“C’mon,” Stone said, rising. “Let’s get Clarence Darrow here into a cab before he decides to sue God.”


Stone was drinking coffee at his desk the following morning when his secretary, Joan Robertson, appeared at the door.

“Got a minute?” Joan, a pretty June Allyson look-alike somewhere in her forties, ran Stone’s office and Stone, as well.

“Sure, come on in. Bring coffee, if you like.”

“Thanks, I’ve had mine,” Joan said, sitting down. “Time to talk of unpleasant things.”

“How unpleasant?”

“Not all that bad, really, just chronic.”

“Tell me.”

“Well, your monthly draw from Woodman and Weld just about covers my salary, the utilities and the copying machine, but only about half of what it costs you to live.”

“And your point is?”

“We need a case now and then to pay, among other things, your monthly bill at Elaine’s and to keep you in the black. You haven’t, for instance, saved any money for the past three months.”

“I’m aware of all that,” Stone said. “More or less.”

“Be more aware. Make rain.”

“What do you want me to do, chase ambulances?”

“A nice personal-injury suit that lends itself to a quick settlement would do nicely.”

“Maybe I could push somebody in front of a cab, then offer to represent him?”

“The problem is, Woodman and Weld has not been sending you much the past few months. Usually they’re good for something fairly juicy now and then. That’s how you support your preposterous lifestyle.”

“Preposterous? What’s preposterous about my lifestyle?”

“Well, let’s see: You live alone in this large house…”

“I earn my living here, too,” Stone pointed out.

“More or less. To continue, you have a country house in Connecticut; an armored, souped-up Mercedes in the garage; an airplane at Teterboro Airport; and a monthly bill at Elaine’s that could feed a company of starving marines. All of it soaks up money. About the only thing you couldn’t get along without is me.”

“You’re right, this is unpleasant.”

“Look, you rarely use the house in Washington, Connecticut. Why don’t you call Klemm Real Estate up there and put the place on the market? You bought it on a whim, and you’ve held onto it long enough to at least double your money.”

“Yeah, but it’s a good investment, better than the market, and anyway, I kind of like the idea of having a country place in Connecticut.”

“Well, it’s an awfully expensive way to get laid, Stone. Every time you take a woman up there for a few days, we get a thousand-dollar bill for drinks and dinners at the Mayflower Inn, and last time, you spent a couple of grand at a country auction, too. If it’s not that, it’s the annual Washington Antiques show. I don’t even want to think about what you spent there.”

Stone was growing very uncomfortable and was relieved to hear the phone ring.

Joan reached across the desk and picked up his phone. “Good morning, the Barrington Practice.” She listened for a moment, pressed the Hold button and handed Stone the phone. “Bill Eggers for you. Maybe he’s got some work for us?”

Stone took the phone and punched a button. “Good morning, Bill. How are you feeling today?”

“That’s a cruel question,” Eggers replied hoarsely.

“Was your wife’s dog happy with the bone?”

“He ran when he saw it.”

“And how did the partners’ meeting greet your proposal to represent Herbie Fisher in a suit against Carmine Dattila?”

“Actually, they greeted it very well,” Eggers said. “They immediately saw the public-relations benefit of going up against a mobster in a civil action.”

“You astonish me,” Stone said.

“What they didn’t like was the idea of the managing partner personally representing Mr. Fisher.”

“I can imagine,” Stone chuckled. “Which poor schmuck did you stick with the case?”

“I’m actually on the phone with him now.”

“Feel free to put me on hold while you break the news to him.”

“That won’t be necessary, since I’m speaking to him on this line.”

Stone was confused for a moment, but then the full import of what Eggers was saying struck him like a wall of icy water. “Now wait a minute, Bill…”

“I’m afraid I can’t wait, Stone. The case is yours, by unanimous vote of the partners.”

“Bill, I begged you not to take this ridiculous case.”

“Nevertheless,” Eggers said, “there was a feeling among the partners that the firm has not been getting its money’s worth from you lately, Stone.”

“Well, God knows you haven’t been throwing me any cases.”

“Consider this one thrown.”

“Bill, there’s no money in this. Even if we managed to get a settlement, it would be limited to Herbie’s medical expenses.”

“But, if you went to trial, you could go for punitive damages.”

“What, a few thousand dollars?”

“Stone, I think the partners would be happy without a large settlement if the case were to generate the kind of positive news stories that we think could be obtained by taking this case. Just think of yourself on the courthouse steps, after a day in court grilling Mr. Dattila. Think of a jury coming in with punitive damages of tens of thousands of dollars. You’d be all over the evening news, and so would Woodman and Weld. In fact, I’d be happy to come down to the courthouse and sit at your table for a few days, then share your moment on the courthouse steps.”

“Bill, what have you guys been smoking over there? Whatever it is, it’s illegal.”

“Stone, let me put it to you bluntly. If you want to go on drawing the handsome monthly sum we pay you, and if you want to continue to have cases referred to you by our firm, then you’re going to have to get on board with this case. The partners expect this of you.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Stone moaned. “Send me the case file, if there is one.”

“I’ll do better than that; I’ll send you your client.”

“You mean Herbie is at your office now?”

“Well, he was, but he’s already on his way to you. He should be in your office shortly.”

Stone glanced down the hallway and saw the front door open. “Oh, shit.”

“I take it Mr. Fisher has arrived,” Eggers said. “Do right by him, Stone. Make Woodman and Weld look good.” He hung up.

Stone put the phone down.

“Stone,” Joan said, “what’s the matter?”

“Eggers has sent us a case.”

“Oh, good.”

“No.” Stone nodded toward the hallway.

Joan followed his gaze. “Herbie Fisher? Yuck!”

“My sentiments exactly.”

“What does he want?”

“He wants us to sue Carmine Dattila.”

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