The People VS Joshua Pent – Animosity

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Equanimity

Where is she?

Steven flicked his cigarette, causing the ash that had accumulated at its tip to fall down to the ground. He then brought it back to his mouth and inhaled, the blue-grey smoke of the cancer stick filling his lungs. He kept the breath in for a while, giving time for a heavy dose of nicotine to fill his blood, and then slowly let the smoke filled air escape his lungs.

The rush felt good, and the light buzz doubly so. For those few seconds Steven had experienced bliss, though it wasn’t long before the feeling was gone, and he was thinking about Helen again.

Could it be she’s learnt of my phone call with the prosecution? Is it possible they called her up to confirm our new arrangement?

He was standing outside the Jean & Jean Rehabilitation Centre, the place where his client Joshua had spent nearly a year of his life.  He’d spent a few minutes inside sitting in the waiting room, but Helen’s tardiness and the stale and antiseptic feeling of the place made Steven feel uncomfortable, and so he decided to wait outside.

Helen’s absence from the centre seemed a bit off.  It was, after all, her idea to come by and visit this place.

“It will help us understand what exactly he went through for a year while he put the pieces back together,” she’d said.

Helen had paused after giving her explanation, as though she expected Steven to rebut her idea. When it became apparent that Steven had no intention of giving an opinion on the matter, she added: “Also, it will give us a chance to meet his doctor.”

They’d scheduled to meet at the centre at 2pm, with the goal of first walking around and touring the facility, followed by an interview with Joshua’s doctor. It was now almost 3pm, and Helen still hadn’t shown up. Steven had tried calling her cell phone, leaving her a voicemail, even sending her a text, but there was no response.

What if she had been contacted by the prosecutors?  If she found out…

Steven tried to regain his composure by taking another long drag from his now almost finished cigarette. As he inhaled, he couldn’t help but notice his hand was shaking.

If she found out, he would be disgraced. Not only that, but he would definitively be fired, and probably even disbarred. But what were his options? If he sat by and did nothing, if they pursued the not-guilty plea as Helen was so keen on doing, then they would most certainly lose the case.

No. Steven couldn’t lose a case. Not so early in his career.

He took a final puff of his cigarette and threw it to the ground, stepping on it with his left foot. He pulled out his phone and tried Helen once more. As the call rang against his ear, a security guard walked up to him.

“Excuse me sir,” the guard started, “can I help you with something?”

Steven hung up the call – that had been again sent to voicemail – and smiled back.

“What, eh, no, I’m ok thanks,” Steven produced as a response.

“This is private property, I’m going to have to ask that you pick up your cigarette and continue on your way,” the guard said.

“My what?”

The guard pointed down at the flattened cigarette filter.

“Oh, sorry,” Steven said as he bent down and picked up his litter. “There, all gone.”

The guard’s eyes remained fixed on the lawyer.

“Do you have any business here today sir?” he asked

“Yes, yes in fact I’m here to meet Dr. Lubb.” Then reaching out to shake the guard’s hand: “Steven Lee, I’m the defense attorney for that whacko nutjob who shot up the church on 3rd a couple of weeks back.”

The guard remained still as Steven shot his arm back to his side.

“Not big on handshakes?” Steven said with half a chuckle.

The guard stared for a while longer. Finally, he said: “You mean Joshua Pent?”

“Huh?” Steven answered

“You mean ‘you’re the defense attorney for Joshua Pent’?”

“Yea, I have an appointment with his doctor. I’m just waiting for my partner.”

“We’ll,” the guard spoke slowly, “this facility is non-smoking, mister defense lawyer, sir.”

Steven stood perplexed.  Had the guard just called him ‘mister defense lawyer, sir’?

“Maybe you’d like to check our reception area,” the guard continued. “It has a nice waiting room where I’m sure you can sit and wait for that partner for yours.”

Steven turned to where the guard was pointing, a windowed area of the building with a large steel door and a sign that read “Reception”.  He didn’t want to go back in there, but he also didn’t want any trouble.

“Alright, well thank you for the help,” Steven replied, adding under his breath: “mister security guard sir.”

Before he could walk away, the guard grabbed his arm and pulled him back, whispering in his ear: “For the record: Josh isn’t a whacko nutjob. I saw that kid go through hell and back over a period of a year, and in spite of any problems he may still have – and he definitely still has problems – he’s no murderer. You’d be best to remember that before you start doing like everyone else around here and assuming the worst of him.”

On any other day Steven would have shouted, spat, or even punched the man that now held his sleeve. Today, however, was different. The voice in the back of his head knew the guard was right, knew how everyone had assumed the worst right away, and knew that, as the man’s defense lawyer, he had not been doing his job well.

He nodded slowly without saying a word, and began walking to the reception area, trying to contain his trembling.  He felt the guard stare at him from behind, and for the first time since he had started working on the case, felt guilt at how he had behaved, and the kind of person he had become.

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