Authors: Amanda Lance
Body of Law
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system - except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper - without permission in writing from Amanda Lance
Table of Contents
At fifty-two stories, the Wilson Tower was one of the tallest in Chicago. Unlike the other skyscrapers in the neighborhood, its blue glass exterior provided rainbow reflections when equally shiny cars and the morning sunlight hit it just right. If that weren’t obnoxious enough, everyone who passed by on foot was rewarded with semi-accurate reflections of themselves.
I hated that more than anything, knowing I couldn’t avoid looking at myself. I hadn’t even started yet and I was already making compromises, sacrificing my casual look by sculpting my hair into a well-centered bun. I did at least leave my crooked bangs out in the open, and only traded my usual lack of make-up for some mascara and eyeshadow.
My clothes, though, were another matter. Since I refused to give myself over completely to corporate America, a few trips to the Goodwill helped me piece together a few different arrangements of blazers and dress pants to go along with my mediocre collection of tops. The only problem with saving so much money and helping the needy was the lack of accuracy in the sizes. And more than once, my attempts at hemming resulted in swearing — and throwing needles across the room. I sighed and tried to adjust the belt on my skirt. For whatever reason, I could memorize case law like no one else in my class, but any attempts at being domestic and I was dead in the water.
I approached the entrance to the building and, without any hesitation, the large doorman let me inside. I smiled my thanks and bypassed the security desk for the elevators. After three rounds of intern interviews, I knew where I needed to be—even if it wasn’t where I
The last thing I had ever envisioned when entering law school was working for an international criminal law firm like Gardner, Burke and Gates. I had been fighting for the downtrodden my entire life— my dad had spent my childhood bad-mouthing conglomerate firms, emphasizing the importance of humility over wealth, generosity over power, and empathy as an alternative to personal gain. To him, one person could spend their entire life trying to make the world a better place and probably still not make up for their own mistakes. For all of his own self-righteousness, however, Dad did say in the end that raising me was the best thing he’d ever done.
What would he think if he could see me now? How disappointed would he be?
The elevator opened up to a well-lit lobby, completely contemporary in every sense of the word. Granite flooring paved the way to leather furniture, baskets of fresh fruit on display on every horizontal surface. The same wood paneling that surrounded the elevator doors matched the paneling here, framing the bronze sign with the partners’ name on it. Anyone else would have been intimidated by this display, or excited to be chosen for a paid internship with one of the city’s most prestigious criminal law firms. But all I felt was a unique sense of self-disappointment. I reminded myself that this was a paid internship, that it was good for my resume… and that I was only selling a
piece of my soul.
Mistaking my disgust for nervousness, my expression caught the attention of a pretty receptionist wearing an expensive-looking business suit. She tilted her head at me and flashed a smile, her lips layered in ruby red lipstick.
“Gardner, Burke, and Gates—hold one moment please.” Admittedly, putting someone on hold for me did make me feel a little more welcome but I tried not to put too much stock in it. She pulled the speaker of her headset away and beamed up at me.
“Hello there! Summer associate?”
I looked down at my scuffed dress shoes. “What gave me away?”
Still smiling, she pushed out her chair and stood up. “Honestly?”
I nodded intently. If I was going to give away some of my morals for this job, I was going to take everything thrown my way; even observations from the law firm’s receptionist.
“It’s the bag. Even the part-time paralegals have a few good knockoffs.”
I looked down at my messenger bag and swallowed hard. I wasn’t exactly sentimental, but I was practical, and after four years in college and two in law school, I trusted the bag I’d bought at Target a lot more than a trendy one.
“Oh, right.” I straightened my posture and followed her as she led me down the hall. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
The long hallway was lined with offices. No bigger than cubicles, the ones I could see into all looked exactly the same, other than a few personal effects on display in an attempt to personalize the sterile space.
“This is where we store our first year associates,” the receptionist said. “The other side of the lobby has two conference rooms. You probably won’t be seeing any of those, but you should know where they are. Floor forty-nine is accounting and research, floor fifty is civil, and fifty-one and fifty-two are the criminal lawyers and the partners’ offices.”
Leaving me at the doorway of a room no bigger than a classroom, she extended her slim hand to me before smiling once more. “I’m Nicky by the way—head of reception. If any of my people give you a hard time, just let me know.”
I opened my mouth to say thanks, but she was already gone.
Though I was ten minutes early, I was the last one there—the final of five summer associates. As I expected, we were well diversified, too. The other female in our group had a pretty complexion, her ethnicity a cross between Hindi and what I thought might be Italian. I nodded a hello, but her gaze at me was cold, conceding at best.
So much for female solidarity.
