The Client

Chapter 22

There's something I need to talk to you about. Abby reread the second text Charlie had sent. She had felt Charlie being a little aloof for a week or too, but she just figured it was something at work. Now she wasn't so sure. They waited in Abby's office for Charlie and Johnny. Abby felt Mike come up beside her. She didn't have to look from her phone to see it was him.

"Hear anything new?" he asked. Mike hadn't heard the phone beep, but wanted to make conversation.

"No," Abby shook her head. She sat her phone down on the desk. Mike wanted so bad to take her in his arms and hold her close. Dale wouldn't have said anything. Still they were at Abby's work. His thoughts were interrupted when Violeta let Abby know that Charlie and Johnny had arrived.

Abby went to the door and opened it before they could knock. "Hi," Charlie greeted.

Abby grabbed her friend. "Can Charlie and I have a minute before we leave?" Abby requested.

"Sure," Mike spoke for the group. The men stepped out and closed the door behind them.

Abby led Charlie to the couch that was tucked into the front side of the office. She dropped onto it bringing Charlie with her. "What is it, Girl? Spill it," Abby directed.

"I'm ready to be a mom," Charlie announced.

Abby's jaw dropped, "Wow- that is a big development." She was not expecting this. A new guy maybe, but not a maternal urge. "How are we going to make this happen?" Abby inquired. She would support Charlie in whatever her friend decided. There were plenty of options.

"I want to adopt," Charlie said.

"Awesome," Abby hugged Charlie. That the surgeon, being adopted herself, wanted to go this route was not surprising. "Ok, so are you thinking of going through an agency or…" Abby questioned.

"Actually there is already a little girl at the hospital who needs a new family," Charlie began.

"I see," Abby coaxed, "So she's the one you want to adopt."

"Her name is Hannah," Charlie nodded, "She is insane- you're going to love her."

"I am sure I will," Abby smiled, "I can't wait to meet her."

"Her mother is dead and her father is going to have his rights terminated- he nearly killed Hannah," Charlie explained.

"That's awful," Abby frowned.

"She will go into foster care unless I do something," Charlie said.

"We can't let that happen," Abby replied.

"What do you think my chances are?" Charlie asked.

"Getting non-parental custody is tricky," Abby warned, "But it's not impossible."

"You think you can help me?" Charlie requested.

"As your friend sure, but for a lawyer you need one that practices family law," Abby said.

"Do you know of anyone?" Charlie inquired.

"Yeah, one of my professors- Juan Badillo," Abby got her phone from the desk and sat down.

"Is he any good?" Charlie asked. She watched Abby search through her contacts and then tap for the fore mentioned attorney.

"Only the best for my best friend," Abby put the phone up to her ear and waited for the man "Hello, Juan."

"Abby, how is my favorite student?" Juan replied.

"You say that to all your students," Abby quipped.

"In your case I mean it- how are you holding up?" Juan stretched his shoulder, leaning back into his chair.

"I'm fine- I actually called because I have a client for you," Abby looked at Charlie.

"Another pro-bono case?" Juan asked for clarification.

"No, a friend," Abby chuckled, "You'll get your retainer."

"It's a non-parental custody thing," Abby explained.

"Really?" Juan raised an eyebrow. That certainly got his attention. He loved a challenge.

"My friend can explain it better than me,"

"How urgent is it?" Juan loosened his tie.

"Hold on," Abby covered the mic, "When is the hearing about terminating the father's rights?"

"The hearing is in two days," Charlie answered.

"Is there some way she could meet with you today?" Abby asked.

"Let me check," Juan checked the schedule log on his computer, "If she can be here in two hours I have twenty minutes for her."

"Can you meet in two hours?" Abby asked. Charlie nodded. "All right, she'll be there," Abby confirmed the appointment.

"Sounds like a plan- what's her name?" Juan started to mark off the time in his schedule.

"Charlie Demarco," Abby answered.

"Got it," Juan added the name.

"Thanks, Juan," Abby replied.

"Don't thank me yet," Juan said.

"You know, we need to have coffee some time- it's been too long since we just talked," Juan said. Truth be told, the news had him a little worried for his former pupil.

"When all of the craziness dies down definitely," Abby replied. They ended the call with a few more pleasantries.

The ladies exited the office and found the guys standing around Violeta's desk.

"Ready?" Mike smiled as Abby approached.

Abby took Mike's hand, "Let's go eat."

"Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Badillo," Charlie shook his hand. Juan wasn't exactly what Charlie pictured when Abby sent her to a former professor. He was younger than she expected.

"My pleasure, Dr. Demarco, any friend of Abby's is a friend of mine- please, have a seat," Juan motioned to one of the chairs in front of his desk.

"How did you know that I am a doctor? Abby didn't specify my job," Charlie asked.

"I google all my perspective clients," Juan smiled. He turned to sake Johnny's hand. "Mister?" he questioned.

"I'm Johnny."

"You can sit too," Juan offered.

"I'm cool thanks," Johnny replied. He was just going to stand back and let Charlie handle this meeting.

"Are you?" Juan asked Charlie,

"He's fine, a friend," Charlie said.

"Attorney client privilege doesn't apply if a third party is in the room," Juan cautioned.

"I don't think that will be a problem," Charlie replied.

"So what have you come to see me about?" Juan inquired.

"There is a little girl, one of my patients, Hannah," Charlie explained. She was skirting around doctor patient confidentiality here. "Her last living parent's rights are being terminated," Charlie added, "No one else is coming forward for her."

"You want custody?" Juan said.

"Yes, I want to adopt her," Charlie added. The attorney began to type in some note on his laptop.

"Exactly how long have you known the child?" he inquired.

"Her entire hospital stay," Charlie answered.

"Which has been how long?" Juan looked from the computer screen to the doctor.

"A few weeks," she admitted.

He hissed, "That could be a deal breaker."

"I know that's not ideal, but that is the longest standing relationship she has to anyone willing to step up for her," Charlie said.

Juan nodded, "So she'll be heading into foster care if…"

"Unfortunately," she replied, "I am just afraid once they start bringing foster families that I might lose any chance of getting her."

"Completely understandable," Juan nodded.

"I am willing to cover all the hospital fees and all of Hannah's other expenses," Charlie offered.

"Very good- that will help to show your commitment to the child," Juan said.

"Hannah," Charlie corrected.

"Hannah," Juan smiled. He actually felt good about taking this case. "When is the hearing to termite the father's rights?"

"In two days," she answered.

"And why are his rights being terminated?" Juan asked.

"He is the one that put Hannah in the hospital," Charlie said.

"Do you think he'll contest the termination of his rights?"

"I doubt it," Charlie snorted in disgust.

"That would make things easier," He blew out a breath.

"What do we do now?" Charlie asked.

"Well, first I'll draw up a petition for guardianship and we'll get a hearing on that," Juan replied, "I'll see what I can do about preventing her from being put further into the system." He pulled back his chair and opened a lower drawer. Juan fished out a form and found a clipboard. "I will need you to fill this out," he clipped the form to the clipboard before handing it to her.

"All right," Charlie took up the nearest pen and began to write in the boxes.

"When we get the petition granted, there will be issues before you can get custody," Juan said.

"Like?" she asked.

"Probably put through the paces of child protective services- at least one home visit too," Juan answered.

"I am in the process of looking for a home," Charlie said. Johnny looked at her like she had gone insane. He would be sending Dale with her those days.

"You are going to want to get on that like yesterday," Juan directed.

"What do I owe you?" Charlie handed him the form back.

"My wife Kelly is at the front desk, she'll help you with all of that," Juan got up and showed both Johnny and Charlie out to the front.

Mike checked his phone, "Jakes says we're all clear- he'll meet us down at the lower elevator."

"Let's go," Abby stood. She had already sent Violeta home for the day.

They walked down the hallway side by side. Mike slid his badge through a reader and pushed the call button for the elevator. One opened almost immediately. "After you," Mike held his hand out towards the elevator.

"Thank you," Abby play curtsied.

They stepped inside. They went down a few floors in silence. "So are you excited for Wednesday?" Mike asked. She and Charlie had talked about the Christmas in July party again over lunch.

"Yep, we'll be wrapping presents tomorrow," Abby grinned.

"Fun," he tried to smile.

"I bet you are better at it than you think," she encouraged.

Mike straightened. Abby swayed a little. She looked at Mike then away then back again. She couldn't stand it any longer. There she was alone with a hunk of man inches away from her in a fairly tight space. All day he had kept up a professional distance even when they went to lunch. Waiting to get the ride home to be over for contact was just too much to ask of a girl. Abby pulled the emergency stop knob, Mike eyed her. "These elevators can take forever," she quipped. Abby grabbed him by the back of his neck and pulled him to her. She kissed him fiercely. Mike tilted his head to deepen the kiss. Things heated quickly from there. Before he could think Mike backed Abby up and pressed her back against the elevator wall. They were practically inhaling each other. He freed her blouse. Her hands drew down to the collar of his suit jacket. She hooked her thumb underneath the lapels of said jacket and began to push it off of his shoulders. His arms went back and he sloughed off the jacket the rest of the way as they continued to kiss. His hand slipped under the silk fabric of her blouse. Fingertips found the soft skin of her abdomen. She shuttered at his touch. His hand began to travel upwards.

Just when he almost reached his goal his phone went off. His hand left Abby and grabbed his cell phone, "Warren." Mike pulled away with a groan. "Warren," he repeated. No one answered. Soon there was a beep that signaled the connection had been dropped. Mike hung up. He picked up his jacket from the floor and slipped it on.

Abby tucked her blouse back into her skirt. "It was great while it lasted," she sighed.

"It should hold us until we get back to the estate," Mike smirked. He pushed the knob back in and they were on their way down once more.

The elevator doors opened at their destination. Dale was waiting for them. "What took so long?" he demanded.

"The elevator got stuck," Mike replied. Dale rolled his eyes. "Let's go," Mike directed. The three made their way towards the town car. Mike got an uneasy feeling as they walked through the parking garage. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Mike hurried Abby into the car. Dale followed them both inside.

"Have a good day, Miss Abby?" the driver asked.

"Yes, thank you, Bates," Abby smiled, "And how did yours go?"

"Swimmingly," Bates replied.

Mike looked out the back windshield. Another car followed them out of the parking garage. They went down a few streets. Mike looked back and saw the same SUV.

"Hey, Bates do you know another way back to the estate?" Mike asked. His leg shook nervously.


Abby placed her hand on Mike's knee, "What's wrong?"

"Jakes, you see the SUV?" Mike asked.

Dale looked out the back window. "Yeah," he said.

"It's been following us since the parking garage," Mike noted.

"Can you take the next turn?" Dale asked.

Bates turned and so did the SUV. Bates' drivers training kicked in. He zipped, zagged and took turns until the SUV was no longer in sight. "Looky there," Bates checked all his mirrors.

Mike checked out the back windshield again, "Nice work, Bates."

After a few more minutes driving around to insure they had indeed lost the SUV. They continued their way to the outskirts of the city. The town car hadn't made it that far out when Mike checked the back windshield again. There a car length back was the same black SUV. Abby and Dale looked back when they heard Mike curse.

"It's speeding up," Dale said.

The SUV that was trailing them rushed forward. Mike lifted his arm for Abby, urging her to tuck her head into him a split second before the SUV came slamming into them from behind. The impact sent Bates' foot hard on the gas pedal. The town car sped forward out of control. Bates found the brake petal. The tires and brakes let out a hideous squeal, leaving black marks on the pavement as they tried to slow the car. After some distance the town car skidded off the road and into the ditch. It tipped over and landed on its side with a thundering clash. The whole world came to a stop along with the car.

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