With Even Stronger Reason
~ Chapter One
It was my first case and decidedly my most difficult. When I joined Yuy & Maxwell, LLP after graduation, I didn't think I would be handling major cases until I'd gotten a taste of underling tasks. In my mind, I was going to do nothing but type and file. I would serve coffee to the higher-ups. I would read manuscripts and prepare drafts only to have them sent to the shredder by someone smarter. I never expected to be assigned the biggest divorce case of the century.
Where should I begin? Ah, yes. Yuy and Maxwell are some of my closest friends. Two years my senior, I met them when I was a freshman. Two months into the school year and I was out of the dorms and living as their roommate in a run-down apartment wedged between a porn shop and a Chinese restaurant. Being younger, I used to serve as their errand boy picking up food from the Chinese place to the right and toys from the specialty shop to the left. In exchange, they promised me a surefire position in the illustrious firm they were going to set up after law school. I trusted those two and they managed to keep their promise and not just about the job position either.
Only about three years since its inception, Yuy & Maxwell was an already thriving firm with numerous clients thanks to Duo Maxwell's charming personality and Heero Yuy's impeccable knowledge of the law. Clientele came from all walks of life. Although they had a number of pro bono cases courtesy of Duo's benevolence, higher profile personalities caught wind of their expertise and hired them with little to no questions asked. Heero, economizing as always, never failed to charge enormous amounts of money for their services.
This was where I came in. A newbie at this kind of thing, Duo introduced me to the practice. The firm I had become a part of dealt exclusively with family law. Divorce was the first thing that would come to most people's minds, but the firm also handled cases involving child support, domestic violence, guardianship - you name it. Duo said that he was willing to take any case aside from divorce. That was, if the marriage was done in a church. Growing up a Catholic, he thought it was sinful for him to involve himself in an act that separated what God had brought together. I always did wonder if he ever thought his relationship with Heero was just as sinful.
As such, Heero handled almost all of the divorce cases. Heero was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Armed with his textbook-like knowledge, he had yet to turn up with a less than satisfactory result. He'd even managed to get gold diggers their more than fair share of assets. That was the reason why I was surprised and honored when those two decided to assign me to the Winner-Catalonia divorce.
The Winner-Catalonia divorce was the talk of the town even before it became official. The couple, a tabloid favorite, was made of money. The husband, Quatre Winner, stayed mostly out of the public eye despite being a well-known business mogul. Inheriting an unheard of amount of money from his father, he was richer than most even before he exited his mother's womb. It was said that his mother died during child birth holding onto a large piece of precious stone her son would later inherit. The wife, Dorothy Catalonia, was a notorious socialite. Being an orphan at the tender age of 10, she was raised by her billionaire grandfather. Rumor had it that her crib was made of gold. I didn't doubt it since she did drive a gold car.
Where was I in all this? I was Dorothy Catalonia's lawyer. Yes, that Dorothy Catalonia - the Dorothy Catalonia who took her husband's name but only in paper. Even before I met her, I knew she would be a trial. Some people were hard to please then there were others who were impossible to please. I know I'm basing all of this on hearsay, but given the way she was in public, I'm sure the real her was not a far cry from what everyone else said.
Our first meeting had been intimidating to say the least. Even before she'd taken one step in our building, a large group of people were scanning the place for suspicious items. They were lucky Heero was not around. Otherwise, there would be hell to pay for snooping around his office. Needless to say, these men found nothing. Sometimes I wished they had found something because I did not like the way Dorothy Catalonia made her entrance in the least. Flanked on each side by a bodyguard, she held a little blond on one hand. The boy, who for a while I called Winner Junior, screamed upon their entrance. He was an adorable kid save for the pointed eyebrows that sprung out of his otherwise cute face. The kid was so blond he was almost colorless. Even his eyelashes were the lightest shade of blond. Against almost translucent skin, he looked like a ghost.
"Mr. Trowa Barton," the soon to be ex Mrs. Winner greeted me upon entering. "I thought Mr. Yuy would be handling my case."
That was when it struck me. People would be giving me that attitude as long as I was standing behind Heero's impressive shadow. I was okay with that for now, but that didn't mean that it didn't sting.
"Heero has several cases to attend to," I answered although I didn't know it to be true. A little white lie every now and then didn't hurt. That was going to be my mantra for the rest of my career as a lawyer.
"Too busy for a divorce as big as this?" Ms. Catalonia responded with a raise of her strangely split eyebrow. A delicate hand then rested itself against her chest. "Then I'm very flattered that he chose to delegate such a young, delicious lawyer to stand in my defense," she added.
I was wary of those words. The statement was laced with meaning. Was it a positive or was it a negative? Was it a positive hidden within a negative or the opposite? Was she hitting on me? She wasn't even divorced yet. Besides, I was not interested in her or in any other woman for that matter.
"I will do my best," I answered. Duo did say I had to hold composure before I could reel them in.
