Final Exam: A Legal Thriller (9 page)

BOOK: Final Exam: A Legal Thriller

“Yeah, it does, but Jim Schulte and Ken Williams were the only ones who ever really used it.
After Schulte rented out his office, and before he moved north to Hayward for good, he spent a lot of time out here and used the garage as his office, which really sucked for the rest of us who wanted to use it as a conference room or a library.
As he was going through all his shit trying to decide what to get rid of, he used to shove old law books in the stove and burn them up.
The fire would get so hot you could look out from the second floor balcony and see flames and black smoke shooting out of the stack.
Then with the fire raging, Schulte would just go off somewhere and not come back.
We’re probably lucky he didn’t burn the place down.”

They talked about the case as they ate and Ben told Mark everything he knew, which wasn’t much.
“So what do you think?” Ben asked.

“Well,” Mark said pushing back from the table and taking a long drink of his Diet Coke, “my view is probably the same as yours.
She’s clearly a prime suspect, a ‘person of interest’ they call it these days, and they must have found something in that office or somewhere else which caused them to think that.
Clearly, there’s a lot more that we don’t know than we know.”
Ben nodded.
“So,” Mark continued taking another drink, “you say you know this Nelson guy?”

I had a couple of cases with him when I was a prosecutor.
He’s a pretty good guy for a cop.
He’s a pretty straight shooter.”

“There aren’t many of them,” Mark answered.

“Spoken like a true defense lawyer.”

“Well, as you well know, I was never a prosecutor so I would have to acknowledge that my view of the police and the prosecutors is somewhat jaundiced.”

Ben looked at his watch.
“We should probably get going.
It’s getting late and we may catch some traffic going in.”

They pulled into the parking lot across the street from the law school at one-thirty.
After paying the attendant, the two men weaved their way through the parked cars toward the back of the parking lot, which faced the law school building across Adams Street.
the metal parapet and crossed in the middle of the block, pushing their way through the revolving doors ten minutes early.
“There he is,” Ben said nudging Mark and pointing to a man standing next to the main stairway with his back to them.

“Detective Scott Nelson,” Ben called out as they approached.

“Counselor,” Nelson said as he wheeled to face them.
“Good to see you again,” he said extending his right hand, which Ben took in a warm greeting.

“This is my colleague, Mark Schaefer,” Ben said gesturing.
“Mark, this is Detective Scott Nelson.
He’s one of the good guys.”

“You say that now,” Nelson said with a laugh.
“You may not be saying that by the time this thing is over with.”

Ben patted him on his shoulder.
“Don’t underestimate yourself, Detective.”

Although Ben genuinely liked Nelson, he also knew that his prior relationship with the Detective could ultimately prove beneficial to him and his client.
He hoped that it would cause Nelson to cut him a break now and then.
All he really wanted was some consideration.
Defense lawyers didn’t usually get much of that.

“Why don’t we head upstairs?” Nelson said as he turned for the elevators.

“This looks like a pretty nice building,” Mark said to Ben as they entered the elevator.
“Did you go all three years here?”

“No, just my last semester.
We were supposed to be in here for my entire third year but, you know, with construction, they never get things done on time.
It was a lot nicer than the old building over on
, which is gone now.”

Nelson looked over at them.
“I didn’t realize you went here.
You must have known Greenfield then.”

“I had him twice - for Criminal Law my very first semester of law school and for Criminal Procedure my last semester.
Of course, I didn’t do as well as I should have either time.
He definitely took a hit on my GPA.
I suppose that probably makes me a suspect too.”

All three of them laughed.
“Have you ever been to his office before?” Nelson asked as they got off the elevator.

“Yeah, I guess I have.
I came to see him after my Criminal Procedure grade came.
I thought he kind of screwed me so I came to his office to talk to him about it.
Didn’t get anywhere though.
I think I was just venting.
I wonder how many people actually do that.
Quite a few probably.”

Nelson looked over his shoulder as he turned the corner toward Greenfield’s office.
“A very good question,” he said.

The whole area around Greenfield’s office was surrounded by yellow police tape and a security guard sat in a chair outside the door.
The sickening smell associated with rotting human remains grew stronger as they approached the door, but it was a mere echo of the scene more than a week before when Professor Hyatt discovered the body.
The three men navigated the police tape and found themselves at the door to Greenfield’s office.

Turning to Nelson, Ben asked, “Now that we’re here, what happened?”

