September 4, 2021

OPD: Chapter Three (The Client)

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series OPD

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Rated: R

I see her walk in at half-past three.

Too early to be a party girl and way too young to be one of Earl’s chronic boozers. She drifts over to the bar and whispers something to Mickey the bartender, who nods once in my direction before going back to drying the same beer mug every bartender dries when they are bored, and business is slow.

Pivoting on black stiletto heels, she spins herself like a child’s jewelry box ballerina, her body moving with the practiced precision of a young tart accustomed to befuddling schoolboys with her wiles. She is wearing a black skirt two inches short of conservative and cut to accentuate every curve of her firm, fit body. Beneath her shoulder-tight black jacket, I can make out a white blouse that looks just shy of sheer and just north of trendy. She’s what sex looks like when it’s been bought and packaged by a thirty-something with more money than grace.

After a brief pause to assure herself that she’s got Mickey’s full attention, she begins click-clacking her heels across the worn hardwood floor towards my booth, her hips swaying provocatively with each step.

I am still trying to make up my mind whether she’s a tacky business executive or an expensive call-girl when she draws up beside my table with an air of self-importance and a contemptuous smile.

“Mr. Donaldson?”

I give her a once over with my eyes and take a sip of my drink. She doesn’t think much of my looking.

“Are you Mr. Donaldson,” she asks again.

This time her voice is etched with the force of a hundred nuclear bombs and I suddenly flash on a 1950s safety poster I saw once of Bert the Turtle urging school kids to duck and cover.

“Depends, Ms…”

“Fisher,” she replies. “Ms. Emily Fisher. Are you Mr. Donaldson?”

“As I said, that sort of depends Ms. Fisher. Have we met before?”

“I called you yesterday night and you hung up on me. You told me you were in the middle of something more important, though judging by the company you keep I rather expect you were lying.”

Her tone is as heated as her accusation. She’s right of course but that doesn’t make me hate her any less. I give her another pass with my eyes and let the silence grow.

There’s something all at once intimate and phoney about her, like she’s tried to wrap herself tightly in sugar and spice and all things nice but didn’t quite manage to plug the leak that’s dripping hatred and rage like snake venom from every orifice of her being. Just under the fragrant scent of innocence she’s powdered herself with is the acrid smell of her scorn and hunger.

I don’t know anything about her yet but I know she’s not much more than a hard-edged tramp trying to pass herself off as high society. Even with the hyper dose of sex appeal thrown on top like a thick wool blanket, she can’t quite hide the fact that she’s a closet psycho with poor fashion sense. She’s basically Kim Kardashian pretending to be Sandra Bullock if Sandra Bullock had played Willy Wonka wearing Victoria’s Secret lingerie in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. I know. Don’t ask. It’s just how my mind works.

Anyway, it’s not important. What’s important is that everything about her causes an alarm to sound in the distant recesses of my brain like the vintage wail of a nautical alarm or the flashing red light of a biohazard facility. Maybe Fisher doesn’t intend to overload my limbic system with her heels and cleavage but she wouldn’t be the first woman who’s tried to hire me and run me around by my prick.

That’s the thing about being a man, we spend all of our time mediating a waging war between the brain in our shorts and the brain on our shoulders. Where my prick is constantly conspiring to control me with its compulsion for sex, my brain is like a melodramatic diva shrieking dire warnings in the dark. Often my brain is right. Rarely does my penis care.

And that’s the thing about men and women. From the time her breasts begin to swell, every woman discovers the power her sexuality has over most men, and from the time he has his first erection, every man discovers how readily he can be controlled by his sexual impulses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some dumb bastard who thinks that because Fisher’s in a skirt, she must want to have sex with me. Only an imbecile would reach that kind of conclusion. But there’s no sense pretending that I’m not leery of the woman. She’s thrusting her sexuality at me like a knife and the very glint of it under the candlelight causes my brain to scream. And that’s the real danger. If I don’t heed the warning from my brain, my prick will start calling the shots and then everything is a mess, literally and figuratively.

