Darkest Fear Page 55

Win drove, Myron took the front passenger seat, and Big Cyndi squeezed into the back, which was a little like watching a film of childbirth on rewind. Then they were off.

The Stokes, Layton and Grace law firm was one of the most prestigious in New York. Big Cyndi stayed in reception. The receptionist, a skinny skirt-suit of gray, tried not to stare. So Big Cyndi stared at her, daring her not to look. Sometimes Big Cyndi would growl. Like a lion. No reason. She just liked to do it.

Myron and Win were ushered into a conference room that looked like a million other big Manhattan law firm conference rooms. Myron doodled on a yellow legal pad that looked like a million other big Manhattan law firm legal pads, watched through the window the smug, pink, fresh-scrubbed Harvard grads stroll by, again all looking exactly the same as the ones at a million other big Manhattan law firms. Reverse discrimination maybe, but all young white male lawyers looked the same to him.

Then again, Myron was a white Harvard law school graduate. Hmm.

Chase Layton trollied in with his rolly build and well-fed face and chubby hands and gray comb-over, looking like, well, a name partner at a big Manhattan law firm. He wore a gold wedding band on one hand and a Harvard ring on the other. He greeted Win warmly—most wealthy people do—and then gave a firm, I’m-your-guy handshake to Myron.

“We’re in a rush,” Win said.

Chase Layton shoved the big smile out of the room and strapped on his best battle-ready face. Everyone sat. Chase Layton folded his hands in front of him. He leaned forward, putting a bit of a belly push on the vest buttons. “What can I do for you, Windsor?”

Rich people always called him Windsor.

“You’ve been after my business for a long time,” Win said.

“Well, I wouldn’t say—”

“I’m here to give it to you. In exchange for a favor.”

Chase Layton was too smart to snap-bite at that. He looked at Myron. An underling. Maybe there’d be a clue how to play on this plebeian’s face. Myron kept up the neutral. He was getting better at it. Must be from hanging around Win so much.

“We need to see Susan Lex,” Win said. “You are her attorney. We’d like you to get her to come here immediately.”

“Here?”

“Yes,” Win said. “At your office. Immediately.”

Chase opened his mouth, closed it, checked on the underling again. Still no clue. “Are you serious, Windsor?”

“You do that, you get the Lock-Horne business. You know how much income that would generate?”

“A great deal,” Chase Layton said. “And yet not even a third of what we receive from the Lex family.”

Win smiled. “Talk about having your cake and eating it too.”

“I don’t understand this,” Chase said.

“It’s pretty straightfoward, Chase.”

“Why do you want to see Ms. Lex?”

“We can’t divulge that.”

“I see.” Chase Layton scratched a ham-red cheek with a manicured finger. “Ms. Lex is a very private person.”

“Yes, we know.”

“She and I are friends.”

“I’m sure,” Win said.

“Perhaps I can set up an introduction.”

“No good. It has to be now.”

“Well, she and I usually conduct business at her office—”

“Again no good. It has to be here.”

Chase rolled his neck a bit, stalling for time, trying to sort through this, find an angle to play. “She’s a very busy woman. I wouldn’t even know what to say to get her here.”

“You’re a good attorney, Chase,” Win said, steepling his fingers. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”

Chase nodded, looked down, studied his manicure.

“No,” he said. He looked back up slowly. “I don’t sell out clients, Windsor.”

“Even if it meant landing a client as big as Lock-Horne?”

“Even then.”

“And you’re not doing this just to impress me with your discretion?”

Chase smiled, relieved, as though he finally got the joke. “No,” he said. “But wouldn’t that be having my cake and eating it too?” He tried to laugh it off. Win didn’t join him.

“This isn’t a test, Chase. I need you to get her here. I guarantee that she won’t find out you helped me.”

“Do you think that’s all that concerns me here—how it would look?”

Win said nothing.

“If that’s the case, you’ve misread me. The answer is still no, I’m afraid.”

“Thank about it,” Win said.

“Nothing to think about,” Chase said. He leaned back, crossing one leg over the other, making sure the crease sat right. “You didn’t really think I’d go along with this, did you, Windsor?”

“I hoped.”

Chase again looked at Myron, then back at Win. “I’m afraid I can’t help you, gentlemen.”

“Oh, you’ll help us,” Win said.

“Pardon me?”

“It’s just a matter of what we need to do to get your cooperation.”

Chase frowned. “Are you trying to bribe me?”

“No,” Win said. “I already did that. By offering you our business.”

“Then I don’t understand—”

Myron spoke for the first time. “I’m going to make you,” he said.

Chase Layton looked at Myron and smiled. Again he said, “Pardon me?”

Myron rose. He kept his expression flat, remembering what he’d learned from Win about intimidation. “I don’t want to hurt you,” Myron said. “But you will call Susan Lex and get her to come here. And you’ll do it now.”

Chase folded his arms and sat them atop his belly. “If you wish to discuss this further—”

“I don’t,” Myron said.

Myron walked around the table. Chase did not back away. “I will not call her,” he said firmly. “Windsor, would you tell your friend to sit down?”

Win feigned a helpless shrug.

Myron stood directly over Chase. He looked back at Win. Win said, “Let me handle it.”

Myron shook his head. He loomed over Chase and let his gaze fall. “One last chance.”

Chase Layton’s face was calm, almost amused. He probably saw this as a bizarre put-on—or perhaps he was just certain that Myron would back down. That was how it was with men like Chase Layton. Physical violence was not a part of the Layton equation. Oh, sure, those uneducated animals on the street might engage in it. They might knock him on the head for his wallet. Other people—lesser people, really—yes, they solved problems with physical violence. But that was another planet—one filled with a more primitive species. In Chase Layton’s world, a world of status and position and lofty manners, you were untouchable. Men threatened. Men sued. Men cursed. Men schemed behind one another’s backs. Men never engaged in face-to-face violence.

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