The EXPERT

— by Lee Gruenfeld *

 


 

This world is run by people who know how to do things. They know how things work. They are equipped. Up there, there’s a layer of people who run everything. But we — we’re just peasants. We don’t understand what’s going on, and we can’t do anything.

Doris Lessing -
Dorothy, in The Good Terrorist

 

We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.

Harold Macmillan –
Speech, 16 Aug. 1950, Strasbourg, France.

 


CHAPTER ONE
[follows "Prologue"]

Monday, May 18

	Rebecca Verona stared out the window and tried to ignore the 
spasm somewhere near her pelvis so the others in the room wouldn’t 
notice.  She kept her arms folded across her chest in an attitude of deep 
contemplation, pretending to be lost in some important thought, when all 
she could think about once the cramp subsided was the ache in her breasts, 
the heaviness across her back and how awful her face must look from the 
bloating that seemed to fill her body from the toes up.
	She clamped her jaws together and tapped a finger against 
her upper arm, another indication to the onlookers that she was reaching 
momentous decisions instead of fighting down the urge to spin around and 
tell them all to fuck off so she could go home and lie down.  The acid 
gurgling around in the nether reaches of her esophagus made her regret the 
last two cups of coffee, even though the diuretic effect of caffeine might 
eventually help to relieve the pressure of all the water trapped beneath her 
skin.  On the other hand, she could feel that same caffeine pushing her 
irritability index somewhere into the ionosphere.  Zero-to-bitch in sixty 
seconds, as Arno Steinholz once half-joked.  Whole goddamned office 
probably had her menstrual cycle mapped out in their freaking Daytimers, 
calibrating their calculations based on the days she wore entirely too much 
makeup.  God help any unsuspecting opposing counsel who tried to 
approach her about a settlement on a maxi-pad day;  poor bastard would 
wind up wishing he’d gone into forestry instead of law.
	“Guy’s here, Becky.”  Justin’s voice, using the diminutive of 
her name, a privilege reserved for a rare few.
	Justin.  What the hell was it with parents and these names, 
anyway?  What was the matter with John, Mary, Susan?  Or Rebecca, for 
that matter?
	She caught herself just before she hauled off and slugged 
Justin Ehrenright for what his parents did twenty-eight years ago.  Closing 
her eyes and taking a steadying breath, Rebecca nodded and dropped her 
arms, picked up her chin and turned around, ready to enter the fray.
	As bad as she felt and knew she looked, she still got subtly 
appreciative glances from Steinholz and Ehrenright from the other side of 
the conference table.  What they mistook for some barely perceptible 
increases in her curvature were just breasts so swollen they felt black and 
blue, but that was her own business, as were her aching feet and back.  Her 
dark brown eyes, which she was certain were now sunken back into 
wadded-up hot dog rolls of watery skin, looked to them only more exotic 
than usual, slightly narrower and more mysterious.  When she pulled 
herself up to her full five-foot-nine height, angular face framed by 
cherrywood brown hair drawn into a ponytail that lay across one shoulder, 
her physical presence commanded the room, as it had since she was a 
teenager.
	It commanded a courtroom as well, and Rebecca learned 
early on that there was little downside to lightly exploiting her looks to a 
good end.  If it gave her an edge in a job interview or a cross-examination 
or a presentation to a prospective client, where was the harm?  She’d 
gotten to enjoy her effect on men — and women — although she still 
couldn’t convince herself that she didn’t look like Jabba the Hut for a few 
days every month
	“Best get started then,”  she said with a nod to Ehrenright, 
his cue to go get “the guy.”  Ehrenright turned quickly and went out 
toward the reception area, while Steinholz began pulling papers out of his 
leather attaché and arranging them on the table in front of him.  Janine 
Osterreich, one of the firm’s internal shorthand reporters, flipped open her 
dictation pad.
	“Dirksen,”  Rebecca said idly, referring to their imminent 
visitor.  “How dependent are we on him?”
	Steinholz pursed his lips and tilted his head without looking 
up.  “Pretty damn.”  With his light brown hair worn long, wire-rimmed 
glasses over large, soulful eyes, generous lips and an overall softness of 
manner, he fit perfectly the image of the deeply introspective left-brainer, 
given to instant intimacy with strangers and long conversations laced with 
keenly perceptive insights into the human condition.  In truth, he was a 
tech-snoid of the first water, a physicist at heart and a master logician who 
came late to the law because it hadn’t occurred to him earlier how the 
vagaries of legal cockfighting presented puzzles more satisfying in their 
solution than those of atoms and energy.
	“He okay?”
	“Seems to be.  Hasn’t done much of this.  Being an expert 
witness, I mean.”
	They both knew that could be good and bad.  Good, 
because he wouldn’t look to the jury like a hired gun, someone with a 
Ph.D. who ran around renting himself out to the highest bidder.  Bad, 
