Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 30
“I get it, Jensen. I just don’t know why you didn’t tell me sooner.”
“Because my family has already had enough negative talk thrown around about us. I didn’t want to air their dirty laundry in court. Especially not for my dad’s sake.”
Because it’s embarrassing to have a mom who left your dad when you were young, and who has had a rotating door of much worse partner choices ever since, I want to add. And because I cared what you thought about me and didn’t want to have to tell you my deepest, darkest secrets . But none of that matters anymore because I’m no longer interested .
She doesn’t say anything, so I decide to give the death blow to whatever budding “relationship” we might have had going.
“It’s not like you told me everything either,” I accuse her.
“What? I told you why I’m working for Veterans’ Legal Alliance. And why I’m not at the firm anymore right now.”
“Yeah but you conveniently left out the part where you were dating the son of the boss who wanted you to do the wrong thing.”
“Well I didn’t need to tell you that!” she huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’m your lawyer, not your client. It’s different. And we’re not even…”
“…in a relationship,” I finish for her. “I know. Fine. That’s good.”
“Yes it is!” she says, having to shout now over the rain that’s beginning to pour down. Or maybe because she’s that angry. She takes off my coat and hands it to me, along with my helmet.
“Goodbye, Jensen. I’ll see you at your hearing in a week. Thank you for the additional information as it’s very helpful to me in preparing your defense.”
Pfffft . She’s trying to act so professional and untouched, and I can do the same. I doubt I’ll even be seeing her in a week.
I think another call to Tim is in order. Or maybe to a private attorney. I’ve had nothing but bad luck with these Veterans’ Legal Alliance lawyers. And I don’t think I can bear to see Riley again.
Sometimes life takes a strange turn of events. And then it just keeps going down a winding path of stranger and stranger turns.
Today is my four year anniversary of being a lawyer. I remember how proud I was when I was sworn into the State Bar, with my parents at my side and Jack Holt moving for my recommendation into the Bar.
Now I know why Jensen Bradford came into my life. It wasn’t to sweep me off my feet and make me fall madly in love with him, as I’d initially thought.
It wasn’t even to help save his career, which is what we’d both initially thought. It was for him to help save my career, which had been barreling down the wrong track without me even knowing it.
I think about the oath I took when I was sworn into the State Bar. And how that means nothing to Charles, or to his dad, or apparently to anyone at Holt. Jensen’s right. Why would I have even wanted to work there? Why did I want to be with Charles?
Now I see that people like Tim are the real heros. Toiling day in and day out for people who really need their services. Standing up for their principles no matter what.
I’m at my old office at the Holt firm, hurrying to do what I need to do before anyone gets suspicious. They think I’m here to retrieve some personal documents from my office computer— which they’ve already wiped clean of firm documents— and to talk to Jack Holt. That’s only half of what I’m here to do.
I need to make things right for the client, even if that means making my own life a lot more difficult. I log into Charles’s domain server at the firm using his password, which was way too easy for me to guess: “Callofduty123.”
And there, plain as day, are chat logs between Charles and Kristin: romantic ones, as well as professional ones in which Charles gives up confidential client information so as to help Kristin advance at her firm. I suppose he assumes his job with Daddy is always secure. But in return she gives him some juicy tidbits that he can use to impress Daddy.
This was all under my nose the whole time. Perhaps a part of me knew that Charles was with someone else, and just didn’t want to face the truth.
I skip reading the romantic emails because I don’t even care anymore. She can have him. And I redact their names from the professional emails because I’m not even out for revenge. I just want the client to know that he’s about to lose his trial, and why.
I email the redacted emails to the client, with a note explaining that he will probably want to find a new lawyer as soon as possible. And then I retrieve my meager personal belongings and go upstairs to the partner’s floor, and then to Jack Holt’s office. I leave my box of things outside his door before entering.
“Hello Riley,” he says, gesturing for me to sit, although I don’t. “I’ve been hearing good things from you and the work you’re doing at Veterans’ Legal Alliance. It’s impressive that you’re working to strengthen the firm’s relations with the military community. The partners and I are going to have a meeting next week about your return from your leave of absence…”
Can he really be saying what I think he’s saying? Charles made it sound like my job here was toast. I guess he was wrong about that. And I suppose he didn’t tell his father about the knock-out that Jensen delivered to him.
I hesitate for only a second, realizing that everything I thought I wanted is back within my reach, and yet I’m purposefully throwing it away. But then I remember the email I sent to the client, and how I had knowingly sealed my fate. I can’t work at this firm anymore ever again, and I also probably can’t work at any like it. And that’s a good thing.
I take a deep breath and say what I came here to say.
“Mr. Holt, I greatly appreciate your mentorship over the years and the opportunity to work for your firm. But I have decided to pursue other endeavors. I am tendering my resignation, effective immediately.”