And don’t get me wrong, the problem isn’t that I can’t resist her because I can. She’s not my type and I’m not that stupid. The problem is that women who use their sexual charms to persuade and manipulate men rarely take no for an answer and don’t take kindly to rejection. It may be a stereotype or perhaps a cliché, but William Congreve was right, ‘heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.’

As the silence draws out, Fisher starts fidgeting with a wedding ring and licking her lips as if she hasn’t had a drink in days.

“Well,” she asks again while batting her pretty eyelashes at me.

No doubt, she is aiming for innocent again but her voice still has that sharp hint of anger, her perfume that hint of lust and her eyes that hint of psycho. It’s unnerving and disorienting.

I have half a mind to tell her to piss off but there’s something darkly compelling about her presence that keeps me from forming the words. It’s like she’s massaging my balls by twisting them gently. It feels pleasant enough at first but I know in a moment they’ll be black with atrophy and if I don’t stop her, she’ll castrate me completely as I sit here staring at her stupidly.

“Why don’t you sit down Ms. Fisher and let’s see if we can get to the bottom of things.”

I know what you’re thinking. I mustn’t be that smart to suggest that she stay and you’d probably be right. But I’d bet even money that she’s not looking for smart, she’s looking for desperate; she’s looking for a ham and egger. You know, the guy from high school with just enough talent to make the varsity team but not quite enough talent to go pro. He’s the guy who was so desperate for his first handjob that all the girls knew how to manipulate and control him without ever having to worry about unzipping his fly or getting his cum in their hair. The guy who does the pretty girl’s homework but never the pretty girl. That guy. That’s the guy she’s looking for and by the way she’s staring at me, I’m guessing she’s trying to decide whether she’s found him or not.

I’d like to tell you that I’m not him but Earl’s isn’t exactly the Ritz and in my threadbare Calvin Klein suit, I’m no Brad Pitt. I’m clinging to the bottom rung of my profession and whatever potential I might have had I flushed down the toilet with last night’s dinner. If I were smart I’d run away from this woman but then if I were smart I wouldn’t be conducting business from a booth at Earl’s in the middle of the fucking day.

So, alright, you got me. I may not be the smart guy but judging by her performance so far, I doubt she’s much smarter. And let’s not forget that I’ve got control issues and don’t play well with others and while she may think she’s got me fitted with her leash and muzzle, I haven’t been desperate for a handjob since the fifth grade.

She must be thinking the same because she’s standing there eying me and debating whether I’m worth her trouble or not. On any other day I might tolerate her indecision but she’s interrupted a perfectly lovely afternoon at Earl’s and I’m beginning to find her hovering presence annoying. I tell her again more forcefully to sit down and after shaking off her anger like a dog in the rain, she gives up, and squeezes herself into the booth across the table from me. Once she’s got herself settled, the silence settles with her.

“So Ms. Fisher, what seems to be the problem?”

“Please, call me Emily. I don’t believe either of us needs to stand on formality, do you?”

She’s dropped the anger from her voice again but it wouldn’t take a master mariner long to find it lurking just below the surface like a great white shark. Not that I care. Her manner may convey her words like a drill sergeant’s orders but, like I said, I don’t play well with others.

“What’s it all about, Ms. Fisher,” I say again keeping my voice level and my expression neutral.

“Are you always so cold to your prospective client’s Mr. Donaldson?” She hangs a plastic smile on her face and lets her eyes linger on mine just a second longer than is comfortable. At this point, I can’t tell whether she wants to hire me or eat me. Either way, I know it won’t be pleasant.

“And why is it that I would want you for a client, Ms. Fisher,” I say.

She casts her eyes around the bar as though she and I are in a conspiracy together. The whole thing is rather comical considering Earl’s is absolutely empty. The last drunk ran out of steam a few hours ago and the parade of party girls won’t get here until the whistle blows in their blue-chip towers a few blocks away.

That’s the beauty of Earl’s; it’s the Clark Kent of drinking establishments, a completely forgettable dive except during those few hours every day when it rescues office hipsters from their dreary dead-end jobs with cold drinks and shots of irony. I stumbled into Earl’s two years ago and have been returning daily ever since. I’m only here for the solitude, never the party. It’s become a convenient place to hide and forget. Which makes Ms. Emily Fisher’s presence in the bar looking for me all the more curious and troubling. While my routine isn’t a state secret, I don’t exactly advertise Earl’s as my second home.