because he was an amateur at this.  At least the hired guns knew the ropes, 
knew how to work a jury and not get caught in traps during cross-exam.  
For professional experts, their performance at each trial was like a tennis 
player’s at each tournament:  you needed to score enough wins, put on an 
impressive enough show, to stay on the circuit and keep getting invited 
back.  Didn’t matter if you were honest, if you were smart as hell or 
preserved your professional dignity.  What mattered was if your side won 
the case.
	Rebecca sat down heavily, or so it seemed to her, waited 
until Steinholz was looking away and gently massaged the bottom of her 
left breast, lifting it to relieve some of the pressure on the poorly-designed 
ligament trying gamely to hold it up;  she feared Cooper’s droop worse 
than cancer.  When Steinholz turned back again, she put her forearms on 
the table and rested her chest against them.  It helped a little, and it brought 
her eyes to the case file arrayed before her.  Universal Data Systems v. 
Tamarack Ltd.  Another case of a computer vendor at war with a 
dissatisfied customer, each alleging satanic behavior on the part of the 
other, all because they had been too anxious to close a deal to bother 
worrying about the fine details.  Now, backed up by phalanxes of well-paid 
lawyers, they were ripping each other’s throats out, long past caring that 
the cost of pursuing the case would likely exceed the amount of any 
recovery.  It wasn’t business anymore;  both sides were after justice.  
Rebecca hated when that happened, but she made a good living at it, 
because once the antagonists crossed that threshold, any notion of civility, 
compromise, sound business judgment or common decency evaporated in 
the icy vapor of their blind intrasigency.  And whenever businessmen begin 
fighting with their balls instead of their brains, lawyers start phoning their 
decorators, auto dealers and stockbrokers.
	UDS had pitched Tamarack hard on their completely 
integrated order entry and accounting system.  They were state-of-the-art 
— who wasn’t? — they had a list of references a mile long and they were 
going to make Tamarack their showcase installation;  say, when we’re all 
done, would it be all right if we brought prospective customers over so we 
can show off what a good job we did for you?  They warbled rapturous 
arias about solutions rather than computer programs, and promised a 
system so advanced that Tamarack’s productivity would triple inside of a 
year while their competitors opened their veins in frustration at being left in 
the dust.
	Tamarack, a sporting goods manufacturer, lapped it all up, 
dreaming of the tours they would give their customers, the ads they would 
run with photographs of employees happily ensconced before computer 
terminals, shipping out product so fast they’d probably have to buy their 
own fleet of trucks.  
	But along the way they got a little sloppy explaining to the 
UDS analysts how their business ran, even forgetting to mention a satellite 
operation in Wisconsin that needed to be hooked into the main system.
	And nobody remembered to factor in how much support 
would be required and which side would pay for it, and what would happen 
when changes were required or transient power failures blew the data bases 
out or how partial shipments would be handled and a thousand other 
seemingly small details that nevertheless had a profound effect on the 
architecture of the new system.  Nobody even thought about how to 
prepare current employees for the changes that would occur in their jobs.  
	The problem-riddled computer system almost wrecked 
Tamarack while UDS nearly went under trying to fix all the problems.  
Someone at Tamarack with half a brain left finally pulled the plug on the 
whole mess and got the company back on its original Stone Age but 
functional systems before it was too late.
	Rebecca sighed as she thumbed through only one of several 
huge stacks of paper on the conference table.  She knew that, within a 
small margin of error, both sides were equally at fault.  UDS had oversold 
its capabilities, and Tamarack had failed to exercise due diligence in 
determining the suitability of the system for its needs.  Both sides were 
grossly negligent in failing to clearly specify everybody’s rights and 
obligations in the written agreement.  It was bad contracts, not bad faith, 
that was the real cause of the custom computer industry’s deservedly rotten 
reputation.
	Rebecca’s firm was representing Tamarack, not because 
they believed in that company’s version of events but because Ray 
Tamarack had called them first.  Welch Tobias & Wysocki would have 
been glad to take either side of the case;  it made little difference, because 
the outcome would have nothing whatsoever to do with who was right.  
Everybody other than the warring executives already knew that it wasn’t 
really anybody’s fault or, more correctly, it was everybody’s fault, which 
was essentially the same thing.
	Rebecca stifled a groan as a new pain arose behind her eyes.  
Her tongue felt gummy and thick and she had a sudden craving for a glass 
of ice water, but at that moment the door opened and Ehrenright walked 
back into the conference room.  Behind him, his steps tentative, walked 
Jules Dirksen.  The expert.
	
