Trial of Conscience

By Troubleshooter  1999 All rights reserved.

For Disclaimers, See Part 1

Chapter 15

A glance at her watch told her it was after six. Sydney turned her gaze back to the river. This is such a beautiful view, her mind absently offered. Her eyes followed the Canal Street ferry as it made a mad dash from one bank of the river to the other, regurgitating its passengers, swallowing more and repeating the process.

She had been standing at the windows of Evin's office for some time, trying to order and slow down her thoughts. Classes had ended for the day, and since she wasn't due to pick Evin up from the airport until after nine, she had driven to Evin's office to do more research on quashing the subpoena she had been served with. Her eyes flickered around the office. Definitely more comfortable than the law library at school.

One hand moved to her shoulder, her fingers kneading the muscles as she tried to relieve a little of the persistent ache from the tension. Evin was right. Days that start off with a phone call in the middle of the night are never good. The phone call had been an inauspicious start to a day that had rapidly plummeted to the depths of hell as far as Sydney was concerned. Dealing with Evin's dour mood this morning had quickly become the least of her worries.

After being served with the subpoena, she had called Evin's office to see if they had been served with any notices of hearings. When the response was negative, she had placed a call to Dorinda Pratt. The woman hadn't been in her office. Not long after, the notice of hearing and motion papers had arrived at the clinic.

“A Motion for Sanctions!” Sydney had looked at Wayne in disbelief. The glass panes in the windows were rattling by the time she finished reading the papers. Harwood and Pratt had filed a Motion for Sanctions against Evin, accusing her of improper tactics and abusing the legal process, and had subpoenaed Sydney to testify against Evin.

Wayne had observed her quietly . After all, he had reasoned silently, there's not much you can say when everything she was saying…screaming, his mind corrected, was right. You can only say “You're right” in so many ways and so many times before you started to irritate the other person, and he definitely didn't want to irritate Sydney right then. He listened as she grew angrier and angrier, wincing a few times. Didn't know she knew those words.

Sydney finally received a return phone call an hour later from Scott Harwood. Upon hearing that it was Harwood, and not Pratt on the line, she had only gotten angrier. One minion calling another. When he politely told her that they had filed a Motion for Sanctions against Evin because of her tactics in the case, Sydney had exploded.

Ripping into Harwood, she asked him how he could represent a company that resorted to murder and stealing land from people who couldn't defend themselves. He had adamantly denied the accusations and told her she was nuts. That was the proverbial straw, she was the camel, and she felt her back break, as well as her temper snap. So Sydney explained to him, or rather screamed at him, that he couldn't possibly be so stupid as to think they wouldn't discover the plot behind Hynes' reacquiring all of the land that they had sold only a few years before. Harwood had questioned her, disbelieving at first, wanting to know what other land she was talking about. There had been dead silence on the other end of the phone when she had finished her explanation. Finally, the man had uttered a quiet, “I wasn't…didn't know.” The next thing Sydney had heard was the dial tone.

The realization of what she had said to Harwood struck as she looked over at Wayne, whose soft brown eyes were as wide as saucers. A choked “Oh no,” then she had let her head fall into her hands as she groaned. The investigation that Andrew was conducting had been discrete from the onset by design. It was something that they had all discussed repeatedly during their strategy sessions — how to get the information they needed without raising flags so that whoever was behind this wouldn't bury the evidence any further. And in one five-minute phone conversation, Sydney thought, I've managed to blow that to hell.

The door opened and Jeffrey's sandy blonde head poked in. “Hey Syd, you need anything before I go?” He stepped further into the room. “You okay?”

She blinked a few times, then turned her head and looked at him. “Oh, yeah…thanks. I'm fine. It's just been a really long day.”

“Girl, tell me about it.” He shook his head in sympathy and made a face. “You'd think with her out of here for a day it would have been at least a little quieter. No such luck.”

“I don't think tonight's going to be any better.”

“I know y'all make the big bucks, but I have to tell you…. I like to go home at night and not have to worry about any of it.”

Sydney chuckled half-heartedly. “Oh yeah, big bucks. I'm paying the school to let me do this.”

“Well….” Jeffrey said hesitantly. She's so down. “Are you sure there's nothing I can get for you?”

“No, but I appreciate the offer.”

“I'll, um, see you later then.”

“Good night, Jeffrey.”

Her gaze returned to the river as she tried to think about nothing for a few more minutes. Her mind would have none of it, however as thoughts about the events of the day and her actions invaded. It was a particularly strange feeling, she thought…the anger and frustration, mixed with a certain sense of hopelessness…that left her body in turmoil and her mind somewhat numb. It was the hopelessness, she decided, that was the worst.

A small bit of panic had set in right after she had gotten off the phone with Harwood. We aren't any closer to figuring anything out. And because I lost it, it's going to be even harder to find any evidence against them. We're gonna lose this case.

It certainly hadn't helped any that she hadn't been able to directly speak with Evin all day. She had left messages on Evin's cellular phone and the attorney had left messages on Sydney's voice mail at the clinic. Short, clipped messages. She's not too happy about this. She shouldn't be. I screwed up.

Her body shivered a bit, feeling goose bumps raise on her flesh. It wasn't that it was cold in Evin's office. It was that feeling of hopelessness that caused the shiver as her body revolted at the memories it brought back…memories of the same feeling of hopelessness as a teenager, when no amount of struggle seemed to make a difference.

