Fade Away Page 62

Felder was not a man to jump. He refolded his hands on his lap, looked up, tapped his foot. He took his time, considering the pros and cons, the costs and benefits, all that. Myron half-expected him to start charting graphs.

“You never practiced as an attorney, did you, Myron?”

Myron shook his head. “I passed the bar. That’s about it.”

“You’re lucky,” he said. He sighed and made a tired gesture with his hands. “You know why people make all the jokes about lawyers being scum? It’s because they are. It’s not their fault. Not really. It’s the system. The system encourages cheating and lying and basic scummy behavior. Suppose you were at a Little League game. Suppose you told the kids that there were no umpires today—that they were to umpire themselves. Wouldn’t that lead to some pretty unethical behavior? Probably. But then tell the little tykes that they must win, no matter what. Tell them that their only obligation is to winning and that they should forget about things like fair play and sportsmanship. That’s what our judicial system is like, Myron. We allow for deceit in the name of an abstract greater good.”

“Bad analogy,” Myron said.

“Why’s that?”

“The part about no umpires. Lawyers have to face judges.”

“Not many of them. Most cases are settled before a judge sees it. You know that. But no matter, my point is made. The system encourages attorneys to lie and distort under the guise of the client’s best interest. That best-interest crap has become an all-purpose excuse for anything goes. It’s ruining our judicial system.”

“Fascinating, really,” Myron said. “And all this relates to the videotape …?”

“Very directly,” Felder said. “Emily Downing’s lawyer lied and distorted the truth. She did it to an unethical and unnecessary extreme.”

“Are you talking about the child custody case?” Myron asked.


“What did she do?”

He smiled. “I’ll give you a hint. This particular claim is made now in one out of every three child custody cases in the United States. It has become almost standard practice, tossed about like rice was at the actual wedding, though it destroys lives.”

“Child abuse?”

Felder did not bother with an answer. “We felt that we needed to quell these malicious and dangerous untruths. To balance the scales, so to speak. I’m not proud of that. None of us are. But I’m not ashamed either. You can’t fight fair if your opponent insists on using brass knuckles. You must do what you can to survive.”

“What did you do?”

“We videotaped Emily Downing in a rather delicate situation.”

“When you say delicate, what exactly do you mean?”

Felder stood up and took a key from his pocket. He unlocked a cabinet and pulled out a videotape. Then he opened another cabinet. A TV and VCR faced them. He placed the tape in the machine and picked up the remote. “Your turn now,” he said. “You said Greg was in big trouble.”

It was time for Myron to give a little. Another cardinal rule of negotiation: don’t be a pig and just take. It’ll backfire in the long run. “We believe a woman may have been blackmailing Greg,” he said. “She has several aliases. Usually Carla but she may have used the names Sally or Liz. She was murdered last Saturday night.”

That one stunned him. Or at least he acted stunned. “Surely the police don’t suspect Greg—”

“Yes,” Myron said.

“But why?”

Myron kept it vague. “Greg was the last person seen with her the night of the murder. His fingerprints were at the murder scene. And the police found the murder weapon at his house.”

“They searched his house?”


“But they can’t do that.”

Already playing the ready-to-distort lawyer. “They got a warrant,” Myron said. “Do you know this woman? This Carla or Sally?”


“Do you have any idea where Greg is?”


Myron watched him, but he couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. Except in very rare instances, you can never tell if a person is lying by watching their eyes or their body language or any of that stuff. Nervous, fidgety people tell the truth too, and a good liar could look as sincere as Alan Alda at a telethon. So-called “students of body language” were usually just fooled with more certainty. “Why did Greg take out fifty thousand dollars in cash?” Myron asked.

“I didn’t ask,” Felder said. “As I just explained to you, such matters were not my concern.”

“You thought it was for gambling.”

Again Felder didn’t bother responding. He lifted his eyes from the floor. “You said this woman was blackmailing him.”

“Yes,” Myron said.

He looked at Myron steadily. “Do you know what she had on him?”

“Not for sure. The gambling, I think.”

Felder nodded. With his eyes looking straight ahead, he pointed the remote control at the television behind him and pressed some buttons. The screen brightened into gray static. Then a black and white image appeared. A hotel room. The camera seemed to be shooting from the ground up. No one was in the room. A digital counter showed the time. The setup reminded Myron of those tapes of Marion Barry smoking a crack pipe.

Uh oh.

Could that be it? Having sex would hardly be grounds to show unfitness as a parent, but what about drugs? What better way to balance the scales, as Felder had put it, than to show the mother smoking or snorting or shooting up in a hotel room? How would that work on a judge?

But as Myron was about to see, he was wrong.

The hotel room door opened. Emily entered alone. She looked around tentatively. She sat on the bed, but then got back up. She paced. She sat down again. She paced again. She checked the bathroom, came right back out, paced. Her fingers picked up whatever object they could find—hotel brochures, room services menus, a television guide.

“Is there any sound?” Myron asked.

Marty Felder shook his head no. He was still not looking at the screen.

Myron watched transfixed as Emily continued to go through her nervous ritual. Suddenly she froze in place and turned to the door. Must have heard a knock. She approached tentatively. Looking for Mr. Goodbar? Probably, Myron surmised. But when Emily turned the knob and let the door swing open, Myron realized he was wrong again. It was not Mr. Goodbar who entered the hotel room.

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