I write about lawyers a lot. I mean, they say, write what you know, right? After 30 years practicing family law, I know a little bit about them.
I don’t always like them, mind you–so I understand why some people really dislike them.
The same thing can happen inside a law firm. Lawyers have different ways of doing things, and sometimes those ways can lead to outright discord. Wise senior partners do what they can to minimize these fractures, because that protects the bottom line.
In ENCOUNTER, one such law firm with offices in Chicago, Washington DC, and Denver, finds itself in distress. Annike Lorant and Mitchell Kadeen, the law firm’s senior partners, have divorced, now working in separate offices, but their bitter split is poisoning the daily work of the firm. Cattrin Odeon works with Mitch in the D.C. area, a sniping little birdlike woman determined to make others as miserable as she is. New partner in the Denver office John Kirk Nicholas is still living his college football hero days, at least in his mind. Judy Norell is the worker bee who’s trying to bandaid things together despite the odds. Chicago partner Teo Haroun has just been given a deadly diagnosis that he’s struggling to keep from his law partners. Mitch and Judy decide a retreat in New Mexico is just the thing to get his firm back on track.
They hire a team-building group to lead them through the retreat, and venture to the Sherman Ranch, outside Santa Fe. The Ranch is managed by Jake Patrin, a recovering addict (and probably the favorite character of all I’ve written), who has his own issues.
What they don’t know is that they are about to collide with a truckload of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico who get caught in a freak March snowstorm. With nowhere else to go, the survivors make their painful way to the Ranch, dropping in on the lawyers, who must find a way to co-exist until the snow melts. As you might expect, some of the lawyers do better than others at this.
Here’s an excerpt:
The screaming from inside yanked Jake Patrin’s attention from the successful start-up of the generator where he worked in the shed. His head swiveled back toward the house. What in sweet Jesus’ name…
It was the women, he could tell from the pitch. Hell, maybe someone’d found a dead mouse in the kitchen closet, in amongst the merlot he couldn’t get out of his mind. Muttering a curse under his breath, he pulled his pea coat closed to trudge to the house through the knee-deep snow.
He came through the mud room, doffed his coat and boots, slipped on softer- soled shoes as the rumpus continued. The door between the mud room and the kitchen area was closed, but he could hear a babel of voices, some of which he recognized, others…
Someone was yelling and cursing in Spanish, male voices he didn’t recognize at all. It didn’t sound like a performance, one of his guests playing a role for effect. Jake didn’t speak Spanish well – hell, it had been nearly twenty years since his time in Central America – but he knew enough to understand it was a threat.
Christ on a rutting Harley.
A quick look around the mud room showed him more than he’d noticed at first. Twice as many clothes as there should have been. Much more snow melting in piles than two men would have brought back. Something was seriously not right.
He scanned the room, but found nothing he could use as a credible weapon. Jake picked up a rough-handled shovel; it was the best he had. He leaned close against the door, listening a moment more to see if he could get any clue what might be going on, but there was only more yelling. The young kid from the team urged people to be calm, something about the fire. No help. He took a deep breath and swung the door open.
He was unprepared for the scene that faced him. He came in behind several huge dirty men in the kitchen, along with the kid, Will. The big boss, Kadeen, was pinned in a chair with something shiny at his throat, a wild-eyed wetback holding his shoulder. Everyone else cowered on the far side of the pass-through, watching with horrified expressions, eyes he was sure were as wide as his.
There wasn’t much time to think. It seemed to him to unfold in a jerky slo-mo. As the door opened, the two men closest to him turned, saw the shovel. The younger guy holding Kadeen yelled and made a movement with the shiny object as women screamed. It clicked in his mind that the men weren’t fat, they were bundled in layers of wet clothing. The kitchen floor was slick with water and mud. He went to raise the shovel, but Will Starlin jumped across the space between him and the others.
“No, wait!” Will grabbed the handle of the shovel, his gaze intense. “They don’t mean to hurt anyone. They need help. They’re half frozen! Please.”
There was a scream in the other room, and Judy’s anxious face appeared in the pass-through. “Will—they’ve passed out, the two women. Something’s wrong with them.”
The older blonde made some comment to the other fancy woman, sotto voce, looking down on the fallen. Judy, standing behind her, shot her a look, then turned back to Will.
A spurt of angry Spanish burst from the man holding Kadeen. Jake looked at the two men closest to him, both of whom looked worse for wear. Will pushed Jake forward.
“This man…uh, el hombre es….um… medico. Ayuda. Doctor. Um…”
“Son, I ain’t no doc—“
“Shut up!” Will hissed, leaning close in to the older man. “You’re the closest we got. These people need help and fast. They’ve been out in the snow for hours, I think. Please, Mr. Patrin. They’re not thinking right, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Jake took a deep breath. “Fine.”
ENCOUNTER, from Three Fates Press. Now on sale at Amazon—$2.65 for paperback!