Jennifer Parker was not only on the evening news - she was the evening news. The story of her deliverying a dead canary to the District Attorney's star witness was irresistible.
Every television channel ahd pictures of Jennifer leaving Judge Waldman's chambers, fighting her way out of the courhouse, bedieged by the press and the public.
Jennifer could not believe the sudden horrifying publicity that was being showered on her. They wre hammering at her from all sides: television reporters, radio reporters and newspaper people.
She wanted desperately to flee from them, but her pride would not let her.
'Who gave you the yellow canary, Miss Parker?'
'Have you ever met Michael Moretti?'
'Did you know that Di Silva was planning to use this case to get into the governor's office?'
'The District Attorney says he's going to have you disbarred. Are you going to fight it?'
To each question Jennifer had a tight-lipped 'No comment.'
On the CBS evening news they called her 'Wrong Way Parker,' the girl who had gone off in the wrong direction. An ABC newsman refered to her as the 'Yellow Canary.' On NBC, a sports commentator compared her to Roy Riegels, the football player who had carried the ball to his own team's one-yard line.
In Tony's Place, a restaurant that Michael Moretti owned, a celebration was taking place. There were a dozen men in the roo, drinking and boisterous.
Michael Moretti sat alone at her car, in an oasis of silence, watching Jennifer Parker on television. He raised his glass in a salute to her and drank.
Lawyers everywhere discussed the Jennifer Parker episode. Half of them believed she had been bribed by the Mafia, and the other half that she had been an innocent dupe.
But no matter which side they were on , they all concurred on one point: Jennifer Parker's short career as an attorney was finished.
She had lasted exactly four hours.
She had been born in Kelso, Washington, a small timber town founded in 1847 by a homesick Scottish surveyor who named it for his home town in Scotland.
Jennifer's father was an attorney, first for the lumber companies that dominated the town, then later for the workers in the sawmills.
Jennifer's earliest memories of growing up were filled with joy. The state of Washington was a story book place for a child, full of spectacular mountains and glaciers and national parks.
There wre skiing and canoeing and, when she was older, ice climbing on glaciers and pack trips to places with wonderful names: Ohanapecosh and Nisqually and Lake CleElum and Chenuis Falls and Horse Heaven and the Yakima Valley.
Jennifer learned to climb on Mount Rainier and to ski at Timberline with her father.
Her father always had time for her, while her mother, beautiful and restless, was mysteriously busy and seldom at home. Jennifer adored her father.
Abnew Parker was a mixture of English and Irish and Scottish blood. He was of medium height, with black hair and green-blue eyes. He was a compassionate man with a deep-rooted sense of justice. He was not interested in money, he was interested in people.
He would sit and talk to Jennifer by the hour, telling her about hte cases he was handling and the problems of the people who came into his unpretentious little office, and it did not occur to Jennifer until years later that he talked to her because he had no one else with whom to share things.
After school Jennifer would hurry over to the courthouse to watch her father at work. If court was not in session she would hang around his office, listening to him discuss his cases and his clients.
They never talked about her going to law school; it was simply taken for granted.
When Jennifer was fifteen she began spending her summers working for her father. At an age when other girls were dating boys and going steady, Jennifer was absorbed in lawsuits and wills.
Boys wre interested in her, but she seldom went out. When her father would ask her why, she would reply, ' They're all so young, Papa.' She knew that one day she would marry a lawyer like her father.
On Jennifer's sixteenth birthday, her mother left town with the eighteen-year-old son of their next-door neightbor, and Jennifer's father quietly died. It took seven years for his heart to stop beating, but he was dead from the moment he heard the news about his wife.
The whole town knew and was sympathetic, and that, of course, made it worse, for Abnew Parker was a proud man. That was when he began to drink.
Jennifer did everything she could to comfort him but it was no use, and nothing was ever the same again.
The next year, when it came time to go to college, Jennifer wanted to stay home with her father, but he would not hear of it.
'We're going into partnership, Jennie,' he told her. 'You hurry up and get that law degree.'
When she was graduated she enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle to study law. During the first year of school, while Jennifer's classmates were flailing about in an impenetrable swamp of contracts, torts, property, civil procedure and criminal law, Jennifer felt as though she had come home.
She moved into the university dormitory and got a job at the Law Library.
Jennifer loved Seattle. On Sundays, she and an Indian student named Ammini Williams and a big, rawboned Irish girl named Josephine Collins would go rowing on Green Lake in the heart of the city, or attend the Gold Cup races on Lake Washington and watch the brightly colored hydroplanes flashing by.
