Red abhorred air travel as a result of once stomaching a white-knuckle flight in the middle of a thunderstorm awash in unremitting lightning strikes as dazzling as sunbursts. Comfortably ensconced in the back seat of Red’s limousine, they embarked on the six-hour drive from Dallas to Corpus Christi. Sitting across from him, Eva told Red everything she knew about Rafael’s background and her captivity by the Blanco’s.
“That’s quite a yarn, darling.” He sipped from a glass of Campbeltown whisky as the limousine sailed effortlessly over the highway.
“Every word true,” Eva said.
“I have no doubt of your veracity, darling” he said. “My concern is how do we best exploit this history to our advantage? Assuming that every single declaration you uttered is the God’s honest does not alter the bothersome detail that the client shot an unarmed man in cold blood like he was putting down a rabid raccoon in a chicken yard. Worse yet, darling, he perpetrated said slaughter in front of scores of troublesome, innocent bystanding pains-in-the-ass.” Raising the $750 bottle of single malt whiskey, he said, “Drink?”
Eva shook her head. “No thanks. It will be strange seeing Rafael after all this time. I wonder if he’s changed.”
Red replaced the bottle in the arm rest. “You won’t actually be seeing him, darling,” he said. “He won’t be allowed visitors yet, only his lawyer.”
“What?” Eva sat upright. “I have to see him; I must!”
“Not my rules, darling,” he said, raising both hands defensively. “It’s that pesky state of Texas annoying folks again. I swear, darling, they do it every chance they get. That’s why people need varmints like me fighting for ’em for like a pit bull after a rat.”
“Red, you don’t understand. I couldn’t stand being so close and not seeing him. All this time thinking he was dead and now finding out he’s not! Can’t I pretend?” Eva asked, agitated. “Can’t we pretend that I am a lawyer too?”
Red shook his head. “Darling, I can’t be party to a deception like that; I have my principles.”
Eva looked at him doubtfully.
“All right,” he conceded, “maybe not so much my principles, but I do have a law license to protect. I can’t lose my law license, darling. I’m much too old and indolent to go back to bull riding now.”
Eva leaned forward, found Red’s hand, and squeezed it. “Please, Red,” she said, “There must be a way. There must be something you can do. Please.” Eva stared intently, her entire face imploring him.
“You are a persuasive little filly, aren’t you, darling? Maybe you should be a lawyer. Let me chew on this a bit.” He yanked the bourbon bottle out of the arm rest and topped off his glass.
Turning her head, Eva peered out the tinted window at the acres of open range rushing past. A prairie dog at the side of the highway briefly peeked at her, did a quick about face, and scampered into the wilderness.
The jail was located in the basement of the Corpus Christi police headquarters. The sergeant on duty was a portly, balding man in uniform and he stared at Eva and Red as if they each had two heads and six arms.
“I’d like to see my client,” Red intoned ceremoniously, “Señor Rafael Mena.”
The dumbfounded sergeant rubbed a hand over his bald head, staring at Red, then Eva, then back again to Red. “You’re that guy,” he said, pointing at Red. You’re him!”
Red touched the brim of his white cowboy hat. “I am indeed, sir. Thank you for that fulsome acknowledgment.”
“You’ll have to sign in,” the sergeant said apologetically. He pushed a clipboard with the log-in sheet toward Red.
Red grasped the ballpoint attached by string to the clipboard and signed his name in swirling flourishes. “Shall I sign for my paralegal as well?” he asked, holding the pen.
The pudgy sergeant looked at Eva and sucked in his stomach as best he could. “We prefer that each person sign their own name,” he said, smiling sheepishly at Eva.
“Of course,” said Red, passing the clipboard and pen to Eva, “a very sound policy.”
Eva signed her name, noted the date and time, and handed the clipboard back to the sergeant who was still smiling at both of them as if he were a lucky lottery recipient and they were the custodians bringing him his check. Eva returned his smile.
The sergeant told them he would summon an officer to take them to the cells, and he gestured toward a bench down the hallway where they might wait. They moved toward the bench, but neither of them sat.
“I’m nervous,” Eva said under her breath.
“Seeing Rafael again after all that’s happened,” she admitted. “I’m scared he hates me for leaving him in the tunnel. I shouldn’t have left. I made the wrong choice. I should have stayed with him. At least we’d be together. At least we’d have each other. Now we may never . . .” Eva bit her lower lip and looked at Red apprehensively.
Red scowled. “Darling, you’re his guardian angel. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to Mr. Mena. He won’t hate you; I reckon he’ll want to make love to you right there in that cell in front of God, police, and the whole darn state of Texas if he can.”
“And, darling,” Red said, lowering his voice even further, “remember my admonition to you in the car: Rafael can only see his legal team at this point; he’s not allowed visitors, so you can’t tip who you are or they’ll cut you out of his cell faster than a coyote out of a herd of steers. You are my paralegal, my assistant, and that’s all.”
Eva nodded. “I know,” she said, “but it’s going to be hard restraining myself. I know I’m going to want to kiss him and hug him and stroke his hair and . . .”
“Darling,” Red said, looking straight into her eyes, “subterfuge and deception are the attorney’s tools as much as horse and lariat are the tools of the cowboy. If you want to see Rafael, those attorney tools are the ones you need to grab tight and use right now.”
“I know,” she said cheerlessly. Gazing down the hallway, Eva noticed a tall man in uniform approaching them.
“Mr. Pepper, I believe,” said the tall uniformed man. He did not offer his hand. A thick head of salt-and-pepper, curly hair and matching mustache were carefully coiffed.
“You have me at a disadvantage, sir,” Red said with a sardonic grin.
“I’m Captain Walker,” he said. “I run day-to-day operations at this headquarters.”
“And quite efficiently too, Captain, I might add.” Red gestured as if he were standing in the well of the Roman Senate.
“I’m told that you’re Rafael Mena’s attorney. Is that right?” He looked at Red suspiciously and glanced at Eva.
“I am, sir.” Red bowed. “And, I’d like to see my client immediately.”
“I wasn’t aware that Mena had even made a phone call to anyone yet. He’s told us everything, you know. He’s admitted the whole thing and, even if he hadn’t, we’ve got a flock of witnesses. You may be wasting your time here, Mr. Pepper.” The captain flashed a tight smile.
Red grinned back, removed his hat, and wiped the sweatband with his handkerchief. “Captain,” he said, “I’m afraid it’s you who may have wasted some time. Nothing my client has said to you up to this point will find its way into the court transcript. On that, sir, I am as fixated as an old crocodile floating toward a baby calf lapping at the waterhole.”
The captain’s grin faded. “We don’t appreciate circus trials in this town, Mr. Pepper. I’ve seen some of your work and, frankly, I find it sickening that you get rich by mocking justice and helping murderers get off.”
Red cocked his head. “As my good friend Melvin Belli always says:
‘There is never a deed so foul that something couldn’t be said for the guy; that’s why there are lawyers.’” He smiled.
“Who this?” asked the captain, looking her up and down.
“Captain Walker,” Red said graciously, “please allow me to present my assistant, Miss Eva Lange.”
Eva extended her hand; the captain shook it perfunctorily. “Your assistant, huh,” he said. Flashing Red a knowing glance, he nodded.
“Were you a big fan of the Blanco’s?” Red said, knocking him off guard.
The captain flushed red. “The Blanco’s were trash,” he said, staring into Red’s eyes, “but I don’t appreciate anyone getting murdered on our court house steps and then waltzing away scot-free because of some shyster lawyer.”
“Captain,” Red said, “a man is innocent until proven broke; it’s the lawyer’s creed.”
Walker glowered. “Who is paying your fee anyway? It certainly isn’t Mena.” “I’m just here to see that justice is done,” he answered. “My fee is my own affair and certainly not anything that you need to worry yourself with, Captain. ’Lawyers are like chimney-sweepers who have no objection to dirty work, because it’s their trade.’ That was Charles Caleb Colton, if memory serves. Now, I’d like to see my client.”
Resigned to the inevitable, Captain Walker squared his shoulders. “Follow me,” he said to Red. “Miss, you’ll have to wait here.” Eva shot a concerned glance at Red.
“I told you, Captain,” he said, “Miss Lange is my assistant. I require her to take notes for me in the interview room.”
Walker ran his eyes over Eva more closely. “She doesn’t have a notebook or a legal pad or a single scrap of paper to write on that I can see,” he said gruffly.
“I have total recall,” Eva piped up, smiling at him. “All the girls in my family are blessed with it.”
“Captain,” Red jumped in, “you’re surely not going to tangle with me about what constitutes my client’s legal team, are you? You impress me, sir, as a much more intelligent man than that. My going over your head will simply be an unwanted embarrassment to you and unwanted annoyance to me.” Red gestured down the hallway. “Please, lead on.”
Walker glowered, turned his back to them, and started down the hallway toward the stairway to the basement jail cells.
Eva and Red shared a look and followed him.