Here is the next installment of our Metallum Nocturne serialized story. If you need to catch up, all the previous episodes can be found here.
The low growl reverberated through Claire’s chest, followed by a shiver of fear running down her spine. Lamar stared at them, his lips peeling back in a grimace. The hairs on his neck seemed to be stiffening and his eyes took on a menacing sheen.
Then he lifted a fist to his mouth and coughed. “Excuse me. I’m being very uncouth.”
A pain in her thigh made Claire noticed that Dawn was squeezing her leg. She reached down and uncurled her fingers.
“Sorry,” said Dawn without taking her eyes off the lawyer.
“It’s a hobby of mine,” said Lamar, bushy eyebrows wagging at their surroundings. “And pays the bills when I’m between jobs.”
Claire swallowed. When Canterbury mentioned he’d be cheap, she assumed that meant good value, as in he’d be able to help her, but seeing his office was giving her serious doubts.
“What’s the trouble?”
After a heavy sigh, Claire explained what had happened since the accident, including being hounded by reporters. Lamar listened quietly, while rubbing the tips of his claw-like fingernails together. When she was finished, he didn’t speak for a long time.
“Can you help?” she asked when the silence grew to be too much.
“A troubling case, to be sure,” said Lamar.
“In what way?”
He looked out the window as a firetruck with the sirens on went screaming past.
“The Blocks. Annette and Andrew. They own a variety of industries in the city and around the country. Wealthy, but not the kind that gets you into Coterie. Too blue collar. Ambitious, smart, and more than enough resources to crush any opposition in a trial.”
A cold wind invaded her chest. The description was devastating.
“So I don’t have a chance?”
“I didn’t say that. But the fact that it’s a civil case rather than criminal makes it easier for them.”
“I thought there were protections for mages in the Halls,” said Dawn eagerly. “Like we have immunity, or something.”
Lamar smiled, revealing long canines. “For criminal cases, this is partially true, though that immunity from the regular courts doesn’t extend to the Hall judicial system. The Patrons have the latitude to prosecute any crimes they see fit.”
Claire leaned forward on the desk, nearly knocking Dawn out of their shared seat.
“Am I getting tried by the Halls?”
“Oh, Merlin’s tits, no. I was just pontificating on the legal paths afforded students.”
“Then what are you saying?”
The lawyer gave her a look that parents did when they had to deliver bad news.
“In a civil case, if one side has considerably more money than the other, it creates a significant advantage. Filing and other minutiae of the law can drown that side in paperwork making it impossible to mount a defense. Based on what you’ve told me, I think you’d need a team of at least five lawyers and a dozen clerks.”
“What? Really? I don’t have the money for that. I don’t have money. Period.” She paused. “Are you saying you can’t take the case?”
“Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t touch this case even if I had a magic wand for the simple stuff. The public spotlight and her mayoral ambitions make this case a minefield not to mention the optics. But these aren’t normal circumstances.”
“No,” said Lamar. “The Blocks are the reason I’m living in this tiny apartment and having to hide from my creditors.” He extended his hand, adding a wide smile. “I’d be happy to take your case.”