Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be amazed. I am about to tell you the greatest clients from hell story ever told. It is a story so outrageous, that many of you may suspect I'm embellishing things fabricating parts of it entirely, but rest assured, it is 100% true. This is a story I will be telling my grandkids about someday. I may even base a character on it, because the person it revolves around is possesses extraordinary delusion that runs deeper than any fictional person I would otherwise dream of. This is going to require a bit of background information and tedium to get to the good part, but keep reading, because THIS GETS GOOD. It's also going to explain one of the major reasons I've been mostly inactive over the past two years.
I first met Mr. Ick way back in June 2011, when I had just finished the major part of the work on I <3 Shakey. He was an unthreatening looking, spectacled, 50-year-old Indian man, who was also a bit socially awkward. It was difficult to get the point out of him that he was trying to get across, and he would change his mind about things at the drop of a hat, (most notably, the schedule of when we'd be meeting and working on things.) He told me he was a very wealthy consultant at one point, which I believe to be true. I've met numerous people who have known him in his past, who have all worked with him at one point or another. He told me he had lost most of his money in "legal disputes," which was always kind of vague, but the way he told the story was that people were trying to screw him out of intellectual property. What he was trying to do now was create e-learning courses to help improve companies. He would license it companies, universities, and individuals in addition to his consulting work, and for a pretty penny. If it garnered interest it would be a very successful business. He wanted me and a friend of mine who had roped me into the project to create the visuals and animation for these courses.
I will say at this point that Mr. Ick has to be some kind of idiot savant, perhaps even on the autistic spectrum. He knew the material cold, and was extremely passionate about it despite the fact that it would be considered very dry material to a normal person. He had no other prospects besides this project, and let no circumstances get in the way of his determination to finish it. Despite not having money he had a delusional sense of grandeur which came through as confidence to the people that he met with. Despite having little notability, at least that I could find through searching the internet, he considered himself a renowned expert and introduced himself to people as such.
In the beginning working for him was only mildly annoying. While he at least paid me, he was constantly flip flopping on the meeting times and I had to make a pretty long commute to meet him halfway at a Starbucks to work with him. (He was in the city and I lived in the suburbs at the time.) There was no getting him to give me some kind of instructions to work from. I had to work with him in person every time. It was months later before I even got him to use Skype (which to him was amazing new technology.) Pretty early on, he stopped contacting the friend who introduced me to him entirely. My friend was a girl. I found out later that he preferred not to work with women because he was paranoid they'd accuse him of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, he had developed some kind of weird attachment to me.
He asked me if I had any other friends that might be able to work for him, someone who was a fast typist. In this day and age, Mr. Ick still could not use a computer at all and needed someone to type for him. Seeming like a good way to help one of my friends make an extra buck, I recommended another friend of mine named T, who started helping him with all his typing projects. The kinds of things wanted typed usually served no practical purpose and were a waste of time. A lot of it was detailed lists of things he planned to accomplish that he would never follow through on. By around November or so, he gave me what would be the last paycheck I would see for a while. T was smart and quit right when the money stopped. I however, was not so smart. I'm the kind of person who really hates not to see something through to the end, especially after I already put time into it, so I told him I'd just keep logging my hours and he could pay me when he could. This was my first deadly mistake.
Mr. Ick had been in contact with a large organization that had ties to multiple companies we could market to. They had been stuck in contract negotiations for a long time before he had even met me. (I will refer to this organization from here on as BIZCORP.) There was also a dean (who I will call Mr. Baldwin,) who had invested quite a bit of money into project. He was helping us find potential deals with universities. Mr. Baldwin was very stoic and almost robotic whenever I saw him. He got us a meeting at the school he was a dean at, and the professors we met with seemed enthusiastic. (I will refer to this school as University X.)