“Other endeavors?” He asks, bewildered, as if there can’t possibly be any others. As if my end-all, be-all goal should be to work at Holt for my entire life. Which is exactly what I used to think, too.
“Yes, I enjoy working for veterans and I plan to continue doing that as well as helping out with other good causes. And I may take some plaintiffs’ cases.”
“Some plaintiffs’ cases? Good causes? Riley, you realize this is a career death sentence, right? None of this is nearly as financially viable or secure as working here at Holt. You were always a smart young woman with a good head on your shoulders. I’m sure you understand that there are ways to incorporate your newfound bleeding heart causes into your pro bono hours and after-work volunteer activities? It would make you an even stronger and better member of the firm. You’re up for a junior partnership vote next year, and none of these recent… events… have changed the partners’ minds about your ability to be a partner here.”
“Thank you again, Mr. Holt, but I no longer wish to be a member of the firm. The recent… events… have changed my mind about wishing to be a partner here.”
“Riley, I’m, speechless. I’m not sure what you mean…”
“Mr. Holt,” I begin again, figuring I might have to spell it out for him. “I do not approve of what happened at the Marks Capital trial. I believe it to be a violation of the rules of ethics and professionalism to…”
“Very well, Riley,” he says, standing and leading me to the door of his office. “If you’re going to swing around wild accusations without any proof, this definitely is not the firm for you.”
Oh, I certainly have proof , I think, but I just nod and say, “I agree, Mr. Holt, that this is not the firm for me. Goodbye.”
“I’d be very careful what you go around accusing this firm of,” Mr. Holt says. “In case your plans to do good work for low pay don’t end up being as satisfying— financially or otherwise— as you think it will be. You will need a reference, after all.”
I suppose that’s his way of blackmailing me . But too bad for him it’s too late.
And don’t let the door hit you on the way out , I know he wants to add, as I leave the firm of Holt, Mason and Davis forever.
I walk into court and do my best not to look at Riley. My goal is to act distant and reserved no matter how I feel when I see her, which I know won’t exactly be easy. This is just a business relationship, as she’d said. I’m her client, not her boyfriend.
And because I’m her client, she has a duty to represent me well and the way I want. I’m hoping she can still do that despite her emotions. Just like I will be a good client despite mine.
She’s already seated at counsel table when I walk in.
“Hello Jensen,” she says. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t get here in time.”
“They’ve already called my case?”
“You’re first on the docket. This is just an expert witness approval hearing, so the judge will hear it first before other cases. And then we’ll be all set for trial.”
There’s an ice cold silence between us. She taps a thick binder with my name on it and says, “I’ve been working on your case. I think you have a solid defense.”
I search her face to determine if she’s being sarcastic, blowing smoke up my ass, or genuine. Her eyes appear sincere. I let my gaze briefly travel down to her lips, and try not to remember how full and delicious they felt on my own just the other night.
I force myself to look back down at the binder: it does appear that she’s put a lot of work into my case, and for that I’m grateful. I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt.
The judge enters and calls my case and the lawyers state their names for the record. I look at his stern face instead of at Riley’s ass.
“We’re here regarding the defendant’s proposed expert witness, Dr. Levi Roth,” the judge says. “Counsel, I’ve read both of your written submissions and for the sake of brevity I don’t need a huge rehashing of the arguments. This is some pretty standard stuff and I’m not sure why you’re objecting to the defense’s motion, ADA Stemple, except, of course, just for the sake of objecting?”
“Certainly not, Your Honor,” says ADA Stemple. He clears his throat and I switch my purposeful perspective to him. From where I sit I can see him shift from one foot to the next. Riley has him nervous. Good job, Riley. That’s my girl .
“Well then, my main question would be for an elucidation on the nature of your objection.” The judge glares at him as if to say this better be good .
“It’s just, that, well, defense counsel’s purpose for using this expert is unorthodox,” says ADA Stemple, stammering the entire time. “I don’t think her theory is normally one within the purview of this expert’s testimony.”
“Your Honor,” Riley interjects, and the judge looks back at her with more interest than he was showing the other attorney.
I’m not sure what they’re talking about but I take that to be a good sign.
“Dr. Roth is one of the prominent PTSD experts in the country,” Riley continues. “He has experience with all kinds of cases and is quite qualified to testify whether or not a defendant actually…”
Now I understand the phrase “seeing red,” because my mind literally flashes red with anger. I can’t believe Riley’s doing this to me, just like Dylan tried to do.
Was it before or after I got upset with her romantically that she decided to use an expert to say I have PTSD and screw me over professionally? It doesn’t even matter. I just have to put an end to this.
“Your Honor,” I say, jumping out of my chair and causing all three of them— the judge, Riley, and the ADA— to look at me in shock. “I need to say something.”
“Mr. Bradford, your attorney is quite competent to speak on your behalf,” says the judge. “And she’s doing an excellent job at that, if I might add.”