Okay, Sydney, at least do something constructive until you've got to go get her in a couple of hours. She moved behind Evin's desk and took a seat. More research on quashing the subpoena. That's a good place to start.

Evin sat in the back of the cab as the driver picked his way through the traffic on the interstate. One hand went to her forehead and massaged it absently. The muscles in her body screamed for relief from the anger and tension. She didn't listen.

The last thing Evin had expected when she had landed in West Palm Beach was a voicemail message on her cell phone from Sydney, at least about the Dolese case. Upon hearing Sydney's voice, she had started to smile. It quickly turned into a frown as she listened to her lover's angry explanation of what had occurred that morning. They had then played telephone tag all day, never actually getting to speak. Each time Evin had called the Law Clinic, Sydney hadn't been there, which had only added to her frustration. I need to get her a damn cell phone.

With a deep sigh, she tried to shove some of the anger back down deep inside where she stored it. 'You should have called to let them know you got an earlier flight,' her little voice scolded. What, and ruin the surprise? Besides, how would you like for me to have gotten in touch with her? She doesn't have a God damned cell phone!

The messages from Sydney had only gotten worse. The last one, retrieved when she was in the Atlanta airport waiting for the last leg of her return flight and describing Sydney's encounter with Harwood, had sent her over the edge. She had been so angry, she didn't even bother calling Sydney back. I'm sure Sydney's real anxious to see me. 'Why would she not want to see you?' Because she's not gonna like the little discussion we're about to have.

Her right thigh throbbed as she shifted her long frame in the back seat in an attempt to get more comfortable. How in the hell could Sydney have told Harwood about our theory of the case? Not that it's really a theory at all. Theories of the case are usually a little more specific than 'Hey, they're doing something wrong but we can't figure it out.' Evin's hand braced against the front seat as the driver slammed on the brakes. “I'd like to get there in one piece,” she snapped.

“Sorry about that,” the driver mumbled as he looked up at the rearview mirror, only to be met with an icy glare. “You going to be in town long?”

I get the rocket scientist of cab drivers. I didn't have any luggage when he picked me up. 'Be nice. Every one is a potential juror,' the little voice reminded. 'Remember what Hammermill said.'

It had been an amusing anecdote, related by a visiting trial attorney at law school. He was late for court one morning, with a new trial scheduled to start that day. In his haste, he cut across three lanes of traffic, spotting a rare parking space next to the courthouse. His car and an elderly gentleman's had arrived at the spot at the same time. With an intimidating glare and a finger gesture, he claimed what was rightfully his. He hurried into the courtroom, and the attorneys and judge busied themselves with picking a jury. His face dropped when the third group of potential jurors was brought out and he spotted the elderly gentleman. He was out of peremptory challenges and the judge wouldn't dismiss the man for cause. The man ended up on the jury and Hammermill lost the case. He didn't say that it was the reason he had lost the case, but a well placed “You never know,” had been enough to make an impression on Evin.

With our luck, he'd end up on the jury for Dolese, if we ever get that far. “I live here.” Hope Hammermill's happy, because I ain't. 'Are you ever?' Shut the fuck up.

“Oh.”

She held her breath for a second, hoping he wouldn't try to continue the conversation. He didn't. Thank God for small favors.

Traffic started to clear and the car accelerated. She looked out the window, not really seeing the scenery move by. All right, Moran, think. What are the potential ramifications of what happened today? She leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes. 'Like you haven't thought about this all day,' the little voice chimed in. Shut up.

Best case scenario…none. But then Harwood would have to have had a total lobotomy and I haven't noticed any scars. He probably broke land speed records getting to Pratt with the information. What does she know? Probably some, but not all, of the whole story. Clients never tell you the whole story. So she knew some of it, but now, they know that we know at least part of it. And what's the implication of that?

Any halfway decent lawyer would move in for the kill. They've got the perfect vehicle for it. Just re-set the Motion for Summary Judgment. Force our hand. If we've got anything at all, we'd have to disclose it to defeat the Motion and go to trial. And, if we don't, it's the death blow. They win. We lose. Simple as that.


A surge of anger ran through her, just like it had every time she had thought about it on the plane. From the onset, there had been a little unsettled feeling in her gut that there was something terribly wrong with the case. Today, the feeling had multiplied exponentially. Rule number 3…absolutely nothing is as it seems. With this case, it ought to become number 1A.

Foreclosures are simple cases, really. You either did or did not meet the terms of the promissory note and mortgage. About the most difficult thing in a foreclosure case are the procedural aspects…making sure you dot every “i” and cross every “t.” And Hynes has done that.

A deep sigh escaped as she acknowledged the truth. Just some stupidity on Keller's part has kept us in this thing. Not even any little courtroom tricks on my part. If it hadn't been for Andrew finding that information out about Keller, we'd have lost, theatrics or no theatrics. The only option would have been to file the bankruptcy and stay the foreclosure order.

The cab slowed and she opened her eyes as it made a turn onto Tchoupitoulas Street, heading towards her office. At least I got Vicki to represent Syd at the hearing. This is gonna be a three ring circus. Now I get to cross-examine my lover. That ought to do wonders for our relationship. If Sydney and I manage to stay together through this case, it will be a miracle. The pounding in her head increased as the anger bubbled through her veins. Her friend…the anger…had been quite unruly today. What the hell is going on with me?

