Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

“Smile when you’re scared. Laugh when you’re angry. Never tell what you’re really thinking. Cordelia Simms was always a quick study. Her brilliant mind and dysfunctional family prepared her perfectly for a career in the snakepit of an Old-South, old-money law firm, but she took a few detours along the way. Now the shameful secrets in her past put her future – and her child – at risk.” Previously… Cordelia’s co-workers put her ethics to the test by falsifying a report to drive away an unsavory client. Cordelia decides to stand by her friend and pass off the report as real.

Episode 13

In Room A, Marj’s gracious-and-gregarious act is in full swing. I’ll never get used to that transformation.

I slip Marj the doctored report and eyeball the Holleys. They look nice enough: Same square, cheerful face. Same laid-back posture. Same male pattern baldness. Only the dark suit versus blue blazer distinguishes Senior from Junior.

Junior gives me a cheesy grin. Yuck.

Marj scans the report, and the light goes out of her eyes. She stands.

Her little speech about conflicts of interest is nice and smooth. She scribbles a referral on her business card and promises to brief her replacement, but she’s phoning it in.

I trail her back to her desk. She goes straight to the bottom drawer and whips out a bottle of Dewars 18. She pours a six-count into her coffee mug and shoots it. She holds the bottle out to me.

“Ah..better not.” I really wish I hadn’t seen where she keeps it.

Marj slumps in her chair, gray-faced. “Fix up your resume, kid.”

I perch on a chair. “Come on, Marj. It’s just one client.”

She shakes her head. “My pipeline’s dry. The Executive Committee meets in two weeks. If I don’t have the numbers…”

She spins her chair to look out the window. I can’t think of a reply, but it’s okay. She forgot I’m here.

Tasha hovers outside the door. “How’d she take it?”

“Neat.” I mime a shot.

Tasha looks sick. “We’ve gotta do something.”

It hits me. The one piece of my inheritance I didn’t burn through. “Oh, I know what we’re gonna do.”

I grab Tasha’s hand and run to my office. I keep my treasure in the bottom drawer, too. It makes a resounding thunk on the desk — Dad’s ancient Rolodex.

I grin at Tasha. “We’re gonna make it rain.”

My first call gets Mom’s voicemail. “Tear down Miss Ellen’s portieres, Mama. We’re having a party!”

Tasha spins the card-wheel and whistles. “You know these folks?”

I nod at the top card. “I sold him Girl Scout Cookies.”

Tasha hustles out. “I’ll get Marj’s contact list.”

I dial my warmest lead. “Lawrence, your mom’s not Adventist or anything, is she?”

I hear Lois’ stage whisper rise to a barely-suppressed shriek. “Are you crazy? No way!”

I dart out. Lois is braced, blocking the computer. “I don’t trust her. You saw how she handed over Ackerman on a platter.”

“You gave her the conflict report!” Tasha protests.

“So? What can he do with that? But I’m not handing him a call list!”

“Him who?” They both jump at my voice. Tasha looks flustered, but Lois sticks her chin out.

“Richard Demarest,” she says. “Your boyfriend.”

I can’t possibly have heard her right, not with this roaring noise in my ears. I blink away the creeping dark and breathe through my nose.

Richard and Lia sitting in a tree… Trouble chants.

I shake my head. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

Lois rolls her eyes. “Everybody knows. He got you the job, didn’t he? All that whispering in the hallways.” She turns to Tasha. “Girlie spent half her first morning locked in his office.”

Tasha looks like she found half a bug in her apple.

What can I possibly say that won’t make it worse?

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