All descriptions are excerpts from Special Circumstances
© 2001 Sheldon M. Siegel, Inc.
The Narrator and Criminal Defense Attorney:
Michael J. Daley.45; criminal defense attorney;
divorced; San Francisco native; son of a San Francisco cop; former public
defender and priest; formerly married to Rosita Fernandez;
one six-year-old daughter (Grace).
After my five years as an under productive partner at Simpson & Gates,
our executive committee asked me to leave. I was, in short, fired. Although
the request was polite, I was told that if I didn't leave voluntarily,
they would invoke Article Seven of our partnership agreement, which states,
and I quote, that 'A Partner of the Firm may be terminated by the Firm
upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the Partners of the Firm,
at a duly called and held meeting of the Partners of the Firm.' In the
last three years, fourteen of my partners have been Article Sevened.
On Monday, I'll open the law offices of Michael J. Daley, Criminal Defense
Attorney, in a subleased office in a walk-up building in the not-so-trendy
part of San Francisco's South of Market area. Welcome to the modern practice
Prentice Marshall Gates III ("Skipper").
58; San Francisco District Attorney; son of founding partner of Simpson
& Gates law firm; former partner of Michael Daley.
Skipper's story is a little different. After thirty years
as an under productive partner in our real-estate department, he spent
three million dollars of the money he inherited from his father to win
a mean-spirited race for district attorney of San Francisco, even though
he hasn't set foot in a courtroom in over twenty years. My partners are
thrilled. They have never complained about his arrogance, sloppy work
and condescending attitude. Hell, the same could be said about most of
my partners. What they can't live with is his four-hundred thousand-dollar
draw. He has been living off his father's reputation for years. That's
why all the power partners are here. They want to give him a big send-off.
More importantly, they want to be sure he doesn't change his mind.
At fifty-eight, his tanned face is chiseled out of solid
rock, with a Roman nose, high forehead and graceful mane of silver hair.
His charcoal-gray doubled-breasted Brioni suit, Egyptian-cotton white
shirt and striped tie add dignity to his rugged features. He looks like
he is ready to assume his rightful place on Mount Rushmore next to George
As an attorney, he's careless, lazy and unimaginative.
As a human being, he's greedy, condescending and an unapologetic philanderer.
As a politician, however, he's the real deal. Even when he's half tanked
and there's a piece of shrimp hanging from his chin, he exudes charisma,
wealth and, above all, style. It must be some sort of birth right of
those born into privilege.
J. Robert Holmes, Jr. ("Bob"). 48; mergers and acquisitions
partner, Simpson & Gates law firm; married to Beth Holmes.
In every law firm, there's one individual with a huge book
of business and an even bigger ego whose sole purpose is to make everyone
else miserable. Bob is our resident nine-hundred pound gorilla. His
eight-million-dollar book of business lets him do pretty much whatever
he wants. For the most part, he's content to sit on our executive committee,
torture his associates and whine. Last year he took home a million three
hundred thousand. Not bad for a short kid from the wrong side of the
tracks in Wilkes-Barre. Although my partners find it difficult to agree
on anything, they're willing to acknowledge that Bob is a flaming asshole.
Whenever a big deal is coming down at S&G, the Power
Conference Room is the stage and Bob plays the lead. At the moment, he's
screaming into a cellular phone. He hasn't slept in three days, and it
shows. He's in his late forties, but with his five-seven frame holding
230 pounds, his puffy red face and jowls make him look at least sixty.
Although some of us remember when his hair was gray, it's now dyed an
unnatural shade of orange-brown that he combs over an expanding bald spot.
On his best days, he storms through our office with a pained expression
suggesting he's battling a perpetual case of hemorrhoids. Tonight the
grimace is even more pronounced.
Diana Kennedy. 29; corporate associate, Simpson
He glances at Diana Kennedy, a glamorous twenty-nine-year-old
associate with deep blue eyes, stylish blond hair and a beautiful figure
that reflects a lot of time at the gym. She's the only person in the room
who looks presentable. She always does. She's a rising star.
Joel Friedman. 38; corporate associate, Simpson
& Gates; son of Rabbi Neil Friedman; husband of Naomi Friedman; father
of twin sons.
Joel is sort of a Jewish Ward Cleaver. He's an excellent
attorney with a terrific wife and twin six-year-old boys. He's thirty-eight,
a trim five-nine. His father is the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in the
Richmond District. Joel left the yeshiva after two years and went to
my alma mater, UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School He graduated second in
his class and joined S&G seven years ago. His brown hair is graying,
the bald spot he tries to hide is getting larger and his tortoiseshell
glasses give him a rabbinical look which, in the circumstances, is entirely
appropriate. In Yiddish, he would be described as a mensch, which means
an honorable man. He's also my best friend.
