"Quinby, what sort of benefits am I entitled to in the way of worker's compensation?"
I sighed and switched my cell phone to the other ear. "Um, I haven't made extensive plans for that, Caden. Why do you ask?" I dreaded the answer. No good could come of the fact that my sole employee was asking about workman's comp.
"Well, I had a little accident this morning while working on the Perkins' case and since I don't have regular insurance-"
"I'll pay for whatever you need done, Caden. What happened?"
"I got attacked by the neighbor's dog."
"Oh, no! Did anyone see you?"
A hoarse laugh came through the speaker. "I'm glad I have such a wonderful caring boss. I'm sitting on a metal table in the ER and she wants to know if anyone saw me."
"Well, since you called me and don't sound like you are in terrible pain or heavily doped, I assume the damage isn't too bad."
"Stitches and a tetanus shot." He replied, "Oh, and I'm probably going to need a new pair of pants."
"Charge it to your expense account." I said, "Only not a designer brand- I refuse to pay for that."
After I hung up with Caden, Garrett Whitson walked into my office holding a paper bag bearing the logo of the sub shop down the street. He handed over my sandwich.
"Did you remember the mustard?"
"Mustard?" he asked in a goofy voice, "Don't let's be silly." I rolled my eyes.
"I may have to leave and go down to Chelsea," I told him as he was leaving, "Caden just called me, he was at the ER getting stitches so I don't know if he will be able to work this afternoon."
"You might want to rethink that, Quinby." He replied, "Remember that memo Drake sent out this morning? All hands on deck for that meeting at one o'clock."
"I'd completely forgotten." I looked at the clock on my computer screen. "That's in thirty-five minutes. Do you have any idea what it's about?"
"Nothing good, I'm sure. He's been completely out of sorts ever since Winnie got here."
"Don't call him that, Garrett!" I scolded. 'Winnie' is technically Wynn Salisbury, Jr. and joined us at Salisbury and Ashton May 1st when his father and co-founder of the firm Wynn, Sr. had received a judicial appointment. The younger Mr. Salisbury is younger than both Garrett and I, and frankly, looks like he might still be in undergraduate school, not an attorney in a well-reputed firm.
"Oh, lighten up, Quinby." He flashed me one of his dazzling smiles that I suspect usually has the effect of making ladies melt and go along with whatever he wants. "It's not like he can hear me."
"Yes, but he is our boss and we should show him the highest level of respect." I molded my features into a chastening frown. "You're right about one thing, though, Mr. Ashton has been a bit testy lately. Why do you suppose that is?"
"Jealousy if you ask me. He and Wynn have been partners since Winnie was in kindergarten and now he has to give him equal management rights."
"I suppose that figures," I conceded, "Hopefully this ship rights itself soon, because I can't take much more of this."
"I think it would help if Winnie could pull off a big case solo. So far he's lost almost all of them, and he only salvaged the GILO Corporation one because Vanessa did all the talking."
"I thought she was just supposed to be co-counsel." I said. Vanessa Pederson is the junior partner at Salisbury and Ashton, and is, coincidentally, also older than Wynn, Jr.
"That's what Drake said, but once things got underway, Winnie had her do it all. He didn't even make the opening remarks."
"How do you know that?"
"Kaye called in sick that day, remember? I had to step in and take notes during the trial."
I started to ask if he thought Vanessa minded, but realized that this conversation was headed in the direction of gossip, and changed the subject to the current standing of the Baltimore Orioles, our favorite baseball team. As I expected, Garrett was eager to discuss an amazing play the night before made by J.J. Hardy, the Orioles' shortstop. By the time we had exhausted the subject of baseball, I only had time to wolf down my sandwich before the meeting. I took a pad of legal paper and a couple of pencils with me so I could take notes if I needed to. I walked into the conference room exactly on time. I had just sat down when Garrett came in with his notebook and pen. I was sitting across the table from Vanessa. Next to her was a young African-American woman. She wore a light purple satin blouse, no jewelry and only limited makeup. Not that she needed any cosmetics. I could easily find myself envious of her flawless skin. Her hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck, and on a second glance I realized she had dreadlocks, which I would find a bit creepy on some people, but she somehow managed to pull it off with elegance. Between her and Mr. Ashton was a blonde man, probably a few years older than me, average build with gray eyes, and wearing a gray suit and red brocade tie. Nothing spectacular about him since every other man in the room was similarly attired.
"Good afternoon everyone," Mr. Ashton said as Garrett sat down. "I'd like you all to meet Paisley Walsh and L.J. Cannon."
Ms. Walsh smiled shyly and dipped her head. I watched her with some confusion. Either she was some kind of an actress or she was genuinely shy. Salisbury and Ashton did not handle low profile cases of any kind and if I was involved it likely wasn't contract law either. So, what was up with her?
I didn't have to wait long to get my questions answered. "Paisley has been tried and convicted of kidnapping a child from the elementary school where she works in South Carolina. She has appealed for a change of venue and retrial, and we will be working in conjunction with Mr. Cannon as the case goes to trial here. There are a few factors that make this case a little tricky, and we are going to need everyone working on it."
"When is the trial date, Drake?" Vanessa asked.
"Tentatively July 24th, but I will probably request a continuance. That just isn't enough time to get things together."
No kidding. How we were supposed to prepare to try a case in six weeks when we'd never even heard of the principals previously was a mystery to me.
"Quinby will be leaving tomorrow morning to fly to South Carolina and re-investigate the case."
"Excuse me?" The words were out before I even thought about them. I was going where? When?
"You will be flying out of Philadelphia at 7:05 tomorrow morning and spending the next three weeks in Charleston investigating this case." I noticed Mr. Cannon tightened his lips at this point. Evidently so did Mr. Ashton, "Mr. Cannon has already had an investigator look into the matter. I have her contact information here so you two can meet up and exchange information.
