Read Reversible Errors Online

Authors: Scott Turow

Tags: #Psychological, #Legal, #Fiction

Reversible Errors (6 page)

BOOK: Reversible Errors
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

"I'm sorry to have bothered you. I made the mistake of thinking we had something in common."

Intent on collecting herself, Gillian found her cigarette pack in its leather case in her purse and lit up again. But her hand shook as she struck the match. Surrendering to shame was such a danger for her. Once it began, she could never climb out from under the mountainous debris. She watched the flame crawl ahead, rendering the gra
y f
iber to cinder. Across the table, she could hear the zipper on Raven 's briefcase.

"I may have to subpoena you for deposition," he said.

Touche, she thought. And tear her apart, of course, once he got the opportunity. Deservedly, too.

"Will you accept service by mail?" He asked how to reach her without going through the federal court probation office, and she told him she was living in the basement apartment in Duffy Muldawer's house. Duffy, a former Roman Catholic priest, had been the Chief State Defender in Gillian's courtroom years ago and, as a result, Raven's constant opponent. Yet Arthur did not so much as bother with polite inquiries about Duffy's well-being. Instead, without looking her way, Raven aridly took down Duffy's address in an electronic organizer, one of a million marvels, each smaller than the next, that had become indispensable to Americans in the four and a half years she'd been away. The blue threads of smoke languished between them and a server briefly intervened to ask if either cared for more coffee. Gillian waited for her to go.

"I had no reason to be rude to you, Arthur."

"That's all right, Gillian. I know you always thought I was boring."

She smiled bitterly. But she felt some admiration for Arthur. He'd grown up. He could dish it out now. And he was on the mark. Nonetheless, she tried again.

"I'm not very happy, Arthur. And I suppose it makes me unhappier to see the people I used to know. It's a painful reminder."

That was stupid, of course. Who, after all, was happy? Not Arthur Raven, ungainly, uncomely, alone but for his family trouble, which she now remembered was a sister with mental problems. And no one was concerned with Gillian's emotional state anyway. Not that they doubted she was suffering. But they believed she deserved it.

Without response, Raven rose, stating simply that he would be in touch, and proceeded toward the door. Watching him exit, she caught sight of her reflection in the cheap mirrors, veined in gold, which boxed the posts supporting the restaurant ceiling. She was often startled to see herself, because, generally speaking, she looked so much better than she felt. There was something telling, she realized, abou
t t
he fact that, like stainless steel, she appeared unharmed by the battering. But she was tall with strong posture, and even time didn't take its toll on good cheekbones. She was losing color by now. Her strawberry- blond hair was a rodent shade, on its way to gray; and, as she'd long found true of fair-skinned persons, she was showing every line, like porcelain. But the fashionable details-a fitted twill suit, a strand of pearls, a hacked-down hairdo spiked with mousse-supported the composed bearing that seemed to radiate from her. It was a look she'd assumed in her teens, as false as the self-portrayal manufactured by most adolescents, but it had never been forsaken, neither the appearance of outward command nor the sense of wanton fraud that went with it.

Certainly, she'd deceived Arthur Raven. She had answered mis- leadingly, then lashed him, to ensure he didn't linger to learn the truth. Raven had been led astray by rumor, the vicious talk about her that had circulated years ago when her life collapsed. They said she was a lush-but that wasn't so. They said she drank herself silly at lunch and came on the bench half crocked in the afternoon. It was true she'd fallen asleep up there, not just a momentary drowse, but laid her face down on the bench and was so far gone that after the bailiff woke her, she could see the ribbing of her leather blotter impressed on her cheek, when she looked in a mirror. They made fun of her inebriate mumbling and the ugly name-calling that escaped from her. They lamented the squandered brilliance that had put her on the bench at the age of thirty-two, only to drink away the gifts that had led to a Harvard Law School degree. They clucked about her failure to heed the warnings she'd been given repeatedly to sober up. And all the time she kept her secret. Gillian Sullivan was not a drunk, as legend had it, or even a pill popper, which was the suspicion of the court staffers who insisted that they never smelled liquor on her breath. No, Gillian Sullivan, former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and then Judge of the Superior Court, was a smackhead, a stone doper, a heroin addict.

