Read Miranda's War Online

Authors: Howard; Foster

Miranda's War (10 page)

“I guess. He can't work with you unless you want to sit here quietly for a couple of years.”

“I don't; I won't.”

“This isn't going to end well, Miranda. One of you is going to be gone.”

“I think you're right,” she said with a false hint of dread.

Chapter Eighteen

The first thing Miranda did when she got home was email Garrett Tristan with the news. Then she called Stephen.

“So this is the apocalypse?” he asked.

“He called an emergency town meeting.”

“So your theory is going to be put to the test.”

“Will you support me publicly?”

“I'm not a resident.”

“You can say something on your website. It's time.”

He equivocated some more and she abruptly disconnected.

She then slipped into Archer's study, where he was typing at his five-year-old Microsoft computer, several books and journals opened around him with light blue Post-it notes protruding here and there. Beethoven's Fourth Symphony was playing in the background; the walls were covered with framed photos of him with colleagues and family. And there were the impressionist paintings: lifeless, second-tier, utterly boring. She preferred looking at forgeries of the first tier.

“Buy you a drink?” she asked.

“Well, I'm just getting to the part we discussed, the algorithms of the Stage 3 analysis, so I better not.”

“I think we should take Asa sailing. Just the three of us for a day away from Cody. He needs to do it on his own without the rivalry.”

He pulled back from the computer and looked her in the eye.

“That's not a bad idea. And if it works, then let's follow up a few times before the season is out. Then maybe they can go without us.”

She stepped in from the doorway and moved toward one of his captain's chairs emblazoned with the M.I.T. seal.

They talked a bit more about Asa, and then she casually mentioned that there was a Conservation Commission meeting earlier in the evening.

“How did that go?”

“It was very contentious. Karl has taken leave of his senses. He's calling an emergency town meeting, or threatened to.”

“Oh I see, you're trying to inform me of the latest bombardment like it's a routine event, like the gardener not showing up. Well it's not. And I'm not going to sit here week after week while you wreak havoc with the town. It's giving me an ulcer.”

“He's giving me one too.”

“You love it when things heat up. I don't. And I'm not going to spar anymore.”

Archer reached for his phone and made a call, leaving a voicemail while Miranda glared.

“Ted, it's Archer. Call me ASAP. We're having a problem with Miranda's service on the Conservation Commission. She says Karl Anderson, the Chairman, is calling an emergency town meeting to stop her plan to sell the Pierce Estate. This is getting out of hand, and I want to know what to do about it.”

“You didn't have to do that. I'm not doing anything illegal,” Miranda said.

“That's what you say.”

“You won't give me the benefit of the doubt?”

“We both know that this is personal. You're baiting him.”

“So you're siding with him?”

“You can't help yourself. You want to convince the town of Lincoln that you're smarter than him, and you want to do it at an emergency town meeting. And we both know what you're capable of in a situation like that.”

Archer sat back in his chair smugly, arms crossed across his chest, and waited for her to let loose with polysyllabic insults. She restrained herself and walked upstairs to the den, the only room with a TV, and watched sailing races on ESPN with Asa for an hour, then put him to bed. Then she went into her auxiliary bedroom and closed the door. A few minutes later she heard Archer come upstairs.

“We have an appointment with Ted at 10:30 tomorrow,” he said from the hallway.

After Archer was in their bedroom suite with the door closed, she went down to her study and spent three hours researching the ethical issues surrounding the attorney-client relationship.

In the morning Miranda made breakfast, steel-cut oatmeal and carrot juice, as usual. Archer and the boys sat at the kitchen table; she could not bring herself to look at him and sat on a bar stool behind the island.

“What are you doing?” Cody asked her.

“I'm thinking. Finish up.”

“I suppose I'll be seeing you at 10:30, right?” asked Archer as he grabbed his briefcase.

“I'll be there.”

“Fine, see you then.”

Miranda drove downtown after the rush-hour traffic had died down, stopping at Rebecca's on the way.

