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HomeRomance StoriesFortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart) Chapter 9

Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Smart) Chapter 9

Chapter 9

June 20, 2011

Eventually, it was eight o’clock. Time for me to sneak them into my car. I finally opened the blinds to my office window and looked outside. My old crappy car was the only car on this side of the parking lot. Good.

I looked over at Maxwell and Harriet. They looked a little tired—particularly Maxwell who was stuck standing for the last five hours, or he was perching on my desk. Neither one of them had any caffeine either, which made sense because it’s not like they could stroll down the hall and use the bathroom as I could.

I peeked my head out of the office door and looked down the hall. The motion-activated lights were off, so I assumed that no one was there.

“Let’s go.” I motioned to Maxwell and Harriet. The three of us crept down the white hallway. The sound of my high heels clacking on the floor rang in my ears. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. We passed the foyer for the legal division and went out the door into the parking lot. When we got to the parking lot, all I could hear was the faint humming of the fluorescent lights that were about to expire. They weren’t so bright as to light up the whole parking lot.

We got to my old, beat-up car.

“This is it,” I announced. “There are security cameras and guards out by the parking lot entrance. You two should probably hide in the trunk just in case.” I popped open my rather large trunk. It probably was enough to fit a couple of people. This was the first time that I was grateful to have a car with such a spacious trunk; usually, I just felt paranoid every time that I was starting and stopping on a hill that my car would roll back and my massive trunk would hit the person in front of me.

Maxwell and Harriet exchanged glances. Harriet had a rather disgusted look on her face.

“I know it smells a bit, but it’s only a fifteen-minute drive. Get in before someone sees us.”

Maxwell and Harriet crammed into the trunk. They both fit, surprisingly. Harriet clutched my briefcase to her chest. I closed the trunk door and hopped into the front seat of my car. I put my car in gear.

Alright, two people’s lives depend on my ability to drive a stick shift through hilly roads.

I drove the car carefully through the parking lot. Apparently not too carefully because I hit a speedbump that I didn’t notice.

“Sorry!” I yelled.

“I get motion sickness, Mel, please slow down. This smell is making me sick enough. I’m gonna throw up.” Harriet said.

“Don’t,” Maxwell replied. I laughed out loud at hearing this little exchange.

I saw the security post getting closer and closer to me. There was a figure standing next to it. I squinted my eyes and tried to make out the figure but I just couldn’t. All I saw was a dark shadow standing near the booth under the fluorescent lights.

“Be quiet, I’m coming up to the security gate, and there’s someone there,” I said to the duo in my trunk.

I drove up closer and closer to the gate. Eventually, I saw a flash of orange and recognized the man at the gate as Leon Bradley. He waved over at me and approached my shit-box car.

Shit. What do I say?

I cranked the window down. “Leon, what are you doing here this late?”

“Oh, Mel, it’s good to see you.” Leon smiled at me. “I was just chatting with the security guard. Wondering if he saw Harriet leave. I’m getting a bit concerned about her well-being.”

Oh, BULL.

“Yeah, me too. She never came back this afternoon.” I lied.

“Where are you heading to, Mel?” Leon asked.

“I’m going over to the Goodard’s. When Harriet left, she took one of my files, and I need it for tomorrow, so I was seeing if I could get it back.”

“What a coincidence, I’m going to the Goddard's too. Can I ride with you? Then maybe we can pick up where we left off the other night.”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Yeah, sure.”

Fuck.

My heart was pounding. I swore to myself that I was going to vomit up that Cobb salad. I unlocked the passenger’s side door, and Leon sat down next to me. It took all my strength not to start physically shaking.

“I never told you that you look absolutely stunning today.” Leon said.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s always looks with you.

“Thank you,” I said. Leon rubbed my upper thigh. As if I didn’t have to vomit already.

“Do you like it when I touch you like this?”

Nope. You disgust me.

