Would you like to read more #2: Cat Heir
“Inoperable?” I couldn’t believe what my mentor was saying. She was Iron Lilly, Partner at the premier law firm Cadwallader, Swaine & Taft. She was invulnerable.
“With today’s tech. In five years?” Lilly raised her glass of plum wine on the rocks, saluted me in the dim light of the bar, and drank.
I took a slug from my own cup of hot sake. I’d never noticed before how cold Kobeyake set its HVAC. The restaurant was a favorite hangout of Cadwallader lawyers, but I’d never before been there in late afternoon. When it was empty.
“So,” said Lilly, “how did the Twenty-Eighth Amendment drafting go?”
We hadn’t debriefed my Washington, D.C. trip. On my way back to the office, Lilly had messaged me to meet her at Kobeyake. Dropping my carryon at the big lobby reception desk at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, I’d sprinted over. Hoping for a pat on the head to make up for three awful days hobnobbing with the powers behind the Capital curtains.
Or, more accurately, watching my younger sibling hobnob.
In D.C., I’d learned I was clever little lamb, yes I was, but just one of the flock. Not even a sheepdog, much less a shepherd.
But Lilly—I knew she was a shepherd. How could all that power of mind, personality, and achievement just disappear? And without her, how could I even pretend to carry on advising people I now knew thought of me as a talented bug?
“The client was pleased,” I forced myself to say. “But you already knew that.” Wendell, our law firm’s AI, would have kept my supervising Partner informed of everything important. Not that anything that happened in D.C. was important now. “Lilly, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. This is so unfair. I can’t imagine Cadwallader without—“
She leaned forward on her stool and put her fingers to my lips. She’d never touched me before.
“I’m not dead, yet. And with your help, maybe I’ll survive.”
She laughed. Her head swung a little loosely as she sat back. Was she drunk?
“I’m going to fight the tumor, and I’m going to fight my Partners.”
Fight the tumor, yay, I was all ears. But fight the other Cadwallader Partners? One goddess against the combined might of Olympus? She was drunk.
“And you’re going to help me.”
I walked dizzily back to One Chase, picked up my carryon from the daytime doorman, Pete Li, and he steered me into a cab, muttering something about a storm coming. Staggering up two flights to my third floor apartment near Chinatown, I flopped on the bed, closed my eyes, and drunk-dialed the Net.
I had to learn more about brains. And brain law. And brain litigation. “Glioblastoma,” I shouted aloud. Images poured onto my contact lenses through my implant. The implant I had been so proud of, directly linking me to Cadwallader’s AI. Pride goeth…
There, a big picture of a brain, bright red cancer cells magnified zillions of times. When I stared at red, it spread. So would Lilly’s glioblastoma spread from her forebrain into her cerebrum, cerebellum, amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, and hippocampus; pulping memory, reasoning, self. But the cancer might not infiltrate her brainstem at all, leaving her heart pumping, without plan or purpose.
Thunder thundered and bullets sprayed the roof above me. Rain exploded and swept away the hail. Deep in the images Wendell streamed past my closed eyes, the hair on my forearms rose.
Now I was staring at Lilly’s scans. Her brain, her unique brain, the marvelous matrix that spun her brilliance. I focused on a tiny red dot in her frontal lobe. Tiny. With daughter cells tinier still. Multiplying like raindrops. I threw up over the side of my bed.
Alcohol, like chemo, was poison. Whether ‘twas nobler in the mind to poison your glioblastoma, or slice out a sea of tumors, and by opposing end you…
Next morning I ignored my hangover, cleaned the vomit off my floor, and forced myself to start my usual run from my apartment to the office. Jogging under the trees along the dike protecting downtown New York from the rising sea, I struggled to get my mind around Lilly’s idea.
Freezing her brain before the glioma ruined it made perfect sense to me. Lilly wasn’t an athlete or a gourmet or, far as I knew, a sexual being: Lilly was her mind, and all her passions were intellectual. She was the perfect Cadwallader Partner: brilliant, articulate, focused and totally devoted to the firm. She didn’t even have a spouse; she brought a different date every year to the Cadwallader winter “prom.”
Sometimes I couldn’t even find a date, but at least I had a parrot. Or had a parrot, inherited from my uncle, until something burned on my stove and the pot’s old non-stick coating fumes suffocated Tex. I hoped it was quick.
But the glioblastoma was the worst, never-ending torture you could design for Lilly. It would be like when the alien Kzin cut out pieces of Lieutenant Nora Argamentine’s brain to tame her: slowly crippling Nora’s speech, her memory, her insight and her will.
I was running faster and faster, too fast for my nose filters, even after the cleansing rain; I forced myself back to a jog and tried to breathe.
How could Lilly dump her case on me? Pin her hopes on me? It made no sense whatsoever was to choose a Fourth Year Associate in her Trusts & Estates Department to represent her in a litigation. I wasn’t a litigator, much less a health care litigator versed in the arguments it would take to persuade a court in a matter of first impression. “Please Judge, I may look like a novice whippersnapper who ought to stick to drafting wills and trusts, but trust me. Freezing Lilly isn’t really killing her and then praying for her resurrection, whatever the old caselaw says. Freezing Lilly is medical treatment.”
“Chuck” Applebaum, the mighty Chairman of the Litigation Department, who I was going up against, would laugh himself to flinders.
Or had Lilly picked me to be sure she’d lose? Was Iron Lilly committing suicide by Associate?
But that made no sense, either.
I jogged down the dike’s steep steps to street level, jogged in place waiting for the crossing sensor to recognize my priority, contemplated throwing myself in front of the taxis ferrying financial spiders to their web-sites. I was already as dead as the pigeon bobbing in the puddle over the storm drain.
It jerked its head away as I bent to stare at it.
It was alive.