“Just stop right here,” Evin barked at the cab driver as she threw a twenty-dollar bill at him. Gotta get out of here. She flung the door open and climbed out, dragging her briefcase with her.

“You need change?”

“No,” she barked as the door slammed. I need to calm down is what I need to do. She turned and faced the garage entrance to her office.

Time to go find out what the hell happened. She took a deep breath and walked in, heading for the elevator. The sound of a car drew her attention as she pressed the button and spotted Andrew pulling into his assigned spot.

He got out, and looked at her, somewhat surprised. “You're here….” His voice trailed off as she glared at him.

“No, really?”

He ignored her sarcastic comment. “You weren't supposed to be in until after nine tonight.”

“Well, today's your lucky day, then, isn't it?” she purred. “You get to see me a full three hours before you would have.”

Okay. Well…. “Sydney's in your office.”

“Good. She can tell me what the fuck happened.” The words resembled machine gun fire as she spit them out. “You can come, too, and we'll have a party.”

He stopped next to her and stared at the elevator door. This is not going to be good. The door opened and they stepped in. He watched as she stabbed at the button marked “10” and the door closed. “Sydney was just…. We got served with a Motion for Sanctions and Sydney got served with a subpoena to testify against you.”

“Tell me something I don't know, like how, exactly, that led Sydney to a conversation with opposing counsel regarding our theory of the case.”

He hazarded a glance in her direction where blazing blue eyes met with his. “I…I don't know for sure.”

“It was a stupid mistake.”

Can't argue with that one. “But not the end of the world.”

“We'll see about that.”

The elevator came to a stop after several moments of silence and the doors opened. “You know…she was just defending you,” he offered as they stepped out.

“I can defend myself,” Evin growled angrily at him.

He reached a hand out and grabbed her arm, stopping her. “Look, she feels bad enough already. She cares about you. Just…be nice.”

Yanking her arm out of his grip, she turned and stalked towards her office doors.

“That went well,” Andrew muttered as he followed her into the office. He paused before he stepped over the threshold. Be brave, Andrew. Gotta go in…make sure they don't kill each other.

Sydney was seated in Evin's chair and nearly jumped out of it when the doors to the office flew open. “Oh, wow…hi, um…you're back early.” She took in the tense, angry look on her lover's face. You knew she'd be angry. Just take a deep breath and don't overreact.

Her hand clenched around the briefcase handle as Evin choked back a sarcastic reply. Try and control yourself, Moran. 'Remember what your mom used to say…if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all,' the little voice reminded her. Then I'd never say anything. Evin stood silently in front of her desk and looked at Sydney as she took several deep breaths. 'You could at least try to say something nice first,' the little voice offered. “Rough day?”

“Yeah, I…I was just….” Sydney gestured towards Evin's computer. “I was doing some research on quashing that subpoena. How was yours?”

“It sucked,” she stated bluntly.

“I…did you get an early flight back?” Stupid, stupid, stupid, Sydney. Of course she got an early flight back. You were supposed to pick her up at the airport and she's standing in front of you right now.

“Got on standby.”

“How did the hearing go?”

“Lost.” 'My, but you're eloquent today.'

Sydney glanced over at Andrew, who had taken a seat at the table and now seemed very interested in the patterns formed by the wood grain. The knot in her stomach grew even tighter. I knew this wasn't going to go well. I just…she's so angry. “I'm sorry. Was your flight okay?”

It seemed ludicrous to Evin that they were standing here, exchanging strained pleasantries. This nice stuff just isn't working. “What the hell were you thinking of, Sydney?”

Green eyes flashed angrily. “I was defending you!”

“I don't need to be defended,” the low voice thundered back. “And if I did, it certainly wouldn't involve revealing our theory of the case to opposing counsel. Whatever possessed you….” Evin threw her hands up in the air in frustration, then turned and stalked to the couch, ungracefully collapsing onto it. One pump was removed and thrown across the room, where it impacted the wooden door of the bookcase. The other pump soon followed. “I love that sound,” she muttered.

Sydney could feel herself getting angrier. “I…I….” Shut up, Sydney. You screwed up. You let your personal feelings for Evin get in the way and you made a critical mistake.

Evin closed her eyes and rested her head back against the sofa. One hand came up and massaged her forehead as the pounding in her skull intensified.

“You have a headache,” Sydney stated.

A bolt of pain shot through Evin's head as her jaw clamped down in an effort not to issue an angry reply. “Tell me what happened.”

“Have you taken anything for your headache?”

“Got a gun?” Evin responded sarcastically.

Sydney was around the desk and in front of the couch in an instant. “Evin Moran! Don't even joke about that. It's not funny.”

One blue eye popped open. “I'm…sorry.” What a fucking day. “Please…Syd…just tell me what happened.”

“Not until you take something for your headache.”

The other eye opened and a dark eyebrow rose. “You're stubborn.”

Her hands went to her hips as she cocked her head and regarded her lover. “And you're pig-headed.”

“I'll get some aspirin.”

“No, I'll get it,” Sydney commanded. “Stay there.”

