Trial of Conscience

by Troubleshooter

Chapter Three

Thud.... Thud.... Thud, thud, thud.... Thud...the sound of leather impacting leather. Bouncing on the balls of her feet, she dropped her arms to the side and shook them, rolling her head around and rotating her shoulders. The hands came up with lightning speed, impacting the bag again. Thud.... Thud, thud.... Thud. The hushed sound of air escaping her lungs occurred each time she connected with the heavy bag. Brows furrowed over pale blue eyes, trying to sort through swirling, shadowy images to bring the enemy into focus. A sharper image eluded her. Finishing with a final flurry of punches, she stood still and allowed her heart and breathing to settle.

She walked over to the desk and checked the computer display on her desk. Search completed. (D)isplay or download results to (P)rinter, (F)ile? She pressed the "f" key and glanced at the clock. Should be in the office by six. Good. She headed for the stairs, ready for a shower.

"Aaagh." The groan was almost a scream. The shrill ringing of the alarm clock pierced the air. When I find out who invented these things, I'm gonna kill 'em. Sydney rolled over and stretched her arm out, blindly feeling for the 'off' button. Several swipes at the alarm clock and the annoying noise ceased. Another "Aaagh," and she was sitting up. The aroma of coffee drifted through the small apartment. I need to thank Mom again for that programmable coffee brewer.

One final "Aaagh" and she was on her feet, eyes still half shut, heading for the kitchen with one single thought. Coffee. She poured herself a cup and added milk and sugar. Taking a long sip, she closed her eyes and smiled in satisfaction.

She wandered to the bathroom and turned the shower on. If I could just find a way to drink coffee in the shower, my life would be perfect. She was very much a creature of habit in the morning. Coffee. Bathroom activities. More coffee. Definitely breakfast. Only then was she ready for the day.

Sydney noticed the light flashing on the answering machine. I must have really been out last night. I didn't even hear the phone . Sydney pressed the play button. Received at 11:49 p.m. Beeeep. The low voice of Evin came through the speaker. "Sydney, this is Evin Moran." Like I wouldn't recognize that voice. "Call and let me know what your schedule is for Thursday so we can arrange a time to meet to review the case. If I'm not in you can leave it with Jeffrey or Rachel." The call ended. Short, to the point, all business.

Sydney pulled out the business card Evin had given her and dialed the main number. One transfer and then Rachel picked up the phone. "Evin Moran's office."

"Rachel? Hi, it's Sydney Parker."

"Hi, Sydney. You recover from yesterday yet?"

"Just barely. Listen, I know Evin's probably not in yet..."

Rachel laughed. "She comes in every morning at six. No exception this morning. Let me connect you."

"Thanks, Rachel."

"Evin Moran," the low voice came over the phone.

"Do you ever sleep?"

"Excuse me?" Evin asked, somewhat taken aback. Where do these questions come from?

"I was wondering if you ever slept."

"Of course I sleep."


"At night, like everybody else. Why?"

"Well, you called here last night close to midnight and Rachel says you've been there since six and I know that you didn't get any sleep at all the night before, even though I got a nap. How do you do that?"

We've gone through when, why and how. All that's left is what and where. "Never needed much sleep." Maybe a pre-emptive strike will stop the questions. Evin added, matter of fact, "I sleep at home in my bed." That answers the where , Evin thought, rather smugly, and sleep is self-explanatory so there should be no what. Hah! No more questions!

"Goood...uh....Okaaaay. people do, I think." Sydney was confused. What would possess her to say that? Shaking her head slightly, she continued. "I called to talk to you about my Thursday schedule. I have one class from nine to eleven and then I'm done for the day."

"Huh?" Evin's brain had short-circuited. What in the hell did I say 'I sleep at home in my bed' for? Sounds like some Dr. Seuss or Dick & Jane book. See Dick run. Run, Dick, run. Her little voice added 'See Evin make an ass out of herself.' "I'm sorry, uh...yeah...tomorrow. Okay, what about eleven thirty? Will that give you enough time to get here?"

"Yeah. Do you want me to pick up something for lunch?"


"You know, the midday meal?" I swear, what is wrong with her? "You don't seem to think about food a lot, and I just thought...."

"No...I mean, yes...great. Lunch. Yeah, that would be nice." Please God, let this conversation end.

"What do you want?"

"Surprise me."

"Are you sure?"

A mental groan. I've never been more sure of anything. Let this be it, please. "Yes."

"Okay, well, I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good day."

"You, too. Bye, Sydney." 'The jury is in, big girl. The verdict - you've lost your mind,' her little voice announced.

Sydney sat on the couch, a casebook resting upside down on her lap. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling her body relax. Amazing. The last two days have been just amazing. There had been no time to think. It had unsettled Sydney at first. She felt overwhelmed and all her insecurities had exploded like a submarine surfacing. She had battled them back down and allowed herself to get caught in the whirlwind.

She didn't know much about her new co-counsel. She had heard the stories about the tall woman from different people at the law school. She didn't believe all of them, wondering how much was myth and how much was truth. The last two days caused her to change her opinion. Sydney was now sure that the stories had all been true and probably didn't do justice to the actual events.

It feels so right to be involved in this case. Law school, at least until the Dolese case had landed in her lap, had left Sydney somewhat frustrated and disillusioned. The first year had been hard. Hell, just getting here was hard. The fight with her father over which law school she should attend lasted until the day she left.

And Kathy. Sydney shook her head. I went into that with the best intentions, but I don't think I ever loved her. At least not how I think love's supposed to be. It had been nice for a while, but something was missing. Sydney tried to ignore it, but she knew deep down in her heart that she was settling for something less than her dreams. Kathy knew it, too. That's what made it so bad. And the relationship deteriorated, until one day Sydney came home to the apartment they shared and announced she was moving to New Orleans to go to law school. Kathy had looked at her with such contempt and simply stated, "And I suppose you don't want me to go with you."

At the time, Sydney felt like it was the hardest thing she had ever done. A simple answer. "No." That 'no' had encompassed so much more than 'no' to the relationship. It was a 'no' to everything and anything that could follow her. A 'no' to her father. A 'no' to the relationship. A 'no' to abandoning her dreams, not just of love, but of life. What she wanted to do with her life. How she wanted to live it.

Despite how frustrating the Dolese case was, she finally felt like she was doing what she had come to law school for. To help people who needed help. Most of the cases she had handled at the clinic were routine. Default divorces, evictions and the like, all for people who couldn't afford a lawyer. Interesting cases were often referred to practicing attorneys or other agencies because 'interesting' usually meant that the case would require resources that the clinic didn't have.

There was a measure of satisfaction for Sydney in helping the clients she dealt with on a regular basis. It's nice to have someone have faith in you, trust in your judgment. And each time she looked into a client's eyes, eyes that usually looked back waiting for the answers, she repeated her promise to herself. I will help you. I will make it right.

The Dolese case was her first real challenge. Sydney realized that it was a test, not only of her legal skills, but ultimately of her character. Can I really do this? It was so easy to let the self-doubt and the past come bubbling up into her mind. You couldn't do it before, her mind would taunt her. You just let them stop you. It's all your fault.

She had been at the end of her rope. No hope. Until she had looked into the cool blue gaze of the tall attorney. Something settled deep inside her and she felt a spark of hope. It hadn't been the stories she knew about her, because she hadn't known who she was yet.

