Excerpt from 'GUMPTION'

Gumption_Img

Summary:

A new lawyer at a firm is given a test for his first case. Should he pass, he will secure a future for himself and his family. What seems like a simple divorce case takes a dark turn that may cost the lawyer his life. 

It was some kind of Buick I rode in on the way to my first case. I sat in the passenger seat, gazing out the window at the passing shops and scenery. The driver’s name was Josiah Blake. He was the head attorney for Redwing and Westerfield. Karin Redwing had commissioned today’s outing. She recognized my case work in college, but was reluctant to hire me. When I told her I had gumption, she gave me this case as a test. If I passed I’d have the job.

Karin told me my client’s name was Luckman. It was a divorce case, which was disheartening. Divorces are messy for everyone involved, let alone the attorney. The reason I accepted was to prove to Karin I was a man of my word. She reminded me of the firm’s mantra: “Defense for the Dejected, Destitute, and Defenseless,” summed up as the four D’s. Her firm represented all sorts of cases, rarely turning someone down. When in doubt, she said, recite the four D’s. She assigned me Blake’s old case and Blake as my transportation. As we traveled westward, I had no clue where Blake was driving me. I saw a bum outside my window attempting to steal another man’s bike. As the thief pedaled off with the Schwinn, its owner in pursuit, I turned to Blake.

“Poor guy. Should’ve had it insured.”

He looked sideways at me, as though remembering I was there. Then he returned to the road. I kept chatting. “By the way, how’s the company insurance plan?”

Blake shook his head. “It’s OK. Beats the plan of the last firm I worked for.”

“That’s good. My last job didn’t even have insurance.”

“Which firm was that?” Blake asked.

It wasn’t. “A small claims division across the river.”

“Which one?” said Blake. “I went to Harvard Law, so I know the area.”

Harvard? Fancy car, cushy job, and now Harvard? I would kill for this guy’s position. I had a law degree but no job at a firm. I failed the bar exam the first time. Since then, I’d had a string of jobs, none of them being at a law firm. I’d just quit my last job, but I wasn’t going to tell that to Blake.

“Baskin and Robbin,” I said.

Blake frowned. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Yeah, I’m kidding,” I said sarcastically.

Blake laughed. “You’d better keep up that sense of humor with this client. You’ll need it. Karin just had me defending a high school teacher accused of molestation. It felt like the trial would never end.”

Outside my window was a dilapidated apartment building. A sign read Herberton Apartments in peeling letters. A couple were missing.

Blake gestured toward the building. “End of the line.”

“Aren’t you going in?”

Blake smiled that perfect smile. They had to be caps, proof he had a good dental plan.

“This is your case. Room 638.”

“Luckman, right?”

“That’s right. Now get out. I have to pick up my car from the shop.”

“This is a rental?”

“I drive a Porsche. You might too someday if you play your cards right. I’ll be here in a couple hours when you’re done to take you back. Good luck.”

I entered the building and the door squealed shut like a dying animal. I made for the elevator, but a sign indicated it was out of order. I had to take the stairs. I forced open the next door and a sick stench met my senses. It was likely vomit that had lingered for days. I held my nose and climbed six flights up. Pausing for air, I wondered who this Luckman might be. Probably some overweight slob who hadn’t left his La-Z-Boy in years and was sucking taxpayers’ money for welfare. I’d have Luckman sign a few divorce papers, go through the proceedings, and then I would be home in time for dinner. Huffing and puffing, I reached the floor. I counted the rooms down the hall until I stood in front of 638. I knocked.

“Who is it?” chimed a woman’s voice. The slob I’d imagined vanished in a poof.

“It’s Mr. Crowe, your lawyer,” I answered. “I was sent by Redwing and Westerfield.”

“Coming,” said Luckman.

The door opened. Standing there was a blonde in a brown sun dress. Her hair was done up in an elegant knot and it seemed she had just finished applying shadow to her smoky eyes. Her breasts peeked from her dress and her bee-stung lips were bright red. I reminded myself that I was married.

“You’re not Mr. Blake,” said the woman.

“No, sorry to disappoint. I’m Mr. Crowe,” I said, extending a hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Luckman.”

She took it. “What happened to Mr. Blake? He was supposed to represent me. I signed papers and everything.”

“I have them right here,” I said, raising my briefcase. “I’ll need your signature so I can pick up where Mr. Blake left off.”

