“There’s a $20 dollar tip in it for you, Ashok, if you get me there in ten minutes.”
Sinead O’Brien was rarely late, no matter where she was going. The only female partner at the law firm of Callahan, Epps, and Kaplan, she was known not only for her punctuality, but also for her sharp intellect and history of getting successful outcomes for her clients. Sinead believed whatever success she had came from working her tail off, which is what she’d been doing today, despite it being Sunday. Her parents called it “workaholism.” Sinead called it dedication.
Her parents’ lack of appreciation for her dedication baffled her. Irish immigrants, they’d broken their backs for yearsseven days a week, year in, year out to make the Wild Hart a success. She realized part of their concern stemmed from worries about her health, but she was a big girl and could take care of herself.
O’Brien Sunday dinner together stretched as far back in her memory as she could remember. The whole family would go to Mass, and then come home for a large, early afternoon meal. Now that she and her siblings were grown and living their own lives, it was a way for them to come together once a week catch up.
She walked into her parents’ kitchen, girding herself for a steely glance from her mother. Everyone but Liam, her younger brother who lived in Ireland with his wife, Aislinn, was here: her older brother Quinn, a successful journalist, and his French wife, Natalie; her sister, Maggie, and her husband, Brendan. Their baby, Charlie, sat in a high chair between them. Sinead ducked her head sheepishly as she slid into the sole empty seat at the table.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, reaching for the steaming bowl of mashed potatoes in the middle of the table. She was famished.
“I thought maybe you weren’t coming,” said her mother coolly.
“I would have called.”
“I don’t like it when you work on Sundays,” said her mother.
“It’s the Lord’s Day of Rest,” Sinead, Quinn, and Maggie chimed together in unison.
“Will you listen to that?” her mother said to her father with mock indignation. “Making fun of their own mother.”
“If you can’t mock your mother, who can you mock?” asked Quinn.
For a split second, Sinead’s eye caught Maggie’s, and Maggie smiled tentatively. So did Sinead. Their relationship had cooled a bit since Charlie was born. Sinead desperately wanted children; her ex husband, Chip, was initially on the fence about the issue. When they were finally in accord and ready to start a family, Chip, who came from a wealthy family, had very traditional ideas about child rearing, namely that Sinead should give up her career. Sinead disagreed and proposed a number of compromises, all of which Chip rejected. They started to fight vehementlyabout everything. Eventually, they both admitted that their differences were irreconcilable, and divorced. But that didn’t mean Sinead’s hunger for a child went away, and seeing how happy her sister was with Charlie made her envious. It was painful.
Her father studied her face. “You look tired.”
“Dad, you say that every time you see me,” Sinead said, amused. “I’ve looked tired for years. There are circles under my eyes in my first Holy Communion picture.”
“You need a holiday,” her mother declared. “When’s the last time you had a holiday? When’s the last time you were up at your weekend place?”
Sinead was silent as she speared two pieces of ham and put them on the plate.
“Thought so. Maybe you should go visit Liam and Aislinn.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“That means ‘Get off my arse, ma,’” her mother said with a sigh.
“Yup, it does.”
Maggie cleared her throat nervously. “I was wondering,” she began, looking at Sinead, “if Brendan, Charlie, and I might use the house one weekend? Just to get away for a bit.”
“Of course,” said Sinead. “Just let me know when and I’ll call the caretaker to come air it out and clean things up a bit.”
Sinead had always let her siblings and friends use the house. In fact, Quinn and Natalie had their wedding there. It made her feel better about spending all that money on a place she didn’t use as much as she should.
Dinner conversation turned to the usual subjects: gossip about relatives and pub patrons; chat about favorite TV shows and various familial health ailments; the occasional heated political discussion. And of course now that baby Charlie had joined the family, everyone, especially Sinead’s parents, focused a lot of attention on him. It made sense: he was their first grandchild, after all. Sinead thought Charlie was cute, but she didn’t know how to connect with him, exactly. She was awkward with him. It made Sinead wonder if she was cut out for motherhood at all. Shouldn’t this stuff come naturally?