Then the whirlwind had started and there had been no time to think. Until now. She wondered about the hope she now felt. Was it hope about the case, or something more? With a sigh, she got up from the couch to go to class. Only time will tell.

"Hey, boss!" Andrew Thomas took a seat across from Evin, who was sitting on the couch, surrounded by reports. "Taking it easy?"

"Oh yeah, Andrew, real easy." She looked up and smiled at him.

Andrew had curly red hair, a face covered in freckles and looked like he was bordering on puberty. He was actually thirty-five. Evin guessed that was what made him such a good investigator. People didn't suspect a thing. His easygoing manner and his youthful looks relaxed people. The way he asked questions in such an innocent, wide-eyed manner, people took one look at him and told him everything they knew.

They met when Evin worked on Landau. He had been in night classes at the law school and volunteered to do investigative work on the case. He quit law school halfway through the case, disgusted with what he saw about the practice of law, and turned to investigations full time. When Evin opened her law office, he was the first to join.

"Tommy's bringing the board up."

"Good. We can start playing connect the dots." Looking up from one of the reports, she asked "Does the name Dorinda Pratt ring any bells for you?"

"Dorinda Pratt...Dorinda Pratt." He rubbed his chin. "No, can't recall anything. Who's she?"

"She's opposing counsel, along with Scott Harwood. She was in the pink outfit yesterday."

"Oh, yeah. Do you know what kind of hair spray she uses?"

"Why would I know that?"

"Ask her next time you see her." His face broke into a big smile. "I want to call my broker and get stock in that company. Man, she had some big hair. She's got to use at least a can of that stuff a day."

"Where do you come up with this shit? I couldn't get past the pink suit myself."

He teased, "Ahh, I didn't realize you liked women in pink."

She shot back, "I like women in nothing."

"And when was the last time you saw one in nothing?"

Blue eyes narrowed and the smile left her face. "Andrew," she warned, drawing out the word.

His voice was gentle. "You need a life, Evin."

"I have one," she responded, her voice cold.

"No, sweetie, you don't."

"Listen, Andrew, just because you finally found somebody to con into loving your sorry ass doesn't mean everyone's got to be in love. I am perfectly happy."

"Yeah, right," he snorted derisively. "You know what your problem is? You...."

"I am well aware of my problems. I don't need you or anybody else reminding me."

"Well apparently you do. You're an incredible person, Evin, but you don't even exist in the real world. All you do is play lawyer."

"This is the real world," she snapped icily, spreading her arms to indicate her surroundings. "And I'm a lawyer. It's what I fucking do, Andrew."

"It's what you do , not who you are. You focus so intently on this," he mimicked her arm movements, "that you're oblivious to everything else. Does any of the outside world seep into that brain of yours?"

"This discussion is over!" She growled. "Where's Tommy with that god damned board?"

Andrew sighed and got up. Sticking his head out the office door, he said "Rachel, page Tommy for me please and find out where that board is."

He sat back down in the chair and waited for Tommy to show up. Evin had her head buried in a report. He had been asked what she was really like countless times. And each time, words had failed him. He finally came up with an answer he thought suitable. "You can't describe her, you can only experience her." There was no middle ground for Evin, no balance, only two extremes. One absolute existed in both, a primal fire sparking her psyche, which she herself could not suppress. It demanded a response that you were powerless to resist, eliciting a base reaction from some unknown place inside you.

In a civilized world where animal instincts weren't even discussed and were suppressed at all costs, hers could not be. She had instead mastered the animal and used it. He had seen her literally transform in front of his very eyes on a thousand different occasions. She was a huntress, fierce and savage or icy and dispassionate.

When he first met her, the animal was untamed, raw, feeling everything with intense passion. He had hoped that she would be able to integrate the extremes, find a sense of balance. But within the space of a year, she had forged an impenetrable barrier around her heart and soul, making a choice simply not to feel anything. Anything, that is, except for the anger which fueled the fire. Or did the fire fuel the anger?

A thread of sadness wound through his heart. She had a tremendous capacity to care, to love, to share. He had witnessed it. But it came down to choices. Her choice not to feel, her choice not to let anyone in, this is what they always argued about. Evin, taking the position that there was no choice. He, taking the position that she did have a choice. And always, always, the barrier withstood all of his assaults. His last thought before Tommy rolled the board in was, Evin Moran is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Each piece of the puzzle that was Hynes v. Dolese would be put on the huge piece of whiteboard, arranged and rearranged until the pieces all fit. Evin got up and grabbed a marker, writing the word "land" and a dollar sign in the middle of the board. She moved to the left. "Andrew, grab the reports. Let's start with people." He picked up the first report and started calling out the names that had turned up in his investigation so far. As Andrew called the names out, a feeling of deja vu came over him. She added Sonny Boudreaux, Dorinda Pratt and Scott Harwood to the list.

"Full background investigations on them all, Andrew. Everything."

"Do you realize how much this will cost?"

"We can't afford not to. We don't have time to do this piecemeal."

"It's going to stretch us real thin."

"Then contract everything else out. All of this stays in-house, and I want it by Friday."

"Friday! Have you lost your mind?"

Pale blue eyes as cold and hard as glaciers pinned him in his chair. "Rule number one, Andrew. Friday. No excuses."

"Since when did you start caring about your cases again?"

"I didn't," the low voice thundered. "Leave now, Andrew, before I say something you'll regret."

She spent the rest of the day dissecting and plotting the information that had been gathered so far, as Andrew and his team started the background investigations.

Sydney spent a great deal of time during the past two days thinking about the perplexing Evin Moran. A feeling in her gut whispered to her that there was so much more to Evin than what she had seen so far. She was a mystery and mysteries intrigued Sydney Parker. She also wasn't used to fighting with someone who was supposed to be on the same side as she was, so Sydney devised a plan to improve their working relationship and help her solve the mystery.

During the time that they had spent together, either Evin had ordered her around or they had fought. Only once, when Evin had - unknowingly Sydney guessed - slipped into a teaching role, did Sydney feel like they were working as a team. Sydney's plan was three-pronged. She would be open, honest, and friendly, try hard not to take Evin's actions and words personally, and try to learn more about the perplexing woman.


The first part was simple. Sydney just had to be Sydney. Her face reflected a youthful innocence. A fair complexion made a little darker by time spent in the sun. Warm green eyes with just a touch of blue. Soft features with full pink lips and a nose that fit her face just right. All framed by light red hair reaching the bottom of her shoulder blades, shining with golden highlights in the sun, bangs setting off the sculptured eyebrows that crowned her expressive eyes. Neither delicate nor big-boned, her body was well toned and proportional. At five feet five and a quarter inches, one could hardly call her size imposing. She moved gracefully and with a quiet strength.

She was warm and outgoing, quick to offer a smile or a gentle touch of comfort when needed. Yet she was reserved at the same time, being able to draw things out about others without revealing much about herself. When she did reveal something about herself, it was honest and straight-forward and it was done with much thought.

The second part would be a little harder, but Sydney rationalized that the pressures of the case, of school, and her own exhaustion had caused her to overreact to Evin. Not that she didn't get angry. On the contrary, Sydney had a bit of a temper. She committed to taking a lot of deep breaths and counting to ten when she was around Evin, an adult time-out so to speak.

