by Mathew Paust
Allen Bradley Morowitz III appeared to be asleep when the jailer led Blow into the small area known informally as “the lawyers' room.” Blow's first impression was of a large orange turtle hunched in a wooden chair, head resting on its side at the wooden table. A helmet of loose yellow curls, bare wrists and hands were all that protruded from the jail-issued jumpsuit that was clearly several sizes too large.
The jailer, whom everyone called Hans, had escorted Blow through the oddly quiet, feral-smelling cell bock, opened the steel door, motioned Blow into the room without first poking his head in to eyeball the prisoner, and shut the door with a dull slam behind him. Blow took several steps about halfway toward the table and stopped, facing his client, cowhide briefcase dangling from his hand. It seemed unusual to him the boy was not responding, not even to give a sign he knew someone else was in the room. Unconscious, if he was, maybe he nonetheless somehow was reading Blow's diluted interest in him, a sense of disconnect in his presence, his tentative movements, murky energy level.
Blow hadn't started out this way with the case. Callahan's call that woke him shortly after six kickstarted his nervous system, so the usual two cups of strong coffee he drank while fixing and eating a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs had his heart pounding and head wired when he climbed into the pickup with nothing but a couple of yellow pads and a digital recorder in his briefcase. Callahan had given him a quick rundown of what he knew, concluding with the Morowitz boy's demand to see an attorney.
“He's a mess, but he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut when we started pushing him. He did answer one question, who his lawyer was. He said you.”
No surprise there. Blow had done some real estate work for the family, although he'd never met the kid. Callahan told him the “suspect” said his parents were vacationing somewhere in Europe. From what Callahan told him Blow was preparing himself to interview the nineteen-year-old possible murderer of two other teens, one of whom had been valedictorian of his Leicester High School class and won a full academic scholarship to M.I.T. The other was a county supervisor's well-thought-of daughter. If a jury convicted the Morowitz kid of murdering these youngsters, his own family's prominence was unlikely enough to keep him from Virginia's gas chamber. The implications for Blow were still trying to coalesce in his head when jolted asunder by the strobing lights in his windshield mirror, and their disparity had compounded by the time he reached the jail. The only positive note was the possibility his dozing client might in fact be innocent.
He had no reason to distrust what the woman calling herself Jamie Moriarity had told him, that ballistic tests would clear his client in the murders. Her unusual vocation aside and even with the federal warrants presumably still outstanding for her arrest, he had no reason to believe she had lied to him. And there was the $10,000 she'd wired to his office account several years ago as a retainer to establish the lawyer-client bond of confidentiality should she ever request his counsel. His undefined misgivings at the time of this irregular agreement had not lessened, nor had its deep injury to the intimacy he shared with his sister completely healed. The precarious arrangement had yet to be tested in the glare of a courtroom.
Taking Moriarty at her word and assuming the information she'd conveyed was accurate would give them at least a week before any charges could be dropped. Meanwhile, Blow decided, he would proceed routinely without disclosing what Moriarty had told him. Keeping his client in the dark until the ballistic results came back was the best way to gain his cooperation, both in maintaining the appearance of innocence and as an unwitting ally in helping shed light on what might have been the motive and who killed the two teens. There was another consideration. Blow himself had no idea who the next defendant might be, the friend Moriarty said would be a “tough one.” It occurred to him knowing who it was at this point could create a conflict of interest with his representation of the Morowitz boy, no matter how brief that might be. He wondered if this was why Moriarty had kept the name to herself.
He moved to the table, set his briefcase next to the chair across from his client and started to slide it out.
“You're late.” Blow had been looking at the wooden chair seat when he heard the froggy voice. Glancing up he saw a face that at first seemed older than he'd expected. The complexion was ruddy, cheekbones prominent, and the jaw strong, shadowed by a stubble of beard. There was a reddened swelling around what appeared to be pale blue eyes. Only the mouth gave away his youth, the lower lip pushing up, quivering. He gave off a sour, sweaty odor.
“Sorry,” Blow said as he pulled the recorder and a pad from his briefcase and set it on the table. “I was held up.”
Still standing, he reached across to shake the boy's hand as he introduced himself. The boy just stared at him. Blow stood a moment, arm outstretched, then backed off and took his seat. He hiked the chair in with a raw scrape on the concrete floor and turned his attention to the miniature recorder. He took a ballpoint from his shirt pocket, set it on the yellow pad, and looked up again. “They call you Chip?” This won a feeble nod.
“So how are they treating you, Chip?”
Shoulders appeared to move under the baggy jumpsuit. Evidently Chip Morowitz had shrugged.
Blow pushed a button on the recorder, activating a small red light. He spoke at the machine, stated the time and date, described the setting, and identified his client. He explained that everything they discussed would be just between the two of them, its confidentiality protected by law. He asked if his client understood this, and reported that his client nodded in the affirmative. He invited his client to tell him everything he could remember about that night.
Chip Morowitz stared at the tiny device a long while before taking a deep breath and looking up, fixing his puffy eyes on Blow. “I was so fucking stoned, man,” the froggy voice began.
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