Trial of Conscience
Laurie, the Law Clinic receptionist, appeared next to Sydney's cubicle. "Sydney?"
"Hmmm?" Her eyes stayed glued to her casebook.
"I know it's not your day for new clients, but I can't find anybody else. Would you mind?"
"Mind what?" Sydney put her casebook down and looked up at the woman, smiling. "I'm sorry, Laurie. What can I help you with?"
"We've got a new client and I can't seem to find anybody else...."
"And you'd like me to do the intake." Sydney finished. "Sure," she agreed as she pushed her chair back and stood. "Lead on."
Sydney followed the receptionist down the hall to the second interview room. Laurie handed her a file folder and said, "Cheryl Johnston. Wants a divorce."
"Seems like everybody does," the law student commented as she straightened her collar and opened the door.
"Good morning, Ms. Johnston. My name is Sydney Parker." She extended her hand to the slightly plump, thirty-something woman who sat across the table. "I'm a third year law student with the clinic."
Pulling a chair out across from the woman, Sydney started what she called her "Law Clinic" speech. It was a short description of how the Clinic operated, what the qualifications were, and how cases were generally handled. It gave her time to observe the client and tended to put the client at ease.
As she spoke, her mind catalogued her observations. Neatly dressed. Thirty-five or six, I'd guess. Too much makeup. Brown eyes. Brown hair. Didn't respond to me when I said good morning. Won't look me in the eyes. Her palm was sweaty when we shook hands. Arms crossed and shoulders slumped.
Sydney finished her speech. "Mrs. Johnston?"
Dulled brown eyes looked up as the woman attempted a smile.
"You told our receptionist you'd like to get a divorce. Is that correct?"
"Yes," she answered hesitantly. "I want a divorce."
Not the usual reaction. Sydney straightened slightly in the chair as she casually observed the woman sitting across from her. Most people are so pissed off they're practically screaming, I want a divorce from that 'fill in the blank' son of a bitch or bitch and can't wait to tell you the circumstances that led up to their appearance at the law clinic. Or they're crying and in so much pain you can see it in their eyes. Her instincts prickled slightly. "The process of obtaining a divorce is fairly simple and straightforward." She pulled a questionnaire out of the file. "I need to ask you some questions first, to see if you qualify for our services. Okay?"
The woman nodded.
Sydney asked the first series of questions and the woman responded with only as much information as absolutely necessary.
"You meet the income eligibility requirements of our program." She smiled at the woman, trying to connect with her on some level. "This next set of questions refers to what we call "special circumstances." The clinic can only take certain types of cases. If you have any special circumstances, I may need to give you a referral. Okay?"
The woman nodded again.
Sydney glanced at the next set of questions before she began. God, the way they word these things. It sounds so clinical and detached. She knew all the questions by heart and always changed the wording. People don't respond to cold detachment. She began the next set of questions, noting that the woman grew increasingly uncomfortable as they progressed.
"Does your husband hit you?"
The woman stiffened visibly and dull brown eyes looked up at Sydney. "My husband is not a wife-beater. He works very hard and he's under a lot of stress."
Bingo. I knew something was wrong.
"I don't understand why you're asking me that. It's none of your business." She pushed her chair back and started to get up. "I want a divorce. That's all I came in for. My mistake."
I've got to do something so she doesn't leave. Think. This is why you went to law school after all, isn't it? Sydney smiled gently at the woman. "Mrs. Johnston? Please don't leave." She watched as the woman stopped, indecision showing on her face. "We ask all our clients these questions. Perhaps if you let me explain, you'll," What? Tell me all about it? Let me help you? "understand the necessity for them."
Sydney let out a breath as she watched Mrs. Johnston slowly sit back down. Okay, Sydney. Take it easy with her. You don't want to scare her off. "We're only allowed to take certain types of cases, and always under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Because we're a free clinic, we don't have the resources to handle some of the problems that people come to us with." Stay away from the abuse stuff. "For example, we don't handle cases where there's an out of state custody dispute. We can't handle worker's compensation claims or personal injury cases. We don't write wills "
She watched Mrs. Johnston nod before she continued. "We also want to make sure that our clients' needs are met, even when we can't help through the clinic. We've developed an extensive network of resources and referrals so we can get the people we can't help to the people who can. These questions are designed to determine whether or not we can take people's cases and, if not, where we can send them for the help they need."
