The telephone rang on an unseasonably cool Parisian Tuesday. As he sat in the apartment at his ornate Louis XV époque desk, he took the call that he had long expected, but desperately hoped would never come.

When he had started his new life several years prior, memories from yesteryear quickly faded. He reminisced of nothing from his previous existence.

Upon hearing the caller’s voice, it was instantly and understandably clear that those to whom debts are owed do not just fade into the sunset. When that much money and power is at stake, such people could not be expected to disappear. The sunlight peeked through the purple fleur-de-lys emblazoned drapes and reflected off of the gold leaf edges of the walnut desk into his eyes. The sharp brightness, combined with the message of the caller, caused him to feel an extreme nausea that he had not experienced since when he did devil’s work. Because his new life was so worry free, he seldom spent a moment upset, anxious or afraid. In fact, the only concern that he possessed since moving on to his new life was that this very telephone call would come.

Judging by the look on her man’s face as he spoke into the telephone, the unclothed brunette knew exactly who was calling. She also knew that her life was on the verge of changing for the worse. As she drew nervously on her Gauloise Légère and exhaled the smoke towards the immaculate 12-foot etched ceiling, she pondered whether she should, or could, extract herself from this situation. Such thoughts quickly evaporated as she realized that if she ran away, she would be caught and dealt with. When she accepted the life of near royalty many years prior, she knew that such luxuries could come to an abrupt end one day if a “contingency,” as her benefactor called it, occurred…

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“A.B., you there? You there, bro? Are you there? Terri, would you find out from Kristin where the hell Alex is? He was supposed to be back from court fifteen minutes ago, and I need him right now.”

Nick Carlson’s voice annoyed the living shit out of me, and just about everyone else who had to perpetually listen to his absurdly amplified twang in our office on a daily basis. His insistence on buzzing in on young Associates’ intercom systems, by using his speakerphone, rather than lifting his telephone receiver compounded his abrasiveness.

“A.B., where you at, babe?” Now off the intercom, but still equally audible to the four secretaries and six attorneys in his quadrant of the office, he added, “God, people really gotta start stepping it up…”

“Nick, I’m here. Sorry about that.”

Actually, I really wasn’t sorry. I had just gotten back from a case management conference at Philadelphia City Hall and desperately needed to find out what was going on in the Phillies’ matinee game against the Cardinals. By the time that I had returned from the conference, the game was already in the seventh inning. Although Kristin Fabrizzio, our 28 year-old dynamo receptionist, shouted
to me on my way back in the office that the Phils were up 3-1, I needed to know the scoring details. Had Ryan Howard belted two homeruns? Was Cole Hamels in the midst of one of his doubledigit
strikeout performances? Was Nick Carlson really buzzing in on my intercom, when I had gotten into the office two minutes earlier and had just logged onto to check the goddamn

“Oh…I thought you were – never mind. My office, now!” he ordered.

When a Partner at Krauss, Carlson, Whitby, Miller and White directed an Associate Attorney into their office in such a tone, the recipient of the communication would jump to attention, straighten their tie or blouse and briskly walk down the hall to meet their fate. In the minds of Associates and support staff , Nick Carlson was the most feared of the Partners. He was what the secretaries called “a screamer.” My idea of “a screamer” was a petite, inexperienced University of Pennsylvania freshman girl who liked to loudly call out the name of The Lord while her upperclass boyfriend taught her the ways of the world. There I go, though, living in the past again…

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Once I retrieved my vehicle from the area designated for non-cronies, I made my way down Brandywine Boulevard for about a mile and a half, until it intersected with the Interstate. Upon journeying onto the federally-funded Interstate, I felt as if I had extracted myself from a lawless, Wild West environment. It seemed incredible to me that in less than a half-hour, I would be in Center City Philadelphia. Th at such blatant, overt and unlawful favoritism was displayed in a suburban jurisdiction just 20 miles from the nation’s fifth largest city was incomprehensible to me.

It wasn’t as if I were an Armani suit-wearing Los Angeles attorney with slicked-back hair, who had fi led suit in a jurisdiction well out of his realm. I was a Philadelphia-based attorney who had filed suit in a county bordering Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia skyline soon came into view. At that moment, an odd emotion overcame me. The feeling was similar to that which I had experienced during the times in which I had traveled to Europe. During a trans-Atlantic journey originating in the northeast United States, one boards an aircraft in a metropolis where American English is spoken and gas guzzling SUVs dominate the thoroughfares. Seven hours later, one is transplanted into an alternate culture in which the inhabitants speak a different tongue, and all of the cars are of the econo-box, fuel-efficient variety.

When I saw the Philadelphia skyline, I felt as if I had been rapidly transferred back home from a very foreign, scary place.

Since I was on official firm business and knew that I would be reimbursed, I opted to splurge and park my car at the One Liberty Place garage, where the daily parking rate was $34.00. While New Yorkers might consider such a daily parking rate in the very heart of the business district to be a steal, by Philadelphia standards, 34 bucks for a day of parking was extraordinarily steep. What the hell did I care, though? The Lubranos were paying…

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Adam Barrist, a practicing attorney based in Center City Philadelphia, is licensed in the courts of Pennsylvania...


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