Disclaimer: Own nothing and no one, except this setting.
Parts: Two Parts, Seven Chapters. COMPLETE!
AU: NYC AU
Description: 100 Center Street, Criminal Court House, Manhattan--three years before the events in Equitable Action. Two lawyers meet for the first time….
A/N: Apologies for the esoteric nature of some of this. I tried not to use legalese, but I may be a bit blind, you know? And we really do take oaths, not to mention a national professional responsibility exam, honest!
A/N 2: Believe it or
not, this is mostly consistent with the names I used in EA all those years
CHAPTER FOUR: SUBBASEMENT CONFESSIONS
Ezra stared at him for a moment, then, slowly, his lips lifted into a truly grateful smile. Josiah just gave him a sincere nod back. Tentatively, then more confidently, Ezra walked back into the other room and looked down at the bench. Josiah followed him and magnanimously gestured to the hard wooden slats.
Ezra did, his back straight, clearly still uncomfortable.
"Now talk," Josiah commanded, sitting down next to him.
Ezra took a deep breath, looked at Josiah, then looked away.
"Lester Duvall," he said, blinking his eyes slowly, "is guilty." As he said it, his shoulders slumped, as if a massive burden had just lifted.
Josiah's eyebrows perked up, and he couldn't resist a small smile at the simple statement.
"Hell, son, I know that. So does the D.A.'s office, the judge and almost everyone else in this city. The only people who don't are that jury you so carefully picked."
Ezra's jaw had tensed a little at the flippant response, sharp eyes catching the other man askance. When Josiah was finished, he sighed.
"First," Ezra frowned a little, "please don't call me 'son.' Second," he swallowed, ignoring the strange look that crossed Josiah's face at his first statement, "You misunderstand me." He pursed his lips briefly, then shook his head, "I don't just know my client is guilty, Mr. Sanchez, in the same way that you and Meyers and the rest of the city know he's guilty…." He swallowed, his eyes now focused on a small pale yellow tile with a black scratch on it, the flaw pulling his attention. "I know he's guilty."
Josiah's brow furrowed darkly, taking the meaning. "Are you saying he confessed to you?"
"Not to me, no, and not in some many words," Ezra replied, the disgust in his tone clear. "Duvall is not that stupid." He looked at Josiah more clearly, "I overheard a conversation he had with Farron."
"The managing partner at your firm."
Ezra nodded. "Duvall didn't come right out and say he had killed them, but that is what he implied, with all the subtlety of a Will Farrell comedy." Ezra blinked slowly again, muscles rippling across his jaw. "Hell," he cursed, disgust lining his features, "I even heard them laughing about it. As if it were some big joke. Duvall was so certain, so confident that we would get him off. How could anyone be that arrogant? It's a murder trial for Christ's sake!" His free left hand slapped the bench, and his face winced a little at the pain he'd caused himself.
"You're still his lawyer," Josiah cautioned lightly.
"So they tell me," Ezra agreed darkly, blowing on the stinging palm of his left hand before resting it on his thigh.
"If you're so certain, and so upset about it, why don't you withdraw from the case?"
Ezra didn't answer that question, continuing to stare intently at the tile, as if it held the secrets to the universe inside the flaw.
"The worst part," the younger lawyer spoke, as if Josiah had never asked his question, "is that I'm facing Meyers." He sighed, shaking his head, "Why couldn't it be Travis? Or Liang? Or Weir? Why did the prosecutor have to be Meyers? What was the D.A. thinking?"
"Meyers had the seniority and the experience," Josiah noted simply.
"Meyers is…is….!" Ezra cut himself off, clamping his teeth down with an audible click. He leaned off the wall, his left hand gripping into a fist as he shifted his weight forward on the bench, demonstrating both his irritation with Meyers and his frustration with the situation at the same time. Finally, instead of finishing his statement, he just shook his head. "It shouldn't be Meyers. Christ, the man shouldn't even be a lawyer! How the hell he's lasted so long I'll never know."
Josiah didn't respond. To be honest, he completely agreed with the man next to him. Meyers lost more cases for the D.A.'s office than was healthy—he was terrible at the job. Such a liability should have been cut years ago, and yet, somehow, Meyers survived. Still, Josiah wasn't going to admit that out loud, especially since Meyers was, sort of, a friend of his. What would be the point?
"Okay," Josiah shrugged, "so Meyers may not be the best that the DA's office has, but that doesn't mean he—"
"See, here's the thing," Ezra was staring at the shower room floor now, finding more flaws in the cracked tiles to trace with his eyes. "I…I've been feeding Meyers with information."
Josiah nearly fell off the bench, his surprise was that great. "What?!"
"I've given him more than half the evidence he's got. And more…many of which are things he still hasn't introduced as evidence. I gave him the name of Duvall's mistress, who was scared to death when I talked to her about what Duvall might do to her, but I haven't seen any mention of her in the files. I've given him the name of Duvall's gun teacher and the person who sold him the gun. I also gave Meyers the name of two other neighbors. Neither were home the night of the shooting, but both have been witness to acts of violence by Duvall against his wife, acts which had increased in ferocity recently. But he hasn't even been to see them…."