The third part, trying to learn more about who Evin Moran was, would be the real challenge. Sydney noted that the tall woman seemed to be in a perpetual bad mood, ranging only from bad to worse. She had smiled, really smiled, not one of those wicked looking evil grins or snarl-smiles, only once, when Sydney had mentioned LSU. She had laughed a few times, appearing genuinely surprised at herself that she had done so. Her eyes reflected either a boredom with everything around her, or else they were cold and hard with anger, glittering like diamonds, holding a promise of nothing pleasant. The only thing that seemed to trigger a response from the woman was a challenge.

As Sydney had replayed the scenes of the time they had spent together, she put aside her first impressions of the lawyer. The tall woman was brilliant and knew her craft very well. She was efficient, organized, and almost military-like in her issuance of instructions and orders to her staff and Sydney. No one questioned the instructions, except for clarification. She wasn't rude or demanding, she was commanding and authoritative. Conversations were straight and to the point. Even the cumbersome legal phrases couldn't hide the economy of the woman's words.

She apparently expected a lot from her staff, but Jeffrey had told Sydney that it was never more than Evin herself was willing to do. She was in every morning at six and usually didn't leave until well after everyone else. Sydney had seen evidence of that first hand, knowing that the tall woman had worked at least forty hours straight, from six Monday morning until midnight on Tuesday. It seemed that she had a limitless supply of energy and Sydney wasn't sure if she had even eaten during that time. This was the point Sydney chose to launch her plan for prong number three.

Food. Food was near and dear to Sydney's heart. She reasoned that if Evin's lack of attention to a basic need such as food caused in Evin only one quarter of the amount of aggravation it caused in Sydney herself, then it was no wonder the lawyer was in such a bad mood. And it was how Sydney arrived at Evin's office, armed to the teeth with food.

As she stepped off the elevator and into the waiting room, Evin's voice was coming through loud and clear from the speaker-phone on Rachel's desk. Sydney hoped she had brought enough food.

Evin leaned back in her leather chair, propping her feet on her desk. Staring at the board, she reviewed the lists over and over, turning each piece of information this way and that in her mind, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. She had been at this for two days. The information kept coming in, but the pieces still weren't fitting together.

Okay, what do we have so far on the land? In 1994, Hynes Refining Corporation sold a piece of land to Michael Odom for $750,000.00. Odom in turn subdivided the land into five strips, four acres wide by twenty-five acres deep. Each parcel fronted the river. He sold the individual parcels, making a profit of $273,000.00. Of the five parcels sold, the Dolese property was the only one that Hynes hadn't reacquired and it sat right in the middle of the original piece of property.

So they want it all back. Again, why? She walked over to the table and pulled out aerial maps of the area and located the plant. Another map, marked with all of Hynes land holdings in the area, was pulled out and laid flat. The map refused to cooperate and kept curling. She stalked to the phone, hitting the intercom button.

"Rachel Wells."

"Get another god damned board up here." The low growl thundered through the speaker.

"Okay. Sydney just got here."

"Send her in."

Outside Evin's office, Rachel hung up the phone and looked at Sydney. "She's been in a bad mood since, well, since I started working here. But this one's particularly bad." Offering Sydney a rueful smile, she warned, "Enter at your own risk."

"Wish me luck." Sydney walked to the office door and opened it, took a deep breath and stepped in, a jumbled thought about Christians and lions running fleetingly through her brain. Remember the plan, Sydney.

"Hey!" she said as she spotted Evin by the table.

A mumbled "hello," was the response as Evin continued to study the maps.

"You interested in lunch right now?"

Evin stopped studying the maps and took a deep breath. No need to take your mood out on her. "Yeah, that'd be great. Let me clear off this table."

"If it's alright with you, I thought we could go eat by the river. I saw those benches out there the other day and, well," Sydney said with more confidence than she felt, "You look like you could use a break from all this. For just a little while?"

Evin started to refuse, but stopped when she turned around and saw Sydney. One hand rested on her left hip. The other hand held up a large bag. Her head was cocked to one side and green eyes sparkled brightly with a hint of a smile. Evin got the distinct feeling that the offer was both an invitation and a challenge.


"Come on. It'll be fun," she prodded, her facial features seeming to reinforce the unspoken challenge.

The most enticing aromas emanated from the bag. Evin didn't know if it was the aromas or her usual response to a challenge, but a quirky half-grin formed and pale blue eyes twinkled. "You're on, Sydney Parker. Lead the way."

Evin grabbed her sunglasses and cellular phone off the desk as she followed Sydney out of the office and onto the elevator.

A confused Rachel and Jeffrey stared at their boss getting into the elevator with the law student. As the elevator door shut, Jeffrey asked, "She didn't actually smile and wave, did she?"

"Uh... Yeeees, she did."

"Girl, pass me the smelling salts."

"You'll get 'em when I'm done."

As they walked towards the river, Evin suddenly stopped and unclipped the cell phone from her belt, opened it, and pushed a button. "Shit, I forgot to tell 'em where I was going."

"Rachel, I'm going to lunch."


Evin's brows furrowed. She thought she was being teased, but she wasn't quite sure. "Uh...yeah. I'll have the phone if you need me."

"Have fun."

"Okay," she said hesitantly and hung up the phone. What is it with all these people telling me to have fun?

"You don't do this much, do you?" Sydney asked as they started walking again.

"Eat lunch? Of course I eat lunch."

"I mean, just take off like this. Get out of the office for a little while."

Evin laughed. "I don't think I've ever done it, at least not without a purpose." She felt like a teenager playing hooky from high school.

"That would explain it," Sydney deadpanned.

"Explain what?"

"The looks on their faces."

"Whose faces?"

"Jeffrey's and Rachel's."

"Oh...I didn't notice any looks."

Sydney chuckled.

One eyebrow raised and she ducked her head and turned it to catch Sydney's eyes. "Are you laughing at me?"


"Uh huh. Something tells me, Sydney Parker," she drawled, pausing to lower her sunglasses a bit and stare into green eyes, a roguish grin on her face, "that there are no maybes about you."

Sydney felt herself blush slightly. She has such a beautiful smile. "Hey, that's a good place over there." Sydney pointed to a bench under a tree.

"So what did you bring for lunch?" Evin asked as they sat on the bench with the bag of food between them. The aromas had awakened Evin's stomach and her curiosity.

"You'll see." Sydney started removing containers out of the bag, followed by plates and utensils and finally a thermos.

"That's Tupperware."

"Very good, Emeril," Sydney teased.


"Emeril Lagasse. The guy with the cooking show on TV. Owns a couple of restaurants here."

"Oh yeah. He owns Emeril's and Nola's here. Good andouille appetizer. Filet of beef that's coated with black pepper in a red wine truffle sauce on the lunch menu's really good. And for dinner, the rack of lamb with a creole mustard sauce...." Evin leaned over and motioned towards the containers. "Tell me what you've got there, Sydney. I'm real hungry all of a sudden."

"Good." Sydney pointed to the various containers. "Let's see, this is beef stir-fry in here and shrimp stir-fry is in this one and combination fried rice is in that one. Oh, and iced tea to drink." She smiled and held up the thermos.

Evin spooned some of the contents of each onto a plate. She took a bite and closed her eyes. "Mmm. This is really good. Even that damn broccoli tastes good. Where'd you get this from?"

"I made it."