The law student paused for a moment to let the woman absorb the information. Good, she's still sitting . "What our clients tell us is protected by attorney-client privilege. That's so our clients can speak freely with us and not fear any repercussions or worry about someone finding out what they said. People are sometimes hesitant to tell us everything. But if they don't, it not only makes our jobs harder, but they're hurting their case...themselves. So if there's anything that you're not telling me, I need to know so I can do the best possible job for you."
Sydney watched as the woman stared down at the table, unmoving. "Do you need any help, Mrs. Johnston?" Her gentle voice seemed to have landed on deaf ears as the woman didn't raise her downcast eyes. Sydney wanted to tell the woman that she wasn't alone. That every fifteen seconds, a woman is beaten. That fifty percent of the homeless women and children are out there because of violence in the home. That there was help if she needed it, wanted it. All she has to do is ask.
"All I want is a divorce," Mrs. Johnston finally responded in a voice that barely rose above a whisper.
"That's fine. We can help you with your divorce." Sydney said evenly. Just like Jennie's mom. "There's just a few more questions we need to go over. Then we can talk about what the procedure will be. Is that all right with you?"
Mrs. Johnston relaxed a little and murmured an okay.
Sydney stood in the doorway, silently observing the dark maned figure bent over her desk, deeply absorbed in whatever task she was working on.
A smile crossed her face as Evin looked up and saw Sydney leaning against the doorframe. "Hey!" Blue eyes became concerned as the smile faded. "Sydney, what's the matter?"
"I would say bad day at the office, but since I don't have an office I guess the correct phrase would be bad day at the cubicle." A weak smile accompanied the statement.
Go ahead, Moran. You actually recognized something was wrong with another human being. "You look bad."
Perfect ending to a perfect day. Get insulted by my...what? Lover? No. What the hell are we? "Thanks, Counselor." Sydney said sarcastically. "Flattery will get you everywhere."
"I...I didn't mean it like that." Shit. One step forward, two steps back. "You look, well, upset. Sad, stressed out." Am I even remotely close? "You're very beautiful. That's a really nice shirt. And...uh...aw shit, I really didn't mean it like that. Really." You are so pathetic. If that sounded half as bad to her as it did to your own ears.... "Sydney?"
"Yes." Her voice was angry, but weary. Why don't you just go over there and get what you want? A hug. A kiss. Ask her to tell you it's all going to be okay.
Okay, Moran. You care about somebody. There's something obviously upsetting her. What's the appropriate behavior in this situation? Evin almost...almost laughed out loud at that thought. Appropriate behavior. You've never demonstrated any. Think! "You, um, want to talk about it?"
"Not particularly." Sydney dropped her head and stared at the ground.
"Okay." Think! Evin grabbed her crutches and stood. I hate these fucking things. Suddenly, it hit her. Ask her what she needs. You did it before. Remember what she told you. No one's ever asked her that.
"God, you move fast on those things." Sydney murmured as she looked up into intense pale blue eyes set in a serious face. Her hands involuntarily went to Evin's waist, resting flat against her sides.
"Sydney... What do you need?"
The low drawl wrapped around her as she pressed her body into Evin's. This feels so good. This is exactly what I need. She felt the warmth from the contact with the tall attorney spread throughout her body.
Evin's breath came out in a huff as a small body crushed into hers. Crutches clattered to the floor as long arms wrapped around Sydney. She kissed the top of Sydney's head, feeling Sydney relax. This seems to be working.
She felt more than heard Sydney murmur a "Thanks." She continued to hold onto the smaller woman and felt Sydney's grip on her eventually relax a little. "You sure you don't want to tell me about your bad day at the cubicle?"
That got a small chuckle from Sydney. "Don't feel like talking about it now." She looked up and found a concerned blue gaze. "But thanks for asking."
"Can I have a kiss?"