The idiotic thing Mr. Ick would do is treat each and every opportunity as a done deal. He rented some fancy office space in the school building on the assumption that he'd be able to pay it off, despite me telling him that it didn't seem like a good idea. (At this point I was not privy to the true state of his finances, and he would exaggerate and lie to me about how solid our current prospects were.) By then it was January 2012 and all of the graphics and animation were complete. He just needed to record the audio so I could sew it together and upload it to an LMS. However, with T gone he still needed me around to type up proposals and shit. He also endlessly wanted to go back and tweak the graphics that I had made, every time telling me that only THEN was it succinct and perfect. I kept recording my hours. Mr. Ick was trying to get BIZCORP to agree to a contract where they'd fund the recording, as well as for University X to sign a contract with us, neither of which ever happened. Mr. Ick and I remained at that office from January to June 2012, at which point he was about $6,000 more in debt for nothing. During this, he wasted his time doing all kinds of pointless things like:
- Drafting numerous proposals to companies for consulting, none of which came to fruition.
- Going to a WAY out of our budget recording studio, at which we did a few sample recordings but mostly just wasted time having meetings with.
- Went through 3 or 4 different web developers to create our own LMS, none of which made it past the planning stage.
- Tried to get an investor to loan us 35 grand in exchange for 3% residual stock in the company. Clearly he believed we would be making big money. The investor did not take up our offer.
- Tried to find someone to hire who knew Adobe After Effects. He did not know what After Effects did or what we would use it for, he just thought he wanted to use it.
- Wasted about 2 grand on a lawyer to create a contract agreement for BIZCORP which they shot down immediately as being ridiculous.
Remember that this whole time, we had no money. Everything revolved around the assumption that this would take off, and soon. One day all his emails somehow got deleted. He didn't download things and kept a lot of files only in his email account. Because he had no car I had to pick him up and drive him everywhere in my parent's van. Around February he actually started to rely on ME to loan him money so he could afford his rent and to buy food, which I supplied him with. (If at this point you think I am an idiot, I won't disagree with you. I was just too stubborn to give up and leave at that point. He also manipulated the situation in order to make it appear that our prospects were a lot more secure than they actually were, and that money was always just around the corner.) I didn't have a lot of cash, but I was still living at home and making money from other freelance projects. Mr. Ick would tell me again and again that if I stuck with him "we would make it to the top" and I would be making "tons of money." He promised me many things; like that I would have significant stock in our multi million dollar corporation, and that he would buy me a car. One time he told me I was his prince. Yes, it was a bit creepy. For the record I never believed we would be a "multi million dollar" company, but the connections Mr. Ick had made it seem promising and worth seeing where it could go. He was AMAZED with the things I did in flash, even though it was nothing at all exciting... lots of slick animated diagrams and charts like a glorified Powerpoint presentation. Nonetheless, he would repeatedly tell me that something I had created was BAD ASS. "This is world class material!" he would say. "Bullshit!" Ironically, he would often punctuate his declarations by exclaiming the word "bullshit."
Basically, University X went completely incommunicado after our first meeting. Never heard from them, and they never signed a deal. (Kind of a shitty thing to do on their part, but no where near on the level of Mr. Ick's stupidity to treat it like a done deal.) BIZCORP would not agree to fund the recording unless they had legal rights to the material, which Mr. Ick stubbornly and idiotically would not accept despite his situation. By around May, Mr. Ick was completely broke with no official contracts, and none of the audio recorded. By then I was running low on cash myself, and could not loan him any more even if I wanted to. (He owed by about 6 grand total, if you count my unpaid invoices.) I went into that office one night after dark to get all of his shit out of there and bring it to his apartment. He also started crying on the phone once, because his family had reacted in very with hostility when they found out he was broke and needed money, calling him a bum and failure. He had no wife or children, only his elderly parents and two sisters.
