"What people down in Mexico?"
"You can get all the details when you talk to the guy."
"That assumes I'm going to talk to him."
"Dana's friend's name." He ignores me. "Actually he's not even a friend. She just met him a few months ago. Apparently his name was mentioned by another witness in front of the jury."
"How did that happen? More to the point, how do you know what a witness said in front of a grand jury? Last time I looked, they lock the door and pull all the blinds inside grand jury rooms."
"Don't ask me things I can't tell you," he says. "Hell, if I was subpoenaed in front of a grand jury, I'd probably end up mentioning your name."
"No. I mean it. If I told 'em I went to lunch with my friend Paul,' the FBI would start sifting through your trash. They do this all the time. They'll spend two years doing an investigation, dig up your garden, talk to all your friends, tell your boss it's nothing to worry about, they just want to look in your desk for heroin, and then they stop. Nobody gets indicted, and nobody ever knows why. Of course, all your neighbors drag their kids in the house, draw the drapes, and chain their doors every time you walk by. But that's life in a democracy, right?"
I'm still wondering who's down in Mexico.
"Listen. All I'm asking is that you talk to the guy. It'll probably just go away. I doubt if they'll subpoena him."
"They were sifting my garbage a couple of seconds ago."
"Yeah, but you're not as squeaky clean as this guy. Listen, all he needs is somebody to hold his hand."
"Sounds like a perfect case for you, to turn over a new leaf," I tell him. "You said he was a businessman."
"I would if I could. But we've got a conflict. The firm did some work, a civil case against his company a few years ago. You know how it is? Dana did this big buildup on her husband the lawyer. She's new on the arts commission. She wanted to make a good impression. So when this guy tells her about his legal problems, she says I'll have my husband talk to you.' Now she can't. What do you want me to do? You want her to lose face?"
Knowing Dana, the guy was probably trying to come on to her. I don't share this thought with Nick.
"She's trying to make an impression," he says. "Besides, the man's a big giver. He digs deep for all the right causes."
"So if he's into so many good works, why does the grand jury want to talk to this Brother Teresa?"
"It's probably nothing."
I begin to waffle and Nick can smell it.
"You'd be doing me a huge favor. I'd owe you my life," he says. "Well, maybe not that much."
"What you mean is I'd be doing Dana a big favor."
I can already see him edging her toward the sack tonight whispering in her ear about how he took care of her friend, put him in good hands, all the while looking for a little sweet reciprocity.
"What's his name? This client?" I got one of his business cards and my pen to make a note.
"Gerald Metz. I'll have him give you a call."
"No drugs, Nick. I don't do drug cases. You know that."
"I know. It's not drugs. Trust me. As far as I know, the guy's clean. His name is being dragged into it because he had one business deal with some people. You know how it is?"
"I know how it is." I hold up a hand and cut him off before he can start all over again. Chapter two, Rush on civil rights.
"Listen to his story, tell him not to worry, and charge him a big fee," he says.
"What if the grand jury calls him to testify? Does he understand I can't go into the jury room with him?"
Reprinted from The Arraignment by Steve Martini, by permission of G. P. Putnams Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2003, Steve Martini. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
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