Home > See Me(15)

See Me(15)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

After the meeting, she apologized profusely to Barney. He was clearly irate; gone was any trace of the friendly grandfather that clients were accustomed to. Things remained tense between them for the rest of the afternoon. It was no better the following day, and pouring herself into the various tasks at hand, Maria caught up on the matters she’d ignored while at the conference, in addition to preparing the documents she knew Barney needed for a trial the following week. She labored past midnight on both Monday and Tuesday, and with Jill out of the office, she worked through her lunch hours all week, eating takeout at her desk while toiling on various briefs. Barney apparently didn’t notice or care, and it wasn’t until Thursday that his icy demeanor began to thaw.

Later that afternoon, however – as she was finishing up a conversation with Barney in his office concerning an insurance claim that they both strongly suspected was fraudulent – she heard a voice behind her. Looking up, she saw Ken standing in the doorway.

“Excuse me,” he said, addressing them both but mainly focusing on Barney. “Would you mind if I spoke to Maria for a moment?”

“Not at all,” Barney drawled. He nodded at Maria. “Give them a ring and let them know that we’ll need to set a conference call for tomorrow.”

“Absolutely. I’ll let you know what they say,” Maria responded. She could feel Ken staring at her, could feel the tightness in her chest as she turned to face him. By then, Ken had already turned to leave, and without a word, she followed him down the hallway and through the reception area. Her feet dragged when she realized he was heading toward his office. As they approached, his secretary averted her gaze.

Ken held the door open for her, then closed it behind him. All business now, he moved behind his desk and gestured for her to sit in the chair opposite. He gazed out the window before finally turning to face her.

“Barney mentioned to me that you missed an important client meeting on Monday.”

“I didn’t miss it. I was late —”

“I didn’t call you here to quibble over the details,” he said, cutting her off. “Would you care to explain what happened?”

Caught off guard, Maria stammered out an admittedly pathetic account of her attempts to find a suitable garage and the events that had followed.

When she was finished, he said nothing for a moment. “You do understand what we do here, right? And why you were hired? Our clients expect a certain level of professionalism.”

“Yes, of course I do. And I know our clients are important.”

“Did you know that Barney was thinking of allowing you the opportunity to act as lead counsel on this matter? And that you took this opportunity off the table because you felt the suddenly urgent, desperate need to change your tire during business hours?”

Maria flushed, her thoughts spinning at this new revelation. “No, he didn’t mention that,” she sputtered. “And like I said, I wanted to get it done after work, but every place would have already been closed. I honestly thought I could get back in time. I knew there was a risk, but —”

“A risk you were clearly more than willing to take,” he observed, again cutting her off.

She opened her mouth to respond, but by then, she knew already that there was nothing she could say to appease him. In the silence, Maria felt a knot form in her stomach as Ken finally took a seat at his desk.

“I must say that I’m very disappointed in your decision,” he said, sounding in control. “We took the risk of hiring you because I, among others, went to bat for you. Your work at the DA’s office was hardly relevant to our practice here, as you know. But I thought you had potential. Now, I’m not sure what to think or whether I made the wrong decision.”

“I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“I hope not. For your sake, not mine.”

The knot in her stomach grew even larger. “What can I do to make things right?”

“For now, nothing. I’ll talk to Barney and find out what he thinks and then we’ll let you know what we decide.”

“Should I call the clients? Perhaps try to apologize?”

“I think you should do nothing for now. I said that Barney and I will discuss it. But if something like this ever happens again…” He leaned forward, turning on his desk lamp.

“It won’t,” she whispered, still trying to get her bearings. Barney was thinking about making her lead counsel? Why hadn’t he mentioned that to her? In that instant, the phone on the desk rang and Ken picked it up. After announcing his name, he nodded before covering the mouthpiece.

“I’ve got to take this call. We’ll finish our talk at another time.”

The way he said it left no doubt that they’d talk again and Maria rose from her seat, humiliated and panicked. Her thoughts in disarray, she stumbled out of Ken’s office. Passing his secretary, she was grateful that the woman ignored her. When she reached her office, she shut the door and ran through the conversation again. Despite herself, she wondered just how long she would be able to continue working there. Or whether she’d even be given a choice.



On the Monday after his fight, Colin stepped out of his apartment and was ambling toward the old Camaro when he suddenly spotted Detective Pete Margolis. The cop had parked in the street out front and was leaning against the hood of his sedan, holding a to-go cup of coffee, a toothpick in his mouth. Unlike most of the officers Colin had dealt with in the past, Margolis spent almost as much time in the gym as Colin did. His sleeves were rolled up, the fabric straining against his biceps. He was in his late thirties, his dark hair swept back and greased in place with God knows what. Once, sometimes twice a month, he would show up unannounced to check on Colin as part of Colin’s court-ordered deal. Margolis clearly enjoyed the power he had over his charge.

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