0n the night before her interview at the Supreme Court of the United States, Lisa Fremont did not know if she could go through with it. She wanted the job all right -- what newly minted lawyer wouldn't? -- but then, the thought of corrupting the position, of using it to repay an old debt, was antithetical to everything she thought she had become.
But have I really changed? Am I Lisa Fremont, magna cum laude from Stanford Law or Angel from the Tiki Club in the Tenderloin?
Until today, she thought she could handle it. But that was before she visited the Court to get the feel of the place. What she felt was reverence, a sense of awe, even piety.
I got goose bumps for God's sake! How do I explain to someone like Max that marble statues and musty law books and the weight of history give me goose bumps? He only gets excited when the Dow Jones jumps.
Using his own key, Max Wanaker had breezed into her apartment just after 6 P.M. He kissed her hello, poured himself a Scotch, and made her a Gibson, heavy on the vodka, light on the vermouth. Then he loosened his tie and tossed his Armani suit coat over a chair. He kicked off his black Italian loafers, polished to a high gloss.
Lisa wore a cropped stretch lace camisole and high-cut briefs, both white with satin trim, under a soft pink chenille bathrobe that made her golden red hair glow a buttery copper under the track lighting. She had put on the robe when Max turned the air-conditioning down to sixty-five. It didn't matter if it was her apartment or his hotel suite, everything was always done to Max's specifications. Now, in early autumn in Washington, D.C., there was a manmade cold front settling into the living room.
In more ways than one.
They hadn't gone out to dinner. Too risky. Not because Max's wife, Jill, might discover them. Jill was blissfully alone in Miami, well aware of Max's long-term relationship with Lisa.
No, the risk was bigger now. There could be no connection -- no nexus, to use the legal term -- between Atlantica Airlines and her. If there were, and it became known, she'd be no use to Max, and his big plans would be blown.
If I can go through with it at all.
For a moment she wondered what Tony would have done, but that was easy. Tony Kingston was the Eagle Scout, the Top Gun navy pilot, a yes ma'am, no ma'am, guy who didn't jaywalk, litter, or cheat on his taxes. But Tony was gone, and now the plaintiffs' lawyers said he'd been negligent. Lying bastards! Vultures picking at the flesh of the dead. A part of her wanted to help Max tank the case just to shut them up, but she realized that was irrational, and hadn't she spent all these years locking her brain into a lawyer's sense of logic and reason?
After dinner, she told Max she didn't think she could do it, and they argued until 2 A.M.
"An ethical problem?" Max asked incredulously as he paced around her small living room. "Three years of planning, and now you have an eth-i-cal prob-lem." He dragged out the words, as if trying a strange new phrase in Tagalog or Punjabi.
"Yes, Max, I realize that's a foreign concept to you."
He stopped pacing long enough to absorb the insult, then ignored it. "Are you worried about being disbarred?"
"It would be one of the shortest legal careers in history," she said, ruefully. "I could go to jail, too."
"So that's it! You are afraid." He laughed, the told-you-so, condescending chuckle he used when the joke was on someone else. "I remember a time when you could walk, buck naked, into a party of drunken investment bankers and show no fear. You could control every man in the place with your wits and your poise, and now you're afraid of what, being subpoenaed by some two-bit G-twelve assistant attorney general who drives a Chevy?"
Vintage Max, measuring a man by his net worth.
"If he drove a Porsche," she said, "would he be more worthy of respect?"
Max glared at her, a black-eyed scowl that could terrorize a corporate VP or send a secretary home in tears. In the old days, Lisa was intimidated by him, too. Not anymore.
"What are you going to do, Max, fire me? Too late. I've got tenure. I know where the skeletons are buried."
"Not all of them," he said with a coldness that sent a shiver up her spine.
They stood looking at each other, Max Wanaker and Lisa Fremont, former lovers and current coconspirators. He was frowning, his gray mustache turning downward. He was handsome and dark-complexioned with salt-and-pepper hair swept back and moussed. A jogger and tennis player in his younger days, Max was starting to put on a little weight around the middle. Too many business dinners, too much booze.
