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11: Sunshine and cigars



Afternoon brightness and broom yet to flower
Sunlight from high windows flooding a room
Spirit of Forest reclaiming a wanderer
Memories of sea cliff and flowers in bloom

One who has yet to know which way the path leads
One who’s forsaken a path known of old
Two who will find there a meeting of purpose
Sunshine, cigar smoke and laughter worth gold


ROSEBUD slid happily through calm waters, her oars dipping cleanly and quickly as Fitz took her out through the Gap, enjoying the quiet of Tide lazing about before turning. He stayed well away from the Gap shore, knowing too well what lurked beneath that seemingly innocent, gently rippled water, having investigated it close up before in the dinghy. cleft in clifsThere were sharp rocks down there, visible below the water’s surface, giving him crocodile smiles and invitations to come on in closer. He and ROSEBUD had declined. He had no intentions of getting caught in that maze of unforgiving teeth.

     Tide also demanded a fair share of attention. Fitz had rowed to town a couple of times, and the distance seemed no problem in calm weather, but the time element presented by the turning of the tide brought the necessity for planning. There and back wasn’t always feasible in a day. Today though, he was just out for the fun of it.

     Having left Rose working mightily away at fastening shakes to her roof, he was giving himself a workout on the oars, something he’d always enjoyed. He figured those who told him they couldn’t understand what he saw in sailing, because to their minds it was mostly sitting around in the cockpit getting bored, didn’t really understand the workings of living at sea. Sitting around—maybe, in a flat calm—but boring? Never, to one who was involved in every aspect of the sea and his boat.

     Keeping fit was just one of those essential basics which went along with being a permanent seafarer. Food, exercise and rest were just as important aboard as ashore—maybe even more so—and the regularity of any of them was nowhere near as guaranteed as it might be to a land dweller. Weather and Sea kept things interesting and lively, and keeping things balanced with those two partners in on the action tested muscles and equipment, as well as wits.

     That was why he wouldn’t waste an afternoon like this one just loafing. Muscles needed exercising or they wouldn’t be there when they were needed. Apart from that, he was just revelling in the day itself.

     New broom shoots, and busy birds everywhere. An air of expectation on cliff and along treeline, with a light yellow-green haze appearing in rock crevices and treetops. Sweet smell of returning spring. Breeze beginning to bring soothing warm balm to the formerly raw air.

     Fitz was relaxing and enjoying both exercise and surroundings, feeling at peace with the world and happily isolated against any disturbance from it, so that when he stroked back into the bay he received an unsettling surprise. A very large old tug was alongside the barge, leaning its fenders against LEGER DE MAIN in a familiar and friendly way, and he was confronted with the necessity of trying to make out what those violent gestures were which Rose was making over the stanchion ropes.

     He figured correctly that she was telling him to row to the port bow and come up that way since the tug was on the starboard side astern, and out of sight of the pantomime.

     “Good thing you got back here,” he was greeted with in a low voice as he came aboard. “These hooligans are getting ready to board again and I’m fresh out of ideas. They’re claiming they own this barge for salvage and they want to take it right now, but they don’t have a writ of seizure. Do you have a caretaking contract or something?”

     “Um,” mused Fitz. “Might have known this would happen. I figured it had to come sooner or later. Must be the tugboat captain who put me on to this in the first place. Said he didn’t want it though. I was hoping he’d get paid. Guess I’d better talk to them.”

     Rose gave him a puzzled look and replied,

     “I’m not sure I got all that, but I gather you don’t have any legal papers either. Typical. I should have expected that—so let’s talk to them and maybe we can figure out how to get rid of them—and don’t say anything without your lawyer present—that’s me.”

     “My what?!

     “Lawyer.”

     Then, seeing the questioning look in his face she laughed, saying,

     “What is it with me today? Am I not speaking distinctly? Law-yer. Everybody seems to need convincing.”

     Rose Hold, Barrister at Law, LL.D., had forgotten that she stood, not in a court of law where everyone recognised her, but here in Shalisa Creek Bay, wearing an old pair of jeans and a tee shirt, not court robes, standing on a barge stranded on a sandbar in a seldom frequented place, where she had become simply—Rose.

     She took out another card.

     “Here. It’s genuine, and so am I.”

     Then, ignoring Fitz’s astonishment she continued,

     “And tell me the details of your fraud later. They’re getting impatient and they seem like the kind who’d get mad enough to pitch us both overboard and take off with everything in spite of us. I yell good and loud but apart from that I’m not much in a fist fight. I have to know what’s really going on here.”

     “All right,” agreed Fitz as Charm trotted off and up the stairs to her favourite place in the sunny spire room, “I’ll get him aboard and we’ll talk.”

     “I told them you were a gentleman so could you—is there such a thing as a gentleman seaman?”

     “Just watch,” returned Fitz. “Real, genuine, and bona fide, as you lawyers would have it.”

     “I’ll go make some coffee,” she told him as he walked over to the starboard railing where loud and unflattering comments were still carrying over to the barge.

     “Captain?” he called.

     The one-sided conversation stopped, the tugboat captain came out of his wheelhouse and replied,

     “Afternoon. You living here?”

     He was careful not to ask the man on the barge if he owned it. He didn’t want to give the impression that ownership was in dispute, just occupancy.

     “I’m Fitz Jolly,” returned the recipient of the question, equally as wily. “Will you come aboard for a cup of coffee?”

     “Thanks. Don’t mind if I do. Watch the helm Wilf,” came the quick acceptance.

     The man heaved his big thickset form onto the deck of LEGER DE MAIN with surprising speed and agility, put out a hard, work-toughened hand and said,

     “Bud Westman. Hate to come on you suddenly like this, but I didn’t know anyone was living on board and if I don’t hurry up I’ll miss the tide.”

     That was a bit of spurious pressure which didn’t impress Fitz. There was plenty of time and plenty of tide. He wasn’t sure if he should play dumb landlubber or let the opposition know that he wasn’t to be bullied that way. He decided to let it pass, since anyone who knew boats could certainly tell by looking at her that JOLLY ROSE was no landsman’s property, and the reference to tide was evidently meant as deliberate leverage to make the meeting short, so he headed the captain into his castle of dispute where Rose was busy making coffee in the galley.

     “You’ve met Rose have you?” enquired Fitz cheerfully.