I accepted that we would never get anywhere in our current situation, and decided it was time I cut my losses and wash my hands of this disaster. I would get back to focusing on making animation that I loved, and start trying to go on dates and have a social life. I <3 Shakey had just come out and I was feeling pretty good about moving on. My sister was recovering from cancer and had just finished chemotherapy. I began looking for apartments in the city with an old friend of mine. Everything seemed to mark the beginning of a new chapter. Over the summer Mr. Ick moved to an apartment where the landlord was apparently an old business acquaintance of his. Somehow, he convinced him to let him live there on a tab until he got back on his feet. He continued to try to get consulting work and I would type up his proposals. Even with referrals from old colleagues he could not get a gig. He refused to get any other job. He was humiliated about being broke and would hide this fact at all costs from people.
Around mid-August, Mr. Baldwin miraculously got Mr. Ick in with another university, which I will call University Y. He had also managed to get a small amount of money from his family who lived on the other side of the country. The dean at University Y, who I'll call Mr. Sigmund, actually agreed to contribute $15,000 to fund two new courses he wanted us to make. Mr. Sigmund was a long time friend of Mr. Baldwin's and also a guy that I really liked. He seemed to have a lot of faith in the product and that it would produce a lot of revenue. Mr. Ick was ecstatic, and in fervor made many promises about what would be in the course and a timeline we would finish it in. Mr. Sigmund told him that his timeline seemed very aggressive, and that he would probably have to rework it a little to fit in with the university's capabilities. "I know you move a mile a minute, Mr. Ick, and I know all too well what it's like to work in the world of bureaucracy. Don't worry though, I think we can work together to make this project a success!" I specifically remember Mr. Ick practically jumping out of his seat and saying enthusiastically: "Whatever deadline you name, we'll meet it!! We are going to make a KICKASS course for you." Mr. Ick ended up with a contract that stipulated we could have the first course to show them by November 15th and the second by November 30th. Just typing that out now seems like a bad joke.
By now my good friend Wally also began working with Mr. Ick, mostly doing typing and miscellaneous tasks that I had been doing before, so that I could really focus on the animation and graphics. Mr. Ick incorporated the company so that we were official, Mr. Sigmund signed the contract with us, and they gave us $7500 to fund the first of the two courses. They were treating us like a legitimate company with some semblance of professionalism and sanity. Without having to fund anything, BIZCORP also signed an agreement with us, and it seemed like this whole thing could actually work! On the first of September I moved into my own apartment. I was pretty swamped with other work at this point, (including the Doritos super bowl commercial,) but I waited for Mr. Ick to give me the materials I'd need to make the new slides. This time he said he going to make some of kind of blueprint for me to work off of so we wouldn't have to do it all over Skype. September went by, and October went by, and I would ask him periodically how things were going. He was also trying to get another animator that he met at Starbucks to work with me, but he turned out not to really know flash or even have it on his computer. Sometime around the beginning of November we met at up at Starbucks where he was SUPPOSED to be giving me the blueprints to me. By now I was becoming quite concerned about the time. He had large posterboards with him with squares drawn on them in marker, all BLANK. Like a kid who had a couple months for a class project and tried to do it the night before, he stumbled in there like an idiot with nothing done that I could use.
"You fucking dumbass," I thought. "You were almost living on the street and were given every chance to make this work. What the HELL have you been doing the past two months?" He told me everything was in his head and that the deadlines were not a problem at all. He told me he only needed to show Mr. Sigmund only visuals minus the sound, and that he could push the first meeting to the end of the month sometime. "If we show them that, they'll be jumping up and down." he said. "It is most ideal for me if we could do it over Skype so I can just zip it right out of my head."