She sneered. “Why? I was assigned a lawyer and you’re not him. I didn’t receive so much as an email from your boss to inform me of the change. I knew your firm was cheaper than most in town—that’s why I selected it—but this is not what I signed up for, Mr. Crowe. This is unprofessional.”

I fought a desire to roll my eyes. She was the one being rude. If this was how the case was going to be from here on out, I was ready to turn and leave. Why did it have to be a divorce case? I tried to remember the four D’s. This woman turned to Karin’s firm because she must be at the end of her rope. I thought of Iris and Mer at home and the reason why I needed this job. I took a breath.

“I’m sorry about the confusion. I’m here to serve you,” I said, using my Baskin-Robbins customer experience. I stopped myself before I could ask if she’d like to sample anything.

She lingered in the threshold. Finally, she nodded.

“Fine. Show me these papers. You’re not as fetching as Mr. Blake, but you’ll do.”

That was a relief, but I didn’t like her tone. “I’m your lawyer, Mrs. Luckman.”

She backed from the door, motioning for me to enter.

“You can call me Grace.”

I thought my apartment was small. The living space I entered into was barely enough room for a family. There was a grimy kitchen attached to a sitting room, a tiny bathroom, and another room with a closed door.

“The baby is sleeping,” Grace clarified, “so we’ll have to talk softly. He’s the reason I couldn’t come to your office. It’s hard to find a sitter.”

“Not a problem.”

Grace nodded. “Can I get you anything? Tea?”

I didn’t want to be rude. “Tea’s fine.”

As she microwaved the tea, I looked around the place. There weren’t any wedding photos, only ones of a toddler, blonde like his mother. The walls were mostly bare. I joined Grace at the kitchen table and she handed me a steaming mug.

“Thanks. Is your husband home?”

Grace folded her hands together. She shrugged. “No, Eddie works long hours at the junkyard.”

After a sip I noticed a smear of lipstick on the rim of the cup. Trying to hide my disgust, I set the mug down.

 “How old is your son?”

She brightened. “Three. He’s an easy-going kid, which is great for me. I give him a toy and he can entertain himself for hours.”

“That’s great. I have a daughter myself, so I know what it’s like having a toddler. They’re fun, but it can be a handful.”

“Tyler keeps me company when I’m alone. I’m reluctant to send him off to school when it’s time.”

I smiled. “It was tough for me and my wife, but you can’t stop them growing up. We’re just proud Mer—it’s short for Meredith—has her mother’s manners. It’s a relief she didn’t get mine, as you can see.”

Grace laughed. “Tyler has my best qualities.”

“I’m sure he has your husband’s best qualities too.”

Shaking her head, Grace dropped her motherly demeanor. “No, he doesn’t. Tyler is my son.”

I was confused. “You mentioned your husband’s a hard worker. Tyler can learn from his father.”

“Eddie doesn’t have any qualities of merit. The less time he spends around Tyler the better,” Grace said bitterly. “That’s why I want this divorce, Mr. Crowe.”

I nodded. “That’s why I’m here. I hope you’ve thought long and hard about this, because divorce is a serious step. It won’t affect just you and your husband. It’ll hit your son hard as well. You’ll have to support yourself. Do you have finances lined up for you and your son?”

“Yes, I’ve planned it all out,” Grace said quickly, her voice growing with excitement. “My grandmother passed away two weeks ago. I was her favorite granddaughter, so she willed me her money from her joint savings account with my grandfather who owned and operated a commerce center. It’s enough money for me and Tyler to support ourselves for the next fifteen years.” She beamed. “Tyler’s going to an excellent college. The child support I’ll receive from Eddie will help as well.”

I didn’t know what to say. It sounded like a scheme. Though I didn’t know him, I felt bad about Eddie and his own finances.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” was all I could muster.

“I’ve felt caged for years,” Grace continued. “I’m so ready to just get out there on my own.”

 “Grace,” I thought carefully about my words, “what exactly did Eddie do that warrants divorce?”

“He’s emotionally abusive,” she said matter-of-factly. It sounded rehearsed.

My wife Iris was my emotional anchor. I didn’t want this woman to be without that. It wasn’t my place as her lawyer, but I wanted to make sure she’d thought this through. “I think I should meet Eddie before we do anything rash. Have you attended couples counselling?”

Grace looked at me like I was crazy. “This marriage is beyond saving. Of course we’ve been through counselling. Why are you asking me that? You’re my lawyer. Don’t you have some papers for me to sign to make this official?”

