I awoke to my temp agency calling me. They never called me first.|
"Mr. Walker?" It wasn't my normal rep. "You may not know this, considering you're in our labor division, but we also have a legal services department."
"Like for temporary paralegals?"
"Those, and other needs such as mock trials. We'd like you to serve on one. You'll get twice your normal wage and lunch is provided."
Free lunch almost compensated for the weird request, but I remained wary.
"A law firm presents opening arguments for both sides of a case, usually civil. You'll act as a jury member, but able to ask questions that'll help the lawyers prepare the case ahead of time."
After agreeing, I hung up. The odds of my finding a dead body, faux suicide or missing person while sitting in an office seemed unlikely. Plus, I was ravenous.
Urban decay wasn't allowed in the part of town where the law firm did business. In a professionally decorated conference room, with colors meant to make visitors feel relaxed and open, my fellow jurors and I rallied. We dove into a variety of juices, donuts and fruit, all washed down with the best coffee outside of the Jamaican Blue Mountains. Pens and notepads were laid out before us, so we took seats around a mahogany conference table.
Soon, a paralegal entered.
"We're going to lay out both the prosecution's and the defense's arguments for a case. After we finish, you'll deliberate, meaning you'll recommend a course of action for our team. The main question is ... should the DA still try for an indictment with only the facts as they are presented?"
District Attorney? So much for the civil case.
After name exchanges, the prosecutor and defender arrived. The prosecutor began laying out his case.
"Four months ago, business entrepreneur Cyrus Foster acquired information that a company, GrubTech, would be going public. He positioned himself for a stock buyout. Grub Tech had developed a home line of molecular gastronomy dishes. Foster looked to make billions."
"Isn't that insider trading?" an older woman asked.
"Yes. We believe he obtained the information through the sister of the company's owner, Phillip Grubinger."
I'd heard that last name before, but couldn't place it.
"He enlisted the services of a stockbroker within his company's investment firm." The prosecutor had made air quotes around "enlisted" which ultimately meant "bribed". They must not have acquired physical proof yet. "Their clandestine meeting turned heated which woke a nearby food truck owner, who had been sleeping in his truck at the time."
I stopped taking notes. I didn't need to. Basile Andreadis, my missing falafel maker.
"How'd you find about secret meetings and such?" A 20-something Hispanic inquired. I'd done landscaping with him before. Good kid.
"The vendor reported the exchange to the police because he thought Foster's bodyguard was following him around town. The vendor recognized Foster from his failed attempt to run for congress. Rumor says Foster plans another attempt and is building a war chest. Yes, Mr. Walker?"
I'd raised my hand. "Wouldn't this fall into Federal jurisdiction? Insider trading. Bribery. Threats. Foster seems too big a fish for the local police to handle."
A thump resounded from behind one wall as if someone punched it; someone who watched us through a vid-cam. The thud had a familiar tone to it.
Ignoring the interruption, the prosecutor said, "Possibly. It's probable the Feds screwed up their surveillance, but you wouldn't have that kind of information if you were a real jury."
A gaunt former accountant named Guy asked, "Does Foster have an alibi for the supposed exchange?"
The female lawyer playing defense answered, "Mr. Cyrus was downtown at a fund raiser about the time the vendor says he was uptown meeting the stockbroker. This was confirmed by his head of security, Jaeger Harris, and several witnesses."
But fund raisers were crowded affairs with free drinks and no linear sense. Foster could have slipped away, done his devil's work, and returned with few the wiser.
Harris. Another familiar name....
The memories flew forward as if someone had taken a lead pipe to the back of my brain. Nancy Grubinger. The office manager who was retiring early because the stock in her brother's company was about to go public, only to be seduced and murdered by Jaeger Harris.
Each job over the last few months played like a scene of an old German film, with me cast me in the role as patsy. I finally got a hold of the script and knew what my next lines were.
"And the stockbroker Foster bribed? Did he turn state's evidence when caught? Shouldn't he be in witness protection?"
The lawyers looked to each other, unsure how to respond.
"But he's dead, right? Suicide? Only, it wasn't. Someone's cleaning house."
Their mouths gaped like fishes gasping for air.
I bounced my barely used pen on the table. "And your eyewitness, the vendor, probably dead, too." Before either legal eagle could react, I stood and grabbed a folder the Prosecutor had dropped on the table. I flopped it open to see Foster's financials. I let the ceiling fan take them and watched as they fluttered like goose feathers back down.
"That's why you're wondering whether some flimsy paper trail you've built on Foster is enough to move forward? You've lost everything else."
My co-jurors stared blank faced at me, while the attorneys turned shades of red. From embarrassment or anger, I didn't care.
More noise came from behind the wall, the unmistakable sounds of shouting and the restraining of a certain detective. I flipped the bird to the two-way painting that hid a fuming Detective Lopez and the DA. I hated being their puppet.
"I'm no lawyer, but if this was court, I'd vote that you don't have enough hard evidence to convict and you're all fucked." Pushing open the frosted glass front door, I called back, "Keep the sandwich."