Fiction Friday: Making the Call

Mike slammed the car door, turned the key, and headed for the turnpike. He was running late already. He would miss the dinner. But they couldn’t have the surprise without him. No, the surprise was his deal. Too bad he wasn’t looking forward to it.

He slammed on the brakes. “Hey moron! Ya tryin’ to get us all killed? What the hell’s your problem? D’you getcha license from a cracker jack box?” Generally Mike was pretty good at weaving in and out of traffic. Sure, he might cut someone off occasionally, but when they saw his hulking form looming over the steering wheel, they knew better than to mouth off.

He had to drive an hour out of his way to run this errand. By the time he wheeled into the parking lot, he was feeling less than cheerful. It had just started to rain, and the lights in the store window were warm and welcoming. At least they would have been to anyone but Mike. He slung the door open and sauntered in. The salesman who should have approached him found himself otherwise occupied with a tower of cords and cables. No one would look him in the eye.

Mike looked down. “Christ!” he mumbled, tearing the bloody apron from his neck and shoving it inside his coat.

“Can I help you?” came a voice from the back corner of the store.

“Yeah,” Mike said. “I want your basic package. Nothin’ too fancy, huh?”

“Are you shopping for yourself?” inquired the salesman. His pseudo-cheerfulness grated on Mike’s nerves.

“Hey look, if I wanted you to know the details, I’d’a give ‘em to ya, huh? Just give me the basic package and the basic equipment.”

The salesman selected the merchandise, second-guessing himself twice, no, three times. He asked Mike for the name on the account, threw in the extra cords, cables, and cases with which the other salesman had so diligently busied himself. Mike turned to go.

“Have a nice night,” bleated the salesman. Mike threw up his hand and grunted.

All the way home Mike fretted over what was about to happen. He thought of best case scenarios. This could be a good thing, a learning experience. He thought of worst case scenarios. Maybe she’d be distracted. She wouldn’t see the end until it was too late. He generally liked to know the outcome of a situation before he went into it, so this uncertainty was maddening. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

“Here goes nothin'” he thought. And he entered the house.
“Damn it!” he growled as he sprawled, grasping for the countertop. He’d tripped over something small and pink. A ballet slipper.

“Sweetie, you’re home,” his wife said. She looked beautiful in her red sweater and pearls. He might have told her so if he hadn’t still been cursing the ballet slipper. “We waited for you as long as we could, but you know. We haven’t cut the cake yet though.”

Was this supposed to be his consolation?

He took off his coat and threw it and the bloody apron inside it to the back of the coat closet. He checked his hair, checked his face, and made his entrance.

When he walked into the dining room, the roar of conversation trickled to a mere murmur. Mike had that effect on people, if only briefly.

“Hey Mike, how are things down at The Butcher’s Block?” his neighbor Randy asked.

“Good, good,” Mike grumped. “People gotta eat, even in tough times, ya know?”

They shared a chuckle.

“It’s about time you got here,” said Aubrey Finnerman, another neighbor.

“I just had some last minute, uh, business to take care of,” he told them. “You know, somethin’ for the, uh, party her–”

“Daddy!” He turned in time to catch the whirling, twirling form of his fifteen (soon to be sixteen)-year-old daughter.

“Hey, short stack,” he said. “Happy birthday.”

“Where’ve you been? We’ve been waiting on you to cut the cake.” With that she grabbed his hand and led him to the front of the room where a cake in the shape of a Volkswagen Beetle was parked.

“Here you go, Daddy. You do the honors.” She handed him the knife. At that moment, somewhere in the back of the room someone started singing “Happy Birthday.” He searched the throng of faces and found his wife’s. She winked at him. She knew he’d been dreading.

When the Beetle had nothing left of a trunk or a backseat, Mike retrieved from the closet the bag he’d brought home.

“Now, uh, listen up, short stack,” he said. And she did.

“Your mother and I, well, we know you’re gonna be drivin’ soon, and listen, we want you to be careful,” he said. She nodded.

“We know you’re gonna go places and do things that, well, we’d rather you didn’t do,” he said. Everyone giggled.

“Look, I don’t like this, but, uh, your mother, well, she thinks it’s a good idea. So, uh, here,” he said and thrust the bag into her hand. “It’s only for emergencies.”

She reached in the bag, squealed with delight, and frantically sought the nearest outlet into which she plugged the charger for her new cell phone.

* * * *

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved

Fiction Friday: Tough Defense (The End)

Tough Defense Part 1

Tough Defense Part 2

Tough Defense Part 3

Tough Defense Part 4

In court the next morning, Charlotte successfully delivered her closing arguments. She did what she could to refrain from making eye contact with Lester, and the prosecution did their best to keep from making eye contact with her. While Charlotte grappled with her unease, Lester attempted to draw the prosecution into a staring match. To rattle them, he said when Charlotte noticed what he was doing. She might have put a stop to it with any other client, but she felt too scattered at the moment to say much more than, “Hmm.” Could she actually be a good enough lawyer to convince both judge and jury of an acquittal she knew would be a mistake? Her head throbbed.

