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Duces Tecum
A "Cooper" Story

by Robert Hoyden.



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.......I felt the hard barrel of the 9mm semi-automatic press against the back of my head. Grimacing, I closed my eyes and imagined my noodle being blown to smithereens.

......."Freeze, Mac, or you're one for the history books," an authoritative voice commanded.

......."There must be a mistake..."

......."Shut up!" he ordered, jabbing harder.

......."That's him, officer. That's the man who tried to break in here. Thank God you caught him," a middle-aged woman said with a deep sigh of relief. She rolled open the patio door I was standing in front of and looked at me through scowling eyes.

......."Hands in the air, Mac. Slow. Lace your fingers and cup them behind your head. Do it. Now!"

......."Okay. Okay," I said, slowly raising my hands, intertwining the fingers and placing them as directed.

......."Now turn around, real slow. Watch 'em while I cuff 'em, Dave," the Seattle police officer told his partner.

.......I slowly cranked around and looked down the barrel of the powerful handgun. The cop stepped back, holstered his weapon and pulled a pair of handcuffs from a small pouch on his thick, leather belt. A short distance away a small crowd of people was gathering to gawk.

.......Officer Dave, his .38 service revolver pointed at my belly, stood expressionless from about seven feet away. The first cop stepped back up to me, pointed at my hands and as I slowly brought them down he rudely cuffed my wrists, right first, then the left.

......."You have the right to remain silent...." the first cop started to recite.

......."Look, officers, I can explain. I'm here on...."

......."You better keep it quiet, Mac. Anything you say can and will...."

......."It's Cooper. My name is Cooper."

......."You pig," the woman said to me as she stepped from behind me. "You're probably some sicko weirdo...."

......."That's enough, ma'am. We'll get your statement in a few moments," the first cop said. He returned to my rights, "be used against you...."

.......I looked over at Officer Dave, who now had his weapon holstered. A sergeant, he had an older, wiser appearance to his face, compared to the relative youth of his tough-talking partner. Sergeant Dave was sizing me up and I could tell that he knew something was out of place. Street smart people, like veteran cops, have developed good instincts for that kind of thing.

......."You have the right to an attorney..."

......."Hang on, Jimmy," Sergeant Dave said. He stepped up to me, looked me in the eyes and said,
"Okay, pal. What do you have to say?"

......."Inside the inner pocket of my vest are some documents. If you want to reach in and pull them out, you'll find some answers," I said.

......."Careful, Dave. Might be a trick," Officer Jimmy warned.

......."I doubt it," the veteran cop said. He patted my stomach, my sides and around my upper torso. Then he flipped back my vest, and withdrew a set of neatly folded, 8 x 11 papers from my inner pocket. He looked at me again and then started to unfold the paperwork. In a moment, he looked over at the woman.

......."Are you Justine Francis, ma'am?"

......."Why, yes. Yes. How did you know?"

......."These papers are for you, ma'am," he said, extending the documents to her.

......."For me? What are they?" she asked, alarm rising in her voice as she took the papers.

......."Legal papers, ma'am. This man is a process server. Is that right, Mr. Cooper?" he asked, looking at me.

......."Yes, sir. I'm here to serve those pleadings on her. Actually, you just did it for me."

......."Why didn't you just say so a moment ago?" Sergeant Dave asked.

......."Your partner kept telling me to shut up. And he had a gun."

......."I don't understand," the woman said, her voice trailing off.

......."Those are divorce papers, ma'am," I informed, looking at her.

......."Divorce!!" she nearly shouted.

......."Would you guys uncuff me, please," I asked.

.......Officer Jimmy was speechless. He slowly stepped over to me, reached into his shirt pocket and removed a small key which he used to free my now aching wrists. "I'm sorry, mister."

......."Maybe you should go a bit easy with those things," I suggested, grimacing and rubbing my wrists.
"He's only a rookie, Mr. Cooper," Sergeant Dave said.

......."Oh, no. My husband said he was out of town on a business trip," Justine said, emotion welling up in her words. "How could he do this to me? Oh, my."

......."Why didn't you just go to the front door, Mr. Cooper?" the sergeant asked.

