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Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart)

Chapter 1

 

June 5, 2011

 

 

I really hate interviews. Putting yourself out for rejection is one of the most nerve-wracking things that you could do. I really thought that I had the interview in the bag before I got there—I nailed the first two rounds of interviews. When I was waiting in the foyer of one of the largest medical research companies in the world, I felt like my confidence has diminished entirely.

What was I thinking that I could go and get this job? I’m only 25 and I’ve only been out of law school for two years…well, I guess that’s impressive considering most people my age just graduated from law school.

I looked down at the resume in my hand.

Oh crap, I did it again.

My resume was completely torn to shreds. I fiddle when I’m nervous so I was rolling the corners of this resume for the last thirty minutes. My palms are super sweaty too when I’m nervous. I was glad that I brought a second copy of my resume.

I looked up at the receptionist.

She still hasn’t called my name for the interview yet. Where is Leon Bradley? He’s the one who is supposed to interview me.

Ring. Ring.

The receptionist picked up the phone, or I think that’s what I saw. It’s hard to tell because her computer screen was so large it blocked her entire head from my point of view.

Finally, I saw a petite brunette emerge from behind the computer. I could hear the clicking of her heels as she walked over towards me.

“Mr. Bradley is ready for your interview.” The receptionist gestured her perfectly manicured hand towards the door. “Please follow me this way.”

I stood up and brushed out the creases in my navy blue skirt suit and started to follow the receptionist down the hallway. The hallway seemed so…sterile. It reminded me of a hospital or something. Everything was so white. It really hurt my eyes. Even the receptionist’s computer was white. And she was wearing white. At that moment, I really hoped that my shoes weren’t dirty or else everyone in the entire office would know where Mel Jones was walking that day—especially the janitor who would be stuck mopping up after my footprints.

“Right here.” The receptionist opened the door.

I gingerly walked through the door. I felt my ankles wobble in my stiletto heels.

Please don’t fall over on your interview. That would be awful and embarrassing.

I was quite shocked when I entered the room; it seemed to be in a different building. The walls were painted deep blue and there was a large mahogany desk in the center of the room. Matching mahogany bookshelves, brimming with books, adorned the walls. The man sitting behind the desk almost seemed to be out of time, like he belonged in the early 1900’s. He wore a grey three-piece suit complete with a pocket watch. The suit complemented his tall and slender figure and seemed to give him some bulk that just wasn’t there. The man had a large mane of ginger hair and bright green eyes that had a spark of mischief in them.

I stood in front of his desk. He looked up at me and smiled. His smile seemed a little goofy. Maybe it was just my imagination or maybe his pointy chin exaggerated his facial features. He looked quite handsome in his own unique sort of way.

The man—Leon Bradley—stood up. “Leon Bradley.” I was shocked to hear such a deep voice come from such a slender man. Leon outstretched his slender hand. I shook it. His handshake seemed very firm.

We locked eyes. His green eyes seemed to pierce through me.

“Mel Jones. Pleasure.”

Leon smirked at me. “Please, take a seat.” He gestured to a leather armchair that was to his right. I sat down quickly.

Did I sit down too quickly? Why am I so awkward…?

“Thank you for having me.”

Leon crossed his legs and leaned back in his leather arm chair. He held out a copy of my resume in front of him.

“Melody Jones…why are you interested in working in Goodard Corporation’s Legal Counsel?”

The real reason why I was interested in working for Goodard Corporation? Not the best topic for an interview. The truth is that I was sick of the hassle of firm life—the backstabbing, the demanding clients, having to put in thousands of billable hours a year…it’s all too much. I needed a change.

“I like the Goodard Corporation’s work; medical advancements are important to our society. I would like to use my legal expertise to further the Goodard Corporation’s mission of eradicating diseases that plague the world.”

Yada. Yada. Yada.

“Ah, I see.” Leon crossed his legs again. He rested his chin over his closed fist. “I see that you went to Lincoln Law School in New York. So did I.”

“Really? It’s a wonderful place to go to law school. I was in the class of 2013. What about you?”

Lies. It was not a fun place to go to law school. I hardly left the library for the three years that I was there. My parents and sister refer to it as “the dark ages” because I dropped off the face of the earth, practically. Being the top of your class at one of the top law schools in the country comes with a tradeoff. I guess the trade-off there was my personal life. I made one friend there, Amy. But, long story short, I had a pathetic social life and I doubted that his was any better.

“I was in the class of 2007. I really enjoyed my time there too.” Leon said diplomatically. He smiled and nodded his head.

I saw online that was also top of his class. There was no way he enjoyed his time too.

“Oh, that was right when they were adding on that addition. It must have been hard to study with all that commotion.” I smiled. Smalltalk never hurt anyone.

“You have quite the memory, Melody. We look for that in our employees.”

Well, I do have a photographic memory so…yeah.

“Thank you very much, I’m always glad to hear that in an interview. You can call me Mel, by the way.” I laughed. My laughter was fake, but that’s ok. Leon laughed too. His laugh also sounded fake. This whole interview ritual is so contrived. I hate it.

“I reviewed your resume and you are incredibly qualified. Your first and second interviewers recommend that we hire you. I just wanted to meet you to extend the offer to join our legal team personally.”

I sank in my chair. A wave of relief washed over me. I was hired.

“Thank you very much for this generous offer; I gladly accept.”

Well thank God that’s over with.

Leon stood up from his chair. When Leon stood, he looked even taller and lankier than when he was sitting. He had to build of Abraham Lincoln, except that he was more handsome than our sixteenth president—no disrespect to Old Abe.

“Follow me; I’ll show you to your office.”

I stood up. Suddenly, I was aware of how small I was. I’m only five-foot-two and I only weigh about a little over one-hundred pounds, which is already small, I know. Usually I’m only around people who are six feet tall but Leon was six feet and six inches tall.

Leon walked out of his office and into the sterile hallway. He looked like a charcoal smudge on a blank canvas. I followed him two doors down the hallway.

“This whole wing is the legal division. As you know, there are about 20 lawyers and 30 support staff here. We usually outsource the majority of our work to firms, but we keep a small team of elite lawyers, which you are not a part of, to ‘hold down the fort,’ so to speak. There are other lawyers that work in different locations too, of course. But seeing as this is where our company is based, the action really happens here.”

I know…I’ve read the job description probably fifty times at this point…. I thought to myself.

“I’m happy to be joining this division.”

“You are the youngest person to join this division.” Leon opened the door to the office—my office.

I was quite impressed by the interior of the office. There were an ash-wood desk in the center of the office. It was one of those desks that can turn into a standing desk too. The barren walls were painted cream and empty ash bookshelves adorned the walls. The mid-morning light streamed through the window and danced through the blinds and on to the floor.

“This will be your office. You can decorate it how you please.” Leon paused. “You will have your orientation on June 13th so you’ll start then. I hope that gives you enough time to leave the firm that you’re working at.”

“Yes, it’s plenty of time, thank you for asking.”

“All of the new employees, no matter what their responsibilities entail, have a generic orientation to bring them up to date with office-wide possibilities. Maxwell Goodard also address the employees that day. After that, you’ll begin working.”

“Alright, I look forward to it.”

Leon flashed me a smile through his thin lips. “I’m looking forward to being with you. I mean, working with you.”

At that point, I really wanted to roll my eyes. I knew what that slip of the tongue meant—he liked me. And not in a “you-seem-like-a-really-cool-and-competent-and-fun-lawyer” sort of way. He liked me in a “I-want-to-have-sex-with-you” sort of way.

I ignored my passing thought. That may have been a mistake retroactively but, live and learn.

“Is there anything that you need from me before I start on the fifteenth?”

“No,” Leon leaned against the wall. He smirked once again. “Just head over to H.R. and get all of your paperwork completed.”

“Very well.” I smiled. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you.”

I hurried out the door. I was quite ecstatic to get the job. Something about this environment put me on edge but I chalked it up to application nerves; applying for a job is scary and it puts you in a situation where you read into things that probably aren’t there.

Yeah. I’m just imagining things. Everything will be ok.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

June 13, 2011

 

 

I woke up early on June 13th. By early, I got up at four in the morning. Yeah, that early. I paced around my studio apartment for the first hour. I tried to be calm but I found myself getting more and more stressed. I considered having some coffee, but I thought that it might be a bad idea, considering that I was already pretty on edge.

At least my apartment was beautiful. To be honest, I didn’t decorate it myself. I went into a display in a furniture store and bought all the furniture and accessories. My apartment was a combination of furniture displays thirty-one, forty-seven, and twenty-four. It was a mix of oak furniture, soft blue hues, fake flowers made of silk, and wicker baskets. It was always immaculate because I only slept there and hosted friends once a month on a Saturday. I lived at the law firm that I worked with and I was expecting to live in my office at the Goodard Corporation.

At five thirty in the morning, I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was not going back to sleep and I decided to get ready. After showing, putting on my makeup, and curling my waist-length platinum blonde hair, I stared at the three different suits that I laid out on the bed. One was a classic black skirt suit with a white blouse and a blazer. The second was a grey pant suit, and the third was a white skirt suit. I hemmed and hawed between the three but eventually I decided on the black skirt suit. I completed my outfit with light beige nylons, a pearl jewelry set, and high patent leather heals.

I looked in the mirror and I looked quite professional but a bit sickly. I wasn’t sure if the combination of my near-white hair and the black suit made me look washed out or if I was sick from nerves. I added an extra layer of blush to my cheeks. It didn’t really work but there was not much I could do at that point. No amount of makeup in the world could hide my jitters.

My alarm clock finally buzzed at me; it was seven o’clock. I was all ready to go with two hours to spare. Rather than wait around at my apartment, I decided to get breakfast at the diner that is near my apartment and where I will be working. I was one of the fortunate people who worked a ten minute distance from where I lived. Yet another perk of changing jobs—get to cut down on the commute.

I managed to kill some time at the local café before arriving to work thirty minutes early. I thought I was going to puke walking into the building but I didn’t. Thank God.

I managed to find the large auditorium and took a seat in the second row. There were some stragglers in the room already seated at various locations. I assumed that I was the only lawyer in this wave of new hires. Eventually, the auditorium filled out and nearly every seat was taken. To my right was an older woman in her forties and to my left was a woman who looked around my age—in her middle-to-late twenties.

I chatted animatedly with both of the women about the weather and various other things. The older woman, I forget her name, had two children and was working in the science division. The younger woman, I also forget her name, was going to start her first job out of college working in public relations.

A short, stout man walked up to the podium. He was wearing a grey suit, also a three-piece suit like the one that Leon was wearing during his interview with me. Leon looked elegant and stately in his three piece suit—this man looked like the Monopoly man, minus the monocle. The man cleared his throat and silence fell upon the room.

The man adjusted the microphone down to his level. “Good morning, everyone.” He started to say in a deep, jovial voice. “I am proud to be the first one to welcome you to the Goodard Corporation. You have all been selected to work here because you excel in your field; the Goodard Corporation only hires the best of the best.”

I felt blush rise to my face. The best of the best? My ego had been sufficiently stroked.

“The mission of the Goodard Corporation is to develop drugs to eradicate major diseases that are plaguing the world. We’re currently developing drugs to combat Dementia, Cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, just to name a few. This company was founded seven years ago by Maxwell Goodard, who was only eighteen at the time. As a child genius, he already obtained a PhD in chemistry and completed an M.B.A. program by the age of seventeen. The Goodard Corporation has grown from being a small corporation with a staff of thirty to a large corporation with a staff of eight thousand across the country. Here at the corporate headquarters, we employ about five hundred people.”

The man suddenly stopped speaking. His face turned red as he stared at the man in the back of the room.

“And, without any further ado, Maxwell Goodard will make some remarks to you all.”

The man stepped to the side. I, along with the eighty other people in the room, turned around. Maxwell Goodard was standing at the back of the room. I knew his face from the pictures. I mean, who doesn’t know what the Maxwell Goodard looks like. America’s most eligible bachelor. Goodard looked like he could model. He was tall—probably around six-one to six-three—and had a muscular build. By muscular, I mean muscular. You could see his muscles bulge from his suit. He had a square jaw, thick lips, coiffed dark brown hair, a Roman nose, and steely blue eyes.

He walked from the back of the room up to the podium. And suddenly, I felt like I was eleven and awkward with buck teeth, boney knees, and frizzy orange hair. I got that feeling every time I was in the same room as an attractive man. I felt myself blush. I was probably as red as a tomato when he walked by me. I saw him look in my general direction and I immediately averted my eyes to the floor. Once he walked passed me, I looked up again.

My heart was racing a mile a minute. Why are you so awkward, Mel Jones? Why do you fall to pieces every time you see an attractive man?

“Are you alright?” The woman to my right whispered. I nodded my head quickly and looked up to the podium.

Maxwell took his position at the front of the podium. “Good morning.” He began. His voice sounded deep and commanding. “I trust that my colleague, Jonathan, gave you a decent introduction to the company. For those who do not know me, my name is Maxwell Goodard and I am the president and founder of this company. I will keep my remarks brief.”

I shifted my weight in my chair and re-crossed my legs. I need some water. Please don’t faint; that would be so embarrassing…

“This company has a mission and that mission is to eradicate the major diseases in the world. You are all an essential part in executing this mission so please work your hardest. Thank you.” Maxwell nodded curtly and walked back out the way he came. All eyes were on him as he exited the room. He just walked with such elegance and confidence. When he walked by me, I could smell his fine musk. I blushed again and watched him exit the room.

The man from earlier hurried back over to the center of the podium.

“Erm…Maxwell Goodard will be rejoining us at the five o’clock cocktail hour to celebrate your first day here. He would love to meet with each of you.”

He didn’t seem like the social type to me…

“Anyways, let me inform you of company policies…”

I tried my hardest to listen to the man—Jonathan—drone on and on about the company policies. I got the gist of what he was saying; a lot of it was generic information that is applicable to every office. Then a long parade of speakers came in to explain to us various company policies, some of which were more relevant than others.

Eventually, the afternoon started to dwindle away and it was already four-thirty. At this point, I had my fill of hearing about security, I.T. policies, and alike. I’m glad that we had a lunch break at least. If I didn’t have that, I would have lost my damn mind through the sheer boredom of it all. Or I would have died from dehydration. Either way it wouldn’t have been good.

“Alright, thank you for your patience today. You will have a thirty minute break and then you will go over to the auditorium for the cocktail hour with Maxwell Goodard.”

I stood up from my seat and gingerly walked over to the bathroom—my hip hurts whenever I sit down for too long. Fortunately, the pain dispersed when I arrived at the bathroom. I re-applied my lipstick, touched up my hair, and went on my way.

I navigated the maze of the company building and made my way over to the auditorium. The auditorium was decorated beautifully; tables with white linens were scattered throughout the room and there was a bartender wearing a tuxedo in the far corner.

I saw Maxwell standing at the far side of the room with a glass of red wine in hand. He looked trapped in a conversation with a group of five new employees. I gulped, headed over to the bar and grabbed a glass of red wine and jumped into a group of people. There were about three women and two men in this group and they were all chatting animatedly about their roles in the company.

“Uh, orientation was a drag. I’m excited to start doing actual work tomorrow.” One of the people in the group commented

“Yeah, I know. Those things are always annoying. The food was pretty good though.” Someone else said.

I decided to chime in here. “Yeah, I’d like to start doing work. I feel like that’ll make the ‘new job jitters’ go away. I just want to do something, you know?” I let out a fake laugh.

I heard a strong and authoritative voice from behind me. “I’m glad to hear that you’re eager to start work.” My body shook in a startle, and I spun around quickly. Maxwell Goodard loomed over me. “Maxwell Goodard.” He extended his hand to me. I gave it a firm handshake.

“Mel Jones.”

“What division will you be working for?”

“I will be working as an attorney in the legal division.” I responded. I flashed a wide smile and nodded my head awkwardly.

“Are you interested in having an intern work with you?”

That’s an odd question…

“Of course, I would love to have an intern.”

What am I really going to say, ‘no, I don’t want an intern’ to the president of the whole company on my first day?

“Alright, great, my sister was interested in interning for the legal division. She’ll be in touch with you in a few days after you get settled. ”

“I’m looking forward to it.” I smiled and nodded curtly.

Great…

Maxwell turned to the young man to my right. He extended his hand out to him. “Maxwell Goodard.” He said to the man. They shook hands and began making small talk.

Alright. That went significantly better than expected. I feel so relieved.

I tuned out the surrounding conversation and sunk in the back of my heels. I wanted to exhale loudly but I didn’t want to show Maxwell and the whole group how relieved I was.

Suddenly, I heard something that piqued my interest.

“I don’t think that you’re a right fit for this company. I believe that you should seek employment elsewhere.”

My eyes widened, lips pursed, and I locked eyes with a woman in the group. She also had that look of terror on her face. I completely tuned out the conversation so I had no idea what this young man said to warrant being fired on his first day. My stomach dropped.

I glanced at the newly-fired man from my peripheral vision. He looked devastated. He opened his mouth and then closed it again. He placed his beer glass on the table and started to walk out the door with his head hung low. My heart went out to him; he looked like he was a kid who just graduated from college. That was probably his first real job.

Maxwell moved onto the next person in the circle. “Maxwell Goodard.” He shook her hand. At this point, I thought it would be best if I slunk away from the conversation. I slowly backed away and entered another cluster of people. I spoke with them for about five minutes, put my drink down, and scurried out the auditorium door before he rethought my employment.

As soon as I got outside, I grabbed my phone to call my sister. I had to let someone know that my boss was incredibly sexy and incredibly crazy. Who better to tell than my kid sister Ray? She loved gossip like this. When I was about five minutes away from the building, I whipped out my phone, scanned my surroundings for eavesdroppers, and dialed my kid sister.

I waited patiently for my kid sister to pick up. Eventually, she did.

“Hello?” My sister said.

“Hey, Ray.” I replied.

“Mel? What happened? How was your day at work?”

“Oh my God. I should have stayed at the firm. The CEO is insane, I think.”

“Maxwell Goodard? No way! How?”

“He fired some poor kid right out of college in his first day.”

“What did the guy do?” My sister asked.

“I don’t know. Just said something rude, I guess. Anyways, how was your first day of summer?”

“Oh, it’s fun. I got to go to the beach today with my friends. Mom, Dad, and I are going out to get ice cream when they get home from work.”

“Really? That sounds like fun.” I said. Talking to my kid sister made me wish I was living closer to home. I kinda wish I was going out to ice cream at night instead of to an empty apartment. Ah, the perks of being young. To be fourteen again…

“But anyways, Maxwell Goodard. Back on track. What’s he like?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged.

“Did you talk to him?” Ray asked.

“Look, I know you have a big old crush on Maxwell Goodard along with the rest of the female population of this country but he’s not that special. He’s kind of a jerk. And he’s shorter than he is in the magazines. I’m gonna be stuck babysitting his sister too. Apparently she’s gonna be my new intern.”

“You’re watching Harriet Goodard? The Harriet Goodard?”

“Should I know her?”

“You’re so uncool, sis.”

I laughed at that comment. “Seriously, should I know her?”

“She’s on TV all the time. She’s a budding model and a TV personality. She has millions of twitter followers. She made that weird eyeliner trend.”

“Oh, that girl. Is she nice?”

“Well…” Ray’s voice trailed off. “I’m sure her real personality is different from her internet personality…”

“Oh, I don’t like the sound of that.” I groaned.

Great. I’m stuck babysitting this diva. Well this sucks.

“If you can, can you put in a good word for the Goodards for me? They’re so cool.” Ray said. I knew what that meant. Ray wanted to hang with the celebs. Typical fourteen year old. I would have loved to switched places with her. She could hang with the celebs and I could get ice cream with my parents. That would be nice.