Blue eyes popped open and Evin looked at Sydney seriously. "Made? You cooked? When did you have time to cook? You had class from nine to eleven this morning."

"You don't think I can cook?" Sydney questioned indignantly, but she couldn't keep a smile off her face.

"It's obvious you can cook. This is great. But my question is, when did you cook it?"

"I...mmm...I skipped class."

"What! Aw, Sydney...." she scolded.

"Don't 'Aw Sydney' me. I happen to know from a very good source that you set a record for skipping classes. One, which I might add, is still unbroken." She looked at Evin knowingly. "I'll catch up on it later. We're only a month into the semester now and I was exhausted, so I slept in." She took a bite of food, chewed for a minute and leaned conspiratorially towards Evin. "So tell me, is it true you only went to the final exams for Contracts I and II and Bankruptcy?"

"Contracts, yeah. Bankruptcy, no." Evin couldn't help but laugh thinking about the classes.

"How did you get away with that?"

"Easy. Just didn't show up for class."

"Wish I could do that."

"If you had Blankenship for contracts, you could have."

"I heard he was a little eccentric."

Evin spoke around mouthfuls of food. "The guy's brilliant but he can't tie his shoes. He'd read two sentences in a case, then he'd squeeze his eyes shut for a couple of minutes until his whole face turned red. Next thing you know, he was off on some esoteric discussion involving dogs and their capacity to contract with sheep, and did we really know if animals lacked the capacity to form intent. I didn't go back until the exam."

"I had Lawrence for contracts. All he ever talked about was selling cows. Do you think it's something about animals and contracts professors?" Sydney said, chuckling.

"I think they're deranged farm boys." Evin smiled wickedly at Sydney. "Did you take Bankruptcy with Lawrence yet?"

"No, that's next semester."

"He draws stick figures on the board and calls 'em Farmer Brown and his missus. Next comes the bag of gold and stick cows. He lists creditors' names on the board and draws lines from the different cows to the creditors. It's quite enlightening to find that an entire division of the federal judiciary is based on stick figure law."

"Oh great. I'm paying close to a hundred thousand dollars to learn about stick cows." Sydney groaned, rolling her eyes. "Gives me something to look forward to next semester."

"Try arguing in front of a bankruptcy judge when the only thing that pops into your head is Lawrence's examples." Evin sat up straighter and pretended to be serious. "But, Your Honor, Farmer Brown is entitled to keep four of his stick cows under the exceptions provided for in the Bankruptcy Code."

Sydney held her side with one hand. "You've got to stop making me laugh. I can't finish my food." This is unbelievable! My plan's working.

"I'll stop. We can't have you starve now, can we?" Blue eyes twinkled. "Really though, the class isn't that bad. It's an easy A. He gives the same exam every year. The key is to answer his exam questions using the stick cows and Farmer Brown."

"You're kidding me!"

"Would I kid you?" Evin's attempt to look innocent failed miserably. "A guy who graduated a year before me told me that. I told him he was nuts. One day, Lawson's really pissed because nobody showed up for class, so he gives us a pop quiz. I figured no time like the present to test out the stick cow theory. So I answered all his questions using his Farmer Brown and stick cows examples. Got an A on the quiz and the course." She leaned back against the bench, a smug look on her face. "Sound advice, Sydney. Use the stick figures."

"Thanks, I'll have to remember that."

They finished their lunch in silence. It was a beautiful day, the sun shining brightly. A light breeze came off the river, just enough to keep the humidity at bay Evin closed her eyes and stretched her legs out, feeling the sun warm her skin. Her belly was full and the remaining tension was slowly seeping away. She let her mind drift. Sydney's a really nice person.

Sydney drew her legs up on the bench and wrapped her arms around them and faced Evin. Law school seems to be a good topic. "What did you think of the whole law school thing?"

"Not exactly what you thought it would be, is it?" She drawled lazily.

"It's a lot different than what I expected." Her voice was a mixture of resignation tinged with a small amount of disbelief. "I still find it hard to believe that they really don't teach any practical things. I didn't even know what a pleading looked like until I clerked over the summer after my first year."

"Law school's only good for three things," Evin responded, a weary note of wisdom tainting her voice. "You learn legal reasoning, where to find things in the library, and how to overcome abject humiliation. The rest you learn on your own." She paused as several memories wound through her consciousness. "Heh, heh. My favorite was the abject humiliation part."

Sydney smiled, taking in Evin's profile. "Evin! That laugh sounded so evil."

"Should hope so. I'm an evil girl and that's my patented evil chuckle," she teased. "They'll issue you one when you graduate. Reinforces the overall image of the bowelless, vile creatures we are."

Sydney said earnestly, "You really don't think that." Sydney watched as Evin sat up and turned to face her, immensely grateful for the sunglasses she had put on. From the sudden change in the tall woman's body language, she was sure that the look in Evin's eyes would have caused her to freeze into a block of ice despite the temperature. So much for my plan.

Sydney reached out and grasped a tan forearm, feeling how tightly wound the muscles were under her fingertips. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

'Calm down, big girl,' her little voice urged. 'She's not responsible for the choices you've made or how you feel about yourself.' You're right. 'About time you see it my way.' "Once again, Sydney, you have nothing to be sorry for," Evin responded evenly.

Squeezing Evin's forearm lightly, she insisted, "No, it's not my place to tell you what you think. For that, I'm sorry."

"It's really okay, Sydney." She said quietly. "Come on, let's pack this stuff up and get back to work. We've got a lot of things to go over. Maybe a fresh set of eyes will help."

Evin and Sydney walked back to the office in silence. Is that really what you think of yourself as a lawyer, Moran? A bowelless, vile creature? No mercy, no pity, no compassion? Ruthless? Unrelenting? The anger drained from her as the answer came. Yeah, I do. 'Girl, you are a piece of work. How did you get to this point?' The anger rose once more, the black mood consuming her heart, mind, and soul.

Sydney studied the lawyer surreptitiously as they walked back. She could see her mood change as clearly as if she had been watching nightfall. An impulse surfaced deep within her, bidding her to reach out and stroke Evin soothingly, to tell her something, anything, to bring back the smile she had seen earlier. The intensity of it shocked her.

Sydney was amazed at the amount of information that had been gathered so far by Evin and her staff. The sheer volume threatened to overwhelm her and, at first glance, it had seemed that most of it was irrelevant. She had picked up several reports, thumbing through them, then looked at the huge white board where list after list contained names of people and companies she had never heard of.

Evin watched as Sydney looked at the reports and the board skeptically. "Is there a problem?" She asked, one eyebrow raising as Sydney looked at her.

"No. Well, I mean, what does all of this have to do with the case?" Hands gestured to the stacks of reports and the board.

Evin answered a question with a question. "Why is Hynes desperate to get the land back?"

"I don't know," she replied, a little annoyed at the question. She knows I don't know.

"Who is Hynes?"

"A corporation."

"Not what, who."

"What do you mean who?" Sydney's annoyance increased. "A corporation is a juridical entity. It..."

"Enough of the law school crap," Evin snapped. "Corporations are fictions of the law created to limit liability, among other things. That's what they are. You learned that first year, second semester. Now, who is Hynes?"

Sydney glared at Evin, frustrated. "Hynes is a corporation."


"And what? You obviously know, so why don't you tell me so we can get on with this?" she retorted.

