Trial of Conscience

By Troubleshooter  1999 All rights reserved.

For Disclaimers, See Part 1

Chapter 16

Long fingers ran through her dark hair as she settled into her office chair, the feel of the familiar, soft leather providing a small bit of comfort. With a deep sigh, she surveyed the neatly stacked files on her desk awaiting her attention. She rubbed her face briskly, trying to shake off some of the weariness she felt. I need a lot more coffee.

After they had returned to bed, sleep had been elusive. And when Evin finally managed to sleep, the nightmares had begun again. She awoke, bolting upright in a cold sweat, fear causing the blood to pound through her veins as her heart threatened to beat its way out of her chest. After several gulping breaths, the pounding finally began to subside. Dawn's arrival was observed by blue eyes fixed on the skylight as long arms tightly held the small form sprawled on top of her.

She glanced over to the two white boards occupying the far wall. Her eyes narrowed as they moved down the list of names and her gut twisted in reaction. I swear…if someone so much as looks at Syd funny, I'll make sure they die a slow, painful death. 'You can't win a lawsuit. You have no evidence.' Did I say anything about a lawsuit? 'Oh.'

Sydney had been quiet when she first woke up. Too quiet. Evin could see the gears turning in the law student's head as she sipped her first cup of coffee. By the time Sydney was ready for a second cup, the gears had apparently synchronized and she bombarded Evin with questions, stopping only when the tall attorney promised Sydney her undivided attention this afternoon. This talk we're going to have later about Dolese…I think I'm gonna need someone to represent me.

Let's get this show on the road, Moran. Logging onto her computer, she pulled up her calendar and reviewed the upcoming few weeks. I can't believe I let Syd talk me into that, she thought as she spotted the event marked for Saturday night. The Halloween party…in a costume, no less. That is, if we don't break up over this damn case. 'Secure in this relationship, aren't you?' Shut up.

Dolese depositions on Thursday. Need to cancel those. She and Sydney were to take the depositions of the four women who had worked in the accounting office with Angela Battiste. Would have taken all of five minutes, she thought disgustedly. Her eyes flickered back to the two white boards. This has got to be the strangest damn case. Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it.

The memory of the look of trust, hope and belief she had seen in the Doleses' eyes on the first night she had met them surfaced. I told them it would all be okay. Am I fucking nuts? I know better than that. “You can be a real idiot, sometimes, Moran,” she admonished herself.

There were only two options she had come up with last night, and her view hadn't changed this morning. Since I can't undo what's been done, I can only take Sydney out of it. Either I make this thing public as hell so that they'd be under so much scrutiny they'd have trouble breathing or file the bankruptcy. And to make it public as hell, I need to file a lawsuit. That means evidence. And I don't have any. So I'm left with bankruptcy.

'Do you really think that filing bankruptcy's going to stop whoever's after that land?' her little voice questioned. Not my problem. The bankruptcy will let the Doleses keep the land and keep Sydney safe. 'Do you think that's what Sydney wants? Is that really what you want?' Shut up.

She scrubbed her face again and reached for her coffee mug. A small smile tugged on the edges of her lips as she looked at the mug. Sydney had gotten it for her on their trip to the French Quarter. Scripted on the mug was a saying. “Lawyers are cunning linguists.” She had blushed as Sydney laughed, telling Evin, “This describes you perfectly.” I'm gonna have to live up to that to convince Syd that bankruptcy's the way to go on this.

All right, Moran, get on with your work. There are other cases and thinking about this one's not going to accomplish anything. With one last glance at the white boards, she pulled a stack of files closer to her and started wading through them.

Jeffrey found her a short while later with red pen in hand, making corrections to a letter. “Here's some coffee.”

“Thanks,” she replied absently. “That stack's ready to go back. Oh, and I need some more tapes. I could have sworn I had some left in my desk drawer.”

“Got it. More tapes.” He scooped up the stack of files. “Anything else?”

“No…” Her eyes drifted once again to the white boards. “Yeah, find Andrew for me. Tell him when he's got time, to come see me.”

“Will do.”

Her eyes followed Jeffrey as he left then returned to the slowly dwindling stacks of files on her desk. At least I'm getting through some of this.

A long finger clicked the micro-cassette recorder off. She removed the tape and put it on the last stack of files. Caught up from yesterday. Now I can start on today's work.

A soft rap on the door sounded and Evin looked up to see a curly red head poke through.

“Looking for me, boss?” Andrew asked as he walked in and took a seat opposite Evin.

“Yeah.” She pushed her chair back and stood, staring at the white boards. Long fingers ran through her hair as she sighed. “I need these out of here. I'm putting the Doleses into bankruptcy tomorrow.”

He looked at her, stunned. “You can't be serious, Evin.”

Must be the red hair and green eyes thing, because that's exactly what Sydney said. Either that, or everyone suddenly thinks I've developed a sense of humor. “It's what I should have done in the first place.”

“What's going on with you?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “There's nothing going on with me.”

“There's gotta be.” At the impassive look on her face, he stammered, “You…you're really serious.”

“Yes, Andrew, I'm serious.”

“Why now?”

“Because it's time.”

“Oh, that's a great reason,” he sarcastically replied.

She blew out an angry breath. “What do you want me to do, Andrew? Tilt at windmills? Tell me how I can win this thing.” Christ, I should have had this discussion with both of them at the same time, because I've got a feeling the one with Sydney is going to go to the same place this one is headed.

