Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Legal Eagles

Atticus Hawk looked up nervously at the clock, knowing that his fiancee would be calling him any minute to ask when he was leaving the office. It was his first memo for new Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and he wanted it to be perfect. Hawk's own boss had been of no help at all, abdicating the responsibility to Hawk, and talking out of both sides of his mouth just as Mukasey had done during the Senate confirmation hearings. Torture, shmorture, you say po-ta-to, I say po-tah-to. The truth was, Hawk was not sure what slant Mukasey really wanted in this memo. He looked enviously out his door at the dark office across the hallway. Everybody knew that Hawk and his boss had been two of the biggest supporters of Alberto Gonzales, so they were clearly being tested. He called his boss again, and got the answering machine again, and again left him a message asking whether he should put in or leave out the 1943 Supreme Court case. He slammed down the receiver, startling himself. He pulled out his last Dunkin' Donut and began chewing it slowly....When he was done with the donut, he was going to wrap up the memo and leave.

Meanwhile, Bridezilla was miles away from the Justice Department, driving home from Pentagon City with a trunk full of new winter clothes and shoes so that she could give away last year's wardrobe to Dress for Success and get a tax write-off. It was that time of year, and the car radio was playing yet another jewelry commercial, subconsciously causing her anxiety about what Atticus would be getting her for Christmas. After all, his career stress (not to mention the resultant acne!) had forced them to postpone the wedding again, and it had been a long time since he had given her the diamond engagement ring. Surely he would give her a diamond necklace this Christmas! Or at least emeralds or rubies...or SAPPHIRES! Yes, that was it--she needed to make up a story to tell him about a blue-eyed co-worker whose eyes were set off by the most glorious SAPPHIRE necklace. She stopped off at Balducci's to pick up a gourmet dinner she would tell him she had been cooking all afternoon, then called him up to see when he would be home.

Meanwhile, several miles east, Laura Moreno was rummaging around Bridezilla's Prince and Prowling office, trying to find the research memo that Chloe Cleavage had promised to leave there. Laura found it at last, under a Federalist Society paper weight. Laura picked it up and was astonished to see it was only one page long, cited only two cases, and had no attachments. Bridezilla is not going to be happy with that. There was a time when Laura would have spent two more hours expanding her own research memo to cover Chloe's gaps, thinking it would win brownie points with Bridezilla, but now she knew it would not, so she didn't bother. She put her own seven-page memo with six printed cases underneath Chloe's, then added back the paperweight. Chloe had done thirty minutes of work on her memo, but had claimed two billable hours. Laura had done three hours and claimed three hours. Bridezilla would claim two billable hours because she had sent two separate Blackberry messages to them while she was out shopping, and the messages had been an hour apart, and the messages had been on her mind during those hours.

Laura headed wearily back down the hall, trying to muster the energy to prepare another pro bono pleading, but she knew she was too tired. She would have to do it on Thanksgiving, and go to court to file it on Friday--it wasn't as if she had anything better to do. She could not remember the life she had lived before she had started working at Prince and Prowling, and then took on the pro bono case from hell because the Prince and Prowling job was not teaching her to be a real lawyer. And now her pro bono family had been transferred to yet another social worker, and she had spent hours on the phone and the email trying to get the new kid up to speed. Didn't those people keep files? By Laura's count, the family had been through seven social workers in four different agencies in two different jurisdictions. Laura stopped at the kitchen, surprised by the smell of turkey, and found a senior associate heating up a plate in the microwave. 'It looks like Thanksgiving came early for you!" Laura said with her best drummed-up camaraderie. The associate told her it was just leftovers from the firm party on Friday. "Firm party?" she asked. He gave her a funny look, and she realized that Prince and Prowling must have had a Thanksgiving banquet for the staff, but nobody had thought to tell her. He told her there was plenty left in the fridge, pulled his steaming plate out of the microwave, and left. He was working on a high-profile pro bono case that would give Prince and Prowling a lot of do-gooder prestige, and cement his profile as a candidate in the next American Bar Association election. Nobody at Prince and Prowling or the ABA would ever know about Laura's pro bono case, her pro bono family would probably not even need legal help if these social work agencies were adequately funded and didn't keep dropping the family through the cracks, and there was still a chance her client would die before they ever got inside the courtroom--where Laura might someday be giving the judge a long-deserved Italian salute. The cold, corporate Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge proved unappealing, so she shut the fridge door and headed back to her room to get her coat and bag.

