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The Sentence



Chapter 1


New Bedford, MA - Criminal Court

Thursday morning



One might think anyone on trial for a double murder would follow the advice of their counsel and dress nice.  Yet in spite of the Judge’s warning of contempt should he ever show up as he did the first day, T-shirt, jeans, sockless and sandaled, here he sat with a denim jacket over a plaid shirt, no tie, leather pants and hush-puppies.  He could have used a shave as well, but this was David Elliot.


If there was a strategy to any of this, it wasn’t working.  After eighteen days of testimony, evidence production and arguments both ways, few wins were chalked up on their side according to Sakib Patel, Dave’s attorney.  By now Sakib was looking as sullen and distant as Elliot had looked from the beginning.  While Sakib was overcome by dread of the soon to be announced verdict, Dave Elliot only appeared dreadful.  He had worn the look so long that his face lines were pretty much etched in by now.  But looks do deceive.  Inside of this strange and quiet man rested a confident, cocky though it was, passive air as though he truly expected to soon be going home to a cold beer and bag of Doritos and life would go on. 


Sakib tapped his right hand nervously on the table.  It was like awaiting his own death sentence.  Elliot would in all likelihood get life, there’s no death penalty in the Commonwealth so that was off the table, but one more loss for Sakib and he knew he’d have to send résumés out to other law firms hoping one hadn’t heard of him.  Even worse, he couldn’t think of any positives he’d be able to include in the résumés.  Maybe he could make it look like a three-page resume and the second page got lost somehow.  He would just refer to his illustrious career on page three as if he’d provided the details on the mysteriously missing second page.  That might work, he mused.  That might get him in the door at least. 


Sakib stole a slow glance at his client.  Sullen as ever.  He leaned into Elliot.


“I know it’s a little late, it would have been much better before,” he mumbled, “but do you think you can try to smile just a little?  Maybe for the court illustrator?”


Elliot grimaced even more.  “I am,” he murmured.


Sakib looked him over.  “That’s a smile?”


“No,” Elliot mumbled, “you said ‘try to smile’.  That’s a try.  Here’s a smile.”  He flashed a one-second, forced grin.  No teeth showing, just a stretched pair of lips.


Sakib hung his head.  His eyes stared down at his burgundy tie dotted with small blue dots against his formerly crisp white shirt, now beginning to seep with nervous perspiration.  Being a defense attorney, he expected to lose a lot of his cases.  His clients were usually guilty, as he had always surmised of Dave Elliot since their first meeting.  But every once in a while he had expected to be assigned an innocent man or at least a guilty man with a strong enough argument to walk.  Elliot should have been that man.  The case wasn’t at all very strong with no weapon ever being produced and only one so-so witness against Elliot whose motive could be questioned.  But a sullen client is a tough client and Elliot was the toughest.  He wouldn’t even take the stand on his own behalf.  He faulted the entire system and begrudged being dragged into this farce from the get-go. 

Regardless of even the strongest admonishment from any judge warning the jury not to assume guilt or innocence when a defendant doesn’t take the stand, Sakib knew that hardly a jurist existed who wouldn’t read “guilty” into it.  Way to go, Dave.


The press didn’t help.  Supposedly jurors are isolated from reports and are non-biased to begin with, and just as supposedly, we have a reliable justice system.  Neither are true.  Elliot’s sullen countenance never quite enamored him to the press and the coverage reflected it.  Surely the biased reporting emigrated back to the jurors on some level.  Add that to Elliot’s smug demeanor displayed every day and Sakib was already adding another notch – to the prosecutor’s record.


A door to the left of the court bench suddenly opened and just as suddenly a low voice, seemingly from the heavens, bellowed out, “All rise for the Honorable Judge Moses Samuels.  This Court is now in session.”


All rose.  Elliot was last, as usual.


Judge Samuels cruised briskly to his chair and slid in amongst a slight rustling of his robe.  The same low heavenly voice mumbled something about all being seated and all obeyed.  This time Elliot was first.

