. Roberts.”

Mumba felt blood rushing to his face as he realized he had been caught. It’s over. It’s all been for nothing, he thought, trying to control his panic as a tall female officer came to ask him to follow her.



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