“I am not exactly sure where to start, Mr. Donaldson,” she says hesitantly. “It is a rather delicate matter.”

“I’m sure it is,” I say with as much compassion as I can muster, which isn’t much considering I don’t care much for my prospective client. “Why not start at the beginning.”

“Well, I…I need your help to sue a lawyer.” She rushes the words out of her mouth like the whistle of air from a balloon. I’ll admit I’m intrigued but not enough to do much more than look at her impassively and wait for her to continue.

“Well,” she says, her anger brewing again, “is that something you can help me with?”

“Plenty of people who can help you with that kind of problem, Ms. Fisher. What makes you think I might be one of them?”

I can tell she’s unaccustomed to any kind of indifference and I suppose I’d be more interested if I wasn’t absolutely confident that Fisher will be more trouble to manage than a one-armed, one-legged, circus clown with dreams of winning a strongman contest.

“Well, that may be true, Mr. Donaldson but I was told to find you. I was told you could help me.”

So she’s a referral. That at least explains her presence in the bar. And her late-night phone call.

“And who might have told you that,” I ask calmly, trying to hide my sudden interest.

It’s been a long time since any prospective client had been referred to me and I don’t know whether to be flattered or terrified. In the business of law, there are really only two kinds of referrals, those made by colleagues who genuinely think you are the best and those made by your enemies in a bid to fuck up your life, usually by introducing some wacko client with an axe to grind. Given Fisher’s demeanour so far, it could go either way.

“I can’t tell you that I’m sorry,” she replies.

“You want me to believe that you were referred to me but don’t know by who?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t know who referred me. I said I can’t tell you who they are.”

“Won’t,” I say.

“Won’t?” she asks.

“Yes, won’t,” I snap. “You said you can’t tell me but that’s a lie isn’t it. In actuality you can but won’t.”

“I….,” she says haughtily. “What possible difference could it make Mr. Donaldson who referred me?”

“None, I suppose. We’re still strangers. You’re free to do as you want just as I’m free to do the same. But secrecy over trivialities is bound to be indicative of a future failed relationship.”

“I—”

“It’s alright,” I say before she can finish offering up some bullshit explanation for her secrecy. “Truth is hard Ms. Fisher but lawsuits are harder. I doubt you have the stomach for either so let’s not waste anymore of each other’s time. Let’s just agree that we’ve exhausted each other’s company and leave it at that.”

I take another sip of my drink and start surfing the net on my cell phone. I can feel her staring at me coldly and I can almost hear the little hamster in her head running furiously on the wheel just behind her poisonous green eyes.

“I… I’ve never…how dare you…how dare you speak to me like…I don’t let anyone speak to me like you—”

I look up from my cell and smile. “Perhaps it was time?”

“Time? Time for someone to be rude to me? Time for someone to be unkind? You don’t know me Mr. Donaldson. You—”

“I know you, Ms. Fisher. I’ve known girls like you my whole life.”

“Ah,” she says. “So there it is. Now I understand, you’re nothing but a two bit misogynist. What happened Mr. Donaldson, did the pretty girl laugh at your tiny penis and hurt your wittle feelings? Is that why you don’t like me? Are you scared I’ll learn about your little secret? Is that it?”

She starts laughing at me like she’s just finished a standup routine at the Caroline, only it’s a psycho’s laugh, high and shrill and crazy. I force a smile to my lips and suppress an urge to choke her. It isn’t her barb about the size of my manhood that hurts but her accusation that I’m a misogynist. That hurts a lot.

My father’s a misogynist. He’s also an asshole. He might also have a small penis, I don’t know, I’ve never thought to ask him. I know I’m an asshole but I’m pretty sure I’m not a misogynist. As for my penis, I’ll have to ask the Bavarian the next time I see her. What I do know is that this woman is pissing me off and it isn’t because she’s a woman. It’s because she’s obviously as unhinged as a refrigerator door in a kitchen full of fat kids.