Relieved, Sakib sunk back into his chair and deeper into his misery.  His career really was down the tubes.  As a criminal attorney it was expected that one can never pull off many victories.  Most clients would be what they were billed as – criminals.  But you had to pull off a few wins here and there, otherwise who would hire you?  The firm Sakib was working for had already unofficially put him on warning and this assignment to be lead counsel for Mr. David Elliot had come with the subtle suggestion that although Elliot was likely as guilty as sin, there was so little evidence to date, that Sakib was expected to prevail.  It was supposed to be the life saver Sakib had hoped for but now it looked as though even the life saver wasn’t going to float.

Neither Sakib nor Elliot were attentive to the judge’s courtroom instructions.  For Sakib, he had heard them enough times and had other worries on his mind.  For Elliot, just being his smug self, precluded any interest or concern.  Eventually the droning of the judge’s voice relented and another door was opened as the jurors were led in.  Not one looked at Elliot.

With the stern faced jurors all seated and facing away from the defendant, Sakib was desperate for just one face to steal a sympathetic glance at Elliot.  Just one.


There were a few gracious comments from the judge to the jurists, formal niceties customarily offered for their hard work in deliberation and seeking for justice and blah, blah, blah…  Then, far in the background, breaking into Sakib’s dark despair, the droning stopped and a few imperative words stood out.


“Will the Defendant please stand,” Judge Samuels instructed.


Chairs slid and squeaked.  Sakib and two of his assistants rose somberly.  Elliot dragged behind but eventually pulled out of the slouch he had seemed to will himself into as if he were setting up a slo-mo clip for the cameras that would run it over and over on the evening news.  Maybe it would go viral on You Tube.


Sakib had about had it and for the first time was almost looking forward to the verdict he expected.  His career may be on the ropes but at least he’d be able to take solace in knowing Elliot would be paying an even higher price for his lack of cooperation.  As the judge issued a few more instructions, Sakib continued to zone out.  It was all so surreal, but there wasn’t a hint of this being a dream.  The reality was hitting him hard making him queasy in his stomach.  There was something being said about the jury floor person rising, then the Court Bailiff’s voice punctuated the moment.


“Charging the defendant, David Richard Elliot, with two counts of murder,” he pressed to the jury box, “what say you Madam Floor person?  Is the defendant not guilty, guilty of murder in the first degree or guilty of murder in the second degree?”


Instantly the floor person responded.  “Guilty of murder in the first degree on both counts.”


Sakib let out a breath of resignation.  Elliot seemed to hold his.  His jaw tightened, his teeth clenched.  While Sakib was allowing this reality and finality to free him of this impossible predicament with the most belligerent client he could ever imagine, Elliot was seeming to realize for the first time that he lost.  He was going away to jail.  How preposterous it was to him.  How preposterous it was to Sakib that it was only now sinking in to his client.  Elliot’s forehead wrinkled.  He looked puzzled, his breathing got heavy.


“Madam Floor person,” the bailiff continued, “by which theory or theories, deliberate and pre-meditation and/or extreme atrocity or cruelty?”


“Extreme atrocity or cruelty,” she instantly responded.


Elliot began rubbing his left shoulder.  An anger was welling up inside him, eating at him from the depth of his being.  His breathing was strained and beginning to make noises.  Sakib wanted nothing to do with consoling him.  Elliot had been his own worst enemy throughout the trial and he was taking Sakib down with him, so let him feel a little distress now, he thought.


The judge had been settling the Courtroom down as murmurs rose in volume, no sobs or sighs of remorse as David Elliot had no family and his friends, not present anyway, were sketchy to say the least.  After restoring order the judge choreographed a few moves between the bailiff and jurors, then launched into his sentencing.


“Mr. Elliot.  In consideration for the crimes for which you now stand convicted you are sentenced by order of the Court as follows.”  He paused, looking at a page from the Commonwealths Sentencing Guidelines no doubt.  Then as if reading, he continued.


