Reasonable Doubt: Volume 3
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I didn’t give him a chance to respond. My heart was clenching at the thought of losing Emma again, at imagining all the pain she must’ve felt on her last day, so I shut my eyes—trying to block another dark memory from passing by.
Reasonable Doubt (n.):
Not being sure of a criminal defendant's guilt to a moral certainty.
Six years ago…
Living in New York never felt ordinary. Every day there was something new to discover, something I’d never seen before.
Even though I was still running on the fumes of winning one of the biggest, yet non-reported cases in the state, I was still trying to find myself—personally and professionally. I was realizing that national popularity would always elude me, but as long as I was under-rated and not over-rated, I was perfectly fine with that.
I dropped a book of essays on my coffee table once I heard a loud knock at the door. It was a familiar loud and annoying one that my best friend Kevin always used.
“You know, you can’t keep coming over in the middle of the—” I stopped talking when I realized it wasn’t Kevin. It was a woman and a man, dressed in grey suits.
“Are you Liam Andrew Henderson?” The woman asked.
“Are you Liam Andrew Henderson?” The man spoke sternly.
“Depends on who wants to know.”
They both blinked.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m Liam Henderson.”
“You’ve been served.” The woman thrust a thick blue envelope into my hand, the tenth time this had happened to me this week.
“Is this some type of joke? Is the New York Times trying to get a rise out of me again?”
They exchanged glances, confused.
“I was just doing my job,” I said. “If they want to continue their pettiness by refusing to print my picture for the rest of their paper’s life, that’s fine. I’m okay with that, really. But serving me papers as a prank every day for a week and a half—”
“The SEC doesn’t do pranks,” the woman said, before they both walked away.
I shut my door and immediately called Kevin.
“This better be an emergency,” he answered. “Do you know what time it is?”
“Has our firm pissed anyone off lately?”
“Of course we have. Why?”
“I just got served papers by the SEC, again.”
“Have you actually opened any of the other ones?” he asked.
“Two of them,” I walked over to my coffee table and pulled out a drawer. “Something about a client named Ferguson who claims we haven’t been putting his money in escrow? He’s suing us for five million and supposedly contacting our other clients. Do we even have a client named Ferguson?”
“We have three clients named Ferguson.”
“Have we pissed any of them off?”
“Not to my knowledge.” He sounded concerned. “I’m pretty sure they would’ve contacted us first before filing the charges, don’t you think? Are you sure it’s not The New York Times playing a mean joke on you? This is like the tenth letter you’ve received.”
“That’s the first thing I asked tonight. They said it’s not them.”
We were both silent for several seconds.
“It’s them.” We laughed in unison.
“Sorry for calling at this hour.” I stuffed the envelope into the drawer with all the others. “I’ll talk to you later.” I hung up.
“Daddy?” Emma walked into the living room, wiping her eyes as she walked over to me. “Can I go play?”
“It’s three in the morning, Emma.” I shook my head. “What do you think?”
“I want to go play…” She smiled, giving me that look that made me incapable of saying no.
I smiled back and kissed her forehead, thinking of where we could possibly go out at this hour. Central Park was out of the question, as was any park, really. There was a twenty four hour donut shop nearby that we could walk to or—
I stopped mid thought. Kevin was having a special playroom built for her at the office, a room that was twice the size of his own. He’d said it would prevent me from using “I have to go check on Emma” as an excuse when we worked on demanding cases.
“I know somewhere we can go.” I picked her up and carried her to her room, helping her into her favorite shoes—a pair of red rain boots she wore every day, even when it wasn’t raining. “Okay, go sit on the couch so I can get dressed and then we’ll go okay?”
She rushed out of her room without saying another word. I really needed to find a way to curb her wake-up-at-three-in-the-morning routine ASAP, but a part of me liked it. It was our special time together.
I put on a sweatshirt and sent my wife a quick email.
Taking Emma out to play. Are you still at the coffee shop?
Subject Re: Emma.
What are you going to say when she asks you for a pony?
(Yes, I’m still here…Tax season is going to be the death of me. Want me to bring you a cup back? Want to try a latte?)
I love you more,
Subject: Re: Re: Emma
Nothing. I’ll just buy the pony.
(No, thank you. You know I really hate coffee.)
Impossible. I love you more than you’ll ever know,
“I’m ready! I’m ready!” Emma rushed into my room, knocking over a stack of folders. “I’m ready!”
Laughing, I put my phone in my pocket and attempted to stuff the papers back in order—stopping once I saw my signature. Forged.
Confused, I sifted through the other papers-noticing the same thing.
What is this?
“Let’s go, Daddy!” Emma tugged on my pants.
I tucked the folder underneath my arm and clasped her hand. “Your nap today is going to have to last for at least five hours. Do you know that?”
“I don’t like naps.”
“Of course you don’t…” I walked her out of our apartment and to my car. As usual, Ava had slipped a note underneath the windshield wipers.
I love you—so very much, and it pains me to see you, someone with as much money and status as you have, driving a car like this. I know you’re modest, and the most expensive suit you own probably costs eighty dollars, but come on! You have to live, Liam!
I’m taking you car shopping next week and I’m not taking no for an answer,
PS—Thank you for the roses you sent me yesterday. I got you something special and placed it on your desk at the office.
I smiled and secured Emma into her car seat, giving in when she requested to listen to her favorite song on repeat while riding to the firm.
The sleek design of the building still took people’s breath away when they saw it for the first time. It was the one thing I spared no expense on when constructing; I made sure the translucent gold panels were state of the art, that the law scale statues were properly erected on marble ledges, and that the stone letters above the entrance—“Henderson & Hart” were polished every week.