The Tenth Justice: Chapter 6


The following day, Ben and Lisa worked nonstop on four different decisions. After three months together, the two clerks had developed an efficient method for writing opinions. The better of the two at crafting original arguments, Ben always composed the first draft of the decision. With an aggressive writing style and uncompromising persistence, his opinions always barreled forward from introduction to conclusion. Lisa was the impeccable analyst. Ben said she had X-ray vision since she was able to see the holes in the most well-reasoned arguments. So after Ben presented his completed first draft, Lisa’s editing skills went to work. A stickler for detail and the superior logician, she usually wrote twenty-page responses to Ben’s forty-page decisions. When they’d finished their rewrite, the opinion went to Hollis.

At six o’clock, Ben shut off his computer and grabbed his jacket from the closet.

“Where are you going?” Lisa asked, looking up from the desk.

“I have a dinner date I can’t break. Eric’s aunt and uncle have been inviting us over since I got back from Europe.”

“But I still haven’t seen your first draft of the Russell decision.”

“It’s almost done. You’ll have a finished draft by tomorrow at lunch.”

“I better.”

“You will. I promise.” As Ben walked to the door, his phone rang. Assuming it was Eric calling with another excuse about why he’d be late, Ben ran back to his desk and picked up the receiver. “This is Ben,” he said.

“Hey, Ben,” Rick said. “How’s everything going?”

“What the hell do you want?” Ben asked, recognizing the voice.

“Nothing,” Rick said. “I just wanted to know what you’re up to. I understand you have a big dinner date tonight.”

“Are we still on for Saturday? Because—”

Rick hung up.

Ben slammed down the receiver.

“What’s wrong? Who was that?”

“It was Rick,” Ben said, rushing to the door.

“What’d he—” Before Lisa finished her question, Ben was gone.

Ben ran down the Court’s forty-four steps and impatiently waited for his ride to arrive. At five after six, Eric and Ober pulled up in Eric’s car. Ben was silent as he got into the pale gray Honda.

“I thought of the best name for a Mexican restaurant today,” Ober excitedly announced, turning around in his seat. “I’m going to call it Tequila Mockingbird.”

Ben didn’t say a word.

“Sorry I’m late,” Eric said. “I was—”

“Where’s Nathan?” Ben interrupted.

“We’re picking him up at home. I figured you three would want to change before dinner. Aunt Katie doesn’t require a shirt and tie.” Looking in the rearview mirror, Eric noticed the scowl on Ben’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Ben said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you—”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ben repeated.

Glancing at Ober, Eric shrugged his shoulders and headed home.

“You’re late,” Nathan proclaimed the moment the door opened. Walking inside, Ben headed straight to the kitchen.

“What’s wrong with him?” Nathan asked.

“He wouldn’t say,” Eric said. “I think something happened at work.” Sitting on the love seat, Eric asked, “Were you waiting long?”

“I want you to know it still amazes me that you are consistently five minutes late to everything,” Nathan said, looking at his watch. “I mean, I can set my watch to your lateness.”

Unaccustomed to a close shave, Eric rubbed his face. “I’m not late,” he said. “You’re messed up because you set your watch ten minutes ahead.”

“Don’t even start with that,” Nathan said. “On my watch you’re fifteen minutes late, but you’re still five minutes late in real time.”

“I’ll never understand that,” Ober said. “If you know your watch is always ten minutes ahead, then what good does it do you?”

“Au contraire, my simpleminded friend. I don’t pay attention to the—”

“Who opened my mail?” Ben interrupted. He stood in the doorway, holding up the pile of envelopes.

“It was like that in the mailbox,” Nathan said.

“Was anyone else’s mail opened?” Ben asked.

“Just yours,” Nathan said. “You think it was Rick?”

Ben loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. “I don’t know what else to think. He called me today right when I was leaving work. And he knew about our dinner tonight.”

“Were any of the letters important?”

“None of them. They’re all either bills or junk mail.”

“I don’t mean to be inconsiderate, but if we’re late for dinner, Aunt Katie will never let us hear the end of it,” Eric said.

“I’m not going to dinner,” Ben said.

“Why?” Eric asked. “Just because someone opened your mail?”

“No, because I’m terrified Rick was checking up on me.” Ben put his mail on the kitchen counter and poured himself a glass of water. “Maybe he was planning on breaking in here when we were gone.”

“If he wanted to break in, he would’ve done it when he opened your mail,” Eric said. “Don’t let him wreck your life like this. He’s just trying to make you crazy.”

“Then I’ll have to be crazy,” Ben said. “Go without me and tell Katie I’m sorry. I wouldn’t be any fun tonight, anyway.”

“Are you sure?” Eric asked.

“Go,” Ben said. “I’ll be fine here.”

Realizing that Ben wasn’t about to change his mind, the three friends walked to the door. “We’ll see you later.”

The moment the door closed, Ben picked up his mail again. Shuffling through the envelopes, he found the only one without a return address. He pulled the letter from the envelope and reread the five words written in thick black Magic Marker: TRUST YOUR FRIENDS? SINCERELY, RICK. As he stared at the short message, Ben wondered whether the letter was a taunting warning or a simple question. Feeling both guilty and regretful for not telling his roommates about the letter, Ben crumpled it in a tight fist. How the hell did I let him do this to me? he wondered. Now he’s got me suspecting my closest friends.

Ben threw the rest of the mail back on the counter, stepped into the dining room, and leaned on the large glass table. Don’t even think it’s one of them. There’s no way it’s one of them, he reassured himself. If I don’t trust them, who can I trust? Staring at his reflection in the smudged glass, he replayed all the important events in his mind. He thought about every piece of information Rick had. He recalled every other person who was also privy to the information. He then came up with a logical way for Rick to find out about each piece. If the house is bugged, he thought, he could’ve heard us talking about Aunt Katie’s dinner. And I told Nathan about the flowers. He could’ve overheard that as well. With a well-hidden microphone, Rick could’ve overheard everything. Staring down at the glass table, Ben nodded to himself. That’s the most logical explanation. That’s how he—

At the base of the glass table, Ben spotted a small dark object. On his knees in a matter of seconds, Ben closely examined the object. It was nothing. A clump of dirt from someone’s shoes. Undeterred, Ben tilted the table and searched under each leg for Rick’s microphone. Then he looked at each chair. He turned over the couches, lifted the cushions, squeezed the pillows, flipped the coffee table, ran his hands along the back of every picture frame, examined the television, turned over the VCR, inspected every videotape, pulled apart the closet, checked the pockets of every coat, opened every umbrella, peeked into baseball gloves, peered into tennis-ball cans, looked behind the toilet, cleared out the refrigerator, picked through all the cabinets, lifted every appliance, emptied every drawer, scrutinized every lamp, and took apart every phone. By the time he was finished, the first floor of the house was a shambles. And still nothing.

