Effete sat upright in the moderately comfortable chair in the office of Justin Case, her attorney. She looked at him with quiet determination, having made her decision, and now only awaiting his response.
“So, you want to agree to lower the charge to First Degree Misdemeanor for Domestic Violence, with the understanding and legal agreement that your then ex-husband will, aside from and without any consideration of alimony and child support, pay for all medical and health costs, including professional counseling and therapy, incurred by you and your two children for no less than three years following the closure of this case,” Case spoke very calmly and clearly. “That is, 100% health and medical, psychological and psychiatric, and dental coverage for three years for you, Effete, and both of the boys. After which, Fen Sloughheart will assume responsibility for 65% of the above-mentioned coverage for each child until each child reaches the age of 18. And all of this you are willing to concede with the very important understanding that your ex-husband will concede to giving sole custody of the two children to you, while retaining only the right to one monthly supervised visitation for no more, nor less than one hour as well as one ten minute phone conversation per week with each child, at the most. Additionally, you are insisting that such visitation and phone conversations only begin four weeks following the official closing of both cases, which ever one may be wrapped up last. Am I right?”
“You are, indeed, Mr. Case.” Effete answered with an equally calm voice.
“Well, I’ll have to say, even though you’ve accepted the bulk of Ripper’s counter-offer, you’ve also pulled the noose a little tighter around your soon-to-be ex-husband. Of course, I can’t say I blame you, and in fact, your minor but somewhat significant modifications are quite reasonable. I really don’t see why Ripper wouldn’t accept this; it’s really more a matter of whether or not Fen Sloughheart will accept it. I understand he doesn’t exactly like being bested by a woman.” Case chuckled … and Effete was starting to realize why Joy had become so irritable with the handsome young man. He was quite obviously full of himself … arrogant. Good, maybe, but arrogant.
“Of course, the amounts of alimony and child support, and timetables for such, have not and will not change, right, Mr. Case?” Dead-level stare that let Case know he was dealing with an intelligent woman quickly regaining her confidence and footing in the world.
“Of course,” he responded more pleasantly. “None of that will change … so I’ll get on this first thing…
“Today, Mr. Case. You’ll get on this today while I sit here and listen.” Effete was still calm but very determined and not at all intimidated. “Mr. Case, I know you’re an excellent attorney, but you still work for the bread you earn, too, and through the generosity of some rather prominent members of this community – God bless each of them – you are being well compensated. So, no, we will not leisurely wait till tomorrow morning, while you treat yourself to another cup of coffee and bagel and shoot the bull with colleagues and friends. This is a work day, and you’re here to work for your clients, specifically the one sitting in your office now, so … let’s pick up the phone and see if Ripper’s in his office. No reason for delay.”
Justin Case was quite honestly shocked and also perturbed. Who did this beaten-down, abused woman, who couldn’t possibly help herself, think she was all of a sudden? How dare she tell him his business, even assume a vaguely threatening attitude? Too much of Joy Brighterday, evidently, is what Case concluded … and he was quite honestly liking that woman less and less, despite the tragic shooting.
“What? Now listen, Effete … or, excuse, Ms. Mann, if you prefer now,” Justin was shaking his head. “I don’t want to come across rudely, but you hired me because I am a damn good lawyer, so it’s best you let me do my job, and to do it the way I see fit… I don’t know of any particular credentials you have in jurisprudence. Do you? No … so I think if I believe I need to wait till tomorrow morning to contact Jack Ripper, then I’ll wait till tomorrow morning, and trust that the next time we meet, you’ll have a much better, far more respectful attitude, because I sure as hell don’t appreciate the one you’re displaying now.”
“Let’s make one point clear,” Effete leaned forward in her chair and daggered Case with her eyes. “I may be here because I need or want your services, but first and foremost you’re here for me as your client … your client to be served in her best interests, not be demeaned or subjected to deprecating remarks. I’ve had plenty of that in my life; besides, Mr. Case I have very good reason for pushing you to call now. Very important, personal reasons, and there is no practical barrier here preventing you from picking up the phone and calling Ripper. Point in fact, during our little misunderstanding you could have already been taking care of all this, so … let’s waste no more time; after all, you are a good attorney, but you’re not the only good attorney here.”