“Will do.” I laughed. “Love you, Ray.”

“Love you too.”

I hung up the phone and sighed. It looks like I was going to have my work cut out for me after all.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

June 14, 2011

 

 

I woke up at 7:00 a.m. on June 14th. I managed to get some sleep that night and I felt slightly more rested although, truth be told, I was running more on adrenaline than stress. This would be my first real day at work, after all. I had to do well.

I arrived at the office at 8:30—thirty minutes early. Fortunately, the week before starting I went to the office and brought my belongings in to decorate it. Arriving to a fully decorated office put me at ease. Seeing my deep red casebooks line the bookshelves and some art prints sit on the wall made me feel more at home. I have this nasty habit of overworking so I knew that this office would be more of my home than my actual home.

I walked over to Leon’s office. I had no idea whether or not he’d be in the office before nine, but I knocked on the off-chance that he was so I could get some work to do.

“Leon?”

“Come in.” I slowly pushed the door open and stepped into the office—back into the realm of the 1800’s. As soon as I stuck my head through the door, Leon jumped up from his chair with a book in hand.

“Melody!” Leon walked over to me. “You’re here early.” He grabbed my hand with both of his and gave me a very awkward handshake.

I smiled awkwardly. “Yes, I just wanted to get in early so I could get settled and start working.”

“I admire your work ethic.” Leon walked to a bookshelf and put the book that he was holding back on its rightful spot on the shelf. “I had one of the staff put the documents in your closet. There’s a lot there, just to warn you.”

“Alright, I’ll go look in the closet.”

“The case is a particular one. Mr. Goodard is looking into acquiring a property that will be used as a research lab and an office building. There’s an old strip mall on the property too and those contracts can’t be extinguished.”

“Have we sighed a land sales contract?”

“No land sales contract yet. Maxwell is just loosely talking about acquiring it.”

“Oh, property and contracts, great. I’m on it.” I smiled up at Leon and adjusted my purse on my arm to prevent it from sliding off my narrow shoulder.

“I saw on your resume that property is your forte so I figured that the building acquisition would be safe in your hands.”

“Yes, it is. Thank you.”

Leon laughed. “Don’t thank me yet. Once you get a load of the documents you’ll be cursing me.” Leon chuckled.

“Well, if that’s all, I’ll get to work.” I said. I spun around on the balls of my feet to head out the door and get to work.

“Wait.” Leon said. “Would you like to get lunch together? I always take the new attorneys to lunch on the first day.”

“I would like that very much.”

Now, would I really like to have lunch with the head of the legal department? Not really. These sorts of lunches are usually awkward and forced. Plus I had the odd feeling that he liked me. But I agreed nonetheless. I’m not going to say no.

“Alright. I’ll swing by your office at 1.”

“Sounds good, thanks.” I walked out of his office and into the bright white hallway and back into my office. I closed the door behind me so I was secluded in my own little world.

The first thing I did was walk over to the closet and opened it. There were boxes upon boxes of papers. The boxes were stacked so they were almost as tall as I—not like that is saying much since I’m so short.

Crap. Of course they give the new girl the annoying and time-consuming case…just like the firm.

I reached up and grabbed the first box and carried it over to my desk. The box was very heavy, and even though I work out a lot, I nearly dropped it on my shiny beige heels a few times.

I opened the box and noticed that my paralegal typed up a one page summary of this particular purchase. I made a mental note to thank her later. Oh, and to introduce myself to her. I promised myself that I would do that this afternoon. But first, I wanted to go and get a head start on these documents.

I sat down on the desk, cracked my knuckles, and pulled out a stack of paper. I put my trusty half-moon glasses on and began reading.

I got lost in the paperwork, per usual. I combed over every line and every detail. So far the paperwork seemed pretty normal. We didn’t have to make a decision on the property until December but if Maxwell was in the middle of talks, I wanted to have the information ready at a moment’s notice. Eventually, I head a gentle knock at the door. Even though the sound was soft, I still felt quite startled. I jolted upright.

“Come in!” I said.

Leon pushed the door open gently and popped his ginger hair through the door. “It’s lunch time.” He announced.

I took off my half-moon glasses and placed them on my desk. “Already?” I responded. “I feel like I just started.” I slowly stood up and walked over to Leon. I had a dull ache in my hip from sitting. “I have a tendency to get lost in my work.” I let out a fake laugh. I didn’t want Leon to know that I was all achy. Then I’d have to have a conversation with him about it.

“So do I.” He responded.

Leon held the door to my office open and I walked through it. I had to walk quickly to keep up with him. His strides were so long seeing as he was super tall and I was not. I still had a tough time navigating the long sterile hallways of Goodard Corporation. There were no recognizable landmarks so I couldn’t commit anything to memory to find my way around. Eventually the two of us walked through the parking lot and I followed his lead over to the car. He opened the door and I entered it.

His car was beautiful. It was a “fully loaded” red coverable sports car with beige seats and wood paneling. I’m not good at identifying car brands, but this was something old and something expensive. Leon walked into the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse. I smiled to myself.

To put all that money into a car but go cheap and get a stick shift?

“Nice car.” I commented to fill the silence.

“Thank you.” Leon said. “I’m a big fan of cars. I just like the feeling of being able to control the speed of the car and where it goes. It makes me marvel at the modern world.”

“Yeah, the modern world is pretty amazing.” I respond in a fake-cheerful voice.

This is going to be a long hour…

“The restaurant I chose is about ten minutes away. I hope you like Italian.”

“At this point, I could eat anything.” I laughed. An awkward silence filled the car. “I forgot my breakfast.” I added. I cleared my throat.

Why am I so awkward? I hate these functions…I really do.

“I know if you’re anything like me, you probably hate these sorts of work functions.”

Busted.

“Well I—”

Leon cut me off. “We’ll try to make this fun. Or at least as painless as possible.”

“If we have good food and good conversation, it won’t be too bad.”

“I like your attitude.” Leon said.

Before I knew it, we pulled into a small Italian restaurant. It looked pretty nice; it had white table cloths and usually restaurants with white table cloths are pretty fancy. It was one of those restaurants where they gave you a plate of delicious bread to munch on before you ate your lunch.

I decided that I was going to have a Caesar Salad before I even walked into the building. The smell of meatballs and sauce started to tempt me away from my decision but I didn’t want to consume any empty calories and I also didn’t want to spill sauce on my white suit.

Leon and I took our seats. We had a choice between a table and a booth and, thankfully, Leon picked the booth. They’re so much more comfortable than wooden chairs. I put my white leather bag down and sat down on the squishy red leather seat.

“The bread here is delicious.” Leon noted.

“Oh, that’s good. I usually like to fill up on bread in places like these.”

An awkward silence loomed over the two of us. I felt like I was on a date that going south.

“So…do you go back to Lincoln Law at all?” I asked.

“No. Truth be told, I spent more time in the library than anywhere else. I don’t have too much of a tie to the school.”

“Me too!” I chimed in. “I feel like I should have this alumni pride or something but all I remember is the classes and the library.”

“It is a nice library.” Leon noted.

“Yeah, expect when those noisy undergraduates came in.”

Leon let out a loud laugh. He had sort of a silly, jovial laugh.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. During finals I felt like my head was going to explode. Especially 1L year.”

“The first year is the worst. The worst.”

“Whenever anything bad happens in life, I always think ‘at least I’m not in law school.’”

I grabbed my glass of water and raised it. “Cheers to that.” Our glasses clinked and we drank our water.

Maybe this lunch won’t be awful after all.

Soon enough the waiter came over to take our entre.

“I’ll have the eggplant parmesan please.” Leon said.

“Caesar salad for me.” I handed the waiter my menu. “Thank you.”

“Coming right up.” The waiter strutted away from the table.

Leon leaned over onto his table and rested his hand on his chin. “Ceasar salad?” Leon asked.

“I’m wearing a white suit.” I gestured to my white skirt suit. “I don’t trust myself.” I laughed.

Leon threw his hand up in the air. “Oh, well that makes sense.” He plopped back down again. From here, the conversation drifted over to sports cars. So boring. It took practically all of my patience to pay attention and I was only doing it because was my boss.

Eventually, Leon said something interesting. “I heard you’re on Harriet duty. That stinks that you got that thrown on you on your first day.”

I cocked my head to the side. Harriet duty?

“What do you mean?”

At this time, the waiter come in and brought our food.

“Harriet duty.” Leon sighed as he was cutting up his breaded eggplant, which smelt delicious, I might add. “Keeping this between us, Harriet is…um…how do I say it? A spoiled brat.”

Uh-oh. It looks like her TV personality is actually her real personality.

“Really?” I leaned in. “My kid sister said she was a jerk on TV but I took that with a grain of salt.” Now this was getting interesting. I needed all the information that I could get on my new intern to survive.

“Alright.” Leon leaned back and sunk into his booth. “So every couple of months, Harriet always wants to try something new. She’s basically just a rich kid. A socialite. She and her loud clique of teenage girls always run around the office being rude to the staff there and, eventually, Harriet gets bored and wants to move on and do something else so she goes to a different division and terrorize them. So far she’s wanted to be a scientist, secretary, lawyer, doctor, researcher, doctor again and chemist.”

I needed a neutral thing to say. Just in case I was being set up and dragged into some weird office politics that I knew nothing about. “That sounds annoying.”

“Yeah, she’s the boss’s sister so we all can’t say or do anything. She’s a terror. This is the second time she expressed interest in being a lawyer so that’s why I’m familiar with the situation. I just have to say, I feel sorry for you.”

“I wonder why she does that.” I thought out loud.

“My guess? Maxwell is just too busy trying to make money and just doesn’t give Harriet the time of day. She’s bored and lonely, I’m thinking.”

“Oh.” I said.

“Even though she’s a terror, I do feel kind of sorry for her.” Leon stirred his water with his straw.

“Why? It sounds like she has a good life.” I said.

“Yeah, I know that she’s probably one of the richest high schoolers ever but, again, this stays between us, she and Maxwell lost their parents when she was very, very young. They were in an orphanage for a year or something and then they got adopted by some wealthy older woman who died about a year after Maxwell founded this company.”

“Oh, that’s terrible.” I said sincerely. Hearing this sort of changed my opinion on Maxwell Goodard; I felt a little sorry for him. I had a rough go of it too, not like the Goodards, but it made me empathetic. “Does she get to spend any time with her brother at least?”

“I don’t know what’s up with them. It’s weird. He’s always at work and she’s always with friends or doing God-knows-what but at the same time, he’s made sure she’s set up with all the best things. Maybe too many nice things. I don’t know.” He shook his head.

I nervously stirred my water and took a quick sip of it. “That sounds like a terrible situation.”

“Then again, I may be biased. I was never a wealthy person. I had to work for everything I’ve ever had.”

I looked down on the ground. “Me too.” I said quietly. I paused and leaned back into the booth. I was so nervous from the conversation I could feel myself sweating and the booth was sticking to my thighs. I gulped some more water. “In a way though, I’m happy for Harriet. At least she has some sort of a ‘happy ending.’ She has her brother and she’ll be set for life.”

Leon frowned. “I suppose.” He crossed his arms. “Although, if in case you can’t tell, I’m not much of a fan of the uber-rich. Plus with Maxwell having the…um…personality that he has, it’s hard to be happy for either one of them.”

“What do you mean?” I leaned forward as I took a bite of my salad.

“He’s an asshole. I mean, he thinks we’re friends but we’re not. I mean, he’s not openly an asshole. Like, he doesn’t do rude things on purpose, he’s just really cold and aloof. Doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies.”

“He seemed nice enough. Well, to me anyways.” I said. I figured that was the most neutral answer that I could give.

“He’s ruthless. He’ll screw over anyone to get ahead. I mean anyone. He’ll back out of deals, fire loyal staff members before Christmas. You name it, he’ll do it. It’s like he just cares about the bottom line. And he doesn’t even spend the money, which is the weird thing. He’ll donate a lot to charity, which is good, I suppose, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s so damn rude.”

I nodded my head knowingly and smiled awkwardly.

What the hell do I say to that? Am I being set up?

“I heard that he fired someone yesterday. On their first day.” Leon said.

I leaned inwards and laughed. Woops. I can’t pretend to be neutral now. “That was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen!” I laughed and leaned backwards.

“You were there?” Leon gasped.

“Not only was I there, I was standing right next to them. Right. Next. To. Them.”

“Do you know what he fired the new kid over?” Leon asked.

“Nope. To be completely honest, he spoke with me first and I was too busy feeling relieved that our conversation went well so I wasn’t paying too much attention to their conversation until I heard Mr. Goodard fire the poor guy.”

Leon opened his mouth and closed it. He lifted up his finger. “Honestly, the thing that bothers me most is his actions show that he just has no trust for whoever hired that man in the first place. At least let the guy work before you fire him.” He took the last bite of his pasta.

I nodded my head slightly.

“I take it you’re not the biggest fan of the Goodards.” I said neutrally. Truth be told, the conversation was making me quite nervous. I was new to the work environment so I didn’t want to get too involved in office politics. I wanted to know more information, of course, but at the same time, I didn’t know the secret alliances and politics of the Goodard Corporation.

Leon looked around the room and then leaned in on the table. “No one is. All of senior management hates him. They’ve been trying to get rid of him for ages but it’s tough because he’s the majority shareholder too. And he is making money for the company hand-over-fist.”

I finished the last bites of my Caesar salad and dabbed my mouth with a napkin.

Leon motioned over for the check. The waiter dutifully came by and handed Leon the check.

I went to pull out my card. Leon lifted up his hand. “No, this is my treat.”

“Thank you, Leon.” I folded my hands awkwardly on my lap.

Leon smiled at the waiter. “Keep the change.” He said. I stood up from my booth and walked over towards the door and out towards Leon’s car. Leon rushed to my side of the car and opened the door. “After you.” He said. He gave an awkward bow.

I sat down and Leon hurried over towards the driver’s seat. I glanced at myself in the mirror. I forgot to reapply my lipstick and my hair was starting to get frizzy because of the June heat but other than that, I looked ok.

Leon put the car in first gear and I watched the world go by through the window. The car ride was filled with Leon chatting away with a case that he was working on. I nodded periodically and chimed in at the appropriate time. Truth be told, I was concerned about the conversation that I just had. I was mentally replaying it to make sure I said neutral things.

Eventually, Leon pulled up in front of the large building that was our office.

“I have an odd question to ask you.” I looked over at Leon. He looked nervous. His long fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly. “Would you like to have dinner and drinks with me this Friday.”

I knew it. I knew this would happen.

“Look, no pressure. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or anything. It’s just that you’re really easy to talk to and I thought that it might be fun. But if you feel uncomfortable because you work with me, then I totally get it and I won’t be offended or anything.”

Bullshit. You’re my boss.

“It’s fine.”

“Cool.” He exhaled loudly. “I’ll pick you up at six at the office?”

“Cool.” I nodded my head. Silence filled the air. Leon drummed his fingers across the steering wheel.

“Well, let’s get back to work.” Leon said. He quickly got out of the car and opened the door to me. “After you.” I got out of the car as well and slowly walked over to the sterile office building. Leon and I walked over to the hallway and went our separate ways.

When I got inside my office, I felt so confused. Leon seemed like a genuine nice guy. A bit of a gossip but a nice man nonetheless. He reminded me a bit of myself with his long limbs, red hair, and awkward laugh. I might not have been physically attracted to him, per se, but I figured that he was a nice and hard-working man. Probably worth a shot. Better than a lot of the other guys I’ve dated in the past—that’s for damn sure. I know it’s bad to date your coworkers but we’re both responsible people. I figured nothing could go wrong here.

…Right?

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

June 15, 2011

 

 

I got to the office early the next day. I woke up early and went to the gym and, after going to the gym, I figured that it was time to start my day anyways. I still had a lot of documents to go through and, if Harriet turned into as much of a terror as Leon and my sister described, I would need the morning and late evenings to get my work done.

The more and more I looked into this building purchase the more nervous I got. First, they didn’t use a broker to sell their building. That’s not illegal or anything—owners can choose to sell their own buildings. They don’t have to have an agent since they’re selling their own building, but it is unusual. Secondly, there were some leases in the research complex that were shops. Purchasing that would make Goodard Corporation a landlord to a strip mall in addition to having a research facility. I memorized every piece of paper I saw; the dealings are too messy in this situation to put anything to chance.

At around eleven the doors to my office swung wide open. I took off my half-moon reading glasses and looked up. In the doorway stood a tall and thin artificially blonde woman who was decked from head-to-toe in designer brands and a fake spray tan. She had on big, round sunglasses and a bright pink structured tube-top dress. She was wearing heels that made her look even taller. She was probably five-ten, but the shoes made her look like she was over six feet tall.

The woman walked over to my desk and dropped her white leather designer bag on it. She flipped up her shades and I saw her piercing eyes and high cheek bones that you could cut glass off of.

I stood up and extended my hand.

“You must be Harriet. I’m Mel. Mel Jones.” I shook her hand.

“I’m Harriet Goodard.”

“Take a seat.” I gestured to the beige leather chair that sat opposite my desk. I smiled at her. Even though she was dressed unprofessionally, I figured that I’d be polite and meet her where she was.

Harriet chomped away on her gum and flopped down onto the chair.

“You wish to be an intern here, correct?” I smiled.

“Yeah. I guess.” Harriet bit the bubble that she blew and folded the gum back into her mouth. She looked out the window with a disinterested expression.

“What makes you want to work in the law?” I asked.

Harriet rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to work in the law.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Then why are you here?”

“My stupid older brother sent me to this stupid school that makes me do a stupid internship. Every. Freaking. Summer. Like, why can’t I have fun with my friends or do something else? Literally anything else? I just want to go to the mall instead I’m stuck here. No offense.”

How am I not supposed to take offense to that?

I paused for a moment. I figured that I should meet her where she’s at, so to speak. Someone had to look at the shops in property that we were purchasing. Why not her? If she wants to shop, let her shop and so something that needs to be done anyways.

“…I think I have something for you.”

Harriet rolled her eyes. I wondered how someone could turn out to be so rude and entitled. When I was her age, I was working two jobs and going to college trying to get ahead. Entitled brat. At that moment in time, something in me snapped. The buck had to stop with me. I was going to put her in her place. Boss’s sister be damned. I figure if I’m not going to earn her cooperation through being friendly, I’ll earn it by being the meanest boss ever. Probably no one ever told her that she’s a terror. Welp. She’s going to get an earful. What’s the boss going to say? Can he really fire me for doing my job and trying to teach his sister some damn manners, respect, and a work ethic? He must know that his sister sucks. He’ll understand.

“Look.” I started. “I know you don’t want to be here, but I’m trying to meet you half way. If you’re going to be in this office you’re going to do some kind of work.”

Harriet scoffed. “How dare you?”

I stood up from my chair and leaned over on my desk. I probably was more intimidating in my own head than in real life. When you’re only five-one, it’s hard to be intimidating. “How dare I do what? Make you do actual work? You’re getting a paycheck here. So long as you are getting a paycheck you will do work.”

Harriet scoffed.

“Furthermore,” I continued, “This is one of the most prestigious medical research facilities in the world. So many people would jump at your opportunity.”

Harriet stood up and grabbed her bag. She loomed over me like a pillar. “Well, you know what!”

“Sit down.” I ordered.

“What!?”

“Sit down, Harriet.”

Harriet plopped down in her chair and fidgeted with the handle of her white leather bag. Inwardly, I was celebrating that I won our little exchange. I think I managed to display some female dominance to get her to back down. Outwardly, I was ice-cold though.

