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Authors: Phillipa Bornikova

Tags: #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Fiction

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me

BOOK: This Case Is Gonna Kill Me
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The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied so that you can enjoy reading it on your personal devices. This e-book is for your personal use only. You may not print or post this e-book , or make this e-book publicly available in any way. You may not copy, reproduce, or upload this e-book, other than to read it on one of your personal devices.

 

Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at:
us.macmillanusa.com/piracy
.

 

This one is for Christy Carbon-Gaul,
attorney extraordinaire, friend, advisor,
and an all-around smart, pushy, modern woman.

 

Acknowledgments

I couldn’t have written this book without the aid of Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Walter Jon Williams, and Ian Tregillis, who helped with the initial plotting. Walter Jon for the kick-ass title. And special thanks to Ian Tregillis, who had so many great ideas about the world and the mythology that I have shamelessly incorporated.

 

Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

About the Author

Copyright

 

1

“This case is gonna kill me.”

I stared down at Chip Westin and tried to think of an appropriate response. Actually, I would have been happy with
any
response, but nothing came to mind. This was my immediate boss, and these were the first private words he said to me after McGillary, one of the senior partners at Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, had introduced us.

What does that
mean
?
I thought miserably.

Westin looked to be in his early fifties, balding, wearing an expensive suit that had probably looked good when he was thirty pounds lighter. His complexion was pasty, but he wasn’t a vampire. His cluttered office’s one window was blocked by a stack of books and files, and I suspected he didn’t get out much. His jowls looked like they were melting toward his collar, but this seemed to be caused less by gravity than by bone-grinding weariness and frustration.

Thus far my first day at Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, one of the premier White-Fang law firms, had consisted of signing my insurance and pension papers, designating who would receive said pension should I die while still employed by the firm, being shown my small cubbyhole of an office, and being introduced to Westin. “You’ll be helping with his cases,” McGillary had said as he led me toward Westin’s office. Then he’d amended that, adding in a peculiar tone of voice, “Well, one in particular.” I could only assume Westin’s prediction of imminent death was related to that case.

“Okay. Maybe you should tell me about it,” I said. I would have liked to sit down, but there was no available surface that wasn’t covered with papers, books, and files.

“It’s a probate case. Back in sixty-eight, Captain Henry Abercrombie was serving in Vietnam when a werewolf went rogue and bit him. That was just after the spooks went public, and the military had to admit how many hounds were actually serving in the armed forces.”

I blanched a bit at the pejorative term but let it pass. After all, I’d just met the man. Westin continued.

“Anyway, he had a wife and three kids back in Newport News, and shortly after he came home on medical leave he separated from his wife, Marlene. He didn’t divorce her because of the kids, and he kept helping with expenses, but he never lived with them again. Then three years later, he left the marines and founded a company, Securitech.”

I choked. Securitech was the largest private military force in the world, worth close to a billion dollars. They had serious clout. The last time Securitech had been in the news was when they’d received a thirty-million-dollar, no-bid contract from the DOD. A crusading senator from Minnesota had tried to reopen the negotiations, but the investigation was closed down by the White House and the Justice Department, and the senator abruptly resigned from Congress, stating the ever-popular need to
spend more time with his family
.

Westin continued. “In 1980, Abercrombie decided to sire a werewolf heir, and he picked his second in command, Daniel Deegan. At this point the kids were grown up, so Abercrombie divorced Marlene. Then seventeen years ago Abercrombie was killed in a car wreck in Somalia. His human ex-wife, Marlene, and the kids—though they’re not really kids any longer, they’re in their fifties—retained us to challenge the will that left the company to Deegan.

“In the beginning we raised the issue of the wording about progeny in the will. The lawyer who drafted the will for Abercrombie threw the word
natural
in front of progeny. We wanted to argue that sex resulting in pregnancy and birth is more ‘natural’”—he made quote marks with his fingers—“than biting somebody.”

A Supreme Court decision came floating to the front of my mind.
Geisler
had established that
progeny
could mean the werewolf or vampire the testator had sired. In fact, the court had contended, that relationship was closer than the relationship with children produced by sex and birth, because the act of Making showed such a high level of intent.

“But
Geisler
—”

Mr. Westin nodded. “Yeah, kicked us right in the nuts. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a secret spook on the high court.”

There it was again—the pejorative term for vampires, werewolves, and Álfar being used by a lawyer working at a White-Fang law firm. I assumed he had as-yet-undiscovered talents that made him valuable to the senior partners despite his atttitude. Judging by the piles of papers in the room, he was probably the firm’s resident research monkey, a highly esteemed position since most lawyers hated the role. Then I wondered if he had any idea that I had been fostered in a vampire household and that
I
might find this offensive. Again, I hid my reaction. Calling my boss out for being a bigot was not a smart move the first day on the job.

