Part One: The Case

Chapter Eight

    Moss met with his client again the morning of her deposition. Emmy was in school. Terry looked good, like a working mom, in a plaid jacket and gabardine skirt, not especially stylish, no shoulder pads, lustrous hair swept back and held by a wooden band. No buttons with slogans. Moss himself was less disheveled than usual. For luck he wore a rubber band on his right wrist as he always had for trials, client depositions, and combat patrols in the Republic of Vietnam.


The prep was a waste. The woman was uncoachable. ... "Here's the thing," Terry said. "I intend to tell the truth truthfully. Meaning not your words and nothing planned."


    Crutchfield joined them to play the part of Basteen. The prep was a waste. The woman was uncoachable. She took Crutchfield's corrections as insistence that she lie. Moss observed a categorical imperative at work. She would act according to the principles she would have govern everyone. She had no trouble discarding Moss's admonitions not to volunteer, nor to guess, to pause and think before answering, to keep her cool. Likewise his suggestions for artfully skirting sensitive issues.
    "Here's the thing," Terry said. "I intend to tell the truth truthfully. Meaning not your words and nothing planned."
    "Great. Spontaneity will please Basteen."
    "I'm who I am," she insisted. "Who else is this about but me?"
    "Jerome Basteen is who. Your mortal enemy. He'll trap you. He'll twist what you say."
    "I won't descend to his level." She smiled. "Why should I? Life is short."
    "Yes." His wife had mentioned something similar.
    "So I may as well be, what? Authentic?"
    She was.
    In the Junker and Wylie conference room Jerome Basteen was passing time with his court reporter, a young woman with short blond hair, dark eyebrows, a prominent labial mole, a slit skirt. He greeted Moss cavalierly, as though he were tangential to the business at hand. He gave Terry, when introduced, a brief inspection and curt nod. "You know Dr. Bondurant," Basteen remarked to them both. Moss turned to the far end of the black table where the defendant sat, fingers locked in front of him, as if presiding.
    Their eyes met and stayed. It was different this time.
    "Terry," Bondurant said. "You look good. And Peter." He stood and extended his hand.
    Moss walked the length of the table to shake it.  Peter? They never made it to first-name familiarities in the Fisher case. Some risk-management tip on how to condescend to a plaintiff's lawyer?
    "It's been a long time," Bondurant said without obvious irony.
    "Too long." Moss smiled.
    He explained the self-serve coffee pots on the warming plate. "I'll pass," Terry said. "Me neither," said the court reporter. Bondurant asked for a Coke.  "Bottled water," Basteen said. "If you have it." Moss let his secretary know.
    Presence was important to Basteen's style of lawyering. Presence required a coordinated effect. The effect included a dove gray BMW 750iL, a pearl Armani suit, a tie with twilit patterns of tropical vegetation, and woven Italian loafers. It included close-cut hair and mustache, nailhead cufflinks, long manicured fingers, a calculating grin. To be sure it included his great height, taller than Moss, and the trim physique to which the suits were tailored. In Basteen, everything—color, shape, pattern, size—meshed to maximize the capacity to control. There was a unifying theme, a tone and richness—muted gold, in the burnish in the swirling tie, the woof of the threads of his socks, all the places he quietly gleamed. Muted, in the suggestion rather than the declaration of opulence. Muted, not in the sense of discretion but of reserve. Of withheld threat.


Jerome Basteen conducted a highly tight-assed deposition. He never strayed from his initial mind-set. Every question was leading, closed.


