Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Until Death - Part 15

This is Part 15 of a Serial Story. The Story began here.

“Roger, step away from the car,” I said.

“No.”

It was seven am. If I left immediately for the town of Cuffton I could interview Goodfellow’s sister, Joleen, grab lunch, follow-up on information from the morning, and be home in time for dinner. But first I needed to get my car around a large, crazy man.

I unbuckled my seat belt and leaned out the window of my car. “Why are you doing this?” I demanded.

“You ain’t going to Cuffton. Not like that,” Roger said.

“How do you know I’m going to Cuffton?”

“Saw it on your computer screen. Address and phone number for Joleen Goodfellow in Cuffton.”

Unbelievable. “Did you sneak into my apartment and go through my things?”

“It’s my silo. You rent it; you don’t own it yet.”

I glared at him then looked around for an exit. The shed was behind me, the water tank was to my right, and Roger’s old Ford was on my left. Roger stood in front of my car, arms crossed, waiting.

“What do you want me to do, run you over? Because I am seriously considering it,” I warned.

“You take the old truck.”

“What?”

He nodded his head at the old Ford. “If your goin to Cuffton your takin a good chunk of Detroit iron with guns in the rack,” he said.

I groaned and dropped my forehead down against the steering wheel. “Why are you doing this?” I wailed.

“When you moved into the silo I promised your parents to keep you safe. Maybe I can’t stop you going, but I can send you off with the right tools. And I’m more'n a bit responsible for the trip, seeing how I nudged ya to help David.” Roger pulled out his cellphone and flipped it open. “You can slide out of that car and walk over to the truck, or I can call your mama and she can tell you to do it,” Roger said.

I climbed out of my car and slammed the door. “Driving to Cuffton’s not a big deal,” I said.

“You know anything about that part of the state? Your car breaks down and you may not be heard from again. And that town is a ghost town. No help for you if things go wrong.” He walked over to the truck and pointed at the gun rack. “Over-under, 22, rifle,” he said, gesturing.

“Give me a side-by-side instead of the over-under, a pistol in the cab instead of the 22, and we'll talk.”

“Good.” Roger pulled down the rifle and handed it to me. “Show me you can handle it. Dry fire,” he said.

I checked that the rifle was unloaded, fitted it to my shoulder, sighted on a fence post and pulled the trigger. The hammer clicked on the empty chamber. “Satisfied?” I asked.

Roger nodded and handed me boxes of ammo. “You’ve got your license,” he presumed.

“Driver’s license? Of course,” I said sweetly.

“Don’t get smart with me, kid.”

“Yes, Roger, my license is with me. Can I go?”

“Not yet,” he said. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out three bullets. “Get caught out there at night and hafta defend, use these. Gotta know where your shots are goin,” he said, handing me the bullets.

I looked at the orange tipped ammunition. “Tracer bullets? Roger, you’re crazy,” I told him.

He frowned. “I’m thinking I should go with you,” he said.

Right after I had found Irwin Goodfellow’s sister through the internet Anthony had appeared in my apartment. We’d set a time to meet in Cuffton, and he was supposed to bring the Mirandons. No way was Roger coming with me.

For once luck was with me. “Are your cows getting into the wheat?” I asked Roger with a grin.

He turned and looked. “Dang it!” he shouted and ran awkwardly towards the cows.

I reached for my car door then paused. I could leave. I could be halfway to the highway before Roger turned around. But Roger couldn’t stop the cows alone.

“Hold on, I’ll get the four wheeler,” I called out to Roger. I opened the truck door and placed the tracer bullets in the cup holder.

A clean pair of shoes and two hours later I was finally on my way, driving Roger’s old truck. Between you and me, I loved driving that truck. It was like my dad’s old truck, the one that he and I had fixed up together. The sky was blue, the wheat was gold, and the corn was emerald green. I let myself relax, sinking back in the seat. Mini-road trip…not a bad way to spend a day off.

Cuffton, in its glory days, had been a sparsely populated rest stop on the old highway. When the new interstate was put in what town there was bled out. Like Roger said, it was a ghost town. It sat near the state line, about ten miles off the interstate. Exit 3…I made a bet with myself that the exit number exceeded the town’s population. If I lost, I owed myself a coke.

The further out I got the less traffic I saw on the highway. Eighteen wheelers, a couple of cars and some trucks. Worrisome to overprotective Roger and probably to my parents, too, but I enjoyed the solitude.

