Bill Nicholson sat uneasily; distracted in a manner that was befitting a scholar in a bind. He surveyed my office wall hangings, the diplomas, the expensive artworks that my exes had purchased at charity auctions. His eyes roved over cabinets, curios and hardwood bowls won years ago when I gave a bigger shit about cricket, rugby and competitive sailing. We all just sat there; me in my chair surveying them, they in their’s surveying my stuff. Not a word was spoken. I enjoyed a nice draw off the Rothmann as I sat surveying at them, my eyes darting over the averted eyes of them both as they searched for something other than the subject at hand.
As I exhaled through the smoke, I spoke first and bluntly, “Bill, can you step outside and let me talk to Mark in order to out what the hell is going on?” Wide-eyed, Bill Nicholson got up quickly; seemingly glad to be verbally ushered out of the room, relieved to be recused of his responsibilities to his son. As the door slowly closed behind professor Nicholson, I heard Rebecca begin to chat him up about the weather and billing information. ‘Good girl,’ I thought, ‘let those sweater covered C-cups tame that confounded beast.’
It was only when the door closed solidly and the pin clicked completely shut that Mark Nicholson exhaled deeply and leaned back in his seat. Brushing his mop from his face, he said, in a serious, half pleading tone, “I didn’t do anything to Louise Sinclair’s weed. I was at P.E. all morning, and then I had to go to study hall. I didn’t do anything! I swear it on my mum’s grave.” His eyes welled and he dropped his hands to his lap. He looked straight towards the cream-carpeted floor with a still shaking head. I leaned back in my chair to gain perspective.
I hadn’t asked him anything about anything, much less anything about Louise Sinclair’s marijuana. He volunteered names and alibis. How tough could this be? I thought about the cast as I knew it.
I knew the Sinclairs, and a little bit about their daughter Louise. Ranier Sinclair was one of the island hotel magnates my mum couldn’t stand. He had a Midas-like touch for hotels and their placement that the visiting Japanese tourists loved and paid well for. His successful ventures speckled the islands like paisley on a Boston lawyer’s tie. Sinclair’s gambles brought him vast fortunes; and as such, he was well liked by all those he knew. He was active in eleemosynary pursuits, gave often and richly, and it seemed his second marriage was more a profile in successful teamwork than the tentative and faithless grab for wealth. Like several I’d known.
In all, Ranier Sinclair was a great asset to the community in which he lived. His step-daughter, Louise, was a 16-year-old party hound with a doting, but loving mother, and a step-father who could, and would, buy her out of every youthful transgression she’d ever face in life. After considering the situation, and discussing a bit more of the tale with Mark Nicholson over another Rothmann, I figured that the lad’s involvement in this affair was non-existent. To cover my bases, I thought I’d pay a visit to the Sinclair estate and perhaps to Ranier Sinclair’s corporate office. In a small community it’s always nice to flex the threat of concerned curiosity.
Young Nicholson and I talked more about the supposed theft of Louise Sinclair’s marijuana stash. And although I thought the school’s current policies swayed a bit to the right of national socialists, I didn’t think they’d go as far as to make something up out of the blue to sack a kid’s scholastic career. I had an idea what Mark was going through. Not the longhaired, disenfranchised and skinny part, but having been a fairly studied lagabout at The Goode School myself, I felt a kind of kinship with him. He was a kid who didn’t stick out, pro or con, and he was being cornered by an administration that preferred to label him early and harshly, rather that really learn who he was. I could empathize.
From a business standpoint, though, kinship and empathy doesn’t make a case work. A lawyer can like a losing client all he wants and never take his case for any multitude of reasons. One thing I did know about Mark Nicholson was that his mum had been dead since New Year’s Eve two years prior due to an asthma attack brought on by firework smoke. To me, his oath on his still freshly lost mum’s name wasn’t to be taken lightly.
Through the coconut wireless, I also knew that old Doc Nicholson had just done very well negotiating a deal to sell a Perth golf course to a Japanese consortium. Rebecca had checked Bill Nicholson’s finances and showed me his statement on a slip of paper. It looked for all the world like a local phone number. In a rare cooperative effort, my heart and my wallet wanted the case. I decided to take it.
The button on the squawk box clicked loudly, and I asked Rebecca to show Bill Nicholson back in. Moments later he entered my office somewhat sheepishly, realizing that he’d left in a hurried manner. I addressed him directly, occasionally pointing at his boy with the two fingers clenching the smoking Rothmann. “Bill, I don’t think Mark’s done anything,” I said, leaning both my hands on each other making a lazy, inverted ‘v’ on my desk. Nicholson looked awkwardly at the boy, almost apologetically.
Raising my eyebrows to show an air of uncaring I continued, “I’ll take Mark’s case, and I’ll straighten this out with The Goode School. All said, Mark’s gonna stay in the school. Your name’ll be kept out of the papers. Nothing will come of anything.” With a mild look of skepticism, Bill Nicholson looked to me and thought for a moment. He too raised an eyebrow and looked at his son, who was now looking a lot less frightful and a little more relaxed. Nicholson senior blurted while nodding his head, “Whatever you say, Mr. Keates,” followed by words I always have a laugh at when I hear them: “We trust you.”
“Not implicitly, I hope. I like my clients smart,” I replied, smiling wryly while snuffing my cigarette. We grinned to each other a little, the first smiles from either Nicholson I’d seen all day. Mark looked at us like we were quite possibly crackers.
As I lead them to the door, the mood appeared to lighten up between father and son. I was shaking Mark’s hand as I told both he and his father, “I’ll be contacting you soon to see what other information I can learn from you about this situation, but at this point I think I have enough to go on.” With that, they turned, waved a conciliatory goodbye to Rebecca and wandered down the hallway past the regular staff lawyers’ offices and through the lobby, searching all the while through their pockets for the parking voucher Rebecca had given them earlier. Academics, who can stand them, unless they’ve got deep pockets.
I’ll post more later when my client at MANVIL can deal with it. Next up, the investigation begins with drinks.