Authors: Laura M Rizio
Tags: #General, #Fiction
Copyright © 2011 Laura M. Rizio
All rights reserved
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-61397-052-2
E D I C A T I O N:
To James Hamilton, my husband and
partner in all things.
He had heard the litany before. It was not new. It was the plaintiff attorneys’ lament. All around Philadelphia, small plaintiff’s firms were biting the dust or taking the gas pipe. Carbon monoxide poisoning was not an unpopular way of ending it all for some solo practitioners who couldn’t take it anymore.
He listened politely, but it was clear from his face that he wasn’t truly interested. He shifted from foot to foot. The pavement was cold. It was Christmas week and he hadn’t done any Christmas shopping. And he didn’t have time to listen or empathize with the man facing him on the sidewalk. He was anxious to get back to the office to report that he had won an important motion on a huge products liability case—a tire blow-out that had killed three kids and left their mother paralyzed for life.
But Bobby Falcone just went on and on.
“Law schools are spitting them out by the thousands. There aren’t enough cases to go around. Tort reform, auto insurance reforms, caps on jury awards; they put mountains in the way of getting decent money on a case. The fucking insurance companies pour salt on your wounds, too—like the appeal from the lousy five grand arbitration award I just won. Now I’m in the bucket for five grand, the money I have to pay the expert, the whore doctor who will testify for twenty minutes on video that my client has a bulging disc caused by the accident. The damn doctors are eating up what’s left of any money we make, and they want it thirty days before the fucking video deposition. What kind of justice is this? The system is stacked against us, Nicky, and it ain’t gettin’ any better,” he said, veins bulging in his neck and spittle flying everywhere as he failed to swallow between expletives.
Nick Ceratto nodded in agreement and stepped back, wanting to escape, embarrassed that they had become the object of attention
of passing pedestrians. He hoped that Falcone would take the hint, but he didn’t. He had an audience right there on the corner of Fifteenth and Market, in front of the towering, oversized sculpture of a clothespin. Not only did he have Nick’s attention, but he had the attention of at least twenty-five pedestrians patiently waiting for a Septa bus in the biting December air.
“I’m not going to let them do this to me, Nicky,” he said, waving his arms. “They’re robbin’ me of my livelihood. I’ve got three kids, a mortgage, a second mortgage, and tuition bills up the ass—not to mention my wife’s fucking credit cards. The bitch won’t get off her lazy ass, either.”
“We gotta fight the good fight, my man,” was all the politeness Nick had left. He gave Falcone a mock jab to the shoulder and turned to walk away.
But Falcone wasn’t finished. He grabbed Nick by the shoulder.
“Look, you young, arrogant, little shit. You and your firm never fought the good fight. You got away with murder.” His raised his voice, encouraging people to stop and look.
Nick dropped his briefcase and made a fist to deck Falcone, but his fist stopped before making contact. He wasn’t about to make another mistake, a mistake that could cost him his career, the fruits of his hard work, and the friendship of his colleagues.
“Bobby, you’re tired and angry. I don’t blame you. Go home and take a rest. Everything will be OK in the morning.”
Falcone sneered. “You shoulda hit me. Maybe I coulda made some fucking money from your hide instead,” he laughed. “You think I’m nuts, don’t you? But let me tell you something.” He leaned toward Nick and in a low tone, almost a whisper, told him how the last five major cases had come into Nick’s firm, and how they came to be: the malfunctioning heart monitor, the mis-filled prescription, the switched hospital cart, the exploding gas tank, and yes, Nick’s own tire blowout case.
Nick shook loose from Falcone’s grip. He had heard enough.
nuts. I’m convinced you need a good shrink, Bobby. But first, you’re gonna need a good lawyer.”
“You’ll see, Nicky,” Bobby shouted. “You’ll pay the price, too, unless you wise up. Get out while you can.”
Nick crossed over Market Street and headed west. He could still hear Falcone ranting and raving as he crossed Sixteenth Street making his way toward his office building. It was clear to him that Falcone was crazy. Anyone could see it. But he was also dangerous. If he got to the right people with his lunatic theory, it would make things very uncomfortable for Nick and his firm. The last thing Maglio, Silvio and Levin needed was an investigation when these cases were due to go on the trial list. The cases that Bobby thought he knew about. These were major jury trials that would bring the firm millions. The distraction of an investigation would bring trial preparation to a standstill and give the defense, the insurance company attorneys, a bonanza. Plus the bad press would taint the minds of any jury. Even the most impartial minds would remember what they heard and saw on the news.
Nick knew there was nothing but insanity behind the diatribe. An investigation would prove nothing and lead nowhere, nowhere but to the ruination of his firm’s reputation and the end of his job, the job he had fought so hard to get, the job any young associate would kill for.
His firm, Maglio, Silvio and Levin, litigated the largest cases in the city. More of them than any other firm in the city, or the surrounding counties for that matter. The cases were “bell ringers,” as his mentor and boss, Joe Maglio, would say. They came to the firm because of the firm’s reputation for winning the most cases and winning the most money. It was simple. When you’re good, you don’t have to advertise, especially when publicity is for free, thanks to the local newspapers and TV stations. People just know. After the funerals, when heads begin to clear, they think of vengeance and paybacks, big paybacks. And they think of Maglio, Silvio and Levin. When judges rule on motions and evidence presented at trial, and post-trial motions for a new trial or to throw out a jury
verdict, they remember whose large contributions helped put them on the bench. And whose large contributions will keep them there at reelection time.
Maglio, Silvio and Levin did everything right. They shelled out at election time for favorite judges. They supported good causes: the homeless, victims of AIDS, cancer, or sexual abuse, and children’s hospitals. And they made sure one of the partners was always shown in the papers handing his check to a grateful recipient.