......."I tried that. Three times over the last two days. Her car was there, but she never answered, so I figured I'd try the back."

......."And she probably though you were trying to get to her," Officer Dave said.

......."I was, but for that reason," I said, pointing at the documents in her hands. "Nothing else."

......."I'm sorry, Mr. Cooper," Officer Jimmy said, slightly embarrassed. "I guess I overreacted."

......."I'm glad it got resolved without serious trouble - like me getting shot."

.......Justine Francis, sniffling and slightly shaking, turned and vanished into her apartment. The young cop put away his handcuffs and began to shoo the crowd away.

.......Sergeant Dave, with a slight smile on his face, stood looking at me. "That's a tough job you have, Mr. Cooper. How long you been serving paper?"

......."Oh, about twenty years," I said. "As you might imagine, stuff like this happens pretty often--I've had more than one gun crammed in my face."

.......The sergeant laughed. "I can imagine. For our report, would you mind telling me where you work?" he asked, taking a pen and a small writing pad from his breast pocket.

......."I'm self-employed. I run a small business called Seattle Process Service," I said, pulling out my own pen and a sheet of paper. I put down the date and time of service on Justine Francis.

......."Mr. Cooper, you know, you could help me out here."

......."How's that?" I asked, folding the sheet of paper and tucking it back into my hip pocket.

......."My sister, Helen, has a restraining order to serve on her husband, Curt. He's a complete, unmitigated asshole. I was wondering if you would mind...."

......."Why don't you serve it, Sergeant?"

......."I thought about that, but I'd likely shoot the prick on sight. He smacks Helen around, controls and verbally abuses her. If I even see the little shitbird I'm likely to start blasting away as soon as he opens his mouth."

......."Charming fellow."

......."Do you carry a weapon, Mr. Cooper?"

......."No. No, I don't."

......."Well, you may want to start carrying one if you take on this case. This guy is a real butthole."
I rubbed my chin. "I charge more to serve guys like him."

......."No problem. He'll just end up paying the court costs anyway. He can afford it. What do you think? Can you help her?"

......."This is what I do, sergeant. Why don't you have her drop by my office with the documents. I'm in the Interurban Building, just across the street from old Smith Tower in Pioneer Square," I said, handing him a business card.

......."Thanks, " he said, taking the card. "And, again, I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I think my partner learned quite a lesson."

......."I'm glad you took over when you did," I said, reaching out and shaking his hand. "But I know that in your field, erring on the side of caution is the best way." I nodded, turned and walked around the side of the building, into the parking lot and piled into my Toyota pick-up.

.......Sitting behind the wheel, I took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. Having a gun poked into the back of my head was quite unnerving. Then again, over the course of my career, I'd had a pump shotgun stuck in my face, big dogs sicced on me, and a man trying to run me over to avoid being served a lawsuit--not to mention more threats and dressings down than I could count.

.......Of course, the pay was usually excellent, I cut my own hours, and I was my own boss. And when you came right down to it, I enjoyed this clandestine, cloak-and-dagger type of work. I was not far removed from the world of a private detective. In fact, I spent a lot of my time tracking people down. I often used public records, asked questions of the parties involved, and generally ran hither and yon following up leads in pursuit of litigants on whom I could serve papers and, of course, earn bucks. And there was always something new. Always.

.......The next morning, about seven-thirty, as I stepped into my small fifth floor office in the turn-of-the-century Interurban Building the telephone rang. I was on it before the third ring. "Seattle Process Service."

......."Is this Mr. Cooper?"

......."It is," I said.

......."Mr. Cooper, this is Helen Myers. My brother, Dave, said that you might be willing to serve papers on my husband, Curt."

......."Dave, the police officer?"

......."Yes. That's him."

......."I might be able to help you. Do you have any idea where your husband is at any given time?"

......."He's a construction company foreman. He goes from job site to job site a lot. But, I do know where he will be this afternoon."

......."Helen, I'm in my office right now. Why don't you come over with the papers?"

......."Okay."

......."Do you have a photograph of him?"

......."I can get one."

......."Bring that, too."

