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But Remember Their NamesA Cynthia Jakubek Legal Thriller
By Hillary Bell Locke
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2011 Hillary Bell Locke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAWWWKward!, Caitlin Bradshaw thought as she glimpsed her mother striding briskly toward her with a pack of cigarettes. Then she saw that the cigarettes were Caporals, which meant they weren't hers, which meant she wasn't busted after all. Awkward! became wtf? when Ariane took a cigarette from the pack. In the seventeen years and three months she had lived with Ariane Bradshaw, Caitlin had never seen her mother smoke.
Ariane shook the pack again and extended it toward her daughter. If Caitlin considered deceit or evasion, it was only for a millisecond. With a cautious half-smile, she drew a Caporal from the pack and leaned forward to accept a light that Ariane offered from a satiny black and gold tube. Caitlin's auburn bangs fluttered as, with practiced familiarity, she rocked her head back to blow smoke toward the ceiling. By the time Caitlin brought her eyes back down, Ariane had lit her own cigarette and sat down directly across the outside front corner of the computer desk from Caitlin.
Please don't let this be some gross peer-bonding thing, Caitlin prayed. I'm not just your mom anymore, I'm your friend! We can talk about Everything! Please not that.
Ariane brought her cigarette up for a contemplative pull, appreciative without being needy. At thirty-nine years old, she was no longer the stunning bride in the pictures taken thirteen months before Caitlin's birth, but she could still snap vertebrae anywhere in Pittsburgh. Unlined face almost perfectly oval, fine bone structure, chestnut hair with plenty of body, breasts noticeably full even under the bulky beige sweater that protected her against late November chill—it made a nice package. Not long ago Caitlin thought she'd seen a few extra pounds accumulating uncharacteristically around her mom's waistline, but not now. Ariane looked like exactly the perfect weight for her five-five height.
"I didn't know you smoked," Caitlin said, not sure she was improving on the silence.
"I can't say vice-versa." Ariane smiled wryly. "But we have something more important to talk about. Soon, maybe as early as tomorrow, police officers will come to search the house. Do you have any drugs here?"
Ariane's studied calm was infectious. Caitlin gaped at the question, but didn't freak out.
"Before you tell me you don't smoke pot, remember that munchies go on the grocery tab, which I pay."
"I do weed sometimes with friends," Caitlin said, oddly unconcerned by what, five minutes ago, would have been an unthinkable confession. "But I've never held any."
"Any other drugs?"
"No." Caitlin flicked ash and puffed on her cigarette, trying to seem blasé but not quite bringing it off.
"Anything bad on your computer?"
"Not that I know of."
Ariane bent toward Caitlin and caught her daughter's eyes. She put her hand comfortingly on Caitlin's knee.
"Listen, honey. If you have something on your computer that's just embarrassing—say a picture of you shit-faced at a party or flashing your breasts or something—just leave it. Trying to delete it won't work and will make it look like you have something to hide. But if there's something that might be criminal, we need to talk about it right away with Sam."
"Sam the Really Jewish Lawyer?" Samuel Schwartzchild did the tax and estate planning work for half the families Caitlin knew. Without waiting for a reprimand, Caitlin then contritely bowed her head and murmured, "Sorry."
"Save the apology. Let's focus."
Caitlin looked back up and again caught her mother's eyes.
"This is about dad, isn't it?"
"Has anything happened to him?"
Ariane glanced at a Phillipe Patek watch on her wrist.
Chapter TwoI was on a roll when Pauline Denckla's peremptory rap on the side of my cubicle interrupted my dictation.
"Ms. Bradshaw is here, Ms. Jakubek." She didn't mean either "Ms."
"One second." I held up an index finger. "I'm about to win a case."
"This is the referral from Fletcher and Peck."
Referrals from the distinguished law firm of Fletcher & Peck command attention. On the other hand, the main thing I'd gotten from Luis Mendoza's seventy-two-second briefing an hour before was that Caitlin Bradshaw was a kid.
"Stash her in the library and get her a chocolate malt or something." I flicked my Dictaphone back on and resumed. "—certificate of the death of Tyrell Washington on November 18, 2010. Paragraph. Wherefore the undersigned counsel of record for defendant Washington respectfully moves the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for entry of an order vacating the judgment of conviction and remanding the case to the District Court with instructions to dismiss the indictment as moot."
I popped the minicassette out of the Dictaphone as I stood up and handed it to the formidable Pauline D, who hadn't moved a millimeter. She accepted it without enthusiasm.
"If Tyrell Washington is dead, this is a waste of time."
"Let's hope the Third Circuit sees it that way."
I headed for the reception area to fetch Bradshaw myself. In addition to potted plants and old magazines, it features a massive aquarium built into the wall. I think it's a nice touch, except when some of the fish die.