Hold it together, Ben told himself, his shirt soaked with sweat. Don’t lose it. After rearranging the kitchen, the bathroom, the dining room, and the living room, Ben collapsed on the large sofa. He lay facedown; his right arm sagged to the floor and his fingers picked at the carpet. Catching his breath, Ben reached his conclusion. No matter what, you have to trust your friends. That’s the only way to stay sane. Trust your friends.

When Ben’s roommates arrived back at the house, Nathan headed for the bathroom, Ober headed for the kitchen, and Eric slumped in front of the television. Hearing the front door slam, Ben left his room and headed downstairs. He found Ober digging into a pint of ice cream. “How can you possibly be hungry?” Ben asked. “Didn’t you just eat a full meal?”

“I’m a growing boy,” Ober said.

Nathan returned to the living room. “How are you feeling?” he asked Ben. “Still worried about Rick?”

“Of course I’m still worried. But I’ve calmed down. I just needed the time alone.” He joined Eric on the large couch. “How was dinner?”

“You missed it,” Ober said, still picking at the pint of ice cream. “Eric’s aunt is hotter than ever!”

“Can we stop talking about her?” Eric pleaded.

“Listen, we can understand why you feel the need to be protective, but you have to face facts,” Nathan said. “Your aunt is steamy.”

“I don’t understand,” Eric said. “She’s not even that pretty.”

“You’ll never understand,” Nathan said. “It’s her aura. It speaks to us.”

“Does she still have that picture of herself in a bikini on the refrigerator?” Ben asked.

Ober smiled. “Not anymore.” Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out the photo and threw it to Ben. “I figured you needed a little pick-me-up.”

“You stole the picture from her refrigerator?” Eric asked, looking over Ben’s shoulder.

“We borrowed it,” Ober said. “We’ll give it back. I just wanted to show Ben what he missed.”

“Hello, perverts,” Eric said. “This is my aunt we’re talking about.”

“What would happen if you had sex with her?” Ober asked. “Would your kids be mutants or something?”

“What’s the word again for kids who are born from inbreeding?” Nathan asked.

“I think they’re called ‘Obers,’” Eric said.

“Now that’s funny,” Ober said. “That’s a real laugh riot.”

Comforted by the camaraderie, Ben was even more convinced that the letter was just Rick’s way of playing mind games. He passed the photo to Nathan and put his hand on Eric’s shoulder. “I meant to tell you, I have a good bit of gossip for you. But you have to keep it secret until I say it’s okay.”

“Let ’er rip,” Eric said, watching Nathan fawn over the picture of his aunt.

“Let’s just say that if you had to have a journalistic hunch in the next few days, I’d start asking around about an old Supreme Court justice.”

“Blake’s finally retiring?” Eric asked.

“You didn’t hear a word from me,” Ben said. “All I’m saying is that if you want to impress your editors with your sense of intuition, that’s the path I’d start sniffing.”

“Thanks,” Eric smiled.

“Is what you told him illegal?” Ober asked, looking up from his now melting ice cream.

“Of course it’s not illegal,” Ben said. “It’s just friendly advice.”

“Because if it was illegal, I’d be forced to make a citizen’s arrest.” When Ben shook his head, Ober said, “I’m serious. I’d arrest the both of you.”

“Ober, if you got me arrested, I’d call your boss and tell her you faxed me a photocopy of your penis last week.”

“So?” Ober said.

“And then I’d tell her you were the one who sideswiped her car at the office barbecue last July.”

“So?”

“And then I’d call all your overdue credit cards and give them your real address and your daytime telephone number.”

Ober paused. “So?”

“And then I’d tell Eric that you’re constantly stealing his quarters to do your laundry.”

“You’re what?” Eric asked.

“Oh, he’s so full of sh—”

“That’s where all my quarters went!”

“Good night,” Ben said, standing from the couch. “Time for bed.”

At six-thirty the next morning, Ben walked into the kitchen for breakfast. “Morning,” he said to Nathan, always the earliest riser.

Folding the newspaper on the table, Nathan pushed aside his bowl of cereal. “I think you should see this.”

“What is it?” Ben asked, pouring himself a glass of orange juice. “Read it to me.”

“I think you should read it,” Nathan said.

Ben picked up the paper. The headline blared, INVESTIGATION OPENED AFTER HIGH COURT’S CMI DECISION. Quickly, he read, “A high-level source at the Supreme Court revealed that an official investigation has been opened to dismiss rumors of wrongdoing during the recent CMI decision. After Charles Maxwell risked millions on the outcome of the case, critics from Wall Street to Washington have suspected foul play. As a result, the Court has begun ‘a high level and thorough investigation.’ According to the source, ‘Everyone who knew the outcome in advance, from the printing department to the law clerks, will be thoroughly questioned.’”

Ben ground his teeth. “This is a bunch of crap,” he said, throwing the paper on the table. “There’s no investigation. They’re just trying to create some controversy.”

“Did you see the byline?”

When he read the words “By Eric Stroman,” Ben’s stomach dropped. “I don’t believe this.”

“Just relax,” Nathan said, putting a hand on Ben’s shoulder.

“That motherfucker!” Ben screamed, ripping up the paper. He ran out of the room and shot up the stairs. “ERIC! WAKE THE HELL UP!”

“Just calm down,” Nathan called, following his friend.

Ben kicked open the door to Eric’s room. The bed was empty. Nathan breathed a sigh of relief. “Where the hell is he?” Ben asked. A white envelope lay in the middle of Eric’s unmade bed, with Ben’s name written on the outside.

As Ben opened the envelope, Ober staggered into the room, wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts. “What the hell is going on?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Don’t ask,” Nathan warned.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Ben announced, ignoring the card in his hand. “Our piece-of-shit roommate wrote a story on page five of the newspaper about potential wrongdoings at the Court. He then went on to wrongly report that an investigation has been opened, and that members of the staff are suspected of leaking information to Charles Maxwell before the decision was handed down. In other words, he fucked me. If there wasn’t an investigation before, there is one now. And if there was one before, he just forced Court security to turn the heat up.”