She quickly got to the point. “Karl Anderson resigned from the bench and went back to teaching,” Miranda said. “It means he can't stand conflict.”

“That's why we lost the Back Bay,” Rebecca replied. “There were times we could have raised hell about the students and the high taxes and the city letting B.U. build dorms on Bay State Road. We didn't. Nobody had the stomach for it.”

“They hadn't served in war?”

“You're damn right,” said Rebecca. “We've got it too easy in this country. Everybody expects things to be handed to them: benefits, subsidies, rights.”

“Is Archer going to leave me?”

“No. He loves you. You're the only woman who can keep up with him intellectually. You've got some sort of power over him. Maybe it's in the bedroom.”

Miranda laughed.

“He's taking me in to see Ted McFarland, his lawyer, for God's sake. This could be the beginning of the divorce for all I know.”

“He doesn't have the guts to divorce you.”

Miranda left and drove on to One New England Center, the downtown office building where she had seen Anthony Zenni, parked in the $20 valet line and went up to the plush lobby of Adams & Threlkeld, the 350-lawyer powerhouse where Ted McFarland was a litigation partner. Archer was already there, seated on a coffee-colored leather couch and reading
The Boston Globe
. She sat down near him but far enough down so that he could not see what was on her laptop screen.

“He's running a little late, tied up in court,” he said.

“Who's paying for this?”

“Nobody, he's a friend.”

“He's sent us bills in the past.”

“Nominal, just to appease his managing partner.”

“I see, so he's kept it informal.”

“Very.”

“I'll remind him of that when he starts to threaten litigation.”

She picked up one of the firm's glossy pamphlets from the coffee table.

There was a full-page profile for each partner, and Ted had a decade-old photo of himself above his career chronology:

1982 - Enters Harvard Law School

1985 - Graduates magna cum laude, editor of The Journal of Law and Economics

1985 - Clerkship for the Hon. Joseph T. Rubin, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Philadelphia

1992 - Becomes partner at Adams & Threlkeld

2002 - Argues Federated Industries v. Kellerman, landmark securities case in the U.S. Supreme Court

She pulled out her red pen and wrote “AND LOST 7-2” beneath it. Then she added:

2000 - Joins A.A. (Wellesley Hills chapter)

2004 - Misses his father's funeral for a deposition

2007 - Leaves wife for twenty-four-year-old graduate student

2008 - Finalizes merciless divorce decree after threatening ex-wife with disclosure of her manic depression

Then she put the pamphlet down and discreetly picked up another one so as not to draw Archer's attention. She had introduced her point of view in four pamphlets by the time she saw Ted, six foot four, dressed in a loose-fitting poplin suit, show up at the other end of the room and wave. He wore rimless glasses hooked over steel-gray temples and had a dashing but diplomatic aura of strength. Had she met him twenty years ago, she would have been drawn to him, as other women still were.

“Hi folks, I'm terribly sorry, court, you know. Lateness comes with the job.”

“No problem, old boy,” said Archer.

“Can I get you something? We've got Starbucks' new blonde roast, you know, less potent.”

“I'm fine,” he responded.

“I'll take a cup,” she said, wondering if he would fetch it himself. He ignored her request and simply led them down a spiral staircase and a hallway to his office. He sat at a chair across the room from his massive desk and motioned for them to take seats at the couch. Miranda reached into her handbag and touched her cell phone, starting the voice notes recording function.

“This seems like a more seemly place to talk to old friends.”

He made small talk about the boys and golf. His son was nine, already enjoying the game. He confessed to hitting a ball into a pond at the twelfth hole in Brookline.

“You used to play a decent game,” he said to Archer.

“Not anymore,” said Archer. “Tennis and our boat, that's enough. I spend more time writing now.”

“And I help with the economic analysis of urban development,” she said.

“I didn't know that. What exactly do you do?”

