Aline Carriere

"Hey, Mitch," Nick motioned to the gray haired man lurking at his office door.  He stood behind his desk
turning the pages of a small appointment book; the telephone receiver cradled between his right
shoulder and ear. "I'm on hold. Sit down. Yeah, hi, Nick Clancy. You want a date on Harris? I've got the
14th, 18th. No, I'm on trial, first out...."
Mitchell Gates half-listened to the disjointed telephone conversation as he picked up a pile of files from a
chair and searched for a place to put them.  He looked at Nick who signaled to hand them over.
"Okay, okay. Sounds good." Nick scratched in his book and hung up the receiver. "Hey, Mitch, glad you
came by.  I've got something for you.  Murder. My guy says she fell on the knife.  But no one can find
the knife." Nick chuckled. "I need you to find it."
Nick was as close to Perry Mason as a lawyer could get, except that Nick's clients were usually guilty.  
Mitch was Nick's Paul Drake.
"Where do I look?"
"My guy says he panicked and threw it down an embankment near the apartment." Nick's voice became
serious. "I have the address."  He rummaged among the litter on his desk and drew out a piece of
paper. No matter how cluttered his office became Nick knew where things were.  Usually.
"Here." he said handing the paper to Mitch. "You want to grab some lunch? I gotta be back in court at
Nick Clancy's office was located in a building he shared with five other attorneys across the street from
the three courts in Glendale.  They were all sole practioners and they practiced the gamut of law.  Nick
was the only criminal defense lawyer among them.  His clients would come in, scruffy and out of place,
sit across from the receptionist on the couch Nick had proclaimed too good for his riff-raff, and tell off
color jokes while waiting.  The other lawyers and the receptionist sometimes complained and Nick would
give them assurances that he would talk to his clients.
Nick had a way with assurances which was one reason he was a damn good defense attorney.  He was
sincere.  When he said something, people believed him.  During closing argument before a jury, Nick
looked into each juror's eyes.  He worked over the evidence and worked in the word "free" like a
mantra.  He walked back and forth in front of the jury box and seemed to float.  The effect of his
determination and talent was almost always the same.  Not guilty.  And not only did the jurors acquit,
they were happy to.  Nick relieved them of moral dilemma.  They left to go back to their families and
friends with a clear conscience, convinced they had done the right thing. The same spell worked on his
colleagues and the receptionist.  They accepted his assurances; each time believing something would
change.  If Nick had been a confidence man he would have been dangerous.  As a criminal defense
attorney he was apocalyptic.
After lunch Nick put on his game face and went back to court. Mitch decided to go hunting for the knife.  
The embankment was not as steep as Mitch had imagined but the area was larger.  In midsummer the
grass and weeds were knee deep and dry.  The afternoon sun was beating down. Mitch took off his suit
jacket and rolled up his sleeves.  He could have gone home to change, but that would have taken time;
time when someone else might find the knife.  Mitch took his job seriously, did it well and prided himself
on results. If there was a knife here, he would find it.
After half an hour Mitch stopped to wipe his forehead with his sleeve. "I'm getting too old for this," he
sighed to himself. He was being slow and methodical.  He tried to think of a different approach--a short
cut that would lead him immediately to the knife, if it was here at all.  He surveyed the entire area hoping
to catch a glint of metal. But there was none. He knew there was no answer but hard work. One step at
a time keeping his senses alert.  Mitch returned to his lonely task; a contrast to his usual fare of witness
interviews and research.
In another hour his patience paid off.  He was walking along, his mind and body concentrated on the
ground in front of him when he saw the wooden handle of the knife and the sudden hope of success
surged through him.  The knife was buried deep in the grass.  The blade shaded so that it did not shine
at all. Mitch had known it would be like that. He had never relied on luck and hated stories and movies
where luck played a central part; where the character is just about to give up and then suddenly all is
revealed.  That had never been his life.
Mitch took out a clear plastic bag from the pocket of his pants. The plastic bag was just one of the many
items he kept on hand in his line of work. He put his hand in the bag, picked up the knife and inverted
the bag around it. He held the bag up to inspect the knife.  No blood.  The knife was clean.  Likely
washed by rain or dew. Mitch knew that if he took the knife apart there would be at least a trace of
blood embedded in the handle or blade.  But it looked clean.  The knife was big.  He estimated about a
foot long with an eight-inch blade.  Definitely a knife kept inserted at the back of the block.
Mitch stood on the threshold of Nick's office for the second time that day pleased to see that his friend
was in again.
"Hey, Mitch, back so soon? Did you forget something?"
"No, I have something for you."  Mitch tried not to smile, but he couldn't help it.  He reached into his
briefcase and pulled out the bag with the knife. "I found the knife." He said handing it over to Nick.
"Geez, Mitch, why the hell did you bring it here?  I can't take that.  That would be withholding evidence.  
I just didn't want the police to find it."
"Well, what do you want me to do with it?"
"I don't know?  Think of something."
"Okay." Mitch shrugged and put the knife back in his briefcase.
Nick shook his head. "I wish I hadn't seen that. But, boy, you sure did find it fast." He laughed. "You feel
like going to interview some witnesses?  The DA gave me the statements today and I'd like you to check
'em out."
As Mitch was leaving the building by the back door he paused at the counter and cabinets near the
conference room.  He opened the drawer under the coffee maker containing assorted silverware.  He
took the knife out of the plastic bag, placed it in the drawer and threw the bag away.
The day after Nick got the "not guilty" in the murder case, the receptionist planned a small office party to
celebrate.  The case had been front-page news in the local paper for four days and the jury had
deliberated for another two.  The receptionist had circulated the congratulatory card around the offices
in the morning for everyone's signature.  The coffee maker had freshly brewed coffee in the carafe.  The
paper plates, plastic forks and napkins were organized beside the cake in the conference room. The
receptionist brought over a plastic knife and placed in on the table.
"Is that what you're going to use to cut the cake?" asked one of the secretaries as people gathered in
the room for the surprise celebration.
"I couldn't find another knife."
"I thought I saw one in the drawer the other day.  Let me check." The secretary went out to the counter
and opened the drawer. She moved the loose silverware around and finally located the large knife at the
"Here." The secretary returned brandishing the knife. "It looks like a murder weapon."
"Well, that would be fitting," someone offered and everyone laughed.
"He's coming. Shh, quiet."
Nick walked into the conference room with a broad smile.  He didn't much care for parties, but they were
a way for his staff and friends to share in his success.  He appreciated the effort and was gracious.  
Following the loud and off-key rendition of "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow," the receptionist held up the
knife to Nick.
"Looks like a murder weapon, doesn't it?" she said and everyone laughed again.
"Actually, it does." Nick replied.
"You want to cut the cake?"