Authors: Andrew Neiderman
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Lois Wilson looked to him for some signal. He nodded, and then, just as he had instructed, when she looked at Barbara, she looked forgiving and wiped away her own well-timed and well-rehearsed tears.
The district attorney stood up. Facing the judge and audience with a vacant expression, he knew it was fruitless to go on.
The Bramble Inn was one of the better restaurants just outside of Blithedale. It was an English chop-house famous for its rack of lamb and homemade trifle. Kevin and Miriam Taylor loved the ambience, from the cobblestone walkway to the large foyer with hickory benches and brick fireplace. For the Taylors nothing seemed as romantic as going to the Bramble Inn on a snowy night to sit by the bar and drink cocktails while the fire crackled and snapped. As usual the inn was crowded with its upper-middle-class clientele, many of whom knew Kevin. Some stopped by to congratulate him. As soon as he and Miriam had a few quiet moments to themselves, he brushed his shoulder up against hers and kissed her cheek.
Almost a month ago, Miriam had bought the black leather skirt and jacket she wore tonight, but she had kept it hidden at the back of her closet, hoping she soon would have the occasion to bring it out and surprise Kevin. The snugly fitted skirt traced the soft, full curve of her hips and firm buttocks and revealed just enough of her slim, well-shaped legs to make her enticing but not obvious. Under the jacket she wore a white and green knit blouse that seemed to have been constructed directly over her perky breasts and petite shoulders.
At five feet nine, with rich, thick, wavy dark brown hair that curled up just above her shoulders, Miriam Taylor cut a place for herself in any crowd when she entered a room. She had taken a year's training at Marie Simon's Modeling School in Manhattan, and although she had never had any real modeling experience, she maintained a fashion model's posture and grace.
Kevin first had fallen in love with her voice—a deep, sexy, Lauren Bacall voice.
He even had her recite one of his favorite movie lines: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Sam . . . you just put your lips together and blow."
When she looked at him with her bright hazel eyes and turned her shoulder, substituting "Kevin" for "Sam," it was as if a hand reached inside his stomach, grabbed his heart. He might as well wear a collar around his neck, he thought, and hand her the leash. There was nothing he wouldn't do for her.
"I'm guilty of uxoriousness," he told her. "The little-known sin of excessive love for one's spouse. From the moment I met you, I violated the First Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
They had met at a cocktail party his firm—Boyle, Carlton, and Sessler—had thrown when they had opened their new offices in their recently constructed building in Blithedale. Miriam had come to the party with her parents. Her father, Arthur Morris, was the most prominent dentist in Blithedale. Sanford Boyle introduced Kevin to her and her parents, and from that moment on they orbited each other, pulling on each other with smiles and glances across the room until they came together and talked and talked up until the end of the party. She agreed to go to dinner with him that night, and from then on their romance was fast, hot, and heavy.
He proposed in less than a month.
Now as they sat at the bar in the Bramble Inn toasting his success, Miriam considered the changes in him since they had first met.
How much he has grown,
she thought. He looked years older than twenty-eight.
There was a maturity, a control, a self-confidence in his jade-green eyes and his gestures that suggested a man of much greater experience and years. He wasn't a big man, but at six feet and one hundred seventy-five pounds, he was a trim, athletic-looking person with well-controlled energy. He had his bursts of exuberance when he needed them, but most of the time he paced himself well.
He was so organized, so healthy, so ambitious and determined that she used to kid him and sing those lines from an old pop song: "And he's oh so healthy in his body and his mind. He's the well-adjusted man about town . . ."
"So tell me what you really thought today while you sat there in court. Weren't you just a little proud of me?"
"Oh, Kevin, I'm not saying I wasn't proud of you. You were ... masterful," she replied, but she couldn't expunge the terrified face of that little girl from her mind.
She couldn't stop herself from reliving the moments of panic in the child's eyes when Kevin threatened to expose what she and her girlfriends had done at her house. "I just wish there had been another way for you to win the case than threaten that child with exposure, don't you?"