	Rebecca didn’t like the tentative steps.  This was the 
point in the case in which their expert was supposed to bounce jauntily into 
the meeting and tell the assembled attorneys that his analysis was complete 
and he was ready to single-handedly win their case for them.  At two 
hundred bucks an hour of unsupervised invoice inflation, it wasn’t too 
much to ask, but no such barely restrained enthusiasm issued forth from 
Mr. Jules Dirksen, CDP, CCP and CMC, not to mention CSP.
	“Jules,”  Rebecca said, extending her hand.  “Nice to see 
you.”
	Dirksen took her hand, perhaps a little too earnestly, as 
though eager to establish some human contact so she wouldn’t hate him 
after he hit her with the bad news.  “You as well, Rebecca.  You look 
great.”
	She smiled at him, thinking, That what you say to your male 
clients?  You look great?  Nice suit?  “Thanks, Jules.  Nice of you to 
notice.”
	He beamed back, delighted that his Dale Carnegie-furnished 
charm was working its magic on her, softening her up.
	“This is Janine,”  Rebecca said, indicating the woman sitting 
with her pad at the ready.  “She’s going to be taking some notes for us.”
	Dirksen nodded at Janine perfunctorily, then said to 
Rebecca, “You know, I never put the names together — Verona — but 
wasn’t Wendy Verona your sister?”
	Unbeknownst to Dirksen, the air in the room abruptly 
dropped several degrees.  Steinholz stirred uncomfortably while Ehrenright 
winced openly.  Of the two associate attorneys, Ehrenright was the one 
who actually looked like a prototypical nerd.  He kept his curly hair short, 
so much so that the thick frames of his nondescript black glasses stuck out 
behind his ears.  He wasn’t careless about his appearance, but wasn’t 
fastidious in his choice of clothing either, his tastes in suits and shirts 
running more to the expedient than the fashionable.  Virtually any shirt in 
his wardrobe could go with just about any suit, and the same was true of all 
his ties.  Yet his image also belied his persona:  it was Ehrenright who, 
between the two, depended more on his insight into the human psyche than 
he did upon the kind of encyclopedic knowledge Arno Steinholz was able 
to call upon.
	“Yes, and she still is,”  Rebecca answered evenly.  Was.  
That was how everybody phrased it, like Wendy didn’t exist anymore since 
her bright star winked out of the heavens.
	“What a tragedy.  A real tragedy.  Where is she now?”
	“New York.”
	“Some coffee, Jules?”  Steinholz offered, and when he saw 
no immediate reaction,  “Water, tea…?”
	“Ah, tea.  Perfect.”
	Effete prick, Rebecca thought, pushing her sister out of her 
mind.  Dirksen didn’t have a Ph.D. so he went out of his way to affect an 
academic air, maybe impress jurors with it, not experienced enough to 
know that jurors suspected academics almost as much as they suspected 
lawyers.  
	Rebecca mentally pulled herself up short;  what the hell was 
she doing?  The guy hadn’t been in the room for two minutes and she was 
ready to yank his heart out through his throat.  Settle down!
	She pointed to a seat and Dirksen sat down immediately, 
nervously fiddling with his overstuffed schoolbag attaché.  Rebecca let him 
go on for a bit, highlighting the contrast between the computer specialist’s 
obvious anxiety and her own, equally obvious, cool.  “Been working 
hard?”  she asked casually.
	“Oh, yes,”  he said, nodding vigorously, making sure she 
was appreciative of his Herculean labors on the client’s behalf.  “Takes an 
awfully long time to go through all this stuff, eh?”  He patted the nearest 
stack of paper affectionately, as though he and the thousand sheets had 
become close friends during their many long hours together.
	Rebecca flashed him back a knowing smile.  “Don’t I know 
it though.  But we sure do appreciate your efforts, Jules.  I want you to 
know that.”  She dripped sincerity, and it caught Dirksen off guard.  
Sincerity is everything, Allen Wysocki liked to say.  Once you can fake 
that, the rest is easy.
	“Ah.  Yes, well, only too glad to be of help, hm?”
	Just the reaction she was fishing for.  Now he was helping 
them, and admitting it.  A few seconds ago he had been an expert, a hired 
genius sitting lonely and friendless in the cold tower of his purported 
objectivity, fully prepared to cast down judgments that might commit them 
to eternal damnation if need be, even though they were the ones who were 
paying him, heroic in his determination not to be swayed by the ugly 
exigencies of commerce and advocacy.
	Now he was glad to be of help.  Jules, my man, do you 
really think we fork over that kind of dough for you to do a book report?  
Rebecca spotted Ehrenright through the open door and timed her question 
carefully.  “So.  What’ve you got for us?”
	Just as Dirksen was about to answer, Ehrenright came in 
carrying a cup of hot tea in an elegant china cup, a wedge of lemon perched 
on the saucer, a linen napkin underneath.  Dirksen accepted it gratefully, 
and was now in their debt as he framed his answer.  He fumbled with the 