Harriet crossed her legs and looked off to the side. Her face was red. I could tell that she was embarrassed. Good.

“Fine. What do I have to do?”

I folded my hands on the desk and pulled out a blueprint of the research complex. “See this blueprint?”

“I have eyes.”

I put my hand out in a ‘stop’ motion. Harriet opened her mouth and then closed it. “I know you have eyes.” I responded calmly. “Anyways, this blueprint is a property that the Goodard Corporation is looking into purchasing.”

“So? What does this have to do with me?”

“This is a big complex; there are three large buildings here. This one,” I pointed to a glass thirteen story building, “is an office building. This one,” I pointed to a large warehouse, “is a research facility. This one,” I pointed to a strip mall. “is a mall that’s being sold with the property.”

“Why are we buying a mall?” Harriet asked.

“Honestly? I’m not too sure. The seller insists on selling these three properties as a unit.”

“Well, that’s stupid. Maxwell doesn’t need a mall.”

“I know it’s stupid. Here’s the thing—the mall has some leases on it.”

“People live in a mall?”

“It’s leases for the shops.” I corrected. “This company, Blazes, owns the mall and rents out spaces to different stores. The stores don’t actually own their property. If we buy the mall, we have to honor these leases so the shops stay.”

“Huh.” Harriet said.

“Some of these stores don’t pay Blazes Incorporated, the old owner, their rent.”

“Why does that matter?” Harriet asked.

“If we buy the building from Blazes, our title includes those leases. So if we buy this property, we buy this mall. If we buy this mall, we’re stuck with the people who are at the mall now, barring the leases that are up.” I explained.

“So, what does this have to do with me?”

“I’m getting to that. Be patient.”

“Ok.” Harriet sulked.

“I need you to go to the mall and see how busy it is. Look at the stores. Are there people there? If so, how many people? Is there anything shady going on there? Do the stores look like they’re making money? Things like that. I want to make sure this mall won’t cost the corporation a lot of money.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.” I repeated.

“So…you just want me to go walk around a mall and tell you what’s going on.”

“Yes, exactly. It’s important though. I want to see if there are a lot of people there so, if we do buy the property, I can get some new leases with the leases that are up and increase the pre-existing leases rent if I can.”

Harriet stood up and grabbed her bag.

“If you do this successfully, Ms. Goodard, then I will give you other tasks of more importance that suits your interest. However, if you decide to just skip and play hooky, you’re going to be stuck doing boring filing all summer long. Mark my words.”

Harriet looked down on the ground and blushed. “Ok.”

“Also, Ms. Goodard, work begins at nine in the morning. Prompt.” I added. Part of me regretted saying those words after they left my mouth. Now I was going to have to deal with her even more. At the same time though, I felt that I owed it to Harriet to mentor her. She reminded me a bit of Ray, my own kid sister. I wanted to help her. Give her some guidance that I felt that she desperately needed.

Harriet quietly nodded her head. It was a nervous and embarrassed nod. She scurried out the door. I smiled to myself. I hate to play the bad guy, but in this situation, someone had to do it. She was rude and a terror. Alright, maybe I did enjoy playing the bad guy a bit. I didn’t want to put up with that all summer. Also, she was going nowhere in life with that attitude. Even if she modeled, which I figured she probably would end up doing in the future, she still needs to be relatively cooperative, I told myself.

I sat down at my desk and continued to conduct my research in peace and quiet.

I had a sinking feeling that this was the last time I’d get some peace and quiet in the office for a while.

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

June 16, 2011

 

 

I arrived at the office at around eight in the morning, an hour before Harriet was due to arrive. I only had a small stack of pages left from that enormous four-box stack of papers from my closet and I figured that I would use that hour to commit those mages to memory. I had an idea of what information they would contain, but I wanted to review them nonetheless just to be sure that I wouldn’t be receiving any curve-balls here. They were documents outlining the condition of the building. As expected, the three buildings were in mostly good condition. A pipe needed repairs in the research building and the mall building had a problem with the central air but these were relatively minor fixes. There were no foundational cracks or anything like that, to my relief.

At 8:50, I heard a soft knock at the door.

Harriet? Oh my God. Is she early? It looks like our talk had some consequences after all.

Harriet entered the room. She was wearing a light blue skirt with a flowing white top; it was a much more professional look than yesterday. Her waist length blonde hair was tied back in a messy bun. In her hand she held the same white designer bag from yesterday.

She cautiously approached my desk.

“You’re early!” I happily said.

“I have something for you..” Harriet unzipped her bag and pulled out a manila envelope. She opened the envelope and pulled out five sheets of paper. She handed the paper over to me.

I put on my reading glasses and began to flip through the report. I was quite impressed with what I read. Harriet made a chart which contained headcounts of each customer in each shop and a report of what each cashier for each shop said about the flow of customers. I looked up at Harriet, who was standing in front of my desk fidgeting with her hands and shifting her weight about nervously.

I took off my glasses and looked up at her.

“Harriet.”

“Yes?”

“I have to say, I’m very impressed.”

“Really?” Harriet smiled from ear-to-ear. She let out a relieved and giddy laugh.

“You have, by far, exceeded all my expectations.” I said. It was true; I just expected, at best, Harriet would tell me what the shops were like generally.

“Thank you, I worked really hard on it. Although I can’t take all the credit for it; my brother helped me make the chart last night…”

Oh God. I have the CEO of a major company working on some busy work for an intern… I hope that won’t blow up in my face.

“I can tell you worked hard.”

“I visited the shops during the day and I talked to the cashiers. I visited the shops at night again and also talked to the cashiers. I was up until midnight turning this into a chart for you…”

“Wow…” I looked down at the chart again and then looked up at Harriet. “Thank you.” I figured it was important to reward her for her hard work. Show that she’s appreciated for the good work that she does. Positive reinforcement never hurt anyone before. Well, probably.

“So…now what?” Harriet asked.

“Well, I was going to go down to the courthouse and do a title check. Would you like to come with me?” I offered.

“Yeah! That sounds great!”

“Awesome. I’ll take you to lunch somewhere by the courthouse too as a thank you for doing such good work.”

“Really?” Harriet smiled. “That sounds great.”

“Alright, let’s go.” I grabbed my keys off my desk. “My car’s this way.” I walked out my office door and held the door open for Harriet, who toddled on behind me. We walked through the winding bright white hallway and eventually went into the parking lot. Unfortunately for the two of us, I parked towards the back of the parking lot. My feet were killing me in my stiletto heels.

After what seemed like an eternity of walking in the hot sun in painful shoes, we arrived in my car. My car wasn’t anything fancy. Truth be told, I usually liked to walk to work and just leave the car in the work parking lot for driving to the courthouse. I liked having it in case of emergencies though.

That’s your car?” Harriet said in surprise. “You dress so fancy and your office is so fancy but your car is so basic.”

I laughed. “I don’t really care much about cars so I just got an affordable one that works. Gets me from point A to point B.” I shrugged.

“As someone who just got her license, I’m all about cars right now. All about them.”

“Oh, you just got your license?” I said as I ushered myself into the car. It was a bit hot from sitting in the hot sun. My makeup was melting.

“Yeah.” Harriet replied. “I got it six months ago. I swear I took a year off of my brother’s life when he was teaching me how to drive.” She laughed. “After I got my license he got me the sports car of my choice.”

Huh. Her account of her brother seems a lot different than Leon’s. Not that any of this is my business…

“That’s great.” I said. “Congrats on your license.”

Harriet sat down in the passenger’s seat and buckled up.

“So what’s a title search?” She asked.

“Ok,” I put the car in drive, “So when you buy property, you get this thing called title, which means you own the property. But, it gets a bit tricky. Sometimes the person you buy the property from has problems with their title.”

“What do you mean?”

I have no idea how to explain title defects to a high schooler…

“How do I explain this…? Alright, so let’s say we buy this property from Blazes but, come to find out, the person Blazes bought the property from sold it to someone else, who actually owns the property. That’s the absolute worst case scenario. We don’t want that to happen because we would have spent all this money on something that we don’t actually own. There’s other things that could be wrong with it too, like a mortgage we have to pay for or something.”

“So we’re basically making sure that if we buy this property we would own it and we don’t have to pay extra money and stuff..” Harriet said.

“Bingo.” I replied. “Well, also to see if Blazes took out a lien on their property too so we can see if this is a fire sale or not.” Fortunately, the drive was short. The courthouse was only a ten minute drive from the office. The drive was peaceful too. There weren’t many people on the road since it was right after rush hour. There was a little bit of glare sine it was still early in the day, but not too much of a glare.

“So what do we do? How do we do a title search?”

“So, we’re going to go to the courthouse and then talk to the clerks. The clerks are going to show us where everything is. Then we’re going to look at this thing called a grantee index and figure out who owned the property. Then we’re going to look at this thing called a grantor index to see who the owners sold it to. We’ll use that info to look at the deeds and stuff. We’re going to be on the lookouts for unextinguished mortgages, double sale gaps in time recording deeds, and just anything that looks sketchy in general.” I paused, wondering if I was forgetting something. And I was trying to make a tricky turn. “Oh, and we’re going to take a look at wills and stuff to see if any of the property was given away in someone’s inheritance.”

“How far back are we going?” Harriet asked.

“Eh, about fifty years. I mean, we could go back to when the land was sold from the government but that’s kind of time consuming and unnecessary.”

“Ok…is there anything else we should look out for?”

“Oh…um…” I looked out for a parking spot. We were near the courthouse. “If there’s a lot of easements. Restrictive covenants too.” I parallel parked in one of the spots and rummaged for some spare change in my cup holder. I pulled out a handful of quarters; I figured that would be enough to last for about three hours, which is the length of time I figured that it would take. Hopefully.

“Is this your first time in a courthouse?” I asked Harriet.

“I was there once a few years ago when Maxwell took legal guardianship over me. It was a different courthouse though and we were only there for about thirty minutes.”

“Alright, so you have been in a courthouse before. When we have some downtime this summer I’ll take you over to a trial. They’re interesting to watch.”

“Have you tried any cases?”

I laughed. “Only a couple. They were terrifying. I mean, I can do trial work but it’s really not my specialty. Honestly, most of the time I’m behind a desk doing stuff—most lawyers are. But, if you’re interested in criminal law, they spend a lot of time in court.”

“Huh. I didn’t know that…I thought all lawyers spent time in court.”

“Harriet, what have you done at your other internships?” I held the door to the courthouse open for her.

“Honestly? They just have me make copies and file things or tell me to go home. I know that they just want me to get out of their way…”

You weren’t doing any favors for yourself by the way you were acting yesterday…

I smiled at her. “This experience will be different. If you promise to work hard like you have been doing today, I’ll teach you everything that I know. I see a lot of potential in you.”

“Really?” Harriet smiled ear-to-ear.

“Really.”

Wow, she’s like a totally different kid. I guess all it took was some scaring combined with some positive reinforcement.

The two of us walked over towards the clerk. She was buried in a pile of folders. The courthouse here was a little dingy; the beige walls desperately needed a paint job—there was small cracks all over the walls and the paint was peeling. I could tell that Harriet was a bit nervous about the unsavory characters standing around outside with tattoos smoking their cigarettes.

“How long are we going to be here?” Harriet whispered to me.

“About three hours, I think. Hopefully. If it goes over that I’ll run over my meter.” I responded.

The clerk leaned over the high wooden table. “What can I help you with?” She asked.

“I’m looking to do a title check on this property.” I pulled out a piece of paper and slid it across the dingy countertop to the woman. She picked it up and examined it.

After a moment of silence, she motioned for Harriet and I to follow her to her back room and that’s what we did. The back room was also dingy and dusty.

“Blazes. That’s over in the B’s. The book is over by that file cabinet.” The clerk pointed to a file cabinet at the far side of the room. “You know where the wills are.” She pointed to the far side of the room. “Oh, and just to let you know, some of the properties might be listed out of order because we’re running out of room in the books.”

“Alright, thank you.” I said.

“Holler if you need anything.” The clerk said. She left the room to rejoin the rest of the courthouse, leaving Harriet and I alone in a mess of dust and books all illuminated by a dim fluorescent light.

I wandered over to the books and began sorting flipping through the pages.

Blazes…Blazes…B-L…

I began to get lost in my work. Every once and awhile Harriet would ask me a question and I would explain something to her. I also asked her to look in the wills for me every so often or to fetch a deed in another book for me. Eventually, I was satisfied that there were no title defects present in this property. The owner didn’t even seem to be in dire straits financially—David and Jessica Blazes even paid off their mortgage on the property. I put away the last book and stood up and stretched.

“Alright, we’re all set.” I announced.

“Really?” Harriet asked.

“Yup, now let’s go grab some lunch.” I walked out the dusty file room with Harriet walking swiftly behind me. I thanked the clerk as we walked out of the room and into the parking lot. I had five minutes to spare before the meter ran out.

“So…are there any problems with the title?” Harriet asked.

“Nope, none whatsoever.”

“That seemed like a lot of work for nothing going wrong.” Harriet commented.

“It really is. Other courthouses have it all automatic so you don’t even need to leave your home but not this one…should you practice law in the future, you probably won’t need to do a title search, truth be told.”

I put the car in drive and carefully left my parking spot. It was hard since the person in front of me didn’t leave that much room and a lot of people were on the road to get to their lunch appointments.

I let out a relieved sigh as we got on the road. “So where do you want to go?” I asked.

“There’s a café about ten minutes away. It’s a really nice sit-down place and they have an all-vegan menu.”

“That sounds really nice.” I replied. Vegan food sounded pretty good; I like to eat healthy, especially because I only go to the gym three times a week at the most. I’m pretty vain, admittedly. Growing up ugly does that to a person, I guess. Harriet plugged the directions to the restaurant in her phone and I followed the directions over to the restaurant. Eventually, we found our way inside.

I liked the atmosphere of the restaurant; it had comfortable booths, wooden tables, and bookshelves that adorned the walls. I could tell that this restaurant was used for poetry readings and things like that. Fun, hipster things.

The two of us sat down. I admired the modern art on the walls.

“This is a really nice atmosphere, you chose well.”

“It’s one of my favorite places in town. I always have the brie sandwich with a side salad.” Harriet commented.

“I’ll have that too.” I closed the menu and leaned back into the booth. My mouth felt dry and dusty after going through all those documents so I took a sip of water.

An awkward silence fell over the two of us. She seemed nice but I just had no idea what to talk to her about. She was three years older than my own sister so I doubt I could talk to her about the same things. The petty narcissism of small differences prevents a seventeen-year-old from liking the same thing as a fourteen-year-old.

“I thought you were pretty scary at first but you’re pretty cool” Harriet commented.

“Thanks. If you work hard, I’ll work hard too. This could be a really good summer.”

The awkward silence returned. I silently wondered if my comment was too harsh. I silently sipped my water. Eventually, the waiter brought our brie sandwiches and salads out. I decided to break the silence.

“So what do you like to do on your downtime?” I asked.

“Ok, well, I like to go shopping a lot. Hmmm…what else do I do…? I paint sometimes, play field hockey. Oh, and I play board games a lot too with my brother.”

“You play field hockey?”

“Yeah, I’m the team captain.” Harriet said proudly.

“That’s cool. I’ve never had a knack for sports. I’ve always been kind of a klutz.” I confessed.

“It’s the only way I can be normal.” Harriet looked down at her food. I could tell that she was sad.

“What do you mean?” I leaned forward.

What’s up with me gossiping with people inside restaurants these days? This is the second day in a row where I’ve been doing this. Sheesh.

“My stupid older brother thinks that I’m going to get kidnapped or something.” Harriet crossed her arms and sunk down deep into her booth seat. “I got a threatening phone call two years ago from someone saying that they were going to kidnap me for ransom and ever since I’ve been stuck with all this security at school and home. It’s totally embarrassing because like, everyone at the school knows that my brother was the one who insisted on having the metal detectors installed at the school. Totally put a cramp on my style.”

“That must have been scary though.” I said.

“Honestly, not really.” Harriet took a bite of her salad. “It’s just annoying that I can’t be like a normal high schooler, you know? I just want a normal senior year…”

I finally finished the final bite of my salad.

“Senior year should be fun. Have you started looking at colleges?” I asked.

Harriet sighed. “Yeah, that’s a tough topic.” Harriet put down her fork and dabbed her mouth. “I want to go and take a few years off and model but Maxwell wants me to get a degree in something. But, I think that’s a bad idea because by the time I’m graduated, I’ll be 22 and that doesn’t give me that much time left before I’m old in model years.”

“Is there any way you can do both?” I asked.

Harriet groaned. “That’s what Maxwell says too but I just don’t want to go…I want to carve my own path. He just doesn’t understand…”

I figured that it would be best if I dropped this topic; it seemed to be sensitive subject at the moment.

I dropped two twenty dollar bills on the table; I figured that would be enough for both of our meals plus a decent tip. Harriet pulled out her wallet.

“Oh, I can pay.” Harriet said.

“No, I insist.” I waived my hand dismissible. “Besides, technically you’re not allowed to. It’s company policy that interns can’t purchase meals for their employers.”

Harriet laughed. “I’m the bosses sister. I’m probably far richer than you.”

“Rules are rules. If you want to be treated just like everyone else, then you gotta follow the rules too.” I stepped out of the booth.

“Ok, boss.” Harriet laughed.

The two of us exited the restaurant and wandered back into the car where I drove us back to the office. During our car ride back, Harriet chattered about field hockey and modeling and the girl on the field hockey team that she had a crush on but didn’t know how to broach the subject with her. I tried to give her advice to the best of my abilities but it’s not like I have the greatest track record with romance so my advice was probably useless.

Eventually the two of us returned to the office. I spent the rest of the afternoon teaching Harriet how to conduct legal research online and answering all of her questions; I wanted to be a good mentor. Eventually, five o’clock came and I got back to doing my own work.

I reviewed Harriet’s chart and compared it to the sales that the stores reported. Everything seemed normal except for one exception. One notable exception. One of the stores—Marco’s Jewelry—reported to clear over five million a year in profits but, according to Harriet’s report, she didn’t see a single customer in there and the cashier said that if they had one customer that day, it would be a good day. According to Harriet’s report, after she started asking questions about how busy the store was, a man working there ushered her out and asked her not to come back.

For several reasons, I found this to be deeply troublesome. I knew that I’d have to look into that later but, since it was eight o’clock at night, I figured that would be something I could do at a later point in time. I packed up my briefcase and went home for the night.

It looks like I was back to my old habits of working late at night to try to do the best job possible. Spinning too many plates. Being a perfectionist. Oh well. I guess it’s better than being a slacker. Anyways, that’s what I told myself as I left the office at eight o’clock on a Thursday.

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

June 17, 2011

 

 

Eventually June 17th arrived—the day that I was to have my date with Leon. I had no idea how I felt about this date. I wasn’t physically attracted to him one hand but on the other hand, he seemed like a nice, hard-working man and I should be attracted to him. He’s tall. I like tall men. He’s successful. I like successful men. He seems to be in decent shape—a little bit skinny and scrawny but so am I. I just wasn’t feeling him though.

When I went to get ready that morning, I had no idea that I wanted to wear. I decided to wear a conservative, grey, crew-cut sleeveless dress that had a matching grey suit jacket. It seemed very business-ey. No cleavage. It made me look pretty busty but not sexy. The dress was knee length. I wore flats instead of heels thinking that maybe my shortness would make me less attractive to him.

My work was a welcome distraction. I trained Harriet some more on how to conduct legal research and write legal documents. After that, I conducted some research on my own. I was finishing the finishing touches of my current project. I knew exactly what course of action that we should take and I was prepared to make a decision. Leon probably thought that it would take me a lot more than a week to get through the paperwork but he also doesn’t know that I have a photographic memory.

