I sighed in relief as I watched my final client of the evening leave. My "office", the basement of the Borscht Bowl Club, was not what people think it was: a jazz club. People do frequent the club for my saxophone music, but most of them were there not just for the music. On the surface, I am skilled saxophone player, but unbeknownst to others, my real profession is quite different from my "job".
For seven years, I have been seeing clients on this dark, underground office as a lawyer. Why am I doing this in this way, you may ask? It's because I am not allowed to practice law. My disbarment was quite a national scandal, actually. I was caught forging evidence and presenting it in court in a desperate attempt to get my client acquitted.
You might notice my choice there. I was "caught". That is not to say that I did it. I knew I fell into a trap set my by enemies. I should have listened to my instincts when I received that evidence that looked too good to be true. But alas, my desperation to save my client overrode my judgment. I submitted the evidence anyway and the prosecution, who seemed to know that I had that evidence in possession, called to halt the trial and conduct a separate session privately with the judge. That's when the prosecutor called a witness that testified that the evidence that I held was forged, and it was him who forged that evidence.
That single trial ended my career as a lawyer. My case, and that of a prosecutor who was convicted of murder, ushered in the dark age of the law, where prosecutors and attorneys do anything to win their trials, the truth be damned.
And so, tonight, like any other night during the past seven years, a client had approached me to help with their case. I couldn't defend them in court, of course, but I did help them in getting to the bottom of their case. While their lawyers work on their acquittal, I worked on uncovering the truth. You could say that I am a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.
I was doing a bit of cleaning before I go home when I heard soft footsteps from the staircase. If this was from a client, they should know that I don't do consultations beyond the club's business hours.
I swung around with every intention to politely refuse the client, but what I saw took my breath away.
Hillary Rodham, my last ex-girlfriend and the newly installed district chief prosecutor, was standing at the base of the staircase. She was wearing her crisp pink pantsuit, her hair dyed blonde and cut. I don't know whether it was due to my exhaustion or to her recent promotion, but she looked more regal than I have ever seen her before.
"How are you, Bill?" she smiled sweetly.
"Uh." Shit, I don't know what to say. "Good. I am good. How are you?"
"Alright," she shrugged. "Busier than ever before."
"Of course. You're chief prosecutor now. You're catching big fish everyday," I said.
"Yeah, can't argue with that," she replied, walking closer to me, her hands inside her pockets.
"So, what brings you here? As you can see, the bar is closed and I've just packed my saxophone."
"I didn't come here for the food or music," she said. "I am not naive to go here for just that."
Oh. She must know that I am doing. She's not here to arrest me, was she?
"I am not here to arrest you either," she said, reading my mind seemingly.
"What do you want then?" I asked.
"Oh come now, is that how you treat an old friend?" she asked.
"Well, I don't know what you are right now, the chief prosecutor, my friend or my ex," I replied.
"Fair enough," she conceded. "See me as a little bit of everything."
"I know that you have a big favor to ask of me," I declared. "I know you, Hillary."
"Too much, actually," she said. "It's been, what, six years and you still know me like the back of my hand."
"Yeah, unfortunately," I replied. "So, state your case and be on with it".
"I want you to go back to lawyering."
I simply scoffed at her request. "Do mine ears deceive me?"
"Are you serious?"
"Serious as a heart attack."
Her face darkened.
"You know what has been happening in the justice system for quite a while now. Lawyers and prosecutors do not pursue the truth anymore, just their personal glory," she replied. "This is the reason why you had so many clients seeing you in the dead of the night. There is a great distrust on the justice system, and I am ashamed to say that we are part of the problem."
I shook my head in exasperation. "I am permanently disbarred."
"Not if we can overturn your disbarment," she said. "You didn't forge evidence."
I was secretly delighted that she thought I am innocent, but of course I didn't let her see that. "Let's just say that we can overturn my disbarment and I get my license back. So what?"
"I want you to help me clean up the justice system," she said.
I raised an eyebrow. "Just you and me?"
"Soon, a convict will stand at a trial. Not as a defendant but a prosecutor."
My eyes widened in pure shock. "What the hell is this?!"
"He will start prosecuting again under my orders," Hillary replied. "He is a very able and smart prosecutor. He is more than capable for the job."
I think Hillary missed my point. "I am sure that he is capable, but why would you let him prosecute cases? Would that just create distrust towards the courts?"
"I assure you, having him out there and chase criminals will bring us closer to our goal," Hillary replied, though I wasn't entirely comforted by her assurance.
"Basically, you are asking a convicted prosecutor and a scandal-ridden lawyer to stand in court. What a great way to invite confidence to the courts," I said sarcastically.
"What we have here is a chance to cleanse the courts of corruption," she said coolly. "Either you come on board or walk away. And I know you are not the type to give up. Not in this fight.”
Hillary looked at me with an intensity that I haven’t seen in a long time. I could tell that she was dead serious in singlehandedly restore the justice system in its former glory. To be honest, the invitation to make a significant change is tempting, but at the same time, I am skeptical of her plan.
“I didn’t come here to pressure you to join my plan,” she said, reading the apprehension in my face. She took out a small business card from her pocket and placed it in one of the tables. “If you decide to help me, just call me through my cellphone. Make sure you use a private number. We are being watched, you know. As you’ve said, we don’t deal with small fries anymore. I can’t tell you much now, but I promise that everything will come to light.”
As she left the club, I clung to that small glimmer of hope that she kindled inside me. But to be honest, I don’t know how long that glimmer will last. It’s been seven years. I’ve been hurt badly and I already found peace. To wreck everything that I’ve built just for this folly that might not even mean anything in the greater scheme of things…it felt like suicide. If we lose, then all is lost.
For a split second, I hated Hillary for making everything so complicated.