The Defense Team:
Rosita Fernandez ("Rosie").
41; co-defense counsel; Mike's ex-wife; former San Francisco public defender.
"Que pasa, Miguel? You all right?" My ex-wife,
Rosita Carmela Fernandez, doesn't speak Spanish, except to me. "I
heard it on the radio." She grew up in the Hispanic enclave in the
Mission District. Her dad was a carpenter. Her mom babysits Grace whenever
Rosie's in trial. Rosie was the first member of her family to go to college.
She worked her way through San Francisco State and Hastings law school.
We used to work together at the PD's office. We were married for about
three years. We were a lot better at trying cases than we were at being
"I'm fine, Rosie,"
"Good. I was worried my new tenant wasn't going
to move in."
That was part of the problem when we were married. Among
other things, Rosie is good at keeping track of money. I'm not. She's
also very organized. Let's just say I'm more flexible. It used to
drive her nuts. We got along great right until the time we got married.
Then all of my faults came to light. After a couple of years of ceaseless
sniping, we finally split up. It was right after Grace turned one.
Once the divorce messiness was really over, we started getting along
a lot better. Go figure.
It was much more fun when we were first dating and we
didn't worry about rent, car payments and, later, diapers. We had started
going out when we worked at the PD's office. Rosie was spinning out
of a bad marriage. I was coming off a long-term relationship with a
law school classmate. We found each other on the rebound. I think
she liked me because I'm funny. I liked her because she was direct.
And Lord knows, we knew each other's work schedules.
Peter Daley ("Pete"). 38; private investigator;
former San Francisco cop; Mike's brother; specializes in finding unfaithful
My phone keeps ringing. My younger brother, Pete, a former
San Francisco cop who works as a private investigator, gets through on
the first try. "You okay, Mike? I heard it on the box."
"You talked to Ma?"
"Yeah. Told her I'm okay. Mind giving her a call?
She'll feel better if she hears from you."
"No problem, Mick. Gotta go. I'm working. I'll
see you this weekend."
I pity the poor unfaithful husband he's tailing. What
he lacks in finesse he makes up for in tenacity.
Morton R. Goldberg ("Mort the Sport"). 63; co-defense
counsel; over-the-hill criminal defense attorney; Rabbi Friedman's hand-picked
person to assist Mike; a plea bargain specialist.
Mort Goldberg. Mort the Sport. Smart. Shrewd. Well connected in the
Jewish community. In his day, he was one of the more successful criminal-defense
lawyers in town. He taught criminal procedure and evidence at Hastings
for a few years. Unfortunately, his day ended about twenty years ago.
These days, he spends most of his time cutting deals on drunk-driving
Wendy Hogan. 38; part-time tax attorney at Simpson
& Gates; divorced; six-year-old son; knowledgeable about foreign trusts
and other tax shelters.
Wendy and her husband split up a couple of years ago. She went through
the mother of all custody battles. I can relate. She keeps her sad brown
eyes hidden behind large wire-rimmed glasses. Her frizzy hair and mousy
demeanor belie the fact that she's an absolute terror in negotiations
with the IRS. I like her. We divorced, recovering Catholics have a lot
in common. And S&G has treated her like shit for the past five years.
Someday, I'm going to summon the courage to ask her out. She's a little
gun-shy around men these days.
The Assistant Prosecutor:
William McNulty ("McNasty"). 48; experienced district
attorney assigned to assist with the prosecution.
Sitting quietly in one of the overstuffed chairs and observing this banal
exchange is a trim, middle-aged man with short gray hair and thick glasses.
Bill McNulty, the ADA in charge of homicide cases, is a native San Franciscan
and a career prosecutor. He thought his number had come up last year
for the DA job. There were only two problems. First, there isn't a single
ounce of charisma anywhere in Bill's body. Put him in front of a TV camera
and he makes Richard Nixon look photogenic. Second, Skipper tossed his
hat into the ring and outspent Bill by about ten to tone. Skipper annihilated
him in the election in a vicious negative campaign. For twenty-six years,
McNulty has been on a mission from God to put the bad guys away. He's
good at it. What he lacks in charm, he makes up for by being careful,
hard-nosed and meticulous. He has a reputation as a fighter and his nickname
around the Hall is Bill McNasty.
Roosevelt Johnson. 64; senior homicide inspector, SFPD.
