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Authors: Scott Turow

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"We re all here now," Arthur said mildly. Clearly, though, Pamela had this right. Gillian had taken her time, deliberating about what to do, or whether she wanted to do anything at all.

"I thought more about it after our meeting " Gillian told Arthur.

Pamela wasn't satisfied.

"But you still haven't gone clown there to see this man?"

Gillian frowned. "That's not my job, miss."

"And watching them execute someone who shouldn't be -tha
t i
s?"

"Oh, for God's sake!" Arthur shot his hand toward Pamela like a traffic cop. She went silent, but still cast a baleful glance Gillian's way. He asked Gillian if Pamela could copy the letter and Gillian, whose face was masked by a slender freckled hand, nodded. As Pamela snatched up the pages, Arthur had no doubt Gillian Sullivan was wondering why she had bothered to come.

during the time Gillian had been in the law, both as a prosecutor and a judge, it had been an article of faith never to surrender her composure. No matter how rascally the defendant or lawyer, she would not provide them with the pleasure of an emotional response. As Arthur's young associate, in ankle boots and a leather skirt with on- seam detailing, strode from the room, Gillian's first instinct was to offer advice. Contain yourself, Gillian wanted to tell her. But Pamela, of course, would have answered, justifiably, that she wanted to be nothing like her.

"What do you feed her, Arthur?" Gillian asked when the door slammed. "High octane?"

"She's going to be a great lawyer," he answered. His tone suggested he recognized that was not fully a compliment.

"1 still get mail forwarded from inmates all the time, Arthur. I don't even know how they find me. And all of it's crazy." There were the predictable pornographic fantasies that the memory of an attractive woman in power inspired in bad men locked away, and several other messages, not all that different from Erdai's, sent in the implausible hope that she might rethink certain situations and repair them now that she knew what imprisonment was like. "I can't take any of it seriously," Gillian said. "You know what this is, Arthur, this letter. I know you do. The gangbangers are always up to something."

" 'Erno Erdai'? Sounds white. Rommy's black. And too weird for any gang to hook up. There's nothing about gangs in his record."

"They have all kinds of alliances in there. It's like the Wars of the Roses."

Arthur shrugged and said the only way to find out was to go speak to Erdai.

"I think you should," she answered. "That's why I brought the letter."

"The letter says he wants to talk to you."

"Oh, please," Gillian said. She reached into her purse. "May I smoke in here?"

Smoke-free environment, said Raven. There was a lounge, but the air was so rank she might as well just breathe in ash. Gillian closed the purse again, resolved, as ever, to contain her cravings.

"It's not even appropriate for me to go down there," she said.

Arthur made a face, perhaps out of an effort not to smile. And she quickly understood. There was no authority left to punish her for an ethical lapse, no one to banish her from the bench or revoke her law license. They'd done all that already. Anything they couldn't jail her for was all right at this stage.

"Gillian, nobody's going to criticize me -or you, for that matter- for doing what we have to in order to hear his story. He didn't make any bones about what he thinks of defense lawyers."

"He may well speak to you anyway."

"Or hate me and refuse to talk to either one of us after that. Gillian, I have six weeks left until the Court of Appeals decides whether to turn out the lights on this man. At this stage, I can't waste time or take chances."

"I cannot go to Rudyard, Arthur." The thought constricted her stomach. She did not want to feel that deadened air again, or deal with the perverted reality of convicts. She had spent most of her time in seg, separated from most inmates, because it was too hard for the Bureau of Prisons to figure out who was the sister or daughter of someone she'd prosecuted or sentenced and who, as a result, might be carrying a murderous grudge. And that was just as well. She was seldom at ease with the other prisoners with whom she was housed, women who were pregnant when they entered the facility, or who had been removed from general population for one infraction or another. They were all victims to the core, certainly in their own minds and often in fact. Most had had nothing to start and went down from there. Some were bright. Several were actually entertaining company. But when you got to know them, sooner or later you crashed against character defects the size of Gibraltar: lying, a temper like Vesuvius, a misper- ception of the world that resembled color-blindness in the sense that there was some aspect of normality they simply couldn't see. She kept to herself, helped out with legal problems, and was referred to, despite her efforts to discourage it, as 'Judge.' It seemed to please everyone there-prisoners and, even, staff-to know that one of the mighty had fallen.