    Jerome Basteen conducted a highly tight-assed deposition. He never strayed from his initial mind-set. Every question was leading, closed. He interrupted if he was failing to get the answer he wanted. He asked a question again and again. Consequently he rarely appeared to learn anything, but he could beat you down and make you say what he wanted.
    Some trial lawyers are effective because they're imaginative. Some are effective at power trips. Basteen belonged with the latter. Crutchfield called him three times a bully. A Seventeenth Street bully. A ROMPIC bully. And a big black bully. His combination of statuses had tricked him into thinking he could get away with anything—lying to judges, hiding evidence, humiliating witnesses. Basteen had come to adore status. In the glare of status he'd gone ethically blind.
    But there were ways to rattle him. Sitting slightly to his rear and side when he was examining could lead him to suspect you were trying to read his notes. A few cranings of the neck and fake bored look-arounds could get him actively paranoid and losing his thread. Another technique, a grave taunt best held in reserve, was to refer to him as Jerry.
    Moss seated Terry and himself with the windows at their backs. Bondurant joined his counsel opposite them. The court reporter positioned her machines at the head of the gleaming table. She put a finger to a lip and inclined Basteen's way. He nodded for her to begin. Terry was sworn, and Basteen's picked and filed fingernails converged.
    "Ms. Winter, you were diagnosed with breast cancer—"
    "October 28, 1992," she said. "I know it better than my daughter's birthday."
    "You are suing my client because you got cancer."
    "No."
    "What are you suing him for?"
    She thought a while. "It's a process of working things through. Figuring things out."
    "You are in fact suing Dr. Bondurant for money, isn't that it?"
    "Objection," Moss said. Moss was restricted to a passive role. He could object but not intervene unless it got truly out of hand.
    "I don't know. I'm not suing him for money."
    "You've had, what, three failed marriages?"
    "You could say that."
    "How has that affected your feelings toward men?"
    "For crying out loud," she muttered to Moss.
    "Do you hate my client because he's a man?"
    "I don't think I hate your client. I don't understand your client."
    Bondurant rolled a shoulder. He squinted hard into the winter light silhouetting his former patient. Terry held his look until it dropped.
    Bondurant was a burly ex-ballplayer at Brigham Young who might have been intimidating, Moss observed, but for a certain lack of definition. Rounded and sloped, domed on top, oval face, dull gray eyes. Compared to his counsel, not a natty guy. Short sleeves again, permanent press, discount tie. Off line, off era. He could pass for an airline pilot. A hell of a grip, however. Big, pink, hairy hands, as though blistered by the cold.
    "Can we agree," Basteen quietly continued, "you are suing Dr. Bondurant because you got sick and you blame him for it?"
    "No," Terry said. "It's because I trusted him."
    "Oh?" Basteen cracked a satiric smile. "You're being coy. Now answer my question."
    "Objection. Asked and answered."
    "Because I trusted him.  And for my daughter."
    An eyebrow went up. "So you want money for her?"
    "No. Because I want to teach her."
    "Teach her what? How to scam the system?"
    Bondurant grunted approval. As a party he could attend any deposition but was not allowed to take part in the colloquy, the on-the-record exchange.
    "How to stand up for yourself," Terry said slowly, and to Moss, "You were right about this guy."
    "How old were you at menarche?"
    "What?"
    "When did you first begin menstruating?"
    "What are you asking me? Can he ask me that?"
    "When did you begin having periods? Monthly periods?"
    "I have to answer this?"
    Moss frowned and nodded. Early menarche was a breast cancer risk factor.
    She leaned her forearms against the table edge. "I don't know. Twelve, fourteen, somewhere in there."
    "Be more exact."
    "Can't."
    "When did you first engage in sexual intercourse?"
    "Fuck you, asshole."
    Basteen's smile broadened. He shot his cuffs and repeated the question.
    "That one don't answer," Moss said.
    "Nikki, please mark the transcript." Basteen had a conniving familiarity with the court reporter. She played back to him, mole-side forward, in the way she crossed her leg, arched her back. How she watched his mouth as she popped the keys.
    "Ms. Winter, how many abortions have you had?"
    "Good Lord."
    "Keep it up," Moss said, "and I'll terminate this sucker."
    Basteen appraised Moss a few moments. He expressed disapproval. "Are you instructing your client not to answer my question?"
    "Damn straight I am."
    "Mark it please, Nikki. Ms. Winter, answer the question."
    "I instruct my client not to answer," Moss said.
    "Ms. Winter, your complaint alleges my client's negligence has harmed your sexuality. Do you masturbate?"
    "Instruct not to answer. One more and we adjourn."
    "Would you like my husband to know about the questions you're asking?" Terry asked.  She gave Basteen a vivid look.
    "In this deposition I ask the questions, Ms. Winter. You don't ask the questions. You answer the questions."
    "I'll answer my question," she said. "You would not like my husband to know what you're asking. No, you would not."
    Bondurant had tensed, Moss noticed, massaging a fist as he tracked question and response. With a feeling of revulsion Moss understood that this was what he had come for. It was what Bondurant expected from his lawyer. He'd come for spectator sport.

Chapter Nine

     The examination turned to the harm caused Terry by the failure to diagnose her cancer. This was less a subject of interest to the defendant. He sat, chin on palm distorting his features in a loose grimace, dreaming off at the sidewalk traffic beyond the blinds. He looked inert as a model on a set between shoots, but he did not look like a model.
    “Are you presently unable to work,” Basteen asked, “as a result of my client’s alleged negligence?”
    Terry collected her thoughts. “Can’t make a living dancing at the Bustop.”
    “Have you worked in the past as an exotic dancer?”
    She sighed. “No, no.”
    “What do you do for a living?”
    “I work with animals.”
    “You work with animals?” Basteen looked her up and down with amused and prurient incredulity.
    She smiled back. “Dogs are people too.”
    “Summarize you prior work history.”
    “Prior? First job after high school was clerk at the Walsenburg DMV. Driver’s license tests, eye tests, took their pictures, toes on the line.  Rolled their thumbs in the ink. Want more?”
    Basteen shook his head as he made a bored pass through his notes, pencil eraser tapping his tongue. “What next?”
    “DMV was followed by a run of waiting tables, time behind the bar. Some college if you’re interested. This and that.”
    “And?”
    “College wasn’t too helpful as it developed. You know how that is.”
    Basteen didn’t seem to. Nor, from his expression, did Bondurant.
    “And then?”
    “Ranch hand on and off a couple years. A little rodeo. Barrels. Three-jump cowgirl in my day.”
    “What else?”
    “Livery work. Farrier’s helper. Trucker’s helper. That was Bud’s Horse and Mule Transport. Dashing Through the Snow Sleighrides was one winter. Tack shop. Horse of Course. Wild horse rescue, off and on, which was my passion, actually.”
    “Continue, Ms. Winter.”
    “That brings us up to last year and the pet grooming business. Putting on the Dog Curbside Pet Salon. Animal sitter on the side. You got a dog? I’ll do your coat, trim your nails, express your anal glands, and throw in a blow dry for nineteen bucks.”
    He stared at her, pencil aloft.
    “How about it? Any takers?”
    “Shall we proceed, Ms. Winter?”
    “Special rates for lawyers.”
                                                                                                                                         Harmful Intent, pp. 47–54.


