Trial of Conscience
Emma Dolese walked around the small kitchen table, refilling their cups with coffee. Evin watched Sydney, astonished at the ease with which she related to her clients. The Doleses obviously liked Sydney, for both of them had greeted her warmly and hugged her. Sydney had asked them to repeat their story for Evin, skillfully questioning them to draw out more information. Her voice was strong, yet soothing. When Sydney looked at them, her eyes spoke with gentle reassurance and acceptance. When they looked at Sydney, Evin could see the trust. Sydney's right. They're not lying. Jesus, how could you lie when she looks at you like that?
"Evin? Do you have any questions?"
Sydney's voice brought her out of her musings. "Yes. Thanks....Um, Mr. Dolese...."
Willie Dolese chuckled. "Call me Willie. Everybody does."
"Okay, Willie. What's the gossip around here about this?"
"Well, Miss Moran, people around here aren't saying too much. 'Cept for a few of us farmers, everybody around here works for Hynes in some way, either directly or doing contract jobs for them, so none of 'em are gonna bite the hand that feeds 'em. Hell, what with Sonny Boudreaux losing his land a few months ago, there's only five of us independents left farming in this parish."
"Why did Sonny Boudreaux lose his land?" Evin asked.
"Don't really know. He had a bad harvest and then he had a couple of major equipment breakdowns that cost him a lot of money to fix. I guess he ran out of money."
"Who's got his land now?"
Willie shrugged, "I don't know."
"When I went to town the other day, I saw Thelma." Emma offered. "She told me that she saw Sonny a couple of weeks ago and that he was working for Hynes and still living in his house."
Sydney watched as Evin leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table. The blue eyes flashed as Evin pressed her questions. "When did he lose his land?"
"Musta been January or February? Emma?"
"I think February."
"What happened? Did the bank foreclose? Did he sell it?"
"I don't know." Willie looked to his wife, asking an unspoken question.
"I never heard anything about it, " she answered.
Evin stood up abruptly. "I'm going to the car to make some calls." She pushed a pad over to Sydney. "I've written some questions down. Go over these with them."
Now we're getting somewhere. She felt a surge of energy renew her body and mind. She loved the game. You were either prey or predator, fleeing or attacking. And to Evin, the most glorious feeling of all was when the prey turned on its unsuspecting predator, reaching in and wrenching out its heart, the look of shock and disbelief, the screams of agony as the predator realized it was not invincible, that it could be defeated. Pale blue eyes glittered preternaturally as a feral grin crossed her lips. I shall enjoy watching Hynes die.
She reached for the car door handle, pulling the door open, half turning and bending to enter her car. A violent explosion of sound and sensation engulfed her senses. Glass shattering. The sharp report of rifle fire. A burning sensation. She dove the rest of the way into the car, pressing herself as flat as she could, ignoring the gearshift jammed into her ribs. The sound of an engine starting. A warm trickle of something seeping through her hair and down her neck.
She looked up to see a dust cloud at the end of the dirt road, taillights shining through and heading to the right. Jamming the keys into the ignition and turning, adrenaline rushed through her as the car roared to life. You'd better run far and fast, you bastards, 'cause I'm coming to get you.
Sydney's heart was in her throat. She made it to the front porch in time to see the BMW accelerating down the dirt road, then watched as it took a right turn without slowing down, the tires screaming in protest as the car hit the asphalt. Willie and Emma appeared behind her, Willie brandishing his shotgun once again.
"What happened?" Willie asked anxiously, seeing no sign of the tall attorney or the car.
"I don't know." A wave of fear rolled through Sydney. She tried to will her body to stop shaking. It wouldn't.
"Should we call the police?" Emma asked.
"Yes," spoke a shaky voice.
"Come on back inside, honey," Emma said soothingly, putting her arm around Sydney's shoulders.
"I'll go down the road and use the phone." Willie moved off the front porch and walked to where the car had been. Looking down, he spotted small nuggets of safety glass. He crouched, picking up a few of the shards, following a line of sight from the road through the glass up to the house. He got up and walked straight towards the house, tracking the imaginary line. His hand reached out and touched the wood on the steps of the front porch. Three holes were visible, the wood splintered around them, the pattern tight. This ain't nobody taking potshots at the mailbox. He climbed into his truck and headed for his nearest neighbor and a phone.
The wind roared through the broken front door window as the speedometer needle climbed rapidly. The set of the muscles in the dark face intensified its natural angles and planes. There was no thought but of the prey. Everything else was pure animal instinct, her body responding without thought to the signals gathered by her senses, the feel of the road, the response of the car, the images revealed by the headlights. Two strong hands gripped the steering wheel, maneuvering the car deftly along the winding road next to the river, a foot pressing and releasing the accelerator.
As she took each curve, she expected to see the taillights of her prey, but none appeared. A long stretch of straight road loomed in front and the accelerator slammed down to the floor. The car surged forward, the wind ripping through the window drowning the animal sounds emitted by the driver as she felt the power increase. Still no taillights appeared. There was no question in her mind that this was not some random happenstance. Hynes will die at my hand. Slowly...so very slowly. And I will take great pleasure in it. Her tongue licked her lips unconsciously.
A decision was made. The BMW slid smoothly to a halt. Pale blue eyes peered down the road, focused sharply, the car and its occupant eerily still. Fifteen minutes and nothing. Not a vehicle in sight. "You can run, but you can't hide forever. I will hunt you down," she promised to the night, her voice hauntingly low and chilling the air around her. The hum of the powerful engine matched by the thrum of the soul of its occupant were the only sounds in the night. Slowly, the car turned and eased back into the night, its driver reaching for the cellular phone.
Evin turned onto the dirt road, greeted by red and blue lights flashing atop two police cars now parked in front of the small house. Willie and two policemen were standing in front of the front porch steps, Willie pointing at something. She eased the BMW next to them and got out.
"You okay?" Willie called out as he walked over to the car.
"Yeah, tried to follow them, but I lost 'em."
One of the policemen stuck his hand out towards her. "Officer Rodrigue. You mind telling us what happened?"
Evin took his hand. "Evin Moran." She looked at the other officer who had moved to the BMW and was inspecting the door. She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. I walked out here to use the phone and the next thing I...umph." Evin felt the impact of a small body against her back, arms wrapping around her waist.
A sob escaped Sydney as she gripped the taller woman tightly. "Thank God you're okay," she murmured into the back.
Evin could feel the smaller woman shaking. She's scared. Without thinking, she turned around in her arms and bent hear head down, one hand cupping the smaller woman's face, the other arm encircling the small woman's shoulder and pulling her closer. "Hey, hey, Sydney, relax, it's okay. I'm fine."
Teary green eyes desperately looked into hers, searching for the truth in that statement. "I...I...thought...oh God..." With another sob she buried her face into Evin's chest.
Evin wrapped her other arm around Sydney and held her. "It's okay, Sydney. It's okay." How long has it been since someone cried in concern for you and not because you caused it? The little voice answered 'Never, unless you count your mother .'
"Ms. Moran, uh, can we continue?"
