Trial of Conscience
Sydney sat at her desk, a steaming mug of coffee clasped between both hands. This is so much better than that hospital crap. She had almost hugged her coffeemaker this morning, right after she spent a good minute or two moaning as she inhaled the aroma of the coffee.
Looking at the stacks of notes and her casebooks, she sighed and picked up the case assignments sheet Wayne had brought to her. Maybe by the end of the semester I'll catch up. She had missed her house. The comfortable surroundings brought her a measure of peace.
She had fallen asleep almost immediately when she got home, her body finally protesting "enough" and shutting down. That had been a little before three yesterday afternoon, right after she had dropped Evin off at her office. She slept until she felt like waking up this morning. No alarm. No annoying hospital monitors beeping. No being awakened in the middle of the night by nurses checking on Evin.
This was her fourth attempt at studying. The first had resulted in a hasty trip to the bathroom where her body had rejected her breakfast and first two cups of coffee. It wasn't the studying that had caused the reaction. It was everything that had happened.
The last week seemed nightmarishly surreal. You don't realize what's really happened until it's all over with. Andrew had told them that ATF had preliminarily concluded that the propane tank that supplied the fishing camp with gas had been rigged with explosives. Both Angela Battiste and her boyfriend were killed prior to the explosion, shot at point blank range in the back of the head. It definitely wasn't an accident.
Evin had absolutely no doubt that the explosion had been deliberate, but some small part of Sydney hoped that it had all been one of those tragic mishaps that sometimes happen in the universe. That was, in a way, easier to deal with than the deliberate taking of a life. If it was an accident, then she had a barrier, of sorts, against the tragedy.
Isn't it horrible that those people were killed in that car accident when the tire blew and the car went out of control? Yes, it is. It was tragic, yes. Deliberate, no. You couldn't do anything about it. You were powerless. But this...this was deliberate. Someone, somewhere, made a decision to kill these two people. And it was all connected with a simple little foreclosure case that had found its way to her doorstep.
Sydney suddenly had power, the power to do something about it. Find out who was behind this whole mess, and you'd find the killer. But Sydney didn't want the power. She wasn't going to give it back, but she definitely didn't want it. How did this become so complicated?
With the second attempt at studying, Sydney started feeling guilty. She would have given anything to not have Evin hurt, to not have those two people dead. But she couldn't help feeling happy on some level. Not happy that Evin was hurt, not happy that people were dead. But happy because she and Evin had seemed to take things to another level. And it all happened because someone decided to kill two people.
She had learned so much about the tall woman from Andrew, while they waited in the hospital. Things that had made her cry and things that had made her howl with laughter. How her mother had called her "WC" for wild child and blamed her premature gray on Evin's antics. About her love of sports. How she isolated herself, preferring the company of the gulls on the lake to most humans. What a hell-raiser she was and still could be. That the only family she had left that she cared about was a cousin. How she loved to fish. That she hadn't taken a vacation in five years. Realizing it was a catharsis for Andrew, she had listened, not asking questions, relishing each piece of information she could glean.
When she met Carole, Andrew's wife, she remarked that Andrew had been hoping Evin would meet someone that meant as much to her as Carole did to him. The comment had stunned Sydney. Was it really possible that Evin feels the way I feel?
She had met Tom. He had greeted her with "So you're the infamous Sydney Parker that's brought my girl to her knees." Evin had stared daggers at him. He had stuck out his tongue at Evin and said, "Live with it, bitch!" Then he pulled Sydney into a chair next to him and said, "Spill it. So, how is she on her knees? Do tell." She thought Evin had turned redder than Sydney had. There was no other way to describe him but outrageous. They had taken Evin down in a wheelchair to the cafeteria where he had proceeded to comment on every person who came through the door. When he screamed "Girl, look at her. She could scare cheese off a pizza!" Sydney had laughed so hard her stomach muscles burned and tears poured out of her eyes.
Things between them had changed. Evin hadn't seemed as scared as she had been of whatever was going on between them, accepting without question that Sydney was there, at her side. Sydney had been sure that as soon as Evin had awakened, she would send Sydney home, telling her she was missing too much school or some other nonsense. But it hadn't happened.
A certain level of comfort developed between them. They talked for hours about everything under the sun. They played the games Sydney had bought. Evin read or worked logic puzzles while Sydney studied. They played and teased with each other. They fought about things, mostly having to do with Evin's obstinate refusal to ask for help when she needed something.