     “This your missus?” returned Bud, side-stepping the awkward circumstances surrounding his meeting of the lady in question, and thinking what a lucky man this old duffer was.

     “Oh no no! I’m not that fortunate—my lawyer, Rose Hold,” laughed Fitz, getting satisfaction out of the look of discomfiture on the man’s face when he heard that information, as Rose smiled and nodded at Bud Westman. “She just happens to be visiting on another legal matter.”

     <Umph! So she’s a real one. Damn! Here come a lot of problems.>

     He had to ask.

     “You own this barge? I billed a company. Your company?”

     <Right to the point, that’s the way.>

     “I’m renting it.”

     Fitz thought he heard Rose perk up her ears. He was going to have to do some explaining later.

     “Sit down and make yourself comfortable Bud. Is the coffee ready yet Rose?”

     He walked over to help, and the enquiring look she gave him got answered with a wink.

     <Now here’s a client who’s probably going to be worth taking on just for the hell of it.>

     As she poured the coffee she saw Fitz pick up his bottle of ‘little nip’ and some glasses. She watched him walk over to the table with it.

     <If that doesn’t soften the old hoodlum up nothing will.>

     “Now,” said Fitz, settling down opposite Bud, “Is there some sort of problem?” and just as the tugboat captain began to speak, “Here, try this,” pouring with just the right amount of careless splash and not at all in the manner he had lovingly decanted for Rose, “Always makes business a little less strenuous. Fair winds.”

     <That’s a mistake. The fellow doesn’t own sails.>

     However, it served the purpose, because Bud Westman picked up his glass and returned, undaunted,

     “Good tides. Say, that hits the spot.”

     Fitz thought it certainly must have, because it had been swallowed in one gulp, and at this rate his bottle of anti-stress formula wasn’t going to manage the task of covering very many spots like that.

     Rose pretended not to notice, but hoped Fitz would hold back on his libations until the business was taken care of.

     A little over two hours later the tide had left, the day was late, Rose and Fitz had heard all about the tugboat captain’s life from start to finish—how tough the tugboat business was for an independent to get a living out of, all the paperwork and regulations he had to put up with, the scrapes he’d been in while trying to hang onto his old and beloved WESTMAN WILL, inherited from his father when he was eighteen and always requiring repairs and shiploads of diesel fuel the price of which hadn’t been a concern when it was built but which now was escalating exponentially in direct relationship to the height and size of the new office towers the oil companies kept putting up, the names, ages and expectations of his six grandchildren the third of whom was working on the tug with him now, the high cost of education, the fact that he needed the money from the LEGER DE MAIN to help put his fourth into university, but he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to sell the thing for much anyway, probably nowhere near what he would have had if that man had paid his bill, plus the expense of having to run up here and get it and the problem it was going to be to haul it off the beach, that he and his wife were certainly looking forward to retiring or at least taking it a little more easy after the last grandkid got going, and speaking of getting going, he ought to.

     Rose was swallowing yawns, Fitz had fidgets in his legs, the amber bottle with its red ribbon was empty and so, almost, was a bottle of brandy of the cheap sort Fitz referred to as his medicinal stock which the captain seemed to appreciate more than the expensive stuff, downing great gouts of both it and coffee, but as Fitz had sat there listening to this man of the sea telling his stories, he thought he’d come to a solution of the problem.

     The captain wasn’t belligerent at all, just worried, and pinched for money. Fitz thought of the carefree years he himself had spent and compared them to the hazardous, monetarily unrewarding and physically demanding ones this man had put in, the many times he must have risked his life in dangerous seas, not because he was foolish enough to be out there but because that was the way he made his living, the straightforward way he had of handling things, and Fitz felt sympathy and liking for this sunburned, wind-roughened, wrinkled, tough seaman who dealt with the elements on a regular basis, fair or foul, and then, for all his trouble, had still to deal with the intricacies of officialdom and its unyielding demands, and commercial survivalists who wouldn’t pay their debts—because that was the way they survived.

     “Is it a very large amount owing?” asked Fitz into the pause caused by the tugboat owner, who was holding the glass of brandy in his hand before finishing off its contents.

     Bud put down his glass immediately and fishing into his inside jacket pocket said,

     “Got a copy right here—um, not there.”

     He tried the other side while Rose gave Fitz an amused glance.

     “Nope—ah, I know—must still be in my wallet—not there either—oh, of course.”

     It came from the small-change pocket of his old patched jeans, and he undid its many folds, smoothing it down on the table.

     “It’s not that I haven’t given him a chance. I’ve sent lots of dunnings telling him to pay up or else and he just ignores them, so I figured I’d better do the ‘or else’ on him.”

     Fitz got out his glasses, put them on, took a look, as Rose took a look herself, toted up the amount against the uncashed cheques in his metal box and said,

     “I think I know how to settle this right now. Suppose I give you what’s owing and tell my landlord that I’ve paid my rent in advance for a few months. That way everybody’s happy. You get your money, I keep my digs, and he gets his bill off his back.”

     The tugboat captain’s shaggy eyebrows flipped. He plainly hadn’t expected anything like that. Neither had Rose, although her eyebrows stayed put.

     “Well—well... .”

     <The man’s offering you money, you idiot. Take it.>

     “Well, that sounds great to me.”

     He looked at Rose, who had been caught off guard by the offer and was busy keeping her surprise under control.

     “Is it legal?”

     Rose’s sense of impartiality answered before she thought of Fitz’s finances.

     “If he wants to pay your bill as the barge owner’s agent and you want to mark the bill paid in that light, it’s legal, but Fitz has no obligation... .”

     “Hey, great!” enthused Bud Westman, cutting her off and putting on a smile which heightened the upward direction of all the wrinkles in his face. He was usually a cheerful man and the wrinkles had formed around his cheerfulness. “Why didn’t we think of this before?”

     “Done then,” agreed Fitz, trying to keep his eyes off his empty bottles as he wished the same thing. “We can’t hit the bank before it closes now, but you and I can go into the village in the morning and I’ll get the money for you. Good enough?”

     “More than enough,” laughed Bud.

     He stood up, tucked his old cap under one arm, put out his hand, and two who knew how to do business with a handshake shook on it, not heeding Rose’s soft exclamation of—’Fitz!’.