A black Lexus passed me, blatantly speeding. The windows were heavily tinted, undoubtedly past the legal tinting limit. Some business person or lawyer with an overinflated ego, manufacturing the privacy of a rock star. But then I saw the bumper sticker, one of those my kid blah blah blah school stickers. Huh. Wait…had I read that right? I sped up for a closer look.

A white and green bumper sticker reading “My Child Attends.” Attends what? Well, one advantage to gross generalizations is that no one is offended. They’re confused but not offended.

Another hour on the road and I saw the sign for Exit 3. For the first time I wondered what I was getting into. Joleen Goodfellow had seemed receptive when I talked to her on the phone, but was it really a good idea to visit Cuffton alone? Dang Roger; he had me doubting myself.

I’m not sure why I decided to do it, but I pulled over and brought the rifle into the cab with me.

There are butterflies in my stomach, and that’s not right.

© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mutant of the Week: June 25, 2010

Today we begin a new weekly feature on the Undead Bar Association blog: Quantum Duck's Mutant of the Week! Each mutant is lovingly drawn by the absurdly talented Jesse Garson of EYE iN tHE hAT productions. Jesse recently gifted the UBA with this awesome logo:


Thank you, Jesse!

And now, without further ado, the Mutant of the Week:



You can see all past Mutants here. Want to bring this week's Mutant home for keeps? Check out the Mutant of the Week store here.

All sale proceeds go to Jesse. That's right, the UBA doesn't profit. So why do we do it? Colorful Mutants and Fridays off. Oh, yeah.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Your Exercise Motivation is Zombies

First, today's F Minus comic, featuring the greatest martial arts class ever.

F Minus


Next, a link to an article from the Chicago Tribune about Zombiefit exercise classes, a program started by...a lawyer!

Chicago Tribune: Zombies as exercise motivation

Congratulations to Rich Gatz for instituting an exercise program that helps people prepare for zombie attacks.

Why didn't we have classes like this in law school? Wait, wait. I know the answer to that. They were too busy turning us into zombies to teach us how to fight zombies.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Michael Jackson Medley Flash mob in San Francisco

A flashmob group based in San Francisco will pay tribute to Michael Jackson on June 25th from 4pm to 7:30pm. Depending on the location in San Francisco, they will either perform the Thrill The World version of Thriller or a medley containing Beat it, Bad, Smooth Criminal and Thriller.

And if you have to ask why I'm posting this on the Undead Bar Association blog then you've never seen the Thriller music video. For shame. Go watch it now.

Original flashmob announcement here: http://www.flashmob.com/

More information here: http://bayareaflashmob.com/default.aspx

The UBA is in no way affiliated with either flashmob.com or the Bay Area Flash Mob. We just really like the Thriller video.

- Maryanne M. Wells

Friday, June 18, 2010

Until Death - Part 9

This is Part 9 of a Serial Story. The Story began here.

"Maybe it was a normal law school, I don't know. Maybe they're all haunted, possessed, and overrun by zombies. And my friends and I just happened to learn about our school's dirty secrets, so the place seemed stranger than it really was," I said.

We were in my apartment on the second floor of the old grain silo, sipping hot chocolate. Charlotte was sitting in the middle of the cot that served for a guest bed while I sat on the beat-up red sofa. The Mirandon wedding ring sat on the center of an upturned box between us.

"Do you hear yourself, Maryanne?" Charlotte demanded. "That stuff isn't normal. It's weird beyond description."

"But after a while it seemed normal. That's the point I'm trying to get across. I'd be chased through the library by a vampire, go home, study, get an hour or two of sleep, grab a quick breakfast, go to class, talk with a ghost, hide from vampires, eat lunch, go to class, go to the library to study and hey, what do you know? Get chased by a vampire. Then you would call and ask me how things were going - I didn't know what to say. It was like your phone calls would throw open the shutters and let light into the room. I would see clearly how weird everything was, and all I wanted to do was close the shutters and forget."

"I thought you hated me."

I smiled. "I'd hate myself before I ever hated you. And I don't even hate me. Actually, the closest I've ever come to hating living beings was this dark and toothy emotion I felt towards some of the professors," I said.

"What did they do?"

"Different things. Some of them just had to stand there and look at us. But the ones that caused a zombie uprising really ticked me off. I hate zombies."

Charlotte stared at me. "You're not making it up, are you?" she asked.

"They totalled my truck, Charlotte! You know what that old pickup meant to me."

