"My Last Client" Continued
I looked across my desk at a thin individual with close-cropped dark hair, wearing sunglasses with lenses that seemed like infinitely receding wells. Something about him wasn't quite right. His hair was fine, almost feathery, his ears oddly skewed; his skin had a vaguely greenish tint when the light hit it from a certain angle. But those things didn't . . . I finally put my finger on it. He had a hole where his emotions should be.
A long silence ensued. Finally I broke it.
"I don't think I understand your proposition, Mr. Luery."
"I think you do." His voice sounded hollow in the afternoon stillness. "I came to see if you could help me prepare for a murder."
"Mr. Luery, I am a defense lawyer, not a hit man," I said.
"Haven't you ever defended a client you knew or believed to be guilty?"
"W-well, sure," I stammered. "Almost all of them. They may not be guilty of all the charges, but hell, they're all guilty of something."
"Well, if you defend the guilty, why not take the next logical step? Advise the client before the crime instead of after, when the ignorant client has bungled everything."
"But that would make me an accessory to murder."
"Only if you were caught, which you could never be, if you use your legal knowledge to help me. Anyway, your last murder suspect got off scot free. It seems like a fine distinction to me, whether you help a murderer before the crime or after."
"It may seem like a fine distinction to you, but to the law the difference is major. Wait a minute, what are you saying? A defense attorney doesn't help a criminal commit a crime -"
"He just helps him escape punishment," Mr. Luery interjected.
"- he only assists him with the legal defense he is entitled to," I insisted. I felt the hot blood rushing to my face. "The law says every defendant is innocent until proven guilty."
"You make your law mean anything you want it to, once you get in court," the client said. "You bend it whichever way is convenient."
"I'm not going to bend it that far," I protested. The only thing that stopped me from shouting at him was . . . fear, I realized suddenly. There was something in his manner that chilled me to the bone. Realizing I was in the presence of a truly cold-blooded killer, I felt the little hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
"I should explain that my logic is not original," the client said in that voice as cold as stone. "This is the way things are done on my world."
"On your . . . world?" I said shakily. Suddenly I understood the reason for that feeling I had of non-humanness about him.
"Yes." His lips pulled back from his teeth and the corners of his mouth receded. He'd imitated the facial gesture correctly, but it was not a smile. "I'm not from around here."
"Wh-where are you from?"
"It's better for you not to know."
"Why do you want to kill somebody?" I asked.
"I don't. It has become necessary for business. He has discovered my identity, and as you can see, that could become awkward for me here."
"But I know, too, now, that you are . . . not from around here," I pointed out.
"Attorney-client privilege dictates that you not reveal our conversation." "I haven't taken the case yet."
"No. But you will."
I shifted uneasily in my chair. "Why are you here, on earth?"
"What business are you in?"
"Military technology. On my world we're far more advanced. We sell outdated weapon designs to your government." (Probably to others, too, I thought to myself.)
"Do they know - ?"
He smiled. "Some of them may wonder, but I just tell them I represent a team of inventors."
"If you have all this hi-tech equipment, why don't you just `zap' your enemy?" I asked.
"I have reasons to want a body to be found." (I cringed. I shouldn't be hearing this.) "I have to deal with public opinion. I'd better not say more about that." "If things got hot for you, couldn't you, ah, just return to your . . . world?"
"And throw away all my contacts, all the work I've done? I've been doing business here for thirty years!" (A picture flashed through my mind of the wars we'd had on Earth in the last thirty years. How many of the weapons had come from him?)
"The person I must kill is hardly an asset to your planet - a greedy war profiteer. He'll be no loss. Your conscience can be clear about that. And there's a considerable sum I can offer . . . for legal consultation fees."
If I took him as a client, I couldn't repeat what he said to me but he, of course, was not under the same restriction. Could this be some sort of zany sting operation?
I thought about it. He was right that to help him would, in a way, only be carrying things a small step further than I already had. I couldn't stop this crime from happening, I rationalized. I could take Earth Law a step into the future, borrowing from the wisdom of a more advanced civilization.
And after all, maybe if I didn't do it, he'd kill me. Of course in the back of my mind I was thinking about the "considerable sum" . . . maybe with that money I could retire.
"Of course," I said, "I can't be involved in planning a murder. But I could give you, ah, general legal information about what would happen given certain scenarios."
After he left, thoughts began to rush through my brain. This new field was clearly lucrative, and wide open. There were endless possibilities. He might have . . . friends.
I checked myself. There was one drawback. It would be a great temptation, having profited from this relationship, to seek more clients of this kind. But I wouldn't.
I wouldn't, I assured myself.
Some people develop a taste for big money and can't stop doing whatever it takes to get it. But that wouldn't happen to me. I'd get in and get out. I'd use the money for a good thing - to quit the whole stinking business. No, I wouldn't get sucked in.
Greta came back from lunch. I could hear her sorting through some papers on her desk. I knew she was curious about Mr. Luery, but in proper secretary manners wasn't saying anything.
"Oh, by the way, Greta," I called at last. "Mr. Luery will be making an appointment next week."
She smiled to herself. "Another fascinating case."
"Well, yes, it is," I retorted. "And you may not think I'm serious, but I meant that about retiring. I'm going to make him my last client."
"My Last Client"
by: M. Foard
© 1995, 1996, 2002 M. Foard
artwork © 1995, 1996, 2002 Jimmi Accardi
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