Evin glared at the officer. Sydney started to move away, but Evin didn't relinquish her hold. The young woman was still shaking. "As I was saying, I came out here to use the phone. I opened the door and started to get in the car. That's when I heard the shots, three, I think. I dove into the car and then I heard an engine start up. When I looked up, I saw taillights heading south. I tried to follow them, but I never caught up. Then I turned around and came back here."
"Did you see anybody?"
"Didn't see a soul. Don't even know what kind of vehicle, although I suspect from the shape and height of the taillights that it was a truck."
Officer Rodrigue looked around. "There's not much else we can do here. Pulled three slugs out of the front of the steps. Took some pictures of the glass and the bullet holes." He paused, his eyes settling back on the two women. "Any idea why someone tried to kill you?"
"No, not a one." Evin answered calmly. Sydney started to say something, but stopped when she felt pressure from Evin's arm.
"Well, we're gonna go back to the station and finish writing up the report. I'll need you to come in and sign your statement."
"That's fine. I have to be back here tomorrow morning on business so I'll stop by and sign it then."
"Sure thing. Sorry this happened, folks" Officer Rodrigue said as he ambled away, heading to his police cruiser. "Come on, Dwayne, let's go."
Sydney took a step back as Evin relaxed her hold. Blue eyes caught green. "You okay?"
Sydney looked down and took a deep breath. "Yeah, I'll be fine."
"Hey," Evin said softly. "Look at me."
Green eyes still filled with tears looked back up.
"It's all going to be okay. Trust me. We'll figure all this out. Okay?"
"Okay." And Sydney believed it.
They sat quietly at the kitchen table, all eyes on Evin. She looked at each of them, the questions, the apprehension dancing in the eyes. Do you ever look into anyone's eyes, looking for answers to your questions? 'No' the little voice sadly replied, 'You won't even ask the questions.'
"Okay, folks, this is what's going to happen. Willie, Emma, I need you to meet us in court tomorrow morning. It's Division C, Judge Keller. The motion is set for nine, but I want you to be there by eight in case I have any more questions for you. Sydney and I will meet you there. Now, I know we went over the bankruptcy option, but I won't use it unless I feel we have absolutely no chance to defeat this motion. There's a lot of people out here working on this as we speak, so I don't think it will come down to that."
Sydney's eyes lit up with surprise. Other people out there? Who? Out where? Working on what?
Evin continued as she pulled a cellular phone and business card out of her briefcase, "These are all my numbers." She turned the card over and wrote on the back. "This is my private line and my home number. I'm leaving this cellular phone and charger with you. If you think of anything, anything at all, no matter how remote, call me on the private line first, then try all the other numbers." She held up the cellular phone and asked, "Do you know how to use this?"
Willie took it from her. "Yeah, my cousin Eddie's got one."
She stood and extended her hand to Willie. "We'll see you later this morning. Try to get some rest. This will all work out."
His eyes met and held hers, and she could see hope chasing belief. I hope I don't disappoint you. She turned to Emma and nodded. "Sydney, you ready?
"Can I just run to the restroom?"
"Sure, I'll be waiting in the car."
Evin sat in the car, the engine idling. Propping one elbow on the door, she leaned her head into her hand. Ouch! Forgot about that. Sydney came out onto the front porch and hugged both her clients goodbye. Evin watched her, her small hand reaching out and touching Emma, then Willie as she spoke to them, a gentle smile gracing her face. A good, kind soul. How'd she get involved in the devil's business? You sell your soul practicing law.
Sydney climbed into the car and fastened her seatbelt. She sighed and looked over at Evin. "This is just beginning, isn't it?" The question was more rhetorical than answer seeking.
"Yes, it is." Evin said quietly. "Listen, after the hearing tomorrow, I think the clinic should withdraw from representation and let me handle it."
"You can kiss my sweet ass, Evin Moran. I started this and I'm going to finish it."
Evin was surprised at the tenacity in the small woman's voice. "I don't think you realize what's about to happen. You think getting shot at is scary? If what I think is going on really is, by the time all of this is over with, you'll be wishing somebody would shoot you, just to put an end to it. This isn't some default divorce the clinic handles. There won't be any rules to the game and everything's a target. Only one side will be left standing, just barely, when it's over."
"I can handle it," Sydney retorted stubbornly.
"You ever played winner take all in anything, Sydney? You prepared to risk school, your career, your family, everything, Sydney? Everything? 'Cause that's what we're playing for now, and it comes with a big price. It's not just about the Dolese farm anymore. You prepared to pay that price?"
"Is that what happened with Landau?"
"This isn't Landau."
"You won Landau."
"Yes, but there's always a price. Nothing's for free in this life, Sydney."
"If somebody told you this then, would you have withdrawn from the case?"
That's one of the questions you've never asked yourself, isn't it, Evin? Was the price you paid worth it? Is there really anything worth risking it all for? Why did you go to law school? It wasn't for the money or the power, was it? As corny as it sounds, admit it, you went to law school because you wanted to fight for the little guy, right wrongs, avenge the injustice and cruelty that man inflicts on his fellow man. All that stuff you sneer at now. But why are you willing to risk it all again? Because you know in that thing you call a heart that's the way that practicing law's supposed to be. Would you have walked away so long ago? No, you wouldn't have. You don't have it in you. Just like you can't walk away now.
Sydney waited for Evin's answer, watching as emotions she couldn't name stormed through the pale blue eyes, the brow furrowed in thought, the knuckles turning white as she gripped the steering wheel. What was the price she paid? The price she's still paying?
Evin finally spoke. "No, I wouldn't have withdrawn."
"Was it worth it?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. How do you quantify something qualitative in order to make a comparison between what you've gained versus what you've lost? And how do you compare individual gain or loss with a societal gain or loss? There aren't any easy answers to those questions."
Sydney thought about the questions. No, there isn't any easy answers, is there? "Why are you doing this again?"
Evin started to reply and stopped. I was going to say because I got roped into it, but that's not really true, is it? You have absolutely no trouble saying 'no' when you want to. "I don't know."
"I went to law school because...well, you'll think this is really sappy...but, I, uh, I want to make a difference in this world. And...I...there's so much stuff that goes on that's just...not...right, not fair, you know." Green eyes looked into Evin's, then shyly looked back down. "And there's so many people who don't have the strength or resources to stand up for themselves. A lot of people at school.... They just don't understand that it's not about the money...or anything else. Just helping. At least it is for me."
Sydney reached over and placed her hand on top of Evin's hand as it rested on the gearshift. "I'm not naïve enough to think that this is going to be easy. I'm also not foolish enough to lie to you and say that I know what's going to happen and all the ramifications of it." Her voice was soft and sincere. "The only thing I do know, and I feel it with all my heart, is that I'm supposed to be doing this. I can't back out now. I won't let you down. I know one call to Professor Rayburn and you can have your motion. Please don't do that. Please let me stay on this case. Please let this be my choice."
Evin's mind screamed No! No! No! You can't let her. Evin looked down at the small hand holding hers then returned her gaze to Sydney's face. Looking into green eyes, open and honest, baring Sydney's soul, one heart spoke to another, though neither was aware. "Your choice, Sydney. Anytime you want out, let me know."
"I'd wait for awhile before you do that, Sydney Parker."