There were great jazz clubs in Seattle, and Jennifer's favorite was Peter's Poop Deck, where they had crates with slabs of wood on top instead of tables.
Afternoons, Jennifer, Ammini and Josephine would meet at The Hasty Tasty, a hangout where they had the best cottage-fried potatoes in the world.
There were two boys who pursued Jennifer: a young, attractive medical student named Noah Larkin and a law student named Ben Munro; and from time to time Jennifer would go out on dates with them, but she was far too busy to think about a serious romance.
The seasons were crisp and wet and windy and it seemed to rain all the time. Jennifer wore a green-and-blue-plaid lumber jacket that caught the rain drops in its shaggy wool and made her eyes flash like emerals.
She walked through the rain lost in her own secret thoughts, secret knowing that all those she passed would file away the memory.
In spring the girls blossomed out in their bright cotton dresses. There were six fraternities in a row at the university, and the fraternity brothers would gather on the lawn and watch the girls go by, but there was something about Jennifer that made them feel unexpectedly shy. There was a special quality about her that was difficult for them to define, a feeling that she had already attained something for which they were still searching.
Every summer Jennifer went home to visit her father. He had changed so much. He was never drunk, but neither was the ever sober. He had retreated into an emotional fortress where nothing could touch him again.
He died when Jennifer was in her last term at law school. The town remembered, and there were almost a hundred people at Abnew Parker's funeral, people he had helped and advised and befriended over the years.
Jennifer did her grieving in private. She had lost more than a father. She had lost a teacher and a mentor.
After the funeral Jennifer returned to Seattle to finish school. Her father had left her less than a thousand dollars and she had to make a decision about what to do with her life. She knew that she coudl not return to Kelso to practice law, for there she would always be the little girl whose mother had run off with a teenager.
Because of her high scholastic average, Jennifer had interviews with a dozen top law firms around the country, and received several offers.
Warren Oakes, her criminal law professor, told her:'That's a real tribute, young lady. It's very difficult for a woman to get into a good law firm.'
Jennifer's dilemma was that she no longer had a home or roots. She was not certain where she wanted to live.
Shortly before graduation Jennifer's problem was solved for her. Professor Oakes asked her to see him after class.
'I have a letter from the Districtt Attorney's office in Manhattan, asking me to recommend my brightest graduate for his staff. Interested?'
New York. 'Yes, sir.' Jennifer was so stunned that the sanswer just popped out.
She flew to New York to take the bar examination, and returned to Kelso to close her father's law office. It was a bittersweet experience, filled with memories of the past and it seemed to Jennifer that she had grown up in that office.
She got a job as an assistant in the law library of the university to tide her over until she heard whether she had passed the New York bar examination.
'It's one of the toughest in the country,' Professor Oakes warned her.
But Jennifer knew.
She received her notice that she had passed and an offer from the New York District Attorney's office on the same day.
One week later, Jennifer was on her way east.
She found a tiny apartment (Spc W/U fpl gd loc nds sm wk, the ad said) on lower Third Avenue, with a fake fireplace in a steep fourth-floor walk-up. The exercise will do me good, Jennifer told herself. There were no mountains to climb in Manhattan, no rapids to ride.
The apartment consisted of a small living room with a couch that turned into a lumpy bed, and a tiny bathroom with a window that someone long ago had painted over with black paint, sealing it shut. The furniture looked like something that could have been donated by the Salvation Army.
Oh, well, I won't be living in this place long, Jennifer thought. This is just temporary until I prove myself as a lawyer.
That had been the dream. The reality aws that she had been in new York less than seventy-two house, had been thrown off the District Attorney's staff and was facing disbarment.
Jennifer quit reading newspapers and magazines and stopped watching television, because wherever she turned she saw herself.
She felt that people were staring at her on the street, on the bus, and at the market. She began to hide out in her tiny apartment, refusing to answer the telephone or the doorbell.
She thought about packing her suitcases and returning to Washington. She thought about gettig a job in some other field. She thought about suicide.
She spent long hours composing letters to District Attorney Robert Di Silva. Half the letters were scathing indictments of his insensitivity and lack of understanding.
The other half were abjecct apologies, with a plea for him to give her another chance. None of the letters were ever sent.
For the first time in her life Jennifer was overwhelmed with a sense of desperation. She had no friends in New York, no one to talk to.
She stayed locked in her apartment all day, and late at nigth she would slip out to walk the deserted streets of the city. The derelicts who peopled the night never accosted her.
