"But how can I help you?" I ask.
"I want you to find out where my granddaughter is."
"You need an investigator, not a lawyer."
"Fine. Hire one. Hire the best," he tells me. "But I want you to be in charge. I trust you."
"You'd be paying me, and there isn't much I can do. You need information, and an investigator is
the one to get that. You don't hire an electrician to do plumbing."
"You do if there are sizzling wires in the water," says Jonah. "I've already talked to the other lawyer about hiring an investigator. He says I'd be wasting my time. Suade's too careful. She covers her tracks. Calls from pay phones. Never visits the places where she has the mothers and children holed up. She uses middlemen. It's like an underground railroad."
"If that's what she's doing, what can I do?"
"I need somebody to take her organization apart. Get her into court. Sue her if you have to. She's created these shell corporations. This is one of them." He holds up the business card with her name on it. "She has several others. She takes donations from people who believe in her cause. Go after some of them. Dry up her funds. Put pressure on the cops and the courts to force her to talk. I'll pay," he says. "I'll pay whatever you want. Money is no obstacle. All I want is my granddaughter back."
I look at Harry. My principal concern at the moment is whether I would be taking the man's money on false pretenses.
"I can't make a commitment," I tell him. "There really is no legal case. Other than the violation of the court order of custody."
"Then start with that," he says.
"We have no direct evidence that this woman, this Zolanda Suade, was involved."
"You know she was. I know she was."
"That's not evidence," I tell him.
"She came to his house. She made threats," says Harry.
"That might be evidence," I concede. "Still it's Jonah's word against hers."
"I was there," says Mary.
"Yeah. Don't forget Mary," says Harry. Now they're double-teaming me. "We can look into it," Harry adds. "We can at least do that much."
Jonah is desperate, and now he's found an ally. Anyone not knowing Harry might be tempted to say that he is merely greedy. But I know him better. He's a soft touch. He sees Jonah's problem as one with merit. Even if Jonah were financially destitute, Harry would be pitching me to get involved, to tilt at this windmill. The fact that Jonah has money makes it that much easier. "We can look into it," I finally say. There are smiles all around, puffing, and a lot of cigar smoke.
From The Attorney by Steve Martini. (c) Novemeber 1999 , Steve Martini used by permission of the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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