School Days

School Days

By

* * *

For Joan:

hasn't it been one hell of a ride to Dover.

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Chapter 1

SUSAN WAS AT a shrink conference in Durham, North Carolina, giving a paper on psychotherapy, so I had Pearl. She was sleeping comfortably on the couch in my office, which had been put there largely for that purpose, when a good-looking elderly woman came in carrying a large album of some kind and disturbed her. Pearl jumped off the couch, stood next to me, dropped her head, and growled sotto voce. The woman looked at her.

"What kind of dog is that?" she said.

"A German shorthaired pointer," I said.

"Aren't they brown and white?"

"Not always," I said.

"What's her name?"

"Pearl."

"Hello, Pearl," the woman said, and walked to my client chair and sat down. Pearl left my side, went and sniffed carefully at the woman's knees. The woman patted Pearl's head a couple of times. Pearl wagged her tail slightly and went back to the couch. The woman put her large album on my desk.

"I have kept this scrapbook," the woman said to me, "since the day my grandson was arrested."

"Hobbies are nice," I said.

"It is far more than a hobby, young man," the woman said. "It is the complete record of everything that has happened."

"That might prove useful," I said.

"I should hope so," the woman said.

She placed it on my desk. "I wish you to study it."

I nodded.

"Will you leave it with me?" I said.

"It is yours," she said. "I have another copy for myself."

The woman's name was Lily Ellsworth. She was erect, firm, white-haired, and stylish. Too old for me, at the moment, but I hoped Susan would look as good as Mrs. Ellsworth when we got to that age. Being as rich would also be pleasant.

"And after I've studied it, ma'am," I said, "what would you like me to do."

"Demonstrate that my grandson is innocent of the charges against him."

"What If he's not?" I said.

"He is innocent," she said. "I will entertain no other possibility."

"What I know of the case, he was charged along with another boy," I said.

"I have no preconceptions about the other boy," Mrs. Ellsworth said. "His guilt or innocence is of no consequence to me. But Jared is innocent."

"How'd you happen to come to me?" I said.

"Our family has been represented for years by Cone, Oakes," Mrs. Ellsworth said. "I asked our personal attorney to get me a recommendation. He consulted with their criminal defense group, and you were recommended."

"Do they represent your grandson?" I said.

"No. His parents have insisted on hiring an attorney of their own."

"Too bad," I said. "Cone, Oakes has the best defense lawyer in the state."

"If you take this case and need to consult him," Mrs. Ellsworth said, "you may list his fee as an expense."

"Her," I said.

Mrs. Ellsworth nodded gravely and didn't comment.

"Do you know who they have hired?" I said.

"His name is Richard Leeland. He is my son-in-law's fraternity brother."

"Oh," I said.

"You don't know of him," Mrs. Ellsworth said.

"No, but that doesn't mean he isn't good."

"Perhaps not," Mrs. Ellsworth said. "But being Ron's fraternity mate is not in itself much of a recommendation."

"Ron being your son-in-law," I said.

"Ron Clark," she said. "I still remember, approximately, a passage in The Naked and the Dead where someone describes a man as `Westchester County, Cornell, a DKE, and a perfect asshole.' Mailer could have been writing of my son-in-law. Except that Ron grew up in Greenwich and went to Yale."

"A man can overcome his beginnings," I said.

"I wonder if you have," she said. "You seem a bit sporty to me."

"Sporty?" I said.

"A wisenheimer."

"Wow," I said. "It's been years since