He stared at her as if she had grown horns. “You…we…I…I'm not the lawyer. You are.”

“Give me a break, Andrew. You know the law and procedure better than half the attorneys in Louisiana.“ Evin paced over to the white boards, waving her hands at them. “How's this for an opening argument? Gee, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, we've got a bunch of people that we think are trying to defraud my poor clients out of their land. We have no idea why they're doing it and we really don't know who's doing it, so we just named everybody in the State of Louisiana as defendants. You get to pick which ones of the four million or so people you think did it. Hell, I've even included myself as a defendant, because at this point, I'm not sure about anything.” She paused. “Is that what you want me to tell 'em, Andrew? Assuming, of course, I don't get disbarred for filing such a ridiculous lawsuit ”

“You have a good idea.” He protested.

“No…I…don't.” The words ground out between clenched teeth. “Evidence, Andrew. I need evidence. Right now, I can't prove anything and you know it. If I had even an inkling of what they wanted that land for, I'd file a goddamn RICO action and shove it so far up their asses their vocal cords wouldn't work.” Angry blue eyes bore into his. “If you think I'm wrong,” the low voice thundered, “Then tell me what I'm missing about this case.”

RICO…so that's what you've been working on. “I…I don't know.” He looked at the white board with the list of names. “We've been over every angle we can think of and the only thing that came up was the connection between Pratt and Stephens and that little incestuous nest with the gambling license. But there's been no allegation, either publicly or from the people we talked to, about any wrongdoing with the license. Hell, the feds have been all over that gambling stuff since it started. I talked to a buddy of mine over at the FBI, and they just got indictments on three congressmen and they're going after some other people, but no one connected to this. That seems to be the only people they think were involved in any of the illegal stuff.”

She snorted and shot Andrew a look. “This is Louisiana. It'll never be over. Hell, they're still finding out shit Huey Long did and he's been dead, what, over sixty years.” Her eyes moved back to the white board. “What the hell is it….” Her voice trailed off as she stared intently at the list of names. One long stride took her to the next white board and she surveyed the maps depicting the land Hynes owned.

Andrew stood and moved next to her. “No environmental problems with the land. We've checked EPA, Superfund, talked to HazMat at the State Police…no indications of any problems. They've had their share of releases and spills, but nothing out of the ordinary. Soil sample tests are okay. And you know that pack of plaintiffs' lawyers down there. If they thought there was anything going on, there'd be a class action lawsuit already filed. Talk about piranhas.”

“They're not piranhas.” Her head turned and the blue eyes glinted. “I'm a piranha. Nothing left but gleaming bone…stripped clean. They're remora…you know, the ones that live off of the sharks. They just take a little bit here and there, wait for another spill or release and do it again. I want it all.”

An involuntary shiver ran down his spine. Tilting his head slightly, he regarded his friend and boss for a moment. “You scare me sometimes.”

“Good,” she snapped back. “So far, you haven't told me anything I don't know.”

There is nothing left to tell, really. “You still have time,” he reminded her. “There's no trial date set. Couldn't….”

“Do you really think that after spending…oh, what was the last count…fifty-eight plus thousand dollars…over the last month or so…over 1800 man hours… that we're going to come up with the key to this whole thing? And now, with Harwood knowing…. You think they're not standing at paper shredders as we speak? You know Pinkie's going to reset the Motion for Summary Judgment and we'll lose. We've got seven…ten days maximum.” And I'm not willing to risk Sydney longer than necessary. If I didn't have to talk to the Doleses, that petition would have been filed this morning.

“More like fourteen, if you count the weekends.”

A dark brow rose as she regarded him coolly. “You're an optimistic little bastard, aren't you?”

“Somebody's gotta be around here.”

She let the remark go. “What is there left to investigate, Andrew?”

He was silent as his eyes drifted down to the ground.

“Nothing, right?”

“The only thing we haven't gotten back is the FOIA request on the gambling license stuff.”

She walked over to the round table and searched through a stack of documents. “Yeah, we did. I've got a copy right here.”

“That's not all of it. I had 'em send it to my cousin, you know, so it wouldn't be traced like you wanted, and he told me when he got home on Friday, that there was a message on his answering machine from someone in the gaming office apologizing for forgetting to include everything and saying that they would mail it out.” He didn't miss the spark in her eyes at his words. Still hanging on to some hope, aren't you, my friend?

“When were you going to let me know?”

“I wasn't…didn't think it was important. The documents were coming. I didn't know you were going to do something stupid like….” He stopped as his whole body tensed, waiting for the explosion. Bad, bad choice of words, Andrew.

The explosion didn't come. Instead, she dropped down into one of the chairs in front of her desk. “I don't need that from you,” she said wearily. I'm gonna get enough of that from Sydney, if this morning was any indication. “Please…put your emotions aside. Think about this rationally. There is no evidence I can put in front of a jury that even hints at a conspiracy to defraud. Nothing that connects the dots for them.”


“No, Andrew, no 'buts.' What you…Sydney…I feel about this case…it won't wash in a courtroom. You know the depositions are a waste of time. Your people have already talked to the witnesses. I'd like to get the bankruptcy filed so we can at least try to enjoy the weekend. Paying the fines if I get sanctioned on Monday will be the only thing I'll have to worry about.” And Sydney.

He asked, uncertain. “You really think this is the best way to go?”

Is anybody listening to me? “No, Andrew, I don't. It's just been so calm and quiet around here, and Sydney and I hadn't had a fight since last night, so I thought I'd throw something out there just to rile y'all up.” She looked at him for a moment. “Based on what we have, there is no other choice.”