Raven, however, was not about to give up.

"Look, I don't want to preach," he said, "but this Erdai, he has a point, doesn't he? You made the decisions. You found this man guilty, you sentenced him to death. Don't you have some responsibility, if my guy doesn't deserve that?"

"Arthur, to be blunt, I've done more than I had to already." She had wrestled it through for several days before deciding to bring him the letter. It was foolish, she knew, to risk any further contact with Raven, who might become more precise with his questions about her past. And she felt no allegiance to the law, whose stratagems and puz
zles had once delighted her, but which, like a sovereign, had expelled her from its kingdom. But she smarted at the memory of that one cruel remark to Arthur. It was not the law but the rules she had set down for herself, with the avuncular assistance of Duffy, her sponsor and landlord, that required her to be here. No more messes, no more casual destruction of others or herself. When necessary, make amends.

Still yearning for nicotine, she stood and wandered to a corner of the room. She had not been in a law office in the months she had been out of the penitentiary, and the plummy atmosphere seemed somehow hilarious. Everyone had grown so much richer in the time she was away. It was unimaginable that normal people lived with this luxury--the rich woods, the granite, a silver coffee service of Swedish design, and rolling armchairs of buttery calfskin. She had never yearned for any of this. But it was still difficult to see Arthur Raven, able and driven, but perhaps not gifted, so comforted by fortune.

As he watched her, Raven was unconsciously stroking the fried-up hair that stood straight on his scalp at the few points where it still resided. Arthur, as always, appeared to have been working hard --his tie was dragged down, and there were ink spots on his hand, and on his shirt cuff. Intuitively, she sought some way to deflect him.

"How is your sister, Arthur? Is my memory right? Is that who was ill?"

"Schizophrenic. I got her into an assisted living arrangement, but I'm over there all the time. The last words my father said to me were, 'Take care of Susan.' Which wasn't very surprising. He'd been telling me that since I was twelve."

"Other sibs?"

"It's just Susan and me."

"And when did your mother die?"

"My mother's hale and hearty. She just washed her hands of all of us thirty years ago when Susan got sick. She went to Mexico for a long time, then wandered back here. She was kind of a free spirit. And she and my father were a strange match. She's got a little place here in Center City and supports herself as a model for life-drawing classes at the Museum Art School."

"A nude model?"

"Oh sure. The human body is a beautiful thing at all ages, Arthur.' I guess it's more of a challenge to draw wrinkles. I really don't know." Raven was smiling somewhat tentatively, a bit bewildered by what he was confessing.

"You see her?"

"Now and then. But it's like visiting a distant aunt. I mean in high school, I had a couple of friends, black guys actually, who'd been raised by their grandmothers. They knew their moms the way I did - like having a much older pal. It was how I grew up. What else do you know?"

He smiled the same way. Mrs. Raven, clearly, was the other pole from May Sullivan, who had demanded preeminence in the lives of all family members. She was brilliant and a savage wit, but the bottle of Triple Sec was open on the kitchen counter by the time Gillian came home every afternoon from St. Margaret's. The evening always proceeded in the same sick suspense. Who would Ma go after? Would she scream or, as was often the case in her fights with Gillian's father, resort to violence? Her rages could bring a house with ten occupants to a freighted silence that lasted hours.

Arthur, who had appeared to welcome Gillian's interest in him, nonetheless reverted to his effort to get her to visit Erdai. Discipline, she recalled, was always one of his professional strengths.

