Abrams had recently been made junior partner at Chaney, Adams, Clark, and Abrams, a New York City law firm that handled several out of city or state cases for wealthy clients who felt they could not find adequate local representation. Abrams often flew out to meet with new or potential clients but preferred to bring them into the city. He made enough money to live in a high rise condo in the Upper West Side. People with means in NYC didn’t pay for space or luxury as much as they did for quiet, but Abrams still got his fair share of sirens, honking cars, and screaming matches on the street.
He told himself that he needed to get away from the city for some peace and quiet, to see more of the sky and less of the gray slabs that blocked the sun and the hazy night sky. But every time he did he missed his private car service to and from the office, the food, the women, and the 24 hour access to whatever he desired. The city was killing him and driving him crazy but he was addicted to it and couldn’t stand to be anywhere else, especially the podunk cowtowns where most his clients lived.
The peace and quiet was pleasant for about five minutes but it quickly became unnerving, especially in the smaller towns that didn’t even have car service. He would be driving along a quiet strip of road with nothing but scrub and trees along it, there was no sign of civilization for mile after mile. For some stretches he couldn’t even get a phone signal. He’d watch the gas meter as it slowly dipped toward empty and realize that he could die out here if he ran out of gas. He had forgotten that large parts of America were still like this, long desolate stretches of empty highway with the occasional half rotted billboard for a restaurant or roller derby that had burned down or went out of business decades ago. And still, the silence and desolation wasn’t real.
It was interrupted by patches of tract housing, ubiquitous strip malls or rest stops with a gas station, McDonalds or a Dunkin’ Donuts and maybe a liquor shop. He needed a log cabin deep in the forest or a lone bungalow on some forgotten beach, someplace he could really disappear and feel disconnected from the world. But the world was always closing in and ruining what good was left of itself. These small towns were just a sad compromise, the worst of both worlds.
So he flew in clients or their lawyers whenever he could. The lawyers were all too happy to accept a free vacation. Many of them had started out in the city themselves, but had been lured by the false promise of peace and tranquility, the security of being on retainer for one whale of a client who always needed a lawyer at hand. The wealthy were in constant need of legal representation, they were always dabbling in business or other affairs and they inevitably needed a good criminal lawyer for their drug addicted wife or drunk driving son or cleptomaniac daughter. These lawyers were still attached to large firms with enormous resources and they were well equipped to handle lower level felonies and misdemeanors, but when it came to matters of murder or insider trading or treason experts were demanded, and this often meant going to another firm.
The firms kept on retainer were happy to give their clients whatever they wanted and were typically charged with vetting and recommending the best possible representation money could buy. In turn, these firms were recommended when their particular brand of criminal expertise was required. The system was a closed loop that fed itself at every turn. All the top players knew each other and were for all practical purposes part of a single entity. Of course, each and every firm was always ready to devour another one if the opportunity arose, but this was true of divisions and lawyers within firms as well. And as in business in general, it made little difference to those on top. Some in the middle were shuffled and reabsorbed. The rest were discarded like dead skin as the fat snake continued to feed upon itself.
Abrams specialized in murder cases involving the wealthy or very rich. The case involving Collins was an unusual one. Collins was nouveau riche and his alleged victim was not rich, a family member, business associate, drug dealer, or prostitute. Collins was recommended to Abrams by the police interviewing him, his public defender, his arraignment judge and the DA. To them, as to Abrams later, Collins did not appear to register the magnitude of the charges against him.
The detectives didn’t like him for the murder or appreciate the DA ignoring their opinion. Collins was a drunk with a clean sheet who was naive and nervous enough to remind himself that he had nothing to worry about because he was innocent. The detectives told him sure, but better safe than sorry. Collins’ public defender was stunned that Collins was willing to stick with him. He told Collins repeatedly that he was not qualified to handle his case and that he could not in good conscience swear to defend him to the best of his abilities with seven other defendants on the docket this morning alone.
The judge released Collins on fifty thousand dollars bail and the condition that he hire a decent lawyer and the DA recommended Abrams, as he hoped to work for Abrams’ firm someday and did not want to babysit a public defender through his first murder case. All parties felt compelled to remind Collins that he was rich now and that it was in his best interests to hire the best defense attorney money could buy. The argument that finally won Collins over was that there were enough poor people who could not afford representation for the state to worry about, that he would be taking away resources from a defendant who had no other options.
So Collins acquiesced. The path of least resistance was the one that he inevitably took once he eventually figured out which path that was or how to find it. More than anything else, he wanted to get away from these people and the courthouse and get back into a bar or his bed or at least get outside to smoke a cigarette. The DA had his assistant make a quick call to Abrams’ firm, a lower level attorney from the firm was quickly taxied in, and Collins was out the door in five minutes. Collins might have appreciated the magic of this, the magic of money, if this hadn’t been the first time he had ever been arrested.