Flawed Chapter Reveal
Chapter 1 - Andrew
Sighing, I pulled into High Bluff Drive and parked in my reserved spot. I buttoned my suit jacket then crossed to the large building thinking of the long day ahead of me.
As I stepped into Malcolm & Bale LLP, I caught a glimpse of the glimmering company sign high above the front entrance. My grandfather and his friend, Luke Bale, founded this law firm over eighty years ago. After his passing, my father and his current partner took over. They preserved the original structure of the building whilst keeping up with modern architecture, fitting into the surroundings of Del Mar Heights.
Dalia, a tiny brunette in her mid-thirties, sat behind the granite reception desk that took up most of the space shared with two black couches and an ottoman sitting atop a gray rug. She looked up as I entered.
“Good morning, Andrew,” Dalia said, her lips shaped into the heartfelt smile I’d grown accustomed to seeing every morning.
Returning her smile I nodded, heading down the hallway with offices to my right and left. Silver and black frames adorned the white walls, the pictures in the frames told the story of Malcolm & Bale from the day it opened until the present day.
I reached my office. On the dark wood hung a nameplate Andrew Malcolm – Family Lawyer. I pushed the door open then closed it behind me.
There were seven family attorneys at the firm, myself excluded. I was the youngest and with the least experience.
The job was an agony.
Most of the time I pushed clients who landed on my desk to one of the seven. No one complained—at least not to my face. It was my father’s company and eventually, it would be mine.
On my desk lay a pile of prenups I had to go over—all of them similar: a well-heeled man, marrying a much younger woman, wants to make sure that in the event of a divorce she gets as little as possible. I could never understand why people got married if they’re unable to trust the person they’re marrying with their assets. I dropped my briefcase next to the papers and strolled out of the office towards the conference room.
The firm was hosting a seminar for law students on Driving Under the Influence: How to defend a DUI client.
Gently, I pushed the door open and settled in a chair at the last row. The room was packed with young, and some not so young, faces but mostly I saw the back of their heads.
Mr. Sam Bale, the co-managing partner of the firm, stood behind a transparent podium in a black suit addressing the crowd. He spoke effortlessly and was a natural born mentor. Bale's green eyes sparkled and it mesmerized me how, at the age of sixty, he still had a full head of thick brown hair—not a single strand of grey.
“The strength is the truth. Your truth. Focus on the science, the Breathalyzer, the cop, the human body,” Mr. Bale said, “focus on the facts. It is the only way to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and always will be. But it requires every one of you to educate yourselves. Learn about physiology, a bit about biophysics and biochemistry. You have to learn about infrared spectroscopy. I know you all went to law school because you did poorly in Science, Math, and so on in college and I understand that.”
A roar of laughter erupted. Mr. Bale waited for them to settle before continuing, “You have to put yourself in a position where you’re the only person in that court who understands what goes into a field sobriety test or a blood test. I guarantee you the prosecution might not, the judge will not, and the police officer darn sure will not. You have to convince them the fault is in the Science, or in the lack of evidence.”
A male student in a black shirt raised his hand interrupting Mr. Bale who nodded, allowing him to convey his question.
“What if it’s a first-time offender that could suffer harsh consequences due to a DUI conviction? For example, job loss and the person in question is the sole family provider. Could that be an argument to get the case dismissed?”
Mr. Bale shook his head. “Unlikely, Mr. …”
“Alvin.” He cleared his throat and sat up straight, pushing his shoulders back. “Darnel Alvin, Sir.”
“Mr. Alvin, those are collateral consequences. You could take that route but it’s very unlikely to get sympathy from the District Attorney. If the offender knew that his family would starve then why drink and drive in the first place?”
Then the movement of a head next to Darnel caught my attention. It was a girl. She inclined towards him and whispered something in his ear. I could only see a partial side of her face; her huge curly hair was obstructing my view. Her hand reached up and gripped his shoulder. She laughed at something Darnel said to her then he pulled away slightly, allowing me a better look at her.
“The solution to this in 99.9% of the time is showing an error of proof,” Mr. Bale continued, “Perhaps the arresting police officer lacks credibility, the crime lab who tested the blood made mistakes, or the Breathalyzer was not probably maintained …”
Mr. Bale went on, however, I blocked him out thereon. Shifting in my seat, I tried to get a full take of her. She was five rows ahead and her damn hair…
I glanced at my wristwatch every minute but it did nothing to fast forward time. On the contrary, time was crawling by. Uneasy, I tapped my foot maintaining my eyes on her for the rest of the hour.
Finally, Mr. Bale announced the end of the seminar. A few students rushed to him as he stepped off the podium bombarding him with questions and the rest scattered around the room. I pushed to my feet, following her movements with my eyes. She then turned and smiled while speaking to another girl in the row behind.
Right then, I froze.
My body numbed with recognition. I blinked a few times to make sure I was seeing right and I was.
It was her. It had to be her.
She was still beautiful, just more of a woman now. Her curly hair, dark brown from the roots, lightening gradually to a honey shade at the ends, brushed over her shoulders. It was substantially shorter from what I recalled. Almond-shaped, brown eyes and full pink lips. The white skirt she had on reached up to her stomach with a silk florid top tucked inside showcasing her amazing hourglass frame. And her satiny café au lait skin was unlike any other I’d ever seen.
I swallowed, as everything around me faded to nothing. I muted the giggles, the chatter, focusing solemnly on her and the sound of blood rushing to my ears. I had to force myself to breathe and recompose.
I never expected to see this girl again, especially not here. The memories of the only night I saw her prior to today have stuck with me for the past six years. Six years, and I could picture that night with crystal precision. I suspected that she was underage then, and there was no way the girl in front of me now was twenty-four or older.
Steering past the swarm of students, I made it to the row where she was only to be interrupted by Darnel.
“Hey, you’re Malcolm junior,” he said, thrusting his hand. I shook it. “I’m Darnel Alvin. It’s an honor to meet you. Your father is a legend.” I offered a close-lipped smile attempting to step aside, but he blocked me and stood between me and her. “I applied for an internship here; this is the best law firm in San Diego.”
“I’m sure Human Resources is looking into that,” I said, noticing the aloofness in my voice. I could hear him and understand what he was saying but my mind was elsewhere. “And if you’re a viable candidate, you will be offered a position.”
“Yes of course, but to have the Malcolm and Bale name attached to my CV…”
Ignoring him, I gazed past his shoulder. She was bent forward, fiddling with her bag that was on top of the chair. She zipped it, hoisted herself up straight and when she spun our gaze met; her eyes grew wide and she paled instantly.
Darnel stopped talking the moment he realized I wasn’t paying attention. He looked over his shoulder, vacillating between the two of us.
Silence stretched and with each passing second my heart increased its beat.
Darnel cleared his throat. “Mr. Malcolm this is my friend Melissa A—”
“I’m Melissa.” She cut him off curtly. Her accent was unmistakable. It held a light, Latin intonation.
Melissa. At last, I had a name to put to the face.
“Andrew Malcolm,” I said.
She parted her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Her lower lip trembled, and then she bowed her head.
Darnel realized that she wasn’t going to add anything else, so he resumed pleading his case. “As I was saying, Mr. Malcolm, I believe that I will make a great lawyer and to work here would be an amazing experience—”
“Please call me Andrew.” I knew where he was going so I cut him short. “Before you go, leave your details with Dalia at the reception. I’ll make sure to personally look at your application.”
Glowing with excitement, he shook Melissa’s shoulder. “I knew today would be promising.”
Could I have been mistaken? My eyes ran over her once more.
No, fucking way. It is her.