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Advocate email@example.com & Rsawest firstname.lastname@example.org
DISCLAIMERS: No disclaimers are required.
These characters sprung from my (Advocates) imagination, as well as that
of my writing partner, Rsawest. Physically, however, they may remind you
of... well...you know. This is the story of old souls meeting again. It takes
place in the Twin Cities. Some of the locations are real and some are not
(thats why its called fiction, folks). "Connections" is intended for
an opened minded, mature audience. If youre not both of those things,
exit now. To assist readers, Ive attempted to give a rating to the specific
areas of content listed below. We would love feedback. But please remember
were lawyers, not writers. You have been warned. This work is protected
by copyright 1999 Advocate & Rsawest, all rights reserved.
Violence: (PG13) This story contains a moderate level of violence.
Drugs/Alcohol/Profanity: (R-rated) Explicit and illegal drug use is depicted within, as well as the consumption of alcohol. They swear.
Sexual Content: (R-rated) This is alternative fiction. You know what that means. If you don't...boy are you in for a surprise (chuckle). This story contains women falling in love and (gasp!) acting on it. There is also a scene between members of the opposite sex (double gasp!). If for any reason you shouldnt be reading this...dont.
Beta Reader: This is where I happily get to thank kd bard (her fabulous stories can be found on several sites but most especially on her home page at http://homepages.together.net/~warriorx/WebPage.htm) for all her corrections and suggestions. She was awesome!
Thanks (Advocate): With all my heart I'd like to thank my husband, Bob. His love, companionship, and patience, teaches me everyday that a soulmate isnt someone who completes you... its someone who gives you the tools to complete yourself. It was also my distinct pleasure to work with Rsawest.
Thanks (Rsawest): I want to thank Advocate, my writing partner. Her sense of humor and patience has made this a fun story to write. And thanks to JTF for support and encouragement.
Mark Gustafson recognized the tall, slender figure of his best friend as she approached. He made a small clucking noise as he watched his long time pal wade her way through the crowd. How do I not notice 510" of gorgeous? "Hey Claire, whereve you been?" he said as they met.
At the sight of her friend, piercing blue eyes warmed and a smile swept across full lips. "Markie," she replied happily. Claire gave the big man a light punch on the arm, their usual greeting, but never slowed her stride. Glad to be out the hot courtroom, she tugged off her jacket and settled long dark tresses over her shoulders.
"Was that John Pears I saw you with?" Mark increased his pace to keep up with Claire.
"Yeah, that was him. That guy makes my skin crawl." Claire made a face. "I took over the Polaski case for Neil and Pears was up to his old tricks, trying to play mind games."
"And if I know you, you kept your poker face and were exceedingly polite. Ah, you and those impeccable manners."
Claire snorted and smiled at the assistant county attorney. He was every parent's "son-in-law fantasy." He looked impossibly wholesome with his wavy blond hair, dark blue eyes and cherubically handsome features. Add his 6'4" height and a solid build and you have a poster child for the Midwest dairy industry. His good looks and boy-next-door charm made him a favorite of jurors, and he was a tough lawyer who knew his criminal law.
"Claire, I haven't seen or spoken to you for almost a month. What's been up? Is corporate law still holding your interest?" Mark had rare insight into the tall lawyers restless nature and short attention span.
"Same shit, different day," she offered wryly. "This is the last of Neil's cases Im finishing up."
"Hey, I meant your personal life. I always know what's going on at the firm but you haven't told me about you. Come on, I've known you since we were both twelve years old," he cajoled. "When I don't hear from you after a couple a weeks, I know somethings up."
She smiled wistfully. "Really Mark, it's nothing. Im still me, which doesn't end up being very exciting. I get up. I go to work. I come home, and go to sleep. It's always the same."
"Are you in one of your slumps again?" the tall man inquired.
A dark eyebrow arched. "I just don't feel like seeing anyone. I like the solitude. Hey, by now you must be fully aware of my introverted, anti-social tendencies," Claire teased.
"I also know about your loneliness, Claire." His voice was friendly but serious. "You know that you have a standing invitation to my house for dinner, right? We've missed you the last few weeks."
"I have missed seeing you and the kids." She sighed. "Tell you what, let's try for next week."
"All right, I'll hold you to it. If we have to, well show up at your place with dinner. And I know about your new white couch and a three-year-old who would love to express his artistic side with some crayons. You've been warned," Mark joked with a smile.
She laughed and punched him lightly again. "Youre such a menace! All right, Ill try to find the time to come over." Steering the conversation away from her personal life, Claire inquired about Marks caseload. "Hey, any cases going this week?"