I really wanted to swat his hand away and show him what damage I could do.

“Oh, Leon, I’m focusing on the road. You’re distracting me.” I let out a false giggle.

“I’ll let you drive.” I could see Leon smile smugly out of the corner of my eye thinking that I actually liked him and was playing coy. Asshole. I’m not much of a Leon Bradley fan. Obviously.

I followed the GPS’s instructions and I was about ten minutes away. My car was acting quite strange, though; it was lagging. I heard the engine struggle to get up the hills. I assumed it had about three hundred pounds in the trunk of my car. Maxwell was pretty muscular, and Harriet was quite tall, so three hundred to three-fifty was probably their combined weight. Every time we came to a hill and someone was behind us; I got so nervous that I was going to stall out and accidentally hit their car and kill Harriet (and Maxwell.)

We got to the top of the hill and my car stopped. Plain stopped.

Oh shit. Shit. Shit.

“Is there something wrong with your car?” Leon asked. Beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. I could feel bile starting to form in the back of my throat.

“Apparently,” I said calmly, as I tried to turn on the car again. All I heard was the sound of my car not starting. That defeated sound of an engine trying its best to turn on but just not turning on. I’m glad that I was on top of the hill instead of at the bottom of one. All I needed was a push. Hopefully.

Shit.

I tried to start the car once more. It wouldn’t start. In my head, I was running through these nightmare scenarios that all ended with Leon opening the trunk and shooting the three of us.

No one was on this hill but us. No one.

“I’ll give your car a push. You can start it up.” Leon sighed as he walked out of the car. I could faintly make out his figure walking to the back of the car. The sound of his wooden shoes clacked against the road.

Don’t look in the trunk. Don’t look in the trunk. Don’t look in the trunk.

I watched Leon walk to the back of my car through my rear-view mirrors. He went to give my car a shove. It was probably hard for him because he’s so scrawny.

“Your car’s really heavy, Mel.”

“Yeah, I call it a clunker for a reason.” I let out a fake chuckle.

Don’t seem suspicious, Mel.

Once I felt the car move, I turned on the car and popped the clutch. I heard the sound of my engine humming once more. A wave of relief washed over me.

I was sincerely debating just driving off and leaving Leon in the dust, but that would be too suspicious and too hasty of a decision. I slowed down the car and let him in again and continued my drive to the mansion. My heart was still pounding a million miles per hour inside my chest. I wanted to let out a large sigh of relief, but I knew that I couldn’t.

Eventually, I made my way to Maxwell’s mansion. I rolled down the window.

“Oh, Harriet’s friend.” The security guard said.

“Yeah. I’m Mel Jones.”

“Thanks for bringing her home the other day. I know she puts up a tough front, but she’s really a good kid.”

Leon leaned over me to speak with the security guard. His cologne was overpowering. “Hey, has Harriet come in at all today?”

The security guard paused. “Leon? Haven’t seen you in awhile. Hmm...now that you mention it, I haven’t. She may have come in before my shift.”

“Ok, never mind.” Leon said.

“Have a good night,” I said to the security guard. I rolled the windows back up and drove to the garage. When I parked the car, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. At least one of my problems was done with. I didn’t have to worry about accidentally killing the two people in my trunk. Now I just needed to deal with my horny boss.

I decided that I was going to try to get that information from him after all. It’s not like Maxwell was in a position to argue with me at the moment.

I put the car in park and stepped out of it. So did Leon. The two of us began walking to the door.

“Oh wait, I forgot my briefcase. I’ll meet you inside.”

“Sure.” Leon hovered by the door.

I walked back to open the trunk, and I popped it open as wide as possible. For once I was glad that I was short and that the hood of the trunk blocked my entire body from Leon’s view. I could hear him impatiently kicking the steps to the mansion as he waited for me.