Like the time Evin hopped on one leg to the bathroom in the middle of the night in the dark. She made it to the bathroom okay, but the return trip was another story. Off balance already because her right arm was in a sling, she wobbled slightly to the side just as she was passing the chair. An eerie growl, reminiscent of an animal mortally wounded, followed a split second after Evin's injured thigh came into contact with the chair.
Sydney was instantly awake and aware that Evin was no longer in the bed next to her. A tug on the cord for the light behind the bed, and the pale form of the attorney was visible to Sydney. Sydney thought Evin was about to pass out. She couldn't decide if she wanted to help her or kill her. The only thing she was sure of at that moment is that she had never met any human being as frustrating as Evin Moran.
And the physical attraction. Oh, that's definitely there. They couldn't keep their hands off each other. Sounds so clichÈ, but it's the truth. Hugs. Caresses. Rubs. Touches. Kisses. Nips. Licks. Passionate. Tender. Soothing. Affectionate. Gentle. Reassuring. Needing. Wanting. Giving. Taking. Sydney had half-expected some self-righteous anti-homosexual preacher to show up to try to absolve them of their sins and show them "the way."
When they left the hospital, Evin had seemed relieved, a cat let out of its cage. The closer they got to New Orleans, the more Evin had withdrawn, and Sydney couldn't find a way back in. She was determined to allow the taller woman her space, knowing instinctively not to push her. Sydney couldn't help but feel that every inch of progress gained in their relationship was being lost with each mile they traveled. And when the tall attorney requested that she be brought to her office, Sydney threw her mental hands up in surrender.
Anger interrupted Sydney's third study attempt. When Sydney got angry, no one was spared. Not the Doleses, who had bought the damned land in the first place. Not Kevin Windham, that son of a bitch law student who had pawned this case off on her. Not Hynes Industries, who had killed two people. Not Professor Rayburn, who had called in Evin Moran. And especially not the contemptuous, gorgeous, exasperating, devastatingly sexy, frustrating as hell Evin Moran.
And what good's a little anger if Sydney hadn't directed some at herself? Sydney cursed herself for taking Law Clinic. Cursed herself for taking the case from Kevin. Cursed herself for caring about the Dolese family. Cursed herself for not withdrawing when she was fighting with Evin, before she had a chance to realize what was really going on between them. Cursed herself for feeling that lightning bolt that was Evin find ground in her heart and soul. Cursed herself for falling in love in three weeks time.
Sydney had decided to throw in a little self-doubt. She didn't think it was possible to feel the way she did about Evin in such a short span of time. I never felt this way about Kathy. It wasn't possible to feel so comfortable with someone in so many ways, was it? Impossible for her to want Evin as much as she wanted her, ached for her, needed her. Impossible that anyone, much less Evin, would feel that way about her.
So this is it. My fourth attempt to study. She found herself reaching for the telephone and dialing.
Andrew looked across the table at Evin as the telephone rang for the fourth time. "You want me to get it?"
"No," she snapped.
Evin scowled at him.
The answering machine picked up and Andrew could hear Sydney's voice, hesitant, uncertain, through the speaker.
"You're not going to talk to her?" he asked, his voice colored by a mixture of disbelief and anger.
"No," she said coldly.
He studied her intently for a moment. This is where I usually back off and leave it alone. Well, not this time, Evin Moran. Not this time . "Why not?"
"Because I don't want to."
"Responsive. Adult. Thanks for answering my question." Andrew retorted.
Andrew exploded off the chair. "When are you going to grow up? When are you going to quit running and hiding?"
"I don't run and hide!"
"Spare me!" His voice thundered across the room. "What did you just do?"
"I'm tired, Andrew. I think you should leave."
"Not until I finish saying what I have to say and you can just fucking sit there and listen to it." He glared at her, daring her to move. "When you got hurt and I was holding you, I begged God not to take you because you finally found someone you could let love you. And now, for some reason, you're too scared."
Evin looked at him, too stunned to speak.
"It's written in your eyes. You're falling in love with her. She's falling in love with you." His voice lowered as he pleaded with her. "Let her love you. Let yourself love her."
"You don't know what you're talking about," she snarled.
"Bullshit! You're lying to yourself, Evin." Andrew's voice rose again. "You're lying. I want you to tell me right now that you're not falling in love with her."
Silence greeted him as pale blue eyes glared at him from behind steel doors.
"You're lying half-dead in a hospital bed and you're happier than I've ever seen you. Tell me it's not true." I just want you to be happy. Can't you see that?