“Yes,” I said, glancing at my briefcase. “Is Eddie aware of the divorce yet?”

“I’ll tell him tonight once he’s back from work,” Grace snapped. “Now, please, show me these documents so we can draw up the petition. Eddie can sign once we’ve finished. My son and I are in danger.”

“What kind of danger?”

“Mr. Crowe,” Grace pleaded, “please.”

 

We began to write up a divorce petition. Grace couldn’t sign it until it was completed, so I told her I’d be back once it had been finalized. I had her sign a few legal documents, officially stating me as her lawyer. Grace asked if I was hungry. I’d skipped lunch, so I had a leftover piece of lasagna from her fridge to tide me over to dinner. Grace smiled as I ate. Finally, I checked my watch. It was after five. I was late for meeting Blake as my ride. Grace couldn’t believe it was the time either. She said Eddie would be home any minute. She handed me my coat and shooed me out the door.

There was no Buick to pick me up, so I called Karin at the firm and asked for Blake. I explained that the case took a bit longer than I’d expected and Blake was gone. She said she hadn’t instructed Blake to drive me back, he had offered. Then she told me to pick up the case tomorrow and hung up. I was on my own to get home, so I caught a bus back to the city. Iris called my cell. She was overjoyed when I informed her Karin had given me work. I told her I’d see her at home soon. I called Iris back later to report the traffic was a nightmare. I had enough time to complete a chunk of the paperwork on the bus. I was thankful I’d had that lasagna. The sun set before I reached my stop. I had to walk five blocks back to my apartment. It was nine by the time I was safely inside. 

“Thom, is that you?” Iris called from the living room.

Mer rushed to the door to greet me. Her tiny arms wrapped around my knees.

“I’m finally home,” I told Iris. Then I looked down at Mer. “Hey, Booger.”

“Dad, guess what?” Mer squealed. “I drew a picture of a ladybug today! Wanna see?”

“I’d love to see,” I said wearily. “But I need to sit down first and say hi to your mom.”

Mer scampered off to her room for her drawing and I slogged into the living room. Iris was grinning as I plopped down onto the sofa beside her. She laid her hands onto my tired shoulders. She looked tired too, but beautiful as always. Her dark skin made it hard to detect bags around her eyes. I was amazed by her ability to take care of Mer and hold down her own job graphic design job. Work, parenting, and being a wife was an artful balancing act for her.

“Well, well,” she murmured, “here’s my husband the lawyer. How does it feel?”

“It’s a good kind of tired,” I yawned.

“I’m so proud of you. Did you ask about the insurance plan?”

“I haven’t talked to Karin about it yet, but at least I know they have one.”

Iris sighed. She had been reminding me the past week to ask about the plan. Our little family was uninsured and it had been a miracle that we hadn’t faced a health crisis yet. “Thom, this is important,” said Iris. “What is one of us gets deathly ill and we can’t afford treatment? What if Mer needed an appendectomy?”

I nodded. “You’re right. I’ll get the details tomorrow.”

She leaned in for a kiss. “I know you will, Mr. Lawman.”

“I’m not a lawman yet.”

“Sure you are,” Iris said. “You have your degree.”

“I’ve never had a law job before.”

Iris began massaging my shoulders. “Until now. This is your chance. Use it.”

I told her my insecurities about Blake, his perfect hair and smile, his perfect rental car, and his Harvard Law degree. Iris gave me a pep talk. She said I had something new and exciting to offer the law firm: myself, my knowledge, and all my experiences. And my gumption. Then she reminded me that’s why she married me. I felt a bit better hearing that. Iris’ approval mattered the most. Mer rushed back into the room to show us her picture. Her art skills were certainly improving. Her ladybugs no longer resembled red and black blobs on the page. Then it was off to bed for her. I told Iris I had to finalize the paperwork for Grace, but she convinced me to relax first. Iris and I watched a show on TV and she served me dinner. I didn’t mention Grace’s lasagna. Iris offered to stay awake while I worked, but I assured her it was OK. She kissed me goodnight, then she was off to bed. It took a couple more hours until I completed the work. My eyelids sagged, so I joined Iris in our bedroom. She was already asleep.

 

Grace called me in the morning, asking me to come earlier. She didn’t want to risk a “close call” like yesterday because Eddie had arrived home minutes after I’d left. I showed up around eleven at her apartment. When Grace opened the door, I nearly jumped back by her appearance. Her attire made yesterday’s dress look modest. She was wearing workout clothes, a pushup bra and the smallest shorts I’d ever seen. Her hair was a single plait that draped over one shoulder. I had to admit, it sent my hormones into overdrive. I stroked the back of my wedding band with my thumb.

