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The sound of the boat engines continue as I drive up Thomas Avenue in the suburb known as Irondequoit. It is a warm moonlit Sunday evening in August and I am arriving home from a long weekend of golf at Bristol Harbor Resort. There are great golf courses closer to home, but I needed to get away for a bit and going here gave me a chance to meet up with my friend Travis Jones. Even though Travis lives in Canandaigua he enjoys a stay at the resort and my visit gives him that opportunity. We have been golfing friends for a long time, Travis and I and like myself Travis is an avid golfer who prefers to spend full days on the course. I can understand because we also have in common the fact that we both lead a busy life. He works hard as a marketing manager and, in his spare time, enjoys golf and basking in the sun. One look at his tanned body, the permanent dent from wearing his brimmed hat and it is no secret where he does spend his off-hours. So that's Travis.
As for me, extraordinary people have realistic optimism. That describes me to a tee. It takes optimism to succeed in this world. I was born in Manhattan so I can claim attachment to both upstate and downstate. I attended UCLA law school and began my career as an attorney in 1994. The firm I joined handled the legal matters of many notable individuals and I believe wholeheartedly I was hired because I had the 'look'. "The look" had everything to do with appearance. Standing inches above six feet, with what my clients called, piercing blue eyes, I made the grade. People found me handsome and commended on me having a captivating smile and wearing only designer suits added to the image.
Lawyers do not enjoy the best of reputations. Some people hate them just by default. But behind every cliché is a kernel of truth, and each year brings no shortage of lawyer scandals. I didn't care at first, even managed to ignore the rumors until it was splashed across the media that this single law firm orchestrated an elaborate web of offshore tax havens and shell companies. The publicity unveiled ties to the Watergate scandal and a bank heist dubbed the 'Crime of the Century'. The firm became the choice for some of history's most notorious politicians, bank robbers and drug lords. I tried to ignore all these scandalous claims because the money was more than I ever dreamed of making but there came a time when money was not as important as reputation. It was at that point I left to seek a smaller city environment with hopefully less notoriety. That is how I landed back in Rochester, New York.
I took the scenic route home and it was almost midnight as I made my way down Seneca Point Road and on to NY 21 South. Traffic was nonexistent so I could easily occupy my mind with thoughts of the past. These days I traveled this way often and knew each turn by heart, so much so that even in the dark I could mentally visualize the beauty of this remote area, when depending on the month there would be an array of colors from the bur marigold, bluebells, buttercups, white and red clover, daisies and lilacs. In May, there would be the flowering trees, but by June they would have passed and blend in with the ash, oaks and maples. From North Bloomfield Road and then onto New Michigan Road, I am exhausted when I reach Titus Avenue in Irondequoit, minutes from my home, only I need to make a stop first over on Florenton Road to check on my mother's house. As my car turns the corner the headlights sweep over the rows of tall maple and oak trees lining the street and shine into the darkened windows, shades up and curtains open; just like my mother likes to leave them.
I love my mother. She is a beauty inside and out. From her smiling light, brown eyes full of warmth and tenderness and her gentle smile she can lighten life's bitter trials and bring calm and peace to heavy hearts and she has been a vital, respected lady all my life. Her personality is potent, even over the phone; her passionate, funny, wised-up remarks come through in capital letters, especially when she agrees with you. You imagine that she could persuade anyone of nearly anything and that she is her own person. Her shining grey hair she wears in a feminine style of fluff, even when she works in her garden in oversized plaid shirts that once belonged to the love of her life; my father who she was married to for almost 50 years before he passed. Once I asked her if she still missed him after all these years and she said, YES in capital letters, but I keep that idea, that happiness is a decision, and so I'm going to do today the things that will make me happy, I'm not going to focus on this or that. That is what she did for me on my return to Rochester and I in turn would do anything she asks.
That is why even though I am exhausted and want to go to bed and even though I know the house is locked up like Fort Knox and doesn't require watching, I nevertheless swing by. I park in the driveway and wall around the perimeter, peeking through windows as I go. Everything is quiet and undisturbed so I go back to the front and climb into my car.
All I want to do is go home now but there are obstacles in my path. Reaching Titus Avenue, I brake for a staggering man as he emerged from the direction of the I-Square and did not stop to wait for the light to change. I find it strange for anyone to be out this late, but pay little attention to him as I finally am on my way again. Minutes later I pull into the drive of my home on St. Paul Boulevard.
