“Do you have the bill handy?” I ask when I return to the heat of the conference room.
“Um, sure,” Birch says, handing me a sheaf of paper.
“We should read it,” I say.
“We wrote it,” Kevin reminds everyone.
“Be we never entertained the idea of applying it to Black Lives Matter. We need to read it. Mrs. Lancaster or one of her attorneys or someone found a way to put the puzzle together. If they won’t tell us, we’ll have to figure it out for ourselves.”
“Great! This is good,” Birch says, nodding. “Stop what you’re doing, Nan. Let’s give this a go.”
I read the bill. Birch closes his eyes, frowns. Nan practically sits on her hands, maybe so she won’t continue writing. Kevin seems to zone in and out.
When I finish, no one says a word. We lapse into thought. Nan releases her pent up energy on her paper. Kevin gets up, downs an energy drink. Birch sits so long with eyes closed, I think perhaps he’s fallen asleep.
“That’s it!” Birch’s shout causes everyone to jump. We try to inquire, but he’s too busy writing to answer. We watch, as one might watch a master. What tripped in his brain that didn’t in mine?
After several minutes, he drops his pen on the table and shouts a word of glory.
“Now will you share your brain child?” Nan asks.
“It all comes back to freedom of movement, like Naomi said on the original bill. Don’t you see? The combination of nonviolent crimes and the – what did you call it? – relevancy date?”
“Sensitivity date,” I say.
“The combination of those two,” he continues, “actually protect the criminal’s freedom of movement. Once they’ve completed their sentences or whatever, then they should have freedom of movement in both a physical and an informational sense.”
“Defendants,” I say. Three sets of eyes meet mine. “If we refer to people as defendants instead of criminals, it softens the edge.”
“Good catch,” Birch says with a distinct air of surprise. Though in his defense, I didn’t catch this one. “Alright. Scatter. We have, let’s see, forty minutes before the food arrives. Meet back here with a rough draft, as unrough as you can make it.”
We dash to our separate workspaces. I wish I could call Stipple back. He might have the right language. Maybe I could make an excuse to find Victoriana…
“Naomi, I need you to focus. We’ve gotta make this happen fast,” Birch says as if he’s reading my mind.
I look up at him. “No problem. We’re gonna make it.”
His jaunt down the hall in no way matches the roil in my belly. Make it happen fast. That’s the mission.
In an effort to salvage the moment from the conference room, I draft hasty free association around the words ‘freedom of movement’.