*No firm release date yet, but not too much longer.*
Philadelphia, Present Day
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Fishbein, but mooning Councilman Jackson is not Free Speech,” I shouted in the direction of her good ear. “Here, let me help you down over the curb with that walker.” I reached out to help my geriatric client and got my hand slapped as thanks.
Agnes Fishbein glared up at me with a face like a dried apple and I flinched as the image of how the other end must look popped unbidden into my head. Councilman Jackson would never be able to unsee that. I pictured golden sunsets and fluffy kittens as I tried to hail a cab for her. The first one sped past me, transferring an entire puddle from the gutter onto the suit I had so carefully picked out that morning. I gritted my teeth and turned back toward the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center.
Councilman Jackson exited the building at that moment, and seeing Agnes, understandably gave us a wide berth. Agnes grumbled something that I will generously say might have been “duck” and began lifting one hand into the air. Thinking quickly, I reached out again and took another slap for the team before she could extend a gesture that proved my duck theory wrong.
Ignoring the amused looks of fellow attorneys who had been in the courtroom enjoying the Agnes Fishbein show, I spun back toward the street and redoubled my cab hailing efforts. To my relief, the next taxi stopped and I immediately helped Agnes in to it.
As I watched them pull into traffic, I smiled with satisfaction. There had been a couple of tense moments, as Agnes could be a real pain in the … well, you know. But I had worked out a great deal for her in the end. No pun intended.
Although it had rained earlier, it was turning into gorgeous day and I looked up to feel the warm sunshine on my face. Just as I started to relax, I felt a sharp jolt in the middle of my back that sent me flying forward. Luckily, I managed to grab onto a street sign and catch myself before I became a traffic casualty.
Turning around, I saw what had hit me, a news camera being wielded by a big goofy-looking guy. As he was standing in profile, I could see that he had a belly that spoke of too many nights of pizza and beer. He also had a bad haircut and a clueless look that said that he was still unaware that he had just committed battery.
“Hey! Watch out!” I growled, tapping him on the shoulder hard enough to leave permanent indentations. “You almost knocked me into the street with that thing.”
“Huh?” he mumbled, turning toward me. He looked like he was about to apologize when a sound like a bark from an angry terrier made him spin around in the other direction, nearly hitting me again.
“Clyde! Get your ass over here!” the terrier bellowed from a location across the street by City Hall. I saw that “Clyde” was under the command of Mavis Walker, a reporter with the local FOX news affiliate. She covered the Philly crime beat and was known for having a “hard-hitting” style that was popular with a certain type of viewer. (Hint: Not my type).
Mavis had platinum blonde hair and a slightly sinister smile permanently etched into her “easy, breezy, beautiful” face. She was tiny, probably not even five-feet-tall, which made her look like “Crazy Eyes” Barbie.™ Although she tried to compensate for her lack of height by wearing heels that were a back injury waiting to happen, it was actually the size of her mouth that did it. I had to admire her balance though.
At that particular moment, those little legs were pumping like pistons, and she had a microphone thrust out in front of her like she was riding into a joust. I looked up ahead to see whom she was chasing. There were plenty of potentially newsworthy people milling around, including Councilman Jackson. I really hoped this had nothing to do with Agnes. Nobody needed to see that on the news.
Just then, a small group standing near an archway parted, and in the middle stood a tall, dark-haired figure. It was a like a scene from a movie and I half-expected a rainbow to form over him. Somehow, I knew immediately that he was her target. I was headed in that direction anyway, so I followed along with the flow of pedestrians trailing the sprinting Mavis and the lumbering Clyde.
As I got nearer, I saw that the dark haired guy looked young, probably only in his early thirties like me. Even at a distance, though, he radiated such an air of confidence that he seemed powerful and important, like someone worth interviewing.
I was quickly catching up to the news team, who had gotten stuck in a knot of tourists. As the gap between us got smaller, I realized that the closer I got to that guy, the more attractive he got. Wow, he was really good-looking … and also familiar looking. I recognized him from somewhere but I couldn’t place him. I stopped and squinted at him, thoughtfully.
“Clyde! Get my approach” Mavis called out, shoving a teenager taking a selfie out of the way. The cameraman emerged from the throng like a blubber tsunami and circled around to a position in front of me to the left.
The dark-haired guy turned in our direction, but he looked right past Clyde, who was filming him, and stared back at me instead. I saw him pause and a smirk slowly spread across his lips, not a smile mind you, a smirk. It dawned on me then; he thought I was checking him out! What an ego! He was sure I was staring, not because there was a news team stalking him, but because I thought he was hot, which I did, but that’s not the point! I was about to set him straight by giving him a good dismissive eye roll before walking off, but just then, Mavis finally arrived.
“I’m here in front of the City Hall with federal prosecutor Jacob Sachs,” she began, sounding out-of-breath, “who successfully convicted crime figure Carlo Moretti earlier this year. Rumor has it that Mr. Moretti’s counsel has filed a Motion alleging that there was prosecutorial misconduct involved.”
That was it! He had been the lead prosecutor in Moretti, the biggest mob trial Philly had seen in decades. Being an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he was normally at the federal courthouse rather than here. That was probably why I couldn’t place him. I had an interest in that case and I so decided to stick around and find out what was going on.
Sachs gave Mavis a look like a patient father listening to a rambling child. “This is just a desperate act on Mr. Moretti’s part,” he commented in a tone more dismissive than even my best eye roll. “He wants to get out of jail and he’s having his attorney pursue every strategy he can think of. There’s nothing more to it than that.” He glanced around as if looking for an excuse to leave.
“But this isn’t a typical line of appeal, is it?” Mavis followed up, undaunted. “Most defendants don’t claim that the prosecution actually did something illegal?”
“It’s not typical, but it’s not shocking. He’s a career criminal. Why wouldn’t he fabricate if necessary to try to get a new trial?” He glanced at his watch.
“So, you deny the allegations?” Mavis asked, as if he would actually admit it on camera if they were true. Sachs remained perfectly composed but the tightness around his eyes and the rigid line of his jaw suggested that that was tiring of this little tête-à-tête.
“Let’s just say that my record of convictions speaks for itself. I don’t need to break the law to win. I just win,” he answered and that smirk was back.
I just win. Listen to him. A simple “yes” would have sufficed. He was even cockier than my younger brother, and let me tell you, Adam was cocky. He had started off as a prosecutor too. Maybe it went with the job. Still, Sachs seemed to take it to a whole new level.
I shook my head and turned to leave. That was enough for me. As I started off down the sidewalk, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Sachs was watching me but the smirk was gone, replaced by a thoughtful look. Maybe he wasn’t used to women walking away from him.