Andrew watched Evin dutifully lean back into the couch and close her eyes again as Sydney headed for the bathroom and the aspirin. It was…symbolic, he decided. The tension in the air was palpable, yet there was something else he couldn't quite put a finger on. If it had been anyone else but Sydney, she would have unloaded both barrels and reloaded by now. It almost made him laugh…the clipped, angry words from both of them, said in a caring way, if that were possible. Pig-headed? Stubborn? Oh, yeah. What a pair. “Can't y'all ever do anything easy?”

Two voices responded sharply in unison. “Yes!”

“Coulda fooled me,” he mumbled.

“I heard that.” Sydney's voice echoed out of the bathroom.

“Damn, she's got good hearing.” He looked over at Evin, whose eyes remained closed. “So what happened in West Palm?”

Her eyes opened as she sat up. “Seems my cost-conscious uncle lied. Big surprise. He didn't transfer title to the yacht to the company's name, as he swore this morning, just changed the address on the title so he wouldn't have to pay taxes. As I explained to him, when I had the pleasure of waking him up and telling him his precious little yacht is history, that his only recourse now is to sue the previous owner.” She paused and her lips curled. “Remind me, when all of this Dolese crap is over, to fly to Athens and kill him…after he pays my fee, of course, which happens to be double whatever the taxes would have been. Idiot.”

It was something about the way she had said the word 'pleasure' and the smile, if you could call it that, on her face that made him question whether she was serious about killing him. He stared at her for long seconds before he answered. “Okay.” I think.

Sydney walked back in and handed Evin three aspirin and a glass of water, then stood silently as the tall attorney popped them into her mouth and gulped them down with a mouthful of water. “Thank you for taking the aspirin.”

“Thank you for getting them for me.” There…that was nice.

Settling into a chair opposite Evin, Sydney waited not quite sure what to expect.

“Could you just tell me what happened?” Evin finally asked, her voice weary. “I need to know where to start the damage control.” If it can be controlled.

Sydney sighed. “I…I blew it, huh?”

“Please…can you just tell me what y'all said?” she pleaded.

“Well…I was confused…upset about the subpoena. And we hadn't been served with anything at the clinic, so I called here and Jeffrey and Rachel both said there was nothing we had been served with. I couldn't imagine what they would subpoena me for. I mean, I'm counsel on this case. They can't do that!” she said indignantly. “So I called Harwood to find out what the subpoena was for. Actually, I called Dorinda Pratt. Her little lackey returned the call.”

“And?” Evin prompted after a few moments of silence.

“Well, before he returned the call, we got served with the Motion for Sanctions at the Clinic.”

“And?” she prompted again.

“When Mr. Lackey called, he said that they had filed the motion against you for abusing the legal process because of all the motions you filed in the case. Then he made a comment about you not being fit to be my advisor. At least that's the way I took it.”

“The way you took it?” Evin stood. “Exactly what did he say?”

“Um…that he hoped I knew that this wasn't the way things were normally done. He said he wanted to make sure I wouldn't learn any bad habits.” Sydney could feel herself getting angry again as she recalled his words. “You should have heard his tone of voice…all 'holier than thou.' What a sanctimonious asshole!” The outrage was evident on her face.

“Syd, the world is filled with sanctimonious assholes. This is what led you to a discussion of our theory of the case?” she asked in disbelief.

“Well…yes, sort of. I mean, Evin, how could I let him insult you like that?”

“Easy,” Evin shrugged. “Just let him do it. You think I give a damn what Scott Harwood thinks of me?”

”No…but…but….”

“How the hell….” Evin threw her hands up again in frustration and paced to the center of the room.

“I told him that if I were him, I wouldn't be so quick to point fingers. At least we weren't representing murderers like he was. Then he got really offended and said that I didn't know what I was talking about. And I told him that he was full of shit. Then, um, then it got a little out of hand.” She looked sheepishly at Evin, who groaned in response.

Then it got a little out of hand? Oh…honey….” Could this day possibly get any worse?

“Um…yeah…a little. He told me that I was the one who was full of shit and wanted to know how did I ever get involved with someone with your reputation. I…took offense to that. So I asked him how could he possibly get involved with liars and thieves and murderers. He told me I was nuts and that I was really naïve and didn't have a clue about anything. That's when I, um, lost it. I told him that he was the one who was naïve and how could he possibly think that we were that stupid not to see through their little scheme to get all the land back. Then…well, um, then he asked me what I meant by that. So I told him that we knew about Hynes getting four of the five pieces of land back.” Sydney stopped and drew breath. “I don't think that he knew about that. He was really quiet and…then he just hung up. He sounded kind of upset at the end.”

Evin stared at Sydney for long seconds, her expression unreadable. She finally walked behind her desk and sat down, leaning forward on her elbows, her fingers forming a steeple in front of her face. Breathe, Moran, breathe. Take nice, deep, calming breaths.

“I'm really, really sorry, Evin. I know I shouldn't have done that. It was stupid and childish. I let him get to me and….”

She held a hand up and stopped Sydney's speaking. When the law student, complied, she picked up a pen and idly twirled it. I hate Pinkie Pratt. I hate Scott Harwood. And I hate Hynes Refining Corporation.

Leaning as far back as she could in the chair, she stretched her legs out and studied the ceiling for a few minutes as the pen twirled in her left hand.

“Evin…say something…please.” Evin's silence was driving Sydney crazy.

The tall attorney straightened in her chair and regarded Sydney soberly. “What do you want me to tell you, Syd? This motion…it's nothing more than a legal means of getting back at me for causing them a little grief. I cause them grief, they cause me grief. It's the practice of law, Syd.”

“I….” It's so hard to read her sometimes. She observed her lover, ramrod straight in the chair, no motion except for the steel-colored Waterman pen she was twirling. “What are we going to do about this?”

“This what? This little incident or the case in general?” The words came out sharper than she intended. It's all so frustrating.

Sydney flinched slightly. “The subpoena, for starters. I will not testify against you.”

This is gonna go over real well. Evin shrugged. “ We're not going to do anything about the subpoena. I've arranged for you to be represented by Vicki Rosenthal on that.”

I can't believe what I'm hearing. “What?! You're not….”

“Syd, it's an adversarial proceeding. They want my ass and they're going to try to use you to get me. Just think about….”

The law student exploded out of the chair she was in and marched to stand in front of Evin's desk. “So we're enemies now? Is that it?”

“Syd…be reasonable.” Oh shit! Wrong thing to say, she thought as the flashing green eyes glared at her angrily.

“I can't believe you won't represent me…that you're shuffling me off to someone else.” The volume of Sydney's voice rose with each word. “Is that how important I am to you? That I don't even rate your representation?”

Every wall Evin had constructed in her thirty-one years on the planet reappeared as Sydney's words sliced into her heart. She stood and leaned on the desk, her face inches away from her lover's. Her voice was a warning rumble as she spoke. “Do…not…even…go…there.”

“I'll go wherever the hell I want to go, Evin Moran!”

Evin felt the anger start to burn out of control. Gotta get out of here before I really lose it…before I make this any worse than it already is. “Fine. Do whatever the fuck you want.” Long strides carried her from behind the desk to the office door.

“Evin?”

Sydney cringed as the door slammed behind the attorney. Can't you keep your temper under control? What is wrong with you? She hasn't done a damn thing and you're taking everything out on her.

“She's pretty angry,” Andrew offered lamely.

“Really?” Sydney shot back sarcastically. What is going on with you, Sydney? You're in the bitch from hell mode today. “I'm sorry, Andrew.” She rolled her shoulders and then her head, feeling the tension in her muscles.

“S'okay, Syd.” He looked over at the law student. “You know, Evin's not easy….”

She bit her lip to stop another sarcastic “really” from exploding out of her mouth. Instead, she nodded her head in agreement. Not easy? Try almost impossible. She shook her head. No, that's not right. What she said was all true. It's…I'm the one who's being impossible. “No…she's fine. It's me. I need to go find her and apologize.”

“Sydney?” he offered softly. “Can I give you a little bit of advice on our friend?”

“Please.”

“Give her a little bit of time before you go after her. She's….with her, it's just been my experience that if you wait a little while, she's easier to talk to.” Not a lot, but at least you keep your head.

Sydney looked at him intently for a minute. “You're probably right. I…I need to calm down.” She offered him a weak smile. “I've been in bitch from hell mode today.”

“I don't think she's really mad at you. Well, at least not all of it is because of you,” the investigator clarified.

“She should be.” God, why did I lose my temper? “I shouldn't have said what I did…to her or to Harwood.”

No, you shouldn't have, but…I understand why you did. “It's okay.”

“Please don't try to placate me. We both know I blew it. Now they know exactly what we've been thinking.”

“I'm not….” Andrew stopped and stood, moving closer to Sydney. “It's really hard, Sydney…not to let it get to you…take all of this personally. I…I know how that is. It's part of the reason I quit law school. I can't do it.” He shrugged lightly. “I'm a good investigator, but part of why I do this, rather than practice law, is because being the investigator lets me distance myself from all of this. Evin gives me an order. I follow it. Maybe it's an excuse. I don't think I would have made as good a lawyer as I am an investigator…but…it's just hard. It's a price I'm not willing to pay.”

Sydney looked up into his eyes. “I think you would have made a very good lawyer.”

“We'll never know.” He offered her a small smile.

“I wish….” Sydney fell silent. Grow up! Wishing's not going to do anything.

He squeezed her shoulder gently. “All of this will work out.”

God, I hope so. “How does she do it?”

“Do what?”

“I…It's not fair. The Doleses haven't done anything wrong. Two people have died and…and they get to sit there, all high and mighty and accuse her of abusing the legal process?” Her voice started to rise. “He was attacking her and he's the one that's wrong. How can you not take that personally?”

He was silent for a minute. “I think…knowing what I know about her…that she does take it personally. But not how we take it personally. It's…we think in terms of fairness…what's right…truth…justice…that kind of stuff. She…I think she sees it as a challenge to her skills…not in a moral sense at all. There's a certain set of rules. The game is played that way. She'll bend the rules as far as she can, but she plays by the rules and either does or does not win that way. It's a mindset she has…the way she looks at things. Everything is judged against one standard…will this help me win or not.”

“That's not true,” Sydney protested angrily. “You make her sound so…so mercenary. She's not like that. She's kind and caring and….”

