Something New

I’ve decided to start a new series for the blog, instead of coming up with lists and other things that don’t truly showcase my work.  If you enjoy those kinds of posts, they’ll still be around, but once a month starting September 2017, I will post a short story for you to read and give me feedback on.  I’m also open to suggestions for short stories.  I like to write Flash Fiction a lot.  1000-2000 words.  Give me a location, and an item, along with Genre and I’ll deliver a short story for you, within the month.

In the Pursuit of Justice

Written for a client a few months ago, the criteria was to showcase how lawyers have an impact on society.  The synopsis:  A young attorney dreams of being a God in the field of law, like his mentor and other greats before him.  But when he is faced with a moral dilemma, he is forced to decide which future he’d rather have: being a God, or being a good human being.  It’s about 4500 words, so this one is double the Flash Fiction length.  You might want to budget the appropriate time.  Be sure to leave me a comment at the end.  Writers love FEEDBACK!!


“Man, that guy is a god. He could get Satan off on a technicality. What I wouldn’t give to be him.”

“I hear he bills $1500 per hour.”

“I hear he can charge whatever he wants.  Once, he supposedly charged a client ten-grand to get the guy’s daughter out of a $500 shop-lifting case.  The prosecutor was only asking for $200 in restitution and community service.  But he came in, and in five minutes had the court believing she was the one being victimized.  She got to keep the handbag she obviously stole, and a public apology to her published on the front page of the paper!  10 grand for five minutes!  Can you freaking believe that?!”


Two young attorneys look to their left to identify their admonisher in unison and snigger into their hands.

“Next case: Docket #2017CC6562.  Cook County vs. Rodney Davis.”

One of the two stands, straightens his tie, and slicks his hand over his heavily polished hair.  Grabbing his briefcase, he channels the attitude of the man who just exited the room and shuffles toward the defense council podium. His client, dressed in the clothes he was likely arrested in three days ago, is led beside him from a secure door on the side of the courtroom.  He is still in handcuffs yet there is a fresh welt growing on his right cheekbone.

“Your honor, Mr. Davis is being charged with three counts of felony possession of a controlled substance, and two counts of intent to distribute to an undercover officer,” the Prosecutor announces.

“Mr. Davis:  How do you plead?”

Rodney looks at his public defender, Danny Columbetti, for direction.  Danny could be a cast member out of the Godfather, with his pitch-black hair, square jaw, and olive skin tone.  But, his hourly rate…Free…was all Rodney could afford.

Danny nods to Rodney.  They met earlier to discuss how this would all go down.  Danny advised Rodney to take a plea deal versus trying to fight it in court.  Surveillance video captured the man trying to sell something to the officer.  There was no way around it.  The prosecutor agreed to recommend a reasonable sentence in exchange for keeping this from going to trial.

“Guilty,” Rodney mumbled.  His voice shaky, full of remorse and fear.

“Speak louder, Mr. Davis.  The court needs to record your answer.”

Danny knew the judge was messing with his client.  Even though his voice was low, the microphone mounted to their podium recorded his response clearly and accurately.  Judge McIntyre was known for playing with the defendants.  He was all high and mighty up on his throne.  Maybe he deserved that respect, but he didn’t have to enjoy it so much.

“Guilty,” Rodney said more confidently, owning his actions.

“You are hereby reprimanded into Cook County custody pending the sentencing hearing set for…” The judge paused to check the docket calendar, “three weeks from today, same time.”  His hammer slammed its pad and the next case was announced.

“See you in three.  We’ll meet again beforehand like we did today to discuss the next steps.” Rodney glanced over his shoulder at his attorney, as he was dragged off by the bailiff.  His fate rested in that young man’s hands.

Danny stayed in his position.  The next case was also his.  And about 20 cases after that.  Such is the life of a public defender in a big city.