“Sydney's not going to like this at all,” he said knowingly.

“And she's not going to like it when her ass is on the stand and they're grilling her about what I did, either.” This is gonna be a thousand times worse with Sydney.

“What are you going to do about that?”

I am not going to do anything. Vicki's handling it. Syd's supposed to see her sometime this afternoon.” Another thing Syd's not too happy about. “And Alice is going to handle it for me, from the procedural aspect, along with Paul, who's trying to figure out if there's any attorney-client privilege or ethics problems. I figure we'll paper the hell out of 'em between now and Friday. There ought to be thirty motions to hear by the time Monday morning rolls around.”

I can't believe she's not representing Sydney. Something's not right. “There is something going on with you,” he accused. “What is it? Why aren't you representing Sydney?”

“Nothing's wrong with me!” Her voice thundered as a fist slammed on the desk. “How the hell am I supposed to represent Sydney when she's supposed to testify against me? What the fuck do you people want from me? You want me to perform some kind of miracle? Wave a magic wand and make it all okay?”

He dropped his eyes. It's what you always do. “Give me until Friday at noon? Please? I want to…we did a lot of the interviews discretely. Now that Sydney's let the cat out of the bag, I'd like to hit a few people a little harder.”

I'd like to just hit somebody. Really hard. Blue eyes glanced out the window then settled back on the investigator. “Do it.” But at noon on Friday, I'll be standing in a press conference telling them about the suit I'm about to file or lamenting about the big, nasty corporation that's forcing Farmer and Missus Brown to file bankruptcy.

“Oh, Christ, Vicki” Evin scowled at the computer as she leaned back in her chair and tucked the phone under her chin. She typed a few keystrokes on the keyboard. “Are you going to the party Saturday night?”

“The party? I swear…do you have any idea how many parties are this weekend? It is Halloween, after all. It's a good thing I'm up on homosexual happenings, so I know which one you're referring to,” she teased. “Abe and I had planned on going to the fundraiser. It's going to be at the Convention Center, right?”

“Ah, ah ah…I'm not telling,” Evin shot back. “You should know that if you're so up on homosexual happenings.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you're a pain in the ass?”

“Every day, darling…every day. It's one of my specialties,” she drawled as a grin spread across her face. Vicki's phone call had been a welcome distraction. “Evin 'Take No Prisoners' Moran, Tormentor of the World, Vilifier of All Things Sacred, Baby-Eater, Chief Pain in the Ass, and Attorney at Law, at your service. Oh, and I've been called devil spawn and evil incarnate on several occasions.”

“You forgot 'Outrageous Flirt.'”

“That one…” Evin hesitated. “It, well, it's, um, retired.” Not exactly retired. Just reserved for one person.

“Oh really?” Vicki asked, a note of interest coloring her voice. “I had heard…so that's what all the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been about. I was at the Women Attorneys Association meeting the other day. Word on the street is that she's very young and a law student. I thought you had sworn off anyone remotely connected to the legal profession.”

“Word on the street? Shouldn't y'all be discussing something important, like trying to outlaw heels in the courtroom? I'd even come to one of those meetings if y'all took up that cause. And she's not very young. Sydney's twenty-four.” Evin replied defensively. “It's…she's not like most lawyers. You're going to meet her this afternoon. I need you to represent her. I set it up yesterday with your secretary.”

“I think I might be insulted…on several levels. Why do you need me to represent her? You haven't gotten her into any trouble, have you?”

“You know what I mean…talk about pain in the ass,” Evin grumbled. “She's supposed to testify against me. Where are you? What the hell is that noise?”

“Elevator door opening. Testify against you? What the hell did you do now? Wait! Don't answer that. I'm representing her, not you. What are you doing for lunch?”

“Hadn't thought about lunch.”

“Well, it's almost noon. You should think about it.”

“Jesus, you sound like Sydney.” A soft knock sounded on her door. “Hang on a sec.” She moved the receiver away from her mouth. “Yeah?”

The door opened to reveal a tall brunette dressed in a navy pin-stripe suit holding a cell phone to her ear. “I'm here to kidnap you for lunch.”

Evin smiled easily and hung up the phone. “You are a piece of work, Vicki.”

“Hey, I know how you are…all work, no play…makes for a very dull Evin,” she chastised. “You can blame Rachel. I asked her what you had calendared for today when I called. When she said nothing…I just couldn't let the opportunity pass. It's not every day the great Evin Moran has nothing scheduled.”

Standing, Evin shook her head as she walked over and kissed the woman lightly on the lips. “You, darling, look as beautiful as ever.”

“And you,” Vicki took a step back and looked up and down, taking in Evin's form, “Have got that great sexy, womanly butch thing going on that I've always loved.”

“Womanly butch thing?” Evin grimaced. “What the hell are you talking about?”

With an elegant wave of her hand up and down, she smiled. “The leather combat boots…steel-toed, I'm sure…those jeans…and that black turtleneck. The leather creaks when you walk. I like that.” She reached out and played with a lock of Evin's hair. “Mmm, mmm, mmm…it really is a shame I'm not a lesbian.”

One dark eyebrow rose. “I've said that since the day I met you, and now you decide to agree with me?”

“You've said that…” A slow smile crossed Vicki's face. “And a lot of other things.”

A wicked chuckle. “So where are you taking me to lunch, Judge?”