Perhaps they saw their own loneliness and despair mirrored in her eyes.
Over and over, as she walked, Jennifer would envision the courtroom scene in her mind, always changing the ending.
A man detached himself from the group around Di Silva and hurried toward her. He was carrying a manila envelope.
The Chief wants you to give this to Stela.
Jennifer looked at him coolly. Let me see your identification, please.
The man panicked and ran.
A man detached himself from the group around Di Silva and hurried toward her. He was carrying a manila envelope.
The Chief wants you to give this to Stela. He thrust the envelope into her hands.
Jennifer opened the envelope and saw the dead canary inside. I'm placing you under arrest.
A man detached himself from teh group around Di Silva and hurried toward her. He was carrying a manila envelope. He walked past her to another young assistant district attorney and handed him the envelope. The Chief wants you to give this to Stela.
She could rewrite the scene as many times as she liked, ut nothing was changed. One foolish mistake and destroyed her. And yet - who said she was destroyed? The press? Di Silva?
She had not heard another work about her disbarment, and until she did she was still an attorney. There are law firms that made me offes, Jennifer told herself.
Filled with a new sense of resolve, Jennifer pulled out the list of the firms she had talked to and began to make a series of telephone calls.
None of the men she asked to speak to was in, and not one of her calls was returned. It took her four days to realize that she was the pariah of the legal profession.
The furor over the case had died down, but everyone still remembered.
Jennifer kept telephoning prospective emplyers, going from despair to indignation to frustration and back to despair again. She wondered what she was going to do with the rest of her life, and each time it came back to the same thing:All she wanted to do, the one thing she really cared about, was to practice law. She was a lawyer and , by God, until they stopped her she was going to find a way to practice her profession.
She began to make the rounds of Manhattan law offices. She would walk in unannounced, give her name to the recptionist and ask to see the head of personnel.
Occasionally she was granted an interview, but when she was, Jennifer had the feeling it was out of curosity. She was a freak and they wanted to see what she looked like in person. Most of the time she was simply informed there were no openings.
At the end of six weeks, Jennifer's money was running out. She would have moved to a cheaper apartment, but there were no cheaper apartments.
She began to skip breakfast and lunch, and to have dinner at one of the little coner dinettes where the food was bad but the prices were good. She discovered the Steak & Brew and Roast-and-Brew, where for a modest sum she was able to get a main course, all the salad she could eat, and all teh beer she could drink.
Jennifer hated beer, but it was filling.
When Jennifer had gone through her list of large law firms, she armed herself with a list of smaller firms and began to call on them, but her reputation had preceded her even there. She received a lot of propositions from interested males, but no job offers.
She was beginning to get desperate. All right, she thought defiantly, if no one wnats to hire me, I'll open my own law office. The catdch was that that took money. Ten thousand dollars, at least.
She would need enough for rent, telephone, a secretary, law books, a desk and chairs, stationery ... she could not even afford the stamps.
Jennifer had counted on her salary from the District attorney's office but that, of course, was gong forever. She could forget about severance pay. She had not been severed; she had been beheaded.
No, there was no way she could afford to open her own office, no matter hwo small. The answer was to find someone with whom to share offices.
Jennifer bought a copy of The New York Times and began to search through the want ads. It was not until she was near the bottom of the page that she came across a small advertisement that read: Wanted:/Prof man sh sm off w/2 oth/prof men. Rs rent.
The last two words appealed to Jennifer enormously. She was not a professional man, but her sex should not matter.
She tore out the ad and took the subway down to the address listed.
It was a dilapidated old building on lower Broadway. The office was on the tenth floor and the flaking sign on the door read:
ACE INVEST GA IONS
ROCKEFELLER COLLECTION AG NCY
Jennifer took a deep breath, opened the door and walked in. She was standing in the middle of a small, windowless office. There were three scarred desks and chairs crowded into the room, two of them occupied.
Seated at one of the desks was a bald, shabbily dressed, middle-aged man working on some papers.
against the opposite wall at another desk was a man in his early thirties. He had brick-red hair and bright blue eyes. His skin was pale and freckled.
He was dressed in tight-fitting jeans, a tee shirt, and white canvas shoes without socks. He was talking into the telephone.
'Don't worry, Mrs Desser, I have two of my best operatives working on your case. We should have news of your husband any day now. I'm afraid I'll have to ask you for a little more expense money... No don't bother mailing it. The mails are terrible. I'll be in your neighborhood this afternoon. I'll stop by and pick it up.'
He replaced the receiver and looked up and saw Jennifer.
