On elusive public defenders

I passed through the thronging petitioners and wandered unchallenged up the wide empty staircase. At the entrance of one of several deserted-looking offices, the name of the Public Defender appeared on a small typed label that appeared to be trying to merge quietly into the woodwork. Nobody was inside, but there were signs of working life about the threadbare dusty room. I took the open door as an invitation.   

A few moments later, a small, angry man burst in from a side-door. He glared at me and demanded my business. I explained, but he was clearly preoccupied with more weighty matters. He paced back and forwards in a harassed manner answering half my questions bad-temperedly between staring aghast at several towers of paper piled precariously on his desk. He seemed to be stuck in the agonising throes of indecision. I felt like I’d entered the circumlocution room from Dickens’ Bleak House in which reams of legal documents from half-forgotten cases go around and around ad finitum.

He testily admitted that he shared the office with the Public Defender, but was neither able nor willing to aid me concerning her current whereabouts. He begrudgingly conceded that the other desk in the office belonged to her. I left my business card on it with a note asking her to call or email, explaining I was a journalist, and friend of Zoe. I never heard from her. More importantly, neither did Zoe. But someone picked up my card. A few days later, I received an anonymous email.