MIDNIGHT LAWYER

By Anthony Lukas

 

 

“Hey, Bunny,” said Dermot.

“Don’t call me ‘Bunny’,” I said.

“Aw, come on,” said Dermot, “With the last name ‘Hutch’ you gotta expect it.”

“Uh, huh,” I said, like I always did.

“Usual?” asked Dermot.

“Please,” I said, pretty much like I always did. 

“Here ya go, Midnight.” My Irish and ginger appeared.  I took a sip and the day, which had been filled with a couple of divorce cases, was headed to a better place.

I didn’t comment on the ‘Midnight’ because what could I say to a bar owner who generally comp’d my drinks and it was actually kind of a legitimate nickname.  Dermot and I had been cops together for a time, he having been one of my training officers.  After a couple years on the force I decided to go to law school. I worked the day shift, attended classes at night, studied until past midnight, so my cop buddies with typical corny cop humor, had called me the Midnight Lawyer.

People have lots of different reasons for becoming a cop: to serve the public, because it was a macho line of work, to help good triumph over evil, because they didn’t know what else to do, to help the community, to continue a family tradition.  Me, I wanted to be of service to my city as well, but more than that I liked order and I thought being a cop would help bring order to society. But of course I was naïve. At best the police help keep a lid on the pressure cooker. So after a couple of years of slogging through the day to day, I looked elsewhere for the order I wanted and the law and the courtroom seemed to fit the bill.

It had been almost ten years since I quit the force and opened a small office.  It has been okay, lots of cops as clients like one of today’s divorce cases, a definite occupational hazard of being a cop.  And like Dermot, who had retired a few years back and taken the bar over from his father.  I had done the necessary business law for him.

It had been a traditional bar, dark with a pool table and some aged video games. A real man cave.  When Dermot took over he blew out one wall, put in big windows, flooding the place with light.  He eighty-sixed the video games, upgraded the pool tables, installed new furnishings and décor, added a small kitchen with unusual bar snacks.

Dermot had worn a toupee for years, starting with a pretty poor one in his detective days.  After he took over the bar and as it grew in success, he bought a succession of more expensive, better toups. As he pulled a beer I stared at his head and couldn’t tell the latest addition was a rug. Business must be good.

I used the big mirror behind the bar to scope the room. A goodly number of young, attractive women filled the reflection, one result of and a definite plus to Dermot’s redoing the bar. I glanced over at a casually dressed blonde, slightly bent over the pool table to make a shot.  Nothing like an attractive woman in a soft pair of blue jeans, I reflected.

I also reflected on my reflection. I saw a later thirty-something, sitting tall, slim face, nose maybe just a bit too big, broad shoulders, just a trace of grey in curly brown hair.  The grey eyes that women often found attractive stared back with an untroubled gaze. It was the face of a contented man, I thought.

I looked at the reflection of the woman playing pool and thought about wandering over to introduce myself when Dermot sidled up, nodded toward the pool table and shook his head.  “TWPs,” he said.  ‘TWPs’ was Dermot-speak for twenty-something white princesses:  self-absorbed, self-important, feeling entitled.  He was warning me in his fatherly way that these were not my kind of women.    

Dermot then said, “So I was hoping you could help me with something.” Helping with these ‘somethings’ over the years was why Dermot usually comped my drinks. “My niece could use a little help.”

“Which niece?” I asked. Dermot being the eldest son of traditional Irish parents had six siblings and a growing number of nieces and nephews.

“Teresa, Patty’s daughter.” Patty was one of Dermot’s younger sisters, and Teresa was one of her oldest, if memory served.

“What’s up?”

“Well,” said Dermot, “she fell in with this guy for a while. He seemed okay at first but then things went south and she broke up with him about three weeks back. Problem is he won’t let go. Calls her, texts, showed up at her apartment, even her work yesterday. He’s NG.”

“Okay,” I said, my mind already composing the declaration in support of a motion for the petition for a restraining order. “How old is Teresa now?” Ask that of most men and you’d get a blank stare. But not Dermot. Not just because he had a brain for numbers, but because was a true family man, including his extended family. He knew everyone’s birthday, where they lived, where they worked and a goodly number of their phone numbers.

“Twenty-four,” he said. “Next Tuesday.”