Spanish Valley, Utah. Photo by Baine Kerr

Spanish Valley, Utah. Photo by Baine Kerr

Silver Mormon light welled the length of Spanish Valley and the warming air stirred.

A pad of orange clouds took shape, then waves of fiery orange. . . .  Sunrise struck her as a struggle, day against night.  . . . 'The light that puts out our eyes is darkness to us' . . . Her lush black hair luffed on a breeze.

Harmful Intent, p. 154.


Chapter Thirteen


    "Peter?" Lata was ringing. "We have an awkward situation. Downstairs." There was an accelerated clip to her Oxbridge locution, something between impatience and hysteria. "A gentleman would like to see you."
    "Friend or foe?"
    "He's having a bad day," she whispered.
    "Name?"
    "Watch out. He's coming up."
    The man immediately was at Moss's office. He let himself in and closed the door. He stood a mini-cassette recorder on the desk and punched Record. "O.K., shyster," he said. "Where is she?"
    "Who the hell are you?"
    "I think you know."
    Warren Winter had a pricked blond ponytail and pharmaceutically enhanced vulpine look. Leather jacket over a tight T-shirt. A lot of Y-time on the free weights. On the T-shirt was a winged skull in a squared-off cap with a bayonet in its teeth and the words DEATH FROM ABOVE.
    So they had something in common.
    Moss knew the type.  The ones who volunteered for tunnels, fragged lieutenants, broke into survival kits for Dex and amyl nitrite. The ones who loved it over there.
    "Last time I saw her she wouldn't talk with me. Said, 'Talk to my lawyer.' Here I am."
    "Here you are."
    Winter had a high-pitched voice you wouldn't want to get caught imitating. He had seemingly unlidded eyes.
    "So where is she?"
    "Why do you want to see her?"
    "She has my kid. She's running up bills. I got a right."
    Moss imagined Winter's lidless eyes do a split-second Roger Rabbit whirligig. Something highly lipid-soluble shooting past the blood-brain barrier.
    "Caseworker says she took my baby out of school. That's not right. I want my kid. Get the picture?"
    Moss said nothing.
    "You think I'm stupid?"
    "No, I don't think you're stupid." Moss looked him over. "Airborne? Ranger unit?"
    Winter evaluated Moss.  "You in Nam?"
    Moss nodded.
    "Let me hear it."
    "Americal, one-ninety-sixth. Infantry."
    "Pussy outfit."
    "Followed by LLRP. Followed by stockade." Let him wonder why. "You?"
    "Same as you."
    Hell of a note, both of them Lurps. What to make of that? Nothing he could think of.
    "I knew Calley," Moss said.
    "Yeah?"
    "Sawed-off little racist punk."
    "I was Calley," Winter said.
    A joke, Moss surmised. He smiled.
    "That's the difference between you and me. You're a relativist. I'm an absolutist."
    "Maybe that's the difference."
    "I am a fucking purist." Winter began to chuckle. He clicked off the recorder and put it in a pocket. "You understand I'm married to the bitch. I got a stake in this operation. My esquire tells me I got claims already. Consortium loss."
    "You have a lawyer?"
    "When you wife won't sleep with you, that's consortium loss, correct?"
    "Not in your case."
    "Hey, don't get personal on me, snakehead. You sleeping with her now?" He winked, eyelid after all.


                                                                                                                                    Harmful Intent, pp. 78–80.


Part Two: The Client

Chapter One

 

    Nine-thirty one night Terry finally phoned him. The office bottle stood breathing on the credenza. Outside, a Broadway nocturne of soughing tires and muttering exhausts. Moss had drifted off highlighting journal articles on monoclonal antibodies. The burr of the phone startled and annoyed him. His mood took a surly turn. 
    "What's shaking?" She was checking in from a roadhouse in the east county where she'd taken a job. The Sugar Beat. Moss said she had to come in that week. Say what? Terry yelled over pounding country percussion.  The music broke.
    "You've got to come see me."
    "God, you sound like Warren!"
    The band was on an amphetamine tear. It did not pause long.
    "Hey. That's me. Bah bah bah living on Tulsa time . . . ."
    Moss hung up.