"Well, Ive got one thats supposed to go, but my case is so solid, I think itll plead out. I dont want to jinx myself, but this one is a slam-dunk."
"Your humility becomes you, my friend," she smirked. A muffled ringing sound from her briefcase indicated Claire had a call on her office cell phone.
"Hey, I'll talk to you later, I got a couple pre-trials." Leaning down, he placed a light kiss on her cheek and with a wave, he was whistling down the hallway once again, files in arm. Claire smiled as she answered the phone.
"Claire Easton.... Well, I was going to grab some lunch because... Another file? But I havent even had lunch yet...But...A criminal case, huh? All right, I'll head back. Could you order me something from downstairs? Thanks."
Claire stowed her phone away and slid on her sunglasses. She said something new for me to try. Why don't I like the sound of that? The attorney thought as she headed to the parking lot.
Located in a renovated Victorian home on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, was the Cornerstone Clinic. Amanda Greer and her classmate Jody Penbrook established the clinic nearly two years ago. In addition to a small private clientele, the Cornerstone had a contract with the state correctional system. The contract allowed the two psychologists to see uninsured clients who couldn't afford their standard fee. In order to accommodate the steady stream of court referrals, Amanda's mentor and former teacher, Dr. Iris Park, had recently agreed to see clients on a limited basis at the clinic. Even though she was a talented counselor, it was comforting for Amanda to have Iris nearby. She knew she could always go upstairs and share her thoughts with her mentor.
Mondays were always the busiest day of the week, and this Monday was no exception. Amanda chewed her pencil thoughtfully, remaining silent. It appeared as though the two people in her office were in a staring contest, but in actuality, each was deep in thought. Finally, removing her pencil, Amanda broke the silence.
"How are you doing?" she asked gently.
Mike looked at Amanda a few more moments before answering. Amanda looked as if she was much too young to have graduated from college, let alone have a Ph.D. in psychology. With her shoulder length red blond hair and green eyes, the small, athletic woman could easily pass for a college co-ed. But Mike recognized her skill as a therapist and felt safe discussing his problems.
"I've been better, quite honestly," replied the client.
Amanda leaned forward. "Yeah, it is difficult, isn't it? Life is hard and nothing is ever going to change that completely. But we can have times in our lives that are less difficult than others. It may not seem that way right now, but things do get better. The challenge is to stay in the present and try to solve our problems. But at the same time, we should look forward to the possibility of the future," Amanda explained.
"I hate the way I feel, and I hate the feelings I have. Its so pathetic, Amanda," admitted Mike, his embarrassment clear.
"Mike, you may not be happy or particularly proud of the way you feel, but that doesnt make you or your feelings pathetic. Remember what we talked about at the beginning of our session? Feelings arent good or bad or impressive or pathetic. They simply are. And our job is to manage them. Be gentle with yourself," she suggested.
"How am I going to be gentle with myself when I think I hate who I am?"
Mike couldn't meet her gaze. He looked around the room. Its décor didn't resemble what he thought would be stereotypical for a "shrinks" office. In the corner near the door, an octagonal table served as Amandas desk. It was piled with papers, manila folders, various personal pictures and a ceramic figurine of a bear. The rest of the room was set up similar to a comfortable den, with a small table as a centerpiece between a couch and several inviting chairs. Draped over the couch was a woven cotton blanket, while a large assortment of stuffed animals lay resting on the cushions. Art posters, paintings, and an enlarged photograph of a waterfall covered the walls. As required by law, her psychologists license and graduate diploma, indicating her doctorate was from the University of Minnesota, were displayed on a shelf along with a few small plants. Again, Amanda waited quietly, allowing time for her client to think.
Mandy, maybe you should listen to yourself once in a while. Physician, heal thyself, huh? What did you do when you felt that way? Stew in despair like your client is now?"
Again, it was Amanda's voice that finally broke the silence. "It feels pretty crappy to be in that place, doesn't it? Mike, I don't have a simple answer to that. Although I wish I did. Thats something we can pick up next week, all right? In the meantime, give yourself a break. You just have to hang in there and ride it out." She reached out and placed a comforting palm on his knee.
He smiled faintly back at her. "So I can't convince you to wave your magic wand over me and suddenly make me feel better, huh?" he asked in a droll tone.
Actually, if I had one of those, I'd wave it over myself first. Amanda shook her head and smiled. "Afraid not. Even if I did, the insurance companies and the HMO's would have me using it on two or three clients at a time to save money. That's always been one of your gifts, Mike. You have a good sense of humor which helps in the difficult times." She smiled at him encouragingly.
