“Lawyers in Love,” by Cameron Vanderwerf

Dec 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“I can’t keep up with what’s been going down. I think my heart must just be slowing down.”
–Jackson Browne

Not long into the trial of the Steubenville Strangler, the prosecutor and the defense attorney fell deeply in love with each other. For obvious reasons, this was not an ideal development, and the two lawyers decided to keep this fact concealed from the rest of the courtroom.

They had both been consummate professionals up to that point, never letting irrelevant things such as “feelings” get in the way of their jobs. But as soon as they saw each other across the aisle of the courtroom, they couldn’t resist what they both instantly felt. They arose as the judge entered, but they continued to look at each other instead of facing front.

From that point forward, they tried to be discreet, at least at work. The prosecutor was relentless in presenting the evidence—which was quite substantial—and the defense attorney employed every tactic to cast even the faintest shadow of a doubt on every assertion.

Meanwhile, in the evenings, they often booked a room under an assumed name at a motel in the neighboring county. There, they would revel in each other’s company and very occasionally discuss work.

“Hey, can I ask something off the record?” the prosecutor inquired one evening as they lay in bed together.

“Go ahead,” said the defense attorney.

“He definitely killed all those hikers, right?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

And then they made sweet love.

As the trial progressed, their passion for each other only grew more intense, and they began to chafe at the necessity of discretion. They wanted the whole world to know of their epic, forbidden love.

They almost made it to the end of the trial. The prosecution had just completed closing arguments, going over all of the gory evidence in nauseating detail. The jury looked quite queasy, and possibly quite convinced. And then it was the defense’s turn.

“Jurors,” the defense attorney began. “Your honor. People of the court. The prosecution would have you believe that my client is some type of inhuman monster who would willingly strangle nearly two dozen hikers to death, over a period of sixteen months, in an area localized to a specific four-mile radius. But what has been shown repeatedly over the course of this trial is that the evidence is circumstantial and cannot be said to definitively link my client to those brutal acts. Yes, the prosecution has presented their case in an orderly and even convincing fashion. Yes, the prosecutor is an effective and accomplished lawyer. And yes, the prosecution has the most striking, beautiful eyes that have ever grace this world. But…”

The defense attorney’s train of thought seemed to become derailed at that point, as the two lawyers had become lost in each other’s gazes.

The lawyer for the defense eventually resumed by saying, “Stenographer, please let the record show that I am very deeply in love with the lawyer for the prosecution. And I would like this official court document to embody my proposal of marriage.”

The prosecutor stood excitedly to accept the proposal, and the entire courtroom cheered and applauded. The judge’s gavel eventually regained order in the courtroom, whereupon the judge declared formal congratulations for the happy couple.

“Unfortunately,” the judge added, “in light of these circumstances, I must declare a mistrial, and all charges against the accused shall be dropped. You’re free to go, Mr. Strangler. Uh, I mean, Mr. Denton.”

And so, in the end, the price of love was that the Steubenville Strangler was set free to continue his heinous work. But the lawyers—and the courtroom as a whole—were too swept up in the euphoria of romance to care very much. Besides, I believe it was Baudelaire who said that a single perfect love is worth the lives of a few hapless hikers.


Cameron Vanderwerf holds an MFA in creative writing from Hollins University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Worcester Review, Moon City Review, Write Launch, Corvus Review, Every Day Fiction, and other publications.

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