“No way,” Ober said.

“Just relax,” Nathan said. “What’s the card say?”

“Dear Ben,” he read. “At this point, I’m sure you’re raging mad. I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain. I’m sorry I had to leave so early this morning, but I had some stuff to do at work. Always your friend, Eric.”

“Oh, please,” Ben said, passing the card to Nathan. “He hasn’t been up before noon for a whole year, and today he had to go in early? He ran out on me.”

“It sounds like there’s an explanation,” Nathan said, passing the card to Ober.

“What could he possibly say?” Ben asked. “What explanation could possibly excuse this? ‘Sorry, we had some space to fill, so I decided to dick you over’?”

“Maybe they needed to fill in for the word jumble,” Ober said.

“Ober, don’t screw around with this,” Ben warned. “This is serious for me. This story could get me fired.” Ben was silent as he leaned on Eric’s dresser. Watching their friend, Nathan and Ober said nothing. “DAMN!” Ben screamed, pushing a stack of papers from Eric’s dresser. “They’re definitely investigating now. They can’t ignore this.”

“You have to speak to him,” Nathan said. “Give him a call.”

Looking at his watch, Ben said, “I’m late. I have to go.” He marched down the stairs, grabbed his overcoat from the closet, and stormed out of the house.

“This will not be a pretty one,” Nathan said when the door slammed shut.

“Did you know about this?” Ober asked.

“Of course I didn’t know,” Nathan said.

“I knew,” Ober said, sitting on Eric’s bed.

“You knew?” Nathan asked. “You knew and you didn’t stop him?”

“There was no stopping him,” Ober explained. “You know how Eric gets when he’s in reporter mode. He’s out to win the Pulitzer.”

“Did you at least say something to him?”

“Of course,” Ober said. “He wouldn’t listen. Besides, it was too late. He told me last night.”

“I’ll tell you one thing, their friendship is over,” Nathan said, picking up the knocked-over papers. “And Ben is not a person you want as your enemy.”

“He’s definitely going to kill him,” Ober said.

“Absolutely. He’ll never forgive this. And no matter how long it takes him, he’s going to make sure Eric’s miserable.”

“Maybe we should make up a flyer for a new roommate,” Ober said,

“Actually, why don’t you do that at work today? It’ll say: Wanted, semi-messy roommate to replace our old dead one. Must be willing to live with one genius, one monkey, and one Supreme Court clerk who’s recently acquired a taste for blood.”

As he approached the Supreme Court, Ben struggled to calm himself. Taking deep, slow breaths, he climbed the stairs and entered the marble edifice. Biting the inside of his cheek, he showed his I.D. and walked around the metal detector. He made every attempt to appear calm, taking extra-small strides to slow himself down. Walking through reception, he was relieved to see that Nancy wasn’t in yet. As he entered his and Lisa’s office, he lightly shut the door behind him.

“I guess you saw it,” Lisa said, the paper open on her desk.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ben said, heading directly for his desk. “He’s a dead man.”

“Have you talked to him?”

“He ran out before I got up. Has anyone said anything yet?”

“Nothing so far. It’s only seven, though. The day is young.”

“That’s just great. Thanks for that piece of advice.”

“Listen, it’s only the Washington Herald. Everyone in this town knows it’s a right-wing, lunatic paper. No one takes it seriously.” Getting no response from Ben, she added, “It didn’t even make the front page.”

“Terrific. I’m thrilled.”

“Listen, it could be worse. At least he didn’t say that it was a clerk.”

“Well then, I’m tickled-fuckin’-pink,” Ben said, his voice rising. “It’s all okay now. I don’t have to worry. My career is just perfect. Thanks, Sally Sunshine, for showing me the way.”

“Listen, I don’t need your asshole tone,” Lisa yelled across the desk. “I was just trying to help.”

“Well, sorry if I’m not in the mood.”

“It has nothing to do with being in the mood,” she said. “If you want to be miserable, go right ahead. But don’t take it out on me.”

“I’m sorry,” Ben said, leaning back in his chair. “I really am. I’m just scared about this whole thing.”

“And you deserve to be. I’d want to kick the crap out of him.”

“I have no idea what to do.”

“Well, I hate to be the one to say this, but there’s not a lot you can do about it now. We have to get the Russell decision done, and I still haven’t seen your first draft.”

“Can’t you do it?”

“Oh, don’t even think that,” Lisa warned. “I’m your friend, and I’m here whenever you want to talk, but don’t think you’re getting out of your work just so you can sulk all day.”

“C’mon. I’d do it for you.”

“Are you crazy? While you’re writing Russell and Pacheco, I’m editing Oshinsky, and Lowell Corp., and Pacific Royal, and Schopf. And we haven’t even started working on Grinnell, which is scheduled to be announced at the end of the month.”

“So what are you saying?”

“What I’m saying is, don’t leave work and run down to the Washington Herald to confront your roommate, which I know you’ve been planning to do since you saw the damn article.”

Ben fought a smile. “That’s not what I was thinking.”

“Oh, really?”

“I was going to wait until lunch to go down there.”

At eleven-thirty, Ben’s phone rang. “Hello, Justice Hollis’s chambers,” he said, picking up the receiver.

“Ben Addison? This is the Supreme Court security office. We need to speak to you. We believe you may be leaking information to the public.”

“E-excuse me?” Ben said, panicking.

“Just kidding!” Ober said. “It’s just me.”

“Don’t do that! You scared the shit out of me.”

“Oh, relax,” Ober said. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“What do you want?”

“Eric called me. He said he’d like to talk to you tonight.”

“What time?”

“Eight, if that’s okay with you.”

“That’s fine. I’ll see him then.”

“Who was it?” Lisa asked, noticing the irritated look on Ben’s face.

“Just Ober.”

A half hour later, the phone rang again. “Hello, Justice Hollis’s chambers,” Ben said.

“Is this Ben Addison?” a voice asked.

“Yes,” Ben said, annoyed to be pulled away from the Russell opinion.

“Hi, Mr. Addison. My name is Diana Martin, and I’m with The Washington Post. I was wondering if you had any comment on the story in this morning’s Herald.”

“Listen, if you work with Ober, tell him to bite me.”