He rose to his feet, smiled and held out a strong, firm hand. 'I'm Kenneth Bailey. And what can I do for you this morning?'
Jennifer looked around the small, airless room and said uncertainly, 'I - I came about your ad.'
'Oh.' There wa surprise in his blue eyes.
the bald-headed man was staring at Jennifer.
Kenneth Bailey said, 'This is Otto Wenzel. He's the Rockefeller Collection Agency.'
Jennifer nodded. 'Hello.' She turned back to Kenneth Bailey. ' And you're Ace Investigations?'
'That's right. What's your scam?'
'My -?'Then, realizing, 'I'm an attorney.'¡¡
Kenneth Bailey studied her skeptically. 'And you want to set up an office here?'
Jennifer looked around the dreary office again and visualized herself at the empty desk, between these two men.
'Perhaps I'll look a little further,' she said. 'I'm not sure -'
'Your rent would only be ninety dollars a month.'
'I could buy this building for ninety dollars a month,' Jennifer replied. She turned to leave.
'Hey, wait a minute.'
Kenneth Bailey ran a hand over his pale chin. 'I'll make a deal with you. Sixty. When your business gets rolling we'll talk about an increase.'
It was a bargain. Jennifer knew that she could never find any space elsewhere fo rthat amount. On the other hand , there was no way she could ever attract clients to this hellhole.
There was one other thing she had to consider. She did not have the sixty dollars.
'I'll take it,' Jennifer said.
'You won't be sorry,' Kenneth Bailey promised. 'When do you want to move your things in?'
Kenneth Bailey panted the sign on the door himself. It read:
ATTORNEY AT LAW
Jennifer studied the sign with mixed feelings. In her deepest depressions it had never occurred to her that she would have her name under that of a private investigator and a bill collector. Yet, as she looked at the faintly crooked sign, she could not help feeling a sense of pride. She was an attorney. The sign on the door proved it.
Now that Jennifer had office space, the only thing she lacked was clients.
Jennifer could no longer afford even the Steak & Brew. She made herself a breakfast of toast and coffee on the hot plate she had set up over the radiator in her tiny bathroom.
She ate no lunch and had dinner at Chock Full O'Nuts or Zum Zum, where they served large pieces of wurst, slabs of bread and hot potato salad.
She arrived at her sesk promptly at nine o'clock every morning, but there was nothing for her to do except listen to Ken Bailey and Otto wenzel talking on the telephone.
Ken Bailey's cases seemed to consist mostly of finding runaway spouses and children, and at first Jennifer was convinced that he wa a con man, making extravagant promises and collecting large advances.
But Jennifer quickly learned that Ken Bailey worked hard and delivered often. He was bright and he was clever.
Otto Wenzel was an enigma. His telephone range constantly. He would pick it up, mutter a few words into it. write something on a piece of paper and disppear for a few hours.
'Oscar does repo's,' Ken Bailley explained to Jennifer one day.
'Yeah. Collection companies use him to get back automobiles, television sets, washing machines - you name it.' He looked at Jennifer curiously.'You got any clients?'
'I have some things coming up,' Jennifer said evasively.
He nodded. 'Don't let it get you down. Anyone can make a mistake.'
Jennifer felt herself flushing. So he knew about her.
Ken Bailey was unwrapping a large, thick roast-beef sandwich.'Like some?'
It looked delicious. 'No, thanks,' Jennifer said firmly. ' I never eat lunch.'
She watched him bite into the juicy sandwich. He saw her expression and said, ' You sure you - ?'
'No, thank you. I - I have an appointment.'
Ken Bailey watched Jennifer walk out of the office and his face was thoughtful. He prided himself on his ability to read character but Jennifer Parker puzzled him. From the television and newspaper accounts he had been sure someone had paid this girl to destroy the case against Michael Moretti. after meeting Jennifer, Ken was less certain. He had been married once and had gong through hell, and he held women in low esteem.
She was beautiful, bright and very proud. Jesus! he said to himself. Don't be a fool! One murder on your conscience is enough.
Emma Lazarus was a sentimental idiot, Jennifer though. 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.'
Indeed! Anyone manufacturing welcome mats in New York would have gone out of business in an hour. In New York no one cared whether you lived or died. Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Jennifer told herself. But it was difficult. Her resources ahd dwindled ot withteen dollars, the rent on her apartment was overdue, and her share of the office rent was due in two days.
She did not have enough money to stay in New York any longer, and she did not have enough money to leave.
Jennifer had gone through the Yellow Pages, calling law offices alphabetically, trying to get a job.