"You think Gisela would've been at your bedside so worried that she couldn't sleep? Or what's her name, Jeanette, Lynette, some-ette?"
"Jeanine." She spit the name at him.
His fist slammed the table in anger as he shouted, "Well, do you?"
"You're a fool if you do this to yourself...to her. And I've never thought you were a fool." He turned and walked out the door.
Evin stared at the door as it slammed behind him. He doesn't know a fucking thing.
The book flew across the room, impacting the wall with a resounding thud, narrowly missing the clock.
"You need anger management classes." Tom's right eyebrow raised so high it disappeared as he watched his friend. "You'd better not aim one of those at me, Miss Thing, or you'll learn first hand the meaning of bitch slap. I don't give a damn whether you're injured or not."
Evin glared at him. "Fuck you!"
"That ranks a zero on the insult originality scale, but I'll give you a six for style." He shook his head as his light brown eyes flashed. "Ding ding! Round over. You lose. Too bad."
He knew he was playing with fire. Most sane people don't antagonize her. Good thing for me I've never questioned my insanity. She has got to talk about this and the only way I know how is to make her lose it.
"Round two, folks. The lovely and talented Lillian leads one to nothing. Will the alpha bitch from hell make a comeback this round? Inquiring minds want to know! How many roses is it going to take to soothe your conscious over this one, my pretty? One truck load, perhaps two?"
Silence as knuckles turned white from gripping the edge of the table.
"What? No snappy retort? Zero for content, zero for style. Ding ding! You lost again. Round two to Miss Lillian." He raised both eyebrows and smiled nastily at her. "Three strikes and you're out"
I either win big by losing this next one or I walk out of here without my best friend. "Round three. Winner takes all. Grand prize: love and happiness. Second place: a lifetime of loneliness. Are you ready, big girl? Can you handle the pressure?"
A glare filled with murderous intent met his.
"Tell me, girl. Was Gisela really the cold one in that relationship?"
He watched as pain chased anger through the brilliant blue eyes, tearing at his heart. The muscles in her jaw twitched as she tried to maintain her composure. He waited what seemed like an interminably long time as their eyes stayed locked in a battle of wills, the only movement the twitches of muscles in response to the tension. He blinked once, then twice, momentarily shocked as he watched pain win the battle with anger. Then the blue eyes lowered and the strong hands relaxed their grip.
"That hurt," she said softly.
"I wanted it to." His voice held only love and warmth, the anger and sarcasm lacing his earlier words gone.
"I'm so out of my league here, Tom." Her voice was plaintive. "I've never...I don't know how to do this. I can't figure out a way to not hurt her."
"What makes you think you're going to hurt her?"
She looked at him, her face tense with pain. "How could you of all people ask me that? You saw what Gisela and I did to each other. And what about Jeanine? All I know how to do is destroy. I do it for a living and I did it in every relationship I've ever had. Christ, look what I did to Eric and he was my brother."
"You're not going to make me yell at you again, are you?" he said with a gentle smile that belied his words. "Evin, what happened with Eric is not your fault. And please don't insult me by telling me that what happened between you and Gisela is all your fault."
"Can't say the same thing for Jeanine, can you?"
"No. You were an asshole. But did you feel the same way about Jeanine that you feel about Sydney?"
"Nothing's ever come close to what I feel for Sydney."
"Pumpkin, love's a crap shoot. You've rolled enough snake eyes. I think you're due."
She rolled her eyes. "I hate it when you call me pumpkin. Are you ever going to let me live that down?"
He smiled wickedly at her. "No. That was one of your better costume ideas. I'll never forget that look on their faces when you told them what you were."
Every year, a local non-profit AIDS organization gave a huge costume party during Halloween. Attendance numbered in the thousands. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt with one word written on the front, she showed up in a limousine to pick Tom up for the party. She refused to tell him what she was supposed to be.
When they had arrived, they went in and got drinks. He soon found himself standing next to Evin in the middle of a group of women dressed as pumpkins. One of the women asked Evin what she was supposed to be dressed as, as she read the word 'Peter' written on the front of her shirt. "A pumpkin eater," was the dry response. He spit his drink out and laughed until he cried. It proved to be a very interesting night. He never did find out how she knew those women were going to the party dressed as pumpkins.
"Are you going to call Sydney?"
"Better include an 'I'm sorry' in every language you know and lots and lots of groveling."
"I will, if she'll talk to me."
