"You wanted to see me, Your Honor?" The woman's voice was breathy. She'd been running.
US District Court Judge Wilfred Clary, who noticed such things because he often ran to meditate on big cases, sat back in his leather chair and peered over the monitor at the backlit silhouette in his office doorway. He tended to leave it open when he wasn't meeting with anyone, a practice that reflected his annoying willingness to be interrupted. This quirk had been mentioned repeatedly in "Corporate Crime Wave", the new book about two high-profile cases he had ruled on in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to extend full rights of citizenship to corporations. The increased foot traffic it caused was beginning to irritate him. This visitor, however, was not only welcome, he was eager to speak with her.
"Claire," he said gruffly, "Good to see you. Come in and close the door."
Claire Fuller had the dubious honor of being the first of a new kind of parole officer. He had picked her to oversee the three-year imprisonment of Fremont-Wayfarer Corporation for stealing from its employees' self-insurance fund. That was the second of the two cases in the new book. The first was Consolidated Communications. It had been terminated for the deaths it had knowingly caused, so there was nothing to oversee except employee outplacement and asset disbursal.
"Sorry I'm late, sir. I got tied up with --."
"All I want to hear right now is an explanation. Why are the news feeds running a picture of you having dinner with a suspected terrorist?"
"I can explain that, sir," she said, as she set down her case and slid into the visitor chair beside his desk. "First of all, John Frachetti is not a --."
"Then it really happened. You were there."
She looked at him quizzically. "I don't understand, sir."
Judge Clary leaned towards her. "Drop the formalities, Claire. Look, I was prepared to believe that the picture they're circulating had been faked. After all, you haven't given me any reason to question your professionalism. So who is he, this Frachetti?"
Claire was still for several seconds, her eyes focused on memories rather than the graying judge or the newly sparse bookcase behind him. "He's a blogger, Wil. He's also pretty sharp. Some people from one of the intelligence agencies have been threatening him because of something he wrote. They're not supposed to be doing that."
"So, you're telling me that he's being characterized as a terrorist because of his politics?"
"Not exactly." She bit her lip. "It was more of an economic rant. You see, he's convinced that the whole War on Terror is window dressing, and that the real objective is to put this country so far into the hole that the WTO will offer debt relief in exchange for signing over our natural resources, just like it does with third world nations. As far as he's concerned neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any say in how things go. For him, it's the bankers."
"So you were just having dinner with him, then? How did you two even meet?"
"I'd gone to the restaurant to speak with Alizondo Klee. He's night manager there, but he's also the new union's rep on the Board of Directors. I've been concerned about how profitable the chain has been since Reese turned the FW Diners into some kind of theme park. After all, people aren't supposed to be able to profit from being incarcerated, and yet that's exactly what Fremont-Wayfarer is doing during its imprisonment. Anyway, he wasn't there, and I, well, I bumped into Mr. Frachetti. He told me what was happening, and I agreed to speak with him. After all, we were both waiting for a table."
The judge crossed his arms. "And that's all there was to it? Just a quiet chat over chicken or something?"