......."I'll be there within the hour, Mr. Cooper."

......."You can just call me Cooper."

......."Okay, Cooper. Thank you," she said, then hung up.

.......Within the hour I answered a knock at my door. Helen Myers, short, squat and wearing big, dark sunglasses and a scarf over her head, stood looking at me. She had a manila file folder tucked under her arm and a small purse dangling by a long strap from her shoulder. She furtively glanced to her left and right down the hallway and after my "please come in" gesture stepped into my quaint, though somewhat cluttered, two-room office.

.......She looked around at my business quarters and then reached out to touch the old, chipped brick wall to her right. "This place is right out of a crime novel, Cooper. It's the kind of place you might find a cheap detective, maybe."

.......I smiled, kind of liking the "cheap detective" remark. "It works for me."

.......She took off her sunglasses to reveal a deep cut near her left eye. Though she was not beautiful, by any means, she certainly had a nice face, aside from the battering it had recently taken.

......."Compliments of your husband?" I asked, nodding at her wounds.

......."Yes," she said, sadness lacing her word.

.......I now realized that I would - once again - be looking for a violent type. Nothing unusual for me, of course. But as far as I was concerned, anybody who used violence to get their way was a coward. And I would be quick to defend myself.

......."So where will he be today?" I asked.

......."A work site near the Northgate Mall in North Seattle. Can you do this today, Cooper?"

......."Yeah. I think so. I also have a simple subpoena to serve up north this afternoon. It will put me right in that area."

.......She reached into her folder and withdrew the legal papers, or "process" as we called it in the racket. Paper clipped to the top was a photograph. I took the papers and quickly thumbed through them, noting that the documents included a restraining order and various other adorable pieces of lawyer-generated fireworks.

......."I don't see any divorce papers here," I said, looking up at her.

......."That's next. Right now my attorney said we have to get him to keep his hands off of me. So she drew up this restraining order, filed it with the King County Superior Court and said I needed an experienced process server to serve it. It was good timing that Dave met you."

......."Do you have any kids involved?"

......."You ask a lot of questions," she said, a tinge of defensiveness in her words.

......."Just background, Helen. Kids?"

......."Yes. A boy and a girl. One and two years old. Respectively."

......."How long have you two been married?" I gestured to a chair. "Care to sit down?"

......."No thanks. I'll stand. Less than two years."

......."Has he always smacked you around?"

......."Not really. The first year was wonderful. Then for some reason he just started to get weird. At first he just ordered me around, verbally abused me, came home at late hours and was mean and nasty. Then two days ago he smacked me."

.......I looked at her wound again. It was more of a slice or an incision than a bruise, like he'd been wearing a thick ring. "Sounds like a classic case of ...."

......."Domestic violence," she said. She put her hand up near her wound, like she didn't want me to examine it any more.

......."Yeah. Domestic violence," I echoed. "So specifically where is he going to be this afternoon?"

......."I wrote down the address on a separate piece of paper under the photograph."

.......I pulled up a corner of the photo and quickly ascertained the general area the address was located. "Is this a new home he is building?"

......."Yes. He and his crew will be there the whole day."

.......Great, I thought. A bunch of burly construction workers who'll want to protect their boss. That certainly upped the ante on trouble occurring. "What kind of vehicle does he drive?"

......."If you see a big blue Ford 4X4 with "Pacific Northwest Construction" on the side then he'll be there."

......."Besides the photo give me a general description, please."

......."White male, six-foot-three, two hundred and forty pounds, short, styled-brown hair and a nice smile. Don't be fooled by it, though," she warned. "Any more questions?"

......."That should do it."

......."How much will this cost me?"

......."Seventy-five dollars."

......."Take a check?"

......."Absolutely."

.......She reached into her purse, pulled out her checkbook and jotted out a check. She zipped it out of the book and handed it to me. Then she looked around. "Don't you have a secretary?"

......."No. I work alone. I like it that way."

