Five O’clock traffic in down town Boston was not the place for Larson to realize his cell phone was running low on battery. Successful lawyer, in a thousand dollar suit with a blinking light on his Blackberry, yep, he was the picture of success. He ducked into the small bar on the corner of Boylston Street and Tremont, and scanned the slightly growing crowd. His boss, Benjamin Prescott was sitting at a small table on the side, a half glass of Chivas in front of him. It was always Chivas in the early afternoon, martini’s at lunch, espresso at morning meetings and cognac in the evenings after a bottle of whatever wine was appropriate. Larson limited his drinking to neat scotch, and only one, after the workday. One. Benjamin noticed his junior partner’s entry and signaled for the waiter to bring him his drink. Larson sat down across from his boss and turned off his phone before it made its hideous cry for recharging.
“You wished to see me Sir?” Larson loosened his tie and shrugged out of his suit jacket before he sat down.
Mr Prescott eyed his junior partner with interest over the rim of his glass. “Great job this morning with Malloy. I knew that kid was too straight laced to be a cocaine dealer. His father says he’s in our debt. You’ll get a bonus out of this one.”
“Thank you, Sir, I’m glad it went my way.”
“Always seems to do that very thing. Well my boy, I’ve got a present for you.” Benjamin said, pausing as the waiter but the Scotch in front of him.
“Will there be anything else for you sir?”
Prescott dismissed the waiter with a wave of his hand, which had Larson leaning forward to catch the name-tag on his vest, making a mental note, planning to put a few extra dollars on his card for a tip.
“You were saying Sir?”
“Now Larson, we’ve known each other 16 years. There’s no sense in dragging that ‘Sir’ around when it just weighs you down and ages me. You can call me Ben because we got the case of the century today, and it has your name all over it!”
They were always the case of the century to Benjamin Prescott, as his firm was the firm for the big names. Ever since that first case that Larson had handled, and won, Prescott Newman and Miller had clients from all lifestyles. From Hollywood to Washington, and every area in between, the people flocked to them when there was no hope anywhere else.
“So who are we creating a miracle for this time?” Larson asked, taking a small sip of the whiskey in front of him.
“Scott Chambers,” Benjamin replied, his eyes watching Larson’s for recognition.
“That name sounds familiar. Isn’t he the accountant for the Scarsdale Account? I got that file on my desk after lunch.”
“Good memory, he is the very same”, Benjamin Prescott loved to draw out a story. While effective on a jury in courtroom, it irritated his junior lawyer who had a daughter waiting at home.
“So what happened?”
“The Boston PD arrested him this morning at his house.”
“Murder,” he replied simply, and finished his drink. He slid an inch thick file folder across the table toward Larson and patted him on the shoulder as he stood up.
“Ben, Sir, please, I can’t possibly take on a murder case right now...it wouldn’t be fair to the client.
“Nonsense. Delegate what you can and you can work your miracle for the boy, Scott won’t do well in jail, you know, not a very strong constitution there. I‘ve already got Dennis getting him an early arraignment. Mr. Chambers should be free later this week for a sit-down with his attorney, and that, dear boy, should be you.”
With that, the older man left, and Larson sat looking begrudgingly at the thick folder in front of him. So much for an early evening, he thought and reached for the take out menu.
He took a moment to reflect on the life of the senior partner. Benjamin Prescott was successful, a family man who raised three children and had grandchildren—a legacy. Their photographs were displayed throughout the luxurious leather offices held by the CEO of the famous law firm.
It was the reason, that despite the absence of his wife, Ben Prescott kept the young Larson close by his side, and had further advised him to not file for a disillusion of the marriage.
“When you have true love, Larson,” he’d told him one night, “your heart forms a cord of steel between you. No matter the distance, no mater the time, you are still committed to each other, until which time that bond is severed. You’ll know if that bond breaks, because your heart will no longer ache with the emotion, your palms will no longer sweat, at just the mere mention of her name, your breath will no longer catch, when you glimpse a woman who looks like her. If that time comes, then we’ll file the papers...but from what I see, you’re totally committed to her, and your vows. That’s why I want you in my firm. Your loyalty speaks volumes.”