“You are committed to the MCI Cedar Junction facility for the term of your natural life without possibility of parole for each count.  The two terms are to run consecutively.”


With those few words, David Elliot was to be abolished from circulation, never to be heard from again in this life or, if there ever was such a thing, his next life either.


Out of the corner of his eye, Sakib noticed Elliot wavering backwards and starting to sit down.  Finally, he thought, the guy realizes this was never a game.  He’s getting what he deserves and it’s flooring him.

Sakib wondered if he should caution his client to remain standing but then thought better.  As he sensed Elliot falling into his seat Sakib panned the court, expecting to hear the judge lambast Elliot for his dis-respect.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  But as he panned he could only see a look of shock on all the faces.  Why?  Sakib was his defense counsel and even he expected nothing else.  As he looked back at the judge he noted a strange look on his face and not the rebuff he had expected.  Neither was the judge reaching for his gavel to chastise Elliot for not remaining in a standing position until he, the judge, ordered him to sit down, but the judge held the same look of shock and awe held by the rest of the courtroom audience.


It was only then that Sakib heard a raspy breathing emanating from his client.  He turned to see his client grabbing at his chest and shoulder, his face a color that looked like last week’s fish and a grimace that actually looked sincere.  What was happening?


The bailiff and two guards rushed over as Elliot’s color got even worse.  Then the raspy breathing stopped and he started falling forward.  From Sakib’s view he could see that Elliot’s bladder had let loose.  Continuing his freefall, Elliot banged his head on the table and flopped off to his left as Sakib made a furtive effort to catch him.


The judge now grabbed his gavel and began flailing away.


“Someone get some Medics in here,” he bellowed.  “Guards, clear an area and get him flat on the floor!”


The courtroom audience were all on their feet now.  Sakib was trying to stoop down and render whatever assistance a washed-up attorney would be capable of, but the bailiff and guards edged him out of the way.  He felt helpless.  As he had the entire trial.


Someone yelled, “I’m calling 911.  He needs more help than we can give.”


The gavel continued to resonate.  “Order, order!”  The judge was now up on his feet.  “Order,” he repeated.  “Everyone sit down.  Let the guards tend to him.  We’ll be getting more help soon.  Order!  And sit down!”


Sakib backed off as well, but remained standing slightly away from his table.  He could clearly hear the guards and bailiff exchanging confused orders.  Someone had mumbled he had stopped breathing.  A few useless directions were offered and then someone, maybe the same person, claimed there was no pulse.  More confused orders exchanged but it was clear that everyone here was in over their heads.  Sakib mused to himself how it seemed that everyone who came into contact with his client ended up over their head, including himself.  While he was surprised, maybe even a little shocked to see Elliot laid out below him, there was little emotion on his part as it all seemed just too fantastic at the moment.  Elliot had come to him with no effort at all to hide his guilt but had no compunctions in expecting Sakib to prevail in Court.  Frankly, considering the scant actual evidence the prosecution had been able to get, Sakib probably could have steered Elliot into copping a plea for a lesser sentence than life.  But with the scant evidence at hand Sakib thought that he finally had a chance to score a victory, one that was expected by his firm’s partners.  And he would have scored the victory, he was certain, were it not for the defiant lack of cooperation by his client.  So now with two life sentences, which seemed to have provoked an obvious heart attack for his client, and a sunken career for himself, Sakib couldn’t find it within himself to drum up any emotion.  He was just dry.

Sirens were heard in the background immediately as the hospital was only blocks away, but even with an Olympic qualified crew Sakib could not imagine them making it on time.  It would be over for Elliot and he wouldn’t find out what it was like to spend even a night in prison.  Pity.

With the courtroom getting edgy the judge gaveled them to order and, realizing his newly sentenced man was in dire straits, asked if a doctor was in the room.  Slowly, an older gentleman from the galley stood and nodded without saying a word.  He knew his role and started for Elliot.  By now the sirens had risen in volume indicating the ambulance’s arrival.  Additional help should arrive momentarily.