So Mr. Cannon felt like we were saying his investigation wasn't good enough. We weren't, mind you, at least not at the present juncture, but he certainly felt so. Was that because of pride or guilt? Definitely something to remember.
"Now regarding the case itself." Mr. Ashton continued, "Ms. Walsh teaches at James Island Elementary. On February 16, 2011, Lowell Matteson, a nine-year-old student, did not return from recess. After conducting a search of the premises, school officials notified the police as well as the boy's parents. He was recovered two weeks later at a cabin near Hobcaw Creek, and Ms. Walsh was on the scene at the time." I sensed that this was about to get significantly worse. "Lawrence identified Ms. Walsh as his kidnapper." Sitting next to me, Garrett sighed.
Paisley met my gaze, "I didn't kidnap him." She said calmly, "I could never hurt a child."
"We know, Ma'am."
"Now, in addition to the criminal charges filed against Ms. Walsh," Mr. Ashton continued, "The family has chosen to bring a civil lawsuit against her too, petitioning for punitive damages for undue pain and suffering, and reimbursement for medical expenses incurred due to the psychiatric treatment Lawrence has needed as a result of the traumatic incident. A date has not yet been set for the hearing, but it will be held in Charleston, and I'll be going down there at the necessary time." Again Mr. Cannon tightened his jaw. I decided to behave myself warily around him. He clearly resented the fact that Ms. Walsh had engaged Salisbury and Ashton. "Now, we need to work hard on the civil case as well. Even if there were a dismissal of the criminal charges, the family may still bring the civil suit. In ad-"
"Drake?" Wynn interrupted his partner.
Mr. Ashton looked annoyed, "What?"
"I'm only on recess until 1:30. I have to be in the courtroom in five minutes. I don't think the Honorable Tom Griffin will be in good humor under the circumstances.
Mr. Ashton looked at the clock. "I have a meeting at quarter till. Get going. Quinby, I'll email you the full case file tonight. Everyone else, we will meet again Wednesday at 2:45 to discuss this further."
Mr. Cannon took Ms. Walsh's arm and was guiding her to the door. I stopped them. "Ms. Walsh, may I have a few moments with you?"
She smiled at me, "Of course. I'd be happy to answer anything you'd like to ask." She nodded to her attorney. "You can wait in the car. I'll be down shortly."
"If Mr. Cannon would like to go on, I'd be happy to drive you back to wherever you're staying." I said, "Since I'm going to be leaving in the morning, I might impose on you for more time than he would like to wait."
"That would be fine." Mr. Cannon frowned slightly at her agreement, but walked down the hall and out the door to the corridor.
"Let's go get a cup of coffee while we talk." I suggested, "It will be more comfortable than sitting in my office anyway."
"So where do you want to begin?" Ms. Walsh, who'd asked that I call her Paisley, asked about ten minutes later as we were sitting in a coffee house a few blocks away from the Salisbury and Ashton building.
"Well, let's talk first about the day Lawrence was found. I don't want to take up too much of your time, so I'm not going to go into all the facts, but just tell me what you were doing with him."
"That's simple enough." She replied, "I found him."
"I was a part of the volunteer search and rescue team assigned to the Mt. Pleasant area. We had been over at the Limbaker facility, and afterwards I went into the woods."
"No one went with you into the woods?" I asked.
"No one else was aware that there were cabins in those woods, and said we needed to wait for the dogs to go through such a heavily wooded area." Paisley replied.
"How did you know about the cabins?"
"My family used to own a large parcel of land around Hobcaw Creek. I mean like fifty or sixty years ago. The cabins were on our neighbor's property, but he remained good friends with my grandparents for the rest of their lives, and when I was a little girl we would go up there on weekends during the summer."
"So you just started going through the cabins in order?"
She nodded, "I guess you'd say that. There isn't furniture in any of them anymore, so it was pretty easy to just open the doors and look in. Lawrence was in the middle cabin."
"Was he restrained in any way?"
Paisley nodded and tears came to her eyes, "Yes, he'd been put in a sleeping bag and the top closed with one of those nylon zip ties."
"I assume you freed him," I prompted.
"Of course. I had a knife with me and cut through the plastic and unzipped the bag. That I guess is what part of my problem was. The police weren't able to find any fingerprints except mine. But what was I supposed to do, Quinby? Cell phones don't work out there. I couldn't leave him and walk back to get the police."
"For what it's worth, I'd have done the same thing." I assured her. "Now when you got Lawrence out of the sleeping bag, did he say anything? Respond to you in any way?"
She thought for a moment, "Not really. I mean, he was, I guess you'd say dazed. Or maybe in shock, I don't know. He kind of opened his eyes, and said my name- you know like he was surprised to see me. Then he faded out again, and in less than a minute the cops showed up."
"How did the police find out so quickly? I thought you said cell phones don't work there."
"They don't. I guess I'd been gone a pretty good while, so one of the people on our team decided to have the police come look for me in case I'd gotten lost. I really am glad they did, because they were able to get medical help for Lawrence right away."
"So, when did he identify you as his abductor?" I asked, "Was it that day?"
Paisley shook her head, "No, he didn't regain consciousness for a couple of days. Not to the point of being coherent anyhow. And when the police asked him if he knew who'd kidnapped him, he said it was me."
"Do you have any theory why he would single you out?" I asked.
Another shake of the head, "Not a clue. We'd always gotten along well, he was an exceptional student. I have no idea why he would accuse me."
"Yet he picked you out of a lineup."
"Twice." She interjected.
I checked the time on my phone, "There's a lot more I would like to ask you, but I've got to get back to the office and get some things taken care of before I leave in the morning. Where are you staying?"