Josiah was still several steps behind, still stuck on the fact that Ezra had admitted to violating the rules of professional responsibility and to behavior that was blatantly criminal. The lawyer had violated the most important oath of his profession….He realized now that this was why Ezra had insisted on becoming his client. Josiah would have been compelled to go to the disciplinary committee, and they would have pressed charges. Disbarment would be the least of Ezra's worries if this was known.
Josiah's teeth were gritted, trying not to show his disapproval, "And how, exactly, have you been providing this information?"
Ezra shrugged, as if the answer wasn't important. "Manila envelopes under his door, delivered by messengers who have no idea who I am. Crude, but effective."
"And your name isn't on the envelopes anywhere?"
"Of course not."
Josiah nodded, swearing inwardly at himself for, once more, agreeing to take Ezra as a client. He could withdraw, he supposed, but he still couldn't reveal any of this conversation to anyone.
"Why, Ezra?" he demanded finally. "Why risk your career…your freedom…for this one case? You know what you've done is reprehensible! You should have withdrawn!" He grimaced, ignoring the way Ezra flinched slightly at his angry tone. "Surely, you've represented criminals before, knowing they were guilty? Hell, even in my limited knowledge of your career, I know you've defended gun companies, drug traffickers, big tobacco—"
"But," Standish interrupted coldly, "never someone like Duvall."
"So?" Josiah leaned forward, trying to see more of the younger man's face. "What makes Duvall so different?"
Ezra blinked slowly again. It seemed to be his way of gathering his thoughts before he spoke. And when he did speak again, it was softly.
"Because I have never defended anyone as…inhuman…as Duvall."
That confused the public defender, and he waited a second before repeating the word.
A single nod. "The people I've defended, even the worst of them, were still always just men and women who were seduced by money, or love, or power, or something else that I could understand. And they were always terrified, beneath it all, of what would happen to them or to their loved ones. But Duvall…." He trailed off shaking his head.
Josiah looked down. He'd obviously defended a great deal of scum in his lifetime, but never someone like Duvall. The rich didn't use or need public defenders.
Ezra spoke in almost a monotone now, "Duvall didn't just kill his wife, Josiah." The green eyes turned to focus on the older man, "He tortured her."
That got Josiah looking up again. "What?"
Ezra's fist unlocked as he explained, his voice soft still, "I had the feeling Farron wasn't telling me everything about Duvall. Their relationship is too familiar. So," his eyes narrowed slightly, "I broke into Farron's office and checked his safe…." He ignored the lifted eyebrows the other man gave him, continuing, "I found his file on Duvall. Farron had…. They are old friends. Farron's file on Duvall is extensive."
"Including a number of medical files."
"Yes. And…" Ezra paused again, then took a deep breath. "About his wife."
"His wife? You mean her medical history?"
"That, and," a tiny smile graced Ezra's face, "her autopsy report."
"Her autopsy…," Josiah frowned. "So? It's part of evidence. I mean, the M.E. is going to testify, isn't he?"
"No," Ezra's eyes were glassy, "It's not in evidence. And yes, he is, but," the jaw flexed, "he's going to lie."
"Ezra," the older lawyer leaned forward, so he could see more of the man's face. "What are you talking about?"
"The court file says she was beaten and then shot. That's not true. She was shot," Ezra shifted his eyes to meet Josiah's, "then beaten. The autopsy in Farron's files states that cause of death was a gun shot wound to the chest, but death wasn't instantaneous, as stated in the file submitted to court." Ezra's eyes were terrible to behold, "She was beaten as she bled to death, Josiah. It took her at least half an hour to die, and Duvall wailed on her face and body for a good long time while she did." He leaned forward, still staring hard at Josiah, "Now do you see why I need to stop him?"
Josiah just stared at him, his eyes wide open.
Ezra nodded, recognizing the same shocked expression he had worn when he first read the file. "Fact was, he beat her repeatedly. He put her in the hospital twice, once in near critical condition." He licked his teeth, taking another deep breath before continuing, "And she wasn't the first one."
Josiah didn't hide the puzzlement, and so Ezra explained.
"He was married before."
"Lord," Josiah's eyebrows rose, "you mean an ex-wife?"
"Yes. And he did the same to her."
"Oh my God," the older lawyer breathed. "You mean he—"
"No. No, he," Ezra shook his head, "he didn't kill her. Just put her in the hospital for six months. She ended up permanently disfigured, and so he paid her off to get rid of her—an obscene amount of money. Changed her name, sent her away. I don't know much about her, except her story and…where she is now. I've been…I've been…." He shook his head, looking away to stare into space again. "Anyway, point is, I copied the information. All of it—the autopsy, about the hospitalization of his dead wife, about the ex-wife, about everything. I put in an envelope…." He trailed off.
"And given it to Meyers?"
"No. Not yet."
Josiah stared at him, his eyes narrowed slightly. "Why not?"
Ezra's jaw flexed, and he looked at the other man, steeling himself by meeting the other man's eyes as evenly as possible.
"Because," he licked his lips, "Because I don't trust him anymore."
Josiah recoiled at that information. Ezra saw it and blushed a little, but didn't lower his eyes from Josiah's. The naked honesty in them was making the public defender increasingly uncomfortable.
"I found other things as well, Josiah, when I looked in Farron's safe. His files are…impressive. I only saw a small piece of them, but it looks like he has files on everyone." He shook his head, "And it made me wonder if he had one on Meyers. I was going to check, but I ran out of time—was interrupted by a security guard. But though I haven't seen it, I'm sure it's there."