lemon and tried to speak at the same time.  “Actually, Rebecca, I’m afraid 
you may not like all that I have to say on the matter.”  He glanced at her 
out of the corner of his eye, expecting anger and surprise, quite prepared to 
deal with both, having rehearsed for this conversation for most of the past 
two days while pressing the firm’s accounting department to get his invoice 
current before this meeting.  Rebecca could see that he was determined not 
to be pushed around.
	“I doubt that, Jules.  I just want to get the opinion of 
someone I trust, to get a handle on what really happened.”  She saw him 
stop squeezing the lemon.  “Whatever you have to tell me, it can only 
help.”
	The lemon slipped from between his fingers and landed on 
the bare tabletop. Dirksen grabbed the napkin from underneath the saucer, 
spilling some tea in the process, and dabbed as casually as he could at the 
moisture threatening to stain the rosewood surface.  “Oh, okay.  Good.  
Well” — he cleared his throat    —  “it’s not entirely clear to me that 
Universal failed to adequately design all the features Tamarack required.  
Not clear at all.”
	Rebecca nodded, creasing her eyebrows in thought, taking 
notes on her legal pad.  “Okay.  Well, that’s too bad.  What else?”
	Dirksen paused in his dabbing, not believing that she was so 
easily dismissing a key portion of her case strategy.  He blinked several 
times, not quite knowing what to do next, since he had planned a good 
hour of explanation about how he had come to this devastating conclusion.  
He forgot the tea and the lemon and scrambled for his notes.
	Rebecca couldn’t hide a grimace:  hadn’t Steinholz told him 
not to write anything down?  Once Dirksen was declared an expert, the 
other side had the right to subpoena anything he committed to paper, not 
just his working notes but even his appointment book or his grocery lists.
	That’s why Janine Osterreich was with them, taking notes.  
It was a sneaky trick Rebecca had invented to circumvent the rules of 
discovery.  Janine was taking notes for the attorneys, and whatever she 
wrote down was privileged and unavailable to the opposition.  This way 
they could have a written record of the expert’s often-convoluted thought 
processes for him to refer back to without requiring them to reveal 
anything to the other side.  
	Rebecca shot Steinholz a withering look, but he only 
shrugged and nodded helplessly:  I did tell him;  what was I supposed to 
do, hook a camera to his tie?
	“Here we are.  Oh, yes.  Testing.  Tricky subject.”  And 
more billable hours to unravel the Gordian knot, no doubt.  “You see, 
you’re saying that Tamarack’s testing of the software failed.  But — and 
here’s the tricky part — if we’re saying in the first place that the system 
wasn’t designed properly, then how could it be expected to pass any 
tests?”
	Rebecca only stared at him, so Ehrenright said,  “I don’t get 
it,”  despite having gotten it perfectly, as had Rebecca.
	Dirksen bit readily, his hands flapping excitedly.  “Follow 
me on this.  We’re saying that the system wasn’t designed correctly, right?”  
He waited for answering nods.  “Well, if that’s the case, then how could it 
be expected to pass any tests?  Don’t you get it?  It’s like a double 
whammy.  If you didn’t design it right in the first place, well of course it 
isn’t going to pass any tests!  It was the wrong stuff from the beginning, so 
if you hit UDS for screwing that up, it’s hardly fair to then go after them 
for failing acceptance tests!”  He spread his hands and sat back in triumph.
	Rebecca wanted to bash his smug face in, wanted to say, 
Listen, you flaming asshole:   you don’t decide what’s fair.  You just 
answer the questions we ask you and don’t go off writing the other side’s 
closing statement to the jury!  Instead, she nodded, admiration written all 
over her face.  “Now I get it.  Very clever, Jules.  Good piece of 
reasoning.”  She looked to Ehrenright and Steinholz for confirmation and 
got the expected looks of agreement.
	Buoyed by the approbation of the attorneys, Dirksen 
continued on, happily devastating every piece of their intended strategy, 
fully expecting that at any moment they would throw up their hands, 
laughing, ready to go and tell their client to drop the case because he, Jules 
Dirksen, had proven beyond all question that it was hopeless.  
	He finished, then sat back, beaming.  “Questions?”
	Rebecca threw up her hands and let them drop back onto 
the table.  “Goddamn, Jules, you are a piece of work.  All of that in just a 
few weeks.”  Assenting murmurs from her colleagues.  “Hey, I gotta say it:  
I am truly impressed.  Worth twice your billing rate.”  She leaned forward 
and poked him in the arm, whispering conspiratorially,  “But don’t tell the 
client I said that, okay?”
	Dirksen laughed, his eyes crinkling in self-satisfied mirth.  
He picked imaginary lint off his pant leg.  “Well, you been in the business 
as long as I have —”  He looked around, the sentence requiring no 
completion.
	“You the man, Jules,”  Steinholz said.
	
