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 was shocked to discover that Mrs. Joyner thinks she’s dating Lawrence. Lawrence’s awkward reaction made her wonder if he’d like it to be true. When Tasha calls for help with the client’s files, Cordelia takes the opportunity to duck out and get some breathing space.

Episode 16

Lawrence watches from the corner of his eye as I end the call with a bloop. My thumb leaves a sweaty mark on the screen. I’m great with complicated case law or even complicated schedules. Real-life interpersonal complicated? Not so much.

Lawrence boosts himself off the wall and nods. Okay, well…” He shrugs, one-shouldered. “See you.”

Sorry.” I hold up the phone. “My partner called for backup. You know how it is.”

He chuckles and stands a little easier.

I put my head on one side. “So, I’ll see you Saturday?”

He frowns. “Saturday?”

“At the party, with your mom.”

“Oh! Yeah.” He gives me a big grin. “Sure, that’ll be great.”

I can’t believe it. Detective Tough Guy has dimples. I grin back.

* * * * *

At the Norris house — or rather, the Ackerman house — the housekeeper answers the door, but that’s as far as I get. She just nods and smiles and tells me “Mizackerman” isn’t home. My year-abroad Spanish is pretty rusty, but it plus my business card eventually get me into the upstairs study with Tasha. She’s set up a workstation to turn any client’s decades of haphazard papers into a collated and cross-referenced file box.

Except there’s no haphazard stash. Judging by the dark wood and leather chairs, the study was probably old Mr. Norris’. A three-drawer file cabinet stands next to the desk with the bottom open. It’s filled with color-coded folders plastered with shiny tape-printed labels. I peer inside. The folders are in reverse chronological order, going back three years.

“Wow,” I say. “Somebody’s organized. Is this what you wanted me to see?”

“Oh, no,” Tasha answers. She hands me a freshly cut envelope. “Check this out. It came in today’s mail.”

The envelope is addressed to Henry Norris and covered with postal service stamps and forwarding addresses. England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Holland — and over it all, a big black “Return to Sender.”

The sender, I note with a qualm, was Mrs. Esther Norris, whose shaky copperplate adorns the back flap.

“How long has this been bouncing around?”

“Two months before she died,” Tasha says.

“That’s crazy!” I slide out the letter. It’s short and scrawled large on the paper, but a quick read has me groping for a chair.

Dear Henry,

I know you said not to use your cell phone unless it’s an emergency, but I do wish you’d call me. I’m worried about your father’s investments. Zoe keeps saying I can’t afford to do things as I have been. I know my medical bills are awful, but I do think we could have steak once in a while and the thermostat higher. Can’t you look on your computer to check the accounts?

Another worry is all these papers. I’m all right signing things in the morning, but the afternoons get a little fuzzy and I’m not sure I read them all the way through. I can’t remember.

I love you, darling. Please call your dear

Mother.  

I look up at Tasha. I can feel the whites of my eyes showing. “When was the Norris Trust signed?”

Tasha looks grim. “The day before she mailed this.”

My throat’s closing up. “Oh, shit.”

Tasha nods. “No shit.”



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