Josiah shook his head, "Ezra, that's one hell of an assumption."
"Perhaps." Ezra looked away.
"You don't know."
"No. Just…some of the information I gave him, he should be using. But he hasn't. I don't understand why. Unless…of course, Meyers really is just an idiot. A bad lawyer. In which case…." He shook his head.
Josiah frowned, the statement reminding him again why Ezra had come to him in the first place. It also brought up the question that Josiah had first asked…and that the younger man had not answered yet.
"Look, Ezra, even if your reasons for wanting to stop Duvall are good, that still doesn't excuse you, and you know it. Right now, you are still his lawyer. You should have withdrawn from the case the moment you felt you couldn't defend Duvall. And while I know why you did it, providing that information was still a breach of everything we are supposed to—"
Josiah stared at him, then tilted his head, "No, you don't. Not if you still breached your—"
"I said," Ezra repeated, speaking through clenched teeth, "I know."
Josiah stared at him a moment, then nodded, "Fine. Then why didn't you withdraw? Why are you still defending him?"
"Because they won't let me withdraw."
"Farron and Duvall. I went to both of them. Neither will let me drop the case. They know I'm the best," he said it like it was a curse, "and they both told me they wouldn't accept either my withdrawal or my resignation."
Josiah's jaw steeled, "Damn." He frowned, "Still, you could still go to the judge."
That surprised Josiah, his eyebrows lifting in surprise, "You did?"
"He asked why I needed to withdraw. When I told him it was because I did not believe I could defend Duvall effectively, he asked why. When I did—without, of course, being able to reveal to him what I just revealed to you about Duvall's background—he told me it wasn't good enough. I admit, I've never tried to withdraw from a case before, so I may have gone about it all wrong, but the harder I pressed and the harder I insisted, the more the judge rebuffed me. I left feeling even worse than I did when I entered his chambers." Ezra shook his head, dragging is left hand down his face.
Josiah looked down, "Oh."
"So, I decided…I'd run. I'd just disappear. Face charges of withdrawing without leave, accept disbarment even…the end of my career. But then," he licked his lips, "I realized that…Duvall would just find someone else. And he'd probably still get off. And I didn't want him to get off. So," Ezra looked off to the side, away from Josiah, "since I decided I was screwed either way, I started providing information to Meyers. Information that couldn't obviously be from Farron's files, so Farron wouldn't think it was me."
"I see," Josiah intoned, his voice thick.
"And, yet," Ezra snorted, a half laugh, "somehow, I'm still winning."
"Yes," Josiah noted softly. "You are." Any jealousy that might have colored that statement was gone. "Why, exactly? Why not tone it down a little?"
Ezra shook his head, looking up at the ceiling, "Damn it! If Meyers would only use the information I provided him! I am aware it's not conclusive, but—"
"Even if he did, you'd talk circles around him."
"Well," Ezra sighed, "yes…probably."
"But you don't have to. You could…do a less than perfect job, you know."
Ezra continued to stare at the ceiling, not responding.
"But if you can't for some reason," Josiah licked his lips, "maybe…."
Ezra lowered his gaze, and turned to look at Josiah, his eyes looking for salvation. Josiah grimaced.
"Well," Josiah shrugged, "you've gone this far, Ezra. Provided a lot of information to Meyers. At this point, adding to the pot is not going to make it any worse….right?"
The tiniest smile lit at the edge of Ezra's lips, self-deprecating and amused at the same time. He knew he liked Josiah Sanchez.
Josiah pushed on, "And if Meyers is corrupt, which, I suppose, is possible, so what? He tells Farron, and Farron—"
"Has me killed."
Josiah nearly choked at the statement, and had to cough a little. Ezra was deadly serious.
"Killed? What are you talking about?"
"He'll know I've been in his files, Josiah. He'll know what I've seen. He can't let me get away with that."
Josiah's eyes narrowed, "And what have you seen? Besides the information on Duvall, I mean."
Ezra shook his head, "Enough to know that he has had people killed before, for less."
Josiah stared at him a moment, looking for the lie, the exaggeration.
All he saw was a scared young man, who utterly believed what he had just said.
"And I only saw one quarter of his files, Josiah. But some of the names in there…the information….the paid off M.E. is just the tip of the iceberg."
"Yeah." Ezra looked away again, leaning back against the wall. "I think…I don't know what to do anymore. I feel like Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 1919 World Series. I can't win this case, Josiah, because I can't let that man get off. And I can't lose it, because Farron will know why. If I do a less than excellent job…or if that information about the autopsy gets into the trial, he'll know. And he'll kill me before….I just…I don't know what to do." He closed his eyes. "So I broke a mirror," he chuckled softly. "Maybe…I should do more than that. If I'm in the hospital, they can't—"
"Don't talk that way."
Ezra closed his mouth, not replying to the statement. Josiah stared at the young man's profile, seeing the pain etched in the lines around his eyes. It made Ezra seem older. And Josiah felt oddly younger in comparison.
For a few minutes, neither man spoke. They just sat there with their thoughts. Ezra, probably wondering if he could walk in front of a cross town bus without dying, and Josiah thinking about….
The older lawyer frowned, looking down at his hands.