“I’m sorry Ms. Fisher. I see you’ve misunderstood me,” I say. She stops laughing and her face lights up with the satisfied look of a conquering hero. “When I said I’ve known girls like you my whole life, you apparently assumed I meant pretty. That’s my fault. I should have been more precise. I don’t think you’re pretty, I think you’re crazy.”

I expect her to erupt in rage but she surprises me by breaking out the tears. “You…you…you think I’m crazy?”

“Spare me the tears,” I say with amusement.

The tears that weren’t, vanish instantly. “You really are a son of a bitch, Mr. Donaldson.”

“Your world Ms. Fisher, I’m just living in it.”

“Is this what you call living,” she asks. “Seems to me you could use a few more clients. Let me rephrase that, seems to me you could use a paying client.”

“City is full of clients, Ms. Fisher. And suing lawyers is a nasty business and not a particularly lucrative one at that. Whoever told you I was interested in your case was mistaken. I’m not. So best of luck to you. Good day.”

For the second time in as many minutes, I’ve caught her off-guard. Only this time she can sense that I’m serious because her eyes flash from anger, to confusion, to tears in the span of a single breath. Suddenly, her facade of contempt and hostility is being washed away by a deluge of waterworks, melting her porcelain face and sending goops of black makeup streaking down her cheeks like a five-year-old’s finger painting.

Watching this show, I feel an odd sense of satisfaction as though I’ve spent a considerable amount of energy peeling back a thin veneer of paint only to find a real person buried underneath.

“She…she insisted that I not tell you her name. She…she told me you would help me. She said you…you would know what to do.”

We stare at each other across the table, her tears splashing down like raindrops. I want to know who the she is but I can’t bring myself to push the envelope further. There will be time for that later.

“Fair enough, Ms. Fisher,” I offer. She’s still crying and I suppose decency would dictate that I offer her some sort of tissue or something except that I don’t have one and now that I’ve broken her down, I’m not sure I want to give her a chance to regain her composure. “Let’s talk about who it is you want to sue.”

Apparently, this is the wrong question because she starts crying even harder and now I can’t stand to watch.

“Why don’t I get you a drink and give you a minute to pull yourself together,” I say as I push myself up from the booth.

I don’t wait for her answer, though frankly, it is hard to tell whether she’s even heard me through her sobs and tears and heavy breathing. I don’t like drama. Hers or mine. I walk over to the bar and ask Mickey to pour me a fresh ginger ale.

“Who’s the princess?,” he asks. Mickey doesn’t do subtle.

“No idea. Says she was referred to me but won’t say by who.” I take a sip of my drink and we take turns staring at Fisher.

“She’s crying,” he says as though I hadn’t noticed.

“Yep,” I say. I take another sip of my drink and continue staring.

“I’m saying she’s crying. You should comfort her. Take her a tissue or something at least.”

“Ya,” I say noncommittally. “I don’t even know this woman. Now I’ve got to comfort her.”

“You are one cold bastard, Oz. She’s crying for Christ’s sake. You comfort her. That’s what people do.”

“Ya?”

“Jesus, when was the last time you were near a woman like that. Of course you comfort her. She’s upset.”

“She said she wants to retain me. Not sure I’m comfortable providing emotional solace to a potential client,” I say.

“Fuck you talking about. You made the woman cry. You don’t see that you’ve gotta take responsibility for that.”

“With respect Mickey, I didn’t make the woman cry. I told her I wasn’t interested in her case and the next thing I know she’s falling apart. Really, I don’t see how that’s my responsibility.”

Mickey appears to consider my words. “You really are a piece of work Oz. You got all the time in the world for punks who come in here wearing several brands of bandages and whining about their neck pain but a beautiful woman walks in wanting to hire you and you’re as cold as ice.”

I smile at him. “Indeed,” I say. “The mummies are worth coin, Mick. Whereas, in my experience, beautiful women are worth a lot of heartache. Emotions don’t pay the bills. You of all people should know that. How much did Vivian fleece you for before she drifted?”

“Fucking Viv,” he says wistfully, remembering the woman who broke his heart. “Sure she cost me a penny or two but I got plenty in return.”