    A few days later there she was. Jeans, check blouse, boots, half-yard of shiny black hair. Emmy in tow with a yellow Walkman and Big Gulp. An appliqué sweatshirt.
    "New button?" RETURN THE WOLF, RESTORE THE BALANCE.
    "You bet, bring 'em back."
    "Sit down," Moss said. He wasted no time setting in on her for blowing off her oncologist, a crucial witness predisposed to protect Bondurant and no one to alienate.
    "Sorry. I'm past doctors."
    "You can't be past doctors."
    She gave her serious head of hair a toss and shake. "Allopathy. Thing of the past."
    "They'll think you're a flake."
    "Why who?"
    "Jurors."
    "Jurors are just people."
    "Precisely the problem."
    "Sorry. I'm becoming myself. That's the concept. Not somebody's patient."
    "You're still somebody's client."
    "Hey, cowboy!" She was pointing.
    Moss had on that day his oft-soled wore-out Luccheses, cracked and crazed across the vamps, rimed from waterstains.
    "Bet I know where you got them boots," Terry said. Emmy put a fist to her mouth.
    The Luccheses had been a graduation present, law school, from Moss's in-laws in Wichita. "Where?"
    "You got 'em on your feet."
    Emmy yelped and stamped her sneakers.
    "As a matter of fact," Moss said, "I got these boots in Central America."
    "Central America? What part of Central America?"
    "Central Kansas."
    Emmy hit the floor stricken with giggles.
    "Girl, you get in my dope again? Just kidding, Counselor."
    "Better be kidding."
    "Just a little laugh therapy, according to Cousins."
    "Well," Moss puffed up some. "My job's not therapy. My job is to try cases. Want to know about your case?"
    She studied him critically. "I like having a lawyer," she said at length. "You hear people say my lawyer this, my lawyer that. But it in fact is kind of cool having one."
    Moss shook his head in some amazement. "Do you want to know about your case?" This woman had a lot to learn.
    "Good news only."
    He explained Moschetti's results. Good news was not how she took it. She took it hard.
    "What are you telling me? I just thought he was dumb." Her clenched fist loosened. The fingers danced.
    "He did not miss your tumor. He found your tumor three years before biopsy. He knew it was there all along. We've got him by the short ones."
    "Bullshit." He was shocked to see her eyes filling with tears. "What was he doing to me? Did he want me to die?"
    Emmy stared queerly at her mother. She seemed to go pale.


Moss was shocked further by his realization then that he was no closer to understanding the case. Motivation ought to be relevant. The legal question is whether there were deviations from standard care, not why. But in this case motivation figured large.


    Moss was shocked further by his realization then that he was no closer to understanding the case. Motivation ought to be relevant. The legal question is whether there were deviations from standard care, not why. But in this case motivation figured large. Motivation had to be known for truth to cohere, for meaning. What, like Holmes's dog that did not bark at night, was Moss still missing? He had a lot to learn.
    "Mom." Emmy's pallor persisted, tears welling also, though her expression was rigid and fearful and unlike that of a sobbing child. "I want to go," she pleaded.
    "We're gone. Sorry, Peter. I can't deal with this on top of everything." She stood. "Let me know when you figure it out." She strained a smile.
    "Hold it." Moss felt a surge of annoyance. Terry Winter was beginning to look like a problem client. Hard to reach, out of touch, life falling to pieces. No home, truant daughter, sociopathic husband on her trail. Refusing medical treatment. Hanging out at the Sugar Beat Saloon. Irrational, ungrateful, demanding, uncooperative. No, they could not go yet. "You've got to get a hold of yourself. You've got to pull together."
    "I've been pulling, brother. Believe me."
    "For Emmy's sake." Playing the kid card, for client control. The kid card blew up in his face.
    "You're over the line," she flashed.
    Those were real sparks he'd struck. "No, Terry. I'm doing my job."
    "He's stupid. Stupid, stupid," Emmy muttered, face instantly flushed, staring at her feet. "Mr. Lawyer. Mr. Sue People and Go to Jail."
    Moss sighed. These women had him coming and going. "Look, Terry. You have a strong case, that's all. We caught Bondurant lying. Big-time lie. You should know that. Focus on the big picture. Strong claim. Good settlement for you and your daughter. This other stuff, what goes on in the case, is not what matters. Schoolyard posturing. Doesn't mean anything."
    "What matters?"
    Moss paused then went ahead. "Your life."
    "You don't mean my life. You mean whether I live. Or not. Or die."
    "Yes. That does matter."
    "How are you going to help me with that one? Visualization exercises? Groucho Marx videos? Boost my beta-carotene?"
    Moss shook his head. "Not my job."
    "Job again. What's the job exactly?"
    "I prepare lawsuits and I try them. I squeeze insurance companies for money."
    "That." She considered him almost compassionately. "Want to know what I think matters?"
    He did.
    "Not life, not death, but what you do. Not what happens to you, not who you are. But what you do with what you got."
    She had his attention. He'd felt that way once.
    "You need to understand. I am a wild goose. Every morning is a brand-new day."
    She watched him with a mixture of conviction and apology. She smiled.
    "So you're my lawyer. Go get 'em." She actually gripped his shoulder. "Kill 'em, cowboy. For me."
   