Slowly, surely, thoughts coalesced in his mind.
"I should leave," Ezra said finally, opening his eyes. "I need to get back. Farron will be looking for me. Tomorrow we—"
Josiah interrupted him. "You say you think Meyers is taking a pay off?"
Ezra sighed, closing his eyes, expecting a tirade of righteous indignation again.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Sanchez," he replied, trying to keep his voice calm, "but I would be a fool to think otherwise. I provided information to him that should be in his brief, witnesses that should be in the list…." He swallowed, opening his eyes but keeping them lowered, away from the other man's scrutiny, "I realize he is a friend of yours, sir, but I can not otherwise explain—"
"How long do you think it's been going on?"
Ezra hesitated a second, unable to hide his surprise at the question. He'd been expecting Josiah to defend the A.D.A., to argue that he must be mistaken, and that he should go ahead and provide the information. Instead….
"Because," Josiah added softly, not lowering his intense gaze, "I have a feeling it's been a long time."
Ezra turned, staring openly at the man next to him. He found himself staring at a man who was disappointed, but not in Ezra or himself, but in someone he had considered a friend.
"It makes sense," Josiah sighed, his shoulders drooping a little more as he leaned back and away from the younger man. "Some of the larger cases he lost," he shook his head, "I often wondered how he could have bungled them so badly."
"Yes, well," Ezra tried not to let the relief he felt at being believed show too much in his voice, "I don't think he's the only one. Although, at the time, I wasn't looking for Meyers' name, when I was rooting through Farron's files…." he trailed off, licking his lips.
"You found other names?" Josiah's voice had steeled. "Other than the M.E. of course."
Ezra just nodded, "Judges, bailiffs, cops, politicians, other lawyers, and, of course, criminals….and that was just in the files marked A-E." He gave a weak smile, then shook his head again. "It's frightening."
"But," Josiah mused then, a strange new tone in his voice, "potentially useful."
That got the other man's attention in another way. Ezra's back straightened on the bench, and he found himself looking at Josiah speculatively, real hope in his eyes for the first time. He tilted his head.
"Useful?" His eyebrow lifted, "What are you thinking?"
"If Farron has that many people that he can lean on, or bribe, then," Josiah quirked a smile, "he's probably had to keep records of what he's paid and when."
Ezra's eyes narrowed.
Josiah continued, "Farron couldn't keep all that in his head. Paying off a few people, that's nothing. Paying off a number as large as you've suggested? You'd need to have that written down. Why else have the amount he's paid the M.E. in Duvall's files?"
"And Meyers might be one of them."
Josiah nodded, "And maybe, we can kill two birds with one stone."
"How?" Ezra's eyes narrowed.
"You don't just want to withdraw, son, you want Duvall to pay for what he's done. Correct?"
The other man just nodded.
"And you want to stay out of jail and keep your license…not to mention, save your life…."
Ezra just raised his eyebrows, giving a look that said, "that's obvious."
"Then you need something to hold over Farron, to prevent him from continuing to protect Duvall, and to stop him from harming you. And," he shrugged, "something to get rid of Meyers."
"What are you thinking?"
"Steal Farron's files. All of them."
Ezra blinked, "All of them?"
"Copy them, hide them, and use them as your lever."
Ezra looked away, his eyes darting around as he considered the import of the other man's suggestion.
"Once you have them safely stowed, tell Farron you've got them. Tell him that you are going to provide the information about Duvall to someone you trust—and that you are going to withdraw from the case. If he tries to threaten you, say you'll go public with all the files, and that, if you are harmed in any way, that you will make sure that they are delivered to every major newspaper on the east coast, not to mention the FBI. You have contacts there, I presume?"
Ezra just nodded dumbly, watching Josiah intently.
"But don't tell Duvall," the older lawyer cautioned. "And don't let Farron tell him either."
"You can't use Farron's files against Duvall in the same way. If Duvall finds out you've been providing information to Meyers, he'll seek to have you disbarred and arrested first, and any information you provide will be tainted. He'll say you found it out through illegal means and shed doubt on their authenticity…."
"I get it," Ezra nodded.
"When the information about the autopsy and Duvall's ex-wife come to light, and is used against Duvall, he might realize it was you, but Farron won't be able to tell him that, and so he won't be able to go after you. He won't have any evidence."
"And I can withdraw."
"Yes. Though…obviously, it will be without leave."
Ezra nodded, "What if, uh…what if…I don't want to withdraw. What if I can get Farron to fire me, which shouldn’t be hard," he laughed without humor, "and—"
"Would Duvall fire you? If he doesn't know why you were fired? You're still you, Ezra."
Ezra stared at the floor, "I don't know."
"You can't keep defending him, Ezra. One way or another, you need to withdraw. If Duvall doesn't fire you, and the judge won't either, then you must withdraw without leave. Claim that you can't defend him knowing what you know about him, now that the autopsy has come to light. I will defend you, and I'll do my best to keep you from losing your license."
Ezra's eyes softened, and, quietly, he started to laugh.
"Well," he shook his head, "I guess it's less painful than stepping out in front of a bus."
"It is." Josiah patted his leg, "It'll be all right, son. I promise."
Ezra looked down at the hand, watched as it lifted away and then looked over at Josiah. He'd called him "son" again…but this time he didn't object. For some reason, he found he didn't mind it, for the first time he could remember. Instead, he smiled.