As she walked past Urine Park, she thought she saw a familiar face, but she could not remember who it was. She walked past John Doe, who was sitting on a park bench, rolling a ball of yarn. He did not look up at her. If she had seen him in better light, she might have remembered that he used to work at Prince and Prowling some time back, before a violent mugging had left him with total amnesia and frontal lobe epilepsy. Even though the insurance company had finally given his family no choice but to pull him out of George Washington University Hospital, he still had not returned to his former life, and, in fact, still refused to believe what he was told about his former life. He liked to carry around skeins of yarn so that if he had a seizure and woke up and did not know where he was or what he was supposed to be doing, he would reach in his pocket and find the yarn, and then he would start balling it up. Has family tried to talk him into going to live with his sister in New Jersey, but that did not appeal to him at all. He was having fantasic visions here, and did not want to lose them. A few minutes later, he had balled up enough yarn to remember what he had been doing before his seizure--he had taken a nap at Filene's Basement because they had full-length changing-room divider walls that ensured total privacy. Then he had planned to walk to the bookstore, but somehow ended up here instead, after a rousing vision of the Pied Piper leading the rats of Georgetown into Rock Creek Park and then all the way north to a wild forest in Maryland. He put the yarn back in his pocket, and got up to go find that book he still wanted to buy--Larry Sabato's idea for fixing the Constitution. If he was going to be a lawyer again someday, maybe that was the sort of thing he could do. He certainly could not go back to Prince and Prowling to work for greedy American corporate scumbags again.

He smiled and nodded at a perplexed Dizzy, then walked down the street to Starbucks to get some coffee. He sat down at an inside table, pulled out his small notebook, and opened it to page three--which was entitled "NAP SPOTS". His family was always begging him to stay at home--they were too proud to suggest he should be in a day program for the mentally challenged--but he got terribly bored at home, and liked to go around the city seeing museums and things like that. The only problem was that the visions and seizures could strike at anytime, as could the desperate need for a nap. It was easier in the summer when he could nap in the parks, though the benches were quite uncomfortable, and often staked out by the homeless. Most of the downtown parks had low ratings on his list because of that, and the cigarette smokers, but the parks further out worked better. The only park with a 5-star rating was the astroturf park, where he could lie on the astroturf and get no grass stains, and it was at a slope, so he he could lie with his legs sprawling down or shooting up, whichever he preferred, and there was unusual artsy-fartsy murals there, too. But now it was cold, and he had to find indoor places, and he was learning what the homeless already knew--people don't like to see you sleeping during the day, or having visions, or having seizures. The libraries were the worse! You would think it would not be a crime to nod off while reading a book at the public library, but if they caught you with your eyes closed, you were in big trouble. Busy restaurants were more tolerant if you nodded off after your meal, as long as there were enough tables, and so he had several optimal napping restaurants listed in his notebook. Bookstores? Forget it--most of the downtown stores scarcely had a chair these days. Clothing store dressing rooms were his newest discovery, and Filene's was definitely the best, though his instinct told him he needed to be in a different place every day of the week. Tomorrow he would spend the day at the Library of Congress.

Outside, the senior associate had finished his pro bono brief and left Prince and Prowling. He walked past the Starbucks and noticed his former mentor in there. He knew the guy would not remember him, but he still felt that saying hello would be the right thing to do. He walked in to greet the man, but John Doe just stared blankly at him for a minute. The associate mumbled a quick goodbye but his face had already registered deep in John Doe's subconscious, and he went into a TLE seizure even before the associate was out the door. In John Doe's vision, the associate had a white robe on, and he was holding Larry Sabato's book in his left hand and rewriting the Constitution in his right hand, and children were laughing and playing in the background, and birds were singing, and it was beautiful.

Outside, starlings brooded quietly in the dormant trees while river rats scurried around the Starbucks dumpster and legal eagles all over the city went home for dinner.

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