Even after I had finished the Doritos commercial, it took him still another week before he was ready. Finally, over the very end of November and the beginning of December, I created all the graphics and animation for this new course with him over Skype in about 2 weeks. Mr. Ick, myself, and Mr. Baldwin met with Mr. Sigmund on December 10th after several push backs. This was close to the last possible day before everyone started getting off for winter break. The dean was quite disturbed when he found out that he hadn't yet recorded anything, and gave Mr. Ick quite a chewing out. (I'd say Mr. Ick lied to me about their expectations, but I think he was actually stupid enough to believe they wouldn't mind.) Graciously, he let us rework the schedule, but the whole meeting was something that was very uncomfortable to sit through. Mr. Baldwin, had a look of great unease on his face the entire time. Mr. Ick SWORE he would finish the course by the second week of February. This time Mr. Sigmund would be on the line because he was in charge of the budget of the school. Before Christmas, Mr. Ick was contacted by BIZCORP who told him that several more companies were expressing interest in the first course including Coca-Cola. I told him we could still do this. We just had to start recording right after New Years. We were almost at the finish line.
I still find it hilarious how indignant Mr. Ick was that Mr. Sigmund was upset. I remember him being on the phone once with Mr. Baldwin, where he was complaining about it. "I am the expert in my field!" he said. "These guys can't be treating us with kid gloves here. These academic types are such linear thinkers! Maybe Sigmund needs to get laid or something." Whenever someone gave Mr. Ick a hard time about changing plans, being inefficient, or fudging deadlines, he would criticize them for being "linear thinkers."
January 2013 - Mr. Ick is badly hit by the flu. He left me a message a few days after Christmas that sounded like diarrhea was trying to talk to me. He could hardly move for weeks, and didn't have the voice to record for even longer than that. He didn't completely recover until almost February. He told this to Mr. Sigmund, and he accepted that we'd need more time, but we were pushing our luck.
For some reason that is unfathomable to me, Mr. Ick was determined to do the recordings for the BIZCORP course first – even with Mr. Sigmund losing his patience. His logic was that it'd be easier to start with, and he'd be able to record them both within the month. I'm sure he was also mesmerized by the idea of having a prestigious and universally recognized company like Coca-Cola as a client. When I told him that it seemed highly unlikely if not impossible to record both in that time, he kept trying to tell me it would be easy, despite never having recorded anything in a studio environment in his life. I should mention that even now he was having me make significant changes to that course's contents: Adding slides, modifying slides, changing their sequence and even changing basic things like the titles which forced me to go back through several different files to update it. Wally had also been putting a lot of time in for him… safe to say more than even I had been putting in recently. Now that he was the one with the car he assumed the role of taking him places. Wally and I were going to make sure at least one of these courses was going to get recorded if we were to have any hope of getting compensated. By now he owed me almost 5 figures easily, even after giving me a portion of University Y's funding to make the slides for that course.
I thought we'd never find a cheap studio to record at that would work. The one he was planning on for a while was very far away and was unusable. There was another one close to me which was inside a recent college graduate's apartment. He was actually an audio major from the same school I went to, who had a recording booth set up in the back room. We wasted few sessions at that until place Mr. Ick decided he couldn't record in the conditions there either. I was worried he wasn't capable of recording this himself, because whenever he didn't do well we would make up some lame excuse or blame it on some other factor. His ego would never let him admit he didn't know what he was doing even when he clearly needed help. In his mind he was always the most important person in the room. The main problem was that by this point he had run out of money and they required payment up front. We needed to actually find a place that would accept the terms of not getting paid until we finished recording everything, so that Mr. Baldwin could write the check for it when we were done. Remember that this was all before we'd even get STARTED recording on the 2nd course for Mr. Sigmund, who originally had so much faith in us – and just forget about the 3rd course we were supposed to do. If he had focused on those instead first, they at least may have released the other half of the $15000 they were supposed to fund us.
As sheer good fortune would have it, we found a place. For an amazing price it had a large soundproof room with a glass separator, AND it was open for us almost every day, so that we could really get moving. Despite another miracle, but Mr. Ick's incompetence continued to amaze me. He had no script and was insistent on ad-libbing it so that his "passion could come through." It took quite a while to work out a system where what we recorded sounded good enough and we could move at a decent pace. Anytime he had to think of his next line, he would take a pause until he could say it. The young guy about our age at the recording studio, who I'll call Melvin, would edit out all the silent bits, and by doing this we actually had some pretty decent audio for the slides.