"Josiah," his eyes smiled as well, which caused his whole face to look suddenly much younger, "thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," the older lawyer said. "Let's just see if it works first."
Ezra's smile just broadened. Then, slowly, it faded.
"But, who do I give the information to, if I can't give it to Meyers, and I'm not sure," he inhaled a quick breath, "that I trust the D.A. himself either?"
"Leave that to me," Josiah said. "There are still a large number of honest, good people in this City, and I know a few I would trust with my life. They'll help us, trust me."
Ezra nodded, then smiled again, "At this point, Josiah, I don't think you need to question whether or not I trust you anymore. I really don't have any choice in the matter."
Josiah just smiled back, "Well, it's a start."
CHAPTER FIVE: HEADLINES
The next morning, A.D.A. Stephen Travis found a package sitting on his desk in his office. Frowning, he picked up the manila envelope, looking for any distinguishing marks or evidence of the name of the messenger service that had delivered it. Finding none, he grabbed a letter opener and slit the manila open.
Tilting the package down, he let the heavy file fall into his hand, frowning a little as he turned it over and saw the name on the lip.
"Andrew Meyers, Assistant District Attorney."
Frowning more now, he sat down behind his desk and flipped the file open.
Fifteen minutes later, he was on the phone with the District Attorney and the Attorney General, his face red with fury at discovering a snake in the woodwork. Derek Liang and Elizabeth Weir paced in his office, the two young prosecutors both flipping through pieces of the same file Travis had already run through, similar expressions of shock in their faces. Travis met their eyes from time to time, nodding. Fact was, none of them had really liked Meyers…now they knew why.
Less than an hour later, the judge was forced to call a recess in the Duvall case, and, not much later, a mistrial, as A.D.A. Meyers was arrested for soliciting and accepting bribes.
Ezra Standish, the picture of confused innocence, tried to explain to his client that it was only a small setback. That they would be back on track with a new trial quickly….
And the evening edition of the New York Post ran a new headline, together with a large color picture of Meyers in cuffs:
"CORRUPTION ON CENTRE STREET – Evidence of bribery rocks the District Attorney's Office."
Later that same day, a captain at a precinct on the upper west side was handed a file from two of the City's best detectives – a homicide detective named Larabee and a vice detective named Wilmington, both of whom had been delivered identical packages concerning the Duvall case. Neither would tell him who had been the source of the information. And, inside the package, the captain found the real autopsy report for Duvall's wife. He was dialing the D.A.'s office even before finishing the file, and yelling orders for someone to go and arrest the M.E.
The already strained D.A.'s office suddenly got even busier.
And the papers got a new front page news story for the next morning, to share with the corruption story, sending circulation through the roof. The Daily News used pictures of Duvall, his wife, and a partial copy of the fake autopsy report beneath its large print headline.
"DUVALL WIFE'S AUTOPSY REVEALED AS FRAUD – Medical Examiner on case arrested for forging results."
That same morning, Ezra Standish explained to Lester Duvall that he had quit Farron & Lightfoot, LLP, due to irreconcilable differences. He also mentioned that, if Duvall wished to fire him, he would understand. He refused to give Duvall an explanation, telling him only that it was personal.
Duvall, still reeling from reading about the autopsy report and the arrest of Meyers, immediately called his old friend Farron. For the first time, the great Lester Duvall didn't know what to do.
But he got no answer. Apparently, Mr. Farron had suddenly decided to go on vacation. To the Himalayas. He would be unreachable for two weeks.
Frustrated, Duvall commanded Ezra to stay on the case while he used all the sources at his disposal to find the managing partner.
Not far away, at the New York Times, a reporter was opening another manila envelope that had been sitting on her desk when she returned from lunch. Puzzled, she sat down with the manila folder and started to read, pushing the blonde hair away from her face as she did so.
The following day's NYT headline was a wonder to behold:
"DUVALL EX-WIFE FOUND – Former Mrs. Duvall paid to keep silent."
Ezra sat back in his apartment, smiling at the front page of the paper. Sipping his tea, he looked up at the clock and took stock of the time.
Sighing, he stood up and prepared to go meet the judge.
One way or another, he was washing his hands of Duvall today.
Reporters mobbed Court Street, looking for photo ops. Lester Duvall did not disappoint, exploding at his attorney, the now infamous Ezra Standish, who quietly took the abuse heaped upon him. Ezra had quit the case, leaving without either leave from the court or from his client. And Duvall was furious. Accusations of leaking information to the D.A., the cops and the newspapers were clearly heard and taken down. Standish, of course, denied it all.
Finally, the linebacker-sized Duvall decked him, leaving Ezra sprawled on the sidewalk with a bloody nose.
The attorney's picture, staring up furiously at his former client, blood trailing down his upper lip, was on the front page of all of the major papers the next day, next to a picture of the large Duvall being dragged away by the NYPD, still obviously screaming abuse at his former lawyer.
"STANDISH QUITS. DUVALL CLAIMS CONSPIRACY."
By week's end, several things had occurred.
