The Abduction(9)

By: Mark Gimenez

Another family walked up and stopped to talk with the first family. That did it. She had neither the patience to wait for the Cleavers’ conversation to end nor the inclination to hike from the farthest reaches of the concrete parking lot in high heels. Nor the need to. She whipped the Lexus around to the front row and into a handicapped parking space, cut the engine, retrieved a blue handicapped permit from the console, and hooked it onto the rearview mirror.

She was not physically handicapped.

In fact, as every married man passing by couldn’t help but notice when she exited the sedan, Elizabeth Brice was physically fit and quite beautiful; her makeup and jet black hair remained perfect even after a long day in court; and her slim figure and shapely legs were showcased by her tailored suit with the short skirt. She always wore short skirts to trial.

Elizabeth Brice had graduated first in her class at Harvard Law, but she had learned the hard way that female lawyers do not win trials on brains and hard work alone. Women needed an edge, something extra to take into court with them, something to level the playing field, especially a female lawyer from New York trying to win in a Texas courtroom: the old joke that Texas had the best football players, politicians, and judges money could buy was no joke. Consequently, bench trials were more financial negotiation than courtroom drama—negotiations the good ol’ home boys inevitably won.

But jury trials were crap shoots. There was simply no way to predict what a jury of twelve bored and biased citizens being paid minimum wage would do. Thus, most lawyers hated jury trials; but Elizabeth A. Brice, Esq., loved them. Because she had an edge that no bald pudgy down-home Southern-fried good ol’ boy lawyer could possibly compete with in front of a jury: short skirts. Really short skirts that for the past two weeks had revealed her long, lean, StairMastered legs to the all-male all-moron jury that had spent more time examining her than the prosecution’s damning evidence.

Defendant Shay was forty-six, married with two children, and a respected banker from an old Dallas banking family; he was also indicted by a federal grand jury on fifty counts of bank and tax fraud, charges founded on the unfortunate fact that he had used federally insured bank funds to maintain his twenty-four-year-old mistress in a comfortable lifestyle and had funneled the money through a Cayman Island bank account to avoid paying taxes. “Keeping that little gal happy is damn expensive enough with pre-tax dollars,” Shay had advised Elizabeth during one of their attorney-client privileged conferences. The government had tape recordings, surveillance photographs, offshore bank account records, and the mistress as the star witness under a grant of immunity. Conviction was a foregone conclusion, or so the prosecutors from Washington had thought.

But they didn’t know Dallas. Keep your prick out of the payroll was a maxim seldom heeded in Big D. To the contrary, humping the help was not considered a crime but instead a perk, something to be praised and pursued, not prosecuted. If the government prosecuted every businessman in Dallas who had used bank money or company money or investor money or city or county or state money to pay for pussy, there wouldn’t be enough members left in the chamber of commerce to play gin.

So she had carefully selected a jury of white middle-aged men, men who might have once had a mistress or who hoped to one day have a mistress or who would spend most of the trial imagining her as their mistress. Then she made the bank examiner and IRS agent appear to be pathetically incompetent old men on the stand; she called experts who (for sizable fees) ripped to shreds every piece of evidence offered by the government; she brutalized the prosecution’s star witness on cross-examination (the poor thing cried so diligently her thick mascara ran down her face and into her surgically-created cleavage); and she shortened her skirts six inches.

Elizabeth A. Brice, Attorney-at-Law, had won another not-guilty verdict for another guilty client.

Just as she decided that first thing Monday morning she would raise her hourly billing rate to $500, the merry voices of the kids and parents at the concession stand brought her thoughts back to the moment. She looked that way as the cool evening breeze hit her. She wrapped her arms, but the cold she felt was inside her. A vague sense of unease invaded her mind, as if the wind had whispered in her ear.

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