Harriet was quite pleasant today, as she was yesterday. I believe that after our little conflict I have earned her respect. It makes the work environment much more pleasant. I liked to believe that I was making a difference in her life; teaching her some self-respect and improving her work ethic.

The two of us had lunch together and then she ended up leaving at around four—since she worked so hard I offered for her to go home an hour early and have an extra hour to her weekend. There was a big party that she wanted to go to and insisted on getting a new dress before-hand. At least one of us was guaranteed to have a good time. I didn’t want to tell her about my date because that could just cause drama and awkwardness. No need to drag everyone into my forced office romance.

After she left I touched up my makeup and pulled my hair back in a ponytail; even though I wasn’t too into my date, I still felt the need to complete my beautification ritual.

Leon was going to collect me at my office at seven. I used the last two hours to finish up my case so I would collect a new one on Monday.

Eventually Leon knocked on the door to my office and entered it—all six feet and six inches of him. He was wearing a blue suit this time and he had his ginger hair slicked back as if he were a 1950’s greaser.

“I brought you some flowers.” Leon pulled out a bouquet of red roses from behind his back.

“Oh, thank you. Let me put these in water right away.” I pulled out an empty glass and poured the contents of my water bottle in it. I dunked the whole bouquet in there. I know technically I was supposed to trim the stems, but it’s not like I had a pair of scissors in the office, or a vase for that matter.

Leon outstretched his arm for me to grab. At least he was being polite and a gentleman.

I grabbed his very tiny bicep and he escorted me down the maze that was the white hallway. I felt like a child grabbing onto his arm. The height difference was too much for us.

I don’t know why I wasn’t into Leon. He was classically handsome and tall and successful. All three of these things were things that I found attractive but there was something about him that made me not want to date him. Was he too much like me? Was it because he seems skeevy? I didn’t know. Something about him was oddly off-putting and I just wasn’t that into him. That’s all I knew.

“I made reservations at this new restaurant in town. It’s a French Bistro.”

“That’s great.” I smiled up at him.

“You look quite fetching in your grey dress.”

I didn’t respond to that comment. I didn’t want to lead the poor guy on.

Leon held open every door, including the passenger’s side to his shiny sports car. He drove the two of us to the bistro, chattering about his extensive legal career along the way. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like him; he was too self-centered. He either gossiped about other people or talked about himself and his accomplishments. It’s like he had a need to put others down and highlight how own struggles so his own triumphs seemed even more impressive, if that makes sense. That crap’s annoying.

I watched the world go by from the window. I tried to listen to him talk, I really did, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I nodded along and smiled and congratulated him at the correct moments. Eventually, we arrived at the restaurant.

It smelt really nice. The atmosphere was quaint; the restaurant was dimly lit and there were candles on all of the tables. Again, this was a restaurant with white linen cloths—I could tell that it was an expensive one. We opted for the outdoor seating though since it was such a pleasant summer evening.

Leon pulled out my chair and I thanked him and sat down on the wooden chair with white cushions. Leon sat down across from me and the two of us opened up our menus. I looked at the prices; everything cost a small fortune. Thirty dollars for a salad? No thanks.

The expensive restaurant made me nervous; I was beginning to worry that Leon had some…expectations. He seemed like a guy where, if he dropped one hundred dollars on a night, he was expecting something in return. I tried to dismiss those thoughts because Leon has been nothing but nice and gentlemanly to me and I told myself that I shouldn’t assume bad things about him and that he was just trying to get into my pants although I knew that was probably the truth.

I decided that I was going to get quail. It was forty dollars a plate, which was cheap considering the restaurant. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t order a forty dollar meal even if it came with twenty dollars on the plate but when in Rome, or technically a French bistro. Whatever.

“You look beautiful in this light.” Leon said.

“Ah, thank you.” I smiled at him.

Should I return the compliment? Oh, this is awful, I don’t want to lead him on. Why am I here…? Relax, Mel, you’re here because you want to date a nice man for once. A nice, tall, successful man.

“Some wine for the table.” Leon motioned over to the waiter.

The wine was nice; it was a rich, sweet red. I promised myself that I would only have one glass; I needed to keep my wits about me.

“So what do you do for fun?” Leon asked.

“Well, I…” I paused. “I just realized that I don’t have much of a life outside of work.” I laughed. “I host parties once a month on a Saturday. Umm…Every Sunday morning my best friend Amy and I get brunch and gossip. I go to the gym three days a week…? Sometimes I’ll hang out with my kid sister…?” I answered candidly.

“The law can be pretty demanding. I enjoy hiking.”

“That sounds fun.” I said. “I like going for walks but I’m not big into hiking or camping.”

“Oh, why not? I love camping.”

“I don’t think I can go without a hot shower and a blow dryer.” I pointed to my hair and laughed.

“I also spend a lot of time at work. On my downtime I do a lot of legal research to write some articles to publish on various law reviews. I have a reputation to uphold.”

“Oh, that’s great.” I said.

“There’s some other projects that I’m working on with the company too.” Leon leaned forward.

“Oh, is there something I can do?” I asked.

“…Maybe…”

“Well you let me know if I can do something.” I smiled and leaned back in my chair.

“I have the paperwork for it over at my penthouse suite. We can go over it tonight.”

Yup. Expectations. I was right. I know what ‘let’s look over paperwork’ means…

“Maybe later.” I laughed.

Oh, I’ll find an excuse to get out of sleeping with you, Leon Bradley.

“Have I mentioned how beautiful you are today?” Leon leaned forward towards me. He smiled at me over the candles.

“You said something along those lines earlier but thank you nonetheless.”

That seemed good. I showed neither interest or disinterest.

I heard a cell phone ring out in the open air. Even though the ringtone wasn’t familiar, I still assumed that it was my phone anyways. Instinct, I guess. Leon looked at me and smiled. He pulled out his phone and looked at it.

“I’m sorry. I have to take this. I’ll be back in a minute, beautiful.”

“Ok.” I smiled back.

Leon stood up and walked a few feet away. I pretended to look at my phone too and pretend that I wasn’t overhearing their entire conversation when, in reality, I was nosey and trying to listen to the whole thing. I heard something along these lines:

“Hello?” Leon paced back and forth. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be done at 3 p.m. this Monday.” Leon looked up at the sky. “We’ll still need someone to take out Harriet too.”

Take out Harriet? What the hell does that mean?

I felt my face turn a bit red from being flustered. I took a deep breath and had some water so I would look calm again.

“Well, we have to because Maxwell’s appointed her in his will so if we don’t take her out, we won’t get any money.”

What? What the actual fuck?

“Look, I’m going out on a date right now…” Pause. “With Melody Jones…” Pause. “The new attorney?” Pause. “You’d know her if you saw her.” Leon nodded his head and laughed. “Yeah, of course. Ok, bye.” Leon hung up his phone and slid it in his suit pocket. My mind was racing a mile a minute.

Take out Harriet? Does he mean kill? Is he going to kill Maxwell too? Is that what’s going on at 3 p.m. on Monday? What the hell?

I wondered what taking Harriet out to get the money could mean besides something bad. My mind was drawing a blank though. I thought that the best course of action would be to play it cool. Find out more information. Be even-keeled. Then, once I got the information I need, go to Maxwell and Harriet. Probably Maxwell because he’s assumedly the more mature of the duo since he owns the company at all.

Play it cool. Play it cool. Play it cool…

“Sorry about that. Urgent work matter.”

“Oh, well if there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” I smiled at him.

“Maybe. It’s that side project that I have at my penthouse.”

“Well I don’t want you to do all that work alone…” I leaned forward and smiled at him. Of course, I was feeling quite repulsed at that point, since he might be a killer and all. I really wasn’t feeling it. But at the same time, what if the side project at the penthouse actually had something to do with Harriet and Maxwell. He did say that it was connected to the conversation he had over the phone.

I decided that I was going to go over to his apartment, talk to him about whatever the fuck was going on, fake a family emergency, and then leave.

“Great! We’ll go tonight after dinner.” He brushed his leg against mine under the table. I felt sick to my stomach and I still had to sit through an insufferable dinner knowing that, at the end of the night, I’d have to potentially shag this asshole who might kill my crazy boss and my mentee. I still smiled outwardly and took a sip of my water.

The two of us ate our dinner. The quail was tasty. Not forty dollars tasty but it was still a good meal. Leon ate the same thing that I did. Every once and awhile he’d reach over the table and rub my arm. I smiled at him, pretending to enjoy his intrusive touches. I laughed at the appropriate times during his stories and I congratulated him at the right times as well. Every once and awhile he’d ask me about myself before turning the conversation back to him. Eventually Leon paid for the meal and held out his hand to help me out of my chair, as if I couldn’t get out of the chair by myself. Being pissed turned the gentlemanly gestures into condescending gestures.

As the night went on, I felt myself getting more and more irritated by this man. When I first met him during the interview, he didn’t seem that bad. At our lunch he seemed like an awkward gossip but still not bad. But then I got stuck in this date and that just soured him to me. It’s unfair to Leon because all he did was ask me out but, at the same time, I felt kind of pressured because he was my boss. He reminded me of a situation that I didn’t want to find myself in, I guess.

On the way over to his car, I felt Leon’s hand wander down from the small of my back to my rear end. He rubbed it gently.

Get zen…

When we got into Leon’s car I looked at the clock. It was only nine-thirty.

Leon put the car in drive, which was impressive seeing as half the time he was pawing at my thigh. Again, I heard a cell phone ring and I fumbled in my bag to find my phone. This time it was actually my ringtone. My mind was elsewhere so the sharp ringing was quite distracting.

I picked up my phone. “Hello?”

“Mel!” I heard a slurred voice from the other end of the phone.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“Haaaaarrriet.”

“Alright, Harriet. You sound a little off.”

“I’m druuunk, Mel. I wanna go hooome but I can’t call my brother or he’ll be so pissed at me.”

Inwardly, I was jumping for joy. A way out of this terrible date. Sure, I couldn’t find out about the business at the penthouse but I could just give Harriet and Maxwell a warning anyways and be done with it. I had to put on appearances. I didn’t want Leon to know that I was happy to get out of our date and I didn’t want Harriet to think that drunk-dialing her boss was a socially acceptable behavior. I let out a heavy and disappointed-sounding sigh. “Ok. Where are you?” I looked at Leon, pointed at the phone, and rolled my eyes for dramatic effect.

“I’m um…I’m um….where am I?” Harriet yelled. I assume that she was yelling for someone in the distance. I could her ‘thirty-two First street’ in the background. “Thirty-two First street.” Harriet answered.

“Alright…I’ll be there in thirty.” I hung up the phone and sighed once more. I really was laying it on thick there but whatever.

“I’m really sorry about this.” I said to Leon. “I’m going to have to go. Harriet duty calls.” I leaned back in the chair and rolled my eyes.

And the Oscar goes to Mel Jones for best actress.

“Well, maybe we can resume this in a few days.”

“I look forward to it.” I smiled at him.

“I’ll take you back to the office so you can get your car.”

“Thank you.” I smiled over at him. “Again, I’m really sorry…”

“No, I understand.” I heard a hint of disappointment in his voice. Of course he was disappointed. He expected to get laid and his plans were thwarted. Creep.

In a few minutes, we arrived at the office. Leon got out of the car and opened the door to my side of the car. He outstretched his hand to help me out of the car and I took it. He guided me over to my old crappy car and stood by me awkwardly in front of it.

“I had a great time tonight.” Leon said.

“Yeah, me too.” I lied.

Leon leaned in to kiss me. It was awkward. First of all, he’s six six and I’m five two so he had to lean in a lot and my neck was hurting. Second of all, he was way too passionate. You know those fishes that go and clean the side of a fish tank? Well, that’s how he kissed. In this situation, I was the fish tank. After an insufferable two minutes, I broke out of the kiss.

“I have to go.” I smiled at him and looked down on the ground, pretending to blush. I got into the car and then drove off slowly. Once I saw that Leon was out of view I popped a breath mint and wiped my mouth. That was probably one of the worst dates I’ve ever been on and now I was going to pick up a drunk teenager. Considering what Leon wanted to do that night, my night could have been a lot worse.

Be grateful for small blessings.

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

June 17, 2011

 

 

I plugged in the address that Harriet gave me into my smartphone and drove over to the house.

The house looked like a frat house. Was Harriet at a college party? Probably. The Greek letters on the building were evidence of that. I went up to the door and knocked.

A shirtless man wearing a backwards flat-topped baseball hat answered the door. Loud pop music assaulted my ears and stale pizza and cheap hard liquor assaulted my nose.

“I’m here for Harriet. Harriet Goodard.”

“Oh, the sloppy drunk girl.”

I stepped inside, avoiding a red party cup that was spilt on the floor. “You’re pretty hot. Wanna party with us?”

Over my dead body, kid.

“No, thank you. Where is Harriet?”

“She’s in the bathroom.” The kid answered. I signed and walked over to the bathroom door and knocked.

“Harriet?”

“Yeah?” I heard a voice call from the bathroom. I opened the door and walked in. Harriet was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, holding the porcelain toilet bowl. “I’m going to be sick…”

I took out my hair tie and walked over to Harriet and pulled back her pin-straight hair a bun. I didn’t do a great job pulling it back—tying other people’s hair back is hard. Right after I finished fixing Harriet’s hair, she vomited in the toilet. I winced and looked away. Seeing her vomit made my stomach all queezy. Plus making out with Leon Bradley fifteen minutes earlier already had it on the edge.

“I’m so, so schorry…” Harriet slurred. She went to go stand up and nearly fell over. I walked over to her and helped pull her off the ground. She finally was back to standing on two legs. She walked over to the bathroom door and staggered forward.

I swore that she was going to break an ankle or something. She was wearing six inch platform stiletto heels—in those shoes, she was almost as tall as Leon; seeing as she was already close to six feet tall already. Harriet was wearing a crimson leather tube dress that ended about mid-thigh. I could see how she was a model; she looked quite lean and elegant, even when she was totally hammered and stumbling around a frat house bathroom.

I managed to guide her out of the bathroom, into the living room, and then out to the car. It was quite difficult; I felt like I was carrying a floppy flag pole. I put her in my crappy car and buckled her in before rushing to my side of the car.

I pulled out a fast food paper bag and handed it to Harriet.

“If you’re going to throw up, please do it in this.”

“Ok.” Harriet rocked back and forth. She plugged in her address into her smartphone and then continued to rock back and forth. “I’m schorry. You probably think I’m an incompetent idiooot…” Harriet broke down and started sobbing—more like wailing—out loud.

The sound of Harriet’s screeches was starting to give me a bit of a headache. “No, it’s ok. To be honest, I was in the middle of a terrible date with Leon Bradley and you stopped me from having to have some pretty terrible sex.”

I knew that she wouldn’t really remember anything that I said to her so I could be completely honest with her.

“It’s just…” She hiccupped. “It’s just that I don’t want to think I’m incompetent.”

“You’re not incompetent, Harriet. You’re just really drunk.”

“You’re the only one who has ever believed in me….” Harriet continued to sob. “Everyone thinks I’m a stupid bitch.”

“Oh, Harriet, I’m sure that’s not true. What about your brother? I’m sure he thinks highly of you.”

“Yeah…” Harriet sniffed. “But he thinks I’m still just a kid so it’s like he acts like I’m incompetent but says I’m ‘competent’ and ‘full of potential.’” She slumped down in her seat. “It’s just that you take me seriously and no one else does and now…now” She started wailing again. “You’re not going to take me seriously again!” She burst out into hysterical sobs.

“Harriet. It’s fine. I don’t think you’re incompetent. All I think is that you can’t hold your liquor. And that’s ok. Neither can I, truth be told.”

I pulled up to the Goodard Mansion and it lived up to its title. It was beautifully landscaped. It was a large, solid brick building with some ivy crawling up the sides. It looked like the size of four houses put together. The whole mansion was surrounded by an iron gate and I pulled up to what looked like the driveway and a sleepy security guard.

“Hello, Harriet.” The guard said.

“Frankie!” Harriet cheered. She leaned over towards me and waived at the guard. “This is Mel Jones. She’s the best mentor everrrrr. Can you like, give her security clearance?”

“Sure thing, Harriet. Make sure you have some water and good before you go to bed.” The guard replied. He pressed a button and the iron gate opened. I drove through the long driveway to the parking garage that was below the buildings. There was a flashy red sport scar which Harriet proudly announced was hers. A limo, and a practical mid-sized sedan.

“Whose car is that?” I pointed to the grey sedan.

“That’s Maxwell’s. Usually he uses the limo so he can do work in the back of it but he likes to have a second car just in case if the limo driver is busy or something.”

“Oh, it just seemed out of place.”

“My brother likes practical things. He’s going to be furious with me.” Harriet started crying again.

“Why?” I asked.

“I told him that I was sleeping over a friend’s house. He has no idea that I went to a college party.” Harriet opened her car door and stumbled out. I quickly rushed to her side to prevent her from stumbling into who-knows-what and breaking her neck. “He can’t know. We gotta sneak in.”

“Ok, Harriet. Now sneaking in means being quiet. So no crying, OK?” I guided Harriet over towards the garage door which, I assumed, lead to the house. I entered it and the two of us stumbled in. I used all my strength to stop Harriet from crashing into the other end of the hallway. The hallway was very nice; it was a cream hallway with a mahogany trim with fine art on the wall. The hallway had over a dozen different doors.

“Take a right.” Harriet whispered. I took a right down the hallway. The left side of the hallway turned from a mahogany wall to a study with large, glass French-sliding doors. The study was beautiful—two of the walls were made completely of glass and the other two walls were bookshelves. There was a large desk that sat in the middle of the room. And I saw a man sitting at the desk. Not just any man—Maxwell Goodard was sitting there. He was so deeply focused in whatever it was that he was doing that he didn’t look up from his desk and see Harriet and I sneaking over to her room. I had to admit—Maxwell looked incredibly handsome doing his work. His dark chocolate brown hair was tussled about and he had his suit jacket and tie slung over the back of his chair. His sleeves were rolled up so I could see his muscular forearms and the top buttons of his dress shirt were undone.

Harriet and I turned the corner and eventually passed the glass study. “Oh, thank God.” Harriet said. “I would have been so busted if he saw me sneaking in drunk.”

“Yeah, I would have too.” Harriet opened the door to her room and staggered inside.

Her room was stunning; it was probably the size of my entire apartment. It was surprisingly tastefully decorated too, well, for Harriet’s standards. On one side, there was a sitting area with white leather furniture and a television. On the other side of the room, there was large canopy bed with a pink bedspread. Harriet walked over to her bed, swatted the canopy aside, and collapsed face-first onto the bed. One of her legs was still touching the ground.

“I’m sleepy.” She announced.

“You have to have some water and food before you go to bed. You’ll thank me later.

Harriet pushed herself up into a sitting position and groaned. She eventually took off her insanely high-heals. “Can you go over to the kitchenette I have?” She pointed in the general direction of her white leather sofa.

I walked over. Sure enough, she had a mini-fridge and a microwave in the room. I opened her refrigerator and pulled out a water bottle and I grabbed the bag of chips that was sitting atop the microwave. I returned to her and handed her the chips and water bottle.

“Make sure you drink the whole thing and eat lots of chips so you’re not hung over.”

“Ok.” Harriet unscrewed the water bottle and took a large swig.

I walked over to the sitting area and plopped down on the couch. I didn’t want to leave just yet—I wanted to make sure that Harriet wasn’t going to vomit and choke on it in her sleep.

After about fifteen minutes, Harriet finished her water bottle and polished off her chips.

