“Are you doing OK?” Carol asked. “You seem a little distracted today.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. “I am getting quite a bit done, but, you’re right, I’m not in the groove as much as I was the last two days.”
She laughed. “OK, so you’re now only as productive as everyone else instead of beating the top three combined. It’s Friday and it’s been a long week. You need to relax, OK?”
“Yeah, thanks,” I said. “If I don’t see you later, have a great weekend.”
How could I tell her there was much more to be distracted about than just that it was Friday? Having a ghost lock you in a mausoleum and try to persuade you to curl up with him in his crypt does tend to distract a person! So what was Benjamin’s real game anyway? Why was he being so nice? If you could call it nice.
The phone rang. Without thinking I picked it up and said, “This is Trevor.”
“Hello Mr. Harris, this is Victor Mitchell. I wanted to call and tell you I’m representing your wife.”
“My wife? I don’t understand, I’m not married,” I said.
“You know, Bethany Murphy, your common law wife. I’m sure you know her well.”
“Bethy is not my wife,” I said. “And I didn’t think Massachusetts recognized common law marriages, do they?”
“Typically no,” Mr. Mitchell said. “However, there have been cases where a couple had been together for a long time, one was dependent on the other and there was an understanding that they were married and the ceremony was just postponed. In some of these cases the courts had treated them like a married couple. Sound familiar?”
“Actually, no,” I said. “Bethy had been cheating on me for at least five years. Perhaps you have me confused with her boyfriend, Jordan Clark.”
“No, no, Mr. Clark was just a jerk trying to blackmail my client. He has been dealt with,” Mr. Mitchell said. “My client said she has been nothing but committed to you, was madly in love with you and then for no reason you kicked her out of the house. She is hurt. She’d like to reconcile, but if that is impossible she wants what is due her as your wife.”
“What!” I said, not believing my ears.
“What? Here is what she wants,” Mr. Mitchell said. “As your wife she is entitled to half of your property. She will get half of your house.”
“I put a very large down payment on it long before I knew her.”
“She will get half of your savings.”
“Those savings are very small since she stole most of it to give to Mr. Clark.”
“And she will receive half of your future earning,” Mr. Mitchell concluded.
“Those future earnings were almost cut short when she tried to kill me,” I said.
“She was never charged let alone convicted,” he said.
“No, but I understand those phone conversations, finger print information and such that wouldn’t be allowed in a criminal trial can be used in a domestic case. I think I have enough to show that your niece did try to kill me.”
“Now, now, Mr. Harris, you are making legal assumptions,” he said. “Perhaps you should consult with a lawyer before you say any more.
“But, right now we are not throwing a suit your way,” he continued. “You see, I believe in love. My niece? OK, I’ll admit it, which makes you my nephew. I don’t know you, but being family I want to be reasonable. I believe in the power of love and would like to see love win, as always. But if it doesn’t, I also believe in money and think my client should be compensated since she has been totally dependent on you for years.”
“This is ridiculous,” I said. “Are you just trying to intimidate me? How could she win with the cards so stacked against her?”
Mr. Mitchell chuckled. “Again you are making legal statements. Talk to some lawyers. Tell them the case. They may also laugh at first, well, at least until you tell them that I’m representing your wife. Then not a one will laugh, I guarantee.
“You obviously researched me to know Bethany is my niece,” he continued. “Did you notice anything else? I have been practicing law for 30 years. I specialize in helping unfortunate poor people who have been caught up in the vast machine of the law. And my record is good, very good. In fact, I would say one of the best in the state. But helping poor kids beat bum raps doesn’t pay the bills. So I take on some more domestic issues. I have never lost one of those, some even more preposterous than this one. Never. Not a case. And some have grown very ugly. I am a very reasonable man, but I play to win.
“I like you, nephew. I am not threatening you, just making you an offer, an offer of love. Don’t say anything now, just think about it. Have a good day and a great weekend.” He hung up.
A picture of Benjamin came to mind. Funny, I just realized how much Bethy looked like Benjamin. And this lawyer was her uncle. I knew she had a lawyer in the family, but I never knew it was someone like Victor Mitchell.
I had done my research and knew about Victor Mitchell. He had a very dark reputation. Many criminals, both small time crooks and vicious multi-murders, owed their freedom to this man. Many returned to crime after being freed. A couple had even killed after being freed on small technicalities. And his tactics in domestic cases were notorious, thought of by most as very ruthless.
So what was this little deal? Was I to sell my soul to him and Bethy in order to keep my life from being ruined by an unwinnable suit?
Or perhaps I was to sell my soul to Benjamin to keep my life free from being ruined by unwinnable attacks?
Why did these two deals smell so much alike?
My cell phone rang. It was Amelie.
“Hi beautiful,” I said when I answered.
“Hey, how are you doing?” she said. “I felt something on your end and needed to call.”
“Oh, just the usual,” I said. “Last night Benjamin told me I need to make a deal with him and become the heir to the Halley Branch and today Bethy’s lawyer said I need to make a deal with her and become her husband. Nothing special here. And you, how has your day been?”
“No, really? What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I need to clear my mind so I can think straight. I need time away.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Amelie said. “I’m spending the day in the city tomorrow with my sister and cousin. Oh, and the kids. It’s supposed to be a girls’ day out for shopping and dinner and such, but maybe you could join us. Curtis is out of town on business, so…”
“Curtis?” I asked.
“Shit,” she said. “Yeah, well, forget him, just come in and join us. How about meeting us in front of Faneuil Hall at around 10:30? We’ll be watching the street performers. I know Milly would love to see you. Winnie says she’s been talking about you constantly since last Sunday.”
“Sure, it sounds like fun,” I said. “It’s been a while since I crashed a girls’ day out.”
“Great! We’ll see you then. Bye,” she said.
“Bye,” I said.
I stared at my phone. Was it coincidence that I always talked to her after dealing with Bethy? And why did this offer seem so much like the other offers I had just received?
I shook my head. I was being paranoid. A day out with Amelie would be just what I needed.
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