"I always know the answers to the questions I ask. Rule number seven, Sydney." Evin smirked. "I want to know what your answer is."

Sydney had reached her limit, anger and frustration clearly evident in her tone. "Are you trying to pick a fight with me because you're in a bad mood?"

Evin was totally caught off guard by how quickly this escalated into a fight appearing to have the potential to become World War III. She was, if truth be told, confused about how in the hell they ended up where they were at exactly this moment in time. And this had clearly turned into something personal. Handling personal confrontations was never Evin's forte. Her response to confusion of the personal sort was to either withdraw, both mentally and physically, or get angry. Sydney was between her position behind the desk and the door, eliminating option one. That left option two.

"Are you nuts?" Evin shot back, then watched as Sydney's expression changed from mildly angry and frustrated to incredibly angry and frustrated. Uh oh! Wrong thing to say. Green eyes glared. Small hands turned into fists at her side. I wonder if this is how Keller felt.

"Am I nuts? Am I nuts? You are by far the most frustrating person I have ever met in my life." Sydney's voice had gotten louder and it shook slightly with anger.


Evin's voice grew louder as well, her eyes widening in surprise at Sydney's statement. "The most frustrating.... What the hell did I do?"

Somewhere in the back of Evin's mind, she realized that this type of response was probably not the best course of action and that there must be a third option, but she had no idea what it could be. She also vaguely recalled mentioning rule number seven. Then she remembered the reason for rule number seven. Something about how dangerous it is for a lawyer to ask questions that you don't know the answer to because sometimes it backfires and you get information you didn't want to know or that would hurt your case. Like "Did you really kill that man?" "Yes." "Great, there goes the alibi defense." Now she'd asked a question she didn't know the answer to. And, from the look on Sydney's face, was pretty sure she didn't want to know the answer either.

"What did you do? What did you do?" Sydney cried, incredulous. What did she do? Tell her, Sydney. Umm....what exactly did she do? Oh shit, I could be in trouble here. God, she's so frustrating, I can't even think straight when I'm around her. When in doubt, obfuscate! "You know what you did!"

Sydney watched as pale blue eyes, glittering angrily a moment before clouding with confusion. A slight drop of Evin's jaw and Sydney knew that she had succeeded. The problem was, she didn't know where to go from here. The more she thought about all of this, the clearer it became to her that, besides the obvious - she'd lost her mind - she had no idea why she was yelling at the tall lawyer.

They stared at each other for a long few moments. Evin's mind, racing frantically to logically reconstruct the previous few minutes and make sense of it all, finally threw its hands up in surrender. Sydney's mind, a few seconds ago so sure her anger, couldn't even think of a single reason to justify it, and decided that a hasty retreat might be just the answer.

"I'm leaving!" Sydney jumped up and stormed out of the office, leaving a totally bewildered Evin Moran still sitting at her desk.

Rachel and Jeffrey heard the door slam and looked up from their computer screens in time to see Sydney stalk by, heading for the door leading to the stairs. Then they heard the door open and turned to see their boss standing in the doorway, looking somewhat dazed. The blue eyes had a far off look, brows were furrowed slightly and there was a definite parting of the lips due to the position of her jaw.

She took a step past the door. Stopped. Ran one hand through her hair. Turned around and took a step back towards her office. Stopped again. Ran her hand through her hair again. Turned around again. Looked down at the ground and shook her head, muttering something. Then turned around for a final time and walked back into her office.

Rachel and Jeffrey observed the events with seeming disinterest. After their boss retreated back into her office and slammed the door, they looked at each other.

"You know what I think, Rach?"


"There's an attraction there."

"Hmm. You might be right. They've sure got an interesting way of showing it though."

"Hope they figure it out soon or we'll be buying some new doors."

They went back to their work, silence reigning for a few minutes.

"Hey, Jeffrey."

"Yeah, Rach."

"What was she saying?"

"Something in Italian about women, I think. I just caught the word 'donne'"

"I probably don't want to know, right?"

"Probably not."

Sydney stood in the parking garage next to her car. A hasty retreat had seemed like a good idea at the time, but Sydney was now reconsidering at least the 'hasty' part, having forgotten to grab her knapsack on the way out.

Shit! No damn keys, no damn wallet, and I'll be damned if I'm going back up there. Why do I get so angry around her? I must be losing my mind. We're supposed to be working on this together. And let's face it, she's the best of the best. I really need to figure this out and work with her. It's what's best for my client. It's also really good for me. I've learned so much already. Okay, Plan A, go somewhere for a little while and put things in perspective, figure it out and act accordingly. Plan B, if I can't figure it out, go back, plead insanity, and hope she doesn't throw me out of her office.

Sydney walked out the parking garage exit and headed down the street. After several blocks, she spotted the south entrance to the Riverwalk mall. She brightened a little bit. Ooh! I can walk and think and get coffee and window-shop. She picked up her pace a little bit and soon found herself entering the mall that sat on the river. She stopped and pulled out a few dollar bills from her pocket. Four dollars. Enough for coffee and an order of beignets. Things are definitely starting to look up.

Sydney wandered through the mall, going into some of the shops for a closer look. A small part of her was actually glad that she didn't have her wallet and checkbook with her. The Riverwalk had some unique stores, but it was definitely overpriced. The merchants got away with it because of all the tourists. She picked up the head of an alligator that was mounted on a piece of wood. It looked like it had been varnished. Eight hundred fifty dollars. Unbelievable. Who would buy that? The clerk walked over and looked at her expectantly.

"Can I help you with anything?"

"Do people actually buy these?" she asked curiously.

"Um, yes, they do."

"Really? How many of these do you sell?"

"About twenty-five a month."

"No kidding. Thanks, you have a good day." No accounting for some people's tastes. Sydney walked out of the shop shaking her head. It's time for coffee and beignets .

Sydney bought a cup of coffee and an order of beignets and found a table outside. Time for some serious thinking here. What happened to taking a few deep breaths and counting to ten? That flew right out the window, didn't it? I just react to this woman like nobody's business.

Let's acknowledge a few things here. I'm stressed out now. I was stressed out before I ever met Evin Moran. But I certainly wasn't running around accusing people of trying to pick a fight with me. Or of being the most frustrating person in the world I'd ever met. So what is it about her that makes me crazy?

Sydney stared at a freighter as it moved slowly up the river, watching until it disappeared around the turn. She couldn't come up with a single reason why her reactions to the tall woman were so intense. I go from zero to angry in just milliseconds. I do have a little bit of a temper, but this is ridiculous.

A little voice whispered in the back of Sydney's mind 'What about your reaction to the shooting? Don't you think that was a little over the top? Throwing yourself at her and almost squeezing her to death.' No, it wasn't. I thought she had been hurt.

'Then explain why you skipped school and made her lunch?' I was exhausted. I slept in. 'Right, so why did you get up at seven in the morning to go to the grocery store for food when you could have slept until eight if you went to class?' Cooking relaxes me.

'Yeah, whatever. So what's the deal with wanting to touch her when you were walking back?' No! That's're implying...couldn't be...could it? Oh please, no. The more Sydney thought about it, the more everything started to make sense. God help me. I like her. 'You more than like her Sydney, you're attracted to her.' Shit! Shit! Shit! Sydney's mind threw a mental temper tantrum. I don't need this! I don't want this! I don't have time for this! You can't do this! Your case! She's your advisor now!

