The House on Hope Street - By Danielle Steel
It was ten o'clock in the morning on Christmas Eve, when Jack and Liz Sutherland met with Amanda Parker. It was a sunny morning in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. And Amanda looked both terrified and nervous. She was petite, blond, and delicate, and her hands shook almost imperceptibly as she quietly shredded a Kleenex. Jack and Liz had been handling her divorce for the past year, they worked as a team, and had opened their joint family law office eighteen years before, just after they were married.
They liked working together, and had long since developed a comfortable routine. They enjoyed their practice, and were good at it. They complemented each other, although their styles were extremely different. Inadvertently, and more subconsciously than not, Jack and Liz had adopted a kind of good cop/bad cop routine, which worked well for them and for their clients. It was always Jack who took the more aggressive, confrontational role, the lion in the courtroom, fighting for better conditions and bigger settlements, relentlessly backing his opponents into a corner, from which there was no relief for them until they gave him what he wanted for his client. It was Liz who was more thoughtful, gentler, ingenious about the subtleties, holding the clients’ hands when needed, and fighting for the rights of their children. And at times the difference in their styles led to fights between them, as it had in Amanda's case. Despite some of the malicious games Amanda's husband had played on her, the threats, the constant verbal and occasional physical abuse, Liz thought what Jack had proposed was too tough on him.
“Are you crazy?” Jack had asked her bluntly before Amanda arrived. “Look at the crap this guy has pulled on her. He has three girlfriends he's supporting now, has cheated on her for ten years, has hidden all his assets from her, doesn't give a damn about his kids, and wants to walk out of the marriage without it costing him a penny. What do you suggest we do? Set up a trust for him, and thank him for his time and trouble?” Jack had his fighting Irish up, and although with her bright red hair and flashing green eyes, Liz seemed to have fiery looks, she was in fact far more moderate than he was. Jack's eyes were dark and ominous as he glared at her, and his hair had been snow white since he was thirty. People who knew them well teased them sometimes and said that they looked like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. But despite their occasionally heated arguments, everyone inside the courtroom and out knew they were crazy about each other. Theirs was a loving, solid marriage, and they had a family that everyone envied, five children whom they adored, four of whom had bright red hair like their mother, and the youngest boy had dark hair, as Jack's once had been.
“I'm not telling you Phillip Parker doesn't deserve to get hammered,” Liz explained patiently. “I'm trying to tell you he'll take it out on her if we're too heavy-handed with him.”
“And I'm telling you he needs that, or he's going to push her around forever. You've got to hit this guy where he'll feel it, starting with his wallet. You can't let him get away with this kind of bullshit, Liz, and you know it.”
“You're pulling the rug out from under him, and paralyzing his business.” What she was saying was sensible, but Jack's hard-line tactics had worked before for many, many of their clients, and he had achieved settlements for them that few other attorneys could have. His reputation was for not only being tough, but brilliant when it came to getting big money for their clients, and he particularly wanted to achieve that for Amanda. Despite several million dollars Phillip Parker had stashed away, and a booming computer business, he had kept Amanda and their three children living at starvation level. And ever since the separation, she had barely been able to get enough out of him to keep them fed and in shoes. It was even more ridiculous once they figured out what he was spending on his girlfriends, and he had just bought himself a brand-new Porsche. Amanda hadn't even been able to buy a skateboard for her son for Christmas.
“Trust me on this one, Liz. The guy's a bully, and he's going to start squealing like a little pig when we put the squeeze on him in court.