“Like what,” I ask, “a broken heart, an empty bank account and a hefty lawyer’s bill?”

We both laugh. I handled the matter for him and never sent him a bill. Ever since, I’ve been getting free refills and undying gratitude.

“Love,” he replies. “You never been in love Oz?”

“Love. Hah,” I scoff and take another swallow of ginger-ale. Wiping my lips with a napkin, I look at him and smile. “Love is a disease that makes grown men weep and fall all over themselves like swine in slop rooting for a truffle. It’s a prison invented by women to take ownership over the one thing that shouldn’t be owned.”

“Oh, and what’s that,” he asks.

“Freewill, Mickey. Freewill.”

Mickey stares at me and starts laughing again.

“You really are warped Oz. Maybe if you believed in love, that young woman right there wouldn’t be sitting alone in my bar crying.”

“She isn’t alone. We’re here, her loyal audience. That’s why she’s crying. It’s a game to her. An act intended to secure my sympathy and weaken my will.”

“How the hell you figure that,” he asks.

“This isn’t my first time at bat,” I reply. “There isn’t anything to her except trouble and heartache.”

“You can’t know that. Maybe she’s been hurt and you’ve only aggravated the situation by being mean. What if she really needs your help.”

“Thousand lawyers in this city. Odd, don’t you think that she should believe I am the only one who can help her.”

That seems to shut him up for a minute or two.

“You got me there, Oz. A worn out, washed up, dirty, ambulance chasing prick like you, most days I’m not sure whether I’d hire you or run you over with my car,” he says with a smile. “No offence, of course.”

“Exactly,” I reply.

We both stare at the woman in silence a while longer and wait for her to stop crying. After a time, I take a deep breath and another pull of ginger-ale and then make my way back to my booth.

“Feeling better,” I ask as I take up the bench across from her.

Her eyes are still bloodshot but her oversexed doll face has melted to reveal a pleasantly ordinary woman underneath. Not quite attractive enough to be a runway model but certainly better looking than a strung-out two-dollar whore. We sit quietly, contemplating one another like two strangers taking a ride on a cross-town bus.

“You don’t like me,” she asks after a moment. Her voice has lost its edge.

“There are plenty of people that I know for me not to like that I don’t make a point of disliking people I don’t know,” I reply.

She smiles thinly as though I’ve told her a joke. That irritates me. She irritates me.

“Perhaps we can start again” she says. “My name is Emily Fisher and I need your help.”

She extends her hand across the table. I take it firmly, shake it once and let go.

“Fine. Now why don’t you tell me what it’s all about, Ms. Fisher?” I say. “Why is it you needed to see me so badly?”

“I already told you,” she says with a hard edge to her voice, “I need to hire a lawyer to help me sue another lawyer. I need someone who is aggressive and forceful. I was told to find you.”

“I think you’ve been grossly misinformed,” I reply. “I am neither aggressive nor forceful and I don’t make a habit of suing lawyers.”

“But she told me that you would take my case. She said you would help me sue … “her voice falters but she recovers quickly and spits out the word “…him.”

“And who is the him you are referring to, Ms. Fisher?”

She looks down at the table, studying its surface intently and then looks up at me again. I can see the tears swirling behind her eyes but her reaction still seems contrived, a show of pain and victimization for my benefit.

“Michael Collins,” she whispers.

I stare at her in disbelief, which she obviously mistakes as some kind of argument from me because she steadies her voice and says again more defiantly, “I want to hire you to help me sue Michael Collins.”

Her words send a ripple of hate and anger and darkness to the surface of my consciousness. She’s pricked my heart with the poison of my own emotion and sent it trickling through my veins. It is as though she’s carelessly tossed a coin into a deep, dark well that would be better left undisturbed.

Only it wasn’t careless. Her face betrays her intention and I know immediately that she’s been told to say his name. She’s been told to toss it at me like a grenade and watch the destruction that follows. Two years ago, she might have succeeded. Two years ago, I might have ditched reason for revenge even if it meant working for a lunatic like her. But not today. He may be an asshole, and he is, but whatever he’s done to her, whatever she’s about to say to me, I’m not about to chase her down some rabbit hole of craziness just because it’s him she’s after.