A groan escaped Sydney's lips, causing several people to turn and look. Great! This is just great , she thought disgustedly. 'Well at least you've got excellent taste. She's hot!' Please shut up now. Sydney raised her hands to her temples and rubbed lightly. I only thought I had a headache before. What are you gonna do about this, Sydney Parker?

Sydney stood up and started walking slowly back to Evin's office. Plan B. Plead insanity and hope I don't get thrown out. 'You could tell her.' And tell her what? Yeah, I know... Hey Evin, I remember having this dream last night. It was really a great dream. I'm not clear on all the details, but this is what I remembered when I woke up. Let's see, a conference room table, some files scattered on the floor, lips, long legs. Flesh. Definitely a lot of flesh. A lot of soft, warm, wet flesh. Interesting dream, huh? Oh, and by the way, I just figured out, it was your flesh. Now, can we get to work?

Evin stood and stared out the window, watching the clouds float lazily by. Sydney was so adamant that Evin knew she must have done something to warrant whatever this fight was about. She had replayed the whole scenario in her mind over and over for the last forty-five minutes. But for the life of her, she couldn't figure out what started the fight much less come up with anything she did to cause it, other than a slight attitude problem. And I have that all the time, so that's nothing new.

All I was trying to do was get her to think the way she needs to think for this kind of case. 'Why do you suddenly care about that?' Because she needs to know. 'No she doesn't. Just tell her what she needs to know and go from there.' But that won't help her. 'Help her what?' Learn how to deal with all of this crap. 'She doesn't need to know that. You know it already. This case can be handled without it. Besides, once this case is over, Sydney Parker's out of your life.' Bullshit, she needs to know this. 'Why?' Because, it's not fair if she doesn't. 'Good reason. Since when have you concerned yourself with fair lately?' Because she's got to be prepared for this kind of crap if she's going to practice law. 'Why do you care?' Because she can get hurt! Don't you understand!

The little voice gently said 'It's you who doesn't understand.' What's that supposed to mean? 'What do you think it means?' I don't have time for this crap. 'Has it been so long since you've actually allowed yourself to feel anything other than your anger?' I am not feeling anything! 'Go ahead. Live in that state of denial to which there is no zip code. I can't even send you a letter.' I am not feeling anything! I am not. I.... Oh sweet mother of God. I am.

Evin's forehead bounced off the glass of the window as her head fell forward. She decided to bounce it a few more times against the window, hoping maybe it would knock some sense into her. This cannot be happening. No. No. No. No. No. I will not allow it. 'And how do you think you're going to stop it? You couldn't even figure out it was starting.' Maybe I don't have to. This is all going to be over with in three weeks, tops, then she's gone. So I don't have to stop it, I've just got to outlast it, then it'll go away. Yeah, that's it. Good plan. 'What's that zip code?' Shut up!

'What are you gonna do when she comes back?' Do what I always do, shut it out. 'Worked real well so far.' Listen, I've done it most of my adult life. There is absolutely no reason to think I can't do this now. I just wasn't aware of it before. Now that I am, I can control it. 'If you say so.'

The intercom buzzed.


"Sydney's here."

"Uh...okay send her in." A wave of absolute terror flowed through Evin. She actually took a step before she brought her fight or flight response under control. What is wrong with you? She felt the anger surge. Now that I can deal with. Control, Moran control. You don't... won't feel anything. By the time Sydney came through the door, she was seated at her desk, an impassive mask on her face and a solid steel curtain shielding her eyes.

Sydney walked into the office, her stomach in knots. She fully expected the tall woman to scream and yell then throw her out. Evin was seated in her leather chair, working on something on her computer. She didn't look up as Sydney approached the desk. Sydney took a seat in front of the desk and waited for the explosion. Evin continued working, not looking up from the computer screen. Sydney started to fidget and finally looked out the window. When she looked back, she found piercing blue eyes peering at her.

"Umm...I..." Sydney blushed. Damn those blue eyes.

One eyebrow lifted as blue met green, regarding each other for a long moment. Taking Sydney's blush for embarrassment, Evin felt her confidence returning. This is better. See, I told you I could do this. Keep it strictly business. Forget the eyes, forget the voice, forget the body. You're turning over a new leaf here, so get on with it. "You ready to get started?" She asked in a cool, even tone.

"I'm ready." I think. Doesn't look like she wants to talk about it. Good. I guess. Yeah, it's good. What would you say? Gee, Evin, sorry I lost my mind, but I just figured out you cause me to have hormonal overload, which in turn short-circuits my brain, which made me angry before because I didn't know what was going on, but now that I do, well I want to.... Sydney shut that line of thought down immediately.

Evin settled back in her chair. "The big question is 'why' this is happening to your clients. We figure that out and we find the 'who' that's responsible. The 'who' is not Hynes. Hynes is a corporation. But it's run by people. Someone, somewhere made a decision to hide those payments. That's one of the 'whos' we're looking for. One thing I do know is that it's definitely about money."

"Why do you think it's about money? That land's not worth a whole lot. That's nothing to a big corporation like this."

"Sydney, I'd bet anything it's about money. It always is. The land is just a means to accomplish something. And that something is where the money will be. Think about it. What Hynes is trying to do is tantamount to fraud, which opens them up to a host of problems, both criminal and civil. Why take the risk for an $185,000.00 piece of property if there's not a big payoff somewhere?"

"So what we're looking for is the reason they want the property."

Evin nodded and smiled. "Right. We find the reason, we find the 'who' behind it. Or we find the 'who' and that will lead us to the reason. We've been sifting through all this information to find the needle in the haystack that's going to give us our answers." And then they're all gonna die.

"Okay, I understand. What do you need me to do?"

"I've prepared some discovery pleadings and subpoenas for you to sign." Evin pointed to a seven-inch stack of legal size paper on her desk. "And we need to go over your school schedule for next week. I want to schedule some depositions and I've cleared my calendar for next week, except for a motion Friday morning. Then we'll go through the board. Maybe you can come up with something we haven't seen."

Sydney glanced around the room, taking in the stacks of paper that seemed to adorn every flat surface in the office. It suddenly dawned on her that it must have taken a great deal of time, manpower, and expense to come up with all of this information. With that realization, Sydney's mind clicked into gear. Where has your head been? Green eyes blinked a few times as she shook her head. How could you be so stupid?

Sydney focused her gaze back on Evin. "What's going on with this case that you're not telling me about?"

Evin straightened in her seat. "I'm disclosing all the information to you. We haven't been over everything yet."

Sydney stood and moved to the board, her eyes raking over the writing. Bold printed characters stared back at her. Her hands came to rest on her hips. She read and reread the board, the speed of her thoughts increasing. She moved to the table and picked up a report. Opening the front cover, she flipped to the second page. I thought I remembered seeing that, but it didn't really register before.

Holding the report, she moved to the window and looked out, folding her arms across her chest. Sydney remembered the promise she made to herself. Adult time-out right now. She took several deep breaths and counted to ten.

Evin watched Sydney intently. She could see the law student was thinking, hard, about something. That's beautiful, Evin's mind supplied, as she watched the sun's rays dance and play in Sydney's hair. Light red locks changed to gold. Her heart skipped a beat.

Sydney pushed an errant lock of hair behind an ear and turned around, focusing on Evin. "Can I ask you a few questions?"

