The clock at the end of the room struck three, and with the dull, monotonous gong that chimed instantaneously was the rustle of files being tucked into their slots in briefcases that were systematically checked, closed, locked and patted. Like bees, the solicitors and barristers in the office filed through the two large, transparent, main doors, which had the title, “Hare and Tye Legal” printed on the outside. The walls of the room grew narrower as men and women bustled past each other, high-heels strutting on the marble with identical clicks, polished, black shoes adding a bass to the regular beat of people’s footsteps. They hurried to their sleek cars to get to their yoga classes, appointments or drinks with colleagues. There was always something on our schedule.
As I passed under the silver clock overhead, I saw the time: one minute past three, seventeen seconds. I checked my watch, which was nestled snugly against the hem of my pinstripe Armani Collezioni: one minute past three, five seconds. I quickly adjusted it to match the time of the clock – it wouldn’t do if I were twelve seconds late to a meeting, or interview, or… anything. I found my way into one of the three crowded elevators and moved into the corner, facing away from the others. I could see in the reflection of the mirrored walls the man who worked at the desk next to mine, Timothy Green. His hair looked oily and matted, his grey suit had a tear at the left elbow, and the glasses he wore did little to hide the crows’ feet at the corners of his eyes. I smirked to myself.
As soon as the doors split open I was moving – dodging past solicitors, secretaries; however before I could leave the building, a large, bulbous figure with a groomed, trimmed beard that was tied off like a rope stopped me in my tracks.
“Ready for your case tomorrow, Doherty?” the head of the firm, Peter Tye, asked.
“It’s Stanley, actually, Richard Stanley. And yes, I’ve been ready for this for quite some time now.” I paused, wondering if Peter had any interest at all, as he looked as if he was looking through a transparent wall, “Derek should be well in the clear, the way I see the trial going.”
“Good, good… I look forward to hearing about it, Shirley,” Peter said, before adjusting his tie and steering towards the bathroom.
No you don’t, I thought as he waddled away. Most of the time, during working hours, Peter stayed secluded in his office, accompanied only by the warmth of an espresso and morning newspaper, avoiding any involvement with the solicitors passing by.
I left the building and, upon feeling the cool gust of the westerly breeze, put my free hand up to my head to keep my hair intact. Not checking the oncoming traffic, I walked across the chipped, gravel road to my Audi R8 Spyder and hopped in. I may have appeared too confident in front of Peter, I thought to myself as I turned the ignition on. There was no denying that the case I had to argue was quite one-sided. Derek was a repeat-offender, and this time was accused of distributing enough arms to suburban gangs of teenagers to create a small army.
As I began to pull out, I watched Timothy swerve past in his Mercedes and give me a stupid, toothy grin. He knew that I was ticked off at him for swooping in on a murder trial last month, which I should have had. I was far more qualified than him. Then he had to go and win the case by a technicality, which led to him becoming the so-called “top dog” in the firm. I returned his smile through clenched teeth and felt the coarse sensation of grinding stone. I sped off in the other direction. The trial the next day was going to be difficult, but God help me I wasn’t losing it – I wouldn’t be able to bear seeing that arrogant, cocky smile of Timothy’s.
Halfway through the trial, I felt a bead of sweat trickling down the smooth contour of my cheekbone. I wiped it away quickly with one hand, and used the same hand to jab a finger accusingly at the prosecution.
“The evidence brought forward by the prosecution today is completely insubstantial in supporting the accusation of, and irrelevant to, the crime of gunrunning and dealing arms to minors. Mr. Carter’s only previous convictions resulted due to a minor assault and petty theft, and this, according to the prosecution, is enough to suggest a major leap into federal crimes.” So far, the jury was hanging on my every word. I paused to take a look at Derek, who sat behind where I stood. He had a coarse, rugged face that looked like it could cut through stone. He wore a mask of false confidence and prudence that I knew all too well. The stylish, grey suit he wore was poorly matched by the crude, silver stud embedded in his left ear. It gave off a totally wrong impression – if he thought he didn’t look like the leader of some type of organized crime ring, he was wrong. And it looked like I would need more of an edge to convince the jury otherwise. I still had one more card to play.
Half an hour later, we stood beneath an overhanging roof that guarded us from the tempestuous rain that had begun around the end of the trial. Derek patted me on the back and gave me a wink, and walked off under an umbrella. I felt a tug in my stomach as I smiled at the hardened criminal walking away scot-free. The alibi had worked, fortunately enough. All it took were two witnesses who claimed with all sincerity that Derek had been at a horse racing event on the night of the deal. I could return to the workplace tomorrow, victorious, and see Timothy pale at the realization that I was better than him at his job. Visualizing it, all I could see was Derek’s face and that knowing wink. I then thought about the man I had just stopped from going to jail, and forgot the petty competition at work.
There were no umbrellas around, and my car sat two blocks down, out in the rain. I stepped out from the cover of the roof that shielded me from the lashes and stabbing of cold, hard water, and let it come as I walked. I felt my hair become matted and tangled, and the suit become dark with water, so I held a hand above my head as a mediocre guard. But what I felt most was a rope hauling at my stomach and tugging me down, towards the ground, and I could not shield myself from it, nor could I cut myself loose. I had more important things to do.