"The professors?"

"The zombies. Never mind, its not important right now. All you need to know is that my law school friends and I started this group, the Undead Bar Association. And when we graduated we disbanded. And then Anthony showed up in my office blathering about a new case, and I ended up digging around the fountain at Shank's for that," I said, pointing at the ring.

Charlotte looked at the ring. "So what are you going to do with it?" she asked.

"Return it to Mr. Mirandon's daughter. She's apparently offering a reward for it, and I'm supposed to pay my legal fees with the money."

"Why are you getting legal fees, exactly?"

"Between you and me, I don't think I should. There doesn't seem to be a good legal issue. I called Naomi, and she agrees with me that Anthony's theory of the case is crazy. I got an e-mail from Nick tonight saying the same thing. Nick also said that there are plenty of legitimate wedding chapels in Vegas who would love to hunt down the minister of 'Love on the Run.' And there are complaints about the minister in several states. Turns out that the minister isn't actually licensed. But that doesn't help the Mirandons. Under the laws of this state they'd still be considered man and wife, even though the person that married them wasn't a proper official."

Charlotte put her empty mug on the floor under the cot and said, "If there are real people - living ones - who want to find 'Love on the Run' then get them to hire you. Keep away from the dead ones."

"Seeing Anthony really freaked you out, didn't it?"

"Well, yeah! He's a ghost. You could have given me some kind of advance warning."

"I didn't know he was going to appear in the car! He's not supposed to appear if there's someone with me who doesn't know about ghosts. It's a rule."

Charlotte stretched out on the cot and pulled up the covers. "I always thought that ghosts would look gross and stuff. But after you get over the initial shock of meeting him, Anthony's really cute," she said.

No. No, no, no, a hundred times no. "Charlotte, remember when I said I was glad that you broke up with that guy Fred because he was a total deadbeat? You promised me that after Fred you would make better dating choices. Going from deadbeat to completely dead isn't better, Charlotte. It's worse," I said.

"Calm down. I can think a guy is cute without wanting to date him. Besides, I think Anthony's already voiced his preference. How long has he been calling you 'baby'?"

I stood up and turned off the lamp. I stepped around the sofa and walked through the darkness to the hammock I used for a bed. "Goodnight, Charlotte," I said firmly.

She laughed. "Goodnight, Maryanne. Tomorrow we're going to see about getting some real furniture for this place."

"Goodnight, Charlotte," I repeated.

I don't need or want new furniture. I need some peace and quiet. And the only way to get that is to make the Mirandons and Anthony go away.

© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

A Zombie Alert

Maybe you've seen this already, but in case you haven't here's a link to the article about the zombie alert Easter egg on the Newsweek page earlier this week:

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/06/newsweekcom_zombies_attack.html

The code has been removed from the Newsweek site. So just enjoy the picture in the article of what the site looked like when the code was present and activated.

I can't decide if I like these zombie alerts or not. On the one hand, it's important to remind people of the ever present zombie threat. On the other hand, if we have too many false alerts people will become desensitized, and ignore real alerts.

What do you think?

- Maryanne M. Wells

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Until Death - Part 7

This is Part 7 of a Serial Story. The Story began here.

The fountain resembled a miniature grotto, and it was attached to the wall behind the hostess stand. The highest rock on the wall was below my shoulder level, and the pool at the fountain’s base was even with my knees. When the fountain was in use it must have been a magnet for little kids eager to slap the water – it was at the perfect height.

Dust covered the silk plants around the pool, and cobwebs laid thick on the rocks. The pool had a coating of dried and cracked chemical sludge. Add to all of that a lack of good lighting and the possibility of a clammy hand…yech.

No hostess in sight, so I had an opportunity to search unhindered. I began separating the dusty plant leaves and peering around.

Dang ring could be anywhere. It might have gone in the water and been sucked into a drain or a pump or something. I didn’t want to disassemble the whole set-up to find the ring.

But just when I was starting to think the ring really was in a pipe I felt it under a plant. It was almost out of reach…I could just feel it under my fingertips. If I pushed down gently, very gently on the top edge, the ring might flip towards me…easy…

Something skittered across my hand. I jerked backwards, choking back a scream.

A brown spider crawled out from under the plant. It paused for a moment, almost like it was listening. Then it crawled under another plant, disappearing from sight.

“Hello, Maryanne.”

I whirled around and had to choke back another scream. “Oh, it’s you, Mr. Drake. You startled me,” I said.