     “That’s the way I like it. My word is my bond. See you in the morning then. Thank you, Rose, for the coffee—and such—really fine,” and as he rambled out the door and over to the stern ladder he enquired, “You wouldn’t really have hit my grandson with that hammer would you?”

     He climbed down the stern ladder, hit the deck of the tug with a thud, and disappeared into the wheelhouse, from where his voice floated over asking,

     “Is it all right if we stay tied up here till morning? I think we’ve missed the tide.”

     “Sure,” agreed Fitz and went inside to find Rose sitting there laughing.

     “Hammer? You were going to hit someone with a hammer?!

     “I didn’t know I looked like such a wild woman,” Rose excused herself. “I just happened to have it in my hand when I came here to chase them off. I think he’s got an overactive imagination—or else his grandson has. I thought he’d never go—and how come you offer to pay a bill which isn’t yours without asking me first whether you should or not?”

     “Well you didn’t tell him to shove off when he asked you if it was legal,” returned Fitz.

     “Sorry. I was about to tell him ‘not a cent’—but who listens—except it was his question and I really didn’t think you’d do it. I mean can you—or are you just stringing him along—because if you are I’m not sure what you have in mind.”

     “Oh, I can manage it all right.”

     “I can still get you out of it if you like.”

     “I can’t go back on my word. Besides, I don’t want to. I meant it. I like it here.”

     “Your landlord is one lucky man. I thought he was paying you to caretake.”

     “I don’t have a landlord,” Fitz confessed.

     “Well—what in the devil is going on here?! You’d better start explaining, before I get myself into something that maybe I shouldn’t.”

     “I’m just a vagabond seaman,” he informed her. “I took over this place after I happened to overhear Bud talking about it in a pub one evening last winter when I was down in the village. He was telling his friends it was derelict and he didn’t want it. Charm and I are used to balmier climates so I thought maybe we’d find a place for the winter where we could get warm for a change, but then I got kind of used to it, and—well—Bud sounds like he needs the money more than I do.”

     “You softie, you felt sorry for him didn’t you?”

     “Let’s just say I made an investment in some kid’s future,” muttered Fitz.

     “The kid would probably be better off staying with his grandfather and learning the tugboat trade along with his brother. What’s so great about university anyway? And what are you going to do when the owner comes along? Ask him for your money back, or try claiming the barge yourself?”

     “Maybe he’ll never come along.”

     “I wouldn’t count on that,” Rose told him with unsettling conviction. “I know him.”

     “What?!

     “Just from my practice, and I presumed all along that you did too since I thought you were caretaking the place. Your business was none of mine, and I try to make a point of not discussing my clients’ affairs with anyone.”

     “You mean you’ve represented the casino operator—the fellow who owns this barge?”

     “Yes. His name’s David Godwin. I just finished up his case before I came here—successfully, I might add.”

     “Well good show for that,” approved Fitz. “If they’d slung him in the slammer I’d probably have to get out of here right now.”

     “He’s really not the slammer type,” laughed Rose, “Just a little too enthusiastic about his own sense of world order. I didn’t know he hadn’t paid a lot of bills but I suspected as much, and when you told me you didn’t have a written contract for caretaking—well—it sounded just like his way of doing business. I think he figures his word is good enough too—except in this day and age you’d better get it in writing, preferably multiple copies, or someone’s going to take advantage of you sooner or later.”

     “I’ll remember that in future. Must be losing my touch. My lies are catching up with me. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed being here all winter, and summer’s just about come.”

     “I really can get you out of it. You shouldn’t go broke for this.”

     “No problem. I’m not broke and there’s more where that came from. I don’t need it. Anyway, if I do get booted out, Charm and I are used to living on JOLLY ROSE and we’ll think of something.”

     “I’m seeing a side of your character I didn’t know existed. I like it. You’re like Grandfather. He could always think of something to settle an argument, also in unexpected ways.”

     Then Fitz asked,

     “How about you? Does this client of yours own those buildings out there too?”

     “Certainly not. The land and the buildings are mine, and I have a document to prove it.”

     “More damned wealth running around this deserted neck of the woods than I would have imagined,” commented Fitz, swallowing his somewhat bewildered surprise.

     “It would seem so,” returned Rose, giving him a speculative look. “You and I will have to talk more.”

     Song and laughter lurched out of the tug and then the captain’s voice hailed them.

     “Hey! How about if you two come on over here for dinner? Nothing special. My wife’s home made browned beans and bread, with a salad, but we’ve got some cold beer to go with it.”

     “Good grief,” groaned Rose in a low voice, squeezing her eyes shut with a wry smile, “Now we’ll never get rid of him. Are you sure you don’t have enough to pay him off tonight?”

     “Sorry. I don’t think he’s the kind who’ll take cheques,” apologised Fitz, and shouted their acceptance. “Maybe we should take something of our own along. His wife probably only made enough for the two of them.”

     “Good thinking,” agreed Rose.

     “Have to admit I need some food to go along with all that drink, even if I did hold back. My little stack of scones and cheese didn’t go too far.”

     “Your bar just about didn’t make it either,” came the laughing reply. “What do you have to offer for a potluck?”

- - -

If the invitation to have dinner aboard WESTMAN WILL came as something of an amusing footnote to the deal the two men had just made, Rose was at least satisfied that David Godwin’s barge had been kept out of the hands of bill collectors once more—gratis this time—mostly because of Fitz Jolly’s money rather than her own efforts, although she’d been prepared to tell Bud Westman to go whistle after she’d heard the facts.

     When the casino owner had first become her client there had almost been a stampede of creditors threatening to run him over and trample him into non-reconstructable bits. His was a company with a sudden cash flow problem. Income had become a trickle as business associates distanced themselves, legal restraints hampered his work, and running accounts which had always been paid promptly by the month turned into nasty overdue demands.

     “Miss Hold, someone’s trying to slap a—writ-of-seizure/intent to sue/lien/caveat/, on my business/real estate/boat/car/truck/ marina equipment/plane/office/barge—(any sort of valuable belongings)—and I just managed to sneak off/found out from/ducked the process server/shook off the sheriff... .”

     He spent a lot of time sprouting beans.

     Although she hadn’t been in time to save the barge contents she’d stopped all the rest of it by having him sign over his entire possessions to his grandmother in trust for the duration of the case, and by getting him to transfer his bank account into that same lady’s name. It had left him without real assets—a total dependent—but Rose considered him to be very fortunate, having someone he could trust so implicitly with everything he owned. She had come to regard his grandmother as a woman of astounding integrity who wouldn’t touch one iota of her grandson’s property.