She did not shoot-she never shot up. As someone who treasured her appearance, even in her most desperate state, she would not deface herself. Instead she smoked heroin-chased the dragon, in the lingo, looted. With a pipe, a tube of aluminum foil, she sucked up the fumes as the powder in the heat turned first to brown goo, then pungent delirium. It was slower, minutes rather than seconds until the fabulous flush of pleasure began to take over, but she had been deliberate in everything throughout her life, and this, a sort of executive addiction, fit her image of herself, neater and less detectable -no pox of track marks, none of the telltale nosebleeds from snorting.

It had started with a guy. Isn't that how it always starts? Toby Elias was a gallant, handsome, twisted creature, an assistant in the Attorney General's Office, whom Gillian had some thought of marrying. One night he'd returned home with a hit of heroin lifted from a case he tried. It was 'the taste' one doper had offered another as the prelude to a sale, introduced in evidence, and never returned after the verdict. 'Why not?' he asked. Toby always managed to make perversity stylish. His ironic unwillingness to follow the rules meant for everyone else had beguiled her. They chipped-snorted -the first night, and reduced the quantity each night thereafter. It was an unearthly peace, but nothing that required repetition.

A month later, Toby stepped in front of an 18-wheeler. She never knew if it was an accident. He was not killed. He was a body in a bed for months, and then a dripping wreck in a wheelchair. And she had deserted him. She wasn't married to the man. She couldn't give him her life when he hadn't promised his.

Yet it was a sad turning point, she knew that now. Toby had never recovered and neither had she. Three or four months after that, she'd pinched a taste on her own for the first time. During a trial in front of her, she allowed the defense chemist to open the sealed evidence bag to weigh how much heroin had been seized. The rush seemed more delicious now. She forged opportunities, ordered tests performed when none had been requested, encouraged the prosecutors to lock their exhibits in her chambers overnight rather than tote them back to the P
. A
.'s Office. Eventually, the tampering was discovered, but a courtroom deputy was suspected and banished to an outlying precinct. After that, she had to score on the street. And she needed money.

By then she was taken for a drunk. As a warning, she'd been transferred from the Felony Trial Division to Common Pleas, tort court, where she heard personal-injury cases. There somebody knew. One of those dopers she'd sentenced had recognized her, a pretty white lady lurking in the bombed-looking blocks less than a mile from the courthouse. He'd told the cop he snitched to. From there, word traveled to the Presiding Judge in Common Pleas, a villain named Brendan Tuo- hey, and his henchman, Rollo Kosic. Kosic visited her with the news, but offered no corrective. Just money. Take his advice from time to time about the outcome in a case. There would be money.

And she complied, always with regrets, but life by now was the misery between hits. One night there was a knock, a scene out of 1984 or Darkness at Noon. The U
. S
. Attorney and FBI agents were on her doorstep. She'd been nailed, for bribery, not narcotics. She cried and blabbed and tooted as soon as they were gone.

After that night, she'd turned to Duffy, her current landlord, a recovering alcoholic with long experience as a counselor from his days as a priest. She was sober when she was sentenced, her habit the only secret that survived a period in which she otherwise felt she'd been stripped naked and marched in chains down Marshall Avenue. She was not about to revive all of that now, surely not for Arthur Raven or for a murderer who had been beast enough to rape the dead.

Yet the sudden viciousness that had escaped her with Arthur had shaken her, like finding a fissure in the ground under your feet. Seeking to spare herself further shame, she had, instead, compounded it. For hours, she would be dwelling on Raven and the way his mouth had softened to an incredulous little V in the wake of her remark. She would need Duffy tonight, his quiet counsel, to keep her from drowning.

With that much clear, she stood from the small table and caught sight again of herself. To the eye, there was a lean, elegant woman, appointed with care. But within was her truest enemy, a demon self, who, even after imprisonment and disgrace, remained unsatisfied and uncurbed, and, except for its will to see her suffer, unknown.


july 5, 1991

The Prosecuto
r a
wail, sudden enough to stop Muriels heart, broke out from the booth across from her as she sat at the soda-fountain counter. A black man in a full-length apron, probably the cook, had slid to his feet and the prospect of his departure seemed to have freshened the anguish of the woman there. Dark and thin, she was melted against him. The younger man, with a glimmering stud in his ear, lingered behind the two haplessly.

