The law offices of Needham, Finch, Pierece and Warner were located at 30 Wall street, occupying the entire top fllor of the building. There a hundred and twenty-five lawyers in the firm. The offices smelled of old money and were done in the quiet elegance befitting an organization that represented some of the biggest names in industry.
Adam Warner and Stewart Needham were having their ritual morming tea. Stewart Needham was a dapper, trim man in his late sixties. He had a neat Vandyke beard and wore a tweed suit and vest. He looked as though he belonged to an older era, but as hundreds of opponents had learned to their sorrow through the years, Stewart Needham's mind belonged very much to the twentieth century. He was a titan, but his name was known only in the circles where it mattered.
He preferred to remain in the background and use his considerable influence to affect the outcome of legislation, high government appointments and national politics. He was a New Englander, born and reared taciturn.
Adam Warner was married to Needham's niece Mary Beth, and was Needham's protege. Adam's father had been respected senator. Adam himslef was a brilliant lawyer. When he had been graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, he had had offers from prestigious law firms all over the country.
He chose Needham, Finch and Pierce,and seven years later became a partner. adam was physically attractive and charming, and his intelligence seemed to add an extra dimension to him.He had an easy sureness about himself that women found challenging. Adam had long since developed a system for dissuading overamorous femal clients. He had been married to Mary Beth for fourteen years and did not approve of extra-marital affairs.
'More tea, Adam?' Stewart Needham asked.
'No, thanks.' Adam Warner hated tea, and he had been drinking it every morning for the last eight years only because he did not want to hurt his partner's feelings. It was a brew that Needham concocted himself and it was dreadful.
Stewart Needham had two things on his mind and , typically, he began with the pleasant news. ' i had a meeting with a few friends last night,' Needham said. A few friends would be a group of the top power brokers in the country. ' They're considering asking you to run for United States senator, Adam.'
Adam felt a sense of eltion. Knowing Stewart Needham's cautious nature, Adam was certain that the conversation had been more than casual or Needham would not have brought it up now.
'The big question, of course, is whether you're interested. It would mean a lot of changes in your life.'
Adam Warner was aware of that. If he won the election, it would mean moving to Washington, D.C., giving up his law practice, starting a whole new life. He was sure that Mary Beth would enjoy it; Adam was not so sure about himself. And yet, he had been reared to assume responsibility. Also, he had to admit to himslef that there was a pleasure in power.
'I'd be very interested, Stewart.'
Stewart Needham nodded with satisfaction. ' Good. They'll be pleased.' He poured himself another cup of the dreadful brew and c asually broached the other subject that was on his mind. 'There's a little job the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association would like to you to handle, Adam. Shouldn't take you more than an hour or two.'
'What is it?'
'It's the Michael Moretti trial. Apparently, someone got to one of Bobby Di Silva's young assistants and paid her off.'
'I read about it. The canary.'
'Right. Judge Waldman and Bobby would like her name removed from the roster of our honorable profession. So would I. It reeks.'
'What do they want me to do?'
'Just make a quick check, verify that this Parker girl behaved illegally or unethically, and then recommend disbarment proceedings. She'll be served with a notice to show cause and they'll handle the test of it. It's just routine.'
Adam was puzzled by something. 'Why me, Stewart? we have a couple of dozen young lawyers around here who could handle this.'
'Our revered District Attorney specifically asked for you. He wants to make sure nothing goes wrong. As we're both aware, ' He added dryly, 'Bobby's not the most forgiving man in the world. He wants the Parker woman's hide nailed up on his wall.'
adam Warner sat there, thinking about his busy schedule.
'You never know when we might need a favor from the D.A.'s office, Adam. Quid pro quo. It's all cut and dried.'
'All right, Stewart.' Adam rose to his feet.
'Sure you won't have some more tea?'
'No, thanks. It was as good as always.'
When Adam warner returned to his office he rang for one of his paralegal assistants, Lucinda, a bright, young black woman.
'Cindy, get me all the information you can on an attorney named Jennifer Parker.'
She grinned and said, 'The yellow canary.'
Everybody knew about her.
Late that afternoon Adam Warner was studying the transcript of the court proceedings in the case of The People of New York v. Michael Moretti Robert Di Silva had had it delivered by special messenger. It was long past midnight when Adam finished. He had asked Mary beth to attend a dinner party without him, and had sent out for sandwiches. When Adam was through reading the transcript, there was no doubt in his mind that Michael Moretti would have been fond guilty by the jury if fate had not intervened in the form of Jennifer Parker. Di Silva had prosecuted the case flawlessly.
adam turned to the transcript of the deposition that had been taken in Judge Waldman's chambers afterward.
DI SILVA:You are a college graduate?