“Okay, have her call me and I’ll set up an appointment at my office this week—,” the look on his face said he wanted something sooner. He was worried, and if someone like Dermot was worried then I was too. He had been kind of legendary for his instincts when he had been a detective. He used to say it was the angels whispering in his ear when one of his hunches paid off. “Do you think she could come to the office tonight?” I asked.

“I’ll call and check,” pulling out his cell and walking down the bar. I could see him talking urgently into it. He turned to me, “An hour okay?” I nodded, he spoke into the phone, hung up and said to me, “Thanks Tom, I really appreciate it.”

Calling me by my first name.  He was worried.

 

* * *

 

My office is in the Floyd Building, ground zero for the City’s high toned shoppers and for tourists, both of whom were still very much in evidence as it was still early evening.  Survivor of the 1906 earthquake, the Floyd’s granite clad walls housed the small offices of lawyers, accountants, and others in a bygone elegance. I maneuvered my way to the big glass doors of the Floyd and stepped into the hushed lobby.

I had meant to just tell the night guard to send Teresa up when she arrived, but Horace was on duty so I ended staying in the lobby chatting with him. Horace was another ex-cop with whom I would swap stories. Well, he would tell stories, having a lot more after being thirty- five years on the force compared to my eight. He was telling me about the mugger who had dropped his own wallet at the scene of the crime and the victim had snatched it up and ran, when Teresa came in the lobby doors.

A pretty young woman with the red hair and the map of Ireland displayed in freckles on her face. Round face with a mouth you could tell was easy to smile, but now was not. Hazel eyes that had a haunted look in them. It had been years since I had seen her. I smiled.

“Teresa, I don’t know if you remember me, Tom Hutch.”

“I do,” she said, “and thanks so much for seeing me.” Despite her worried look her voice was strong and clear.

I introduced Horace and then Teresa and I went up the Floyd’s ornate elevators. We got off five floors up and went down the quiet corridor to the door whose frosted glass said “Thomas Hutch, Lawyer,” through the reception room to my office with the big windows that overlooked the tourists and shoppers on the street below. She sat in one of the client chairs and I sat beside her, rather than behind my desk.

Teresa told me she had met one Jim Dudley at a Starbucks. “He seemed so nice.  Considerate and a good listener.” I have found that women always are suckers for guys who listen to their opinions and, most importantly, their feelings.

Dudley was an off the books kind of plumber. Non-union, picked up jobs for cash under the table. They had been seeing each other a couple times a week and things had been fine. I didn’t want to ask about sex, Teresa being from a good Catholic family and I felt uncomfortable asking one of Dermot’s family about it. I asked, “Have you guys gotten to the point of being exclusive?” 

She said that they had, and that it seemed okay at first. “But then he started getting weird. Stupidly jealous, you know?” I did, from my years as a cop and a lawyer. She had decided to back off the relationship but he wouldn’t let go. The usual texts, phone calls, first pleading, then turning sullen, then angry. Dudley had turned up at her work and made a scene. He had surprised her while she was at a market shopping, apparently having followed her there and she had fled when he had attempted to grab her.

I listened, making notes. A story not all that different from ones that I had heard before, but because of who she was and how I knew her I wasn’t about to treat this as some routine matter.

I went behind my desk, fired up my computer and in just under half an hour had the petition for restraining order finished with the supporting declaration, which I had Teresa review and sign. I told her I would be filing the restraining order with the night court clerk, have it reviewed and signed by the night duty judge and then served on Dudley.  I got whatever information she had as to Dudley’s home, work and hangouts. Before sending her on her way I asked if there wasn’t somewhere else she could stay for a couple of nights, just to be safe, knowing full well that what with her parents, siblings and myriad cousins she had plenty of potential safe houses.

After she left I called the night court clerk to let her know that I was coming and what I needed. I was there in less than half an hour and sitting in front of the night duty judge in minutes and had the signed order in another five.

On my way back to my office I called Doris and asked her to meet me there.

 

Doris Lee was tall, Asian, with a very athletic build as befits a person with several belts of some color or other in some kind of martial arts.  She had a great smile, but a frown like black thunder clouds, the kind that when you see them you had better run for cover. She’d been part of a PI firm for a time. I had used them to serve papers, some investigation work.

She had split from the firm taking a couple of the other investigators with her to start her own office. On her office wall hung a framed sign that she said summed up her reason for leaving her old agency and her philosophy of life: “Life’s too short for idiocy” it said, a sentiment I certainly agreed with. Great cook, often went into Dermot’s kitchen to cook for a select few customers.