It ended up taking more than 5 weeks to record the course. That entire time, Wally or I would take him there so that we'd be present to make sure it got done. Wally would drive all the way from the suburbs to pick him up, and on my days I'd meet him at a CTA stop to take the bus. He seemed to prefer going with Wally over myself because he didn't have to pay for the CTA. For the past few months Wally had driven him around, took him out to eat at fast food places, and even got him groceries. He was completely reliant on us not only to get this project done but for his very survival. By the time we finished recording he owed me about $10K and Wally about $5K. Another fun fact is that Mr. Ick would tell Wally questionable stories about chicks that he banged in his 20s, I guess in some awkward attempt to bond with him. Some insight into how he viewed Wally was that he told him he seemed like more of the "jock type."
Just as we were finishing the recordings, we had a huge problem. The total cost of the audio came to $3000, and Mr. Baldwin was only willing to contribute $1000 more to the project. Melvin was getting tired of us putting off his paycheck, because he originally wanted to be payed at the end of every week let us continue out of generosity. It was Tuesday, and if he wasn't paid in the next few days he was going to take Mr. Ick to small claims court, and we probably wouldn't have a studio to record at any more. Melvin was also planning a trip across the country which had been delayed by our project. He was planning to leave for at the beginning of the next week and he needed cash for the trip.
Mr. Ick went through all possible options to get the remaining $2000. He asked his family, old friends, all of whom he had alienated and were tired of putting up with him. Somehow he managed to get $500 from his landlord who was already letting him live in his apartment on a tab. He simply could not get the other half. All the pieces of the course were now complete but we were over $1500 short of getting the audio.
Wally and I talked on Skype that night about what we could possibly do. Neither of us had any extra money to get the other half of the audio ourselves, but would not pay for it even if we did. Mr. Ick had told us that Mr. Baldwin would have no problem underwriting the bill for the audio, and we were furious that he had yet again made a fallacious assumption at our expense. Wally and his parents came up with a plan. They would agree to pay for the other half of the audio, on the sole condition that Mr. Ick would agree to sign the corporate account over to Wally, until such a time that all his debts were paid off, with the $1500 for the audio being the first and primary liability. I don't know the exact amount, but I suspect Mr. Ick had to be around 50 grand in debt to numerous sources at this point. It was amazing to me that no one had sued him already. If Mr. Ick was willing to do this, Wally's parents would also have been willing to spring for University Y's course recordings. They drafted up a contract for him to sign and sent it to him the next morning. We arranged to meet Mr. Ick somewhere close to where he lived to discuss it. We ended up meeting at a McDonalds just outside his house. By now he was too broke to go anywhere that he couldn't walk to. He had no money on his CTA card and no assets to his name save about 5 bucks. In terms of food, all that he had in his house was two boxes of pasta. Wally told me that despite all this, he had recently caught Mr. Ick looking at expensive cars online.
From here on, things escalate rather quickly.
I was on the way to the McDonalds with Wally, but deciding that it would be better if we didn't walk in together, he dropped me off and I went in first. In a booth near the back of the room, was Mr. Ick, sitting there and looking dour. When he saw me he smiled and said "Hey Ry! I didn't know you were gonna be here!" But I could tell he was a little on edge. I told him we were one hurdle away from finishing this project, we just needed guarantee that we would be compensated. "Remind me how much I owe you." he said. I told him about 10 grand, as a conservative estimate. "Nah." he said "Can't be. I've been keeping track of hours too." In the same moment it took me to become very, very angry, Wally came in and sat down.