They spent the time driving back outlining the strategy that would be used in the court tomorrow. They had stopped at Sydney's apartment and picked up some clothes for her to wear to court in a few hours. It was close to two in the morning when they pulled into the parking garage. Sydney was surprised to see the number of cars parked there.
"What are all these cars doing here at this hour?"
"They better belong to the people who are upstairs working."
"Rule one, Sydney, rule number one."
When they got off the elevator, Sydney stopped and her jaw dropped. It's busier than it was during the day. People sat behind desks and more people were spread out all over Evin's office and conference room. Sydney recognized Rachel, Randy, and Alice. "What are all these people doing here?"
"Hopefully working, 'cause if they're not, I'm paying a lot of overtime for nothing." Evin grinned at her and said, "Come on. Now the real fun starts."
Standing behind her desk, she called out "Everybody, in here for a second." She waited as they all gathered around her. "Sydney, come here." She motioned Sydney to her side. "Everybody, this is Sydney Parker. She's from Loyola Clinic and we're going to help her out on a case. Big bad evil corporation versus poor farmer. Everybody who went to law school for the right reasons, here's a case you can sink your teeth into. Everybody who went for the wrong reasons, well, you'll get a bonus for this." A few snickers of laughter floated around the room.
Sydney looked around as Evin's vibrant rich voice rolled through the room. Every pair of eyes was locked on the tall dark woman.
"This is crunch time. I need first drafts of everything on my desk in a half an hour. If you've got something now, bring it to me. We're in Killer Keller's court in seven hours, out of here in five."
Someone called out from the back of the room "You'd better bring twenty this time." The comment caused more laughter to ripple throughout the room and a few murmurs of agreement.
"I think you might be right." Evin flashed a rakish grin at the group. "Let's get on it."
Sydney watched as everyone left. "What's going on? What are all these people working on?"
"Pull up a chair." Evin sat down and ran a hand through her hair.
"Evin!" Sydney was up out of her chair and at Evin's side in the blink of an eye. "What happened? Is this blood?" Small hands ran through the dark hair, following the line of blood that had been revealed when Evin had moved her hair.
"Ow!" Evin winced as Sydney found the raw spot on her scalp.
"What the hell happened? I thought you said you were okay." Sydney was parting the hair, trying to figure out where the cut began and ended.
"It's just a little blood, Sydney. It's okay."
"What did you do, hit your head when you dove into the car?"
"Uh...well...I....." Come on, Moran, you're a lawyer. Put this into words that will explain it, but won't, without lying, so she can assume it was from diving into the car. "Um...I...uh... sustained an injury...in...uh...close proximity to the...uh...time frame in which the gun was fired." There!....God, that was soooo lame. It's so much easier when I do it to get somebody else's ass out of trouble.
Sydney exploded. "What!"
"Sydney, you don't have to scream. I'm right here and there's nothing wrong with my hearing."
"You got shot! And you're trying some damn lawyer double talk on me!"
A couple of heads popped through the office door, amused to find their boss sitting in her leather chair, looking sheepishly at the small law student who had a particularly ferocious look on her face. The heads quickly retreated as soon as their boss spotted them and nailed them with a glare that could melt a glacier at a thousand paces.
Pale blue eyes looked at Sydney, pleading, "Sydney, calm down. Please don't yell. I really forgot about it. It's not bad."
"You may think not, but I think it's affected your legal reasoning ability." Sydney said sarcastically. "That was pitiful. A first year law student could've come up with something better than that. 'Close proximity' my butt."
"Hey, don't add insult to injury."
"Come on, let's go clean this off." Sydney tugged on the lawyer's arm and led her to the bathroom.
Evin sat on the counter, her head tilted forward, as Sydney cleaned the abrasion on her scalp.
"Is life always this exciting around you?"
Evin smirked. "This is excitement I can live without."
"Not just this, all the other stuff you do."
"Nah.... Ow!.... Watch it! It's pretty boring actually."
"I wouldn't call saving a five million dollar property deal and settling a twenty six million dollar case boring."
"Things are not always as they seem."
Evin raised an eyebrow in question. "Rule three?"
"Yeah. You told me rule one is 'Whatever it takes.' I figured rule two was 'Everybody lies.' So this must be rule three."
Evin chuckled. "Actually, it is rule three."
Sydney tilted her head to the side and asked, "Are there any more of these rules I should know about?"
"A few. I'm sure we'll get to them."
Evin looked up from behind her desk to Sydney's small form sleeping on the couch. How can she sleep through the traffic in and out of here? A little after three, Evin had finally insisted that Sydney try to get some sleep. The young woman looked exhausted, dark circles clearly visible under her eyes. She tried to stifle her yawns, but Evin had finally bullied her into taking a nap on the couch, arguing that Sydney's yawning was infectious and likely to cause the entire staff to fall asleep. Sydney agreed only after Evin swore on the lives of all the Supreme Court justices that she would wake her up if she needed her. Evin only wanted to swear on the lives of the conservative justices, but Sydney had laughed, saying that would provide no incentive at all for Evin to wake her up.
It was a few minutes before six. All the pleadings were finished except for one, but it didn't matter, because this pleading wasn't going with them to Judge Keller's court in St. Charles Parish. Evin had already showered and changed. They'd have to leave by seven to get to the courthouse by eight to discuss the developments during the night with their clients. Several of her investigators had yet to check in, and their findings would dictate the path she would choose.
She stood at the round table in her office, sipping a cup of coffee, reviewing her mental notes. Motion to Enroll as Co-Counsel of Record. That's a given, but then with Keller, you never know. Motion for Continuance. Won't be granted, but hey, ya gotta try. Motion to Dismiss. Funny . Peremptory Exception of No Right of Action. Possible, might even buy us some time. Supplemental Affidavits. Won't be served in time, but he might let 'em in. Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Record. Sydney's not going to like this one. I'll have to do some serious explaining. Bankruptcy Petition. Need to have them sign and send it back with Claudia, just in case.
She hefted a thick document in her hand, the draft of the unfinished pleading that, if filed, would start a war. What did that professor used to say? Once you've rung the litigation bell, there's no turning back. She harbored no delusions that the war she would start would be civilized, fought within legal constraints. Quite the contrary, in fact. Favors would be called in. It would get very personal and lives would be ruined, some deservedly and others just innocent casualties, friendly fire so to speak, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The power of the law shaped by the written word. I have that power here in my hand. A simple phrase from me, 'File it,' and it starts. Irreversible consequences, some unintended, many unpredictable. The question is, if it comes down to it, will I have the guts to use it?
She glanced at her watch. Six fifteen. Time to get Sydney up. Walking to the couch, Evin bent down and gently shook Sydney's shoulder. "Sydney. Hey, Sydney. Rise and shine."
The response was a groan and a shifting of Sydney's body away from the offending hand shaking her shoulder.
The hand didn't go away though and shook a little harder. "Come on Sydney, up and at 'em."
Sydney groaned again, but this time eyelids fluttered and finally opened. "Ungh, go away...need more sleep."
The low voice was stronger, firmer this time. "Sydney, there's corporate ass out there waiting to be kicked and we're wearing the boots. Let's go. Head for the shower. You've got forty minutes."
