Authors: Bonnie Dee
Only an acquaintance. Some guy I barely knew.”
“You sure? Cause I got an alleged rapist here with your name written all over him.”
Jen smiled. “Yes, I’m sure. You keep your rapist and I’ll deal with my drug dealer.”
The other lawyer grinned back. “See you at lunch? I’ll be free around one.”
“I think I can make that. I’ll text you if something comes up.” Jen hurried toward the holding cells, but after she was directed to an interview room, her steps grew slower. She hesitated with her hand on the doorknob, pulse pounding as it had on her very first day of facing an actual client. Except this time her fear didn’t center around whether or not she could do her job adequately but on who her client was.
Drake Malinson. She hadn’t thought of him in years. To meet him again, in this situation and in this city, miles away from their hometown, was simply too bizarre to believe. She counseled herself to behave as she would with any other client, professional, courteous and detached, but as she walked through the door, she felt sixteen again—or maybe thirteen.
The man sitting at the table appeared older than Drake should be. With his harsh features and that furrow carved between his brows, if she’d passed him on the street Jen might not have recognized him as the boy she’d once known. But no, that wasn’t true.
His thick black hair was the same and when he looked up from the table top, his eyes were as dark and intense as she remembered. He gazed at her for a second then some of the ice melted from his cool expression and a small smile curved his mouth. It was clear he recognized her, but he didn’t say anything, leaving it to Jen to open the conversation.
Normally she’d begin by introducing herself before spelling out the charges and listening while the accused told their version of what had happened. No matter how outlandish the stories they made up to cover their guilt, she kept a neutral expression, nodded sympathetically and only prompted with an occasional question. Later she might have to cajole them to modify their story and accept a plea, but at the beginning it didn’t hurt to let the client feel they were actually heard without prejudice. Besides, once in a they truly were innocent.
But how should she begin with Drake?
She smiled at him as she set her briefcase down and took a seat. “Hello, Drake. I take it you remember me from Whitman, but if you don’t, I’m Jen Adams. I’ll be representing you.”
“I remember you.” His voice was even smokier than she’d remembered. She didn’t know if it was her imagination that those three innocent words carried a deeper connotation the way he said them.
“If you’d prefer a different lawyer due to our past history, it can be arranged.” He cocked his head in that assessing way she remembered. “Do you know what you’re doing? You can hardly have passed the bar yet.”
“Less than a year ago, but I’m competent, trust me.” She smiled again. “I rarely have to go to court. I’m starting to be known as the Queen of Pleas.”
“What can you do for me?”
“Depends on what exactly happened. I’ve read the police report, but why don’t you fill me in on your perception of what happened that night?”
“My perception? You’re very diplomatic.” He leaned back in his chair and moved his hands from the tabletop to his lap. His body language was relaxed, less guarded now, which usually meant a client was telling the truth though not always.
“I was with a friend at the parking lot of the Big Dollar. We talked. I shared some of my stash with him. We both got arrested.”
“For possession of an illegal drug,” Jen said, “But you were also charged with intent to distribute.”
“I didn’t sell anything. It was a gift shared between friends.”
“The officer saw money exchange hands.”
“My friend was paying back a debt. Money he owed me for a game we’d bet on.”
“All right.” She’d like to smack that hint of a smile off his face. He didn’t seem to realize he was in some serious trouble. “They’re going to want to give you some time for dealing. There’s a crackdown going on right now and you’ve been caught up in the net.”
“I don’t have any priors. You can see my record’s clean.” Surprisingly enough, it was true. Drake had managed to keep his illegal activities off the record up to this point in his life. That should make it easier to get him an alternative or reduced sentence, but she didn’t know if she could finagle him out of the intent to distribute charge.
To buy a little time while she thought, Jen referred back to the paperwork. “Over four ounces of marijuana. That’s not good. Puts you in a different bracket for possession and makes it appear more likely you were selling some.” The little smirk disappeared. “How long?”
“Since you’re a first time offender, up to five years for possession. But five to twenty for selling.” She quoted the maximum penalty possible on the possession because she wanted him to take this seriously. Likely it would be considerably less, especially if she could get the more serious charge of intent to distribute dropped.
“Guess you’re surprised I made it this long without getting my ass put in jail. Or that I wasn’t carrying something stronger than weed.” He was right on both counts. She’d always kind of assumed Drake would continue spiraling down a dark, twisting road, which was another reason she’d never tried to talk to him after prom night. His road and hers were vastly different. Proof of that in living color here and now in this little room.
“I recommend you plead guilty on the possession and I’ll try to get three years.
With any luck you’ll be out on parole in two. But the DA is going to push for five since what they really want is a conviction on selling. You’re going to want to plead out because they’d love to make an example of you. Going to court is dangerous. A judge might be lenient given you have no priors but it all depends on who we get.”
“I’ll plead if you think that’s best.”
“All right then. I’ll see what I can do.” Jen closed his file and opened her briefcase to put it inside. She heaved an internal sigh of relief, glad to have this uncomfortable interview nearly over with.
“Look at you, only twenty-five and all lawyered up.” Drake smiled. “I knew you’d be a success.”
“Yeah, well. I always was the studious type. You apply yourself, you get a career.” She hated how sanctimonious she sounded but, damn it, Drake had been too smart to end up like this. He should’ve pulled himself together by now and done something constructive with his life. What a waste.
“You fuck up and you end up here,” he completed her thought. “I know. Thanks for helping me.”
“It’s my job.”
“You in a hurry to get to your next case? Cause I’m not in a hurry to go back to holding. Can we talk for a little while?” His voice was still the warm velvet of a summer’s day and still had the power to pull her out of everyday life and into some weird alternate reality in which they shared confidences.
