Part 5: link
“Already? Excellent,” Arthur says when Merlin hands him the much-awaited court order. He picks up the phone and dials Jack Aredian.
Half an hour later Arthur and Aredian are waiting by the warehouse entrance.
“Where is your man, Pendragon? You did say eleven a.m.”
“He’ll be here. He’s got a warehouse to run, Mr. Aredian, he may have gotten waylaid—ah.”
The door opens and Percy’s head pokes out. “Hey,” he says. “Sorry I’m a little late, I was—”
“It’s just two minutes, Percy, no harm done,” Arthur says, ignoring Aredian’s glower. They follow him inside and Aredian’s eyes are already scanning every surface. He takes out a notebook and makes a few notes already.
“Jack Aredian, this is Percy Andersen. He’s the warehouse manager here,” Arthur introduces the two men. Percy extends his hand and Aredian shakes it briefly.
“I’d like to begin,” he says.
Duncan jogs up now. “You wanted to see me, boss?”
“Yes,” Percy says. “I thought it might, um, look better if Duncan here showed Mr. Aredian around. To the men, I mean. I don’t want anyone to interfere with what Mr. Aredian is doing, and the men trust Duncan.”
“I see,” Arthur nods. “That all right with you, Mr. Aredian?”
Aredian nods once, and waves his pen, indicating that he’d like to proceed.
“Mr. Aredian, if you’d follow me,” Duncan says. “We’ll start with the loading dock. That’s where I work.”
“Duncan,” Arthur grabs his shoulder lightly. “No chit-chat, okay? He doesn’t do chit-chat. With anyone. Just take him where he wants to go,” he whispers.
Duncan nods. “Understood.” He turns back to the impatient Aredian. “This way, sir.”
Arthur turns to Percy. “Don’t worry. I have a court order saying we’re allowed to be here. In fact, Alined should be receiving his papers any day now. Or Boudreaux may get them.”
“In either case, he’ll find out soon enough, right?” Percy says. “You want a tour while we’re waiting?”
Arthur has been on pins and needles, waiting for it to be late enough in the day to call Guinevere.
She said she was done at school at 2:45 and was able to be here by 3:15. It’s 3:02.
He picks up the phone and dials. The phone rings interminably, and just when he is about to hang up, she answers, breathless. “Hello?”
“Guinevere,” he blurts, not even a hello.
“Arthur! I just walked in the door! What’s goin’ on?”
“Our fix-it guy had a very enlightening visit to Alined Paper today.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” she says and hangs up the phone.
Arthur hears the click and stars at the handset in his hand for a moment before hanging it up.
Nine and a half minutes later, his phone rings. “Arthur Pendragon.”
“Mr. Pendragon, Miss Thompson to see you,” Vivian tells him.
“Very good. Send her back, please.”
“Of course, sir.”
Arthur hangs up and he thinks about what Gwen told him the day before. Your receptionist is sweet on you.
He could hear it in Vivian’s voice just then. The… expectation, the hope.
Too bad I don’t find her the least bit attractive. She’s probably only interested because I would probably be “acceptable” to Olaf. Yes, I’m sure that’s it.
There is a light knock on his door. “Come in,” he calls.
“Hello,” she says, poking her head inside. He stands and smiles, directing her to the chair opposite his desk.
“Hello, Guinevere,” he sits once she’s seated. She notices he doesn’t seem to be able to stop smiling.
“So the inspection went well?”
He nods, handing her a stack of papers. “For us, it was fantastic. For Alined, not so well.”
Gwen takes the stack. “Goodness, there’s a lot,” she exclaims, flipping through them. “Did he find everything that Percy already had?”
“Yes, he found those 10 things, plus another 5. He also remarked on cracks in the concrete, peeling paint, and an excessive rodent problem.”
“They spread disease,” he says. “You know that the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages was carried by fleas on rats, don’t you?”
“Suddenly I’m not as hungry for supper, but yes, I did know that.”
“So the good news is we have third-party confirmation that problems are being ignored in the warehouse,” he says, his smile faltering for the first time now.
“And the bad news?”
“We need proof that the reports that Percy submitted were ignored. And that proof is either in Alined’s or Trickler’s office.”
“The original reports,” Gwen realizes, frowning. “How can we get those?”