Evin stared at the portable phone perched next to her on the end table. Why do I act like such an asshole? Time to grovel, beg, plead. All those things I have no idea how to do. She picked the phone up and stared at it for another long minute. You ready to take the plunge, Moran? If, and that's a big if, she'll still talk to you. She let out a breath, dialed and counted the rings.
At ring five, she was about to hang up when she heard Sydney's hello.
"Hi. It's, uh, Evin." Strong intro there, big girl. Having trouble remembering your name?
This isn't good. Don't panic. "Um, so how are you?" Evin could hear Sydney breathe, but she wasn't making a sound.
Let's try again. "I got beat up pretty bad today by..."
"What happened?" A panicked voice broke in. "Are you okay?"
I am an asshole. "I'm fine, Sydney. I didn't mean to scare you. I didn't mean physically beaten up."
"Wonderful choice of words." Her voice was a mixture of sarcasm and relief.
"I'm sorry." Evin mumbled. This is really going so well, don't ya think, big girl? "Um, Andrew and Tom.... Did you know they really like you?"
"They're both very nice people," Sydney replied in an even tone.
"Yeah...uh...they're really, really big fans of yours."
There was dead silence on the phone.
I wish I could see her face. "Could you maybe yell at me or something?"
"Why? Did you do something wrong that you deserved to be yelled at for?" Sydney couldn't keep a touch of anger from creeping into her voice.
"Yeah, I think so." She's not going to make this easy.
"Know so. Definitely know so." This is a little better, I think. At least she's talking.
"And what is it that you know you did wrong?"
"Could you please just come over here and yell at me?" Evin pleaded. "I'd be over there right now letting you yell at me if I could drive."
Sydney's voice was firm. "No. No more yelling and fighting. That's not how to solve a problem, and we have a problem."
"Yeah, we do." I wish she'd yell. "It's called me being an idiot."
"No one with a brain half as brilliant as yours could be called an idiot. Clueless and a jerk, now that might come closer." Sydney's voice softened. "It hurts."
"I don't want to hurt you." Evin sighed disgustedly. "It seems to be the only thing I'm good at."
She can be so brilliant at times and then at other times...God. "What do you think not returning my phone calls would accomplish? Make me feel good?" She blew out an angry breath. "I was worried about you."
I am such an asshole. "I'm sorry." It sounds so lame. "I really am. What can I do to make it up to you?"
"Why did you do it?"
"I get scared for you...You don't know how I am. I've told you before...I'm not a nice person, Sydney."
"I don't buy that."
"I am not nice. There's legions of people out there who'll testify against me."
"That's not what I'm talking about. I don't buy it that you're scared for me. I think you're scared of me."
Evin laughed nervously. "I am not scared of you."
"Then exactly what are you scared of?"
It was Evin's turn to be silent. It's decision time, big girl. Speak up now or forever hold your peace.
Sydney pleaded softly, "Evin, honey, if we can't talk about this..."
Sydney's soft voice reached deep into her and calmed her soul. "I know. I miss you." A long pause. "I'm...scared of me...and...of what you make me feel."
"It feels good...right...I can't deal with that."
"You'll just have to learn how." Sydney replied softly. "Where are you? I need to see you."
"At the boathouse."
"Give me directions. I'm coming over."
Evin protested feebly. "You have to study. You took way too much time off from school."
"I've sat here all day and couldn't study. I'll bring my books with me."
"Okay." Evin gave Sydney directions to the boathouse.
"Is there anything I can pick up on my way over?"
"No, but thanks."
"Okay, I'll see you in a little while."
"Mi dispiace, non volevo ferirti."
"You can explain that to me when I get there." Sydney responded, her smile unseen by relieved blue eyes.
"She's leaving the house now."
"Stay with her. Don't lose her or hell will seem like a great place to move to."
"I know." He sighed.
Monday morning. This one really sucks. Evin closed her eyes and leaned back in her leather chair. And I'm so glad to be here. A grin crossed her face. She had already worked her way through a huge stack of correspondence and documents that Rachel had placed on her desk. It felt good to Evin to be back in familiar surroundings, doing what she did best, the activities settling and centering her.
Sydney . She had walked into the boathouse Saturday evening, wrapped her arms around Evin and kissed her soundly. Then the green eyes had looked into hers, a soft voice stating, "Please, don't ever do that to me again."