Wally also explained the situation and reiterated what was in the contract. Mr. Ick put his hands on the table and responded, "You know I love you guys for what you have done so far, but the spirit in which you have written this is way out of line. I will not sign it." Wally and I were in awe. "You don't really have a choice in this situation, Mr. Ick. Unless you agree to these terms, my parents will not fund you the money. Melvin is not going to wait another day to get paid. We need to do this now." "Let me talk to your Dad." he said. "No Mr. Ick," Wally replied "This is it. My dad and I spent 4 hours last night writing this contract and it isn't changing." There was a classic line at some point where Mr. Ick said this situation was the same as if he had told Wally he'd lend him money if he let him bang his girlfriend. "Let me talk to your dad." Mr Ick persisted. Wally told him that wasn't happening.
Mr. Ick was indignant about signing our proposal. "I can get the money." he said. "Let me ask around a little more." "Do it now." I said. "We don't have time to waste." He tried calling a few people with no answer. Then he got someone, I don't know who, and walked outside. While he was away Wally and I agreed that unless he agreed to sign this contract we would cut our losses leave this idiot on his own. There's no way any company could function with him in total control. After about 3 minutes he was back. "Did you get the money?" I asked. He shifted to Wally, "Let me talk to your dad tonight." "ABSOLUTELY NOT."
I told him that unless he could get the money in the next few minutes I would walk away from the project. At this Mr. Ick began acting very erratic. "Don't talk like that, Ryan. Don't pull me that way." He began shaking and looking for things that weren't there. He tried to call more people. He kept asking again and again to talk to Wally's Dad, and said Melvin would be okay with waiting. I was feeling a potent mixture of amazement and pure rage. One man curiously walked up to our booth, got an "oh shit" expression on his face, and walked away. Towards the end Mr. Ick didn't even know what he was saying. "Guys, guys... it's alright, you know I love you." He put his hand on Wally's arm and he pulled it away. He held out his hand to me but I refused to shake it. Then Wally and I left.
While I was in the car with Wally, we agreed that he was going to either agree to our terms, or crash and burn. Not only would he have to put all our names on the corporate account, where NO financial decisions could be made without our consent, but our salaries would all have to be equal. 33-33-33 across the board. If he would not agree, we could take a loss whereas he'd be devastated. Wally's parents paid for the rest of the audio just so Melvin could get paid in full. Thursday morning, Wally picked up the check from Mr. Baldwin so he could give the rest of the payment to Melvin. While Wally was there told Mr. Baldwin everything. We found out that Mr. Baldwin had lent Mr. Ick more than $10,000 at this point himself, which is why he couldn't justify giving more than a thousand for the recording. He'd also have to refund Mr. Sigmund the $7500 if the course was never completed, and was planning on washing his hands of it if nothing happened by the end of the summer. Wally told him about our plan to leave unless Mr. Ick gave us fair compensation, and the relinquished the totalitarian control he had of the company's finances while he had all these debts. He agreed and gave us his blessing. That day Wally and I were getting lots of restricted calls from Mr. Ick. (If you press *6 before dialing, the name shows up as "WITHHELD" on the caller ID.) Neither of us answered them.
When the checks cleared, I went to the studio where Melvin was to pick up the audio. I thanked him for his time and apologized for all that he had to put up with. "So are you guys gonna keep working for Mr. Ick?" he asked. "I don't know." I replied. "If so there are going to be some serious parameters put in place." He gave me a couple CDs with all the audio on them, finished, edited, and sorted by slide. I took them home, put them all on my hard drive, and backed it up. I now had everything. All the audio files, and all the source .flas with the graphics and animation, resided on my computer and my computer alone, and Mr. Ick had not paid for any of it.