He's a legend. He and his partner, Marcus Banks, are the SFPD's most
senior homicide team. They handle all the high-profile cases.
Marcus Banks. 58; senior homicide inspector; SFPD.
"Marcus is a good cop. Sometimes he doesn't handle things the way
I would. He's kept his nose clean the last few years."
The Chief Medical Examiner:
Dr. Roderick Beckert. 64; Chief Medical Examiner of the City and
County of San Francisco.
A stout sixty-two year-old with a huge bald head and black-framed glasses,
Dr. Roderick Beckert is the dean of big-city coroners. And he knows it.
And he'll tell you so. I wouldn't dream of addressing him other than
as Dr. Beckert. Then again, he'd never call me Mike. He has been chief
medical examiner for almost thirty years. His textbook on autopsy procedures
for victims of violent crimes is a seminal work. He is very good at what
The Field Evidence Technician:
Sandra Wilson. 38; Criminalist, SFPD.
Sandra Wilson is the best field-evidence technician, or FET, in the SFPD.
She gathers evidence at crime scenes. Now in her late thirties, this
articulate black woman may be the ideal prosecution witness--the voice
of authority combined with the tone of reason. Her office reflects her
meticulous approach. Her pens and paper clips are lined up neatly in
front of a small picture of her husband. There's a picture of a toddler
on the top of her computer. No pictures on the walls, although her diploma
from UCLA is on display. Her short black hair and dark brown skin frame
intense eyes. Her sensible clothing isn't accessorized. Her husband
is a cop. They aren't rolling in extra cash.
Simpson & Gates:
Arthur R. Patton IV. 62; chairman, Simpson & Gates Executive
Committee; commercial litigator; formerly married to Beth Holmes.
Patton's huge bald head, Nixon-like jowls and Brezhnev-like eyebrows overwhelm
the rest of his tiny face. His red suspenders strain to hold his ample
gut. At sixty-two, his gravel baritone is commanding, but its forcefulness
has been tempered by forty years of cigars and single-malt scotch. At
times, he's capable of playing the role of the genial grandfather. Last
year, he was Santa at our Christmas party. The next day, he fired his
secretary because there was one typo in an eighty-page brief. That's
part of his charm. On any given day, you never know if you'll get the
puppy or the pit bull.
In law-firm-lingo, he handles complex civil litigation. Of course,
I've never met a lawyer who admits he handles litigation that's anything
less than "complex." In reality, he represents defense contractors
who get sued when their bombers don't fly. To Art, every case is a
holy war of attrition. He showers the other side with paper. Fortunately,
his clients have the resources to wear down their opponents. He responds
to every letter with his own version that rearranges the facts in his
favor. He follows up every phone call with a letter that bears only
passing resemblance to the matters that were discussed. Around the
firm, he's known as the Smiling Assassin. He's one mean son of a bitch.
Charles Stern ("Chuckles"). 55; Simpson & Gates
Administrative Partner; tax attorney.
For the last ten years, Charles Stern has held the boring, thankless job
of serving as the administrative partner of Simpson & Gates, a position
for which he is uniquely suited. A terminally morose tax attorney, his
unnaturally pasty complexion, pronounced widow's peak and emaciated physique
make him look considerably older than fifty-five. He views the Internal
Revenue Code as akin to the Bible. He always refers to it as the Good
Book. Likewise, he calls the 1986 Tax Act the Satanic Verses, because
it took away many of his favorite tax-avoidance schemes. At S&G, we
call what he does creative tax planning. Out there in the real world,
most people would say he helps his clients engage in varying degrees of
In addition to his modest tax practice, he devotes most of his time
to serving on virtually every firm committee; thereby bringing order
to the chaos that would ensue without his steady hand. He has also
appointed himself as the financial conscience of the firm, and reviews
each and every expense report and check request before any of our hard-earned
cash goes out the door. He handles personnel matters and insists on
being present when anyone is fired. He seems to take particular pleasure
in this aspect of his job. He's known as the Grim Reaper.
A couple of years ago, in a meeting with the associates, my mouth shifted
into gear while my brain was still idling, and I sarcastically dubbed
him Chuckles. Naturally, everyone now refers to him by that name.
Brent Hutchinson ("Hutch"). 42; Simpson & Gates
My former partner, Brent "Hutch" Hutchinson is a remarkable
package of blond hair, gleaming white teeth and a spectacular line of
bullshit. His emotional development came to a screeching halt at a frat
party during his sophomore year at USC. After nine years as Art Patton's
personal lapdog, he finally sucked his way into the partnership last year.
