Harold Finstermaker despised life. Not the state of being and life itself, but more in the pursuit of loathing of the human race. He detested being around people, but he had committed himself to becoming a “people-person” by trade.
One cannot choose to be a lawyer and expect not to come in contact with other people. Oh no, and certainly one cannot decree themselves an orator of the regulations of the people if they simply cannot abide to be in the presence of the lowest forms of those people.
But, Harold found comfort in the lives of his criminal clients. A broken basket of miscreants, thieves, and ne’er-do-wells with a generous smattering of sociopathic murderers to boot. For this was his charge at the prestigious law offices of Downey, Eaton, Albrecht & Dunne, which occupied the top 10 floors of the third tallest downtown Los Angeles skyscraper.
Harold had spent the majority of his morning after downing his third cup of coffee looking for his phone haphazardly set to vibrate and lost somewhere in his loft apartment. He scampered over bedsheets, decorative throws, and upturned laundry to fasten his ear to the light buzzing. An alarm set to find his phone was vibrating somewhere.
When, in between bites of his English muffin, he had located his phone, the next checklist item fell squarely upon the vacant hollowed coconut bowl on his entry table. The crystal accented key fob of his Swedish electric SUV had been misplaced. Something he loathed about himself, having otherwise stuck to a rigid regimen to avoid such inconveniences.
However, he had already destroyed his routine this morning by losing his phone, misplacing the key fob, disregarding an omelette on his expensive cookware and failing to locate the matching argyle sock to its pair. He scoffed at the wall clock, just a half-hour from his first meetings with clients and still a 45-minute drive from the office. An office that he could clearly make out in an almost arm’s reach from his loft’s balcony a few scant miles from Downtown.
With the sun to his back cresting into the perfect angle to constantly blind him during the drive, he leaned back into the appointed leather of his Volvo Recharge and rocked to the rhythms of stop-and-go Los Angeles traffic on the 110 freeway North. Harold could have taken streets, but that wouldn’t have afforded him the few minutes he needed to smooth over the dusty blond hair falling over his forehead, back into a slick river of wheat field confidence. To meld over his meetings with the famed countess of the internet slayings, captured at long last by the heralded detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department after a storied two years of real and virtual pursuit.
The brake came a little too hard when a Tesla decided they really needed to be in front of him in the electric vehicle lane, evidenced only by the trickle of brown imported Arabica on his pressed white dress shirt. A mark, as he dabbed with an Hermes handkerchief, that would have to be hidden away beneath the vest hanging behind his driver’s seat. He glowered at the red Tesla Model Y, muttering the license plate to himself before asking his voice assistant to jot down the number instead.
He’d make it a point to find that Model Y, at least in the fantasies rampant in his mind. The valiant act of ramming the monster into the divider wall, pulling the ruffian out of that vehicle and beating him to a merciless pulp while the other drivers cheered him on. A testament to the horribly toxic culture that had enveloped electric vehicle drivers.
A smirk appeared on that youthful visage, stretching carefully upward and slightly wrinkling his brow as he continue to dart eyes between the meandering 10 miles per hour around him and the rear-view mirror cocked down to his neck. He tied the silk cravat single-handedly with skill only attained from years of hastily doing up a tie prior to stepping forth into a courtroom.
The vehicle’s cabin faded out the Domenico Scarlatti “Sonata in G Major” that had been caressing his ears to replace it with the dulcet tones of his assistant, “Mr. Finstermaker, your eight o’clock is running late and has requested a reschedule for later this afternoon. As I understand that you are still in traffic on the 110, I’ve taken the liberty of reassigning her to your 2 PM slot.”
Harold waved off the call as if his assistant would be able to hear the gesture and hung up. He sighed, switching on the seat warmers and melting into the leather as Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in G Minor, Op: 23, No.5” bounded through the cabin.
“Mr. Finstermaker,” his assistant began as she placed a delicate Prouna chain crystal bone china coffee cup brewed to perfection with his particular vintage of Nicaraguan imported Arabica on his polished cherry mahogany desk, gently atop a Fornasetti Soli E Lune coaster, setting down a matching chain hyacinth saucer with another buttered English muffin, “your two o’clock has arrived early and is waiting in the restaurant on the ground floor.”
Harold narrowed his deep hazel eyes and pursed his lips, “I don’t recall asking her to meet me for lunch downstairs, Meredith.” He drained half of his cup of piping hot coffee and took a healthy bite of the muffin. He had slipped off his shoes for the day and had taken to scrunching his toes over the carpet underneath his desk, and was not enjoying the prospect of having to put on shoes again. Let alone meeting a client—even a high-profile client as Vickie was—at the ground floor level restaurant.
“I will head down in your stead and attempt to relocate her to the sky lobby restaurant. She was very adamant to have some form of a luncheon, Mr. Finstermaker.” Meredith pushed her glasses back up her nose, and brushed aside her hair before standing tall once again and turning her back in a gesture of retreat, “Will there be anything else?”
