A New Chapter 1

 

Here is a rewrite of the first chapter of the new book. The old draft is elsewhere on this site. I could have deleted it, but felt readers truly interested in how these things evolve would enjoy the comparison. This book is taking shape in ways that I find very exciting. ~Jessica

1. Lunch
(from the novel “Crosscurrents by Jessica Love”, © 2015, due out in June, 2015)

Often we have some idea when big changes are coming. We get engaged, get divorced, change jobs, have a child, a sick relative dies.

Other times, big changes creep up or just drop in on us. They seem so incidental when they begin that we don’t think much of them at the time, but later on, when we remember them, it all falls into place.

“Jessica, there’s a Geoffry Quinn on line one. He says he needs to speak with you.”

“Claire… “ I started to say, but stopped. No one gets past Claire if I’ve asked her to hold my calls. She knew I was behind with my workload and wrestling with a particularly difficult case with some ethical overtones I didn’t really like. The girl had been busted with two ounces of cocaine in one of the nicer bars in Seattle. The D.A. had offered a deal, but she wouldn’t take it even though I thought she should.

And I was beginning to suspect my fee was being paid by the guy she was working for as a mule.

“Yeah, I know,” Claire said. “But there’s something about this guy, Jessica.”

I trust Claire’s instincts without question for a lot of reasons. It takes a lot of smarts and guts — I’d seen both — to be a single mom and raise two good sons in the black neighborhoods of Seattle. They were so handsome they could have easily taken easier paths, too, but one was a cop and the other made a ridiculous amount of money as a sales rep for a prosthetics manufacturer.

“Thank you, Claire. I’ll take the call.”

“Ms. Love, my name is Geoffrey Quinn. Would you have time to meet with me about a matter that might be of mutual benefit?”

“Mr. Quinn, thank you for the call, but I’m not taking additional clients at this time. If you’d like, I can turn you back over to my assistant and she will take your information. We’ll give you a call when the schedule allows.”

“That is very kind of you, Ms. Love, but my matter is somewhat pressing. Is there any way we can meet just to discuss it? I am happy to make it worth your while.”

It’s hard sometimes to turn away money. Even though I was buried in work this week and the following, my Porsche was in the shop for some expensive repairs, and I was trying to put something away for when my niece came to visit over the summer.

“Perhaps next week we can get together. I’ll ask my assistant to go over the schedule and get back to you.”

“I was hoping for something a little sooner,” said Geoffrey Quinn.

Now I was getting a little peeved. I looked at the clock. I was getting further behind.

“Mr. Quinn, I’m sorry. I have work to finish. If you’d like to speak with my assistant, I’ll transfer you. If not, have a good morning, what’s left of it.”

“Thank you for taking my call, Ms. Love.” That was it. He hung up, and I went back to work. For about ten minutes, until a call came in on my cell phone. Not many people had that number.

“Hi, Jessica. It’s Tony. Got time for lunch?”

“I really don’t, Tony. “I’ve got a major headache on a case scheduled for trial a week from Friday. I’m scrambling.”

“Jessi… have lunch with me today. Okay?”

“It’s like that?” I asked.

“Yeah, it is.”

Anthony Stevens very rarely asks for anything from anybody, and is also one of the few lawyers I will count on.

Tony’s motto is “I never trust anyone who doesn’t act out of self-interest.” That’s just one of the things he taught me after I got out of law school and was working for him in my first job. He was the only one to offer me a job after I got out of jail, too, and had lost my license to practice law. When all that went away, he offered me a partnership in his firm. But that’s old news.

I’d learned a lot of other things from Tony, things he hid from most people: That he is a really good man who does more for others anonymously than most of the well-heeled and well-intentioned people who preen with their acts of generosity.

So I said, “Okay. Pike Place? Fish sandwich at Mo’s?”

“Why don’t we meet at the elevator in ten minutes? I’ll stop at your floor on the way down. Give you enough time to put files away?”

“I’ll just shut the door on the files. See you in ten.”

My law practice is one floor below Tony’s in one of Seattle’s older office buildings. I love this place, the intricacy of the brick work on the outside, the detail of the tiny lobby on the inside. I’d go bat-shit crazy in one of the newer, giant office towers that cast my lovely old building into perpetual shade. They have no soul.

And soul, hard as it is to define, is one of life’s sustaining elements. It’s air, it’s water. That’s why we have The Blues. Or any of the other forms of art, my French grandmother would have said.

“Art finds for us our place in the world, gives meaning, which finds for us significance.”

Her broken English embarrassed her, but for me, the melody of it gave what she had to say even more depth.

For all these reasons I said yes and in ten minutes I was standing at the elevator door when it opened. I stepped inside just as Tony said, “Going down? Please?”

“Tony, why do you have to break the illusion I have of you as a sophisticated, dapper lawyer of intelligence and grace?”

“One of my jobs in life is to shatter delusions.”

“While you create illusions, Sweet Man?”

“Hmmmph.” Tony just snorted. Calling him ‘Sweet Man’ was a warning that I’d use what I knew to prove he was much better than the perpetually cynical, sexually avaricious, hard-nosed urban rat he put on display. He knew I had evidence.

“What’s up?” I asked as soon as we hit the sidewalk for a short walk to Mo’s at Pike Place Market.