DI SILVA:And a stranger hands you a package, tells you to deliver it to a key witness in a murder trial and you just do it? Wouldn't you say that went beyond the bounds of stupidity?
PARKER:It didn't happen that way.
DI SILVA:You said it did.
PARKER:What I mean is, I didn't think he was a stranger. I thought he was on your staff.
DI SILVA: What made you think that?
PARKER:I've told you. I saw him talking to you and then he came over to me with this envelope and he called me by name, and he said you wanted me to deliver it to the witness. It all happened so fast that -
DI SILVA: I don't think it happened that fast. I think it took time to set it up. It took time to arrange for someone to pay you off to deliver it.
PARKER:That's not true. I -
DI SILVA:What's not true? That you didn't know you were delivering the envelope?
PARKER:I didn't know what was in it.
DI DILVA:So it's true that someone paid you.
PARKER:I'm not going to let you twist my words around. No one paid me anything.
DI SILVA:You did it as a favor?
PARKER: No. I thought I was acting on your instructions.
DI SILVA: You said the man called you by name.
DI SILVA: How did he know your name?
PARKER: I don't know.
DI SILVA: Oh, come on. You must have some idea. Maybe it was a lucky guess. Maybe he just looked around that courtroom and said, There's someone who looks like her name could be Jennifer Parker. Do you think that was it?
PARKER: I've told you. I don't know.
DI SILVA: How long have you and Michael Moretti been sweethearts?
PARKER: Mr Di Silva, we've gong all over this. You've been questioning me now for five hours. I'm tired. I have nothing more to add. May I be excused?
DI SILVA: If you move out of that chair I'll have you placed under arrest. You're in big trouble, Miss Parker. There's only one way you're going to get out of it. Stop lying and start telling the truth.
PARKER: I've told you the truth. I've told you everything I know.
DI SILVA: Except the name of the man who handed you the envelope. I want his name and I want to know how much he paid you.
There were thirty more pages of transcript Robert Di Silva had done everything but beat Jennifer Parker with a rubber hose. She had stuck to her story.
Adam closed the transcript and searily rubbed his eys. It was two A.M.
Tomorrow he would dispose of the Jennifer Parker matter.
To Adam Warner's surprise, the Jennifer Parker case would not be disposed of so easily. Because Adam was a methodical man he ran a check on Jennifer Parker's background. As far as he could determine, she had no crime connectins, nor was there anything to link her with Michael Moretti.
There was something about the case that disturbed Adam. Jennifer Parker's defense was too flimsy. If she were working for Moretti, he would have protected her with a reasonably plausible story. As it was , her story was so transparently naiive that it had a ring of truth about it.
At noon Adam received a call from the District Attorney. ' How goes it, Adam?'
'I understand you're handling the hatchet-man job on the Jennifer Parker matter.'
Adam Warner winced at the phrase. 'I've agreed to make a recommendation, yes.'
'I'm going to put her away for a long time.' Adam was taken aback by the hatred in the District Attorney's voice.
'Easy, Robert. She's not disbarred yet.'
Di Silva chuckled. 'I'll leave that to you, my friend.' His tone changed. 'I hear on the grapevine that you may be moving to Washington soon. I want you to know that you can count on my full support.'
Which was condiserable, Adam Warner knew. The District Attorney had been around a long time. He knew where the bodies were buried and he knew how to squeeze the most out of that information.
'Thanks, Robert. I appreciate that.'
'My peasure, adam. I;ll wait to hear from you.'
Meaning Jennifer Parker. The quid pro quo Stewart Needham had mentioned, with the girl used as a pawn. Adam Warner thought about Robert Di Silva's words: I'm going to put her away for a long time. From reading the transcript, adam judged that there was no real evidence against Jennifer Parker. Unless she confessed, or unless someone same forward with information that proved criminal complicity, Di Silva would not be able to touch the girl. He was counting on Adam to give him his vengeance.
The cold, harsh words of the transcript were clear-cut, and yet Adam wished he could have heard the tone of Jennifer Parker's voice when she denied her guilt.
There were pressing matters claiming Adam's attention, important cases involving major clients. It would have been easy to go ahead and carry out the wishes of Stewart Needham, Judge Lawrence Waldman and Robert Di Silva, but some instinct made Adam Warner hesitate. He picked up Jennifer Parker's file again, scribbled some notes and began to make some long-distance telephone calls.
Adam had been given a responsibility and he intended to carry it through to the best of his ability. He was all too familiar with the long, back-breaking hours of study and hard work it took to become an attorney and to pass the bar. It was a prize that took years to attain, and he was not about to deprive someone of it unless he was certain there was justification.
The following morning Adam Warner was on a plane to Seattle, Washington. He had meetings with Jennifer Parker's law professors, with the head of a law firm where she had clerked for two summers, and with some of Jennifer's former classmates.