A constriction in her throat at the sight of the pain she had caused reflected in Sydney's eyes allowed only a solemn nod in response. Sydney had held her gaze for a long moment, studying Evin. Then she had laid her head on Evin's chest and stayed there silently for a few minutes. The relief Evin felt at seeing Sydney and holding her in her arms was overwhelming. She silently cursed herself, then thanked the universe that her stupidity had not been fatal.
Shortly thereafter, Sydney spotted the book Evin had thrown earlier in anger and frustration laying on the ground, a hollowed impression in the plaster wall above it. Putting her hands on her hips, she had cocked her head, green eyes twinkling at Evin and said, "I'd love to be your maintenance man. He must be rich. You want to tell me what that's about?"
Evin had briefly thought of saying no, but it hadn't worked any other time with Sydney. Somehow, Sydney always managed to get whatever she wanted to know out of her. Being the practical and logical person she was, Evin decided to forego the verbal sparring that usually accompanied these discussions and told Sydney what she wanted to know. It ended up being pretty painless and taking a third of the time it normally would have. Which left a lot more time for kissing. Not a bad decision, Moran.
The intercom buzzed, interrupting her thoughts. Got to focus, big girl. You've got work to do. A long finger tapped the button. "Yeah."
"Professor Rayburn is on two. You ready for some more coffee?"
"Okay. More coffee would be great, Rachel. And can you get me the Davis file, please?"
"Sure thing. Be there in a minute."
Evin picked up line two. "Richard. How are you this morning?"
"Fine." She's in a good mood. "And how are you feeling?
"I'll live. I'm sure a few people will be disappointed," she chuckled. "But they'll just have to deal with it."
"You sound well. That's good to hear. I was very worried about you."
"Thanks, Richard. I appreciate the concern. Kind of hard to kill bad grass, you know. Besides, I can't go anywhere yet." A low, evil sounding chuckle escaped her throat. "There's so many people left to aggravate."
Rayburn chuckled. "Speaking of aggravation, I was calling to tell you that we were served this morning with a Rule for Contempt in the Dolese case. Have you received yours yet?"
Evin started laughing. "No, not yet. I wondered what was taking them so long."
"It's set for two weeks from Wednesday. Would you like me to fax you my copy?"
"Please. I'll start preparing our responsive pleadings and get out my checkbook if I'm going in front of Keller again."
Richard Rayburn chuckled warmly. "When are you going to file the complaint against him?"
The door opened and Rachel walked in, carrying a carafe, files, and a plate with something on it. She set the carafe and the plate in front of Evin.
"I haven't decided yet." A dark eyebrow raised. She looked questioningly at Rachel as she saw the bagel on the plate. Evin mouthed the word "wait." "He really did us a huge favor. I almost feel bad about it." She laughed. "We'd have lost that Summary Judgment if it hadn't been for his stupidity. Richard, hang on a second."
Evin looked at the plate for a moment, then the pale blue eyes tracked up to meet Rachel's. "Rachel, what's this?"
"A bagel with pineapple cream cheese."
"I can see that. What's it doing on my desk?"
"Sydney called and asked me to make sure you had breakfast. She told me that the pineapple cream cheese was your favorite. So I got one." Rachel tried to keep the smile off her face as Evin shifted in her chair, looking somewhat flustered.
"Oh." Evin felt a tender warmth fill her heart as a smile crossed her face. Wow.
"Anything else you need?"
"Um, no. Thanks."
Rachel left the office, suppressing a smile.
"Richard, I'm back. Sorry."
"If you'd like for me to file the complaint from this end, I'll be happy to do so. Just let me know."
Evin stared at the bagel and replied absently, "I'll think about it and let you know."
"Yeah, it's fine. Everything's fine." And it really is. "If you, uh, happen to see Sydney, ask her to give me a call please. I want to, um, discuss the case with her."
"I'm sure I'll see her sometime this morning. I'll give her the message."
"Thanks. And fax me the Rule. I'll talk to you later, Richard."
"Will do. Bye, Evin."
Evin hung up the phone and picked up the bagel. Pineapple. A warm pleasant feeling spread throughout her body. She really cares about me. Her little voice said 'I've been trying to tell you that.' She took a bite and began chewing. This is really good. Glancing at the clock, she noted that it was after nine. Time to make some phone calls.
Sydney looked up as she heard the door creak. Wayne's head poked through the opening into the study room.
"Hey, Syd. I knew I'd find you here."
"Hey...I just had to get away for a little while."