“Well, I might be able to get a warrant,” Arthur muses, tapping his index finger against his pursed lips.
“Worth a try,” she says with a shrug.
Arthur makes a note to follow up with that. “They may tell us no, but you’re right, we should try. Now, there’s one other thing I want to ask you about.”
“All right,” she says, setting the reports back on Arthur’s desk.
“I have no intention of calling you to the witness stand,” he starts. “Don’t see there’s much of a point, honestly. But I can’t guarantee that Boudreaux will show you the same courtesy.”
“I understand. From what I’ve heard about this man, he’s nothin’ but a snake.”
“Yes. I’ve looked into your records as much as I can, but I’m gonna ask you: is there anything in your past, anything at all that he could drag out and try to use against you to try and make you look bad?”
Gwen thinks. “What records have you looked into, exactly?”
He picks up a folder. “Well, I’ve got the information from the Motor Vehicle Department, which you know. I talked to my friends at the police station, and they had nothing on you.”
“Can’t say the same about my brother,” she mutters.
“One disorderly conduct charge ain’t gonna hurt us at all, ’specially since he’s not directly involved with this case,” Arthur waves his hand dismissively. “I also have school transcripts ranging from college all the way back to elementary school.” He holds one up. “Memphis State on scholarship, Miss Thompson, very impressive.”
“Thank you,” she says. “That’s when I moved into the apartment upstairs. Old Mr. Richards had just moved out and it was gettin’ impossible for me to study with Daddy and Elyan botherin’ me every ten minutes. O’ course, Mama had just passed on, too, so that just made it harder on them, ’cause she wasn’t there to look after them.”
“That must have been very hard, tryin’ to concentrate on your studies with all that goin’ on,” Arthur says. I don’t think I would have had that kind of strength at that age. I don’t think I have that kind of strength now.
“You do what needs to be done because it needs to be done,” she says. “My mama used to say that.”
Arthur nods, growing ever more impressed with Gwen as the minutes tick by.
After a moment, Arthur speaks again. “So, then, I assume that your past is clean?”
“As far as I can recollect,” she nods.
“Not even a parking ticket? Jaywalking? Um… littering? No crazy pranks in college?” He looks at the college papers again.
“No,” she laughs.
“What about…” he raises an eyebrow, “Hilda?”
Gwen laughs even harder now. “Yes, my middle name is Hilda. I don’t think they’ll be able to use that against me in a court of law, considerin’ I had no choice in the matter. Hilda was my Grandmother, on my mama’s side.”
“My middle name is Basil,” he tells her sheepishly.
“Basil? Like Basil Rathbone?” she says, trying not to laugh.
“Like Basil Pendragon, my grandfather. My family is originally from England.”
“I don’t know if that’s worse than Hilda or better,” she says, smirking at him.
“It’s why I don’t use my middle initial, like a lot of lawyers do. People would be askin’ me what the ‘B’ stands for, and I wouldn’t want to tell ’em.”
“I don’t blame you. I always…”
Gwen is interrupted by a knock at the door.
“Excuse me a moment,” Arthur says. “Yes?”
The door opens, and Uther strides in, an envelope in his hand. “Sorry to interrupt, Arthur,” he says. “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met,” Uther says to Gwen, holding his hand out to her. “Uther Pendragon. You must be Guinevere Thompson.”
“I am indeed,” she says, standing to shake his hand. “Pleasure to meet you, sir.”
“You, too. Please, sit,” Uther says. “I’ve heard a lot about you from my son. Seems you have yourself quite a case here. A case that will be going to trial a week from tomorrow,” he says, handing the envelope to Arthur and sitting in the other chair.
“What? I haven’t even heard from Boudreaux yet!” Arthur exclaims, opening it and inspecting the contents.
“Oh, you will be. He just called me and read me the riot act, thinking that I somehow had my hands in this affair because you are my son.”
Arthur scoffs, gnawing his lower lip absently as his eyes scan the documents.
“I told him nothing, of course, other than that he should address any and all questions to you.”
“Thanks, I think…”
Uther chuckles now. “Is the judge assignment on there?”
“That’s what I’m lookin’ for, Pop. Ah, here it is. Judge John Rodor.” He looks up. “Could be worse.”
Gwen watches, suddenly nervous, looking back and forth between father and son.
