Zach checked his work files first thing in the morning and was unpleasantly surprised to see mystery file once again among them. Just finding it put him in a sour mood, but when he scanned the contents his mood darkened even further. New articles detailed sexual harassment allegations dating back almost a decade for not only Hughes, but for Parker and Piper as well. It seemed that in addition to the many enemies they had from winning court cases, they had a whole slew of former employees and colleagues that may have wanted to exact revenge on the three. One article in particular stood out, and when he showed it to Abby, the color drained from her face so fast the he feared her breakfast might make a second appearance.
SECRETARY’S MOTIVE DISCOVERED?
Partner’s Secretary May Have Been Sexually Harassed
“This is the first mention of a suspect. Unfortunately that suspect is you.” Abby frowned as he continued. “Fortunately, it’s not real, so no worries!” He plastered an annoyed smile on his face before taking a gulp of coffee and hopefully putting an end to the conversation.
“What if we went to the police?” Abby stared into her cup. She hadn’t drank any since Zach poured it for her an hour before, but she held it tight as if it still warmed her hands.
“Why would we do that?” Zach still hadn’t given in to Abby’s suggestions regarding the source of the file. It was fake, plain and simple.
“Because what if someone is planning on bombing the building? Maybe if we tipped them off, they could find the person before anything happens?”
Zach rolled his eyes and set his mug on the counter next to her hands. “Imagine if I was a cop and you just told me that you think someone is going to bomb your office.” Abby nodded as he continued. “You go into detail about this undeletable file that your fiancé thinks is fake, but you don’t, telling me all about when and where this is going to take place, and even what the wrapping paper on the gift will look like. I’ll ask you how you know this, and you’ll say the information comes from a file containing information about an event that hasn’t happened yet.” She opened her mouth to say something, but Zach didn’t let her cut in. “I decide to humor you for a minute and ask who is the target, and you say Hughes. I’ll ask why, and you’ll say you don’t know. Oh, but don’t forget to tell me all about how Hughes sexually harassed you yesterday and you’re quitting your job because of it.” She snapped her mouth shut and stared into her coffee. “In your attempt to alert the authorities to a potential attack on your office, you end up giving the when, where, who, how, and why this attack may take place. Who do you think I’m going to suspect right off the bat?”
Abby sighed. She knew he was right. How could she convince authorities that something was going to happen when she couldn’t even convince Zach? It didn’t make any sense. She took a gulp of coffee and almost spat the cold liquid back out onto the counter. “Ok, I won’t say anything.”
Zach nodded and looked at his watch. Cursing, he gulped the last of his coffee and dropped the mug into the sink. “I’m already late for my meeting. See you tonight.” After giving Abby a quick kiss on her cheek, Zach grabbed his bags and ran out the door.
Abby sat in silence for a while, her thoughts alternating between telling the police, even though she told Zach she wouldn’t, and how she would avoid being in the same room as Hughes for the next week and a half. The former she didn’t want to admit was a bad idea, and the latter she didn’t want to admit was impossible. Sighing dejectedly, Abby finally dumped her coffee down the drain before grabbing her things and heading to the office.
Abby had only to pull into the parking lot to know something was wrong. Two police cars were parked in front of the main entrance. Inside, the office buzzed with a tense silence. Employees whispered to each other around cubicle walls and into phones. Nervous glances were shared as people passed one another in hallways and aisle ways. Abby gripped her bags tightly as she made her way through the main floor to her desk. She concentrated on the floor as she walked, trying her best to ignore the hum of nervous bodies around her.
Piper was in his office when Abby arrived at her desk. Also in his office were Parker and Hughes, along with one uniformed officer and another man who Abby immediately suspected was an investigator of some sort. She set her bags down quickly as she watched through the open doorway. Only a moment later, Piper saw that she had arrived and motioned for her to join the group in his office. Thinking quickly, Abby mouthed “coffee?” to her boss, but he held up a steaming cup in silent reply. Abby repressed a sigh and entered the office and closed the door behind her.
As Abby seated herself in her usual chair near the door, the conversation continued without interruption. Parker was speaking to the investigator, answering a question that had been asked before she had entered the room.
“-could be anyone, really. You are aware that we represent many high profile individuals, and some of them have found themselves on the wrong side of the law a time or two. My guess is someone wants to hit back at one of our more powerful clients and is unable to. Instead they threaten us, the firm that was victorious in court.” Though he was nearing seventy, Parker was an expressive man. He spoke with feeling and anger, finishing with a hint of offence at being targeted because they were good at their job, nothing more. Abby knew better, and by the look on the investigator’s face, he did too. The officer scribbled furiously on a notepad, completely missing the blank stare the investigator aimed at Parker.
Next to Parker, Hughes reclined in his chair and nodded. “This wasn’t the first time the office has received a threat. Only last year we had a raving lunatic in the lobby screaming for Piper. He shot up the reception desk, grazing the receptionist! No, this wasn’t the first, and we know in our line of work, it won’t be the last.”
Parker nodded his head enthusiastically as he sipped from a glass of water. He didn’t notice when the liquid sloshed around, sending a few drops over the rim and down the front of his navy blue suit jacket.
The investigator narrowed his eyes as he glanced at Piper. “I remember that incident quite a bit differently than you, Mr. Hughes. Yes, there was a gunman in your lobby, and yes he injured your elderly receptionist, but Brandon Goldston was here because this firm defended the murderer of his only daughter. A murderer who confessed and led police to the body which was only ten feet away from another body that he later confessed to killing and transporting there. You got a confessed murderer off scott-free. I wonder,” he said, pacing the room and glaring at each of the three lawyers, “what were you paid for the defense of Mr. Lizzolo?”