She remembered the way he looked when they first met, ten years ago. Why did it seem like another lifetime? He had been thirty-nine, and she was seventeen.
Jesus, it was another lifetime.
She knew how much she had changed. But what was different about Max? Not just his graying hair. In those days -- before Atlantica -- he was on his way up. Big dreams, boundless energy and optimism. He'd scratched and clawed until the dreams came true. So why was he so unhappy now? There was the crash of Flight 640 three years ago and the lawsuit, of course, but she knew there was more, and lately, Max wasn't talking.
She poured him another Scotch, hoping to mellow him out. "I went to the Court today, just to look around. Jesus, Max, you walk through these giant bronze doors with scenes of ancient Greece and Rome molded into them. Then there are marble statues and busts everywhere. Lady Justice, Moses, Confucius..."
"Confucius?" he said, puzzled.
"I went into the library. All hand-carved wood, giant arches, a quiet, peaceful place. It's almost holy, like a church or a cathedral."
"Exactly!" he agreed, smiling now. "That's what they want you to think. Like all those churches you hauled me to in Italy. Why do you think they built them like that? For the glory of God. Hell, no! They did it to scare the shit out of the peasants. You walk into a church, what's the first thing you do? You lower your voice, you whisper. Same thing in your fancy Court, right? The judges are the priests -- they even dress like priests -- and everyone else is a peasant. They want to scare you into thinking you're on hallowed ground, that they're doing sacred work. Hypocrites! They don't want you to know what they're doing under the robes."
Lisa walked to the window, looking past her balcony into Dumbarton Oaks Park and the creek beyond. Max had chosen the apartment, but unlike the old days, he wasn't paying for it. At least not on the books. Two years ago, when she was still in law school, he began erasing the paper trail -- the canceled checks, airline passes, credit card receipts -- that would link her to him. It was his idea that maybe one day she'd be able to help him in a way no one could know about. It sounded crazy at first, just as crazy as taking a money-losing air-freight forwarder with three aging jet props and turning it into Atlantica Airlines, poster child of deregulation and booming international air carrier...until the disastrous crash of Flight 640.
"You're very persuasive, Max," she said, at last. "You should have been a lawyer."
Max laughed. "No way, baby! That's why I spent a hundred grand on you."
"I don't think I'll get the job," she said, softly. "I think Justice Truitt will look at me and see I don't belong there."
Or is that what I want? The easy way out, sparing me the hassle of refusing to do Max's dirty work.
"That's where you're wrong. You belong anywhere you want to be. You're the most powerful woman I've ever known."
"I learned from you," she said.
"No! You had the power as a seventeen-year-old but didn't know it. All I did was mark the trail for you. You climbed it all by yourself." He studied her for a moment, and she averted her eyes, her shyness a childhood trait. He smiled. "Anyway, don't worry. The judge will take one look at you and want to adopt you."
"Max, he's your age."
"Even better...he'll want to screw you." He laughed again, his mood softening, maybe pleased she was confiding her fears. She so seldom showed any insecurity.
"Stop worrying," he said. "You're going to get the job. You're going to be the sexiest, smartest law clerk in the history of the Supreme Court."
"Maybe," she said.
"You're being interviewed by a man, and deep inside, we're all alike."
No, Max, you're not. You and Tony were not alike. And I doubt you and Sam Truitt share much in common despite the same configuration of x and
She'd never told Max that she'd become Tony Kingston's lover after their break-up her first year in law school. As far as Max knew, Tony was just the navy pilot she'd introduced him to, the hometown hero she said would be a great addition to the Atlantica fleet. Well, she was right, wasn't she?
"It's different on the Supreme Court," Lisa said. "You know what they taught us first year in law school?"
"Probably how to overcharge your clients."
"Jus est ars boni et aequi. Law is the art of the good and the just."
"And the meek shall inherit the earth," Max responded in the sarcastic tone she knew so well. He walked to the window and wrapped his arms around her from behind. "If the law worked so damn well, O.J. would have sucked gas, Klaus von Bulow would have been stuck full of needles, and" -- he paused a moment, as if not sure whether to continue -- "and your father would have been hung by his testicles."