She made the calls from telephone booths because she was too embarrassed to let Ken Bailey and Otto Wenzel hear her conversatins. The results were always the same. No one was interested in hiring her.
She would have to return to Kelso and get a job as a legal aide or as a secretary to one of her father's friends. How he would have hated that ! It was a bitter defeat, but there were no choices left. She would be returning home a failure.
The immediate problem facing her was transportation. She looked through the afternoon New York ost and found an ad for someone to share driving expenses to Seattle. There wa a telephone number and Jennifer called it. There was no answer. She decided she would try again in the morning.
The following day, Jennifer went to her office for the last time. Otto Wenzel was out, but Ken Bailey was there, on the telephone, as usual. He was wearing blue jeans and a veeneck cashmere sweater.
'I found your wife,' he was syaing. ' The only problem, pal, is that she doesn't want to go home... I know. Who can figure wommen out?... Okay. I'll tell you where she's staying and you can try to sweet-talk her into coming back.' He gave the address of a midtown hotel. 'My pleasure.' He hung up and swung around to face Jennifer. ' You're late this morning.'
'Mr Bailey, I - I'm afraid I 'm going to have to be leaving. I'll send you the rent money I owe you as soon as I'm able to.'
Ken Bailey leaned back in his chair and studied her. His look made Jennifer uncomfortable.
'Will that be all right?' she asked.
'Going back to washington?'
Ken Bailey said, ' Before you leave, would you do me a little favor? A lawyer friend's been buging me to serve some subpoenas for him, and I haven't got time. He pays twelve-fifty for each subpoena plus mileage. Would you help me out?'
One hour later Jennifer Parker found herself in the plush law offices of Peabody & Peabody. This was the kind of firm she had visualized working in one day, a full partner with a beautiful corner suite. She was escorted to a small back room where a harassed secretary handed her a stack of subpoenas.
'Here. Be sure to keep a record of your mieage. You do have a car, don't you?'
'No, I'm afraid I -'
'Well, if you use the subway, keep track of the fates.'
Jennifer spent the rest of the day delivering subpoenas in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens in a downpour. By eight o'clock that evening, she had made fifty dollars. She arrived back at her tiny hadapartment chilled and exhausted. But at least she had earned some money, her first since coming to New York.
And the secretary had told her there were plenty more subpoenas to serve. It was hard work, running all over town, and it was humiliating. She had had doors slammed in her face, had been cursed at, threatened, and propositioned twice.
the prospect of facig another day like that was dismaying; and yet, as long as she could remain in New York there was hope, no matter how faint.
Jennifer ran a hot bath and stepped into it, slowly sinking down into the tub, feeling the luxury of the water lapping =over her body. She ahd not realized how exhausted hse was. Every muscle seemed to ache.
She decided that what she needed was a good dinner to cheer her up. She would splurge. I'll treat myself to a real restaurant with tablecloths and napkins, Jennifer thought. Perhaps they'll have soft music and I'll hae a glass of white wine and -
Jennifer's thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. It was an alien sound. She had not had a single visitor since she had moved in two months earlier. It could only be the surly landlady about the overdue rent. Jennifer lay still, hoping she would go away, too weary to move.
The doorbell rang again. Reluctantly, Jennifer dragged herself from the warm but. She slipped on a terry-cloth robe and went to the door.
'Who is it?'
A masculine voice on the other side of the door said, ' Miss Jennifer Parker?'
'My name is Adam Warner. I'm an attorney.'
Puzzled, Jennifer put the chain on the door and opened it a crack. The man standing in the hall was in his middle thirties, tall and blond and broad-shouldered with gray-blue inquisitive eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses. He was dressed in a tailored suiut that must have cost a fortune.
'May I come in?' he asked.
Muggers did not wear tailored suits, Gucci shoes and silk ties. Nor did they that long, sensitive hands with carefully manicured nails.
'Just a moment.'
Jennifer unfastened the chain and opened the door. As Adma warner walked in, Jennifer glanced his eyes, and winced. He looked like a man who was used to better things.
'What can I do for you, Mr Warner?'
even as she spoke, Jennifer suddenly knew why he was there, and she was filled with a quick sense of excitement. It was about one of the jobs she had applied for! She wished that she had on a nice, dark blue tailored robe, that her hair was combed, that -
Adam warner said, ' I'm a member of the Disciplinary Committee of the New York Bar Association, Miss Parker. District Attorney Robert Di Silva and Judge Lawrence Waldman have requested the Appellate Division to begin disbarment proceedings against you.'
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