Sydney sat up on the couch, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand. Sleepy green eyes, half opened, peered up at the tall woman standing before her. "How tall are you?"
"What?" Evin asked, her face scrunching up as if she was trying to comprehend the simple question. Incongruous. Evin's entire focus was on the case. There was simply no other thoughts. Anything that did not pertain to the case was either dismissed outright or stored away in some small area of her brain that served as a cache, to be reviewed and cleaned out later.
"It's not a hard question. I was just wondering how tall you were. I looked up and up and it made the vertebra pop in my neck. Felt really good, actually," Sydney chuckled. "Nice stretching exercise."
"A...uh...a little over six feet."
"Guess so," Evin shrugged. "Never really thought about it."
"Well, I guess I'll go take that shower. Towels in the cabinet?"
"Yeah," Evin answered absently as she watched the law student head for the bathroom, her mind still trying to make Sydney's question fit in, somehow, logically with the case.
The blue BMW, followed by two other vehicles, sped along the two-lane highway towards the courthouse. They had gone over everything for the final time, and even made it through another argument over Sydney's possible withdrawal from the case. Evin again acquiesced to Sydney's wish to remain on the case. They were fifteen minutes away from the courthouse.
"Where did this car come from?"
"The car. This one's blue. The other one was green, missing a window? Remember?" She can process complicated legal questions in a millisecond, but she can't answer simple ones. Amazing.
"Yeah, I remember," Evin replied with a touch of sarcasm. "Had the dealer come get the other one and give me a loaner early this morning."
"Your dealer's open that early?"
Where are these questions coming from? Better yet, why the hell are we discussing this? "My firm leases fourteen of them from him. I guess he'd rather get up early than lose the leases."
"Okay." The answer seemed to satisfy Sydney. "What are these people that are coming with us going to do?"
Evin worked alone, always had. She used support staff, but when it was show time, she was it. It wasn't ego or pride. She was never very good at explaining her thought processes and why she did what she did. It was simply instinct to her. Her mind operated at the speed of light. And questions drove her crazy. It slowed her mind down, something she didn't tolerate well at all. When she had to stop and really think about how she had arrived at a conclusion, or why she chose a particular course of action, it gave her a headache. Like the one she was getting now.
I hate those five words - who, what, why, where, how. At least when they're in a sentence directed to me. Letting her irritation show in her voice, she said, "Claudia's going to file all the pleadings and take the signed bankruptcy petition back to the office and wait for our call, if we have to file it. Randy's going to research the filings in the Conveyance office about the land."
"Hey, you don't have to get snippy with me. I just like to know what's going on." Sydney snapped.
Evin's nostrils flared slightly, several retorts springing to mind, but none escaped her lips. Shit! She just pushes your buttons so fast, doesn't she? Her inner voice chided 'Not used to answering questions, are ya big girl?' Shut up! Calm down. Don't react. This is screwing with your focus. Get it back. Yeah. That's it. Good.
Sydney looked out the window as the scenery flew past, eyes not really seeing. She was just trying to get her mind off the upcoming hearing. Her stomach was in knots. She was scared. Scared for the Dolese family, scared that she somehow would be the cause of any loss, scared of what would happen if they did indeed win this hearing somehow and what would happen after.
Would Evin back out of the case and let her continue alone once the hearing was over? She hoped not. But after all, Evin's got other clients and it's obvious her practice is extremely busy. There's no money to make here, strictly pro bono, so why would she continue? She had no hope before she had met the lawyer in Professor Rayburn's office. But once she had looked into those eyes, she knew that everything was going to be all right. She couldn't explain it if she had to. It was just a feeling, and Sydney believed in feelings.
"I'm sorry I snapped at you." Sydney turned away from the window to look at Evin. The tall woman was silent. "Can I ask you a question?"
Not trusting herself to simply explode at the younger woman for yet another assault on her focus, Evin nodded her head yes.
"Do you ever get scared?"
"Yeah." From the look on her face, I think I might need to tell her the definition of the word.
"Never really thought about it." Have I? Do I get scared?
"Were you scared when you were handling Landau?"
Evin laughed, surprising herself. "No. Guess I was too young and too dumb to know any better. Probably should have been though." She's scared! Say something! "Uh...the best trial lawyer I knew, well...he...he told me that he threw up every morning before he went into court. It didn't make a difference whether he had a slam-dunk case or a dog. It was always the same, he threw up." A thought flashed through Evin's mind. "Hey! You don't need to throw up or anything, do you?"
"No. My stomach's in knots, but I don't think I'm going to throw up."
"Good," Evin sighed, relieved to see the courthouse down the road. Damn, I haven't even listened to my CD.
For the last fifty five minutes, they were all outside the courtroom, huddled around Evin as she issued instructions, took phone calls and met with investigators that showed up to report their findings. The action had been fast and furious. Now, they were in the courtroom, taking a seat in the first row, just behind the defendant's table. They were seventeenth on the docket, so it would be a while before the case was called.
The courthouse was a relatively new building and each courtroom was large enough to hold one hundred spectators, who sat on benches reminiscent of church pews. In front of the benches, a solid railing ran the length of the courtroom. In front of the railing, two tables sat, one for the plaintiff and one for the defendant. The court reporter, clerk, and court deputy all had desks which sat to the side and partially in front of the dais on which the judge's bench rested.
Sydney sat next to the tall woman who had taken the seat at the end of the bench next to the aisle. The lawyer was dressed in a black tailored suit and white silk shirt. Other than diamond studs in her ears and a watch, she wore no jewelry. Her legs were crossed and one arm was thrown over the back of the bench, causing her to lean slightly towards Sydney. She was staring at the ornate ceiling, something there obviously having captured her interest. Sydney herself kept fidgeting, crossing and re-crossing her legs, trying to find something to do with her hands. The Doleses sat next to Sydney like two pieces of stone, the apprehension and fear they were feeling plainly showing on their faces.
How does she do that? Five minutes ago, she was firm, commanding, no-nonsense and now...now she's just sprawled out on this bench, like she doesn't have a care in the world, staring at the ceiling. Well, she really doesn't have a care, does she? She can walk away after this hearing, win or lose, and it's got no effect on her.
Sydney's musings were interrupted by the judge's deputy calling the court to order. His raspy loud voice called out "Hear ye! Hear ye! The court of the Honorable Harold Keller is now in session. All rise!"
All present rose as the Honorable Harold Keller ascended from his chambers door to take his seat behind the bench. All, that is, except for Evin Moran.
In Sydney's later retelling of the events of this day to her fellow law students, Sydney would swear that it took the tall woman five minutes to finally get to her feet. And when she did, the tall woman appeared five inches taller; her broad shoulders five inches wider. She would also swear that the lawyer called to her mind the image of a cobra...poised...still...light eyes now black...an expressionless face...the edges of pearly white canine teeth barely visible under lips that were curled slightly in a way that could either be interpreted as a snarl or a smile. It caused a chill to run through Sydney's heart and a silent prayer to run through her mind thanking whatever god happened to be listening that she was on Evin's side.