I force myself to take a deep breath and another sip of my ginger ale. As the darkness passes and the poison drains away, I regain control. And I wait. Soon the silence becomes unbearable and she tries again to bait her hook and lure me in.

“Well, Mr. Donaldson,” she asks quietly, eagerly.

“Well, what Ms. Fisher,” I reply. My voice is steady, my heart cold.

“Didn’t you hear me,” she asks in a voice that betrays her confusion over my response. “I need you to help me sue Michael Collins.”

She watches me, hoping for a different reaction and I wonder if she has been told that the mere mention of his name would unsettle me, make me pliant, make me her plaything. But I am not so easily baited.

“And what makes you think I would want to help you do that,” I respond.

I watch her carefully for her reaction. The silence grows like a fungus between us, our eyes locked in a kind of death stare until she softens and looks away. I want to smile at my small victory but I’m dimly aware that I haven’t won. I may have cracked the window of her concentration but she is not done with me yet.

As if reading my thoughts, she drops her eyes to the tabletop and I know she’s going in for the kill.

“Because,” she says so quietly that I have to lean in to hear her, “he raped me.”

Her words hit me with the force of a tidal wave. Her answer is not the one I expect and for the first time I wonder if I have misjudged the situation. Perhaps Mickey’s right, perhaps she really needs my help. The idea seems so absurd I want to laugh. It has to be some kind of joke. A set-up. There’s something she’s not telling me.

“What game are you playing at, Ms. Fisher? Why are you really here?”

“I don’t understand,” she replies nervously. “I’ve just told you I—”

“That’s a very serious allegation you’re making,” I say, cutting her off again. “If it’s true—”

“You don’t believe me,” she responds.

“— If it’s true, you don’t need me. You need the police.”

“It’s true, Mr. Donaldson. He…he…raped me.”

She’s shaking her head and I realize that she is crying. Not the actresses’ tears from earlier but a quiet, desperate sob. The sound is delicate and indefinable and crawls through me like a rambling vine, trying to tie me up, and bind me to her cause. The tears make it hard to believe she’s playing me even if everything else about the situation seems fabricated. It’s not just her tears that eat at my resolve like battery acid; it’s also him. I despise him. The temptation to take him down and destroy him is harder to resist than a candy red apple in the garden of Eden. And that’s the part that has me worried. She’s either the perfect means to tear Collins down or the perfect snare to trap the guy who hates him.

Eventually, her tears stop and she looks up at me again. I can still sense her hunger but now there is something else, something darker, and I realize it is the dark look of revenge. It is unsettling. Not because it is unbecoming, but because it is the same look I’ve seen in the mirror every day for the past two years. I’ve waited patiently for this moment to arrive and while I have no doubt that Emily Fisher’s motives are anything but pure, I know I really don’t care if it means exacting my pound of flesh from Michael Collins. Our eyes lock again, a mutual understanding passes between us, a pact born of mutual hate.

“If we’re going to sue Michael Collins, Ms. Fisher, you’re going to need to get a grip on your emotions.”

“So you’ll help me?”

This time, I allow a smile to play on my lips before responding. “That really depends on you Ms. Fisher. If the accusation is true, I will do what I can to help. But I must warn you, this will be no easy task. He’s not to be under estimated.”

She keeps her face impassive and stares at me before responding. “I assure you Mr. Donaldson, the accusation is true. That bastard raped me and I intend to make him pay.” Her voice is trembling but defiant. “I can prove what he did to me.”

“And how’s that?” I ask, letting my curiosity shine through a bit.

She smiles at me thinly. “Well, um…” she hesitates and feigns shyness but it’s insincere. It’s just another manipulation. “Well, he took photos of me. He tied me up and took photos. And then…” her words trail off and she looks down again.