Grace motioned inside. “Welcome back, Mr. Crowe.”

“Good morning, Grace,” I said, trying to keep my gaze focused into her eyes. I wished the case were over.

“I just got back from my morning run,” Grace explained. “I hope you’ll pardon my attire. I haven’t had time to get ready for the day. Eddie left hours ago for work and Tyler is at my mother’s. I didn’t want him here with you present. He’s so inquisitive.”

Grace had done a fair amount of cleaning: the kitchen sink was devoid of dishes and the toys scattered around the kitchen were gone. The curtains were open and sunlight streamed into the tiny apartment.

“Can I offer you anything?” she said, pouring herself a hot cup. “Coffee?”

“No thanks,” I said, halting her action with my hand. Her friendliness was a nice change from yesterday. “I had two cups at home. Let’s get through these proceedings. I finished the petition last night, so I’ll walk you through everything and then I’ll need a few quick signatures. That should be it.”

“Great. I’ll talk to Eddie tonight. He doesn’t know a thing yet.”

I sat down at the table and opened my briefcase. “Good luck telling him. I hope he takes it well.”

“I hope he does too. Eddie can be emotional, but I think he’ll understand that we’re better off apart.” She smiled at me. “Are you sure you don’t need anything? Did you have breakfast?”

Her kindness was disconcerting. Where was the woman who was so concerned yesterday about me being professional? “I’m fine. My wife made an excellent plate of scrambled eggs. She knows just how I like my yolk cooked. Runny, like snot.” I returned her smile, then worried if it sent the wrong message.

“Suit yourself,” Grace laughed at my bad joke.

I tried to focus our discussion back on the case. “The process is going faster than I expected. Once you serve Eddie the divorce petition, it acts as a restraining order. You and your son are free to do as you please.”

Grace nodded. “Tyler and I are moving in with my mother. I’ve already moved his things over to her place. If everything goes OK with Eddie, I’ll be moved in by the end of the week.”

“Sounds like it’s only a matter of time. I’ll walk you through it.”

              Grace ambled over and reached for a kitchen chair. She turned it around with a gyration of her hand, then sat backwards in the chair facing me with her legs caressing the feet of the chair. She rested her chin on her crossed arms. Perhaps I was reading too much into her behavior, but it seemed like Grace was flirting. I chose to ignore her behavior and I laid the petition on the table. It was standard procedure. I’d learned about divorce proceeding from my law classes at Boston University. Grace listened as I explained how things would go, nodding at all the right places, and never once taking her eyes off mine. It was unsettling. At one point she must’ve realized her seated position was uncomfortable, so she adjusted the chair toward me and scooted closer in. It was time for her to sign the paper, so I offered her a pen. She reached close to the table, but her hand missed the pen. It rolled onto the floor. Grace bent to pick it up and I caught I glimpse inside her tank top. My heart was beating like a drum.

“Mr. Crowe,” she asked. “Are you alright?”

“Y-yes, I’m great.”

Grace laughed. “You look pale all of a sudden. Oh, what’s this?” She grabbed a spare napkin from the kitchen table. “Looks like you’ve got leftover egg on the corner of your mouth. Hold on, I’ll get it.”

I was tense as she dampened the napkin with her tongue and reached for my face. She was too close. She leaned in toward me and I stopped her hand with my own.

Grace laughed. “Mr. Crowe, I need you to hold still.”

I heard a few loud footsteps outside the closed door. They sounded close by. I remembered I was holding Grace’s hand, so I released it.

“Mrs. Luckman,” I told her. “I beg your pardon, but I’m married.”

“I am too,” Grace said. “What’s the problem?”

A man in the hall cleared his throat loudly, rasping phlegm.

“I’ve almost got it,” said Grace, reaching for my face once more. Then the door shuddered on his hinges. It swung inward. Grace’s face was panicked.

“Eddie! You’re home early!”

Grace’s cry was nothing compared to the face of the man standing in the doorway. It wasn’t angry. It was a combined look of fear and sadness, resembling a caged animal.

Grace?” the man bellowed. He sounded on the verge of tears.

Grace dropped her hands and scooted back from me in her chair.

“Eddie, you’re home early. Is something the matter?”