She turned around in his arms to face him. "And the victims of Flight six-forty would have hit Atlantica for several hundred million in verdicts," she added.
"Sort of proves my point, doesn't it?"
It did, but his cynicism irritated her. If Max were right, then why had she just spent three years studying law and another year clerking for a federal judge? Just to be another manipulator of the system? But even if he were wrong, how could she turn him down? Max had never denied her anything. He had supported her, nurtured her, helped her grow into an adult. In return, she had been his lover for most of the past decade. He'd been understanding when she left him during law school and comforting when she'd come back after Tony's death. And now, for the first time, he wanted something more, something that collided head-on with everything she had learned the past four years.
"If justice is such a rare commodity," she said, "maybe I should work for it. Maybe I should help put criminals in jail or defend the wrongfully accused."
"You're too smart for that. That's sucker talk. I don't see you in the Justice Department or in some public defender's office with a metal desk and stale coffee."
"I remember the first time you told me how smart I was," she said. "It was endearing then. Now, it sounds like an insult."
"There's smart," he said, "like book learning, which can open some doors but otherwise doesn't mean shit, and then there's streetsmart, which you can't buy with a degree. You got both, which knocks my socks off."
No one had ever expressed admiration for her intelligence before Max came along. Not her teachers, not her mother, not her father. Especially not her father, whose praise was limited to her physical assets.
Max had told her she could be anything she wanted, and she believed him. He gave her confidence and a chance at a new life. Now that she had that life, she didn't want to risk losing it.
"Do you remember when you told me I was smarter than you?" she asked.
"Sure. It was the night we met."
Max Wanaker walked into the Tiki Club and sat down on a bar stool in front of the stage. It had a rusty brass go-go pole, chains hanging from the ceiling, a scratchy sound system, and a number of missing bulbs in the multicolored lighting system. In the back was a darkened lap-dancing lounge with black satin couches. The place smelled like a mixture of stale beer and cheap perfume, moist mildew and industrial strength cleaner.
A connoisseur of strip joints, Max preferred the sophisticated atmosphere of Ten's in Manhattan, where fifty-five exotic dancers stroll onto the stage in full-length sequined gowns, strobe lights blasting, smoke machine billowing. Tonight, he was slumming. Mainly because he had been bored, he told the limo driver to stop when he saw the flashing neon sign, LIVE GIRLS.
As opposed to what? DEAD GIRLS?
The sign, as effective as the Sirens' songs that lured sailors onto the rocks, brought Max into the club. Now he approached the small stage, scanning the room. The strippers all looked as if they'd been ridden hard -- the meaty redhead slouching on stage, out of step with Aerosmith, already down to her ratty gold panties, oversize tits barely bouncing, the two in lingerie at the bar, cadging drinks -- all of them with big hair, six-inch nails, and siliconed melon breasts. He had one watery Scotch and was ready to leave when Lisa came on the stage to the music of Billy Joel.
Jesus, she's just a kid.
She looked like a cheerleader. Small breasts, sleek reddish blonde hair, clear blue eyes, long legs, a full mouth, little makeup other than
painted-on whiskers, something he didn't get until he realized she was wearing a tight leopard skin dress with little leopard ears. She seemed embarrassed, and he was enchanted.
She could dance. She moved smoothly to the music, closing her eyes, which he knew was a nono. It occurred to Max that he knew more about her business than she did.
You're supposed to make eye contact, baby. You're supposed to make every guy in the joint feel like you've got the hots just for him.
She was so young and so obviously new at this that Max felt a stirring. Not just to bag her. Hell, he'd bedded down half his company's secretaries, more than a few strippers, plus his daughter's fourth-grade teacher. This one was different. She looked like she didn't belong here.
What's a nice girl like you...
The old male rescue fantasy took hold even before he talked to her. What he could do for her!
And vice versa.
