Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Homesdead - Part 2. Maryanne Wells

This is Part 2 of a serial story.  The story began here.

Alone at last. I leaned against the wall and groaned. My head was pounding and my right leg ached. The former could be fixed with some aspirin, but the leg would take days to heal. I'd checked the injuries in the car. The bruises from where the wolf threw me against a desk overlapped with the second set I'd acquired falling down the stairs. It was a big blue-black mess.

I dragged myself into the living room and collapsed on the sofa. Carefully, I propped my right leg up on the sofa arm.

Might as well get some work done, I thought. The stack of legal folders was in reach. I grabbed the top two and flipped one open.

And it was...an estate case. Wait a minute. It was my estate case. The one I took behind the firm's back; the case that led me to chase down a traveling preacher and his mobile chapel. The firm was never involved in this case. Why did they have a file on it?

A note fluttered out of the file. The handwriting on it was one of the partners, vampire Samuel A. Drake. He'd written, “Find the competition that took this case and eliminate them.”

The hair on the back of my neck started to attention. Competition? Elimination? My law firm had wanted me dead. My interest piqued, I examined every document in the file. Nowhere did it say my name. Interesting. The firm knew there was competition, but hadn't identified who it was.

It was kind of funny, I guess. But I didn't feel like laughing. I felt trapped.

I tossed the dog-eared legal folder back onto the stack. The file landed with a smack. A cloud of dust burst free. My nose twitched reflexively as I watched the dust mores dancing in the morning light.

My greatest desire in that moment was complete unemployment. I came close. With the exception of one person, everyone from my law firm was dead. The firm was, for all intents and purposes, out of business. And since I resigned before everyone bit the dust, I had a good argument for walking away. But I couldn't do it.

One thing came between me and the bliss of job separation. Ethics. I still had clients with the firm, and no one to take over their cases. The other attorneys left clients behind, and those people deserved proper representation too. It wasn't their fault the attorneys turned out to be vampires. I needed to either take over the cases, or find attorneys who would.

First case file was a bust, because I'd already closed the case. On to file number two.

I opened the file, read the name of the lead attorney, and screamed.

“What? What happened?” Charlotte shouted, running into the living room.

I held the open legal file up to her face. “Look,” I said, pointing to the name.

“Steven A. Mackenzie,” Charlotte read aloud. She cocked her head to one side and frowned. “The name is familiar,” she murmured. Then realization came. Charlotte gasped and slapped a hand over her mouth.

I threw the file onto the coffee table, grabbed the rest of the file, and dumped the whole stack on top of the reject. “That case just earned itself last priority,” I pronounced. “I was interested in it at first, since the house is in Pampa, but if Steve is involved then forget it.”

“I don't understand. Why is his name listed on one of your firm's cases?”

“From the little bit I read, he was trying to hire the law firm as co-counsel.”

“Why?”

“Don't know. Don't care.” I walked into the kitchen and pulled a glass from the cupboard. Pouring myself some water from the filtering pitcher, I noticed my hand was shaking.

“What are you going to do?” Charlotte asked.

“Nothing. Steve's lead attorney on the case. That means there's already representation. I don't need to get involved.”

“Do you think he knew you worked for the firm when he tried to hire them as co-counsel?”

I laughed bitterly. “No,” I said; “Steve wouldn't have anything to do with someone crazy enough to hire a Wells.”

Charlotte looked at me sympathetically. “You are having a hard day,” she said.

“I've had worse.”

“Yes, but you're mother's family getting dragged into it is a new twist.”

“First I've heard any of them named in years,” I agreed.

The Wells – Mackenzie feud was alive and well, a decade after its murky beginnings. I say murky because I never really knew what happened. My mom's family, the Mackenzie's, turned on my mom and dad without warning. There was yelling (Dad and Uncle John), crying (Mom and Aunt Jamie), and loud vows that no Wells would every speak to a Mackenzie and vice versa, ever, ever again (all of them).

In the wake of the adults' turmoil, my cousin Steve and I floundered. No one explained to us what was happening. It wasn't our fight, but it seemed like we should take sides. So we stopped talking to each other, too.

I thought that was the extent of things, until I spent a summer break from law school in Dallas. Steve clerked for a judge in Dallas at the time, and I saw him occasionally when I ran errands for the firm that employed me. I tried to be friendly and was rebuffed. Actually, that's putting it mildly. Steve ignored me, looked past me, and once tried to walk through me.

And so, I learned to loath Steven Austin Mackenzie. It had nothing to do with the feud, at least not on my end. I loathed him because he was an a-hole.

Charlotte sighed. “It's so sad, when fighting tears families apart.”

I shrugged. In a world populated with vampires, zombies, and werewolves, who cared about a family fight?