“Sorry, this is taking so long. My car’s really messy, so I’m trying to find my briefcase.” I widened my eyes and snapped my fingers in the direction of Harriet, who was clutching my briefcase. Harriet handed me my briefcase, and I handed her the keys to my car as quietly as possible. I took great care not to jingle them at all. I stretched my hands out in a five, hoping that they would understand to give me a five-minute head start before going inside.

I looked over at Maxwell. He mouthed “I’m calling the police” to me. I shook my head and pulled out my phone and turned on the video. It was a new phone, so I knew that I had enough room on it to store at least an hour long video. I placed the phone gently in my purse, so the camera lens was barely sticking outside the purse. I looked at Maxwell and pointed at my bag, all the while giving him a fierce look. I wanted to let him know that I was serious. Maxwell pursed his lips together in frustration and then eventually nodded his head curtly. He made a two, on one hand, a zero with the other hand and mouthed out the word ‘police.’ I took it that that was the amount of time I had before he decided that we was going to play hero and call the cops.

“Here it is.” I proudly announced.

I closed the trunk door and began walking towards the door, briefcase in hand. Leon lingered in the doorframe and followed me inside the mansion, making a good point to cup my ass on the way in. The creep.

“Where should we start looking for the file?” I asked.

“How about the kitchen and living room.” Leon offered. “It’s to your left.”

We took a left. I was so nervous. My legs were physically shaking, and it was hard to walk in my heels.

Eventually, we arrived in a beautiful loft area with vaulted ceilings. There was a spacious living room area with a kitchen attached to it. The two rooms were connected like a giant loft that spanned about eighty feet in length. I noticed that the kitchen was under construction.

I admired the room for its simple elegance. In the living room, the floors were made of hard wood, and there was a Persian rug over it where the couch was in the far corner. There was a giant flat-screen TV mounted to the wall and a leather sectional huddled around a coffee table that looked like an old steamer trunk. Fine art was hung on the walls, and the lighting was soft. Even though space was wide open, it had a coziness to it because of the soft browns and peaches that were used to decorate the space. The dim lighting helped too.

The kitchen looked like a work in progress. The floors were made of a peach tile, and the appliances were the latest stainless steel appliances. The granite counter tops were a soft marble. The area under construction had a harshness it. I think they were adding on a kitchen island in the middle or something? That whole area was covered in pine wood.

Leon pulled out a chair at the kitchen table and plopped down. I walked around the kitchen and the living room briefly, pretending to look for papers. I sighed and sat down at the table opposite him.

“They’re not in here,” I said, feigning disappointment.

Alright. Maybe if I trash, talk Harriet, and Maxwell Leon will say something.

“I really need these documents. I know Harriet is irresponsible, but this takes it to the next level.” I said, leaning back in the chair. “And don’t even get me started on Goodard. What a cold, pretentious ass.”

Alright, the last bit was a bit true. Some small talk doesn’t change the fact that he pissed me off.

“Well, between the two of us, we don’t need to worry about that anymore.” Leon laughed and leaned back in his chair as well.

“Oh, what do you mean?” I leaned forward into the table, hoping that my camera was catching all of this.

Shit’s about to get real.

“There’s going to be a change in management.”

Real real.

“Well, that’s interesting. And about time, I say. I’ve only been here for a week, and I’ve had enough of the Goddard's for one lifetime.”

I’m going to owe Harriet an apology after this video…

“Who's taking over?” I asked.

“The vice president, Robert Chandler. He’s giving us all big kickbacks too. By all of us, I mean the head of the research department, the head of sales and marketing, and I. The ones who are planning this whole um…change in leadership.” Leon smiled and leaned back further in his chair. He placed his hands behind his head and flexed his muscles.

“Kickbacks? How are you getting the money?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Raising the prices of the drugs. Maxwell has kept them far too low for far too long. He makes everything a damn moral issue. Anyways, we’ll raise the prices and reap the profits. We’re going to make millions.”

“I’m looking forward to the new management.” I gave Leon a half-smile. “How are you going to make this happen?”

