The Adventures of Riley Q. MacLean, Attorney at Law

Logan Hollinger

Chapter I

As a city, it didn't appear to have been built so much as congealed, as if God had had some dregs in the bottom of his "#1 Deity" coffee mug and accidentally knocked it over with his elbow then forgot about it while He was off turned the other way creating something more important like the Irish countryside. The people, too, appear to have been congealed, though this time from the bottom of a keg of Guinness. Half the time they were drunk and the other half they were cranky because they wish they were within the first half.

It was not, in short, a very nice place to live. And it was, for this reason only, the very best place for a criminal defense attorney to practice.

To explain:

If one is drunk most of the time, one will inevitably clash with what is laughably called the law. At such point, one must appoint what is laughably called a counselor and put together what is laughably called a defense. After this one goes before what is laughably called a judge and must suffer through what is laughably called a prosecution. After the defense the judge presents what is laughably called a verdict.

The whole process is rather laughable.

But, for a defense attorney, it is highly profitable.

Welcome, friends, to Boston, Massachusetts.

The alarm clock beeped harshly with reckless disregard for Riley MacLean's sanity. He mercilessly beat it to death until by some miracle he hit the snooze button. After repeating this process roughly seventeen times, Riley reluctantly emerged from his cocoon, something a great degree less than a beautiful butterfly.

He hobbled groggily to the bathroom and blearily looked at himself in the mirror. His curly red hair appeared as if he had bought it at a carnival, on a stick. His facial hair seemed to be somewhere in between five o'clock shadow and stranded on a desert island for nine months. He gave his armpits a quick sniff and by the odor judged that some bacteria were developing a quite complex and enlightened civilization there.

After a shower and a shave, only the look in his eyes betrayed his inner monologue: that whatever God was doing to him, he would like Him please to stop.

After dressing in a shabby suit and bright green tie, Riley walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He selected the two least hairy things found within, set them on the counter and stared at them intently for two minutes. When neither moved within that span he declared them breakfast and ate them.

Oddly enough, between the two they killed a violent unknown bacterium Riley had picked up on vacation in Limerick that would have otherwise blinded half the Western Hemisphere and rendered the other half mad and sterile, so humanity was lucky there.

After his hairy and heroic breakfast, Riley gathered up his briefcase (or perhaps his attaché. His satchel?) and headed out into the blustery gray yonder.

He came upon his bus stop a few blocks down the street. There he waved and greeted a few regulars, and noticed several new faces.

One of these was a young man in a black turtleneck, carrying a large briefcase/attaché/satchel and making a very big deal out of not making a very big deal out of it. He had a fit when Riley attempted to make small talk.

"Hi. Ever wonder how the put the cream inside the Twinkies?"

"Well! If you won't ask I'm not going to not tell you!" The young man stormed off in a huff.

Riley, who had seen many a temperamental cab driver in his time, was slightly bemused by this. "What crawled in his ear, took a crap, had several dozen children, and then died?"

Marge, the old, wise, world-weary archetype of the group, sighed. "He wanted you to ask him what was in the briefcase."

"But clearly he didn't want me to know what was in the briefcase!"

"He wanted you to ask so he could tell you he couldn't tell you. What do you do for a living, dearie?"

"I'm a lawyer."

Marge shook her head. "Well, that would explain things."

Riley mused on this until the bus arrived, boarded the bus and enjoyed a spectacularly uneventful ride to his office.

After opening his chronically stuck front door with a series of movements that would have made a Freemason handshake developer stop and scratch his head, Riley greeted his secretary, Loretta Finnegan.

"Morning, Loretta," he said cautiously.

"Morning, heretic," snapped Loretta, perhaps the only fundamentalist in the Irish Catholic capital of the world.

Riley sighed. "Any mail?"

"How am I supposed to know? What am I, your secretary?"

Riley exhaled out of his nose. "Yes, Loretta. As a matter of fact, you are, in fact, my secretary."

Loretta sniffed. "Well. It's on your desk."

"Thanks." Riley shook his head and left the tiny reception area to an equally tiny office in which you could, in fact, swing a cat, but only if it was a reasonable patient cat who didn't mind a few nasty cracks on the head. Sure enough, on Riley's disaster area of a desk (FEMA continually attempted to park a trailer outside) sat a small pile of envelopes.

Nothing travels faster than light, except for rumors and junk mail, which follow their own set of laws.

The laws are these:

First, facts and reality need not and indeed should not interact with the subject. Any contact with such will cause catastrophic failure and restoration of sanity and logic.

Second, the juicier the rumor/more profitable the junk mail, the faster it is permitted to travel. This is not a matter of opinion, rather a complex equation with such factors as vectors, probability, and what big long number sounds funniest to the technicians when they say it out loud.

Third, no other laws are permitted to touch laws one or two. This is to prevent people from becoming satisfied with their lives.

Last, the very moment at which one begins to wonder why one hasn't received a rumor or junk mail for a while is the precise moment at which said rumor or mail will arrive.

Within this pile of Newton-defying horror were two identical letters of application for a credit card Riley already had, three identical threatening letters from the collections department of a card he didn't, and a letter that stated that after intense case study he was determined as a man of taste and discrimination who knew exactly what he wanted in today's sophisticated jet-setting world and therefore would he like to buy some crappy timeshare, and also some rancid cheese.

After disposing of this (though a HazMat team may have been necessary for the cheese), Riley set about his paperwork, i.e., doing none of it. He got as far as the first signature before he suddenly figured out the meaning of life.

"Forty-two!"

The only problem was that he had no idea what the question could possibly be.

The phone rang. Riley had unhooked Loretta's phone as she had taken to making disparaging remarks about his sexuality and/or personal hygiene. "Offices of Riley Q. MacLean, Attorney at Law. How can I help you?"

"Yeah, can I talk to Riley?" came an entirely stereotypical Italian guido accent.

"Speaking. Who is this?"

"Eh, just call me a friend. Yeah, a friend."

"I see. Anybody's friend in particular, or just generally well-disposed to people?"

"Gimme a lunch meeting."

"What's the magic word?"

"Uh, 'now?' 'Blow your freakin' brains out?' 'Sleeping with the fishes?' How about now, tough guy? Am I in the ballpark?"

Riley sighed. If chivalry wasn't dead, it was in a coma with severe internal bleeding. "Alright, let me check my book." He flipped open an address book and found the next six months entirely blank except for his weekly Saturday-night Call of Duty marathons. He whistled through his teeth. "You know what, it may be a bit of a tight fit, but I think I can squeeze you in for today. Where shall we meet?"

"Antonelli's on Fifth and Nineteenth." The unidentified guido hung up.

Riley shrugged and set about some serious doodling of a local circuit judge. It grew more absurd, venomous, and anatomically improbable as the morning wore on.

When twelve noon came along, Riley bid goodbye to Loretta. "Bye, Loretta. I'm off to a mysterious meeting with someone I've never met. I have no idea what it could possibly be about, and I have indeed no clear idea of where the meeting is taking place either. I should be back soon."

"Okay."

Riley stepped outside and hailed a cab.

Contrary to popular belief, being a cab driver is not a chosen occupation, rather a decision of biological inheritance. Simply put, cab drivers are actually a separate race of humanity.

There are several breeds:

First, there is the New York cab driver. By far the most common breed, the New York is a docile creature, seeking only to earn its keep and perhaps nibble on your finger a little.

Next, we have the Los Angeles cab driver. This is a volatile, angry animal. It will snap at the slightest provocation and will demand such archaic modes of payment as rupees and shekels.

Next is the foreign cab driver. Also a volatile creature, it is rarely, it is rarely a native-born citizen of the country in which it operates, and in fact more often than not hates with a rather intimidating passion the country in which it operates.

Last is the Boston cab driver. This is almost identical to the New York except it possesses something called filtered perception. This allows it to completely and utterly ignore any traffic laws when presented them.

Riley needed a few seconds to unclench his sphincter before entering Antonelli's, a shabby establishment that proudly display a C-minus from the Health Department in the window.

Riley looked around for a second. Had had no idea what he was looking for, but he assumed he was looking for a Godfather Mafia type. Perhaps he should have waited for an invitation to his daughter's wedding.

"Yo, Copernicus! Over here, genius." came a call from a corner booth.

Riley walked over to the man. He was a large man, in a leather jacket and a gold chain that could be seen from space. He had an air that said he demanded respect, and was quite prepared to throw a hissy fit to get it.

"Hello," Riley said stonily, switching into lawyer mode, which denied all humanity until the uttering of a certain phrase.

"Hey there, Copernicus. Name's Vito Vitelli."

"Of course it is."

"Have a seat. Order anything ya want. It's on the house."

Riley took a look at the menu. "Well, this looks…"

"Appetizing?"

"No."

"Delicious?"

"No."

"Italian?"

"No."

"Gourmet?"

"No. Icky."

"Fine, smart guy. Skip lunch. Look, I'm in a bit of a sticky situation here."

"That's nice." Still waiting for the phrase.

"No, it ain't. See, I run a, erm, payday loan business, and I've gotten myself into some kinda serious shit here. Know what I mean?" Vito waited.

Riley jumped a little. "You really want my opinion? Right now? Before you say it?"

"Sure, why the hell not?"

"In that case, you cannot possibly fathom the fuck that I do not give."

Then Vito said it: "I'll pay."

Suddenly Riley was all sympathy. "Well, Mr. Vitelli, I'm sorry to hear about your problems with your racketeering and your loan-sharking and your drug running and your prostitution and your-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! I said payday loans."

"Right. Payday loans. I'm sorry, Mr. Vitelli, but my time is valuable." Riley stood up halfway.

Vito, for once realizing something that wasn't dancing the cancan in front of his nose, sighed and reached into his inner jacket pocket, withdrawing a pen and checkbook. "Alright, Copernicus. I'll play the game. What are your rates?"

Time for a little gouging. "Five hundred an hour."

Vito whistled. "Alright." He filled out a check and ripped it off. "There. Now you're mine for a week."

Riley eagerly snatched the check. "Right. Now what can I do for you?"

"You can start by telling me how the hell this is going to work."

"Well, first off, the law is an ass. It's full of ridiculous, obscure, and arbitrary rules. Sort of like chess or tennis or…what's that thing the British play?"

"I dunno. Cricket? Self-loathing?"

"Parliamentary democracy. Anyway, your case could be made or broken by your attitude in court. You could be happy, grumpy, or bashful (dopey, sneezy, and sleepy are conditions, not attitudes, and Doc is merely a dwarf). So, do you have anything at all, documents, testimony, that can make you look good?"

"I'm sure some of the boys who work for me could say a few words."

"Great."

"For the right price."

Riley let his head fall to the table. "Oh my God. Alright, anything else?"

"Not really."

"This table smells like parmesan cheese and disappointment."

After enduring the most entertaining lunch meeting of his life, Riley decided that he would do what he always did when faced with a dilemma: he would get drunk. He was to meet his best friend Phil Durst at O'Connell's Pub. Phil worked as a weatherman.

Weathermen are unique in that they can be wrong two-thirds of the time and still be considered right most of the time.

The little-known true method of weather prediction is thus.

First, all participants involved must be drunk. Next, the predicting weatherperson in question is blindfolded, made to do a beer bong and then spun around in a circle several times. Then he is given a dart and pointed towards a chart of likely and unlikely weather conditions mounted on a nearby wall. The dart is thrown and the result is the prediction of weather for the next day.

Riley entered O'Connell's and looked around for his friend, finding him at the bar, already submerged under several glasses of whiskey.

"Whiskey and soda," he said to the bartender, then turned to Phil.

Phil's attention was momentarily diverted by a woman sitting on his opposite side. "Ma'am," he slurred, "I may be drunk, but tomorrow morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly." Wiping the retaliation off of his face with a sleeve, he gave Riley a drunken little wave.

"You're already drunk, aren't you?" Riley said.

"Yes," replied Phil, "absolutely hammered."

"Well, I'll just have to see what I can do to catch up." Riley tossed back his drink and waved for another. "So how was your day?"

"Fine. Gonna rain tomorrow." Half of the Boston weather-prediction dart-throwing chart read RAIN and the other half BLIZZARD. It was astonishingly accurate. "You?"

"Well, I picked up a case from a Mafia kingpin who expects me to get him off scot-free with no evidence and some perjurous testimony. If I don't, it's fairly safe to assume I'll be whacked."

"Sounds like a tremendous moral and ethical dilemma for you to grapple with intellectually for the next several hundred pages."

"That's what I thought too. But then his check cleared…"

"Well, you can do what I do."

"Bullshit?"

"Exactly. Also. Get a fancy title. I have a fancy title. Meteorologist. It sounds official and nobody's very clear on what it means. Hence, people think I know what I'm doing."

"But you do not."

"But I do not."

"Think for a second here, Phil. I'm going up before a judge and a jury of my peers!"

"You mean an old guy in a dress and a bunch of people too stupid to think up an excuse to get out of jury duty?"

"Riley mused on that for a second. "Jesus Christ on roller skates, Phil! I think I can do this!"

"You'd better. Otherwise you're, uh, what's the word I'm looking for?"

"Fucked?"

"Yes."

8