She clicked her briefcase closed. “I guess I can stay a few minutes.” She sat back down in her chair and looked at the man sitting across the table from her. Awkward silence fell between them. What did he want from her? A river of years and experiences separated them from old memories. There was really nothing to talk about.
Drake took his hands from his lap and put them on top of the table, the fingers of one drumming lightly. He stared down at his hand as if its movement had taken him by surprise. Nervous? Drake Malinson?
“You know that night…prom night. I thought about that for a long time after.
Wanted to talk to you but then I thought, what’s the point. You and I ran in different circles. Nothing would’ve changed that.”
“You could have. You didn’t have to hang around with criminals like Vin Crawford. You could’ve changed.”
“Naw. I really couldn’t. There were things going on in my life you have no idea about. I didn’t know
to act any differently or how to turn my life around.” He snorted. “Apparently still don’t. Anyway, I can’t believe I brought this up. It doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago.”
The weird thing was that right at that moment prom night didn’t
like a long time ago. Jen remembered every detail with startling clarity considering she’d been stoned most of the time. How could one day in the entire course of her lifetime have left such a lasting impression?
“I don’t remember if I ever thanked you at the time, but you really helped me feel better on what was otherwise one of the worst nights of my life. At least up to that point.
I was devastated to find my date making out with another girl, although looking back I can see Tom was a jerk from the beginning. I was just too naïve to realize it. But hanging out with you turned that night around and made it a good memory instead.” She couldn’t believe she was talking about this either, dredging up old memories and feelings that were best left untouched.
She laughed. “Anyway, this is weird, running into each other like this.” Drake looked around them. “Definitely weird and not too pleasant. Wish I’d seen you someplace else, but I don’t know where else we would’ve bumped into each other.
We’re still in different circles.”
“Okay, you’re probably going to be pissed at me, but I’ve got to say it.” Jen folded her arms on the table and leaned against them. “Have you ever considered legitimate employment? Maybe going to college and taking some courses?”
“I’ve done both. But easy money can be hard to pass up compared to a minimum wage job.”
“The money’s not so easy if it leads to jail. It’s your life, but I know you have potential and to throw it away is just…wrong.”
The furrow between his brows deepened at the same time another of those small smiles quirked his lips. “You think I have potential?”
“I know you do. We only talked a couple of times but I could tell how smart you were and how…” She stopped herself from saying ‘sensitive’. Not a term most guys took as a compliment even when it was intended as such. “You had a way of looking at things, at the small details of life and appreciating them. I know you can do more with your life than sell drugs.” She sat back and held up her hands. “That’s it. Stepping off my soapbox now.”
Drake stretched and rearranged himself in the folding chair with that lean, alley cat grace she remembered so well. He was wearing a T-shirt as always, and Jen noticed that his shoulders and chest had filled out. She flicked her gaze away, checking her watch. “Well, I should go.”
“Did you go to any of the high school reunions?” he asked. “What are your old friends up to?”
“College then jobs. The usual. How about yours?”
“Prison or dead. The usual. My cousins, the Tappers moved to Cleveland and set up an auto repair shop. Probably a chop shop too, but at least they’re enterprising.” He smiled and Jen did too.
She rose. There was really nothing left for them to talk about and she needed to go present her offer to the DA. “I’ll let you know as soon as I find out something,” she told Drake then turned and walked toward the door.
She paused with her hand on the knob, as hesitant to leave as she’d been to enter, and suddenly she found herself blurting, “I’ve gone back to see the swans. When I visit my parents, I go up to the lake and walk back into the woods. Sometimes the swans are there. Other times they’ve moved on to wherever it is they go in the winter. I don’t know if it’s the same pair or their offspring but they’re still nesting there. But whether I see them or not, I enjoy hiking there, even if I destroy my shoes in the swamp.” She laughed.
Drake joined in with a quiet chuckle. “Whenever I get out, that’s the first thing I’m going to do, go see the swans.”
“And the dancing fish,” Jen added, glancing back at him over her shoulder at him.
“And the fish,” Drake agreed. “Thanks for taking my case. I know when you saw my name you could’ve handed it off to someone else.” He touched his fingers to his lips and blew her a kiss.
“Well, let’s see what I can do for you first then you can decide if you want to thank me.” Jen let herself out of the room and closed the door behind her.
She felt as if she’d run a race, heart pounding, body overheated all because some guy she hadn’t seen in eight years had blown her a kiss. Her lips tingled as if it had actually landed there. She touched her fingertips to her mouth and clutched the handle of her briefcase.
Snap out of it. Do your job. Make the best plea you can then walk away
from this case. If it goes to trial, hand it off to Karyn because clearly you’re too close to
Jen dropped her hand from her mouth and walked down the corridor, but the imaginary pressure on her lips lingered and she couldn’t stop thinking of Drake Malinson, all grown up and putting her off-balance just as easily as ever.
The aquarium was the perfect place to be on a blustery fall day. Outside the wind was icy, a reminder of winter just around the corner, but the soothing darkness of the aquarium was warm and comfortable. The odor of fish and brine scented the air, which many people would classify as a stench, but Jen loved. Nothing calmed her more quickly than watching the colorful fish darting among the coral or the slow-moving, dangerous glide of the tiger sharks. She had her best Zen moments here in the dimly-lit underwater world.
She sat on a bench, watching a bright clownfish nibbling at some nearly invisible plankton, and exhaled a long slow breath, releasing her tension. She enjoyed her new job better than the old one, but it was still high pressure and stressful. At least as a prosecutor she was more likely to be accomplishing justice rather than getting criminals off on technicalities. Just today she’d earned a satisfying guilty verdict on an alleged pedophile.