Andrew waved his hands. “Whoa…whoa. On a personal level, I won't disagree with you, Sydney. Evin's…very special to me. I…owe her a lot, on a lot of different levels. But we aren't talking about personal relationships here. She accepts that this is the way things have to be. It's something I could never accept and that's why I'm an investigator.” It's something you need to accept my friend, or this life will be very hard for you. Do you see what I'm trying to say?

“I refuse to believe that it has to be that way,” Sydney stated as she pushed off from the desk. “I'm going to find her.”

Andrew watched her walk out the room. I hope, for your sake, you can come to terms with this soon. Otherwise….

The distant sounds of the street far below rose to her ears. Long fingers gripped the railing of the balcony like vises as she could feel the angry energy humming through her. “God damn it!” The angry words escaped her lips into the cool night air. Rule number sixteen. Days that start off with a phone call at three-thirty in the morning never get better.

“Hell of a homecoming. I couldn't have walked in like a normal person and kissed her hello and told her I loved her before we started fighting. No, that would be too easy,” she berated herself. “Small wonder she thinks she's not important to me.” A hand slammed against the railing. God damn me! What the hell does she see in me?

She took a deep breath and blew it out forcefully. Why am I so damn angry? What the hell is wrong with me? I've been overreacting to everything today. 'You know you're not the most sane, functional human being in this world.' No shit, but…. 'But what?' I…don't know.

Something had been burrowing its way through her subconscious since she had received the second voicemail from Sydney relating her blow-up with Harwood. Nothing good, that's for sure. She had wrestled with it all day, but couldn't seem to bring whatever it was…a thought, a feeling…to light. It was unsettling, and seemed to fuel the anger.

The sound of the door creaking as it opened stopped her thoughts. Shake it off, Moran. Get yourself under control before you say something to Sydney you're really gonna regret. She stared out into the night sky as she heard the soft footsteps bringing Sydney closer, finally catching sight of her in her peripheral vision. She felt the warmth of the law student's body as she settled next to her, leaning back into the railing.

They stood next to each other for a few minutes, neither saying anything.

“Why are you getting Vicki Rosenthal to represent me?” Sydney finally asked.

“Because you're my enemy now.” The words left her mouth before she could stop them.

“I deserve that,” Sydney said quietly as she looked up at the profile of her lover.

“No…you didn't. I'm…sorry.” 'My, my…two apologies in one night,' the little voice crooned. 'You've achieved a new level of emotional maturity.' Shut up.

A small hand gently rubbed the tall attorney's arm. “Baby…I'm sorry for what I said in your office. I didn't mean that. Seems I can't keep my mouth shut today.”

“Apparently I can't keep mine shut either. It's okay, Syd.”

“No, Evin, it's not okay. I'm acting like a child.”

“And I'm not?” She turned and faced Sydney. “Damn it! I don't want to do this. I don't want to fight with you.”

“This day's sucked, hasn't it?”

A wry chuckle. “Oh, yeah. The big one.”

“Want to start again?” Sydney looked expectantly into shadowed blue eyes.

“Couldn't hurt,” she offered with a small shrug.

“Hi.”

One hand reached out, long fingers gently brushing Sydney's cheek. “Hey, beautiful.”

“Been a long, long day.” Green eyes fluttered and closed as she leaned into the touch. “Could you hold me?”

“Come here,” Evin mumbled as her long arms settled around Sydney, pulling her closer as her lips brushed the top of her head

Long, silent minutes passed as they stood together on the balcony, each lost in their own thoughts.

“Evin?”

“Hmmm?”

A fair head tipped back as she captured her companion's gaze. “How badly did I screw up today?”

“Nothing fatal. My guess is, you've made some people nervous.” Hope you made their night suck. “Worst case scenario, they'll reset the Motion for Summary Judgment. Go for the quick kill.”

Sydney flinched at the words. Quick kill.

Evin rested her head against Sydney's. I probably should wait to talk to her about the case until after the hearing on Monday in case Vicki can't get the subpoena quashed. 'You haven't acted prudently all day and you pick now to start? ' the little voice asked in disbelief. You're right…fuck it. “It's not like they weren't going to do that all along, Syd. We…managed to buy some time by scheduling the depositions.” And me purposefully not filing the Order for Transfer. “But after that….”

A small smile crossed Sydney's face, unseen. “I believe that you, Counselor, are just trying to make me feel better.”

Finally said something right. First time all day. “If the truth makes you feel better…I can't help that.”

“Why won't you represent me in quashing the subpoena?”

“I'm…I am going to attempt to quash the subpoena. It's….” Her mind searched for the words to explain. “Getting on that witness stand…. Just call it me being the anal retentive lawyer and the overprotective lover. You need to have counsel. Two against one. Better odds.”

“What could I possibly say that I would need a lawyer for?”

How do I answer this one? Tell her that if it was me calling her as a witness, that I'd rip her to shreds before I had a chance to take a breath? “I…don't trust them.” And I don't trust me.

Sydney looked up into the blue eyes and said softly. “Do you trust me?”

“Yes, I do trust you.” Her eyes searched the horizon. “It's not about trusting you. I expect you to get up there and tell the truth, whatever the consequences may be. It's not…that. I…have you ever been a witness in anything, Syd?”

“No, but….”