"Sure, baby," She lifted her lips to meet Evin's. When the kiss was broken, Sydney realized she had a lump in her throat, more than a little surprised at the tenderness of the kiss. She never ceases to amaze me. "You ready to go to the boathouse?"
"You want to stop and get some dinner first?"
"Um, if you don't mind, I...." Sydney took a step back and looked at the tall woman, now leaning heavily on her left leg, then down to the crutches on the floor. "Here, let me get these," she said, as she bent down and picked up the crutches, handing them to Evin.
"Thanks." Evin tucked the crutches under her arms. "Mmm...dinner?"
"I'm not really hungry." Sydney looked around the office. "I think...I'd just like to take you to the boathouse and, um, go home. I haven't...been there in a while and, well, I have some things I need to take care of." She finally stopped glancing around the office and looked at Evin. "If that's all right with you?"
The resounding sound of steel doors crashing shut echoed in Evin's mind, her features transforming into an implacable mask, the pale blue eyes now shuttered behind steel curtains. "Whatever you want to do, Sydney," she replied evenly. "I think I'll stay in the loft down here, though." She paused. "Is there anything you need to get from the boathouse?"
"Nothing I can't live without." Sydney saw Evin shut down and felt herself sink deeper into the dark pit she'd fallen into. Why are you doing this? You know you just want to curl up in her arms.
"Okay." Evin's mind screamed, what the fuck is that supposed to mean? "Then I guess we'd better get going."
The leather chair held its occupant lovingly, her body seemingly relaxed. The pen beat a steady tattoo on the arm of the chair as cold blue eyes watched the sun peek out from behind the clouds.
"I don't give a fuck what your problems are. Do the damn job I'm paying you for." Evin's voice dropped chillingly low, seeming like an arctic cold front to the attorney in the Caymans on the other end. "Believe me, if I could practice law in the Caymans, I'd be down there taking care of this myself...Ask the court to order the information turned over...Money like that doesn't disappear without a trace...How soon?...I'll be expecting your call."
The phone would have grunted if it could as Evin spun around in her chair and slammed the receiver back into the cradle. Fucking Clifton Davis. You shall die now.
A long finger punched in an extension. When an answering voice came through the speaker, she issued her orders. "Mark...I need some research done...This afternoon...This is the fact situation: Divorce. Husband conceals community assets out of the country then moves them against court order...Yeah, the order is here...Is there any precedence for criminal charges and what jurisdiction controls?...Murder, but I don't think what he did meets the statutory requirements. I don't care. I want the bastard. Check federal if you don't have any luck with state. Wire fraud, tax evasion, maybe...I've got court this morning and two depositions this afternoon....The depos are here. Come find me." The speaker clicked off, then back on again.
"I've got three tapes ready for transcription. Have you heard from Eric yet? I need to know if he's coming with me to that motion on Fiorella."
"He's got that evidentiary hearing in 24 th JDC this morning so he didn't know if he'll be able to make it. He said that if he can, he'll meet you there. I'll be in to get the tapes in a second." She is in a mood today.
Evin turned to the computer screen and checked the calendar for the day once more. Everything's confirmed. Good. Glancing at her watch, she noted the time. Wonder if Sydney's awake yet? Quit thinking about her, her mind screamed, outraged at the idle thought of Sydney that so easily slipped through the steel walls. Isn't it enough you didn't sleep last night? Leave it alone, God damn it.
Rachel walked in, carrying more files. "Here's the drafts of those pleadings on Dolese."
Another reminder of Sydney. Evin grunted at her.
Grunting. This does not bode well. Rachel picked up the three tapes and files. This makes five tapes and it's only eight a.m. Wonder what time she got here this morning? "I saw your car when I pulled in. You okay to drive now?"
"Yes." Evin had already begun her review of the Dolese pleadings, red pen in hand as she marked them.
I'm sure Sydney said she wasn't supposed to drive for another week. "You ready for your bagel with pineapple cream cheese?"
Yet another reminder of Sydney. "No."
Uh oh. We're back to terse one word answers as the order of the day. "Okay, um, anything else you need?"
Stepping out of line here, but... "You okay?"
"How's your leg feeling?"
Blue eyes pinned Rachel in place. "My God damn leg is fine."
Too far . "Mmmm. Okay. I'll get right on these." Rachel left with the new tapes and files.
Putting the files on her desk, Rachel looked up as Jeffrey walked in. "Good morning."
"Hey, Rach. How's it going?" He smiled warmly in greeting. "Another day, another couple of dollars."
"You're going to earn those dollars today." She nodded towards the stack of files and the tapes. "She's done five tapes already this morning."
A low whistle came from pursed lips as he sat in his chair and turned his computer on. "What time did she get in?"
"I have no clue. She was here when I got here at six. And she drove."
That got a raised eyebrow look from the sandy blonde-haired man. "Uh oh."
"My thoughts exactly. She's giving one word answers again, grunting, and you should see the circles under her eyes." Rachel slipped a tape into the transcriber. "You'd better call down to maintenance and make sure they have an extra phone. If not, have them pick one up. We might be replacing hers again."
A groan. "Damn...You think something happened with Sydney?"
"That would be my guess." She looked over at her peer. "Just when I thought...."
"Yeah, I know. But I have a feeling about Sydney. She doesn't seem like the type to let something go that she wants...at least not without a fight."
"I hope you're right, Jeffrey. It's going to take a lot of fight to handle that one in there." Rachel slipped the earpiece into her ear and started transcribing tape number three.
Sydney punched the pillow she was holding and groaned as the alarm went off again. So much for a good night's sleep. It seemed that her internal clock woke her up last night, every hour, on the hour. And those damn nightmares. I haven't had those in a while.
She glanced at the pillow she was holding. No substitute for the real thing. The aroma of coffee brought her to her feet and led her to the kitchen. I really have got to thank Mom. Oh shit. I haven't called them in a couple of weeks. Maybe if I call this morning, I can catch her. Coffee, shower, phone call. I can do that.
Feeling somewhat revived after her coffee and shower, she grabbed the portable phone and dialed her parents' number. Pick up, Mom. Pick up.
"Hello." A male voice answered.
"Um, Dad...It's me, Sydney." Shit. I thought he'd be gone by now.
"Well, I'm glad you can take time out of your busy schedule to call us."
The sarcastic words cut through Sydney like a knife. She knew offering an explanation wouldn't make a difference, so she opted for the shortest route out of this particular part of the conversation. "I'm sorry." I thought mothers were the ones who were supposed to do the guilt trips.
"When are you going to come home to see us?"
Here we go. Why did I think this was going to make me feel any better? "Soon, Dad. Maybe over the Thanksgiving break." I've been in New Orleans over two years and they haven't come here once.
"I met a man from New Orleans at a Party function in Atlanta. He's a good man, Sydney," his voice intoned knowingly.
Good means Republican, wealthy, and white. "That's good, Dad."
"He has a son and told me he would get him to call you. You know you haven't met a nice young man down there yet."
Sydney sighed as a mental image of the conversation careening downhill, out of control, flashed through her mind. "I've met many nice young men down here, Dad." She tried to keep the anger and frustration out of her voice. You'd think I could have one conversation with him that...that...fuck it! "I'm not interested. I'm a lesbian." I ought to put the "Dad, I'm a lesbian" speech on a card, laminate it and give it to him for his wallet.
"That's just a phase and we both know it. You dated that boy, what's his name, Richard Cooper, your senior year in high school and freshman year of college. I've talked with the minister and he agrees with me."
This is almost funny if it weren't so sad. Of course he would agree. Weren't you responsible for getting him that church and how much money do you give the church each year? "It's not a phase, Dad."
"Of course it is, young lady. I know what I'm talking about. You'll see. You will talk to him if he calls. You won't be rude."
"I'll speak with him, Dad." But you won't like what I'll say to him. It'll be the same as every other phone call you've arranged for me to get. Sure, my dad told me about you. But you see, I can't go out with you. He left out one little fact. I'm a lesbian. Yes, you heard me correctly. A lesbian. Thanks for calling.
"Have you started sending resumes to firms in Memphis yet?"