“I’m going to have to spend extra time at the gym tomorrow.” Harriet laughed. I pulled out another water bottle and handed it to Harriet. She looked at the water bottle dejectedly and laid down in bed.

“Make sure you sleep on your side, alright?” At this point, I didn’t think that she’d vomit and she was slightly more sober than earlier

Harriet rolled over. “Ok…” She mumbled. “Goodnight Mel.”

“Oh and Harriet, one more thing…”

Harriet mumbled something.

“Be careful. I think that someone might be out to hurt you.”

“Psh.” Harriet raised her hand dismissively before flopping it down on the bed. “I’ve heard that before. We’re fine.”

“Seriously, be careful. I overheard Leon saying something about taking you out.”

“Don’t worry. Leon’s my brother’s friend.”

“Just please be careful this weekend and on Monday.” I pleaded with her. In the back of my head I knew that this conversation was going nowhere—Harriet was two sheets to the wind.

“Kay bye.” Harriet curled up in a ball on her side. “Can you turn off the lights when you leave?”

“Alright.” I pushed myself up from her comfortable leather chair and turned off the light switch. Before I turned it off, I checked my hair in the mirror. It was a disaster. I quickly brushed it back with my fingers so it looked slightly better. My lipstick was still smeared from my ‘passionate’ kiss with Leon. I fixed it up and I finally looked presentable. Tired, but presentable nonetheless.

I finally turned off the light switch and left the room. When I got back into the cream and mahogany hallway, I tried reorienting myself to the location. I knew that I had to turn a left, walk past the glass study, and then make another left. I started walking towards that general direction. I got to the glass study and I peeked my head in to make sure that Maxwell was still focused on his work. I didn’t want to have to have the conversation about Leon with Maxwell now—I’d rather have it on Monday morning. Maxwell would want to know why I was in his house late at night on a Friday and then I’d have to explain that I was picking Harriet up from a party and that would be a nightmare.

Sure enough, when I peeked around the corner Maxwell was looking down at his desk. I began to walk, all while keeping an eye on Maxwell, praying to God that he didn’t look up from his desk. Unfortunately, my prayers were not answered.

Maxwell looked up from his desk. Our eyes locked. I felt a sudden rush of panic rush through me. Maxwell shot up from his desk—his rolling chair nearly crashed into the bookshelf behind him. He quickly walked over to the glass doors, shoved them open, and walked right up next to me.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” Maxwell asked, looking down at me. He was about a foot away from me. At that moment, I take it that he didn’t recognize me from orientation. My heart sank a little bit because the arrogant part of me wondered why he wouldn’t remember me of all people—I’m a brilliant, attractive attorney, after all! Although in Maxwell’s defense, he met several people that day and has about a thousand employees.

“I…” Words could not leave my mouth. I had no idea what to say! I was terrified but, oddly enough, slightly aroused by him. Standing so close, smelling his musk, and seeing his muscular arm grip the door just made me wish like nothing else that he would grab me and kiss me and…well, other things.

“Well?” Maxwell impatiently demanded.

Alright, that feeling of arousal turned to terror and irritation. He was looking at me like I was some sort of criminal who walked into his house and he was mad.

“Harriet called me and ah…well…I.” I looked down at the ground blushing.

Get your shit together, Mel. You’re a brilliant lawyer, form words, dammit.

“Is Harriet ok?” Maxwell asked. I could tell that he sounded a bit concerned about his sister but that concern was masked by a general coldness.

“Yeah…um…she’s intoxicated and I…um…I….she’s here.” I stammered. Usually I’m more eloquent, I swear. Maxwell closed the door and stepped into the hallway.

“I’m going to check up on my sister.” Maxwell started to swiftly walk down the hallway.

“Wait!” I called out. Maxwell spun around.

“What?” He flatly asked.

“Um…you’re going to die on…on Monday. I think. At three. Um…Harriet too.”

Why are you so awkward? Why can’t you form words like a normal person.

Maxwell slowly walked back over to me. I looked down at the ground.

“I don’t know who you are.” Maxwell started to say in a slow, even, and angry tone. He was about six inches away from me now and leaned over. I took a half a step back. “I don’t know what you’re getting at either but don’t you dare threaten my sister and I. Especially in our own home. And if I find out that you did something to my sister, I swear to God that I will track you down and ruin you. So you and whoever you’re in on this with can forget your little Monday afternoon plans, OK?”

I opened my mouth and shut it. I didn’t know what to say at this point in time so I elected not to say anything. Instead, I took a few steps back and bolted down the hallway and towards the garage. It was either fight or flight and I chose flight.

Luckily I remembered how to get to the parking garage very easily. Once I hopped into the car, I quickly put my keys in the ignition and sped off into the night back to my apartment. My heart was racing a mile a minute. I felt panicked the whole car ride home. Was I going to get fired? What was going to happen to me? My feelings alternated between terror and irritation. I was afraid of losing my job, but I was also pretty pissed at Maxwell Goodard for assuming that I, of all people, was going to kill him and his sister. What the hell? He didn’t even give me a chance to explain. He was just rude about it. I still didn’t want to see him die, even though he was an asshole.

I got back to my apartment and signed. It was one in the morning at this point. On the bright side, it was a new day. One of the worst days ever was over. I survived my date with Leon. I survived drunken Harriet who did not puke in my car. Lastly, I survived an awkward encounter with Maxwell Goodard who was accusing me of threatening him and Harriet because I was too awkward and nervous to articulate what was actually going on.

Eventually, the big, fluffy, pillows and my squishy mattress enveloped me and I fell asleep. Nightmares involving trying to stop Leon from stabbing Harriet and Maxwell plagued my sleep.

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

June 20, 2011

 

 

I spent most of the weekend up north visiting my parents, seeing as it was Father’s Day and all. I was sort of close with my parents. They were good parents. I was a moron and ran away when I was sixteen to be with some guy I met online. I was too embarrassed to go home immediately so I got my GED and enrolled in college on a full scholarship. They didn’t think I died or anything—I still talked to them when I ran away—but after causing them so much worry, it put a damper on our relationship. Superficially it’s fine, but I think they don’t trust me and worry that I might be a bad influence on my kid sister. My sister and I are close. She’s fourteen so she still thinks I’m the shit, even though I’m really not.

It was nice going home for a weekend. The four of us went to the beach on Saturday and I drove back on Sunday. The car ride was an awful going back. I was nervous to see what would happen at work on Monday and the traffic was bad. It took hours for me to drive back home.

I had really bad heartburn on Monday morning. Someone was going to kill Maxwell and Harriet and neither one of them believed me. Plus there’s that odd situation with Leon, who is trying to sleep with me and who is somehow involved in this mysterious attack.

I showed up at five in the morning on Monday. Sleep was futile. Getting up every hour on the hour taught me that. At least I would be able to do something productive.

I started working on a new case; it was a contract case for getting some research supplies. I was looking at the contract to see if there was anything sketchy. The contract was one hundred pages long. I figured that this whole case would take me a day or two—tops. I was quite productive in the morning but I kept on getting this nagging feeling that something was wrong. I decided that I would go clean out my closet and create a hiding space for Harriet just in case if I had to hide her from whoever Leon hired to kill her.

Eventually, nine came and Harriet slouched into the office with her head looking down at the ground.

“Are you feeling better?” I asked.

Harriet nodded my head. “Embarrassed, but better.”

“You drank too much at a party. I’m just glad that you called someone instead of drinking and driving and staying at that sketchy house all night.”

“Thanks. It won’t happen again. I promise.”

“I know. I could tell that this was a one shot deal.” I sat down at my desk and sifted through some papers. The real reason why I was doing this is so I could seem nonchalant about the whole situation even though I really wasn’t.

“Did your brother notice?” I asked.

“Undoubtedly.” Harriet sighed. “The next morning I got a whole lecture on drinking responsibly and that if I ever am in a bad situation, I should call him instead of getting a ride from strange frat girls that may or may not be murderers.”

“Strange frat girls?” I exclaimed, mortally wounded.

Why would Maxwell think I’m a strange frat girl? What? I have impeccable taste. What frat-girl wears a suit on a Friday night? Moron.

I tried my best not to show my pout because it would be weird for me to be visibly upset about being thought of as a frat girl. Gotta be professional.

“Yeah, I guess he saw you bringing me in and thought you were some random creepy college girl. Then he thought that you were out to kill me or something. I don’t know. I didn’t pay much attention.” Harriet took a deep swig of her iced coffee and gulped it. She seemed so unbothered by the whole incident, which seemed unfathomable to me since I literally lost sleep over the whole incident.

I put the papers I was holding down on my ashen desk and audibly signed. “Harriet, there’s something I need to tell you. You see, someone is out to kill you.”

Harriet sat down on the chair opposite my desk. “What do you mean?” She scoffed.

I inhaled and then exhaled. “Friday night I got dinner with Leon Bradley.”

“You went on a date with Leon Bradley!? Good for you, he’s a friend of my brother’s and quite a catch. He’s handsome.”

I laughed out-loud. Quite a catch? Yeah right.

“Yeah…” I chuckled again. “Well, he’s not really a catch. I’m getting to that. Anyways, Leon had to step out to take a phone call and I overheard it. He said something about three o’clock today and then having to take you out too because you’re in your brother’s will.”

Harriet laughed and took another sip of iced coffee. I could tell that she didn’t believe me or take me seriously. “Oh, that could mean anything.” Harriet said, waving her hand dismissively. “I’m not that worried about it. Leon would never try to kill my brother. Speaking of Maxwell, did you tell him about me drinking?”

“No, I didn’t. I tried to avoid him but he saw me and asked what I was doing at his house late at night.” I looked down at my desk to hide my blush from embarrassment. “I tried to tell him about the threat that Leon posed I got nervous and it was awkward and I think he thought that I was trying to kill him.” I ran my hands through my hair.

Harriet turned bright red. “So you were the creepy girl that he told me to watch out for. I’m so embarrassed. My brother thinks that my mentor is going to kill him. Ugh. I was hoping that you two would be friends or something. Why did you tell him? There’s no way he’d take something like that well.”

“Well, I’m a little concerned about you and your brother’s safety.”

Harriet’s blush subdued slightly. “I’m not concerned. Leon’s not going to kill anyone. So not him. Besides, my brother has state of the art security. It’ll be fine. I’m just embarrassed that you two had such an awkward encounter. Now he’s going to think of you as the creepy college girl instead of my boss.”

I bit my lip. I knew that there’s no way that she would believe me and talking to Maxwell at this point? Wasn’t going to happen. I had visions of him calling security and being physically dragged out of a building. Then, of course, fired from my job.

“Just please be careful today.”

Harriet laughed. “You sound like my brother. I’ll be careful.”

An awkward silence filled the room. I ran my fingers through my hair again and inhaled sharply. I was trying to think of something for Harriet to do; I wanted to keep her in the office with me just in case something happened.

“Want to help me with reviewing a contract?”

“Yeah!” Harriet smiled.

“Alright, pull over your chair. I’ll teach you about reviewing a contract.”

The two of us sat down and I gave her a crash course in contracts. It turned into me regurgitating a lot of lectures that I heard from the first year of law school. When lunch time came, I decided to go order in so we don’t have to go out and buy food. I settled on the place that delivers pizza, salads, and subs down the street. It’s usually not my type of thing but, desperate times call for desperate measures. I ordered two cobb salads with Dijon dressing. The office was a lot more secure than my car or a random restaurant and I still didn’t want to let Harriet on her own just in case she was kidnapped or something. Or at least that’s what I told myself as I ate this terrible salad.

The afternoon crept by. From two to three, the clock seemed to tick backwards. I was feeling more and more nauseous and time went on. I was beginning to think that the eggs in my cobb salad were bad because I was getting hit with sudden waves of nausea.

At three o’clock, I held my breath.

“Are you nervous because of that conversation that you overheard on Friday?” Harriet laughed.

“Yeah, I am.” I said somberly.

“It’s three and I haven’t heard anything.” Harriet sat down in her swivel chair by my desk. “Besides, we’re almost done with this contract.”

“Alright, we’ll get back to work.” I sat down at my desk and stared at the paper in front of me. I read the same sentence over and over again and tried to comprehend it but I just couldn’t. In the back of my mind, I just knew that someone was going to try to kill Maxwell and Harriet. I knew and no one believed me.

I head a furious knock at the door. A knock is too gentle of a word to describe the assault that was happening on my door. I jumped out of my seat and ran over to the door.

“Harriet, get back.” I warned.

“What?” Harriet wined.

“Harriet!”

“Ok.” She threw her hands up in the air and sat down in the chair behind my desk. She let out a loud sigh and began spinning around in a circle.

I opened the door quickly. An out-of-breath Maxwell Goodard stood before me. His cheeks were flushed and his hands were trembling.

“Where’s my sister?” He demanded.

“In here.” I said. I pointed behind me to Harriet who still looked slightly irritated with me.

“Oh, thank God.” Maxwell exhaled. He stepped into my office and shut the door and locked it behind him. He ran his fingers through his messy brown hair and paced back and forth. I noticed that he had a cut on his right fist. Maxwell turned over and looked at me. His bright blue eyes narrowed. “You’re the girl from the other night.” He said accusingly.

I opened my mouth and then shut it.

Oh shit.

“This is Ms. Jones.” Harriet walked over to her brother and gestured towards me like she was a TV show host showing a prize or something. “Mel Jones. She’s my mentor that I keep on talking about.”

I sheepishly waved my hand.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m sorry, Ms. Jones. I really do owe you a proper apology but right now, we have some urgent matters to deal with.” He turned away from me and looked at his sister. “Harriet, we need to go now. Someone just tried to kill me and I’m worried you’re next.”

I heard a faint knock at the door. The room fell silent and I could hear the blood rush to my ears and I froze. I looked at Maxwell and Harriet.

Crap. This can’t be good.

I ushered the two of them over to my spacious closet and closed the closet door. I couldn’t imagine that my file closet could be too comfortable for them, considering that it’s dark and dusty and they had to compete with several giant boxes of files. And dust.

I walked over to the door and opened it nonchalantly. It was Leon Bradley. Just want I needed right now.

“Mel!” Leon smiled down at me. I could tell that the smile was forced. His whole stance was tense and his red hair was tussled about in odd directions. He looked like an anime hero or something.

“Leon, it’s good to see you.” I smiled up at him.

Not.

“It’s good to see you too. Um…” Leon shuffled his feet. “Have you seen Harriet anywhere?”

“Now that you mention it, she ran out the door inexplicably ten minutes ago. She seemed very panicked. I’m sure she’ll be back soon though.” I lied. I think I was pretty convincing in my lie too.

“Huh.” Leon bit her lip. “Ok. That’s odd. Well, I gotta go. Urgent business.”

“Ok.” I said, feigning confusion.

“By the way, things are pretty busy right now, but in a few days things will calm down and I would love to pick up where we left off.”

Really? Even trying to kill someone you’re still trying to get into my pants?

“Great, me too.”

Nope. Nope. Nope.

“Excellent.” Leon smiled at me and promptly exited my office. I closed the door behind him quickly but not too quickly. I resisted the urge to exhale loudly.

Thank God that’s over….

I walked over to the closet and opened the door.

Both Maxwell and Harriet emerged from the closet. Harriet looked terrified and Maxwell looked more like he was minorly inconvenienced than anything else. The duo stood around in my office awkwardly until Harriet plopped down in her chair and started spinning back and forth as usual. Maxwell perched himself on the edge of my desk and gestured over to sit in the chair, which I took considering that he put me through hell the other night with his rudeness.

“I think I…um…I think I bought us some time; I don’t think that they’ll look for you two here.” I said as I sat down in my office chair. I felt heat rise to my face one again.

“Thank you.” Maxwell said.

Come on, Mel. Pull yourself together.

I leaned forward in search of my water bottle to have a sip of water to stop myself from blushing. I couldn’t quite find it. I opened my desk drawer and started searching underneath stacks of paper.

“What are you looking for?” Harriet asked.

“My water bottle. This whole situation has me a bit nervous. You know, having a killer down the hall…” I admitted, chuckling lightly at my own joke, which fell flat, by the way. No one else laughed. Their loss. Maxwell reached over and grabbed my water bottle and handed it to me.

“Thank you.” I said. I knew that I was blushing but at this point, I didn’t care anymore. After taking a sip from the bottle, I pulled the bottle close to my chest and wrung it, as if it was a shield from the world at large and namely, to shield myself from the muscular man who was perched on my desk only a few feet away from me.

“What happened, Mr. Goodard?” I asked.

Maxwell let out a sigh. “At around a little before three, two men from my security team barged in. They pulled a gun on me. I managed to fight off the two of them and I took their weapons. I paid off both the guards to report back to whoever hired them that I was dead. From there, I came here to collect my sister and leave.”

“Did anyone see you come here?” I asked.

“No. I took the back way. I don’t think anyone saw me.”

“Who could have seen you?”

“I don’t think anyone. I have a private elevator and hallway.”

I took another sip of water. “I don’t know if this information helps you but I usually leave the office around eight and it’s completely dead. The lights are off and everything. If you want to sneak out, that’s probably the best time and I can drive you two home.”

Maxwell bit his lip and narrowed his eyes.

“It sounds like the best option to me.” Harriet chimed in.

“I can’t think of a better solution.” Maxwell admitted.

Alright, so I bring them back to their house and then what? Are they just going to hide there forever? I guess I could sneak into Leon’s office tonight to see if I can get some evidence? I doubt that he would leave something like that in his office. It’s not like you write contracts for hit men or something. Maybe I can get a taped confession? He does like me. I bet I can get him to say something.

“I think I have an idea…”

“Oh?” Maxwell leaned forward.

“I think I can get Leon to talk.”

“What does Leon have to do about this?” Maxwell asked.

I forgot that Maxwell hasn’t been caught up to speed here. So much has happened.

“Leon is the one who plans on killing you and Harriet, as you might recall me warning you about on Friday night.”

I was glad to get my subtle insult in there.

“And how do you know this?” Maxwell asked pointedly, leaning forward even more. I felt like I was a witness who was on the stand at a cross-examination.

“I overheard it.”

“What did he say?”

“Um…uh…he said something along the lines that he needed to take Harriet out because she inherits the company if anything happens to you and something about things being taken care of at 3 on Monday. I think. Something along those lines.” I continued to wring my water bottle. It felt very hot in the office, even though I was sure that it was just me.

“How did you hear this information?”

Oh crap. I don’t want to admit that I was on a date…

“That’s private.” I responded as I crossed my arms.

“We don’t have the luxury of privacy right now.” Maxwell responded.

“Fine. Iwasonadate.” I muttered.

“What?”

I inhaled sharply. “I. Was. On. A. Date. With Leon. Leon Bradley. At a restaurant. A very overpriced restaurant with mediocre food.”

“Oh.” Maxwell leaned back.

“Well that’s embarrassing…” I mumbled under my breath.

“You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You are at liberty to date whoever you chose to; there’s nothing wrong with you having a personal life and I don’t take you any less seriously as a competent professional.” Maxwell said.

I took a swig of water and pursed my lips.

“My brother fashions himself to be a bit of a feminist.” Harriet interjected.

“That’s not the reason why I’m embarrassed. I went on a date with a crazy man who is trying to kill my intern. And the CEO of the company that I work for.” I snapped. “I don’t want to be associated with that mess.”

“Ok.” Maxwell said flatly. The conversation died after that. I knew that I should be a bit more friendly since he’s my boss and all but I wasn’t feeling it. I really wasn’t feeling this job at all at the moment. I had enough contacts that I could burn this bridge and I would be fine.

“So Mel, what’s your plan?” Harriet finally stopped spinning in her chair. Seeing all the spinning from the corner of my eye was making me a little nauseous. Or it could have been the cobb salad. Or the whole situation in general.