The Law Office of Luis Mendoza occupies half the fourth floor of a former warehouse now gentrified into a no-frills office building in downtown Pittsburgh. Eleven lawyers work there. Ten of them get paid. I'm the eleventh. Ten of them didn't go to Harvard Law School. I'm the eleventh. Ten of them work in offices. I draft briefs (for other lawyers to sign) and outline cross-examinations (for other lawyers to use) in a cubicle. But on the rare occasions when I see a client I get to use the library, which has a large maple table and four pine chairs and therefore qualifies as a conference room.
The Law Office of Luis Mendoza was not the plan. Harvard Law School cum laude, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (not quite Harvard Law Review, but not bad), two-year clerkship with a federal district judge in Philadelphia—that résumé was supposed to park my cute little butt on Wall Street. It was working out just fine, too. By the end of interview season my third year in law school, I had an offer in hand from Calder & Bull, a solid Wall Street firm with lots of securities lawyers and even more litigators to get the securities lawyers out of trouble. Hundred-and-a-half starting salary with a twenty-five-thousand dollar signing bonus and a report date the September after my clerkship ended.
Then Lehman Brothers happened. Fall of 2008. End of the world as we know it. The letter from C & B came in June, 2009. New hires for the following September were being "deferred" until February 1, 2011. Fifty thousand dollars to tide us over, on the condition that we reaffirm our intention to go to work there and find some "non-competitive law-related activity" that would keep up our legal skills in the meantime. My personal theory was that they expected us all to go to Legal Aid and file class action suits against C & B clients. That way they could write the fifty thousand off to Business Development.
I've never been gut-punched, but I don't think it could hurt much worse than reading that letter. My fiancé, Paul Kaplan, actually took the news even harder than I did. I got some of my perspective back talking him down from his passionate artist's moral outrage. Paul is a budding postmodern novelist.
"That sucks!" he'd yelled around an f-bomb participle, startling several other pedestrians on Walnut Street in Philly. "That totally sucks! This is a tragedy!"
"Eight-year-old girls starving to death in Africa is a tragedy. This is a disappointment."
"But they're just blowing you off!" His perfect guardsman's moustache had quivered with indignation as his cobalt blue eyes flared in righteous anger at the bosses' perfidy.
"They're paying me roughly as much to loaf for a year-and-a-half as the average American family gets by working hard for twelve months. My dad would have loved to have someone blow him off like that when he was twenty-six."
With that, man-mountain Paul had whirled his six-foot-four-inch frame around and locked me in a bear hug that a few strollers probably thought was a mugging. He'd told me in a close-to-tears whisper how brave I was and how desperately he loved me. Paul did that kind of stuff regularly. It had given me a warm fuzzy, as it usually did. An artist's total empathy for the Other, combined with absolute devotion to yours truly. All that, and he was a hunk to boot.
"We'll make the best of it," he'd whispered then, intensely. Paul does almost everything intensely. "Maybe use the time to get settled properly in the City."
I'd hated to spoil the moment, but that crack called for a Cindy Jakubek specialty: the reality check. If you could somehow combine Paul's passionate impulsiveness with my analytic detachment and divide by two, you'd probably end up with a fairly normal human being. I figured our kids would become either Nobel laureates or serial killers.
"Uh, Paul?" I'd said in my patient, no-you-can't-have-a-pony voice. "Someone with student loans to repay does not live in New York City for nineteen months on fifty thousand dollars. Not since the yuppies discovered Brooklyn."
Someone in that category didn't keep living in Philly, either, at least not in the apartment I'd leased when I had a nice, cushy, federal judicial clerk's salary. That basic economic reality brought me to Pittsburgh, which had two things going for it. The first was Luis Mendoza. He said that he could find a cubicle for me if I were willing to work as an unpaid legal intern at the Mendoza Foundation's Justice for All Project, which is one of several enterprises operating under the Law Office of Luis Mendoza umbrella. The second was my dad's house, where I could have room and board for three hundred a month plus help with the groceries. I could have had it for free, but I insisted.
Paul and I got to where we were moving through this little character-building experience with grudging acquiescence, if not contentment. I was learning some street law, maintaining legal skills, seeing Paul two or three weekends a month, talking once in a while with him about actually setting a date, and checking a snarky blog called "Above the Law" for rumors about Calder & Bull. Paul was writing a novel full of subtext and attitude, with occasional dialogue.
Anyway, that's how it came about that in late November, 2010, instead of helping out with abstruse motion practice in securities litigation of mind-boggling complexity in lower Manhattan, I was padding out to the lobby of a converted warehouse in Pittsburgh to shake hands with Caitlin Bradshaw. Mendoza had told me to do a preliminary interview so that he could deal with her problem, whatever it turned out to be, without wasting too much of his own time. Mendoza wasn't excessively scrupulous about the distinction between his non-profit foundation, which was pro bono and received lots of public and private grant money, and the emphatically pro pecunio side of his office: workers' comp, personal injury, small-time criminal work, divorce, bankruptcy—and referrals from Fletcher & Peck. He used me interchangeably between the two. In case you ever find yourself running a law firm, this is called "leverage."