I drive my car up the driveway, park and then climb out and go to the back to unlock the truck and take out my golf clubs. I rest the clubs against the side of the car and look up, admiringly. The autumnal moon beams its mellow light, looking beautiful in the deep navy blue sky sprinkled with stars and planets. Here and there a few patches of white clouds float swiftly and the moon plays hide-and-seek behind them. I must have stood there for at least five minutes before finally pulling my attention back to the task at hand and reaching in the trunk to grab my weekender before closing the trunk lid. I pick up and place my golf club bag over one shoulder and the weekender over the other, press the lock button on my key chain and start walking up the driveway.
"How was golf, Richard?" someone says, emerging from the shadows next door. It was my neighbor, Marcus Peterson. Marcus had been a cop on the Irondequoit police force for as long as I could remember. He was raised in Amityville, New York, the eldest son in a family with six siblings which at an early age had him on the alert always. He had attended high school in a small town where everybody knew each other's business so he naturally came by being on the lookout for his neighbors.
"Fine, very fine, Marcus," I said, rubbing my unshaven cheek. "I golfed enough to last me for a while."
"Suppose you heard about the murder?" Marcus said, moving closer. "It made the papers and is all over the internet."
"No, Marcus," I said. "I just got in, as you can see. I haven't seen a newspaper or turned on a computer, thank God. I was with my old golfing buddy Travis who believes vacations mean being disconnected. Trust you caught the murderer?"
Marcus shrugged. "It's not our headache, Richard. It happened out of our jurisdiction on Friday night. As I heard it some bigwig blew his top and fired five bullets into a man named Noah Arietta. It happened at the Academy building in Pittsford that is owned by this Arietta person. The early reports say that the person who killed Arietta claims that he raped his wife. In any case, the state police have taken over, thank goodness."
"Hmm," I said, the legal gears beginning involuntarily to turn as I face Marcus. "Well, I'm going to call it a night." I turn and march up the drive to my front door.
Once inside my home I unshoulder my golf clubs and put them in the hallway closet. It is now somewhere around one or maybe two in the morning so I am surprised to hear my landline ringing before I can make it halfway up the stairs. I want to ignore it and continue on my way, but it could be some kind of emergency so I hurry up the remaining stairs, taking them two at a time. I turn the corner and enter my bedroom in time to pick up the phone on the nightstand. By the time I move the phone up to my ear it has ceased ringing, so I set it back on its charger.
I shrug my shoulders, grab my pj's from under the pillow and head into the bathroom. When I emerge, I am clean and anxious to just climb in the bed and get some rest. Luck is on my side.
Saturday morning and I overslept! For the 9 to 5 guy, this would be the morning to sleep in, but not for a lawyer in private practice. I jump out of the bed and rush to the bathroom where I put toothpaste on my toothbrush and start brushing as I leave the bathroom and go to my bedroom to gather my clothes and lay them on the bed.
I head back into the bathroom to spit and climb quickly into the shower, not even waiting for the water to warm up as I begin washing my body. There is no time to linger as I hurriedly dry myself off and rush into the bedroom to put on my clothes. Yes, it's great being my own boss I think, but it comes with responsibility too. A swift trip to the mirror to brush my hair and I am finally on my way downstairs where I pick up my briefcase, grab my keys from the hook and after a check to make sure I have everything, I head out the door.
I climb into my car and back down the driveway, carefully pulling out onto St. Paul Boulevard and head toward downtown. It is best to arrive early than late if I want a good parking space, but it is also important to do the speed limit or risk getting pulled over and waste even more time so I keep an eye on the speedometer, something that wouldn't be necessary in Manhattan in its bumper to bumper traffic jams.
True to form, getting to any area in Rochester is no more than 20 minutes when the roads are not covered with snow. I find I am indeed lucky as I pull into the East End parking garage and spot a space on the main level, near the exit for Main Street. I don't even stop for coffee as I hurry down the sidewalk to my office building where I stop to admire the sign on the frosted-glass door that reads, Richard Dandridge, Attorney & Counselor At Law, 106 East Main Street, 585 467-9191, www.RDandridge.com
Underneath these words is a thick arrow pointing toward Theresa's door, accompanied by the words, "Entrance next door." It never ceases to amaze me how few people ever followed the arrow, but instead stand there gripped by a sort of confusion that has them pounding on this entrance door.
I find the right key on my keychain and open the door entering the private entrance. The two-story brownstone building use to be the home of my grandparents who lived here for many years and now it was my law offices and when working on a case late into the night, I had bachelor quarters up on the second floor where I kept some clothes and a stocked refrigerator. Outside the building seems much as it was, except for the addition of oversized windows.
