Lunch with a Lawyer

By the time Gwen got out of the Finch residence, she would have happily dealt with another attempted exorcism. Miriam Finch was nearing the end of what was a very long life for a human: she had celebrated her 94th birthday a few months ago. Unfortunately, the stoicism and willingness to ignore nearly everything around her which had stood her in good stead for so many of those years had deserted her in the last few years. When her hearing had been excellent, she would have denied hearing anything unusual on a full moon, but now that she needed hearing aids, Gwen could count on several calls a month from Miriam, complaining about the racket her neighbors were making.

To be fair, her neighbors were often very noisy. The small, extended family of were-wolves had grown as less closely related (and in some cases, not apparently related at all) were-wolves had joined them. What had been a large farmhouse with a few outbuildings was now a family compound, and the lack of close relationships was developing into suggestions in Town Meeting to develop a cluster zoning ordinance. When the idea was first mooted, no one had any specific concerns beyond obvious ones like, is the septic system adequate and how well is the well or are the wells being monitored. As the group got larger, and their group activities became louder, however, the water quality issues were being overwhelmed by proposals for noise regulations, which Shadowsbrook had never had.

Gwen tried to calm things down by being responsive to the concerns. Without any noise rules, she couldn’t do much more than talk to everyone, but she was willing to talk. When Miriam called, she went out to what had been the Smith house, but now had a sign out by the paved drive with a depiction of the constellation Orion with a large wolf on either side. She’d heard the people living there call the place several different things (“Hunter’s home”, “Orion’s Place”, even “Wolf Hollow” and “Wolf Haven”). She figured they hadn’t been able to settle on words and had compromised on a logo. As usual, once she was there, everyone had something to add to the explanation of why they had been so loud (or possibly an explanation of why they hadn’t actually been that loud but someone might have perceived them as being that loud), and good-naturedly apologetic while not making any substantive commitments to change.

Fortunately, Miriam was satisfied by Gwen’s efforts, although her satisfaction took quite a while to express as well. It was almost lunch time by the time Gwen got out. She half wished she’d gotten a call to some other problem, but as usual for a Monday morning, all the other residents of Shadowsbrook were, if not law-abiding, at least not conspicuously breaking any laws.

Gwen stopped in at the diner at about 11:30 a.m., before any rush had had a chance to develop. Jack waved, and brought her over a cup of coffee. She ordered the special, and Jack put the order in, then picked up the phone. She knew what that meant; someone had already called and asked Jack to keep an eye out for her and call when she walked in. Gwen could hardly complain; she’d done the exact same thing to Maureen this morning.

The special arrived along with Robert Mason. The ginger fish with rice and stir fried vegetables was considerably more appealing than Bob, but Gwen waved him over to join her anyway.

“Ready for lunch, Bob?” asked Gwen.

“If that’s today’s special, I was born ready.”

Gwen continued eating while Jack and Bob came to an understanding. After all, her lunch was already in front of her and it was impossible to predict when a call might come through requiring her immediate presence.

“So, Chief, when are you planning on arresting the Zimmermans?”

Nonplussed, Gwen made sure not to let her mouth drop open in surprise. She swallowed, drank a little iced tea and dabbed at her mouth with a napkin while she collected her thoughts. “Excuse me?”

“Conspiracy to commit a felony is a felony.”

“True. But we don’t usually arrest people for going to their pastor and asking for an exorcism. We expect the clergy to follow the law and inform them when what they are asking for is not legal and why.”

“But the Zimmermans didn’t stop at the first person they asked. They shopped around until they found Fitzgerald.”

“Shopped around?”

“I asked Darren how he knew the Zimmermans. Then I called the guy who referred the Zimmermans to Darren. That guy was quite happy to point to the guy who referred the Zimmermans to him. And so on. I found at least five people. The Zimmermans were persistent.”

“Wait, you’re saying all these people told the Zimmermans they wouldn’t do the exorcism because Clayton is registered — but were willing to refer to someone else who might do it anyway?”

“It only makes sense if the Zimmermans were looking for someone willing to knowingly commit a crime. If you hire someone to do something they don’t realize is illegal, they might well not have the expertise to do it anyway. However, in this case, they apparently settled for young-and-dumb.”

“Are you planning on representing any of those people you found?” Gwen asked, incredulous.

“Are you planning on charging them?” Bob shot back.

“I cannot imagine doing so. Any progress on finding a project for Darren?”

“I was thinking maybe he could do trash detail. The werewolves have three weekends left on that vandalism charge from last fall.”

“The crop destruction?”

“That’s the one. I figured they are similar in age and impulsivity. Maybe if Darren gets to be friendly with them, he’ll find a better career for himself.”

“You know we can’t target Third Day; that would be religious discrimination.”

“I’m not targeting Third Day. I’m targeting people who commit — or attempt to commit — crimes against law-abiding members of society.”

“Fair enough.” Gwen looked longingly at the pie shelf, but declined Jack’s offer of dessert. She paid for Bob’s meal as well as her own, to save him the trouble of documenting it as an expense later on. Maybe that would encourage him to keep his rate a little lower, too. “Have you talked to the Zimmermans?”

“No — they aren’t answering calls or returning email or texts.”

“Planning on representing them?”

“Not a chance.”

“All right. I’ll go talk to them. Have you talked to Clayton?”

“Yes, and Clayton will request that you not prosecute Darren if Darren agrees to volunteer either on trash detail with the wolves or some other service here in town that puts him in close contact with supes.”

“That makes it simple; we won’t even need to go before a judge then.”

“Not for Darren, no.”

Gwen eyed Bob speculatively. “You’re really serious about wanting me to go after the Zimmermans.”

Bob leaned back. “Let’s just say that if you aren’t going to go after the Zimmermans, you’ll at least have to help them find their way out of Shadowsbrook. Soon.”

Gwen blinked. “Hunh. Thanks for letting me know.”

“One more thing,” added Bob. “You should go talk to Charlene?”

“The Reverend?”

“Preferably before you talk to the Zimmermans.”

“Did they go see the Reverend here in Shadowsbrook first?”

“I don’t know about first. But they did go see her, and you should get Charlene’s description of the conversation.”

“All right, Bob. Looks like I’ve got a busy afternoon already, even though it is only a Monday.”

“Full moon on Thursday. Don’t forget.”

Gwen rolled her eyes. “I’m leaving. Don’t tell me anything more or I’ll never make it out the door.”