Day 15 in my novel-in-a-month effort:

Chapter 17: Infringers

Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122 or of the author as provided in section 106A(a), or who imports copies or phonorecords into the United States in violation of section 602, is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be.

—Title 17, United States Code, Copyrights, Copyright Infringement and Remedies, Infringement of Copyright

On the other boat, chaos quickly ruled.

“Did someone fall overboard?”

“Or did a man jump?”

“Who was that?”

“Should we stop and look?”

“Oh, the humanity!”

It was Claude Dedrick and Sarah Fujii who had seen clearly what had occurred, and they each worked to calm the troops and assure them that no one had sunk to a watery grave.

“It was Justice Castro,” concluded Dedrick, “apparently dissenting.”

With that, Dedrick appeared to consider the matter closed, and would speak no more about the spectacle.

It was a beautiful day, they were not in the office, the anticipation of alcohol hung in the air, and so the assembled masses gave no more thought to Castro’s Leap, as it would be called in later years. A calm, sleepy, happy kind of silence settled over the boaters, who, with the thrum – thrum – thrum of the engines, enjoyed the opportunity to avoid speaking.

Finally, however, because a law firm partner despises a vacuum, Claude Dedrick rose to his feet. Even given his diminutive frame, it was clear that he intended to speak.

“I am happy to be able to report some good news,” he told the group. “I am sorry that we have to be split up on two boats, but the others will have to hear about this via memorandum.”

Listeners stifled their smiles, for they had detected a reduction in the number of managing partner memos that had been coming their way. It could be because Dedrick was distracted or tired, or because someone had pointed out that the memos were dreck. Either way, it was a welcome development.

“The news is good news not just for me personally, but for all of us here at the firm.”

The group nodded in anticipation –

“Just to be clear, though, it is primarily good news for me.”

 – and then shook their heads in consternation.

“Just the other day,” Dedrick continued, “I received a telephone call from someone in the highest reaches of government retaining my – our – services. The legal matter is a significant one, the principles are important, and I am confident that our – my – representation will be historic.”

The already quiet group drew closer, eager to hear the news.

“You have probably heard via the news outlets that a lawsuit is being threatened by the Legislature against our state’s Governor. The matter will lead, I am certain, to implications and rulings that guide the great State of Arizona for generations to come.”

Dedrick, as always, was speaking carefully, choosing his words to create the most accurate communication. To his dismay, though, the ship’s engine – as well as the shouts and laughs coming from the S.S. Elsie Moore – made it difficult for his listeners to hear clearly.

“The Governor?” said an associate, astounded. “Our firm is going to represent the Governor?”

“This’ll be great,” said another in a rush. “What an opportunity. I bet it’ll even get up to the supreme court.”

Dedrick, clearly agitated, did his best to right the ship.

“Excuse me, Mr. …, um, you associates. In all matters that come before a court, there are two parties, each equally entitled to excellent representation – “

The associates continued, heedless and headlong.

“I can’t wait to tell my folks. And they told me to go to business school!”

“I know. I wonder if we’ll get to meet the Governor, maybe help prepare her for a deposition.”

Dedrick had forgotten to remove his tricornered hat, and its lily white plume framed his beet red face. He even stamped his foot.

“We do not represent the Governor, we represent Speaker Alan Spinkter, and that is important too, and that should be enough for your parents, and associates should learn to speak when spoken to.”

Having reached the middle of the lake, the boat’s motor had cut out just as Dedrick launched his rant. As such, it had been entirely audible, not only on the Michael Brag, but also on the Elsie Moore, laying alongside. After the outburst, silence descended on the two boats.

Until Ted Castro spoke.

“Speaker Sphincter, eh, Claude? Now that’s quite a coup.”

Dedrick prided himself on being a patient and tolerant man, as only impatient and intolerant men can do so well. But even years later, he could never let himself be convinced that Castro had inserted the dreaded “H” by accident. Spinkter’s newest lawyer stared across the open water toward Castro, with daggers in his eyes.

Tom Paine was watching his firm’s restoration crumble before his own eyes. He had half expected such an outcome, but hoped that they would have at least reached lunch time before it all went south. And so he was forever grateful when Sarah Fujii cleared her throat.

Sarah hadn’t planned to do much public speaking today, what with the halter top and all. And she certainly hadn’t expected to share her own news.

“Congratulations to Justice Dedrick,” she said. “That’s a great accomplishment.”

Claude nodded her way in thanks, his plume fluttering in the breeze.

“And I guess this might be a good time to share my own news.”

Everyone leaned in, happy to put the uncomfortable silence behind them.

“I received a phone call the other day too, from someone who’d like the firm to represent them. The matter is a lot less earth shaking than a case between the Speaker and the Governor – “

She smiled at Dedrick, who stonily smiled in return, as a test proctor would, or an axe murderer.

“ – but it is still a case that is important to our client, and I’m looking forward to it.”

“What is it, Sarah?” Drew Duckworth asked.

“Well, you may have heard about a matter in which a large hotel chain wants to demolish a Chinese American historic building – “

Dedrick’s ears perked up.

“ – and I got a call from one of the parties asking me and the firm to represent them.”

Shocked from the peak of his hat to the buckles on his shoes, Dedrick stared stony faced at Fujii. She gazed back, confused, having no way of knowing that she had taken “his” case.

Recalling Dedrick’s misstep only minutes before, Sarah got ahead of any speculation.

“I should make it clear right away that I do not represent the Y Hotel chain. I know that would have been a bigger client and probably meant more financially to the firm. Instead, I’ve been asked to represent the Chinese American community in its efforts to preserve the last intact building from Phoenix’s Chinatown.”

The group, on both boats, broke out into spontaneous applause. The contrast with the reception Dedrick’s news received was stark. But he was at least slightly appeased by her news. At least she hadn’t been hired by the hotel.

“Congratulations, Sarah,” said Claude, as the clapping died down. “As you said, this matter is far less significant than mine, but it’s delightful news nonetheless. This will be a charming bauble, and the firm should be proud.”

Sarah swallowed – hard.

“Thank you, Claude,” she said, reserving, at least for now, the word “Justice.”

“I do wonder, though,” he continued, “how much this will cost the firm.”

“What do you mean, Claude?” asked Duckworth.

“Well, it’s pro bono, isn’t it?” responded Dedrick. “We can’t expect – what are they, farmers, or shopkeepers, or railroad workers – to pay our fees, now, can we?”

Before Sarah could counter with anger, Castro spoke from the adjoining boat.

“They are not railroad workers or shopkeepers, Justice Cracker. Those were the jobs of their ancestors. These people – our clients – are professionals of all kinds.”

Tom Paine decided to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and interrupted.

“Well, I’d like to lead a round of applause for both of our partners and their wonderful news. And then let’s have our wonderful lunch.”

The staff of the firm clapped enthusiastically, pleased to move on. It was 9:30, the food was served, and the bar was open.

But Dedrick seethed. Today was to have been his own day in the limelight. That light had been taken from him, first by two incompetent, soon to be unemployed associate attorneys, then by Ted Castro, and finally by Sarah Fujii. Tom Paine could try to put a good face on it, but Dedrick’s moment had been stolen.

He looked about him on the narrow boat, seeking some way to right the world, to reassert his place at the head of this firm. Which is when he looked across the water again at Ted Castro, relaxing and laughing with non-lawyer staff – staff! – on the stern of the Elsie Moore.

Claude decided that it was a good day for a race.

CHAPTER 18 is next.