The psychologist got up, walked over to her desk and checked her calendar. "Well, looks like we're all set for next week. Bring your planner next time and well set aside some time for the next month." She walked him over to the door. "Take care, Mike."
After he left, she closed her office door again and pulled out his patient file from the locked metal file cabinet. Sitting down at her desk, she jotted down a few notes before leaning back into her ergonomically designed chair. Grimacing, Amanda began to rub her temples in an effort to forestall an impending allergy headache. Running a hand through her reddish gold hair, she added a few more notes before putting the file away.
Although she had a thriving practice, and was making a good dent in her student loans, there was something missing in her life. The young psychologist had recently bought a townhouse in Eagan that she shared with her infant daughter. Melissa was the apple of her mother's eye, taking up most of her time, but there was an emptiness in her life that Amanda recognized as simple loneliness. She couldnt quite figure it out. It was like a constant low-grade fever, nothing too severe, but uncomfortable enough to cause her concern.
Amanda glanced at the clock. Looks like Ive got just enough time to run to the bathroom before my next client arrives. Then again, shes usually early.
It had warmed up considerably since she left this morning, and Claire was now carrying her suit jacket as she rode up the burnished brass elevators of the Norwest Center. She pushed a lock of hair from her face and stretched a bit, her back a little sore from sitting. The elevator door opened and she stepped onto the twenty-seventh floor, one of three floors her firm occupied in the building. She made her way past the receptionist to her office, which still contained several unopened boxes from her recent move. Anxious to see the new file, Claire tossed her briefcase and jacket on the nearest file cabinet. Trying to relax, she leaned back in her chair and stretched out. Man, it ONLY took four years to get an office with walls and a door. Adios, to my old cube.
This is what you've worked toward, ya know. Im out of that lawyer mill but so far the only difference Ive noticed is that I get a better office. Looking down, she spotted the new file on her desk. It was a criminal file. Opening it, she discovered the criminal complaint and almost nothing else. Where are the motions to suppress or dismiss? No ones done anything yet!
She scanned the complaint quickly. State v. Levine, six counts, ranging from misdemeanor possession, to possession with intent to distribute. The only other documentation was copies of the search warrants and receipts of what was recovered in the search.
Damn, heroin and high school kids? This is just great! Well Aaron, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye, cause youre gonna be in the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections for at the next least twenty years.
Claire closed the file and read the attached Post-it note.
I have to fly to Chicago this week to try and get a client extradited back to the state for trial. This one is all yours! Don't worry, I've already done all the work. Just show up and it'll be fine. If you need more info, ask Dave to give you some background
Fixating on Evans inadequacies, Claire thought of the string of first year associates that were assigned to Evan and how he put them through a meat grinder, and then took credit for their work. He was even too egotistical to allow them to second chair the cases they had worked so hard on. Another glance at the file and Claire noticed who the prosecutor was.
My first felony trial and have to go up against my best friend who happens to be one of the best drug prosecutors in the state. Maybe, we won't be having dinner next week, she mused.
Claire knew that her friendship with Mark would survive the trial. This was business, not personal. They had long since accepted that one-day they might be on opposite sides of the courtroom. Sighing heavily, she began reading. There was a ton of work to do and she only had 48 hours to prepare for her first criminal case. And what a piece of shit it was.
"That concludes the States case your honor." Mark nodded to the Judge, confidant that this was one rich-boy punk who wouldnt get away with his crimes. Selling and doing drugs with high school kids in the bleachers of the school stadium. Talk about crappy! The States case had been carefully laid out, no details being left to chance. Too many of these guys have been way too lucky lately. Time to win one for the home team.
Claire watched as Mark put on a nearly flawless case. Although, several times she did manage to cast a scintilla of doubt on the States key witnesses. But she knew it wouldnt be enough. How could it be? Its so totally obvious this scum is guilty! The police did everything by the book and Mark hasnt let anything slip. Evan, you are truly an incompetent idiot! Why are we even here? Why didnt you advise this twerp to take the offered plea bargain? For Christ sakes! It was a more than a fair offer. And we have no case. At the very least you should have insisted on a jury trial.
Claire looked over at the conspicuously empty jury box, then back to Judge Rumble. There is no way "Uncle Luther" is gonna let this guy off. What were you thinking? She mentally rolled her eyes. That is, if you thought about this case at all. Even an inadequate asshole like you knows that with a jury you always have a chance of acquittal, no matter how hopeless your case. But a bench trial? Its suicide for a guilty defendant. Any second-year law student knows that. Its nearly impossible to razzle-dazzle or distract a good judge. I think you just didnt want to be here when this dirtball is found guilty and gets a huge sentence! Nothin like passing the buck. Well, look on the bright side Claire, at least this guy will get what he deserves and be off to Stillwater Penitentiary.