Duvall had hired new lawyers to defend him in his murder trial, using a different firm, since Farron had never reappeared. Duvall also filed a multi-million dollar suit against Farron & Lightfoot LLP, which many thought he would lose. Meanwhile, new briefs were filed in Duvall's case, and A.D.A. Derek Liang was the new prosecutor, the young man being next in line for Meyer's senior position among the staff. His witness list was twice as long as Meyer's had been, and plenty of new evidence had been documented and prepared for entry into the court files.
Several arrests, including a handful of cops, the medical examiner on the Duvall case, and former A.D.A. Andrew Meyers, were all consistent front page news….along with the arrest of Duvall's former defense attorney, Ezra Standish. They were all charged with intent to obstruct justice, to wihthold evidence pertinent to the case, and for conspiracy.
Ezra was the only one released for lack of evidence. His lawyer, Josiah Sanchez, worked tirelessly for the young man.
Many thought Sanchez a gullible fool, defending someone who was obviously scum.
In the end, Ezra only had the disciplinary hearing before the bar association to prepare for. There was a strong push for his license to be revoked, and that he be permanently barred from practicing.
Not that it mattered. No firm in town would touch Standish with a ten foot pole now. Despite his reputation as a great lawyer, he was now far more famous for his part in the fall of Lester Duvall.
Only one man didn't give up on the young lawyer. And Josiah Sanchez never regretted his decision for a moment.
The best news, though, was that the newspapers in New York City enjoyed a surge of profits they hadn't seen since Martha Stewart was arrested. It was a good week for headlines.
CHAPTER SIX: PUTTING THINGS BACK IN ORDER
Ezra sat in Josiah's small office on Thomson Street, in a tiny corner of the Legal Aid offices, wondering a little at the chaos. The room was about the size of a large linen closet, with a smallish desk, an ugly office chair that had seen better days, the wooden chair Ezra currently sat in, and reams and reams of paper. It was the most disorganized, cluttered office he had ever seen, and it smelled a little…well, rank would be the polite term. The boxes of Chinese food, thankfully empty, were propped up next to empty pizza boxes, black plastic sushi containers, and several dozen scrunched up brown bags typically handed out by delis. It was if the man never threw anything away. The first time he had been here, he had actually questioned the man's sanity—Well, to be honest, he'd been questioning that since Josiah had agreed to take him on as a client last week—but he'd sort of gotten used to it now.
He'd been "hiding" in Josiah's office since Friday, afraid to go anywhere but home, and then only late at night. Not that he didn't believe that Josiah had been right—that Farron wouldn't take the risk as long as he had those files—but between Farron's threats and the reporters….
Fact was, he felt safe here. Which was odd. He'd never felt safe anywhere but the disused shower room under 100 Center Street and his apartment at the Westmoreland, and that was because the shower room was hidden and the Westmoreland was a fortress. This was a dingy office on the fifth floor of an open building, where random people came and went all the time. Yet, because it was Josiah Sanchez's office….
It was a new feeling for the young man. He'd never known anyone like Josiah, someone he had trusted implicitly the moment he had met the man. It was disconcerting, and so unlike him, that he wondered if he had been blinded by his desperation. But now, as he looked back, he was glad for his decision. He'd acted impulsively for the first time that he could remember, and…it had worked.
On Sunday, his second day hiding in this office, he did realize that Josiah had a sort of system. The piles meant something to the older lawyer, though Ezra really had no clue how it was possible. Still, whenever Josiah needed to find something—a volume of McKinney's forms, a copy of the Rules of Civil Procedure, a telephone number, a pencil—then the big man would just put his hand down and, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, would pull exactly what he needed out of the paper mountains. The books were the most impressive—Ezra had looked, and hadn't been able to find them anywhere inside the man's desk. Perhaps it really was magic.
The image made Ezra smile as he scrolled down the brief Josiah had written for him to review on his laptop, absently correcting grammatical errors here and there. Josiah the magician. Seemed oddly fitting, considering all the rabbits the older lawyer had pulled out of the hat for him this week. And if he still ended up losing his license, well, if it meant Duvall went to jail for life, it would be worth it. No question. Of course, he knew that Duvall's new law firm was filing a suit today against him claiming he was complicit in the leaking of evidence against Duvall to the D.A. and the press. That could mean a jail sentence. Would it still be worth it, if he went to jail?
Ezra's jaw flexed, his hands lifting up off the keys for a moment. He wished he could say yes. But he was not that strong. He didn't want to go to jail.
He just wasn't that heroic.
Pursing his lips, Ezra sucked in a deep breath, then let it out slowly.
Looking up, he looked at the manila envelope on the top of one of Josiah's piles. It had arrived this morning, Monday, dropped off by a clerk. Josiah had thanked the bookish boy, placed it to one side, then disappeared to talk with some friends of his on the review board about Ezra's situation.
His fingers curled, and he lifted them away from the laptop. A moment later, he lifted the computer off his lap and placed it atop one of the many piles on Josiah's desk. Standing, he stretched then leaned over to look more carefully at the manila envelope. Transcripts, he realized, recognizing the stationary. He turned it over, and read the file name. People v. Theodore Madison—decided last Tuesday. Josiah had apparently been the boy's defense lawyer. Ezra frowned, guessing that the boy had been convicted.
A moment later, he had it opened and was reading through the case. After all, transcripts were public records, it wasn't like he was reading the man's mail or anything….