The other interns in the group gave me looks that were just as hard. I didn’t blame them. It had been made clear to all of us when we applied for the session that only one of us would be offered a job at the end of the semester. All that was needed for a reality show was a cash prize and a few cameras. Most of us glared at each other like we wanted to rip each other’s throats out. I did my best to look just as intimidating but failed when I realized how ridiculous it all was. It was too easy to imagine suspense music cutting away to commercials.
After thirty minutes of intimidating stares around the room, a suit walked in wearing clothes that looked like they belonged on a storefront mannequin. If I had to guess, I would have said his shoes alone were worth more than two months rent for me. But if that didn’t tip me off about him being a jerk-off, him strutting in to bark at us while staring at his phone certainly would have.
“Okay, people, here we go. I’m Quinn Morgan, your mentor for this session. I’ll be your mother, father, priest, and rabbi. Forget whatever god you worship because I’m your new deity from now until August.”
I thought those last two statements were a little contradictory, but I knew better than to say anything. My other fellow associates, however, did not.
“Sir, I was just wondering—”
“Stop.” Quinn Morgan held up a single finger, but still didn’t look up from the phone. In the otherwise silent room, I could hear the muted sounds of the Candy Crush theme music. “From this point on, none of you will speak unless spoken to. I’d hit you upside the head with a rolled up newspaper and rub your nose in shit, but HR says we can’t do that anymore…”
Some of us looked at each other. But most of us kept staring wide-eyed at our new supposed deity. He wasn’t particularly unattractive, but his bronzed complexion was undermined by circular tan lines around his eyes, a clear sign of too much time in a tanning bed, and I instantly found the sound of his voice annoying. It sounded like the result of a nose job gone bad.
“Now, stand up, walk with me, stay with me and above all, keep your mouths shut.”
Like kids on a field trip, we walked in a line, listening to all the rules Quinn Morgan preached to us about copy machines and coffee breaks. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t anticipated, but I would have been lying if I’d said I wasn’t amused by the way he mastered levels 35 of 36 of Candy Crush while lecturing us about using our cell phones without permission.
“Normally, you’d each be assigned to a division,” he said, “but with our current employment situation in criminal, at least two of you will be going up there.”
Pure joy radiated from the colleagues behind and in front of me at this announcement and, just as quickly, I felt a mild sense of guilt. Here I was, living the dream for any second year law student and I didn’t even want it. When I’d submitted my application, I’d doubted I was going to be accepted, much less considered. At the time, I knew a white female had less of a chance than anyone else, but I also didn’t want to put all my eggs into one basket when I went to apply for a summer internship.
Dropping us off one by one, Quinn Morgan shoved us off the elevator and told us who we should look for. Without admitting it to myself, the expressions of the young man and woman he dropped off at research were enjoyable to see—disappointment outlined with hatred for the rest of us. The remaining three of us looked at each other, knowing full well the odds were now in our favor.
In my imagination, I pictured the young man beside me breaking out karate moves and taking us out—Quinn Morgan included—before casually walking off the elevator. Meanwhile, my female companion stared at me with the wrath of Vishnu himself. I, on the other hand, didn’t display a single ounce of aggression. I confirmed this by glancing at my reflection on the elevator door.
“Okay, people here we are. Continue following, no talking…”
Clearly, no expense was spared on the floors for criminal law. Less contemporary and more futuristic in its décor, it had black granite uniting walls, and windows. The glass end tables and black leather furniture that welcomed visitors to the floor were enhanced by white flowers in matching crystal vases.
Okay, so this lobby was just a little bit intimidating.
Once again, Quinn Morgan shoved us off, assigning us to various tasks for third and fourth year attorneys who needed things done. Wide-eyed and stomach flurrying, I took in the sights of Armani suits and Jimmy Choo heels and people chattering in Japanese on headsets. I had to admit, there were a lot of things to distract yourself from the fact that you were putting criminals back on the street.
I looked around me and once again clutched my bag. I was a lone soul standing in a field of soldiers and I didn’t even have a weapon. Where were the other summer associates? And, more importantly, why hadn’t I been assigned something?
“Blondie.” At last, Quinn Morgan looked up from his phone. “I have something special in mind for you. Follow me and above all—”
“Keep my mouth shut?”
He gave me a wry smile but immediately went back to his phone.
I swallowed hard and tried to smile.
Back out in the lobby, a receptionist—clearly under Nicky’s influence, judging by the lipstick—was busy entertaining two bodies in suits. Though the older gentleman was a complete snowbird, he was dressed to the nines, sporting a pinstripe suit with a bright red tie and ascot. Laughing warmly at something the receptionist said, he pushed up his thick glasses and glanced in my general direction. This alerted the attention of the other suit beside him, whose posture stiffened when he said something else.