Oddly, even though it was clear she was going to loose her first big criminal case, she was comforted by the fact that the outcome would be just. Heh. Somehow I dont think that thought is going to be very comforting to Levine.
Judge Luther Rumble removed his wire-rimmed glasses, rubbing tired eyes. In a clipped serious tone, he spoke. "Thank you Counselor." Looking at Claire, "Ms. Easton, are you ready to proceed with the defense?"
"May I have a moment, Your Honor?"
"Five minute recess." CRACK!! The sound of the gavel boomed through the small courtroom. Judge Rumble leaned back in his dark leather chair, motioning to his clerk up to the bench. Shutting off the small bench microphone he leaned forward, and along with his clerk he started to shuffle through contents of the criminal file. The old judge grimaced and began fussing with the stiff white collar of his shirt.
Youd think he could get Helen to stop having the cleaners starch his shirts after 50 years. Claire smiled, thinking of the childhood cookouts her family and the Rumbles shared. How many years has it been now? Twelve? Fifteen? And those God awful formal dinners. Ughhhh! If Mom and Dad hadnt bribed me with the possibility of hearing some of Uncle Luthers legendary courtroom stories, I dont think I even they would've been able to force me to attend. The mental picture of herself in a horrible lavender party dress shook Claire out of her brief trip down memory lane. Putting a stop to her mental ramblings, she took this opportunity to lean over and quietly speak to her client.
"No! I told you! I cant go to jail," Aaron hissed.
"Mr. Levine, were you paying attention to the prosecutors case? Werent you the guy sitting next to me when they paraded out witness after witness? Werent you sitting here when each one of those witness pointed right at you and detailed EXACTLY what happened that night?" Claire could see this approach wasnt working. Corporate defendants are soooo much more practical. Okay. Plan B.
"Aaron, if youre convicted, based on these charges, youre looking at nearly 22 years in prison. You know that right?" Aaron nodded and for a brief moment he almost looked ashamed. However, as quickly as the look appeared, it was gone, replaced by that annoying, cocky grin, he had been sporting the entire trial. Claire clinched her jaw, and continued. "Im your advocate Aaron. And Im thinkin whats best for you is not to go to prison for so long that when youre finally released... Rogaine and Viagra will be regular items on your shopping list. Maybe if we stop this right now it wont be too late to accept the plea? Wadda ya say?" That's assuming Mark has pity on you, Buddy. I know I wouldnt. I know he smells the blood in the water. Claire looked hard into Aaron's muddy brown eyes. Fuck. Hes too stupid to even help himself.
"Are you ready to proceed Ms. Easton?" The clerk had returned to his chair and the criminal file was now laid open and spread across the bench. Judge Rumble had just finished cleaning his glasses, and looked oddly impatient.
"Yes, your honor."
She briefly flashed a look over at Mark who smiled slightly. Shit. That was a pity smile if Ive ever seen one. Rising, Claire buttoned her blue silk jacket, and addressed the Court. Her eyes were still scanning her notes as she made a purely perfunctory motion.
"May it please the Court. Based on the evidence presented by the Prosecution, Defendant moves for a directed verdict of acquittal."
Claire looked up from her notes and glanced at Mark who was now leaning forward, intently watching the Judge Rumble. For a full 30 seconds the judge was silent. What the hell is going on? Is he actually considering my motion?
Mark was visibly growing more and more agitated. One of his fists was in clinched in a tightly ball. His knuckles were turning white and a slight flush began to appear around his collar. The unadulterated disbelief that the Judge would even consider acquitting this defendant, ESPECIALLY before he had even presented his own case, was plainly written across Marks face. Claire returned Marks look and was surprised when his face seemed to grow cold and even angrier. Now what? Then Claire turned to Aaron Levine and took in the smug look on his face. I wouldnt count your chickens just yet you little shit, she thought disgustedly.
The murmurings from the "peanut gallery" increased steadily as Judge Rumble remained silent. Finally, he cleared his throat and the courtroom went silent.
"Based on a careful consideration of the case presented by the State, this Court has no choice but to dismiss all counts... save count six...the misdemeanor possession charge. With the evidence presented, it is clear that a finding of guilt on counts one through five would be impossible."
The courtroom exploded. Claire was stunned. Did I just win? Aaron Levine immediately jumped to his feet and began hugging his shocked attorney. His words barely registered.
"See? I knew youd do it! You just had to keep the faith." Claire wasnt responding. "Earth to Ms. Easton...Earth to Ms. Easton. Hey, are you still in there?"