"The widow," whispered one of the techs, dusting the front case under the register. "She won't go home."

The cook eased her over to the young fellow, who reluctantly raised an arm to her shoulder, while Mrs. Leonidis carried on fiercely. In one of those moments of cold-blooded clarity for which Muriel was already noted in the P
. A
.'s Office, she suddenly recognized that Gus's widow was going through the standard gestures of grief as she understood them. The crying, the shrieking was her duty. A more genuine
reaction to her husbands death, true mourning, or even relief, would come long from now in private.

Since the day she'd started as a prosecutor, Muriel had had an instinct for the survivors of violence. She was not sure how connected she'd been to her parents, or whether any man, including her dead husband, had ever mattered to the quick. But she cared for these victims with the radiant nuclear fury of the sun. It had not taken her long to see that their suffering arose not merely from their loss but also from its imponderable nature. Their pain was not due to some fateful calamity like a typhoon, or an enemy as fickle and unreasoning as disease, but to a human failure, to the demented will of an assailant and the failure of the regime of reason and rules to contain him. The victims were especially entitled to think this should never have happened-because, according to the law, it shouldn't have.

When Mrs. Leonidis was again under some control, she marched past Muriel to the Ladies'. The young man, who had escorted her halfway, cast Muriel a sheepish look as the rest-room door closed.

"I can't talk to her," he explained. "My sisters are on the way from out of town. They'll get her out of here. Nobody listens to me." Soft- looking and skittish, the young man was balding early and his hair was cropped as closely as an army recruit's. Up close, Muriel could see that his eyes and nose were raw. She asked if he too was related to Gus.

"The son," he said, with gloomy emphasis. "The Greek son." He found some bitter humor in what he had said. He introduced himself as John Leonidis and offered a clammy hand. When Muriel had responded with her name and job title, John suddenly brightened.

"Thank God," he said. "That's what my ma is waiting for, to talk to the prosecutor." He slapped at his pockets until he realized he was already holding a pack of Kools. "Can I ask you something?" He took a seat on the stool beside her. "Am I a suspect?"

"A suspect?"

"I don't know, there's all kinds of stuff in my head. The only person I can think of who'd want to kill Gus is me."

"Did you?" Muriel asked, conversationally.

John Leonidis fixed on the glowing end of his cigarette. His nails had been nibbled to ragged slivers.

Td never have had the balls," he said. "But you know, all this 'good' stuff. It was P
. R
. At home, he was a pig. Like he made my mother cut his toenails? Can you imagine? In the summer, he'd sit like a sultan on the back porch in the sun while she did it. I mean, it could make you vomit."

John gave his head a bitter toss, and then, with little warning, he began to cry. Muriel had been out of sorts with her own father before he died two years ago, and she had an instant appreciation of the tornado of confusion buffeting John. Tom Wynn had been President of the UAW local at the Ford plant outside Fort Hill, and a field rep, a man who spoke brotherhood in the plant and bile at home. Following his death, after too brief an interval, Muriel's mother had married the principal of the school where she taught, but she was happier in love now than Muriel had ever been. Like John, Muriel had been left to labor with the stillborn emotions that accompanied everything unfinished with her father. As John struggled for his composure, pinching the bridge of his nose, Muriel laid her hand over his on the marked Formica of the counter.

By the time John's mother emerged from the rest room, he had gathered himself. As he had predicted, when he introduced Muriel as "the prosecutor," Athena Leonidis, who only a moment before had been wilted by grief, stiffened to deliver her message.

BOOK: Reversible Errors
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Luxury Model Wife by Downs,Adele
The Black Snow by Paul Lynch
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Sorcerer's Secret by Scott Mebus
The Kept by James Scott
Shimmer: A Novel by Passarella, John
Heart and Sole by Miranda Liasson
Keeping Secrets by Treasure Hernandez