Mr. Drake stared at me with piercing eyes. “What were you doing, Maryanne?”

Trying not to scream, I thought. “Anagrams,” I blurted out.

“Anagrams?” Mr. Drake repeated.

“Yes. I…like anagrams. And I saw this ‘fountain’ and I thought ‘tuna info’ which is sort of ironic, because this restaurant doesn’t serve tuna so why would you come here for tuna info? But really it looks like a ‘grotto’, and an anagram of that is ‘got rot’ which makes a lot of sense if you look at this thing,” I babbled. Oh, did I babble. “And then I thought the plants looked dusty and I was touching one to check and see if it was dusty and this spider ran across the back of hand which I should have seen coming because an anagram of ‘these dusty plants’ is ‘deathly pests stun.’ So, anyway, that’s what I was doing,” I concluded weakly.

“Maryanne-“

“Near many,” I said quickly.

“What?” asked Mr. Drake.

“It’s an anagram of my first name.”

And then the really startling thing happened. Mr. Drake almost smiled. “Clever girl,” he said. “I have often said to the other partners that you are the sharpest associate in the firm. I am so glad that you decided to join us after all.”

Huh? Us? What?

“Where is...everyone?” I said pleasantly, desperately trying to cover my confusion.

Mr. Drake gestured to the second private room, the one across from the room rented out to Charlotte and her theatre friends. “In here,” he said. “Luckily for you I happened to step out for some air, or you might not have found us. The hostess must be occupied elsewhere. Most unfortunate.”

And then I figured it out…the firm dinner. Of all the restaurants in the city the attorneys had to end up at the same place as Charlotte’s cast party and the missing wedding ring.

“Just happy to be here,” I said with I smile I hoped looked sincere.

Mr. Drake ushered me into the dark dining room. The remaining two partners and five associate attorneys were seated around a large, round table. They all looked up as we walked in.

“Maryanne decided to join us,” Mr. Drake intoned.

Mr. Egbert smiled. “Excellent. Welcome, Maryanne,” he said. He waved me to an empty chair next to him.

You know how some old people have really crinkly or saggy skin on some parts of their faces, but on other parts the skin looks kind of soft or smooth? The only place on Mr. Egbert’s face where the skin was smooth was on his forehead. And his forehead was huge. I’ve heard people say it’s because the man has a giant brain, and needs lots of space to store his brilliant schemes. It’s the most flattering view to take. But it’s a compliment that people only voice when Mr. Egbert isn’t around. When he’s in front of you, confronting you with that head, complimentary thoughts desert you.

“Thank you, sir,” I said politely as I sat in the chair.

Mr. Egbert turned to face me head on. “I’m afraid that you missed the most interesting part of the conversation, Maryanne,” he said.

Don’t stare at his forehead. It’s rude to stare. Find something else to look at. Wow, the man had sparse eyebrows. It was like someone pulled the wires out of handful of twist ties and stuck them over his eyes.

“I think we can catch her up quickly. Don’t you think so, Mr. Deitrick?” asked Mr. Drake.

“Indeed I do, Mr. Drake,” said Mr. Deitrick.

An associate attorney, Belinda, shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “I don’t think I need a repeat. I’m ready to go home,” she said.

“You will leave when we tell you that you can,” said Mr. Egbert.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Mr. Egbert leaned towards me. I felt someone grip the back of my chair and looked up to find Mr. Drake staring down at me. “I’m glad you asked,” said Mr. Drake.

The door flew open and Charlotte burst into the room. “Here you are!” she said joyfully. “Maryanne, you have to see this. They brought out a sheet cake with my picture on it!”

An anagram of ‘sheetcake’ is ‘ate cheeks.’ I find that very unappetizing.

© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Until Death - Part 6

This is Part 6 of a Serial Story. The Story began here.

Shank’s was cozy. It had a couple of private rooms, one of which was currently overrun by jubilant theatre students, and a line of secluded tables along the wall between the main dining room and the bar. The bar featured local bands on the weekends, which I liked, and had enough air filters that you could enjoy the music without choking on second hand smoke.

But where was the fountain?

I snagged the last slice of pizza and climbed up onto on one of the elevated bar stools. Charlotte perched next to me, a hummingbird pausing for one moment’s rest before zipping away again. She even looked a little like a bird, wearing some retro feathered fascinator in her hair.

“So how was my performance? Be honest,” she said.