A hand went to Evin's forehead. “Are you feeling okay?”

Eyes narrowed as she scowled. “Yes, I'm fine. I just want to get out of here.”

Vicki stepped back and regarded Evin with an appraising eye. “Are you sure you're okay? Nothing's wrong, is there? I usually have to drag you out of here, screaming and kicking in protest.”

Evin shrugged as she crossed her arms. “If it will make you feel better, I'll refuse to go.”

“No, silly,” Vicki laughed as she lightly slapped Evin on her arm. “I'm not complaining. I want to go some place where we can cause an incredible scandal. Maybe Crescent City…we could get one of those booths and close the curtains…make moaning noises. With any luck, there should be at least fifty people we know there.” Her eyes twinkled as she waggled her eyebrows. “Abe just loves it when he hears rumors about my affair with you. Do you know what he told Dylan McKenzie? We were at a fundraiser for the zoo and Dylan…God, he was so serious,” she laughed. “He maneuvers Abe off to the side then he gets this real nasty look on his face and starts telling Abe that I'm a snake and fooling around on him. Abe smiled…that little smile that he does when he's amused, and says, 'My wife's always had impeccable taste.' Dylan spit his drink across the room.”

“I would have paid to see that,” Evin laughed. “Need I remind you that you're in the middle of a campaign? Scandalous behavior is not something that you should be engaging in.”

Vicki pouted. “I'm tired of being good. This election crap is for the birds. That's what I get for marrying a political consultant. Come on, I've got lots of stories to tell you.”

“Let me get my sunglasses.” She gave Vicki a long-suffering look as she moved to retrieve the item off her desk.

They were seated in a booth at the restaurant with the curtains closed. Evin was sprawled on the bench seat leaning against the wall, one booted foot sticking out beyond the edge of the curtain. Vicki sat across the table, twirling her fork with one hand, her hazel eyes twinkling mischievously.

She let out a squeal and Evin bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud. Vicki whispered, trying not to laugh, “Move your leg some more.”

Blue eyes rolled as Evin shook her head. “You are definitely in a mood today. If you make any more noise, the waiter's not gonna come back.”

“That little moan you threw in there a minute ago certainly didn't help.”

“So sue me…I got caught up in the moment.”

She grinned impishly at Evin. “Why do I always act like a teenager around you?”

A half grin answered her. “Because you know I'll still vote for you anyway.”

Vicki cocked her head to one side as she regarded her friend. “Tell me all about her.”

“Who?” Evin asked innocently.

“Sydney, you asshole. You really love to torment me, don't you?”

A smug smile crossed her face. “One of my favorite pastimes.”

“You're going to make me beg, aren't you?” she said indignantly. “I can't believe it.”

Evin snorted. “Judge Victoria Rosenthal doesn't beg.”

A loud, “Oh God…Evin…please…please…please,” came out of the brunette's mouth. Then she added, lower, “See, I beg...on occasion. And, need I remind you, I'm not a judge yet.”

“After that, he's definitely not bringing our drinks.” Evin pulled her leg back in and sat up straight. “You'd better open the curtains, Judge Vicki.”

“I will in a few minutes. I want to give them a little time to think about what they heard. Besides, this can do nothing but enhance your reputation.”

“Reputation enhancement is something I don't need.” Not now.

Vicki's eyes looked around the booth they were seated in. The wood panels surrounding them rose to the ceiling. Coupled with the curtains hanging in the entrance to the booth, they were effectively walled off from the other patrons. “I wonder how many people have had sex in these booths. Have you ever…?”

“Had sex? Yes, I've had sex.”

“You could try the patience of Job.” The brunette folded her arms across her chest and threatened, “Don't make me start pouting and whining.”

Evin held up her hands. “Please, please…no whining. I give up. I'll tell you anything you want to know.”

A delighted smile crossed Vicki's face. “Ooooh, anything?”

“Within reason,” Evin qualified. “My reason, not yours.”

“I want to know about Sydney…every single detail.”

Here come the questions. With an exasperated sigh, she offered, “Her name is Sydney Parker. She's from Memphis. Third year at Loyola. I believe I've already mentioned she's twenty-four.”

Vicki stared at her expectantly, waiting for more information. When it was clear that Evin had no intention of continuing, she sighed. “I see that she hasn't inspired you to be more forthcoming with information. You've said more to me about one of your rugby games.”

You'd be surprised what she inspires me to do. “What do you want me to tell you?” Blue eyes dropped to the table as her right hand played with the silverware.

“Does she talk more than you do?”

A deep chuckle. “Oh, yeah. Definitely. You'll see. Just wait until your appointment.”

“What's she like?”

Evin looked up to meet the warm hazel eyes of the woman seated across from her. “Kind, caring, thoughtful, giving, patient, warm, loving, fun, nice…everything good.”

Whoa…the look of love. Who would have thought? “So how long have you been seeing her?”

“A little more than a month.”

“Dinner's a nightly thing with her?”

Dark brows furrowed. “Yeah.”

“How about breakfast?”

“I don't eat breakfast.”

“What do you eat in the morning? Or, should I say, who?”

Evin could feel the heat rise to her face and almost jumped when her cell phone went off. She grabbed for it, and answered, “Moran,” while scowling at Vicki, who was now laughing and bouncing up and down in her seat.

“I made you blush. I can't believe it. I made you blush. I'm marking this down in my calendar.”

“Honey?” Sydney's voice came through the phone.