What? Oh. "Ya...ya...congratulations Mr. Levine. But listen, the trials not over yet, we still have to worry about that misdemeanor possession charge. And..."
"ORDER! Keep it down in here or I'm CLEARING this courtroom." CRACK! CRACK! Judge Rumble raised the gavel a third time but stopped mid-motion as silence descended in the courtroom once again. This time you could hear a pin drop. His face was deadly serious and slightly flustered. "Counsel approach the bench," he commanded, and clicked off the bench microphone.
Mark was still trying to compose himself as he slowly made his way around to the counsel table and approached the elevated wooden bench. Claire followed behind Mark not wanting to look him in the eye. What in Gods name is Uncle Luther thinking? Did I miss something?
Quickly raising a placating hand to forestall Marks questions, the judge made his position clear. "Save it Counselor. Ive made my ruling. Ill explain my reasoning in my Order and Memorandum. The only thing left to discuss is what you are going to do about count six."
"I wont voluntarily drop the charge," Mark challenged.
"No one is asking you to, Counselor." The judged turned back to Claire. "Come on Claire, we all know your client needs help. Isnt there any way to get him to take a plea so we can all go home?" The judges voice had softened, and his eyes appeared watery.
Whats with this case Luther? Whats got you so upset? Claire glanced at her client, who was now hugging and kissing his spiky-haired girlfriend. Bet Mommy and Daddy had a cow when you brought her home, she mused silently. Oh yeah...Ill bet they were pissed. Or is that the whole point?
Turning back toward the Judge and still avoiding direct eye contact with Mark, she spoke. "He wont accept jail time under any circumstances. And I cant convince him otherwise. Its his choice."
"This is a lousy misdemeanor possession charge," the Judge groused. Whos talking jail time?" The judge was now solely focused on Mark. The inference was clear. "What about drug counseling?"
Mark briefly closed his eyes. How am I gonna explain this to my boss? Crap! Ive gotta get somethin here. This case was a no-brainer. Anything, even a guilty plea to this one last pissant charge is better than nothing. I know when Im licked. Mark drew a deep breath and looked at Claires face, but not into her eyes. Angrily, he stuffed his fists into his trouser pockets and murmured, "Minimum of 15 drug counseling sessions with a court contracted clinic. He misses even one session and hes violated."
Claire nodded. "Ill talk to my client. It shouldnt take long." The tall attorney made her way back to the defense table and a clearly pleased Aaron Levine.
"Why should I plead guilty to anything? Judge Rumble already tossed out the other charges," Aaron protested arrogantly.
"Because, the Judge made it clear he believes you have a problem Aaron. He wouldnt have come to that conclusion if he didnt think you were using. Trust me on this, you wont skate on the misdemeanor too. Look, theres no jail time involved just a couple months of drug counseling with a court appointed psychologist." It was clear Aaron was considering the deal. Finally, hes starting to listen to reason. Am I ever glad I didnt have to work for this dickweed before today. I already feel like Ive spent a lifetime with spoiled brats just like him.
"Ok, Ms. Easton. You can tell the Prosecutor youve got a deal."
Claire breathed a sigh of relief. "I think that was a really smart choice, Aaron. It wont be too much longer, well just need to read the agreement into record and proceed with a few formalities."
Aaron leaned in towards Claire and clasped her arm tightly. "No jail right? I wont do actual jail time?"
"No jail time. Youll have to attend fifteen counseling sessions. And I mean all fifteen. If you miss even one then youll be right back here. Understand?"
"Sure Beautiful, I understand." Aaron flashed his most charming smile and his grip on Claires arm loosened. His hand slowly made its way down to her wrist.
Jerking away her hand, she stared at him coldly. "Ill be right back Mr. Levine." Yuck! I wonder if I could get away with breaking his arm right here in court? Then again, after what I saw today...Im not so sure I couldnt.
Smoothing the sleeve of her jacket the attorney visibly straightened her posture and made her way back to the bench. Mark and Judge Rumble were both occupied with their own thoughts and appeared to be oblivious to the other.
Claire stopped next to Mark and spoke quietly, fully knowing that the day was a raving success for her client, which meant it was a rousing failure for her friend. "Hell take the deal, Mark."
The big man smiled at Claires good sportsmanship. This was clearly a huge victory, especially since it was her first venture into criminal defense. "Well, I think theyll be a celebration over at Maylor & Moore. Good for you, Claire." Mark spoke softly to Claire, his smile never reaching his eyes.
"Come on Mark, lets get this over with and head over to Ryans Pub for a drink. Im buyin."
"Damn right you are, Kiddo," he said gruffly. But this time the smile was genuine. "And, I may need two."
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