He was two years out of law school, a Northwestern graduate, and top of his class.  The attorney he had been admiring earlier with his colleague had been a guest lecturer in one of his pre-law classes as an undergrad.  He knew once the man was halfway through his talk that he wanted to be just like him.

That guy was the epitome of success: bespoke suits, custom Italian loafers, ties made of the most expensive silk, and the face of an aging Adonis.  Not that the last part was particularly important to Danny.  He was equally handsome, thanks to his Italian ancestry, and quite the lady’s man in his own right.  Women loved a young, ambitious attorney.  But he wanted that whole package and was willing to do whatever it took to get there.

“Docket #2017CC6755…”

His next case.  A murder.  Gang related drive-by shooting.

“How do you plead?”

“Not Guilty.”

This one would go to trial.  Which was a pain in the ass.  The kid was guilty with half a dozen witnesses placing him as the shooter in the car.  Not to mention the dash cam footage of him exiting the vehicle and giving chase with pursuing officers.  Yet, he wouldn’t agree to a deal.  And the prosecutor was hungry for a win against gun violence, so more work for Danny.

“Trial date set for three weeks from today, same time.”

Great, thought Danny.  A trial and a sentencing hearing all in the same day.  He could do it.  He was going to be a god like his idol.

Three weeks passed quickly.  Danny arrived early in court to catch the more experienced attorneys in action.  It helped ease his nerves to see how effortlessly they worked with the prosecution and the judge.  Most of them were golfing buddies or drinking buddies.  Or both.  He’d get there some day. First, he had to pay his dues.  Make a name for himself.  They all started out somewhere close to where he is.  He could do it too.  He’d represent Rodney Davis in his drug conviction sentencing.  Then on to his murder trial.

“10 years with mandatory service of 85%,” Judge McIntyre ordered.

“What that means, Rodney is that you will serve eight and one-half years of your sentence before possibly being released,” Danny explained.

“But I was just selling some Oxy, man.  It was that or let my kids starve.  What will happen to them now?”

“They stay in the system, where they’ve been since your arrest.  Unless you have a relative willing to take them?”

“They’ll have better chances in the system.  What about an appeal?  Can we appeal the sentence?  Get it lowered? The prosecution promised a light sentence!”

“You pled guilty through a plea.  There was no guarantee that the prosecution’s recommendation would be agreed to by the Judge.  He has the final say and there is no appealing that.  The sentencing does seem a bit extreme considering all the facts.  But, it’s still within the confines of the law.”

Danny honestly felt bad for Rodney.  He seemed like an honest guy caught in extraordinary life circumstances.  Those that led to poor decisions.  Many of the people he defends day in and day out were in the same predicament.  He tried to give him a reassuring look that he’d get through it, coaching him on paying his penance for committing a crime.  But he was distracted, already thinking forward to the trial he was set to begin in about 20 minutes.

After a month of getting hammered by the Prosecutor and their mountain of evidence, the murder trial ended with a guilty verdict.  No surprise to Danny, or anyone else except for maybe his client.  Some people fail to understand how actions have consequences.

“Five years.  That’s all he got.  And he can get out in 36 months, on good behavior.  It doesn’t seem right that my drug guy got 10 and this guy killed an innocent woman in a drive by and gets five.  How does selling drugs outweigh taking a life?”  Danny and his friend Jeff were having drinks hours after the trial ended.

“It’s all about the minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines, man.  The minimum for manslaughter with a firearm is 1 yr.  Selling a narcotic, 10.  That’s where the problem lies.”

“Why hasn’t anyone fixed it?”

“What’s there to fix? The guidelines have been in place since before we were even thought of.  If it’s not broke…”

“Do you really believe that?”

Jeff sighs and tosses back the rest of his drink.  “In my opinion?  It’s the legislator’s view on society’s impact of the crime.  One gang-banger killing another?  Not a huge impact.  But someone selling drugs to a kid?  Huge impact.  Sad, but true.”

“There should be a way to change that perception.  Killing is a crime against humanity.”

“Drugs kill people too.”

