"I take it Karp is not a crazy little Irishman."
"An immense, serious Jew, since you ask. And the next obvious question is, why him, and so against my usual type." Marlene paused and drank deeply and was silent, staring at the piano player, who was doing "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most."
"And the answer?"
"Ah, the answer," said Marlene, smiling. "The answer is a mystery, like the Holy Trinity. As for the mere facts: We worked in the same office. He was a star; I admired, but nothing particularly groin-involved. His wife ditched him. We were at an office party and he got drunk. He can't drink at all. I helped him get home. The next thing I knew -- and believe me, Shans, I didn't plan this and I didn't particularly want it -- the next thing we were in the shower together, and the rest is history. Oh, yeah, I got blown up by a bomb and he got shot and kidnapped, and I got kidnapped, too, and we helped each other out, which tended to bring us a little closer than we would have been ordinarily. And I got pregnant with Lucy, and so we got married. Not a trip to the moon on gossamer wings, but something...I don't know, I didn't expect, not for me. We fight like crazy, but we're still together. He's a remarkable man. You'll meet him, you'll see for yourself."
"Marlene, this is stupefying stuff. Blown up? Kidnapped?"
"But enough of me," said Marlene with a laugh.
"Tell me about groin-involved?"
"No, really, what about you? You severed the Odious, and what? You're practicing down there?"
"Yeah, criminal law, mostly court-appointed counsel, you know, the usual hopeless mopes." Maureen laughed. "Yes, right, old softy Shanahan."
"I remember the sick pigeon."
"Yeah, I brought it in from the cold and it died in my locker. The story of my life. In any case, I have recently achieved, for once, a fair level of racy notoriety, and I was reasonably full of myself, but compared to you, I feel like I'm doing wills and conveyances in Gumboro."
"A fair level...?"
"Yeah, I'm defending Sarah Goldfarb....What? You don't recognize the name? Oh, God, now I'm totally crushed. Marlene, it was on national TV, it was in Time, it was in Newsweek..."
Marlene was shaking her head. "I'm sorry, Shans, I can't place her."
"A couple of teenagers went to a motel, the girl had a baby, the baby ended up in the Dumpster -- "
"Oh, God, that one!"
"Wow, Shans, that's pretty high-profile. I am impressed. How did you happen to land it?"
"Oh, another long boring story. After they were arrested, someone at Mr. Goldfarb's work recommended a lawyer, a guy named Slotkin, and at the same time, the boy's parents hired their own lawyer, this Loreno character -- "
"Yeah, do you know him?"
"Slightly. Butch knows him fairly well. He used to be with the DA. Go on."
"Okay, the incident occurred last November. The kids have been in jail since then, because the state charged them with capital murder."
"Capital murder? For infanticide? That's loony!"
"Tell me about it! It's a classic case of prosecutorial overkill. The state's attorney has been bloviating to the local press practically since the arrest, and the attorney general's appeared on a national talk show. The AG's a woman, I guess she wants to demonstrate the girls can be tough, too, or maybe she wants to be governor. In any case, to start off they had a joint defense agreement, Slotkin and Loreno, but meanwhile my kid is still in jail, and the Goldfarbs are getting nervous. Their guy doesn't seem to be doing anything, he's letting Loreno take the lead. The boy did the actual dumping, of course, so he's under the gun and maybe getting set to play a little hardball. I happened to know the girl's aunt, also a lawyer, but corporate, and she called me and asked me to talk to the parents. I did, I got the story as far as they knew it, I saw Slotkin, who didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground in a case like this, I saw Sarah, and I said I'd take the case."
Copyright © 2000 by Robert K. Tannenbaum
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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