When dinner finished, Maggie went off to nurse Charlie, and the men went into the living room to watch the Jets game. Typical.
Eventually it was just Sinead and her mother alone in the kitchen as Natalie went off to annoy Quinn with questions about football.
“You know, I noticed something at dinner,” her mother continued.
“You didn’t hold Charlie. Not once.”
“I’m not good with babies, ma, okay?”
“I think you’re afraid to hold him.”
Sinead swallowed painfully. “Could we not talk about this?”
“Maggie misses you.”
“Stop meddling, mom. Please.”
“I just worry about my girl. You seem so unhappy.”
“I’m fine, ma. Honestly.”
“But you must be getting a bit lonely, no?”
“Don’t start,” Sinead begged. “Please.”
“Don’t you think it’s time to find a good man?”
“I’m not sure there are any,” Sinead lamented. “And I’m certainly not going out looking for one.”
“Is it because you’re afraid of getting hurt again?”
“So you made a mistake. Big deal. Live and learn, I say.”
“If it’s meant to happen, it will, mom,” said Sinead, hugging her mother tight. “Now stop fretting and hand me that dish.”
“Guys, I’d like you to welcome our new Captain, Adam Perry.”
Adam stepped forward from where he stood between the New York Blades’ GM, Ty Gallagher, and head coach, Michael Dante. He glanced around the locker room, nodding curtly.
To say Gallagher and Dante were disappointed with the team’s play in the prior season was an understatement. In Ty’s estimation, they’d gotten soft. Michael believed their previous successes had led to the loss of the burning hunger needed to propel a hockey team forward. Ty and Michael both felt the Blades needed a strong physical presence on the ice; someone whose will to win would carry the team through the moments when skill wasn’t enough. Someone who would inspire effort in his teammates and fear in his opponents.
“Adam? Anything you want to say?” Michael asked.
Perry had a league wide reputation of being a man of few words who only spoke when necessary. He didn’t disappoint. Once again he glanced around the locker room, as if searching for something inside each of his new teammates. The tension was thick. “I’m here to win a Stanley Cup,” he declared. “I hope that’s why you’re all here. Nothing else is good enough.”
The looks on the players’ faces ranged from awe to fear. Perry was known for more than just being taciturn. A powerfully built back liner, he’d won the rookie of the year award for his offensive production as well as his defense. But over the years, he’d evolved into a primarily defensive defenseman known for being the hardest hitter in the league. His specialty was a dying art: the open ice body check. It was a hit he delivered with such force and ferocity that more than a dozen players had suffered concussions when their heads met Perry’s shoulder at the blue line. Adam’s hits were perfectly legal, but always fierce. No one had retaliated against him in years, thanks to his reputation for being just as brutal and effective when he dropped the gloves. In a sport in which players prided themselves on their fearlessness, the one person players readily admitted to each other that they feared was Adam Perry.
Adam sat down and began unlacing his shoes. While the team talked and got ready, there was a definite psychic, if not physical, distance between him and the other players. They were giving him as much space in the locker room as they usually afforded him on the ice. It was something he was used to: the mixture of fear and respect that often made him a man apart, at least until they got to know him. He was not an easy person to get close to; he didn’t like to be emotionally vulnerable, which was often a roadblock when it came to friendship. Aloof was safer. Aloof allowed him to focus fully on the task at hand.
Adam hated to admit weakness, even to himself, but deep down, he was afraid of never winning the Cup. The truth was, he needed the Blades as much as they needed him. Despite being an all star for most of his career, Tampa Bay had only made the Playoffs once in the ten years he’d played there. The Blades were probably his last shot at Stanley Cup glory.
He was punctual; she’d give him that. At exactly 10 a.m., Sinead’s assistant, Simone, informed her that Adam had arrived. Usually Sinead was unfazed meeting clients, but she found herself a little uneasy, imagining that intense, unwavering gaze of his pinning her.
