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Authors: Andrew Neiderman

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BOOK: The Devil's Advocate
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"Comes with success, I suppose. I wonder how serious that mention of money was .. . twice as much as I'd make as a partner at Boyle, Carlton, and Sessler?" He looked at the card again and shook his head.

"You'll make enough there, Kevin."

"You never make enough anymore, and there won't be many cases like this Wilson case. I'm only afraid I'll fall back into one of their areas, get inundated with corporate law or real estate, simply because there isn't going to be that much in the way of criminal law out here."

"It never bothered you before, Kevin."

"I know." He leaned forward, his eyes catching the heart of the small lamp's light as his face suddenly changed from soft and serene to hot and excited. "But there was something happening to me in that courtroom this time, Miriam. I could feel it. I was ... glowing at times. It was like being on the edge continually, knowing that every word is critical, that there is more than just someone's land at stake. Someone's entire life is at stake. Lois Wilson's future was in my hands. I was like a heart or brain surgeon as compared to a GP setting a broken leg."

"It's not terrible to get some easy real estate work once in a while," she said in a low voice. His exuberance took her breath away.

"No, but the harder, the more critical the case, the sharper I can be. I know it. I mean, I'm not a pencil pusher, Miriam. I'm ... I'm an advocate."

She nodded, her smile slowly wilting. There was something in his voice, something in his eyes that frightened her. She sensed that the life she had planned for them was not going to be enough for him.

"But Kevin," she said after a few moments, "you never brought this up before and probably wouldn't be bringing it up now if that man hadn't appeared tonight."

"Maybe not." He shrugged. "Maybe I don't know what I want." He looked at the card again and then put it in his pocket. "In any case, we'll have some time to think things out. I don't expect they'll offer me a partnership on Monday morning. Those three have to have a series of meetings. They believe things have to settle and harden."

He laughed, but his laugh was different from his usual laugh. It was sharp, cold.

"They probably never made love to their wives without first reviewing the pros and cons. Come to think of it, looking at their wives, I don't see how they could be impulsive about it anyway."

He laughed again, clearly disdainful this time, but Miriam didn't join him. Kevin had never been disdainful about the Boyles, Carltons, and Sesslers before. She had always assumed he wanted to be just like them.

"Isn't the lamb great tonight?" he asked, and she smiled and nodded, eager to put the discussion aside and slow down her heart beat so she could rid herself of the flickering butterfly wings just under her breast.

It worked. They didn't talk about law or the case. More content after their coffee and dessert, they went home to make love as passionately as she could ever remember.

But the following morning, she saw him go to the closet to find the pants he had worn to the Bramble Inn. He put his hand in the pocket and took out Paul Scholefield's business card, looked at it, and put it in the inside pocket of the jacket he would wear to work on Monday.

Throughout the weekend, Kevin had sensed a coolness in the community. The friends he had expected would call to congratulate him never called. Miriam had a conversation with her mother that he later found out was not pleasant. When he pressed for details, she finally told him that her mother had gotten into a fight with one of her so-called good friends defending him.

He almost got into a fight himself when he stopped at Bob's Service Station for gas Sunday morning and Bob Salter quipped that it was too bad the lesbians and gays were getting all the breaks in this country.

So he wasn't surprised at the cool reception he received at the office on Monday morning. Mary Echert, who served as his secretary and as the receptionist, barely said good morning, and Teresa London, Garth Sessler's secretary, flashed a smile and looked away quickly as he made his way to his "hole in the wall."

Kevin wasn't in his office long before the intercom buzzed and Myra Brockport, Sanford Boyle's secretary, in a voice that made him think of a stern schoolteacher he had had in grade school, said, "Mr. Boyle would like to see you immediately, Mr.

Taylor."

