What if you lost everything you ever wanted, and had just one chance to get it back? Hotshot attorney Cordelia Simms needs a do-over. She spent her whole life being perfect, and it nearly destroyed her — now she’s got a long to-do list, and “perfect” isn’t on it. She negotiates a minefield of old money and modern office politics while family conflict and dangerous secrets threaten to drag her down for good. Previously… Cordelia discovered something strange going on with the Norris estate. She wants answers and decides the best way to get them is to go find the file and read it for herself.
When I return to our office suite, Lois isn’t there. Must be a meeting of Harpies Anonymous.
I duck into Marj’s office. Her desk is a massive mahogany block, the surface piled high with file shucks. At least I’ll get some idea of our current cases. Eilenberg. Pennyroyal. Belcher. Jackpot: Norris, Esther, Probate Volumes I-III.
As I slide out Volume I, it nicks against Belcher. I gasp. I had no idea the world really does go into slow-motion. Sober, I mean.
Belcher’s 15-inch stack teeters and cascades to the floor. The tumbling files knock into Pennyroyal, which slides like a deck of cards and takes out Marj’s desk lamp. The lamp tips backward, whacking Eilenberg.
Eilenberg skitters onto Marj’s blotter, flips her coffee mug and explodes in a confetti-bomb of loose correspondence.
A roar behind me snaps time back to normal. “What the hell are you doing?”
I turn. Remember that dude in New Haven whose shit you wouldn’t take because you heard he laced it with strychnine? Trouble murmurs. Shoulda took it.
Lois walks in behind Marj and gives a little scream. She runs to mop up.
“Ah…ah…” My mouth won’t work right. “I’m sorry.”
Marj’s eyes take my skin off, one layer at a time. “Well?”
“I was going to catch up on the Norris file. I didn’t mean…”
My cell phone rings. Well, not rings, exactly. I recorded Bella’s voice saying, “Ma-ma.” It’s set for calls from home.
“Ma-ma,” says my pocket again.
“I’m sorry. That’s my sitter. I just have to…” I edge toward the door. “I’m so sorry.”
Marj uncurls her lip just enough to speak. “Ms. Simms, that’s twice now you’ve walked into my office without permission. Next time, Security takes you out. Clear?”
I nod. “Yes, ma’am.”
In my broom closet, I dial back. “Is everything okay?”
My mom laughs. “Oh, honey, this is so precious. Bella and Grammy are outside, washing her doll baby’s clothes with all the bubbles!”
“Mom. I’m working. It’s my first day. Geez!”
“Well, excuse me. You’re the one always crying about missing out.”
Something’s not right. “Mom, are you drinking?”
I can practically hear the hand-wave. “I’m fine.”
“Mom, you promised! Not while you’re keeping Bella!”
“Listen, Missy. I reared two children perfectly well without your help.”
No, the help reared two children. I bite my lip. Mom doesn’t deal with criticism. Her friend Jim Beam does it for her.
“Okay, mom? Mom, just don’t go anywhere, okay?”
“Where would we go? We’re having a lovely day, aren’t we sweetheart?”
Bella squeals. “Bay-beee. Bay-beee!”
I hit “end.” How could Mom do this? I can’t leave Bella alone with a drunk.
Hypocrite, hisses Trouble. You know damn well this isn’t the first time. It’s just the first time you couldn’t ignore.
If I leave now, I’m fired before I hit the freeway.
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