Doyle Flynn, disbarred Alaska environmental lawyer, afflicted by depression, recently divorced, is haunted by ghosts both living and dead. Fate, in the form of an aged Chinese businessman from Doyle's past, gives to Doyle the opportunity for deliverance from his transgressions, present and past. The opportunity comes in the form of an assignment uniquely suited to Doyle's conscientious nature, grit, and training in environmental law. The issue is whether Doyle, confronted by threats internal and external, can beat the odds and break the cycle of self-destruction he has been heretofore unable to rise above. Where better to test Doyle's resolve than in the Alaska he inhabits.
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Doyle Flynn's Alaskan Environmental Crime StoryA Novel
By Roany Phelan
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Roany Phelan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLee Yi Ching's Ghost
On the morning of the day of Doyle Flynn's appointment to undergo a vasectomy, a sterilization procedure which would sever the flow of congenital anxiety and melancholic depression that had passed through four consecutive generations of eldest male offspring in the Flynn lineage, the September winds blew hard through the South Anchorage hillside, stripping the yellow and brown foliage from the trees. On days like this, with the strong winds whistling through the birch trees, the spruce, and the dirt roads of Doyle's neighborhood, the ghost of Lee Yi Ching often came to haunt Doyle. It was no coincidence that Lee Yi Ching's ghost would visit Doyle on this particular day.
Doyle got up from bed at eight o'clock, stirred by the sounds of the autumn wind. The wind caused Doyle's camper-trailer, the twenty foot mobile structure that had been his home for the past four months, to sway as it stood on the otherwise vacant, partially wooded lot. Doyle was living on the lot under an agreement with the owner, who had hooked up power and telephone service for the property but was waiting until the following spring to build a house. Winter was less than a month away and it would soon be too cold to live in the second-hand trailer. After rising and turning on the radio in the bedroom in the forward cabin of the trailer Doyle moved to the galley kitchen. He lit the small kerosene heater that stood on the kitchen floor. He fed Primo and boiled water for coffee.
During Primo's meal Doyle contemplated the vasectomy in order to distract himself from thoughts of Lee Yi Ching's ghost. After Primo finished his meal Doyle sat on the floor of the trailer with the adolescent rotweiller. He spoke to Primo, rubbing the black hair on his neck and ears. Doyle then took Primo out to his makeshift fenced yard, situated next to the camper-trailer. The air was cool but there had not been a frost.
With Primo in his yard, Doyle walked to the end of the driveway to pick up the daily newspaper. Looking at the gray sky which had become light, breathing the autumn air which bore the sweet smell of decaying leaves on the verge of death, Doyle sensed Lee Yi Ching's presence. He looked for her in a stand of trees next to the driveway but she did not make herself visible. As he bent to pick up the paper, his face toward the ground, Doyle raised his eyes. He thought the ghost might appear if she did not know he was looking. When Doyle still did not see her he picked up the paper and turned to walk back to the trailer. The wind gusted, causing leaves to shower around him.
Inside Doyle made coffee on the trailer's two burner propane stove by adding ground coffee to the open pot of boiling water, allowing it to simmer. He added to the coffee pot the shells from an egg he fried on the other burner. He drank muddy black coffee from a mug and ate breakfast. He fought back the powerful sensations of nausea and nervousness he had experienced almost every morning of his adult life, feelings brought on by what he understood to be a biochemical imbalance in his brain. He tried to drive away the anxiety and distorted thoughts that pervaded his mind by distracting himself with the newspaper.
When this began to fail and he sensed he might succumb to nausea he went outside to get Primo from his yard. Doyle and Primo wrestled together for a short time in the yard. Primo chased the falling leaves and grabbed them in his mouth. Doyle chased Primo and took the leaves away before Primo could ingest them. When Doyle and Primo were tired they sat on the ground and listened to the rustling trees, Primo watching in wonder as the trees bent under the weight of the wind. In this way Doyle survived the morning's battle against melancholic depression.
The next thing to do was to walk Primo. At twelve months Primo weighed one hundred and five pounds. He would weigh one hundred and twenty at full size. For the walk Doyle wore sweatpants, a sweater over an old button down shirt, a brown canvas Carhartt jacket and suede work gloves. He walked Primo on his leash along Primo's accustomed route, a mile and half of dirt roads that circled through the neighborhood. While walking with Primo, with the wind blowing hard and the pale sun hidden behind clouds, Doyle reflected on how his life had recently changed.
Less than a year ago Doyle had still been married, living in a house just two miles from the lot where his trailer now stood. Lisa, his wife of five years, had left him after the day he looked in her large brown eyes, trembling with fearful expectation and full of tears, and told her that he would not leave Alaska, not for the sake of their failing marriage. It had taken Doyle a year to bring himself to tell his wife what he knew would terminate their relationship. When he told her he had expected to feel relief. Instead he felt sorrow for causing pain.