	“So.  Where do we go from here?”  Dirksen asked nobody 
in particular.
	“Right.”  Rebecca unbuttoned one sleeve of her blouse, then 
the other, looking down at her notes as she rolled each cuff back one turn.  
She sensed Ehrenright and Steinholz staring at her expectantly, felt like she 
was poised on the starting blocks of an Olympic swimming pool, thought 
she could literally feel endorphins squirting out of her brain and soaking her 
cells like a powerful narcotic.  She felt the cramps subsiding, her headache 
receding and the ache in her back starting to relax.
	“Mind if we go through all of this a step at a time, Jules?”  
She flashed him a brilliant smile.
	“Absolutely not!”  he shot back in delight, standing to take 
off his jacket and loosen his tie.
	“Okay then,”  Rebecca said in a let’s-get-to-work-tone.  
“Now, you say that you don’t necessarily believe that Universal failed to 
adequately design all the features Tamarack required, right?”
	“That’s correct.  Design of a system is a two-way street, 
you see, a, um, a collaboration.  Yes, that’s it.  A collaboration.  Equal 
responsibility on both sides.”
	“Explain that, Jules,”  Ehrenright prompted him.  The 
Verona technique:  Keep ‘em yapping away until they give you the 
opening.
	Dirksen turned eagerly to Ehrenright, happy at the 
opportunity to expound on his craft.  “There are two sides to every system.  
The first is, what is the thing supposed to do, and second, how do you 
program the computer to do it.  Now, the what is it supposed to do, that’s 
the customer’s responsibility.  See, they know how their business runs:  
what paper moves around, what reports do I need, how do I build an order.  
They have to tell the computer guys that so they have enough information 
to go off and program the system.”
	“And you’re telling us that Tamarack didn’t do a good job 
of teaching UDS about their needs?”  Rebecca asked.
	Dirksen held up his hands defensively.  “Not necessarily.  
I’m only saying that, given the documents I’ve looked at, it’s not entirely 
clear.  And if Tamarack didn’t do a good job, then how could UDS be 
expected to program a good system?”
	Rebecca threw down her pencil and leaned her head way 
back.
	Time for the kill.  
	“Jules, lemme ask you something, make sure I understand,”  
she said as casually as she could, staring at the ceiling.  “These UDS guys, 
they’re supposed to be the experts, am I right?  The ones with three 
hundred combined years of building systems?”  She was quoting directly 
from their marketing literature.
	“That’s how they represented themselves, true.”
	“Okay.”  She looked back down, elbows on the table, chin 
resting on top of her hands, as though working through some logic in her 
mind and thinking out loud.  “Okay.  Now refresh me here, because I don’t 
really remember.  How much experience did Tamarack have in putting 
together computer systems?”
	Dirksen smiled amiably, indicating that he saw the trap and 
wasn’t falling for it.  “You know that already, Rebecca.  They’re not in the 
computer business, how could they be expected to — ”
	“No, no, no.”  She waved her hand in front of her face.  
“What I mean, did they have any experience working with a vendor to 
design a computer system before?”
	Dirksen thumbed some papers in front of him without 
looking at them.  “None that I know of.  They were using some off-the-
shelf stuff from years back.”
	“Yeah, I thought it was something like that.  So these guys 
had never worked with anybody before to design a system.”
	Dirksen had to admit that was true.
	“And another thing — and I’m trying to remember back to 
UDS’s proposal to Tamarack — UDS said they were world-class experts 
in order-entry and accounting systems for medium-size businesses, didn’t 
they?”
	She didn’t wait for an answer.  “So let’s work through this,”  
she continued.  “I don’t want to put words in your mouth, believe me, but 
is there a case to be made that the responsibility for getting Tamarack to 
fully describe its custom requirements really rested on UDS’s shoulders?”