“Payment is, and has always been, a private matter, Investigator.” Piper fiddled with a pen in his hands as he leaned back in his desk chair as he spoke. “I remember speaking those exact words to you last year when the event with Brandon Goldston occurred. Mr. Lizzolo is a client of ours, and we guard their privacy against any intrusion. Surely you understand confidentiality agreements?” He raised a challenging eyebrow at the investigator.
“Confidentiality agreements I am well aware of, but what about sexual harassment?” The investigator switched topics without missing a beat. He turned to judge Hughes’s reaction to the claims, but the lawyer’s face remained calm as he silently watched the investigator pacing around the room. “Surely you understand the severity of such claims?” This time the investigator raised his eyebrow as he aimed his question at the lawyers. In her seat by the door, Abby had begun to fidget. Her foot tapped lightly against the wooden chair leg and she clicked her pen relentlessly. She kept her eyes on the floor in an attempt to avoid eye contact with anyone on the room. Speaking up about Hughes’s advance would be a mistake with the three bosses in the room. Perhaps if she caught the detective alone-
“Abigail, more coffee, please.” Piper’s voice startled her from her thoughts. She looked up to find all eyes on her. She swallowed as she stood and left the room on shaking legs. Just outside the door, Abby stood and took several calming breaths before slowly making her way to the kitchen. Once there, she collapsed into a chair while a fresh pot was already brewing.
“Rough day I take it?”
Abby bolted upright and almost screamed. Zach stepped back in surprise, then a look of concern stared back at her from the doorway. “You alright?”
Abby folded her arms on the table and let her head drop onto them. “Nooooooo!”
Zach was silent as he waited for her to go on, and she did after a moment. “There’s an investigator, and he’s asking questions, and they were talking about something that happened last year and confidentiality agreements and then claims of sexual harassment and then Piper needed coffee and-“
“Oh, so the instigator started with the partners? I need to get in there.”
“What?” Abby was confused, but Zach was too busy craning his head around the doorframe to notice.
“The paper got tipped off that Investigator Bines was paying a visit to the law firm. He has been trying to put those three in jail for years, but he just can’t get any charges to stick. My boss sent me to try and listen in to the questioning. Seems I’m a bit late. Think you could get me in there?” he asked her, a look of innocence on his face. She shook her head. The coffee machine puffed and steamed, the last drops of coffee splashing into the carafe. Abby rubbed her temples and sighed.
“Ah, you don’t have to. They’re done!” Zach flashed Abby a quick smile and disappeared around the corner, fresh on the trail of his next story.
The basement was cool and quiet and usually devoid of people. Not for the first time today, Abby imagined herself disappearing between the stacks of records and texts, but the image disappeared when she opened her eyes. Across the small table in the kitchen, the investigator stared at her expectantly.
“I’m-“ she cleared her throat,” I’m sorry, but I missed the question.”
The investigator sighed and repeated himself while the officer standing nearby glanced at her over his notebook. Zach sat a bit behind the investigator, close enough to overhear the discussion and in perfect view to signal Abby if he felt she shouldn’t answer the question. He shook his head slightly as the investigator asked the question.
“Do you think this latest threat against the law firm was a warning for something bigger, or that it was just a hoax?”
Abby’s head spun with the images that flew through it. Pictures, articles, the video, all pointing towards something bad, but Zach’s slight shake of the head kept her from opening her mouth. After a long moment, the investigator began repeating his question for the third time, this time his frustration came through and he almost yelled across the small table.
“No,” Abby interrupted him. “I don’t think much of it really. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last.” She couldn’t bring herself to meet the investigator’s eyes as she repeated the phrase of the day. “I’m sure it will happen again.”
“Oh yeah?” The investigator leaned in and stared at her with accusing eyes. “And how do you know that?”
Abby fidgeted in her seat and tried to stay calm. “I don’t! It’s just one of those things that we have to deal with here at the office. Defense lawyers earn themselves enemies with each client they represent. Threats are just part of the territory, I guess.” She glanced at the investigator for a second, then to Zach who watched her with narrowed eyes. He held his pen as if he had stopped writing mid sentence just to stare at her.
“I bet you do,” the investigator replied shortly. The officer flipped the page over in his notebook and continued writing. “So you are not aware of any schemes to carry out a threat of any sort against this office?”
“No.” She tapped her shoes on the linoleum floor nervously.
The investigator sighed. “Do you know anyone who would want to carry out such a threat? Any former clients? Particularly aggressive family members of victims? Past employees?” He leaned forward and stared at her, waiting for an answer. Behind him, Zach was scribbling again into his notepad while exaggeratedly scratching his head with his free hand.
“No.” Her voice was almost inaudible from across the table. Zach leaned forward and held his breath. “No,” she repeated louder so Zach could hear. He exhaled slowly and nodded as he sat back in his chair and began scribbling again.
“Alright,” the investigator shook his head in resignation. “Well, if you do hear anything suspicious, give me a call.” He handed Abby a business card and stood to leave. He paused for a moment as the officer finished scribbling in his notes and together they left the office, taking the tension permeating the office with them.
Zach began packing is notepad and pen away but stopped when she noticed Abby hadn’t moved from the table.
“Abby, what’s wrong?”
“That investigator,” she said, “he suspects me of something, I know it.”
“Judging by his demeanor, he suspects everyone. Don’t let it get to you.”
“I don’t think-“ she shook her head mid thought. “I think that if I told him about the file, about the Christmas party, about the video…” she looked at him. “Zach, he would think I’m involved in the whole thing!”
He watched her quietly as she processed her thoughts.
“It’s just like you said this morning; we can’t go to the police, because we would end up in jail with some charge of conspiracy or something! Zach, what should we do?”
“Find the person putting that junk on my computer, that’s what we should do. It’s not real, Abs. Let’s go home.”