"I'm sure you will, Mr. Barton," she said before shooing off her son and her bodyguards out of the conference room. She gave the little boy a flying kiss upon his departure and then she turned to face me.
"As you already know, I'm leaving my husband," she said matter-of-factly.
"And your grounds for-" I started to ask before being cut-off.
"I suppose irreconcilable difference is the way to go, but more specifically, adultery. Our pre-nuptial agreement had a clause on adultery."
I didn't doubt that a rich man would sleep around when he already had a sexy wife. In some ways I pitied her situation, damning Mr. Winner for cheating on her. What person wouldn't sympathize with her circumstances, especially one who'd gone through the same in the past?
"Do you have any assets to divide?" I asked next, to which the response was a hearty laugh.
"I assure you, Mr. Barton, our assets will take more than a few months to itemize."
I digress. That was the wrong question to ask. I should have continued with the line of questioning that had to do with their grounds for divorce.
"Do you have any proof that he cheated on you?"
"I have numerous tapes and photos, Mr. Barton. Would you like to examine them?"
I should have thought before I spoke. It was no doubt I sounded like a pervert with the way she laughed. I could not help but feel like I was being mocked. Being young in a profession filled with old fogies was a perilous circumstance indeed.
"What about child custody?" I then asked to divert the attention away from me to her son.
"We are sharing him with Samuel."
Samuel? Where did this third-party character come from all of a sudden?
"Samuel, you could say, is the third parent in this relationship," Dorothy explained without me asking.
Just then, her son came running body first into the door. Since the door was translucent, I could see his flattened face and striped shirt plastered against the glass. He said 'mommy, look' before pressing his face further into the door. Dorothy, like a good mother, praised her son's antics before lightly scolding him. The boy, probably Satan's spawn, screamed instead. So much sound was coming out of that little mouth that it beat the sound system Duo had installed in his office.
"Sweetie, do mommy a favor and bother the people outside," Dorothy requested.
I could only think of the complaints I would be getting later since the people outside included Duo.
"He looks just like his father," Dorothy said after turning back to face me once again. "With some features from me, of course," she added.
I imagined the kid stretched out. Mr. Winner probably looked like a cute, albino boy with the qualities of a true demon lord. A standard rich man cheating on his wife did tend to bring about that negative image.
"What's his name?" I decided to ask as I stared at the door, fearing the return of the child.
"Samuel," she responded. "Sam for short."
I did a double-take. What did the statement 'we are sharing him with Samuel' mean then?
"When you said that you were sharing him," I tried to inquire. "You meant?"
Dorothy smiled at me with a look wicked in a way I could not describe. Somehow I knew this was an important point in the matter. There had to be something about this Samuel fellow that made things more complicated.
"I've been married for nine years, Mr. Barton," Dorothy started. It wasn't exactly the answer to my question, but I was patient enough to wait for her to get to her point. "My husband was a virgin at 21 when we married - a true daddy's boy under daddy's wing if you will. He'd never even touched a woman before. His father wanted an heir and my grandfather wanted a grandchild. How did you think that went?"
Interesting - so Mr. Winner didn't know how to work his equipment. Why was it that he was cheating on her now?
"We tried for three years," she continued with a dramatic sigh. "I got impatient, so I brought Samuel home with me. He was a gorgeous man and he was mine. Quatre happened to be home that day and as it turns out, it was Samuel's type that got Quatre's undivided attention. With Samuels' assistance, Sammy was conceived that same night. You could say there were 3 people who created our child. In honor of that, we named our son after him."
Mr. Winner was gay. That was all I could think of as I eyed the white box the bodyguards had left behind. I realized then that I just landed myself with a box full of gay porn. Duo would be so proud. I was going to call him about it, but just like a good attorney, I questioned her further.
"But why were you two together for so long?"
Mr. Winner was obviously not interested in her and it was impossible that she didn't know about his issues. Chances are there were hideous amounts of money involved.
"His father couldn't find out," she said as she folded her manicured fingers over her lap. "And my grandfather wanted a family. The reason why I'm getting the divorce now is because my grandfather and his father died in a plane crash… on the same flight. Very dramatic, I know. In other words, there is no one left to please."
Fair enough. They stayed in the relationship for the sake of those who cared most for them. It was sad the way things ended - for all of those involved - but if a relationship did not work, it just didn't. This was something Duo could never grasp. To him, marriage was forever.
"Given that you were together for almost a decade, there will be a lot of issues when it comes to property division. Had you been married even longer, this divorce would probably take decades."
"My husband is not a difficult man, Mr. Barton. I have no interest in owning his father's property. We want an amicable divorce."
That sounded simple enough. An uncontested divorce was easy, but there was still the issue of child custody and support.
"Your son-" I started before being cut-off once again.
"I want physical custody of Sam, but I want to share legal custody. I want visitation rights for both Quatre and Samuel."