The doctor shuffled over slowly, appropriate for his apparent age.  He bent to check Elliot and offer whatever assistance possible but it was clear that he was shaking his head back and forth as if to say there was no hope, though the shaking may have been an age thing.  He started tapping on Elliot’s chest, then re-positioned Elliot’s arms and shoulders to be above the level of his head.  Sakib thought he saw the doctor bend down and breath into Elliot’s mouth but his view was somewhat obstructed.  “Do we have defibrillators on hand?” the elderly doctor asked.  A guard went dashing out of the room but didn’t return until after the ambulance crew had arrived with their own.  The doctor didn’t seem to have an urgency which Sakib took to mean that it was too late.  The doctor continued to work on Elliot seemingly helplessly, and then the courtroom doors flew open.  Two other guards started barking orders to no one in particular, behind them two EMT’s and a paramedic were wheeling a sophisticated looking mobile gurney and came running in to the scene.  It was doubtful any of this would change the apparent outcome but frankly, it was highly improbable that anyone cared a whit. 

The elderly doctor, Dr. Bennet, now retired, stood and relented his position to the emergency team while still shaking his head.  As he made his way slowly back to his seat, his head-shake pretty much told the story.  He continued the shake as if it were the tremor of an old man while he plodded back and Sakib thought he heard the doctor mumble something like, “He’s gone,” to someone he passed.  By mere chance this doctor had been in attendance, purely out of curiosity.  He had followed the story in the papers, lived only blocks away from the courthouse and thought it might be interesting to attend for the verdict and sentencing if there was room. If the verdict were innocent, there might be some celebration, but no one anticipated that.  As it turned out, there was plenty of room.  Though the press covered the trial in close detail, most of the public were concerned with other matters and couldn’t be bothered with what was assumed to be an open and shut case.


Janet, the paramedic, ignored all this and went to work checking the victim.  There had been no acknowledgment that it was a doctor who had backed out of the scene.  Grim comments emanated from her as she continued, and low, muffled responses came from the EMT’s.  A portable defibrillator appeared from who-knows-where and the EMT’s stood back.  Odd sounds and odder responses from the med team held everyone’s attention in spite of most of the audience turning away.  After a few rounds of defibrillating, an oxygen tank was pulled from somewhere under the gurney, a mask put on Elliot’s face and a few more futile moves made to get some response.  With no further adieux the stretcher was in motion heading for the rear door with all sorts of strange apparatus attached and gliding along with the procession.


“Clear the way,” an EMT cried out.  “Clear the way to the elevator!”


The service elevator cab was being held by one of the court guards and it quickly swallowed up David Elliot, two EMT’s, a paramedic and two guards.  The doors fanned shut and it may well have been the last anyone would see of David Elliot, convicted double murderer.


Back in court the judge gaveled the crowd to order again.  He held some discussions with the bailiff and another court officer.  Sakib was still standing, his head swiveling between the bench conference and the prosecutor’s table.  There was no book written to cover proper decorum and procedure for the scene that just closed.  Clients weren’t expected to die in court.


As the huddle broke around the judge, his eyes bore directly at Sakib.


“Counselor, do you need to be excused to look after your client?” he asked.  Whether he was asking, hinting or ordering, it wasn’t clear.  At any rate his words shook Sakib back to the moment as he realized he was the only connection Elliot had with the living, whether he was gone or not.  Dave Elliot had no family, few friends if they could even be called that, and even fewer now that he had been found guilty of murdering his wife and her alleged lover.   As his attorney it would naturally be incumbent upon him to follow his client to the hospital and fill out whatever forms, notices or whatever that would need to be executed.  Then, it appeared, he would finally be done with this misfit in life.  Finally.


Sakib thanked the judge, excused himself and exited the courtroom.  He could hear the siren initiate and slowly fade away as he took the stairs two at a time heading down.  He wouldn’t be able to draft behind the ambulance but he knew where the hospital was and frankly, didn’t mind if he was late.