Josiah sighed, moving through the halls to his small office like a man half asleep. It had been a long day. Everyone he spoke with had been plain—Ezra was going to be hung out to dry by the Bar Association. He'd deserted his client when Duvall had needed him the most, and that had to be punished. Plus, everyone had heard about the suit Duvall's new lawyers filed today against Standish. If he had, in fact, been breaching client confidentiality in order to intentionally harm his client, then….
It was going to be a long, ugly fight.
Worse, Josiah had been warned by several members of the Board that the Office of Legal Aid would not support his representation of Ezra, and that, in fact, if Josiah continued in his representation…that they would be consider it a breach of his duty here. Josiah's surprise must have show on his face, because they quickly tried to explain. Ezra could obviously afford to pay for his defense, they said; he didn't need Josiah, and Josiah's time could be better spent serving an indigent client. After all, that's what Legal Aid was for, and what Josiah was paid for. And, while it was true that a number of public defenders also had private practices…well, Ezra also brought publicity the Office didn't like, the stain of corruption, and it was something they could not condone or afford. Fact was, they thought that Ezra was trying to use Josiah and Legal Aid as a shield—the sinner hiding behind the saint's robes—and Josiah needed to extricate himself and them before they were all brought down with the boy. So, veiled threats about Josiah's job and his pension were floated about, with clear demands that he tell Ezra to find someone else to represent him or face the consequences….
Well, Josiah had never given up on a client yet. He knew Ezra would not hesitate to let him go if the older lawyer simply asked, but he wasn't going to.
Because Ezra wasn't just a client.
Josiah did not quite understand it, but he felt a real kinship with the younger man. As if he'd found the yin to his yang. For years, he'd been seeking a sort of destiny for himself, for he'd often felt that he was somehow meant to be a part of something more than what he was, and for the first time he felt…he was finally on the right road.
In other words, he'd told the Board members to stuff it.
And if they followed through on their threats, which he was pretty sure they wouldn't, he'd sue them.
The thought made him smile.
Perhaps a little of Ezra was rubbing off on him already.
Straightening his shoulders, he strode a little more confidently towards the one lit office. All the others were dark, it being well after 9:00 at night. He knew Ezra was inside, probably working on his brief still, or working on drafting his response to whatever Duvall had filed today, or working on some other aspect of his case.
Walking a little more loudly, to announce his presence, he reached the door and knocked lightly before entering.
"It's me," he said, pushing the door open. "I have some…." He stopped when he found Ezra sitting on the floor, a highlighter in his mouth, a red felt tip pen behind one ear, a pencil in his left hand, and….
Court transcript sheets all around him.
Josiah's mouth fell open, spotting the name at the top….Madison.
Ezra was staring up at him with completely innocent eyes, and he pulled the highlighter out of his mouth. He tried to smile, but it fell when Josiah didn't smile back.
"What are you doing?" Josiah demanded, walking around the younger lawyer to look over his shoulder. Ezra had written notes in the margins, highlighted points and put red marks next to others. A yellow legal pad with notes in both pencil and red pen on it was to his right.
"Um, hold that thought," Ezra said, finishing whatever it was he was writing in pencil on the transcript with his left hand. Then, switching the pencil to his right hand, he quickly wrote something on the legal pad. The pencil went back to his left hand, and he looked back up at Josiah. "Sorry, just wanted to get that down."
"I repeat," Josiah said, a little less kindly, "What are you doing?"
"Oh, well, um," Ezra looked around him, "Your transcript came. And I've…well, I've been….you know, you've got a very good case for appeal here. The boy was innocent, right? Well, I found at least four legal errors that the court made, not the least of which was in the instructions to the jury. You got screwed, though you probably didn't notice, because you were against Russell Staines, and he tends to railroad judges if they don't shut him down from the get go. He had this one snuffed from the start—she just isn't that good of a judge." He flipped the pages, "I mean, look here. She didn't allow you to bring in prior acts for the girl. What the hell was that? She had clear priors that went to the girl's credibility as a witness and the judge didn't allow—"
"They weren't recent enough."
"Ah, see? There you go—that's old thinking, the sort in which Staines excels. But there have been some recent cases where—"
"Wait, wait," Josiah stopped him, "you still haven't answered my question, Standish. What do you think you're doing? This isn't your case. It's mine."
Ezra stared at him, then looked down at his notes. He jaw steeled. "This is a public record, Josiah."
"And if you're worried about the cost, I will pay for another one, if you feel it necessary."
"That's not it, Ezra, and you know it. Madison is my client, not yours. Don't pretend that—"
"Please," Ezra begged quietly, his eyes pinching shut, the belligerent tone completely gone. "Please, Josiah…let me help. I can help you save this boy, if you let me."
Josiah stared at the top of Ezra's head, not speaking for a moment.
The younger man tapped the pencil on the transcript nervously when he didn't get an answer, and tried again. "Look, I can have an appeal filed tomorrow. You only have ten days, remember. And it's day seven tomorrow."
Josiah still didn't answer.
"Four legal errors, Josiah, at least. More than enough. And if we can bring it back down, and get that girl's prior crimes on record for the jury to hear…."
Josiah looked out the dingy window at Thomson Street, listening to the traffic winging past. Sirens blared in the distance. Color in the night. When he looked back down, Ezra was looking up at him again.
"Well," Ezra asked him, "What do you say?"