When I got back to the Floyd she was leaning on Horace’s desk, laughing at one his stories. She looked up and saw me.

“Hey, Bunny,” she said.

“I hate that,” I said.

“I know,” she grinned. “What’s up?”

I outlined Teresa’s problems with Dudley. As I spoke Doris’s grin morphed into a hard set line and I could see thunderclouds forming.  When I finished she asked, “What do you have on this pile?”

“I have his info in my office,” and we headed toward the elevators.

“Get ’em, Doris,” Horace called after us.

 

* * *

 

The next evening, I was at Dermot’s, having my Jameson’s and ginger when Doris walked in and parked on the stool next to me. “Get him?” I asked. She gave me a look. Uh, oh.

“Of course I got him, that’s what you pay me for.” She took a large gulp of the beer Dermot had put in front of her.

“Go okay?”    

She snorted. “What a tool. Nothing against your niece, Dermot, but what did she ever see in that loser?” Dermot opened his mouth, but – “Found the guy sitting on his ass outside his work, smoking! Who the hell takes up with a smoker nowadays?” staring at Dermot.  Dermot opened his mouth, but – “So, I say ‘Hey Dudley!’… good name for him, what a dud.”  She took another pull of her beer.

“So, then–?” I said.

Doris gave me her ‘you can just wait a minute’ look, and finished sipping her beer. 

“So,” she said, after she carefully placed her mug on the bar, “He looks up at me then looks me up and down and says, ‘Well aren’t you a sweet looking thing.’”

Oh, god, she’s killed him.

“So I just smiled and said, ‘Here’s a little sumpin sweet for you. You’re served.’” Another slow sip of beer.

“So, then–?” asked Dermot.

Doris banged her mug on the bar. “He starts swearing at me, calling me all kind of names including the ‘C’ word!”

Oh god, then she killed him.

“He looked like he was going to get up from his fat ass, so I pulled my jacket back and showed my gun.”  Doris carries a 9 mil. “So, he says “If you didn’t have that–’ and I said, ‘Well I do have that and that’s called reality, Dudley. Just like that restraining order. Deal with it.’” More beer.

“So, then–?”

“So then, nothing,” she grinned. “I just stared him down until he just shut up and I left.  Mission accomplished.”

I sighed and smiled. No casualties.

Dermot bought both of us a round and thanked us more than once and I felt that good had been done, order restored.

But like that other ‘mission accomplished,’ it wasn’t.

 

* * *

 

Two days later, the phone rings on my desk and it’s Dermot. “He attacked her.” I didn’t need to ask who “he” or “her” were.

“She all right?”

“Shaken pretty badly. Some bruises.”

My jaw tightened. “Where is she?’

“Here. Can you come over?”

“Oh yeah.”

I was there in minutes. The place was pretty empty. Ryan, one of Dermot’s bartenders, nodded his head toward Dermot’s office and I went in. Teresa was sitting beside Dermot on a couch Dermot had in his office. I could see a redness on the side of her face and what looked like the beginnings of small bruises on her upper arms. I sat on stool next to her. “Tell me what happened.”

“He was waiting for me when I got home from work. I didn’t see him until I had opened my door then he was just there. He pushed me into my apartment. I told him to get out, that I had a restraining order, but he just laughed. ‘You’re restraining order ain’t worth crap,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you anytime I want.’ I told him I was going to call the police and got my cell out, but he just slapped it out of my hand, then he grabbed me and shook me so hard,” she said, her eyes glassy with tears, but she would not cry, “I thought my neck would snap. Then he hit me and I fell down. He stood over me and was yelling ‘You’re not getting away from me!’”

She took a breath. “Mr. Charles, the landlord, came up from the basement with this big hammer and told him to get off his property. He said, ‘I’ll be back,’ and Mr.

Charles said he would advise against that and Dudley left.”  I liked this Mr. Charles, and made a mental to meet him sometime.

Dermot’s wife, Claire, came then and took Teresa home with her.

Dermot looked at me.

“Did you call the police?” I asked. Dermot shook his head and I knew why. Busy big city cops gave short attention to violations of restraining orders in boy-girl friend cases.  Ironically not enough injury to grab their attention. Little would happen. Dermot said, “Thought some self-help would be more effective.”

