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Gina Delaney was not your average defense attorney; in fact average was not a word you could safely use to describe anything about her.
Apart from being an incurable romantic, Gina believed in the basic goodness of all human beings and this set her apart from just about every other defense lawyer she ever met on the bustling streets of Los Angeles.
She had the looks of a movie star and most of her California friends still urged her, on those sultry summer evenings when she frequented the glittering local nightclubs with them, to give up her “silly legal gig” and to join them as they searched for eligible bachelors on the Platinum Mile, as the sunset strip was also referred to by the busty blondes and millionaire businessmen who met there daily with honest dreams and hidden agendas.
Gina had black hair and a gaze in her blue eyes that could crash right through the mental barriers of any jury member or opposing counsel. It was easy to detect the blend of her father’s Irish arrogance and her mother’s French seduction when you found yourself staring at her as she daunted fearlessly past you on Avalon Boulevard on her way to court.
Despite her romantic tendencies, Gina was a brilliant Trial Lawyer and a tough young woman who could see a lie coming long before it escaped the lips of the person unwise enough to try selling it to her.
Gina Delaney was ready and able to face any obstacle placed in her path on her way to inevitable success.
But she was not ready for Tony Vargas.
No-one, I hasten to add, was ever ready for Tony Vargas. He simply did not fit the mental picture his victims might have had of a 28 year old burglar and jewel thief; in fact he looked like he grew up and belonged within the confines of an exclusive suburb with wealthy yuppies and bored young trophy brides.
“Tony, you get your naughty bum inside this second or I tell your daddy when he come home!”, his mother used to yell in her broken Mexican English whenever she saw Tony hustling the other kids outside with card games and penny-scams in Skid Row, the slum area of Los Angeles where they all lived together in heartbreaking poverty. Tony’s mother did not want to see her son growing up to be a petty criminal like her good-for- nothing husband, who spent all day drinking and looking for things to steal and people to rob.
“Ah mamá, you are the most beautiful woman in the world when you’re angry!”, Tony used to exclaim when he strolled back into the little shack they called home and, even at 7 years of age, his boyish charm was overwhelming and irresistible. His facial features were not those of a young Mexican boy living in poverty. Tony Vargas, to be precise, did not look Mexican at all and his mother never quite managed to explain, to her husband’s drunken satisfaction, why Tony looked so much like one of the local male Hollywood actors, whose house Tony’s mother used to clean on Saturdays.
Tony was not really a bad person. He was just a dreamer who happened to do bad things when he wasn’t concentrating.
The strangest part of Tony’s upbringing was probably the way in which everyone liked him and continued to like him, even after they fell victim to one of his scams. Like the boys who gave him their money to bet on a football match that never took place; or the pretty girl next door who showed Tony where her mother kept her wedding ring, which disappeared shortly thereafter. It was as if they all got caught up in his dreams and didn’t really care if they suffered for it – Tony Vargas with his velvet brown eyes and dreamy voice was the closest thing to hope they ever encountered.
Gina Delaney was expecting a scruffy looking Mexican, with the air of desperation surrounding a man recently released on bail, when her secretary buzzed to inform her that her afternoon client had arrived for his consultation.
Instead she was surprised by a dark, handsome man in his late twenties when Tony nonchalantly strolled into her office.
“Ah mi querido, I’m Tony and you are the most beautiful woman in this town!”, he confidently announced as he held out a strong hand for her to shake.