“Violence against another is against every moral code humans stand for.”

“Yet, if you look at movies, video games, and even popular music, killing is practically a national pastime.”

Danny thought about Jeff’s comments.  Something stirred inside him.

“I’m going to head home.  Thanks buddy.”

“You okay?”  Jeff was concerned for his friend.

“Sure.  Night.”

Several months went by but Danny couldn’t shake how wrong he felt about Rodney’s sentencing.  He started taking unofficial polls with colleagues and peers on how they felt about the disparity between drug sentences and violent crimes, including murder and rape.  Nearly everyone saw the gap but didn’t think anything could or should be done.

“Where do you even begin to appeal sentencing guidelines?” one attorney asked.  “I see it every day, how people’s lives are being ruined by one or two wrong decisions.  But the guidelines are there to protect society at large.  They were set during a time when gun violence and other violence wasn’t as big of a problem in society as drugs.  The War on Drugs in the Reagan Era was a huge influence.  And believe it or not, Prohibition.  It’s a societal throwback to a time when many families were negatively affected by substance abuse.”

Word traveled fast regarding Danny’s interest in sentencing guidelines.  One day while waiting in the hallway of the courthouse for Jeff to finish with a case, a man approached him.

“Danny Columbetti?”

“Who wants to know?”

“You’ve been served.”

“Served!  For what?”

“Read the notice.”

Danny did as the man suggested, waiting until he walked away before looking at the document.

It was a notice to produce documents of his case with Rodney Davis.  There was a hearing before the State Sentencing Commission in support of an appeal being brought by an advocacy group.

After some research, Danny found that the group, the Justice League, was made up of a collective of attorneys, law professionals, and students, as well as families who have been negatively affected by sentencing extremes.

Not only did he produce the documents requested, but in his spare time he began volunteering with the organization.  With Danny’s help, along with the League, Rodney Davis’ sentence was successfully reduced to a shorter term. With good behavior, he could be back to his family in a little as 18 months.

“Hey, Danny!  Wait up.” Lawrence Fitzgerald called from a doorway of the court building one afternoon as Danny was headed back to his office.

Silently out of breath, Lawrence began, “How’s it going man?”

“Fine.  How about with you?”  Danny thought it odd that Lawrence wanted to talk with him.  He was a few years older than Danny and worked for a private firm.  They didn’t even slightly dance in the same social circles.

“Good.  Great, really.  Thanks for asking.  Say, I heard you joined one of those hippy-dippy save the world organizations.  What’s that all about?”

“You mean the Justice League?  Yeah, I volunteer when I can.  Why?”

“No reason,” Lawrence shrugged.  “People talk.  You know?”


“Well, people talk and then opportunities, they dry up.  I always thought you were a good kid with lots of promise.  But when you rock the boat, those in the position to help you out of the water…those guys reach for someone else.”

“What are you saying?  Because I want to make a difference, I’m somehow limiting myself?  Isn’t that why we do what we do?  To help people when they are most vulnerable?”

“Sure. Sure, Danny.  But we also do it to make the big bucks, right?”  Lawrence laughed and clasped Danny on the shoulder.  “Listen.  I’m not saying you need to stop doing what you are doing.  It’s admirable, in my opinion.  A word of advice though. Be careful who you’re pissing on when you help in these cases.  You never know what unintended consequences crop up.”

Danny stopped walking and looked Lawrence in the eye.  The guy was dead serious.  Somehow through his work through the Justice League, word had gotten around that he was working against the wrong opposition.  How could that possibly be?  He was helping people who couldn’t help themselves.  People who had been caught in extraordinary circumstances and sentenced to the extreme.

“Thanks for your advice, Lawrence.  I’ll give it some thought.”

“Sure kid.  Like I said, you’re smart.  You’ll make the right call.  See you around.”  Lawrence bounded off in the opposite direction.  Danny stood rooted in his spot thinking over his peer’s advice.  Could he be harming his chance of becoming like his idol?  His phone alerted him to a text that he was due for an appointment and again, his focus shifted to the next task at hand.

