Page 72 of The Street Lawyer

I almost felt sorry for the politicians and bureaucrats and office workers at the thought of four hundred Drake & Sweeney lawyers suddenly seized with a fervor to protect the rights of street people.

Arthur stayed almost two hours, and apologized when he realized he had taken so much of my time. But he was much happier when he left. He was going straight to his office with a new purpose, a man on a mission. I walked him to his car, then ran to tell Mordecai.

* * *

Megan's uncle owned a house on the Delaware shore, near Fenwick Island on the Maryland line. She described it as a quaint old house, two stories with a large porch that almost touched the ocean, three bedrooms, a perfect spot for a weekend getaway. It was the middle of March, still cold, and we could sit by the fire and read books.

She slightly stressed the part about three bedrooms, so there would be plenty of space for each of us to have privacy, without matters getting complicated. She knew I was limping away from my first marriage, and after two weeks of cautious flirting we had both come to realize that things would proceed slowly. But there was another reason for mentioning the three bedrooms.

We left Washington Friday afternoon. I drove. Megan navigated. And Ruby nibbled on oatmeal cookies in the backseat, wild-eyed at the prospect of spending a few days outside the city, off the streets, on the beach, clean and sober.

She had been clean Thursday night. Three nights with us in Delaware would make four. Monday afternoon we would check her into Easterwood, a small women's detox center off East Capitol. Mordecai had leaned heavily on someone there, and Ruby would have a small room with a warm bed for at least ninety days.

Before we left the city, she had showered at Naomi's and changed into new clothes. Megan had searched every inch of her clothing and bag looking for drugs. She found nothing. It was an invasion of privacy, but with addicts the rules are different.

We found the house at dusk. Megan used it once or twice a year. The key was under the front doormat.

I was assigned the downstairs bedroom, which Ruby thought odd. The other two bedrooms were upstairs, and Megan wanted to be near Ruby during the night.

* * *

It rained Saturday, a cold, blowing shower that came from the sea. I was alone on the front porch, rocking gently in a swing under a thick blanket, lost in a dream world, listening to the waves break below. The door closed, the screen slammed behind it, and Megan walked to the swing. She lifted the blanket and tucked herself next to me. I held her firmly; if not, she would've fallen onto the porch.

She was easy to hold.

"Where's our client?" I asked.

"Watching TV."

A strong gust threw mist in our faces, and we squeezed tighter. The chains holding the swing squeaked louder, then faded as we became almost still. We watched the clouds swirl above the water. Time was of no importance. "What are you thinking?" she asked softly. Everything and nothing. Away from the city, I could look back for the first time and try to make sense of it all. Thirty-two days earlier I had been married to someone else, living in a different apartment, working in a different firm, a complete stranger to the woman I was now holding. How could life change so drastically in a month?

I didn't dare think of the future; the past was still happening.

The End