I watched the older man balk and some of the arrogance that surrounded him waffled. “You won’t quit. You’ve got too much time and energy invested in your career here.”
He sounded so sure and he was almost right. Before Avett, the thought of quitting would have never crossed my mind, but after you survived a hurricane your perspective on the things that mattered most in life changed and I no longer needed or wanted to impress Orsen McNair. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to work for him any more either.
“That’s the thing, Orsen. It was time and energy invested in the wrong thing. If I hadn’t been so focused on you finally seeing me as an asset, maybe I would have noticed my marriage falling apart sooner. If I hadn’t been convinced that being made partner would finally make me happy and give me the kind of self-worth I was sorely lacking, maybe I would have realized the people I was fighting for, the people I was giving my all to, were the kind of people that absolutely didn’t deserve the best of me and would never, ever appreciate what I gave. I’ve been searching for the good life for as long as I can remember, Orsen. This sure as shit isn’t it.”
Orsen held his hands up in front of him and his face went from accusatory to cajoling. “Now, son, don’t make any rash decisions. Where else do you think you’re going to get the kind of opportunities and money you’ve had access to here? We have a wait list a mile long of young attorneys right out of law school that are dying to be let in the door. You’re lucky we offered you a position at all considering your less than stellar credentials. I handpicked you because I saw the fire and the drive in you, Quaid. Don’t forget that.”
I snorted at him. “I’m a good lawyer. Fuck that, I’m a great lawyer, and I’m the one that has handled every ugly, sticky, complicated, tangled case this firm has profited from since I signed on. You really think anyone wants you or Duvall representing them in front of a jury when you haven’t left your goddamn office in all that time? I go and the media and the high profile cases are going to go with me. So don’t pretend I don’t know who is doing who the favors here. Day in and day out, I persuade people to go against their better judgment. I lie for a living, old man, so here’s a word to the wise … you’re out of practice when it comes to bluffing your audience so don’t try and outmaneuver me—it won’t work.”
Orsen dropped all pretense of this being some kind of friendly office chat and leaned forward so that his hands were resting on the desk in front of him. The red in his face turned a furious maroon and his words sounded like each one was being bitten off and spit out in my direction.
“If you leave this firm, I will ruin you, Jackson. I will make sure no other law firm touches you and that you never get the opportunity to represent another client.”
This time I didn’t bother to stop the eye roll. I also decided Orsen and his precious firm had taken up enough of my time and my personal investment. I rose to my feet and leaned over so that my palms were flat on his desk. I narrowed my eyes at the man who I once thought gave me everything and told him flatly, “I don’t want to represent the kinds of people you think need a solid defense, Orsen. I’m no longer interested in setting free the kind of man that could start a house on fire knowing his own child was inside. I don’t want a reference or a referral from you. I want to get as far away as possible from the man you helped me become.” I saw fear flash in his gaze and felt a kick of satisfaction that some of my old roughness and intimidation was starting to rise back to the surface. “I’ll have my office cleaned out by the end of the day.”
I pushed off the desk and was headed for the door when I heard his quiet, “This is all that girl’s fault. You were on the fast track to success until you took her case and let her get to you.”
I looked at him over my shoulder and frowned when I pulled my ringing phone out of my pocket and saw Brite’s number on the screen. I figured he wanted to chew me out for making his daughter cry. I was willing to face his wrath so I could tell him I was working on a way to show Avett that she was the most important thing in my entire world. A way that she couldn’t misinterpret or ignore. Brite seemed like the kind of guy that appreciated actions over words so I was sure I could smooth things over with the right words.
I told Orsen matter-of-factly, “You’re right that she made me realize that I need more in my life than the next big case, and the next paycheck, but you’re wrong about the path I was on, old man. That path led to nothing more than high blood pressure and more useless shit that never impressed anyone anyway.”
I touched the face of the phone and expected to get an earful about how to treat women; what I got was Brite’s breathless voice that was made even rougher by panic.
“Quaid, Avett’s been abducted.”
I slipped out of Orsen’s office and pressed the phone more fully to my ear as my fingers reflexively tightened around it.
“What? What do you mean abducted?”
My feet of their own volition carried me away from Orsen’s office and down the hall towards the elevator. My blood started to rush between my ears so loudly that I could barely hear him when he told me in a rush, “These guys broke into the house and held me and Darcy captive while they called Avett. They think she knows something about the drugs that loser ex of hers took off with. I told her not to leave with them, but do you think she listened to me? She got into a black SUV and they took off with my little girl.”
“Did you call the police?” My heart was pounding and my palms were slick with fear-sweat.
“Of course we called the police, and we have the plate number on the Yukon, but these guys are armed and they mean business. We need to figure out where she would lead them to. I know she would want them as far away from Denver and us as possible. Do you have any idea where she would go?”
“Wait, if you were being held captive how do you know all this? How did you manage to call me?” My brain was going a million miles a minute but the need to have as much information as possible was ingrained in me and I couldn’t keep the questions from spilling out as I practically ran towards my truck.
“Avett was taken from the bar. Before she got in the car, she told Rome and Church I needed them at the house. Armed thugs have nothing on former special ops guys. We called the police as soon as the situation here was under control, but it’s been an hour so that’s one hell of a head start the bad guys have.”