Maggie arranged and rearranged baklava, croissants, and pear strudel in preparation for the morning meeting. The coffee was ready in three insulated dispensers. She’d been at the office over an hour. The conference room door opened and her heart skipped a beat.
“Hi, Maggie!” Dan said.
She wasn’t sure if she felt relieved or disappointed. “Hey, Dan, how are you?” she smiled.
“Great. How was your weekend?” he asked.
How was her weekend? Let’s see. I went to a fabulous party. I ended up drinking too much, dancing with the boss, oh, and then I kissed him. I was ready to fuck him right there on my kitchen counter but suddenly he left. So on a scale of 1-10...
“Morning, Dan, Mags,” Michael greeted them both.
“Good morning, Michael,” Dan said cheerfully.
“Hi, Michael.” Color rose in her cheeks as she finished shuffling the pastries.
“Listen, can I talk to you after the meeting?” Dan asked her quietly.
Shit! Still smiling, “Sure.” When she glanced over her shoulder Michael gave her a sharp, if amused, look.
The others led in and found their seats while Michael took his place at the head of the conference table. “What have we got this week?” One by one, they briefed him on their plans for that day and for the week as Michael took notes. “Sounds good. Hodges, will you need a hand with those depositions?” he clarified.
“No, we’ve got it,” Stan Hodges reassured him.
“Perfect. I’m going to be tied up with the Larson case starting tomorrow. John and Ellen will assist. Oh, and Maggie will be joining us.”
“What the fuck?!” Standifer said under her breath.
Michael fixed her with a pointed stare. “Problems?”
“No,” she said quickly. “No problems.”
“Good. If that’s everything, let’s get to it,” he adjourned the meeting.
Maggie began packing up the coffee and treats to move them to the break room as everyone led out. Only Dan lingered behind. “So you’re going to get a chance to go to court,” he said, helping Maggie with the packing.
She smiled. “Yeah, finally. I’m really happy about it.”
“You should celebrate. Have a drink with me after work today.”
“Go out with the gang for cocktails?” she asked lightly.
He grinned shyly. “I thought maybe just you and me.”
Maggie looked down for a moment, then smiled kindly. “That sounds great, but I can’t, really.”
“It’s just a drink. You don’t need to worry about inter-office issues, it’s not a problem,” he shrugged.
She sighed. “Ordinarily I’d love to. It’s just that, well...” She met his eyes, trying to ease the blow. “I like someone right now. And I’d like to see where it goes, so...” She gave him a gentle smile. “I’m sorry. But thank you.”
Dan nodded with a sad smile. “Always a day late and a dollar short,” he chuckled. “Story of my life.” He left the conference room and Maggie let out a huge breath.
She lingered in the break room, trying to give Dan a chance to get to his office. As she headed out the door to go back to her other duties, she nearly walked right into Michael. “Can I see you a second, Mags?”
“Sure,” she said uncertainly, her stomach suddenly taking a dive. All weekend, she’d wondered how to acknowledge Friday night. She’d scolded herself. Don’t be stupid. It was no big deal. Two attractive people drank too much and shared a kiss.
But it had been a big deal to Maggie. Following him into his office, she unconsciously wrung her hands together. “What’s up?”
He motioned to the chairs opposite his desk. “I want to talk about the Larson case, make sure you’re up to speed.”
Maggie released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Apparently he wasn’t going to talk about Friday. He probably never even thought twice about it.
“I think I’m ready. He’s the tennis pro, arrested after a bar fight for aggravated assault and battery. I’ve seen the arrest report and probable cause affidavit, gone over the forensics, I’ve read the depositions. What more should I do?”
Michael rocked back in his chair, nodding. “It sounds like you’ve got it. Hemphill and Standifer will be at the table with me. You’ll be seated behind us. I want you to watch everything, the jury included. If you notice anything, let me know.”
“Of course, Michael, I understand,” she said.
“And apparently Ellen is bent on being a pain,” he added, his expression grim. “Are you ready for that?”
She smiled confidently. “I was born ready.”
Michael laughed. “Atta girl. Seems it’s true what they say about redheads.”
“Why? What do they say?” Maggie the escort from devozki asked.
His eyes crinkled as he laughed again, shaking his head. “Never mind. How did it go with Dan?”
Turning at his office door, she rolled her eyes. “I tried to let him down easy.
“Thanks for the heads up, by the way. I would have been caught completely off-guard.”
“What did you say?” he asked, eyes smiling.
“I told him that I liked someone.” She held his gaze steadily for a moment before turning away, closing the door behind her. Let him think about that for a while.
Being in court was a revelation. Although Maggie had seen videos of Michael at work as a litigator, watching him in person completely upped the ante. Michael was a master at moving people, at helping them arrive at the destination he had in mind. At turns he charmed them with his looks and self-deprecating wit and challenged them with common sense and laser-sharp knowledge of the law. Maggie watched with rapt attention, taking copious notes.
In addition to her notes and briefs, she had a file of all the depositions, having printed them out for herself. That probably had been overkill, all the information was in the briefs, but she’d done it anyway. Better safe than sorry, she’d thought.
Ronald “Rowdy” Larson was an up-and-coming tennis star who’d been involved in a drunken bar brawl that had resulted in one man having permanent damage to his vision. In addition to the criminal trial, there would be a civil trial in which the victim would seek damages to the tune of millions of dollars. He was flanked at the defense table by Hemphill and Standifer.
Michael questioned each witness, garnering cooperation with his easy charm and winning smile. The prosecution portrayed Larson as a spoiled, entitled punk who excelled at making trouble. Michael painted him as misunderstood, as much a victim as the one who’d been injured, just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By Friday morning, testimony was winding down. The problem was that witness after witness stated that Larson had thrown the first punch. No matter how Michael worked to spin it, that seemed to be a sticking point to which the prosecution continued to return.
Misgivings nagged at Maggie. Something isn’t fitting, she thought. From her seat behind the defense table, she began flipping through her copies of the depositions. Where was it?
She found what she was looking for in the fifth document in her file. Eyes wide, she traced her finger over the transcript. Her heart pounded as she watched Michael question the final scheduled witness, her eyes boring into his the back of his head.
Silently, she implored him. Turn around! Desperate to get his attention, she quickly sent him a text. She watched as his mobile lit up on the defense table. Dammit, check your phone!
As he listened to the witness give a lengthy answer to his question, Michael turned and walked to the table where his phone lay. Leaving where it was, he checked for messages.
“You have another witness.” His eyes locked on hers and she nodded briskly. Michael immediately turned to the judge. “Your Honor, the defense requests a fifteen minute recess.”
The judge checked his watch. “It’s almost lunch. We’ll break and resume at 1:00.”
Five minutes later, the four of them were in the lawyers’ lounge down the hall from the courtroom. John busied himself getting coffee and Ellen stalked off to the ladies’ room.
“What’s up, Mags? What other witness?” Michael asked.
“You haven’t called Daryl Whittaker,” she said.
“Who’s Daryl Whittaker?”
“He’s the bouncer from the club. In his deposition he states that he knows for a fact that Rowdy didn’t start the fight. When the fight started, he and Rowdy were talking. They’d just taken a selfie, and there’s a time stamp on the photo.”
“I don’t remember seeing that deposition,” Michael said, fixing Hemphill with a serious look.
John joined them at the table, stirring his coffee. “I knew it was in there. I don’t think it’s a big deal. He wasn’t a very credible witness anyway.”
“Are you shitting me? We have a photo with a time stamp that matches the time the fight started? And you don’t think that’s a big deal?”
Michael’s jaw was tight and he narrowed his eyes as Ellen returned from the restroom. “Did you know about the bouncer?” he demanded. She flushed slightly looking from Michael to John.
“Michael didn’t see the deposition of the bouncer, the one with the selfie,” John said, bringing her up to speed.
Ellen’s gaze fell on Maggie. “Maggie was the one who made the copies of all the briefs and depositions. She must have left out something.” Her lip curled derisively.
“Maggie is the one who brought it to my attention.” Whirling to Maggie, “How did you know about this?” he demanded.
Maggie licked her lips and hesitated. “I made extra copies of all the documents for myself,” she said quietly. “I just wanted to be sure I was prepared.” She held up her copy of the bouncer’s deposition. Ellen snatched it from her hand.
“I’ll take that,” Michael said. He looked it over silently, pacing back and forth beside the table. When Ellen asked Maggie about lunch plans, Michael glared at her. Sullenly, she crossed her arms and sat across from Maggie on the other side of the table.