He's not much of a lawyer, but he'd make a terrific TV game-show host.
We're hopeful advances in medical science will someday permit his doctors
to surgically remove his lips from their permanent position affixed to
Anyone who believes substance will ultimately triumph over style hasn't
met Brent Hutchinson. His entire career is an ongoing charade of teeth,
blond hair and good looks. So far, he's been wildly successful. His
office overlooking Alcatraz Island and the Marin Headlands is furnished
with an antique roll-top desk and two antique chairs. A small oriental
rug graces the middle of his floor. He has his own collection of Currier
and Ives lithographs. A picture of his cheerleader wife, Barbi, smiles
at him from his spotless desk. Life is good in Hutchworld.
Doris Fontaine. 56; secretary to Mike Daley and Bob Holmes; single
mother of Jenny, a senior at Stanford.
Doris. Ever the diplomat. She's worked for Bob Holmes for about twenty
years. Doris is a dignified fifty-six year old with serious blue eyes,
carefully coiffed gray hair and the quiet confidence of a consummate professional.
If she had been born twenty years later, she would have gone to law school
and become a partner here. She absent-mindedly fingers the gold reading
glasses that hang from a small gold chain around her neck. She reminds
me of sister Eunice, my kindergarten teacher at St. Peter's.
Vincent Jefferson Russo, Jr. ("Vince"). 39; real estate
He nods in the direction of our client, Vince Russo, an oily-looking man
about Joel's age who has jammed his Jabba the Hutt torso into the chair
at the table next to Holmes. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Russo.
From what I've read, he' run his father's real-estate investment conglomerate
into the ground.
Beth Holmes. 42; Fourth wife of Bob Holmes; ex-wife of Art Patton;
commercial litigator at a large law firm.
She's early forties, with unnaturally bleached-blond hair, leathery skin
from the tanning machine, a slightly altered nose, several minor enhancements
to her hips and, if I'm guessing right, breasts. If all of her bodily
adjustments slip at the same time, she'll probably look like a rubber
band being shot across the room. On the other hand, she's one helluva
commercial litigator. She reminds me of her ex-husband, Arthur Patton,
without the charm or the chins.
The Investment Banker:
Jack Frazier. 32; investment banker, Continental Capital Corporation.
Jack Frazier, Continental Capital Corporation's mergers-and-acquisitions
stud, occupies a corner office that's far too large for a thirty-two year-old.
He's a tall blond with a vacant expression who looks out of place behind
his large mahogany desk. It's hard to believe this guy persuaded his
corporate masters in Connecticut to pay nine hundred million dollars for
Vince Russo's company. From what I gather from Joel, he's one of those
young MBAs who got out of school at just he right time. At the next downturn
in the economy, he'll be driving a cab.
The Political Fixer:
Dan Morris. 43; San Francisco political consultant.
Not surprisingly, the political consultant's office is a monument to his
favorite person--himself. Two walls are lined with pictures of Dan grinning
with local dignitaries whose political fortunes he's orchestrated. Another
wall is adorned with framed political posters for his candidates. A paunchy
redhead, Morris is known as the Chameleon in San Francisco political circles
because he'll represent candidates of every political denomination, as
long as they're able to come up with the four hundred thousand dollars
he charges to run a campaign. He isn't a nice human being, but his candidates
win. Lately, he has been running a senate campaign for Edward Cross,
a Republican, and a congressional campaign for Leslie Sherman, a Democrat.
The City Attorney:
Edward Ehrlich. 50; San Francisco City Attorney.
At two o'clock, I walk into Assistant City Attorney Ed Ehrlich's windowless
office on the fourth floor of a mid-rise fifties office building near
the Moscone Convention Center. The city can't be criticized for spending
taxpayer funds to lease opulent offices. The owl-eyed Ehrlich looks at
home behind his metal desk. There's no artwork on the walls. "I'm
due at the redevelopment agency," he says as I walk in. "Can
we talk later?"
The Bank Lawyer
Jeff Tucker. 42; General Counsel of First Bank, the lender for
Simpson & Gates.
First Bank's general counsel, Jeff Tucker, is a tight-assed little man
in his mid-thirties who started his career at S&G. He went to work
at First Bank two years ago when he didn't make partner. Bob Holmes stabbed
him squarely in the middle of the back at the partner election. He's
still bitter. He works in a ten-by-ten office with a small window on
the third floor of a boxy seventies office building on the south side
of Market Street. In the mid-eighties, First Bank was a highflier. By
the early nineties, the real-estate market tanked and so did First Bank.