 

                                                                                                                                         Harmful Intent, pp. 120–124.

 


Chapter Three

    The thematic decor of the Sugar Beat Saloon and Salad Bar unexpectedly favored the nautical over the vegetable. Inauspiciously, the Sugar Beat had begun as the High Plains Lobster Pot and frayed hawsers still fringed the bar. Japanese glass buoys were hanging in macramé bags. Behind the bar, cracking sail across a massive smoked-glass mirror, a majestic illuminated plastic replica of the Golden Hind ran down a darkened sea.
    Adjoining the bar were a plank dance-floor and drinking area scattered with cheap tables and chairs. Along a wall the salad bar lay wilting under a glass hood incongruously etched with likenesses of cows. There were complimentary beer signs, beer posters, beer clocks, and bubbling beer mobiles and lamps. From the poolrooms in the back came sounds of cracking balls and measured low deprecations and taunts. Arenas for decorous, ritualized surrogate combat. Like courtrooms. Moss was warned away from the poolrooms, Lakota country, where mean drunk bottle smashers in shoulder-length braids would gut you over a quarter game. Terry had given the warning. She worked the bar in a sleeveless, fuchsia Sugar Beat blouse. The Golden Hind in full sail behind her lent drama to her words.
    "Lakotas're my buds," she said. "Not yours. They're why Warren won't come in. He sits in the lot in his blue truck waiting and we slip out back while my buddies keep him occupied. That is getting old, I want to tell you. Time to move on."
    Moss said nothing.
    "Lightning's the other reason he stays outside." A tail thumped behind her. "Meet Lightning." A brindled gray dingo named not for his speed, she explained, but because he looks like he got struck by a bolt.
    Moss nodded.
    "So how about a beer? On the house?"
    He shook his head.
    "How come you looking at me like that?"
    He frowned.
    "There you go again."
    "Jesus." He glanced away, eyes coming to rest on a tacked-up broadside for the house band. Sugar Daddy and the Beetniks.
    "So you figure it out yet?" she asked.
    "What?"
    "Which cow ate the cabbage." She matched his blank look. "Why the good doctor kept my tumor secret."
    Moss shook his head. He reached deep for professional distance but he just felt tired.
    "Remember when I first came in, that's what you said you'd do. Figure it out."
    Moss didn't really remember.
    "I remain interested," she smiled. She didn't look like someone who was dying. Moss became self-conscious and shook off his stare.
    A door shut to some chamber off the bar. "Emmy," Terry explained. "What do you call homework when you're already home schooling?"
    "Just work, I guess."
    "Report due on Call of the Wild."
    "Good story."
    "Great story. Now tell me what you think about my doctor."
    "I don't know," Moss said. "What I think's not what matters."
    "Yeah?" He got an irked and speculative look. "Then what brings you out to the honky-tonk, cowboy? Friday dance don't start till nine."
    He exhaled impatiently. "Let me be frank. I'm worried about you, Terry."
    "Let me be Terry. I'm worried about you, Frank."
    He sighed.
    "Forget it. Laugh therapy. Don't worry about me, though. Worry about the case."
    Did she not grasp the connection?
    He looked at her like that again.
    "Why didn't you tell me you were dying?"
    Terry stiffened. She tried to sound annoyed. "Come all the way out here to rag me out?"
    "Terry?"
    "Some things I don't even tell myself," she said quietly. "I don't want Emmy in on this." She glanced down the bar toward the shut door.
    "You haven't told her either."
    "I can't. I mean, I want to do it right but I just can't yet."
    Moss looked away. He must have carried a hurt expression.
    "I was going to tell you when the time came," she said.
    "Emmy ought to know."
    "My mother never talked to me and I was nearly grown."
    "Nobody much talked about cancer then."
    "Cancer makes you truthful, huh. Got to be my little joke."
    "How are you doing? Honestly. Seriously."
    "Scared shitless when I think about it. Scared shitless but I don't want my kid to know so I don't think about it. And my kid doesn't know."
    "How're you doing physically?"
    She shook her head again. "As a matter of fact I happen to be getting sicker, on top of everything else."
    "Else?"
    "Things are coming to a kind of head. Warren," she stopped to contemplate what she was about to say, "has become capable of extreme acts. He calls the county with such bullshit. I neglect his child, I abuse his child. Tells the caseworker we're out here doing God knows what all, making porn videos, who knows what he says, what he'll do next."
    There was a skirl of panic in her voice.
    "See the irony? Bastard uses the government against me. The woman said she's forced to investigate."
    "I'll call. I know the director."
    "Too late. Caseworker's coming out Monday. I get to explain how a bar's a nurturing environment." She summoned up a credible smile. "But thanks."
    They stood a while facing each other across the bar. He twiddled at the hawser.


"I am a dying person, Peter, like you said." She put her hand in her jeans pocket. "I accept that. Treatment means a longer death. Sicker sooner, sicker longer, and doctors in charge. That's all it means."