“Um, yeah. Hi, Syd.”

“Where are you? There's a lot of noise in the background.”

“It's, uh, I'm at Crescent City having lunch with Vicki Rosenthal.”

“Oh. Are you talking about the case?”

“No, we were, um, well…talking…about, uh, other things…us.”

“You and Vicki?”

“No, you and me. There is no other us.” I seem to be having a major communication problem today. No one is understanding what I'm saying.

“I know you meant you and me. I meant you and Vicki were talking about you and me.”

“Oh.” I want to go back to bed and start the day over.

“Are you okay?” She asked, a note of concern coloring her voice.

Evin closed her eyes and covered her face with her free hand. Why is everyone asking me that today? “Yeah, Syd, I'm fine.” She snuck a peek at Vicki through her fingers and saw her silently laughing.

“Well, I just wanted to call and get Vicki's number from you. I needed to let her office know I was going to be a couple of minutes late. I forgot I promised Wayne I'd drop him off at home. His car's in the shop. But I guess you can just tell her.”

“I'll tell her. Your day's going okay?”

“Yeah. Just a few run of the mill clinic clients and class was okay. Listen, I need to get going. I'll be at the office after I see Vicki, okay?”

“Okay, I'll see you then. Be careful.”

“I will be, terror. I love you.”

“Love you, too, Syd.” Evin closed the phone, disconnecting the call. “She's gonna be a few minutes late for that appointment.”

She's got manners. Most people would just show up late. Evin Moran's in love. And I get to see for myself what the woman's like. A hint of any likeness to Gisela, and I'll have to toss her off the roof of the building. “I'm looking forward to meeting her.”

Uh oh. “What are you thinking? You've got that look.”

“Nothing, Evin. I think I'll save my questions for Sydney.”

“She's the polar opposite of Gisela, if that's what you're thinking.”

“I wasn't even thinking about that bitch, so there.”

“Just…be nice…please.”

Hazel eyes appraised the young woman seated across from her. So this is Sydney Parker. She's quite disarming. When Vicki Rosenthal had greeted her new client in the waiting room, she had been surprised. A big surprise. She's so different from all the others. At least on first impression.

If asked to describe Evin Moran's taste in women, the first word of her description would have been 'bitch,' followed closely by the qualifier, 'blonde bitch.' Of the women she had seen Evin with, each had fit the description exactly. Except for the woman sitting before her. Intelligent, clear green eyes gazed back at her openly.

Vicki had met Evin during Evin's second year of law school while she was teaching a three week seminar on trial practice. Evin had attended the seminar that had run from six to nine three nights a week. With that bitch, Gisela. It was her first introduction to their volatile relationship. The students were all pitted against each other, arguing the pros and cons of the placement of a cross on public property in celebration of a religious festival, the standard separation of church and state faire that provided good material for argument.

At the end of the third week, only two remained. Evin and Gisela. She remembered praying halfway through it that no blood would be shed. It had been a spectacular argument, and the two women's styles could not have been more contrasting. Gisela was all ice and Evin all fire. By the time it was over, Evin had driven the final nail into the coffin and beaten Gisela. Barely.

The tall blonde had lost her temper in the hall when class let out for the night. Vicki had exited the classroom in time to hear Gisela coldly tell Evin to not bother coming home that night. Evin had laughed, equally as cold, and shot back, “I never have a problem finding a warm bed.” The glare Gisela had sent Evin's way, then directed to her, had sent a chill through her heart.

Evin hadn't seen Vicki standing behind her, and when she turned to go in the opposite direction, Vicki had caught a glimpse of pain in her eyes before Evin almost ran into her. Startled, Evin had stopped and Vicki watched as the mask settled firmly in place. She thanked her for the class as if nothing had happened.

To this day, Vicki didn't know why she did it, but she asked Evin to go to dinner with she and her husband. Something about the young woman fascinated Vicki, and if she turned out to be as half as good as she had been in the classroom that night, she would be a force to be reckoned with in the future. The young woman had accepted and Evin ended up spending the night in one of their spare bedrooms. They had been friends ever since. And Gisela's enemy. I got the best of that deal.

“There are a few matters we need to go over first before we can get down to business. First, I need to inform you that I've represented Evin before in the successions of her parents and her brother. She's already signed a waiver and faxed it over to me. I'll need you to sign an acknowledgement that we've discussed this and you agree to have me represent you anyway.” She slid a document across her desk and watched while Sydney read it, then took a pen out and signed it.

“What's next?”

“I represent you, not Evin, in this matter. Evin's given me a copy of the pleadings file, but we didn't discuss the case except that she did tell me that you weren't very happy about being subpoenaed.”

“That's an understatement. Those people are way out of line. Evin hasn't done a thing wrong.”

A smile threatened to break out across Vicki's face at the fierceness in the law student's voice. Score a point for Sydney Parker. “I'm not concerned about whether Evin has or has not done anything wrong.” And I told her I'd kill her if I found out that she did something that compelled me to report her to the bar association. “My concern is solely with you.”

“But….” Sydney started to protest.

“Sydney, I understand that you two have been giving your opposing counsel a little bit of grief on this case. This seems to be the method they've chosen to give you some in return. I must admit, though, that it's highly unusual for a co-counsel to receive a subpoena. It seems that Evin is their focus, not you. I'm here to make sure that they don't get distracted and focus on you.” Vicki paused, observing the tight-lipped expression on the law student's face. “You want to tell me to go to hell, right?”

