Day 9 in my novel-in-a-month effort

Chapter 9: Battles Joined

 (a) An appeal may be taken from:

(1) an order—

(A) refusing a stay of any action under section 3 of this title,

(B) denying a petition under section 4 of this title to order arbitration to proceed,

(C) denying an application under section 206 of this title to compel arbitration,

(D) confirming or denying confirmation of an award or partial award, or

(E) modifying, correcting, or vacating an award.

—Title 9, United States Code, Arbitration, Appeals

The shortest meeting of the name partners of the law firm Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine was about to begin.

The firm had opened its doors two weeks ago, and the four lawyers had met once before. But to the managing partner’s chagrin, attendance, even at their inaugural gathering, was less than perfect. In fact, only he and Tom Paine had shown up in the conference room. Drew Duckworth and Ted Castro had sent their e-mailed regrets, and they had ostensibly reasonable explanations. Duckworth had a veterinarian’s appointment with his ridiculous and incontinent corgi, and Castro had some family event—although Dedrick could have sworn that Castro’s wife had already passed away.

Having seen what appeared to be a State Fair map on Castro’s desk the Monday after the aborted meeting, Dedrick was suspicious of Castro’s excuse. But he preferred to believe that Castro had simply skipped out on the meeting rather than entertain the thought that one of his partner’s had actually attended a West side, gang member ridden, farm animal replete, snaggle toothed carnie run, jail without bars circus. Dedrick shivered at the thought.

Today’s meeting, though, looked to have garnered perfect attendance—and that irked him, as well, for this meeting had not been called by the managing partner, but by Drew Duckworth. Leave it to this ragtag bunch to respond to any meeting request that is not sent by the firm’s managing partner.

Duckworth had been cryptic about the purpose of the meeting, but Dedrick didn’t give it much thought. It probably would have something to do with dog turds, or pesticides, or some other aspect entirely unrelated to the efficient and proper running of this firm.

The partners entered through the mahogany door. As it closed, Dedrick turned the wall sconces on more brightly, illuminating the colorful and faux aged lithographs depicting scenes from the Revolutionary War. He detected an out of place lime green vase of oddly modern design sitting on a side table, and made a mental note to remove it. And then he thought he saw Ted Castro grimace as the art work became more visible.

“I’m sorry, Ted. I’ll brighten the lights. I know these are hard to see. Beautiful, aren’t they?”

“Where did they come from?” asked Castro. “They weren’t here yesterday.”

Dedrick smiled in appreciation.

“They arrived last night. I think they have a lot to tell us about the values we should live by today.” His eyes slid out of focus as he gazed into the middle distance.

“Values, eh? What values?”

“The values that made this nation great,” said Dedrick, still not aware that his questioner was becoming an interrogator. “The same values that will make this firm great.”

“Well, that makes sense,” said Castro, peering through squinted eyes at a print hanging at the far end of the conference room.

“What is it?” Dedrick asked.

“It looks like a reproduction of a slave sale down south, maybe Richmond,” said Castro.

“Really?” exclaimed Paine. “Let me see that.”

“That can’t be right,” said Dedrick. “That was not a part of the package I purchased.”

“Package?” asked Duckworth.

“Yes. The Glorious Heritage Collection. It includes the greatest moments of our Founding Fathers.”

“And Mothers?” Castro asked, archly.

Dedrick frowned.

“Well, you should check the bill of lading, Claude,” Paine said. “I think you got something else.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Yeah,” said Duckworth, “this one shows people moving north on the Underground Railroad.”

“And this one depicts the Georgia race riots of 1906,” read Castro, a smile on his face.

“Oh, this is a disaster,” said Dedrick. “They must have sent us the Faulty Foundations Collection. I never would have ordered that.”

“No, I suppose not,” laughed Castro.

“Dammit, Galvez should have known not to put these up,” muttered Dedrick.

“Well, I’m sure our Office Administrator has learned to do what he’s told,” said Castro. “That is certainly one of the values taught by the Glorious Heritage.”

The four men stood in the room, the respective smiles and disappointment fading slowly from their faces. Two weeks into this venture, the middle aged or older men all suddenly realized how tired they had become.

“Perhaps,” said Tom Paine, “we should reconvene at another time.”

“Good idea,” said Dedrick, thankfully. Courtesy returning quickly to the wounded managing partner, he nodded toward Drew Duckworth, whose meeting he had just agreed to adjourn. “If we all agree.”

“I agree,” said Duckworth.

Dedrick inclined his head in thanks.

“But might we have the pleasure of knowing what the agenda is, Drew, for next time?”

“Sure,” said Duckworth. “I’d like to examine the firm’s commitment to spraying pesticide every damned place.”

Dedrick nodded, expecting that. He headed for the door.

“And,” Duckworth added, “I’d like to reassess the decision not to grant Sarah Fujii name partner status in this firm.”

Dedrick stopped, and stared. The surprise was evident in his eyes.

“Until next time, then, gentlemen,” Duckworth concluded, stepping into the hallway.

Ted Castro and Tom Paine followed him out of the conference room, Paine first tipping his head toward his managing partner in a sign of farewell.

Dedrick sank down into one of the Colonial armchairs. He found himself enervated by the brief meeting.

As the conference room door swung free and revealed another print, Dedrick realized that he was staring into the eyes of Crispus Attucks, one of five men killed by the British in the Boston Massacre. Though Dedrick was oddly exhausted, the visage of Attucks, a Revolutionary hero with black and Native American ancestry, was surprisingly reassuring to the Phoenix lawyer. Defeated only minutes before, Dedrick felt strength and spirit return.

The next day, he would send Bernie Galvez a memo ordering him to retrieve from the freight forwarder the art collection that he had ordered, and to return these prints—with one exception: He asked him to ensure that Crispus Attucks remained displayed on the conference room wall of the Dedrick law firm.

CHAPTER 10 is next.

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