Mr. Luckman was nothing like I imagined. He was covered head to toe in blue denim coveralls and carrying a toolbox and a lunch pail. He had barely any hair, a large belly, and a round boyish face. To my horror, tears began streaming down his smooth face. He was a giant baby.

“Grace,” he wailed, “what is this? Who is this man?”

Grace opened her mouth, but I spoke first.

“Mr. Luckman, my name is Thomas Crowe. I’m your wife’s lawyer.” I quickly pointed to my ring. “And I’m a married man.”

“B-but who are you?” Eddie sputtered.

“I’m your wife’s divorce attorney.”

Eddie turned a bewildered face to his wife. “What? Grace, this can’t be true.”

Grace scrunched up her face into a mean glare. It ruined her pretty face. “It’s true, Eddie. I don’t love you anymore. I want a divorce.”

Eddie dropped his things to the floor with a crash. He covered his face with his broad hands to sob.

“I must be going,” I said, closing my briefcase and seizing it from the table. “Grace, you have my business card. Call me only if you have business related questions. I’ll return in a few days for the signed papers. You must talk to your husband. Goodbye.”

Grace didn’t move. She looked stunned, but nowhere near the level of Eddie. I’d never felt more embarrassed than I did in that moment as I tried to push past Eddie.

“I’m sorry,” I told him.

He uncovered one hand to reveal a puffy red eye. It glared in my direction, worrying me. I tried to put it out of my mind. It seemed in that one stare that all Eddie’s hurt and anger wasn’t directed at his wife. It was directed at me. But it didn’t matter. This case was pretty much over with. I made for the bus stop and thought about Iris at home. I didn’t want to be a divorce lawyer anyway.

 

A week later, I returned to Grace’s apartment for the petition. I didn’t enter the apartment, I just waited in the hall until Grace handed me the file. She said after much discussion, Eddie had finally signed it and she thanked me for my services, reminding me that she and Tyler were independent because of my help. I told her it was no problem and that the divorce would be finalized in 90 days. I dashed away before she could get grabby. I dropped the file off at Karin’s office. She said she’d call me in a few days after she had met personally with Grace to debrief. I waited for Karin’s call. Finally, my phone rang.

It wasn’t Karin. It was a man’s voice. I heard that loud cough, followed by rasping phlegm. It was Eddie.

“Hello?” I said uncertainly.

“Is this Mr. Crowe?” said Eddie. He sounded cheerful.

“Yes, it is. How may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Eddie.”

“Good to hear from you, Eddie. What can I do for you?”

I could tell he was ashamed to be calling. “This has been the worst week of my life, Mr. Crowe. I’m still in shock. Grace hasn’t told me everything. I wanted to know if I could meet you so we could go over the process together.” He laughed nervously. “This is all new to me.”

To be honest, I felt sorry for the guy. I imagined what would happen if Iris had put me in the same misunderstanding Grace had. I thought about it, I just wanted the Luckmans out of my life. I told Eddie that because I represented his wife, it would be inappropriate for me to with him. I apologized. After a moment’s silence, he said he understood. I heard a sob and the line went dead.

Eventually, Karin called me to her office to debrief. She could only meet at night because she had meetings all day. I showed up at her office early, feeling very big next to Karin’s miniature desk. She eyed me between crossed fingers.

            “I just got off the phone with Mrs. Luckman,” Karin said finally. “She had quite a mouthful to say about you, Thomas.

“I hope they were good things,” I replied, worrying she Grace complained about my ‘unprofessionalism.’

“Mrs. Luckman gave you a five star rating.”

I thought I was incredibly relieved. “That’s good. What happens next?”

Karin sipped a martini. “Next?”

Was she playing dumb? “Yes,” I said, speaking slowly. I didn’t want to have to explain to her my desperate situation, so I was blunt. “Did I get the job?”

Karin swirled her drink around in its glass. “Unfortunately, it looks like we don’t have any openings at this time.”

I wanted to yank the glass out of her hand and smash it against her head. “Are you serious?”

“I’m sorry, Thomas, but that’s the sad truth. Thank you for your service,” Karin said, picking up a report from her desk and beginning to read.

My hand was shaking, so I grabbed the arms of my leather chair. “I’m still getting paid for this.”

Karin glanced up at me. “Oh, yes. Talk to Richard at the front desk and you’ll be paid.”

“Is that it?” I demanded of her.

“I’m truly sorry, Thomas. Good luck to you.”