Immediately, the fact that Joy Brighterday had been shot and Effete was likely blaming herself, plus her natural, maternal concern for the welfare of her children smacked Justin Case in the face like a bucket of ice cold water. His innate humanity began to return, and his heart softened a little. He would call. Without saying a word, he reached for the receiver and dialed the number.
“Hello, Mr. Ripper! How are you today?”
“Oh … well … I guess I’m sorry to hear that; castor oil is still a good old-fashioned remedy…”
“No, I’m not calling you to give you medical advice. I’m calling you on the Sloughheart case. My client is with me now in my office, and she is ready to accept your counter-proposal with only some slight modifications.”
“If I said ‘slight,’ Ripper, then that’s what I meant, and both personally and professionally, I know this is the best deal your client’s going to get, so … do you want to hear it or not?”
“Alright, then, Effete Sloughheart will agree to lower the charge to First Degree Misdemeanor for Domestic Violence, with the understanding and legal agreement that your client will, aside from and without any consideration of alimony and child support, pay for all medical and health costs, including professional counseling and therapy, incurred by my client and her two children for no less than three years following the closure of this case; that is, 100% health and medical, psychological and psychiatric, and dental coverage for three years for Effete Sloughheart, and both of the boys. After this, your client will assume responsibility for 65% of the above-mentioned coverage for each child until each child reaches the age of 18. Furthermore, your client will concede to giving sole custody of the two children to my client, while retaining only the right to one monthly supervised visitation for no more, nor less than one hour as well as one ten minute phone conversation per week with each child, at the most. Additionally, my client is insisting that such visitation and phone conversations only begin four weeks following the official closing of both cases, which ever one may be wrapped up last.”
“How’s that?” Case looked shocked. “Well … yes, we’ll have the paperwork ready to fax in … oh … fifteen minutes at the most. Has your client conceded? Do you know he will?” Case pause, obviously listening to Ripper rant and rave.
“Well, yes, that’s fine.” Justin responded. “You’ll have your copy, of course, and we’ll have ours. We’ll plan on meeting at the courthouse tomorrow at 10:45 a.m. to have all documents signed by both parties and their attorneys, notarized, and promptly sent to the Judge… Sounds good to me!” Case was quite obviously pleased with himself, and Effete was breathing a sigh of relief. This part is almost over, she told herself, and then on to Phoenix Rising for whatever good that may do … but I have to do it, not for my sake, but for the sake of so many others!
“Well, o.k.” Justin looked at Effete, still smiling. “Good call! Damn good call! Ripper had no doubt whatsoever that Sloughheart would agree and sign; in fact, he said he’d make sure of it!” Case couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sure he will, but I don’t want to be around when he does!”
“Well … bully for you, Mr. Case. You’ve just earned another notch in your belt while managing to fatten your wallet a bit more. I’d say your well on your way to being an extraordinary lawyer that someone, someday will doubtless want to write about.”
Justin didn’t know quite whether to take her comment as a direct insult or simply a back-handed compliment. What difference would it make? For some reason, Effete Mann apparently no longer liked him … probably no longer trusted him, and he really couldn’t figure that one out. However, Justin Case had fallen into the same trap into which so many professionals fall, and that is, an enigmatic combination of tunnel vision interwoven with professional snobbery. Often times, victims of this infuriating malady do not even realize they are afflicted.
Effete quietly gathered her belongings, not many, and headed for the door. “Well, then, I suppose I’ll see you at the courthouse tomorrow at 10:45 a.m.” Justin nodded. “Good. Then I suppose at that point, we will have done all we can reasonably do to completely wrap up this morbid mess.” Again, Justin Case nodded. “Again, that’s good; a very longed-for relief. Thank you, Mr. Case, and good day.” She spun on her heels and walked out of his office door and went straight to his secretary’s desk without looking back.
Effete was walking forward now, and she was determined to keep walking forward, and she had no desire to look to the left or to the right, although if she could she would help others unravel their sordid, painful messes … if she realistically could; if not, she had her own life and her two boys.