Ed. note: Welcome to ATL’s first foray into serial fiction. “My Job Is Murder,” a mystery set in a D.C. appellate boutique firm, will appear one chapter at a time, M-W-F, over the next few weeks. Prior installments appear here; please read them first.
The author, a former appellate lawyer, wishes to emphasize that any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Except for the geeky stuff. Appellate lawyers really are that geeky.
Susanna Dokupil can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Facebook.
The waiter’s arrival with their food gave him a few moments reprieve. Mark and Alex had cheeseburgers with dill havarti and fries served in a tall silver cone with a trio of condiments: ketchup, barbeque, and honey mustard. Katarina had a chicken caesar, but with the chicken strips stacked like Lincoln Logs. What nonsense, thought Tyler. Then his pepperoni pizza arrived — in five small round pizzettes stacked vertically at one-inch intervals on a braced skewer.
“Leaning Tower of Pizza, get it?” the waiter asked. Katarina laughed. Tyler was not amused, however, as he now had to eat this edible architectural marvel politely in front of his co-workers.
As Tyler mentally debated the question of hands v. utensils, Spencer walked up with his own lunch entourage. Class: New Partner. Intelligence: High. Top of his class at University of Virginia. Charisma: average. Alignment: Hard work. Spencer had no time for alignments. He was too busy billing. Experience Points: ~3500? Spencer had been a rising star since the day he set foot in the firm as a summer associate, and no one was surprised when he made partner the first year he was up.
Spencer skipped the usual round of introductions and went straight to Mark. “Veronica’s suing the firm,” he said grimly.
Veronica, Tyler knew, was an associate who had recently lateraled to another firm after learning she was unlikely to make partner. Standards were higher in this economy. Class: 7. Experience points: 2200/yr, but low Intelligence. Charisma: Above average. She wasn’t Tyler’s type, but he knew her reputation among the firm’s bachelors.
“What, she didn’t make partner because she’s a woman?” asked Mark.
“No, she’d never make that shtick. Sexual harassment. By Dick Schlosh.” said Spencer.
“Schlosh?” Tyler asked. Class: Hiring Partner. Intelligence: High. Charisma: Zero. Alignment: Dick. Schlosh cared about one thing: himself. An eccentric appellate lawyer in his 50s, Schlosh never took his nose out of a Federal Reporter long enough to notice anyone or anything that wasn’t directly related to a brief.
“I don’t believe it for a second,” Mark said. “But we can hardly afford either the bad publicity or the litigation in this economy. Do you think they’ll settle?”
“Not sure,” said Spencer. “There’s a meeting this afternoon. I went up to see Ken Thrax earlier and heard him complaining to someone in his office about it at a fairly loud volume. I decided to come back later.”
“I can’t believe Veronica actually has the nerve to bring this lawsuit,” said Mark.
“Veronica’s work was terrible. I worked with her on a case one time, and she nearly got our motion for summary judgment tossed out because she didn’t check the local rules. Fortunately, I had practiced in the Southern District before, so I knew that we had to have a motion separate from the brief in support. She would never have made partner, regardless.”
Tyler hated office gossip. But he hated looking out-of-the loop even more than he hated office gossip, so he feigned interest.
“Do we know if she filed an internal complaint?” asked Tyler. He seemed to remember that was necessary from those mind-numbingly dull training meetings.
“Well, who would believe her?” asked Spencer. “Veronica liked to brag about her exploits. Chances are, she made a last-ditch effort to save her job, and it didn’t pay off. Maybe her new job isn’t working out either, and she’s got nothing to lose.”
“I wonder if Dick Schlosh is still going to want to meet about my 50-state survey on the liability of a corporate director for actions taken in a meeting he didn’t attend,” said Katarina. Tyler suspected the crinkle in the corners of her eyes reflected a now-useless all-nighter, but he said nothing.
Susanna Dokupil is a former appellate lawyer who abandoned regular employment in favor of raising four kids. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Earlier: Prior installments of My Job Is Murder