“I was going to talk to Leon. He clearly likes me. I can get the information.”

“Is that safe?” Maxwell pointedly asked.

“Yeah, I mean, we know he’s a killer.” Harriet added.

“That doesn’t mean that he’s going to kill me. Think about it: he hired someone to do the actual killing. That means that he probably doesn’t want to do the dirty work himself.”

“That’s a terrible risk to take though. Taking Harriet and I to our home is more than enough and I’m grateful for that.” Maxwell said those works so diplomatically; it was like he was negotiating a business deal. He stood up from being perched on my desk. “I can handle the rest myself.” He said darkly.

After Maxwell stood up, I stood up to match him. This conversation was starting to make me feel slightly more comfortable with him. Well, that’s the wrong way to put it. I was starting to feel really pissed about his ‘I’ll-handle-this situation-because-I’m-the-CEO’ attitude and I was ready to speak my fucking mind.

I looked Maxwell in his icy blue eyes and started him down. “I know I can handle this.”

“You probably can.” Maxwell answered diplomatically. “But, at the same time, if this situation sours, than it could end terribly and I’m not about to let someone get hurt on my behalf. I’m handing this.”

“Mr. Goodard—”

“I’m handing this.” Maxwell said forcefully as he held his hand up in a ‘stop’ sign.

Well then.

I plopped down on my seat and folded my arms over. I was mad. I told myself that I would just agree now but later get the information I need from Leon. Screw whatever Maxwell wanted. I saw Harriet out of the corner of my eye. She looked pretty mortified.

“Maxwell!” Harriet shrieked.

“Shh.” I raised my hand over to her. “Not so loud.”

“Oh. Sorry.” Harriet lowered her voice. “You’re embarrassing me.”

Maxwell sighed and perched on the edge of my desk once more. “I don’t mean to offend. I just don’t want see someone get hurt on my behalf.”

That’s it.

“Quite frankly, I have proven myself to be much more competent than you in this situation, seeing as I’m the one who uncovered this conspiracy to kill you and your sister. And, oh, if memory serves me correctly, I just helped to throw your potential killer off track just a few minutes ago. But if you want to act all macho, then that’s your business and, quite frankly, I don’t care enough about your well-being to offer to stick my neck out twice. Fire me if you’d like. I don’t care. Get killed by Leon. See if I care.”

Maxwell’s eyes narrowed and he walked to the far corner of my room. His hands were folded behind his back and he looked surprisingly calm and unfazed by everything I just said. “After everything that has happened, I’m not going to fire you. Feel free to speak your mind freely to me at any time. My ego isn’t so fragile as to be cut by your sharp tongue. But I’m glad that we’re on the same page that you will not be risking your life to get a recording of Leon Bradly.”

“Fine.” I said through gritted teeth. I inhaled sharply. I took a sip of my water. Anything to calm down. “It’s quarter-past three. We still have a little under five hours to kill. I guess I’ll get back to work…” I turned my chair over a little to face my computer and give Maxwell the cold shoulder. I was a little mad. More than a little mad. I wanted to throttle the man sitting on my desk but I wouldn’t. Not my style.

“You’re really going back to work?” Harriet asked.

“I mean, I am at work…”

“Well, but there’s a killer on the loose. How can you focus?” Harriet asked.

I shrugged.

“We can always chit-chat.” Harriet said.

“About what?” I asked.

“Well…um…where are you from?” Harriet asked.

“I’m from Western Massachusetts. Near the Berkshires.”

“I had a friend who lived there for a short spell.” Maxwell said.

“Oh, who?” I asked.

“Remedios Smith. Have you met her?” He answered.

“Oh yeah, Rem…” I looked down at the ground, all the while wondering how I was going to put this. I bit my lip. “She um…passed on when I was in high school. I’m so sorry for your loss.” I said. I really hoped that I wasn’t the one who broke the bad news to him that his friend died. That would suck.

“Oh, it’s ok. I know.” Maxwell said. “I was just wondering if you knew her, that’s all.”

“Yeah. We were lab partners in science class.”

“Oh. Cool.”

“How do you know her?” I asked. “Or, erm, how did you know her.”

“That’s private.”

“Alrighty then.” I drummed my fingers along the desk.

Silence filled the room. I could tell that Harriet was a bit mortified by how terrible and awkward this situation was going. She had her head buried in my desk and was doing everything except for visibly groaning.

“So.” I said, breaking the silence for the sake of my poor, humiliated intern. “You fought off the guards.” I sipped my water. “How’d you do that?”

“I studied Judo for several years. I like to compete professionally sometimes.” Maxwell answered.

“Is that the thing where you throw people?”

“Well, there’s more to it than that but, in short, that is the martial art that you’re thinking of, yes.”

“And you have time to do that? While running a company?” I asked.

“I make the time. I try to exercise every morning. It helps me stay calm. Stay in shape.”

“Sometimes I’ll go to the gym in the mornings too. Although I usually just run three miles on the treadmill…” I responded to stay polite.

“Exactly three?” Maxwell raised an eyebrow.

“Four seems a little excessive and two is just too weak for a workout.” I smiled wryly.

Maxwell chuckled lightly. “I can’t argue with that logic.”

“So what do you do for fun?” Maxwell asked me.

“Work. Hang out with my friends. Hang out with my kid sister sometimes. Watch television. That’s it, I’m afraid to say.” I nonchalantly sipped my water.

“You have a sister?”

“Yeah, she’s fourteen. My family is up in Maine now so I’m afraid I don’t get to see her much. It takes about six hours to get up there.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.”

“Plus I’m always busy.” I added.

“I find that I’m constantly busy as well. It’s hard to have hobbies when you’re running a company. For me, it’s just Judo and spending time with Harriet.”

“Do you have any other family besides Harriet?” I asked.

I could see Harriet cringe out of the corner of my eye. Wrong question. Woops.

“No, it’s just Harriet and I. I would prefer to change the subject, Ms. Jones.”

“Oh, ok…” My mind was racing trying to think of things to talk about. I was able to fill in the time with making small talk and idle conversation.

The rest of the afternoon crept by slowly as the three of us made idle chit-chat. Listening to Maxwell talk about his kid sister made me hate him a bit less. Not that all was forgiven because I’m not a doormat and he was rude to me earlier. Plus that ‘I-know-what’s-best-for-you’ attitude never ceases to piss me off. But it was endearing hearing him talk about his family, art, religion, politics. We were able to have a decent conversation. God. Something about him really made me feel jerked around. On one hand, I was very leery of him because of our first encounter but, on the other hand, I found him to be quite attractive and charming. The thing that I found most attractive about him was that domineering attitude that I hated and fought against.

But at any rate, it was a pleasent afternoon, all things considering. It was pleasing, with the exception that I knew in a few hours I’d have to smuggle them in my car and take them to a mansion and leave them, not knowing if I’d ever see them again after that because someone would kill them.

 

Chapter 9

 

June 20, 2011

 

 

Eventually, it was eight o’clock. Time for me to sneak them to my car. I finally opened the blinds to my office window and looked outside. My old crappy car was the only car on this side of the parking lot. Good.

I looked over at Maxwell and Harriet. They looked a little tired—particularly Maxwell who was stuck standing for the last five hours, or he was perching on my desk. Neither one of them had any caffeine either, which made sense because it’s not like they could stroll down the hall and use the bathroom like I could.

I peeked my head out of the office door and looked down the hall. The motion-activated lights were off so I assumed that no one was there.

“Let’s go.” I motioned to Maxwell and Harriet. The three of us crept down the white hallway. The sound of my high-heels clacking on the floor rang in my ears. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. We passed the foyer for the legal division and went out the door into the parking lot. When we got to the parking lot, all I could hear was the faint humming of the florescent lights that were about to expire. They weren’t so bright as to light up the whole parking lot.

We got to my old, beat-up car.

“This is it.” I announced. “There are security cameras and guards out by the parking lot entrance. You two should probably hide in the trunk just in case.” I popped open my rather large trunk. It probably was enough to fit a couple of people. This was the first time ever that I was grateful to have a car with such a spacious trunk; usually I just felt paranoid every time that I was starting and stopping on a hill that my car would roll back and my massive trunk would hit the person in front of me.

Maxwell and Harriet exchanged glances. Harriet had a rather disgusted look on her face.

“I know it smells a bit but it’s only a fifteen minute drive. Get in before someone sees us.”

Maxwell and Harriet crammed into the trunk. They both fit, surprisingly. Harriet clutched my briefcase to her chest. I closed the trunk door and hopped into the front seat of my car. I put my car in gear.

Alright, two people’s lives depend on my ability to drive a stick shift through hilly roads.

I drove the car carefully through the parking lot. Apparently not too carefully because I hit a speedbump that I didn’t notice.

“Sorry!” I yelled.

“I get motion sickness, Mel, please slow down. This smell is making me sick enough. I’m gonna throw up.” Harriet said.

“Don’t.” Maxwell replied. I laughed out loud at hearing this little exchange.

I saw the security post getting closer and closer to me. There was a figure standing next to it. I squinted my eyes and tried to make out the figure but I just couldn’t. All I saw was a dark shadow standing near the booth under the fluorescent lights.

“Be quiet, I’m coming up to the security gate and there’s someone there.” I said to the duo in my trunk.

I drove up closer and closer to the gate. Eventually, I saw a flash of orange and recognized the man at the gate as Leon Bradley. He waved over at me and approached my shit-box car.

Shit. What do I say?

I cranked the window down. “Leon, what are you doing here this late?”

“Oh, Mel, it’s good to see you.” Leon smiled at me. “I was just chatting with the security guard. Wondering if he saw Harriet leave. I’m getting a bit concerned about her well-being.”

Oh, BULL.

“Yeah, me too. She never came back this afternoon.” I lied.

“Where are you heading to, Mel?” Leon asked.

“I’m going over to the Goodard’s. When Harriet left, she took one of my files and I need it for tomorrow so I was seeing if I could get it back.”

“What a coincidence, I’m going to the Goodards’s too. Can I ride with you? Then maybe we can pick up where we left off the other night.”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Yeah, sure.”

Fuck.

My heart was pounding. I swore to myself that I was going to vomit up that cobb salad. I unlocked the passenger’s side door and Leon sat down next to me. It took all my strength not to start physically shaking.

“I never told you that you look absolutely stunning today.” Leon said.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s always looks with you.

“Thank you.” I said. Leon rubbed my upper thigh. As if I didn’t have to vomit already.

“Do you like it when I touch you like this?”

Nope. You disgust me.

I really wanted to swat his hand away and show him what damage I could do.

“Oh, Leon, I’m focusing on the road. You’re distracting me.” I let out a false giggle.

“I’ll let you drive.” I could see Leon smile smugly out of the corner of my eye thinking that I actually liked him and was playing coy. Asshole. I’m not much of a Leon Bradley fan. Obviously.

I followed the GPS’s instructions and I was about ten minutes away. My car was acting quite strange though; it was lagging. I heard the engine struggle to get up the hills. I assumed it was having about three hundred pounds in the trunk of my car. Maxwell was pretty muscular and Harriet was quite tall so three hundred to three-fifty was probably their combined weight. Every time we came to a hill and someone was behind us, I got so nervous that I was going to stall out and accidentally hit their car and kill Harriet (and Maxwell.)

We got to the top of the hill and my car stopped. Plain stopped.

Oh shit. Shit. Shit.

“Is there something wrong with your car?” Leon asked. Beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. I could feel bile starting to form in the back of my throat.

“Apparently.” I said calmly, as I tried to turn on the car again. All I heard was the sound of my car not starting. That defeated sound of an engine trying its best to turn on but just not turning on. I’m glad that I was on top of the hill instead of at the bottom of one. All I needed was a push. Hopefully.

Shit.

I tried to start the car once more. It wouldn’t start. In my head I was running through these nightmare scenarios that all ended with Leon opening the trunk and shooting the three of us.

No one was on this hill but us. No one.

“I’ll give your car a push. You can start it up.” Leon signed as he walked out of the car. I could faintly make out his figure walking to the back of the car. The sound of his wooden shoes clacked against the road.

Don’t look in the trunk. Don’t look in the trunk. Don’t look in the trunk.

I watched Leon walk to the back of my car through my rear-view mirrors. He went to give my car a shove. It was probably hard for him because he’s so scrawny.

“Your car’s really heavy, Mel.”

“Yeah, I call it a clunker for a reason.” I let out a fake chuckle.

Don’t seem suspicious, Mel.

Once I felt the car move, I turned on the car and popped the clutch. I heard the sound of my engine humming once more. A wave of relief washed over me.

I was sincerely debating just driving off and leaving Leon in the dust but that would be too suspicious and too hasty of a decision. I slowed down the car and let him in again and continued my drive to the mansion. My heart was still pounding a million miles per hour inside my chest. I wanted to let out a large sigh of relief but I knew that I couldn’t.

Eventually, I made my way to Maxwell’s mansion. I rolled down the window.

“Oh, Harriet’s friend.” The security guard said.

“Yeah. I’m Mel Jones.”

“Thanks for bringing her home the other day. I know she puts up a tough front but she’s really a good kid.”

Leon leaned over me to speak with the security guard. His cologne was overpowering. “Hey, has Harriet come in at all today?”

The security guard paused. “Leon? Haven’t seen you in awhile. Hmm…now that you mention it, I haven’t. She may have come in before my shift.”

“Ok, never mind.” Leon said.

“Have a good night.” I said to the security guard. I rolled the windows back up and drove to the garage. When I parked the car, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. At least one of my problems was done with. I didn’t have to worry about accidentally killing the two people in my trunk. Now I just needed to deal with my horny boss.

I decided that I was going to try to get that information from him after all. It’s not like Maxwell was in a position to argue with me at the moment.

I put the car in park and stepped out of it. So did Leon. The two of us began walking to the door.

“Oh wait, I forgot my briefcase. I’ll meet you inside.”

“Sure.” Leon hovered by the door.

I walked back open to the trunk and I popped it open as wide as possible. For once I was glad that I was short and that the hood of the trunk blocked my entire body from Leon’s view. I could hear him impatiently kicking the steps to the mansion as he waited for me.

“Sorry this is taking so long. My car’s really messy so I’m trying to find my briefcase.” I widened my eyes and snapped my fingers in the direction of Harriet, who was clutching my briefcase. Harriet handed me my briefcase and I handed her the keys to my car as quietly as possible. I took great care not to jingle them at all. I stretched my hands out in a five, hoping that they would understand to give me a five minute head start before going inside.

I looked over at Maxwell. He mouthed “I’m calling the police” to me. I shook my head and pulled out my phone and turned on the video. It was a new phone so I knew that I had enough room on it to store at least an hour long video. I placed the phone gently in my purse so the camera lens was barely sticking outside the purse. I looked at Maxwell and pointed at my bag, all the while giving him a fierce look. I wanted to let him know that I was serious. Maxwell pursed his lips together in frustration and then eventually nodded his head curtly. He made a two on one hand a zero with the other hand and mouthed out the word ‘police.’ I took it that that was the amount of time I had before he decided that we was going to play hero and call the cops.

“Here it is.” I proudly announced.

I closed the trunk door and began walking towards the door, briefcase in hand. Leon lingered in the doorframe and followed me inside the mansion, making a good point to cup my ass on the way in. The creep.

“Where should we start looking for the file?” I asked.

“How about the kitchen and living room.” Leon offered. “It’s to your left.”

We took a left. I was so nervous. My legs were physically shaking and it was hard to walk in my heels.

Eventually, we arrived in a beautiful loft area with vaulted ceilings. There was a spacious living room area with a kitchen attached to it. The two rooms were connected like a giant loft that spanned about eighty feet in length. I noticed that the kitchen was under construction.

I admired the room for its simple elegance. In the living room, the floors were made of a hard wood and there was a Persian rug over it where the couch was in the far corner. There was a giant flat-screen TV mounted to the wall and a leather sectional huddled around a coffee table that looked like an old steamer trunk. Fine art was hung on the walls and the lighting was soft. Even though the space was wide open, it had a coziness to it because of the soft browns and peaches that were used to decorate the space. The dim lighting helped too.

The kitchen looked like a work in progress. The floors were made of a peach tile and the appliances were the latest stainless steel appliances. The granite counter tops were a soft marble. The area under construction had a harshness it. I think they were adding on a kitchen island in the middle or something? That whole area was covered in pine wood.

Leon pulled out a chair in the kitchen table and plopped down. I walked around the kitchen and the living room briefly, pretending to look for papers. I sighed and sat down at the table opposite him.

“They’re not in here.” I said, feigning disappointment.

Alright. Maybe if I trash talk Harriet and Maxwell Leon will say something.

“I really need these documents. I know Harriet is irresponsible, but this takes it to the next level.” I said, leaning back in the chair. “And don’t even get my started on Goodard. What a cold, pretentious ass.”

Alright, the last bit was a bit true. Some small-talk doesn’t change the fact that he pissed me off.

“Well, between the two of us, we don’t need to worry about that anymore.” Leon laughed and leaned back in his chair as well.

“Oh, what do you mean?” I leaned forward into the table, hoping that my camera was catching all of this.

Shit’s about to get real.

“There’s going to be a change in management.”

Real real.

“Well that’s interesting. And about time, I say. I’ve only been here for a week and I’ve had enough of the Goodards for one lifetime.”

I’m going to owe Harriet an apology after this video…

“Whose taking over?” I asked.

“The vice president, Robert Chandler. He’s giving us all big kick-backs too. By all of us, I mean the head of the research department, the head of sales and marketing, and I. The ones who are planning this whole um…change in leadership.” Leon smiled and leaned back further in his chair. He placed his hands behind his head and flexed his muscles.

“Kickbacks? How are you getting the money?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Raising the prices of the drugs. Maxwell has kept them far too low for far too long. He makes everything a damn moral issue. Anyways, we’ll raise the prices and reap the profits. We’re going to make millions.”

“I’m looking forward to the new management.” I gave Leon a half-smile. “How are you going to make this happen?”

“I hired a hit. Maxwell Goodard is dead. Finally. My men confirmed it this afternoon. Harriet will be gone soon.”

“Why kill Harriet?”

Leon laughed. “If Maxwell dies, she inherits everything. Including his shares in the company. Could you imagine Harriet running this place?”

I laughed again. “No, it would be a wreck. The company would go bankrupt in a week.”

“Tell me about it.” Leon scoffed. “Would you like to be in on this venture?”

“Of course I do.”

“Prove it to me.” Leon gave me a half-smile.

“How?” I asked, knowing full-well what he meant.

Leon walked over closer to me and pressed his whole skeezy, scrawny body against mine. “You know what I want.” He pressed his shitty, erect penis into my ribcage. Asshole.

Well that escalated quickly.

“Let me just go ahead and freshen up.” I smiled coyly, taking my purse—along with my phone—with me.

“Where’s the restroom?” I asked.

“Second door to your right.”

“Thanks. I’ll be out in fifteen minutes.” I swaggered out the door and into the hallway. Once in the hallway, I rushed over to the bathroom. The bathroom looked calm and tranquil, decorated in various shades of blue and gold. The tranquil atmosphere was much needed because I needed all the tranquility that I could get. My heart was racing a million miles per hour and I found it to be a bit hard to breathe. I turned the video camera around to face me. “I am recording this to uncover a conspiracy, which I am, in no part, agreeing to or assisting in any way. The words I used here were just to…um…get Leon Bradley to talk. This ends my…um…recording.” I said with a shaking voice. I finally paused the video.