“True. He’s not the most
open-minded judge on the bench, but he’s definitely not a bigot like Judge Odin. You would get nowhere with him, I’m afraid,” Uther says, this last bit directed at Gwen.
“That’s lucky, then, I guess…”
“Guinevere,” Arthur says, setting the papers down.
Something in Arthur’s tone gives Uther pause, and he decides to pay close attention.
“Don’t worry. Rodor is a decent man. Yes, he’s an old white man, but he’s not one of those judges that automatically finds in favor of whoever is white. He’ll listen. Plus, he doesn’t care much for Boudreaux. Right, Pop?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, that’s right. Aggy Boudreaux has been found in contempt of court by Judge Rodor so often that he practically has his name written on the paperwork before the trial begins.”
“Aren’t judges supposed to be fair and impartial?” Gwen asks.
“Aren’t people supposed to treat other people with kindness and respect?” Arthur asks in response.
“Point taken,” she says, half-smiling. There he goes, sounding like Superman again.
She looks down at her hands folded in her lap.
Something about the way he says her name, the way he looks at her… this is troublesome,
Uther thinks. He stands. “I’ll let you get back to your meeting, then. Miss Thompson, it was a pleasure. Best of luck to you,” he nods.
“Thank you, sir.”
Uther leaves them. What to do?
“Where were we?” Arthur asks.
“Middle names,” Gwen says. “Very important to my case.”
“Right,” he laughs.
Fifteen minutes later, Uther watches them emerge from Arthur’s office, chatting companionably, seeming to be arguing lightly about fried chicken, of all things.
“…I don’t care how good you say Gwaine’s chicken is, I would wager that mine is better,” she says stubbornly.
“Well, you’re just gonna have to let me be the judge of that sometime, then, won’t you?” Arthur shoots back.
To her credit, Gwen gives him a slightly puzzled look before answering with a hesitant, “Sure…”
Uther loses sight of them when they exit to the lobby, Arthur’s gentlemanly hand on her elbow as she goes through the door.
“Um, if I find out anything earth-shattering from Boudreaux tomorrow, I’ll call you,” Arthur says.
“All right,” Gwen says.
“Have a good night, Guinevere. Tell your brother hey for me.”
“Good night, Arthur,” Gwen says. Over Arthur’s shoulder she sees Vivian bristle slightly. What on earth? Oh, I called him Arthur. She only ever calls him Mr. Pendragon.
She smiles lightly and exits into the late afternoon sunshine outside.
“Mr. Pendragon, this case is going to trial in a week,” Leon protests. “I know nothing about it. I need time to prepare.”
“We can try to get it postponed, but I don’t think that’ll be necessary. I’ve been looking over Arthur’s notes and papers, and everything is very clear. I could handle this case if it were going to trial tomorrow; you’ll be fine.”
“I have reason to believe that Arthur is losing his objectivity with his client,” he says, his face a mask.
“Leon, I want you to take over this case. You’ve got more experience. I know your specialty is business law, but this is a case dealing with a business. He’s got four witnesses and enough evidence to present a nearly iron-clad case. You could do this in your sleep.”
“All right,” Leon sighs. “I’ll take this home and look it over tonight.”
“Sorry to keep you late, Leon. Thank you.”
“Good night, sir.”
“Hello?” Gwen is just about to leave for school when her phone rings. She only answers because it may be Arthur.
“…Yes?” she answers warily, praying to God that this isn’t Aggy Boudreaux calling her.
“My name is Leon Winters, I’m an associate of Arthur Pendragon’s.”
“Do you have a few minutes?”
“Very few, I’m sorry, I’m just headin’ out to work.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I just had a few questions for you.”
“May I ask what this is regarding?” Why isn’t Arthur calling?
“Your case. I just wanted to get some basic information since I’m taking over your case.”
Gwen says nothing, sitting heavily in a kitchen chair. “Beg pardon?” she finally says, quietly.
“I just wanted…”
“I heard you. What was that about your taking over my case?”
“You… you didn’t know?”
“Oh, Lord, I’m… I’m sorry… I thought…”
“I’m very sorry, Mr. Winters, but I need to get to my work or I’ll be late.”
“Understood. I’ll… I’ll call later.”
“After three. Have… have a good day, sir,” she says, hanging up.
Gwen looks at the clock. I’ll have to drive now.
