Franny Chapman trashes her empty Starbucks cup, snaps open her briefcase, and seizes a red manila folder. My aces lawyer, Randall Zimmer, Esq., begins to tap the eraser-end of his pencil on a new pad of lined yellow legal paper. The preliminaries are over. It’s time, lady and gentleman, for the main event.
Franny pushes an eight-by-ten glossy photograph at us across the polished walnut desk. After handcuffing me in the grand jury room and locking me up, not letting me use the telephone for three hours, Franny now has questions. A minor Chapman-Zimmer skirmish in the hallway was followed by calmer negotiation which led to the three of us sitting down in this courthouse conference room.
“Talbot told you about the A.A.S.D. report she’d prepared,” Franny says. “You knew those co-mingling charges would ruin your business. But when you went to her room that night, you probably weren’t intending to kill her. So what happened? You argued and lost your temper?”
I glance at the photograph. It’s a black-and-white shot of Anne Marie Talbot after the murderer choked and burned her, a close-up of her barbecued head. At least that’s what the black-marker printing says on the back. Could be a horror-movie prop, or a ruined, bone-in roast. The disgusting, barely human thing seems to be oozing some kind of black gravy.
Mr. Zimmer saying, “My client’s alibi is well established, Ms. Chapman. Should you decide to prosecute him for Ms. Talbot’s murder, you will in fact be the first witness I depose.”
Zimmer’s hawk-like eyes are the same dark caramel as the walnut desk. Looking at him, feeling the love, I am deeply and truly sorry for every lawyer joke I ever told. When you need one, a clever, juiced, and tough-in-the-clinches attorney can save your sorry ass. Spending the big bucks goes down easy when your job or even a prison sentence’s at stake. Right this second, having Mr. Z for a champion glows inside me like a double-shot of forty-year-old bourbon.
“Would you mind looking this over as well?” Franny says. She shoves a three or four-page document at me, loose pages stapled together in the upper left corner.
Despite Mr. Z’s mighty parry and thrust, El Cap-i-tan’s green eyes shine with confidence. I saw a lightning flash of defeat in the Grand Jury room earlier, but now Ms. Strawberry’s back on offense, certain of her superior firepower and numbers. God, I love strong women.
I pick up the stapled papers wondering what the hell Franny throws at me now, but I wait until Mr. Z gives me the okay before I read. If you’re paying five-hundred an hour for advice, it’s important to listen. Lawyers also like you better, work harder, when you follow orders. Especially big German ones.
Page one is like a cover sheet. A centered title. Oh, my. I’ve never read a Forensic Pathology Summary before. Must be like an autopsy report.
Should I put on rubber gloves?
NEXT FRIDAY, CHAPTER 50