I knew what he meant. I didn’t want to go there, but… order had to be restored. Dudley had Walked Through the Paper, ignored the Stay Away and that I could not let stand. Something had to be done. I thought of Teresa and her face deserved to have a smile.

“Meet me at the Floyd in two hours. Call Doris and have her meet us there.”

A little over two hours later and we were outside Dudley’s, a basement apartment in a rundown building. We saw Dudley walk up and when he had put his key in his door we were behind him and invited ourselves in.

“What the….?” Dudley started but then saw Doris. He looked at me in a suit, at Dermot with his Irish face, looking a lot like Teresa and he got it. “I never touched her,” he said.

I heard Doris make a growling kind of sound and asked her to stay by the front door in the little hallway while Dermot and I pressured Dudley into the apartment’s front room.

I’m a pretty big guy, just under 6 feet two, 200 or so. I like to work out, both for the vanity and the health of it. Dudley was about my height but heavier, but mine was muscle and his was beer-gut. What the hell had Teresa seen in this fungus?

He back pedaled, tripped over a Salvation Army coffee table and sprawled onto the floor.  I stepped up and onto his wrist, pinning his arm and hand to the floor.

“This the hand you hit her with, Dud?” I wanted to mangle that hand, to make it as ugly as his soul.

“I didn’t–,” he began but I stopped him by grinding my foot down.

“No lies, Dud. Time to take responsibility for your actions.”

“I’ll call the cops, you can’t–,” more pressure on his wrist.

“This guy just doesn’t get it,” I said to the room.

“Give him to me for a couple of minutes to straighten him out,” said Doris from the hall.

I wanted to, I wanted very much to unleash her, wanted it very badly.  I stared down at the slime for a moment and gave it very serious consideration. I took a slow breath, then reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. I bent down and pushed into his hand that I had pinned to the floor.

“This is an Order to Appear at a hearing on a motion to hold you in contempt of court for violating the Stay Away Order that had been duly served on you. You are to appear at 10 a.m. in Department 10 of the Superior Court in City Hall.” I paused to stare at him. “That’s the courtroom of Judge Charlotte Max. You know,” I said, “she started a battered women’s program here in the City. She’s going to love you.” I grinned.

The next day at 10 a.m. I stood in Judge Max’s courtroom. Teresa was with me at counsel’s table and Doris sat behind us. Dudley had not appeared, no surprise. I explained to the Judge the purpose of the hearing, told her what Dudley had done, how he had walked through the Restraining Order and battered Teresa. Judge Max sat stony faced. She granted my motion, finding Dudley in contempt of court in absentia.  She noted Dudley’s failure to appear for the hearing and asked my opinion as to the amount of bail that she should set on the bench warrant for his arrest that she was about to issue.  I suggested $50,000. She doubled it.

 

* * *

 

A week or so later I wandered into Dermot’s. “Hey, Bunny,” he said. I let it pass. My Irish and ginger appeared, was sipped and the world was headed to a better place.

I sniffed the air. “What smells so good?” I asked Dermot.

He nodded back to the kitchen. “Doris is in.”

My mouth had already started watering when Doris came out of the back, followed by Teresa. Both carried dishes steaming with something.

“Showing Teresa how to make barbeque pork dumplings,” said Doris.  “Try.” 

I did and my, oh my. “Beyond delicious,” I said.

Teresa smiled, confirming my belief that she had a face that was meant to be smiling.  She added some more dumplings to my plate. She looked at me while I chewed and said “Thanks again, Mr. Hutch. I don’t how to repay you for everything.”

I made a dismissive wave. “Don’t worry about it. I was planning on sending my bill to your uncle,” nodding toward Dermot. “But you know, couple more of these dumplings would just about even the score.” 

“On the way,” she said with her wide smile and headed back to the kitchen. Order had been restored, I thought, sipping the last of my Irish.

Dermot sidled up. “So, Midnight,” he said, “I was hoping you could help a friend of mine with something.”

I slid my empty glass over to him. “Tell me all about it.”




Anthony Lukas is a former attorney, a retired chocolatier and works part-time in a national park.

Five of his stories have been published on omdb! – A Coffin Too Small (February, 2016), Dwight (May, 2015), With a Side Of… (September, 2014), The Old Damned Fool” (April, 2014), and Death of Mr. Putnam (July, 2013).

He has also been published in Bewilderingstories.com, mysterical-e magazine, YellowMama.com and Blackpetals.com. 


Copyright © 2016 Anthony Lukas. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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