The leopard dress was off now, and she was holding on to the brass pole, each leg astride it, grinding her hips in time with the music, humping that lucky pole, her firm ass moving rhythmically in time with his pulse. Her eyes wide open now, she looked at Max and seemed to blush.
Now there's a first.
Then she smiled shyly at him, swung away from the pole, and drifted up to the edge of the stage. He slipped a twenty-dollar bill into her garter where it joined a number of singles. The garter was all she wore, other than the high-heeled shoes. Her strawberry nipples were erect, her mouth set in an innocent, yet seductive smile. She never said a word. She just turned around and bent over, putting her hands on her knees and arching her back. She wiggled her ass clockwise, as if on coasters, stopped and wiggled counterclockwise. With impressive muscle control, her buttocks quivered in time with the music, and he felt the contractions in his own loins.
Later, when her set was done, back in her slinky leopard dress and little leopard ears, Lisa wobbled up to him on six-inch heels and inquired with her whiskered smile and cat eyes if he'd like to buy her a drink.
"What's your name?" he had asked, "Jellylorum or Mistoffelees," for he had just taken his wife to see the musical Cats in London.
"Rumpleteazer," she said without missing a beat.
"You've seen the show," he said, surprised.
"No way! My boyfriend thinks live theater is watching three lesbians in leather and chains."
"Then how -- "
"When I was a kid, I read the Eliot poems. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats."
"When you were a kid," he repeated, smiling.
"Yeah. I thought the poems were silly. I think Eliot should have stuck to 'The Waste Land.'"
"Really? You read a lot?"
"I'm taking classes. That's all I do. Study by day, strip by night."
He watched her size him up, noting the manicured, polished nails, the gold cuff links, the dark suit. She wasn't even subtle about it, just taking inventory, probably calculating her tip by the pedigree of his watch. Cocking her head the way the older girls must have shown her, she said, "So you want a private dance or what?"
He laughed. "You really are a rumpleteazer, aren't you?"
"I'm not J. Alfred Prufrock."
"What's your name? You never told me."
"Angel," she lied.
"Nah. I'm your angel."
And he was. Max Wanaker, who at that time owned a Miami freight forwarding company and had just beaten back a Teamsters strike, rescued Lisa Fremont, teenage runaway. He spirited her out of the Tenderloin and put her in an apartment on Nob Hill. It was there -- where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars -- that Max made an amazing discovery. Lisa wasn't like the others, which is to say, she wasn't after money. This brainy stripper read Dostoevsky in the dressing room between sets, picked up her high school degree in night school, and was about to enroll in community college when Max bulldozed his way into her life and suggested Berkeley instead.
"You're smarter than I am," he told her that first night. And then repeated it time and again until she believed it was true.
Lisa poured Max another stiff shot of Glenmorangie, the pricey singlemalt Scotch he ordered by the case. He twirled the golden liquid in the glass, sniffed it, took a sip. The ritual done, he turned to her. "So what's the bottom line? Are we on the same page here?"
Speaking in corporate jargon when it's my life!
"I can't do it, Max. I can't prostitute myself."
Max's face reddened. He stared at her in disbelief. "What!"
"I would do anything for you, but not this."
"This is the only thing I've ever asked."
"I'm sorry. I want to help, but..."
Max had been wonderful. If it weren't for him, where would she be now? But what he had given her -- the education, the belief in herself -- had changed her. She didn't know precisely when she had rejected Max's way of life, but somewhere between the Tiki Club and the Supreme Court, she had moved on. "You're asking too much, Max."
"After all I've done for you," Max said, his voice a razor despite the mellow whiskey, "don't you think you owe me this?"
He'd never said that before, not even close. Anger boiled up inside her. Her look was lethal, her voice icy. "Why not just total up my bill, and I'll pay you back with interest. What's the prime rate these days, Max?"
"It's not the money and you know it. I just resent this attitude of yours, like you're looking down at me."
Lisa padded barefoot to the bar and dumped her drink into the sink. "From the curb to the gutter, Max. It's not that far."