“If you think I'm going to stand by and watch them go after Evin and do nothing, then you've got another thought coming.”

I like her. Vicki chuckled. “Why is it that lawyers make the worst clients?”

Sydney looked at her, somewhat taken aback by the unexpected laughter. “I…I'm not a lawyer, yet.”

“And I'm here to make sure that you get to be one.” Vicki gentled her voice. “Sydney, I've known Evin for a long time. She doesn't like to leave anything to chance. If she thought that it was a good idea that you get representation, then you should. I trust her judgment. And she trusts me to do what's necessary to protect your interests, even if they oppose hers.”

Green eyes regarded the attorney sitting behind the desk. My attorney. God, how did this get so complicated? “I trust Evin's judgment. I just don't like not being able to do anything about this. It's all been very frustrating. Can we quash the subpoena?”

“We'll definitely file a Motion to Quash. Whether or not we win it, that's another story. I don't know enough about the facts to even give you an educated guess at this point, Sydney. Why don't we go through what's happened so I can get a better picture of the situation, and then we can talk about our options?”

“Okay,” Sydney acquiesced.

They spent the next two hours going over the Dolese case and the possible grounds for quashing the subpoena. Sydney left Vicki Rosenthal's office with mixed feelings. A Motion to Quash would definitely be filed. Whether they would be successful or not was an entirely different story, and since they wouldn't know until the morning of the hearing, Sydney had to return to Vicki's office on Friday so Vicki could prepare her to testify. This really sucks, Sydney thought, as she got into her car to meet Evin at her office.

The two women were like caged animals in the office, both pacing about, regarding each other warily, tempers barely held in check. There had been another period of absolute silence as they caught their breaths. The clock on the wall ticked, the sound filling the void. Sydney glared at it, and the sound seemed to decrease. Smart clock.

Every muscle in her body felt like it had been strung on a bowstring as Evin looked out the window into the night sky. If I took this thing to trial, it couldn't be any worse than this is. “You know, Syd….” Oh, this is gonna go over like a lead balloon. “We've been arg…talking about this for two hours now. We've discussed every facet of this case…moral, philosophical, ethical, social….” I'm sure we've even touched upon the religious aspects somewhere, if there are any. “I had the same…discussion…with Andrew this morning. Why is it that no one wants to talk about the legal aspects of this?”

Green eyes bore into the back of the tall attorney. “We have talked about the legal aspects.”

“Not enough, because we're still talking about this damn case.”

“And we'll keep talking about it until we figure out another way to win this thing.”

What little patience Evin had left vaporized into the air. “No, we won't. Nothing you…Andrew…I have said…can say…changes the facts. There is no evidence that ties any of this together. Evidence. E…v…i…d…e…n…c…e. The key to any case. Remember that word? You took a course in it.”

“Yes, I remember that word,” Sydney retorted angrily.

“Not as well as you think you do, otherwise, we wouldn't have had this discussion.”

“That's it! I've had enough of you treating me like I'm some stupid law student.”

Evin turned and glared at her. Here we go. I guess I'm surprised it took us this long to get to this. “Sydney….” The low voice rumbled a warning. “Don't go there. This is not about you, it's not about me and it certainly isn't about the fact that you're a law student.”

“How can you say that? You…you made this decision after I blew it…so fast, it made my head spin. And you didn't even talk to me about it.”

“No, I didn't make the decision that fast. I had the Doleses sign those bankruptcy papers the day of that first hearing. This has always been a contingency plan. You knew that. We've talked about it how many times, Syd? How many?” She waited for a response from the redhead. When none was forthcoming, she continued. “We're out of contingencies. This is it.”

“How can you walk away from this?” Sydney asked incredulously. “After everything that's happened…it's….”

She blew out an exasperated breath. “I'm not walking away from this. I'm doing my job…saving the Doleses' land. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“You know that's not going to stop these people from trying something else. What if they hurt Emma, Willie or the kids? You know these people are capable of it. Look what they did to…. I couldn't live with myself if something happened to them. There's got to be something we can do to stop them.”

And I couldn't live with myself if they hurt you. “There is no such thing as preventative law, Sydney. I can't waltz into a courtroom and say 'Yoohoo, Judge Nice Guy, we think these people might do something illegal. Could you tell 'em not to? Pretty please?'” If Sydney hadn't been so angry, she might have laughed as Evin's voice broke from the strain of pitching it high.

“And that doesn't bother you in the least, does it? You could care less about them, about this case. Do you even have a conscience?”

The words hurt. But they scared her even more. 'But that's what all this has been about for you…right?' It was, for Evin, the fundamental difference between she and Sydney. In some things, Evin Moran had no conscience. In all things, Sydney Parker had a conscience.

In her mind, she knew the two were incompatible. She had no doubt that one day, Sydney would figure it out and leave. Not because Sydney didn't love her. Of that, she was sure. But because Sydney's gentle soul wouldn't be able to accept the things that Evin did. It was the reason she stayed awake at night for long hours, reveling in the feel of Sydney's skin against hers…gazing before dawn at the almost invisible profile of her lover as she lay sleeping peacefully…trying and trying to make herself feel something…anything about the myriad things she had done that Sydney would never have. The feelings never came. Whatever part of Sydney it was that gave her that conscience about some things, either had never been present in Evin or had died long ago.

So it comes down to this. And this isn't even about my conscience. It's about having no evidence. “The law is its own conscience. It provides for right and wrong. It tells me what I can and cannot do. It tells me what's moral…what's ethical.”

