picking his nails. â Nothingâs as easy as it used to be.â
I almost ask him about his marriage, but catch myself. âListen, Iâve got a deposition in ten minutes. Thanks for the heads-up on Randall Mackay.â
âHowâs the dog?â
âItâs a cat.â
âNo,â he says, âI mean the little schnauzer. Sherman.â
âHeâs fine. Never thought Iâd miss him so much.â
âStill got that photo of him on your desk?â
âYeah. Itâs kind of silly, I guess.â
âI donât remember you ever having a picture of me on your desk.â¦ Never mind, scratch that.â He follows me to the door. We shake hands. âTake care of yourself, Sally.â
Iâm stuck in late Friday afternoon traffic on my way to Tonyâs, the dull throb of a headache starting at the base of my skull, when I hear myself talking to the cat. Sheâs on the seat beside me in her carrier, listening intently, as if thereâs absolutely nothing unusual about having a human unleash all her frustrations, beginning with the disastrous Vernelle deposition, at which my client, an anesthesiologist, complained that the temporary child support was âbreakingâ him, while later admitting that heâd just bought a new Maserati because he âgot a great deal on it.â The Maserati, of course, came as a surprise to me, despite our pre-deposition conference last week, during which weâd updated his financial declaration.
And Beatrice endures an even louder rant, this one about my meeting with Derwood Carter, Natalieâs husbandâ Who does he think he is, talking to me like that ?
Iâd been prepared for his usual arrogance, his condescension, but I was naive to believe he might be coming to talk about compromise. Sure, heâd begun the conversation cordially enough, thanking me for this last-minute appointment, then taking my counterproposal from his coat pocket, unfolding it, and adjusting his reading glasses as if he meant to take it seriously. Then heâd said, his voice deliberately flat, devoid of emotion: âI just wanted to read this again before I throw it in that wastebasket.â He âreadâ my letter in three seconds, then wadded it into a ball and lobbed it over my head into the metal can in the corner behind my desk. I didnât turn to look, but I knew heâd dunked it straight in.
âI used to play center on the high school team,â he said. âSome skills you donât lose.â
âDo you want to play basketball, or settle this case?â I asked, trying to keep my cool. âBecause Iâm not interested in basketball unless itâs pro.â
âAnother skill I havenât lost,â he said, âis knowing my women.â
âYour âwomenâ? I guess that includes your court reporter.â The one who travels with him when he holds court away from Beaufort, whose hotel room almost always has a door that opens into his.
âI was referring to Natalie, of course. And you. I know how Natalie operates, and itâs clear she isnât going to tell you about her tryst with my old law partner. And I know how you think, so Iâm assuming you believe her heavily edited story about our marriage. I thought Iâd help you out with the facts before we begin any serious discussion about the terms of the settlement.â
He then proceeded to read me the confession of his former law partner, an alcoholic completing the 12-step program. âYou know theyâre supposed to apologize to everyone theyâve hurt, right?â This well-meaning fellowâs letter to Derwood, dated two months ago, was tastefully brief but to the point: Fifteen years ago, when I told you our affair was over, that was true. But recently I succumbed to temptation again. I take full responsibility for this. As I trust Natalie has already told you, she