.......She shrugged. "Well, good luck, Cooper. Be careful. In fact, you might as well expect trouble."
I often got these types of warnings, but I forged ahead with varying degrees of reservation. Sometimes you had to be a tough mother to serve papers, other times it was like a walk through a candy store.
Helen slipped her sunglasses back on, turned, opened the door, exited and vanished down the hallway. As the door drifted shut I looked back at the clock on a nearby table. It was just before 9:00 a.m. I decided to slog through some paperwork most of the morning, grab some lunch and then head out to serve Curt Myers and take care of that other subpoena. I was planning on an interesting - and lucrative - afternoon.

.......Shortly after 1:00 p.m. I drove north up Interstate Five, outside of downtown Seattle. I glanced at the two sets of legal documents on the seat next to me. One set was for Curt Myers and the other set was a subpoena duces tecum that I had to serve on a doctor's office. A subpoena duces tecum is just a lawyer's fancy way to say "subpoena for records."

.......It looked like the doctor had examined a patient involved in a particular litigation and the attorneys wanted to see the medical records. Doctors expect subpoenas and are pretty easy to deal with. In fact, nine out of ten times you could leave the duces tecum with the office manager or a receptionist. Duces tecums are candy to a process server.

.......After exiting the freeway near the Northgate Mall and driving about six blocks I pulled up to a muddy, lumber-strewn yard where, true to Helen's information, a blue Ford 4X4 sat with "Pacific Northwest Construction" emblazoned on the side.

.......I could see three or four muscled, broad-shouldered, safety-hat wearing honchos milling around inside the half-finished building. One guy was hammering in the rafters and another man was blasting nails into a four-by-four beam with a pneumatic nail gun. I put my face in my hands, rubbed vigorously and thought about the money. I shook the cobwebs of reluctance from my head, glanced at Curt's photograph once more, tucked the restraining order into the inner pocket of my vest, and headed up to the house.

.......I arrived at the open front door of the building and looked inside. A big, mustachioed guy stopped sawing, looked over at me, and scanned my large frame up and down. "What do you need, fella?"
"Looking to find Curt Myers."

......."What for?"

......."Personal business," I said.

......."We don't want no trouble around here, pal? You look like trouble," he said, laying down his saw and turning around to face me. One of his comrades stopped hammering, looked over at me, perched a pair of safety goggles on his forehead and stepped up to his buddy.

......."It'll just take a minute," I said, stepping calmly toward the two men. In situations like these, I had to show an air of authority, which most people naturally respect. It usually worked.

.......The two guys looked at each other. "He's upstairs. Back room. Watch your step," the mustachioed guy said, with a toss of his head towards a stairwell.

.......Relief washed over me. My whole mission could have ended right there with a confrontation. I stepped past the two guys, around a saw horse and started up the stairwell. At the top of the stairwell I looked around, heard voices and pounding and went in that direction. I came into what appeared to be, perhaps, a master bedroom under construction. There, three more guys were driving nails into two-by-four studs. The really big guy in the middle was Curt. Now it was just a question of confirming that it was Curt, delivering the papers and finding a safe exit.

.......Curt and one other guy, sensing my presence, turned and eyeballed me standing there.

......."What do you need, friend?" Curt asked.

......."Are you Curt Myers?" I asked.

.......He hesitated, looked at and then behind me. I glanced back and the first two guys I encountered downstairs were standing just a few feet away.

......."Yeah. I'm Curt. What's up?"

......."Legal paper, Curt. I have a legal paper for you," I announced, moving my head slightly to gain a full sense of everyone in the room. I could see four guys; the fifth was out of my field of vision.
"You're one brave motherfucker, dude," Curt said, "to come tromping in here to serve me."

......."Thanks," I said.

......."I knew he was fucking trouble the minute I laid eyes on him, Curt" a voice said from behind. The one worker on Curt's right started to bristle, a small smile crossed his face and he took a step in my direction. I tensed up a bit, but he bent down and tied a shoelace.

.......The guy on Curt's right lifted his nail gun up to waist level and squeezed off a round. The nail exploded out of the device and zipped by inches from my leg, plinking off a far wall.

......."Just doing what's got to be done," I said. "No need for trouble, fellas."

......."You're already trouble, pal," the mustachioed guy said.

.......I pulled the papers from my vest and walked over to Curt, who simply stood his ground.