"Thank you," he replied and snapped off the intercom. He stood up and straightened his tie. He felt confident, elated. Why not? In three short years, he had
made a
nearly indelible mark on this well-established old firm. It had taken Brian Carlton and Garth Sessler a little over five years each to achieve a full partnership. In those days it was Boyle and Boyle, Sanford working with his father, Thomas, a man now in his mid-eighties, still sharp, still imposing opinions on his fifty-four-year-old son.

Kevin had feared Boyle, Carlton, and Sessler might resist offering him a partnership.

There was a snobbery about them and about this firm. All three partners were sons of lawyers who were sons of lawyers. It was almost as if they considered themselves royalty, descendants of monarchs who inherited scepters and thrones, each with his own special kingdom, one with estate planning, another with real estate ...

They had the biggest houses in Blithedale. Their children drove Mercedeses and BMWs and went to Ivy League schools, two already close to graduating law school.

All the professional people in the community looked up to them, valued an invitation to their homes and their parties, and valued their attendance at their own parties. It was as if becoming their partner was becoming anointed.

Having been a member of the high society in this community all her life, Miriam was keenly aware of all this. They were at the point where they were going to build their dream house. Miriam talked about having children. Their upper-middle-class existence seemed guaranteed, and there was never any question about Kevin's desire to establish himself in the small Long Island community. He had been born and bred in Westbury, where both his parents still lived and ran his father's accounting firm. He had attended NYU Law and come back to the Island to find the girl of his dreams and work. This is where he belonged; this was his destiny.

Or was it?

He opened Sanford Boyle's office door and greeted the three senior partners, and then he took the seat in front of Sanford Boyle's desk, aware that it put him in the center, Brian Carlton seated on his left, Garth Sessler seated on his right.
It looks
like they want me surrounded,
he thought, amused.

"Kevin," Sanford began. He was the oldest of the three, Brian Carlton being forty-eight and Garth Sessler being fifty, and he showed his age the most. He had the soft look of a man who had never had to do so much as mow his own lawn or take out his own garbage. He was nearly bald, his cheeks sagged, and his double chin trembled whenever he spoke. "You remember how we all felt about this case when you first announced you wanted to take it."

"Yes." He looked from one to the other. The three of them sat like austere judges in a Puritan court, all the lines and features of their faces sculptured deeply, each one looking more like a statue than the man himself.

"We all think you were absolutely masterful in that courtroom—precise and stinging. Perhaps too stinging.

"Excuse me?"

"You practically clubbed that little girl into submission."

"Had to do what I had to do," Kevin said, sitting back. He smiled at Brian Carlton. The tall thin man with a dark brown mustache leaned back, too, the tips of his long fingers pressed together as if he were there to oversee the discussion and not participate in it; while Garth Sessler, as impatient with small talk as usual, tapped his fingers on the side of his chair.

For some reason, Kevin never realized how much he disliked these three before.

True, they were all bright, but they had as much personality as a data processing machine. Their reactions were as automatic and unemotional.

"I'm sure you know the whole community's buzzing. All of us have been on the phone most of the weekend with clients, friends . . ." He waved his hand in front of his face twice as if he were chasing away flies. "The fact is, the reactions are about as we expected. Our clients, on whom we are quite dependent for our living, are generally not happy with our position on this Lois Wilson thing."

"Our position? Haven't these people ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? I defended her and she was exonerated."

"She wasn't exonerated," Brian Carlton said, lifting the corner of his mouth sarcastically. "The prosecution just threw up its hands and backed out after you trapped a ten-year-old girl and made her admit she had been telling some lies."

"Same thing," Kevin replied.

"Hardly," Brian said. "But I'm not surprised you don't see the difference."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Let's get back to the point." Garth Sessler interrupted. "As we tried to explain to you before you became so heavily involved in the case, we have always steered away from these controversial cases. We're a conservative firm. We're not looking for notoriety or publicity. That sort of thing drives away the affluent clients in our community.

"Now then," he continued, taking the reins of the discussion firmly, "Sanford, Brian, and I have been looking over your history with our firm. We find you a dedicated, responsible person with a promising future."

