'There are plenty of flights,' Tony said. 'We can leave in the morning and get back easily by early evening.'

Casey considered her partner's face. More than anyone, he had helped her become exactly what she'd always wanted to be. She lived in a big, elegant home that other people cleaned. Her clothes came from a personal shopper who scoured the finest stores in Austin and Dallas, seeing to it she was always dressed in the latest fashion. Her jewelry, although she wore only a few pieces at a time, had to be kept in a vault. She drove the latest, biggest-model Mercedes. And, more important, people admired her. Wasn't she one of only a handful of women invited regularly to tea at the governor's mansion by his wife? Didn't she always have to choose from a broad selection of the women who wanted to play tennis with her at the club?

Yes, Casey was everywhere and everything she'd always wanted to be. And much of that had evolved from her partnership with Tony. Her husband was important, of course. But Casey didn't know if she would even have met Taylor if she hadn't joined forces with Tony. It was Tony who had cultivated her confidence in the big city. She had always been able to shine in her tiny hometown outside Odessa. She was everything back there, the class president, the valedictorian, the homecoming queen. And why shouldn't she have been? It was a squalid little farm town in the middle of nowhere. But Austin was a big city, and Casey needed a mentor like Tony to help give her the confidence that she could still shine at a much higher level.

She smiled fondly at her partner and said, 'I'll go.'

Then, turning toward the door, she remembered her husband's words and added, 'I think it's the right thing.'


'My God, it's freezing,' Casey said. She wondered aloud how anyone could choose to live in the north. Not only was it cold, but the roiling gray clouds spit fitful bits of ice and snow and rain at them. Despite the proximity to noon, the horizon was inky and flat.

Tony stamped his feet on the dirty concrete and huffed into his hands. The raincoat he wore was like nothing in the cold wind whipping down from Canada. Although it was nearly April, a sudden cold snap had left the ground outside the airport frozen and lightly frosted with snow. The driver who met them at the gate had gone around for the car. Tony and Casey had made the mistake of walking out to the curb to wait for him.

'Let's go inside,' he said with a shiver.

'Here he comes,' she said. She, too, was dressed for warmer weather in a light coat that covered a classic blue pinstripe business suit and heels. Her shapely legs, bare from the knee down except for dark stockings, were chilled to the bone.

Casey had spent the entire plane ride, as well as the time during their layover in Chicago, going over her closing-argument notes for her trial the next morning. But their car ride to Pierce Culpepper's side of town was spent going over the facts of the rock star's case, as Tony knew them. Casey nodded silently and let him finish before asking, 'What's his legal history?' She already knew the star's background: a suburban kid from St. Paul and one of the few white rap artists to not only thrive, but take his unique sound to the top of the charts worldwide.

Tony shrugged. 'The paper talked about a couple of incidents when he was back in college, but nothing that he did any jail time for.'

'That's comforting,' she said flatly.

Tony rubbed some of the moisture off the window with his palm as they drove through an imposing set of iron gates. Culpepper's home was a three-story fieldstone mansion. The architect had given it myriad gables and turrets that hinted at the notion of a castle. It looked like a home the governor would live in. Years ago, such a place would have intimidated Casey.

She could still remember the home of the president of the Bank of Texas in Odessa. As a little girl of eight, she'd gone there with her father in his pickup truck to buy an old piece of machinery from the man who took care of the bank president's cars. They had entered the estate through a dusty service gate in the back. When her father went into the enormous garage to conduct business, Casey had wandered up the tree-lined path toward the main house.

It rose from the ground amid an old stand of oaks like a brick fortress. Its shutters and columns were brilliantly white, and on the lush green back lawn, the family, dressed as if they were going to church even though it was Saturday, was playing croquet. From behind a tree, Casey had peered at the children. They were close to her age, and happiness to Casey from that moment on was defined by the image of those well-dressed children pocking away with wooden mallets at the colored balls in the shade-mottled grass.

Then her reverie had been destroyed. The greasy hand of a scrofulous boy in ratty jeans and a grimy Astros hat spun her rudely around.

'They don't want no white trash around them,' the boy sneered.

'I'm not white trash, you!' Casey piped back at him defiantly, kicking him in the shin.

The boy howled and grabbed her in a headlock, wrestling her to the ground. Before she knew it, the banker himself was upon them, and Casey quivered at the sight of his big, red face and the strong, musty smell of his expensive shaving lotion. He pulled the two of them apart with an expression of disdain and ordered, 'You get back to your daddies and don't let me see you around this house again!'

