"Bullet Holes in San Bernardino" by Kate Flannery

I didn’t notice the bullet holes right away. They had hit the faux wood paneling in what the lawyer called his conference room, just another office he rented in the brutalist-style building near the courthouse in the Justice Center. The area was all built in the 60s, of poured concrete and bars on the windows.

The central atrium in the lawyer’s office complex held a lone beach palm that had yellowed and was straggling toward the sunlight. Street parking only. Outside was parched landscaping dotted with litter. Even in winter, the rains didn’t soak into the dirt, and there were endless arguments among the tenants as to who was or wasn’t paying their fair share of the water bill.

The way the lawyer talked about it, I thought the holes in the office wall were important. But I couldn’t see these scars when I first entered the room. They blended right in. I kept looking around trying to find them while he gave me what he called a “reality check.” Court calendars were crowded, judges were tired, nobody told the truth. My retainer would only go so far.

Then he came over to my chair, held out his hand, took me to the wall, and pointed t the bullet holes. Clean edges, bullets still in the wall. He said he wasn’t targeted. It was a random shooting, the kind that just happened. A lot of offices around the Justice Center had bullet holes.

He hadn’t bothered to fill his in.

“Plead guilty,” he said as we both looked at the wall.