Days later while having lunch with John, a fellow volunteer advocate, he brought up the conversation between him and Lawrence.  It had been playing on repeat in the back of his mind the last few days.  All he wanted since his career in law began, was to be considered a god.  Was he endangering that?

“Attorneys are not all money grubbing despots, Danny.  Some of us, many of us in fact, want to make a difference in this world. Look at all the non-profit organizations like ours that exist.  We work tirelessly to help the underprivileged, the ignored, and underserved.  Yet, stereotypes exist for a reason. There are as many for-profit firms out there willing to make a buck from other’s misery. Concerned only with billable hours.  You need to decide if you want to be one of them or one of us.  Which will help you sleep better at night?

Danny consider John’s point.  “A few thousand-dollar mattress might help me sleep better at night than someone’s couch. Which, I fear, is where I’m heading if I pursue this avenue further.  My conscience will rest easier knowing I lived a purposeful existence over an ego driven one. Yet, all I’ve ever wanted was to be like Samuel Carlton III.”

John laughed sardonically.  “We all want to be that SOB!”

Time waged on and Danny worked hard at both of his jobs.  One day, while eating a quick lunch in his cramped office, his cell rang.  Unknown number.  He considered not answering it because this meal, if you’d call it that, would be the only thing he’d get to consume for another twelve hours and he could use the energy.  Yet, his gut told him to take the call.

“Daniel Anthony Columbetti?”


“Please hold for a call from Mr. Samuel Carlton.”

“What?” Danny gasped, looking at the phone in skeptical awe.  The person had already placed him on hold.  Soon after, a booming baritone came across the line.

“Danny, my boy.  Thank you for taking my call.”

Danny dryly swallowed a piece of his sandwich.  “Yes, sir.  Of course.  How…How can I help you?”

“It’s not how you can help me, but how I can help you!  I’ve just finished reading a fascinating article in the ABA Journal about your work with the Justice League.  Very impressive.  I was especially intrigued by your tenacity to get that one fellow’s sentenced reduced to time served.  Knowing that you also work as a public defender, I am particularly inspired by your work ethic.  When do you sleep, kid?”

Danny smiled into the phone, proud of his accomplishments.  But, more importantly, that someone like Sam Carlton noticed.  The man was his idol! “Thank you, sir.  I appreciate you noticing.”

“I won’t take up much of your precious time.  I wanted to invite you to dinner this evening.  Myself and two of my partners are meeting at The Tavern.  We thought you’d be a perfect addition to our agenda.”

Danny wanted to exclaim, “ME?!”  Instead, he played it cool and offered, “I have a late meeting until 7.  I could meet you afterwards?”

“Perfect!  See you then, champ.”  Before Danny could thank him for the invite or do much of anything else, the call ended.  Sam Freakin’ Carlton has invited him to The Tavern with partners!  He pinched himself, afraid he had fallen asleep at his desk.  Then to be certain he rechecked his call log and sure enough, there was a call listed from an unknown number lasting 2 minutes.

Danny stuffed the rest of his sandwich in his mouth, gathered up his papers and briefcase, and rushed out the door to meet with yet another client.  He would be hard pressed to concentrate on much else other than his dinner later in the evening.

When 7 pm rolled around, Danny was a nervous wreck.  He triple-checked his slicked back hair, straightened his navy and apricot printed tie, changed it to the gray paisley one, and then switched it back.  You’d think he was meeting a supermodel for dinner, the way he was acting.  However, this meeting could be the opportunity he’d been waiting for.  The next wrung in the ladder of success.

Arriving shortly after 7:30, Danny found the restaurant packed. The Tavern was for the who’s who in the business world of Chicago.  It was dimly lit and decorated in rich leathers and velvets.  Even on a busy night, the atmosphere was lively yet the conversation was a mere hum.  Occasionally, a boisterous laugh or raised voice broke above the din. But for the most part, everyone was there to make deals over Filet Mignon and $500 bottles of Scotch.