As the limousine rolled through the front gates, Casey fingered her Cartier watch and wondered how it was that the shame of such a small moment could last so long.

'Nice place,' she said, feigning complacency.

The rock star made them wait in his study for nearly an hour before he wandered in wearing a baggy pair of pants and a scruffy T-shirt. In less than a minute, Casey sensed that what Tony thought was a done deal was far from done. It wasn't even close. In fact, after a couple of probing questions, she was nearly certain that Culpepper had decided to go with a different attorney.

'Can I ask you a simple question?' she said.

The rock star shrugged. 'Sure.'

'Why are we here?'

'I don't know,' Culpepper said, looking to his brother, a younger, scrawnier version of himself who sat in a big chair in the corner with his feet dangling over the arm.

'I told Tony,' the brother said defensively, 'nothing was guaranteed. I just said that if you wanted to represent Pierce that you'd better come up here and see him in person.'

'My brother likes to jerk people around,' Culpepper said in disgust and walked out of the room, absolving himself of the entire situation.

'Hey,' the brother said somewhat belligerently after staring blankly for a few moments at the door. 'I told you, Tony, Pierce has the final say…'

Casey was going to rip into the brother, then she decided to rip into Tony before giving it up completely. It would be a waste of effort. Tony did things like this from time to time, and she didn't want to hear his rationalization about how hard it was to sell their services. It made her feel cheap because deep down she knew it was true. Not that she was a hard act to sell, but beyond Austin, Texas, there was a whole battalion of good trial lawyers trying to represent the big-name stars. She was one of the many, and that was something she would have to live with until the day she became the biggest name in the legal profession. That was her goal, and she believed that one day it would happen. In the meantime, she had to get home. With a look of complete irritation, she made for the door.

Tony wanted to defend himself, and he trailed Casey down the hall and through the house, patiently calling her name. Outside, everything was glazed in ice. Even in the gloom of the storm, the trees shone like glass. The thin layer of freshly fallen snow was also sheathed in ice. On the front steps, Casey slipped but saved herself a broken leg with a desperate grasp at the railing. Tony carefully helped her regain her balance, and they both shuffled tentatively to the car.

'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I had no idea, really.'

'I know you didn't, Tony,' she muttered. 'Let's just get out of here.'

As soon as they were in the backseat, their driver began to fret out loud about the ice.

'It's not good at all,' he said, driving with pitiful slowness.

Casey implored him to hurry. 'I can't miss this flight.'

'I doubt there's going to be a flight,' the driver said with an uncomfortable glance in the rearview mirror. 'It's real bad, ma'am, and getting worse.'

The driver was right. By the time they got to the airport, the flights that weren't being delayed by several hours were being canceled outright. Rain and ice continued to fall from above. Casey plaintively watched the ever-darkening sky from a seat by the window at their gate. At the rate things were going, she wouldn't be home until well after midnight, and she wanted to be fresh for the trial. By seven, a good night's sleep was the last thing on her mind. The airport had closed down completely.

'Come on!' Casey barked after hearing the news. She grabbed Tony by the sleeve and jerked him toward the main terminal. 'We can drive.'

'Casey,' Tony complained as he jogged along beside her, 'you can't drive in this. Even if you could, we couldn't make it back if we drove all night.'

'I've got to do something,' she said in distress.

The rental counters were abandoned anyway.

Casey approached a young skycap who was sitting on a bench with his face in his hands. 'Is there any way I can get a car?' she asked him.

The skycap shook his head sadly and said, 'Nobody's getting out of here now. Everyone who had the chance got out about two hours ago. I got caught up helping a guy with his stuff. He promised me he'd drop me off in town, but by the time we got his bags in the car, we couldn't even get out of the lot. Everyone here now is here for the night…'

'Catalina,' Casey whispered to herself at the finality of the news. 'I've got to get to a phone,' she said to Tony, frantically searching the terminal with her eyes. 'I've got to tell Patti. She'll have to do the closing argument…'

Patti Dunleavy was Casey's understudy, a capable, vivacious attorney. The problem was that while Patti was the only other lawyer intimately familiar with the nuances of the Enos trial, she was only recently out of school and had never tried a real case before.

'The judge will delay the closing arguments,' Tony said, forgetting for a moment the bad blood between Casey and Rawlins.

'He can and he should,' Casey replied, grinding her teeth. 'It would be wrong to proceed. It would be unethical. But we're talking about Van Rawlins. He hates me, Tony… That girl could go to jail. Of course he should delay the closing arguments. But he won't. Goddamn him to hell, he won't!'

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