“And when the law is wrong, what then, Counselor?”

She shrugged with a nonchalance she didn't feel. “Not my problem. I don't make the laws. I just operate within them.”

“So if a client comes in and wants to do something you believe is wrong in your heart, you'd do it anyway, if the law says you could?”

“You're making the assumption that I have a heart.”

“You do,” Sydney stated adamantly.

“Not in some things, Syd,” Evin said with a touch of sadness.

“I refuse to believe that.” Sydney regarded her silently. Life's incredibly perverse sometimes. One of the things she loved most about Evin was her ability to accept things…people, in her personal life without the predisposition for judgment that so many people had. And it was the same thing that let her operate so well in the legal arena, doing things Sydney knew she, herself, could never do. It's so simple for her. The law says I can do it, so I do. The law says I can't so I don't. “There are some things about you that I don't understand.”

“Just some?” Evin snorted derisively as she mentally braced herself for what she knew would come next. And I can't accept that…you. We're too different, her mind mocked her. A ghostly fist reached inside her chest and gripped her heart, squeezing it tightly. The pain almost made her knees buckle. You knew this was gonna happen. It's a miracle you ever got this far. She doesn't need to be around you.

Her jaw tensed even more as she waited. She's everything you're not and you're nothing she should be. 'She loves you.' She shouldn't. Her eyes locked with Sydney's and she couldn't look away. Just get it over with. Say it…. Say it and let me get out of here.

The tension rolling off the tall woman was almost palpable. A small hand reached out and rested on a forearm. Sydney felt the flinch of the muscles under her fingers, watching as the steel curtain settled over the blue eyes, their color diminishing until they were almost a lifeless gray. “Just some.” She smiled softly. “I've been…kind of out of line here. We've danced all around things…my feelings about this case. This has all gotten so personal for me, and I'm having a really hard time…reconciling what my brain is whispering and what my heart is screaming. Do you think that we could just talk about this…as friends…lovers…no lawyer stuff? I think, if I can tell you everything without the legal arguments you're so damn good at, then we can talk about the legal stuff without me losing my temper.”

Startled blue eyes blinked back at her. 'Not what you expected, is it?' No. “Um, yeah, sure. I…yes.”

Sydney rubbed her hands up and down Evin's arms. “I love you, you know.” She felt the tension start to drain as she continued the soothing motions.

“Love you, too,” Evin mumbled as she draped her arms over Sydney's shoulders and pulled her closer.

“Let's go sit on the couch where we can be comfortable.” She led Evin over to the couch and waited for her to sit, then scooted in next to her, half turning and tucking her feet under her body.

Just tell her what you need to tell her. “This case…such a simple thing…and then it went crazy. I actually have a lawyer representing me.” A note of disbelief colored her voice. “And my feelings for you…added to the mix. All of this has been…overwhelming on occasion. I'm embarrassed sometimes….” Sydney felt the muscles in the hand she was holding tense slightly. “By my actions. Like being impossible last night and today.” The hand relaxed. “You don't deserve that. You've…sacrificed a lot…on a personal level…for this case.” She felt Evin take a breath to start to speak. “Please…let me finish.”

With a nod from the tall woman, she continued. “You have an…ability that I don't seem to have to…put aside your emotions. Separate them from the case. I'm having a lot of trouble doing that. I find myself thinking things that I hadn't thought in a long time. Things that scare me, because…I want to….” Come on, Syd. Spit it out. Long fingers brushed away the tears that fell. “I want revenge. Plain and simple. I want someone to pay dearly for what they did to you. I want it to be me that exacts that revenge. The last time I wanted that…was when Jennie died and…it was like….” She hazarded a glance into the tall woman's eyes. “Not very nice, huh?”

Some moments in life are just priceless, Evin thought. She's talking to me about not being nice. “Honey, do you think I don't want to crucify these bastards? You're wrong, because I do,” she chided softly. “I've had great daydreams thinking up all kinds of tortures for them, all of which would land me in jail for a long, long time.” And possibly a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. “If that makes me 'not nice,' then so be it. But to me, you're having the basic human reactions to a situation that's frustrating as hell. You wouldn't go out and actually hurt anyone over this. You'd do what the law let you do and that's it. And what's got you so angry about the whole thing is that the law isn't cooperating.”

“I feel like a two year old, not getting my way,” Sydney pouted. “I want to jump up and down and stamp my feet and scream.”

“Go ahead, if it will make you feel any better.” God knows I've been known to throw a temper tantrum every now and then. 'Every now and then?' Shut up.

“I seem to prefer taking it out on you,” she said shamefacedly. “I'm really sorry about that. You don't deserve that.”

“Doesn't matter, Syd.”

“Yeah, it does. You…don't talk a lot about what your feelings are, and I look at you, sometimes, and you're just so…seem so…bulletproof that I start taking shots at you. But I know, under all that armor, you're not really bulletproof.” She tilted her head up and leaned into Evin, kissing her softly. “Even though you like to think you are, terror. And I think…that part of it's because I feel so safe with you…that no matter what I do…you won't judge me…that you'll still love me.”

Evin sat there, absorbing the words. You are so incredibly proud of that armor, aren't you, Moran? But when it's Sydney taking the shots, it blows right through it, touching every little insecurity you have, every fear. And you can't stop it.

“I…maybe it's because I do love you, Syd.”