Then the judge took his seat, already looking down at the court docket in front of him, and bid the court "Good morning." His slightly nasal, high-pitched voice came over the courtroom speakers, accompanied by some feedback that Evin thought sounded better than his voice.
All present in the court mumbled "Good morning, Your Honor," as they assumed their seats. All, that is, except Evin Moran, who remained standing. She waited two beats behind every other "good morning" and then she finally spoke. "Good Morning, Judge Keller." The luxurious, velvety, low voice swept across the room.
His head snapped up at the sound of her voice. With her eyes fixed on his, she sat, resuming her leisurely pose. Sydney wasn't sure, but she thought she detected a flash of anger in his eyes. Great! She's already pissing off the judge.
An hour and twenty minutes later, the Court had made it through the first ten cases on the docket. Judge Keller called for a short recess. Evin got up and headed out into the hall. Sydney followed her out, telling the Doleses to wait.
She caught the tall lawyer in the hall. "Did you have to piss him off before we even got up there?"
She shrugged, then rolled her head around loosening up her neck. "The fact that I still breathe pisses off Keller."
"He was one of the attorneys on Landau. Got brought up before the disciplinary board. He's still a little pissed about that whole thing."
"Well, you don't have to antagonize him."
"Sydney, every time I appear in front of Keller, I get fined for contempt. It doesn't matter if I kiss his judicial ass on the bench in front of the whole court, so I might as well have a little fun." A slow, evil smile curled on her lips. "Hell, I figure it's gonna cost me twenty thousand today. He keeps doubling his fine. Last time it was ten."
"Oh God!" she groaned. "Do you think that's going to happen today?"
"Don't see why not," she said matter of factly. "He's gonna break his gavel when he figures out what case I'm here on." Another smile crossed her lips.
"You're being awfully cavalier about this," Sydney scolded.
"Just realistic, Sydney. Come on, time to go back in."
They walked back to the courtroom in silence. Evin put her hand on Sydney's shoulder and stopped her in the doorway. She bent down and whispered, "By the way, there's signed blank firm checks in my briefcase so you can pay my fine if he puts me in jail this time."
The law student just nodded her head, took a deep breath, and tried to figure out what she had ever done wrong in her life to put her in this place, at this time, with this woman who, it was becoming clearer to Sydney with each tick of the clock, was one volume short of a set of statutes.
"Case number 98-2236, Hynes Refining Corporation versus William and Emma Dolese. Motion for Summary Judgment." The clerk called the case and handed the file to Judge Keller.
When Sydney heard the case name called the small knots in her stomach seemed to ravel even tighter. She glanced up at the tall lawyer who had already risen. The cobra had returned. The look in the lawyer's eyes made her think briefly that there should be some type of hypnotic music in the background. Sydney stood up and squeezed Emma's shoulder, giving her clients a reassuring smile as she picked up her briefcase. She followed Evin to the defendant's table.
A blonde haired woman in a pink suit and a frilly, lighter pink shirt followed by a man in IBM corporate attire walked to the plaintiff's table, the man speaking as he walked. "Scott Harwood and Dorinda Pratt for Hynes Refining, Your Honor."
"Sydney Parker and Evin Moran for the defendants, William and Emma Dolese." Evin's rich voice vibrated through the courtroom. Three pairs of eyes belonging to the plaintiff's attorneys and the judge were now glued on Evin. She started towards the bench, asking as she went, "May I approach?" and continued without waiting for an answer. She handed the judge a copy of the pleadings that had been filed earlier. Then she walked to the plaintiff's table and handed Scott Harwood and Dorinda Pratt each a set. "One each," she said, smiling and winking, "so you don't have to share." Slightly disconcerted stares were the only response from the two. "You're welcome," she called out, moving to take her place at the defendant's table.
"Your Honor, there are several matters to address prior to the Motion for Summary Judgment. The first pleading is a Motion to Enroll as Co-Counsel of Record."
Amazed, Sydney hovered between standing and sitting for a moment as she watched Evin. She smoothed out her skirt and sat down. She's just waltzed in, taken over, and nobody's even said a word, not even the judge.
"Isn't it a little late for you to be coming on this case, Ms. Moran?" The judge's voice clearly reflected his displeasure with Evin's appearance.
"No, Your Honor," she drawled. Go ahead, try to deny the motion .
"We usually don't have lawyers coming in on the last day of the case. This is highly unusual."
"Well, Your Honor, hopefully it won't be the 'last day' and if my clients don't object, I'm not sure what harm there is in allowing me to enroll. After all, it is my malpractice insurance on the line here." She waited several beats. "In addition to taking on this case, I am also Ms. Parker's clinic advisor." Either way, buddy, you can't get rid of me. Grant the motion and save some face, you idiot.
Sydney looked up at her in surprise. I didn't know she was my new clinic advisor.
The judge looked at the now seated plaintiff's attorneys. "Any objections?"
"None, Your Honor," Dorinda Pratt answered.
"Motion to Enroll granted."
"The next pleading is a Motion to Continue."
"Ms. Parker already filed one and it was denied." He glared at Evin. "I'm denying this one as well."
"Your Honor, there are new grounds for granting a continuance. I'm sure, if you would bother to read it, you will..."
Sydney looked at Evin, trying to decide if she was just downright crazy, or crazy like a fox, baiting the judge. Not only does she look like a cobra ready to strike, but that voice...a low, rich, velvety drawl, it wraps around you and squeezes like a boa constrictor. To add credence to her thoughts, the judge's eyes popped out of his head at Evin's last words.
Judge Keller's cheeks started to get red. "Ms. Moran! You walk a very thin line every time you appear before me. You will not show this Court any disrespect."
Evin continued as if he hadn't spoken. "...see that a witness, Angela Battiste, has been located who can substantiate our clients' claim that Hynes did, in fact, receive the mortgage payments and failed to deposit them."
She doesn't react to him at all. She just keeps on going, Sydney thought.
"Do you have an affidavit from the witness?" The judge asked, still refusing to read the document.
"Not at this time, Your Honor." Evin replied. "The location of the witness was only discovered this morning. The continuance...."
"Motion for Continuance denied."
"...will allow us to obtain the affidavit."
"I said it was denied."
Sydney looked at the tall woman standing next to her, her hands clasped behind her back. The pale blue eyes never left the judge. Her face was calm and relaxed.
"Your Honor, I respectfully request that you reconsider...."
"Enough! Your request is denied. Your motion is denied! Move on, Ms. Moran, you're wasting the Court's time."
You're wasting good air. "The next documents are the Supplemental Affidavits of William Dolese and Emma Dolese."
"Objection!" Scott Harwood stood up. "Move to strike from the record. We haven't been served with those. And it's inside the statutory limit of ten days for filing and serving affidavits."
"This information was only discovered last night, Your Honor."
"And your law student's had this case for how long, Ms. Moran, and she couldn't come up with this information sooner?"
A few minor facts had come to light last night that, while not case-breakers, would certainly bolster their previous affidavits and help should an appeal be needed. It wasn't Sydney's fault. Willie even said that he remembered Sydney asking him the questions before, but he hadn't recalled the information then. It happens to all lawyers. Standing outside the courtroom right before trial, your client walks up to you and says "Oh, by the way, you know that question you asked me fourteen times and I kept saying no to? Well, I remember now. I should have said yes. Is it going to make a difference?" And all you can see is the case sprouting wings and flying out the window.
