The next morning, Jose is at the church, talking to the fire chief. Another man meets them and they talk a few minutes about if anyone can prove Ramon is responsible. He asks if they can tell he’s a lawyer.
“Not a lot,” Clayton admitted. “But I bet you’re hell in the courtroom.”
“I’m known as El Diablo,” the man said with a smirk. “But you can all me Ted.” He shook hands all around, chuckling at their awed expressions.
“Why do they call you The Devil?” Maddie asked him, apart from the others. They busily mixed adobe as people filled their buckets.
Ted raised an eyebrow. “You can keep a secret?”
“Sure.” She crossed her heart with a fingertip.
Ted chuckled. “In court, we usually put your hand on a Bible, but that will do.” He leaned closer, lowering his voice. “I was in prison.”
“In pri—” Maddie caught herself before she screeched. “Sorry.”
“Youthful error,” he replied quietly. “I made some bad friends and walked down a long, dark road. But I learned my lesson. While I was there, I started reading law books. There are a lot of prison lawyers. Guys defend themselves because they can’t afford a lawyer or one won’t touch their case. I learned fast, got some outreach classes and got accepted into law school after I got out. I passed the bar my first time—flying colors.” His arm swept out from him as if he wiped a table top. “Actually,” he chuckled. “Not so flying, but I passed. While I was in prison, I helped a lot of guys with their cases. I had a real talent for it. Now, I mostly take on the hard luck cases, helping guys who have been in the system a long time.”
“You free criminals?”
Ted gave her a patient stare. “Not all the people behind bars belong there. I help the ones who deserve a second chance. Last time Ramon was arrested, he wanted me to defend him. I wouldn’t.”
“Why not? Couldn’t he pay?”
“He was guilty. I don’t defend a man I know is bad. His money—blood all over it. Of our people. I won’t help a man like that.”
“He must hate you a lot.”
“He hates everyone. He is full of it.”
“But why El Diablo?” she asked again.
He stood up, spreading his arms wide. “Do I look like Prince Charming?” He chuckled when she shook her head. “I got a couple high profile cases and took the D.A. apart. My client was supposed to be executed, but new evidence came up that could prove his innocence. No one wanted to look at it. I made them. Made a lot of people unhappy and a couple people lost their jobs—including a judge.”
Maddie leaned on her shovel, gazing in admiration at the man beside her. “Ted, I’m really glad you’re my friend. If I never need a bad ass lawyer, I’ll call you.”
Ted laughed loudly. “Thank you. If I ever need someone to shovel sand while I mix adobe, I’ll call you.”
Maddie realized he really wanted her to shovel some sand. Laughing, she did so.