“Mr. Addison, I think you have me confused with someone else. As I said, I’m with The Washington Post. I’d be happy to fax over my press credentials. In fact, if you’d like, perhaps we could meet for lunch and talk this over.”

Sitting up straight in his chair, Ben knocked over the coffee on his desk. “How can I help you today, Ms. Martin?” he asked as Lisa pulled a pile of napkins from her left-hand drawer.

“Well, as I said, I was wondering if you had any comment on the story in today’s Herald.”

As Ben lifted piles of paper from his desk, Lisa dabbed away the coffee. “I’m sorry,” Ben said. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“In this morning’s Washington Herald, there was a story about a possible leaking of information during the recent CMI decision. I was wondering if you had anything you’d like to say about it. If you’d like, I’ll keep your identity secret. You’ll be an unidentified source.”

Ben opened his top drawer and pulled out a small stack of papers. Searching through the stack and trying to avoid bumping into Lisa, Ben quickly found what he was looking for. Reading verbatim from the sheet titled “Response to Press,” he said, “I appreciate your concern on this matter, but as a clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States, I am not permitted to reveal any information to the press.”

“So are you saying that there is an investigation taking place, but that you just can’t talk about it?”

“Ms. Martin, I have nothing further to say,” Ben said, throwing aside the sheet. “Thanks for your time.” As Ben hung up the phone, Lisa finished soaking up the coffee. “Thanks for the help,” he said, wiping the remaining liquid from under his pencil sharpener.

“No problem,” Lisa said. She walked back to her desk. “Was that really the press?”

“I don’t believe it,” Ben said. “It was The Washington Post.”

“What’d they say?”

“They asked me about the story. I almost shit in my pants.”

“It sounded like you were fine,” Lisa said. “You did the right thing. That’s what the press sheet was designed for.”

“When I got this in August, I never thought I’d have to use it,” Ben said, putting the sheet back in his top drawer. “Do you think they know?”

“No. They probably called everyone. I’m sure they know that the clerks are the easiest ones to get information from.”

“I really think they know. They have to know.”

“They don’t know a thing,” she said. “In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten more calls from the press. I’d heard that we’d be called before every big decision.”

“They haven’t called you,” Ben said. “Explain that, Miss Optimis—” Lisa’s phone rang.

Lisa smiled. “Hello, Justice Hollis’s chambers.” As Ben listened, she said, “Yeah, I really can’t talk now. Can I call you back later? Yeah, now’s a bad time.”

“Who was that?” Ben asked as Lisa hung up the phone.

“Just an old friend from law school.” Walking over to Ben’s desk, she said, “Listen, don’t let this get you down. I’m sure they’re just going through their list. I’ll get called.”

“Whatever,” Ben said. “It’s no big deal. I mean, they’re the press. They’re supposed to find these things out. It’s their job to wreck my life.”

“Ben, your life is far from wrecked.”

“Listen, I don’t need the pep talk. I know what I got into, and I’ll figure a way out of it.”

“It’s not a matter of figuring a way out of it. You’re not in trouble. No one knows it’s you. Besides, worse comes to worst, you can always wait tables.”

“That’s very funny,” Ben said, heading for the door.

“Where are you going?”

“I have a stupid lunch meeting with the firm I worked at two summers ago.”

“A recruitment lunch?”

“I imagine.”

“Why are you going?” Lisa asked. “If you want to be a prosecutor, you don’t have to go to a firm. You should just go to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“I wish. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office won’t help me pay off all the debt I have from law school.”

“You still have law school debt? I thought your parents were wealthy executives?”

“My mom’s an executive, but my family doesn’t have that kind of money. Anyway, I wanted to pay my own way.”

“You did?”

“It’s my responsibility. I’m the one who went to law school, I’m the one who gets the benefit. Why should they pay the bill?”

“So how much debt do you have?”

“From law school, about ninety-two thousand dollars.” Lisa’s mouth fell open. “And that’s not including the eight thousand that I paid off in the past two years.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of financial aid?”

“Absolutely,” Ben said. “That’s how I got the loans.”

“I still don’t understand why you didn’t let your parents—”

“It’s a long story,” Ben said. “In the end, they couldn’t afford to do much, and I wanted to make it easier on them. That’s it.” Looking down at his watch, he said, “I really have to go. I’m late.”

Ben jumped into a cab outside the courthouse and headed to Gray’s, home of Washington’s premier power lunches. Although many of the city’s most important meetings were still held in dimly lit restaurants that smelled of cigar smoke, brandy, and barely cooked steak, Gray’s attracted executives and congressional leaders who actually wanted to be seen at lunch. Of course, it still had four private rooms in the back for patrons who wanted to be more discreet. With oversized glass tables balanced on geometrical steel bases, and chairs draped with white slipcovers, the main dining room was arranged in a large circle, to facilitate celebrity spotting. The restaurant was decorated in stark black and white, giving it a minimalist look that was almost too ultramodern for downtown D.C.

Once inside, Ben tightened his tie and looked for Adrian Alcott. Alcott was the hiring partner for Wayne & Portnoy, one of the city’s most established firms, and the place where Ben had worked during the summer after his second year of law school. As a summer associate at Wayne, he was taken by the recruiting committee to baseball games at Camden Yards, concerts at the Kennedy Center, and lunches and dinners at the best eateries on K Street. The summer was capped by a yachting excursion for the entire firm—more than four hundred people sailed away on two magnificent yachts. Knowing that they had attracted the best and the brightest from America’s top law schools, the firm tried to make sure they kept them. For the summer associates who were still choosing between competing firms, the evening at sea was the ultimate hard sell.

All eighteen summer associates had gone on to yearlong judicial clerkships after they graduated from law school. The firm expected its associates to clerk for a year, knowing that they would gain invaluable experience that could be used when they eventually joined the firm. And to make sure the recruits did not forget Wayne & Portnoy during their clerkship year, the firm made bimonthly phone calls to each would-be associate to see how his or her year was going. Eventually, seventeen clerks returned to the firm. Ben went to the Supreme Court. When the firm found out their eighteenth summer associate had been offered a Supreme Court clerkship, the phone calls tripled and the free lunches began. To the city’s most prestigious law firms, Supreme Court clerks were human badges of honor. Of Wayne & Portnoy’s four hundred fifty-seven lawyers, ten were former Supreme Court clerks. Today, Adrian Alcott was hoping to make it eleven.