“I hired a hit. Maxwell Goodard is dead. Finally. My men confirmed it this afternoon. Harriet will be gone soon.”

“Why kill Harriet?”

Leon laughed. “If Maxwell dies, she inherits everything. Including his shares in the company. Could you imagine Harriet running this place?”

I laughed again. “No, it would be a wreck. The company would go bankrupt in a week.”

“Tell me about it.” Leon scoffed. “Would you like to be in on this venture?”

“Of course I do.”

“Prove it to me.” Leon gave me a half-smile.

“How?” I asked, knowing full-well what he meant.

Leon walked over closer to me and pressed his whole sleazy, scrawny body against mine. “You know what I want.” He pressed his shitty, erect penis into my ribcage. Asshole.

Well, that escalated quickly.

“Let me just go ahead and freshen up.” I smiled coyly, taking my purse—along with my phone—with me.

“Where’s the restroom?” I asked.

“Second door to your right.”

“Thanks. I’ll be out in fifteen minutes.” I swaggered out the door and into the hallway. Once in the hallway, I rushed over to the bathroom. The bathroom looked calm and tranquil, decorated in various shades of blue and gold. The tranquil atmosphere was much needed because I needed all the tranquility that I could get. My heart was racing a million miles per hour, and I found it to be a bit hard to breathe. I turned the video camera around to face me. “I am recording this to uncover a conspiracy, which I am, in no part, agreeing to or assisting in any way. The words I used here were just to…um…get Leon Bradley to talk. This ends my…um…recording.” I said with a shaking voice. I finally paused the video.

I checked to make sure the video was working properly. It was. I fast-forwarded the video, and it captured everything. Including Leon’s unwelcome advances. The asshole. I breathed a sigh of relief and texted it over to Harriet. One thing down. Then I emailed it to myself on both my work and personal account just to be on the safe side. Then I emailed it to Harriet’s work and personal account. I didn’t have Maxwell’s contact information, so I figured that would have to do. I wished there were more people I could send this to. I considered sending it to my kid sister, Ray, or my best friend, Amy, but I didn’t want them involved in my mess.

I waited five minutes for the video to send. Even though my phone was brand new, it was a large file. I was so antsy waiting for that video to send. Once I saw that my email was sent, I gave Harriet a ring. Twelve minutes have transpired so I had a bit of time before Leon would come to check up on me.

She picked up on the first ring.

“Did you get the video?” I asked.

“Yeah, I just got it.”

“I say some nasty things about you and your brother. I just want you to know, I…um…I…um…don’t mean a word of the stuff I said about you. You’re a competent person and…um…a friend and a mentee to me.” I spat out. It was so hard to think.

I could hear Harriet’s laughter coming from the other end of the phone. “Don’t worry, Mel. I believe you. You wouldn’t risk your life for me if you didn’t like me at least a little bit. And I could tell that you were risking it for me and not my brother.” She added.

Brother. Maxwell Goodard. The one I need to speak with.

“That’s right. Speaking of Goodard, can you put him on the line?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure.” I could tell that Harriet pulled the phone away from her ear and placed her hand over it. “Hey bro, she wants to speak with you.” I heard the sound of the phone changing hands. I wanted to vomit. The stress was all too much for me.

“Ms. Jones?” Maxwell said.

“Alright. I got some proof on video. There might be some issues with the tape’s…um…um…admissibility in court. Luckily we live in a state where all we need is one party’s consent to the taping and, well, I consented to the recording, so it’s legal…”

“Ms. Jones.” Maxwell interrupted me.

“But it still might not be admissible.” I continued. Blurting out my vague recollection of stuff I’ve heard years ago and haven’t heard since was oddly calming. “And, well, I might get in trouble with the American Bar Association too…I’m um…I…um…but I doubt it.”

“Ms. Jones.” Maxwell curtly responded.

