Big Law:A Novel(10)

By: Ron Liebman

She’s tall, an inch or two over me, kind of lanky, and beautiful. Nut-brown skin and green eyes. A legacy, was the way she put it, from the plantation slave master’s taking a fancy to one of her ancestors. And she’s funny.

Her dad was career army, so Sean liked that. Diane worked in lower Manhattan as an assistant district attorney in the local criminal court, though she lives in Queens. Her city-government salary was not nearly enough for a decent apartment in Manhattan, or for that matter in the newly chic sections of Brooklyn that so many young (and well-paid) professionals have colonized.

We were having a nice time. I had ordered a good Napa cabernet. (Sean and Rosy stayed with beer.) The waiter was topping up Diane’s glass. The same guys who’d stood next to us at the bar had taken the table directly across from us, against the wall. When they were being seated, I noticed one nudge the other, lifting his chin: Take a look at them.

Meaning, of course, us.

And I guess we did stand out a little. Two badly dressed white people. Clearly lower class. The nicely dressed black girl with the suited white guy. But they took their seats and settled in. Or so I thought.

We were at a round table. Rosy had her back to where these guys were seated, as I said, against the wall. They were at a rectangular table. Sean was facing them; Diane and I had side views. The time or two I casually glanced over, I could see that they were still at the hard stuff, their waiter bringing over more rounds of cocktails even though they, too, were at their steaks.

Rosy was eating, though really pecking at her food, downing beers instead. She hadn’t said much but was enjoying herself, and I especially liked the way she was with Diane, evidently impressed by this woman lawyer.

And then.

One of the guys from the other table got up and came over to us. Bending just slightly, some faux posture of friendliness, he said, “Excuse me, folks.” Touching Rosy lightly on the shoulder.

“My friends over there,” he said, smiling, very drunk. “Well, one of them thinks he may have gone to boarding school with you. Phillips Exeter?”

Rosy turned in her seat and looked over at that table. One of those with his back to the wall, stupid grin, wiggling his fingers: Hi there.

Rosy got it. But she simply turned back in her seat to face us. She was staring at the table. Ridiculed.

“No?” The guy said to Rosy. Pushing it. “You sure?”

There was sniggering at the other table.

“Okay,” the guy said. “Our mistake. Enjoy your dinner.” And returned to his own table. Retook his seat. His back to us.

More laughter, then I saw Mr. Finger Wiggler take out his wallet and pass some bills to the guy who had come to our table.

And that’s when Sean got up.

Rosy didn’t turn around, but Diane and I could see.

He walked over to their table. Leaned into the face of the guy who’d been at our table. I saw Sean put his hand in his jeans pocket and then start speaking in a voice too low for us to hear from where we were seated. The guy’s back was to us, so I couldn’t see his face, but I clearly saw him stiffen. The others at the table were no longer amused. Grim faces all around.

When he finished, Sean straightened up. We watched the guy get up and then walk right out of the dining room. Not so much as a glance our way. Sean came back to our table. One of the others still at their table signaled the waiter for the check. Keep in mind they, too, were in mid-meal.

The check arrived, it was quickly settled, and then the rest of them got up and left the restaurant. Filing right by us, eyes elsewhere.

Sean winked at Rosy. Letting her know. All okay now.

“What did you say to them?” Diane asked.

“Oh,” Sean said, shrugging. “They had somewhere else they had to be. I was just reminding them of that.”

“Where else?” Diane asked.

“Anywhere else,” Sean said as he sliced off a big chunk of steak and ate it. “Great place, bro,” chewing, he said to me. “Let’s come back here sometime.”

Diane and I exchanged glances. She raised her eyebrows. Nodded. Yeah, let’s. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a mistake coming here.

And what was it that my brother said to that guy?

By then we’d finished dinner and were back out on Sixth Avenue headed for the subway for them and the office for me. Diane and Rosy were a few paces ahead of us, delightedly gabbing.

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