    "This shouldn't have happened to you," he said.
    "I'm interested in why it did."
    "I just can't believe you're dying."
    She looked at her lawyer as if he were God's own idiot.

    "Your doctor wants me to give you her love."
    That produced a wry, retrospective lift of her lips. She was pleased but unmoved.
    "Anita wanted me to join a support group called Bosom Buddies."
    "Jesus."
    "Peter, listen, I am sorry I didn't keep you abreast of my condition."
    "Terry."
    "What a boob I was."
    "For Christ's sake, Terry."
    "Enough breast-beating."
    "Jesus."
    How come everything I say, you say Jesus?"
    "I don't know."
    "It's like so original."
    "No."
    "Isn't it?"
    "God."
    Moss appraised his client with branching ambivalence. He supposed he was getting nowhere. He would like the beer, he said, vodka back.
    She pulled the Coors tapcock to a titled glass and set it on a drain. Chrome nozzle high above the rim, she struck a double shotglass brimfull with clear liquor. She reached around to hand him the drinks and her left hand flew away. The shot sprayed and splashed his sleeve, the glass bounced and shattered.
    "Well, goddang." She cleaned up, got him another. "Like a stump-tailed bull switching at a fly."
    "Terry." He was becoming agitated; this is why he'd come. "You need treatment. You need to extend your life." Not for Emmy's sake. The kid card, he'd learned, wasn't a winner. Not for money—another loser. "For the case. For truth and justice. For you."
    "I am a dying person, Peter, like you said." She put her hand in her jeans pocket. "I accept that. Treatment means a longer death. Sicker sooner, sicker longer, and doctors in charge. That's all it means."
    "It means a longer life. It means you're there for trial. It means we get to tell your story. A jury gets to decide."
    "They want to nuke my brain." She let the stark iambics sink in. "This is me we're talking about and I'm just not interested."
    "If you don't get treatment I have to try to move the trial date."
    "You do what you need to in your department," she said. "And I will in mine."
    Moss glumly took a couple of swallows. He gave it a last lame shot.
    "It's crazy. You're giving up."
    "On medicine maybe. Hell I am on me."
    "It's not safe. You need medical care."
    "Ships are safest when they stay in port."
    The Golden Hind reinforced her point. Moss threw in the towel.
    "Peter, listen. Life's not measured by time. Thoreau was right."
    "By what is life measured?"
    "By how awake you are."
                                                                                                                                   Harmful Intent, pp. 139–144.


Chapter Five

    Maybe the boss wouldn't mind after all, borrowing his transportation, under the circumstances.
    Inside she turned the dead bolt and sliplocked the chain. Lightning's eyes followed her across the room, tail thumping softly. As always at this hour Emmy was asleep.
    Terry put her luggage on the bed and fished through for her things—Dr. Bronner's soap, spirolina, wobemugos tablets, aloe vera powder, mistletoe oil.
    In better days Warren built a raised bath for her at the ranch above Boulder. From the clawfoot tub could be seen their meadow, the line of fenceposts with bluebird boxes vanishing in the firs, the back range wavering in the air. After Walden, a brass plate on the tub was engraved with the bathing orison of King Tching-Thang:

    Renew thyself completely each day;
    Do it again and again and forever again.

    She stood before the motel bathroom mirror in a green robe and gray hiking socks.
    Henry. You're the man.
    She clawed into the hair above her forehead, loosened and pulled it away with a flourish, shook it out twice and hung it on a rock. She examined her appearance, a spiky-headed tough, and pressed her sore eyes.
    Henry knew pain was something to experience, to get a whole and genuine meanness of. But the phantom breast phenomenon he lacked.
    Henry lacked a phantom breast.
    Terry giggled, lit a stick of Five Hills incense, disrobed and showered.
    After drying, she observed herself further. Gnarly little broad. Scarred like a warrior. Amputee. Cyclops. Amazon. She liked what she saw, except for the trembling hand. She looked kind of awesome.
    If you don't like my peaches don't shake my tree.
    She began working in the oil along the diagonal slash and hollow of her chest, and from there behind her neck, her low back and down a leg, the places she hurt. She massaged her aching missing breast.
    Some of the medicines had sounded interesting, the methadone suppositories, and the morphine button had done wonders for daytime TV in the hospital.  But after nine courses of hard chemo, whoa Nelly! Pink piss? Mouth pitted with cold sores? Twists of hair slipping down the drain. Dry heaves and drizzling shits and fevers. The end of several decades' pleasure in sex. Her fingernails, a vanity, clubbed and broken like a bricklayer's.
    Those guys could do a number on the feminine mystique. Surgery for the maternal part, oncology to wrap up the rest of your sexuality.
    First we cut off a breast. Next we poison you. Then we fry your brain.
    Hey, I'm outta here!
    Terry reconsidered her reflection.  Gouged eyes, grunge hair, the rope vein across her temple like forked lightning. The warrior slash glistening with oil. Half woman, half ragged breastless beast. So I'm something else. Why not something better? Selected for some mission, to slay some fattened foe.
    She worked on her bra and fitted the foam I'm Me Again! prosthesis. Robed and wigged, she went to her daughter's side. Above the knotty pine bedstead, on the knotty pine wall, was a photographic print of Delicate Arch. She rocked Emmy's shoulder softly. The dog stretched and pulled at the single pile. Light was coursing in.
    Wake up, girl. Hit the deck. It's morning in America.
    To be awake is to be alive.