“Danny!  Glad, you could join us.”  Sam Carlton stood, extending his large hand for a firm shake before clasping it behind Danny’s neck.  After a brief introduction to the other guests, Sam directed, “Have a seat.  We’ll get you a drink.”  Carlton waved over a waiter who immediately returned with two fingers of amber liquor.

“To Danny and his hard work!” They all clinked glasses and settled in for conversation.

“I’m sure you are wondering what brought all this on.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll cut right to the chase.  We need someone like you at our firm.  Someone who can put in the hours and go up against hard-hitting clients and cases with the tenacity of a bulldog.  We think you might be our bulldog.”

“Wow, sir.  All of you.  Thank you for even considering me.”

“We’d bring you in as a third-year associate, billing at an hourly rate of $260.  Of course, your salary would be commensurate to the hours you bill.  I can guarantee with your ethic, you would be one of the top earning associates in the firm.  You’d report to the three of us, depending on the case.  And serve as second or third chair, should any go to trial.  Although, with your knack for Summary writing, I don’t think that would be too often.  Am I right?”

They all grinned and nodded at the charismatic man.  Danny was stunned to say the least.  Swept up in the tornado of compliments and smooth talking, not to mention the 30-year-old Scotch, by the end of the night, Danny agreed to turn in his notice with the Public Defender’s office and start his new life with Carlton, Campbell, and Greenstein within two weeks.

Those two weeks flew by, tying up loose ends, and handing over case loads to the pool of attorneys within the office.  Another two weeks flew by with learning the ropes and atmosphere of the firm, and specifically how to exceed Sam Carlton’s demands.

His new normal became working hours like that of a mother with a newborn.  He purchased a condo closer to the office, exchanging sleep time for commute time.  One evening, while working his usual late shift, he received a text from his co-counsel at the Justice League.  “Is it true?  You left us for the big time?”

Danny was perplexed.  He hadn’t left.  He only needed a break until he got his footing at his new job.  He explained as much in his replied.

“Justin Townsend says he overheard your boss saying you wouldn’t be coming back if he had his way.  That you were dirtying yourself by working with the likes of us.  Is that how you really feel?”

Disbelieving what he read, he brushed it off as gossip.  “Justin is full of shit.  I’ll be in touch soon.”  Yet, soon didn’t come.  Weeks turned into months and before he knew it, a year had flown by.  He heard from his peers at The League from time to time, but he was always swamped with one thing or another.   He fell into a habit of not responding.

Then, one day he received a phone call from a former client.  Rodney Davis, the guy that put him on his current path.  “My 15-year-old son was arrested for possession.  It was less than an ounce of weed.  But they want to try him as an adult, saying he had intent to sell.  It’s all bullshit man!  You’ve gotta help!  He can’t do time.  He just can’t.  Not in that hellhole.  He won’t survive.  Not as the same stupid kid anyway.”

Danny promised he’d see what he could do and reached out to one of his Public Defender contacts.  The person assigned to his case was not interested in the well-being of a 15-year-old who was a ‘chip off the old block’.  Angered by this attorney’s stance, Danny phoned Rodney back and told him he’d take the case himself, Pro Bono.

Days later, he had Rodney’s son out on bail and a meeting set with the District Attorney’s office to discuss a plea deal.

When Sam Carlton caught wind of what Danny had done, he called him into his office.

“Judge Winters told me he saw my star Associate in his courtroom this morning.  Asked me if we were doing charity work for druggie kids now.  You can imagine my surprise.  I wasn’t aware of anyone assigning you that kind of work.”

“I’m doing it Pro Bono for a former client, sir.  I had some free time this morning and he needed my help.”

“Are we so slow around here that you actually have free time?  I wasn’t aware of that.  I’ll need to speak to the staff.”

“No sir.  It’s not that things are slow.  This kid is in a tough situation.  They are going to charge him as an adult for a minor offense.”

“Then you bill his parents accordingly.  And clear it through Conflicts and me before accepting the case.”

“His family can’t afford my hourly rate.”

Sam Carlton sat pensively, his hands tented in front of his lips, holding Danny’s gaze. “You sure you want to pursue this son? You have so much potential.  Why waste it on these assholes who can’t seem to live within the confines of common sense like the rest of us?”

“Is that a threat?”

“If you continue with this case, it’s a guarantee.”

Danny couldn’t believe Carlton was willing to let a kid go to jail, not even Juvie, adult incarceration, over a couple hundred dollars in lost billable hours.  They spent more than that on flavored creamers in the breakrooms each week.  He left the meeting promising to consider what had been discussed, and went for a long walk.  He had much to contemplate regarding his future, not only with the firm, but how he truly wanted to live.

On the one hand, he was working directly for the man he idolized since undergrad school.  He made triple what he was making as a P.D. Paid off student loans. Bought a condo in one of the nicer neighborhoods. Not to mention the material possessions he could now afford, and liberal expense account he took advantage of regularly.  But was that all worth ruining a kid’s life?  And what about the countless other people he could’ve been helping these last few months had he worked in some time to volunteer at the Justice League.

The night before his meeting with the DA over Rodney’s kid, Sam Carlton appeared in his office.  “Robin Wickers’ secretary says you are still on her calendar in the morning for that loser kid.  I thought I had made myself clear.”

“Crystal,” replied Danny.  He had decided that if Carlton kept pushing him to drop his interest in helping others, it would be a sign that he was surrounding himself with the wrong people.

“Good.  I’ll let them know it was an oversight on your part and to cancel.”

“No need.  I’ll handle it.  As soon as I’m finished up here,” Danny pointed to a stack of file folders.

Sam grinned, proud of Danny’s decision.  “Don’t stay too late.”

“Yes, sir.”

As soon as Sam left, Danny started packing up a banker’s box filled with files.  The box had been sitting on the floor out of sight from the doorway, thankfully.  Once he made it to Robin Wickers’ office in the morning, he’d hit send on the resignation letter he had been finishing up when Sam stopped by.  As much as he enjoyed his time under Carlton’s wing, he couldn’t see himself doing what he did forever.  His happiness lied in helping others.  By making a difference wherever he could.  Even if that meant selling his condo and giving up his expense account.  They were simply material things after all.

“Man, that guy is a god.”

“I know.  I recently read that he won an appellate ruling on fair sentencing guidelines for the State of Illinois.  Other States are considering the change now too.”

“He’s the kind of guy that makes me proud to be a lawyer.  Someone who can effectually make a difference.”


The two men chatting looked over at their admonisher and sniggered into their fists.  Danny Columbetti brushed passed their seats on his way out of court.  But not before meeting their eyes and giving them a warm nod.  His shoulders a little farther back, his head a little higher, he had become exactly what he had dreamed.  Just not in the way he had imagined.  And he was perfectly at peace with that.

The End.

This story is copyrighted by KT George © 2017. This story appeared first on Sept 2017.
Short Story Series: Story 1 – In the Pursuit of Justice
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4 thoughts on “Short Story Series: Story 1 – In the Pursuit of Justice

  • September 29, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Great story… Can’t wait for Story 2….

  • September 30, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Danny Columbetti sounds like a dream … love his ethics and drive … wish I could set him up with a single friend of mine.
    Great story!

  • December 4, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    You make a valid point in this story about the sentencing guidelines. It does seem quite unfair. This reminded my of The Good Wife. I liked it.

  • March 7, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    I know you must have some word constraints, but the third act seemed a little rushed (between working for his idol and becoming one). Stretching the story out just a little bit longer and developing that period further, would have made it perfect. Overall though, the subject matter was relevant, and the character development was superb.


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