	She saw Dirksen mulling it over, and pushed forward.  “It’s 
like, suppose I go to an auto-repair shop, I got something screwed up in 
my car, right?  I say to the guy, ‘It’s making this weirdo grinding noise, and 
every time I switch this thingamabob over here, black stuff comes out of 
the exhaust and I hear a loud pop.’  Now, I don’t tell him that the 
carburetor is dirty, or that the manifold rings are shot or I got blowback in 
the exhaust.  That’s his job.  Else why do I pay him?”
	Dirksen tapped his lip and began to nod slightly, considering 
but not necessarily agreeing just yet.
	“Don’t get me wrong, Jules,”  Rebecca said.  “I’m not 
trying to say that there was no fault on Tamarack’s part.  Hell, we’re all 
smart enough to know that there’s a lot of blame to pass around.  All I’m 
asking, can you as a professional reasonably say that the UDS people, who 
are supposed to be the experts at this stuff, did they have a responsibility to 
pull what they needed out of Tamarack employees, and to know if what 
they were getting was good stuff?  Based on that mile-long list of other 
projects UDS presented in their proposal?”
	Dirksen rocked his head back and forth.  “It’s an interesting 
point,”  he mused out loud.
	More scholarly bullshit.  “Yeah.  You don’t have to opine 
as to whose fault anything is, Jules.  But can you say that UDS had the 
primary responsibility to ensure that the system matched the customer’s 
needs?”
	“Probably,”  Dirksen admitted.  “Probably.  I see what 
you’re driving at.”
	“Here’s a possibility,”  Steinholz chimed in.  “They fix-
priced the contract, if I remember correctly.  Wasn’t that the case?   So, 
Jules, isn’t it possible that UDS, in its zeal to win the business, 
underestimated the amount of work it would take and did everything they 
could to force their existing system on Tamarack?”
	Way too harsh!  “Not purposely, Jules,”  Rebecca said.  
“But doesn’t it make sense that here and there they figured, well, it would 
be easier for Tamarack to change some procedures rather than to re-
program the whole darned system?”
	Dirksen stayed silent.  Thinking it over.
	“Lemme put it another way,”  Rebecca pressed.  “In your 
experience, which is considerable, is this a common occurrence in the 
business?”
	“No question about it.  No question.  But my problem here, 
I look through all these papers and I don’t necessarily find hard evidence of 
it.”
	Again with the legal analysis.  “Something you gotta 
understand here, Jules.”  Rebecca leaned forward and got serious.  “You’re 
an expert.  That means something real specific in the law.  It means you’re 
allowed to express opinions based on your experience, without 
mathematical proofs.  You say to the jury, look, the last eighty times I was 
in a situation like this, such-and-such happened.  And if you get hammered 
on cross, you can say,  ‘Well, I’m an expert and that’s my opinion!’  That’s 
allowed.”
	As Rebecca leaned back to let that sink in, Ehrenright said,  
“The only requirement is that you believe it, Jules.  That you feel 
comfortable in your professional capacity.  It’s all up to you as an expert.”
	The subtle flattery was working.  They could see Dirksen, 
the center of attention, the man holding all the cards, struggling to help 
them out, to tailor his opinion-making mechanism without compromising 
