Leah stood in her closet, mulling over her choices. It was Wednesday -- courtroom day. She would be in front of two dozen attorneys today, asking the kinds of questions that caused frequent heartburn and occasional eye rolls from the bar and their clients.
Leah loved her job. Diving into piles of financial records was as much fun to her as a day at the mall for most other women. She especially liked Wednesdays. The truths she gleaned from the records were used as ammo to catch her quarry in white lies and grand tales. Once Leah completed her analysis, her agency and the quarry's counsel would begin a poker game of sorts. One side would lay down a few cards and wait to see how the opponent responded. Occasionally, all the cards were laid before a judge for a winner-take-all decision.
Leah liked all the members of the bar. They were a polite sort, but inside the court room, under the ominous seal of the government, it was all business. Today was going to be more tenuous than usual as she had one case each hour until lunch. Her supervisor, newly transferred from Dallas, would attend the meeting today to observe the courtroom in action. Considering all the day held, Leah selected a plain black suit and white blouse.
"Whew", Leah sighed as the clock struck 9:30. Her first case was grueling. Leah had asked one loaded question after another. As the interrogation grew more frustrating, she could hear, no, she could actually feel, the ticking of the clock on the wall. The attorneys hated it when she got them off schedule and she had just cost them twenty minutes.
Leah's supervisor followed her out of the courtroom. "You're about as welcome in there as a ticked off skunk in a zipped tent," she drawled, giving away her Texas roots.
"And that's only round one", Leah replied, nodding to the folders in her hand.
The second case was worse. As Leah futilely interrogated the target she garnered the full attention of the thirty people nervously waiting their turn in the box. After fifteen minutes of verbal jousting, Leah zeroed in, "Can you please explain why you charged $112,000 on your credit cards last year?" A broad smile crossed his face as he boasted, "I was living the life." Leah half expected him to high-five his attorney.
At 11:30 Leah's supervisor leaned over and said, "Your last case is coming up. When you finish, we'll grab lunch". Leah looked at her notes. She only had two questions and doubted they would result in incriminating information. Leah remembered the attorney in this case was a former agency employee who understood Leah's mission. He was sitting at the table in the front of the courtroom. Others were crowded around the table and on the first pew directly behind the table. They were jockeying to work out deals before the docket was called.
Leah decided to ask the attorney her questions and if he responded positively she would not question his client. She made her way to the far end of the table, wading through the mass of lawyers. Just as Leah reached the attorney, the clerk began calling roll. "Darn," Leah muttered. She only had a minute to make this happen. Leah decided to squat beside the attorney's chair, ask the questions and then she could head down the street to bond with her supervisor.
The space was snug with barely enough room for Leah to squeeze in. Her squat came to a jolting stop. Her mouth formed a silent "Oops!", as she realized she was sitting in an attorney's lap. "Maybe no one noticed," she hoped as she pushed forward, slid off his lap and down toward the floor. She could hear a few attorneys behind her whispering and chuckling.
Trying to maintain her composure, Leah asked her questions as if nothing strange had just occurred. She got her answers, stood up and strode out of the room. Her supervisor fell in behind her and they walked into the hallway and down the street. As they were seated in the restaurant Leah breathed a sigh of relief that her faux pas has gone unnoticed. After the waiter took their menus, Leah's supervisor commented in her thick Texan dialect, "You know, the investigator in my old office never tried the lap dance interrogation method. How's that working out for you?"
Scarlett Farr lives with her husband, daughter and dog in Lizella, Georgia.