They call me Billy Strobe, but not for long, thank you. Soon as I become a lawyer, I plan to go by William, mainly because it's got a more professional ring to it. I can't expect to help folks if they don't take me seriously.
I realize people don't think much of the law profession these days, and I reckon I can't blame them. But it's the system - a machine designed by the rich to chew up the poor - that folks should be down on, not the law. The system is religion, the law is spirituality. Take your pick.
Anyways, I'm set on becoming a lawyer, and not just because that's what my daddy was, but more in spite of what he was - what people back home thought he was - which I'll get to later on.
Lucky for me, I've never put much stock in what people think. Hell, those same people back in Enid, Oklahoma, were all the time telling me I was setting my sights too high. But take a look: I've already made it two-thirds the way through UCLA Law School and finished in the top ten percent both years. My piece in the law review on injustices in the California Penal Code made the Metro section of the L.A. Times a year ago.
I don't mean to be bragging. The truth is, I had a head start on my classmates, being as how I grew up in the law, nursed at the titty of the blindfolded Lady of justice, you might say. When other dads were teaching their kids how to shoot a basket or bat a ball, I was reading writs of habeas corpus and memorizing the Bill of Rights. I think even Ma knew Dad's first love was the law.
Dad was a courtroom movie buff, too, and he was always quoting things about the law from books and films, like what Paul Scofield said in A Man for All Seasons : "I'd give even the devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake." Dad also liked that letter Dana Andrews wrote before they lynched him in The Ox-Bow Incident , where he said, "Law is the very conscience of humanity." Words like these stuck to me like money in a rich man's pocket.
So between my upbringing with Dad and seeing nearly every court-room movie ever made, no big surprise that the law was in my bones, and when I got a shot at a scholarship out West, I took to law school as natural as a tick to a cat's ass. For me, the law was not a living; it was life. All my heroes were lawyers, my dad of course, but also guys like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and Henry Fonda in the first Twelve Angry Men . (Jack Lemmon was good, too, but I preferred the original version.)
Anyways, law school was just another movie for me, and I loved every minute. Being realistic, however, I knew that my last year of law school was going to be tougher than the first two, seeing as how I'd have to finish by correspondence.
Once I'd started serving my three- to five-year sentence at Soledad Maximum Security Prison for grand larceny.
Maybe I should explain this last thing, a piece of bad luck that landed on me a few months ago - July 26, at 3:30 in the afternoon, to be exact about it.
I was hoeing up weeds outside the Westwood rooming house I managed for free rent and ten dollars a day when these four UCLA frat rats - popular guys who had never paid me any mind when we were all in undergraduate school together - showed up in Harmon Alexander's cherry-red Jaguar, all smiling and shouting Hey, Billy, and What's up, Billy, like I was their best friend.
It was hot that day, too damn hot to be outside hoeing up weeds. Looking back, I should have been suspicious right off because it was also too hot to be driving around in an open convertible shouting What's up, Billy, to an outsider like me.
Mr. Dog, my brown-and-white mini-mutt, g