“For the hundredth time, Charlotte, you were great,” I replied.

“Yes, but was I brilliant?”

I sighed. “You were brilliant,” I said.

She beamed and dashed away.

Left to my own devices and out of pizza, I began to feel bored. When I’m bored my mind wanders, and once my mind wanders it doesn’t take long for the rest of me to follow. I slipped out of the room and walked through the restaurant, searching for the fountain.

The d├ęcor of the restaurant was an odd mish-mash of Tuscan villa and Spanish hacienda. Logically there should be a fountain somewhere in the place. But where? I had imagined some grand tiered affair bordered with colorful tiles, sitting in the center of the entryway or the main dining room. But no. That would be too easy.

The whole thing was ridiculous. Even if I could find the fountain, there was no reason to think the ring would still be there. So why was I looking? Oh, right. I’m me.

My wanderings led me into the bar, where the band was performing a surprisingly good rendition of ‘Black Velvet.’ I leaned back against a post to listen.

“Can I get you anything?”

I turned around and saw the bartender looking at me and waiting. A very good looking African-American man with a shaved head and hazel eyes. I guessed him to be about Charlotte’s age. Probably a local college student, working at Shank’s to pay some of his school expenses. “No thank you,” I said. “I’m just enjoying the music.”

“It’s a good band,” he agreed. “First time here, but I bet Shanks will put them in the regular rotation.”

We stood there and listened to the rest of the song, and then another. I was starting to forget about the fountain, the ring, and the Mirandons.

An older couple walked up to the bar, arm-in-arm and smiling. “Hello, young man. Might I ask you a question?” the man said to the bartender.

“Of course, sir.”

“You see, we used to come to Shank’s years ago, but we moved away. But we were in town and thought we’d come for dinner,” the woman explained. “It has changed, but not as much as we feared.”

“But we were wondering why Shanks put the mirrors up in the bar, and just on part of one wall,” said the man. “It looks a little strange.”

The bartender looked a little uncomfortable. “I don’t know if you heard about it before you moved, but there was a shooting here,” he said.

“Oh. Oh, yes. I’d forgotten about that.”

“One of the bullets ended up in that wall. The panels were replaced but…I guess Shanks just didn’t want to look at that spot of the wall anymore.” The bartender sounded apologetic.

The couple ordered drinks and left the bar, glasses in hands. And I was left with Mirandons on my mind.

“While you’re answering questions about the old days, can you answer one of mine?” I asked.

The bartender smiled. “I can try,” he said.

“Is there a fountain in this place?”

“Kind of. It’s out of use, but it’s there. Did you see the hostess stand when you came in? It’s back behind that.”

“Why is it out of use?”

He studied me. “I could tell you, but you’ll think I’m crazy,” he said.

I grinned. “If there’s one thing I’m great at its suspending disbelief. So tell me,” I replied.

He shook his head. “If we’re going down a rabbit hole together we should introduce ourselves first. Robert Bricks,” he said, offering his hand.

I shook his hand and said, “Maryanne Wells. So what’s down the rabbit hole?”

He leaned on the bar and asked quietly, “You heard me mention the shooting that happened here?”

“The Mirandons,” I said wryly.

“You do know. Well, Shanks swears this place is haunted now. And if you stand too close to the old fountain you’ll feel this cold, clammy hand on the back of you neck. They say the wife stood by that fountain sobbing after she saw her husband with the other woman, just before she came back in the bar and started shooting.”

“Why would Shanks put the hostess booth near a cold, clammy hand?”

Robert laughed. “You are something. Out of all that, you come away with concern for the restaurant hostesses. They don’t stand behind the booth; they stand next to it. We just store menus on the shelf inside. When you need more menus you duck and go in low to avoid the hand then get out quick,” he explained.

“It sounds needlessly complicated.”

“Only good place to put the booth. And assuming all the ghost stuff is true and Mrs. Mirandon ever crosses over to the other side, the clammy hand will go away. So tell me, what’s you interest in the fountain anyway?”

“I’m interested in ghosts with clammy hands.”

He laughed again and said, “No, for real. Why do you care?”

“Robert, that’s going further down the rabbit hole then you want to be,” I replied.

If I feel the cold hand of Mrs. Mirandon on me while I’m searching for the ring, I will speak ill of the dead. Loudly and colorfully.

© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Technical difficulties

The UBA is currently experiencing technical difficulties...which is a nice way of saying that Maryanne is glaring at her malfunctioning computer with loathing and disgust.

