Brain Storm

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Authors: Richard Dooling
Tags: Suspense
the upscale neighborhood. And if she went back to work? No mother at home for the children. No wife at home for the lawyer.
    Instead of hastening to his needy client’s side, Watson obeyed Arthur and the note-holder on his mortgage, and returned to the firm’s parking garage.
    He snagged the latest batch of Arthur’s memos from his in-box. As usual, Arthur’s explicit verbal instructions looked slightly different when confirmed by way of his ubiquitous memos, which quaintly still arrived typed on paper, transcribed by his secretary from Dictaphone tapes.
    TO : JTWatson
    FROM : AFMahoney
    RE : US v. Whitlow
    As per our discussion Friday morning, you are to provide this client with the best possible service and representation. Acquit yourself and our firm to the best of your abilities pursuant to the district court’s orders. Please explore settlement while keeping a vigilant eye on the interests of your client.
    AFM
    To the uninitiated, the discrepancy might seem duplicitous. The difference between “Plead him out” and “provide the best possible service and representation” was more than mere semantics. But Watson barely noticed. Arthur’s memos were simply good lawyering, five-hundred-dollar-an-hour ass-covering. Remarks, verbal instructions, comments, oral promises, spoken threats, questionable suggestions—like pressuring an associate to plead an appointed client to murder one—vanish as soon as they leave a person’s mouth. They are as insubstantial as wishes, dreams, and Freudian slips. Memories fade, people remember incorrectly. Years later, if accusations surface, or if blame needs to be apportioned in a particular matter, the first thing lawyers do is retrieve the files from storage. The files contain tangible evidence—like Arthur’s memo showing he specifically instructed his associate to vigorously represent James Whitlow, never mind his privately expressed wishes.
    The last in-box memo had a yellow sticky attached that said: “See me. AFM.”
    His boss seemed incongruously cheerful.
    “I sent your memo on decapitations to Ben Verruca, the in-house counsel at Subliminal Solutions,” said Arthur. “He loved it. He thought your analysis of the scorekeeping similarities was right on the money.”
    “Virtually the same in both games,” said Watson. “I’m glad he liked it.”
    Arthur smiled. “You told me about the scorekeeping, but I’m not remembering,” he said, with a wave at the stacks of documents and correspondence on his desk.
    “Of course,” said Watson. “In Greek SlaughterHouse, there’s a puckish, Till Eulenspiegel–ish prankster who follows the game protagonist from room to room in the Castle of Skulls, keeping score by stabbingfreshly decapitated heads with a pikestaff and depositing them in a seabag slung over his shoulder. After each new head is collected, the prankster turns, winks at the gamer, and paints a red hash mark on the screen with a bloody finger. It’s virtually the same in CarnageMaster, except the head collector is a satyr or faun type, with goatish horns and bedraggled hindquarters, who turns, winks at the gamer, and paints hash marks with a bloody, caprine hoof. Same pikestaff. Same seabag. Blatant rip-offs.”
    “I remember now,” said Arthur. “Fine work.”
    Whew. One more crisis averted in the daily triage of career-threatening disasters that erupt in the life of the lowly associate. Subliminal Solutions was a huge client, and Ben Verruca was one of Arthur’s old law school pals. For years, SS was just another also-ran in the multimedia gaming industry, with a couple hundred-thousand sellers called Tower of Torture and Anthrax Avenger. Then one Sunday in Lent, 1998, gamers all over New Mexico and Arizona witnessed what one of them decided was the Blessed Virgin Mary appear midway through Tower of Torture, version 3.11.
    The site of the appearance was Hans the Headsman’s turret in the Tower of Torture, where Hans did his bloody executioner’s

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