She grabs the keys to her father’s car and realizes her hand is trembling slightly.
Hurt. Betrayed. Angry.
The last thing Gwen feels like doing now is going to work, but it’s too late to call in sick. She takes a deep, shaky breath, holds her head up high, and heads down to the car.
“Arthur?” Leon pokes his head inside Arthur’s office, knocking as he does so.
Arthur is frantically searching his office, looking for folders that Leon suspects are in his hands.
“What?” Arthur snaps, looking up. “Sorry, hey, Leon, what’s goin’ on?”
“Um… are you looking for these?” he asks quietly, holding his files.
“Why do you have my files?” Arthur asks, his face clouding.
Leon closes the door quietly behind him.
“Your father handed your case over to me. I… I thought you knew.”
“He did what?
“He kept me late last night and told me that I was to take this case. Said something about your having lost your objectivity with your client.”
Arthur rakes his hand through his hair and sits. He leans forward, his elbows on his desk, and rubs his face, groaning. “Shit.”
“I, um, just talked to her…”
Arthur peeks at Leon from between his fingers.
“She’s a bit shocked.”
“A lot. I didn’t get to talk to her too much, she—”
“She had to get to work. She teaches kindergarten at Lincoln.” Arthur stands again, agitated, and starts pacing. “She’s gonna be mad at me, I know it. She’s gonna set her brother on me and I’ll never walk again…”
“Arthur,” Leon interrupts his ramblings, “is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“Have you lost your objectivity with this girl?”
Arthur stops. He looks at the books on his massive bookshelf, covering one wall. “Maybe.”
“You haven’t fallen in love with her, have you?” Leon asks quietly.
Arthur’s phone rings before he can answer. He looks at the clock, and for the first time he hopes that it’s not
Guinevere on the phone.
“Arthur Pendragon,” he answers.
“Ah. I was wondering when I’d be hearing from you. Hold on one moment, Aggy, I’m just going to pop you on speakerphone. As luck would have it, my associate Leon Winters happens to be in my office at the moment. He and I are both working on this case,” Arthur says, looking meaningfully at Leon.
“…nder the understanding that it was only you,” Aggy Boudreaux’s voice pops out of the speakerbox, mid-sentence.
“Good morning, Aggy, and no, it’s both of us now,” Leon sits, setting the files back on Arthur’s desk.
“I’m actually stepping back a bit into more of a second-chair position on this case now,” Arthur explains. “Handing the reins over to someone with a bit more experience.”
Leon nods. I’m good with that,
he seems to silently say to Arthur.
“Oh? Young Master Pendragon has bitten off more than he can chew, I see?” Aggy taunts.
“No, just willing to take the time to walk before I can run,” Arthur says smoothly. “So what do we owe the dubious honor of a phone call from yourself?”
“I think you know perfectly well why I’m callin’. My client wants you to drop the charges. Says you ain’t got a case against him or his company.”
Arthur rolls his eyes.
“Of course he’d say that,” Leon answers. “We got him backed into a corner and he knows it.”
“If any of his employees testifies against him, they’ll be fired. He wanted me to let y’all know.”
“Then we can sue him again for wrongful termination,” Leon answers.
“’Sides, we’d be able to find them jobs at companies that have safe
working environments ’fore they even knew they were out of a job,” Arthur adds.
“So you’re refusin’ to drop the charges?”
“Yes,” Leon says.
“You don’t wanna run that by your client before you answer?” Aggy presses.
“No,” Arthur answers this time.
Aggy pauses a beat. “Good. That’s what I was hopin’ for,” he says, and they can practically hear
him leering on the other end.
“See you in court,” Arthur says, and disconnects. He looks at Leon. “You ain’t takin’ this case all to yourself.”
“I figured as much. I’m okay with that.”
“There are some conditions I’m workin’ with, here. First, if we don’t win, Guinevere doesn’t have to pay us.”
“Second, if we need to talk to Percy Andersen, Duncan Matthews, or Ezra Johnson, it has to be after hours so they don’t have to take time off their jobs.”
“Understandable. They do know they’ll need to take time for the trial?”
“Yes. I’ll call them tonight and give them the date.”
“You all right, Arthur?” Leon asks. He can see that Arthur is still agitated.
“No. I need to have a few words with my father.”