"Sure," replied the woman who hated questions as green eyes met hers.

"Do you always choose your words so carefully?" The potentially volatile question was tempered by the sincerity in Sydney's voice.

This was not the question she expected. Evin felt the anger that always lingered just below the surface start to rapidly bubble. But something about Sydney's voice and the look on her face stopped her from issuing a sharp retort. In front of Evin stood a young woman who wanted some honest answers. Green eyes looked expectantly at her.

"Yes, I do."

"Why do you do that?"

"I'm a lawyer. Lawyers live by the word and die by the word."

Sydney looked thoughtful as she considered that statement. "I understand that." She thought a minute more before she added, "Are you always so evasive when you answer questions?"

Blue eyes blinked. This definitely wasn't the discussion she thought they were going to have. "I don't think that last answer I gave was evasive."

"The last answer wasn't. But you didn't answer my question about the case."

"I did."

"You made a statement, but it didn't really answer my question." She looked at Evin seriously. "I believe a judge would rule in my favor if I objected and moved to strike your answer as non-responsive."

Every instinct that Evin had screamed for some sort of retort, wanting her to regain control of the situation. But her mind didn't obey. Sydney wasn't threatening or condemning or snide in asking her questions or making her comments. In fact, her whole demeanor was quite the opposite. It was as if Sydney were seeking some insight, some perspective, some understanding. Of what, Evin wasn't sure. She had the feeling that Sydney needed something from her.

"Sydney, what do you need from me?" The words echoed in her mind, chased by a thought.

Sydney's eyes widened slightly in surprise. "I..." She hesitated. "Nobody's ever asked me that before."

I've never, in my entire life, asked anyone that question before. But you, Sydney Parker, I bet you ask everyone that question. How could they not ask you in return? Evin felt a tug on her heartstrings. The steel shield dropped for a moment from the pale blue eyes. "Then you've been in the company of fools."

A warm smile, lighting up Sydney's face, answered the sincere, kind look she saw in the pale blue eyes. That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me. She made her decision then. No holds barred. She would ask this woman for what she needed. Though not all of it now. Her mind supplied that qualifier.

"I need to talk to you. Without any evasive answers. Without any lawyer stuff in the way. Can you do that for me?" Hopeful green eyes peered at Evin.

Evin's gaze dropped to the top of her desk. You asked her what she needed. She told you. Time to put your money where your mouth is. "I...I..." Deep breath, Moran. "I'm not... sure I can do it. It's just that...I've done this for so long...Um...I can't remember not doing it." She looked back up at Sydney. "It's not that I don't want to...I'm willing to try...but I don't know if..."

"You can do it?" Sydney finished.

Evin nodded. "It's..."

"You just did." Sydney interjected softly. Look at her. Stuttering and shy. She's so adorable.


"We just talked. No evasiveness. No lawyer words. You told me honestly what you thought. That's all I need, right now."

"Okay, I'll try."

"Good. Besides, if it doesn't work, we can always go back to fighting. We've already established we can do that well."

That brought a smile to Evin's face. "That we do, my friend."

My friend. I like the sound of that . "I could use some coffee. Do you want some?"

"Yeah. Have you been introduced to the break room yet?"


"Come on then," Evin prodded as she stood up. "It's time for a formal introduction."


"Yeah, Rach."

Her head motioned towards Evin's office door. "Been in there for a while now."


"It's pretty quiet in there. Think everything's okay?"

"They've either made up or killed each other. Either way, it's resolved."

"Mmm. Guess you're right."

Several minutes later, Evin and Sydney walked out the office. Jeffrey and Rachel looked up from their computer screens.

"Anything going on?" Evin asked.

"No." They answered in unison.

"Um...okay." She glanced around and then announced, "We're going to the break room. Do you want anything?"

Rachel half coughed and half-choked. Jeffrey, in his inimitable style, offered, "I didn't know you knew where it was."

Sydney couldn't help but laugh.

"Hah, hah. Very funny, Jeffrey," Evin retorted, shooting him a hostile look. "Do you want anything?"

"No," he chuckled "but thanks for asking."


"No thanks, Evin."

"Okay." They ambled off to the elevator, the secretaries watching as they entered and the elevator doors closed.

"The break room?"

"That's what she said, Jeffrey."

"Boy, does she have it bad."

"Yeah, real bad."

Smiling, they went back to their work. A few minutes later, the phone rang. "Jeffrey Bowman."

Another line rang. "Rachel Wells." Then another. "Hold please. Rachel Wells. Hold please."

" course everything's fine...a law student...Sydney Parker...Talk to you later." Jeffrey hung up

"Uh huh...nothing's wrong, why?, she's a law, she's not clerking for Evin...bye." Rachel reached for the line on hold.

"Rachel Wells...yes...taking a break, I guess...Sydney to you later, Elise."

Another line rang. "Jeffrey Bowman...she owns the building...she can do what she wants...hang on...Jeffrey Bowman, please what were you saying?...get a grip, Suzanne...Bye...Jeffrey Bo...calm down...the same thing you do when you go to the break room...there's a first time for everything...later."

"That was floors two and six."

"I talked to three, four, and nine."

Two lines rang at the same time. Rachel stared at the phone. "That's seven and eight."

"Should we just make an announcement?"

"It'd be easier."

Another line rang.

"Five." Jeffrey started laughing.

"Rachel Wells, please hold...Rachel Wells...please hold...Rachel Wells...please hold."

She hit the conference button on the phone and joined each of the lines. "Yes, she's taking a break. No, the world's not coming to an end. Sydney Parker is a law student. Now, if there are no more questions, I have work to do." She ended the call.

Jeffrey was howling with laughter and Rachel joined in. The elevator door opened and their boss stepped out with Sydney. One large hand gripped a chocolate soft serve ice cream cone and the other held a bottle of water. She was looking down at Sydney, a goofy grin on her face. Sydney, a smile lighting up her eyes, held a vanilla soft serve cone in one small hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

Jeffrey fell out of his chair, hitting the floor with a resounding thud. Gasping for air, he curled into a ball as his stomach muscles started to burn. Rachel was laughing so hard that no sound was coming out, except for the rush of air as her lungs gasped occasionally.

"What's so funny?" Evin stopped at Rachel's desk and looked at her. A long, red tongue came out and licked the chocolate ice cream.

"Please.... Stop," she managed to choke out.

Evin looked at Sydney and shrugged her shoulders, a questioning look on her face. A long tongue took another swipe at the ice cream.

Sydney took a shot at getting some information out of Rachel. "Rachel, what are y'all laughing at?" A pink tongue licked the top of the vanilla ice cream.

Jeffrey moaned, "Phone calls..." and got up on his knees, only to collapse again.

Rachel waved her hand, shooing them away. ""

Sydney looked at Evin and shrugged, giving her an "I have no idea" look as they walked into Evin's office.

"What do you think that was all about?"

"Knowing them, I wouldn't even hazard a guess." Evin replied. "Let's sit over here." Evin motioned towards the couch. If Sydney wanted to talk to her out of lawyer mode, she was going to need all the help she could get. She figured that if she were sitting someplace else besides her desk, maybe that would help. You're grasping at straws here, Moran. How bad could this be?

Sydney sat at the far end of the couch. Evin sat in one of the overstuffed chairs diagonally across from Sydney.