I checked to make sure the video was working properly. It was. I fast-forwarded the video and it captured everything. Including Leon’s unwelcome advances. The asshole. I breathed a sigh of relief and texted it over to Harriet. One thing down. Then I emailed it to myself on both my work and personal account just to be on the safe side. Then I emailed it to Harriet’s work and personal account. I didn’t have Maxwell’s contact information so I figured that would have to do. I wished there were more people I could send this to. I considered sending it to my kid sister, Ray, or my best friend, Amy, but I didn’t want them involved in my mess.

I waited five minutes for the video to send. Even though my phone was brand new, it was a large file. I was so antsy waiting for that video to send. Once I saw that my email was sent, I gave Harriet a ring. Twelve minutes have transpired so I had a bit of time before Leon would come to check up on me.

She picked up on the first ring.

“Did you get the video?” I asked.

“Yeah, I just got it.”

“I say some nasty things about you and your brother. I just want you to know, I…um…I…um…don’t mean a word of the stuff I said about you. You’re a competent person and…um…a friend and a mentee to me.” I spat out. It was so hard to think.

I could hear Harriet’s laughter coming from the other end of the phone. “Don’t worry, Mel. I believe you. You wouldn’t risk your life for me if you didn’t like me at least a little bit. And I could tell that you were risking it for me and not my brother.” She added.

Brother. Maxwell Goodard. The one I need to speak with.

“That’s right. Speaking of Goodard, can you put him on the line?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure.” I could tell that Harriet pulled the phone away from her ear and placed her hand over it. “Hey bro, she wants to speak with you.” I heard the sound of the phone changing hands. I wanted to vomit. The stress was all too much for me.

“Ms. Jones?” Maxwell said.

“Alright. I got some proof on video. There might be some issues with the tape’s…um…um…admissibility in court. Luckily we live in a state where all we need is one party’s consent to the taping and, well, I consented to the recording so it’s legal…”

“Ms. Jones.” Maxwell interrupted me.

“But it still might not be admissible.” I continued. Blurting out my vague recollection of stuff I’ve heard years ago and haven’t heard since was oddly calming. “And, well, I might get in trouble with the American Bar Association too…I’m um…I…um…but I doubt it.”

“Ms. Jones.” Maxwell curtly responded.

I ignored his curt interruptions. I really felt the need to just spit all this information out. “But on the bright side, it’ll put the police in the right direction and…um…if we can get the guards you paid off to corroborate the story, then…um…then…we’re working with something.”

“Ms. Jones.”

“It’s probably enough for an arrest if we call the police though and to strong-arm Leon into leaving quietly…”

“Mel.”

“I’m advising that you get your own attorney here that isn’t me because, obviously, I’m recusing myself. Oh, and make sure you have Harriet send you the video too on multiple accounts. When you have time save it to your computer and download it to some USB drives or something. You can never be too careful. And—”

“Mel Jones!” Maxwell shouted. He interrupted me once more. I tried to give him some more legal advice but he just talked right over me. Like a damn bull dozer. “Enough about the tape. Are you ok? What is going on with you? Are you in any sort of danger right now?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I felt a lump forming in the back of my throat. I was terrified, truth be told. I was afraid that I was going to get raped or killed by the man in the other room. “Look, um, uh…I’m in this situation where—”

I heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Mel?” Leon asked. “Are you all ‘freshened up’ and ready to join me?”

“One second.” I shouted back. “Shit.” I mumbled under my breath.

“Mel?” Maxwell said from the other end of the phone.

“Who are you talking to?” Leon called out from the other side of the door.

“Just a friend who called. Going through a messy breakup.” I shouted back.

“Well, I have to go Amy, bye.” I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. I had no idea how to get out of this situation. I really, really didn’t want to have sex with Leon. He was skeevy. I mean, I’ve been with far worse. Leon wasn’t the worst guy I’ve been with but I guess I thought that since I was a rich lawyer and all I didn’t have to be in those situations anymore—that I would be valued for my mind instead of my body.

Part of me was just tempted to run out the door but what if he had a gun and shot me?

I’ll just stay in here.

“Just come out now.”

Fuck.

I gently opened the door and took a step out. I was clutching my phone so tight that my knuckles were white. I followed Leon down the hallway into the kitchen. I walked to the furthest part of the kitchen where the kitchen countertop was to put the most distance between Leon and I. Leon sprawled out on the kitchen table.

“I think we’ll start on here.” He knocked on the kitchen table that he was sitting on. “So what friend was this?” Leon asked pointedly.

“My friend Amy from law school. She’s going through a breakup right now. I’m just offering moral support.”

“Oh.” Leon pushed himself off from the table and walked over towards me. “So why were you two talking about the admissibility of video confessions?”

Shit.

I opened my mouth and then shut it.

“I’m not an idiot, Mel Jones. Hand me your phone.”

I shook my head. Leon walked over to me and ripped the phone out of my hands. Now I was really starting to get nervous. I clutched the countertop so tightly my hands were hurting and bending backwards a bit from the sheer strength of my grip.

Leon calmly pressed the button to play the recording. He took a few steps back to watch the recording, to my relief. His expression was cold and oddly calm. I froze as I listened to our prior conversation echo in the large open space. Suddenly, Leon chucked his phone with all of his strength in my general direction. I flinched. The phone hit the cabinets about six inches away from my skull. The sudden gesture made me flinch.

“You lying, back-stabbing, little bitch.” Leon began to walk towards me. My instincts took over. It was either fight or flight and I chose flight.

I lunged from my seat and took off towards the door. I knew that I would need to get past Leon, who was impeding my path. I was hoping that maybe I could slip underneath him with my small stature.

When I got to the kitchen island that was under renovation, I tripped. It must have been that plank of wood or maybe I lost my balance because of my high heels and I’m a klutz. I contemplated all this as I saw the wood that was covering the kitchen island get closer and closer to my head. I threw up my hands in defense but it was too late. I felt my head and hands hit the side of the kitchen island with the full momentum of my body and then continued my descent to the floor where I hit my head on the floor again. I felt a wave of pain and then my vision started to fade.

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 

June 20, 2011

 

 

Fortunately for me, I didn’t completely lose consciousness. I think I was only out for a couple of seconds, if that. It was an odd sensation. When I hit the ground, it was almost as if someone dimmed the lights and then brightened them again. I thought I was going to throw up and I was literally seeing stars.

“What the hell is going on?” I heard a voice say. It sounded so loud. My head was pounding and my hands hurt. So did my ankle. And head. And everything. “Did you do this, Leon?”

“I didn’t do anything! She fell on her own.”

“And why should I believe anything that comes out of your mouth?” I pushed myself up from the ground. Wow my arms hurt. I saw a little bit of blood on the pine wood on the floor. More than a little bit of blood. A fair amount of blood.

“Actually, I did just trip.” I said as I raised a shaky finger up in the air. I tried to push myself up from the ground further but my head was pounding so hard it was hard to see. Plus my left ankle felt wobbly and hurt so bad. I assumed that I sprained it in the fall or something. Getting up was a challenge. I tried to grab the kitchen island that I hit my head on but the rough surface of the unfished wood was too much on my cut hands and I couldn’t bring myself to push myself up from the ground quite yet.

I felt a pair of firm hands grasp my waist and elbow and pulled me off the ground in one swift motion.

I wasn’t quite ready to get off the ground though. The blood drained from my head and I felt very dizzy. My knees started to buckle from underneath me but the firm hands grasped me tighter.

My vision started to return and I saw Leon in front of me. I stretched my neck to see who was holding me up and I saw that it was Maxwell Goodard. He was staring down Leon with such ferocity that made me grateful that I wasn’t Leon.

I straitened up and grasped the counter with all my strength. “Let me go.” I demanded. My wobbly ankles finally supported my weight. Maxwell let go of me but I still felt his hand hover near my back just in case if I staggered backwards.

I said, “Look, Leon, you’ve been busted. The police are probably on their way as we speak. There’s a taped video of the two of us talking about your plans to kill Maxwell and Harriet Goodard and take over a company. At best you’ll get a cozy plea deal.”

“We both know that tape probably won’t be admissible in evidence and that I’ll win whatever case is thrown at me.”

I went to cross my arms but when I began to lose my balance, I thought the better of it and continued to grasp the table.

“That’s not all we have.” I said.

“You’re bluffing.”

“Am I?” I raised an eyebrow.

Alright, actually I was bluffing.

I heard sirens wailing in the distance. Up until that point, I never knew for sure if Maxwell or Harriet called the police. I felt oddly calm hearing the police sirens. Seeing as I was just a witness here and not central to the case, I doubted that the police would be digging up in my personal life. I had little to fear, I think.

“We’ll see what happens now.” I said. Leon scowled at Maxwell and I.

I locked eyes with Leon and didn’t break my stare until Harriet and the police walked into the room. I didn’t want to show any sort of weakness.

About three officers arrived. I wish that I could say that they were only there for a short spell, but they were interviewing us for about two hours. Have you ever been interviewed when you have a concussion? Well, it’s not easy. Usually I have an impeccable memory—save for directions—but I was not firing on all cylinders. I just wanted to go to sleep. Plus the officers were asking me the same questions over and over again. I just wanted to sleep. Or take a shower. Or something. I had to tell them several times that no, I did not need an ambulance and, yes, I was fine. I stood like a sentinel by that wooden counter top. I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness with Leon around.

Fortunately about two hours into the relentless questioning, Maxwell cut it short and the police officers filed out of the room dragging Leon along in handcuffs. Leon was dead silent the entire time. He sure knew his fifth-amendment rights.

I felt relieved to see Leon walk away in handcuffs. It was finally over. The day from hell was done.

Harriet yawned. “Well, that was eventful. I don’t want to have to answer another police question ever again. So redundant.” She said. Wow, she was in chipper spirits.

“If it goes to trial you’ll probably have to testify. And speak to the prosecutors beforehand too.” I said. “I don’t know though. Criminal law isn’t my forte and I can’t really think too much right now.” I grabbed my head. It was still pounding. Less than before but it hurt so bad.

“Well, my friend Maddie is coming over to check on me.”

“This late?” Maxwell asked. “It’s midnight.”

“I know but she was worried about me getting killed and stuff. Come on, Max. Do your sister a solid.”

“Alright, alright. Fine. She can come over.”

“Cool.” Harriet said. She skipped out of the room and not a second later returned with a petite blonde girl with blunt bangs and wavy hair. I took it that was Maddie. She looked over at Maxwell, smiled at him, glared at me (as if I haven’t gone through enough today being concussed and all) took Harriet by the arm, and walked over towards the bedroom without saying a word to either one of us. Whatever.

“Goodnight, bro. Goodnight, Mel. Thanks for busting Leon and getting us home and stuff.” Harriet called out over to us as she left the room. “Wow, I never thought that I’d say that.” I heard her laugh from down the hall. “Goodnight.” Harriet called out one last time.

“Wow, that chick was rude.”

“Maddie?”

“Yeah. Did you see the glare she gave me?”

“Oh, I did. She’s not my favorite person in the world either.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I think she likes me.”

“Wow.” I laughed. “Arrogant much?”

“I really think she does. Which makes me dislike her because she’s dating my sister.”

“Oh, drama with the Goodards. Well, goodnight, Mr. Goodard. It looks like I should get going.” I took a step and felt a throbbing pain shoot up from my left ankle up to my knee. When I was standing it felt like a dull pain but something about the act of walking was just not happening at that moment. I stumbled forward and face planted onto the ground. I felt the world move around in ways it’s not supposed to. My head felt like it was on fire. Well, probably because my brain was moving around in ways it wasn’t supposed to. I went to push myself up from the ground but that just wasn’t happening.

“Shit!” Maxwell said underneath his breath. He quickly ran over to me and pulled me up off the ground and sat me up on the wooden kitchen island. “Are you Okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. The stars returned. I just gotta go home and sleep it off.” So dizzy. My head was spinning.

“I think you’re concussed. You should see a doctor.”

I was listening to the words that Maxwell was saying but I just didn’t understand it. Mentally I was checking myself for a concussion. Asking myself who the president was, what my number was, what my social security number was. Anything that I could think of to make sure that I was firing on all cylinders. Lucky for me, I passed my own concussion test.

“I’m fine. I just checked myself for a concussion and I don’t have one.” I announced.

“How can you check yourself for a concussion since you don’t know if your answers are right or not?”

I groaned in response. “Fuck. You’re right. Shit. I shouldn’t swear, you’re my boss. Fuck.”

“Don’t worry about that now. You should see a doctor.”

“I’m good.” I crossed my arms.

“Ms. Jones.”

I held up my hand. “I refuse medical treatment.” That was probably a bad idea, but I was feeling quite angry, stubborn, and concussed.

Maxwell bit his lip and sighed. I could tell from the look on his face that he was considering calling in Harriet for backup or just driving me to the hospital instead.

“Who is the president?” Maxwell pointedly asked.

“Obama.” I responded.

“And the Secretary of State?”

“John Kerry.”

“What’s your phone number?”

“Two.”

“What?” Maxwell hissed.

“That was a joke. Look, I’m fine, Mr. Goodard. I’m going home.”

“Ms. Jones, I think you should stay the night in one of our spare rooms. You can hardly stand, I think you’re concussed, and Lord knows what’s going on with that car of yours.”

“Wasn’t that terrifying when it stalled out? God. I was worried that Leon was going to pop open the trunk and kill you all. Look, Goodard, I’ll be fine.” I pouted.

“I can’t keep you here or force you to go to the doctors but I really don’t think it’s safe for you to drive at this time…” Maxwell said. “Let me at least get your wounds cleaned up. Okay? Then we can revisit this after.”

I paused. Part of me was suspicious as to why Maxwell Goodard was being so nice to me. His voice sounded so gentle and his face looked like he was concerned. Maybe he was actually concerned? I nodded my head in agreement.

“Alright.”

“Let me take you to the couch.” Maxwell said. I nodded my head once again. Nodding my head hurt so much. At least I felt the fog of confusion lift from my head. Maxwell extended his arm out and I took it to help support my weight as we journeyed to the couch across the room. I still felt like every step that I was taking was pure agony on my ankle. Plus I felt weak and woozy since I haven’t eaten in eleven hours and I’ve had a lot of adrenaline pass through my system.

About five steps in, I started to stumble a bit. Maxwell swooped me off my feet. Literally. He wrapped one hand around my back and then scooped me up from the back of my knees. I gasped in surprise and instinctively grabbed onto the lapels of his suit coat. I muttered something under my breath and curled my hands back to my chest.

He carried me over to leather couch area. I was secretly grateful for the lift. Mortified, but glad that I didn’t have to walk almost a hundred feet on a wobbly ankle. I enjoyed being in his arms and feeling the large bump of his bicep pressed against my body, as stupid as it sounds. I wanted to wrap my arms around his neck and rest my head on his pectoral muscles and smell his scent but I knew those were stupid thoughts. I just bit my lip and stared awkwardly ahead. I didn’t even have the guts to look up at his face. Maxwell gently laid me down at the corner piece of the sectional.

I was glad to finally be sitting down instead of standing upright and being on high alert. The cool leather felt great on my hot skin and I sunk and relaxed into the cushions. I suddenly felt very, very, tired.

Maxwell walked back over to the kitchen. I watched him walk away. He walked like a man with a purpose. Not too fast. Not to slow. He walked evenly. When he got to the kitchen he opened the cabinets and began making something. I had no idea what he was making. He was so far away and the lights were dim and soft and I was so, so, tired. After a couple of minutes, he returned to me with a plate in one hand and a first aid kit in the other. I got a whiff of it and it was a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich. My old childhood favorite. Every New England kid can attest that Fluffernutters are definitively the best way to enjoy a peanut butter sandwich.

“I noticed that you didn’t have dinner. It’s not much but here.” He gently paced the marshmellowy and peanut buttery goodness on my lap. I took a bite of the sandwich. It was delicious. Definitely out of my normal diet which consisted of lean meats and organic vegetables. It was the first hint of carbs and sugar I’ve had in two weeks. Best sandwich ever when you’re concussed.

“Oh God. I’m so happy to eat a meal. This is so much better than the cobb salad I had at lunch.” I ate it quickly. I was like a rabid animal devouring this sandwich. “Usually I’m more polite. I’m just wicked hungry.” I said between bites.

Maxwell cracked a light smile. “It’s perfectly fine.” When I was done with the sandwich, I thanked him for the dinner. I licked the marshmallow fluff and peanut butter that remained on my fingers. Weird and rude, I know, but I didn’t give a shit at that point. I was angry and I was concussed. So beyond giving a shit.

“Thank you for dinner.” I said. I felt my nausea starting to subside and I felt slightly more awake. Maybe I just needed to have a little bit of food in my stomach. When I was done, Maxwell took the plate and set it on the coffee table. He stood over me and then began staring intently into my eyes. I blushed.

Why is he staring at me so intently?

I looked down at my lap and blushed.

“Ms. Jones?” I looked up briefly. I was still blushing. “Could you look up at me again? I want to make sure your pupils are even.”

“Ok…” I looked back into his eyes. He took his cell phone and waved the light in front of my eyes. God that hurt.

Maxwell took a seat next to me on the sectional. He seemed to be calm.

“What are you a doctor or something?”

“I do have my PhD in chemistry so technically I am a doctor, just not a medical doctor, although I did consider going to med school.”

“Oh, crap. I should call you Doctor Goodard.”

“Don’t. That’s pretentious.”

“So what’s the verdict?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

“My eyes.”

“Your pupils are even.”

“What does it matter?”

“If they’re uneven it’s a sign of a severe concussion.” Maxwell plopped his first aid kit between us and opened it. “How does your head feel?”

“It hurts. A lot.”

“More or less than earlier?”

“A less.”

“Ok, good.”

“Do you feel nauseous at all?”

“I did up until that sandwich. Now I don’t feel nauseous anymore.”

“Good.” Maxwell took a cloth and put rubbing alcohol on it. “May I see your hand?” I outstretched my arm and Maxwell gently placed it on a pillow that he placed between us and then he wiped the blood off of my arm. The feeling of the alcohol on open skin stung. I knew it had to be done to avoid infection but it hurt.

I inhaled sharply through my gritted teeth. I felt tears starting to well up in my eyes but I looked up at the ceiling lights to avoid crying. I didn’t cry at all that evening and I wasn’t going to start then.

“I’m sorry.” Maxwell said.

“It’s fine; it needs to be done to avoid infection.” I said. Again, I could feel a lump starting to form in my throat.

“No, it’s not that. I’m sorry for how I treated you the other night. I jumped to conclusions and didn’t listen to what you had to say. If I listened to you then, this all could have been avoided and you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.” Maxwell said as he tweezed bits of wood from the palm of my hand.

“I guess it’s a life-lesson then. Next time someone has something to say, hear them out before thinking they’re the one who’s going to kill you. Look, even though you’re my boss, I’m going to be frank with you.”

“You can always be frank with me..”

“To be honest, I spent the entire weekend fretting if I was going to be fired or if you and Harriet were going to be killed.” I admitted as Maxwell wrapped up my hand in a clean bandage. “I can probably count on two hands the amount of sleep I’ve gotten this weekend.”

Maxwell took my other hand and began to treat that hand the same way as he did the other.

“Again, I’m sorry.” He said evenly. He bit his lip. “Why did you help Harriet and I? Especially after the way I treated you.”

“Harriet’s my mentee. She’s a good kid. I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. You, on the other hand, are not my favorite person in the world but I wasn’t going to let you get murdered.” I gritted my teeth and looked up at the sky. The rubbing alcohol stung so much.

“I appreciate that. And I’m sorry for the stress that I have caused you.” I blushed and looked at my hand and watched Maxwell put a long splinter out of my palm. “I wish there was some sort of a way to make this up to you. Would you like any money?”