The second I laid eyes on Caitlin I repented my chocolate malt crack. She wasn't a Valley girl airhead. A girl–woman, but more woman than girl. Her face, and especially her dove gray eyes, didn't look hard but they did look tempered, as if she'd had to take some knocks more serious than finding a zit on prom night. Only when we shook hands and I noticed the strength of her grip did it hit me: tennis. She'd been on a girls' varsity tennis team that had done something or other with "state" in it last spring. I didn't think much of jockettes when I was in high school—the feeling was mutual—but you have to give them one thing: winning, losing, and pumping your muscles even after they're throbbing and your gut is screaming at you to stop, puts one part of childhood in your rearview mirror pretty fast.
"Girls' Tennis State Championship, right?" I guessed on the way back to the library.
"Better than fourth."
I got her a paper cup of water, sat her down at the table, and scrounged a half-used legal pad from one of the drawers. Then I asked her to tell me how Sam Schwartzchild at Fletcher & Peck had come to recommend that she see Mr. Mendoza. She walked me through the face-to-face with mom two days earlier. I'm pretty good at poker faces but my eyebrows arched when she mentioned calling Schwartzchild "Sam the Really Jewish Lawyer."
"I can't believe I said that." She noticed my reaction and veiled her eyes briefly with her right hand. "It was, like, I just regressed to mall-speak all of a sudden. Like when I was a sophomore and we were hanging out someone might say, 'We can chill at my house while the 'rents are downtown seeing Sam the Really Jewish Lawyer.' And mom is sharing with me and trusting me and I just blurted that out."
"Stress." I said this as if I knew what I was talking about. "Stress can do things like that. It acts in different ways on different people. Did the police come to search your house?"
My back-to-business follow-up drew a searching look from her. She saw 5 feet 6 inches and 117 rather well-distributed pounds of Slavic attitude now only a little over two months away from her Wall Street dream. I have an olive complexion and wear very little makeup. Jet black hair combed straight back from my forehead and parted in the middle, with no attempt at pie-crust curls or other nonsense at the ends. Small glasses with black half- frames perched an inch or so down my nose. The dress code at Mendoza's shop is business casual, but I was wearing a charcoal gray jacket and skirt, ivory blouse, hose, and black pumps. I was a lawyer, dammit, and I was going to dress like one.
"Yes," she finally said. "They came the next day. Sunday."
"Did they have a warrant?"
"What did it say?"
"I didn't see it. But they checked our two computers, the one Mom and I use in the great room and Dad's in his upstairs study. They asked Mom if there were any others. She told them about Dad's laptop but she was pretty sure he had it with him. They made a gross mess looking for it, but they didn't find it. They asked Mom where Dad kept his passport and she said it should be in his top dresser drawer. But they didn't find that either."
"Your dad was out of town?"
"He went to New York to a private show," Caitlin said. "Appraising art and antiques is one of the things he does. I thought he was coming back Sunday evening, but mom told the police that he'd called and said he'd be back tonight instead."
"Flying or driving?"
"What? Oh, I'm sorry. Driving."
"Did the police take anything else?"
"Three briefcases or attaché cases or something. They were all Dad's. Plus all our old check registers and bank statements. And there were a couple of mobile phones that I didn't know Dad used. They took those too."
In framing my questions I focused on this numbing detail deliberately. A good deal of the work done by Justice For All was on court appointments to handle criminal appeals for indigent defendants like Tyrell Washington. I'd seen plenty of criminal cases during my judicial clerkship as well. Between the two, I'd picked up enough to know that having your home searched even by well-behaved cops isn't like Law and Order S.V.U. It means drawers yanked out and turned upside down to dump their contents on the floor. It means guys wearing latex gloves throwing your bras and panties over their shoulders after they've pawed through them. It means couches pulled four feet away from walls and left sitting there in the middle of the room, with their cushions on the floor. It means books, CDs, and DVDs flung onto the carpet and ceiling panels in the basement pushed out of their frames. It had to be a searingly traumatic intrusion on Caitlin's white-bread life. I wanted to get her into the routine of talking about this stuff as though it were the French Open before I reached the elephant-in-the-corner issue: Who else in the house, if anyone, was in cahoots with Dad on whatever had caused a magistrate somewhere to sign off on a search warrant?
"We've been calling them 'police.'" I underlined the word in my notes. "Were they in uniform or civvies?"
"They were wearing suits. I thought they were FBI, but mom said they were some kind of state police."
I scribbled methodically on my legal pad to buy myself some time so I could figure out how to ask Caitlin whether her father might now be in, say, Brazil instead of driving back to Pittsburgh. Before I could come up with anything she set off on a ramble, almost as if she were talking to herself.
"I didn't know she smoked. I can't believe that."
Excerpted from But Remember Their Names by Hillary Bell Locke Copyright © 2011 by Hillary Bell Locke. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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