Max looked wounded, like it was his blood going down the drain. "You stopped smoking. You're not drinking. Is there anything else you're not going to do, anything I ought to know about?"
She didn't answer, just stood there, stone-faced.
"The new, improved Lisa Fremont," he said, sarcastically.
"Don't you like me this way?"
No, Max Wanaker thought. He didn't like her this way at all. Christ, who had she become? Maybe it served him right. He had wanted Lisa to grow, had encouraged her independence, but look what happened. The roses still bloomed, but they'd grown thorns. He liked Lisa the girl, not Lisa Fremont, Esq., the woman, the goddam lawyer. She's been a tough kid. Hell, she had to be to survive. Now she gets misty eyed looking at statues and books. How long until she learns that her precious oaths and credos are just faded ink on rotting paper?
Max struggled to control his anger and mask his desperation. He wanted to tell her just how important the case was to him. He wanted to tell her that it WASN'T just about money or even the survival of the company. He wanted to tell her the truth.
If we don't win, I'm a dead man.
No, if he told her that, she would want to know everything. And if he laid it all out, what would she think of him? If he told her the crash had been his fault, that he had ordered the maintenance records falsified, that he had perjured himself before the NTSB, that blood was on his hands, would she help him? Maybe, if he told her the spot he was in.
Oh, he could rationalize it. Every airline cuts corners. It didn't take Mary Schiavo, the big-mouth blonde from the Department of Transportation, to tell him that airlines would rather have their insurers pay off wrongful death verdicts than spend the money to fix known dangers. Simple costbenefit economics, babe.
He just never thought it would happen to him, to his airline. And he never expected the guilt, the nightmares, the pills, the late-night sweats.
No, he could never tell Lisa the truth. He tried a different approach. "Why do you think we've been together so long?"
"Inertia, Max. We're used to each other."
"No. Because deep down inside, we're alike," he said.
"If that's supposed to be a compliment -- "
"We both see things the way they really are. We take the cards we're dealt, and if it means sliding an extra ace up the sleeve to get what we want, then damn it, we do it. We don't play by somebody else's rules."
"That's not the way I see myself," she said, sounding defensive, a measure of doubt creeping into her voice.
"A leopard can't change her spots," he said with a smirk.
"I didn't cheat in college or law school," she said angrily. "I worked like hell in the appellate clerkship. I'm proud of my accomplishments. I'm proud of who I am."
"Dean's list doesn't mean shit in the real world, Lisa. You got good grades? Big fucking deal. I got MBAs from Harvard making my coffee. Sometimes I wonder where you get off. I mean, Christ, I remember where you came from. I remember the bartender. I remember the bruises."
She remembered, too. Crockett was the day-shift bouncer and occasional bartender, a ponytailed bodybuilder with a hot temper and delusions that he was the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. She'd moved in with him a week after the one-way journey south from Bodega Bay, and he'd gotten her the phony ID and the job at the Tiki Club. She gave Crockett her tips, but they were never enough to pay for his hash and steroids.
"Some guys I know are having a party tonight," he told her one day as she was leaving for the club.
"What guys?" she asked.
"Businessmen from out of town. They got a room at the Ramada by the airport."
"So you want to go?"
"Not me! Ain't my ass they wanna see."
"I don't do private parties. Sheila told me -- "
"Sheila don't know shit. Who'd pay to see her saggy tits? This is four hundred plus tips."
Lisa was shaking her head when he grabbed her, his huge hands digging into the flesh of her upper arms. She tried to twist away, but he held on, pressing harder, slamming her into the wall but never letting go, using his size and strength just as her father had done to imprison her and break her will.
"I put a roof over your head," Crockett said. "I get you a job. I protect your ass from guys who'd slice you up and eat you for breakfast. You fucking owe me!"
Thinking back now, here it was again.
Max, Crockett, dear old Dad. How many men do I owe?
She went to the motel that night, carrying a boom box, getting paid up front, then stripping for three drunken salesmen, all the time palming a miniature can of Mace, a trick Sheila had taught her. One of the scumbags, a paunchy forty-five-year-old wearing a wedding band, lunged for her. She sidestepped him, and when the other two tried to tackle her, she sprayed one squarely in his open, dumb mouth and kneed the other in the groin, a direct shot that sent him tumbling to the floor, vomiting.