Chapter 2


New Bedford, MA - Ambulance to Hospital

Thursday, mid-morning



 “So this is that guy.”  Jessica, one of the EMT’s, expressed in disgust.

“Elliot’s his name,” responded Janet, the only paramedic of the crew as she attended to him in the ambulance, “or was his name.  They said he had just been given a guilty verdict.  Guess it was too much for him.”

There was never much sympathy for Elliot from the public as it had quickly come out in the press that she was a loveable, charitable and compassionate person and Dave Elliot’s personality couldn’t be hidden had he even tried.  The notion of her being killed with her lover never created any sympathy for Elliot as most felt they could hardly blame her.  So two people were dead and a surly husband was on trial for it.  The only drama portrayed in the press was whether he might beat the rap because of the scant evidence on hand.  David Elliot may well have walked if he had just listened to his attorney, shown a little more respect for the process and didn’t act so smug.  But his tough exterior and “in-your-face” attitude didn’t play well to the court, the press or, by what has become very obvious by now, the jury.  He didn’t plan the execution style murders very well and he surely didn’t comport himself wisely throughout the trial.

“Two life sentences.  Can you believe it?”  Jessica had overheard more than Janet in the courthouse, no doubt attributable to Janet’s impeccable attention to the patient, dead though he be.  Jessica reached for her handbag to grab a Skittles, oblivious to any help she might have been able to offer.

“What are you doing,” she asked of Janet as Janet dutifully continued her attentive chores.  “He’s gone.  Besides, who would want to bring him back?” 

“Professional courtesy,” replied Janet.  Then she began some more routine processes as the ambulance wound its way toward a more suitable environment.  Jessica shrugged her shoulders and looked away in disgust. She reached for another Skittle.


They rode in silence for a minute or two while Janet continued to administer to Elliot’s body.  She got a cardiogram verification of the dead heart and a few other digital verifications of what they all had assumed.  There had been a massive seizure that almost immediately cut off oxygen to the brain and blood to all critical arteries.  Elliot had probably felt only a tightening of his chest and quite possibly had passed into oblivion before he even hit the floor.  By now they were no doubt approaching ten minutes of heart cessation and hope seemed futile.


“In a way it’s too bad.  I think a lot of us would have liked to see a guy like this waste away slowly in a four by five cage.”  Jessica wasn’t bashful about expressing her opinion.

Her comment continued to be met with silence as Janet persisted in plodding forward ignoring the obvious signs of death.  With the respirator adjusted tighter, tested and set, she finally acknowledged her partners comments.


“I think prison cells may be a little bigger than that, but you have a point.  That’s a question for the ages - which is better justice, prison or death?” 


The hospital landscaping could be seen through the rear windows by now indicating their imminent arrival at the emergency gate.  The short four minute trip would have been a plus to any other patient, but Jessica doubted the “A” team would be waiting at the doors to work their magic.  Maybe an orderly and a couple of maintenance people.  By now the name David Elliot had become a household name.  Call it a household stench as household mold would probably have been more popular.  Suddenly Janet and Jessica were both squeezed forward as the ambulance came to a quick stop.  The rear doors blew open at the same time and a crew of orderlies were grabbing the gurney and pulling it out almost before Janet or Jessica could detach the wires or tubes that were attached to the ambulance equipment. The Holter monitor for the EKG was thrown on his chest.  Jessica registered surprise at the throng of orderlies that had made themselves available, but then realized it was more a quest for bragging rights over drinks that night than it was out of any concern for the welfare of the patient.


But David Elliot, or what remained of him, was not handled any too carefully.  The gurney was yanked out, legs snapped into place with wheels about ten inches above the pavement and the whole contraption was just dropped with a jarring shutter.  Then he was pulled into a rapid turn that probably put a few G’s of force on his body as they slammed up and over a curb not even trying for the ramp.  An orderly hammered the ball of his fist against Elliot’s chest in a furtive attempt to administer CPR of sorts.  A little less enthusiasm might have been more respectful.