his integrity.  His eyebrows creased as he asked,  “Why wouldn’t Tamarack 
tell UDS that they had a whole other operation in Wisconsin?”
	Steinholz shot back,  “Why on earth wouldn’t UDS ask 
Tamarack if they only had the one location?”
	“Seems about the most obvious gosh-darned question in the 
world, Jules,”  Ehrenright piped in.  “Wouldn’t you have asked that in this 
situation?”
	“Certainly,”  Dirksen had no choice but to answer.
	“So again,”  Rebecca picked up, “with you feeling perfectly 
comfortable, isn’t it reasonable for you to testify that UDS, the computer 
professionals in this transaction, that they had the primary responsibility for 
ensuring that the spec’s for the system got put together properly?”
	Dirksen’s response should have been quicker in coming, so 
Ehrenright prompted him.  “Isn’t that the responsibility you assume when 
you do these kinds of projects?”
	“Yes,”  Dirksen said finally, slapping his hand down on his 
thigh.  “I sure do.”
	“Shouldn’t other experts?”
	“Definitely.  Irresponsible not to!”
	“I think I understand where you’re coming from on this one, 
Jules,”  Rebecca said, making it sound like a request for clarification on his 
thinking, like she was still working it out in her mind.
	“What you’re saying,”  Steinholz offered,  “is that, even if 
Tamarack employees weren’t the sharpest in the world, UDS should have 
been smart enough to know if they were heading toward a good spec.  
Right?”
	“Right,”  Dirksen answered, fully on board now.  “Any 
good computer professional has that responsibility.”
	“So you have no problem saying that in your testimony.  I 
mean, you believe it, speaking as a professional.”
	“I most certainly do.”
	Ehrenright grinned widely and clapped his hands together.  
“Terrific!  Well done, Jules.”  Rebecca and Steinholz nodded in agreement, 
and Dirksen beamed in the halo of their approval.
	Rebecca raised her eyebrows toward Janine, who nodded 
back that, yes, she’d gotten it all down on paper.  Rebecca would use it as 
a reminder for Dirksen when the actual testimony preparation began.
	 “So let’s move on.”  When you’ve made the sale, stop 
selling.  “Now, on your point about this testing business — ”
	There were two sharp knocks on the conference room door, 
which opened immediately thereafter.  A face appeared, looking at Rebecca 
without even acknowledging that anybody else was present.  “Verona, got 
a minute?”  said Allen Wysocki, managing partner of the firm.
	Rebecca wondered if the other people in the room could 
sense the instant tension she felt, the same autonomic discomfort that 
welled up whenever she was in the same room with Wysocki.  It took an 
effort of will even to be civil toward him.
	She flipped her hand palm up on the table:  Is this really 
necessary? 
	Wysocki sniffled and pressed his lips together:  Yup.
	“Guys, why don’t we take a break?”  she said.  “Couple 
minutes, max.  We’re doing real well, here, Jules, and I don’t want to break 
the momentum.”  She patted his arm, then rose to follow Wysocki out the 
door and down to his office.  Strict rules of the firm forbade hallway or 
elevator conversations on sensitive matters, and when Wysocki didn’t say a 
word on the way, Rebecca followed suit and stayed silent until they were 
seated in his expansive corner office with the door closed.
	