By this point Mr. Ick was deep in denial. He thought I was still going to continue working for him like nothing happened. By now I didn't even know he was eating. We told him we would not work for him any more unless he could provide proof he would pay us, and give us incentive to stay, (i.e. 33-33-33 pay split, or at least something close like 40-30-30.) Mr. Ick said the idea was "outlandish" "absurd" and "pure greed and avarice." Its funny how in a company where he literally could not do anything without us, a situation where he still gets paid the most is still "outlandish." There's no way he would even find replacements that were willing to put up with the same shit, especially anyone who knows flash like I do and was so used to how he worked. Mr. Ick called Wally and tried to tell him that the audio was his because he signed the invoices. Wally plainly told him if he wanted the audio, he could ask his landlord, Mr. Baldwin, and his dad to pick up their respective portions of the audio from me, because they were the ones who paid for it. Every time he made a fool of himself on the phone, he would say he needed go to a seminar, or do laundry or some other stupid bullshit so he could hang up. He tried to threaten us legally, (lmao), and at other times try to get us back on his side acting all nice and like everything was fine. He told me his uncle died to play the sympathy card, which may or may not have been true. He tended to be friendlier with me and more hostile with Wally, in a vain attempt to pit me against him. Any proposal we made he refused to discuss.
Monday night he texted me asking to send him an email with my requests, so, thinking we had finally won him over, I sent him a salary and some basic conditions under which I Wally and I would be willing to work. Given the circumstances, it was nothing outlandish in my mind, and we had scaled way back from the original 33-33-33 idea. We also said he would need to sign a legal document guaranteeing us those conditions as contractors. Wednesday he called me not only to tell me again that our requests were ridiculous, but that he also legal grounds to sue us for blackmail and extortion! This was a ludicrous notion, as we made no threats to Mr. Ick, other than to cease working (like we were legally obligated to be his employees?) and not provide him with the files, (none of which he had paid for.) He told me he had showed our emails and the contract Wally had created with his father to an attorney, and also to Mr. Baldwin. He told me they were "horrified" and "furious" at what they saw, and that he could take serious legal action if he wanted to. He also told me that he didn't want me to get wrapped up in this, but that Wally was had started something at McDonalds which was "legally untenable." In any case he was pretty much "fuck Wally" from this point on. The only reason I think he differentiated between Wally and I was that was that I much more vital to getting these courses done. I also suspect he viewed me as someone easier to manipulate and take advantage of. He asked to meet me the next day at a Starbucks for a "serious discussion."
I texted him later, saying that before I was even willing to discuss anything, he would have to sign both our invoices for the work so far. After not getting a response for some time, I texted him again asking to confirm when he got my message. Some more time went by, and he texted back, "yes." I said "Great I'll see you tomorrow."
The next morning, he sent a text delaying the meeting until an undisclosed time. That afternoon, he called again. "Listen very carefully," he said. "I am downstairs in my attorney's office. I need you to know that what you and Wally have done is legally untenable. I am pressing charges against him and his father for extortion, with you as an accomplice. I have showed my attorney all the documents and emails you have sent me, and he is outraged. I asked my attorney what they do to young people like you for crimes such as this... I don't want to do it... but you're pushing me into a corner." "Okay," I said "You want to tell me HOW this is blackmail and extortion? Neither Wally or I EVER threatened you." "It was like he was literally putting a gun to my head!" he replied. "LITERALLY putting a gun??? What the FUCK are you talking about? There was no gun. Explain to me how we threatened you. Tell me how you have grounds to sue us for extortion."
I'm not sure I have ever verbally torn into someone like I did that day. I asked him over and over again to explain how we threatened him, and he'd keep dodging the question by saying things like "I don't want to get into that." and "You are in a legally untenable situation, trust me. I have all the documents and emails. My attorney is furious." I asked him if this is how he treated people that paid his bills, bought him food and groceries, and gave him countless hours of our time to help him for no immediate compensation. He demanded I send him the audio. I told him I'd upload 3 out of 6 chapters and that he could take his pick. The other half belonged to Wally's father and he'd have to take it up with him. After he threatened me some more, I told him I no longer wished to be participate in the conversation. I agreed to send him the 3 chapters he requested, and got off the phone.