                                                                                                                                      Harmful Intent, pp. 154–156.


The border, like a hidden drop-off, the waveline of a reef. 

Then, above the desert, like a mirage, like Emmy’s eye mirroring back, seeing and seen, origin and destiny, the sweeping blue bias of the Mexican cordillera, the Sierra Madre, beyond which lay the sea.

                                                                                                                                                Harmful Intent, p. 161.

Nueces River, Edwards County, Texas.

Nueces River, Edwards County, Texas.

Chapter Five


    It rained all through Navajo land but still the desert steamed and glowed, torturing her eyes. The overcast didn't change though the sun moved behind it.
    Tucson was full of blue-and-white patrol cars and Terry dialed it down. There were endless tracts of gated communities, and rugs for sale along the frontages, furling on racks with animal faces, a bear, a Mickey Mouse, an eagle. Another eagle on a lawyer's billboard, and the stately cacti looking both indifferent and amused.
    South of the airbase the desert bloomed in the clearing light. Cholla and primrose caught the sun. Red-tufted ocatillo wands waved in the roadwash. Sand verbena pooled pink in the flats.
    Terry found an oldies station. Sam the Sham. You and Me and Rain on the Roof. Just as lame as when they first came out. She found a ranchera station. Emmy put her headphones on.
    They entered the wasteland of the Chihuahuan desert, greasewood, tarbrush, thorn acacia on caked caliche soil. Blockfault mountains like die cast on the desert floor. The Chiricahuas' welded columns hovering over the creosote plains.
    Geronimo country.
    "He had visions," Terry said. "He saw the future like you think you do."
    "What visions?"
    "Train, smoking the peacepipe, according to Yellowhorse. He lost but he was never defeated," she said. "Think about it."
    By late afternoon they were getting close. Time to start looking for a safe place to ditch the van then mail the keys back to Frank. She drove southwest into the sun. Everywhere she looked there were lights, a tone poem of lights. Glare on vinyl and her watchface flashing. A wash of light in the windshield glass. Light stars in bumper chrome, mica in the aggregate. Glittery ribbons lacing the power towers and cassette tapes stringing the broombush, glinting in the gusts. Foil-wrapped flowers by a roadside cross.
    Southern Pacific tracks ran east-west along the highway, and next to the tracks a six-wire fence with boundary monuments, the border, like a hidden drop-off, the waveline of a reef.
    "Funky Broadway" on the oldies station.
    Then above the desert like a mirage, like Emmy's eye mirroring back, seeing and seen, origin and destiny, the sweeping blue bias of the Mexican cordillera. The Sierra Madre, beyond which lay the sea.

                                                                                                                                       Harmful Intent, pp. 160–161.


Among the bristly, twisting boojum she could sense a surly and maddened force.

The frustration of being a tree. Why cutting a  branch will release the blowing wind.

Harmful Intent, p. 201.

Boojum tree at twilight, Baja. Photo by Bill Hatcher

Boojum tree at twilight, Baja. Photo by Bill Hatcher


Part Three: The Trial

Chapter Four

    Of the hundred or so veniremen in the gallery, sixteen were called and sworn. Of the sixteen the only T-shirts were Shorty’s Place and Die Yuppie Scum. Die Yuppie Scum cut a figure as he flipped open the gate and huffed to the jury box, arms bounding rapper-style—black jeans tucked in Doc Martens, sleeveless black shirt and coiled tattoos, chains and pierce pins here and there—one through a brow, four on an ear—skinhead swathed in a red bandana.
    Three were blacks and one Hispanic. Half were women and half small businessmen. There was an Agro-American in a Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village cap, a dentist, and an FBI agent with a Wall Street Journal. Bondurant whispered in Basteen’s ear. He made a face and shook his head. Basteen shrugged, brushing him off. He had a system.
    The first cull was for hardship. A woman with multiple chemical sensitivities was near collapse from the windowless room’s miasma of perfume, newsprint, and cologne. She was outta there. A commodities trader revealed that June corn was up 2 ¼. If he didn’t liquidate by Thursday he would eat it big-time. Sorry. A Blockbuster clerk with a D.U.I. had to meet with his lawyer. All right. Mrs. Craver was allowed to attend her family reunion in Estes Park. A palsied fellow wanted to know if any insurance company was paying Basteen’s fees. Why did he want to know? Because he despised insurance companies. Adiós. The Agro-American had beets in the ground and the small businessmen all wanted off. Their hardship boiled down to not being able to make money if they were sitting on a jury. Presumptions of indispensability earned tongue-lashings from Langworthy. Sad how the largest consumers of judicial services were least willing to pitch in and make them work. The dentist was most insistent. He offered increasingly inventive excuses. His patients needed him. The community depended on him. He was as motivated as a Deadhead at a preinduction physical. He’d pitch fits and feign infarctions to avoid civic service at six dollars a day. Nobody likes an asshole. The dentist was history.
    Replacements were called and sworn. The interrogation called voir dire began. Afterward each side could eliminate four, leaving half to sit for trial, six regulars and two alternates.