Wayne pulled a chair out and sat across the table from Sydney, observing his friend carefully. "So...things have been pretty wild, huh? You doing okay?"
"Yeah...no...I don't know." She looked at him with a frown. "Two people murdered and one almost killed...and these people...everybody, even the professors, wants to know what's going on."
"You've got to admit that this is something out of the ordinary."
"You know, I had this exact same discussion with Evin. I said this is so unbelievable, people willing to kill other people over a stupid piece of land. And you know what she said?"
Wayne shook his head.
"Well, first she gave me one of those raised eyebrow, knowing looks that said 'Sydney, how naÔve are you?' Then she told me that people have been doing this to each other since the beginning of time." Sydney looked frustrated. "And you know what? As much as I hate to admit it, it's true. You'd think that after, what, thousands of years of civilization progressing, we would have developed a little further as a race."
"That's a disgustingly sobering thought. You're depressing me."
"It is depressing." She blew out a disgusted breath. "I don't understand it at all. I don't know if I can. And everybody around here is acting like this is some sort of...hell, I don't know...some kind of great adventure or some murder mystery. And it seems like the concept of attorney-client privilege and ethics has flown out the window. I can't answer the questions people are asking. I thought I took the same ethics class they did. Do you know what that bitch, Karen Junius, asked?"
Wayne rolled his eyes. "I can only imagine."
"Oh no, you can't. This was an all-time low for her. After I told her I couldn't talk about the case, she wanted to know how much press coverage did I think this was going to get. I told her I didn't even know if this was going to get any press coverage and then she said that she'd be happy to help as long as she could be added as co-counsel. When I told her that we didn't need any help, she accused me of wanting the spotlight all to myself."
"Ouch. That is an all-time low." Wayne winced. "Of course, we always knew she'd be voted "Most Likely to Inspire Lawyer Jokes" in our class."
"Definitely." Sydney chuckled, then her expression turned serious. "I just don't understand people, Wayne. Two people have died. This is real life, not some game." Her voice broke slightly. She looked down at the table for a long moment. Pain-filled green eyes looked back up and met his. "Evin was almost killed. She had to struggle for her life because she chose to help me defend a case I couldn't handle and she could care less about. It's...it's not a game at all."
"I don't think it's a game, Syd," he agreed softly. "And I think you're being a little hard on yourself."
"Thanks...but I don't think so. If I had just done a couple of things differently, Evin wouldn't have even been involved and she never would have gotten hurt and those two people would still be alive."
Okay, time to call a spade a spade. "Great thought, Sydney, but it didn't happen that way and you don't know if it would have, even if you had done a couple of things differently. The truth is, no matter what you might have done, we could still be sitting here having this conversation. You can beat yourself up over this "what if" crap all you want if it makes you feel better. But I suspect it doesn't. Speculation sucks."
"All of it sucks," she acknowledged ruefully.
"Yeah, it sure does. "You've got a good heart, Sydney. It's in the right place. And you're really smart and you care about your clients and about this case. Sometimes too much for your own good, I think. It will all work out. You keep doing what you're doing and be careful. I worry about you, ya know."
Sydney gave Wayne a small smile. "I'll take that under advisement."
Wayne glanced at his watch. "I've got to get to class. You want to grab lunch later?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I'm so far behind, I think I might just stay here and try to catch up."
"How about if I check back later? See if you change your mind?"
"I'll be here."
"Okay." Wayne stood and looked at Sydney for a moment. "I'll see you later." He turned to leave.
"Wayne?" Sydney continued when he stopped. "Thanks...you're a good friend."
"Anything for you, Syd." Wayne smiled. "Bye."
Evin closed the case file and stared at it for a long moment before looking at Andrew.
"It was a long shot, but we had to try it."
"Y'all did an excellent job with the follow-up, Andrew. Excellent."
"It was, um, Sydney's idea."
A dark brow raised. "It was a very good idea."
"Yeah, she's...when the Lafayette Sheriff's Department came to the hospital Thursday, Sydney mentioned the case and suggested that it might not have been an accident and that there may be some evidence at the Hynes office." He chuckled. "Willie's cousin's on the job down there. So Sydney made a phone call and talked to Willie, who talked to his cousin. When the search warrant came through, he happened to be assigned to execute the warrant. He looked, but no checks."
"Those checks were gone long before that."
"Yeah, we figured they would be, but it was worth a shot. Probably shook 'em up pretty good, though. I still don't know how they came up with probable cause for the warrant. You should have seen those guys. I'm telling you, she could have talked them into searching the White House. Ken Starr needed her."
