Meddling Heroes, Chapter 2: Speaking for the Defense
Over the years, I have represented sentient robots, alien beings, superintelligent gorillas, and time-displaced cavemen. All of them followed one simple rule: they wore pants in my office. Leave it to Paradigm, the supposed symbol of America, to break that rule. I don’t care if the people on the news call it a uniform – he’s wearing red tights with blue underwear on the outside, and he’s doing it in my office.
I fold my hands together and lean forward slightly, letting my office speak for me. The shelves of legal books and certificates speak to my education. The pictures of some of Paradigm’s greatest enemies shaking my hand as they walk free speaks to his grudge against me.
“Eva, you can’t follow through with this case.”
“Oh, it’s Eva now, is it? Not Miss Corson? Not the dozen or so curses you’re probably thinking of right now?”
“I don’t watch violent television. I don’t think I’d even know the words you’re imagining me thinking.”
I suddenly wish I had a pair of glasses so I could look sternly over the top of my frames at him. In person, he’s the same type of boy scout pretty boy I see on billboards with a spray paint smile telling kids to eat their breakfast and get lots of exercise. I despise anyone who seems that perfect and honest. It makes me wonder what might happen if they finally did crack.
“Anyway,” he continues in his stern but calm voice, “you can read whatever you want into my words. The important thing is that you hear me out.”
According to the government’s superhero database, Paradigm stands 6’3”. He looks taller in person, with his ridiculous spandex outfit seeming to exist for no reason except to display the muscles on his perfect physique. I find it endlessly ironic that the man who saved the world from the Nazis is a blond-haired, blue-eyed, eternally young superman. Supposedly, he can detect changes in body heat, making him a living lie detector. Reading his own face is nearly impossible, and not just because of the dark blue domino mask that covers most of his face. He looks like he’s carved out of stone, leaving me to read minor facial twitches and almost imperceptible changes in body language to figure out what he’s about.
“You must have heard by now that one of my people has been killed recently. The murderer is still at large, as far as we know. A corpse genetically identical to Pythagoras was found nearby.”
“I know that perfectly well. In fact, it’s a key part of this case.”
“If you win this case, Captain Tomorrow won’t be the only superhero found dead in the streets.”
“You’re not seriously implying that my client is responsible for his death? He was sitting in prison during the whole event. The corpse found at the scene was a cloned body, with corroborates with everything Roosevelt has claimed since his capture.”
“You’re trying to apply normal logic to an abnormal situation, Miss Corson. You’re talking about alibis in a case involving time travel, paradoxes, and clones. Even if Pythagoras isn’t directly responsible for the murder, he’ll be targeted by whoever is responsible. He’s got more anti-super technology hidden away than anyone else on the planet.”
“Allegedly, that is. You’ve never managed to prove any of those claims.”
“Excuse my language, miss, but I still have scars from that darned titanium death-bot of his.”
I cock an eyebrow at that line for a couple reasons. First, I realize that the word “darn” is apparently a curse word to him. Second, the lewder part of my mind has to wonder where those scars are…the spandex tights certainly show enough of his body off.
I check my watch and stand up. I’m a tall woman – not as tall as the walking tank here, but close enough to let him know I won’t be intimidated. Tilting my head slightly upward, I look him in the eyes as I speak.
“This is my twelfth appeal on my client’s behalf. It’s also the first time you’ve shown up in my office. So I’m guessing the only reason you’re here is because you know I’m going to win this time. And if you have as much faith in America as you say you do in your damned PSAs. You’ll let the courts decide innocence or guilt. That is the law you claim to try to uphold.”
His body tenses slightly. The white star on his chest expands a little and then returns to normal as he works to control his breathing. He can shrug off anything short of a direct hit with a missile, but I can still throw in some jabs that hurt. “You know I trust the system,” he growls.
“No, I don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t be here. And you wouldn’t be referring to a dead vigilante as one of ‘your people.’ You know what they say about ‘my people?’ Five hundred at the bottom of the ocean is a good start.”
“You make a living defending supervillains, Miss Corson.”
“I make my living defending people. And unless you feel like overthrowing the government, they get the same rights as you and I. You’re not a cop or a soldier. People like you might do good work, but I’m not about to keep my client behind bars because someone who fights giant monsters and alien assassins couldn’t beat the odds one more time.”
He folds his arms and glares at me for a long time. “Fine,” he finally says. “Do your job, and I’ll do mine. But I’ll be keeping an eye on him…and you.”
He turns and walks away, his blue cape following behind him with a dramatic flutter. I’m just glad he didn’t fly through my wall out of spite.
“Fine,” I say as I start collecting my notes for the appeal. “Just for a change, though, try going through the cops like everybody else.”
Police can get quite punctual when they’re transporting a man who can build a nuclear bomb from memory alone. Running late thanks to my argument with Paradigm, I’m left meeting up with my client at the courthouse. He’s in the defendant’s lobby, drinking tea in a Styrofoam cup and dressed in the black suit coat, white tie, and Italian shoes that he calls his power suit. As he’s pointed out to me before, the power suit is different than his battle suit, which involved anti-tank weaponry and armor capable of shrugging off a direct hit from a missile.