“Regression analysis on data to find the missing links in the reasoning. For example, data on the development of sewer systems in Brooklyn is sketchy. It was an independent city back then and it just didn't keep the records. I told Archer how statistics could predict how long it would have taken for the second and third stages to be built. Once he had that, the rest of his thesis fell into place.”

“It's true, she runs circles around me in statistics.”

“And economics,” she added.

“I thought you were interested in landscape architecture.”

“I am.”

“And sociology.”

“I am.”

“And now this, tying up the Conservation Commission in knots?”

“We shouldn't have downzoned the land along Route 2. I want to sell the Pierce Estate and use that money to buy the land on Route 2. We solve a lot of long-term problems that way.”

“Miranda, I've got clients on state commissions, federal commissions, high-level appointees. Rule one, you keep your head down for a while and do your job.”

“Unfortunately, we don't have time. I'm up on a hill looking at the enemy's front lines coming our way.”

He laughed in his haughty, lawyerly way, and rather than look at his face, she focused on the fillings in his teeth.

“I know you like military history, and that must be coloring your judgment.”

“It's informing it.”

“Let's be candid, you know perfectly well you can't work on a Commission. You were basically asked to leave.”

“Lincoln is lucky to have me at this moment.”

“You're not Joan of Arc.”

“And just what do you suggest I do?”

“As your lawyer, I'd like to point out the situation creates an inevitable conflict. Conflicts are bad. I advise my clients to avoid them. I avoid them.”

“You're not my lawyer. I take everything you say as Archer's view amplified through a quasi-legal stereo system designed to intimidate me into submission. And to continue your medieval metaphor, you think you're his Thomas Cromwell. And maybe you are, but I'm not going to be Catherine of Aragon.”

“Touché, that's my Miranda,” said Archer. “And if you keep pushing, counselor, you'll get the full Monty, the whole explanation of how her existence and Lincoln's existence cannot be squared with antiquated and formalistic rules like keeping one's head down upon joining a board. She is convinced the utility of such rules is outweighed by her statistical analysis of the danger of the current situation. And she can plot it all out if you want in charts with her multi-disciplinary baton.”

Miranda smiled.

“You see, we understand each other,” she said.

“I've heard this in one form or another for years,” said Ted, trying to regain control. “But it was always over little things, like not wanting to play the fourteenth hole at Brookline because the angle off the tee was manipulated by eleven degrees, or that Willamette Valley wine was actually superior to Burgundy. And I even respected you for your brilliance and insouciance. But not for something like this, with its public consequences …”

“If Archer with his brilliance and command of the language can't convince me to drop what I'm doing, then you can't either,” Miranda interrupted. “You're less persuasive, less intelligent, know me less, and should I go on?”

“I thought hearing words of caution from me might give you pause.”

“Tell me if I'm breaking the law.”

“I can't see that you are.”

“Then your job is finished.”

She thought there was a 30% probability that Ted would actually suggest divorce and bring everything to an abrupt end.

Instead, he said, “We'll be back here before long. You know what's coming. We want to spare your boys the embarrassment of hearing about their mother's antics on the playground of BB&N.”

“I'm a public official and they know it. Criticism comes with the job. And they respect me, both of us.”

“Of course they do,” he said with an undertone of irony.

“OK, I think we're done here. If I find I need legal advice with my commission business, I'll call you.”

She stood up.

“Shall we go?” she asked Archer. “I'm sure Ted would rather return to his real clients.”

After a bit, he stood up too, and after a further warning from Ted about conflicts, the meeting ended.

Chapter Nineteen

When Miranda reached home there was an email awaiting her from the Town Clerk: the “Notice of Emergency Town Meeting” issued unanimously by the Board of Selectmen in response to the request by Karl. It stated that on Thursday, September 7th, at 7:00 there would be an emergency town meeting to consider the following resolutions:

1) That the charter of the Conservation Commission be amended so the Pierce Estate could not be sold without the approval of town meeting; and

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