I scribbled her desires as fast as I could on my notepad, taking note of almost everything she said from their reasons for being together to the third guy in the relationship. This Samuel, whoever he was, was going to make this a difficult case. I could already see the complications. There was a possibility this guy was going to side with one or the other. It was even possible that he would want the kid for himself. I had no background on him, but he already smelled dirty. I would have to meet him and Mr. Winner in person.
"Tell me about your husband," I encouraged. I'm the type of guy who rarely says much. I am more of an observer, a point which Heero had commended me on before. He had said that the skill would make me a great lawyer because I tended to solve problems by first watching before charging in.
"He's neat and well-groomed," she started. "He wears glasses when he reads or works even if he doesn't have to just because it makes him look sophisticated. He dresses well, never leaves the house with a crease on his shirt. His suits have to be tailored by a designer who has thoroughly studied his body measurements and mannerisms so the clothes could accommodate his movements. He has his skin undergo a moisture-infusing process every other month."
The list went on and on. I could already guess that this guy was one vain egomaniac and stereotypically gay in the grooming sense. Over the top vanity could also be said about Dorothy Catalonia, but the husband sounded a little extreme right now and I had to ask myself why I was even writing all this down.
"And before I forget the most important part of the description, I have to warn you that my husband is very pretty."
I found myself swallowing my spit. Whether it was because of the warning or the anticipation of a difficult case, I could not tell. Why would I care that he was a pretty man? Actually, I would and given their son, he was probably blond too. Blondes were my biggest weakness. I wondered if she could read me like a book.
"He's about yea high," she continued while using her elegant hand to indicate his height. All the while she had a very sly smile on her face. "With big, blue eyes and pouty lips…"
Like it or not, she was making me uncomfortable. I didn't know what she was trying to achieve by describing him in that way. Was she playing matchmaker for her husband? But I was her attorney. We were trying to divorce him and if possible, cripple his assets in the process. Of course, this was an unspoken rule between lawyers. Your client has got to want something out of a divorce. Heero had said that if they say they don't want anything, they usually start changing their minds as the battle heats up, especially with big cases such as this.
"Ms. Catalonia," I said with barely a hint of exasperation. "I was more interested in what qualities he had that we could use to our advantage if he ever decides to… complicate things."
"I was getting to that point, Mr. Barton," my client said with a haughty raise of her head. If she was truly annoyed, I did not care. I was not going to be toyed with by my client. I may be young, but I have my qualifications.
"My husband's good looks, which I admit I've enjoyed quite a bit, make it easy for him to involve himself in sexual debauchery with quite a few partners. I'm not saying that I don't have my fair share of exploits. I can't live nine years of celibacy with an unable husband. I'm telling you to use his unusual 'preferences' to my advantage."
She had pulled out the shame card. I admired the way she had thought this through. Being married to a gay man constituted the 'humiliation' clause. She probably wanted to use this to get physical custody of her son. Despite more tolerant changes in the recent years, it was still difficult to get custody of a child when one was homosexual. I wondered if she knew my similar preferences in partners. If she did, did she consider that I could be offended?
"Can you prove that he sleeps with men?" I asked. Lucky for her, I wasn't offended in the least.
"Are your sources credible?" I followed-up. This was a question that needed to be asked again and again. I was aware that she had tapes and pictures, but chances were that we had to prove the authenticity of these exhibits. They had to have been done by a third party professional who had no vested interest in the matter.
I knew that there were people who collaborated with each other in a fraudulent manner. It was possible that the wife would give a percentage of her so-called winnings to the person who made certain items possible. It could be that this third person skillfully manipulated images.
"Check the pictures yourself," Dorothy suggested before opening a folder and scattering several images in front of me. Suddenly, the conference room table did not look big enough to accommodate them.
The first thought that came to my mind was that adultery never looked so good. I could pinpoint Mr. Winner almost immediately as it became obvious that he did look like his son. True enough, Dorothy Catalonia's husband was quite the looker and in the heat of passion he could easily bring a straight man to tears. I could not get my eyes off the black and white images so clearly taken with a professional camera.
"I can assure you, Mr. Barton. That is my husband's body, not his head attached to a picture of a random body."
"I might have to see that with my own eyes," my mouth said out of its own accord. I made no move to save face, making my client take that statement at face value.
My eyes happened to land on a particular image which I'm sure I would later consider my favorite. Mr. Winner was fully bear and kneeling. Another man was behind him with an arm wrapped around his torso and the other disappearing into the picture. Simply suggestive and nothing more, the blond had his head slightly thrown back as the lucky bastard behind him nipped on a perfectly sculpted neck. The look on Mr. Winner's face was inexplicable. I would hire this camera man without question.
"Please do examine them, Mr. Barton," Dorothy said after a good half-minute of observing me. If you looked closely enough at my eyes, you would notice that they gave me away.
I only nodded as she continued to watch me. I knew she was plotting something, but for now, just for a little bit, nothing existed but me, my perversity, and the adulterous pictures.