"No, Dad." Wait until I tell him I'm staying here. That explosion ought to kill thousands of Elvis fans who happen to be unlucky enough to be in Memphis that day.
"Well, you'd better get on it. It's never too early to start."
"I know, Dad."
"I have to leave for work. Your mother's not here. She's taking Charles Junior and Ellen to school."
Gee Dad. I'm fine. Yes, I've had a rough couple of weeks, but I'm hanging in there. I think I'm in love. She's a lawyer and I think she's wonderful and sweet and charming and brilliant and sexy. Oh yeah, she's been shot at and she almost died in an explosion and spent a week in the hospital because of a case we're working on, but other than that, everything's peachy. Swell talking to you. Love you too, Dad. "Okay. Tell them I called, please."
"We expect to hear from you more often, Sydney."
"Yes, Dad." And my incentive would be, what, exactly?
The line went dead. Sydney stared at the phone for a few seconds then put it down. She picked up her coffee mug and absently took a swallow. Looking around the room, her eyes landed on the Young Republican plaque. You think you always know what's right, don't you, Dad? I was so stupid to believe you. Never gonna happen again.
Evin stood in the Federal courtroom, leaning slightly on the table in front of her, listening to her opposing counsel drone on about the fundamental unfairness of life and his poor, abused client. He's been blathering for fifteen minutes and hasn't come up with anything yet that's even remotely pertinent to his motion. Hell, he hasn't even mentioned the rule we're supposed to have violated. I wonder how much an hour he's charging his clients?
She absently wondered who had made up all the unwritten court etiquette rules. Why, for example, was it considered rude to stand in State court when your opponent was presenting his or her side of an argument, but in this Federal court, sitting was considered rude? She was definitely certain that it hadn't been women wearing heels. Fuck it. She sat down, her leg causing her more pain than she cared to admit.
The judge held his hand up, stopping Whiting mid-sentence, and looked at her questioningly. "Is there something wrong, Ms. Moran?"
A thousand thoughts ran though her mind with the speed of light, none of which would be an acceptable response. True, but not acceptable. "Your Honor, I had no idea that Mr. Whiting would be so eloquent in his presentation. Otherwise, I would have informed Your Honor that I had surgery on my leg and asked the court's permission to be seated during his argument. I do apologize for interrupting Mr. Whiting's insightful and stimulating analysis of Rule 11." You just can't stop yourself, can you?
The judge looked at Evin for a few seconds, debating what to do. Whiting's whining. She just insulted him and he doesn't even know it. He's grinning like an idiot, thinking that was a compliment. Oh well. I take my little pleasures where I can. "That's fine, Ms. Moran. Please stay seated. I hope your recovery is speedy. Five more minutes, Mr. Whiting."
Evin looked around the courtroom, barely paying attention to Whiting. I can't believe the Marshals almost made me strip. This damn bolt in my leg set that metal detector off like I had an Uzi under my skirt. When I go to CDC, those freaks probably will make me strip.
Evin was on her feet in a second as Whiting sat down. "Your Honor, Defendant's Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions fails to allege that this lawsuit was brought for improper purposes. My client's claims are warranted by existing law and the factual allegations have been supported in the initial phase of discovery, which I have filed as Exhibits A, B, and C attached to our Motion in Response. His eloquent statement has added nothing." Yep. That about covers it. "I respectfully move that the Motion be denied."
"Motion denied." The judge wanted to smile, but he didn't. Short, sweet and to the point. That's how I like it. "Next case."
Evin grabbed her briefcase. She hadn't even taken the file out. As she left the courtroom, Whiting followed her.
"I'd like to send a settlement offer over."
The tall attorney shrugged. "Then do it, but don't insult me."
"Your case has a lot of weaknesses."
She stopped and looked at him, a feral glint coming from narrowed eyes. "If you say so." She was well aware of the weaknesses of the Fiorella case. It was part of being a good attorney. Know the weaknesses of your case. Exploit them. Use them to your advantage. Do not be afraid of them. It was one of the things that made her so good. She would painstakingly dissect each case in her head, over and over, playing devil's advocate as she mapped out her strategy. No case was perfect in this perfectly imperfect world. It was a part of the challenge, and succeeding in spite of the imperfections thrilled her to the bone.