.......I extended them and his big hand came up, taking the nasty documents.

......."Why don't we just toss his sorry ass out the window, Curt?" the mustachioed guy suggested, then laughed.

......."Okay, guys, back to work," Curt ordered, which was definitely a major relief to me.

.......There was some grumbling, but everyone turned and went back to work. The two guys from downstairs disappeared and the other two guys turned back to their nailing.

.......Curt stood looking at me. "What's your name, man?"

......."Cooper."

......."I admire tough guys, Cooper. My boys here could have beat the hell out of you, but it probably wouldn't have been easy," he said, looking at my broad shoulders and solid frame.

......."It would have been ugly and unnecessary," I said.

......."Besides, it would have played right into that little bitch's plan."

......."How's that?"

......."She knew you were headed into trouble, Cooper. Helen set you up. She was trying to use you."

......."What are you talking about?"

......."If we all got into a fight that incident would have been reported in court and she would have told the judge, 'See. Curt Myers is just a violent jerk.'"

.......I thought about his words and then about Helen. "She claims you smacked her, Curt."

......."That's bullshit, Cooper. I never - ever! - laid a harsh hand on her in my life, and she knows it. She is one conniving broad, I'm here to tell you."

......."Her face was beat up."

......."Self inflicted, Cooper," he said, laying his hammer on the floor, crossing his thick arms over his huge chest and relaxing a bit.

......."I don't know, Curt. I've heard many stories over the years."

......."I bet you have. Well, I know this woman, Cooper. I know her real well. She's psycho. Man, when she gets pissed off, she goes ballistic. She cut herself with a knife."

......."That's a real stretch," I said, shaking my head. "You want me to believe she cut herself just to get the upper hand in court?"

......."It's the truth."

......."Her brother, Dave, thinks you're a bad ass, too."

......."He's just a dumb cop. He has to back up his sister. I have nothing against him."

......."He sure didn't like you."

......."How about a beer, Cooper?" Curt said with a friendly smile.

.......I looked at his two workers and then smiled. "Sure. What do you got?"

......."We always keep a stash of the stuff around the job site. We got Miller and Bud Lite."

......."Bud Lite," I said.

......."Hey, guys," Curt shouted. "Take a break! Mac, grab a round of beers and come on up."

......."Roger that!" a voice said from downstairs.

.......Within ten minutes Curt and I were seated on a makeshift bench, two of his guys were sitting on the floor, backs to the wall, and the fifth guy was leaning lazily again a window frame. We were all slugging down beer. There were four or five crushed beer cans lying in a small pile near a wall.

......."Divorce in this state sucks, Cooper," Curt surmised.

......."I know. I meet all kinds of people going through it," I said.

......."Thing is state law lets the kids stay with the parent who can bullshit the most."

......."How's that?" I said, taking a belt from my second and final beer.

......."Take Mac here, for instance," Curt said, head nodding towards the guy near the window. "His soon-to-be ex claims that he beat her - like Helen is doing to me - and the court just took her word, on the face of it. No questions. No investigation into the real facts."

......."Man, I don't hit women," Mac lamented. "My poor late momma would come out of her grave and kick my sorry ass if I ever smacked a woman."

.......Everyone laughed.

......."The court awarded her temporary custody and now his ex is dragging the matter out for, what, two years now, Mac?"

......."About that," he responded.

......."Then what?" I asked.

......."Well, the kid stays with her during the preliminaries, establishes friends, goes to school. Then when the hearing for a final divorce comes down the court refuses to make any changes in the kid's life, saying it would be detrimental or not in the child's best interest."

......."Like I said a few minutes ago, this is a tough one to believe," I said, still quite ambivalent.

......."Well, that's what Helen is doing, Cooper. And she used you. She sent you in here to get in trouble. That would have come out in court and gave the judge plenty of reason to grant her temporary custody. And I wasn't about to oblige her." He reached over to the mustachioed guy and gave him a friendly jostle. "Ol' Karl here was just bullshitting when he suggested we toss you out the window."

.......We all laughed again.

