tapped his noggin with a forefinger. “I’m afraid that, out on the street, my mind might not click with the old vigor.”

“You’re looking for a leg man.”

“More. A detective.” He leaned forward. “You deserve better than a life on the…” And he spoke the words like bitter obscenities. “…police department. You deserve a better destiny than that shabby circle can give you…. When you were a boy you wanted to be a ‘Private Consulting Detective,’ like Nick Carter or your precious Sherlock.”

“I make out all right on the force,” I said, trying not to sound as defensive as I felt. “I’m the youngest guy who ever made plainclothes….”

And I let that hang.

We both knew how I’d managed my quick promotion: I’d lied on the witness stand to let a Capone-selected patsy take the rap for the Jake Lingle shooting.

“I’m not a judge,” Darrow said gently. “I defend. Let me be your defender. Let me parole you from a life sentence of empty corruption.”

I swallowed. That eloquent son of a bitch. I said, “How?”

“Walk away from that graft-ridden pesthole of a department. Your father hated that you took that job.”

“He hated me for it.”

He shook his head, no, no, no. “No, I don’t believe that, not for a second. He loved his son, but hated this bad choice his son made.”

I gave him a nasty smirk. “Oh, but C.D.—I didn’t make that choice, it chose me, remember? Environment and heredity ganged up on me and made me do it.”

The smile he bestowed on me in return was plainly patronizing. “Ridicule me, if you like, son…but what you say has truth in it. Outside forces do shape our ‘destiny.’ So, all right, then—prove me wrong—make a choice.” He leaned forward and there was fire and urgency in the gray eyes. “This case, this Massie matter, it’s no isolated instance. My lovely Ruby doesn’t know it yet, but her husband is getting back in the game.”

I blinked. “You’re going back into full-time practice?”

He nodded slowly.

“Criminal and radical law?”

He continued to nod.

“You’re saying you would take me on as your full-time investigator?”

And still nodding.

“But C.D.—you’re going to be seventy-five before the month is out.”

“Thanks for remembering, son.”

“No offense, but even Clarence Darrow can’t live forever…”

“Perhaps not. But two or three years of working as Clarence Darrow’s ace investigator would be a splendid foundation for either a private practice, or a similar relationship with another top attorney…wouldn’t you say, son?”

I had thought about leaving the department and putting out a private shingle; I had thought about it more than I dared tell Darrow. The stigma of how I’d got my detective’s shield was like a mark of Cain, even in a corrupt cesspool like the Chicago PD; especially, there…. Every time I turned around some dirty cop assumed I was like him, and could be trusted to cover some shit up, or would jump at a chance to go in on some lousy scam or another….

“I still have an obligation to Colonel Lindbergh,” I said.

“And I’m a week away from leaving for Honolulu. You have time to think it over.”

“What does it pay?”

“A fair question.” He gestured with an open hand. “For this initial assignment, what I had in mind was making sure the PD kept you on salary during your leave of absence. Look at it as a vacation with pay.”

“As opposed to looking at it as you getting my services for free.”

“I thought we’d agreed that money wasn’t everything.”

Then Darrow settled back, and his eyes shifted. I turned to look at what he was looking at, and saw that the same waiter who had led me over was now guiding our awaited guest to Mr. Darrow’s booth: a tall, slender gent in a dark blue suit that would have cost me a month’s pay, and a lighter blue about-a-week’s-salary tie. His eyes were like cuts in an oblong face dominated by a strong nose and a wide thin mouth that exploded into a winning smile upon seeing Darrow.

Who half-rose to meet our distinguished, enthusiastic guest and his eagerly extended hand; the old boy seemed vaguely amused as the younger man worked his arm like a water pump.

“Glad you could make it, Mr. Leisure,” Darrow said quietly.

“You know,” Leisure said, grinning, shaking his head, “I thought this might be a practical joke.”

“What? Sit down, please, sit down.”

Leisure, who had not yet acknowledged my presence, or my existence for that matter, slid into the booth opposite me.

“Well, when you called this morning,” Leisure said, “saying you were Clarence Darrow, and wanting to meet me at Sardi’s for lunch, I…frankly, my friends know what an admirer of yours I am. They’ve heard me say how ‘one of

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