“It still fits,” he says, setting his tea down and standing up to greet me as I enter the lobby. “Tassels on the shoes are still the style, aren’t they?”
“They were never the style, Rosey.”
His face falls a little bit at that, although he tries to retain the air of smugness and style. I think deep down Roosevelt Pythagoras always wanted to be a villain out of some superspy movie, complete with a fluffy white cat to stroke menacingly and a big collection of witty one-liners. But that’s just not the world we live in…superheroes forced his hand.
“Do you really think we’re going to get through this time?” he asks, his eyes a bit wider and more childlike than he probably wants them to be.
“You remember what to say when I put you on the stand?”
“I’ve had it memorized for years now.”
“Then yes, you’ll be a free man by the end of today.”
“What makes you so sure this appeal will work when all the others have failed?”
“This isn’t just an appeal of the sentence, or potential bias in the court. This is basically a whole new trial. In case you haven’t heard, you were found dead near the murder site of Captain Tomorrow, which is naturally impossible considering that you’re here right now and were in prison during the murder.”
“So with two of me about, only one can be a criminal?”
“Both of you can be a criminal, Rosey, but it gives us new evidence…and reasonable doubt we didn’t have before.”
“But why should the jury buy this? Who’s to say it’s not another one of my crazy schemes?”
“Relax…it’s going to work.”
He pulls an imaginary thread away from his cuff and tosses it aside. “Don’t think I don’t trust you,” he sniffs, a little upset that he doesn’t understand something I know for sure. “But how can you be so sure you’ll be able to win? Evidence is all well and good, but people are…people.” His mouth tightens and his eyes narrow. “People are variables you can’t account for.”
“Let’s put it this way…Paradigm thinks you’re going to go free.”
Suddenly, his eyes light up like I’ve just read off the entire periodic table of elements from memory. I become the most wonderful person in the world to him. “You talked to Paradigm?”
“I did. He showed up in my office not more than an hour ago.”
“What did he want?”
“He practically begged me to drop your case. He knows you’re about to hit the streets again.”
His teeth showing in his wide grin, he double checks to make sure the door and windows of the room are closed. “We have complete privacy here?”
“Attorney-client privilege. The chambers are practically soundproof.”
“Do you mind?”
“No…go right ahead.”
“Heh…heh heh…heh heh heh heh…” His laughter begins slowly, as though he’s trying to remember how to let it out. Then it spills forth, a flood of madness and joy from his mouth. Every horror movie he watched as a child, every genius with a grudge he idolized growing up, has taught him that the only way the truly brilliant let out their mirth is through loud, maniacal laughter. By now, he’s so set in his ways that I’m not going to be the one to change him.
“Heh…sorry about that,” he concludes, wiping a tear from his eye. “It’s been a long time.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’d be surprised at how often I get that out of my clients.”
He’d probably also be surprised at how many repeat clients I have, but he doesn’t need to know about them. Not right before the trial, at least.
“You know, it occurs to me that after this is all over, I won’t have much of a chance to let loose like that again.”
“If you do, just make sure you do it in the privacy of your own home.”
“Wherever that home might wind up being.”
“We’ll get you set up with something, Rosey.”
He nods, glances at his tasseled shoes, and then looks back up toward my face. Rosey’s short enough and I’m tall enough that he’s eye level with my chest whenever we’re both on even footing. I think one of the reasons I like him is that he never takes advantage of that, always looking at my face instead of my breasts. Just because I dress to look good doesn’t mean I want people gawking at me. It occurs to me that Paradigm also acted like a gentleman in that regard, but something about Rosey makes me more comfortable. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve known him for so many years, even though most of those years were as his attorney. Or maybe it’s the fact that, unlike Paradigm, Rosey is actually human, flaws and all.
“So what did Paradigm have to say about his old nemesis?”
“Everything I expected him to…you’re dangerous, you’re connected with Captain Tomorrow’s death—”
“Do you think that last bit is true?”
“Of course not. You have an ironclad alibi.”
“Except that a perfect copy of me was also found at the scene of the crime.”
“Don’t worry about those details. Just trust me when I say it helps our case.”
He scratches his chin and taps his foot, his brow furrowed in thought. “I’m going to need someone to assist me when I get out. Preferably, someone with legal knowhow.”
“I do happen to have a practice of my own, you know.”
“It wouldn’t interfere with that…it would be more like putting you on retainer. Helping me out a bit in my new career.”
“Do you think you can afford me?”
He gives me a sloppy, confident grin. “My dear, you’d be surprised at the assets I still possess.” He offers me his arm like he’s ushering me into a wedding. “Shall we?”
“Sure. Let’s ‘shall.’”
I take his arm and escort my prize client toward the courtroom. In twelve hours or less, the most successful supervillain in American history will walk out of here a free man.