“I know…I can feel it…without you ever having to say anything.” She sighed. “I really am sorry. I don't like feeling powerless and that's what I'm feeling about this case. How did this get so complicated?”

How did it get so complicated? What a loaded question. “They just do, sometimes, Syd. Only thing we can do is deal with it.”

Sydney rested her head on Evin's shoulder. “You've spent a lot of time…money on this case. Got hurt. This…filing the bankruptcy…doesn't make you angry?”

“No choice, Syd.”

Doesn't answer my question, though. Do I wanna pursue this? “So you're all right with filing the bankruptcy? It doesn't make you feel…I don't know.”

Feelings. I knew we'd get around to this…my feelings about the case. You never stop long enough to let yourself have them or even think about them if you had them, do you, Moran? What exactly are they? “I….” She stopped. “I think that filing the bankruptcy is the only option we have available to us without evidence.” And that's true, no matter what my feelings are about this case…Syd…anything.

“I understand about the evidence.” Sydney looked up and smiled ruefully. “I even remember how to spell it.” Green gazed into blue for a long moment as if she was trying to see into the attorney's mind. “I understand that if they bring a Motion for Summary Judgment, we'd lose because we don't have any. It's really a miracle that we've managed to hold them off this long. What I don't understand is why now? You tell me that it's not because I…that what I did is not a fatal mistake. But I can't help draw the conclusion that I did make a fatal mistake. You haven't given me any other reason why you decided to do this. If anything, I would think that…this case…I don't know, Evin. It seems to me that with everything that's happened with this case, you'd want to try everything possible to find out who's behind this. Why can't we wait until there's no more time left? It doesn't matter when we file the bankruptcy, right? Whether it's tomorrow or two weeks from now? Just as long as it's before the judge issues the foreclosure order, right?”

'She's got some valid questions,' the little voice observed. Shut up. Evin sat quietly, her physical countenance not betraying the racing mind. 'The only reason you want to do this now is to protect Sydney. If it wasn't for that threat, you'd wait until zero hour to file the bankruptcy.' I'd like for whoever is behind this to die a long, slow, tortured death. God damn it!

'You know that Sydney wouldn't want you to make a decision based on her, don't you?' She's never said that. 'And you haven't given her the option.' Shut up. I will not lose someone else because of inaction. What price do we need to pay to win this case? Nothing's worth that. 'And if you lose Sydney because you didn't give her an option?' That's a price I'm willing to pay. At least she'll be okay. 'Can you afford it?' Doesn't matter.

'Oh, but it does matter. It's not you, alone, any more. What you do…say…it's affecting another person.' What I do and say always affects someone. 'Not someone you love…someone that loves you.' That's the whole point! 'You need to give her the choice.' Shut up. 'You know what's the right thing to do, so do it.'

A pain shot through Evin's gut as she looked into patiently waiting green eyes. “I….” She stopped and stared.

Pale brows furrowed as she saw the storm brewing in the blue eyes. “Evin, what's going on in that beautiful head?”

“You're correct when you say that the bankruptcy doesn't need to be filed now.”

“Then…why do it now?”

“I have…concerns that….” Evin stood abruptly and walked to the center of the room. 'Is it that hard to tell her that you care and that you're worried?' Apparently so, her mind replied sarcastically.

“Honey, what are you talking about? What concerns?”

“You, Sydney. I'm concerned about you.”

“Evin…I love you, honey, and I don't want to fight, so please don't take this the wrong way, but what the hell are you talking about?”

The anger surged and her voice rose in response. “God damn it, Sydney! I don't want you to be a target. These people kill people who make them nervous, and you've made them nervous. Don't you see?”

Ah, Sydney's mind breathed out as things started clicking into place. Syd, remember, you're walking into that emotional minefield. Watch where you step. “Haven't we both always been potential targets?” she asked softly.

“I…I…peripherally, I guess,” Evin grudgingly admitted.

“I've thought about that.” Not quite in this context. “It's…not a position I ever expected to find myself in. Of course, I never expected to find you through this case, either. When I met you…that first time, in Professor Rayburn's office…and looked into your eyes…I felt something. It came and went so fast…that I hardly paid attention to it. And now…you…I know that you're the person in my dream that I've always had. I don't want to lose you, either. But I can't…won't let something that might happen stop me from doing what's best for our client.” She took a deep breath in, trying to read the woman standing before her. “Please…don't ask me to. I…if I had to make a choice, I couldn't live with either one.”

Her throat was tight and Evin didn't trust herself to speak as she felt the feelings pounding her from all angles. Old memories tried to claw their way out as she desperately tried to maintain control. Her brother's desperate, angry message and Gisela's ultimatum. Evin's choice, about something that should have never been a choice to begin with. Eric's death. You were forced to make a choice once and you chose wrong. And you'll live with that for the rest of your life. Don't make her do that.

“I…won't ask you to. We'll wait…to file the bankruptcy.”

Sydney got up and crossed over to Evin, seeing the desolation and pain in the tall attorney's eyes. Something else is going on here. “Thank you.”

“No, Syd, no thanks for that. Some things should never be made into choices. I'm sorry…that I…”

“Shhh…it's okay. I appreciate that you were concerned about me.” I…she seems so lost.

Get a grip on your self, Moran. You're scaring her. Long arms reached out and pulled Sydney into a hug. “I…one day, Syd, one day…maybe I'll learn to talk to you about this stuff first.”

“We'll get there, terror. We'll get there.”

Part 15 Return to Main Page         Part 17

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Revised: August 8, 2000