“So, where does that leave us?” I asked. It felt good using the plural.
Our case.
It made me feel like a real lawyer.

“In arbitration,” Chip said.


Geisler
was years ago.”

“Yeah, we’ve been in arbitration for seventeen years.”

I stared around at the paper towers and felt my gut sinking toward the soles of my feet. “So all this…” I gestured.

“Depositions. Interrogatories. Transcripts of arbitrations. I got a few other smaller cases…”

His voice trailed away and he looked around the office with the air of a confused dog. I was reminded of the old basset hound my foster liege, Mr. Bainbridge, had owned. Dilbert constantly forgot where he’d hidden his bones. Mr. Bainbridge had spent many a night out with a flashlight, Dilly lumbering alongside and tripping over his ears while his well-trained owner searched for the lost bone.

I pulled Mr. Westin back to the
Abercrombie
case. “Why is this still going on?” I asked.

The response was blunt. “Because our clients are crazy. The wife and kids are demanding the entire company.”

“And the court hasn’t shut this down?”

“They don’t give a shit. As long as we’re in arbitration it’s not their problem.” He picked up a stack of papers and set it down. Picked up a file, flipped through it, set it aside. “We’re about to start another round, and I yelled for help. One of our witnesses died last month, and Deegan’s lawyers are challenging his deposition. I need somebody to help me prepare for this meeting.”

“And that would be me?”

“Yep. Your lucky day, huh?” Westin suddenly realized I’d been standing for a long time. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

He left his chair, hurried around the desk, lifted a stack of folders off the client’s chair, and offered it to me. He then stood looking around. Once again I was reminded of Dilly. Westin tried to find a place for the stack of folders. There wasn’t one. I stood back up and he set the folders back down on the chair. Even that much exertion left him short of breath. Pants punctuated each word as he said, “Sorry my office is a mess. Maybe now that you’re here I can start to dig out. I’m really, really happy to have you on board.”

“Thank you, I’m very excited to be here,” I said, and it wasn’t a lie.

Or at least I wasn’t lying about my pleasure at having been hired by this particular firm. Only Gunther, Piedmont, Spann and Engelberg down in Washington, DC, had a better rep, but my folks—my real folks, not my vampire foster liege—hadn’t wanted me to go that far away from home this early in my career.

“I’ll need you to read through everything and see if you can think of any other witnesses or arguments we can use to bolster the idea that Abercrombie actually loved his wife and kids and wouldn’t have cut them out without a dime.”

“Despite abandoning them,” I said somewhat acidly.

“No, no, no. He left them because he loved them too much to risk them, or warp his children by having them grow up with a werewolf daddy. It’s all in the presentation.” He gave me a grin that made him look like a delighted, fat-faced baby. “Our job is to present bullshit like it’s filet mignon.”

I decided I could work with him despite his prejudice, and I made a conscious effort to start thinking of him as Chip rather than Mr. Westin.

Chip rooted through the office, gathering up papers and files and piling them in my arms. When the stack was almost up to my chin, he said, “This should give you a sense of where we’ve been and where we’re at.”

“Great. I’ll get started reading.”

“We’ll drop those in your office, and then I’ll give you the dime tour. Also, I could use a snack, and the food’s better up in teak heaven.”

It took me a second to figure out what he was saying. We were on the seventieth floor, where the human associates resided. On the seventy-third floor was where the partners dwelled. Things were fancier up where the partners worked.

People said that working for a White-Fang firm was like stepping back to the sixties, but since I wasn’t alive back then, I couldn’t attest to the accuracy of the statement. I just noticed as we made our way across the common area housing the assistants that I didn’t see a single male secretary, and it seemed that the male associates had the nicer, larger offices on the outer walls.

Chip kept leading us in and out of offices, as I tottered along behind like a pack mule with a precariously balanced load and he tossed out names like confetti. I have a terrible time remembering people’s names unless I can pin the name to a face, but the only way I could see their faces was if I peered around my stack.

Only a couple of introductions stuck, because I was so worried about dropping the papers and causing a humiliating mess. One was Caroline Despopolis—blonde, tall, slender, and beautiful. We were both wearing Yves Saint Laurent skirts and jackets, but on her it looked fabulous while on me it looked dowdy. I wondered if the sage green jacket really complemented my black hair.

The only other introduction that made an impact was David Sullivan, and that was because he was a vampire. His luminous white skin made his eyes look like dark brown velvet. His taffy-colored hair was carefully styled into casual disarray, and it was pretty clear his suit had never hung on a rack. Definitely bespoke. But here he was down on the human floor. Vampires were partners. Partners didn’t have offices on a human floor. Which meant he’d screwed up majorly to get banished like this. He saw my mental wheels turning as I did the analysis and reached my conclusion, and he rewarded me with a look that would have killed me on the spot if vampires really had that power.

BOOK: This Case Is Gonna Kill Me
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