     As for himself—well, he’d given her no reason to complain. Even though his visible profit making business transactions had become almost non-existent, at least he’d paid the accounts she’d sent him for ongoing disbursements. She’d wondered about that, because he’d always shown up with cash, and she’d speculated that maybe his mattress was stuffed comfortably full of small rectangular pieces of paper with portraits and numbers printed on them.

     She’d discovered that he’d paid his own bail—no small amount—in one of his typically roundabout ways, having a friend front for the surety. Here was another person whom she was curious about. These were truly friends indeed.

     Rose had found out later that the bank account she’d put out of reach of claimants was relatively small. It seemed her client had an abhorrence of officials and business contracts, using banks only because there were some things which had to be done that way. Cheques wouldn’t cash themselves. He accepted them only when he couldn’t arrange a cash transaction.

     <Now that he’s cleared of the charges and bail has been refunded maybe he’ll clean up his act—at least I hope so. Of course, he can’t pay off his debts with too much ready cash under the circumstances, even if he does have it packed away somewhere, in case some other vindictive ‘friend’ starts an investigation as to where it’s all coming from when he seems to have no real means of support. No doubt that was why he left all the accounts unpaid for so long. Once he gets his business humming along again he’ll be able to do his usual thing.

     <I only hope that he’ll never get caught transporting his hot scrip around. Not that it’s stolen—it just doesn’t exist as income. He considers it barter. So many of his certified notes for so much of somebody else’s goods and services, or vice versa—and no bills or receipts necessary.>

     The thought had crossed her mind that he must have cash caches in all sorts of places and that his accountant had to be just as other-operating—until she’d found out that he did his own book work. A man of many hats.

     As she stood looking out from the barge over the sunny bay, waiting for Fitz to come out with his offering for dinner, she wondered what it might have been like to have come here as one of the patrons of the casino when it had been moored out, with a big boat lying somewhere alongside, and friends in similar circumstances anchored all around.

     Reflecting idly on what Grandfather and the Old Ones might have thought of it, she smiled.

     <They’d have thought it was great fun. I heard that more than one or two of those august Elders had been notorious gamblers and fabulous party throwers themselves. They’d probably have enjoyed it. So would I.>

     Lights and laughter and people relaxing. Furnishings she could only imagine, gone before she’d taken his case. Flowers in the big planters which now held weeds and neglect. Carpets and tablecloths and shining glass and table settings. Music, and the big fireplace warming it all when the weather turned inhospitable.

     <No wonder he spoke with regret in his voice when he talked of losing it, although it wasn’t so much the barge he’d referred to in that tone. It was the time he’d spent in the bay, and the terms of his bail had forbidden him to get anywhere near here. Coming back to the barge had been the pleasant finish for him after rambling alone with his two dogs through a forest and sunshine day in those times when the casino was closed and he had it all to himself.>

     She knew he hadn’t realised how much of himself he’d been revealing as they’d discussed things. It was just his colourful way of expressing himself, and she was expert at hearing what was being said. When someone spoke, intonation, phrasing and aspect, eyes and hands and body became almost more important than the words which were used. It was the essence of those words which mattered to her.

     Rose looked at the sun striking the broom which clung to the cleft in the cliff, used by knowledgeable shipping as a marker. The light green of its new spears was made more intense by sunlight. It would be some time before it bloomed and lit up the cliffs with its yellow-flowered prodigality again. Tide was receding, the sand and shell beach below the cliff shone bright tan gold, a rich wide spread of it now, and the sight of its colour and wealth of expanse reminded her of David Godwin.

- - -

It had been a day of sunshine much like this the first time she’d heard that there was such a person. She’d just finished a pleading successfully and was taking off her court robes when another lawyer had asked,

     “Going for lunch Rose?”

     “Yes.”

     “Heading for the usual place?”

     “Yes.”

     <Should have said no. He’s probably going there too.>

     “See you there then. I’m taking a client there for lunch. Rather, he’s taking me. Quite an interesting case. Bit of an unruly bastard, but they tell me he’s got lots of what it’s all about—money. Gotta get my share before everybody else moves in on him and he gets put away.”

     “Which one is this, Ed? Attempted arson?”

     “No, this one got caught running a casino in plain view of Law and everybody.”

     “Crooked games have been around for a long time. What’s so fascinating about this one which would get your attention?”

     “The fee of course, but you just hit on one of the interesting points. The games weren’t crooked. Absolutely honest. Everybody said so. He was just getting a percentage from the tables. Not a very big one at that, considering what most places take. To quote Andy when he called me in on it... .”

     The lawyer made an unflattering stance and mimicked in a pompous voice,

     “ ‘He’s from an old, well-placed familah and he’s something of a throwback to the age of chivalrah in spite of his mannah of opahrating’. Huh!—old money. I figure he must be a lousy businessman and a kook to boot. Anyone with a setup like that who doesn’t milk it for all it’s worth has to be lacking something somewhere.”

     “Perhaps he lacks greed and avarice,” suggested Rose.

     “Not what I had in mind,” laughed Ed. “I guess you’ve heard of the Shalisa Creek Bay affair?”

     “Shalisa Creek?”

     Rose paused, folding the black robe she’d just removed, draping it over her arm.

     Memories and a promise.

     “Actually, I’ve been away, down east for awhile. What’s going on at the Bay?”

     “That’s where it all went on. The guy moored a barge somewhere around there and set up a casino on it. Imaginative son-of-a-bitch. Got away with it for almost three years without anyone ever catching on. Probably would have got away with it forever except some nice so-called friends turned him in. Guess they lost a bundle or something. He had a lot of high-class clientele so I’m told. That’s really what the noise is all about. Big names caught in wickedness. His, and the ones there with him when they raided it. His father has something to do with government stuff. Think that had a lot of bearing on it. I suggest that most people in politics will do anything to discredit the opposition, including digging up scandals about sons and daughters, and that’s part of what it’s about. Justice system wants this one thumped very noisily.”

     “There’s a nasty rumour that half the judiciary is having enough trouble hiding its own problems while still appearing respectable,” observed Rose. “Whether you believe it’s true or not seems to depend on your point of view. Anyway, some influential thinkers feel the gambling laws are ridiculous and, like plenty of other things, it’s not what you do, it’s being unfortunate enough to get caught if the law says ‘no’ to it.”

     “You got it. So they’ll sock it to this poor sucker as a warning of what could happen to the rest of them. They want to nail him. I think they’re trying to make an example out of him, so that any other highly placed citizens who just might entertain notions in the same direction will be a little more discreet about how they conduct their lives. Sort of slap their wrists and shake a big stick. Keep your sins under cover or else. We don’t want your shame reflecting on the rest of us, kind of thing. If you must drink and gamble and whore around at least keep it well hidden.”

     “Does he run a brothel too? He does sound a bit wild.”

     “Haven’t looked into that one yet. Has possibilities. Thanks for the suggestion. This one’s got the name but no power connections of his own so he’s the perfect patsy. He’s stepped outside of his class. His good ‘familah’ won’t back him up. Apparently he does all sorts of outlandish things. I think they’d rather have him go to jail for awhile than let him keep on embarrassing them publicly the way he does now—disown him to let on they’re honest, disapproving and above it all, to clear their own coattails.”

     <What sort of family would do this to one of their own? They must be truly ambitious and ruthless.>

     “I suppose you have a strategy already worked out for getting him off?”

     “Egh! Some of them are dead from the start, but everyone’s entitled to a defence—even the one’s you can’t get off.”

     Rose looked up, surprised.

     “It actually sounds like you’re saying you don’t think you’ll win this one. Guilty before the trial? How did you wind up with a loser?”

     “Like I said, a lawyer acquaintance recommended me to him—you know Andy Rutherford? He’s the one who arranged his bail through a business associate of the guy’s. His specialty’s corporation, not criminal. He looks after this man’s legal affairs when necessary. He searched around trying to find someone good to take this case on and I guess he finally figured I was the best who could handle it because he knew of my exposure with big names. After all, I am gaining the reputation for being the best at this, and something else I’m going to gain is the fee, if not the win.”

     <Silly conceited ass. Probably everyone else backed away from it but you’re willing to risk a little for a lot of money.>

     “Yes, of course. I forgot. The sun rises and sets at your command.”

     “Mmm,” he returned, not the least bit put out. “That’s a perfect view of it.”

     “The rooster in the barnyard thinks so. I thought you only carried sure things.”

     “Losing this one is no dishonour. Might even earn me points if I go about it in the right way. Young lawyer fights valiantly for lost cause is the way I see it. The top wants him put away. Can’t have someone ignoring the established order like that, can we? Might look like collusion by high officials if he got away with it. So what can I do but go through the motions? Losing one not only makes me human but it’s the right one to lose. The powers that be will understand and thank me for it. Besides, can’t get too perfect. People might get suspicious and think there was payola around somewhere—of course not, ho ho—as you well know.”

     “Don’t judge me by your own standards!” retorted Rose, incensed by the implication.

     “Yeah, sure, my angelic friend. Maybe one day you’ll catch on to it and be almost as successful as I am, maybe, some day, if you’ll just get rid of that ‘honest, I’m honest’ attitude and blow your own horn a bit. Take on a few clients with high profile and higher bottom lines, and never mind what they’ve done or whether you actually win. You get the money and prestige and they keep you in mind for future reference.”

     “In more ways than one. That’s a double-edged sword.”

     “Only if you’re stupid enough to let it be. Well, gotta go. If you’re still there by the time I’m finished maybe we could have a drink together.”

     “Maybe,” said Rose noncommittally, making a note in her mind to eat fast and leave the same way.

     She watched him leave while disgust rose in her.

     <That revolting dog-dropping takes a referral from someone who thinks he’ll do his best to get the client off, grabs the man’s money while pretending to help him and then sells out to the prosecution to ‘earn points’. This one probably will keep him in mind for future reference. Sometimes those outside the prisoner’s dock are worse than the ones in it.>

     With those angry thoughts in mind Rose went down to her car and considered going somewhere else for lunch but then decided against it. A little curiosity about Ed’s client had sneaked into her and it wanted to be satisfied—also, because it had happened at Shalisa Creek Bay.

     <This one must be a nervy so-and-so to flout the law so brazenly, but that doesn’t mean he should get shafted. Ed will certainly carry out his plan—but—none of my business. What Ed does is up to him. I should just ignore this. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m turning into a self-righteous pain. Maybe I shouldn’t be so picky about the cases I take on.>

     She sat behind the wheel, while a feeling of being displeased with herself came to the fore after that thought.

     <Try as I will, I can’t see myself following his ways. That’s not what I started out to do when I chose this path. As well, the fact that Shalisa Creek Bay is involved puts the whole thing right in my own back yard, literally. For years now I haven’t even known what’s been happening at the Bay—haven’t really cared.>

     Something rather like shame began to take her over because she knew someone was going to be sacrificed to the greed and vanity and dishonesty of one from her profession, and because it might involve her own land. She fingered the necklace which was out of sight around her neck.

     <Am I wearing this just to flaunt it in the faces of the others when I want to—just to show them I’m as good or better than they are? It was given to me as a trust and a guide for the future, not as a trophy for success or a flag of defiance and arrogance. Am I sliding in that direction? I hadn’t thought so, but... .>

     She was troubled now, as promises she’d made years ago came back to her. Promises of trust and honour made to one who had lived that way all his life—who had tried to teach her the same high standards—to lead her along what he had considered to be a good path for her future.

light through windows     <In my busy chase after tools to help me gain such a goal I’ve stepped aside from it. I’ve forgotten much. He’d be sad, and disappointed in me—and what about Chant whom I’ve tried to forget—not forget—ease the loss, and whose place I fill—should fill? What would he think of me now?>

     Remembering, trying to reconnect herself with the old Shalisa way of thinking something through, she let the images come, the way they had so many years back when she was younger—when she had been closely in touch with Sea and Sky, Cliff and Forest, Meadow and Waterfall.

There is a cockerel crowing on a dunghill
He believes the sun comes up
because he crows
He tries to tell me I should follow his noisome path
and crow too

There is a dunghill
There is a cockerel simmering in a stew
The sun still comes up
I do not crow

     She started the car and drove to her usual restaurant, taking a table by a window, facing the entrance so that she could see people coming and going, and had just ordered coffee while she looked at the menu when she saw Ed come in with his lost case. He saw her and nodded, smiling, heading her way with his client, for a table opposite.

     Rose watched with sudden fascination.

     Sun was streaming through the tall windows of the restaurant and it fell on the uncombed head of this public miscreant the lawyer had in tow, with all the joy of a forest spirit lighting the way for one of its chosen. The lavish brigthness there reminded her of the shining yellow broom when it was in full bloom at Shalisa Creek Bay and which, in spite of its inhospitable surroundings, threw its welcome golden glow over the impoverished stony slopes on which it flourished, and whose reflection mingled with the sea and sandy, sunny beaches she had known so well.

     She watched without being obvious as the two approached. The man was neither exceedingly tall nor very short, not overweight nor too thin, but he stood out from all the other men lunching there in finely tailored suits because he wasn’t in one.

     He was wearing an old blue cotton shirt which had a button missing at chest level and the sleeves, turned up to just above his elbows, had shreds from the holes in them waving cheerfully at restaurant patrons as he passed by them. Its paint-spattered tails—which looked as though they’d been used for wiping hands on—were half tucked into some faded jeans, getting threadbare at the knees and decorated in the same fashion as the shirt, but with more varied colours.

     A pair of sneakers hugged his feet with well-worn familiarity as he walked with a quiet tread toward the table, and his only adornment, apart from that given to his tied-back hair by the sun, was a matte-finished diver’s watch with a woven black nylon strap, looking as though it had seen much use.

     Diners in his vicinity tried somewhat unsuccessfully not to notice him as he went past.

     When the two reached the table, he took a chair almost facing Rose, resisting Ed’s efforts to head him for another one which would have put the sun in his face, a trick she knew the lawyer was fond of using, making it difficult for the person opposite him to read his features unless they resorted to the expedient of shading their eyes with their hand, something rather awkward to do when eating, and which could put people at a disadvantage.

     <One for the quarry. He has his wits about him like a forest dweller. He knows Sun.>

     Ed threw her a ‘Hi Rose,’ and sat down himself with his back to her. The client gave her a casual neutral glance and then focussed his attention on the lawyer he was with.

     Studying the man’s face when he wasn’t turned too much her way, she got the impression that he was thinking he’d rather be back where he’d just come from than here. He had a wary, watchful look which showed nothing at all of the repentant sinner or the easy mark in it. She couldn’t discern anything which would lead her to believe that this man was going to be quickly parted from his money. Indeed, the only indication she had that he might possess any came when he took a small container of cigars from a shirt pocket and offered them across the table to Ed.

     Rose knew they were very expensive. Just the price of them could put that offer into the category of gentlemanly and generous. She also knew Ed was too cheap to do that, apart from the fact that he didn’t have the taste to buy them in the first place. He smoked cigarettes and bought dreadful abominations of brown paper and floor sweepings to offer others whom he thought he could impress that way.

     Her attention was diverted by the waiter who brought her coffee, and she gave her order as the conversation at the next table got on in low tones until it too was interrupted by the waiter.

     Feeling now that she’d been over-reacting to the whole thing, she was trying to keep her mind on a case of her own after that, and she might have completely succeeded with a little more time, except the sound of the quiet discussion at the next table suddenly expanded in volume.

     “Are you sure that’s all you want, you greedy shyster!?” came the baritone voice from the next table, rich in rising anger, which got the immediate attention of everyone around. “Sure you don’t want my dogs and a mortgage on my grandmother as well?”

     She heard Ed laugh, saying in a low voice, as he tried to make a joke of it,

     “Well, the dogs might bring something, but grandmothers don’t have much appeal in the marketplace.”

     As Rose glanced over, there was a terrible, outraged look of insult in the client’s face, as though he might be about to upend the table over the lawyer, but he mastered himself. He laughed too, but it was a low soft sound of utter contempt, without mirth, not accompanied by a smile, and there was nothing warm or humorous in it.

     “Call yourself a lawyer, do you?” he asked in a quieter but quite audible tone which still carried to some of the restaurant patrons. “Tell me it’s pretty hopeless and then ask for that much of a retainer? They should have you up for trial, not me, you licenced thief!”

     He got up abruptly and, pulling a worn cloth wallet out of a hip pocket which held the firm and faded imprint of it there, he yanked out some bills and threw them on the table, remarking,

     “Guess that should cover all your time and trouble and expenses to date.”

     He replaced his wallet, then said as an afterthought while digging into a front pocket,

     “Sorry. I forgot. Your kind likes silver, don’t they.”

     He withdrew his hand, now a large fist, held it high over the table, then opened it, dropping a quantity of coins which scattered and bounced, rolling on the tablecloth and clinking onto the floor.

     “Should be close to thirty pieces. Excuse me. I think I hear that empty table over there calling me.”

light through windows

     With that he picked up his cigar and his glass, strode over to a table at Rose’s left, with most of the eyes of the restaurant patrons openly on him, including a couple of judges and some lawyers and clerks of the court Ed knew, sat down, squared his shoulders, set his back stiffly and deliberately against the lawyer and took a gulp from his drink as he looked over toward the far wall.

     Ed, pretending not to be embarrassed, laughed a little to himself, waited a few moments for effect, then got up, walked over to the table where the angry man sat, and paused, saying loud enough for people to hear his side of it,

     “It’s okay David. When you’ve had time to consider it we can discuss it further. I know you’re under a lot of pressure and that may seem like a large amount to you right now but it’s reasonable. You can call me any time, office or home.”

     He waited, but there was not the slightest indication that he’d been heard or seen. Smoke from the cigar curled lazily up toward Ed without any directing, and finally the lawyer shrugged, said, “Be seeing you,” gave Rose a smile of sardonic resignation and walked away, preferring to distance himself from the situation than to linger for a lunch under such circumstances.

     He was more than a bit annoyed. It was the first time he had been forced to leave. Usually the client did that. On his way past the table he’d just vacated he reached out and covertly lifted the little sheaf of bills, taking care that he was between it and anyone else’s eyes—except those of Rose Hold, which caught the action.

     <That unprincipled creep doesn’t even have the self-respect not to touch it!>

     The restaurant patrons resumed their eating as a waiter came, quietly and discreetly recovering all the coins he could get his hands on in the process of cleaning up. Loud and energetic discussions were common when lawyers and clients got together here, and management had learned long ago not to interfere unless absolutely necessary. Lots of ordered but not yet prepared meals got paid for that way, giving a bit of a boost to the day’s profit as defence and prosecution got bargained for, and fell into disagreements over procedure even before food arrived.

     Some of the discussions ended with comments such as, ‘don’t insult me with your dirt’ or ‘take it somewhere else’, or ‘you want me to say what?!’, at which point money often got thrown, some of it winding up on the floor. Occasionally it was left cowering on tables, identified as laundered or counterfeit, while Insulted and Declined hastily went their separate ways.

     Cigar smoke from the next table drifted over to Rose. She regarded the stiff back, then saw it slump a little as Ed went out the door and the man took another mouthful of his drink, then set his glass on the table, staring into it as though divining.

     Rose heard the long, deep intake of his breath and the slow exhalation as he ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair. She reached into her purse, took out a card, turned it over and wrote on it, and when the waiter arrived with her order, she asked him to give it to the patron at the next table.

     She started on her soup and then heard the screech of chair legs. Lifting her gaze she looked into Sea on a bright but overcast day as she met a pair of enquiring eyes, while Ed’s former client leaned over the back of his partially turned chair to look at her. The scrutiny continued for a few seconds, until he got up, holding his cigar in one hand and the glass with her card pressed against it in the other, and walked over.

     “I seem to be table hopping today,” he told her. “May I join you?”

     “Please do.”

     He set glass and card on the table then, and extended his hand to her.

     “I’m David Godwin, Ms. Hold.”

     As his hand engulfed hers she noticed that it still had traces of white paint on it from a hasty cleanup.

     “Excuse the paint,” he offered, knowing that she’d noticed. “I was working on a boat when I got the phone call and I came in a bit of a hurry.”

     “Hands which work never offend me,” smiled Rose.

     He gave her a surprised look, then said,

     “Don’t let me spoil your lunch. Go ahead and eat. I think there’s nothing worse than cold soup, even if it’s intended to be that way, and I don’t think yours is.”

     “Thank you.”

     <He certainly does seem to have his own opinions.>

     Rose resumed her meal as he seated himself on the edge of the chair opposite her, picked up her card, turned it over by flipping it swiftly across the back of his hand with his little and first fingers, studied it, then, after a moment said, still looking at it,

     “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but—what are all these letters under your name? I get the LL.D and such following it, but, W.A.H.T.S.I.H.F.—L.E. S.P.!? Or is that some computer designation I don’t get let in on?”

     “Those are my personal initials.”

     He regarded her again, this time with curious interest.

     “Too personal to be told to an outsider? My second name’s Leofwine. I have a couple of others just as interesting.”

     It made her smile, not at the name but to the look in his eyes which seemed to be poking fun at something he’d had no control over. She liked his willingness to ease her own reticence by opening up a little of himself. Most people didn’t bother to ask and those who did... .

     “I’m Rose—Who Always Holds the Sunshine in her Face, Leader Elect of the Shalisa People—usually known as Rose Hold, barrister.”

     He didn’t laugh. He was the first one in all her recollection who hadn’t laughed or made some joking remark, once she’d interpreted her card.

     “That’s beautiful,” he told her, with genuine sincerity.

     “How nice of you to tell me so.”

     “Hold isn’t your family surname, then?”

     “It’s my legal surname. I haven’t lost the original, but nobody seems able to get their tongue around the sounds of my proper one, so I’ve had it changed for the sake of simplicity.”

     “Good idea. I should probably have mine changed for the sake of my family.”

     His remark got her recalling some of the conversation she’d had with Ed before she’d come to the restaurant.

     <So they have thrown him to the wolves.>

     He flipped her card over with his two fingers again.

     “It says here on the back, ‘I’m not a shyster and I don’t mortgage grandmothers’.”

     “That’s right.”

     He was still sitting on the edge of his chair, as though ready for another quick departure.

     “You know all about my case, no doubt. Seems everybody does.”

     “Only a little, from hearsay. I’ve been away and just come back from the east.”

     He straightened a little more, put her card on the table, took a thoughtful draw on his cigar, then said rather deliberately,

     “Then maybe I should clarify the situation for you before you commit yourself. Everyone I know has already hung me. Why would you want to take me on—apart from the obvious reason which made me raise my voice before?”

     “I believe a person should have the best defence obtainable, which you didn’t seem to be getting, from what I overheard.”

     “You’re the best?”

     The question was not sarcastic. It was an earnest enquiry.

     “I wouldn’t offend the gods with such a pretence, but I’m known for taking on difficult cases and, to my mind at least, gambling isn’t a crime unless it’s crooked. Was it?”

     “No!”

     The negative answer came back so positively and quickly that it didn’t need the veracity which stood in his eyes to back it up, but she got that anyway. She nodded.

     “Do you run a brothel?”

     The shock which flashed into the man’s face, along with a pink flush, made her immediately aware that the question had been uncalled for and she was sorry she had asked. There was disbelief in his eyes and something close to rage as he looked at her. She was afraid that he was going to get up and walk away from her as he had with Ed, but he sat in silence for a few moments, then asked in a tight voice,

      “Where did you get that idea?”

     “Once again, hearsay.”

     “Oh yeah—sure—so they’ve tagged me with that now. Bend one crummy, ridiculous, petty regulation and before you know it they’ve got you dealing with the underworld—and I don’t mean like Orpheus.”

     “I didn’t intend to insult you,” she told him. “It’s just that I have to know, in case somebody springs things on us unexpectedly.”

     “Well, I guess if they want to they can certainly find something—but not of that sort.”

     “Good. May we continue?”

     “Go ahead. I guess you can’t come up with much worse, but I’d like you to know that I don’t deal in drugs, steal, rape, murder or pillage.”

     “I stand corrected.”

     “You’re sitting. Does it make a difference?”

     The unexpectedness of his retort startled her into laughter, and with it she saw the look in his eyes soften.

      “I’ll try to be a little more sensitive. Let’s continue. I know the Bay area better than most people and we might be able to use it to our advantage. Tell me, was your barge moored inside or outside of the reef at Shalisa Creek Bay?”

     “Inside.”

     “That’s interesting. The government doesn’t have jurisdiction there as far as I’m concerned. It’s Shalisa territory, and not Authority nor anybody else has been given permission to enter there lately, for whatever reason. That’s trespass.”

     “Trespass!” exclaimed the man before her in alarm. “You mean I’ve broken your laws too? I’ll get hung twice. Talk about double jeopardy—will your People charge me?”

     She laughed again, surprised at his quick grasp of the unintended implications adhering to what she’d said.

     “You won’t hang,” she reassured him, “And don’t worry about any charges from me. I’m proposing to be the defence, remember? I don’t imagine you did any harm there.”

     “I don’t know. Lots of boats came in, although I did try to keep them on an ecologically friendly level. Scared the hell out of them by telling them there were bears and cougars off the beach, so I never saw anyone go beyond that. I am guilty of wandering around all over by myself though, with Ulf and Gurth—my two dogs. Are there any cougars and such?”

     “If there are, the dogs are probably the reason why you never saw any. You know, I think we have our adversaries for false arrest. Since no one has yet proven I’m not entitled to have my own laws, I believe they’re still in effect, which means I can do as I please at the Bay because the Crown agreed to that some considerable number of years past.”

     The man before her relaxed visibly, with sudden hope in his eyes. He moved back in his chair and stretched his feet out under the table. Then Rose saw something unexpected happen. He smiled, and the change this expression brought to his face took years away from him.

     <I took him to be somewhere close to forty. Now I’m not sure what age he is. Certainly younger. Worry and stress are plainly marking him.>

     “This sounds terrific—but first—before we continue—how much—if you don’t mind?”

     <He’s wise. He backs off after having been bitten. He doesn’t stick his hand back between the teeth.>

     “Nothing except actual disbursements if I don’t get you off. I can say that, because I know we’ll win. When you’re cleared, a reasonable fee for a job well done, and I promise it won’t be exorbitant.”

     There was a long pause before he asked, smiling a little again, but with bitter scepticism,

     “Shall we enter into a written contract with that wording—if we can agree on what isn’t exorbitant?”

     She saw the profound distrust in his eyes, and was angry with Ed for having put it there.

     “If you wish.”

     The smile broadened itself.

     “I’ll go for that Ms. Hold. I think we can do business. What sort of retainer?”

     “I’ll take you on spec. We might even get damages. Just one condition though.”

     Instant annihilation of the smile. Ten years and more returned to the face of worry. He sat up taut again.

     “Uh huh. Should have known there’d be a hook. Lawyers! Go ahead. Do me.”

     There was more laughter from her.

     “No thank you. It’s just that you’ll have to stop smoking those cigars.”

     “Oh!

     He was profusely and confusedly apologetic.

     “I’m so sorry! I hope you’ll forgive me for mouthing off. I’m awfully sorry—and I apologise for smoking too. That was pretty thoughtless of me—I’m not usually so—it’s just that he made me so mad—I forgot in all the—I should have asked—oh hell!”

ashtray with cigar butt

     He compounded his blunders by committing the cigar smoker’s sin—he butted his fine tobacco vigorously in the ashtray until that glass receptacle danced on the table, then he put it as far away from her as he could, waving off with his hands the cloud of smoke he’d created.

     “There. I won’t smoke in your presence again.”

     “That’s not enough. You’ll have to quit smoking completely—everything. It’s a smelly, expensive, dangerous habit and it’s bad for your health.”

     Taken a bit aback at her reply, he lowered his eyes from hers and looked appropriately chastened at those words, although she could see his lips curve in the amusement he tried to hide.

     She continued,

     “I know, because I smoke your brand myself. I’m trying to quit and I thought—misery likes company—so maybe we could bolster each other up.”

     He did break into laughter then, quiet and delighted and deep, leaning far back into his chair, tilting both it and his head back a little. Rose liked the change she’d wrought in this harassed, angry, cornered man.

     He thumped his chair back on all fours, took the little container of cigars out of his shirt pocket, dropped it on the table with a flourish and challenged,

     “You’re on. I quit! Let’s see yours.”

     Rose brought out her own little collection from her purse but held on to them.

     “Uh—one other thing.”

     “Ouch! What next?”

     The eyes were still wary, but there was trust in them now.

     “You mustn’t lie to me. I don’t take on liars and I don’t tell lies myself.”

     “Really?! I thought that’s what it was all about—all the lawyers getting together and seeing who could out-lie the others the most.”

     “I think the others call it manipulation of words,” she told him, as they laughed together now, “And you’ve acquired a dreadful opinion of me—but that’s the way I operate. No lies on either side—ever.”

     “Sounds formidable. The opinion wasn’t of you though, just lawyers in general—but if that’s the way you want it, it’s okay with me.”

     Their eyes held firm as they weighed each other’s resolve.

     “I mean it,” she told him seriously.

     “So do I,” he replied.

     She set her cigars with his then and agreed,

     “Done! And no cheating, because if you do I’ll find out and drop your case.”

     “You’ve already heard that I don’t cheat—and you certainly have more to threaten me with than I have on you,” he grinned.

     “Just believe me when I say, Grandfather will keep me in line.”

     “Great! An impartial third party to hold the stakes. Ah. Here comes my lunch. May I order anything else for you?”

light through windows

     “Not at the moment, thank you, but you can start filling me in on details.”

     Rose ran the fingers of her left hand under the collar of her blouse and touched the shell necklace hanging there.

     <My thanks, Grandfather for making me aware once again, and at such a propitious time. As well, I really should quit smoking, and it’ll give us something to talk about other than his case. He seems to need a diversion from his problems. Besides, a Leader needs to be in control of herself before she can help others and I seem to have been operating on the outside of that concept lately.>

     “Just had a thought,” her new client told her. “Does this mean there’s a possibility that all the other people who were charged with me are out of the cage too?”

     “That’s more than just a possibility,” she smiled.

     “You really do hold the sunshine in your face,” the man across the table from her remarked, as he began his lunch.

- - -

Leaning on the stern bollard with her eyes on the rock cleft crowded with the new shoots of broom, Rose laughed a little to herself.

     <It was fun representing him. Totally different to most of my cases. I’ll have to get my excitement from looking after my own affairs now, and there’s plenty of that to keep me busy, legal and otherwise.>

     “Are you ready Rose?” asked Fitz as he came down the three broad steps carrying his dinner offering.

     “My appetite’s all set,” she agreed, and they boarded WESTMAN WILL.