“Dresden…. Chris Dresden…” No answer, just the coninued rumble of conversation in the holding cell between the usual crowd of angry men exchanging their stories of a court system run on politics and money, as well as the occasional news from the streets. A final, urgent call of “DRESDEN!” by the officer, brought sullen glances and profane responses by the more courageous of those sharing the cell.
“Uh… YEAH! That’s me!” Chris groggily responded, awakened out of a deep sleep.
“You want outta here, or what?” The officer angrily asked.
“Yeah… definitely… Coming.” Chris said as he rose out of the chair, which was bolted to the floor so it couldn’t be used as a weapon.
“You’re a lucky man, Dresden. The guy who posted your bond wasn’t real happy, and our boss just about had to talk him into posting your bond. Doesn’t look like a guy who does this very often.” The officer explained.
“Who is it?” Chris asked.
“How am I s’posed to know… He’s YOUR friend. YOU called ‘im.” The officer responded.
“I did?” Chris said quietly.
“You don’t remem…. ahhhh, yeah…. evening shift said you were pretty much out of it when you came in.” He explained. They made a stop at the property room, where Chris had to sign a form in order for him to receive the items taken from him when they had processed him into the jail. The escorting officer said, “I’ll give you a couple of minutes to put your stuff back on, and then you can be released. Your buddy has posted bail for you. Show up in court, Dresden. If you stiff this guy on the bail, you might need a doctor instead of a lawyer.”
“You sure you don’t know who posted my bond?” Chris asked again.
Without responding, the officer walked to the exit door, pressed a button, and pulled the door after a stark, metallic buzz. With a slight smile, he said, “Surprise!”
Chris hesitantly walked through the door into a large waiting room, where he immediately saw Mercer Phillips speaking with another man. Upon seeing Chris, Phillips said, “Damn, Chris…” His voice trailed into frustrated silence. After a few moments within which he gained his composure, Mercer said, “Chris, this is our attorney, who is now your attorney. Chris Dresden, meet Mark Caulfield. We’ll talk in the car.”
The three men left the station, and approached a black limosine, beside which stood a driver, who openned the door as they drew near, closed the door behind them, and then got in behind the wheel. The glass was up between the driver and passengers, and as soon as the door was closed, Mercer began to berate Chris. “Shit, Chris, how could you have been so STUPID? If you wanted to party, why didn’t you call me? I could have pulled some strings. Do you have a clue who was in your apartment? One of the biggest crack dealers in the whole neighborhood! That’s how the cops knew about the party so fast. They were tailing him… There were at LEAST 10 hookers there. Did you know that? What the hell did you do, open the door and invite in anyone with an active warrant? Shit, half the neighborhood probably thinks you are an undercover cop now, there were so many arrests! They got you with possession of crack and drug paraphenalia… Why the HELL didn’t you ditch it? And shit… who was the bimbo you were with? Where is your wife? Don’t you give a damn about the opportunity you have here? I have been able to keep this from my father, but if he finds out….” He left the statement unfinished, as if HE were afraid of the rest of it. “Ok, here is what you are going to do… You are going to get your pregnant wife, duct tape your zipper shut, and be the perfect angel….”
After Mercer mentioned Chris’s “pregnant wife”, Chris mumbled something under his breath.
“What?” Mercer demanded fiercely.
“Mia left me… she went home.” Chris said more loudly.
“What?” Mercer asked again, without really wanting an answer. “Shit, Chris… SHIT!” Mercer sat in silence for a moment, and Chris SURE wasn’t going to say anything. “Dad will be PISSED! You should have let me know there was a problem.”
“I figured I had it covered.” Chris responded.
After a few moments of silence, Mercer said, “Ok… Mark thinks we will be able to eventually make this go away. You may get a year of two of probation, but all that means is meeting with a probation officer, and I have a really good buddy who is a P.O. and I think we can arrange you to get on his case load. But YOU GOTTA QUIT SCREWIN’ UP! Mark isn’t cheap, and he is REALLY good, so I will pay him up front, but you will have to repay me…. understand?”
Chris was sitting in the darkened passenger compartment with a blank look on his face. Truthfully, he was a little shell shocked. He was really hazy on the previous evening, and wasn’t sure how the “party” even happened.
It took a moment for him to respond to Mercer’s question, so Mercer repeated it more forcefully. “I said… DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
Shaken from his stupor, Chris nodded his head and said, “Uh… yeah… I understand…. And… Geez… I am sorry, Mercer.”
Phillips’s demeanor was softer following his frustrated explosion at Chris. After Chris’s apology, Mercer looked at Chris, shook his head, and said, “Look, I’ve been where you are, dude. Well… except for the wife. And if you looked at my record, you would see it polished clean. We can make this disappear, Chris. But you have to get control of your life!”
“I’ll try, Mercer.”