The divorce had precipitated the sale of their home, the division of their marital assets, and Lisa's departure from the state. Doyle had sold most of what he had taken from the settlement at a swap meet in the parking lot at Anchorage's Sullivan Sports Arena. He had used the proceeds, along with what was left from his share of the sale of the house, to buy the used trailer. He had planned to travel outside Alaska for the summer, pulling the trailer behind his 1986 Dodge pickup truck. None of this had occurred, because the disciplinary proceedings had taken longer than expected. Doyle had remained in Anchorage pending their outcome. By the time the Alaska Bar Association discipline committee handed down its decision it was already September. The opportunity for summer travel outside Alaska had expired.
The committee's decision had been to revoke Doyle's license to practice law. The committee had ruled that Doyle would be permitted to apply for readmission in five years. He would be eligible for readmission if he could demonstrate sufficient good conduct during the probationary period.
The incident that had resulted in Doyle's expulsion from his profession had been typical of many of the events that defined his often self-destructive life. As a relatively inexperienced lawyer trying to develop a career in environmental litigation, Doyle had convinced the partners who ran his law firm to assign him a case representing First Bank of Alaska. The bank had foreclosed on a parcel of contaminated industrial property. Upon discovering the contamination after foreclosure, the bank had sued the former owner, who had operated a junk yard on the land.
The lawsuit was for costs incurred by the bank in cleaning up contamination caused by the owner. The owner's lawyer was Clyde Delaney, a large, barrel-chested trial lawyer in his early fifties. He had been a police officer before becoming a lawyer and he had a reputation as a bully, both as a cop and as a lawyer.
From the beginning, Doyle's working relationship with Delaney was strained. Delaney undertook to make the litigation case a difficult experience for the younger Doyle. In written pleadings and court papers Delaney was derisive. In letters and phone conversations, he remarked on Doyle's relative inexperience. During depositions he patronized. Although Doyle readily responded in kind to the down putting remarks of his older, more experienced adversary, Doyle often found himself unable to overcome the self-doubt that Delaney generated. In private, late at night or in the dark of the Alaska winter mornings, Doyle second guessed his handling of the litigation. Doyle allowed himself to question his own convictions.
The situation reached its terminus only when Doyle, true to his flawed character, determined to unleash upon Delaney the anger that had developed within Doyle after a year and a half of pretrial work on the case. Typical of Doyle, the moment that he chose to unleash his rage was ill-timed, while his conduct in the defining incident was beyond justification.
Doyle and Delaney had set aside two days, approximately a week apart, to conduct a pair of depositions. On the first day, at Delaney's office, Delaney examined under oath the chairman of the board of First Bank of Anchorage, Doyle's client. During the deposition, Delaney questioned the witness about the bank's prior experiences in foreclosing on environmentally contaminated property. The purpose for the inquiry was to establish that the bank had experience dealing with contaminated land, and should have more thoroughly investigated the condition of the property in question before foreclosing. Theoretically this might have made it inappropriate for the bank to take possession of the land, clean up the pollution, and sue for the cost. When it became evident that the chairman of the board was not personally familiar with the bank's history in dealing with contaminated sites, and was therefore not qualified to answer Delaney's questions, Doyle objected to the line of inquiry.
As was his right under the rules governing depositions, where no judge is present to rule on objections, Delaney proceeded with his line of questions. As was his right as well, in order to preserve his objections in case it was necessary for the judge to consider the propriety of the questions at a later time, Doyle continued to object. This exchange was routine until Delaney lost his temper and verbally abused Doyle, claiming obstruction, threatening to take Doyle before the judge, yelling in a way that no lawyer should address another, in a way that Doyle wished he had not tolerated in the presence of his client. Doyle's immediate response was to fix his pale blue eyes upon Delaney's eyes, move his face closer to Delaney's beefy middle aged face, and tell Delaney to proceed with his line of questioning. Later in the day, reliving the thirty second confrontation over and over again in his mind, Doyle concluded that this response had not been enough. He vowed to counter with greater force the next time.
Doyle's problem was that in his anger he was too hasty to test his resolve. The next week Doyle met Delaney as scheduled in a conference room at Doyle's law firm for the second deposition. It was winter, so dark outside despite the mid-morning hour that the room's large window to the city outside looked like a blank slate school room chalk board.
This time it was Doyle's turn to depose one of Delaney's witnesses. The witness was an environmental engineer Delaney had hired as a trial expert. The expert would explain his opinion about why Doyle's client, the bank, had mismanaged the clean up, spending more money on the project than was necessary. The expert's role was to demonstrate that because the clean up was mismanaged the bank had overstated the value of its damages. The expert sat across the conference room's table from Doyle. Delaney sat at the expert's side.
So trivial was the verbal exchange that propelled Doyle to assault Delaney during the environmental expert's deposition that in hindsight, as he walked Primo some nine months later down a dirt road, Doyle Flynn recognized that his actions could have been considered comical. Except that the memory of the moment continued to inspire hostility and a sense of tragedy. In the introductory phase of the deposition Doyle was questioning the expert, Tim Cronin, about his past professional experience. The testimony, taken before a court reporter, was later transcribed as follows:
Flynn: What is your position with Arctic Environmental Engineering Services?
