Chapter ThreeA Chapter by Oliver Sands
As soon as Margaret left, Joan came to the door. At twenty-six years old, she was two years younger than Mark. She was tall and very pretty with jet-black hair and deep green eyes. Most of Mark’s clients tended to be males and Mark wondered whether they chose his office just to see her.
“So what do you think?” she asked. She was wearing an attractive white linen dress and matching jacket. She did not enter the room. Instead, she remained standing at the door watching Mark, who was still seated behind his desk.
“She’s pretty, but she’s not my type,” he answered. He was still irritated by Joan’s decision not to consult with him before allowing Margaret to see him.
“I mean the case,” Joan clarified. She had a grin on her face and did not make any excuses for the early unscheduled appointment.
It was possible that Margaret had made the appointment and that Joan forgot to put it on Mark’s calendar, but Mark doubted that. Joan was not the careless type.
“I know what you mean, Joan.” He raised his eyes from the notepad that he was holding to look at her. The corners of Joan’s mouth were pointed upwards while her lips stretched just wide enough to reveal a smile that conveyed a sense of contentment. Mark, who had seen that amused look on Joan’s face before, added, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Mark’s warning caused Joan’s smile to fade. “You didn’t take the case?”
“Of course I took it,” Mark replied, seemingly offended by Joan’s lack of confidence in his decision-making skills. “I’m not stupid.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” she said, exhaling loudly. Her smile was back. “Maybe this case will help you get your mojo back.”
Mark, who was annoyed by Joan’s insult to his maleness, put the notepad down on the desk, leaned backwards in his chair, and said, “I didn’t know that I lost my mojo.”
She ignored Mark’s reaction and looked at Mark’s diplomas and law license that hung on the walls behind him. “You’re a good attorney, Mark. You should not let Judge Francis get under your skin.”
“Judge Francis gets under the skin of every attorney in town,” Mark argued. “Have you seen his face? He looks like a Grinch stealing lollypops from kids at Christmas.”
Mark’s statement caused Joan to laugh. “Yes, but not every attorney who sees him goes to the slammer for contempt of court.”
Although Mark knew that Joan was right, he did not feel like discussing his shortcomings this morning. Sometimes she can be so irritating, he thought. “I’ll keep my cool the next time I’m in his courtroom. Are you satisfied now?”
“Great,” Joan said, her face beaming with pleasure. “Now go and win one for the Gipper.”
Joan’s comment caused Mark to pause. He was going to say something, but decided that she might have a better comeback. Instead, he said, “I’m serious. I really don’t feel good about taking the case.”
“At least we’ll be able to pay our bills,” Joan told him. “We owe last month’s rent and if we don’t pay soon, our landlord will come after us.”
Mark’s private line then flashed. Looking at the number on the caller ID, he said, “This is the second time he’s called this morning.”
“We’re beyond our grace period,” she reminded him. “I’ll prepare a check today for him.”
Joan was very smart and had a no-nonsense attitude about her that Mark admired. She had been Mark’s second client after he opened his office. At that time, she wanted a divorce from her new husband who was cheating on her. After the divorce, she came to work for Mark. It had been two years and Mark never regretted it.
“I know that you’re right. We needed this case,” Mark admitted. It’s just that something is telling me that this case is not simply a legal case.”
“Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it,” Joan assured him, before leaving to answer a phone call.
Mark’s law office consisted of a large reception room where Joan’s desk was also located, and Mark’s office, which was behind the reception room. Fax and copy services were provided by the building at an additional cost.
When Mark left for the courthouse to look at the file in the Prentiss case, Joan was still on the phone. Mark knew that if he had to challenge Judge Francis’ decision, based on the rules, he had to do it within thirty days. Two days had already passed and he had twenty-eight days left. He waved at her on his way out but she didn’t notice.