We will return to regular story postings ASAP.

From Maryanne:
Does anyone know a couple of computer techs who specialize in exorcism? I swear this machine is possessed.

I need an old tech and a young tech.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Until Death - Part 2

This is Part 2 of a Serial Story. The Story began here.

The office door swung open to reveal the gaunt and bent form of Samuel A. Drake, senior partner. A man whose greatest frustration in life, it seemed to me, was lacking sufficient power and authority to outlaw smiling. Still, he did what he could to destroy good cheer wherever he went, something he could usually accomplish by entering the room.

Mr. Drake – I could never think of him as Sam, or even Samuel – was not popular with his clients. They found it difficult to warm up to him, and one had even told me in private that Mr. Drake frightened her. It was unfortunate because the man was a brilliant attorney. But between us we had developed a system that worked. I met with the clients, and he drafted the documents. It put me in a position to be mentored in my legal career by one of the brightest minds in the state. What young lawyer wouldn’t want that kind of opportunity?

As for his determinedly morose outlook…well…it was kind of amusing. To me, anyway. I made a game out of trying to make Mr. Drake smile. He tolerated it with bad humor, at the same time making it clear that I was a fortunate person to be tolerated at all.

Mr. Drake gestured with long, elegant fingers to the beige legal folder in his hands. “Wind,” he said grandly.

“Hurricane, gale force, let’s-go-fly-a-kite, or zephyr-like breeze?” I asked with a smile.

He sighed ponderously, his pale nostrils flaring with disdain. With a quick and seamless motion he closed the door, crossed the threshold of my office, and seated himself in the chair too recently occupied by the spirit of Anthony.

Mr. Drake slid the case file across my desk. “Open it,” he said.

Score another point for Mr. Drake in the game of will-he-or-won’t-he-smile.

I opened the file and jumped a little as a spider skittered out. “I thought the exterminator sprayed for spiders last week,” I said, pushing the spider off my desk with the edge of the folder.

"Apparently he missed one. Read,” said Mr. Drake.

I quickly scanned the papers inside the folder. Satisfied that I had grasped the main facts I shut the file and faced Mr. Drake. “The parents are dead. They left their farmland to their two children. One child inherited the land rights, and the other surface rights. An oil company wants to install commercial-grade wind turbines on the property, and the children are fighting over who owns the wind rights,” I summarized.

“And the legal issue is…?” he prompted.

“Interpretation of the language in the parents’ Will.” I picked up the file again and flipped to the photocopy of the Will. “All rights to the land exclusive of surface rights: oil, gas and other minerals,” I read.

“Our client owns the surface rights and is arguing that the wind rights are his as well. His argument is that the language in the will limits his sister’s rights to oil, gas and other minerals,” said Mr. Drake. He stood up and crossed to my office door. “The client will be here this afternoon. Have an attack plan against the sister organized and ready to present.” He paused and studied his meticulously manicured fingernails. “Are you familiar with the doctrine of cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos?” he asked.

“Yes, sir. The phrase means, essentially, that owning land includes everthing related to the land, from ‘heaven to hell.’ The property owner owns everything from the sky to the core of the earth,” I said.

“Minerals, below the ground, being the hell. The surface of the land is life, the mortal coil. Last, the wind blowing free above the earth is heaven in motion. Ask yourself this, Maryanne: why should the sister claim any rights to heaven when her clear portion under the Will is hell?”

“Okay. I’ll think about that. I’m not certain the application of that doctrine is exactly on point here, but I will think about it. But I won’t phrase things the way you just did for the client. It was…creepy,” I said, politely.

Mr. Drake arched one dark eyebrow and said, “Perhaps. Oh, before I forget, the firm is hosting a dinner Friday night. All associate attorneys are expected to attend.”

I grimaced. “This Friday? I can’t, Mr. Drake. My friend Charlotte is in a musical at the university, and I promised her that I would be there. I’m sorry, but I just can’t go to the dinner,” I said apologetically.

He glared at me. “No one else in the firm attends these…plays. Or movies, or concerts. They are unnecessary frivolity. And it is time for you to focus on more important matters,” he said.

“I know, and I’m sorry. But she’s been my friend since we went to church camp together as kids. I can’t back out on her now.”