Cronin: My position at AEES is senior environmental projects manager and regulatory specialist.
Flynn: And how long have you held that position at AEES?
Cronin: Seven years.
Flynn: What does your position as senior environmental projects manager and regulatory specialist at AEES involve?
Cronin: Basically I am the senior person in charge of all environmental remediation projects out of AEES's Anchorage office. I am the overall manager for the projects. I review and approve all cleanup plans undertaken by the on site supervisors. I ensure they are in compliance with regulatory guidelines. I advise our clients about the status of the cleanup. I interface with the regulatory agencies.
Flynn: As overall manager, do you have a specific staff of engineers that you supervise?
Cronin: I do.
Flynn: How many engineers are on that staff?
Cronin: At this time I preside over a staff of seven engineers.
(And here is where Doyle's blunder began.)
Flynn: You reside over a staff of seven engineers?
Cronin: No. I preside over a staff of seven engineers.
Delaney: He presides. He doesn't reside.
Cronin: You don't reside over a staff. You preside.
Delaney: How large a staff do you reside over, Mr. Flynn?
Flynn: Are you making fun of me, Mr. Delaney?
Delaney: Making fun of you, not intentionally counsel, but I am amused that you don't know the difference between preside and reside.
At this point Doyle instructed the court reporter to go off record. That was the end of the recorded testimony which the Bar discipline committee would review several times over in evaluating Doyle's case.
Now out of his chair and walking around the table toward Delaney, a sudden stillness having fallen upon the inadequately lit conference room, Doyle was aware that he had crossed the point of no return in this conflict. As he circled the table he recognized and weighed the potential consequences of what he was about to do, but he had already made his decision, and there was no turning back. Standing over Delaney, who was seated, looking at Delaney's face, the adrenaline pumping through him, hearing his own breathing, Doyle said again:
"Are you making fun of me?"
"You go sit down, Mr. Flynn," said Delaney, very quietly. "Go sit down and continue with your deposition."
"You're not answering my question," said Doyle. "Last week you scream at the top of your lungs in my client's presence. Now you mock me in front of this witness. Now I'm not taking any more shit from you, and I don't care about the consequences. You don't tell me to go sit down. You answer my question."
Delaney did not answer Doyle's question. He was an ex-cop and he did not scare. He stared at Doyle from his chair and Doyle stared back. The confrontation might have diffused, except that having demanded a response to his question, and not having gotten an answer, Doyle felt compelled to act.
He said: "You ought to take back the things you said to me last week. You should not have said those things." And then he spat on Delaney.
The first time he spat Doyle aimed for Delaney's barrel chest. It was an easy target because Doyle was standing only a few feet away. The spit landed on the shirt of the sitting man. Doyle had intended to spit a single glob of saliva, but his mouth had gone dry and the spit had come out in a spray, hitting Delaney's shirt, necktie, and shirt sleeves.
Delaney reacted by rising to his feet. Now standing, facing Doyle, the large ex-cop assumed an imposing stance. He began to speak, but before the words came from his mouth Doyle spat at him again. Doyle spat a second time because he wanted to maintain the tactical advantage of surprise. He knew that if he gave Delaney the opportunity to collect himself, Delaney would recover and gain the upper hand. The second projection of spit was no more globular than the first. This time, feeling emboldened, Doyle aimed higher and the spray hit Delaney in the neck and on his chin. Then Doyle, with an open hand, swiftly swung with his left arm and slapped Delaney's face.
When Delaney didn't hit back but only stood there looking at Doyle, his face showing controlled rage and contempt for the younger lawyer, Doyle fully appreciated how far he had gone and how futile his actions had been. He had been humiliated by Delaney a week beforehand. He had chosen this day to exact revenge caused, but his assault was unwarranted. Realizing that the confrontation was over, and contemplating that the mistake would forever affect him, Doyle exited the conference room in silence.
Excerpted from Doyle Flynn's Alaskan Environmental Crime Story by Roany Phelan Copyright © 2012 by Roany Phelan. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrelude To A Death And Life Foretold....................1
Chapter One: Lee Yi Ching's Ghost....................5
Chapter Two: The Taiwan Connection....................19
Chapter Three: 20 Acres Of Undeveloped Property, Kona Subdivision....................31
Chapter Four: Termination Dust....................51
Chapter Five: The Thirtieth Reunion....................73
Chapter Six: Searching For Dwayne Crystal....................92
Chapter Seven: Doyle's Date With Grace....................112
Chapter Eight: The Sight Of Mt Mckinley....................135
Chapter Nine: Environmental Crimes....................151
Chapter Ten: The First Of Two Ordeals....................172
Chapter Eleven: The Second Ordeal....................189
Chapter Twelve: Schwarz's Butcher Shop....................211
Chapter Thirteen: The Beach At Hua Lien....................226
Chapter Fourteen: Incident At The Woronzof Lounge....................243
Chapter Fifteen: The Closing....................264
Chapter Sixteen: Ashes And Snow....................279
Epilogue: The Real Doyle Flynn....................289