Sydney felt all the muscles in her body tense as the judge spoke. That son of a bitch! I worked my ass off and he's implying that I'm incompetent . She glared at him. She wanted to stand up and tell him something, but she wasn't quite sure what. Everything that came to mind wasn't particularly appropriate for a courtroom. Then she looked up at Evin. What's she going to do? She could hang me out to dry here. Blame it all on the little incompetent law student.
You rotten bastard! Evin felt the anger explode inside her, her blood pulsing in response, her hands clenching and unclenching. I ought to rip that black robe off his scrawny ass and beat him with his own gavel. Her pale blue eyes now dark and cold, she leaned forward and rested both hands on the table. Her pulse beat stronger in her neck as she fixed her target in her sights.
"My law student has a name." Evin's chilling voice cut through the air, as sharp as a knife whose steel was forged by white-hot rage. "Ms. Parker did her job very well and your implication that she didn't is unwarranted and insulting. When you actually tried to practice law, I recall a case where your clients weren't particularly forthcoming with information despite your diligent efforts to obtain it from them. Or at least that's what you told the Disciplinary Board."
The judge's face registered shock, then disbelief, and finally rage as he listened to Evin. He snatched his gavel up and the sharp crack of wood on wood was heard as he pounded his bench. His voice went up two octaves as he screamed, "You are in contempt! I'm fining you twenty thousand dollars and filing a complaint with the Bar. Court is in recess for ten minutes. I suggest, Ms. Moran, that you take this time to calm down so we can continue with this matter." Judge Keller vacated the bench and headed for his chambers.
Twenty grand. He's so predictable. The other three times he had fined her for contempt, she had been upset with herself for letting him get to her. But this time, a small sense of satisfaction stole its way into her consciousness. I've spent more on things worth much less than Sydney. That thought surprised her. "Come on, Sydney, let's go get me calmed down," she drawled, her voice giving no indication of the angry energy she could feel humming through her body.
Lost in thought, Sydney didn't hear Evin. I can't believe she didn't hang me out to dry. She actually stood up for me. I don't think I've ever had my honor defended quite do ferociously before. A hand on her shoulder made her jump. "Um...what?"
"Let's step outside for a minute." She regarded the smaller woman for a moment, unable to read her face. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm...uh...okay." She said as she stood up. "Let me just tell Willie and Emma to wait here."
Sitting down outside the court, they were silent for a few minutes, Evin trying to wrestle her anger at the judge under control and Sydney trying to process everything that had just occurred.
Sydney broke the silence. "Evin...um...thanks for saying what you did in there."
Evin looked at her, one eyebrow raising as she heard Sydney's tone of voice. "You sound surprised."
Sydney looked down. "I...well...I...you could have blamed it on me." Her eyes lifted and looked into Evin's. "I mean, it would have been easier to...uh...let them think it was my fault. It could have given us good grounds for an appeal. And now you've got to pay all that money."
A flicker of pain was visible in the pale blue eyes before the steel curtain dropped as Evin realized Sydney had expected her to take the easy way out and blame her. Everybody expects you to be a totally ruthless bitch. Take advantage of any opportunity. Fuck over anybody to win. So why should she be any different? She felt her anger return full force. Standing up, she said coldly, "Time to go back in."
Court reconvened with the judge warning Evin that he would tolerate no further inappropriate behavior from her.
"Now where were we?" Judge Keller snarled.
Evin stood, fighting the urge to leap across the table and shove his gavel up his ass. "We were addressing the Supplemental Affidavits of William and Emma Dolese.
"We're renewing our objection, Your Honor." Scott Harwood stood and spoke.
"In the interest of justice, the Court should consider the affidavits and, at the very least, grant a continuance to allow opposing counsel time to review and respond."
"No continuances! Bring it up one more time, Ms. Moran, and I'll fine you for contempt again and put you in jail." The judge looked at the affidavits. "The affidavits are stricken from the record."
"And the reason, Your Honor, for the record, for appeal?"
Judge Harold Keller was anything but a stupid man. He had managed to get himself out of trouble with the Disciplinary Board over the Landau mess and eventually had gotten himself elected as a district court judge. But for some reason, the woman standing in front of him tried what little patience he had like no other. "Because I said so!" It was out before he knew it.
Titters of laughter rippled through the courtroom. Sydney looked down at the floor and bit her lip, trying not to smile. Sound legal grounds . A sideways glance toward Scott Harwood and Dorinda Pratt revealed that they had gained a sudden interest in some papers in front of them.
Evin's voice was cool and calm, reflecting no trace of amusement, but her eyes were laughing, and one brow arched almost into her hairline. "And the legal reason....."
"The affidavits fail to meet the requirements of La. CCP Article..." The judge looked to his clerk, who shrugged and gave him a look that said 'I don't know the number either.' Dorinda Pratt and Scott Harwood scrambled for their briefcases to see if they had a copy of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Evin fought the urge to laugh out loud. This asshole's making a ruling and he doesn't even know the number of the article he's basing his ruling on.
Sydney finally stood. It was obvious to her that Evin would prefer to wait all day until somebody found the article number rather than volunteering the information. "Excuse me, Your Honor. It's CCP Article 968."
"Thank you, Ms. Parker." Judge Keller looked at her and smiled, wondering what such a nice girl was doing with the alpha bitch from hell. Sydney returned his smile and sat back down. "Article 968," he repeated for the record.
Evin looked down at Sydney, a lazy smile crossing her face, and winked. "They woulda figured it out eventually."
Sydney shook her head sideways slowly. Unbelievable! She's like a cat batting around a mouse, just toying with them.
"The next pleading is a Peremptory Exception of No Right of Action. Hynes Refining..." Evin felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to find a very tired looking Andrew Thomas with a huge grin on his face.
"Your Honor, may I have a moment?"
"No, Ms. Moran. You may not. Continue presenting your motions."
Andrew shoved a handwritten note and several documents at Evin. Despite the judge's admonition to continue, she didn't, opting instead to silently read the note and review the documents. As she read, an almost sensual smile formed on her lips. Do I ask to be heard in chambers on this or do I do it in open court? Motions to recuse are always heard in chambers to save the judge some embarrassment. But that's just courtroom etiquette. No rule that says I have to. This one's for you, Sydney.
Sydney watched as Evin looked up from the documents, pale blue eyes glinting, focusing on Judge Keller. Evin handed her the note and the documents, never taking her eyes off Judge Keller.
"I move to recuse Your Honor from this case." Her voice rolled through the courtroom. The noise level in the already quiet courtroom dropped to dead silence, but only for a moment. Then the shouting started.
Judge Keller's veins were distending in his neck as he shrieked, "What?! Why should I remove myself from this case? On what grounds?"
Scott Harwood and Dorinda Pratt sprang to their feet, looking incredulously at Evin. "What!" they screamed in unison, with Scott Harwood adding "Objection!" as Dorinda Pratt added indignantly "I can't believe you'd do this in open court!"