"She's really good at that. I can't wait to see her in front of a jury." Evin smiled at that. She's going to be so very good.
"If I was opposing counsel, I'd settle. When she bats those eyelashes...she can be very persuasive when she wants to be."
Don't I know it. "Yes, she can be. It's that...she...." Evin's brow furrowed. "It's disarming. You want to trust her. Just looking into those green eyes...."
"Do I what?" Evin looked puzzled.
"Yes," Evin answered without hesitation. Holy shit. I trust her. I'm in so much trouble here. Her voice softened. "Yeah, I do."
They had danced around what happened on Saturday. Andrew knew from Jeffrey and Rachel that Sydney had called this morning with instructions to bring Evin breakfast, so things must have worked out. "So how was breakfast?"
"You know, Andrew...you, Rachel, Jeffrey...y'all are about as subtle as a ton of bricks." Evin leaned back in her chair. "Let me save you the trouble. Sydney's fine. I apologized for being a total asshole. She forgave me. Case closed."
"Good...good. I'm glad." He nodded. "Um, Carole said we're going to try for that barbecue again this Sunday afternoon. You interested?'
"I'll ask Sydney and let you know."
"Good...Carole will be excited. She really likes Sydney." He stood. "What's the next move with the case, boss?"
"Time, Andrew. We need to buy more time to shake something loose on this." And how the hell I'm gonna do that remains to be seen.
"We've still got people out tracking down Battiste's friends and talking to them. Maybe we'll shake something loose from that end."
"I need a name, Andrew." The blue eyes turned dark. "One name. That's all."
He looked at his boss. I'm glad it's not going to be my name . "Will do."
Andrew turned and started to walk out of the office. "Got to meet Carole for dinner. I'll catch you later."
He stopped and looked back. "Yeah?"
"Thanks...for kicking my ass on Saturday."
He smiled warmly. "Anytime, pumpkin, anytime."
He left, smiling, as he heard an audible groan. I love that pumpkin thing.
Carole and Sydney were in the kitchen, cleaning the dishes and putting away the leftovers. Looking out the kitchen window as she scrubbed a pot, Carole smiled reflexively as she saw a broad grin cross Andrew's face in response to something the tall lawyer said.
"How's she doing, Sydney?"
Sydney tore off another piece of aluminum foil as she prepared to wrap up the rest of the chicken. "Physically, she's doing fine. I think the physical therapy for her leg is pretty painful, not that she'd admit it, but it's helping. My God, there's enough left here to feed an army," Sydney declared as she finished wrapping the chicken. "She's having nightmares, though, and she won't talk about it."
"Andrew is, too. That...I can't even imagine going through that. He loves her so much and he's been through so much with her. It shook him to his core."
"He's a good man, Carole. You're really lucky."
"Don't I know it. He and Evin do that tough as nails routine," she chuckled. "But he's a big old softie, really."
"How did you meet him?"
She started laughing. "Oh, that's a story." She put the pot in the dish rack and grabbed a dishtowel, drying her hands. "You ready for some coffee? We can sit and I'll tell you the story. You'll enjoy this one."
Sydney saw the laughter in the hazel eyes. "I think I'm gonna like this."
Carole handed Sydney a cup and poured the coffee. "Grab a seat." Carole poured her own coffee, put the pot back and took a seat at the table as well. "When I was in grad school, I was working weekends as a waitress at Meredith's. Have you been there?"
"No. It's that steak place, right?"
"Yeah. The power place. Some of those customers were real assholes but, girl, you could make some money on tips. It was a Friday night and Evin and Andrew had come in about five-thirty. The hostess seated them in my section. They had won a big case and were celebrating. Anyway, when I walked over to the table to take their drink order, I don't know, it was so strange."
Sydney looked into slightly wondrous hazel eyes.
"It still amazes me. I handed him his menu and I looked at those beautiful green eyes of his and I just felt something. He turned red and smiled this adorable shy smile and mumbled thanks. I couldn't tear my eyes off of him and I didn't look as I handed the menu to Evin. The result was a nice cold glass of water dumped in her lap."
Sydney started laughing. "Oh, no! What did she do?"
"Well, she stood up and you could hear the ice cubes hitting the table. I was about as red as you could get and stammering apologies left and right. I was soaking up the water off the table with a napkin and I looked up and kept looking up. I hadn't realized how tall she was. And then I saw those eyes. She really does have amazing eyes."