The first man took a wild swing at her and missed. Lisa turned to run for the door, but he tripped her, then dragged her to the floor, clawing at her thong, drawing blood from her hip with his fingernails. He was about her father's age, and those memories, so fresh then, came racing back, filling her with fear. She had vowed it would never happen again.
I'd kill a man before I'd let him...
She was on her back with the man above her when she worked an arm free and hit him with a blast of the Mace. He howled and toppled backward, his hands tearing at his eyes. Lisa scrambled to her feet, picked up a table lamp, and bashed it across his forehead, quieting him. Adrenaline pumping, she made it out of the motel room with her backpack and money but left the boom box behind.
"Dumb bitch!" Crockett yelled when she got home, backhanding her across the face, cursing her a second time when he counted the money, discovering the roll of bills was really a single twenty on top with nineteen two-dollar bills underneath. "Stupid jailbait bitch!"
Three nights later, Max Wanaker rode up to the Tiki on his white horse or was it a white limo? Whatever his flaws, Lisa now knew he had rescued her. She had been one step away from the streets. Cocktail waitress, stripper...hooker was not far behind.
Max seemed to know everything in those days. He saw right through the Dermablend makeup she used to cover the bruises.
"Who did this to you?" he had asked.
"My boyfriend, but he didn't mean to hurt me."
"Where can I find him?" Max asked.
Even now, she could remember his voice. Grim and determined.
Where can I find him?
It would be that simple. No further explanation needed. She knew Max wouldn't do it himself. The soft hands and manicured nails did not belong to a thug. But he knew people, had dealt with the Teamsters. In Max's world, everything could be arranged. She saw the bartender only once more. He was trying to get up Russian Hill on crutches.
Yes, Max, I owe you, but maybe that makes me resent you even more.
"Sometimes you really piss me off," she said.
"I'm sorry," he said, backing off, sounding sincere. "You know how I feel about you..."
How? Say it!
How many times had he said the three magic words? Twice, she recalled, once after too much champagne and once when he thought he'd lost her.
In fact, you did lose me, Max. I was tired of sneaking in and out of hotels.
She had just started law school and felt like she was getting somewhere. So why was she stuck in this nowhere relationship? She wanted her independence, and Max was surprisingly understanding. He gave her time and space. He was secure enough to let her go, telling her he hoped she would return.
It was the best time of her life. She found Tony Kingston, or rather, he had found her. Discovered the baby-sitter had grown up. Lisa had taken care of Greg, Tony's son, since she was twelve, helping around the house, admiring the photos of the handsome naval aviator in his spiffy flightsuit. Tony had never been married, and when the child's mother -- Tony's teenage girlfriend -- took off, he was left with a son to raise. Lisa remembered her adolescent excitement when Tony came home on leave, duffel bag slung over a shoulder.
So strong and decent, so unlike my own father.
She learned enough psychology to know Tony was the father she had never had. But he was so much more, too. Tony didn't rescue her as Max had done; he treated her as an equal, something Max never did. Tony was everything. And then, suddenly, he was gone.
Just as Max had hoped, she came back. He told her she had changed, that he liked the old Lisa better. The old Lisa is dead, she said. He didn't ask who she had been with, and she never told. The past and the future both remained unspoken.
Now, pacing in the apartment overlooking the park, he said, "I'd leave Jill for you in a second if you'd ask me to..."
She let the bait dangle. Ten years ago, she prayed to hear those words. Now, they left her confused and troubled.
"God, Lisa, I love you. I always have."
Whoa! What did he say? And why now?
"Do you love me, Max, or do you just need me more?"
"When the case is over, I'm going to ask Jill for a divorce and we can get married."
"Okay, I won't pressure you. But you're right about one thing. I need your help. I wouldn't ask if I didn't. Hell, I'm begging you. This is even more important than you know."
I can't. Not now."