She thought of the astonished look that would appear on Whiting's face when she would ask her client about his conviction for cocaine trafficking before he got a chance to, should the case ever come to trial. Better to get the dirt out in the open so you can control it, control the presentation, the set-up, the explanation. You play to the jury. Poor Mr. Fiorella. Yes, he was a misguided young man once, but look at him now. A productive citizen. Father of two lovely children. Adoring wife. And what a charming couple they make. That is, if I can keep his nose out of the coke and the alcohol out of her mouth during the trial.
"Still, I have a duty to my client to advise them of the potential risks of trial." Whiting continued. "So I'll make a recommendation that settlement be considered."
"Whatever. There's always trial." The blue eyes glinted ferally again, then she turned and walked away. "Have a good day, Mr. Whiting."
"Hey, Sydney. You up for some lunch?" Wayne walked up to the cubicle and popped his head over the side.
Green eyes looked at him questioningly. "It's lunchtime already?"
"It's a little after one, Syd." He raised a brow. What's going on with her? "Past your lunch time."
She glanced at the stack of intake files on her desk. Seven new clients. Three evictions. Four divorces. "Yeah, I guess so." She grabbed her knapsack and stood. "Where do you want to go today?"
"I thought we could go to Daily Bread. Maybe get some of that vegetarian quiche thing that I like."
Sydney's nose wrinkled. "Daily Bread's fine, but I'm not eating that."
"Daily Bread it is."
She stood and followed him half-heartedly out the door.
"What's the matter?" Wayne asked as they walked along St. Charles Avenue.
"Nothing's the matter." She absently watched a streetcar rumble down the tracks.
"Please. Tell that to someone who doesn't know you any better. You didn't even know it was lunchtime."
"I'm okay, really."
"Um...everything going okay with you and that wild lawyer?"
"You don't like her, do you?" Sydney accused.
"It's not that I don't like her, Syd." Whoa! He gentled his voice. "I don't know her."
"She's a good person, Wayne."
He had his reservations about her after what he had seen that Sunday night at Tea Dance. I have never seen anybody dance like that in my life. I thought that blonde was going to have an orgasm right there on the dance floor. She definitely doesn't seem like Sydney's type.
"I'm just worried that you're going to get hurt. She seems, I don't know, so, um, worldly." One look at Sydney's face and he realized it wasn't the best thing he could have said.
"And what do you think I am, some naïve fool?" Anger colored her voice.
"No...no, not at all." He raised his hands, waving them. "It's just that..."
"Just what?" she asked angrily.
"Look, it's nothing against her. You are my friend. I care about you. And if that's what you want, then go for it. But don't be mad at me if I have my reservations about it. You...I just don't want you to get hurt."
"I'm sorry, Wayne. I didn't mean to get angry." She kicked at an acorn on the sidewalk. "I appreciate your concern." They walked along in silence for a couple of minutes. "I talked to my dad this morning."
Her friend winced in sympathy. "Ew, sorry. Not another one of those 'Sydney, are you dating men?' conversations?"
"Are there any other kind with my father?" she responded wryly.
"I've told you before, I'd be your fake date for him." He put his arm around her shoulder. "We'd make the perfect couple. One look at me and he'd beg you to go out with women again."
Sydney looked up at her friend. At six foot three, his build was slender. Beautiful brown eyes with long black lashes were set in an intelligent, strong face. "I like that goatee. I think it makes you even more handsome."
"I don't think that would make a difference to your dad, Sydney."
"No," she said sadly. "He'd just see the color of your skin. You know, sometimes I wonder if I'm even their kid."
He chuckled. "I've seen pictures. You look just like your mother."
"Yeah, that's true. But I don't look anything like him. Charles and Ellen do. Maybe the milkman was my father."
"Uh, Syd, I hate to tell you this," he teased. "But I think milkmen went out before you were born."
She backhanded him in the stomach. "Give a girl some hope, please."
"If you insist."
"I insist. I think what makes me craziest the most about him is that he thinks he's always right. He never even considers the possibility that he could, God forbid, be wrong, or even that there's alternate viewpoints that are as equally valid as his."