I rose from my chair and tried staring her down, but she had returned to her report. I saw myself out, seething. Who was she to use me like this? It didn’t matter that I was getting paid. I had skills to use, I needed a job, and I needed healthcare for my family. I pounded down the stairs, grumbled to Richard, the pudgy man at reception for my check, and left the building. I kicked the street sign outside to vent my anger, but it barely helped. Then I remembered I had parked my bicycle in the alley behind the firm. I made my way into the dark space and paused to unlock my bike from the rack. It was very quiet.

Suddenly, all the air was instantly sucked from my lungs. A large pair of hands wrapped around my neck, crushing my trachea. They were strong. I’d suffocate in seconds unless I fought for my own life. Gasping for breath, I used the one thing at my disposal: my briefcase. I swung it hard behind me, trying to aim for the man’s groin. I swung once and hit air, twice, hit the man’s knee. I was running out of time. With one last shot, I swung as hard as I could and hit my target. Instantly, I was crouched on the ground, free and gasping for air. I looked at my attacker.

It was Eddie. He was curled on the ground, wincing in pain, grabbing his groin.

“I did my research,” he breathed. “You’re no lawyer. You don’t work for a firm. You just wanted to sleep with Grace.”

“Calm down, Eddie,” I wheezed. “Your wife called the firm, not me.”

“Liar,” Eddie spat. “I’ll kill you.”

With difficulty, I got to my feet. I tried to run, but Eddie tackled me around the knees. My knees buckled and I was where I started. Eddie closed one hand around my throat. I could smell his putrid breath.

“Grace said the two of you were intimate,” he growled. “She’s my wife.”

His hand was squeezing my throat like a vice. I looked out the corner of my eye for my briefcase, but it was nowhere in sight. We were in an alley, so I’d have to find something else if I was lucky. There was an object on the concrete ground, glimmering in the night. I closed my hand around it.

“Then you can have her,” I rasped, heaving the shrapnel beneath Eddie’s neck. The piece of metal was slicing into my own hand, but I drove it deeper into Eddie’s flesh until blood was streaming. I twisted it hard, deeper until Eddie was gasping for air. Then he was still. I laid on the grimy alley floor, not moving, but catching my breath. It came in shallow wheezes. I coughed, feeling like I had to retch. I was a long time before I realized my hand was steadily bleeding from the shrapnel. I hadn’t realized it was a mangled soda can with a sharp edge. What had just happened? Did I just commit murder?

            Before I could panic, I heard a slow, steady noise. Someone was clapping. I turned my head to see Karin standing in front of the back door, her car keys dangling between her tiny fingers, applauding. She was grinning an unsettling smile. My heart was pounding. Was she going to call the cops on me?

            “Well done, Thomas. I knew you had it in you.”

            “What?” I said, but it came out as a rasp. “What do you mean?”

            “Gumption. You had it all along. Color me impressed.”

            I coughed again. “Are you serious? Did you see what just happened?”

            “The whole thing.”

            I swore. “It’s not what it looks like. He attacked me. I was just defending myself.”

            “I saw the whole display, Thomas.”

            “Are you going to call the cops?”

Karin shrugged. “I won’t tell the authorities if you don’t.”

I gaped at her. “You’re kidding.”

“I don’t joke, Thomas, so I’ll be frank with you. When you walked into my office wanting to be hired, I didn’t think you were the material I was searching for. But you proved me wrong.”

“What on earth are you talking about? I’m probably wanted for murder.”

“True. I’m sure the authorities would like a word with you.”

“Would they believe I’m innocent?”

Karin laughed. “Thomas, there’s something you should know about me. I go out of my way to protect those whom I find valuable. Justice, no matter the cost. I have loyal contacts on the city police force. You see, I reduced jail time for relatives of these contacts. They would be returning the favor I offered them by not pressing charges on you. I’d be doing this as a favor to you, as long as you’re willing to offer me something in return.”

“What would that be?”

“Coming to work for me here at this firm,” said Karin.

“Really?”

“You graduated in the 70th percentile of your class. I’d be a fool not to hire you.”

“Why would you want to hire me after what just happened?”

“What you call gumption, Thomas, I call ruthlessness. It’s a trait I value in all my employees. I said you proved me wrong. I didn’t think you had it in you to kill Eddie Luckman. But you did what you had to in order to survive.” Karin smiled even bigger. “So what do you say?”

“It depends. Do you have a health insurance plan?”