She thought about it. Hard as it was for Max to say it, he did love her. She never doubted it. And he had helped her when no one else cared whether she slept under a bridge or went hungry. Now he was asking her to choose between him and some flowery notions of right and wrong.
No one would ever know. It was just one case.
But what about her beliefs? What about the new, improved Lisa Fremont, to use Max's mocking phrase? Could she put her new ideals on the shelf just this once? And how deeply did she believe them anyway?
The marble statues and bronze doors notwithstanding, justice was an ethereal concept, a divine ideal, which like sainthood was rarely seen on earth. Justice was the pearl in the oyster. Keep on shuckin' and good luck huntin'. Despite the lofty notions she'd learned from the law books, her views were shaped by her own experiences. Weren't everyone's? What was it Justice Cardozo had said? "Try as we might, we can never see with any eyes except our own."
And what my eyes have seen.
Now, after four years at Berkeley, summa cum laude -- thank you very much -- three years at Stanford Law, magna cum laude with a prize-winning law review note, and one year clerking for a federal court of appeals judge in the D.C. Circuit, she had all the credentials. So why did she consider herself a fraud?
She wanted to believe, but damnit, Max had pressed the right buttons. She was a priest without faith, a pagan inside the holy tabernacle. To Lisa Fremont, the law was not majestic. The slogan carved into the pediment -- EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW -- was a benediction for the Kodak-toting tourists. The law was as cold as the marble of its sanctuary.
Disregarding the lofty symbols and images, she thought of the legal system as a dingy factory with leaking boilers, broken sprockets, and rusted cogs. The law was bought and sold, swapped and hocked, bartered and auctioned, just like wheat, widgets...and girls who run away from home.
In the upcoming term, she knew the Court would be asked to consider nearly seven thousand cases but would issue fewer than one hundred rulings. Law clerks, whose first function was to summarize and analyze the petitions seeking review, frequently complained about the workload. No problem, Lisa thought.
If I get the job, I'll read them all. I'll plow through the research, draft the justice's opinions, and make his coffee, if that's what he wants me to do.
She'd know the legislative history of the statutes and the precedential value of the cases. She'd master the procedure and the substantive law. She'd write pithy footnotes and trace the source of a law back to Hammurabi. She'd prepare incisive pool memos for the judicial conferences and brilliant bench memos for her boss. She'd stay up all night with the death clerk on execution stays, and she'd be at work at 8 A.M. sharp.
She'd be prepared to search for the truth, to do justice.
She'd do all of those things in every case...except one.
The case of Laubach v. Atlantica Airlines, Inc., would be different. She already had read the file. She knew the issues and the arguments on both sides. Even more important, she knew who had to win.
"I'll do it, Max. I'll do it for you."
"Great! I knew you wouldn't let me down." The tension drained from him, and he smiled triumphantly. "We make a great team, Lisa.
When your clerkship's up, you should come into the airline's legal department. Pete Flaherty's going to retire in a couple of years. How would you like to be general counsel?"
"Max, please stop planning my life. Let's just get through this."
"Whatever you say, darling."
His smile was still in place. He had done it. And he hadn't even used his trump card: the truth. If Lisa knew that his life was tethered to such a slender thread, she would have rushed to help him. But this way was better.
She's doing it for love, not pity.
Max felt invigorated. Oh, there was much more to be done. She had to get the job, and she had to convince her judge -- the swing vote, according to Flaherty -- to go their way. But he had great confidence in Lisa. He would trust her with anything, a thought that made him smile, for he was doing just that. He was trusting her with his life.
Late that night, lying in bed, staring at the liquid numbers of the digital clock melting into the enveloping darkness, as she listened to Max snoring alongside her, Lisa confronted the stark, bleak truth. Yes, she would do what Max had asked. Not because she loved him, for at this point, she didn't know what she felt. Not because she owed him, because that was never part of the bargain.
She would do it because her loyalty to Max outweighed her newfound principles. Max had been right all along.
She didn't believe in the words carved into stone.
Her soul was as barren as his, her heart as icy.