"My grandfather was like that. I just quit talking to him about anything that could even remotely lead to a possible difference of opinion. It made for very limited conversation."
"There was a time when I thought he was right about everything, but I learned differently," she said wistfully. "You know, the parent thing. Omnipotent. Omniscient." ' Trust me, Sydney. I'm your father after all. I know what's best. You're much too young to understand these things.' God, I was so wrong to believe that.
"I think we all go through that to one degree or another."
"Yeah, you're probably right."
They walked a full city block before Sydney spoke again. "Wayne?"
"Do you think there's ever a person in your life who's just right ?"
"What do you mean?'"
"I don't know....never mind." A slowly moving car passed them, catching Sydney's eye.
"See that car?"
"Do you know him?"
Wayne tried to catch a glimpse of the driver as he turned the corner. "No, why?"
"I don't know. I've seen him a couple of times around school. But I've never seen him in a class." She gave Wayne a puzzled look. "And I think I saw him once when I went to the grocery store over on the corner of Jefferson and Magazine." She shrugged. "Maybe he lives in the area." She thought for a minute. "Yeah, he's probably a lawyer or a paralegal and comes to the library to do research."
"Who knows, Syd...I heard they found about ten homeless people sleeping in the law library over at Tulane." Wayne started laughing. "I know, maybe he's a lawyer-wanna-be."
A bark of laughter escaped from Sydney's lips. "Why in the world would anybody pretend to be a lawyer? Astronaut, doctor, hell, Indian Chief, but a lawyer?"
"I know," Wayne said wryly, pleased at the sparkle he saw come back to the green eyes. "And to think we pay big bucks to be the brunt of so many jokes."
They reached the front door of the Daily Bread, the man in the car all but forgotten.
"Um, after we eat, I think I'm going to take off. Can you cover clinic for me?"
"Sure, it won't be a problem at all."
"Thanks, Wayne. I really appreciate it. I owe you one." The door closed behind them.
"Where are your crutches?" Jeffrey followed his boss into her office.
"Sydney says you're not supposed to be walking without them until next week."
Another reminder of Sydney. "Calls?"
"They're all on your call list. Dorinda Pratt called and said she needed to speak with you about some depositions you want to take. The rest were returns from yesterday."
She punched up the call list on the computer. No Sydney. Quit thinking about her. You have work to do. She looked at Jeffrey, still standing in front of her desk. "Is there something else?"
"Do you want your bagel now?"
He chided her gently. "You really should eat something."
"What is the sudden concern with my nutritional habits?"
"Sydney said to make sure you ate breakfast."
Cool blue eyes locked onto his. "She did, did she?"
Hesitantly, Jeffrey replied, "Yes." He couldn't read his boss' expression. Something was definitely up. He felt like he was being cross-examined.
"And when exactly did she tell you this?"
"She called earlier this morning when you were in court."
Ah, so she did call today. A feeling of relief swept through her. "Then I guess you'd better bring me my bagel."
"Okay. One bagel coming up." Jeffrey breathed a small sigh of relief. Cross-examination's over.
She watched as he left her office. For the alpha bitch from hell, you sure have some insecurities, don't you, big girl? A long arm reached for the phone and dialed the number for Dorinda Pratt. The thought of pink popped into her head and she shivered. Yuck.
"Dorinda Pratt, please...Evin Moran...Hynes versus Dolese...When will she be back?...Is there a number where I can reach her?....Okay, thank you."
Evin dialed the number she had been given and listened as the phone rang several times. Area code of 318. Somewhere in North Louisiana.
A female voice answered with the distinctive accent of Northern Louisiana. "Good morning. Campaign headquarters. This is Tracy. How can I help you?"
Campaign headquarters? Whose? "Yes, um, Tracy. I'm interested in speaking with someone who can tell me a little more about your position on various issues. Is there anyone available?"
"Oh yes ma'am. As a matter of fact, Senator Stevens' administrative aide is right here. I'll transfer you to him. And remember a vote for Steve Stevens is the right vote."