“But that’s the problem, Your Honor. I no longer want her to be my attorney.”
All three of them look aghast at me, but Riley looks hurt as well as surprised. She’s staring at me as if she can’t believe I don’t want her to be my attorney anymore, but I know she’s smart enough to figure out why. I guess she thought that she could just give me lip service but do things her way and sweet talk me so much I’d never notice that she was using the exact defense I had told her from the beginning I didn’t want her to use.
“I would like a new attorney, please,” I repeat. “I no longer wish to be represented by Ms. Morrell.”
“Your Honor, I would like a brief recess to speak to my client,” Riley says, and the judge nods at her, but I cut them off.
“I am no longer her client,” I tell the judge. “And I do not wish to speak to her.”
Riley’s mouth hangs open, and she looks as if she might cry. Her nearly always professional appearance has almost become a bit emotional. And the prosecutor has a smug smile on his face.
I almost change my mind— both because I feel bad for Riley and also because she must be doing something right on my case if the other attorney is glad I’m firing her— but I remain resolute. It doesn’t matter how good of an attorney she is if she doesn’t listen to how I want her to represent me.
And I know for a fact that she’s not as loyal to her clients as she pretends to be. Just look what happened at her old firm, and even if she wasn’t directly involved and technically refused to do anything wrong, she certainly didn’t jump in to let the poor client know what was going on.
“Counselor, my hands are tied here,” the judge says to Riley. “If he says he’s not your client any longer then I can’t really make him speak with you. “But Mr. Bradford—” he says, addressing me in a way that’s supposed to scare me.
But I’m used to authority figures trying to scare me, and it never works.
“Let me be clear. I don’t know what your plan is with all of this attorney- hopping. But it certainly does not bolster your defense, if that’s what you’re thinking. It doesn’t buy you any extra time without consequence and it doesn’t influence my decision or the future jury’s decision at all. And I will not continue to coddle your continuous requests for an attorney.”
“Your Honor,” Riley intervenes. “Mr. Bradford is permitted to switch attorneys as often as he likes.”
It’s touching that she’s advocating for me even after I’ve fired her. But that doesn’t change my mind.
“Ms. Morrell, you’re no longer on this case, so you can excuse yourself,” the judge tells her. “And for the record I’m not saying he can’t switch attorneys. I’m saying that I’m not going to undo the hard work of his previous attorneys, including yourself, and I’m not going to prejudice the prosecution’s case by allowing a new attorney to come in and switch everything up at the last moment. So this is my ruling on the standing motion to approve the expert witness. I approve it.”
“But Your Honor—” the prosecutor begins, but the judge waves his hand to silence him.
“It’s a perfectly acceptable motion with no enforceable objections,” the judge continues. “If Mr. Bradford and whoever his new counsel is wishes to use an expert witness, it will have to be this one. Because we are not going to go back and revisit this issue.”
“But Your Honor—” everyone tries to say this time: Riley, the prosecutor, and me.
“Ms. Morrell, I believe I instructed you to excuse yourself from these proceedings pursuant to your former client’s wishes,” says the judge.
“Yes, Your Honor,” says Riley, as she gathers her file and briefcase.
She’s looking at me— pleading with me— but I just give her a sympathetic shrug. It’s nothing personal. I just prefer my lawyers to listen to my requests. She leaves the courtroom and the judge finishes what he was saying.
“That’s my ruling, and it’s final.”
But she is in my past now and it’s for the better. She was no good for my case and no good for me personally. To think I almost broke my rules for her— I almost let her get too close. I’m just going to have to keep her as a lovely memory: the girl who almost won my heart, before she stabbed it.
I walk back to my temporary office, which has become my permanent office, trying not to sob and telling myself that lawyers don’t cry just because their clients fire them. But I know this wasn’t just professional— it was personal— and it hurts. I guess Jensen is so upset about what happened with Charles that he no longer wants me on his case, even though I’ve done so much work, and even though he’s seemed genuinely happy that I’ve done it.
I thought we could put our personal differences aside and remain professional, but I guess I was wrong. And I’m a bit disappointed that Jensen couldn’t do that. He’s not the man I thought he was.
Then again, I guess I’m not the woman he thought I was, either. Perhaps it’s best emotionally that we go our separate ways. But it’s definitely not best financially.
I get three calls later in the day. The first is from a private attorney, wishing to pick up the file of Jensen Bradford from me at my earliest convenience.
“Go ahead and send your runner over this afternoon,” I tell him, with a resigned sigh. It’s not like I’m going to do any more work on a case that isn’t paying me, and from which the client’s fired me.
The second is from Tim McDonald at Veterans’ Legal Alliance.
“Hello, Riley, I just wanted to tell you what you already know. Jensen Bradford called the office and asked to switch attorneys, again.”