Wicked Good - Chapter Seventeen
Archer’s client was a woman from Hampden, Maine. After months of stalling, her soon-to-be-ex and his lawyer had finally provided Archer with a box of financial documents. Every document was cut in half. Archer had filed a motion seeking to hold the husband in contempt for his failure to abide by the court rules. The hearing was set in front of Alan Murphy, the Judge who had presided over her divorce.
Judge Murphy was short tempered and lacked patience for wordy lawyers and weepy litigants. He made up his mind quickly, too quickly according to some. Archer was one of the few who trusted his judgment. In fact, she frequently agreed with his decisions and his belief that any decision was better than indecision. They also shared a common bond. They both had children with special needs. But two parents raised Judge Murphy’s son while only one was raising Rory.
The courthouse was a three minute walk from her office. Archer carried the box of mutilated documents. Opposing counsel, Steve Finelli, caught up with her as she walked into the courthouse. She shoved the box into Steve’s pudgy hands.
“Here. It’s your box. You carry it.”
“Everything was provided by my client, right?” Steve was out of breath.
“I didn’t have time to go through it. What with my Dad being in the hospital and all. My paralegal was home with a sick kid and I knew the discovery was late so I had it delivered to your office. What’s missing? I tried to call you to work this out but you didn’t return my call.” Steve panted. He was ten years younger than her but fifty pounds overweight. “We don’t need to have the hearing. Tell me what’s missing and I’ll get my guy to supply it.”
Archer stopped. “You can’t get your client to do anything and I’m not playing games anymore. He’s not giving her any money. The house is about to go into foreclosure. She’s going to have to get food stamps to feed their son. The only way he’s going to cooperate is from a jail cell.”
“Not every husband is a dead beat.”
She tried not to think about Wayne. She knew she shouldn’t project her contempt for him on all the men in the world.
“I know, Steve. I represent plenty of men who do the right thing and many women who don’t. But in this situation, your guy is wrong.”
“Give me a chance. I’ll speak to him. He’ll fire me if he goes to jail.”
“Are you going to buy food for my client and their son?”
“Then I’m going forward with the hearing.” She walked toward the Judge’s chambers.
Silver-haired Joe, Judge Murphy’s bailiff, sat behind a desk in the waiting area. “Uh, oh.” He smiled at Archer. “Here comes trouble.” He looked at the box. “What’cha got?”
“A discovery dispute.” Steve said. “Archer wants to put my client in jail.”
“If the judge would do it, I’d suggest you go to jail instead,” Archer glared at Steve.
“Save it for the Judge,” Joe said. “Go on in. He’s ready.”
Archer held the door for Steve who carried the box inside. Judge Murphy sat at the head of a large conference room table.
“Looks like a discovery dispute.” Judge Murphy eyed the box.
Steve put it down on the table. “Your honor, my client and I worked hard to get all the documents requested. They’re all here.”
“He’s right.” Archer said. “The documents are there. Twice.”
“See,” Steve said, “this is a waste of the Court’s time. My client wants fees and…Twice?”
“Mr. England cut all of the documents in half,” Archer said. “Every bank statement, every corporate invoice, every check provided from the last three years.”
“Let me see.” Judge Murphy shuffled through the papers and looked to Steve.
“Did you know about this?”
“No, Your Honor. My father has Alzheimer’s and…”
Judge Murphy pushed the box toward him. “Take it back and organize it. Get new documents for Ms. Falcon or tape those back together if you have to. And have your client pay for her time.” He looked at Archer. “Three hours worth. Is that good?”
“Yes,” Archer said. More like five hours, but she didn’t want to appear ungrateful for the positive ruling. She decided not to ask for jail. This time. Compliance would be better.
“Get the documents to Ms. Falcon by Monday at two. If anything is missing or indecipherable, let me know and I’ll re-consider your Motion for Contempt. Have a nice day and, Mr. Finelli, tell your client he almost went to jail today. Next time, he might not be so lucky.”
Steve grabbed the box and left. Archer followed, a few steps behind. She waved to Joe and promised she’d bring him a hot cup of tea Monday morning when she was next scheduled to appear in front of Judge Murphy. She walked toward the exit, watching Steve huff his way out of the courthouse. As her heels clanked on the tile floor, Rory popped into Archer’s head. She touched her eye and winced. She hoped the make-up she had applied that morning still covered it.
Judge Murphy stepped along side of her. “How are you?”
“Good. Busy at work. I’ve always wondered how such a small town can have so many divorces. It seems like we would have gone through everyone by now.”
“How’d you get that black eye?”
She flinched, saw Rory’s fist and felt surprisingly relieved to be free of him, even for a little while. Shouldn’t she be more concerned? Shouldn’t she have called the police by now? Or at least his father? And what was she going to tell her mother?
“I slipped on an ice cube and hit my face on the kitchen counter.”
“I see. How’s Rory? I’ve been pleased to see his absence on Tuesday juvenile days. Although I heard about him and the Dooley girl stealing a car.”
Archer had no response. She could defend Rory but it would serve no purpose. If it wasn’t stealing a car, it was something else like bringing alcohol to school. Tears welled in her eyes. She looked away, embarrassed, feeling ineffective.
“My son is nineteen now.” Judge Murphy shuffled down the hall with his hands behind his back. “He’s non-verbal and in a wheel chair. He graduated high school going through what they call the MR room. He’s not mentally retarded but that’s where they put the non-verbal kids. He’s living in a group home outside Boston.”
Judge Murphy opened the door to the outside. Archer stepped into the cool air and wiped the tears from her eyes, grateful to be a step ahead.
“You always had hope for Rory even if you didn’t realize it,” he continued. “I knew you would never give up on him.” He lightly touched her arm. “Truth is, I was impressed by the Skittles.”
She smiled at the memory. When Rory was young and feeling bad and Archer didn’t know how to help him, she put Skittles in a medicine bottle and told him they were feel good vitamins. Every time he took one, he felt better.
“You’d make a wonderful judge, Archer.” Murphy pointed to a coffee shop. “This is where I get off. Have a good day.”
She watched him go inside and sit at the counter. Stunned, she stood on the sidewalk. It was time to find Rory.
The next chapter will be posted tomorrow.
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