"For what?" Evin put her water bottle on the coffee table that separated them.

"For these," Sydney lifted the ice cream cone and cup of coffee. "And for agreeing to drop the lawyer tactics."

"You're welcome on the ice cream and coffee. We'll wait and see about the lawyer tactics." A long, red tongue licked the cone again.

Sydney felt the blush start to rise on her face as intense blue eyes looked at her. As she watched, she saw the long, red tongue take another swipe at the ice cream cone. She knew she should have looked away, but she couldn't stop herself from watching a dollop of chocolate soft serve on the tip of the tongue disappear behind full red lips. Involuntary contractions somewhere below her belly button reddened her face further and a fleeting moment of jealousy aimed at the ice cream surfaced deep in her mind as the tongue went back for more ice cream.

Evin was wholly unaware that Sydney was watching her ice cream eating technique with a little more than passing interest. Her mind was occupied with trying to shed its lawyer's cloak. Something in her subconscious however, had picked up on it and was trying to get her attention. Evin focused even harder on shedding the cloak as an insistent whisper pecked at her consciousness. Finally breaking through, it screamed, 'Look at her! ' Startled, her mind finally registered the green eyes focused on her ice cream and the accompanying blush on the soft face. Her tongue stopped in mid-swipe as her eyes rounded slightly in surprise.

Any illusion that Evin harbored about being calm, cool, and in control of her attraction to Sydney, much less anything else, evaporated. And the aloof, moody, and always in control lawyer found herself doing something she hadn't done since grade school. Blushing. A deep red hue made short work of her tanned olive skin, reaching the very tops of her ears. I guess that answers the question of whether or not she likes you. In a second that seemed like a century, she quickly went through the options different parts of her brain tossed at her.

To her credit, she remained in her chair, the option to run and the option to jump over the coffee table and kiss the law student both discarded. She didn't know if she could attribute that to her iron will or to the fact that she was scared to death that her knees wouldn't hold her up. Choosing the iron will as an excuse, she used that to bolster her confidence. The old standby of ignoring it popped into her head. You've already done it once today and it worked. Try it again. Deciding she had absolutely nothing else to lose, she went with it. As her tongue finished the halted swipe, she moved the ice cream cone away from her mouth.

Evin was grateful that her blush had lasted only for a second as she watched Sydney's eyes stay focused for a second more on her lips. Maybe she didn't see it. "You ready to start this 'no evasions, no double-talk' talk, Sydney?"

"Yes," was all Sydney managed to squeak out as her gaze moved from Evin's lips to her eyes. That's not any better either. Come on, she asked you what she needed, now focus and tell her. Don't chicken out. "What's going on with this case that you're not telling me about?"

"There really is nothing going on."

"I've got this feeling in my gut that you're not telling me everything. Do you think that because I'm just a law student that I'm incompetent in some way?"


"Do you want to explain that?"

"No means 'no.' Not much else to explain." She looked at her ice cream cone, trying to figure out what to do with it.

Sydney sighed. "I think there is. You made a comment in Professor Rayburn's office. You assumed that the case was screwed up. Why was that?"

"I...It was...I 'assumed.'" She shrugged. "Shouldn't have done that."

"But why?"

"I was angry." Evin got up and walked to the trashcan, throwing away the half-eaten ice cream.

"That much was obvious," Sydney chuckled. "What were you angry about?"

"The whole thing."

"That's pretty vague."

Evin sat back down. "I made the comment when I was angry. It was...I had no real reason to think that the case was screwed up. It's just...a habit to expect the worst, I guess. I read the file. It wasn't screwed up."

"You've told me that several times, but the way you..." It was Sydney's turn to get up and throw away the rest of her ice cream. "I get the impression that you think it was screwed up."

"That's your assumption."

"Yeah it is, but..." Time for another tack . "Why won't you tell me what you think about this case?"

"I have."

"No. We've discussed procedural aspects 'til we're blue in the face. We've talked about the facts repeatedly. Our strategy. Our chances of success and failure. But there's something else you're not telling me and I can't put my finger on it. If I don't know, I can't help. And if I can't help, then I'm not doing the best job I can for my clients. It's not fair to me or my clients."

"I don't know what else to tell you."

"How about what your gut is telling you?"

Evin remained silent and looked at Sydney. You really don't want to know. "My gut tells me that you should withdraw from the case."

"Do you think we can have one conversation where it doesn't end up in a fight? Because if you're trying to piss me off with that withdrawal stuff, it's starting to work. We've already discussed that. It's not going to happen."

Evin stood up. "I'm not trying to piss you off," she said defensively.

"Then why do you keep trying to get me to withdraw?" Sydney pleaded. "I really don't want to get angry, Evin. I want to understand."

Evin searched for words to explain as she began pacing back and forth. How do I explain what I can't even figure out myself? The more I look at everything, the less and less sense it makes. Which makes me more and more suspicious. And that scares me for you. You're so innocent. And this case can rip that from you. "This is not a case you should be handling."

"Again, you're implying that I'm incompetent."

"No...I'm...not," she said as she ran a hand through her hair, her frustration beginning to mount.

"Then what the hell is it?" This is worse than cross-examining a reluctant witness.

"You're inexperienced. That's different than being incompetent."

"Yes, I am, so it's a good thing that I've got you on this case with me."

"That's not the point."

"What is the point then?" Sydney's voice grew louder. She's so infuriating.

"Christ, they're fucking shooting at people! You could get hurt," Evin responded, her voice laced with frustration.

"So you don't want me on this case because you think I'm going to get hurt? Is that it?" she asked softly.

She stopped pacing and looked at Sydney. "Yes. Exactly!" Her voice held a triumphant note. Now she gets it.

"Sorry. No can do, Counselor. I'm not withdrawing," Sydney said adamantly. "I appreciate your concern, but I always finish what I start. Nobody's going to scare me off. You withdraw if you want to. I'm sure Professor Rayburn can find another advisor for me."

"Me, withdraw!" Evin blurted, incredulous. "Oh, no, Sydney Parker. I'm not going anywhere!"

"Neither am I, so can we please just get on with this and stop having the same discussion over and over?"

"We'll keep having this discussion over and over until you understand."

"I understand perfectly well."

"No, you obviously don't. If you would, you'd listen to me and withdraw."

"I have a news flash for you, Counselor. Just because I won't withdraw doesn't mean that I don't understand. Your reasoning's flawed. If I understood, I'd withdraw. Since I won't withdraw, I don't understand. The two are not mutually exclusive. I can understand and still not agree with you. Withdrawing is your solution. It's not mine. And as for experience, you're right. I am inexperienced. But you more than make up for that. You say there haven't been any mistakes committed so far in this case. Then if that's true, there shouldn't be any made now. Besides, now that you're on this case, you're in the lead and I'm functioning more as a law clerk anyway. So I fail to see where the problem is. Now, do you want to tell me why you're spending God knows how many thousands of dollars for investigations and what it is that's got you so bothered about it? Or would you like for me to continue this cross-examination?" Green eyes peered at Evin intently.

"Sydney, exactly how long can you talk without taking a breath?"

"A long, long time." One reddish blonde eyebrow arched over a sparkling green eye. "You want me to continue?"

"No." I'm not going to win this

"Let's get started then," Sydney said, a small grin forming on pink lips. "What's bothering you?"