	“This important, Allen?”  She jerked a thumb back over 
her shoulder.  “This geek is doing the ethics tango, and I’m busting my 
chops turning him around.”
	“Surprised you got Janine Osterreich in there,”  Wysocki 
said.  “Thought you didn’t like her.”
	“I don’t.  Spends half her time at the dentist — ”
	“So she’s got bad teeth — ”
	“  — and when she does decide to come in, she’s a pain in 
the ass.”
	Wysocki gave her a So are you look but let it go.  “Then 
how come — ”
	“Because she was the only one available.  You pull me out 
of that meeting to discuss personnel problems?”
	Wysocki seemed not to hear.  “Can you settle this, Becky?”
	She blinked.  “That supposed to be a serious question?”
	They both knew that nearly all of these kinds of cases 
settled out of court before the commencement of trial.  Even hyped-up, 
vengeful executives weren’t crazy enough to trust a jury of ordinary 
citizens with a complex technical case.  Who’d bet their company on that 
kind of crapshoot?  First you took everybody’s depositions, including the 
experts from both sides, and made a careful analysis of who was telling the 
better story.  Then you sent all the involved parties back to their offices so 
the attorneys could do some real negotiating, and when you thought you 
had a workable deal, the lawyers went back and tried to sell it to their 
clients, using threats and intimidation if necessary to browbeat them into it.  
Once in a while you actually started the trial, and settled a few days into it 
after one side or the other got scared.  On even rarer occasions, you 
actually finished the trial, turning the case over to a jury.  But if you had to 
do that, it was generally because the opposing parties had really lost their 
minds and were so consumed with rage that they wouldn’t listen to their 
own lawyers, which made you wonder why they’d hired you in the first 
place.  That wasn’t going to happen in this case.  That’s why Rebecca 
wasn’t too concerned about shamelessly manipulating Dirksen, and 
possibly confusing him:  he may get deposed, but he’d never wind up 
testifying at trial.
	“What I mean is,”  Wysocki said calmly,  “can you settle it 
now?”
	Rebecca, Ehrenright and Steinholz had been billing nearly 
90 hours a week on this case, around $17,000.  It could easily continue at 
that rate for another two months, and Wysocki was not normally so 
sanguine about giving up that kind of cash flow.
	“What is it, Allen?”  She fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat, 
anxious to get back to the conference room.  Even more anxious to get out 
of Wysocki’s office, out of his presence.  She could feel her dysmennorheal 
surliness begin to reassert itself.
	“Something’s come up.”
	“No shit.  What?”
	“Computer thing.”
	Gee whiz.
	“Department of Justice.”
	That got her attention.  “Somebody’s suing in federal 
court?”
	Wysocki shook his head.  “It’s a criminal case, Becky.  
Felony violation of national security.”
	“Sounds juicy.  Who’re the guilty bastards?”
	Wysocki uncharacteristically toyed absently with his tie and 
watched his fingers work as he answered without looking at her.
	“Tera-Tech Integrated.”
	Rebecca looked vacantly straight ahead, then winced as a 
fresh cramp hit her full force.
			

* © Copyright 1997, 1988 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. - All Rights Reserved


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