Evin regarded them with silent amusement as they reacted to her words.
Reading the note, Sydney's eyebrows raised and a look of surprise was instantaneously replaced with anger. Outraged at the information she had just read, she was trembling slightly, the color rising to her cheeks, her green eyes flashing. Several months of frustration and anger came pouring out as she jumped to her feet while the Judge, Harwood, and Pratt shouted. Her hand slammed down on the table, silencing them.
Evin looked over at Sydney. Uh oh! was the only thought that ran through her mind, and the law student's mouth was open before Evin could stop her.
Shaking the papers in her fist, Sydney roared, "I can't believe this! This is inexcusable! You should have recused yourself immediately when this case was placed on the docket. This is a violation of judicial ethics."
A stunned Judge Keller stared at Sydney. Dorinda Pratt and Scott Harwood looked at each other, then at the judge. Lawyers can say some pretty outrageous things in the courtroom, but accusing a judge of violating judicial ethics in open court was tantamount to professional suicide. The rest of the people in the courtroom were spellbound. Even the normally unflappable court reporter, who had heard some pretty unbelievable things in her time and always kept staring at the keys on the stenography machine, had looked up.
Everyone waited for someone to say something as the tension crackled through the air. It was Evin who broke the silence, but not with words. She looked at Sydney and a short bark of laughter escaped. This little law student's got some big brass ones.
Angry green eyes turned to her, a look of disbelief crossing Sydney's face. At this point, Sydney wasn't sure if she was angrier with the judge, with herself for losing her composure, or with Evin for laughing.
Judge Keller was so incensed that the words "judicial restraint" didn't even cross his mind. He stood up, his black robe catching a file on his desk and sending it clattering to the floor, and bellowed, "Ms. Moran, you're in contempt! Deputy Howard! Take this woman into custody."
"How much will the fine be, Your Honor?" she drawled. Here we go again. "What are the legal grounds, Your Honor, for the record, for appeal?" She stressed the word legal, reminding the judge of his previous statement.
"Failure to control your law student and lack of respect for the Court. Your fine will be another ten thousand dollars."
As the deputy approached Evin, she asked, "I'd like to have my motion heard before you remove me from the court."
"Oh no, Ms. Moran. I think your law student can handle that." He added sarcastically, "She seems to be well-spoken."
The deputy grabbed Evin by the arm. She shook her arm loose and glared at the deputy, who backed off a step. "Your Honor, I object to my removal prior to the motion being heard."
The deputy pleaded, "Ms. Moran, please don't make me put cuffs on you and pull you out of here."
"Deputy Howard, remove her now!" Red-faced, Judge Keller stalked off the bench towards his chambers, bellowing, "In my chambers now! Wanda, bring your machine."
The deputy moved toward Evin. "Give me a minute here," she growled. He backed up a step again.
Sydney looked at Evin, a moment of panic setting in. Oh shit! What have I done? I've pissed off a judge, Evin's going to jail, and I've never even seen a motion to recuse argued before, much less presented one. "I...uh..." Sydney shifted her feet and glanced around.
Evin tilted her head down and forced Sydney to look at her. "Go on, Sydney, you'll do fine. Can't lose with that evidence. Move for recusal, state the grounds, offer the documents as evidence and ask for his ruling. Continuance is automatic after that. He's got no choice."
Sydney felt the panic start to subside as Evin's low voice wrapped around her, and when she saw the confidence in Evin's eyes, her fear left. She thinks I can handle it. "I'll come get you out as soon as I'm finished."
"Focus, Sydney. It'll be okay. I promise you."
Evin turned and regarded the deputy for a long moment, a small smile playing on her lips as she remembered the quick step back he took. I could take him if I wanted to. Her little voice taunted her, 'Yeah, that'd be real smart.' Shut up, I wouldn't do that. 'Hmmph.' Stepping out from behind the defendant's table, she headed for the side door. Deputy Howard followed close behind, relieved that things hadn't escalated further. He hated to see her walk into this courtroom.
"Give 'em hell, Sydney," she called out to the law student headed for the judge's chambers.
Sydney, Pratt, and Harwood sat in front of the judge's desk. As soon as Wanda finished setting up her stenography machine, Judge Keller, still somewhat red in the face and definitely flustered, began. "Ready Wanda? For the record, this is case.... Damn it, get me the case file."
"It's case number 98-2236, Your Honor." It was Scott Harwood's turn to come to the rescue of Judge Keller.
"Case number 98-2236," the judge repeated. "This is a hearing in chambers. Ms. Parker, go ahead."
Sydney sat up straighter and looked the judge right in the eye. "Your Honor, I respectfully move that you recuse yourself from this case."
"On what grounds?" Dorinda Pratt asked.
Sydney sat silently, green eyes challenging the judge to answer Pratt's question himself. Come on, confess, you bastard. You should have immediately recused yourself when you were assigned this case. Long moments passed as both Harwood and Pratt looked from the judge then to Sydney then back to the judge. The court reporter sat there, fingers ready to type whenever someone decided to say something.
Sydney finally spoke. "Judge Keller is a member of the board of directors of two corporations that derive significant revenue from contracts with Hynes Refining. In addition, Judge Keller's sister and daughter work for Hynes."
"Your motion is granted, Ms. Parker." the judge said quickly. He had no idea how they had found out about his sister and daughter. They both were married and had different last names. The companies were one thing. While definitely grounds for recusal, he received no compensation as a member of the board of directors, and he could more easily explain away the reason why he hadn't recused himself in the first place. But his sister and daughter working for Hynes was an entirely different matter. Visions of another Disciplinary Board hearing raced to the forefront of his mind.
"But, Your Honor...." Scott Harwood let the words trail off. There wasn't really anything to say, but he was more than a little irritated. Having been totally unprepared for everything that had happened, he felt like he ought to say or do something. Dorinda Pratt was relieved that she wasn't either the judge or Evin Moran, both of whom seemed to now have enough trouble of his own to deal with.
"That's it, Mr. Harwood. This case is continued and the division that the case is transferred to will notify the parties. You can reset the date for your motion then. You may all leave now. Wanda, we're done here. Tell Deputy Howard that court will resume in ten minutes." He watched as they all filed out of his office, his mind already thinking of possible stories to explain his conduct to the Disciplinary Board.
Sydney was the last person out of the judge's office. She closed the door behind her and leaned back against it. She took several deep breaths, trying to slow her pounding heart. Somehow, this day hasn't gone like I thought it would. Now I've got to go explain this circus to my clients and then get Evin out of jail.
When Sydney walked back into court, she saw the anxious faces of Willie and Emma Dolese, still seated in the first row. I wonder what they think of all this. She flashed them a smile and a quick okay sign as she packed up her and Evin's briefcases. They walked out of court and Sydney soon followed.
As soon as they were out of the courtroom, Sydney motioned them to a bench in the hall. Looking into the anxious eyes of her clients, she started explaining what happened. "The case is going to be reassigned to another judge. This judge can't hear the case because he has an interest in some companies that do business with Hynes. I'm sorry we didn't let you know sooner, but we didn't find out until the middle of the hearing. It was really a spur of the moment thing. This doesn't mean it's over, but we did at least get a delay so we'll have time to investigate further."