She checked her makeup and smoothed her skirt, waiting for Simone to bring Adam into her office. When he entered Sinead came forward, extending her hand to shake his. “Thank you for taking the time to come in, Mr. Perry. The sooner we get the ball rolling, the better.”
He seemed a little stiff. “I agree.”
God, he’s huge, Sinead thought. She hadn’t realized at the Kidco meeting, with him sitting at the opposite end of the table, how big and broad he was. Strapping, her father would say. She could feel his eyes on her as she went to grab her laptop. She straightened her back a little. Was he mistrustful of her, and that’s why he was watching her? Or did he find her attractive? Get a grip.
She sat beside him. “Have you ever been interviewed by an attorney before?”
“Basically I’m going to ask you a few preliminary questions, and then we’ll talk about the incident.”
Adam just nodded. No questions for her. No anxiety filled eyes. No glancing around her office nervously. This was a new experience.
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“Have you ever testified in court?”
“Ever been a plaintive or defendant in another lawsuit?”
“You’re thirty five?”
Adam narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “How do you know that?”
“You’re my client. I’ve done some research.”
“You could have just asked me.” He looked irked, as if she’d somehow invaded his privacy. “What else do you know?”
Sinead glanced down at her computer screen. “I know you’re from Clairesholm in Canada. I know you’ve been in the NHL since you were seventeen. I know you previously played for Tampa Bay. I know you were brought to New York in the hopes of helping them win another Cup. I know you have a reputation as a hard hitter, having caused a number of concussions in opposing players over the years. And I know you’re being brought up on charges of assault causing bodily harm.”
“That about covers it.”
Adam looked displeased. “Hardly?”
“The more I know about you, the better I can defend you.”
Adam sat back, coolly assessing her as he folded his arms across his chest. “And do I get to know about you?”
Sinead was taken aback by the challenge in his voice, even though his face still betrayed nothing.
“What would you like to know?” She gestured at the shelves to their left. “There are my degrees. I’ve been with this firm since I was twenty-five. I’m a full partner. I take my job seriously.”
“So do I.”
“That’s good to know.”
Do you know how unnerving your gaze is? She wanted to ask him. He probably did. That was why he used it.
Adam looked wary. “Anything else?”
“Tell me in your own words what happened on the ice with Nick Clarey.”
“We were playing Philly, and I made a hit on Clarey. Philly released a statement saying Clarey was concussed and had a fractured cheekbone. I was suspended for two games. The next day I found out I was being brought up on charges of assault causing bodily harm. Kidco hired you to defend me.”
Sinead waited for more, but after a few seconds she realized that was it, that was all he had to say. He’s a caveman, she thought. A simpleton.
“Could you elaborate a little?” she prodded.
“What’s there to say?”
“Do you and Clarey have a long running, acrimonious relationship?”
“Was he trash talking to you or doing anything to incite you?”
“How did you feel when you saw what your hit did to Mr. Clarey?”
Adam looked baffled. “How did I feel?”
“Let me re-phrase that,” said Sinead, since “Feel” clearly wasn’t a word he was comfortable with. “What did you think?”
“I felt sorry when I saw he was hurt. I hoped his injury wasn’t severe. That was never my intent. But I knew it was a clean hit. We’re professional hockey players. He was doing his job. I was doing my job. End of story.”
“Except it’s not the end of the story, because you’re now being charged with assault. Tell me about ‘your job,’ as you call it.”
“I’m a hockey player.”
Sinead closed her eyes for a split second, trying to ward off the frustration building inside her. “Elaborate.”
Adam looked perplexed. “What do you need to know?”
“Anything you care to tell me beyond ‘I’m a hockey player’and don’t tell me there’s nothing beyond that, please.” She knew she sounded aggravated, but she couldn’t help it. She needed him to let down his guard a little and give her more to work with. Unless he was unable to, because he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the makeup mirror.
Adam was starting to look as frustrated as Sinead felt. “I don’t know what you’re looking for.”