Larson knew in his heart that his wife still loved him. Despite the years that had passed, his heart was no more ready to give up on their love than Ben was ready for retirement. It was often said that the older man would probably never retire. He’d simply finish his closing remarks to a jury, sit down, and pass on to the next world, having had the last word.
When Larson first came to work for the firm, he shadowed the elder attorney, taking in every detail. He studied his court presence, procedures and timing. The little things that set the difference between a so so lawyer and a winning lawyer.
Ben had an easy gait, a calming manner, and dressed well; distinguished yet personable, mostly in dark colors, shiny wing tipped shoes and very little jewelry aside from his wedding ring and elegant timepiece...either a stop watch in his vest pocket or a simple classic watch around his wrist. He would pace the well between the bench and the the bar, watching the eyes of those around him carefully. He faced the jury when he spoke, smiling indulgently, as though apologizing for their presence and service. Duty bound, the jurors would sit, entranced at his words and their artful delivery while he delivered his courtroom soliloquy, whether he was making closing remarks or opening arguments. He faced the judge with respect, the audience with charm, and his client, the defendant with empathy and reassurance. The DA’s and their assistants would always pale a bit when Benjamin Prescott entered the courtroom, and it was becoming clear that they were doing the same with Larson Evans.
Ben had thrown Larson into the deep end with that first case sixteen years earlier, fully ready to pull it if the boy had faltered. But Larson dug in and with guns blazing, within a few weeks had won not only the case, but the hearts of Boston. His slight accent afforded something that no other attorney in Back Bay Boston could offer... Southern Charm.
Well, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the case, he thought to himself. Just a look.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lexie was unimpressed by the money and privilege that her father’s position with the law firm gave, most of the time. However, when she was tired after practice or laden down with packages from the mall, the car and driver, Nigel, was one of her favorite benefits. Nigel was a tall thin man of European decent, his accent thick and rich, she assumed from South Africa, as he talked about World Cup Soccer as much as her friends at school talked about the College Bowl and fashion trends. He was always in the mood to talk, and the music he listened to was always something unique and extraordinary, as though every moment of his life had to have background music. Her father did not require Nigel to wear a uniform, in fact, discouraged it, wanting her to feel as normal as a teenager could despite being driven in a classy car everywhere her father did not take her. Nigel usually did however wear the chauffeur’s cap, pulled slightly down in front to hide his eyes. He was leaning against the sleek black hired car when Lexie and her friends exited the mall at precisely 6 p.m.
“Did you have great success ladies?” he inquired, opening the back door for her, Courtney and Alissa, fellow members of the track team, as well as the spring tennis club, and Lexie’s best friends’ since grade school.
“As always, when the new movies come out, the bargains on the older ones are everywhere.”
Nigel nodded, and taking the bags from her and her friends, deposited them into the trunk of the car. He then secured the doors and walked around eyeing everything around them.
What Lexie didn’t know, was that Nigel was not only their driver, but he was also ex-Secret Service, as well as a Navy Seal. He had technical skills that would rival even the most sensitive computer geek, but hid it all inside a somewhat calm facade. Nigel was not one to anger; he could be lethal. However, he played the part of chauffeur to appease his boss, and longtime friend Larson, and acted as a bodyguard to them both. After Larson had gained such notoriety from his first successful case, Nigel had been by their side, silent and ever watchful.
“Will your friends be joining us for dinner Miss?”
“Not tonight, Nigel. It’s going to be just me and Dad, his work and my homework.” He smiled knowingly and started the car, keeping a watchful eye on the cars surrounding him.
After dropping the other girls at their homes, Nigel brought her to the homestead, insuring that she arrived safely, and that there were people at the house to be with her while he made the trek back into the city for the evening.
“Evening Bridgette,” Lexie called to the woman who was putting the final changes on the table.
“Evening Miss, your dad is bringing home take out from Jacob Wyrth this evening.”
“Steak Fries?” Lexie looked at the petite brown-haired woman with hopeful eyes.
“Most likely, and onion rings, knowing your dad. He started a new case today so he’ll have to work most of the night.”
“Since I have a term paper due the day before Thanksgiving break, I’ve got “work” tonight too…so … alas …the price one pays for being so intelligent, right Bridgette?”
While Bridgette did set things right in the home, she was also a personal assistant to both Lexie and Larson. She most likely had a crush on the master of the house, but that, Lexie knew, would never see light nor gain nourishment. The man was ultimately and completely oblivious to the female species.
While either most nights Larson brought home dinner, or they ate out, the table was always set with cups and dishes to accommodate any meal. That little bit of a homey feeling made Lexie sometimes wonder again about her mom. Her dad never said as much, but she knew it was always on his mind. Some digging on the internet found her name and background but nothing from the time Lexie was born until now. It was as though she had simply vanished. Lexie took an apple from the bowl on the counter and made her way to her room. Clicking a button on the remote on her bed, her stereo system filled the room with the beginning strains of a piece from Yanni. She loved the way the strings and piano seemed to fly together across the air, sending her floating and soaring across an endless sky to a world altogether different. She loved music. She loved sports and classic movies, but she did not take anything for granted. Some people in her position would be snobbish, but Lexie just enjoyed life. She sat up for a moment, and glanced at the clock beside her bed. She had time before her dad would appear, she decided, and stood and knelt beside the bed. Underneath, behind a sleeping bag was a dark wooden box. Her Aunt Nikki had secretly given it to her one Christmas a few years back now, telling her that the small box had been her mother’s. Aunt Nikki had been the only one besides her nanny Mrs Harkins that Lexie had told her Christmas wish she had written to Santa Claus. Lexie knew that she would understand, because Aunt Nikki had been roommates with her mom in college, and had still had a few things of hers.
Inside the box were several cards and pieces of stationary and a picture of her mother when she had been around 19. Lexie took it out first and studied it. The hair was the same. Her mom was standing in a tennis outfit, her racket slung over her shoulder, a dark haired man beside her. Nikki had told her it was her mother’s father, Lexie’s grandfather. While Nikki explained a great deal, nobody but her mom could explain the look in her eyes in that photo. Sadness.
Her dreams lay in that box. Her main dream was that she would someday meet the sad woman that was in that photo. Her mother. For also in that box was a note, or card to go with the various trinkets that scattered their way around her room. Every note, every card had been signed with an M. She knew that they had to be from her mother. She had first started receiving the gifts about 8 years before. The first on came on Christmas eve, right after her eighth birthday. A snow globe with a winking Santa standing next to a chimney sat inside the little glass orb. A few days later another package arrived, a typed note apologizing for missing her birthday was enclosed. The gift was another snow globe, larger this time. Inside it sat a young princess next to a unicorn. Included with it was the quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” She hid the gifts among her things in her room; a leather bound journal with her name engraved on the front was under her pillow. Inside the front cover another quote by Emerson, in what could only be her mother’s handwriting. She only wrote special things, during her birthday week in it. She wanted to have it for a long time. Behind her Shakespeare collection was a first edition copy of the Wizard of Oz, her 9th birthday. A glorious music box in the shape of a mountain that played, “Climb Every Mountain” and even had a miniature Sister Maria twirling on the top sat on the top shelf of her closet.
She studied the various notes then, skimming over each quickly, looking for one in particular. At last, she found it; “don’t let anyone steal your dream. It is your dream, not theirs. ~Dan Zadra.”
Each quote, with the exception of the journal was kept in the special box she kept hidden underneath her bed. The only thing she kept out in the open was the beautiful antique globe. Hidden inside the globe itself was a velvet lined bowl with a small painting of an Indian woman, seated on the ground, the expansive mountains behind her, her arms raised toward the sky in thankfulness and praise. It was the gift she had gotten last year, so it was her favorite. At least until the next one arrived.