When it was time for sentencing, Charlotte found herself violently (though silently) opposing Andre Lester’s acquittal. As the jury read the verdict (not guilty, just as she knew it would be), Charlotte’s glance met that of the judge. She was startled to find a look of concern, a look that said, “Get out. Get out now before you’re too involved, before he knows too much about you and you know too much about him. Just get out.” Clearly Lester was not new to this judge’s courtroom. Charlotte briefly exchanged congratulatory remarks with Lester and the other defense attorneys before retreating to the the exit. As she passed the prosecuting attorney, his eyes (finally) met hers. She recognized the sentiment she found there, one of sympathy, and she forced herself to break away before he recognized the dejection in her own.

“Oh, Ms. Malloy,” she heard Lester shout from the front of the courtroom. “I am grateful for your services. I look forward to working with you again in the near future.” The cat that ate the canary? Yes, he was.

“Just doing my job, Mr. Lester. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the office to file the final paperwork.”

He leered after her as she left. Oh yes, he thought, as he attempted to shake a wrinkle out of his linen pants, he would be seeing her again soon. He had to.

* * *

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved

Fiction Friday: Tough Defense Part 4

Tough Defense Part 1

Tough Defense Part 2

Tough Defense Part 3

Charlotte hustled herself out of the building that housed her office downtown. The southern sun beat down, and the humidity felt like a weight growing heavier on her chest. She clipped along to the parking garage.

“God, I gotta get out of here,” she thought, knowing full well that if he really wanted to know where she was going or what kind of car she drove, he could find out. He always seemed to be one step ahead of her, a characteristic that unnerved Charlotte in all clients, particularly clients of this ilk.

More than anything Charlotte just wanted to get out of there. Why is it that on the days she most needs to get away, the parking lot becomes an obstacle course, a maze with no exit? She drove around in circles a few more times and headed towards home. Andre Lester smiled through the office window at her effort.

“Where ya been, Sis? I been waitin’ for ya,” Kip said when she walked through the door. She had that silly spool of wire of the table in front of her, attempting, it seemed, to shape it into something artsy. She looked like she hadn’t been awake for too long.

“Did you just get up?” Charlotte asked. She was hoping whatever Kip had done that day would take her mind off her meeting with Lester.

“I been up since one. I’m an artist, not a bum.” Kip smiled through her feigned indignation. “Beauty doesn’t create itself, ya know.”

As Kip dove into the details of her day, Charlotte’s mind began to wander into tomorrow. She was confident that she had thoroughly memorized her arguments for tomorrow, including the parts she didn’t believe. That’s most of it, she thought, and shook her head. But what would happen to her afterwards? What would happen to Lester?

* * * *
To be continued…

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved

Fiction Friday: Tough Defense Part 3

Tough Defense Part 1

Tough Defense Part 2

Charlotte exhausted that wave of positivity, riding it straight into her afternoon. Her next meeting, though, was looming in front of her, and she was going to need more confidence than today’s brief interlude with Stuart had allotted her.

“Charlotte?” her intercom crackled.

“I know, Lisa. You can tell Mr. Lester I’m headed to the conference room.”. Lisa, that was it, Charlotte thought, glad she finally remembered someone’s name without having to consult the placard on the desk.

Charlotte took a deep breath and sighed out the window for the second time that day. Without dwelling too much on where she was going or to whom she was going to speak, Charlotte forced herself to the conference room.

As she approached, her stomach began to twist. She could see him lounging in his chair as though waiting for an old friend. The gaudy gold jewelry he wore contrasted sharply with his crisp white linen suit. That, Charlotte thought, is a poorly executed disguise, and it is all you need to know about a man like that. His overwhelming cologne felt like a sucker punch when she walked through the door.

“Ms. Malloy, it’s so good to see you,” Mr. Lester leered. His accent was thick, an amalgamation of languages gleaned around the world. Charlotte tried not to think about how he’d acquired it.

“And you, Mr. Lester. Now, I spoke with the prosecution this morning, and they-”

“Ms. Malloy,” Lester tutted. “So formal. There will be time for business. Life, well, life is too short. I want to talk about more pleasant things. Like you.”

It was this part of the conversation that Charlotte dreaded the most. Despite her novice status as a defense attorney, she understood that no client should know anything more than her name and office location. She’d known Andre Lester long enough to know that she wasn’t about to volunteer anything. He could probably find out for himself if he wanted it badly enough. The thought crossed her mind that he probably had. Suddenly the conference room began to feel smaller. Charlotte tried not to look panicked, but the plate glass separating her from the her colleagues seemed to be getting thicker and thicker until the forms of errand boys and paralegals began to blur.

“Ms. Malloy, is something the matter? You look ill.” Lester appeared concerned, and indeed he was. He needed his defense in top condition. A change in attorneys would disorient the jury, and he couldn’t afford that. Not again. Besides, he hated to see an attractive woman in distress. It never occurred to him that he might be the source.

“Yes, I mean, no, Mr. Lester. I’m perfectly well. Now if we could discuss your case, I have a meeting across town in an hour. And you know the traffic here.” Charlotte faked the confidence she didn’t feel.

“But of course, Ms. Malloy. Fine, we can discuss this, what you call, situation.”

* * * *

To be continued…

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved.