Joyce Daniels entered my office on a warm spring day, carrying a leather folio bag and looking every bit the part of the upwardly mobile female attorney. She wore a very flattering navy blue skirt suit with a faint pink pinstripe, the hem of the skirt falling professionally at the knee. The pale pink silk blouse was strategically buttoned to show the appropriate amount of cleavage, enough to distract but not wanton. Her chestnut brown hair was done behind her in a French twist, her makeup and jewelry very professionally understated. The combination of knee length skirt and high heels made her legs look longer. And as legs go, they were worth looking longer. She had an effortless sway to her walk, and I’m sure she was very effective in the courtroom, or the boardroom, or the catwalk for that matter. She extended a well-manicured hand, and handed me her card.
“Mr. Banks,” she said, sitting and crossing legs at the knees. “You come very highly recommended.”
“By some, I suppose,” I replied. “Not so much by others.”
“The same could be said about me, I imagine,” she said, smiling. “But we all do the best we can, don’t we?”
“We do. Coffee?”
“No, thank you. Any more today and I’ll never sleep tonight.”
“So, Ms. Daniels, who recommended me to do what, exactly?” I looked down at her card, which told me she was an immigration attorney with the firm of Hirschberg, Burns, and Daniels. I put the card down in front of me on my desk, and scooped up my coffee mug with a single swoop. I was showing off a little, sure that my smooth manner would impress.
Clearly unimpressed, she began, “My client has heard of your reputation, and is interested in your assistance in finding her sister.” She shifted in her chair, leaning to her right and pulled a legal sized manila folder from her bag. She crossed her legs and adjusted again to a more comfortable position. The envelope stayed perched on her lap.
"Why doesn’t your client call the police, file a missing persons report. That’s what I would do.” I had a feeling I knew why she wouldn’t, but I wanted to get confirmation.
“As you can see, Mr. Banks, I’m an immigration attorney. I help my clients work out arrangements with the INS to obtain legal citizenship,” she said.
"And I’m guessing that not all of them start out with green cards, do they?”
“Perceptive, Mr. Banks. No, not all of them are legal at first. But that’s where we come in, to assist with registration, applications, assorted red tape,” she said.
“And the client who asked you to see me?”
She sighed. “Not very far along in the process, I’m afraid.”
That meant the client was an illegal as well. “So how did your client hear of me?”
“What if I said that was privileged information?”
I smiled. “Then I would ask again, more politely.”
She smiled back. “It would violate attorney client privilege.”
“Then let me ask another way. Who does your client work for that she can hire a high-powered firm to represent her to the INS?”
“Currently she’s employed by a local entrepreneur in a fulltime capacity in the service industry,” she said, maintaining her coy smile. It was a look that told me ‘I know something you don’t know’. Susie O’Neil used to give me that look in fourth grade. I hated that look in grammar school, and I hate it now.
“I will need to speak to your client at sometime or another.”
“I’m sure we can arrange that with no problem. At a later time, of course”
“I’ll need a picture of her sister, the more recent the better.”
She handed me the envelope on her lap. “Anything else you need, Mr. Banks?”
“Two more things,” I told her.
“Your fee, I assume?”
I nodded, and told her my rates.
“That’s a bit more than I expected, Mr. Banks,” she said. “I suspect there’s some room to negotiate?”
“No? Really?” She broke out her ‘I’m used to getting my way’ pout. That look might work on me once in a while from my daughter, but never from an adult.
“Ms. Daniels,” I explained. “People hire me to do things others can’t do, won’t do, or shouldn’t do themselves. This is how I make my living, and I’m pretty good at it. If you are looking for a discounted rate, I’m sorry to have wasted your time.” I slid the envelope across the table towards her. Then I folded my hands on the desktop, smiled politely, and waited. I knew something she didn’t know.
“Even a lawyer will cut another one a break, if the cause is right,” she replied, the pout fixed on her lips.
“And people willing to settle are just as happy in burger joint as in a steak house. Besides, in my line of work, there’s not a lot of quid pro quo going on. My fee is my fee, Ms. Daniels.”
She dropped her pout in the face of my obviously superior logic. Her expression changed to one of resignation. Good thing too, or another appeal to my better nature might have worked.
“And the second thing?” she asked.
“Who recommended me?”
She got that smile on her face again. “I believe you know a Mr. Solomon?”
She nodded. “He tells me you two have worked together in the past. He felt confident enough in your experience to have recommended you in the highest of terms.”
“Huh,” I said. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks, but that was nothing unusual. Often he would drop in between odd jobs, and I know he had been dating Sam. I tried to avoid being the over-protective big brother type, so as long as she was happy I never questioned their relationship.
“You do know him then?” she asked.
I nodded, more in disbelief than in response. I had no idea how Solomon might be connected to this lawyer, not to mention to the case she offered me. But like the albatross to the ancient sailors, this was not a good sign. “I’m going to need a retainer for this case.”
She smiled and reached into her purse for a checkbook. “He told me you might.”