The nickname had been given to him by a federal judge early in Boyce's controversial career, after he had persuaded a jury that his client, the Cap'n Bob Fast Fish Restaurant chain, was unaware that its popular Neptune Burgers were made from black market Japanese whale meat. Since that stunning victory, Boyce had successfully defended traitors, terrorists, inside traders, politicians, mobsters, blackmailers, polluters, toxic-waste dumpers, cheats, insurance frauds, drug dealers, horse dopers, televangelists, hucksters, society wife batterers, cybermonopolists, and even fellow lawyers. An eminent legal scholar who wore bow ties commented on public television that if Shameless Baylor had defended Adolf Eichmann after he had been kidnapped and brought to Israel and tried for crimes against humanity, Eichmann would have been not only acquitted, but awarded damages. It was not said admiringly. But if Boyce's fame had long since reached the point where shoeshine men in airports asked for his autograph, the public was largely unaware of the actual motivation for his remarkable career.
And now-a quarter century after his career began-his phone rang.
He reached for the button, then paused. He thought of telling the secretary to tell her to call back. Sometimes he put new clients through a ten- or fifteen-minute wait before picking up. Softened them up. Made them all the more eager.
Should he, to her? No. He had waited twenty-five years. He was too impatient to begin this beguine.
He felt the kettledrum in his chest. Good Lord. Was his pulse actually quickening? He, who never broke a sweat, even while arguing before the Supreme Court?
He picked up.
"Hello, Beth. What've you been up to?" This was nonchalance carried to operatic heights.
"I need to see you, Boyce."
Her voice was all business. Cool as a martini, no more emotion than a flight attendant telling the passengers to put their seats in the upright position. He'd have preferred a little more raw emotion, frankly, even a stifled gasp or sob. Some clients, even burly men who could break your jaw with one lazy swipe of their paws, broke down the first time they spoke to him. Boyce kept a box of tissues in his office, like a shrink. One new client, the head of a plumbers union who had been taped by the FBI on the phone ordering the car bombing of a rival, had blubbered like an eight-year-old. He later blamed it on medication.
But even now, placing a call that must have humiliated her, Beth was in her own upright position, not a trace of begging or desperation in her voice. Boyce stiffened. His pulse returned to normal. Okay, babe, you want to play it cool? I'll see your thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit and lower you five.
"I could see you tomorrow at ten-thirty," he said. "For half an hour."
It had been a long time since anyone had said something like that to Beth MacMann.
The two of them began the mental countdown to see who would blink first.
. . . seven . . . eight . . . nine . . .
"Fine," she said.
"Will you be taking the shuttle?" He'd be damned if he'd send his own jet to pick her up.
"No, Boyce. I'll be driving. I don't relish the thought of being stared at for an hour on the shuttle."
As a former First Lady, she retained Secret Service protection, another of the ironies in which she and the nation found themselves: prosecuted by the government, protected by the government. A Times columnist had mischievously posed the question: If in the end Beth MacMann was executed, would there be a shoot-out between the Secret Service and the lethal injectionist? So many delicious questions were being posed these days.
Boyce leaned back in his leather throne and imagined the spectacle in all its many-pixeled splendor: hundreds of TV cameras and reporters outside his Manhattan office, clamoring, aiming their microphones like fetish sticks as the Secret Service phalanxed her through to the door. And there he would be standing, gorgeously, Englishly tailored, to greet her. His face would be on every television set in the world tomorrow. Peasants in Uzbekistan, ozone researchers in Antarctica, Amish farmers in Pennsylvania would recognize him.
He would issue a brief, dignified, noncommittal statement to the effect that this was only a preliminary meeting. He would smile, thank the media for its interest-Boyce was the Siegfried and Roy of media handlers-and usher her in. How satisfying it would be, after all these years. They were already calling it "the Trial of the Millennium," and there he would be, at the red hot center of it. And maybe-just maybe-to make his revenge perfect, he would deliberately lose this one. But so subtly that even the Harvard Law bow tie brigade would hem and haw and say that no one, really, could have won this one, not even Shameless Baylor.
Excerpted from No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher BuckleyCopyright 2002 by Christopher Buckley. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Christopher Buckley, the bestselling author of the comic classics The White House Mess and Thank You for Smoking, returns to the funniest place in America: Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Tyler MacMann, the First Lady of the United States, has been charged with killing her philandering husband, the President of the United States. In the midst of a bedroom spat, she allegedly hurled a historic Paul Revere spittoon at him, with tragic results. The attorney general has no choice but to put the First Lady on trial for assassination.
The media has never warmed to Beth MacMann (her nickname in the tabloids is Lady Bethmac), and as America girds for a scandalous, sensational trial, Beth reaches out to the only defense attorney she trusts, Boyce Shameless Baylor, who charges $1,000 an hour and has represented a Whos Who of scoundrels: murderous running backs, society wife-killers, Los Alamos spies, and national-security sellouts.
Why Boyce Baylor? Because Beth loved him once, when they were law students. Boyce wanted to marry her, but Beth chose the future President instead. Now, after all these years, Boyce has a second chance. To what lengths will a shameless lawyer go to win the Trial of the Millennium and regain the love of his life?
Buckley has been described by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the best and surest political humorists in America and by Entertainment Weekly as a superb writer of politically incorrect satire. No Way to Treat a First Lady is flat-out hilarious. And furthermore, its a love story for our time.
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Christopher Buckley born in 1952 is the former managing editor of Esquire magazine and founding editor of Forbes FYI magazine and has contributed over 50 Shouts and Murmurs to The New Yorker. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his saintly and long-suffering wife Lucy and two children.