“Hello, Mr. Addison,” Alcott said with a warm smile as Ben approached the table in one of the back rooms of the restaurant. “Please, join us.” Alcott was tall and slender, and his long frame was capped by thick blond hair. With a smile that he flashed at every opportunity, Alcott was the firm’s best recruiting tool. He loved Wayne & Portnoy, and his gracious and charming nature had convinced more than one quarter of the firm that they loved it, too. “Ben, this is Christopher Nash. He was a clerk for Justice Blake four years ago, and I thought it’d be nice for you to speak to someone who’s been through the process.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ben said, shaking Nash’s hand. Nash looked like the typical Blake clerk: weasely and white, with an Andover or Exeter in his background.

“So, how’s the Big House treating you?” Nash asked. “Everything the way I left it?”

“Absolutely,” Ben said, immediately annoyed by Nash’s attempt at coolness.

“You picked a great year to be at the Court,” Nash said. “This CMI thing has the whole place in an uproar.”

“It’s definitely been exciting,” Ben said.

“So what do you think?” Alcott asked. “Did Maxwell know?”

“I have no idea,” Ben said with a strained smile. “They don’t tell the clerks the important stuff.”

“Right. Of course,” Alcott said, opening up his menu. “So, what shall we have for lunch? The snapper here is wonderful.”

Looking at Ben, Nash said, “I have to tell you, the Court is the world’s most exciting place to work, but there is nothing like a free lunch at an expensive restaurant. When it comes to food, I’m like a kid in a candy store.”

Struggling to pay attention to the conversation, Ben thought about the various possibilities for escaping lunch. I bet if I set fire to the curtains, I could lose them in the confusion, he thought, staring at the menu.

“I’m not sure if you know, but we’re going to be in front of you real soon,” Alcott said. “We’re representing the respondent in the Mirsky case. Our oral arguments are set for January.”

“You have to put in a good word for us,” Nash said, laughing along with Alcott.

Maybe I could start choking on mineral water, Ben thought. That would shut them up real quick.

“So what’s the Court working on now?” Alcott asked.

“Hey, don’t even think it,” Nash jumped in as one of their two waiters placed a tiny appetizer of blackened bass on his plate. “He can’t say anything. Court business is extremely confidential. When your clerkship is over, they even make you shred any documents you still have.”

“Is that right?” Alcott said.

“Definitely. The place is airtight.” Looking at Ben, Nash said, “How’s Justice Blake doing? Still as cranky as ever?”

“That’s him,” Ben said. “The most miserable man on the Court.”

“I spoke to him recently. I’ve been calling every once in a while to give advice to his current clerks, Arthur and Steve. They seem nice.”

“They’re really nice,” Ben said.

“I just try to be helpful,” Nash said, as a waiter refilled his water. “I know how crazy it can get there.”

“Do most clerks call their former chambers?” Ben asked, taking a roll.

“Some do,” Nash said. “It depends. I think all of Blake’s clerks do because a year with Blake can be such a miserable experience.”

“He works them like dogs.”

“That’s Blake. I think all of his former clerks are bonded by knowing that we’ve all lived through a year with him. Have any of Hollis’s old clerks called you?”

“No,” Ben said bluntly. “That’s why I was curious.”

“Wait, let me think. Who was clerking for Hollis when I was there? Oh, I remember, one of them was Stu Bailey. He’s a great guy. He works at Winick and Trudeau now.”

Alcott looked annoyed at the mention of Wayne & Portnoy’s rival firm.

“I’m actually not surprised no one’s called,” Nash added. “Hollis makes you work, but deep down, he’s a big teddy bear.”

“Is that right?” Alcott asked.

“That’s not a bad description,” Ben agreed.

“Have you had any encounters with Osterman’s clerks?”

“Not really,” Ben said. “They’re the only clerks who really keep to themselves.”

“Unbelievable!” Nash said, banging the table. “Nothing changes.” Nash leaned toward Ben and lowered his voice. “When I was there, Osterman’s clerks were the worst, most obnoxious, conservative cranks in the whole Court. And the rumor I heard was that all of Osterman’s clerks were part of this tiny network. They all keep in touch, and they have a secret meeting once a year.”

“I never heard this,” Ben said with a smile.

“I’m not joking,” Nash said. “I heard they used to call themselves The Cabal, and the older clerks would teach the younger clerks how to sway decisions to their own agenda. I’m serious,” he added, noticing Ben’s doubtful expression. “You know how much influence you can have if you want it. When you write a decision, for the most part you can structure it your own way. You can emphasize certain points, or make other points extra ambiguous. It’s a subtle gesture of power, but it’s still power.”

“Yeah, but you really can’t do anything the justice doesn’t want in the first place.”

“That was the scary part. People said Osterman knew about all this and he just turned his back on it—letting his clerks do what they wanted.”

“I think that’s how Hitler trained his militia,” Ben said as a waiter refilled the table’s breadbasket.

“Didn’t I tell you this guy knows what it’s like?” Alcott said to Ben as he pointed at Nash.

“So tell me,” Ben said, “how’s everything at Wayne?”

“Fantastic,” Alcott said, putting both elbows on the table. “We just took on NFL Properties as a client, so if you need any tickets to a Redskins game, you let me know. In fact, any game in the whole country, whenever you want. We also took on Evian, so every water cooler in the firm has sparkling fresh Evian water.”

“That’s great,” Ben said, noticing that Alcott had paused for his reaction.

“And the pro bono department recently started doing work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”

“There are no free benefits from them,” Nash laughed.

Shooting Nash a look, Alcott said, “But we do get invited to their annual convention, where the president usually speaks.”

“That’s great,” Ben said. “I’m on their mailing list because I did some work with them during law school.”

“Did you really?” Alcott asked. “Then we’ll have to get you in on this. Whenever you have some free time, let me know, and I’ll get you in to see the chairperson. She’s a wonderful woman. Very charismatic.”

“Meanwhile, did you tell him about the Supreme Court bonus?” Nash asked.

Alcott smiled. “Ben, this one is wonderful. The hiring committee recently met to reevaluate compensation packages for first-year associates. Since we’ve always given bonuses to associates who have clerkship experience, we thought we should add another bonus if the candidate also clerks for the Supreme Court. So in addition to that number I gave you last week, you can add another ten thousand. It’s only for the first year, but we think it’s a nice token.”