Wrong! Evin rebutted her silently as she hung up the phone before the aide picked up. Steve Stevens. He's so far right he makes Jerry Falwell look like a liberal activist. What is Pinkie Pratt doing with Stevens?
Long fingers punched an extension button on the phone.
"I need everything on Steve Stevens. And find out what the connection is with Pinkie Pratt."
The investigator laughed. "Pinkie Pratt. I like that one. You think Stevens is involved in the Dolese case somehow?"
"I don't know, Andrew. I know Pinkie from somewhere and I haven't been able to figure it out yet. Maybe it's from that '94 campaign with Evangeline Williams when she ran against Stevens. Fast as you can, please."
"Yeah, yeah." He teased. "Like you want it yesterday. I know. I'll get on it."
"Thanks." The intercom buzzed as soon as she hung up. "Yeah."
"Allan Dodd on three."
"Did Mark get back with that research yet?"
"I'll take it. Oh, and Rachel, try to get Vicky Rosenthal on the phone for me please."
A long finger hit the button for line three. "Evin Moran."
"Moran, I just want you to know I had nothing to do with it." Dodd's nervous voice came through the speaker.
Jeffrey walked in and put the bagel on her desk. She nodded to him.
"Allan, you can be a jerk sometimes, but I don't think you'd advise a client to move assets protected under a court order." She played with the bagel as she spoke. Wonder if Sydney's in class now.
"Really?" he said hesitantly.
"Really. It's not your fault you got stuck with the idiot in this case." She blinked once. Why am I being nice to him?
"Good, because I didn't want you to come after me." Some of the nervousness left his voice. "I'm working on getting the money back right now. Clifton panicked."
Poor little Clifton panicked. "Remind Clifton how panicked he'd be when he hears the bars slam shut behind his ass."
Dodd protested, "He can't go to jail for that."
"Ask him if he wants to bet on that." The intercom buzzed. "Gotta go, Allan. He's got two days. I want the money in a bank here in New Orleans, with my client's name on the account as sole signatory, or I'm coming after him. He'll wish he was in prison playing house with his cell mate when I'm done." She hung up before he could respond.
Her finger hit the intercom button. "Yeah."
"Vicky Rosenthal on two."
"Thanks." She managed to take a bite of the bagel.
Hitting the button on line two, she picked up the receiver and started speaking. "Vicky. How are you?...Good. Got a pin in my leg...An accident...Now who would want to hurt me? I'm so very sweet and innocent...You're right. I never could pull that line off...Listen, I need you to rack that pretty little brain of yours for me..." A laugh. "Vicky, I've flirted shamelessly with you for years. It's never gotten me anywhere before and you know how I've tried...Uh huh, sure Vicky." Another laugh. "If only that were true...You keep that up and you're going to force me to say something that we both know will make you turn red and me head for a cold shower...Vicky, need I remind you of ...Okay, okay, I'll stop...Yeah...Dorinda Pratt, Steve Stevens...Yeah, she does wear a lot of pink.... That's what I thought." A bark of laughter. "Really.... When was it?...During Evangeline Williams campaign?...I didn't make it to that meeting. No wonder I couldn't place her...Listen, was everything in order with those finance reports I sent over?... Good....Well, in a couple of months I'll be calling you Judge Vicky....Hey, I've got a lot of respect for the justice system. It's the judges I have a problem with.....Yeah...Christ, don't people have anything better to talk about? Keller nicked me for 30 k....I'll try to be there...I know, this Thursday. Actually, I need two tickets...Yes, I said two...Get your mind out of the gutter. It's getting crowded down here...Yeah...I'll get somebody to pick them up...You take care. I'll see you soon."
So Dorinda Pratt is with Steve Stevens' little entourage. She picked up her bagel and took another bite. Pineapple, her mind sighed as the edges of her mouth curled up slightly.
Rachel walked in carrying a stack of files. "Those three tapes and the corrections to the Dolese pleadings are done."
"Is your bagel good?"
"Yeah. And Rach, can you get somebody to go pick up two tickets from Vicky's campaign headquarters for that fundraiser Thursday?"
"Will do, boss." Rachel smiled and left the office. Somebody's in a better mood.