He felt like a policeman who should turn in his badge, a politician who needed to resign, a cheating athlete who stepped down from the first prize podium, and all for the moral good. After all, he was the criminal setting his guilty client free. He was obliged to do everything in his power to prevent him from serving a life sentence. Seconds after the trial ended he reminded himself of this absurd oath, an oath that would protect him from his conscience.
The jury was beginning to file out as doggedly as they had shuffled in with their declaration of innocence. It was time to leave. Through the midst of dismay and elation, his client sauntered over to shake his hand.
“Thanks for all of your hard work, Coach,” he said with a relieved smile. He hated how his client insisted on calling him Coach. Even though he was the one calling all the shots on his client’s defense, it was unnerving. His client only contributed short and concise answers in their pre-trial meetings. He sensed there was a larger story to be told. In truth, he didn’t trust his client.
“That’s my job.”
“Well, you’re a damn good lawyer.”
“Thanks,” he was polite, yet curt. The handshake he extended to his client was firm and resolute; he was closing this case. The only problem was that his client wasn’t leaving the courtroom.
“So, what did you think of the trial, over all?” his client asked. He seemed more interested in the trial in retrospect than when it was occurring. In fact, he seemed to watch the trial from some distant couch in his mind; as if it was a syndicated episode.
“Grueling,” he replied. “There were a few surprises, though.”
“Oh, from the prosecution you mean?”
“Yes, them,” he wanted to get home to his wife and dinner. “I wasn’t counting on an old girlfriend testifying against you about a past anger management problem.”
“Sorry about that, it hasn’t been a problem for years.”
“Gary, your wife was found in the living room with a remote control lying next to her head, busted.”
“Well, between us married men, you know that once you give up the remote control to your wife – you may as well give up everything.”
He had closed his briefcase and had one side fastened. The other side was flipped open, like a tongue protruding with no words of conviction.
“What did you say to me?”
“Oh, she always wanted to watch some stupid reality match-making show, like... oh, what is it called... the batchelorette,” he waved his hand casually in light conversation about his silly, dead wife. “She was always talking about how good-looking the candidate grooms were, and how she wished I would woo her and dress better and talk more like a gentleman to her.”
“Uh-huh,” he was caught in a web. This man he had been defending for months was slowly beginning to talk. He could still hear his story in their pre-trial consultations of how he had come home from work to find his wife face down on the sofa.
“It must have been a break-in,” he had said, tensing his face. “They must have crept up on her. They took my truck, too.” There had been a bit of minor wreckage. A lamp was knocked over. He could have worked late that night, and no one at his workplace had stayed past 5pm to say otherwise. His truck had been found crushed at the bottom of a gravel pit nearby. His lawyer mentioned it now.
“I never did like that truck, either,” he said. “Thanks, again, coach.” His client winked at him and left. He watched him go, and closed the other fastener. In a stupor, he partly acknowledged one of his senior colleagues in the law chambers.
“Congratulations Mark, I heard about your winning the case. After a win like that, well, we can really use your keen instincts in this firm. How would you like to become a partner?”
Mark stared at the man, “I think he did it.”
The man started, and then said, “Sometimes they do.”
“I can’t accept, I’m sorry,” before his colleague could protest, Mark said goodnight and left the building.
When he got home, his wife was putting the finishing touches on dinner.
“How did it go?” she asked, flitting between the kitchen and dining room table. He didn’t answer right away. Instead, he reached over the couch cushions for the remote control, threw it on the floor and stamped on it. Its flimsy back popped out.
“I won,” he said.