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Jim Harrington
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youneverknow.jpg
Art by Noelle Richardson 2018

You Never Know

 

by Jim Harrington

 

          Addison entered the conference room where the retirement party for Mr. Williams was being held. Across the room, she spied Jason. He was a paralegal for Albert, Raintree and Williams and one of the few people she knew by name. She grabbed a flute of champagne off a credenza and meandered through the crowd, ending next to Mr. Williams.

          Congratulations, Sir,” she said. “I only hope my career is half as successful as yours.”

          Why thank you. . . Um . . .Addison. Correct?” His smile grew as he stepped closer. “From what I’ve been told by the other partners you should be an excellent asset to the Litigation group.”

          Thank you,” she replied, feeling her cheeks warm. “Being my first job out of law school, I just hope I don’t screw it up,” she said with a nervous chuckle. Before he could reply, a man Addison didn’t know interrupted them. She stepped away, grateful for the intrusion.

          Addison continued wandering through the assembled group. She smiled, nodded, and hoped she wouldn’t be expected to remember all the names being thrown her way. Attempting that would be more difficult than passing the Bar exam. She eventually found herself standing next to Jason.

          Hi, again,” she said. They’d first met in the seventh floor break room. “Remember me?” She held out her hand and shook his in what she thought was a proper lawyerly manner. His limp hand barely responded.

          Yes, you. . .you’re Addison,” he replied, looking down.

          And you’re Jason,” she said. “If I remember correctly, you’re a paralegal in the Taxes and Estates group.”

          Yes,” he replied, almost too soft for her to hear.

          How long have you been working there?”

          Four years.”

          You must like it,” she said, realizing they were similar in age.

          It’s okay.”

          Unsure what to say next, Addison excused herself and mingled with the other partygoers. Occasionally, she noticed Jason watching her. She began to feel uneasy and wondered what he was thinking.

          She’d noticed him a number of times during her first week—eating lunch at the same time, bumping into each other in the break room multiple times during the day, sharing an awkward smile but never speaking. He even worked late on the nights she did research in the library. She thought he might have followed her home on one occasion but decided she was being paranoid.

          At ten, the crowd had dwindled to the point Addison felt comfortable leaving. Back in her cubicle, she grabbed her coat and briefcase. She turned to leave and saw Mr. Williams standing in the aisle.

          Leaving already?”

          Yes. I have work to do for tomorrow’s meeting with a client,” she said, lifting her briefcase for him to see.

          He nodded. “We do tend to work our junior lawyers, don’t we.” It wasn’t a question. “May I walk you home? I believe the firm put you up in those new apartments a few blocks away until you find something suitable.”

          Yes, they did,” she replied. “But it’s not necessary for you to walk me home. The streets are well lit.” She wouldn’t mind an escort, but was uncomfortable with the over-friendly smile on Mr. William’s face. He appeared harmless, but. . .

          I must insist.’” He reached out and took the briefcase from her. “It simply isn’t safe for a young lady to walk alone at night.”

          She relented and headed toward the elevator.

          They arrived at her apartment building, and as she reached out for her briefcase, Mr. Williams bent down and kissed her. She pushed herself away just as someone wearing a hoodie jumped between them and pushed Mr. Williams down a short flight of stairs to a beauty salon entrance. She heard punches and moaning. Then the attacker raced  up the stairs and down the street. As he passed her, she saw his face. It was Jason.

          Addison called 911 and went to check on Mr. Williams. He was breathing, his face bloodied. She sat next to him, waiting, preparing her story. Someone accosted Mr. Williams for no apparent reason. She didn’t know if anything was taken. She didn’t know why the attacker left her alone. No, she didn’t see a face or any identifying features that would help in the search.

 

***

 

Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Short-story.me, Near to the KnuckleThe Story ShackYellow MamaLiquid Imagination, and others. Jim's Six Questions For . . . blog (http://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/) provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

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