"Of course. But I had to do it," he said. "Besides, don't forget Barbara Stanley was using the threat of the same exposure to blackmail the others into testifying."
"She looked so pathetic when you tore into her," she said.
Kevin blanched. "I didn't bring the charges against Lois Wilson," he reminded her.
"Marty Balm did. He was the one who brought Barbara Stanley into court and submitted her to the cross-examination, not me. I had a client to defend and her rights and future to think about first and foremost."
"But Kevin, what if she had talked the others into testifying with her because she was afraid to go it alone?"
"The prosecution should have developed its case another way then or objected, whatever. That's not my concern. I told you, Miriam, I was the defense attorney. I have to defend, use every available approach, otherwise I'm not doing my job. You understand that, don't you?"
She nodded. She had to agree, albeit reluctantly. What he said was true.
"Aren't you just a tiny bit proud of the way I handled myself in court?" he asked again, nudging his shoulder against hers.
She smiled. "You're a frustrated actor, Kevin Taylor. The way you moved about, directed yourself at the jury, timed your questions, and swung those eyes . .." She laughed. "You could have been nominated for an Academy Award."
"It is like a performance, isn't it, Miriam? I can't explain what happens to me when I step into a courtroom. It's like the curtain goes up and everything's been written to follow. It's almost as if it doesn't matter who the client is or what the case is. I'm just there, destined to do what I do."
"What do you mean, it doesn't matter what the case is or who the client is? You wouldn't defend just anyone, would you?" He didn't reply. "Would you?"
He shrugged. "Depended on the money I was offered, I guess."
She studied him, her eyes narrowing. "Kevin, I want you to be honest with me."
He raised his right hand and turned to face her. "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth ..."
"I'm serious," she said, pulling down his hand.
"All right, what is it?" He turned around again and leaned over the bar to hug his drink.
"Put aside all the legal jargon, the role of the prosecution, the role of the defense attorney ... all of it. You proved that the three girls lied, were forced to lie, or at least developed that impression, and I don't deny that Barbara Stanley looks like a manipulator, but did Lois Wilson abuse her? Take advantage of her? You questioned her, and you spent a lot of time with Lois Wilson."
"Maybe," he said. There was something in the way he moved his head that sent a chill through her.
He shrugged. "I defended her, as I explained to you, found holes in the prosecution's case and attacked it where it was vulnerable."
"But if she was guilty . .."
"Who knows who's guilty and who isn't? If we had to be absolutely positive of a client's innocence, beyond any possible doubt whatsoever, before taking a case, we'd all starve." He waved at someone and ordered another round of drinks.
For Miriam, it was as if a cloud had momentarily blocked the sun. She sat up and looked about the bar, her attention focusing on a handsome, distinguished-looking man with ebony hair and a dark complexion sitting alone at a corner table. Miriam was sure he was staring at them. Suddenly, he smiled. She smiled and quickly looked away. When she turned back, he was still staring at them.
"Kevin? Do you know that man in the corner who is looking so intently at us?"
"Man?" He turned. "Yes. I mean, no, but I saw him in court today."
The man smiled again and nodded. Kevin nodded back. The man, apparently taking that as a welcome, stood up and headed in their direction. He was a little over six feet tall with a trim build.
"Evening," he said. He extended his hand, a large palm with long fingers and manicured nails. On his pinky, he wore a flat gold ring with the initial "P" engraved in it. "Let me join in on the congratulations and add my name to the list of admirers.
"Thank you, Paul. My wife, Miriam."
"Mrs. Taylor," he said, nodding. "You have good reason to look beautiful and proud tonight."
Miriam blushed. "Thank you," she said.
"I don't mean to intrude," Scholefield went on, "but I was in court today and saw you in action."
"Yes, I know. I remember seeing you." Kevin looked at him closely. "I don't think we've ever met."