"Oh, yeah. I know about those eyes." God, those eyes. What they do to me.
"I couldn't tell if she was going to scream or what. Her face was expressionless. I was just staring at her and thanking God that it hadn't been a glass of wine because the suit she had on must have cost more than I made in a month. Then her face broke out in this rakish grin and her eyes twinkled and she said, 'That's one way to get me wet.'"
Sydney's body shook with laughter. "Oh my God...I can't believe...she's incorrigible. What did you do?"
"I stood there catching flies. I mean, I'm not naÔve or anything, but she's so...."
"Yeah." Sydney murmured in agreement. "So...."
"Well, Andrew jumped up and he knocked into the table and the other water glass toppled over. I don't think I've ever been so embarrassed in my entire life. I wanted to die right then and there. He's as red as I am and he's apologizing to me and telling Evin to behave. She's just grinning at both of us. She finally tells me not to worry about it and to bring them a bottle of the Taittinger's. I was so glad to get out of there that I practically ran to get the champagne. That was when I noticed that everyone, and I mean everyone, was staring at us."
"Oh, Carole...I would have died."
"Oh, believe me, that's exactly what I was praying for. When I got back with the bottle of champagne, the hostess had moved them to a new table. One that was dry." She started laughing again. "But it wasn't in my section, so I gave the bottle to the waiter that had that section and went and hid in the kitchen. The next thing I know, he comes and finds me in the kitchen and tells me that she's requesting me as their waitress. I just knew it was some kind of sadistic ploy to get back at me."
"I think I would have quit," Sydney said, laughing.
"Hmmm...didn't even think of that option. I went back and suffered the humiliation. Those two...they kept ordering drinks all night long. I was at their table every ten minutes. I had no idea where they were putting all that alcohol. I expected them to pass out. But neither one of them were even looking remotely tipsy. They stayed at that table all night long. Finally, we were closing and I brought them the bill. It was over seven hundred dollars. Drinks aren't cheap at that place. I brought her the credit card receipt back and they got up to leave. I ran back to the kitchen. I think I was still red and they had been there about seven hours.
"I know she likes to take her time at dinner, but seven hours? How in the world could they even walk after that?"
"That's what I wanted to know. Some of those customers can drink, but I had never seen anything like that in my life. I'm in the kitchen, finally turning back to my normal color, when Evin comes walking into the kitchen like she owned the place. One of the kitchen staff told her she couldn't be back there. That was the first time I saw The Look. She stops in front of me and says, 'His name's Andrew. He's been pouring our drinks into that plant next to the table all night just so you'd have to come to the table. When do you get off?' I was floored. I barely managed to get out the fact that I'd be off in a half an hour. Then she said, 'We'll be waiting out front,' and she turned around and walked out. She didn't even wait for my answer."
"What did you do?"
"I think at that point in time, I was in shock. Another one of the waitresses came running up to me and hands me the receipt from their bill. She left me a five hundred dollar tip. She wrote a note on the receipt, apologizing for tying up the table all night and figured that ought to cover the missed seatings. I couldn't even think. I went outside and there they were, waiting for me. And Andrew. Poor baby. He was absolutely livid at her. He couldn't believe she had actually told me that he was dumping the drinks. I knew right then that I loved him."
"Wow, that's such a wonderful story."
"Not exactly a sweep you off your feet romantic tale, but it worked for me. I'll be grateful for her brashness until I take my last breath. If left to our own devices, I don't think anything would have happened, and that would have been the biggest mistake I ever made."
"I...the more I learn about her, the more I'm...I guess amazed would be the word. On our first date, she took me to the most romantic little restaurant. And this story...she does that I'm so tough and I don't give a damn about anything attitude so well. She hardly ever shows the other side of herself."
"She's tough, that's for sure. That don't give a damn part, I'm not so sure about. You seem to be doing a pretty good job of figuring her out."
The door opened and Evin came in, stopping and leaning on the crutches. "Hey, what's taking y'all...." Uh oh. Pale blue eyes looked back and forth between the two women. They've been talking.
Sydney got up and walked by her, stopping to pat her on the stomach. "We were just coming back outside."
Evin's eyes narrowed as she took in the Cheshire grin on the law student's face. "What..."
"Nothing for you to worry about, baby." Sydney headed out the door.
Evin shot a look at Carole, who started laughing. Oh, not good at all. "Sydney! Hey, wait up." Evin turned and hopped out the door after her. "Sydney!"