Sinead rubbed her right temple. She was dealing with a bonehead. It was that simple. Or not so simple, since dealing with a one brain cell wonder was going to make her job that much harder. It wasn’t a good sign when you had to pull teeth to get the person you were defending to talk.
“Look, I’m not a hockey fan, and”
“You don’t know anything about the game, as you said in the Kidco meeting.” Adam looked dubious. “I have to be honest with you: that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.”
Sinead kept her expression neutral. “Are you saying you’d prefer someone else to handle the case?”
“No. If they say you’re the best, then you must be the best, right?”
“Would you like me to recite my track record to you?”
“No need. But I would feel better if you learned about the game.”
“I intend to. Now, may I finish what I was saying before you interrupted me?”
“By all means.”
He probably thinks I’m a bitch, Sinead thought, but who cares? Arrogant jerk.
“The judge and jurors hearing the case might not be hockey fans, either. The prosecutor is going to show video of the hit, and for people who don’t know hockey and who don’t understand the game, it might seem excessive. Maybe even criminal.”
“I’m a defenseman,” Adam said, with a bit of annoyance.
“I know,” Sinead said with a touch of frustration. “But what does that mean?”
Adam lowered his head for a moment, as if gathering himself. When he looked up at her, his expression had changed; he looked more cooperative.
“Every player on the ice has job,” he said patiently. “The job of the goalie is to prevent the puck from going across the goal line. All of his efforts are focused on that one task. Wingers, by and large, are supposed to score goals. Their aim is to put the puck in the net. Generally, everything they do is with that end in mind. Centers are supposed to facilitate the forwards in goal scoring, while also assuming some defensive responsibilities. I’m a defenseman,” he repeated. “My job is to keep other players from scoring and from threatening my goaltender. Unlike everyone else on the ice, a defenseman’s role is to oppose another player. To a goalie, winger, or center, the puck is primary. To a defenseman, the puck is secondary. My job is to physically deter and impede other menstrong, fast, determined menany way I can, within the rules. When you look at the video of that hit, you see me doing my jobvery well, I might add.”
Sinead nodded. Clearly, Adam Perry was many things: Egotistical. Stoic. Attractive. Guarded. Physical. But one thing he was not was a bonehead.
“Thank you for that explanation,” she said gratefully. “Now, I’ll also need to speak with some family and long time friends. Who do you recommend I interview in your hometown?”
Adam looked irked. “Why do you have to talk to anyone in my hometown?”
“As I explained in the meeting last week, the more people we can get to attest to your character, the better for you,” she said slowly in an effort to stop herself from speaking sharply. He was beginning to try her patience.
Adam looked angry. “You don’t have to speak slowly. Just as you don’t understand why I do what I do for a living, I don’t understand what you do what you do for a living.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Sinead apologized. “But back to my question: any recommendations as to who I should talk to in your hometown?”
Adam sighed wearily. “Call my brother, Rick.”
“I’d prefer to interview him face to face.”
“You can get the same info over the phone.”
“May I have his number, please?”
Adam gave her the number, frowning with displeasure. He checked his watch. “Anything else?”
Sinead just stared at him. Oh, gee, am I taking up your precious time? She longed to say. I’m just your attorney, that’s all. Sorry for the inconvenience.
“I guess that’s all for now.” Sinead rose, extending her hand. “Thanks for coming in.”
“No problem. I can see myself out.”
Sinead watched him go. Distractingly handsome. Distractingly taciturn, too. But intelligent and thoughtful in a way that wasn’t obvious at first. As Adam’s attorney, his reserve was problematic for her. As a woman, though, the combo made him seem mysterious and enigmatic. The strong, silent type, as the cliché went. Sinead hated that she was attracted to him. It was inconvenient. Unsettling. She’d had handsome clients before, but there was something about him...
She’d start interviewing people in New York later this week. As for his brother, well, she’d talk to him on the phone initially, but she fully intended to speak with him in person whether Adam liked it or not. She was the one in charge here, not him. The sooner he realized it, the better.