The office phone rings. Thomas Frazier wakes. He doesn’t dream, at least, he never remembers any dreams. One moment he’s dead, the next he wakes. He thinks, it’s another day. Whose problem am I working on now?
Phone rings again. Frazier fumbles for his glasses, finds them buried in the balled up suit coat he’s used for a pillow. He mashes them on his face. The lenses are so smeared with face sweat that he cannot read his watch. I need coffee, he thinks, only hot water is gonna clean this off. Who could be calling ...
Phone rings again. Frazier turns to leave the couch. His knees, having been bent all night, now wake with a sharp protest. He can’t stand, so he rolls off the couch sideways, both knees complaining when they strike the floor. What day is it, Wednesday? Frazier is starting to come to. The self-frisk. How do I feel? Terrible. Can’t sleep on vinyl without sweating through the clothes. Even the permanent press is wrinkled. Wednesday. Wednesday morning. Oh shit, he realizes, he has missed a pre-trial conference with Judge Thorne.
Phone rings. Gotta move fast now. An attorney is an officer of the court, can’t lie. Bu do I tell the whole truth? Just thinking of the she-dragon Judge Thorne made his throat feel like sandpaper. Those who can’t lawyer, judge. “See your Honor, it’s like this. Doug Flint’s been jacking me around for three years on this very case. See, I got a crippled old man on $628 Social Security and Flint’s got the socialite with the big car and big insurance. Flint can’t get nothing on the old man, pure as snow, so he sends his detective snooping after me. Well, last week I got spotted coming out of a massage parlor. Nothing happened, I swear, just visiting a client. Anyway, now Flint’s got a manila envelope of photos of me saying goodbye to Mrs. Chin at the door to the massage parlor. Perfectly innocent and purely circumstantial, I assure you. So, Flint goes hint, hint, sell out the old man or your wife finds out about your visit with Mrs. Chin. I ended up sleeping in the office because I went home and told my wife what was going on.” No. The whole truth won’t do. Thorne will think I’m making it up. And Flint will howl for sanctions, knowing I can’t force him to produce the photos to back my story up.
Phone rings again. Frazier snatches it up. “Good morning, Thomas Frazier here.” Voice still sleepy-deep.
“Hold for Judge Thorne.”
“OK.” No please?
“Frazier? It’s 10:53,” barked Thorne. “We started at ten-thirty. Why aren’t you here?”
“Good morning Judge. My apologies to you and to Mr. Flint. Seems I stayed too late at the office last night trying to get ready for the meeting today, and I must’ve laid my head down for a catnap. May I participate by speakerphone?”
“Frazier? It’s Doug Flint here. Do I understand correctly, you’re not here because you fell asleep at your office last night? Surely you know of more comfortable places to go.”
Bastard. He’s baiting me, thought Frazier. He can’t wait to share this with his partners. Frazier could see them now, hooting over lunch at the club. “I know it’s highly irregular Judge Thorne and I assure you I didn’t plan this. Can we continue?”
“Mr. Frazier, everyone is here and ready to take care of this matter. It’s your client’s case and I’ve half a mind to dismiss it except it’s not your client’s fault you can’t wake up on time. You know that homeless mission just down the street from the courthouse?”
Half a mind, that’s about right. “Yes, Ma’am, I do.”
“OK, you’re in contempt of court. On my desk one week from today you will put either a $250.00 check payable to the mission, or a note from Sister Mary that says you personally worked eight hours in her kitchen? Got it, Mr. Frazier?”
Flint snorts. Carson sighs, “Yes ma’am.”
“Alright, let’s move on.”