"Is this what I think it is?"
A nasty grin itches over his face. "Depends on what you think it is." He jimmies out the Mason jar, so that liquid drips onto the carpet. "Have a taste."
For a still made out of spit and glue, it produces pretty potent moonshine whiskey. An inferno races so fast through my belly and legs I fall back onto the couch. "Disgusting," I gasp.
Jesse laughs and takes a swig, too, although for him it goes down easier. "So what do you want from me?"
"How do you know I want something?"
"Because no one comes up here on a social call," he says, sitting on the arm of the couch. "And if it was something about Kate, you would've already told me."
"It is about Kate. Sort of." I press the newspaper clippings into my brother's hand; they'll do a better job explaining than I ever could. He scans them, then looks me right in the eye. His are the palest shade of silver, so surprising that sometimes when he stares at you, you can completely forget what you were planning to say.
"Don't mess with the system, Anna," he says bitterly. "We've all got our scripts down pat. Kate plays the Martyr. I'm the Lost Cause. And you, you're the Peacekeeper."
He thinks he knows me, but that goes both ways -- and when it comes to friction, Jesse is an addict. I look right at him. "Says who?"
Jesse agrees to wait for me in the parking lot. It's one of the few times I can recall him doing anything I tell him to do. I walk around to the front of the building, which has two gargoyles guarding its entrance.
Campbell Alexander, Esquire's office is on the third floor. The walls are paneled with wood the color of a chestnut mare's coat, and when I step onto the thick Oriental rug on the floor, my sneakers sink an inch. The secretary is wearing black pumps so shiny I can see my own face in them. I glance down at my cutoffs and the Keds that I tattooed last week with Magic Markers when I was bored.
The secretary has perfect skin and perfect eyebrows and honeybee lips, and she's using them to scream bloody murder at whoever's on the other end of the phone. "You cannot expect me to tell a judge that. Just because you
don't want to hear Kleman rant and rave doesn't mean that I
have to...no, actually, that raise was for the exceptional job I do and the crap I put up with on a daily basis, and as a matter of fact, while we're on -- " She holds the phone away from her ear; I can make out the buzz of disconnection. "Bastard," she mutters, and then seems to realize I'm standing three feet away. "Can I help you?"
She looks me over from head to toe, rating me on a general scale of first impressions, and finding me severely lacking. I lift my chin and pretend to be far more cool than I actually am. "I have an appointment with Mr. Alexander. At four o'clock."
"Your voice," she says. "On the phone, you didn't sound quite so..."
She smiles uncomfortably. "We don't try juvenile cases, as a rule.
If you'd like I can offer you the names of some practicing attorneys who -- "
I take a deep breath. "Actually," I interrupt, "you're wrong. Smith v. Whately, Edmunds v. Womens and Infants Hospital, and Jerome v. the Diocese of Providence all involved litigants under the age of eighteen. All three resulted in verdicts for Mr. Alexander's clients. And those were just in the past year
The secretary blinks at me. Then a slow smile toasts her face, as if she's decided she just might like me after all. "Come to think of it, why don't you just wait in his office?" she suggests, and she stands up to show me the way.
Even if I spend every minute of the rest of my life reading, I do not believe that I will ever manage to consume the sheer number of words routed high and low on the walls of Campbell Alexander, Esquire's office. I do the math -- if there are 400 words or so on every page, and each of those legal books are 400 pages, and there are twenty on a shelf and six shelves per bookcase -- why, you're pushing nineteen million words, and that's only partway across the room.
Copyright © 2004 by Jodi Picoult