.......I started to rise to my feet. "I've heard a lot of this stuff over the years, Curt. It's this part of the job that bums me out. So, frankly, I just stay out of it, besides serving the papers."

......."So you're out of here, Cooper?"

......."Yeah. I got one more stop to make, over by Northgate Mall. Thanks for the beers."

......."No problem. Let's hit it, guys," Curt ordered, standing up.

.......I made my rounds, giving everybody warm and vigorous handshakes.

......."Drop by anytime, Cooper," Mac said. "Just don't bring no more court orders."

.......We all broke into a hearty laughter.

......."I promise," I said, waving and heading off to the doctor's office.

.......Northgate Physicians Clinic was across the street from the Northgate Shopping Center, and just six blocks from Curt Myers' job site. Over the years I had served many subpoenas and lawsuits on the physicians who practiced behind these doors, but never--I double-checked the name--on Dr. Larry Cutterhouse.

.......I looked around as I entered Dr. Cutterhouse's ground floor suite and approached a heavy-set, female assistant sitting behind a counter, tapping on a computer keyboard. Behind the assistant four or five people were fiddling with charts, working computer terminals or talking amongst themselves. Several people were sitting in a small waiting area to my left, including a fellow in a wheelchair and an old man leaning on his wife's shoulder, as she held his hand.

......."Can I help you, sir?" the assistant chirped pleasantly.

......."Yes, I have a subpoena to serve on Dr. Cutterhouse."

......."A subpoena? Oh my!" she said, rearing back just slightly.

......."It's just a subpoena duces tecum."

......."A subpoena doo...sess...t...what?"

......."Just a subpoena for records, ma'am."

.......Still perplexed, she scratched her head, looked around and said," Just a minute, please."

......."You can take it, ma'am. It's not a big deal. Most doctors just have me leave them at the desk," I said, fishing the legal missive out of my vest.

......."Just a minute," she said again, rising from her seat, turning and walking around a corner and out of view. In a moment she came back, returned to her seat, looked up at me and said, "Someone will be right with you." She then resumed tapping on her keyboard.

.......In about forty seconds a very big, broad-shouldered man in a long white jacket appeared from around the same corner. He looked like a Chicago Bears linebacker or a muscle-bound bar bouncer. He stopped about twenty feet away and looked at me. A small, almost sinister, smile crossed his face, then vanished. Without a word, he turned and went back out of view.

.......I started to get impatient. Come on, people, I thought. Let's get it done.

.......Then another assistant came around the same mysterious corner and approached me. "Are you the gentleman with the legal paper?" she asked, politely.

......."That's me."

......."Well, Dr. Cutterhouse said that he wants to personally take the paper."

......."I hate to disturb him for such a small matter, ma'am. I'm sure he has patients he needs to...."

......."Doctor's orders. Besides, I think he would like to talk to you."

......."About what?"

......."I don't know, sir."

.......Maybe Cutterhouse wanted me to serve a paper for him or something. In any case, I wanted to get this over with, so I just shrugged. "Okay."

......."Fine, sir. If you would just go down to the end of the counter," she said, pointing the way, "down that corridor to the last examination room on the left. Dr. Cutterhouse will meet you there in a moment."
"Thank you, ma'am," I said, nodding and followed her instructions.

.......Within a minute I slowly pushed open the door and stepped inside the well-lit and sterile examination room. The smell of disinfectant wafted across my senses as the door floated closed. In the middle of the room there was a sheet-covered gurney with a large, adjustable light centered over it. All the walls had windowed shelves, drawers and countertops with piles of towels, boxes and other medical equipment stacked hither and yon. There was a colored chart of the human anatomy plastered on one wall and various signs forbidding smoking and advising all personnel to wash their hands coming into the room and leaving.

.......I turned as the door swung open and in trundled the big linebacker-looking fellow. He stopped and stood looking at me as I started to unfold the legal papers.

......."Are you Dr. Cutterhouse, sir?" That was the name stenciled over the breast pocket of his jacket, but I needed to go through the formality anyway.

.......He made one step toward me and without warning his hand shot out and swatted the legal papers from my grasp, sending them flying across the room.

......."Hey!!" I protested.