Staring at his plate, Ben wondered how he could take a $38,000-a-year job with the U.S. Attorney’s Office when a $100,000 job was staring him in the face and buying him an expensive lunch.

“Listen, you don’t have to decide now,” Alcott said. “We know it’s a hard choice. I’ll be honest, we know you can write your ticket anywhere, but we want you at Wayne and Portnoy. You’ve been with us for one summer; you know our style. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. We work hard when we have to, but we try to enjoy all the perks our profession allows us. If you come to us, I can assure you that at least twenty percent of your work will be on pro bono cases, so you can still give a great deal back to the community. Obviously, this isn’t the last time we’ll be speaking this year, but I do want to keep you informed about your choices.”

“I appreciate it,” Ben said. “You make it hard to say no.”

“Good,” Alcott said, closing his menu. “With that said, let’s order some expensive food.”

When Ben returned to the office, Lisa was still sitting at her computer. “How was lunch?”

“It was great,” Ben said, lying on the sofa and patting his stomach. “I had the best snapper I’ve eaten in my entire life. It was crusted with macadamia nuts and covered with the most tantalizing lemon-butter sauce. Unreal.”

“So let me ask you, how does it feel to sell your soul for a piece of fish and some designer butter?”

“Don’t even start with me. I’m at least deciding whether to go to a firm. You’re the one who’s already decided to say yes, Ms. Faustus.”

“Damn right I’m selling out. I’ve got a Saab to think about.”

“Your soul for a car. How tainted you’ve become.”

“Trust me, you’ll be right behind me. Guaran-teed!”

“First of all, I won’t be right behind you, because there’s no amount of money in the world that can get me to live in Los Angeles. I heard that when you enter the city, the toll booths there accept dimes, nickels, quarters, and your integrity. Second of all, even if I do go to a firm, I’ll be going for ten thousand dollars more than you will.”

“You will not,” Lisa said.

“I will too.”

“Will not.”

“Okay,” Ben said, putting his hands behind his head. “Then I guess they didn’t just promise me an extra ten grand as a bonus for being a Supreme Court clerk.”

“Are you kidding me? You get ten grand more for working here? That’s bullshit. I have to get my firm on the line. I want more money. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll convince them I’m a bleeding heart who wants to save the world.”

Laughing, Ben said, “Let me ask you a question: Can we be more disgusting at this particular moment? Wait, do we have any death penalty cases coming up this week? Maybe we can kill someone for being poor.”

“You really have the worst liberal guilt I’ve ever seen,” Lisa said. “We’re going to be wealthy. Big deal. We worked hard to get where we are.”

“I know,” Ben said, “but we had so many advantages . . .”

“. . . that other kids never had. Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lisa said, playing an imaginary violin. “Listen, I don’t know what suburb you grew up in, but I grew up in a normal middle-class family. During bad years, we were lower middle class. I went to public school and no one cut the crusts off my Wonder bread. How much class can my parents have—they met at Graceland, and they still tell people about it.”

“Y’know, there are two kinds of people in life,” Ben said, sitting up. “Those who cut the crust off their bread and those who—”

The ringing of Lisa’s phone cut off Ben’s sentence. “Hold on a second, I think that’s my pimp. He’s selling all of my intellectual skills to the highest bidder.” Picking up the receiver, she said, “Hello, Justice Hollis’s chambers.” After a second she grinned and mouthed the words “Washington Post.” Then she pulled out her press sheet. “I appreciate your concern on this matter, but as a clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States, I am not permitted to reveal any information to the press.” Lisa hung up the phone and sat back in her chair. “Are you happy now? I’m a suspect with you.”

“Yeah, but you were always a suspect. Your whole family is a bunch of shady thieves.”

“I resent you using the word ‘thieves.’ We prefer the word ‘scoundrels.’” Walking to the door, she continued, “I’m going to give Hollis our Oshinsky opinion. Hopefully, he’ll approve it by the end of today.”

“Good luck,” he said as Lisa left the room. Ben picked up the phone and dialed Nathan’s number.

“The Administrator’s Office,” Nathan said.

“Is that how you answer the phone? No wonder our government’s a bureaucratic mess.”

“Did you just get back from lunch with the castrating lawyers?” Nathan asked.

“You got it.”

“I knew there had to be a reason you were so excited. What did they try to buy you with this time?”

“An extra ten grand.”

“Are you serious? I was joking. Man, I’m in the wrong profession.”

“No, no. You have it much better off. Sitting around and thinking about social problems is probably the best way to solve them. And don’t forget, you beat me by a hundred points on the SAT, which, now that I think of it, is the square root of ten thousand.”

“Rot in Hades, capitalist sloth.”

“Listen, I meant to ask you, have you gotten all the stuff we need for Saturday?”

“I’m on it,” Nathan said. “Rick won’t know what to do when we’re done with him.”

“Is the plan done?”

“It’s pretty much the same as we first discussed.”

“I guess we’re set then,” Ben said. “We should probably meet tomorrow night just to do a run-through.”

“That’s fine. By the way, I’ll assume you haven’t spoken to Eric yet?”

“Nope. We’re meeting tonight at eight to have it out.”

“Ben, do me a favor. Go easy on him.”

“I’m fine. I’m completely calm.”

“Yeah, but did you hear what I said? Go easy on him. He’s still your friend.”

“Listen, I have to go,” Ben said, stretching. “I have to work on these opinions.” Hanging up the phone, Ben pulled his chair up to his desk. He opened the brown folder marked “Russell decision” and pulled out his first draft. Staring at the pages, he wondered if Osterman’s clerks really swayed opinions to their own agenda. No way, he thought. That story has urban myth written all over it. Lisa’s phone rang. He reached across the desk and picked it up. “Hello, Justice Hollis’s chambers.”

“Hi, I’m looking for a Lisa Schulman. Do I have the right extension?”

“You do.” Ben pulled the phone toward his own desk. “She just stepped out for a minute. Can I take a message?”

“Can you tell her Diana Martin of The Washington Post called her, and if she could give me a call back that’d be great.”

Puzzled, Ben said, “I guess she has your number?”

“No, no. She doesn’t even know me. Let me give it to you.”

After writing down the number, Ben hung up the phone and sat back in his chair. For the next half hour, he stared at the pages of the Russell decision.

At three o’clock, Lisa returned to the office. “We’re done,” she sang as she entered the room, throwing a manila file folder on her desk. “He loved it! Oshinsky is O’history!” Taking one look at Ben, she asked, “What?”

“I have a message to give you. Diana Martin of The Washington Post called. She wants you to call her.”

“Ben, I can expl—”

“Don’t bother,” he said, throwing Diana’s number on her desk. “I won’t believe it.”

“Ben, don’t be so damn stubborn.”

“Why not? All my other friends picked today to dick me over. Why can’t I be a little bit stubborn? In fact, I think I’m entitled to be a full-fledged jerk today.”

“Well, you’re doing a great job of that. And let me ask you a question: Why were you even answering my line?”

“Don’t even think of turning this one around,” he said, jumping from his seat. “Your phone rang; I picked it up. Period. What’s your excuse?”

Lisa looked at her feet. “I was worried that you would be crazy if I didn’t get a phone call from the Post, so I had a friend of mine make that first call to me and I pretended it was the reporter. I was trying to make you feel better.”

Ben fell silent. “You really did that for me?”

“I did it because I pity you,” she said with a smile.

“That’s not a bad excuse.”

“C’mon, you can’t be mad.”

“You’re lucky this time,” he said, pointing at Lisa. “Next time you try to be nice, I’m gonna really get pissed.”

At seven-thirty, Ben packed up his briefcase and left the office. Walking downstairs, he thought about his forthcoming confrontation with Eric. If he has no explanation, he’s dead, Ben thought as he swiped his card through the security door on the first floor. Even if he has an explanation, he’s dead. As he passed the marble statues in the Great Hall, Ben heard the security guard at the front entrance mumble something into his walkie-talkie. When the guard got out of his seat, Ben wondered what was wrong. Slowly, he approached the entrance. The guard looked at his clipboard. At the last second, Ben decided to turn around. Heading back the way he came, he swiped his card through the security door he had just left, reentering the north wing of the Court. He hurried toward the unmanned side door that exited to the north side of the building. As he approached the door, he heard the echo of footsteps behind him. Only the guilty run, he thought, remembering the advice from his criminal law professor. As he approached the exit, he once again prepared to swipe his I.D. card. Forcing it though the machine that would let him reach the exit, he was surprised when he didn’t hear the usual click of access. Again he tried the card. Nothing.

“Ben, can we speak with you for a moment?”

Ben jumped. Turning around, he saw a man in a gray wool suit coming toward him.

“Do you have a moment?” the man asked.

“Uh, is there a problem?” Ben stuttered.

“If you would just follow me.” Ben followed the man back to the front entrance. As they walked through the Great Hall, Ben loosened his tie. When they reached the front of the building, they took the elevator to the basement. Known to Court staff as Disneyland, the basement of the Supreme Court contained a snack bar, cafeteria, movie theater, gift shop, and exhibits on the history of the Court.

As Ben passed the giant statue of John Marshall, he tightened his jaw and tried his best to remain calm. On the west side of the building were the only basement offices: those of the marshals, who were in charge of all security for the Court. Entering through the main door, Ben walked through the maze of tiny cubicles and was escorted to the far left-hand corner of the room. Stopping in the doorway of a large office, Ben waited behind his guide. A heavy man in a blue pin-striped suit sat behind a faux antique desk.

“Come on in,” he said. His round face was highlighted by a fat, pockmarked nose and a beard peppered with gray. The smell of the office revealed his taste for cigars. Decorating the front of his desk was an extensive collection of batteries. “Do me a favor, close the door,” the man said, motioning to Ben’s escort. He tilted back in his leather chair as the door slammed shut. “So you’re Ben Addison,” he said. “Please. Sit.”

“Is there some sort of problem?” Ben asked nervously as he sat in one of the two seats in front of the desk. He kept his breathing slow and steady, trying to look unfazed.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” the man said as Ben’s escort sat in the other chair. “In case you don’t know me, I’m Carl Lungen, chief marshal here at the Court. I oversee all of our security here. This is Dennis Fisk, our deputy marshal,” Lungen said, indicating Ben’s gray-suited escort. “The reason we brought you here today is because we have some questions that we hope you can answer about a story that appeared in today’s Washington Herald. If you’re not aware of the story, let me say that it suggests the possibility that the recent CMI decision was leaked to Mr. Charles Maxwell. Are you with me so far?”

“I saw the story,” Ben said, annoyed by Lungen’s condescending tone.

“Good,” Lungen said, grabbing a 1980 Energizer. “You see, Ben, this story suggests that the security of this Court has been compromised. As you can imagine, this reflects poorly on our office. Luckily, we have a very close friend at the Herald, and after a phone call to this friend, I was informed that the author of the story was a new reporter to the paper. I was also informed that this reporter happens to live with one of our clerks. That clerk is you. So, you can imagine my desire to meet you face-to-face.”

“I know what you’re thinking,” Ben said, “but I had nothing to do with the story.”

“So you’re telling me that you don’t know of anyone leaking information from this Court?”

“No one.”

“Then why did your friend write that story?”

“I don’t know. To be honest, that’s exactly where I was headed when you pulled me down here. The first I heard of the story was at seven o’clock this morning. When I went to confront my roommate about it, he was gone.”

“Ben, I’m going to ask you again. Do you know of anyone leaking information from this Court?”

“No, I don’t. I swear, I don’t know of anyone.”

Lungen placed the battery back in line with the others. He stared at Ben. After a pause, Ben said, “My only guess is that he was trying to make a good impression on his editors. I mean, he knows that we know the opinions in advance. From there he can write whatever he wants. You know the Herald, they print anything.” As his voice picked up strength, he continued, “And if Eric had a single shred of proof, do you really think they’d run it on page five? The story is complete conjecture. You read it; all it does is present the possibility of an inside source to explain Maxwell’s lucky guess. It could’ve appeared on the op-ed page.”

“Ben, do you know what would happen if we found out you were lying?” Lungen asked, placing his hands flat on his desk. “Naturally, you’d be removed from your position. If that happened, my guess is that the press would pick it up immediately. Whether you were responsible or not, I’d wager that you’d be implicated as the source that leaked to Maxwell. After that, I’d say your career would be over, and your only work would be as an adviser to the TV movie that tells the world your story.”

“Why don’t you just cooperate with us?” Fisk asked in a calm, soothing voice. Fisk was rugged-looking, with chiseled features offset by a bad complexion and a poorly fitted suit. Fisk’s strong Chicago accent flattened his A’s and rounded his O’s. “If you let us, you know we can help you with this.”