"Promising?" Kevin turned instinctively toward Brian. He had entered this office believing his future had arrived. It was no longer just a promise.

"In criminal law," Brian said dryly.

"Which we are not interested in," Sanford concluded. For a moment Kevin thought they were the Three Stooges.

"I see. Then this is not a meeting to offer me a full partnership in Boyle, Carlton, and Sessler?"

"A full partnership is not the kind of thing we just hand out overnight, you know,"

Garth said. "Its value lies not only in the financial rewards but in what it means, and that meaning comes from the investment one makes in the community as well as in the firm. Why..."

"However, we see no reason why you won't become a full partner rather quickly in some firm that specializes in criminal law," Sanford Boyle said. He flashed a polished smile and sat forward, his hands folded on his desk. "Not that we aren't happy with everything you've done here. I want to repeat that."

"So you're not firing me so much as letting me know I'd be better off someplace else," Kevin said sharply. He nodded and relaxed in the chair. Then he shrugged and smiled. "Actually, I was considering tendering my resignation anyway."

"Pardon?" Brian said, leaning forward.

"I already have another offer, gentlemen."

"Oh?" Sanford Boyle looked quickly at his partners. Brian remained stone-faced.

Garth raised his eyebrows. Kevin knew they didn't believe him, as if there was no possibility of his ever having thought of going to another firm. Their arrogance began to get under his skin. "With another firm in the area?"

"No. I'm . . . not at liberty to say any more just yet," he replied, the lie almost forming itself on his lips. "But I assure you, you will be the first to know the details. Excepting Miriam, of course."

"Of course," Sanford said, but Kevin knew these three often made personal decisions without consulting their wives. That was another thing he despised about them—their relationships with their wives and children were too impersonal. He shuddered to think that someday the four of them might have been sitting around this office offering a partnership to a bright young attorney like himself who could easily have a much more satisfying and exciting career someplace else but who might be easily tempted to accept the security and respectability of (suddenly he thought, God forbid) Boyle, Carlton, Sessler, and Taylor.

"Anyway, I'd better get back to my desk and finish up my paperwork on the Wilson case. Thank you for your half-assed expression of confidence in me," he added and left them staring at his wake.

When he closed the door behind him, he experienced a sense of delicious freedom as if he were free-falling from an airplane. In a matter of minutes, he had defied his so-called destiny and stood back like someone in firm control of his future.

Myra couldn't understand the wide smile on his face. "Are you all right, Mr.

Taylor?"

"I'm fine, Myra. Feeling better than I have in ... in three years, to be exact."

"Oh, I. . ."

"See you later," he said quickly and returned to his office.

For a long time, he sat behind his desk, thinking. Then he slowly reached into his pocket and took out the business card Paul Scholefield had given him. He laid it before him on the desk and stared down at it, but he was no longer looking at it; he was looking beyond it, into his own imagination, where he saw himself in a city court defending a man accused of murder. The prosecution had a strong, circumstantial case, but they were up against him, Kevin Taylor of John Milton and Associates. The jury hung on his every word. Reporters followed him through the courthouse corridors, pleading for information, predictions, statements.

Mary Echert tapped on his door and brought in his mail, interrupting his daydream.

She smiled at him, but he could see from the expression around her eyes that the chatter had already begun.

"I don't have any appointments today that I might have forgotten, do I, Mary?"

"No. You are down to meet with Mr. Setton about his son tomorrow morning and asked me to get you the police report."

"Oh. Yes. That's the sixteen-year-old kid who took a joy ride in his neighbor's car?"

"Uh-huh."

"Fascinating case."

She tilted her head, confused by his sarcasm. As soon as she left, he dialed John Milton and Associates and asked to speak to Paul Scholefield.

Fifteen minutes later, he was on his way to Manhattan, and he hadn't even called Miriam to tell her what had happened.

BOOK: The Devil's Advocate
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