They hadn’t even reached the doors when, LOL, there was a doctor.  Not the “A” team doctor as Jessica had correctly surmised, but an intern.  Young Dr. McFadden had evidently drawn the short straw and was designated as the one to be on hand and tend to the dead murderer as he arrived.  McFadden took a close look at Elliot’s face and felt for pulse.  He quickly glanced at the clipboard containing the scribbled notes of the paramedic and checked a few other records.  He grimaced and shook his head.


“Uhmmm,” he mumbled.  He pointed to a cubicle area with no intention of lighting up an operating room as it appeared there would be no use for that.  “Wheel him in there and disconnect everything.  We were probably already too late when we picked him up.”  As a young intern, he felt part of the team.  Everything was “we” even though he wasn’t there.


Dr. McFadden strode away, probably on his way to hit the head.  By now Troy, the other EMT that had driven the ambulance, had joined Janet and Jessica to retrieve the gurney and apparatus.  Troy called out to the doctor, “You calling it?”


Dr. McFadden raised his hand in affirmation, then mumbled, “I’ll get the forms.  Call it at 11:58.”  He wasn’t too concerned about the accuracy of the time.


Troy started in to clean up the scene and removed the oxygen mask from Dave Elliot’s lifeless face then quickly began detaching of a few tubes.  As he was about to remove the electric probes he punched the EKG device out of frustration, meaning only to move it out of his way.  He realized he had hit a few buttons in doing so.


Then he heard the slightest “blip”.





Chapter 3


New Bedford, MA

Thursday, late morning



Sakib steered his Kia Optima out of the parking space adjacent to the New Bedford Courthouse but knew he wasn’t going straight to the hospital.  His day was spiraling down faster than an Exxon drill bit in soft terrain.  The thought of signing any paperwork for his deceased client and chit-chatting with the medical staff as if there was any sadness in his heart was just a little beyond him for the moment.  Instead he headed to a neat little coffee shop for a triple shot espresso.  A quad shot of something even stronger would have to wait until this evening.

It was right around 11:30 so he would beat the lunch crowd and the morning coffee junkies will have been long gone.  Good.  He needed some quiet.

He ordered his triple and the cheery, aproned, most-likely college girl brightened his day with two deep dimples as she smiled to him.  He had done nothing to earn it and so he appreciated it that much more, especially after three weeks of cold shoulder treatment from the public in general.  As she returned to the counter with his drink she flashed a second smile and a look that told him something was coming.

“Aren’t y’all that attorney for that murderer that’s been on trial?”  If she had been a little older it would likely have been phrased somewhat better, but this was a late millennial.

Sakib nodded and flashed a semblance of a smile.  “That’s right.  Little ‘ole me.”


She seemed awestruck.  Probably the closest she’s come to meeting a celebrity.  Sakib didn’t know if she had a follow-up question or if this would just end hanging oddly.


“Isn’t it supposed to be over today?”  She asked.


He nodded again, flashed the same partial smile again and added, “Oh, it’s over.”


“Oooo,” she cooed, “Did he get life?”


Not, “was he guilty or was he innocent” or “how did they find”, as if there would have been any doubt of his guilt.  But Sakib had gotten used to this over the months and never blamed anyone always remembering his own thoughts the minute they had first met.  But the flimsy, almost non-existent evidence should have raised some questions as to whether or not he would walk.  Though his guilt wasn’t in question, why did no one question the verdict of fickle juries?  Do they not remember someone named O.J. Something?  Sakib was always in awe of the publics’ naiveté in accepting verdicts from juries, but then his profession gave him a little more insight into the dice roll verdicts can be.  Losing this one had come up snake-eyes for him, and although he considered it the right verdict, he had counted on the dice rolling in his favor this one time.


Nor would he expect anyone to know the difference between deliberate and premeditation and/or extreme atrocity or cruelty or the various mitigating factors a judge may weigh in on for sentencing, but, “did he get life?”  The assumption of guilt was widespread.


“Yes.  Yes he did.  Twice.”  He really wanted to get out of there, but she was only being nice and he wanted to reciprocate.


“What do you mean, twice?”


“Two terms.  One for each murder.”


Her mouth dropped a little as if she never thought of something like that.  “Oh, my goodness,” she said, amazed.  “So he’ll never get out of prison, for sure.”


“Actually, he’ll never spend a minute in prison.”  He knew that would throw her.  “He dropped dead on the spot when the sentence was read.”


“Oh, my g…” her mouth seemed to freeze in shock.  Sakib really, really wanted to get out now.  He put his finger to his lips and mouthed, “Shhhhhh.  Word hasn’t got out yet and we really should wait.  I’m sorry I let it out.”


The girl stiffened, first shocked, then feeling privileged that she was in on the little secret.  Sakib paid his bill and bowed out.  He had intended to grab a table but instead decided to make his exit and resolved that he would enjoy his elixir in his car.  Alone.


A few news vans were high-tailing it out of the courthouse and heading toward the hospital and Sakib watched them flash by a few blocks away.  He had known it was going to be a long, hard day, but never in his wildest…  He shook his head and sipped his cup.  Shutting his eyes, he slouched as much as was allowed in the tight driver’s seat and let out a slow, hot breath.  He couldn’t say that the verdict and sentence was a surprise.  But he could have won this one.  He could have beat the rap for the one client who was the worst he ever had.  Surly, disrespectful, sullen and guilty.  Elliot never deserved the breaks everyone had cut him including the extra miles Sakib had put into the motions, requests, demands and other filings all to suppress the least bit of discoverable information or testimony that he could.  And he had won most battles, a brilliant piece of legal maneuvering from his point of view.  The mere fact that a gun was never found, a small miracle considering the circumstances.  And only one witness.  One.  There were dozens of witnesses that attested to Elliot’s testy character, all of them believing Elliot was a dangerous time bomb waiting to detonate.  But those were only opinions.  He should have beat this rap.  All he had to do was dress nice, show respect and act meek.  The legal cards had all been shuffled just as Sakib had orchestrated and the jury would have had nothing concrete to go on.  Reasonable doubt.  A phrase all non-attorney citizens understand even more than the word, “contingency”.    They would have had to find not guilty.

Yes, a guilty man would have walked but that was Sakib’s job.  That’s what he gets paid for.  While the morally noble in society may never condone such a career, the Constitution guaranteed it implying the right of the guilty to walk as an absolute moral duty.  But Sakib hadn’t ever been good at it.  He supposed that if he were going to be bad at something, being bad at getting guilty people off the hook would be admirable.  But that’s certainly not how defense attorney firms would size it up and he still needed a paycheck.  That was now in jeopardy as it appeared his time with Finch, Boyle and Boyle was likely about to end.

He rested his espresso in the cup holder to his right and grabbed his cell phone from his lapel pocket.  He dialed home.


“Honey, what’s happening?”  His wife, Iman, only 28 years old but loyal and supportive.  One of the few family members or of past close friends that could still find respect for his chosen profession of defending the guilty and wicked.  “I watched it all on channel ten, is Elliot going to be all right?”


“Oh yeah, he’s fine.  Probably chilling on a slab right now, oblivious to any pain or stress.  Yeah, he should do just fine from here on in.”  The sarcasm was obvious to Iman who knew better than anyone how much Sakib had despised this client.

“You mean he died?  They never said on TV!”


“He sure looked dead and a lot of medical people’s heads were shaking back and forth.  I saw no indication that anyone held out any hope.”  There was a small pause then he added, “Or wanted to.”


Iman was relieved but dare not express it. David Elliot was still a fellow human and her husband’s client.


“So how are you?”  She paused but got no response.  “You holding up?”


“Yeah.  Yeah, I’m just so frustrated.  Finchy-Boyles will probably sack me now, but we’ll face that when it comes.”  He had coined the moniker for his firm when he first started with them eight years ago and it remained their little buzzword.


He knew it was expected that he prevail in this case.  Having failed, they probably would have kept him on through the appellate process simply because he was intimately familiar with the case and no one else really wanted to touch it.  Anything with David Elliot’s name attached to it carried a stench in local legal circles, so Sakib could have counted on a paycheck for another couple of years and delay putting feelers out to other firms.  But the economy was catching up with the firm and terminations were being hinted at.  Suddenly it had appeared that other associates would love to get involved in an appeal for David Elliot if he lost his case, and fresh tactics would have a distinct advantage.  Elliot had the money to sustain a prolonged appeal, the best kind as far as any Attorney firm was concerned, and with new counsel, many extra hours studying what already went down was certainly justified.  Sakib knew for sure he was about to be canned and he’d soon be groveling for low-end positions at third-rate law firms.  Or he could go it alone, though that would hold challenges and consequences more foreboding than he cared to think about.


“Where are you now?”


“In my car.  Needed an espresso.  Needed more than that, but I’m still on the clock and I’m headed to the hospital now.”  He started the Kia and had the phone switch to Bluetooth.  “But I may end up going to the morgue, who knows.”


Iman was aware of the stress her husband was under.  She wanted to reach out in some way, but knew the best she could do would be to show understanding and be here when he eventually made it home.


“Will you have to notify his family?”


Sakib scoffed.  “Family?  He had no one.  Only his wife, who he killed, and maybe two or three so-called friends, but they all grew more distant as the trial went on.  I doubt there’s anyone who would care at all.”


Which started Sakib thinking in another direction.  Elliot was not a wealthy man by today’s standards, what with a thousand or more billionaires out there and a hundred times more multi-millionaires, but he was more than comfortable being worth somewhere in the low millions. That’s how he was able to afford a private defense attorney.  And a good one at that, though no one would know it from this trial.  That also accounted for him making bail bond.  Ten million dollars may have been set a little hastily since, as it turned out, Elliot’s portfolio came in right around that.  So, to the judge’s and everyone’s surprise, he put up ten percent to a bonding agency, made bail and got to live at home and drive himself to court every day.  The police set up surveillance and even had a patrol car follow him each morning, assuring his presence and stymying any attempt to flee.  The fact that the Freetown town budget had to cover the extra attention and that Elliot was enjoying the comforts of home all that while did not sit very well with the community.


“There will be an estate of some sort,” he continued, “but with no family, no will that I know of, maybe I can stay on a while as his executor.  Finchy-Boyles should go along with that, it may be the only way they’ll get their last installment and additional billables.”   The more Sakib thought about it, the more realistic that seemed to him.  “But there will certainly be civil complaints filed by the victim’s survivors, so what isn’t attached for legal fees will tap his estate out.”


“Well, I’m sorry you’re going through all this.”  Iman was a good woman.  “I’ll be here if you need me.  I’ll let you go and do what you have to.  Remember, things will work out.”


For all the hours Sakib had always put into his career, hours spent away from his wife and in another world all together, the soundbite was representative of their relationship.  Sakib ever dutiful in his responsibilities and Iman ever supportive.  They had never had kids and with the time Iman spent alone every day, most would have expected her to pursue a career of her own. Or leave.  But her Egyptian upbringing inculcated in her the duty of being there for her husband and taking care of all the details that go with being a good housekeeper, cook and manager.  Sakib, untrue to his mid-eastern culture, really desired to spend more time with her.  He longed for it, but couldn’t separate his sense of responsibility to provide materially as much as possible from any obligation to tend to emotional needs, hers and his.  His brain always trumped his heart.  But if he were to be laid off by Finchy-Boyles, he would have savored it in his heart.


He said his “good-bye” and started to the hospital a bit uplifted.  David Elliot’s passing may actually open a new door – stay on for a few more weeks straightening out his client’s non-willed estate to be followed by a very welcomed furlough of sorts.  Sakib broke a small smile.


“Thank you Elliot!  Thank you for dying.”



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