The next day he called me again. He was having some trouble downloading the files. I helped him through the usual process of walking him through his computer ineptitude, and he got them just fine. After this, he did a complete 180. He said he would like to meet us to sign a legally binding contract guaranteeing we would get paid with a notary public. He told me he dropped all charges. He even said he would give us a hefty bonus. "I love you guys Ryan, you know that," he said. I asked him then why he threatened to SUE us. He replied to that with, "Bygones be bygones... water under the bridge." (I am not making up this shit.)
I started wondering if he never had an attorney at all, or at least one that did not know the whole story behind the situation. When he called, he said he was "downstairs in his attorney's office," so that I couldn't ask to speak to him. I find it highly probable that he bullshat the whole thing, and without any real intent to sue, made that phone call for the sole purpose of scaring me into giving him what he wanted. He had told me to talk some sense into my friend... to not be an accomplice to this by withholding the audio from him. By accusing me of extortion (which I was not guilty of,) he actually committed the crime of extortion. Isn't the irony of that amazing?
We certainly weren't going to become official parts of his company, because it was highly likely at this point that he would be sued by University Y. Also, we knew Mr. Ick was an idiot incapable of accomplishing even simple tasks in a reliable manner. If he wanted us to do continue working with him, he would have to make us an offer that would both A.) Not tie ourselves to any responsibility for the company's dealings and B.) Be enough money to be worth it, and I didn't even know what that would be at this point. Wally told me he knew a lawyer that was more than willing to take Mr. Ick to small claims court if necessary, and get us our money by garnishing his future income until he died. I texted Mr. Ick and asked him to bring multiple copies of whatever contracts he was planning on bringing to the meeting so we could discuss them, and to let us know when it would be. He texted back: "K."
Mr. Ick repeatedly put off meeting with us, trying to avoid it entirely. Even though I told him we'd still have to meet to discuss how we could move forward, he said he would send us our signed invoices in our email. Days went by and he never sent them. I think he was both super pissed and kind of afraid of Wally because he hadn't even talked to him in almost 2 weeks. Eventually, instead of the invoices, he sent a contract he had written himself. On it, it said that I would get paid the $10000 for my time so far, but I would also have to continue working for him for 20 an hour and finish the course by a certain date. To paraphrase, I told him to either meet us for a serious discussion, or fuck off, because I was tired of this. If he could pay Wally's father for the audio he could have it, and if he could pay me for the .fla files as they were, he could have them. Oh yeah, he didn't send Wally shit either, but at least now I had something signed that says he owes me 10 grand.
Yesterday was exactly two weeks from the day at the McDonalds, and Mr. Ick has accomplished absolutely nothing except delay everything even more and piss everyone off. I called him and left a message asking one more time if he'd be willing to meet with us, and to let me know. I have not heard from him since. Wally told me Melvin had called. Apparently Mr. Ick called him and said he wanted to come in and do some more recording, and also asked if he could have another copy of the audio. He also told Melvin he would show up alone because Wally and I were on vacation. (hahahaha) When Wally told him he were still here Mr. Ick was out of money, Melvin said it was cool, he wouldn't even bother then. Mr. Ick is trying every possible option except even CONSIDERING a negotiation with us, no matter how convoluted, stupid, or pointless.
Still I have to say that I am impressed. I look at how far this man got with no money and no skills, just by manipulating people and convincing them he was worth their time. I'm even more impressed that he was willing to sacrifice everything, to the point of destroying his life and living in financial ruin, instead of making the smallest compromise. I'm amazed that he had been given EVERY opportunity to succeed and the ONLY thing keeping him from achieving everything was himself. The amount of people he has made commitments to are vast and poised, and it's only a matter of time before the entire world comes crumbling on top him. It will be impossible to hide that he's not the wealthy and respected "expert" that he so desires to be. There's kind of morbid beauty to that kind of unwavering stubbornness, until you take a step back and realize he's just a idiot with a an ego 10 billion light years in diameter.