“I need you to see a potential client.”

“Tony, do you have any idea what my case load is at the moment?” Not only buried with work, I was short handed. My assistant Sarah was on paternity leave — her partner Lily had just given birth to a baby boy. Claire said that Tony provided the semen, but that was something I didn’t want to think about one way or the other, even if it was in vitro.

“Nope. And it doesn’t matter to me. Probably not to you, either.”

That surprised me. I was silent while we walked on rain-slick Seattle streets to the eatery. I had the small backpack I use as a purse and pulled out a collapsing umbrella, offered to share the shelter, but Tony shook his head, saying “I really do like the rain.”

“I need you to see a client from out near Shipwreck Island,” said Tony when we were settled after giving Sally Jo (really) our order.

“Where in the world is Shipwreck Island?”

“Close to Vancouver Island.”

“But U.S.?” He knew I wasn’t licensed to practice law in Canada.

“Probably,” Tony said.

“Tony…”

“Jessica, the client is a friend of mine. Just talk to him.”

“Why don’t you represent him?”

“I can’t, for several reasons. All I ask is that you talk to him. It won’t matter what day, and I guarantee he will make that day worthwhile, even if you or he decide there is nothing you can do for him.”

“You’ll guarantee this?”

“He’ll pay everything, but yes, I’ll guarantee you’ll be paid.”

I thought for several minutes while I enjoyed my fresh halibut sandwich.

Mo’s is really the best place for that. They don’t kill flavors with salt or tartar sauce, the bread is always fresh from another Pike Place bakery, and Mo’s makes their own potato chips. Yes, really, home made potato chips. Thick enough to play poker with, skin on, crisp enough to crackle and each one nearly a mouthful. I promised myself I’d only eat three, but gave myself permission to have the fourth.

I’d work it off in the gym this evening jumping rope after doing weights.

“Okay, Tony,” I said at last. “I’ll see him.”

“Thank you, Jessica. He’ll be calling you at 2 p.m.”

“Tony, how does he know I’ll to talk to him? I just decided about 30 seconds ago.”

“I told him.”

“How did you know?”

“Because, Jessica, self-interest is the only thing you can trust. And I trust yours.”

“You don’t always know everything,” I said, but that was weak and I knew that and he knew it too. The fact is, Tony Stevens knows me pretty well. And I like the fact that he does. It means there is someone I trust who has my back.

Of course, when it came down to it, even Tony couldn’t bail me out of what I was about to find.

* * *

At exactly 2 p.m. Geoffrey Quinn called me. On my cell phone.

“This is not a good way to start out,” I said as soon as he identified himself.

“I thought it best not to bother your staff,” he replied.

“Tony should never have given you my private number.”

“Mr. Stevens did not do that. You and I both know he has respect for those sorts of boundaries, even though he’d like others to believe differently.”

That pried me a little bit out of my peeve. If Quinn knew Tony that well, then perhaps I could give him a break.

“So how did you get this number?” I asked.

“Ms. Love, would it be alright if I did not go into those details? Suffice it to say it wasn’t from anyone you would know? It would be more of a distraction and I know your time is limited.”

There was something oddly charming about this man even while he exerted considerable pressure to get his way. The pressure unsettled me, the charm was intriguing.

“That will have to do, I guess,” I said. “What do you need from me, Mr. Quinn?”

“I’d like to meet with you in person to discuss a legal matter.”

“It’s 2 p.m. on Friday. How about Tuesday?” I said. I could do it after regular hours and before I went to the gym.

“Tomorrow?” he asked.

“Tomorrow is Saturday.”

“Yes, it is. I thought that would be more convenient for you. I’d like you to meet me here at my home. I’m happy to pay your full fee while in transit.”

“Shipwreck Island?” I asked, with some incredulity. That would be at least ten hours travel round trip from Seattle. And would take up almost my entire weekend.

“Near there, yes.”

“Mr. Quinn, you would be looking at nearly $5,000 just in travel time.”

There was a pause, then he chuckled.

“Ms. Love, will you meet with me tomorrow?”

“Yes, I can do that, with your guarantee you’ll pay the fee regardless of the outcome of our meeting.”

“I would be pleased to do that. Can you be at the Kenmore Air terminal on Lake Union at about 7:45 a.m.? They will take you to Friday Harbor, and my assistant will pick you up there. You will be back in Seattle by 3 pm.”

It was my turn to pause. I’d never been on a sea plane before. Though I was disappointed at not getting several thousand dollars to drive the loaner Porsche to Anacortes, the prospect of a new adventure was good compensation, as was the ability to be home and maybe go out the next night to a new club where I hoped to have a little…bit…of fun.

“Alright, Mr. Quinn. I’ll have my assistant call Kenmore Air and make arrangements. Is this the number where you can be reached if there is an issue?”

“That won’t be necessary, Ms. Love. Arrangements have already been made.”

Just then, Claire knocked softly twice on my door and came in with something in her hand. When she saw me talking on my cell phone, she started to turn away, but I motioned her over.

She put on my desk a round trip ticket on Kenmore Air from Lake Union to Friday Harbor.

“Mr. Quinn, how did you…?”

“Ms. Love, I’m so looking forward to meeting you. You have a wonderful reputation, and seem like a very interesting person. See you tomorrow?”
© 2015

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