“You put too much importance on relationships outside of the firm. Don’t you realize, Maryanne, that you are only hurting your ‘friends’ in the long run? The deeper your involvement in this firm becomes the less time you will have for people outside these walls. You should begin to break away from them now,” he said commandingly.

I hate those moments when you have to decide between your life and your job. Well, he could have told me about this dinner before now. I mean it’s the week of. Charlotte asked me to come to her show two months ago.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Drake, but I already have plans for this Friday,” I said firmly.

He opened the door and said quietly, “Think about it, Maryanne.” The door closed behind him with a soft click.

Yeesh. No wonder his clients don’t like him.

© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Until Death - Part 1

He materialized sitting in a chair across my desk. Was I flattered? A little bit. Maintaining surface contact with furniture and holding a normally corporeal position is not easy for ghosts. It takes a lot of concentration. So the fact that Anthony went to that amount of trouble was, in an odd way, a compliment.

But the flattering manner of the entrance didn't take away from the fact of the entrance.

"Leave right now," I said.

He smiled that little boy grin he has, the one that melts me just enough on the inside to wish I could slap him. "Got a case for you," he said.

"No. No more cases. It was a fun, silly, stupid thing we enjoyed back in law school. But law school is over, Anthony. Everyone in the Undead Bar Association has moved on. Well, the living members have. Why are you still here?"

"Why haven't I crossed over," he clarified. I nodded. Anthony shrugged. "Still got some unfinished business," he said.

"I thought we took care of that."

"Guess not, 'cause I'm still here."

I glanced furtively at the window set in my office door. "Please leave before someone sees you," I said. "I have enough problems fitting in at this firm. If they found out about you, and the UBA - "

"Chill, baby. I'll sense the presence of anyone coming long before they see me, and I'll disappear."

I glared at him, and he smiled winningly. "I'm not going to do whatever it is you want, so you might as well leave now," I said.

"That was bogue. I went to a lot of trouble to find you. Of course it hadn't occurred to me that you'd end up in this little backwater place. Not after all that trouble you went to, getting that gig with the big firm in the big city." Anthony floated forward, his midsection in the middle of my desk. "I was right, wasn't I? They stuck you in a dark little cubicle with work that bored you to tears," he said.

He was right. The first law firm I worked for had been a legal sweat shop. Every moment was a race to meet the metrics, doing the most pointless and mind-numbing work on the face of the planet. When my parents found out about a position with a firm back in my home town I jumped at the chance to make a change. I interviewed, and before I knew it I was the new associate at Deitrick, Egbert & Drake. The work was interesting - a much better variety of cases than the corporate-focused firm I started with. And yet...

"You're bored here too," Anthony said. "I see it in your eyes." He drifted back, out of the desk, and bobbed to a standing position on the other side. "That's what makes reviving the Undead Bar Association so perfect," he said, spreading his arms wide.

"No. And don't call this city ‘backwater.’ This is my home," I said sharply.

"All the more reason for you to take this case. Local case. Local undead. Home grown issues," he said. Oh, he was very good. Ready to change tactics the instant he sensed a stronger argument.

"No, Anthony. There are too many problems with reviving the UBA."

"Name one."

"Okay. We're scattered all over the country."

Anthony gestured at the computer on my desk and said, "You've got virtual mail and that net thing. Geography: not an issue."

"Everyone is too busy with other things."

"You were all busy studying in law school, but you made time for the UBA. Some of you had part-time jobs on top of that. Time management: not an issue."

"If I suggest to the other members that we re-start or 'revive' the UNDEAD Bar Association, a host of horrible puns will follow."

"That isn't a reason at all!"

"Yes, it is," I insisted. "I hate puns."

He stared at me mournfully. “At least show some consideration for me,” he said pathetically.

“What are you talking about?”

“I told the clients you would meet with them. If you refuse now it will hurt my credibility.”

I shrugged and said, “That’s your problem, not mine.”

Anthony turned his head towards the door, like he was listening to a sound in the hallway. “I sense something...a dark presence...is there a demon in your office?” he asked, concerned but curious.

“No, but there are three partners at this firm. It’s probably Mr. Drake coming to discuss a case with me. Please leave, Anthony. He shouldn’t see you!”

Anthony pointed a ghostly finger at me while running his other hand through the untamed locks of his spectral hair. “This conversation ain’t over, baby. I will check you later,” he said. He disappeared, leaving me to stare at a blank spot on my office wall.

I’m being haunted, again, by the ghost of a dead law student from the 1970s. Like my life isn’t complicated enough.

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