Harold sighed loudly as he deflated into his leather seat, pushing back to walk to the windows, “My usual table. I’ll be down in ten minutes,” he removed his tie and shirt as Meredith held her position. The tailored shirt slipped off of his lightly tanned, broad shoulders and melted into a ruffled pile on the floor of his office, “please have this dry-cleaned.”
After retrieving a freshly laundered shirt from his office’s closet, redressed and begrudgingly replaced his shoes, Harold leaned onto the window overlooking Pershing Square and mulled over some themes in his head. Just a couple floors below sat a murdering mistress of digital Los Angeles. She chose a victim, seemingly at random, and claimed life as a savior of the oppressed masses. Eluding Los Angeles’ finest men and women for twenty-six months until her capture. A wake of victims numbering into the early hundreds washed over her remorseless body, disheveled masses of loyal followers and horrified citizens alike deafened the courthouse in counter chants.
Released on twenty-four hour monitoring by armed personnel, she had chosen these law offices on track record alone, and handpicked her legal council on interest of name alone. “Finstermaker,” Vickie intoned as she sat across from the man at their table overlooking the Target shopping complex, “there’s a power in deviation there. Not quite the popular ‘Fenstermaker’ but definitely a unique spelling of a name. I trust your lineage altered due to a relocation at some point.”
“Sad to say it did not. We have been Finstermaker for as far back as our genealogy allows. However, Vickie, you didn’t ask me here for lunch in defiance of meeting within the office to consult upon my name.” He rolled his salad fork about in his hand, dipping the tines into the vinaigrette before stabbing his greens.
“I understand I won’t be getting parole, and this little freedom I have while consulting legal council is likely the last I will see in quite sometime,” she began in between bites of her own salad, mirroring his tine-dip technique. “I’d like to see if a member of the best criminal justice team can afford me some luxuries while I serve my sentence.”
“What kind of luxuries?” Harold’s interest had not piqued. He wanted to move this meeting along as fast as the lunch menu would permit. There were other clients filtering through this calendar for the remainder of the day, and he was also looking forward to nestling into his car for the rhumba of the evening commute home.
“There’s certain actions I would like to continue to execute, through a proxy, of course. However, it’s nothing that I can discuss in open court as this restaurant, or with the prevailing oversight of my guards,” she glanced over at the burly suited men with visible sidearms seated at the table behind them.
“Alright. We have a confidentiality clause, and I can exercise it within the confines of the law offices. It’s nothing I can do in this public setting. However, you will remember that I asked for our meeting to be held within my office and not at a restaurant.” He forcefully stabbed his butter knife through a roll and pried it open on his plate.
“You can’t fault a girl on being hungry, Mr. Finstermaker.” He visibly sighed, pushed his hair back up into its coif and spread his napkin anew on his lap as the waiter replaced his salad dish with his lunch entrée.
His hazel eyes pierced through her browns, “I guess I can’t.”
The men hesitated to wait outside of his office, “There’s only one entrance and exit from my office, and you’ll both be sitting outside of it. I simply cannot allow you to accompany my client into this meeting. Meredith will get you some of the…coffee…from the break room.” He couldn’t even palate how people just drank coffee without the exquisite notes of a finely brewed blend. “Meredith, please bring in my coffee and a cup for Ms. Willows.”
After Meredith had returned with the bone china and its coffee contents and departed again to lock the doors, Harold removed his suit jacket and loosened his tie before settling into his chair. “We’re secure.”
“So you say, but can I be sure?” Vickie perused around the room and back to the frosted glass of Harold’s office door.
“We entrust ourselves completely to our clients, Ms. Willows.” Harold took a drink from his cup.
“Mr. Finstermaker, I’ve spent my salvaging career—as I prefer to call ‘the murders’—reading people and their intent. As you can well see, we are still living in an oppressive dystopian Los Angeles,” she gestured to the faint orange cloud of smog that enveloped the building. “I’d like to appoint a worthy proxy to continue my actions of salvation while I embark on this unexpected sabbatical in San Quentin.”
“You want a protégé to continue your spree, for lack of a better term, in your prolonged absence,” he shifted uneasily in his chair, draining his cup.
“That is the intention, yes,” she stood walking over to a credenza adorned with pictures of animals, loved ones and decanters of liquor. She grasped the cut crystal decanter of aged scotch and poured herself a glass, “and I’ve spent quite the time narrowing a list of candidates. I’ve settled on a particular interesting person, Mr. Finstermaker.”
Intrigued, Harold leaned forward resting his arms on his desk and setting the cup aside, “And you’d like us to contact this person for you, or ensure some form of legal waiver for them? I’m unclear on what you’d like this law firm to accomplish with this information.”
With glass cradled as she draped herself into his chaise lounge facing the windows, “There will be no need for you or your firm to inform the person I have chosen, for you see, Mr. Finstermaker, I’ve already informed my successor of their role. In a matter of speaking,” her eyes connected with his and held their gaze.