Evin pulled Sydney closer. “It's not always a pleasant experience.” I know first-hand. She closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek against the strawberry blonde hair, shoving down the memories of being fifteen, sitting in the witness stand in Federal Court and fighting back tears . “I…it's…I'll be asking you questions on cross-examination. It's…you need someone to….” Protect you from me. “An objective third party.” Her lips brushed the soft hair. “As much as I want to…represent you, I need to…you need to consider the possibility that we may end up having opposing interests at the hearing. I want you to be represented.” She added, softly. Please don't fight me on this.”

The law student buried her head deeper into Evin's shoulder. “This sucks, Evin. I hate it.”

“Welcome to the practice of law, Syd.” Another soft kiss to the top of the law student's head. “I'm…sorry.”

“Evin?” The fair head tilted back as she regarded her lover. “I'm…I don't know what's wrong with me today. I…I don't know why I lost it with Harwood. And what I told you…I'm sorry.”

The dark head nodded. “It's okay, Syd. We'll deal with it.”

“Do you think that…maybe…we could deal with it in the morning? I'm exhausted.”

“Sure, baby. Come on.” Evin withdrew from the embrace and captured a hand. Smiling sheepishly at the law student, she said, “Didn't even think about putting my shoes back on in that little temper tantrum I threw.” She looked down at her feet, wiggled her toes and sighed. “Let's get my shoes, shut the place down and then we can get something to eat…some place quiet. I feel like having somebody wait on us. Then we can go home.”

A small smile crossed Sydney's face. “Sounds like an excellent plan.”

“Shhhh. Sleep, baby…sleep.” The low voice whispered the soothing words in response to an incoherent murmur as her long fingers scratched Sydney's back.

Evin stared out the skylight as she held the young woman. They had stopped at Frankie's for a quick bite to eat before collapsing, exhausted, into the bed. Only Evin hadn't been able to go to sleep. It was taking all her considerable willpower to lie still in the bed and not go downstairs to pace while the thoughts in her mind did their impression of a tornado. Or better yet, beat the hell out of the heavy bag.

She had tried to extract herself from her lover's grip, but Sydney had almost awakened each time, causing her to cease her movements. She could feel the exhaustion deep in her bones, but the restless energy humming through her body was fighting it back, and winning. What is going on with me? If I don't relax, I'm gonna wake her up.

She lay there for a few more minutes, listening, as Sydney's breathing deepened and slowed. The law student finally rolled over, releasing her grip and snuggling back into Evin with a contented sigh.

Maybe I can get up now, figure out what's going on, and then get some sleep. For a long moment, she indulged herself in the feel of Sydney's skin against hers before she slowly rolled out of the bed and headed downstairs. She padded through the kitchen and flipped the light on in the laundry room, looking for a t-shirt and a pair of boxers.

“Aha! There you are,” she muttered as she spotted the boxers. Christ, what is wrong with me? I'm talking to the laundry. Tugging them on, she turned and headed for her office as she slipped the t-shirt over her head . Maybe I'll sit in front of the computer for a little while and kill stuff. Quake 2. That ought to work. Maximum carnage.

She moved back through the kitchen, grabbing a bottled-water on the way and settled in front of the computer. Donning the headphones, she muted the volume, and started the game. Lady Death. A low wicked sounding laugh escaped her lips as the modified main character came up on the screen . Wonder if I can find anybody to make a Pinkie Pratt for this. I'd love to annihilate an army of those. And a few Lackey Harwoods.

An hour passed as she destroyed anything that moved on the computer screen. She finally pushed away from the computer. Well, that was fun, but it didn't work. Can't beat on the heavy bag. That'd wake Sydney up. She glanced around the office, trying to come up with something to do that would stop the thoughts. Just think it out, Moran. It will come to you. It's nearly two o'clock. You've got to get some rest.

She rose with a sigh and headed into the living room, switching on a small lamp next to the couch. She took a swig from the water bottle and began her pacing.

The case from hell…I can't wait until this is over and we can lead a normal life. 'Normal?' the little voice snickered. Shut up. You know what I mean. It's…I don't like fighting with her. Working together has been good, but…. 'But what?' I'm not the easiest person to get along with on a personal basis, much less a work basis. How much do you think Sydney can take of me being an asshole? And this case…it's so important to Syd. 'Well, you….' Shut up. Please. I need to figure out what's bothering me so I can get some sleep.

Okay, just think, Moran. Syd screwed up. Not fatal. What's the worse that can happen? We lose. It's not like you haven't lost before. Hell, it happened today. Yesterday. Whatever the fuck day it was. Syd made 'em nervous. They'll go for the kill. There's no chance to win with what we have now.

She stopped her pacing so abruptly that water sloshed out the top of the bottle. Her body stiffened in reaction as the realization of what had been bothering her for most of the day finally hit home. When these people get nervous, they kill the people who make them nervous. And Syd made 'em nervous. The conclusion her mind drew twisted into her gut like a knife. No one else dies for this case. Especially not Sydney.

'You don't really think they'd try anything, do you?' the little voice questioned. Are you crazy? They shot at me. Killed those two kids. 'But go after Sydney? You?' I'm not gonna take that chance with Sydney.

“God damn it!” From the beginning of this damned case I've done nothing but act like an asshole…violated every rule in my book…made mistake after mistake after mistake.