Deep inside, she was just like him.
NTSB FAILS TO FIND CAUSE OF CRASH
WASHINGTON D.C. -- (AP) The National Transportation Safety Board announced yesterday that it could not conclusively determine the cause of the crash of Atlantica Airlines Flight 640, which claimed the lives of 288 persons in a fiery crash in the Florida Everglades in December 1995.
Citing contradictory evidence and the failure to recover all the essential parts, the NTSB said in a lengthy report that it could not state with certainty what caused the aircraft to lose its hydraulic systems on approach to Miami International Airport. However, Board Chairman Miles McGrane pointedly stated that there was "substantial evidence" to support the widely held belief that a bomb was detonated inside the tail-mounted engine of the DC-10, causing engine fragments to sever the hydraulic lines.
"Traces of PETN were recovered from the nacelle of the number two engine, but many of the engine parts, including the stage one rotor fan disk, were not found," McGrane said. "Presumably, they are buried in the muck of the Everglades and will never be recovered. Without these parts, we cannot perform the metallurgical tests needed to reach a definitive conclusion."
PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, is a component of plastic explosives. McGrane added that there was no evidence of pilot error or mechanical failure, other than loss of flight controls, which followed the apparent explosion in the number two engine.
Pressed by reporters, McGrane expressed frustration with the months of delays and endless speculation about the cause of the crash. On the day of the accident, armed U.S. Navy jets were conducting flights from the Key West Naval Air Station. He discounted the theory that a ground-to-air missile or an errant heat-seeking missile from a military jet downed the aircraft. None of the jets reported firing a missile.
Two weeks prior to the crash, a Cuban exile group in Miami threatened violent reprisals against Atlantica Airlines which, through a foreign subsidiary, had begun charter flights from Mexico City to Havana. Two members of the group, La Brigada de la Libertad, were arrested for allegedly spraypainting anti-Castro slogans on the fuselage of an Atlantica aircraft after climbing a fence to gain access to a hangar at the Miami airport. The group vigorously denied all responsibility for the crash of the New York-to-Miami flight.
Copyright © 1998 by Paul Levine
Lisa Fremont is a rising young lawyer gifted with a brilliant mind, natural beauty -- and an alluring sensuality. A newly hired law clerk on the staff of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Truitt, Lisa has a bright future. She also has a past that her curriculum vitae doesn't reveal....Long before she was Lisa Fremont, Esquire, she was Angel, an underage stripper in San Francisco's Tiki Club. And long before Max Wanaker was president of Atlantica Airlines, he was the wealthy benefactor who took her off the streets. Her driving ambition put her at the top of her class at Stanford, but her tuition, a highpowered career head start, and a new life came courtesy of Max, who knew a good bet when he saw it. Max took his angel far with a devil of a deal -- now, he's calling in the debt.
Three years ago, on its approach to Miami International, Atlantica Flight 640 crashed, claiming hundreds of lives and sparking a multimillion-dollar legal battle that is about to come before the Supreme Court. The swing vote belongs to Sam Truitt, and Max is depending on Lisa's expertise in the art of persuasion to save Atlantica. Lisa knows there's only one way to get Justice Truitt's vote: put aside her passion for justice and get into Truitt's life, into his head -- and into his bed.
But Lisa's obligation to Max is about to be overruled by a raw desire for Sam Truitt....One of the nation's most powerful men, Justice Truitt is also just a man -- with a failing marriage and a sharp, sexy law clerk succeeding in winning him over. Not knowing whom to trust as he steps into the minefield of the Atlantica case, he puts his career and his life on the line to strip away layers of corruption and violence outside the system -- and within. For even among his fellow Justices -- as tangled and deadly as nine scorpions in a bottle -- Truitt may find the deadly sting of malevolence at the highest levels of Law.
In the Machiavellian maze of political intrigue and personal betrayal that is the Supreme Court, Lisa Fremont and Sam Truitt could make one hell of a legal team. But inside the hidden sanctums of the halls of justice, there's only one rule to live by: stay one step ahead of those who live by no law at all.