“Listen, I don’t need the good-cop-bad-cop routine,” Ben said, a rush of adrenaline keeping his voice from cracking. “If I leaked the story to Eric, I’d be a complete moron. I mean, no offense to you guys, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Eric and I are roommates. Does it make any sense for me to ask my roommate to write a story that will not only jeopardize my career, but will also call attention to myself?” Letting the logic of the argument sink in, he added, “The story is bullshit. Eric probably wanted attention and—”

“We didn’t say you asked Eric to write the story,” Fisk interrupted. “We just think you’re the one that gave him the information.”

“I didn’t say word one to him. Believe me, I’ve been extremely careful about what I’ve said around everyone, Eric especially.”

“But you did tell Eric that Blake is retiring, didn’t you?”

Ben bit the inside of his cheek. Lungen continued, “Don’t bullshit us, Ben. My friend at the Herald said there’s a story running tomorrow about Blake stepping down. The Herald wouldn’t run it without a solid source, and Eric fingered you.”

Crossing his arms to look confident, Ben knew he was losing control. “I admit I told him about Blake. I told him we’d be releasing the information later this week. But I didn’t tell him about—”

“You admit that you purposely leaked information from this Court about Blake, and yet you expect us to believe you about Maxwell?” Lungen asked.

“You know there’s a difference,” Ben said. “The Blake thing was common knowledge. It was hardly confidential information. What you’re talking about with Maxwell is on a totally different level.”

“That’s exactly our point,” Lungen said. “Now, would you like to start over?”

Determined not to show his frustration, Ben said, “Look, I swear, I don’t know anything about Maxwell. If I did, do you really think I’d be sitting here, talking to you? If I leaked the decision to Maxwell, I’d be on a beach in Greece right now, counting my ten-million-dollar fee.”

“Ben, let me tell you what we think. We agree you probably didn’t leak anything to Eric. That’d be stupid, and frankly, we expect better from you. You probably didn’t personally leak any information to Maxwell, either. As you said, if you did, you wouldn’t need to work anymore. Our fear, however, is that you may’ve heard something from your co-clerk, or from a clerk in another office, about someone else leaking information. You casually mention this to Eric, or maybe he overhears it, and suddenly we have a major scandal on our hands. At this point, though, the only person we do have is you.”

“I’m telling you: I have no idea of anyone, including myself, leaking information from this Court.”

“What about Blake’s resignation?”

“You know what I mean—substantial information concerning legal decisions. When I first started at the Court, I explained to my roommates that I knew all the information in advance. But they never cared—not even Eric. The only way I can figure it is that Eric created this hypothetical situation to get published. Ask your friend at the Herald. You said they wouldn’t run the Blake resignation story unless they had a good source. What was the source for Eric’s story about Maxwell?”

Lungen was silent.

“Eric wouldn’t name his source, would he?” Ben asked. “You obviously asked your friend.”

“No,” said Lungen, looking away.

“So you didn’t know it was me, but you still grilled me just to be sure?” Ben asked, shaking his head.

“Ben, the Herald may not know the source, but they definitely believe Eric has one. If that story ran, there’s got to be some truth behind it.”

“Weren’t you ever told not to believe everything you read?”

“Don’t be a smart-ass,” Lungen said. “Until I’m sure what happened, this isn’t a closed issue.”

“Well, until you’re sure what happened, I’m out of here.” Ben stood to leave.

“I’m not playing around,” Lungen warned, standing. “If you think you’re so innocent—”

“I am innocent.”

“Would you be willing to take a lie detector test to back that up?”

Pausing, Ben knew there was only one answer that would satisfy Lungen. In his most confident tone, he answered, “If that’s what it takes.”

“You should realize one thing,” Fisk interrupted. “Even if we believe you, there’s no reason to assume the rest of the world will. Carl’s friend at the Herald said they received calls from every major newspaper about Eric’s story. They didn’t realize what they were getting into when they ran that sucker.”

“Why don’t you demand a retraction?” Ben asked.

“We demanded one first thing this morning,” Lungen explained. “Apparently, since the article only suggests the possibility of a leak, the paper doesn’t care that it’s unsubstantiated.”

“Do you think other papers will pick it up?”

“Now you know what we’re worried about,” Lungen said. “From what we hear, the press won’t touch the story until they have a source. It doesn’t have to be a good source. It can be a janitor, a secretary, a clerk, anyone. But as soon as they get a source, they’ll tear whoever’s responsible apart. To be honest, they may never get a source. But you never know. Some cafeteria worker might be pissed at how tight her hairnet is, and the next thing we know, she’s on the evening news telling the world how she overheard someone talking to someone else.

“For the next few weeks, although it may not get much play in the press, I’ll guarantee you that every journalism grad in town will be digging around this place hoping to blow it wide open. And if I were you, I’d be worried, because thanks to your roommate, the easiest person to finger in this disaster is you.”

“Thanks,” Ben said wryly, struggling to suppress his anxiety. “Can I go now?”

“I’m serious.”

“I understand,” Ben said, moving to the door.

“One more thing before you leave,” Fisk said. “If you are going to confront Eric about his story, I’d appreciate it if you could come back here tomorrow morning, in case anything new pops up.”

“We’ll see,” Ben said, sidestepping him and edging out the door.

After Ben left the room, Lungen looked to Fisk. “What’d you think?”

“You know how I feel,” Fisk said. “I hate clerks. They all think because they were picked to work at the Supreme Court, their shit doesn’t stink anymore.”

“That’s very helpful,” Lungen said. “Now what’d you think of Ben?”

“I got what I expected. He’s obviously a bright kid, and I think he laid it out pretty well. He’s not dumb enough to help Eric write that story, but that doesn’t mean Eric is full of shit either. Why? What was your take?”

“I’m not sure. I wish Ben was a bit more nervous.”

“He was definitely calm,” Fisk agreed. “So he’s either telling the truth, or he’s one of the best bullshit artists I’ve ever seen.”

“I really think he was as surprised by the article as we were. And my friend at the Herald said they grilled Eric for a source. He never came close to naming one, though.”

Pausing for a moment, Fisk finally said, “I don’t like these kids.”

“Fisk, you don’t like anyone who’s smarter than you.”

“I’m dead serious about this. I say that no matter what happens, we watch this guy very carefully.”


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