"No. I don't live here. I'm an attorney with a firm in New York City. Would it be all right if I joined you for a moment?" he asked, indicating the seat beside Kevin.
"Thanks. I see you've just ordered a round of drinks; otherwise, I'd buy you both one." He signaled the waiter. "A champagne cocktail, please."
"What field of law are you in, Mr. Scholefield?" Kevin asked.
"Please, call me Paul. Our firm only handles criminal law, Kevin. Perhaps you've heard of it: John Milton and Associates."
Kevin thought a moment and then shook his head. "Sorry, no."
"It's all right." Scholefield smiled. "It's one of those firms you don't hear about unless you're in trouble. We've become specialists. Most of the cases we take on, other lawyers would avoid."
"Sounds .. . interesting," Kevin said cautiously. He was beginning to regret having him join them. He didn't want to talk shop. "I guess we'd better see about our table, huh, Miriam? Starting to get hungry-"
"Yes," she said, picking up his hint. She signaled the maitre d'.
"As I said," Scholefield continued, quickly understanding, "I don't mean to intrude." He took out a business card. "I didn't just drop in on your trial today.
We've heard about you, Kevin."
"Really?" Kevin's eyes widened.
"Yes. We're always keeping an eye open for up-and-coming excellent attorneys who handle criminal cases, and it just so happens that we have an opening at our firm right now."
"And after seeing you in action, I'd like to leave our card and ask you to consider it."
"I know you'll probably be offered a partnership at the firm you're with, but at the risk of sounding a little snobby, let me suggest that working out here won't provide you with half the career satisfaction or half the income."
"Half the income?"
"Your table is ready, sir," the maitre d' said.
"Thank you." Kevin turned back to Scholefield. "You said half the income?"
"Yes. I know what you'll make as a partner in your firm. Mr. Milton will double that immediately, and in a relatively short period you'll be earning a significant bonus as well. I'm sure." Scholefield stood up. "Please, don't let me take any more of your time. You two deserve a chance to be alone," he added, winking at Miriam.
Once again, she felt herself blush.
He pushed the card toward Kevin. "Just call us. You won't regret it. Once more,"
he added, lifting his glass, "congratulations on a splendid victory. Mrs. Taylor."
He toasted again and left them.
For a moment Kevin didn't move. Then he looked down at the business card.
The raised print seemed to lift off the card, magnifying itself. The soft dinner music, the low murmuring chatter around them, even Miriam's voice suddenly became distant. He sensed himself drifting.
"What was that all about?"
"I don't know, but it sure sounds interesting, doesn't it?"
Scholefield returned to his table and smiled at her. Something cold tugged at her heart and made it flutter. "Kevin, our table's ready."
"Right," he said. He looked at the business card once more and then stuffed it quickly into his pocket and got up to join Miriam.
They took their seats at one of the intimate tables in a nook toward the rear of the restaurant. The small oil lamp on the table cast a soft, yellow, magical glow over both their faces. They ordered a white zinfandel and sipped it slowly while they talked softly, recalling other times, other romantic meals, other precious moments. The soft dinner music wove its way around and above them like background theme music in a film.
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. They gazed at each other so intently that the waitress felt guilty interrupting to ask them for their order.
It wasn't until after they had their food and had begun eating that Miriam brought up Paul Scholefield.
"You really never heard of his firm?"
"No." He thought about it and shook his head. Then he took out the card and stared at it. "Can't say I have, but that doesn't mean anything. Do you know how many firms there are in New York City alone? Nice location," he noted. "Madison and Forty-fourth."
"Isn't it a bit unusual for another lawyer to come watch you in action, Kevin?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. No, I guess not. What better way to judge someone than actually to see him on the job? And don't forget," he added with obvious pleasure, "this case has been in the New York City papers. There were two inches or so on it in the
last Sunday." ,
Miriam nodded, but he could see she was bothered by something.
"Why do you ask?"
"I don't know. The way he said his piece and gave you his card ... he was ... so confident."