"But she brought her back?" says Harry.
Jonah nods. "Monday morning, ten o'clock Mandy comes through the front door, Jessica right behind her as if nothing had happened. And they weren't alone."
"One of Jessica's boyfriends?" says Harry.
Jonah shakes his head. "A woman."
"What woman?" I ask.
Jonah fishes in his pocket, pulls out a business card, and hands it to me. On the card in bold italic are the words:
Women's Defense Forum
Underneath it in letters larger than the organization's is the name:
Zolanda "Zo" Suade
"Without so much as a how do you do, she's in my face," says Jonah. "This other woman. She tells me she knows all about me. That because I have a lot of money, won the lottery, I think I can do whatever I want, that I can steal my daughter's child.
"I tell her I have a court order.
"She tells me that it's worthless. That the courts are all run by men for men, that she doesn't recognize court orders, and that if I know what's good for me I'll simply turn Mandy back over to her mother.
"By this time I'm about ready to deck this broad." Jonah looks at Harry. "Excuse my language," he says. "But I was ready to kill.
"I told her to leave. She refused. She said they'd leave when they were good and ready. Finally, I told her I was gonna call the cops, and Mary, she starts moving toward the phone. That's when this Zolanda . . ." Jonah makes the name sound like the word should have four letters. "That's when she decides it's time to leave. But not before she tells me I have a choice. I can either give Mandy up willingly, or we can lose her. Either way, she says, Jessica's gonna get her child back."
"Did she leave?"
"Yeah. She and Jessica both. I was shaking like a leaf. If I'd had this in my hand at that moment"-he holds up the cane-"I think I'd a hit her. I woulda crushed her head like a walnut. Luckily I didn't. Amanda was crying. She was standing there listening to all of this. She doesn't like friction, arguments. She can't deal with it. It gives her stomach pains. And here I am shouting with some stranger who's threatening to take her away.
"First thing I do is call my lawyer. I tell ya, this guy's not half the lawyer you are, Paul. Anyway, I tell the lawyer what's going on, and the minute I mention this woman's name, this Zolanda, he asks me where my granddaughter is. I tell him she's standing right beside me. He doesn't say a thing, but I can hear the sigh of relief over the phone, like somebody who just woke up from a bad dream in flop sweat. I asked him who the hell she is, the devil?
"'She may not be the devil,' he says, 'but as far as you're concerned, she's got the keys to hell.' He tells me we've got to get back to court fast, before the weekend. And no matter what happens, he says, I am not to turn Amanda over to my daughter for visitation. Even if the sheriff shows up with a court order, he says. Just stall him until I can get Amanda away from the house.
"By this time we're really gettin' worried. Mary's frantic. You can imagine."
"I can," I tell him.
"Have you ever heard of this woman?" he asks.
I shake my head. "But then I'm new to town."
"Apparently she has a reputation beyond San Diego," he tells me. "There's been national publicity."
"I haven't seen it. But then I don't work in the field. Family law."
"What the lawyer told me turned out to be . . . whaddaya call it?" Jonah searches for the word, can't come up with it.
"Prophetic?" says Harry.
Jonah snaps his fingers, the hand propped on the cane. "That's it. We were doing everything to take precautions. We were taking Mandy to school and picking her up afterward. Driving her everywhere. We told her teachers that she was not to leave the school grounds with anyone but Mary or me.
From The Attorney by Steve Martini. (c) Novemeber 1999 , Steve Martini used by permission of the publisher.
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