My law office does not fit the mold of those in Rochester. My mother Laurel approvingly claimed that my office looked like anything but a law office and most agree with her. It is neat and clean with wood floors, glass walls and high ceilings. There is one bright office and one workstation with an internet connection and secure wireless, a modern phone system with voice mail, copy/scan/fax and postage machines along with a T1 internet connection. The large glass walled conference room is immediately off the reception area and all business machines are available behind the high-end workstations that are outside the windowed office with a large corner office that has big bay windows offering a very bright corner space easily accommodating two professionals. It meets my criteria of lots of wood and glass, high ceilings and lots of light. Even my personal office is less formal apart from the New York supreme court reports and other law books stored on narrow shelves against an entire wall, but completely hidden by a sliding wooden barn door. Modern furniture, bright upholstery and carpets were chosen to give my clients more comfort but my friend Pete Adams, would occasionally tease me that the environment works well for testing the virtue of my female divorce clients.
In one corner of my office is a tufted back leather rocker with a matching footstool. This is situated under recessed lighting as it is my go-to reading spot. On the walls are some small color prints and photographs. Where the wood burning fireplace use to be is now a sleek electric one camouflaging the area all the way to the ceiling with glass tile supporting a mounted flat screen television and the final touch; the room is wired for sound so that music plays softly in the background.
I sat down at my desk and turned on the computer hoping to gather some information on the murder that had taken place and see what cases I needed to work on. I begin my routine. I pick up a copy of the Financial Times and scan both the headlines and the section that lists what companies are in the news. I'm looking to see if there is any news about any of the clients I'm working with now. I check my emails to see if anything has arrived in my inbox that is urgent and respond to anything I can straightaway.
I next search the internet for information on the murder. From talking with Marcus, I know it happened at the Academy building and that a Noah Arietta was the victim. That's enough to get me started as I search the internet and flip through pages of the newspaper for additional details that I mark for copying. Online I send web pages to the printer, making a copy for myself and one for Theresa, my office manager.
Theresa was a god sent. I had worked with many office managers but none compared to her. She was smart, forward thinking and knew the law. That plus her personal attributes of rich chocolate brown skin and eyes of the same shade housing a sparkling witty personality made her easy to approach also helped. Then there was her kindness and her way of looking at a person with eyes that expanded, and made them feel like she thought their words important. Standing only a few inches over five feet, her intellect and demeanor commanded respect. During our initial interview, she would impress me by saying, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity."
Over the years I learned that Theresa was raised in a small town in South Carolina, in her grandparents' house and she was the youngest of five siblings. Her father was a horse trainer and her mother was a maid, factory worker, and homemaker. Her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where they lived in abject poverty and dysfunction" until they finally moved to the Rochester area. It took little time for Theresa to realize if she wanted more out of life she needed to step up so she enrolled in community college and obtained a business degree.
Breaking into my reverie, the telephone began to ring and as it was too early for Theresa to be at her desk, I answered it myself.
"Hello," I said, "This is Richard Dandridge."
"This is Paige Trapp," a woman said. "Mrs. Paige Trapp. I'm sorry to be calling you so early, but I've been trying to get you all weekend. I finally reached your office manager and she said she thought you might be in early.
"Yes, Mrs. Trapp?" I said.
"My husband, Vincent Trapp, is in the county jail here in Rochester," she went on. "He's being held for murder. He wants you to be his lawyer." Her voice broke a little and then she went on. "You've been highly recommended to us." There is a pause. "Can you take his case?"
"I don't know, Mrs. Trapp," I answered truthfully. "I'll naturally have to talk with him and consider the situation before I can decide."
"Yes, I understand," she said.
"When I go to the jail, the conversations between your husband and myself is considered confidential." I said. "The most basic principle underlying the lawyer-client relationship is that lawyer-client communications are privileged, or confidential. This means that I cannot reveal a clients' oral or written statements nor my own statements to clients to anyone, including prosecutors, employers, friends, or family members, without the clients' consent," I add because sometimes when approached by someone other than the client, that person assumes they will be kept informed of all details so I need to be sure she understands this.
"Yes, of course, Mr. Dandridge. When can you see him? He's awfully anxious to see you."
I had already looked over the cases lined up in the computer but they were mostly routine stuff that could wait. "I'll go see him around eleven today. Do you plan to be there?"
"No. I have to go to the doctor's. I don't know if you've heard the details, but I ... I had quite an experience. I'm sure I can see you Tuesday, though — that is, if you can take the case."
"I'll plan to see you Tuesday, then," I said, "if I take the case."
"Thank you, Mr. Dandridge."
"You are welcome, Mrs. Trapp,"
I hung up the phone and then leaned back and watched the windows become illuminated with the morning light. Outside the window, cars were passing by more frequently now as the city began to come awake.
Excerpted from "Body of Evidence"
Copyright © 2016 Juanita Tischendorf.
Excerpted by permission of J. Tischendorf Services.
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