“No. I don’t need your money, Mr. Goodard.”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Well, just don’t fire me. I know I’ve said a lot of shit today.”

Maxwell chuckled. “Wasn’t planning on it. I’m in your debt, Ms. Jones. You’ll have a job for life, should you want it.”

A silence filled the air. I watched him pull out splinter after splinter. Wow, what a pain unfinished wood is. Finally, there were no more splinters to pull out of my hands and Maxwell wrapped up my arm in a white cloth. I looked like I was wearing white gloves or something. Both of the bandages went up to my elbows. They were quite breathable.

“May I be frank with you?” I asked.

“I thought you already were being frank with me.” Maxwell chuckled lightly.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked. “You seem like an asshole who doesn’t care about other people. No offense.”

Maxwell scoffed. “I’m well-aware that I give off that impression.” Maxwell turned his attention to my skinned knees. I had a dreadful run in my tights. “I actually do want to help people, believe it or not.”

“Well, then why the hell did you fire someone on their first day?”

Maxwell looked up at me. He seemed to be rather taken aback by my question. I felt my stomach lurch. Perhaps I was too frank. My resolve weakened. Even though I was angry and concussed, the young professional in me knew that I should never talk to my boss that way. “Never mind. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Maxwell placed a bandage over my knee. “I didn’t think he’d be a good fit for the office.”

“He seemed like a kid just out of college. It must have been traumatic being fired on his first day. He might have been a good fit but you fired him.”

“It probably was traumatic.” Maxwell’s whole demeanor changed. His icy eyes grew cold and his mouth pulled into a taught frown. That and his angular face made him seem so severe. “But I have a company to run. I’m trying to give people affordable cures to deadly diseases. Other people’s lives in the future matter much more than someone’s bruised ego, Ms. Jones. I take my work quite seriously.”

“I didn’t know that…” I sincerely said. “Oh man, now I feel bad for calling you an asshole.”

“I don’t really give interviews; I like to keep things private so there really is no way that you would know that about me.”

“Why the hell are you telling me all this now?” I asked.

“You’re the first person who has asked me.” Maxwell sat up next to me and hovered near my face. Naturally I blushed. He placed an alcohol-soaked rag to the upper part of my forehead. I could feel that I had a bump present on my forehead. More importantly, that rag burnt like a mother. And I couldn’t look up to stop the tears from pooling in my eyes and streaming down my face.

Once Maxwell saw the tears streaming down my face, he became panicked. “Oh God, shit, I’m sorry.” Maxwell looked around the first aid kit frantically. He pulled out a tissue and dabbed the tears that were streaming down my face. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Are you okay?”

“No, no, no. I’m perfectly fine.” I empathically said. “It’s just the alcohol burns. That’s all. And I might have a concussion.”

Maxwell exhaled loudly. “I was concerned that I was too rough when treating your head wound.”

“No. You’re fine.”

“I still have a few splinters to pull out.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, sure.” I pursed my lips together.

Maxwell pulled out his tweezers once more and hovered near my face pulling out splinter next to splinter. Having his face so close to mine made me want to look up and kiss him in the lips. Especially since he turned out to actually not be as much of a jerk as I thought he was originally. I didn’t have the guts to look him in the eye so I closed my own eyes and felt his hands touch my face.

I started to feel like I was going to fall asleep. I didn’t realize how heavy my eyelids were.

“There’s another question that I wanted to ask you…” Maxwell slowly said. “Forgive me for being intrusive and personal. It’s about Leon…”

I shot my eyes open. Well, that woke me up.

“What about him?” I asked.

“Why didn’t you report him?”

“For what?”

“Sexual harassment.”

I let out a humorless and bitter laugh. I didn’t realize how jaded I was until that moment and I began to speak my thoughts. “I’ve been at this office a week. Who are people going to believe: the new girl in the office or the head of the legal department?”

“Well I—”

“Mr. Goodard. Even you didn’t believe me when you first met me and I said there was a threat to your life.”

“Yes and I’m sorry. I just.” He signed. “I don’t want you or anyone else being exploited like that on my watch.”

“I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”

“After today I wouldn’t doubt that for a second. But—”

“Cool, we’re on the same page.” I smiled at him coyly. I figured I should give him a taste of his own medicine. See how he likes that treatment. Maxwell looked down at me and returned my coy smile.

“I still want you to know that if anything like that happens in the future, you can come to me.”

“Alright. Duly noted.”

He put the final bandage on my head. I couldn’t resist reaching up to touch the bandage and the slight lump that was underneath it. I contemplated getting bangs to cover it up.

“Why did you cover up for Leon?” Maxwell asked.

This question startled me and made me a little mad. After everything I did he still thought that I was scheming and covering up for that terrible man?

“After everything I’ve done you still think that I’m conspiring to kill you with Leon?”

“No, no. Not that. I mean why did you lie about him beating you?”

Oh.

“Oh. I’m sorry. I was quite confused. I thought you meant generally. No. He didn’t hit me. He didn’t lay a finger on me. All he did was flip out and throw my phone against the wall.”

“How did you get so injured.”

I curled up against the side of the sectional. I was so embarrassed. “Well…I’m not the most coordinated person in the world. After Leon threw my phone I got scared and decided to make a run for it but I tripped and fell into your kitchen island that was under construction and I think I got concussed or something.”

“Oh.”

“Well trust me, if he did actually lay a hand on me, I would have told the police.”

“Well good. I just feel so terribly about putting you in this situation. You could have been raped or killed or who-knows-what.”

“It all worked out fine. If that’ll be all then I’m going to go home to get some rest.” I sat upright in the sectional and rubbed my eyes. My whole head was throbbing.

“You should stay here, Mel. Your car is unreliable, you have a sprained ankle, and you’re mildly concussed. If you do go, please let me take you home at least or call you a cab or hire you a chauffeur for the next couple of days.”

Hmm…driving a stick shift on a sprained ankle won’t be pleasant. Plus it’s very, very late and if Maxwell drops me off, then my car will be here…

“Ok, I’ll stay here for the night.”

“Good. Let me take you to one of the spare rooms.” Maxwell bent over and scooped me up in his arms. This time I actually did look at him. I noticed that he had a bit of dried blood on his suit.

“Oh my God. Is that blood?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“How’d you get that?” I asked.

Maxwell bit his lip and cringed. “You were bleeding a lot when you fell.”

“Oh crap. That’s from me? Sorry for getting blood on your fancy suit.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can get it dry cleaned.” He carried me through the living room and over to the hallway door and paused in front of it. I could tell that he was planning on opening the hallway door himself somehow so I reached over and opened the door instead.

As we passed down the long hallway, I took note of the glass study on the right and I remembered my awkward encounter with Maxwell where he thought that I was out to kill him and his sister. I cringed in embarrassment and curled my head into Maxwell’s chest. He didn’t seem to mind or react in any sort of way at all. He eventually stopped in front of a room and I opened the door and flipped on the light switch to once we got inside.

The room had a rustic elegance to it. The bed was made of an ashen wood, much like my desk at work. The bed spread was a salmon color and the pictures on the wall were that of nature scenes in the fall. The floor was also made of wood but there was a salmon rug in the middle of it.

Maxwell gently laid me down on top of the bed and then took a few steps back towards the door.

“There’s a bathroom connected to this room that you can use.”

“Thank you, Mr. Goodard. I’ll see you at work in the morning.”

“No you won’t.”

“Excuse me?” I raised an eyebrow.

“You just got a concussion. Take the day off.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

Maxwell burst out laughing at my comment.

“Alright, maybe you are my boss but you can’t tell me what to do.”

Maxwell smiled wryly. “I don’t think anyone can tell you what to do.”

“Damn strait.” I nodded a little too quickly. It made me feel dizzy. “The department’s going to be a mess tomorrow once the news about Leon breaks. I want to be there to minimize the damage.”

“You should probably rest to heal your concussion but somehow I don’t think I’m going to get anything out of arguing with you other than a headache and time taken out of my sleeping schedule. Goodnight, Ms. Jones.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Goodard.”

With that, Maxwell flipped off the light switch and exited the room, closing the door behind him. I wanted to go and change out of my clothes and slip under the covers but that required moving. So I just closed my eyes and drifted off into sleep instead.

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

June 21, 2011

 

 

I woke up in the morning in total panic. Well, technically I didn’t wake up in the morning, that was the problem. I looked at the clock and I saw the numbers 12:08 staring back at me. How could I sleep for that long? I knew that I was concussed but still. That was a long time to sleep.

I hopped out of bed and nearly collapsed. My ankle hurt so bad. I decided against throwing on my high-heel shoes and instead hopped out the door with plans to go to my car, drive home, take a shower, throw on some reasonable shoes, buy crutches and a cell phone, drop off my car at the shop, and then head to work.

When I opened the door to the bedroom, I saw that I had presents on the floor—a pair of crutches, my purse, and a cell phone. A good cell phone at that—the latest top-of-the-line smartphone. On top of these things was a piece of paper. I picked it up, wondering what it said.

The piece of paper was a creamy stationary. I looked at it and it was blank so I flipped it over. Still blank. The only thing that I noted was that the stationary had Maxwell Goodard’s name on it. I smiled to myself.

I’m going to have to thank him later.

I threw the phone in my bag—I could sync it to my email account and update it later on after I deal with whatever work crisis I knew that I would have to deal with.

The crutches made walking so much easier. Now I could travel without feeling like someone was stabbing at my ankle. I soon found my way over to the parking garage and my car. There was a note on that as well. I reached over and picked that up. It was a receipt saying that I got my oil changed, tires rotated and transmission replaced.

That was quick. And not cheap. Don’t these things cost a few thousand dollars? My car’s ancient too. Probably cost more than my car is worth…

I hopped in the car, which was cleaned. My mystery smell vanished completely. I drove over to my house. Driving with a sprained ankle wasn’t too bad. Manageable. Luckily there was little traffic so I only had to flex my foot a few times. Soon I arrived at my small apartment and I immediately showered, fixed my hair, replaced my bandages, and put on a clean suit. I decided to go for a soft powder-blue suit. I liked the way it was cut on me and the coloring had a softness to it. I looked the best in this suit. It sounds foolish, but I wanted to look my best in case I ran into Maxwell. I was a little torn on how I felt about him but I did know that I wanted him to feel attracted to me.

It was one o’clock when I finished getting ready. Not bad. I let out a loud sign. Time to go to work and clean up this mess.

When I arrived at the office, the main receptionist—Janelle—immediately shot up from her seat behind the computer like a Jack-in-the-Box springing to life.

“Miss Jones!” Janelle said. She was wearing a white sheath dress with a small scarf tied around her neck and her hair tied in a bun. She looked like a flight attendant today.

“Hi, Janelle. I’m quite sorry about my tardiness.”

“It’s alright. Miss Goodard told me everything. Apparently Leon tried to kill her and Mr. Goodard? And then you found out and stopped it all? And there was a big brawl between you and Leon?”

Um…well…that’s not exactly accurate.

“There wasn’t a big fight or anything.”

“Oh. That’s not how Harriet said it. This is all that the office has been talking about today. Leon’s been fired and so have all the other department heads involved. And the Vice President too? Who would have thought. Mr. Goodard has cleaned house; fired the whole lot of them. I would have never guessed that Leon could be so evil.”

“Me neither.” I shrugged.

“I mean, he was a creep to all the women in the office. What a letch. But still, other than that he seemed nice. Not like he was going to kill someone.”

“Is the department a wreck?” I asked.

“It’s fine. Linda’s taking over the department. Mr. Goodard announced it this morning. It’s a much deserved promotion, if you ask me. There will be some extra cases for everyone to take on, but other than that it’s fine.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. It looks like the department would be fine after all. Linda’s a very kind woman in her mid-fifties who has been doing this kind of work for years. She’s quite competent and I knew the department would be fine in her hands.

“I’m glad to hear that. A much deserved promotion, if you ask me. I’m going to go to my office and get to work. See you around, Janelle.”

I scurried down the hallway as quickly as I could to my office. I saw that there was a horde of police gathered in Leon’s office. They were doing their job and investigating. Good. As long as they stayed away from me.

When I entered the office I saw Harriet sitting in her chair, typing away. When she saw me enter the room she swirled around in his swivel chair and smiled up at me.

“Mel! You’re ok!”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I hobbled over to my chair and sat down.

“My brother said that you got a concussion and sprained your ankle.”

“Yeah, I did. But it’s fine. I can still drive and get around on crutches. I see that we have a lot of work to do.”

“I organized all the work for you to do.”

“Thanks, Harriet, for holding down the fort. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a dent in this work so I can go back to teaching you some new things.”

“My brother told me to tell you to take it easy because you have a concussion.”

“It’s fine.” I said.

I sat down in the chair and read through the first file. Seemed simple enough. I spend the entire afternoon working non-stop. There was work to be done, after all. I found it to be quite hard to focus though between my concussion and the events of yesterday. Truth be told, I was relying on my photographic memory and coasting off of that to get my work done.

At four o’clock, Harriet decided to go home for the day. Seemed reasonable, considering the events of the week. I figured that I should take a short break and go ahead and thank Maxwell for his assistance last night and this morning.

This task made me more terrified than anything I’ve done that day so far. Something about Maxwell just made my heart race. I touched up my hair and makeup so I looked a little more presentable and I hobbled down the long hallway and followed signs to the elevator and took it up to the top floor and followed signs to the president’s office.

There was a large waiting room foyer and a petite brunette was sitting at the desk, typing away. She was beautiful and dressed in an orange suit that popped against her olive skin. She was beautiful. Seeing her beauty made me feel quite insecure. Sure, I was pretty. I worked quite hard to be classically beautiful; getting braces, staying in shape, coloring and treating my hair so it’s always a soft and wavy platinum blonde, wearing makeup, always dressed in the latest fashion… I wish I were prettier.

I lost my nerve. Suddenly I realized how foolish that I’ve been to actually think that I had a chance with Maxwell Goodard. Plus I’m a little rude and frank with him. Why would he want to be with the average looking girl with the quick fuse and the loud mouth when he could be with a model who worships the ground he walks on?

Girls like me are probably a dime a dozen in his eyes.

The woman behind the desk stood up. Ah, she was in such good shape. I wondered how often she goes to the gym.

“May I help you with something?” She asked. Even her voice sounded sweet and melodic.

“Oh. Hello. I just wanted to stop into Maxwell Goodard’s office for a moment.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No…I just wanted to thank him for his help with something.”

“Mr. Goodard takes visitors by appointment only.”

I pursed my lips together. “Alright. If you could, could you let him know that Mel Jones from the legal department stopped by to say thank you.”

“If you’re from the legal department then he might want to see you. There have been some issues coming from that department today.”

She sat down at her desk and pressed a button on the phone. “Mr. Goodard?” Pause. “Someone from the legal department is here to see you.” Pause. “Mel Jones.” Pause. “I’ll send her in right away.” The woman hung up the phone and looked over at me and smiled. “Mr. Goodard would like to meet with you.”

“Thank you.” I hobbled over to his office door. God those crutches were a pain. My armpits hurt from carrying my whole body around. His beautiful secretary opened the door to Maxwell’s office and I went in.

Maxwell looked up from his desk and I shuddered. His sleeves were rolled up and his suit jacket was slung over the back of his office chair. He looked so handsome being hard at work.

I gave Maxwell a taught smile and entered the room.

“It’s good to see you, Ms. Jones. Please, have a seat.”

“Oh. I’m only here for a minute. I have a lot of work to do this afternoon.”

Maxwell folded his arms and leaned in on his desk.

“Alright, what are you here for?” He asked.

My mouth felt so dry. “I just wanted to…oh God, how do I say this? I wanted thank you for your help last night and for the phone, crutches, and fixing my car.” I pulled out a check from my bag and placed it on his desk. “This should cover all of it.”

Maxwell picked up the check and ripped it in half. “I’m not going to take your money. Consider this a gift.”

“That’s quite a lavish gift.”

“I wanted to get you a new car but Harriet said that would be a bit too garish.” Maxwell said. “Please just take it. It’s the very least I can do after all that you’ve done for Harriet and I. I don’t like being in debt to others.”

“Well thank you, Maxwell.” I bit my lip and looked down at the ground. “That’s everything.”

I spun around on my crutches and began to go towards the door.

“Before you go, Ms. Jones, I heard an update on the case.”

I half-turned towards Maxwell. “What happened?”

“You might want to sit down.” Maxwell said slowly.

“It’s fine.”

Maxwell walked over to me and pulled out a chair for me. I blushed at him standing so close to me. “Ms. Jones, please sit.”

I glared at him but plopped down in my seat nonetheless. Maxwell walked over to his desk, hovered over his chair, and then walked back across the room.

“Aren’t you going to sit too?” I asked. Following his pacing was making me nervous. Maxwell let out a heavy sigh and he plopped down in the chair behind his large desk. “What is it that you need to tell me?”

“Leon cut a deal with the police and prosecution. He ratted out his co-conspirators and the charges against him have been dropped.” Maxwell crossed his fingers and rested his chin upon the bridge that he made with him.

“He’s going to walk? That’s bullshit.” I exclaimed. I wanted to hop right out of my seat but my ankle hurt too much. “After trying to kill you and Harriet? After trying to pressure me into his fucked up deal in exchange for sex? This is bullshit!”

“I know, believe me, I know.”

I let out a groan of frustration.

“Do you need a security guard?”

“What?”

“Do you feel unsafe? Do you think he’ll try to retaliate against you?” Maxwell asked slowly.

“Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry. Mad, but fine.”

“Please let me know if that changes. I do not want you to be retaliated against for helping me.”

“I’ll be fine. Look, I’ll let you get back to work. Um. I’ll see you around, Mr. Goodard.”

“I’ll put you on my list of allowed visitors for my secretary.”

“Thank you.” I muttered as I looked down at the ground.

He shot up from his chair and swiftly walked to the door. “Let me get that for you.” He muttered. I thanked him again and exited the room.

I sped out of there as quickly as possible and headed back to the office and spent the remainder of the afternoon doing work until about ten o’clock at night.

Right when I was about to leave the office, my cell phone rang. I pulled it out of my phone. The number was anonymous. I wondered if it could be my sister or something.

“Hello? Mel Jones?”

Nothing. No response. Just the sound of someone breathing on the other line. I hung up angrily. The cherry on top of a crappy day.

During my drive home, I found it to be hard to focus on the road. I was too busy replaying the events of yesterday in my mind and thinking of Leon. Wow, he turned out to be a scumbag, huh? I was worried about him being released by the police. I should have expected that with his connections. Would he try to retaliate against me? And what was up with that weird phone call I just got?

At any rate, I decided that there was nothing I could do about it now. And besides, these things have a way of working themselves out. I was just mad though—this wasn’t exactly the outcome that I was hoping for. Oh well.

 

End of Part I

 

Author’s Note: Hello, everyone, thank you very much for reading. Special thanks to my loving husband, to whom this book is dedicated to. Thank you also to my amazing family and friends.

 

Please be sure to check out the sequel—Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Strong). It will be available for purchase on November 30, 2016. Email me at [email protected] or check out my blog for more information.

 

 

 


Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart)

Attorney Mel Jones was recently hired to work for the prestigious Goodard Corporation, a top-notch pharmaceutical corporation founded and owned by a young and mysterious CEO named Maxwell Goodard. Between the cutthroat office politics, having to mentor the CEO's fiery kid sister, and getting caught in both a love triangle and a murder conspiracy, Mel got a lot more than she bargained for when she took the job.

  • ISBN: 9781370013883
  • Author: Annabelle Coggsworth
  • Published: 2016-12-14 16:35:12
  • Words: 34694
Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart) Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart)