Sometimes, Alex will be at a lunch, a dinner, some type of social event--with coworkers, or friends from her book club, whatever--and someone will talk about a current event in the newspaper, some criminal trial, out of morbid interest, and Alex will have to keep herself from criticizing all the ways the journalist got it wrong. Journalists are the worst when it comes to reporting the law. They always find new and amazing ways to screw it up.
Instead, Alex will sip at her wine, and pretend interest the way a woman who works for an insurance firm would. A woman who's never been near that world, and never will be.
Then she goes home and writes scathing editorial letters to the newspaper, or blog, or magazine. She never sends them.
Her temper gets the better of her. Alex tries to control it, but there are days when being far from anywhere she's ever really considered home, and not at the mercy of either a formal sanctions or straight-out disbarring means that she has nothing with which to assert control. Also, she's at a party and she's possibly had a mixed drink or two that was slightly stronger than she'd been expecting. She doesn't even really remember what she says, just that someone brings up recent federal indictments as reported locally, and Alex feels acerbic and bitter, like coffee left too long to cool.
Still, it's something of a surprise when Alex answers her work phone the next day and a woman says, "You trashed my research skills."
"By the way, this is Louisa Moll, with the Register."
Yeah, Alex has actually already gotten there by herself. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Sure, okay. Honey, regardless of what you think of me, I am an investigative reporter and you spewed your disdain all over a party with about a third of this town present. It really wasn't that hard to find you."
Alex buries her face in her hands and sighs, "Look, I--"
"You're clearly willing to criticize. Are you willing to help?"
"Sorry?" Alex asks, because, what?
"This town isn't exactly brimming with legal professionals who are willing to consult on a small-time paper. It's not even really brimming with legal professionals, when you think about it."
"I'm not a legal professional."
"Well, you sure as hell know how to fake it well."
Alex shouldn't ask. "What do you need?"
Louisa says, "Meet me for lunch, on me. I've got a list of questions."
She's going to end up getting moved again, she just knows it. It's a stupid, juvenile risk to take. She turns her face to the side and grins, as though Louisa might be able to see her through the phone. "Okay. But I'm ordering wine."
Louisa looks nothing like Olivia, but the determined bent of her shoulders makes Alex's mind go there anyway, and she forces herself to shut down the thought. When Alex sits down, Louisa smiles honestly if a little tightly, and says, "I ordered a bottle of red. Hope that's all right."
"Dry?" Alex asks.
"Like the Mojave."
Alex smirks. "Those must be some serious questions."
Louisa straightens a little. "I know I'm just a mid-level reporter at a hick-town newspaper, in an industry that's quickly dying. But I still--" She flinches a little, just a look in her eyes, something Alex wouldn't catch if she wasn't used to reading people for a living. "I believe in what I do. In doing it well."
Alex keeps eye-contact for a long moment and is surprised that--for the first time since New York, since she left her name and her profession and her life behind--she feels like herself. She says, "I was a paralegal for a while. In another life."
Louisa laughs. "Never tempt a reporter with secrets."
Alex doesn't plan to, but she can't say for sure it won't happen. She thinks this woman (barely) who believes in print and truth and honesty will keep her secrets, should she find them. Alex has always had good people sense. "You needed help?"
"Let's start with basic jargon."
Alex finds her voice, the one she's forgotten she's kept.