.......In less than a moment, he was on me. He grabbed the front of my vest and shirt with both fists, lifted me off the ground, swung me around and slammed my back violently into the door, my head just missing a coat hook. My whole body shuttered from the jolting collision.

......."What the fuck you doing, man? Let me down!!" I demanded, grappling with his powerful arms.
"I hate fucking process servers!!"

......."I don't give a damn what you don't like!" I shouted. "Let me down!!"

.......He kept pushing me into the door. Then he drilled me in the left side of my rib cage with a bone-crunching punch. My eyeballs bulged out and air surged from my lungs as pain galloped through my body.

.......I couldn't believe I was being attacked by a doctor!! Then he reared back for what appeared to be a big time blast. His fist zeroed in towards my nose.

.......I had just enough strength to jerk my head to right as his fist crunched into the door. He let out a howl of pain and released me.

.......I fell to the waxed floor and then to my knees, gasping and groaning.

.......I had enough of this bullshit, I thought. I drove myself upwards and butted the top of my head into his big chin, connected solidly and sent him back across the room. He slammed into a cabinet, his elbow shattering a glass panel.

......."Why are you doing this?" I shouted.

......."I hate you sneaky bastards."

......."I wasn't sneaking, for chrissakes. I told your staff what I had," I yelled, bringing my right fist up to face level to defend myself.

.......Then he jerked his elbow out of the shattered glass case and said, "The last time one of you sons-of-bitches came in here you said you had a subpoena and you had fucking divorce papers."

......."Now why would your wife want to divorce you? You're such a pleasant, gentle guy," I said though clenched teeth, my words dripping with raw sarcasm.

......."And then one of you guys came flying in here unannounced when I had a patient half-naked in here," he continued.

......."It wasn't me."

......."It doesn't matter."

......."You better believe it matters. You just assaulted me, Cutterhouse," I said, lowering my fist and reaching for my battered rib cage, which was damn sore.

.......Then he seemed to get hold of his soaring emotions, shook his head, looked at me through a pained expression and said, "I'm sorry."

......."Sorry? Sorry? Man, you are going to be seeing one hell of a lot of process servers with this sort of foolishness, pal. I promise."

......."I got out of hand. I lost it," he said, then starting in my direction. "Let me look at your ribs."
I threw my hands up, palms toward him. "Stay away! Stay the hell away!"

.......He froze.

.......I gingerly walked across the room, grimacing as I snatched up the subpoena, turned back to him and tossed it on the gurney. "You been served, pal. I doubt if it will be the last time either."

......."Look. I'm really sorry," he said, his words dropping to a near whisper "I just lost it. The divorce has me wound up like a top."

......."That's no excuse for assaulting me," I said, turning and reaching for the door. I jerked it open and looked straight in the faces of three staff members looking at me, wide eyed.

......."Is everything okay, sir?" one of them asked, peering over my shoulder.

......."Just fine," I said. "Just wonderful. You better teach him about the Hippocratic Oath."

......."What do you mean?" one of the women said, still wide-eyed.

......."Don't make a patient any worse off than when they first came in," I said.

......."I don't understand."

......."Talk to Cutterhouse," I said, throwing a thumb over my shoulder. Then, holding my left side and twisting my face in pain, I eased past them as they started to crowd into the examination room. I beelined down the corridor, around the counter and out the exit.

.......Like I said: There's always something new in process serving. Always.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Robert Hoyden



Robert Hoyden is a rookie writer. This is his first published story, although a second story, which also features the process serving adventures of "Cooper", has just been published in The Mammoth Book of Legal Fiction. And Robert has just wrapped up his first novel, and is currently searching for that ever elusive literary agent and/or publisher. He can be reached via e-mail at seattleprocess@qwest.net.

Meanwhile, Robert runs his own process serving company based in Seattle's historic Pioneer Square district. His mottoes: "Never Met A Deadbeat I Didn't Like" & "You sue 'em, I serve 'em". His favorite watering hole is the Merchant's Cafe in Pioneer Square, which could be straight out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. Beer anyone?

And head here for more Thrilling Detective Fiction!



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"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."

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