The Christmas ornaments and figurines she put out every year. Each one seemed to coincide with her accomplishments over the past year. A small piano from the year she was featured in a school recital, ballet shoes, a tennis racket when she won her first tournament, cheer leading pom poms when she made the team last year. It was all so magical.
At first when they came, she had showed her father. However, seeing the look of sadness had been too much for Lexie so after a while she only showed Nikki or Nigel. One always came on her birthday, so she was due to get one. She could hardly wait but it was not out of greed or selfishness that she looked forward to the ritual. It was because from the moment it arrived, and for a few days beyond, it was as though she had a mom. It made her feel warm, and even more loved than she did every other moment in her life. Silly, perhaps, but nonetheless, loved.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Larson stepped out of his car, laden with the bag of take out and his brief case as well as his jacket, which he just did not feel like putting back on now that he was home. He walked up the cobbled steps into the Tudor building where he had made his home since he had brought his daughter to Boston so many years ago. He smiled at the lack of leaves, the green spruce adorning the side lawn, the weepy willow tree that sat in the corner in the front. In the evenings, when twilight was just starting to make its way across the neighborhood, he liked to imagine her there. He remembered when he would come to visit on weekends. He would always find her in the courtyard outside her dorm, sitting on a blanket, reading a book. It was why he put that bench at the base of the tree. If only she could be here with them. He could even see her, sitting on that bench, just under that tree; her dark hair lifting away from her face from a breeze, a book across her lap, the pages lightly lifted by her hand. She had always been reading something.
He looked up from his daydream to see his daughter hanging halfway out her window, an eyebrow cocked and angled at him.
Caught, he thought, chagrined.
He nodded his head and smiled up to her. “Yes…as a matter of fact…I thought you’d like to come help me! It’s getting cold!”
“Of course,” Lexie laughed, nodding toward the tree. “Is your imaginary friend going to join us?” Lexie’s laugh echoed from inside her room, her head disappearing from the window.
He scowled then, not wanting to relate his thoughts to his too young, but too wise for her years, daughter, who at present was barreling down the steps to grab the bags from him. He forced a smile onto his face as he relinquished his hold on the take out order.
“Table is already set Dad, let’s eat then we can discuss our day.”
He followed her in silence, depositing his coat and his briefcase just inside the office area he had set up in the front room off the foyer.
She sat at the table, her foot swinging easily to some beat in her head, munching on steak fries, watching his face intently as he related points of his day. As to the new case he had, he just said it was going to be tough, and let it go. He would never discuss the details of any case with his child or his wife had she been with him, it was not ethical. However, he could relate crazy happenings in traffic, jokes he heard, or the craziness of the day with all the comings and goings of the various people in downtown Boston.
He finished his water, and looked intently at his daughter and asked, “Have you given any thought as to what you’d like for your birthday?”
Lexie smiled, a knowing smile, and said softly, “Yes, but I know it’s’ too much to ask, especially now with your new case and everything.”
“What do you want Princess?” Larson asked.
“I want to spend Thanksgiving with Gram and Gramps. I want to see the festival this year.”
“Oh,” was all Larson could say. The beginning of a case was tough at best, but a murder trial. Well it was only a few days travel, and they could fly in and out…perhaps if the hearings were not going to be until early December, perhaps he could do it. He looked at her and smiled. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Later that evening in the den, he studied the file and the police reports. His assistant had already arranged for an early hearing, so he would have a meeting with Scott in his office later in the week. It seems that the wiry little CPA was up to his eyeballs in circumstantial evidence. A reasonable doubt defense was possible, if not for one small detail. There was a missing piece of the puzzle. No alibi. Scott says he was in his office. The security people say they have no record and the tapes were mysteriously missing. It sounded a lot like foul play. Scott couldn’t kill a spider without spending his life in confession, so the thought of the little guy bludgeoning a buxom blond with a weapon and leaving her in a pool of blood in her office…well….it didn’t jive. A quick phone call to his investigator a few moments later, and the ball was set in motion. If there were something out there to find, Doug Dawson would find it. Larson took out a legal pad from his desk and started preparing the list of questions he had for his new client, starting with who his friends were, and weren’t as the case may be.