“Probably,” Leon allows.
Arthur picks up his phone and dials.
“Hunith, is anyone with my father right now? Good. Thank you.”
He hangs up the phone, reaches into the bottom drawer of his desk and pulls out a thin file. He hands it to Leon. “You’ll want to read this over. It wasn’t with the rest.”
“What is it?” Leon takes the file.
“Our ace in the hole. You can hang here if you want, I’m goin’ to go yell at Pop for a few minutes.”
Arthur heads to his door and he hears Leon open the file. As the door closes behind him, he hears Leon exclaim softly, “Holy shit…”
“Why did you give away my case?” Arthur yells, storming into his father’s office, slamming the door behind him.
“Arthur, calm down…” Uther tries.
“I will not calm down! You took my
case and gave it to Leon without even telling me! Or my client! Do you know how unprofessional that looks?”
“About as unprofessional as how you sleeping with your client looks,” Uther calmly replies.
“Excuse me?” Arthur says, his voice low. “I am not… wouldn’t… I’ve only ever touched her hand,
for Christ’s sake!” His voice rises in a crescendo as he speaks, and by the time he finishes, he is yelling.
And her elbow,
Uther thinks, remembering watching him usher her out the door the previous day. Not important,
“Arthur, I saw the two of you yesterday, in your office. The way you looked at her, said her name…”
“Do you really think that’s the kind of person I am?” Arthur shouts.
“Never mind that, do you really think that’s the kind of girl Guinevere
He’s angrier for her than he is for himself. This is not good.
“No, Arthur, I don’t. But I think that, given different circumstances, you would not hesitate to attempt to be… familiar… with this girl.”
Arthur sits heavily in the chair facing his father’s desk.
“I saw it with my own eyes, Arthur. You are smitten. No, don’t bother denying it,” he says quickly when Arthur opens his mouth to protest. “I had to remove you from the case, for your own good.”
“So this is to keep us apart, then,” Arthur says quietly, not believing his ears. “Is it because she’s my client or is it because she’s colored?” he asks suddenly.
Uther thinks a moment, weighing his words carefully. “A little of both, actually, but before you fly off the handle again, let me explain.”
“I’m listening,” Arthur says, his jaw clenched.
“Are you?” Uther raises his eyebrows at his son. Arthur relaxes slightly and Uther continues. “I don’t believe I need to explain why I disapprove of your interest in her as a client,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “But let me say first and foremost that I do like the girl. I can see why you like her. She’s pretty, she’s smart, and she’s very strong. She has been through a lot and she still has spirit. Certainly seems to stand up to you without batting an eye,” he chuckles.
“But…” Arthur prompts, waiting for but she’s colored
to come out of his father’s mouth.
“Under different circumstances, she would be very good for you,” Uther continues. “Under different circumstances I would be doing everything in my power to see to it that you don’t mess this relationship up like you’ve done so many others…”
“Not ‘so many,’ Pop. I’ve had maybe three girlfriends,” Arthur interrupts.
Uther shrugs. “Not important. But the fact of the matter is, Arthur, she is negro and it’s simply against the law.”
“It’s against the law to marry her, father, not date her,” Arthur says. “That’s just pretty severely frowned upon.”
“Arthur, do you want
to marry her?” Uther challenges softly, leaning forward again.
Arthur sits quietly, thinking. Do I? I honestly don’t know. I know I really like her. I know I feel like Superman when she’s with me, like I can do anything.
“I don’t know,” he finally says.
“Well, I suggest you figure out what your intentions are with this girl before diving headlong into something that could land you in jail, or worse. Do not just string this girl along if she is just a conquest. If you’re only looking to bed a colored girl for the novelty of it…”
“Dad! I would never! Guinevere is a good, honest woman; the kindest, most wonderful person I’ve ever met, and I would never…
“Ah, there we are,” Uther says, his lips twitching into a rather sad half smile. “If you love her, do her the courtesy of not endangering her, Arthur.”
I love her, I will find a way to be with her,” Arthur says, standing. “But I will not remove myself from this case. Leon and I have discussed it already. He is taking the lead and I will second chair, since you’re worried about my objectivity.”
“Very well,” Uther sighs.
“Now I just have to convince Guinevere that I didn’t bail on her,” Arthur mutters, exiting his father’s office.
Part 7: link