Its chairman was indicted for cooking the books and a Japanese conglomerate
took over. To cut costs, the bank moved its headquarters from palatial
space on the fortieth floor of the Four Embarcadero Center tower to offices
formerly occupied by a now-defunct insurance company.
The Private Investigator:
Nick Hanson ("Nick the Dick"). 83; well-known San Francisco
The doors in the back of the courtroom open. Nick the Dick--all four
feet ten of him--comes strutting down the center aisle. He's wearing
a dark gray double-breasted Wilkes Bashford pinstripe with a burgundy
tie. A matching kerchief sits in his breast pocket. A small red rose
adorns his lapel. His three-thousand dollar toupee has been carefully
groomed. He nods to the press. He looks like the president walking down
the center aisle in the House of Representatives just before the State
of the Union speech. The secret weapon just arrived.
The Honorable Judge Shirley Chen. 45; San Francisco Superior
Judge Shirley Chen is in her mid-forties, although she looks younger.
She began her career at S&G twenty years ago. It seems as if every
judge in California started at S&G. She moved to the San Francisco
District Attorney's Office three years later. I tried two cases against
her when I was a PD. I won one and I lost one. She was an ambitious
prosecutor. She'll bring the same tenacity to the bench.
Her chambers are sterile. Her law-school diploma hangs on the wall,
but her books and files are still in boxes. I'm reminded she's single
as I notice there are no pictures of a spouse or children. There's
a plaque on her wall from the San Francisco Women's Bar Association.
There's a gavel from her alma mater, the Hastings College of Law in
San Francisco, which indicates that she was named distinguished alumna
three years ago. There's a small picture of her with the California
Dr. Kathy Chandler. 38; therapist of Bob Holmes; radio shrink.
Dr. Kathy Chandler fancies herself the Bay Area's very own Dr. Frasier
Crane. Of course, Dr. Frasier Crane has an imaginary degree from Harvard.
Dr. Kathy Chandler, on the other hand, has an honorary doctorate in family
counseling from Southwestern Texas City College and an honorary degree
from the Great Pacific School of Broadcasting. More importantly, Dr.
Frasier Crane only talks to imaginary patients. Dr. Kathy Chandler, unfortunately,
talks to real people. Every weeknight from seven until ten, she dispenses
bubblegum psychology on the live one, KTLK Talk Radio.
I must confess that her show is mildly entertaining. I listen to it
sometimes on my way home from work. I think I'll appreciate it more
if and when I get the lobotomy that I keep promising myself.
Like many radio talk-show hosts, she's always known as Dr. Kathy Chandler.
She's never simply Dr. Chandler--or, God forbid, Dr. Kathy. And she
always refers to herself on the air in the third person, kind of like
the ballplayers and politicians do. "Dr. Kathy Chandler says to
break up with your boyfriend," or "Dr. Kathy Chandler says
your husband's no good," or "Dr. Kathy Chandler says your
sex life could be a lot better." Makes you want to puke.
Richard Cinelli ("Rick"). 47; Bartender at Harrington's.
Rick Cinelli is an olive-skinned, dark-haired man with a raspy voice and
a reserved manner. He's been tending bar at Harrington's for twenty years.
He could run for mayor.
Homer Kim. 34; custodian, Bank of America Building.
I approach Homer Kim, a young Korean custodian, at the employees' entrance
to the Bank of America Building. The evening shift is about to start.
I introduce myself and hand him a business card. He looks suspicious.
Margaret Murphy Daley. 68; Mike's mother; widowed; early stages
I see the look that I saw so many times when my dad got a call at home
from his sergeant. It's the look of a policeman's wife. For a moment,
she's thirty years younger and her blue eyes are steel. "Do what
you have to do to help him, Michael," she says
Jenny Fontaine. 22; daughter of Doris Fontaine.
Jenny's pretty face is pale and she looks sad in her hard dress. She's
taking Bob's death harder than I would have thought.
Perry Guilford. 55; insurance agent.
Guilford and I are the only people here. He gives ma an incandescent smile.
His age and his waistline are right around fifty-five years and inches,
respectively. His jowls measure right up there with Art Patton, who is,
coincidentally, his former brother-in-law from Guilford's first marriage
about twenty years ago. His toupee is flattering in a pathetic sort of
Eric Ross. 31; head of information systems at Simpson & Gates.
Ross is early thirties and uncommunicative. His eyes dart through thick
wire-rimmed glasses. He's wearing his only suit for the first time in
years. Somebody should inform him that wide lapels are out. His mustache
twitches. He doesn't make eye contact.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2000 Sheldon Siegel.
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