Josiah frowned, the sighed. "Did you say," he finally met Ezra's eyes, "four legal errors?"
"At least," Ezra smiled crookedly, arching an eyebrow, "and I'm not done yet."
Slowly, very slowly, Josiah matched the smile. "Well, hell, can't really argue with that can I? All right. Write it, and show it to me. If it does what you say, we'll file it tomorrow."
Ezra's grin was huge, flashing a hint of a gold tooth that Josiah hadn't seen before, and he quickly got back to work.
Josiah shook his head, watching as Ezra did that trick again of writing with both hands. He opened his mouth to remark on it, then decided there was no point, and slid around some of the paper stacks to get to his desk chair. Settling his briefcase on a pile, he sat down and immediately lost sight of the other man. Ezra was hidden now, still on the floor on the other side, but Josiah could hear him industriously scribbling away.
Blinking a few times, Josiah leaned over and pulled Ezra's laptop towards him, where it was sitting on top of one of his piles. He didn't really like computers, but Ezra had insisted that they work this way. Brushing his hand over the little black space Ezra had told him was the mouse, he watched the screen light up, and the brief he'd asked Ezra to look over appeared. It looked like Ezra had barely gotten a third of the way through it.
Shaking his head, the older lawyer started editing it himself.
CHAPTER SEVEN: ENDS AND BEGINNINGS
Three weeks later, Josiah was watching Ezra argue before the appeals court on behalf of Theodore Madison. Ezra had his disciplinary hearing in a few days, but the younger lawyer had been obsessed with getting the Madison kid off first and foremost, meaning he had left his own case squarely in the hands of Josiah. It either showed great faith or great foolishness—but, oddly, turned out to be the best thing for the Madison boy.
The whole time, the appeals court judge was watching Ezra intently, as if trying to find flaws in the man's reasoning, to see him trip up. Russell Staines also watched him, as if he were a curiosity, too distracted by the infamy of the man to pay as much attention as he should to Ezra's arguments. After all, everyone knew who Ezra was now…and they were all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Surely, Ezra couldn't keep this up. Not with his license about to be taken away from him. Surely, he couldn't still be at the top of his game. At some point, Ezra was going to fire and miss…wasn't he?
Josiah couldn't help smiling.
It just showed they did not know Ezra Standish.
Ted Madison sat next to the older lawyer, his eyes darting between Josiah and Ezra. When Josiah began to smile, the kid wasn't sure what to make of it.
Until he saw the judge begin to nod at something Ezra was saying, apparently in agreement.
Josiah reached under the table and gave the kid's hand a squeeze. Yes, he told his client silently, we've won the appeal.
And the boy began to smile as well, hope in his heart for the first time.
A week later, Ezra stood at attention, watching as Judge Orrin Travis sat silently in judgment, waiting for the older man to speak. Judge Travis was chair of the review board, and his stern expression and dark eyes felt like they were drilling into the young lawyer's heart.
"Well, Mr. Standish," the judge's gravelly voice intoned quietly, "You're a very lucky man. We're going to let you keep your license…."
Lester Duvall's cases against Farron & Lightfoot LLP, and Ezra Standish, Esq., were both dismissed, for lack of evidence.
Later, he would be sentenced to three life sentences, for the murders of his wife and her lover, and for the attempted murder of his first wife, not to mention multiple counts of assault, battery and just about everything else that Derek Liang felt they could pin on the man.
He was later killed in jail by another inmate. No one mourned.
A month later, Josiah found himself calling Horace Conklin on the phone, waiting patiently for the man who would soon be his landlord to pick up. When Conklin finally did, Josiah smiled.
"Horace," he greeted, "It's Josiah Sanchez….Yes, yes, I understand our lawyers are close to a deal on the lease, but, thing is, I have a problem….No, now, don't get agitated Horace. I'm not backing out. I still want to be in the Four Corners building. Thing is, I need more space….Yes, you heard me right….Two offices instead of one….Yes….correct….the seventh floor? Sure, that sounds fine. Can I drop by later and see the space?....Great….A doctor's office down the hall? Sure, that sounds like a…No…. No, you don't understand. I do defense work, Mr. Conklin, not….It means I am not, as you so cleverly put it, an ambulance chaser, but I, uh, suppose I appreciate the thought….No, I'm not trying to mock you, I….Right….Sure….Great, okay, then, 2:00 sounds fine. Oh, and Horace, another thing….Yes….I need to change the name on the lease. It will no longer be Josiah Sanchez, P.C….Correct….Sure…I'll hang on so you can get a pen…." Josiah looked down, and picked up the piece of paper on his desk, smiling at the certificate proclaiming the new entity he had just formed. Looking up, he peered across the room, to where Ezra was standing, staring out the window of the little office, his hands clasped behind his back. The young man was pretending not to listen, but wasn't succeeding. Josiah almost started to laugh.
On the other side of the line, Conklin got back on the phone, asking for the new name. Josiah quickly refocused.
"Yes, of course, the new name?" Josiah's eyes met Ezra's across the room, as the younger man finally turned to face him, "Sanchez and Standish, LLP."
P.S. for those who don't know, in LLP, the "P" stands for "partnership." J
Hope you liked it! Let me know if you did! (I can always use more inspiration! Hint hint. LOL!)