Stewart Needham telephoned Adam in Seattle. 'What are you doing up there, Adam? You've got a big case load waiting for you back here. That Parker thing should have been a snap.'
'A few questions have arisen,' Adam said carefully. 'I'll be back in a day or so, Stewart.'
There was a pause. 'I see. Let's not waste any more time on her than we have to.'
By the time Adam Warner left Seattle, he felt he knew Jennifer Parker almost as well as she knew herself. He had built up a portrait of her in his mind, a mental identikit, with pieces filled in by her law professors, her landlady, members of the law firm where she had served as a clerk, and classmates. The picture that Adam had acquired bore no resemblance to the picture Robert Di Silva had given him. Unless Jennifer parker was the most consummate actress who ever lived, there was no way she could have been involved in a plot to free a man like Michael Moretti.
Now, almost two weeks after he had had that morning conversation with stewart Needham, Adam Warner found himself facing the girl whose past he had been exploring. Adam had seen newspaper pictures of Jennifer, but they had not prepared him for the impact she made in person. Even in an old robe, without makeup, and her dark brown hair bath-damp, she was breath-taking.
Adam said, 'I've been assigned to investigate your part in the Michael Moretti trial, Miss Parker.'
'Have you now!' Jennifer could feel an anger rising in her. It started as a spark and became a flame that exploded inside her. They still were not through with her. They were going to make her pay for the rest of her life. Well, she had had enough.
When Jennifer spoke, her voice was trembling, 'I have nothing to say to you! You go back and tell them whatever you please. I did somehting stupid, but as far as I know, there's no law againt stupidity. The District Attorney thinks someone paid me off.' She waved a scornful hand in the air, ' If I had any money, do you think I'd be living in a place like this?' Her voice was beginning to choke up. ' I - I don't care what you do. All I want is to be left alone. Now please go away!'
Jennifer turned and fled into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
She stood against the sink, taking deep breaths, wiping the tears from her eyes. She knew she had behaved stupidly. That's twice, she thought wryly. She should have handled Adam Warner differently. She should have tried explain, instead of attaching him. May be then she would not be disbarred. But she knew that was wishful thinking. Sending someone to question her was a charade. The next step would be to serve her with an order to show cause, and the formal machinery would be set in motioin. There would be trial panel of three attorneys who would make their recommendation to the Disciplinary Board which would make its report to the Board of Governors. The recommendation was a foregong conclusion: disbarment. She would be forbidden to practice law in the state of New York. Jennifer thought bitterly, There's one bright side this. I can get into the Guinness Book of Records for the shortest law career in history.
She stepped into the bath again and lay back, letting the still-warm water lap at her, soothing away her tension. At this moment she was too tired to care what happened to her. She closed her eyes and let her mind drift. She was half asleep when the chill of the water awakened her. She had no idea how long she had lain in the tub. Reluctantly she stepped out and began toweling herself dry. She was no longer hungry. The scene with Adam Warner had taken her appetite away.
Jennifer combed her hair and creamed her face and decided she would go to bed without dinner. In the morning she would telephone about the ride to Seattle. She opened to bathroom door and walked into the living room.
Adam Warner was seated in a chair, leafing through a magazine. He looked up as Jennifer came into the room, naked.
'I'm sorry,' Adam said. 'I -'
Jennifer gave a small cry of alarm and fled to the bathroom, where she put on her robe. When she stepped out to confront Adam again, Jennifer was furious.
'The inquisition is over. I asked you to leave.'
Adam put the magazine down and said quietly, 'Miss Parker, do you think we could discuss this calmly for a moment?'
'No!' All the old rage boiled up in Jennifer again. 'I have nothing more to say to you or your damed disciplinary committee. I'm tired of being treated like - like I'm some kind of criminal!'
'Have I said you were a criminal?' Adam asked quietly.
'You - isn't that why you're here?'
'I told you why I'm here. I'm empowered to investigate and recommend for or against disbarment proceedings. I want to get your side of the story.'
'I see. And how do I buy you off?'
Adam's face tightened. 'I'm sorry. Miss Parker.' He rose to his feet and started for the door.
'Just a minute!' Adam turned. ' Forgive me,' she said. 'I - everybody seems to be the enemy. I apologize.'
'Your apology is accepted.'
Jennifer was suddenly aware of the flimsy robe she was wearing. 'If you still want to ask me questions, I'll put some clothes on and we can talk.'
'Fair enough. Have you had dinner?'
She hesitated. 'I-'
'I know a little French restaurant that's just perfect for inquisitions.'
It was a quiet, charming bistro on 56th Street on the East side.
'Not too many people know about this place,' Adam Warner said when they had been seated.'It's owned by a young French couple who used to work at Les Pyrenees. The food is excellent.'
