Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Beautiful Fall - Chapter 1

A Beautiful Fall

David C. Cook (October 2008)

Cahpter 1

At 5'8", Emma Madison would have described herself as too tall. That's why she rarely dressed in high heels. She wore her dark auburn hair past her shoulders, something she'd done since childhood, thinking the length gave balance to the rest of her body. Emma looked beautiful that morning in the downtown Boston courtroom although she would never describe herself that way. She stood near the mahogany plaintiff's table, beyond the waist-high wooden railing lawyers call "the bar" separating the area for official court proceedings from the spectators' galley. Even though she hadn't left the city since June, her face retained a trace of a summer tan, and her skin looked so clear and soft she could have passed as a model for skin cream. Emma's eyes were her most striking feature─two brown orbs that somehow made her seem vulnerable and strong all at the same time. Their color appeared so dark it overshadowed her pupils, making the windows of her soul a deep pool to look, or fall, into.

To jurors, the thirty-four-year-old attorney for the plaintiff has been captivating to watch over the long August trial, but not for mere beauty alone. Emma expressed an intense passion for her client's case that had in turn induced strong emotions in the jury. They'd been swept up in the drama of her client's sympathetic story and felt themselves standing in Anna Kelly's shoes, wondering how they'd feel in her circumstances, and knowing somehow they'd feel good about Emma as their attorney.

Her body language conveyed an easy openness when she cross-examined a witness. On good days, the jury grinned along with her good-natured humor. On difficult days, Emma displayed courtesy and grit; confident and comfortable in her own skin. She was clear and honest when she spoke, articulate in matters concerning the law, and always upbeat in spirit.

Emma's client was a young, fair-skinned woman named Anna Kelley. Anna had approached the law firm of Adler, McCormick & Madison months earlier when her Northeast health-care provider, Interscope Insurance, dropped Anna from coverage without explanation during a difficult battle with breast cancer. Eventually it was revealed that Interscope had instituted a controversial new profit-making policy called "Retroactive Review." Even though Anna had been approved for coverage and had been paying premiums with her employer for over tow years, Interscope cut her coverage, claiming there were "inconsistencies" on Anna's application after the hospital began submitting bills. As it turned out, there were inconsistencies on lots of customer's applications─inconsistencies discovered by Interscope only after one of their clients got sick.

On the final day of the trial, twelve earnest jurors watched from the jury box, listening to closing arguments from defense attorney Kenneth Blackman. In the end, the jury trusted Emma, agreed with the evidence she'd presented in her case, and returned from deliberation with a favorable verdict, and ultimately, a seven-million-dollar award.

"I didn't know where to turn," Anna confided to her after the trial. "I felt so hopeless and didn't think there was anything I could do. I felt so small, you know? Like these were the big guys, They could do whatever they wanted."

The courtroom bustled. Dismissed jurors headed back to the jury room, Judge Brown stood and collected papers from his bench, and Kenneth Blackman briskly exited the courtroom, Emma reached across the table to touch Anna's sleeve.

"But you did do something, Anna. You stood up to those big guys, and you won."

Anna smiled with the realization that ll they'd set out to do had been accomplished. She leaned over and gave Emma a hug.

"Thank you."

"I'm proud of you," Emma said. "You could have run away, but you didn't. That's what most of us do when we have to face a giant."

In the hallway, her colleague Colin Douglas congratulated Emma with a cordial embrace. Colin represented the new breed of smart, young, and hip Northeastern lawyers: the man in the Kensington suit with a racquetball-thin and money-clip-thick physique.

"You were incredible," he said to her in a near whisper, letting Emma slip back out of his arms, the space between them returning to a more professional distance. "This calls for a celebration. What would you say to dinner tonight at 33's? You've earned yourself a night of extravagance."

"Frankly, I'd welcome any diversion from the endless stacks of depositions I've been reading."

She smiled at Colin. "How come you always make me feel so special?"

"Because you are," he said.

Emma tried to read his expression, but wasn't quite sure where the smooth lawyer ended and the intriguing friend began. Colin was a man who drove too fast in his BMW and thrived in the accelerated pace of a seventy-hour workweek. She imagined him guarding his Sundays for tennis at a private country club or three-day weekends at Martha's Vineyard.

They were both up-and-comers in Boston city laws. His star shone a little brighter, though Emma suspected her Interscope victory might raise her own status a notch or two. Did he picture the two of them together? Could she?

"Then it's a date," he said. "I'll make a reservation for seven thirty."

"It makes me nervous when you use the word date. You know I think of us as just friends, don't you?"

Colin reeled back on the heel of his Allen-Edmonds dress shoe.

"Emma, can I help it if only one of us has seen the light?"

"Maybe we should put dinner on hold until one of us changes his light switch."

Congratulations, counselor." Robert Adler stepped into their circle and patted Emma on her shoulder. "I can't tell you how much I enjoyed seeing Kenneth Blackman crushed this morning."

The seventy-five-year-old senior partner of Adler, McCormick & Madison crowed at the taste of sweet victory.

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