"This is a good thing, right?" Willie asked.
"Yes, Willie, it's a good thing. It'll give us more time to get to the bottom of this. It's not over yet, though," she cautioned. "Nothing's been decided. Y'all go on home. I'll come see you this weekend, okay? I've got to go get Evin out."
Evin paced back and forth in the small room that served as the courthouse holding cell, wondering what was going on in the judge's chambers. Have I lost my mind? That's gotta be it. Seems to be the only thing that would explain my behavior in the last twenty-four hours. I take a dog case because of a challenge. I'm supposed to ride in on a white horse to save the day, is that it? Her little voice chided, 'You know, you've become quite a legend in your own mind. Yet here you sit, locked in a small room while the little law student saves the day.' Shut up, will ya! 'Hey! I was just agreeing with you.'
What is wrong with me? I'm having conversations with myself. At least I'm not having them out loud...yet. Her little voice added 'And your behavior's been off the Richter scale, even for you.' I said shut up! 'Just trying to help.' I don't need any help. 'Always been the problem, huh?' Shut up! 'Look, you better figure out what's going on with you, and fast, before we both end up locked away somewhere because, big girl, you're losing it.'
Evin stopped pacing for a moment. It was hard to deny the truth in those words. She felt like a ping-pong ball being batted back and forth. Those normally impermeable walls that she had carefully constructed to dam up her emotions and feelings had suddenly become semi-permeable. Things she hadn't allowed herself to feel in years were oozing to the surface, and she couldn't stop it, no matter how hard she tried to shore up the walls. She felt like she was drowning and had no idea why. Taking several deep breaths, she settled herself and resumed her pacing.
By the time Sydney arrived, Evin had allowed her anger to return full force. It was the only thing that drowned everything else out. Sydney greeted her with a smile, telling her that Judge Keller had recused himself. Sydney's smile quickly turned into a frown as she took in the glower on Evin's face and the unmistakable tension in every muscle in her body. To Evin's credit, she managed to get out "Good job,' without taking the law student's head off. She grabbed her briefcase and headed for the car with Sydney trailing behind, unsure if she wanted to catch up.
They drove back to New Orleans in silence. Sydney made a few attempts at conversation, but the only responses were one word grunts from Evin. When Evin dropped Sydney off at the law school with an "I'll be in touch," Sydney stood there and watched the BMW drive away, thinking that Evin was possibly the most perplexing person she had ever met.
Sydney sat across from Professor Rayburn, green eyes sparkling as she relayed the events of yesterday and this morning.
"Has Evin said anything to you about her suspicions about this case?"
"No, she really hasn't. I don't think she has any yet. Yesterday and today, our main focus was to just keep the case alive." Sydney responded. "I didn't know she was going to be my clinic advisor. I was surprised when she said it in court."
"Evin doesn't like to leave anything to chance. However remote the possibility, Judge Keller could have denied the motion to enroll. He, ah...well, there's a history there, so she informed me that she wanted to become your advisor. That rendered the issue moot."
"Did she talk to you about my withdrawing from the case?"
"No. Do you want to withdraw?"
"No, I don't. She tried to get me to withdraw, but I talked her out of it."
If Evin tried to get you off the case already, she knows more about this than she's letting on. And you talked her out of it. "You talked her out of it? I'll have to put that one in the record books. How'd you do that?"
Sydney blushed. "I told her to kiss my sweet ass, then I begged."
Professor Rayburn started laughing. "Now that I'd have paid money to see. Did you enjoy working with her?"
"I learned a lot and she's a very good attorney. Her courtroom presence is incredible." Sydney answered slowly, unsure of how far to go with her impressions. "Um...she's really...moody."
Professor Rayburn smiled, "That she can be."
"I feel like I've been on a roller coaster ride for the past twenty four hours."
"That's understandable, Sydney. But if you need to be on a roller coaster, she's the best person to be riding with." He paused and studied at her with concern. "You look exhausted. Go home and get some rest. We'll talk about it more tomorrow. I've got to get ready for a class."
The back of the leather chair and the top of a dark-maned head were all that was visible as Rachel walked into the office. Her boss had been sequestered behind closed doors since she had returned. "Here are the reports you requested. How did it go today?"
A brooding, low voice answered her. "Bought some time, that's all."
Rachel didn't ask any more questions. When her boss was in this kind of mood and stared out the window, it was best to just stay out of the way until her black mood lightened. The best it usually got was a light gray.
"I'm heading home. Jeffrey's still here if you need anything."
"Okay, Rachel, thanks," came the response.
I've seen Harwood a couple of times around court, but where do I recognize that woman from? Dorinda Pratt. A thought of the pink suit made her shiver. Pink. I hate pink. Since Evin had seen her in the courtroom, the question had been nagging her. She ran her name and the firm name through their case files. No matches. She had pulled the Martindale-Hubbell directory out and looked up both the woman and her firm. Nothing even rang a bell. But she knew she had seen her somewhere. And I wouldn't forget pink or for that matter, any pastel.
Her mind turned to Hynes. Why do you want this land back? She had Randy go through the Mortgage and Conveyance office records and run a list of all properties that Hynes had owned in the last twenty-five years. Interesting results. It had taken Randy most of the day, and the results were now at a cartographer, who would map them.
Got to be about money. It's always about money. You'd think somebody would come up with something original. At least criminal lawyers get to deal with cases that are motivated by other things. A good psychological aberration every once in a while, that's the ticket. But where's the money here? This is farm land, and not that much of it. Barely enough for Willie to squeak out a living for him and his family. Not worth a whole lot of money at first glance. This is about big money. What could they possibly need this land for that would generate big money? Or save them big money? Hazardous waste dumping? Expansion?
Andrew's investigators had come up with some decent information in the short time frame they had, but by tomorrow morning there should be a lot more to go over. The initial crisis had been diverted and they'd have two weeks, maybe three, to come up with something, or they would lose the hearing and the case.
Who shot at me? I probably wasn't the target, per se. Just happened to be the one who walked out. Where did they go? It couldn't have been more than a fifteen second lead they had. I should have been able to catch up to them easily, but I didn't.
The intercom buzzed. The leather chair spun around and Evin answered, "Yeah."
"I'm going home if you don't need anything else."
"No, Jeffrey, thanks."
"You should get home too. It's almost eight. When's the last time you ate or slept?"
"Goodnight, Jeffrey," she answered, ignoring his question.
Turning to her computer, she typed in her password and brought up her schedule. The rest of the week was blocked due to the Grace trial, but that had been postponed. She changed the case name to Hynes and left the time blocked. Then she pulled up the next week and reviewed it, speaking into her micro-cassette recorder as she issued instructions for Rachel in the morning. The end result was that next week would be blocked out as well, except for the Davis motion on Friday.
She stared at the name of the case, Hynes Refining Corp. v. William and Emma Dolese , one question running through her mind. Why?
The fingers of one hand massaged the bridge of her nose as she picked up the reports and started reading them. It's like a puzzle, Moran. You find the pieces, you fit 'em together and you get the answer.