The emotion in his eyes is palpable. "Of course."
"Let's get in one of the cars."
He presses a button on his key chain, and his Volvo's lights blink. As if triggered by a silent starter pistol, we race through the chilly rain and scramble onto the leather seats of the S80. He slams his door and cranks the engine, then shakes his head with a strange violence.
"I can't fucking believe it, Penn. It's literally beyond belief. Did you know her? Did you know Kate at all?"
"We spoke a few times. She asked about my books. But we never got beyond the surface. Mia talked about her a lot."
His eyes search out mine in the shadows. "You and I haven't got beneath the surface much either these past five years. It's more my fault than yours, I know. I keep a lot inside."
"We all do," I say awkwardly, wondering where this is going.
"Who really knows anybody, right? Twelve years of school together, best friends when we were kids. You know a lot about me, but on the other hand you know nothing. The front, like everybody else."
"I hope I see past that, Drew."
"I don't mean to insult you. If anyone sees beneath the surface, it's you. That's why I'm talking to you now."
"Well, I'm here. Let's talk."
He nods as if confirming a private judgment. "I want to hire you."
"As a lawyer."
This is the last thing I expected to hear. "You know I don't practice anymore."
"You took the Payton case, that old civil rights bombing."
"That was different. And that was five years ago."
Drew stares at me in the glow of the dashboard lights. "This is different, too."
It always is to the client. "I'm sure it is. The thing is, I'm not really a lawyer anymore. I'm a writer. If you need a lawyer, I can recommend several good ones. Is it malpractice?"
Drew blinks in astonishment. "Malpractice? You think I'd waste your time with bullshit like that?"
"Drew...I don't know what this is about. Why don't you tell me what the problem is?"
"I want to, but -- Penn, what if you were sick? You had HIV, say. And you came to me and said, 'Drew, please help me. As a friend. I want you to treat me and not tell a soul.' And what if I said, 'Penn, I'd like to, but that's not my specialty. You need to go to a specialist.' "
"Drew, come on -- "
"Hear me out. If you said, 'Drew, as a friend, please do me this favor. Please help me.' You know what? I wouldn't think twice. I'd do whatever you wanted. Treat you without records, whatever."
He would. I can't deny it. But there's more than this beneath his words. Drew has left much unsaid. The truth is that without Drew Elliott, I wouldn't be alive today. When I was fourteen years old, Drew and I hiked away from the Buffalo River in Arkansas and got lost in the Ozark Mountains. Near dark, I fell into a gorge and broke my femur. Drew was only eleven, but he crawled down into that gorge, splinted my leg with a tree limb, then built a makeshift litter and started dragging me through the night. Before he was done, he dragged me four miles through the mountains, breaking his wrist in the process and twice almost breaking his neck. Just after dawn, he managed to get me to a cluster of tents where someone had a CB radio. But has he mentioned any of that? No. It's my job to remember.
Copyright © 2005 by Greg Iles.
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