Nelson didn’t answer at first.
Instead, he took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door.
He opened it slowly and stepped inside, Ben and Mark following him.
He didn’t feel the need to warn them that what they were about to see would be most unpleasant.
He knew this wasn’t the first murder scene for either man.
Not knowing in advance how Professor Greenfield died, neither Ben nor Mark knew exactly what to expect, yet probably expected the worst.
Nelson stepped to the center of the room and placed his hand on one of the guest chairs.
Ben stepped around Nelson to the left and got his first long look at the carnage in the back corner of Greenfield’s office.
Mark stood next to him also taking in the scene.

The eyes of the two men moved quickly from the floor to the side wall, to the back wall, to the ceiling, to the desk and back and forth.
They said nothing.
The head and body of the outline prepared by the medical examiner stuck out from behind the desk.
A large circular bloodstain extended out from beneath the head of the outline and blood splatters covered the credenza, back wall, side wall and file cabinet.
Ben stepped forward to get a better look behind the desk, where he found more unmistakable evidence of blood splattering.

After a long moment, he turned to his right and looked at Nelson.
“Bludgeoned?” he asked softly.

Nelson nodded.
“A baseball bat, an autographed Sammy Sosa model in fact,” he said finally.
“Left at the scene.”

Ben turned his attention back to the area behind the desk.
“He was a huge Cub fan,” he said to no one in particular.
The men surveyed the office for a few more minutes in complete silence.
The scene took on a somber, almost reverential tone.
No one spoke for a time.
Over the years, each of them had been involved on one side or another in society’s evaluation of violent death committed by one human being upon another, and witnessing a scene such as this invariably took something from each of them that they probably couldn’t even put into words.

Ben stood for a moment looking out the window at the street below, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his overcoat.
Then he turned on his heel and looked down at the outline of Greenfield’s body lying on the floor.
He studied it for a moment and looked back up at Nelson.
“So,” he said, “I take it that you believe you can tie Megan Rand to this?”

Nelson nodded.
“I’m afraid so.”

Ben fixed his gaze directly on Detective Nelson, who felt the heat and intensity he had witnessed previously during the two trials the men had been involved with years before when Ben was a prosecutor.
Sensing the moment, Mark stepped in and said, “I think we’ve seen all we need to see for today.
Why don’t we go back outside.”
His words seemed to break the tension, and the two men looked at him and nodded.
Nelson led them from the room.

No one said a word until they reached the elevator and
sure they were alone.
Ben looked around.
Seeing no one, he asked, “You have physical evidence?”

Physical and otherwise.”

Ben looked puzzled.
“What do you mean?”

“I can’t say right now, but you should know soon enough, I suppose.
We hope to have some tests done fairly soon.
That should help us with the investigation.”

“Do you anticipate anything happening soon?” Ben asked.

“Quite possibly.”

Ben nodded thoughtfully and the elevator doors opened.
The men stepped inside and the doors closed behind them.
“You’re aware, I’m sure, that Megan Rand has a young son?”


“I would prefer, if at all possible, that we not traumatize him needlessly.”

“I agree.”

“So, if it comes to that, if you feel like you need to do something, and you’re ready to do something, please call me and I’ll be ready to make the necessary arrangements.
I’d rather bring her in myself than deal with some sort of a media circus.”

“Why don’t you let me know where I can get in touch with you,” Nelson said.

Ben reached into his pocket and removed one of his business cards.
He took a pen from his briefcase and scrawled two phone numbers on the back of the card, handing it to Nelson.
“If you need to get in touch with me, my office phone is on the front and my home phone and cell phone numbers are on the back.”

The men got off at the third floor and headed for the main landing.
Extending his hand, Nelson shook hands with both Ben and Mark.
“Mark, it was nice to meet you.”
Mark nodded.
“Say, Ben,” Nelson continued, “you never said how you like it on the other side.”

Ben smiled.
“It’s different.
I’ll definitely say that.
Now I’m on the side of the angels.”

Nelson laughed softly as he turned and headed for the stairs.
“So they say, so they say.
I’ll be in touch.”

Ben and Mark stood at the railing and watched the Detective descend the stairway down to the first floor, then out the main entrance and down the sidewalk out of sight.
Mark turned and looked in the windows of the school cafeteria.
“Hey, let’s go in here and get something to drink.”
He noticed the sign, “
” over the door.
“What’s this ‘
’ thing?”

Ben replied, “Professor
allegedly donated the money to upgrade the cafeteria so they call it the ‘

Mark laughed.
that funny bald guy with the glasses that does a lot of the bar review lectures?”

“Yeah, that’s him.
He’s pretty funny and he’s actually a pretty good professor too.”

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Winter 2007 by Subterranean Press