A continuation of the story begun with the Initiative and the Firm, if you wish to avoid confusion, at least read the Firm before this one.
Del knew the office emails were swept periodically, but nothing in his message or the spam emails should give anyone pause. No one knew about Budapest–the emails could be a past fling, or a disgruntled acquaintance. He grinned wryly at the thought. When it came to women, there was the good kind of crazy and the bad. He had no problem with the first, but he knew dabbling in the second was a good way to burn. His inbox dinged–a message from his boss. Marcus Colubra wanted to see him at 8:30 a.m. Del checked his Rolex–a gift from the Firm for earning his spot as an Associate Partner–and saw it was 8:20. The walk to Marcus’ office would take him that long. He straightened his tie and nodded to his colleagues as he walked down the long hallways that led him to the massive double doors. People joked about getting company golf carts to navigate the office. Marcus’ doors were supposedly taken from an ancient temple in Ethiopia. Del wouldn’t be surprised; Marcus was a self-proclaimed procurer of rare objects with astronomical price tags and equally complicated pasts. Del opened one of the heavy panels and peeked in.
“Ah, Delancey. Come in, come in, son.” Marcus’ lips twitched in a small smile.
Del gritted his teeth and tried to keep his face pleasant, Marcus was the only one who could get away with calling him “son”–and only because he paid Del disgusting amounts of money and held power over his basic existence at the Firm. He stepped forward to shake Marcus’s hand, feeling the papery skin shift over the Executive Partner’s bony fingers. Marcus waved at one of the hulking leather chairs in front of his desk and Del perched on the edge. He knew from past experience that settling back made one sink into the chair, and he wanted Marcus at eye-level.
“Scotch?” Marcus held up a faceted decanter.
“Ah, no thanks,” Del said. He was from Louisiana, and it was five o’clock somewhere, but in Boston it was before 10 am and he had to draw the line somewhere.
“Not a scotch drinker?” Marcus poured a generous amount into a Waterford crystal glass.
“Not before I have my coffee, sir.”
“To each his own.” Marcus lifted his glass slightly in a toast before sitting in the throne-like chair behind his desk.. “I haven’t spoken to you since you wrapped up the Parkhurst case. A decisive victory, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, sir,” Del shifted slightly under the effusive praise. “The prosecution didn’t stand a chance. Mr. Parkhurst was…very appreciative.”
“I’m certain he was. I hope you understand the great amount of trust we placed in you, allowing you to handle Parkhurst. They are one of our oldest clients.”
Del swallowed before answering; the switch to the “royal we” was rarely a good sign. “I appreciate your confidence in me and, if I may speak honestly, sir, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an important client.”
“You exceeded our wildest imaginings, Delancey. I don’t mind admitting to you that my expectations were exceptionally high. I’ve been keeping an eye on you, my boy, since we first dredged you out of your Louisiana swamp.”
Del knew his boss meant no offense, but the joke fell flat and he forced a smile, waiting for the older man to continue.
“We’d like you to take on more responsibility, if you’re willing,” Marcus said.
“I’d like that very much, sir,” Del said.
“Glad to hear it. Since you became an Associate Partner, you have been briefed on some of our…special cases.”
Del nodded his affirmative, everyone higher than the mail-room knew about the special cases–whether they were supposed to or not. Marcus set down his glass and folded his hands on the desk, his dark eyes fastening on Del as he cocked his head to the side. Del sighed inwardly; every attorney had a flair for the dramatic, but not many enjoyed it quite as much as Marcus Colubra. Del could imagine stage directions as Marcus pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. Get on with it, Old Man he thought.
“We’d like you to take on a very special case, Delancey. One that will be different from anything you’ve worked before. All other cases will be delegated to your associates–we want you focused. This is one of the Big Ones.”
Del heard the capital letters and tried to sound awed as he responded that he was honored by their notice, of course he would do whatever they asked.
“It’s a very unique case–even for us–and it’s imperative that you exercise the utmost discretion. You’ll submit your budget, expenses, progress updates, and billable hours to my office. We’ll discuss your pay once the ink is dried, but I can assure you, Delancey, it will be well worth your time.” Marcus leaned back in his seat.
“Yes, sir,” Del said. “Thank you sir.”
“Very well,” Marcus’ teeth flashed white against his dark skin. “Thank you, Delancey.”
Del nodded, knowing he was dismissed and stood, trying not to hurry out the door. If he had to say “sir” one more time, he was going to need a glass of scotch. Back in his office, the day ticked by more slowly than he would have thought possible. It was Friday and he had nothing on the books, nothing to occupy him except the tingle of unease as the clock inched closer towards 3:00 p.m. and letting his imagination run rampant about his new case. Without a name, Delancey could only guess it was one of the so-called “Big Five”–a mixture of companies, individuals, and families–who received top priority. He gave up trying to guess after a quarter of an hour combing the internet for the few names he knew. For all he knew, there were people even higher than the Big Five. Just thinking of the levels and layers of secrecy that were part of daily life at the Firm made his head ache.His clock was stuck at 11:30 a.m. and he suddenly couldn’t stand his office for another minute.
Pulling on his coat, he slipped out of his office and down the silent elevator to the ground floor. He nodded at the security guard and pushed through the revolving door. The air that hit his face was damp from the rain the low clouds promised. Del flipped up his collar and shoved his hands in his pockets, striding down the street until he reached Copley Square. Dead leaves whirled in eddies created by the icy wind and he hunched his shoulders, staring up at the Romanesque front of Trinity Church with its stone facade, columns, and archways. The roof of the church was red and he couldn’t help but think of Budapest. It wasn’t Marcus or the new case that made him tense. It was those damn emails. He didn’t want to wait until three. He wanted to see her now so that he could wring her scrawny, little…
Fingers of cold crept down his coat collar and into his bones that had nothing to do with the biting wind. Del turned to face her.
Mina Volkov, standing in front of him in Boston. He could hardly believe it. Her slight frame was swathed in a stylish black coat with a collar like a stovepipe that reached her chin. Her hair was black this time–he’d see it blonde, red, and even blue–and angled at her jaw, making her high cheekbones stand out. It also emphasized the stubborn jut of her pointed chin. Del grimaced.
“This isn’t the Top of the Hub,” he said as she stared up at the church.
“Obviously.” Her accent was barely noticeable compared to the first time they met.
“Did you think I wouldn’t come?” he asked, resisting the urge to grab her shoulders and shake her.
“I didn’t know.” She was still looking at the church and he wondered if she, too, was remembering their last night in Budapest.
She was blonde then and her hair was long. They were just leaving the ballet and it was snowing and she was laughing. laughing at him, at his confused awe as the white flakes came drifting down. It was the first time he’d seen snow falling. If he didn’t know Mina, didn’t know the curve of her cheek, the set of her mouth, he would hardly have recognized her today. He could think of nothing else to say. The obvious questions–Why are you here? What’s this about?–were questions to which he already knew the answer. Budapest.