I take a sip of ginger-ale and try to imagine this young woman in some sort of sexual escapade with Michael Collins, a man I had nicknamed the Tomato, both because his gigantic frame made him look like an over-ripened tomato and because of his rumoured fetish for having sex with women who were menstruating. I had it on good authority that he liked the feeling of lubricating himself with their blood and thus, in my mind, painting himself red like a tomato. I might just as easily have gone with Dracula since he definitely liked to suck their, well, never mind. I’m sure you get the picture.

“Where are these photographs?” I ask trying to rid myself of the image of the Tomato naked and mauling this young woman.

“I have them at home. He emailed them to me. To taunt me. To brag about his conquest.”

“If you have pictures, why haven’t you gone to the police, Ms. Fisher? Why hire a lawyer to go after him?”

“I tried the police. They laughed and said that it was a domestic matter. A lover’s quarrel. Nothing they could do. They didn’t care.”

She starts crying again. Or maybe she never stopped. I’ve lost track of her waterworks. Tears make everything about my job awkward. It’s hard enough watching a woman cry without adding doubt and skepticism about whether she’s crying to manufacture sympathy or simply in response to the horror of what happened to her.

I have no doubt that it’s possible Fisher’s faking her tears for my benefit. She’s a manipulator and tears are a favourite tool in the manipulator’s toolbox. Then again, if Fisher is crying for my benefit, she has the range of a Hollywood starlet and deserves to win an Oscar for her performance. And that’s the tricky part about taking on sexual assault files; it’s damn difficult to separate fact from fiction. So far, Fisher had made that exercise nearly impossible. Between her and the Tomato, I’m still uncertain who was the sheep and who was the lion.

“Alright,” I say. “Never mind about the police. Bring me the photos and the email and I’ll see what can be done.”

“I…” she hesitates. “I…I have to show you the pictures?”

Her attempt at modesty is silly and annoying. “Yes, Ms. Fisher. If you want to sue Collins, don’t you think it will be easier if I have the evidence?”

“But then you’ll see me—”

“Naked? Yes, I will.”

“Isn’t there some other way,” she asks desperately.

“I’m sure there isn’t but don’t worry Ms. Fisher, I’m a professional.”

I try to smile at her reassuringly but I can see her lingering doubt. I’m tempted to tell her that while I may be a chronic masturbator, I have yet to jerk off to a single picture of any of my clients. It’s true but I doubt it will provide her much comfort. Instead, I bite my tongue and change the subject.

“Now that we’re going to be working together, let’s speak briefly about my fee.”

She’s still thinking about the pictures and it takes her a moment to switch gears when she realizes I’ve raised the subject of getting paid.

“I…well, I don’t have any money. I was hoping you, well, um, I was told you take cases on contingency.”

“Were you then,” I say with a hint of frustration. “And who might have told you that?”

“I told you I can’t tell you their name.”

“Yes, I know. But I would have thought you might be more amenable to sharing their name with me now that I’ve agreed to take your case.”

“Well, you’d be wrong,” she snaps.

We’re back to staring at each other again, two predators accustomed to being in control. This time, it’s me who looks away. I take a deep breath and shove my anger and raging curiosity back down into my stomach.

“It’s been a long day, Ms. Fisher and I’ve lost interest in this conversation. Why don’t you drop by my office tomorrow with the evidence and we can finalize a retainer and a strategy.”

“Fine,” she says. “I will be at your office tomorrow morning. But I must tell you that I am looking to hire a lawyer who’s going to pursue this aggressively. So far,” she says looking around Earl’s, “I am not entirely convinced that you’re that lawyer.”

I want to slap her but resist the impulse.

“If what you’re saying is true, I’ll be plenty aggressive, Ms. Fisher. But,” I say staring fixedly, “if you’re lying to me about this, you’re going to need more than an aggressive lawyer to shield you from my wrath.”

“I’ve given you the truth, Mr. Donaldson,” she says with a look of anger. “I’ll have the proof in the morning.”

“Well, then,” I say, still smiling, “till tomorrow then.”

And like that she slides out from the booth, straightens her skirt and walks out the door.

After a minute, I stand up and follow after her. I don’t know why but I have an impulse to see where this dame spends her nights. I toss a few singles on the bar as I pass Mickey and step out into the street.

Series Navigation<< OPD: Chapter Two (The Bavarian)

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