'And what mistakes are those?' the little voice asked.

Should have just put them into bankruptcy. The simple, clean solution. But no…the great Evin Moran can't do that. I get two kids killed, me nearly blown up, put Sydney through God knows how much grief, and now she could be in their sights. What for? So I can prove that I've still got it?

'And what, exactly, is
it ?' the little voice questioned.

How the fuck should I know? Doesn't matter. Whatever it is, it was never there in the first place. Moot point.

All thoughts of sleep vanished as her mind whirled furiously, considering her options. Whatever I decide, Sydney's not going to pay for my mistakes. She's gonna be off this case, and they're gonna know she doesn't know a thing. Now, I just have to figure out how to accomplish that.

The first thing she noticed was the coolness of the sheets next to her. Green eyes opened and looked around the dark room. She listened intently for a moment, but no sounds came to her ears. Where the hell could she be? She threw back the covers and went into the bathroom, grabbing a robe, then headed down the stairs.

When she got to the foot of the stairs, she stopped, seeing Evin sitting on the couch. The dim light hid her face in shadows. “Evin, what are you doing up? It's nearly four.”

Evin looked up at her disheveled lover. “Couldn't sleep.”

Sydney moved to the couch and settled next to her lover. “Honey, what's wrong?” she asked as she saw the lines of exhaustion etched into Evin's face . She didn't look like this when she had been up for forty-eight hours, and she's only working on twenty-four.

“I…” Evin started, then stopped. She had put the brilliant mind to work and could only come up with one solution. I can't undo what's been done, but I can take this case out of Sydney's hands, and hopefully, out of harm's way. Of course, she's going to hate me for it, but she will not die because of a piece of land. “I've made a decision about the case. I'm going to file the bankruptcy papers.”

“It must be the lack of sleep, because I thought I heard you say that you were going to put the Doleses into bankruptcy.”

“I did say that,” she responded as her eyes dropped to study her hands.

“You can't do that,” Sydney protested, incredulous. “What about….”

“It's what should have been done in the first place, Sydney.”

“You're serious.”

A nod of the dark head.

“Look at me and tell me you're serious.”

Evin turned her head and looked Sydney squarely in the eyes. “I'm serious.”

The coldness in the blue startled Sydney. Oh my God, she is serious. “Why? Is it because of what happened? Have I really blown it?”

“No, you didn't blow it. That wasn't a fatal error. My decision to file the bankruptcy has nothing to do with that. It's what I should have done in the first place.” Instead of trying to be some egotistical knight in shining armor and getting people killed.

“You can't be serious, Evin.” Her hand gripped the attorney's arm. “You can't do that.”

A dark eyebrow arched. “And why not?”

“It's…not right. What about those people...what they've done? Trying to defraud the Doleses…killing two people…hurting you.”

“So you want revenge?”

“No, I want…someone has to stand up for the Doleses…so that people can't just walk all over them. Somebody needs to stop these people so they can't do it to anyone else. It's… justice.”

“And what about what your clients want? What about what's best for them? Bankruptcy will let them keep their land.” And get you off the case, her mind added silently. “We go to trial right now and we lose. Is that what they want? Is that what you want…for the Doleses to lose their home?”

“No…I….” Sydney's head was spinning. What the hell is going on here?

“Our job is simple…save the Dolese farm. Bankruptcy will do that.”

Is it really that simple? Do you just walk away from the rest of it? Can I do that? Can she do that? “I don't understand…we…Andrew's been investigating….”

“With no results.” At least nothing we can use in court.

Green eyes searched Evin's face intently. Nothing. Sydney felt stunned. I need some time to think. Figure out what's going on. This…it doesn't make any sense. There's not even a date set for trial. Why would she decide to do this now? Or…is it me not wanting to face facts? “I…we have time. There's no date set for trial and they haven't reset the summary judgment. There's got to be something we can do…some more depositions…I…I…. If this is about the hearing on Monday, I'd rather be in contempt and refuse to testify. I…please, Evin. There's got to be a way to win this thing.”

“It's not about the hearing on Monday, Syd.”

The law student studied her tall lover silently. There's something going on here she's not telling me about. The Evin Moran I know wouldn't do this. “Are you sure there's no other way?”

“I've made up my mind.”

Remember, Sydney. Look at what she says. She didn't say there wasn't any other way. Just that she'd made a decision. And you know her well enough to know that butting heads directly with her on this isn't the best way to go. You've just got to convince her that the other way would be better. I need some time to plan my strategy and figure out what's wrong. “Can we go back to bed now? I'm still exhausted.”

The blue eyes blinked once, then twice, then warmed as Sydney watched. That was way too easy. “Um, okay. Whatever you want, beautiful.”

Whatever I want? Hmmm…. “Can we talk about this some more tomorrow, please…before we met with the Doleses?”

Evin's body tensed. “What good….” Relax, Moran. Talking about it some more isn't going to kill you. You file it Wednesday or you file it Thursday. What difference is it going to make? “Sure, Syd.”

“Thank you.”

Sydney stood and extended a hand. Evin wrapped hers around it and rose. Together, they walked up the stairs. Neither slept well for the rest of the night.

To be continued....

Feedback and constructive criticism can be directed to troubleshooter .


Return to Main Page