Jennifer had to take Adam's word for it. She was incapable of tasting anything. She had not eaten all day, but she was so nervous that she was unable to force any food down her throat. She tried to relax, but it was impossible. No matter how much he pretended, the charming man seated opposite her was the enemy. And he was charming, Jennifer had to admit. He was amusing and attractive, and under other circumstances Jennifer would have enjoyed the evening enormously; but these were not other circumstances. Her whole future was in the hands of this stranger. The next hour or two would determine in which direction the rest of her life would move.
Adam was going out of his way to try to relax her. He had recently returned from a trip to Japan where he had met with top government officials. A special banquet had been prepared in his honor.
'Have you even eaten chocolate-covered ants?' Adam asked.
He grinned. 'They're better than the chocolate covered grasshoppers.'
He talked about a hunting trip he had taken the year before in Alaska, where he had been attacked by a bear. He talked about everything but why they were there.
Jennifer had been steeling herself from the moment when adam would begin to interrogate her, yet when he finally brought up the subject, her whole body went rigid.
He had finished dessert and he said quietly, 'I'm going to ask you some questions, and I don't want you to get upset. Okay?'
There was a sudden lump in Jennifer's throat. She was not sure she would be able to speak. She nodded.
'I want you to tell me exacly what happened in the courtroom that day. Everything you remember, everything you felt. Take your time.'
Jennifer had been prepared to defy him, to tell him to do whatever he pleased about her. But somehow, sitting across from Adam warner, listening to his quiet voice, Jennifer's resistance was gone. The whole experience was still so vivid in her mind that it hurt just to think about it. She had spent more than a month trying to forget it. Now he was asking her to go through it again.
She took a deep, shaky breath and said, 'All right.'
Haltingly, Jennifer began to recount the events in the courtrrom, gradually speaking more rapidly as it all came to life again. Adam sat there quietly listening, studying her, saying nothing.
when Jennifer had finished, Adam said, 'The man who gave you the envelope - was he in the District Attorney's office earlier that morning when you were sworn in?'
'I've thought about that. I honestly don't remember. There were so many people in the office that day and they were all strangers.'
'Had you ever seen the man before, anywhere?'
Jennifer shook her head helplessly.'I can't recall. I don't think so.'
'You said you saw him talking to the District Attorney just before he walked over to give you the envelope. Did you see the District Attorney hand him the envelope?'
'I - no.'
'Did you actually see this man talking to the District attorney, or was he just in the group around him?'
Jennifer closed her eyes for a second, trying to bring back that moment. 'I'm sorry. everything was so confused. I - just don't know.'
'Do you have any idea how he could have known your name?'
'Or why he selected you?'
'That one's easy. He probably knew an idiot when he saw one.' She shook her head. 'No. I'm sorry, Mr Warner, I have no idea.'
Adam said, 'A lot of pressure is being brought to bear on this. District Attorney Di Silva has been after Michael Moretti for a long time. Until you came along, he ahd an airtight case. The D.A.'s not very happy with you.'
'I'm not very happy with me, either.' Jennifer could not blame Adam warner for what he was about to do. He was just carrying out his job. They were out to get her and they had succeeded. Adam warner was not responsible; he was merely the instrument they wre using.
Jennifer felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to be alone. She did not want anyone else to see her misery.
'I'm sorry,' she apologized.'I - I'm not feeling very well. I'd like to go home, please.'
Adam studied her a moment. ' would it make you feel any better if I told you I'm going to recommend that disbarment proceedings against you be dropped?'
It took several seconds for adam's words to sink in. Jennifer stared at him, speechless, searching his face, looking into those gray-blue eyes behind the horn-rimmed glasses. 'Do - do you really mean that?'
'Being a lawayer is very important to you, isn't it?' Adam asked.
Jennifer thought of her father and his comfortable little law office, and of the conversations they used to have, and the long years of law school, and their hopes and dreams. We're going into partnewship. You hurry up ad get that law degree.
'Yes,' Jennifer whispered.
'If you can get over a rough beginning, I have a feeling you'll be a very good one.'
Jennifer gave him a grateful smile. 'Thank you. I'm going to try.'
She said the words over again in her mind. I'm going to try! It did not matter that she shared a small and dingy office with a seedy private detective and a man who repossessed cars. It was a law offcie. She was a member of the legal profession, and they were going to allow her to practice law. She was filled with a feeling of exultation. She looked across at Adam and knew she would be forever grateful to this man.
The waiter had begun to clear the dishes from the table. Jennifer tried to speak, but it came out a cross between a laugh and a sob. 'Mr Warner -'
He said gravely,'After all we've been through together, I think it should be Adam.'
'I hope it won't ruin our relationship, but -'Jennifer moaned, 'I'm starved!'
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