I ignored his curt interruptions. I really felt the need to just spit all this information out. “But on the bright side, it’ll put the police in the right direction and…um…if we can get the guards you paid off to corroborate the story, then…um…then…we’re working with something.”

“Ms. Jones.”

“It’s probably enough for an arrest if we call the police though and to strong-arm Leon into leaving quietly...”

“Mel.”

“I’m advising that you get your own attorney here that isn’t me because, obviously, I’m recusing myself. Oh, and make sure you have Harriet send you the video too on multiple accounts. When you have time, save it to your computer and download it to some USB drives or something. You can never be too careful. And—”

“Mel Jones!” Maxwell shouted. He interrupted me once more. I tried to give him some more legal advice, but he just talked right over me. Like a damn bulldozer. “Enough about the tape. Are you ok? What is going on with you? Are you in any sort of danger right now?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I felt a lump forming in the back of my throat. I was terrified, truth be told. I was afraid that I was going to get raped or killed by the man in the other room. “Look, um, uh…I’m in this situation where—”

I heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Mel?” Leon asked. “Are you all ‘freshened up’ and ready to join me?”

“One second,” I shouted back. “Shit,” I mumbled under my breath.

“Mel?” Maxwell said from the other end of the phone.

“Who are you talking to?” Leon called out from the other side of the door.

“Just a friend who called. Going through a messy breakup.” I shouted back.

“Well, I have to go, Amy, bye.” I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. I had no idea how to get out of this situation. I really, really didn’t want to have sex with Leon. He was skeevy. I mean, I’ve been with far worse. Leon wasn’t the worst guy I’ve been with, but I guess I thought that since I was a rich lawyer and all I didn’t have to be in those situations anymore—that I would be valued for my mind instead of my body.

Part of me was just tempted to run out the door but what if he had a gun and shot me?

I’ll just stay in here.

“Just come out now.”

Fuck.

I gently opened the door and took a step out. I was clutching my phone so tight that my knuckles were white. I followed Leon down the hallway into the kitchen. I walked to the furthest part of the kitchen where the kitchen countertop was to put the most distance between Leon and I. Leon sprawled out on the kitchen table.

“I think we’ll start on here.” He knocked on the kitchen table that he was sitting on. “So what friend was this?” Leon asked pointedly.

“My friend Amy from law school. She’s going through a breakup right now. I’m just offering moral support.”

“Oh.” Leon pushed himself off from the table and walked over towards me. “So why were you two talking about the admissibility of video confessions?”

Shit.

I opened my mouth and then shut it.

“I’m not an idiot, Mel Jones. Hand me your phone.”

I shook my head. Leon walked over to me and ripped the phone out of my hands. Now I was really starting to get nervous. I clutched the countertop so tightly my hands were hurting and bending backward a bit from the sheer strength of my grip.

Leon calmly pressed the button to play the recording. He took a few steps back to watch the recording, to my relief. His expression was cold and oddly calm. I froze as I listened to our prior conversation echo in the large open space. Suddenly, Leon chucked the phone with all of his strength in my general direction. I flinched. The phone hit the cabinets about six inches away from my skull. The sudden gesture made me flinch.

“You lying, back-stabbing, little bitch.” Leon began to walk towards me. My instincts took over. It was either fight or flight, and I chose flight.

I lunged from my seat and took off towards the door. I knew that I would need to get past Leon, who was impeding my path. I was hoping that maybe I could slip underneath him with my small stature.

When I got to the kitchen island that was under renovation, I tripped. It must have been that plank of wood or maybe I lost my balance because of my high heels and I’m a klutz. I contemplated all this as I saw the wood that was covering the kitchen island get closer and closer to my head. I threw up my hands in defense, but it was too late. I felt my head and hands hit the side of the kitchen island with the full momentum of my body and then continued my descent to the floor where I hit my head on the floor again. I felt a wave of pain and then my vision started to fade.

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