Mark decided to walk. His law office building was two blocks away from the courthouse, which only handled civil cases. It was about 10:00 a.m. and the street was bustling with court reporters pulling their stenograph machines behind them, and attorneys in fancy suits and dresses who, like Mark, were also walking toward the courthouse building.
All along the street were buildings that housed attorney offices and other law related businesses. It was a hot morning and Mark, who had forgotten to leave his jacket at the office, was damp from perspiration when he reached his destination.
“Want your shoes shined today?” the old black shoe shiner asked him. He was seated outside the courthouse building by the front entrance. He was there almost every day and had become very familiar to Mark and many of the other attorneys. He never saw a pair of shoes that did not need shining, no matter how clean they were. Once or twice, Mark had used his services. Mark kindly declined. He was on a budget and could no longer afford this luxury.
After clearing security, he entered the clerk’s office on the first floor. There was a line to the counter but the wait was short. After the assistant clerk brought him the file, Mark’s review of its contents took only a few minutes.
There was nothing out of the ordinary in the court file. Prentiss Construction and Design had lost by default, because the attorney had not responded to pleadings and court orders.
Since the reason for the default was the attorney’s death, any other judge would recognize that and set aside the default and let the case go to trial. But because of his history with Judge Francis, Mark did not trust him. He needed to investigate further.
Before leaving his office, he had written down the late attorney’s home address, which was located in the Brickell area, an upscale neighborhood in the southern part of downtown Miami. It was only a short drive away. Mark then walked back to his office to pick up his car for the trip.
While Brickell was known as a residential neighborhood, that description was not completely accurate. The north end of Brickell was home to Miami’s financial district. It was a section that contained some of the most luxurious high-rise office buildings in Florida, and housed the largest concentration of international banks in the United States.
Although it was past the time for the morning rush hour, Brickell Avenue, the main road through the area, was congested, with many luxury cars going in and out of covered parking garages, and traffic lights not staying green long enough to speed up the flow of traffic.
As Mark waited for one of the red lights to turn green at one of the avenue’s busiest intersections, he wondered how an attorney who was simply working as a solo practitioner could afford to live in the area.
He was about to resume his slow drive, when sirens coming from two large emergency vehicles behind him forced him to move to the side. Two ambulances rushed past the expensive restaurants and prominent businesses that lined both sides of the avenue, and turned left onto a residential street far ahead.
When he realized that the traffic congestion had eaten up a large chunk of his morning, Mark swore under his breath and cursed county and city planning departments for the lack of alternative roads.
He drove further down until he reached his destination in a section of the avenue called “Millionaire’s Row”. The row was made up of many lavish homes and contained Miami’s priciest apartments and condominiums.
The attorney’s home was the second house from a side street. It was a large two-story architectural wonder with a grand circular driveway. A very expensive sports car was parked in front. Mark parked behind the car, went to the gigantic front door, and rang the bell.
Mark waited a few minutes and no one came to the door. He was going to ring the bell again when he heard some noise inside the house that sounded like footsteps. He waited a few seconds more. When the door opened, a young woman around his age came out.
“Can I help you?” she asked. The woman was a few inches shorter than he was. Her eyes were red, as if she had been crying. She wore a yellow blouse and a pair of brown shorts that revealed toned and sculpted legs.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I am an attorney for Prentiss Construction. I have been hired to continue a case that Mr. Curtis was handling...” he began, as he handed his business card to her.
She frowned at him and grabbed the card, glancing at it for a moment.
“Do you have any identification?” she asked, giving Mark back his card.
“Sure.” Mark then pulled out his wallet and showed her his driver’s license.
She examined it for a few seconds, handed it back to Mark and, with a more relaxed voice, said, “Come in.”
As they closed the door behind them, Mark did not notice the blue Ford Taurus that had been following him since he left his office.
© 2012 Oliver Sands
The Kappa File
AboutOliver Sands is the the pseudonym for the author of the most anticipated legal thriller, The Kappa File. He is an attorney and handles government litigation. For a longer preview of The Kappa File,.. more..