"I don't know how to talk you into this," he said. "I won't ask much. Just smooth the way with the guy." Arthur promised she would not even have to listen to Erdai's story, if she chose, and that he would drive her down himself to be certain she made it back and forth from the institution in one day. "Look, Gillian. I never wanted this case. The court just threw it on me, like a saddle. And now I haven't had a day off in four weeks. But I'm doing it, you know, my duty. And I have to ask you to help."

Openly plaintive and disarmingly humble, Arthur extended his short arms toward her. He smiled as he had when he spoke of his mother: this was all he knew, and there was no choice but to accept it. He was a nice man, Gillian realized. He'd grown up to be a nice man, someone who'd come to know more of himself than she would hav
e p
redicted. He knew he was one of life's ardent eager beavers, a do- right afraid to do wrong, and he knew, as he'd said last time, there were persons, such as she, who judged the likes of him boring. Yet that, she suddenly saw, had been her mistake. Not her only mistake. But one of them. She had always owed Arthur and those like him a great deal more respect. Realizing that was a step in her rehabilitation. Because it came to her now that rehabilitation was in fact her plan. In some secret part, she had intended all along, when her strength returned, to reform and remake herself, to refill with stronger stuff the fathomless crater she'd blown through her life.

Til go," she said. As soon as the words were uttered, they seemed like precious china knocked from a shelf. She watched their fall and impact-the light that spread on Raven's face-suspecting at once that she'd made a dreadful mistake. All she desired was a safely anesthetized life. She had been living out a daily plan -take her Paxil and minimize significant contact with what had gone before. She felt an ex-addict's natural panic to think her resolve had broken down.

Showing her to the handsome reception area, Raven offered a variety of inept expressions of gratitude, then retrieved her wet umbrella and her coat. A giant rug, a bright design by a modern master who'd branched from paintings to textiles, covered the polished hardwood and Gillian, still deeply shaken, stared at the abstract figures. Twice with Arthur Raven in as many weeks, some spirit, like a woodland elf haunting a tree, had spoken for her.

She said goodbye abruptly and descended in the high-speed elevator, fully baffled by herself and, especially, the brief fluttery sensation in her chest, which seemed like a small flame in the corner of a cage. It would not last long and so she did not have to decide if it might be hope.

Chapter
7

october 4, 1991

The Jai
l i
n the house of corrections, most inmates had several names. If the Laws found out you had a record, there was less chance to walk a beef, or get bail. So when perps were arrested, they tended to forget what Momma had called them. Usually guys had been cooling for weeks before the Identification Division in McGrath Hall compared ten-card fingerprint records from booking with what was on file and figured out who was who.

Unfortunately for Collins Farwell, he had matched early. Although he'd checked in as Congo Fanon, by the time Muriel got Larry's call, the jail had Collins's given name. She was trying a bank robbery case, but she agreed to meet Larry at the jail after court, and when she arrived, he was waiting for her on one of the granite blocks that served as a bench in the lobby. His large blue eyes lingered as she approached.

"Lookin pretty spiff}'," Larry told her.

She was dressed for trial in a red suit, wearing a little more makeup
than when she was in the office pushing files. Always a little too familiar, Larry reached up to touch one of her large loop earrings.

"African?"

"As a matter of fact."

"Nice," he said.

She asked what was up and Larry offered a more elaborate version than he had on the telephone of what Erno had told him yesterday. It was 5 p
. M
. and the prisoners were locked down for the count, which meant Larry and she would have to wait to interview Collins.

"Wanna take a look at him in the meantime?" Larry asked.

He badged them in and they climbed up on the catwalks, the grated piers outside the cages. Muriel lagged a bit. She had not had time to change shoes and it was easy to put a high heel through the grating. A stumble could lead to more than embarrassment. Civilians, male and female, learned to keep their distance from the cells. Men had been nearly garroted with their neckties, and women, naturally, endured worse. The Sheriffs deputies who served as guards maintained a live-and-let-live truce with the inmates, and were not always quick to intervene.

BOOK: Reversible Errors
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