Brody dropped the case files on Rebecca Johnson's already buried desk and laughed. "Here you go, busy-bee. You got some catching up to do." She could smell the cloud of body spray following him when he moved. Eau de Asshole, she thought and smiled, her eyes stinging from his acrid musk.
Brody had been in her law school class, but now he was her superior at work. It was unfair, but she knew he'd ended up as second chair on some important cases purely because he went out with the guys after work. Drinks with the boss was a time-honored way to get ahead of your coworkers, and Brody played every card in his hand to climb the ladder.
She'd bested him in grades and in mock trial in school, and she consistently turned in better, more thorough work here in the office. On every metric that should matter, she could take him. Yet here she was in the fog of his cologne, staring at the pile of discovery documents he'd dropped on her. Just in the act of delivering them to her, he'd played it up to feel like her boss. Psych-outs and power-plays were the norm in any law office, especially for the young turds who wanted to make their name. Rebecca wanted to make hers, and she was fast deciding she'd also like to ruin Brody's in the process.
She knew it was petty. Daydreaming about Brody getting hit by a car or keeling over and dying from eating someone's stolen lunch again wasn't very nice. Brody wasn't worth her very precious time, especially if she was going to get familiar with the Spinelli case by tomorrow. Getting added to the case was a major accomplishment and a huge opportunity, one she wasn't going to squander for lack of preparation. She opened the top folder and began to comb through the papers, letting the facts of the case find their places in the tapestry of it all, forming a detailed picture in her mind.
Slowly, the argument formed in her head. She knew the charges, and how the DA was treating the case, and she tailored her thinking to fit. It was something she'd always been able to do. Once she knew the facts of something, she could always see the argument, the best path through the bullshit and into the heart of the matter. It was why she'd studied the law, why she'd fallen in love with its language and spirit. It felt good to work that muscle, and she lost herself for a while in her thinking. She noticed Brody over her shoulder and wondered how long he'd been standing there, watching her.
"Yes?" she asked, annoyed at the intrusion into her space. She closed the folders. Brody had a reputation in school for letting others take the notes and then cajoling his way into study groups. She wasn't sure how he'd passed the bar, and frankly, she didn't want to ask. His family was loaded, according to the office gossip.
"Just wanted to see if you needed some help going over those. I can explain it to you if there's something you don't get." She clenched her fists and concentrated on stifling the words that were springing into her mouth.
With all her restraint, she managed to say, "No, thanks. I'll get through it. It's just so hard with all those big lawyer words." She batted her eyes sarcastically, the rest of her face a mask of contempt. To the office in general, she announced, "Stepping out to lunch." It was 2pm, but she didn't care. Rebecca gathered up the documents and stuffed them into her valise, shouldered past Brody and headed for the door.
"Something I said?" he called out after her. What a tool, she thought, picking up her stride down the hall and into the elevator.
Beatbutters Diner was just a couple blocks away from the courthouse, but something about the old vinyl booths and the constant smell of burnt coffee always left her feeling nostalgic. She'd spent many late nights here during school, poring over books and case law, or writing lengthy papers arguing the merits of some precedent or another. That seemed decades ago. Damn, was she getting that old so quickly? She was nearly 32, way past being over the hill. The place was nearly empty.
She nodded at Marjorie, the longtime waitress, and went to her usual booth back toward the bathrooms. Home sweet home, she thought. She lived here or at the office far more than she saw her real apartment. She'd considered adopting a cat, but she knew deep down that she couldn't risk a living thing relying on her schedule. She ordered a cup of black coffee from Marj and put her nose back into the case.
The Spinelli case was a big one, newsworthy, capturing the whole city's attention. Giovanni Spinelli, the defendant's father, was widely rumored to control most if not all the organized crime on the north side, and his kid was facing some charges stemming from an altercation at a nightclub. Nothing too terrible, but there was a weapons charge and an assault. She could prove the gun was there.
The assault was more of a gray area, and even Rebecca wondered if the victim, claiming to have been punched in the face by young Andreas Spinelli, wasn't just fishing for a settlement. The media was determined to portray Andreas as the rising godfather of his syndicate family. As she looked through the evidence, though, Rebecca found herself struggling to distinguish between the truth and the DA's attempts to get to Giovanni by going after his kid.
She didn't want to think her boss would be so devious, but his was an elected position, and she knew how often politics stepped ahead of justice. Another hour passed, along with several refilled mugs of the warm, dark, thinking juice. A man walked toward the bathroom, but just as he reached her booth, he slid himself into the seat across from her. "Can I help you?" she asked, without immediately looking up from the file.
"Giovanni Spinelli," he said. Rebecca looked up, startled, and closed all the case folders hastily.
"You can't be here. We can't be talking like this." She started to look for the waitress, but the old man's spotted hand was on hers. It was heavy, and rough, and strong. If his son had half his gravitas and charm, it was no wonder people thought he was being groomed to run half the crime in the city.
Giovanni spoke again. "Well, I'm here, and we're meeting. Whether you say anything 'bout it is up to you. The only thing that absolutely won't happen is my son remaining behind bars, ya got me? Now, I've made my mistakes, but Andreas is a good kid. He doesn't deserve to be tarred with my brush. I heard you were just put on this case. I remember you as a public defender. You were smart, smarter than those jokers usually are. I knew you'd get out of that pit and climb up the ladder."
Rebecca sat frozen, her eyes wide, as her short career flashed through her mind. She scanned the diner for other lawyers, but thankfully, the place was deserted.
"Relax. I cleared the place. I need you to help me. Just be fair. Look at the evidence, not at the rumors." Nodding vigorously, Rebecca shakily responded, "Yes, I understand. Of course." Besides, she thought, who in their right mind would say no to the Giovanni Spinelli? Maybe those who want to die tonight. So much for legal ethics, she mused grimly. She tried to steady her hands by choking the life out of her coffee mug.
Giovanni continued, "Everybody says they're fair, but sometimes people need a nudge to stay that way." He looked at her pointedly.
"Look, Mr. Spinelli, I don't know what you've heard about me, but I'm not in the business of being bribed." Giovanni raised an eyebrow. Ok, Rebecca you must be feeling suicidal today. Inhaling deeply, she continued, "I'm not trying to put innocent men away, and I don't want to lock a kid up just because public opinion sways in that direction this week. But if Andreas did it, and I can prove that, he'll serve out his time."
Giovanni smiled. It was a vicious thing, his lips pulled back in a sneer that spread no joy across his features. "Andreas is a good kid. He didn't do this. I need you to understand that, so you can convince the DA to quit going after my kid. If he wants to see me in court, he'll need to come for me. But arresting my boy at a nightclub...? Cowardly." The old man turned and left.
Rebecca finished her cup of coffee slowly without reopening the files. Giovanni Spinelli, here, meeting her. Why did he think she could sway the outcome, and who in the DA's office told him she was on the case? The questions didn't sit well with her, and she left the diner uneasily, constantly looking over her shoulder. Night had fallen while she'd been inside.
Her lunch break had gone on longer than anticipated, and she hadn't even eaten. She'd been hungry, but meeting a mobster had diminished her appetite. She headed up to the office and gathered the rest of her things, then took the train home. All she could think of during the ride was the old man's hand on hers, and the concern in his voice. Maybe he did just want his son spared this indignity. Whatever his end-game, she knew she'd be off the case if anyone knew they'd met.
Her first day on a real case, and already she was skirting danger...
Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated, as it always helps to see things in a different light!
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