Moss paused. He gripped the podium like a steering device. Like those he addressed, he was wondering what the story would turn out to be.



    The judge was the first examiner. Several on the panel had heard of Dr. Bondurant. Good things only. No one had been a patient but three had friends whose family went to him. Two recalled the Fisher case and were quickly struck for cause.
    The judge worked his way through a demographic questionnaire the bailiff placed on an easel. Item seven was Favorite Radio Show, a matter of interest to Moss.
    Moss claimed the oak podium. He propped a boot on its brass footbar. He struck up dialogues on the subject of responsibilities—personal, moral, professional. Voir Dire, he said, means to speak the truth. His client was dying of endstage cancer. To her the truth mattered.
    Bondurant mooned at the microphone hanging from the ceiling.
    Basteen took his turn. He posed a set of insinuating questions on attitudes toward drug use, abortion, sexual promiscuity, followed by stock rhetorical indoctrination. Does anyone here think doctors practice medicine out of books? That medicine means following rules rather than exercising clinical judgment? That a bad outcome is the same as malpractice? That an error of judgment is the same as malpractice? The doctor has to rely on what his patient tells him, right, Mr. Casebolt? Does anything think the size of jury verdicts is getting out of hand in this country? That there’s too much litigation in our society? Are you saying, Mr. Hinton, that people look at lawsuits as easy money? That people sue every time things don’t go their way?
    A lot of heads were moving up and down. Basteen was tapping into the “climate.”  Don’t come crying victim. Sorry about your life, but hey, life’s a bitch. Gut up and get on with it, as Terry had put it herself.
    Each side got four strikes. Basteen systematically struck the three members of his race and the Chicana. His thinking was evident: Minorities were less likely to respect authority figures like doctors. It was unconstitutional but Moss would never make a Batson challenge for racial strikes against a black lawyer. Moss spent his peremptory strikes on tort reformers and dittoheads. He wanted free thinkers, not the doctrinaire. And no jurors with attitude.
    Basteen’s dream malpractice jury would be composed of healthcare professionals who’d close ranks with a sued colleague. He’d be happy with insurance-burdened businessmen, law enforcement types, or penny-pinching farmers. Moss wanted women and nonconformists. Little Terry Winter. They got the usual perversely mixed bag rather than the law school norm, the jury of peers. Moss had yet to be favored with the norm.
    He approached the podium. He took a few seconds to engage each of the eight. The alternates: Mr. Willits of Willits Plumbing and Heating who was plenty steamed at being there. Ms. Gideon, a graduate student with the Utne Reader. The first team: Heinie Hinton, the Agro-American. Mr. Casebolt, the FBI agent. Ms. Comstock, a pediatric nurse. Ms. Crenshaw of the Comparative Literature Department. Shorty, a beetdigger from the east county. And, sprawled back with the fuck-you-too, fleering bravado that can give nonconformism a bad name, Die Yuppie Scum.
    “Terry Winter is dying,” Moss told them. “She may already be gone. Her death”—he pointed—“will have been needlessly caused by Dr. Wallace Bondurant.”
    The defendant’s hand moved toward his face.
    “Dr. Bondurant. Who knew her life was in his hands but did nothing.
    “You are about to hear a story of courage and responsibility. The responsibility of a medical doctor for negligently taking life, and the courage of the mother and daughter he harmed.”
    Moss paused. He gripped the podium like a steering device. Like those he addressed, he was wondering what the story would turn out to be.

                                                                                                                                       Harmful Intent, pp. 233–236.


Sandhill cranes. Photo by Tim Wallace

Sandhill cranes. Photo by Tim Wallace

Coda

    A limb in the big leafless tree made a loud frightening creak and there was a pulling and whipping of air. A huge black eagle swept down almost on top of them. Lightning flattened and Peter and Sally stepped aside. Emmy almost cried out, seeing it so plainly nod its white cowl and turn up her its giant golden eye.
    The eagle bent its fingered wings and skimmed out over the rushes in a wide bank down the river, vanishing like a jetliner toward the just-appearing sun. From the sandbars a clamor went up. Ten thousand cranes took together to the air, lavender gray in the maiden light.
    All day the cranes came and went as they had for ten million years. Landing in the stubblefields loose-ankled as paratroopers, hopping and flapping like popping corn. Aloft among snowgeese glittering like tinsel they spread in loose broken lines to the horizons, scrawling intricate messages, secrets of the future, on the empty sky.

                                                                                                                                                    Harmful Intent, p. 370.